House of Commons Hansard #80 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was colombia.

Topics

Rights of the Unborn
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of petitions to table. The first is from a number of constituents from the Fraser Valley who call upon Parliament to pass legislation for the protection of human life from the time of conception until natural death.

Identity Theft
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the other petition is to combat identity theft in Canada which is a very serious problem.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 226 to 228, 242, 247, 253, 255, 258, 260, 266, 272, 296, 302, 305, 308, 310, 312 to 315, 324, 329, 337, 342 to 344, 346, 348, 350, 353, 360, 364 to 366, 370, 371, 373, 378, 382 to 385, 387 and 395.

Question No. 226
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Michelle Simson Scarborough Southwest, ON

With regard to the human swine flu: (a) when exactly was the government first approached by Mexico for help in managing this serious health issue; (b) how many fatalities did the Mexican authorities attribute to this respiratory disease at the time they first notified Canada of their situation; (c) how many victims, that were not fatalities, were they treating when they first approached Canada on the swine flu; (d) what were the official concerns cited by the Mexican authorities in seeking Canadian and international assistance in managing this emergency; and (e) when did the Canadian government undertake the requested assistance?

Question No. 226
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Nunavut
Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, in response to (a), the Government of Canada was first approached by Mexico for laboratory testing assistance on April 17, 2009.

In response to (b), Mexican authorities did not disclose the number of fatalities attributed to the respiratory disease at the time they first notified Canada of their situation. Events were very unclear at that time.

In response to (c), when Mexican authorities first approached Canada on the H1N1 flu virus, they advised Canada that a number of outbreaks were occurring in different regions in Mexico, with approximately 600 suspect cases of influenza-like illness.

In response to (d), Mexican authorities contacted Canada as they were experiencing what appeared to be a late influenza season with higher than normal rates in health care workers, as well as some severe illness which they assessed as unusual. Laboratory testing in Mexico had failed to yield the diagnosis.

In response to (e), the Government of Canada responded April 17, 2009 offering laboratory and technical assistance to Mexico

Question No. 227
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

With regards to motion M-426 (rare diseases and disorders), in the name of Mr. Bell (Vancouver North), adopted by the House on May 6, 2008, since that time: (a) has the government acted on this policy and, if not, why not; (b) how much contact has the government initiated and had with stakeholder groups such as Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders to enact this policy; (c) what financial resources has been set aside for this policy; (d) what assurances can the government give Canadians with rare disorders that they have a right to and can access effective therapies and medications; and (e) what actions will the government take to make Canadians aware of this program?

Question No. 227
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Nunavut
Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Minister of Health

In response to (a), the motion called for exploratory work related to research, regulation and reimbursement of drugs for rare diseases, in collaboration with provinces and territories and stakeholders. The Motion did not establish a program or policy. Initial analysis on motion no 426 was undertaken after it was adopted in May 2008 and before Parliament was dissolved. The Government continues to consider the issue of drugs for rare diseases and the need, if any, for action in areas of federal responsibility. Further work in this area will require the active engagement of provinces and territories, who, as noted above, have primary responsibility for drug coverage.

In response to (b), No stakeholder consultations on the motion were held before the dissolution of Parliament. However, Health Canada officials have discussed related issues with stakeholders, notably the Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders CORD, on numerous occasions. CORD has been an active participant in formal consultations with respect to legislative and regulatory modernization since 2006. The organization has identified data challenges in the review and authorization of products for small populations as a key concern. They have been very supportive of efforts to modernize the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations.

In response to (c), Past analytical work related to the motion and the broader issue of drugs for rare diseases has been conducted within existing resources.

In response to (d), The federal government recognizes the challenges faced by Canadians with rare disorders, and will continue to examine issues related to treatments for rare disorders within the scope of federal role and responsibilities. For example, Health Canada is looking at the regulatory challenges posed by drugs for rare diseases, as part of the department’s ongoing work on regulatory modernization. CORD and other stakeholders have been consulted in this work. It is important to note that prescription drugs provided outside of hospital are outside of the scope of the Canada Health Act and hence, provincial and territorial governments determine, at their own discretion, whether, and under what terms and conditions, to publicly finance prescription drugs, including drugs for rare diseases. The only exceptions are federal populations, e.g., first nations and Inuit, military, veterans, for which the federal government directly provides services. However, the federal government continues to pursue constructive and collaborative work with provinces and territories, including finding ways to better assess drugs for rare diseases for potential reimbursement by our respective drug programs.

In response to (e) To clarify, no program was established through this motion, which called for exploratory work only.

Question No. 228
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Since coming to power, (i) what has the government done to promote and help get started the Alaska Highway gas pipeline, (ii) what meetings have been held with stakeholder groups, (iii) what has been the total government expenditures to date on this project, (iv) what is the target date for the construction of this gas pipeline?

Question No. 228
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Halton
Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, in resonse to (i), there are two separate proposals to build an Alaska Highway pipeline, AHP. Both project proponents are benefiting from single window access into a streamlined regulatory approvals process, either through a re-staffed Northern Pipeline Agency, NPA, or else through the Major Projects Management Office which was created to improve regulatory performance through a more accountable, predictable, transparent and timely regulatory review process for major resource projects. On March 5, 2008, the then Minister of Natural Resources Canada, NRCan, wrote to the Governor of Alaska expressing support for an AHP. NRCan has publicly expressed the government’s support for an AHP at large conferences including the Alaska Resource Development conference in Anchorage, Alaska, in November 2008, the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission Conference in May 2008, and the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association’s Annual Dinners in 2008 and 2009. Recognizing the importance of first nation engagement and consultation, the Government of Canada is engaging first nations along the proposed pipeline route. The government has both funded and participated in aboriginal workshops organized by the Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, AHAPC. Currently, federal departments including NRCan, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the NPA and the National Energy Board, NEB, are conducting a series of Yukon and first nation community visits along the Yukon portion of the Alaska Highway to raise awareness and answer questions related to the proposed pipeline.

In response to (ii), since January 2006, NRCan has had several meetings with the proponents for an AHP. Meetings have taken place at all levels from working level through to ministerial. First nations are important stakeholders and the government has been actively meeting with them. To date there have been three aboriginal workshops hosted by the AHAPC, which is a service organization to Yukon first nations along the proposed route. Similar, though smaller meetings, have also taken place in British Columbia. In addition to formal workshops, NRCan has met separately with the chair of the AHAPC. Until recently, NRCan chaired an AHP Director General Steering Committee which met semi-annually to share information with key federal departments. The committee’s most active sub-group was the Environmental Assessment and Regulatory Working Group, EARWG. The EARWG met regularly with provincial government representatives as well.

In response to (iii), many AHP related expenditures have been routine business including preparing briefing material and monitoring project developments. However, NRCan did provide approximately $18,000 toward funding an Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition workshop in 2007. Approximately $3,000 was spent to attend each of the three workshops. Attending the round of community visits currently under way will add additional expenses. NRCan also sent several attendees and speakers for large conferences including the Alaska Resource Development Conference and the Interstate Oil and Gas Commission conference. Such conferences cost approximately $3,000 to $5,000 per person attending, including travel. Finally, NRCan houses the NPA, which has responsibility for the Foothills Alaska pipeline project. However, all NPA’s expenditures are cost recovered from the owner of Foothills, TransCanada Pipelines.

In response to (iv), both the TransCanada and the Denali projects have estimated first gas to start flowing in 2018--best case scenarios.

Question No. 242
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

With regard to Employment Insurance: (a) has the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development been provided any documents or departmental briefing notes that outline changes to the processing time of Employment Insurance cheques; (b) under the rules, how many days does an unemployed worker have to wait for his or her first cheque; (c) on average, how many days does an unemployed worker currently wait for his or her cheque; and (d) how many service telephone lines are available to workers looking for information, and how many of those telephone lines are staffed at one time?

Question No. 242
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, in response to (a), the minister has received various products that have discussed and outlined measures to maintain the standard for processing Employment Insurance, EI, claims given the significant increase in EI applications over the last eight months. A number of them have dealt with the additional resources and measures that are being added to EI processing such as: redistributing workloads across the country; increasing processing staff by over 900 and adding another 400 over the next few months; increasing overtime on a voluntary basis; reassigning staff from other areas of the department that are not involved in processing benefits; recalling recent retirees; increasing the level of automation of claims processing; and extending the regular hours of operation for EI call centres from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday and Fridays and on Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

In response to (b), the standard of service is to have 80% of clients who file for benefits receive their first payment or a non-payment notification within 28 days of the date their claim was filed.

In response to (c), for the first seven months of 2009, the average number of days from the date of application until payment or notification of non-payment was 23 days.

In response to (d), the service has 1,041 telephone lines with up to 821 staff available at any one time. Call centre telephone line capacity always exceeds the number of telephone lines staffed to enable incoming calls, queuing of callers until agents become available, and internal call transfer capabilities.

Question No. 247
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Rota Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

With regards to the measures announced in Budget 2009 concerning assistance for consumers of financial products by enhancing disclosure and improving business practices in respect of credit cards issued by federally regulated financial institutions: (a) which government departments, agencies, government officials and their titles were involved in the consultation process and drafting process in regards to this measure and when did they begin; (b) were there any consultations with any of the Credit Card companies who operate in Canada and, if so, when did these meetings occur and who was present; and (c) which other organisations or stakeholders were involved in the consultation process and with which government officials and when did they occur?

Question No. 247
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, in advance of the budget presented to the House of Commons on January 27, 2009, the earliest in modern history, the government launched unprecedented consultation across Canada. These steps were taken to ensure as many Canadians as possible from members of Parliament, business leaders, economists, industry associations non-profit organizations, public interest groups, community groups, provincial, territorial and municipal governments, and most important, everyday citizens were consulted, such as:

an online consultation open to all Canadians was launched at www.fin.gc.ca;

a series of roundtable discussions was held with business leaders, economists, academics, industry leaders, community and labour organizations in cities across Canada from Saint John to Victoria;

the Minister of Finance held town hall meetings in locations across Canada to hear from Canadians personally;

meetings with finance ministers and first ministers from all provinces and territories;

the establishment of a non-partisan Economic Advisory Council of prominent Canadians from across the political spectrum for advice on the budget and on the economy in the months ahead;

meetings with leading representatives of other political parties, including the official opposition Liberal Party of Canada, to ask for their ideas; and

the Minister of Finance wrote every member of Parliament asking them to consult with the people in their communities and report what they heard back to him.

As members are likely aware, the Minister of Finance released the aforementioned proposed Credit Business Practices Regulations this past May for comment. The relevant news release and backgrounders are available online at http://www.fin.gc.ca/n08/09-048-eng.asp. To summarize, the proposed regulations would:

mandate an effective minimum 21 day, interest-free grace period on all new credit card purchases when a customer pays the outstanding balance in full;

lower interest costs by mandating allocations of payments in favour of the consumer;

allow consumers to keep better track of their personal finances by requiring express consent for credit limit increases;

limit debt collection practices that financial institutions use in contacting a consumer to collect on a debt;

prohibit over-the-limit fees solely arising from holds placed by merchants;

provide clear information in credit contracts and application forms through a summary box that will set out key features, such as interest rates and fees;

assist consumers to manage their credit card obligations by providing information on the time it would take to fully repay the balance, if only the minimum payment is made every month; and

mandate advance disclosure of interest rate increases prior to their taking effect, even if this information had been included in the credit contract.

With respect to the reaction to the proposed regulations, following is a small sampling of analysis by public interest groups or commentators:

Bruce Cran, president of Consumers' Association of Canada, said “All of the things that [the finance minister has] done in there are actually just what we asked for …overall, I’ve got to congratulate [the finance minister]”.

Mel Fruitman, vice president of Consumers' Association of Canada, said, “[They] will solve some of the most egregious practices of the credit card companies … it's a big step in the right direction towards helping us control the amounts we pay on our credit cards. We think it will greatly improve the situation”. A Toronto Star editorial stated, “[the] finance minister … has introduced some welcome regulatory changes that will both introduce more transparency to the [credit card] system and save consumers some money”. A Burnaby Now editorial stated. “[the finance minister’s] new regulations … aim to give consumers more rights when it comes to the credit card industry. One of those regulations … involves forbidding card issuers from increasing credit limits without the written consent of cardholders. We hope this and the other proposed regulations - which include a 21-day interest-free grace period on all new transactions when consumers pay their balance in full by the due date - gain approval in Ottawa”.

Additionally, please note, the aforementioned regulations were published in the Canada Gazette on May 23, 2009 and interested persons were invited to make representations to the Financial Institutions Division of the Department of Finance concerning the proposed regulations within 21 days. The deadline for submissions was June 13, 2009.

Regarding the development of the important budget 2009 measures to help consumers of financial products and the subsequent detailed proposed credit business practices regulations, officials from the Department of Finance, the Department of Justice, and the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada were involved in the development and drafting of these measures.

Question No. 253
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

With regard to the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board (CEIFB) announced in Budget 2008, and the subsequent Nominating Committee announced July 21, 2008: (a) have the Nominating Committee identified candidates for appointment to the CEIFB and, if so, (i) has a list of potential members been presented to the Governor in Council for appointment, (ii) has the Governor in Council appointed members for the CEIFB, (iii) who were the individuals listed or appointed, (iv) what is the home province or territory for each individual; (b) what has the CEIFB done since being founded to fulfill their responsibilities, including (i) implementing Employment Insurance (EI) premium rate-setting mechanism to ensure EI revenues and expenditures break even over time, (ii) using any excess EI revenues in a given year to reduce premium rates in subsequent years, (iii) maintaining a $2 billion cash reserve fund to support rate stability measures; and (c) has a contingency fund been established, if so, (i) has the transfer of $2 billion from the Consolidated Revenue Fund into a contingency fund occurred, (ii) what is the current balance in the established contingency fund?

Question No. 253
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, in response to (a) (i), yes, the nominating committee has submitted a list of candidates for the board of directors to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, HRSD.

In response to (a) (ii), yes, five members of the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board, CEIFB, were announced by the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development on June 26, 2009. A sixth member was announced by the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development on August 5, 2009. The remaining member is expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

In response to (a) (iii and iv), the six directors who were named to the board of directors include Ms. Elaine Noel-Bentley, Alberta; Mr. David Brown, Ontario; Mr. Jacques LeBlanc, Quebec; Ms. Janet Pau, British Colombia; Mr. Pankaj Puri, Ontario; and Mr. Tim O’Neill, Prince Edward Island.

The board of directors will be chaired by Mr. David Brown, whose qualifications include 29 years as a senior corporate law partner with the firm Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg. He was also the chairman and chief executive officer of the Ontario Securities Commission, OSC, for seven years, where he led the expansion and reorganization of the OSC to meet the increasing demands of a changing market.

In response to (b) and (c), the CEIFB is not yet fully operational, and as such the CEIFB reserve has not yet been established.

In order to maintain a competitive advantage and to support employers and employees, the government has frozen EI premium rates for 2010 at $1.73 per $100 of insurable earnings, the same level as 2008 and 2009, providing an economic stimulus of $10.5 billion, as confirmed in Canada’s Economic Action Plan: A Second Report to Canadians, June 2009.

With the appointment of the board of directors, the CEIFB is taking the necessary steps toward setting EI premium rates on a break-even basis, beginning in 2011. The creation of a separate account will ensure that excess premiums will be held and invested until used for EI purposes only. The creation of the CEIFB ensures that EI funds are managed independently and used to pay for EI benefits, premium rates reflect actual program costs, and the program is on firm financial footing going forward.