House of Commons Hansard #100 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senators.

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The House resumed from November 17 consideration of the motion that Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate term limits), be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-10 is an act that would amend the Constitution Act. The summary states that:

This enactment alters the tenure of senators who are summoned after October 14, 2008.

More specifically, the bill states:

—a person who is summoned to the Senate after the coming into force of the Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate term limits) shall hold a place in that House for one term of eight years.

The bill is modest in size. It seeks to impose limits on senators rather than having them appointed until age 75 or until they choose to leave.

I looked back to where we have been with this issue. This issue came up in 2006. As a result of elections and prorogations, et cetera, the bill made no progress. It came up again last April. A couple of hours of debate were held in May. Here we are again still debating the bill at second reading. As members are aware, second reading is the first opportunity for parliamentarians to give their views on a bill proposed by the government.

I went back to the original speech given by the Minister of State for Democratic Reform. We all assume that the person championing the bill will give substantive reasons why the bill is a good one. We just said a prayer of good laws and wise decisions. I looked for those substantive reasons in the minister's speech but I did not find them. The arguments that were made by the minister were more pros than fact. They were some sweeping generalizations without the substance that parliamentarians would like to have.

I also notice that government members are not speaking to the bill. It has been introduced by one person and the opposition parties have spoken to the bill. If government members do not get up to defend a bill, one must ask why not? Why are they not prepared to stand in this place and take questions from the opposition about its concerns with the it?

One of the phrases that came out in the minister's speech was the “step by step approach”. There is no question that the government's plans in the longer term are to have either an elected Senate or maybe to abolish it altogether.

If we look over the history of this issue since 2006, we will see that the Senate has been maligned. It has constantly been pointed out that the Senate is composed of unelected senators. It is undemocratic. It is full of all kinds of terrible people, who just sit there and serve for 45 years. We have been hearing all the negatives about the Senate. The Senate is a Canadian institution. We know the government's record in terms of respect for the institutions of our country.

The way the government has handled this, or not handled it, demonstrates, yet again, that the government really does not care if the bill gets passed. It does not care if we move it through the system and get it dealt with because it has a political benefit if not passed. It is like a political football. It is like the cat playing with the wool. When problems come up, the government will bring back the bill and take some shots at those terrible senators.

Having been here 17 years, I know many senators. Everybody in this place knows that the Senate does better committee work and study work than the House of Commons. The reason for that is because senators do not have constituencies that take up 60% of their time.

Senators are doing the job here. They are the sober second thought. They have the time to give to the studies, to hold comprehensive hearings and to go abroad to meet with other jurisdictions that have the same or similar problems or have entertained some changes. They take the time to do it.

I also note, and the members will also know, that the camaraderie within the Senate is better than it is in the House. Those people have great meetings. I was the chair of the scrutiny and regulations committee. Anybody who has attended a Senate meeting can see how important it is to have the institutional memory of some of the key areas that went by. We have files before the scrutiny of regulations committee that go back 25 years on the Fisheries Act, and the Minister of Fisheries would know that. The senators and many of those people have been there know what the arguments are.

One reason the Conservatives use to limit the terms of the Senate is that people lose the capacity to have fresh ideas. We get stale and we have to turn it over so we get some new ideas. I reject the argument totally. The example I will use to demonstrate it is the Supreme Court of Canada.

Would the government also argue that the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada lose the capacity to have any new ideas, to learn, to do good work? Absolutely not. Will we reform the Supreme Court so we can turn them over a lot faster? Absolutely not. It is not in the public interest nor in the interests of our country.

This is a one step by one step approach, but it is an approach in which the Conservatives do not want to engage. They would rather have this issue on the table, continuing to give them the opportunity to say what an undemocratic institution it is, unelected, not accountable, et cetera. I think they tasted blood this past week, when the Senate majority of Conservatives were instructed to kill a bill on climate change even before it was sent to a Senate committee for consideration.

Now the Conservatives can deal with it here. When they finally have to be pushed to put something through to the Senate, they know they have the Senate tool. This game is being played out on so many items. Members will be aware of all of the justice bills.

In looking at the minister of state's speech, he seemed to think that people of age had a problem, that when they reached 75, they were really coasting, that they do not have a clue and that they cannot do this. I am not sure whether the Canadian Human Rights Commission would agree with the principle that when one reaches a certain age, somehow one has to be treated differently.

The Prime Minister appoints senators. If the Conservatives are concerned about people serving for too long a period, why would they appoint somebody who is 35 years old? If we look at the people in the Senate, these honourable senators, we will see some people of great character, of great information and knowledge, representing the cross-section of our country and every geographic corner of our country.

I was disappointed at the lack of substance in the minister's speech in justifying the bill. I agree with the other parties that the bill should go to committee so we can have others, outside of this chamber, come before the House of Commons committee and explain to the government why its presumptions on which the bill is based are faulty and not in the public interest.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
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10:15 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was absolutely flabbergasted to listen to my hon. colleague's speech in the same week that the unelected and unaccountable house trashed a bill on climate change, which was voted for by the democratically elected members of the Canadian people.

The Liberals have never wanted to touch Senate reform because they have always used it as a place where they put the bagmen and the party hacks. However, if we looked at the Senate rules for conflict of interest, senators would not meet the most basic test that any rural town councillor, or any small town school board trustee would have to meet.

Under the Senate's conflict of interest guidelines, senators can review legislation where they have a pecuniary interest. They can sit on the boards of major corporations. They have all manner of financial interests that they do not have to disclose. Any city or town councillor in any community in the country would have to disclose those, but not the senators.

If these representatives are supposed to do sober second thought, would the member not agree with me that we have to clean up and have clear guidelines on conflict of interest so the money, the bagmen and the oil industry cannot overrule the House?

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
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10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

I agree, Mr. Speaker, but the bill is not the solution when we consider some of the work that has been done, such as the work on mental health, the work on climate change in the Senate, the work on euthanasia.

Everybody in this place knows that the Conservative majority in the Senate did not make the decision to defeat Bill C-311 before it completed second reading. The direction came straight from the Prime Minister of Canada, who believes that Kyoto was a socialist plot.

The members know that.They should not blame the Senate for it. They should blame the Prime Minister and the Conservatives who cannot even hold on to an environment minister because they have no policy, no interest in the environment.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
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10:15 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to my hon. colleague, I really enjoy his speeches many times, but on this occasion, he must take pause for reflection.

If the Prime Minister gave orders to the Senate majority to do what it did over this week, that is another nail in the Senate's coffin as far as I am concerned. This says that we have a Senate that is completely malfunctioning.

When we look at the content of the bill to shorten terms of Senators and when we look at the possibility that the actions taken this week could transfer forward into the next government, we could see the situation where the Senate could, without debate, cancel a government bill. This is totally unacceptable.

We have a crisis in our Parliament and the bill before us will not solve that. It gives us the opportunity to debate it in a fashion. We need to make that—

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
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10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I have to stop the member there to give the member for Mississauga South enough time to reply.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
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10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree with everything the member has said. The bill does not deal with the real problem. The real problem is that the Prime Minister has a problem with democracy. He knows that whenever he gets in trouble, all he has to do is bring up a bill like this or bring up another justice bill, something like getting tough on crime week, so we switch the channel and take the focus off the real issues, the real problems facing the nation.

The Conservatives do not want the bill passed. They have been playing around with it like a cat with a ball of wool, and they will continue to do that. They know this has better political mileage because they can continue to use their slogans like “undemocratic, unelected, useless people”. Yet every member in this place will go to an event to say goodbye to a senator when he or she retires because they respect the work that has been done.

The Conservatives cannot deny that. We have some work to do, but the Senate did not make decision to defeat Bill C-311. It was the Prime Minister himself.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
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10:20 a.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on the amendment to Bill C-10, an act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867, regarding Senate term limits.

For the record, the amendment calls for striking out all of the words in the motion after the word “That” and substituting the following:

the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate term limits), because the term limits do not go far enough in addressing the problems with the Senate of Canada, and do not lead quickly enough to the abolition of the upper chamber, as recent events have shown to be necessary.

The New Democrats' position is clear. This bill falls far short on the changes necessary if the Senate is ever to be effective.

I wanted to rise during this debate because there are some important points that need to be made.

At the outset, I want to address the cynical workings of the government. It knows, as does every MP in this chamber, that the length of time that the senators stay in their appointed seats is not the real issue. The real issue is how they got to the Senate in the first place.

We know that the 35 unelected senators appointed by this Prime Minister were instrumental in killing, without debate, Bill C-311, the climate change accountability act by my colleague from Thunder Bay—Superior North.

Bill C-311 would have committed the federal government to achieving practical, science-based greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Bill C-311 was passed by a majority of the elected members of Parliament, representing the majority of Canadians.

This Prime Minister said in 2004, “I will not name appointed people to the Senate. Anyone who sits in the Parliament of Canada must be elected by the people they represent”.

For the record, let me name those unelected Conservative senators who voted to kill Bill C-311. They include David Angus, unelected, unaccountable; Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, unelected, unaccountable; David Braley, unelected, unaccountable; Patrick Brazeau, unelected, unaccountable.

I would like to talk a little about Senator Brazeau. I would like to quote Don Martin in an article he wrote, from February 3, 2009:

It's hard to imagine how such a thoroughly damaged resumé could've survived the supposedly ruthless scrutiny of the Prime Minister's Office, particularly when the job is a 40-year guaranteed Senate gig with an annual salary of $130,000 plus perks....

The man described in his bio as a loving father of three is darn close to qualifying to be a deadbeat dad with the mother of one offspring telling CTV that Brazeau hasn't seen or properly supported his 14-year-old son in eight years.

He questions whether this is the calibre of individual the Prime Minister had in mind when he set out to reform the Senate.

The list continues with Bert Brown, unelected, unaccountable; Claude Carignan, unelected, unaccountable; Andrée Champagne, unelected, unaccountable; Ethel Cochrane, unelected, unaccountable; Gerald Comeau, unelected, unaccountable; Anne Cools, unelected, unaccountable; Consiglio Di Nino, unelected, unaccountable; Fred Dickson, unelected, unaccountable; Mike Duffy, unelected, unaccountable, and it must be pretty tough for this guy, carrying the party line instead of asking tough questions of politicians; Nicole Eaton, unelected, unaccountable; Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis, unelected, unaccountable; and Linda Frum, unelected, unaccountable.

As well, there was Irving Gerstein, and I will expand a little on this senator.

In his 2007 book on the Prime Minister's team, subtitled Behind the Scenes in the Conservative Rise to Power, Tom Flanagan, a former top PM adviser, had this to say:

Under Irving Gerstein's direction, the grassroots model of fundraising has built the Conservative Party into a financial powerhouse

What is his reward? It is $130,000 plus perks, all on the taxpayers' dime. What a slap in the face to Canadians. This is the senator who is going from community to community, province to province, raising funds for the Conservative Party.

The list continues with Stephen Greene, unelected, unaccountable; Leo Housakos, unelected, unaccountable; Janis Johnson, unelected, unaccountable; Noël Kinsella, unelected, unaccountable; Vim Kochhar, unelected, unaccountable; Daniel Lang, unelected, unaccountable; Marjory LeBreton, unelected, unaccountable; Elizabeth Marshall, unelected, unaccountable; Yonah Martin, unelected, unaccountable; Michael Meighen, unelected, unaccountable; Ruth Nancy, unelected, unaccountable; Richard Neufeld, unelected, unaccountable; Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie, unelected, unaccountable; Donald Oliver, unelected, unaccountable; Dennis Glen Patterson, unelected, unaccountable to the Canadian people; Donald Neil Plett, unelected, unaccountable; Rose-May Poirier, unelected, unaccountable; Bob Runciman, unelected, unaccountable; Hugh Segal, unelected, unaccountable; Judith Seidman, unelected, unaccountable; Gerry St. Germain, unelected, unaccountable; Carolyn Stewart Olsen, unelected, unaccountable; David Tkachuk, unelected, unaccountable; John Wallace, unelected, unaccountable; and Pamela Wallin, unelected, unaccountable.

These are all the senators who killed Bill C-311.

Let me speak a bit about another senator who was not present for the vote, Senator Doug Finley.

Bill C-311 was killed by this unaccountable Senate.

How about Michael Douglas Finley, who had to be escorted by security out of the House of Commons committee because he showed up uninvited and refused to leave, displaying such utter disrespect for this great institution?

We could spend a lot of time on all the other worthy services he delivered for the Conservative Party, but we do not have time to go there.

The Conservative committee that searches for these candidates should take a lesson from DND and advertise on the Internet for candidates, on such sites as craigslist and soft porn sites, like DND did. It may end up with better candidates to appoint to the unelected, unaccountable Senate.

I notice the growing discomfort on the faces of Conservative members as I read the names of these unelected, unaccountable and unrepresentative senators into the record of this chamber.

Is it any wonder that even in the Conservative-friendly corners criticism is mounting about the Prime Minister's unbelievable record of broken promises.

Let me quote John Ivison, who wrote in the National Post this week:

All politicians are haunted by things they’ve said in the past. All governments are buffeted by events and forced to shift position.

But how many times can a politician say something and then do the precise opposite before even his strongest supporters start to doubt him? The bond of trust between Mr. Harper and Canadians is eroding, according to opinion polls by Nik Nanos.

The list of those broken promises is long.

Can members imagine how Preston Manning must feel about the actions of the Prime Minister?

The Prime Minister is betraying all those who voted for him and the Reform Party.

He is betraying all those who thought they were getting a new form of government, one that was not as morally corrupt as the previous Liberal government.

Instead, we have a hyper-partisan, morally bankrupt, anti-democratic government that is thumbing its nose at every institution that upholds democracy.

Democracy--

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
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10:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I will have to stop the member there.

I will open the floor to questions and comments. The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
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10:30 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague. We have seen how the Conservative Party came in. It told Canadians that it was going to be an ethical government and was going to do something different. Yet we see the pattern. As soon as the Conservatives got their hands on the Senate, they started to fill it with the bagmen and cronies, people like Leo Housakos and Doug Finley, who gets paid by the taxpayer to run the war room for the Conservative Party.

Then, of course, there is the Hon. Irving Gerstein. Here is a man who shows what the Senate is all about. The Liberals have accused us of using the word “bagman”, but Senator Gerstein said in a speech he gave:

Well, I want to tell you that I do not admit to being a bagman; I proclaim it.

I believe that the job of raising funds for the Conservative Party...is both necessary and honourable.

That is his job in the Senate, a man who the Prime Minister chose to go in, along with the other bagmen, who brags that he is there to raise money for the Conservative Party, and the taxpayer pays for these people.

My hon. colleague has seen the hypocrisy of the government and how these members stood year after year and said when they came in they would deal with the issue. What they are doing now is, of course, mere window dressing. They would put term limits, but the fact is that they are using the Senate as a dumping ground for their party hacks and the people who collect the money.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague why he thinks it is that the government has betrayed the promises it made to people who voted for them thinking that they were going to clean up that cesspool.

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10:30 a.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will answer the question this way. Democracy has become an inconvenience to the government. It has perfected the art of violating the spirit and intent of this great Parliament, and for what? It is for the government to hold on to power for as long as it can, even if it means turning more and more Canadians away from the political process, even if it means discouraging youth from becoming involved.

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10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have some questions to ask the member opposite. I know the NDP is of the view that there should not be a Senate at all. As we know, things move incrementally in this place. Even if I strongly disagree with his point of view in respect of the removal of senators altogether, would it not make some sense to at least get on board, make the adjustment and modernize to the present, and then they can go their way and do what they think they need to do thereafter?

Canadians across the country, as he well knows, have shown a clear desire to change the Senate, to have Senate reform, and we are committed to modernizing the Senate to reflect a 21st century democracy. Surely we could have basic agreement to say that a senator being elected for terms up to 45 years is not right or appropriate in this modern era and that something in the order of eight years would certainly be better.

Would the member opposite not agree that rather than 45-year terms for unelected, unaccountable senators, a term of eight years would be an improvement on that?

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10:30 a.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not think senators should be elected for eight years. I think they should be done away with, period.

I want to quote from someone from the media, Mr. Ivison, who may have coined a new term for the Senate. As described in the headline to his recent National Post article, the “Triple-U Senate” is “unelected, unrepresentative, [and] under [the PM's] thumb”. That is why we do not want senators.

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10:35 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, New Brunswick, P.E.I. and Quebec abolished their senates years and years ago. In the vote we just had on Bill C-311, we heard the Liberals talk about it in the House in a very defensive way. I understand that is because it was the Liberals who called for the vote in the Senate that set this situation up. Is the member aware of this?

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10:35 a.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I am quite aware of that. When the hon. member from the Liberal Party was giving us his speech a while ago, he was blaming the Conservatives for what happened to Bill C-311. In reality, he should be looking in the mirror and blaming the Liberals, especially the Liberal senators. All they had to do was stand up and say, “No, we are going to debate the bill”. That would have been the democratic process. Instead, they sat in their chairs and the bill was killed.

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10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by reminding the House that the Bloc Québécois vehemently opposes Bill C-10, which would create a single eight-year term for senators appointed by the government. In fact, all the currently serving senators were appointed by the government. We will also support the NDP amendment.

This bill needs to be considered in connection with another proposal by the Conservative Party and the Prime Minister to hold a sort of public consultation to create lists of candidates from which the Prime Minister could choose future senators. We need to look at these two things together to see what the government is trying to do, which is to carry out a substantial reform of the Senate.

I agree completely with some of the NDP's comments that the Senate is an undemocratic institution and a remnant of Canada's colonial past. We are also in favour of abolishing the Senate.

Until recently, there was a tacit solution. The Senate as a political institution is the result of partisan appointments. We need to acknowledge that the Liberals made partisan appointments, just as the Conservative Party is doing now. Because the Senate is unelected and undemocratic, the senators were at least smart enough to respect the will of the only elected house of Parliament, the House of Commons.

We share the same disappointment. I would even say we are shocked that the Senate refused to endorse Bill C-311, which this House had passed. To my way of thinking, something that had existed for 80 years has been broken, and that is a serious problem. We should solve that major problem by abolishing the Senate, but we cannot do that unilaterally. Neither the House of Commons nor the government can decide to abolish or change the Senate, even though it does not have much public credibility.

Recently, in March 2010, Leger Marketing conducted a poll in Quebec and Canada. Overall, the results were the same, although the figures in Quebec were higher. Only 8% of Quebeckers believe that the upper chamber plays an important role and that the system for appointing senators works well; 22% of Quebeckers would rather have senators elected, but 43% supported abolishing the Senate. I should point out that 20% of Quebeckers opted not to answer the question, which shows just how irrelevant they think this institution is.

I said that we would be in favour of abolishing the Senate but that constitutional negotiations were necessary. The same goes for the threat the Prime Minister has been making for a number of months now that if these two reforms are not approved by the Senate, he will abolish it.

Unfortunately for him, he does not have the right to unilaterally abolish the Senate. Neither the Prime Minister nor the House of Commons can do that because the Senate is part of a parliamentary system agreed upon a very long time ago by the provinces and the federal government. I will read a quote from Benoît Pelletier on that topic later on. Mr. Pelletier is a constitutional expert at the University of Ottawa who was once minister of intergovernmental affairs for Quebec's Liberal government.

The same goes for Bill C-10. The Prime Minister and the Conservative Party want to create a so-called list of candidates for the Senate based on consultations with the public. All of these reforms require constitutional negotiations with the provinces.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court of Canada was very clear about this in a ruling from the early 1980s entitled Re: Authority of Parliament in relation to the Upper House. It very clearly says that when seeking to change the essential character of the Senate, constitutional negotiations are required.

All of the constitutional experts who appeared before the committee that was struck prior to the election, except for maybe one who was very close to the Prime Minister's Office, told us that this entails amendments to essential characteristics of the Senate, whether we are talking about Bill C-10 or the desire to create some sort of pseudo-democratic consultation to come up with a list of senators. They also told us that, taken together, the two reforms would further alter essential characteristics of the Senate.

The Supreme Court was very clear: there would have to be constitutional negotiations. The main problem with this bill is that the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party are trying to do indirectly what they have been unable to do directly. As I mentioned, we will vehemently oppose it.

I would like to come back to a quotation from Quebec's former intergovernmental affairs minister, Benoît Pelletier, who is also a professor at the University of Ottawa. He reiterated Quebec's traditional position when he said:

The Government of Quebec does not believe that this falls exclusively under federal jurisdiction. Given that the Senate is a crucial part of the Canadian federal compromise, it is clear to us that under the Constitution Act, 1982, and the Regional Veto Act, the Senate can be neither reformed nor abolished without Quebec's consent.

At the time, Mr. Pelletier gave an excellent summary of Quebec's traditional position, which is shared by both the Government of Quebec and the National Assembly. I would also remind the House that in 2007, when we were debating a similar bill, the National Assembly unanimously adopted the following motion:

That the National Assembly of Québec reaffirm to the Federal Government and to the Parliament of Canada that no modification to the Canadian Senate may be carried out without the consent of the Government of Québec and the National Assembly.

The Supreme Court, the Government of Quebec, the National Assembly and the constitutional experts who appeared before the legislative committee that was studying the bill before the 2008 election have all been clear regarding the fact that the amendments proposed in Bill C-10 and in the previous bill are changes affecting the Senate's essential characteristics and therefore require constitutional negotiations.

Furthermore, it is quite clear to us that, taken together, the bills introduced by the Conservative government clearly illustrate, for the first time, its desire to reduce Quebec's political weight within federal institutions. While that desire has always been a reality, the Conservatives are now being very open about it. This is obvious not only in their attempts to unilaterally impose these two bills, which is unconstitutional, but also in their desire to increase the representation of the Canadian nation by adding another 30 seats to the House, to the detriment of the Quebec nation's representation.

If ever this bill introduced by the Minister of State for Democratic Reform—how is that for an oxymoron?—were to pass, Quebec's political weight in the House would be less than its demographic weight. Rest assured that we will do everything in our power to make sure that never happens. For example, Prince Edward Island has four MPs and that is just fine. The Magdalen Islands have only one MNA, and we have no problem with that either. Mathematically, it cannot be proportionate. Other factors have to be taken into account, as was done for Prince Edward Island. In Quebec's case, we have to recognize, as the House has, that it is a nation within the Canadian nation and that this nation has to have at least 25% of the seats in the House in order to express the voice of Quebec.

In light of these circumstances, not only are we going to vote against Bill C-10 if it ends up in committee, at report stage or third reading, but for now, we are also unequivocally going to support the NDP amendment.

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10:45 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, what is really outrageous about this situation that we saw with Bill C-311 is that it was almost as if the Prime Minister had a lever in his office that he pulled and Bill C-311 dropped through the floor.

The intent of the Senate originally was as a place of sober second thought. Now we have a situation, and we have had it with previous governments, where the government in power stacks the Senate so it has control of that lever, whichever way it wants a bill or a motion to go.

This was an offence to the Parliament of this country. We have not taken Bill C-311 forward just once; we took it forward twice. It was passed twice in this House, and we still saw the Prime Minister's office pull that lever and dump that bill.

If there has ever been a case for the abolition of the Senate in this country, this is it. If we have to go to constitutional negotiations to do so, so be it. It is time to put an end to the Senate of Canada.

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10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question and comments.

I basically agree with the hon. member in that this week, the Senate breached a tacit agreement between the House of Commons and the Senate whereby the House of Commons makes a decision and the Senate takes a second look. There have been times when the Senate has made amendments that have improved bills and that is great.

However, it is not up to the Senate to make decisions on behalf of the Canadian nation or the Quebec nation. It is not representative. It is not elected. It is an archaic institution, a legacy of the colonial period. I think what happened this week with Bill C-311 is extremely serious and makes the case for abolishing the Senate. I am glad to hear that the hon. member would agree to abolishing the Senate through constitutional negotiations, which is the only way that is possible under the Canadian Constitution. The Supreme Court has reiterated that, as have the Government of Quebec and the National Assembly.

I will close by saying that, in recent months, the Senate has been extremely partisan both in terms of the bills before us and the appointments made by the Prime Minister. In fact, he had said that he would not make appointments until there was Senate reform. When there was a threat to his partisan interests, he again broke his promise and appointed senators to ensure that the Senate would be a conduit for the will of the Prime Minister's Office and the government. That is deplorable. This strengthens the case for abolishing the Senate. Once again, we will be voting against Bill C-10.

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10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week we saw how useful the Senate is when it prevented the passage of a bill that was rammed through the House, a real example of foolishness that would have had disastrous consequences for the Canadian economy and also for Quebec.

My question for the member from Joliette is quite simple. We know that the Constitution has reserved a number of seats in the Senate for Quebec. Why does he wish to weaken the position of Quebec within federal institutions—we know that he wants to destroy the country—given that the Senate is a place where Quebec has security in terms of seats and entitlements?

Why does he wish to maintain the anti-democratic nature of the upper chamber? He has the opportunity, as a democrat, to call for an elected Senate. He has an opportunity to do something for Quebec. What is he waiting for to do something concrete for Quebec?

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to share with the House what I read in the newspaper this morning. Apparently, after a long search, scientists have finally found antimatter. And we happen to have some right here, as evidenced in the statement made by the member for Lévis—Bellechasse

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is the hon. member for Lévis—Bellechasse rising on a point of order?

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the floor. I understand that the member for Joliette may not share my point of view. I respect the member for Joliette and his opinion. Regardless of parliamentary immunity, I expect all members of the House to show respect for one another both inside and outside the House. I am therefore rising on a point of order. I ask the member for Joliette to show respect for the members of the House as he engages in this debate.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

This is not a point of order. The hon. member for Joliette has 20 seconds to reply.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was just about to respond to his question when the member for Lévis—Bellechasse interrupted me.

We are defending the position of Quebec, the position of the Government of Quebec. The member for Lévis—Bellechasse is defending the position of the Conservative Party, the position of the Conservative government, and the interests of the Canadian nation as opposed to the interests of the Quebec nation. That is the reality.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Constitution Act of 1867.

The purpose of this bill, as we all know, is to limit the tenure of the Senate appointments to one, non-renewable eight-year term. I have to say that I support the bill going to committee for possible amendments and to allow all stakeholders, including the provinces as well as constitutional experts, to testify on the changes that the Conservative government wants to make to the Senate of Canada.

I believe strongly in reform, but this type of reform must be in the best interests of Canadians, reflect sound public policy and respect the Constitution.

While the Constitution Act of 1867 does not say anything specific to exclude the authority of Parliament to make amendments to Senate term limits, the Supreme Court commented, in a reference case on the upper house, that alterations that would affect the fundamental features or essential characteristics given to the Senate, as a means of ensuring regional and provincial representation in the federal legislation process, would require provincial consultation. The role and tenure of a senator was determined by the provinces initially, in order to meet the requirement of a federal system.

For there to be meaningful reform, there must be meaningful consultation. Few Senate reform proposals throughout the years have looked at the role and function of the Senate, they were always on the political image. The Supreme Court reference concluded that the constitutionality test for reform would be best fit if it met the requirements for independence; the ability to provide sober second thought; and the means to ensure provincial and regional representation.

Former senator Michael Pitfield said:

The Senate should not be a duplicate of the House of Commons, but a complement: a somewhat less partisan, more technical forum with a longer-term perspective. Appropriately designed Senate reform could provide greater countervalence against the executive, more useful national debate and sharper administrative supervision - not only within the Senate itself, but in Parliament as a whole.

The role of the Canadian Senate is often undervalued. It is an integral part of the Canadian system of checks and balances.

Canada's founders were well educated and read The Federalist Papers. They wanted to avoid as many of the mistakes that were made in the United States as possible, but also could see what worked. They knew well that a counterbalance to a tyranny of the majority was vital.

Sir John A. Macdonald said, “We will enjoy here that which is the great test of constitutional freedom — we will have the rights of the minority respected.”

Political pressures, partisanship and overall workload can cause bills to be passed through the House of Commons without proper consideration. The sober second thought provided by the Senate allows for careful legislative review in the best interests of Canadians and public policy.

The Senate has a wealth of institutional knowledge and has issued some of the most comprehensive reports on issues that are important to Canadians. The Senate committee on national security has engaged in several in-depth examinations of Canadian security, especially in the wake of 9/11, including a recent report on airport security.

Senator Carstairs issued an important report on Canadian seniors and our aging population. As we determine now how we will go forward with jobs and health care, and the economy as a whole, as the largest portion of our population begins their golden years, no issue is timelier.

The Senate subcommittee on cities recently issued a very important report on poverty, homelessness and affordable housing in Canada.

The Senate is able, in its current form, to engage in long-term, in-depth studies of these vital issues. Our current Senate is a vital element of liberal democracy, which values the necessity of opposition. Absolute democracy turns into majoritarianism. The Senate of Canada is an important institution and deserves proper consideration and adequate consultation.

There are dozens of experts to be heard from as well as provinces that are equally affected by any changes we make to this austere chamber.

It is imperative that we ensure this bill is constitutional and that reforms that are suggested are in the best interests of Canadians and Canadian institutions.

The Senate is not one of many political tools in a legislative arsenal. It is an independent, important legislative body in its own right. The government must respect the Constitution and Canadian institutions.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member that the suggestions brought forward by the government on Senate term limits are constitutional.

The member will recall that in the sixties this chamber brought the term limits down from life to the age of 75. Canadians feel overwhelmingly that a 45-year term, which is possible today, is not consistent with their values. They feel that 45 years without accountability or the ability to refresh the Senate is just too long.

Other proposals on the eight-year limit may be brought up in committee and we will hear them, because that is part of the democratic process. Non-renewable term limits would not only allow for a refreshing of the Senate, but would provide an opportunity for people to get more involved in the democratic process.

Would the member not agree--

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I will ask the member for Davenport to keep his remarks very short because we are about to start statements.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do agree. I do appreciate the minister's effort on this very important file.

I strongly believe in term limits for senators. It is in the best interests of all Canadians and our institutions.

I would just ask the minister to make sure that we do consult with all appropriate stakeholders and the provinces. We should have a discussion at committee about whether eight years is the right amount of time or not. I will support whatever comes out of committee. But we should have something that is balanced, respectful and in keeping with our traditions.

Anaphylaxis
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, more than a million Canadians suffer from anaphylaxis, a potentially deadly medical condition caused by hypersensitivity to certain products, often food related.

The member for Niagara West—Glanbrook and I are working with families across Canada to raise awareness of life-threatening allergies.

This government takes tackling health concerns seriously, from breast cancer to heart and stroke. It is time to give anaphylaxis the same attention.

One in 13 Canadians suffers from life-threatening allergies. That is why I will be supporting Motion No. M-546 before Parliament that reads:

That, in the opinion of the House, anaphylaxis is a serious concern for an increasing number of Canadians, and the government should take the appropriate measures necessary to ensure these Canadians are able to maintain a high quality of life.

It is time to help those families affected by anaphylaxis. I encourage all members of Parliament to attend the luncheon on December 7 to discuss this important motion.

Salle André-Mathieu Theatre in Laval
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Corporation de la salle André-Mathieu de Laval was honoured on November 1 when ADISQ awarded it the Félix for entertainment presenter of the year. Awards of distinction are nothing new for the corporation. In 2004, the Conseil de la culture de Laval awarded it the Prix de la culture for its variety of performing arts programming.

The corporation was previously nominated for ADISQ awards in a number of categories and twice won the Félix for performance venue of the year. But the Félix for entertainment presenter of the year is a special honour for the corporation, because it had been a finalist for that particular award five times. This year, on its sixth nomination, it won the award. Congratulations.

As the elected representative for Laval—Les Îles, I am proud of the Salle André-Mathieu theatre. I want to congratulate all the people who had a hand in the corporation's success.

Laurence Paquette
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, Laurence Paquette, a young cyclist in my riding, is the new Canadian champion and Quebec runner-up in track cycling in the under-17 category. Laurence is 16 and attends the École polyvalente Saint-Jérôme and trains with the hope of being selected to compete in the junior Pan-American track cycling championships, which will take place in Argentina in June 2011.

Every summer, Laurence competes in many races to gain as much experience as possible. This rigorous training regimen and her tenacity recently helped her win the track cycling championship in the under-17 category in Bromont, and we hope they will take her to Argentina next June.

I commend Laurence on her championship performance, and I am proud to say that this young student does an admirable job of balancing her studies and her training.

My Bloc Québécois colleagues join me in wishing her every success in the future.

Steel Industry
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, a recently released Ernst & Young document presented as part of the defence of U.S. Steel in Federal Court leads one to be concerned about how the shutting down of two of its Canadian mills affected pricing within the North American steel market.

In the affidavit, Ernst & Young makes a truly breathtaking comment, that shutting down these mills was not a criminal act, but somehow a net benefit to Canada. That is right, it said it was a net benefit to Canada. It should try telling Hamilton steelworkers that.

The potential impact of these actions on pricing within the steel market is not being addressed by the current lawsuit between the Government of Canada and U.S. Steel, and it needs to be. There are not only these tactics, but we also had the destruction of the defined benefits pension system caused by U.S. Steel and a number of other foreign-owned companies in Canada.

The utter contempt for Canadians, and indeed for common decency, displayed by these tactics suggest it is high time to review the Investment Canada Act. We need to give the Canada Investment Act real teeth to ensure foreign companies will never again be allowed to operate in this manner in Canada.

I am encouraged that the government has agreed with the--

Steel Industry
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Calgary East.

Foreign Affairs
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Government of Canada, I am greatly relieved that Robert Croke of Newfoundland, who was seized on November 8 in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria along with six other expatriates, has been released and is now safe.

Canadian officials are ensuring that Mr. Croke receives consular assistance, and that he will be reunited with his family as soon as possible.

We are also relieved that 12 Nigerian citizens who were taken hostage in a separate incident shortly following Mr. Croke's abduction were also released at the same time.

I was recently in Nigeria for its Independence Day celebration to further our strong, bilateral relationship with the Government of Nigeria. Let me be very clear, our mutual goal is for a safe and peaceful world.

Acts of Bravery
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, last month a number of my constituents were presented with Canada's highest honours for bravery.

On August 14, 2008, master corporal David King and able seaman Jaret McQueen rescued an unconscious man from his submerged vehicle that had plunged into the Pacific Ocean.

On February 3, 2007, Victoria police officers John Ayers, Michael Johnston and Clifford Watson protected the public with their own bodies from a driver who was trying to run them over.

On July 24, 2007, Victoria police officers Dale Sleightholme and Paul Spencelayh plunged into the icy waters of the Pacific Ocean to rescue a suicidal man.

These great Canadians committed acts of extraordinary bravery. On behalf of all members of Parliament, I salute them, honour them and give thanks for their acts of extraordinary courage under extremely difficult circumstances. They are Canadian heroes.

Multiple Sclerosis
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to talk about a number of brave women who have all taken a big step to try to improve their quality of life. These women all suffer from MS, and they have all either had or are scheduled to have the controversial CCSVI treatment.

Dianne Hepburn was wheelchair-bound for 18 months. Remarkably, she is slowly walking again.

Joyce Ziegler and Deb Knapp, very good friends who due to MS thought they would never again take a walk together, are now planning that walk.

Mandy Maisonneuve has enjoyed many improvements since she had the procedure.

Tammy Graver, Kathy Broeckel and Paula Harron all have dates set to have the procedure done. We wish them great success.

This procedure cannot presently be done in Canada. I know it will be someday, once clinical trials are complete. We must all work together to see that this happens as quickly as possible.

We all know that this procedure is not a cure for MS but it has certainly improved the quality of life for these women from my riding. We wish them continued improvement.

National Capital Act
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities has considered Bill C-20, which would amend the National Capital Act and would protect Gatineau Park and describe its boundaries. Bill C-20 includes a number of mechanisms that would enable the NCC to eat into Quebec territory in the Outaouais region and override Quebec's jurisdictions.

In letters from minister Benoît Pelletier, in 2007, and minister Claude Béchard, in 2009, the Government of Quebec clearly indicated to the federal minister that it opposed this attack on Quebec's territorial integrity. These letters were read by parliamentarians during the study of Bill C-20, but the NDP members, the Liberals and the Conservatives ignored them. They also disregarded all of the amendments by the Bloc Québécois that would have ensured respect for Quebec's territorial integrity. What is worse, there is nothing here about consulting Quebec. That is scandalous and unacceptable.

Iran
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday a resolution put forward by Canada condemning Iran's deplorable human rights record was adopted by the third committee of the United Nations General Assembly.

Our government is extremely pleased by the adoption of this important human rights resolution. By condemning the deplorable situation of human rights in Iran, we are sending a clear message to the people of Iran that they are not alone in their efforts to promote human rights in their country.

With this resolution, the unacceptable human rights situation in Iran has been brought to the attention of the international community, and the Iranian authorities have been called to account for their actions.

Canada will continue to call on the Iranian authorities to take steps to end the egregious abuses of the most fundamental basic human rights of the Iranian people.

Suspension of Sitting
Iran
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I think we will have to put off question period for today. I will ask all hon. members to leave the chamber and we will resume at the call of the Chair.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:08 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 11:41 a.m.)

Sitting Resumed
Iran
Statements By Members

11:40 a.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills
Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Minister of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been consultations and I think you will find there is unanimous consent that the statements and question period carry on from the point at which they were interrupted.

Sitting Resumed
Iran
Statements By Members

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is there unanimous consent to finish off statements by members and then have a full question period?

Sitting Resumed
Iran
Statements By Members

11:40 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Rita Chenard
Statements By Members

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, Franco-Ontarian towns are filled with families that often originated in Quebec. That is the case with my hometown, Mattawa, and with one of its most well-known families, the family of the late Charles and Rita Chenard.

We lost Rita, née Bérubé, the matriarch of the family, on November 1, 2010, at the age of 90.

They say that good things come in small packages. Rita, a tiny woman with a huge strength of character, gave birth to 13 children—7 boys and 6 girls—all living and lively.

Rita was wise and always calm, welcoming everyone with a bowl of soup and a smile.

Though she enjoyed relaxing with her crosswords and her soap opera, her home and her time were filled with laughter and political and philosophical discussions with her many children and their friends.

On behalf of her 13 children, their spouses, her 23 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren, and on behalf of her friends and loved ones: goodbye, Rita, and thank you.

Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada
Statements By Members

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal leader is trying to backtrack on his comments that a Filipino woman's candidacy in Winnipeg North is nothing more than a game. Yet he has failed again to explain why his Liberal candidate took the supposedly erroneous story and pushed it on his Twitter account and his website.

If there is an article that is not accurate and has insulting and offensive comments attributed to the Liberal leader, why on earth would he push it out for all to see, encouraging people to read it? Clearly the Liberal candidate believes and supports the insensitive comments that his Liberal leader was quoted as saying.

Julie Javier's candidacy is not a game. She is the only candidate on the ballot who is committed to voting against Bill C-343, the ridiculous coalition bill that would compensate the parents of young criminals if these youth are injured while committing a crime. That is an absolute insult to victims of crime.

Trans Day of Remembrance
Statements By Members

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, November 20 is Trans Day of Remembrance.

In communities across Canada and around the world, transsexual and transgender people will gather with their families, friends, co-workers and allies to remember the victims of transphobic violence, some of whom died as a result of physical and sexual assault.

We will renew our commitment to ending violence, discrimination and bullying against trans people and to build a society where they can enjoy full, happy, healthy, productive, safe and secure lives.

One step toward this goal is to add gender identity and expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act and to the Criminal Code's hate crime and sentencing provisions.

The House will again debate this proposal in the coming weeks when it considers Bill C-389 at third reading. Trans folks and their allies will be here on Parliament Hill tomorrow to show their support for this important bill.

New Democrats are proud to stand in solidarity with transsexual and transgender Canadians on Trans Day of Remembrance.

Aerospace Industry
Statements By Members

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, the F-35 program is good for our aerospace industry and helps provide our troops with the best equipment, so they can do their work properly.

The Liberals' plan to cancel this important program would kill thousands of jobs, mainly in Quebec's aerospace sector.

Yesterday, the Aerospace Industry Association of Canada issued a press release calling on hon. members to vote against the Liberal motion to cancel the F-35 purchase program.

We are working to protect Canadian jobs and job creation.

By jeopardizing the F-35 program, the Liberals are jeopardizing the stability of the Canadian aerospace industry and putting related jobs and investments at risk.

Our government continues to support our men and women in uniform.

The Liberals should promote jobs and support our troops instead of playing petty politics.

Saudi Arabia
Statements By Members

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, on November 10, UN Women elected its first executive board. This new agency “will work...to improve the status of women and girls”, said United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro. This entity, charged with ensuring that the UN's commitments to establish gender equality within its institutions are kept, is a competent authority among member states for bringing about this equality.

It is troubling to see that Saudi Arabia has a seat on this executive board. The customs and traditions of that country infringe on women's rights daily. It is a country where Nathalie Morin, a Quebecker, is stuck and being held prisoner, along with her children.

If Saudi Arabia wants to demonstrate its desire for equality and justice between men and women, then its authorities have to take the first concrete step and let Nathalie Morin and her children return to Quebec.

Men's Health
Statements By Members

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, today is International Men's Day and some members on all sides of the House are looking a little more hirsute than usual. That is because we are in the middle of the month of Movember, growing moustaches to raise awareness of prostate cancer.

Yesterday one of Canada's leading advocates for men's health, Dr. Larry Goldenberg, was on Parliament Hill and this week he received the Order of Canada. We can improve men's health in Canada by adopting preventive health strategies, promoting healthy living and other measures.

I admit that the comments made about my efforts to look more distinguished with this new moustache have not all been flattering. However, sometimes in life, we have to show some courage.

I hope all members will join with me in celebrating International Men’s Day, as we salute our colleagues who are fighting prostate cancer under their noses.

Democratic Reform
Statements By Members

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday when our Conservative government sought unanimous consent for a speedy passage of our Senate term limits bill, the opposition coalition refused to stand up for democracy and voted no.

Canadians have shown a clear desire for Senate reform. Unlike the opposition coalition, our government is committed to reforming Canada's Senate so it better reflects a 21st century democracy. Our Senate term limits bill would limit the term of senators to a single eight-year term instead of the current term of up to 45 years.

If the NDP and its coalition partners were truly serious about democratizing Canada's Senate, it would support our Senate reform efforts, including limiting the terms of senators.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the government.

When the official opposition questioned the cost and consequences of the closure of Camp Mirage and the incompetence of the government in how it handled the negotiations, the Prime Minister referred to those questions and issues as “anti-Canadian”. That was the statement he made.

I would like to ask the government House leader this. If the official opposition is anti-Canadian for questioning the costs and consequences of that incompetence, why does the same test not apply to the Minister of National Defence?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, we had negotiations with the United Arab Emirates. The offer that was on the table was not in the best interests of Canada. It would have cost Canada literally tens of thousands of jobs and was not in Canadian interests. That is why we said no.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are always going to be competing accounts of whatever was said or not said at a negotiating table. The fact remains that it is the minister's own recklessness that has in fact put us in this position.

At the time the government apparently made its decision, it is not entirely clear whether the government was aware that in fact it was going to need the base not simply until 2011 but until 2014.

We know that the original estimate of the cost of this disastrous decision by the government was $300 million. Can the government now tell us how much it will cost us in addition to have lost the base in Dubai until 2014?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, Canadian industry has supported the decision we made. Representatives of working men and women and national unions in Canada have supported the decision the government made.

The government did this because it was in the best interests of Canada. To do otherwise would have cost Canada literally tens of thousands of jobs in the years to come. Simply put, that is unacceptable.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister has made yet another reckless allegation. That is a truly preposterous statement. It is the government that walked away from the negotiation. No one else walked away from the negotiation.

Why will the government not admit that it made a disastrous choice, that it was reckless in its behaviour?

Why will the government not come clean with the actual cost? It is well over $300 million. What is it, $500 million, $600 million? Tell us what the cost really is.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite wants to talk about reckless allegations, that is incredibly so.

This is the reality. We were negotiating on behalf of Canada. We were negotiating on behalf of Canadian industry and Canadian workers. The deal on the table was not in the best interests of Canada.

Canada is a sovereign country. We are always going to stand up and do what is best for Canada.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister must certainly regret the major diplomatic and political incident he provoked a few months ago.

Not only is it going to cost Canadian taxpayers $300 million to relocate Camp Mirage, but he is also putting Canadian soldiers at risk and embarrassing them. Our troops are embarrassed by what happened.

Why does the Prime Minister prefer to protect the ego of the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons instead of his part-time Minister of National Defence and, more importantly, the Canadian Forces?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas)

Mr. Speaker, we will say once again that the government always chooses arrangements that are in the best interests of Canada and of the best value for Canadians. As we have said all along, what the United Arab Emirates was offering was not in the best interests of Canada and would have cost thousands of Canadian jobs.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government can strut around and boast all it likes, but the reality is that the Prime Minister's arrogant attitude is going to be very costly, because in his mind, the mission was ending in 2011, and so it would cost $300 million. The new reality is that we have a mission for another three years, in other words, until 2014.

Does this mean that the $300 million will turn into three or four times that amount, so it will really cost several hundred million dollars, perhaps even close to $1 billion?

Does the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons not realize that because of his ego problem and his spat with the part-time Minister of National Defence

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas)

Mr. Speaker, I will say again that what the United Arab Emirates was offering was simply not in the best interests of Canada. It would have cost jobs. It was a principled decision on behalf of Canadians.

Hydroelectricity
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the undersea cable between Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, Quebec's natural resources minister, Nathalie Normandeau, has confirmed that she has had assurances from her federal counterpart that the federal government will not provide any funding to Newfoundland and Labrador for the construction of these electrical transmission lines.

Based on the answers given by the Minister of Natural Resources this week, are we to understand that he has broken his promise?

Hydroelectricity
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I am fully aware that my colleague the Minister of Natural Resources spoke with his Quebec counterpart. He said that his department has no programs to support the file in question. That is truly the case. therefore, the Minister of Natural Resources does not have a problem supporting this project.

Hydroelectricity
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, hiding behind PPP Canada and its pseudo-independence—and that is what the House leader is doing and what the Minister of Natural Resources has done all week—is a sign of bad faith: the federal government appoints the board members; the federal government provides the funding; the federal government establishes the mandate.

Can the government confirm that it will not, directly or indirectly, finance an underwater cable that would amount to unfair competition for Hydro-Québec, which has never received a cent to help develop its facilities? Fairness, please.

Hydroelectricity
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the crown corporation will review this request from the governments of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. I am well aware that this is an important project for them but I want to be very clear about the fact that Quebec must receive its share. The federal government has provided many programs and, if Quebec wants to submit a request to the same crown corporation, it is welcome to do so.

Hydroelectricity
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the federal government provided more than $66 billion for fossil fuels and $6 billion to support nuclear energy, mainly in Ontario, while Quebec managed on its own. Hydro-Québec has developed without the help of the federal government. Now it seems that the federal government is willing to fund a power line that is especially designed to bypass Quebec and that will create competition for Quebec on the American market. This is utterly unfair.

Can the government tell us that it does not intend to fund this network either directly or indirectly?

Hydroelectricity
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, that question was answered yesterday and it has been answered again today by our House leader.

The government created Public-Private Partnerships Canada to ensure Canada's infrastructure needs are met while also protecting taxpayers' money. It is a crown corporation that operates at arm's-length from the federal government. Any province is able and capable of making submissions under the PPP proposal.

Hydroelectricity
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the federal government cannot hide behind PPP Canada. PPP Canada is a creature of the Conservative government but 25% of its funding comes from taxes paid by Quebeckers. The federal government should not be using money that comes, in part, from Quebeckers to pay for a cable that will create competition for Hydro-Québec.

Does it not stand to reason that, if Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia want a hydroelectric network, they should have to pay for it themselves like Quebec did?

Hydroelectricity
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc has no interest in building Canada or building positive construction in Canada.

PPP was put in place at arm's-length from the government in order to encourage provinces to come forward with projects. The government is going to consider those projects. Quebec has the same opportunity as every other province to bring forward projects to PPP, and we welcome it because we want to work with the provinces as we have done in the past and will continue to do in the future.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canadians just cannot understand why the Prime Minister is breaking his promise to bring our troops back from Afghanistan.

We know that the Liberal leader opened the door to an extension of the military mission in June. We know that the foreign affairs minister then started to negotiate with the Liberals.

Will the government now come clean on its negotiations? How many phone calls took place? How many meetings occurred? What else is in this Conservative-Liberal deal that keeps our troops in harm's way for three more years?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, this government recognizes the fact that we are a minority government, and we regularly work with opposition members from all three parties. We think that is an important responsibility. I have regularly worked with members of the New Democratic Party. I have worked with that one, that one and that one.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister sits down in Lisbon to get his marching orders from NATO, Canadians have come to realize that they cannot trust him.

The Prime Minister promised time and time again that our troops would be back in 2011. The Conservatives have broken that promise. They made a deal with the Liberals to keep our troops in this war zone for three more dangerous years, and we cannot even trust that. They have extended it twice already.

After all their broken promises, how can the Conservatives expect Canadians to believe them this time?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, we have been very clear with Canadians and we have been very clear with our allies that the combat mission in Afghanistan will end in 2011. We will honour that promise.

However, what we do want to do is to transition out of that combat mission and continue to provide aid and focus on development in Afghanistan.

As the Prime Minister said, a non-combat training role would ensure that the progress made by the Canadian Forces to date survives.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada has done more than its share in Afghanistan. The government went too far when it extended the military mission without a vote in Parliament. Canada will have more soldiers in Afghanistan than 35 countries, including Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, and so on.

Why do the Conservatives still want to do more for a war that is going nowhere?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

Noon

Thornhill
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas)

Mr. Speaker, Canada is committed to helping the Afghan people build a country that is more secure, stable and self-sufficient and is no longer a haven for terrorists.

As we have said, the combat mission will end in 2011. The facts indicate the Afghan security forces need more training. We do not want to risk the gains for which Canadian soldiers have fought so bravely and sacrificed.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday government officials explained that the Industry minister's G8 slush fund was created to provide gifts to the voters in his riding who were “inconvenienced” by the summit. The minister of course used his slush fund to build public bathrooms, miniature lighthouses, sidewalks to nowhere, gazebos in towns up to hundreds of kilometres away from the inconvenience of the summit.

Meanwhile, Toronto business owners received nothing for enduring the inconvenience and the riots that surrounded the G20.

Why the double standard?

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

Noon

Thornhill
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas)

Mr. Speaker, as we have said any number of times, there is a compensation policy in place. It is exactly the same policy that has been used by previous governments for past summits.

All claims were to be submitted by November 18 of this year in order to be eligible; that is, they were due this week. The assessment of claims will be made in close co-operation with Audit Services Canada, and payments will be administered in accordance with Treasury Board policy.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, this morning the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association said that restaurant owners in Toronto still have not received the federal compensation they were promised for the business losses they incurred during the G20.

I guess, to the Conservatives, losing more than half one's business at the height of the tourist season is not an inconvenience if one lives in Toronto, nor does it merit compensation.

It has been five months. When will the Conservatives cut the cheques they promised?

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

Noon

Thornhill
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas)

Mr. Speaker, the deadline was yesterday. It is not unreasonable that the cheques might take longer than 24 hours to be delivered.

I would encourage all Canadians, including the member opposite, who have questions about the mechanism to consult the g20.gc.ca website for the appropriate answers.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, five months after the G8 and G20 billion dollar debacle, the government is still ignoring the parliamentary order to release details of $100 million of contracts, which were due by October 12.

Those expenses were signed off by Julian Fantino, the Conservative candidate in the November 29 Vaughan byelection.

Coincidently, the government will not release the information until December 1.

Why are the Conservatives so desperately trying to hide Julian Fantino and his expenses?

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

Noon

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, as I said yesterday, these silly questions will end after November 29.

However, I would remind my colleague across the aisle that the agreement was signed by Ontario minister Rick Bartolucci, who the member would probably recognize as a Liberal colleague. That was signed in March.

However, as the host of unprecedented back-to-back G8 and G20 summits, we are proud of their success.

As we have said all along, the majority of the costs for the summits were security-related. Approximately 20,000 security personnel were tasked with safeguarding both summits.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the parliamentary secretary told us that the $100 million is under budget in fact. That means that the Conservatives have the full details now.

So, here is where we are. The minister is in contempt of Parliament, Julian Fantino is in hiding and the details of the $100 million are still missing.

Since Mr. Fantino has the information now, why does the government not find him, bring him to committee, swear him in and order him to tell the truth and explain how he spent the money?

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

Noon

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I expect my colleague will be able to ask that member after November 29.

They were public statements made by the OPP that its costs were expected to come in well under budget. That summit was unprecedented in its success. We have been disclosing the full details to date of the costs of the summit. That is further proof of our government's commitment to transparency and accountability.

The Environment
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, we know that the government does not like getting chastised, especially on the international stage. By refusing to allow the Bloc Québécois to be part of the Canadian delegation at the NATO summit, the Conservatives are keeping Quebec's voice from being heard in discussions about extending Canada's mission in Afghanistan.

Can the government guarantee that it will not pull the same stunt at the Cancun climate change summit and that the Bloc Québécois will be able to share its vision there?

The Environment
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I will be very clear: any Bloc member who wants to come to the next United Nations conference is welcome to join me.

The Environment
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, Quebec feels that the environment and the economy go hand in hand. The oil economy is enriching Canada but impoverishing Quebec. On the other end of the spectrum, Quebec is poised to profit from a green economy. Quebec's economic future is linked to the environment. It is important that Quebec be heard in Cancun.

Consequently, can the Minister of the Environment confirm that Quebec's voice will be heard in Cancun?

The Environment
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, of course the Bloc's environment critic or another member can come to Cancun as part of the Canadian delegation, if the Bloc so wishes. I am sure that Quebec's environment minister will also be going to Cancun. It is very important. They are all welcome to come. If the member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges wants to come too, she is welcome.

Copyright
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, the members of the National Assembly unanimously adopted a motion calling for an overhaul of Bill C-32, An Act to amend the Copyright Act, thereby showing their solidarity with the creators and artists who condemn the fact that the bill will create a new group of workers who will be dispossessed of the fruits of their labour to benefit the big distribution companies.

Will the government finally listen to Quebec and amend its bill to protect Quebec artists and culture?

Copyright
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, the special legislative committee will be considering Bill C-32 beginning next week. It is important that the member be aware of how many people actually support the bill: over 400 film, television and interactive media companies; 150 chief executives across Canada, representing companies with $4.5 trillion in assets; 38 multinational software companies, including Corel, Dell, HP, Apple, IBM and Intel; 300 of Canada's board of trade associations; 25 university student associations. It is a big page. I hope he has another question.

Copyright
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I also have a nice big page. More than 50,000 creators, artists and artisans in Quebec strongly condemn parts of Bill C-32, which contains no fewer than 17 exceptions to the requirement to pay a copyright fee. ADISQ, the UDA, SARTEC, DAMIC and SODEC, in short, Quebec's entire cultural community is demanding amendments.

Will the government amend its bill to protect Quebec artists' copyrights?

Copyright
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I will continue a little further down the page with all the groups that have come forward in support of Bill C-32, including entertainment software companies such as EA, Microsoft, Nintendo and Ubisoft. I think some of those are in Quebec. They are supporting this.

Ultimately, here is what this is about. The Bloc, the NDP and the Liberal Party all voted earlier in the House to extend something that we referred to as the iTax, a tax on digital devices and memory devices. Canadians do not want to pay fees and taxes on upgrading and updating media. This kind of tax on technology is regressive thinking. That is the Bloc—

Copyright
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Beauséjour.

National Defence
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, day after day, the government shows it is incapable of managing Canadian taxpayers' money. A recent example is its refusal to hold an open Canadian competition for the F-35, which would save taxpayers at least $3 billion. Meanwhile, it is closing embassies and refusing to fund family care, even though Canadian families are suffering.

The Liberal Party's priority is clear: it is Canadian families. When will this become the Conservative government's priority?

National Defence
Oral Questions

12:10 p.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, we are addressing all those things. The other thing we are addressing is what we need to give to our men and women in the Canadian Forces to do the jobs we give them to do.

The hon. member pulls this figure of $3 billion out of the air. As someone who has not been involved with the program for many years and who is not current with what has actually gone on, he has picked that figure out of the air and has decided that is the number that has some relevance. It has no basis in fact. There is absolutely nothing to that. It is a completely fantasy number.

We are getting the best airplane at the best price with the best participation by Canadian industry, and that is a win-win for Canada all around.

National Defence
Oral Questions

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative procurement process for the F-35 is failing and we can now see why. Yesterday that same parliamentary secretary said “nothing much has changed” since the 1964 defence white paper. It seems the Conservatives have not noticed that the Cold War has ended. No wonder they are afraid of 1950s propellor planes.

Will the government not do the right thing and hold an open Canadian competition to save at least $3 billion for taxpayers? That is something Lester Pearson would have done in 1964.

National Defence
Oral Questions

12:10 p.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, a lot has changed since 1964, but apparently not the Liberals' thinking.

What has not changed since 1964 is Canada's overall priorities of defending Canadian sovereignty, Canadian airspace and doing the right thing on the international stage under NORAD, NATO and other international commitments. That is exactly what we will be able to do with the F-35.

Again, my colleague has picked the number of $3 billion out of the air. It is not substantiated by anything other than the opinion of a man who has not been involved in the program for over five years. I would prefer to rely on the Canadian experts who have been following this program at a very high level for many years.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, while the government claims to care about veterans, it ignored their concerns for five years. It took Canadian heroes, a passionate outspoken ombudsman and even a national day of protest to force the government to finally announce changes. Veterans remain disappointed and are already discussing another day of protest.

Is it going to take another national day of protest, unprecedented in over 100 years, to reel the Prime Minister out of his corner?

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

12:10 p.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas)

Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite would know as a member of the veterans affairs committee, we have discussed at some length, including with our witness yesterday, Senator Dallaire, the many changes that come with the charter and the improvements being made.

Certainly there are still challenges ahead, but I think she would have to agree that the initiatives taken by the government are moving us in the right direction, responding directly to the needs of veterans and showing that the government does care very much about the great job and sacrifices our veterans have made for Canadians.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, veterans feel betrayed. The government failed to address their chief concern of the lump sum payment. Insufficient support is insufficient support whether it is a one-time payment or divided up over years.

Why does the government refuse to follow normal procedures to buy stealth fighter jets, which would free up $3 billion that could then be invested in our veterans?

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

12:10 p.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Greg Kerr Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, she is now off on a fantasy flight of some sort. I am not sure where that lack of logic comes from. I know the member does purport to care for veterans. However, one time in a response, she should recognize what many have, and that is the terrific methods and changes that have taken place. At least once she should recognize that we are responding to the needs of veterans and share in that commitment to our veterans, which is so very important.

National Defence
Oral Questions

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada's aerospace industry is shocked by the Liberal leader's vow to kill the F-35 program, which would create thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in benefits. It would also give our troops the best equipment available. The Liberal leader introduced a motion to officially kill jobs and deny our troops the equipment they need.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence tell the House what the aerospace industry said about the Liberal motion?

National Defence
Oral Questions

12:15 p.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to getting the best equipment for our men and women in uniform. We are also committed to giving the best opportunity to Canadian industry.

Let me tell the House what Claude Lajeunesse of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada said:

Cancellation and delay of this purchase will not only mean lost jobs and investment related to the 65 planes, but also billions of dollars and thousands of Canadian jobs lost relating to thousands of planes to be built as part of the broader program.

Let me also quote what the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor said yesterday. When asked whether the member was willing to put Canadian jobs, aerospace and our military at risk by supporting cancelling this F-35 purchase, he said “no”.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, while the people of Toronto were cleaning up the broken glass from the G20, a picture was emerging of the massive slush fund that had been set up for Muskoka. Fifty million dollars in taxpayer money were funnelled into the Tory minister's riding under the pretext of the G8 for inconveniences. Some inconvenience. It is a staggering list of vanity pork-barrel projects that had nothing to do with the summit. Meanwhile, Toronto was left out in the cold.

How can the government defend its gross misuse of taxpayer dollars?

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

12:15 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, as part of Canada's economic action plan, investments were made in the region of Muskoka to support the summit, to spruce it up for the huge number of international visitors and media not just at the summit site, but even hundreds of kilometres away. Some investments were also made to municipal infrastructure to compensate the community for the inconvenience.

That is something which has happened in past summits. It is certainly not unusual.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, Toronto took the hit with this Tory photo op. Businesses were trashed. The city was shut down. Shopkeepers are still waiting for compensation. Meanwhile the government was investing in defending a Conservative cabinet minister by sending $50 million into his riding.

The question is simple. Why did the government leave a Tory riding littered with hundreds dollar bills, while the streets of Toronto were littered with broken glass?

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

12:15 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from the Department of Foreign Affairs has already spoken to the compensation plans that are available, and the deadline was just yesterday. They will be processed as expeditiously as possible.

This government has made unprecedented investments in the city of Toronto, whether it is in public transit, or in arts and culture or in municipal infrastructure. No government has done more to support Toronto's infrastructure in five short years than this government has done.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian government's foreign affairs policy on the continent of Africa is becoming more and more obvious: it is giving up and could not care less about it. After removing seven African countries from the priority list for development assistance, the government is now preparing to shut down other embassies in Africa.

Can the Minister of Foreign Affairs confirm that no Canadian embassies in Africa will be shut down?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

12:15 p.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas)

Yes I can, Mr. Speaker. Every year the Government of Canada property holdings reviews our embassies abroad. An ongoing program is in place to review property and decisions are made based on value principles applied in these decisions.

As part of the ongoing review, 12 to 15 properties every year are sold on average in any given year. The normal practice is to replace them with a more appropriate property.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Standing Committee on Official Languages wants to meet with officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs to get to the bottom of the lack of French-language services at Canadian embassies abroad. The committee clerk has tried several times to speak to an appropriate official at the department, but he still has yet to hear back from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Can the minister explain his department's silence, or is he the one trying to avoid something that cannot be justified?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

12:15 p.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas)

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade regularly reviews our bilingualism policy as it is applied in missions abroad. Bilingualism is an important component in Canada's international relations and we place great efforts to promote linguistic duality.

While I am disappointed by the department's overall grade in this past year and by complaints as cited by my colleague, the official language investigators have noted very high levels of service availability—

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Davenport.

Haiti
Oral Questions

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, for months Haitians have been dealing with a serious outbreak of cholera. This epidemic has killed over 1,000 people and 10 months after the earthquake, up to one million people still live in tents and lack clean water, the source of the cholera outbreak.

Why is the government not showing leadership in this crisis? Why are we not hearing anything from the government on this issue? When will the government report to Parliament and give us an update on this crisis?

Haiti
Oral Questions

12:20 p.m.

Durham
Ontario

Conservative

Bev Oda Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, we are very concerned. The latest report indicates that 1,100 lives have been lost and 18,000 people have been hospitalized.

In fact, it is my pleasure to inform my colleague that today we are adding $4 million to combat this cholera outbreak. We are working with organizations such as the Pan American Health Organization and UNICEF. We will be providing more prevention campaigns, more medical supplies and clean water.

Haiti
Oral Questions

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, Haiti deserves better.

Those are empty, hollow words. They are committing to commit. Announcing an announcement. But an announcement, even if it is repeated 1,000 times, does not make medications, doctors or potable water appear. An announcement does not save lives.

The Conservatives promised millions of dollars after the earthquake and only a small portion of that has been sent. They reached out and then pulled back. Are they going to do the same thing once again?

Haiti
Oral Questions

12:20 p.m.

Durham
Ontario

Conservative

Bev Oda Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, again I announce that Canada has committed $5 million to fight the outbreak of cholera. This money is being disbursed. In fact, millions of litres of water are being provided. We have organizations on the ground.

As members know, this is a growing outbreak and we will continue to monitor the situation.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada brings in 200,000 temporary foreign workers and the government does nothing while their right to join unions is denied. The United Nations has just ruled on a complaint filed by the UFCW that Canada is trampling on the human rights of these migrant workers. Canadians believe it is illegal to exploit workers and deny them the right to organize.

Will the government make respect for human rights a condition for provincial participation in the temporary foreign workers program?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

12:20 p.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, this government will take no lectures or direction from the opposition in dealing with the temporary foreign worker program. It is, in fact, a program that has been successful from one side of this country to the other. It puts people from other countries to work in circumstances when we cannot fill positions here in Canada.

It allows them to help their families. It allows them to help their country. It allows them to lead lives that they would not have been able to lead had they had to stay in their countries. This is a program that works. Province after province after province is asking us to make this program bigger because of how successful it has been.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the best way to protect vulnerable migrants and help them go after those who exploit them is to let them stay in Canada permanently.

Migrants are often targeted by crooks and traffickers. Some are sold to the sex trade. I see today the Conservatives are having a press conference on vulnerable migrants. Will the minister commit to provide real protection to the most vulnerable migrants and let them stay in Canada so they can go after those who exploit them?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

12:20 p.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, every temporary foreign worker who comes to this country does so under Canadian labour law. It is upheld and enforced. It is there to protect those who come to work in this country. If the member has a specific example that she would like to bring forward, I can say that the minister and the ministry will act immediately on it to ensure that no labour law has been broken.

This program is for our country. This program is for the foreign workers. In fact, some say it is the best foreign aid program we have in this country.

Democratic Reform
Oral Questions

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Liberal-Bloc-NDP coalition failed Canadians when it chose to stand in the way of rapid passage for our Conservative government's Senate term limits bill. Time and again our government has reintroduced legislation to make Canada's Senate more democratic and accountable, only to be thwarted by the opposition.

Could the Minister of State for Democratic Reform please tell the House and all Canadians why Senate reform is so important to our government?

Democratic Reform
Oral Questions

12:25 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister and our government remain committed to reforming the Senate to reflect the values we as Canadians have in the 21st century.

That is why this government has introduced legislation that would limit Senate terms from the current term of up to 45 years to one single term of eight years.

We believe that Canadians support this legislation overwhelmingly. We have also introduced legislation to encourage provinces to have elections.

Unlike the opposition coalition, our government believes that all parliamentarians should be elected and accountable.

Food Safety
Oral Questions

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food demonstrated his word is meaningless when it comes to food safety issues.

While he originally committed to implement all the Weatherill recommendations, the minister has now admitted the government has never done the critical audit called for in the Weatherill report.

That report called for a third party audit of CFIA inspection resources which includes an examination of how many plants each inspector should be responsible for.

Why has the government not acted on this key recommendation? Is it because it could show government neglect on food safety?

Food Safety
Oral Questions

12:25 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that an independent review, a thorough review, was done as was a front-line assessment in co-operation with the union, both of which confirm that our work to improve food safety is working.

In addition, we have invested $75 million. We are moving forward on the recommendations contained in the Weatherill report and we are in the process of hiring an additional 170 new inspectors.

City of Lévis
Oral Questions

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, contrary to the minister's claims, and after checking with those in charge of the 2011 celebrations, Lévis will not receive $1 million from the cultural capitals of Canada program. Vancouver, on the other hand, is receiving $1.75 million. Lévis and Vancouver are cities in the same category; they both have populations over 125,000.

Can the minister tell us if Lévis will be treated like Vancouver and also receive $1.75 million from the cultural capitals of Canada program?

City of Lévis
Oral Questions

12:25 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, what a wonderful opportunity to stand up and congratulate the hard-working member for Lévis—Bellechasse, my colleague who has championed through the cultural capital program for his home riding.

Only three cities out of eleven that applied were honoured with the title of cultural capital. Lévis--Bellechasse was one of them. He is an outstanding member of Parliament. It is a great city. The title is well deserved and we are honoured to support it with this distinction.

Privacy and Personal Information
Oral Questions

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, yesterday at the transport committee, in response to my question, the Privacy Commissioner said that personal information about Canadians provided under Bill C-42 to American security agencies can be used for any purpose: immigration, law enforcement, or even sent to foreign countries.

Two days earlier, the Minister of Public Safety testified this could not happen saying, “It would be unlawful is my understanding of American law to use it for any other purpose”.

Whom should we believe: the minister or the Privacy Commissioner? When will the Conservatives come clean on protecting Canadians' privacy?

Privacy and Personal Information
Oral Questions

12:25 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, this is obviously an important piece of legislation that is before committee. We have a great deal of regard for the Privacy Commissioner. We will continue to work with her on these issues.

There is a small amount of information that is being requested by the Obama administration. We will also continue to work with it.

We have to ensure that our aviation system is safe, that we can co-operate with our allies and ensure that Canadians' reasonable expectation of privacy is respected.

Taxation
Oral Questions

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to taxes, the choice is clear.

The risky Liberal-Bloc-NDP coalition would impose higher taxes on Canadian families and job creators. Tax hikes would kill 400,000 Canadian jobs according to experts.

On the other hand, the Conservative government believes in lower taxes. We cut over 100 taxes since coming to office. Total savings for a typical family are over $3,000.

Could the parliamentary secretary please inform the House what a major international study said today about Canada?

Taxation
Oral Questions

12:30 p.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, unlike the Liberals, we believe in lower taxes for Canadians and leaving more money in their pockets where it belongs.

A PricewaterhouseCoopers study released today reveals Canada has leaped to the top of the global rankings as the best place for job creators. According to that report, our tax cuts for job creators mean that Canada “is moving in the right direction...stimulating economic growth and restoring confidence following the global economic recession”.

Food Safety
Oral Questions

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the minister should know the difference between an audit and a review. It was an audit that was called for to determine the number of inspectors needed and how many facilities each inspector should be responsible for.

Canadians want confidence that inspectors are in place to do the job. The government has denied Canadians that right. Sheila Weatherill demanded the audit because she clearly had no more confidence in the government than we do.

Just what is it that the minister does not get about his responsibilities for food safety?

Food Safety
Oral Questions

12:30 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, we take food safety very seriously. As I already explained, we conducted a thorough independent review. We are in the process of hiring 170 new inspectors. We have invested an additional $75 million in the CFIA. Since 2006, we have added to the number of inspectors with 538 new inspectors.

The member himself has said, “I personally believe that our food is safe in Canada”.

Canada's Citizenship Guide
Oral Questions

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism says that he is concerned that new immigrants' lack of knowledge about Canada's history will lead to social unrest. For that reason he has produced a Conservative propaganda guide to Canadian history. The guide does not mention Bill 101 or that immigrants are required to attend French schools in Quebec.

Should the minister not revise his message and clearly tell new arrivals that everything in Quebec is done in French?

Canada's Citizenship Guide
Oral Questions

12:30 p.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, in this country if a document or book sells more than 5,000 copies, it is considered a gold best seller.

Over 250,000 copies of the new citizenship guide have been distributed across the country. This document cannot stay on the shelf long enough because Canadian citizens and those who want to become new Canadians are picking that document up. We have not had an update like this in decades.

People want to become Canadians. They want to understand the history of this country, whether they are in British Columbia, Quebec, Nova Scotia, or Ontario. They love it and they are going use it.

Canadian Wheat Board
Oral Questions

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives will stop at nothing to interfere with the election of Canadian Wheat Board directors: gerrymandering voters lists, using tax dollars to spread propaganda, putting a gag order on the Canadian Wheat Board, and even withholding initial payment cheques to farmers to bias the vote. This behaviour is a disgrace and an affront to democracy.

Why do the Conservatives not quit their ideological crusade to destroy this great prairie institution and join with the rest of us and celebrate the Canadian Wheat Board instead of trying to smash this great Canadian institution?

Canadian Wheat Board
Oral Questions

12:30 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, as usual, the member comes late to the debate. He knows full well that the majority of western Canadian farmers want choice. If he understood farming at all in western Canada, he would understand the necessity for it.

I would also like to address the fact that the member cannot seem to get along with anyone, and he certainly cannot co-operate with western Canadian farmers.

The Forest Products Association actually sent a letter to his leader asking if the NDP shared his view that Canada's forest products industry is neither sustainable nor environmentally sound. It went on to say that the tone and nature of his questions at committee are completely unacceptable and serve only to perpetuate a stereotypical view of the industry that has been dealt with 10 years ago. They are asking the member's leader to repudiate his views.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:35 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, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table in both official languages the government's responses to five petitions.

Preventing the Trafficking, Abuse and Exploitation of Vulnerable Immigrants Act
Routine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-56, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, entitled “Young Farmers: The Future of Agriculture”.

I also have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, in relation to producer cars.

Take Note Debate
Routine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, after consultations with the other parties with respect to a take note debate on pensions, I move:

That a Take-Note Debate on the subject of the national discussion focusing on improvements to Canada's retirement income system, including the ongoing dialogue between federal, provincial and territorial governments and consultations with all Canadians, take place, pursuant to Standing 53.1, on Tuesday, November 23, 2010.

Take Note Debate
Routine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Take Note Debate
Routine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Take Note Debate
Routine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

Passport Fees
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I present a petition concerning the deteriorating state of tourism in Canada and the precarious state of hunting and fishing lodges in this country as well. This petition has been signed by dozens of Canadians and it calls on the Government of Canada to negotiate with the Government of the United States to reduce passport fees on both sides of the border.

The number of American tourists visiting Canada is at its lowest level since 1972. It has fallen by five million visits in the last seven years alone, from 16 million in 2002 to only 11 million in 2009. Passport fees for an American family of four could be over $500 U.S; and in fact, while 50% of Canadians have passports, only 25% of Americans do.

At the recent Midwestern Legislative Conference, involving 11 border states from Illinois to North Dakota--

Passport Fees
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I will just remind the hon. member that the Standing Orders allow members to provide a brief explanation of petitions but it is not an opportunity to make a speech.

The hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles.

Air Canada
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Desnoyers Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by Air Canada workers who belong to local 1751 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to ensure full compliance with the 1988 Air Canada Public Participation Act, which requires that Air Canada maintain operational centres in Mississauga, Winnipeg and Montreal. More than 23,000 direct and indirect jobs are at stake.

Foreign Takeovers
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise and present a petition concerning the need to change the Investment Canada Act, particularly section 36, which has allowed Vale and Xstrata to buy up Canadian properties without having to make any real commitments. Now, as I make this presentation, Thompson is being told that its smelter is being shut down. It is the latest serious move by both Vale and Xstrata to rip apart the production capacity of base metal mining in this country.

The petitioners call on the government to set up clear rules and transparency so that these foreign corporate raiders can be held to account.

Right to Life
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present today.

The first calls upon the Government of Canada to respect human life and to provide protection for human life from conception until natural death.

The petitioners draw to the attention of the House the fact that it has been 41 years since Parliament passed the law to permit abortion and that since 1988 Canada has had no law whatsoever to protect the lives of unborn children, including those who are moments away from natural birth.

The second petition relates to the issue of pornography, child pornography in particular. It takes the form of one of the white ribbon campaigns that goes on across the country.

The petitioners call upon the House to combat pornography, particularly because of its impact on children.

This second petition is not in the appropriate form for the House, but given the goodwill of the people who have presented it and the importance of the issue, I wonder, Mr. Speaker, if you could seek the unanimous consent of the House to accept this petition as well.

Right to Life
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is there unanimous consent to allow the member to present a petition that may or may not be in the usual order?

Right to Life
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Right to Life
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, the petition I have in hand is again from individuals who are greatly concerned and draw the attention of the House to the fact that Canada is a country respecting human rights and that in fact we have included in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that everyone has the right to life. They, as with the last petition, remind us that it has been now 40 years that Parliament has had no law to protect the lives of unborn children. So they are asking Parliament to pass legislation for the protection of human life from the time of conception until natural death.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:40 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. 420 and 425.

Question No. 420
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

With respect to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and foreign vessels in offshore waters: (a) what is the department doing to address the illegal fishing of Newfoundland cod as bycatch and the misreporting of turbot catches and other species; and (b) will the government make public the department’s reports concerning boardings and inspections of foreign vessels in offshore waters?

Question No. 420
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Egmont
P.E.I.

Conservative

Gail Shea Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, in response to (a), the bycatch limits for stocks managed by NAFO take into consideration NAFO Scientific Council advice. Canada and other NAFO contracting parties have committed to reduce bycatch, including the bycatch of southern Grand Banks, divisions 3NO, cod, to ensure that the NAFO stocks still under moratorium can recover and that stocks that have recovered sufficiently to allow targeted fisheries continue their path to recovery.

At its 2010 annual meeting, NAFO decided to establish a working group to develop rebuilding plans for 3NO cod and 3LNO American plaice in 2011. This working group will consider the key principles and elements in the development of conservation plans and rebuilding strategies, including a commitment to keep bycatch to the lowest possible level and restricted to unavoidable bycatch in fisheries directing for other species. These conservation plans and rebuilding strategies are expected to include measures to address bycatch.

Addressing the misreporting of catch of NAFO-managed stocks continues to be a top priority for Canada in NAFO. Based on our surveillance assessments of Greenland halibut, there has been a relatively low level of misreported catch. Canada continues to work within NAFO and with other contracting parties to improve compliance on this and other areas in the NAFO regulatory area fisheries.

In response to (b), reports of inspections, conducted under the NAFO Joint Inspection and Surveillance Scheme, are considered third party information. Canada is unable to release this information given international confidentiality agreements and the commercially sensitive, proprietary, nature of the information.

Question No. 425
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

With regard to the government’s Economic Action Plan: (a) how many projects have been funded in partnership with the provinces and municipalities; (b) for how many of these projects has the government been informed that the March 31, 2010 deadline for substantial completion will no longer be met, listing for each the title of the project; and (c) for how many of these projects has the government been informed that there is a risk of no longer meeting the deadline for substantial completion, listing for each the title of the project?

Question No. 425
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, in response to (a), under Canada’s economic action plan, the government has committed nearly $5.6 billion in federal funding toward over 7,000 provincial, territorial and municipal infrastructure projects.

In response to (b), please be advised only the national recreation trails initiative was subject to a March 31, 2010 deadline for project completion. All projects were completed by the deadline.

In response to (c), the government is monitoring progress on projects on an ongoing basis, but has not been provided with a listing of individual projects at risk as of October 5, 2010.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:40 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, if Questions Nos. 407, 408, 409 and 429 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 407
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

With regard to the Economic Action Plan, for every rejected application in Manitoba: (a) on what date was the application submitted; (b) on what date was a decision reached; (c) in which federal riding would the project have taken place; (d) on what date was the applicant informed of the decision; and (e) what would have been the total federal contribution?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 408
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

With regard to the Economic Action Plan, for every project in Manitoba: (a) on what date was the project announced publicly; (b) was there a public event associated with the announcement and if so, what was the cost of the public event; (c) what was the federal share of the funding; (d) what was the provincial share of the funding; (e) what was the municipal share of the funding; (f) on what date was the application for funding submitted; (g) in what federal riding was it located; (h) what is its description; (i) what is the estimated completion date; and (j) on what date was the application for funding approved?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 409
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

With regard to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), how much money has Canada contributed to date for the implementation of the EITI in each fiscal year since its inception in 2002 and from which departments or agencies did these funds come?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 429
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Honoré-Mercier, QC

With respect to the Marquee Tourism Events Program, in the last two fiscal years and for each riding: (a) how many applications were received and what was the total amount requested; (b) how many applications were deemed eligible and what was the total amount of those applications; (c) how many applications were deemed eligible without seeking approval from the minister and what was the total amount of those applications; and (d) how many applications were approved by the minister and what was the total amount of those applications?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Royal Recommendation--Bill C-568
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the government's argument that Bill C-568, an act to amend the Statistics Act regarding the mandatory long-form census, requires a royal recommendation.

We believe it does not, and I will explain why.

First, we would like to remind the House that Bill C-568 was not included the Speaker's list of items that, in your view, Mr. Speaker, might require royal recommendation.

As all members know in this House, the Speaker always makes a statement on this question following a replenishment under private members' business.

However, in his remarks, the parliamentary secretary made the argument that this bill would not only require the expenditure of funds, but also change the mandate of Statistics Canada and give it so-called new responsibilities.

Before going any further, Mr. Speaker, I would like to read sections of the actual mandate of Statistics Canada under the act.

Section 3 states:

There shall continue to be a statistics bureau under the Minister, to be known as Statistics Canada, the duties of which are

(a) to collect, compile, analyse, abstract and publish statistical information relating to the commercial, industrial, financial, social, economic and general activities and condition of the people; ...

(c) to take the census of population of Canada and the census of agriculture of Canada as provided in this Act; ... and

(e) generally, to promote and develop integrated social and economic statistics pertaining to the whole of Canada and to each of the provinces thereof and to coordinate plans for the integration of those statistics.

That begs the question, what exactly would Bill C-568 do?

Would the bill create a new responsibility for Statistics Canada, as has been suggested?

It is very clear that its mandate is to take information for the census. It is as simple as that. This is not a new responsibility. This bill does not propose to produce a new function.

We would not be changing the mandate of Statistics Canada. We would simply be asking Statistic Canada to undertake the census in the way it has taken the census for the last 40 years, with a mandatory long form.

We would not be changing the mandate of Statistics Canada. We would simply be enabling Statistics Canada to fulfill its existing mandate.

The parliamentary secretary also argued that the bill would impose a cost of $50 million to carry out the long form census.

This entirely false, in our view. The bill would not impose any cost since the government already conducts a short and long form census. The forms are being printed and the money is already being spent. Bill C-568 would simply ensure that it is mandatory for Canadians who receive the long form census to respond to it. As a result, no additional expenditures would be required from Statistics Canada to do this.

Indeed, because the long form census is no longer mandatory, the government must print and mail significantly more forms out to the public to gather the necessary data and compensate for a reduction in the rate of response. It is estimated the new voluntary form would in fact cost $30 million more. As a result, Bill C-568 would actually reduce expenditures. I repeat, Mr. Speaker: it would actually reduce expenditures by $30 million.

In summary, Bill C-568 would not change the mandate of Statistics Canada. It would simply enable Statistics Canada to fulfill its existing mandate and reduce, not increase, expenditures by $30 million.

For these reasons, we believe the bill does not require a royal recommendation and we look forward to your adjudication and ruling on this matter.

Royal Recommendation--Bill C-568
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The chair will take that under advisement.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate term limits), be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity. It is good to have a chance to speak to Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate term limits). This bill actually seeks to establish a term limit of eight years for senators in Canada. That is the key part of this legislation.

What we are actually debating today is an amendment to the main motion that was moved by my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley. The amendment motion reads:

“the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate term limits), because the term limits do not go far enough in addressing the problems with the Senate of Canada, and do not lead quickly enough to the abolition of the upper chamber, as recent events have shown to be necessary”.

It is an unusual step for us to move that kind of motion in debate on a bill like this, especially a bill that we had indicated we would support to get to committee for further discussion and for improvement. We were already saying that, even though we have very serious problems with the Senate and even though we have called for the abolition of the Senate, we were prepared to see this bill debated further and hopefully improved at committee.

The events of the past week have certainly changed our opinion about what should be done about the Senate at the present time and the government's attitude towards Canada's democracy and how this Parliament functions.

What I am referring to there is the decision by the government and by the Prime Minister to call on his senators to defeat the climate change accountability act, a private member's bill that moved all the way through the House of Commons. It was debated here in the House. It went to committee and had lengthy hearings.

It was a lengthy process on that bill by the elected representatives of the Canadian people here in the House of Commons. It passed all stages here in the House and was sent to the Senate, where it languished for months.

It was finally passed back in the spring of this year and sat in the Senate without any action until earlier this week when, out of the blue, the bill was called and defeated. It was without a hearing, without reference to a committee, nothing. There was no activity and no debate whatsoever at the Senate.

This is clearly an action by the government to defeat the only possibility of Canadian action on climate change that was in the works. This bill was something that New Democrats had put forward. It was put forward in the last Parliament.

Our earlier attempt at the climate change accountability act in the last Parliament, the 39th Parliament, was Bill C-377. After a great deal of hard work on the part of many members of the House of Commons with input from environmental leaders and other leaders from across Canada, that actually passed through the House of Commons in 2008. That was a cause for celebration among Canadians who are concerned about climate change and the environment.

That was the first time any legislature in the world had actually passed legislation that would deal with the post-Kyoto greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Canada, this Parliament, this House of Commons took an extremely important step in the last Parliament, in 2008, with the passage of the climate change accountability act. Unfortunately the election was called and interrupted that progress. It stopped the bill in its tracks, and that meant it had to start all over again when we returned after the election in 2008.

New Democrats did put it back on the agenda. Our member from Thunder Bay put that bill back on the agenda and had it debated here in the House. It went through the same long, laborious process and was again passed in May 2010.

On two occasions, the elected representatives of the Canadian people, the members of the House of Commons, have dealt with this important piece of legislation and have passed it. When it was finally sent off to the Senate, where in our process it needs to be dealt with further, going through the same kind of process, the unelected and unaccountable members of the Senate, presumably under marching orders from the Prime Minister, killed the bill without so much as a debate, without so much as a referral to committee for further study.

It is an absolutely outrageous affront to our democracy and an unconscionable use of the power of the Senate, of the unelected and unaccountable appointed Senate.

This bill, the climate change accountability act, would have established greenhouse gas reduction targets 25% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. It was hailed as important legislation by many respected people.

I have to point out that Mark Jaccard and Associates, an independent environmental assessment firm, did a survey of this bill. Mr. Jaccard is an important environment scientist from Simon Fraser University. Its conclusion about Bill C-311, the NDP's climate change accountability act, was that the targets it established would also encourage growing economy, increasing jobs and improving the quality of life for Canadians. It said there was a positive impact of this bill, an analysis that flies in the face of the government's blanket denunciation and rejection of the proposals in the NDP's climate change accountability act.

Unfortunately, this action has stopped. Any reasonable, effective or appropriate Canadian response to climate change was stopped dead in its tracks. It was our best opportunity and it is gone. It was done by unaccountable, unelected senators appointed by a Prime Minister who at one time did not seem to have much regard for the unelected, accountable Senate.

On a number of occasions, we have seen the Prime Minister and his Reform predecessors have had great criticism for the Senate. In December 2005, the Prime Minister said, “An appointed Senate is a relic of the 19th century”. I have to agree with the Prime Minister. It is not often that I do, but on that I certainly do. An unelected, appointed body is a relic of another era. It is an anti-democratic relic of a colonial era.

Some of the requirements to be a senator are relics of that era as well, such as the fact that senators have to be 30 years old before being appointed and that people have to own property outright in Canada before becoming a senator. Even though the threshold is now really low, the intention years ago was to make sure that senators were from the moneyed classes. They had the expectation that they would represent that class in Canada.

Today the threshold is low, but the requirement is still there. We have even seen in the past an interesting example when a nun was appointed to the Senate and, because of vows of poverty, did not have any property. Her order had to actually transfer some land into her name so she could take her seat in the Senate.

It points out the ridiculousness of that requirement. If it were a legitimate body, any Canadian of voting age, no matter what the individual's personal economic circumstances, should be able to serve in a body in the Canadian Parliament. However, not in Canada and not with the Senate. The Prime Minister was right. This unelected, unaccountable body is a relic of another era and of the 19th century.

In March 2004, the Prime Minister also said, “I will not name appointed people to the Senate. Anyone who sits in the Parliament of Canada must be elected by the people they represent”. How many times has the Prime Minister broken that promise and turned his back on that important statement of principle that came out of the convictions of the Reform Party, his predecessors? It boggles the mind the number of times he has chosen to ignore that advice.

In this corner, we are very concerned and outraged by what happened this week. It is ironic that we have this bill that would establish a term limit for senators, but that is not the issue. The issue is still that they are unelected, appointed by the Prime Minister and unaccountable to anybody. Whether they are there for 8 or 45 years, it is still an inappropriate, unelected and unaccountable body, and it should not be part of our system. It is an affront to democracy, and we need to abolish this relic of the past.

This is a very important issue. I am glad we were able to debate it this week, given that Bill C-10 was on the agenda when the inappropriate use of the Senate's power was mandated by the Prime Minister to kill the climate change accountability act. We are very lucky to have had this opportunity to draw to the attention of the House and Canadians why this body is inappropriate and why this proposed Senate reform bill does nothing to address the main problems with the Senate.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from B.C. mentioned the comments of the Prime Minister and I remember those comments as well. I remember when the Reform Party was starting off and people were looking to it for change and to have accountability, democracy, a new voice and a new way of doing politics, and now, as I have said before, there is nothing left. It is a corpse over there, and a stinking one at that. It is just sitting there without any principles.

Conservatives say now that they will appoint senators for eight years. In eight years, if there are two majority governments, they could still stuff the Senate, so it matters not that we can take it from 45 to 8. It matters whether or not the senators are elected, and the Conservatives will not deal with that.

I want underline to my colleague from B.C. that we trusted the Conservatives once on fixed-date elections. They said there would be no constitutional change. We told them that was fine and we would sign on to that. What did they do when they put that into place? They broke their promise and called an election, so why should we trust them on this one? We will not be fooled again.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I agree completely with my colleague from Ottawa Centre, as I regularly do, which will not surprise anybody here.

We heard from the current Minister of State for Democratic Reform of the constant need to modernize the Senate. What do we get instead? We get the same old stuff that we used to get from the Liberals: stacking the Senate with bagmen, with party insiders and with the representatives of the upper class in Canada. We get the same old appointments to stack the Senate to get government business through, to do the bidding of the Prime Minister. These are people who have no accountability to the Canadian people. The only accountability they have is to the person who appointed them, and that is the Prime Minister. Time after time they show that is where their accountability lies.

I do not want to deny that the Senate has done good work from time to time, but it is still not a legitimate body. I have a mandate from the Canadian people. I stand at election regularly and I am accountable to the people who elect me. People in the Senate never have to do that, and that is wrong.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, it is important to realize that Bill C-10 will apply to all the senators that the Prime Minister has appointed since 2008, upon royal assent.

The member has talked a lot about the fact, and I think we agree, that there is an undemocratic and unaccountable nature to the Senate that we would like to improve. The NDP's position is to abolish the Senate, but that will not happen, to be realistic. However, we can introduce term limits and we can also have Senate elections.

I wonder if the member could reflect on this scenario. We have term limits of eight years. We have the Senate selection act, where Canadians would be able to elect their senators to the other chamber. Canadians could end up with a scenario where Canadians elect an NDP member to the Senate, so the NDP could end up with senators. If there were problems like the ones on Tuesday night, NDP senators could stop what the member is complaining about. At least that would be an improvement. Would the member not agree?

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

No, Mr. Speaker, I do not agree, because an appointed Senate, whether it is for 8 years or 45 years, appointed by the Prime Minister is still wrong. That is what we will get with the bill.

The bill does not change the fundamental problems with the Canadian Senate. The fundamental problem is that there is still no accountability to the Canadian people, given this legislation and given the way the current Prime Minister and the current government is using that body.

That body has no legitimacy. Here in the House of Commons we stand for election. We have to have the confidence of the people in our constituencies to take up the responsibilities we have here. Senators do not do that. The bill may limit them to eight years of unaccountable representation, but that is all it does and it is not enough.

It is a pathetic attempt at modernizing the Senate. It is a pathetic attempt at dealing with the problems of the Canadian Parliament and Canadian democracy. I think people will see through that, and they will see that it is just not good enough when it comes to the kinds of promises the government and the Prime Minister made to the Canadian people before he was elected and when he was running for election. I think there will be an accountability moment there for the government and the Prime Minister.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to speak to Bill C-10 to alter senators' tenure.

The Bloc Québécois opposes the principle of Bill C-10. This is not the first time the Conservative Party has tried reforming the Constitution without the provinces' approval. Personally, I am not a big fan of the Canadian Constitution, but the fact remains that outside of Quebec, Canadians identify with the Constitution.

In the late 1970s, the Supreme Court of Canada considered the capacity of Parliament, on its own, to amend constitutional provisions relating to the Senate. According to a ruling handed down in 1980 regarding that capacity, any decisions related to major changes affecting the essential characteristics of the Senate cannot be made unilaterally. Quebec has already informed the Conservative government that it will not accept any changes to the Senate, apart from abolishing it. That is a fact.

The Conservatives are still trying to turn a blind eye to the fact that the vast majority of Quebeckers want the Senate simply to be abolished because this political structure is outdated. I have statistics from a poll taken in 2010 to prove it.

I know what I am talking about because I have to live with the fact that a Liberal senator has decided that his son will be my opponent in the next election. I will not say his name because he does not deserve it. I have no problem with that. I had not seen him at all since 2000; I have been here for 10 years. He pushed to have his son be my opponent. I see this senator almost every weekend. He does fundraising for his son's election campaign. Senators are fundraisers for the Liberal Party, as seen by this example.

The same is probably true for the Conservatives; senators are fundraisers. I had never seen him or heard him. He is a former Liberal cabinet minister who had to step down because of a controversy he was involved in. I will have a chance to bring that up during the election campaign; I have a few more secret weapons that I am saving for the election. The fact remains that I find it completely ridiculous to have a second democratic system.

The people elect us here to the House of Commons to pass laws. This week, an environment bill was before the Senate for discussion and passage and it was supported by the majority of the House. The government needed to have its hands completely free before the Cancun summit and it decided to give orders to its unelected senators to cut short their study of this very important bill on the environment. The Conservatives are using the Senate for purely partisan purposes, as did the Liberals when they were in power.

Citizens who work extremely hard have seen their retirement savings eroded as a result of the economic crisis. Company pension funds were affected. People lost money on their RRSPs and other savings. In my opinion, this second system, which is costing the state a lot of money, should be abolished.

Quebec abolished its upper chamber a number of years ago, and Ontario did the same. We have to change with the times. This is not the first time that I have said in the House that the Conservatives are like the Liberals. They are two old parties that no longer deserve to govern Canada because they are doing things the same way they were done 100 years ago.

They have not changed. I see proof of this every weekend. There is a Liberal senator who is fundraising and trying to help set his son up as my opponent. This is the first time in the past 10 years that I have seen him. He simply decided that he was going to become involved in politics. I had never heard anything about him or read anything about him in the paper. Yet, for the past while, he has been trying to get out in the public eye to raise his political profile through his son's activities.

I do not have a problem. We will beat him; that is not a problem. It is just that it must be disappointing for the people watching these goings-on. I have heard all sorts of comments from people who have just seen him for the first time as senator. They are wondering what he is doing at certain events and so on. It is not good for him, but it is good for me. It is not good for democracy because people find it frightening that public funds are being used to finance a Liberal Party fundraiser, but that is what the Liberals used to want to do. The Conservatives want to try and change that. All this bill does is limit senators' terms to eight years. Replacing one senator with another will not change anything. We simply need to abolish this outdated institution outright since it has no virtues and only serves to raise funds for the older parties, such as the Liberal and Conservative parties.

That is the reality in an era where, every day, the people who listen to us work hard to pay their taxes. They pay taxes every day. They purchase items and pay sales tax, the GST, the QST. Some of their money is used to pay for these institutions, that is, the House of Commons and the Senate, among others.

I can provide statistics from a Léger Marketing poll carried out in Quebec in 2010. It is important. Whatever people thing, the fact remains that polls are used a lot, even in politics. We are living in the age of polls. As for Quebec respondents, only 8% believe that the red chamber—the Senate—plays an important role and that the system for appointing senators works well, whereas 43% want the Senate abolished. Another 23% do not understand how the Senate works and do not see the purpose it serves. They know so little about it that they have no opinion about the Senate. It is quite telling that 23% of respondents do not even know that the Senate exists. But that is the reality, and it can easily be explained by the fact that senators are just fundraisers who we see during election campaigns.

The Conservative Party fuels this opinion, and its own position is quite archaic, as we can see when it comes to the environment. The Conservative Party is not very evolved, but it came out of the Reform Party, which was already not very evolved. The Liberals are determined to have a debate because they are likely going to vote against this bill. I commend them for that, but they have never talked about abolishing the Senate. I do not know of many Liberals who would want to abolish the Senate, because it serves them well.

The Senate will serve them in my riding, because there is a Liberal senator who is promoting and lobbying for his son and spending Senate money to attend events while fundraising and so on. He probably has the money. He is entitled to do what he is doing, but people are not fooled. People can see that a senator is ultimately just a political tool, nothing more.

Members will understand that the Bloc Québécois will vote against Bill C-10.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's comments with interest. I find it ironic that the member talked about fundraising when the Bloc, by far, relies almost solely on a taxpayer subsidy from the Canadian taxpayer for the running of its party.

Bill C-10 does limit the term of senators. The member is advocating the abolition of the Senate, which is not possible without significant constitutional reform and would, by the way, reduce the number of representatives in Parliament for Quebec by 24. Therefore, the member is actually arguing to reduce the representation of Quebec.

We are arguing for Quebeckers to be represented in Parliament. We are arguing that there be some accountability and that in conjunction with the eight year term limit, there be voluntary elections by the provinces.

Why does the member not want Quebec to be promptly represented, democratically, in this chamber?

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary knows the Bloc Québécois is fighting mainly to ensure that representation in the House is not changed. He himself introduced a bill that would give Ontario and British Columbia more seats in the House at Quebec's expense. So once again, we do not need to take any lessons from him. Maybe he would like to see Quebeckers represented in the Senate, an institution that serves no purpose. Maybe that is what he would like, but Quebeckers are smarter than that.

Before the Liberal Party reformed party financing, we fought election campaigns and won in Quebec. If further reforms were made, we would still win. The only problem is that government funding prevents friends of the party from corrupting governments. That is probably what the Conservative Party wants to do. It has already built up a war chest for several election campaigns, and it probably wants to surround itself with its friends, people who would give it money and whom it could be accountable to and pay back. That is not what the Bloc Québécois wants, because our party has integrity.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, many people in Canada have had two underlying suspicions about the government. The first is that the Prime Minister has absolute contempt for democracy and will step over the bounds of democracy whenever it suits his purpose. The second thing people feel is the government is little more than a front for big oil and the tar sands. Both those suspicions came together this week when the government used an unelected, unaccountable body to crush the will of the House of Commons. This is unprecedented and a very disturbing fact, particularly given that this was a climate change bill.

We look at who the government has been appointing into the Senate, after promising that it would do something different. I would like to quote the Hon. Irving Gerstein. As he was brought into the Senate, he said:

I am one of the 18 new senators appointed by the Prime Minister in December...Some commentators [called us] “bagmen.”...I want to tell you that I do not admit to being a bagman; I proclaim it.

I believe that the job of raising funds for the Conservative Party...is both necessary and honourable.

Why does my colleague think the government shows such contempt for Canadian people by putting such lowbrow hacks and pals into that chamber to thwart the will of the democratically elected people of Canada?

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, worst of all, it does not even benefit the Conservatives in any way. There is no way they could get a majority government, nor could the Liberals. Quebeckers in particular and many Canadians outside of Quebec are becoming increasingly fed up with the old parties that operate like they did 100 ago. The most striking example is the Senate, which is full of Liberal and Conservative Party fundraisers. I see this every day, for my opponent is the son of a Liberal senator. It is frightening. Those parties do not even realize that the public no longer supports them and will not support them in the future. But my hon. colleague can rest easy, for he will probably win his seat in the next election and I will win mine.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-10 and the amendment proposed by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley today.

I would like to read the motion proposed by the member, which was:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

“the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate term limits), because the term limits do not go far enough in addressing the problems with the Senate of Canada, and do not lead quickly enough to the abolition of the upper chamber, as recent events have shown to be necessary.”

As I said and as was indicated by our previous speaker in regard to Bill C-10, the New Democrats had indicated that we would be supporting that bill to get it to committee, but things have changed in the last week with regard to developments at the Senate on Bill C-311, Climate Change Accountability Act.

This bill was passed not only once in this Parliament but had also passed in a previous Parliament. Of course, because of the election, it came back and had to be reintroduced and passed a second time. It then went to the Senate.

Now the unelected, appointed, Conservative-dominated Senate killed Bill C-311 without so much as giving it the proper debate and allowing it to go to a committee of the Senate and go through the proper process. Had it gone through the proper process and had they found some problem with it, perhaps they could have amended it. There were ways to deal with the bill in a proper way as opposed to the way it was treated. It was basically killed in the dead of night.

The Senate has not done something like this for many years. If this is setting a new precedent for how the Senate is going to operate, it is not very good.

Yesterday I listened to the Liberal member for Random—Burin—St. George's give the Liberal position on this bill. She was talking about the lack of consultation, as far as the provinces were concerned. I wanted to draw her attention and the attention of the House to a consultation process that occurred in my home province of Manitoba.

By the way, Manitoba did have a Senate created in 1870. Manitobans had the good sense to abolish it in 1876. Members should also know that four other provinces had senates as well. New Brunswick abolished its in 1982. Nova Scotia abolished its in 1928. Quebec created one in 1867 and abolished it in 1968. Prince Edward Island created its in 1873 and abolished it in 1893.

So we have the experience of five of our provinces that have had senates and have gotten rid of them, not to mention other examples in the Commonwealth. I fail to see any examples where jurisdictions are actually bringing forth and introducing new senates. If anything, there seems to be a move towards getting rid of them.

What happened in Manitoba on June 13, 2006, was Bill 22 passed the legislature. Bill 22, the Elections Reform Act, was approved by all parties in the legislature, including the Liberal Party. The act stated that they preferred abolishing the Senate but if the Senate could not be abolished then it should consist of democratically elected members rather than members appointed by a process involving patronage appointments.

As I had indicated, the Manitoba Senate was abolished in 1876. The feeling of the committee was that the province had been served quite well without having the Senate around.

An all-party committee was set up. Membership included the NDP, Conservatives, and a Liberal member, Mr. Kevin Lamoureux, who is currently running for the Liberals in the byelection in Winnipeg North. He may possibly be one of our colleagues in the future. Mr. Lamoureux was part of the committee that came up with final recommendations, which I will deal with in a few minutes.

This all-party committee met in Brandon, Carman, Dauphin, Flin Flon, Norway House, Russell, St. Laurent, Steinbach and Winnipeg. This has been a tradition for the last number of years in Manitoba whenever there is a controversial issue, whether it be Meech Lake, smoking in public places, or the Charlottetown accord. We have tended to get all the parties involved in an all-party committee process. We found that works quite well.

In fact, the committee heard 51 presentations at its public hearings. It had 32 written submissions sent in via mail. In fact, one of the written submissions was sent in by Senator Terry Stratton.

In terms of the people who presented at the public meetings held across the province, I will mention names that people in the House will recognize. We had the recent former MP, Inky Mark, make a presentation at the meeting in Dauphin. Also, there was Senator Sharon Carstairs, Senator Bert Brown and Daniel Boucher from the Société franco-manitobaine. As well, there was the former Conservative MP, and a chairperson for many years, Dorothy Dobbie. There was quite a substantial group of interested parties making presentations to this committee.

The question is, what did members of this all-party committee recommend after hearing from the presenters?

In the area of the term limits they were agreeable to the federal government's proposal. They did not have strong opinions one way or the other on it, but they felt the eight-year term for senators was reasonable. They had these recommendations.

Elections should be held in the province to elect nominees to the Senate to be forwarded to Ottawa.

The elections should be administered through Elections Canada with the cost being the responsibility of the federal government.

The method of voting they decided on was first-past-the-post. They looked at proportional representation and they ruled that out as that had been ruled out by several provinces in the past.

There should be regional representation among Manitoba's allotment of six Senate seats. They decided they wanted to have three in the city of Winnipeg with two in southern Manitoba and one in the north.

In addition, the current proposal of an eight-year term by the federal government is in keeping with what was heard from the presenters, as I indicated before.

What we have here is a process that was started in 2006, four years ago, involving all parties. So for the Liberal Party to suggest that somehow there has been no consultation on this issue, that it is being rammed through the House, is absolute nonsense. In Manitoba their member was part of the all-party committee. How can they say that somehow there needs to be more consultation?

It seems to me what the Liberals are interested in doing is coming up with all sorts of delay tactics to tie this idea up in knots as long as possible so another ten years will go by and things will just carry on their merry way and nothing will substantially change as a result of it.

I would suggest that the Manitoba experience seems to me to be the sort of direction upon which we should be looking to proceed in terms of consultations and involving as many people in the process as possible.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his constructive comments. We understand that the NDP brought forward an amendment as retaliation for another event. However, assuming that amendment fails and the bill reaches second reading and goes to committee, will the NDP be as constructive as the member's comments just were? I would like to work together with the NDP.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Burnaby—Douglas indicated prior to my speech that we in the NDP have supported the idea of getting Bill C-10 to committee. We obviously have to deal with the member's amendment, but certainly the original intention was to support the bill going to committee to get results.

We are here to make the minority Parliament work in spite of the fact that the government does not seem to be overly helpful or even interested in a lot of cases.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

moved:

That the Standing Committee on Finance be instructed to undertake a study of the current tax incentives for charitable donations with a view to encouraging increased giving, including but not limited to (i) reviewing changes to the charitable tax credit amount, (ii) reviewing the possible extension of the capital gains exemption to private company shares and real estate when donated to a charitable organization, (iii) considering the feasibility of implementing these measures; and that the Committee report its findings to the House.

Mr. Speaker, charities are vital to the well-being of our society. They touch the lives of all Canadians. They inspire us through the arts, enlighten us through education, heal us through health institutions and medical research, nourish our faith, support us through hard times and make us the caring and compassionate society of which we are very proud.

We all know how important charitable organizations are to improving the quality of life in our communities. That is why Canadians generously contribute to their chosen charities, and it is why our government supports various charities through program funding and encourages private support through charitable tax incentives.

Since 2006, this Conservative government has taken numerous steps to enhance support for the charitable sector. For example, we removed the capital gains tax on gifts of publicly listed securities in 2006 and reformed disbursement quota rules to reduce administrative complexity in 2010.

Today I am introducing a motion that continues this positive momentum. My motion asks:

That the Standing Committee on Finance be instructed to undertake a study of the current tax incentives for charitable donations with a view to encouraging increased giving, including but not limited to (i) reviewing changes to the charitable tax credit amount, (ii) reviewing the possible extension of the capital gains exemption to private company shares and real estate when donated to a charitable organization, (iii) considering the feasibility of implementing these measures; and that the Committee report its findings to the House.

If this motion passes, and it is certainly my hope that it does, the resulting committee study could lead to recommendations that would benefit both the charitable organizations that serve our communities and the donors who support them.

Through my own personal previous involvement with charitable organizations such as the United Way and the MS Society, I have seen first-hand the positive impact that these organizations have on the individuals and the communities that they serve.

I have also seen and have been inspired by the dedication and the commitment of both staff members and volunteers at these organizations. They all share and are motivated by a common higher purpose: to make a difference in the lives of others.

Since I was elected as a member of Parliament in 2008, I have been building partnerships and becoming more involved with the many charitable organizations in Kitchener—Waterloo. I am constantly impressed by the remarkable work they are doing, and I commend them for making our region such a caring and compassionate community.

However, I also recognize that our charities face significant challenges that impede their ability to carry out their missions and achieve their goals.

Last week I hosted a round table with leaders from a cross-section of our region's community organizations. The round table included representatives from the United Way, Habitat for Humanity, the House of Friendship, Lutherwood, Leadership Waterloo Region, Focus for Ethnic Women, KW Access-Ability and KidsAbility. All of these organizations do incredible work in the Waterloo region and touch the lives of each of our families, our friends and our neighbours.

This forum gave me an opportunity to get their knowledgeable perspectives on the charitable sector in our community and to listen to their ideas and suggestions on ways that we could assist in strengthening this sector and developing strategies for the future.

An overriding and constant concern was finding adequate financial resources to carry out their mandates. Donations of individual Canadians continue to be one of the principle sources of funding for these organizations.

During difficult economic times such as we have seen recently, charities face significant challenges as they experience increased demand for their services but at the same time lower levels of charitable donations.

As we begin to emerge from the global recession, thanks to the economic action plan, we are seeing increased job creation and new opportunities for growth and prosperity. In Kitchener--Waterloo I am very excited about the enormous potential of our thriving high tech sector to generate long-term economic growth, create good quality jobs and ensure a very high quality of life for our citizens.

There is no doubt that we are on the right track on the economy, but as a community we must also ensure that everyone benefits from economic progress and that no one gets left behind.

That is why I believe that in addition to nurturing and supporting businesses, we must also nurture and support the not-for-profit sector and the charitable organizations that provide critical services to our community.

Besides providing the vital services that our communities need, there is another reason our government should continue to build strong partnerships with the charitable and not-for-profit sector. This sector is a significant part of our economy. It employs over 1.5 million people, generates an estimated $100 million or, in fact, represents 7% of our GDP. It is larger than the tourism industry, the automotive manufacturing industry or the agricultural sector.

It is in everyone's best interest to ensure a vibrant, innovative and response network of charitable and not-for-profit organizations.

My Motion No. 559 is just one step in strengthening government support for charities. I believe our government should be looking at ways to further promote charitable giving and finding new ways for Canadians to support the causes that are important to them.

Tax relief is not the main reason that Canadians choose to support charities. Over 85% of Canadians donate to charities and most do out of a sense of compassion toward people in need, to help a cause that directly affects them or to give back to their community.

However, tax incentives do play a role, especially among larger donors. The reduction and subsequent elimination of capital gains tax from donations of public shares stimulated substantial increases in charitable giving. In fact, Donald K. Johnson, a champion of this initiative, has estimated that over $3 billion in public securities has been donated to charities since these changes began in 1997.

With increasing levels of social engagement, many donors are becoming more strategic in their giving as well. They are looking for ways that their philanthropy will make a tangible impact and considering charitable donations in their long-term financial planning decisions. These changes offer a new method of giving and bring a new awareness to planned and sustainable donations.

The charitable tax credit also provides an incentive for charitable giving. The 2007 “Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating” found that 54% of Canadians would give more if they received a larger tax credit for their donations.

It is my hope that Motion No. 559 will result in a committee study that will investigate the many facets of charitable giving, consider the costs and benefits of any changes and put forward recommendations on measures that would further support charities through our tax system.

While providing incentives to increase charitable donations may ease financial challenges, charities face other complex challenges. As society and communities evolve, charitable organizations are faced with changing needs and priorities. Our community agencies are on the front line dealing with day-to-day realities and challenges and they are often the first to identify new areas of concern and responsibility.

However, these challenges also lead to new opportunities. I believe that our charitable sector has the ingenuity and the imagination to respond effectively to new challenges in our communities. In fact, the answer is innovation.

My riding of Kitchener—Waterloo is very well-known for innovation. This is not limited to only the high-tech sector. We also have organizations committed to social innovation, finding creative ways to engage individuals and businesses developing new models and building networks and partnerships to address the changing needs in our community.

One such organization is Capacity Waterloo Region. Although this is a new organization, it is already making waves, stimulating discussion and dialogue and creating collaborative opportunities for change.

As government, we need to further enhance our partnerships with this sector, better support it and equip it to carry out the role that our society asks it to do and work together to provide the best quality of life for all Canadians.

In Waterloo region, we have been very fortunate to have had the leadership of Dr. David Johnston, former president of the University of Waterloo, who applied the spirit of a traditional barn raising to community involvement.

Now he is our Governor General, and very proudly so. His vision of Canada as a “Smart and Caring Nation” inspires all of us to contribute and to build a society where all Canadians can develop their potential, all Canadians can succeed and all Canadians can serve their families, their communities and their country.

In my community, and all across Canada, we are blessed to have many dedicated volunteers and organizations that respond to the needs of others and contribute to building healthy, strong and compassionate communities.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the people who work in the charitable organization sector in Waterloo region. Their efforts are making a noticeable difference in our community and ensuring that it continues to be an ideal place to live, work and raise our families.

As the member of Parliament for Kitchener—Waterloo, I am committed to strengthening my partnerships with the many organizations in my community, celebrating their accomplishments, listening to their ideas and suggestions and working with them to ensure that they have a voice in Ottawa.

With our economy on the upswing, now is the time to collaborate and enhance our partnership so that everyone in our society enjoys the benefits of a revitalized economy and experiences a prosperous future.

In conclusion, I ask all members to support my motion, Motion No. 559. I believe it is incumbent upon all of us, as members of Parliament, to study this issue that could have a profound impact on the charitable organizations that make such a significant contribution to all communities across Canada. I encourage all of my colleagues in the House to become fully engaged in this important dialogue as we seek to assist our charitable organizations and work with all of them to improve our society.

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for presenting his motion. As a member of the finance committee, I am aware that a number of groups have come before the committee, proposing a number of changes.

The first item in his motion is to review the changes to the charitable tax credit amount, often referred to “just increase the rates of credit”. There is, however, an argument that by increasing the rate of credit, it simply is looking to increase the donations of those who already are giving generously. However, groups like Imagine Canada have been proposing something that is called “a stretch credit” to encourage new donors to start giving or those who are giving modest amounts to raise theirs.

Has the member considered the advisability of something like a stretch credit as opposed to just simply changing the tax credit rates?

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, in fact I am quite aware of Imagine Canada's proposal for a stretch credit. Of course my motion suggests and directs the finance committee to study these various measures, including the possibility of reviewing and/or increasing the charitable tax credit, and as part of the finance committee's study, I would certainly expect that it would consider Imagine Canada's proposal.

I also want to go back to an important statistic that I cited in my remarks. In fact, surveys and research have indicated that 54% of Canadians would give more if tax incentives were increased, so we need to keep that in mind.

The second important part of the study will be considering the exemption of capital gains tax from gifts of shares in privately held companies. I believe that this particular change has great potential.

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Kitchener—Waterloo for his work on Motion No. 559, but I would say that before we go around raising the hopes of charities that something is actually going to come out of this, I would like to ask him whether he has at least run this idea by the finance minister and other people in the government.

We know that the government is a very tightly controlled group, and I do not believe for a moment that the member is coming up with this idea simply on his own without checking with the parliamentary secretary, without checking with the finance minister. So once again, before we raise the hopes of the charities out there, I just want to be reassured that he has actually vetted this idea through the finance minister and the parliamentary secretary.

I would also like to know what the revenue shortfall or revenue loss would be. We are dealing with a $56 billion deficit. Surely he has some idea of how much revenue the government would lose as a result of making these changes.

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, suffice it to say that I certainly hope that my colleagues on the other side of the floor, including in the NDP, are as supportive of this motion as I know my colleagues are in the Conservative government, including the finance minister.

Second, in terms of potential cost, again I reinforce that the motion asks the finance committee to study these potential new measures. Of course as part of that study, there will be a cost-benefit analysis, but I would suggest to my colleague that we need to consider, in addition, public cost and public good.

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Motion No. M-559, which ostensibly addresses how we may improve charitable giving. The two suggestions are general changes to the charitable tax credit amount and, second, the possible extension of capital gains exemptions to private company shares and real estate when donated.

The finance committee has conducted its prebudget consultations. It has had, I believe, some 450 submissions and has heard from about 150 or 160 witnesses. Many of these were giving representations in support of numerous changes that had to do with handling the charitable sector. The committee is now in receipt of its draft report and will be reporting very soon. As a consequence, it is not possible to undertake such a study, so that will probably be put off for some time.

That said, just so we do not raise expectations that this is something the committee will stop, we do have the second budget implementation bill. We also have the minister and officials coming before us on that.

It is interesting, though, if we were to look at the dimension, and I did get some statistics on Canadian donations. The average annual donation was $437, the median annual donation was $120, and 50% of donors who contribute $120 or less account for only 5% of the total amount contributed. The top 10% of donors, who contribute more than $1,000, account for 62%. So it is very much tracking in terms of income levels. Clearly, I am not sure whether this is the most efficient way to generate the dollars. In any event, these are areas in which work can be done to look at where there are some efficiencies.

I also had an opportunity to look at a C.D. Howe Institute report, just to give the member an idea of how many people have really looked at this. Canada has something like 80,000 registered charities, having $100 billion in annual revenue, and more in net assets, and the total charitable sector in Canada is about the size of the economy of British Columbia. So when we touch things, we are talking about big dollars.

As others have raised, the economic circumstances of the country obviously have to be taken into account, because to enhance the charitable credits or make additional assets available for contribution and to be creditable, that money comes straight out of the government coffers.

Obviously the key is whether or not we are giving enough to the charitable sector to do the job it wants, which I think is what Canadians would like to see. There is an awful lot of work. This is an enormous undertaking and should not be taken lightly, and would not be taken lightly by the finance committee, but it may very well have to farm it out to others who have the expertise to work the numbers, like the C.D. Howe Institute.

I want to raise as well, and the member will be aware, that there have been a number of ways proposed in dealing with the charitable sector. I just happened to notice that there were tax principles involved. I thought three of the models were interesting, just so the member understands how many people have really thought about this.

The first model is that the better the charity is at enhancing the quality of life for citizens, the greater the tax subsidy should be. It is really cause and effect. If we are enhancing the quality of life for citizens, we should get a higher tax subsidy. That would be one model.

The second model would be less responsive to the amount donated, and that is the after-tax cost of donations, the lower the tax subsidy should be received, so it depends on the financial impact to the government.

The third one I noted was the redistribution. If redistribution is a goal, charities that have high-income donors contributing disproportionately should receive a lower tax subsidy than others. Some are actually more successful than others and some have more money than they can possibly deal with, but they happen to be the ones that hit a chord, which tends to give them a benefit. It is another way to consider how we might deal with this.

I want to be sure I get on the record the fact, as I am sure the member is well aware, that some have written and expressed concern about the ethical situation within charities. Not to take this too far, there is a strong view that we should not consider any further changes until further actions are taken to enhance the transparency of charities and improve their governance.

The member will also be aware that there is a private member's bill now before the finance committee, which will be considering it before the end of November, and it has to do with the amount of compensation to charitable executives and the overall cost of operations. I know that the Canada Revenue Agency has benchmarks. If a charity were to use 75% of the moneys collected for operating costs and only 25% would in fact benefit the target audience, as it were, that sends up a red flag. There are a lot of tentacles and there is much work to do.

Having said that, I want to encourage the member by saying that I was very impressed by the people who appeared before the finance committee with regard to the need to enhance charitable giving. I know Mr. Johnston, who has been visiting Parliament for many years and knows many members of Parliament, and he makes a very good case.

Certainly the idea with regard to the exemption on the capital gains and expanding it for private companies turns out to be, ultimately, a question of how much impact that might have in terms of the government treasury and how it ranks in terms of priority with regard to the other needs of Canadians, as well as the imperative of being fiscally responsible at a time of financial duress.

The member has raised an excellent motion, but it is opening up, in my view, a very significant undertaking, which could not be done very easily or very lightly. It may take a very long time to do. I am not sure whether his committee would be prepared to take on something that might take months to do, but I know there has to be some consideration as to the scope and recommendations.

I understand where the member is coming from, and I can assure him that I will be voting to move it to our committee to have a look at it. As the member and the House will know, committees may from time to time have to report back to the House circumstances that do not permit it to do a full arrangement. Or they may propose other ways in which we can satisfy the questions the member has raised with regard to specific initiatives and generally with regard to the condition of the charitable sector.

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to motion M-559 concerning charitable donations, moved on September 16, 2010, by the hon. member for Kitchener—Waterloo, whom I would like to congratulate.

The motion calls on the Standing Committee on Finance to undertake a study of the current tax incentives for charitable donations with a view to encouraging increased giving. The motion specifically proposes “reviewing changes to the charitable tax credit amount” and “the possible extension of the capital gains exemption to private company shares and real estate when donated to a charitable organization”. The motion also calls on the committee to consider ways to implement these measures and report its findings to the House.

I can assure this House that the Bloc Québécois will support this motion, because it recognizes the essential role played by charitable organizations in Quebec society and around the globe. Volunteer associations like the United Way and Sun Youth Organization, along with other charitable foundations and international aid agencies like Oxfam-Québec and the Red Cross—just to name a few—all do invaluable work for society.

In Quebec, we can count on the dedication of 16,000 charities registered with the Canada Revenue Agency. The Bloc Québécois believes it is vital that charitable organizations be able to focus on their activities, rather than on fundraising.

Accordingly, we supported the campaign to eliminate the capital gains tax on donations of publicly listed securities and private equity holdings to charities. In addition, the Bloc Québécois is open to the idea of extending the tax credit for charitable donations. That is why we think it is important for the Standing Committee on Finance to examine these measures.

The Bloc Québécois is listening to charities, which do not hesitate to let us know about their funding needs and to share their complaints about the Conservative government. Since these organizations are the ones affected by the funding issues, we think it is essential to invite them to testify in committee, so we can hear what they have to say about the measures proposed in the motion.

All charities need predictable, long-term funding in order to fulfill their mandates. So, as part of its 2010 budget suggestions, the Bloc Québécois demanded that the federal government stop extending certain programs on a temporary basis and stop being so secretive about its intentions regarding funding for organizations that depend exclusively or partially on federal money. In doing so, the government creates uncertainty among the most vulnerable, our community groups and the charitable organizations that help them.

In response to the 2010 budget, the Bloc Québécois deplored the fact that the government did not consider the issue of charity funding. The survival of these organizations is especially important given that the Conservative government has used terrible methods to reduce the deficit, which could lead to reduced public services. The decisions related to health transfers are one example of this.

When it comes to international aid, we are concerned about the government's major withdrawal from the international aid field and the politics of fear it imposes on non-governmental organizations. The Conservative government is keeping various non-governmental organizations in limbo in order to impose its vision and values on them. Reputable NGOs such as KAIROS and Alternatives, which are registered charities, do not share the Conservative ideology and have had their funding cut drastically for ideological reasons.

Women's groups are saying the same thing. On the one hand, the government is cutting the funding of more than 12 women's groups and, on the other, it is funding religious groups. As Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth said so well, NGOs have to shut up if they do not want to lose their funding.

The Bloc Québécois called on the federal government to put in place a realistic plan to achieve the UN target of 0.7% of GDP in development aid as quickly as possible.

The federal government, which refuses to increase the envelope for development aid, is greatly hindering the important work of charitable organizations in developing countries.

We believe it is appropriate for the Standing Committee on Finance to examine the changes that could be made to the charitable tax credit amount, particularly the introduction of an extended tax credit, and also the capital gains exemption on donations of publicly listed securities and private equity holdings to charities.

Studying this motion in committee will allow us to ensure that measures aimed at increasing donations to charities will be part of a rigorous fiscal framework, are developed in a responsible manner, and will not plunge the federal government into recurring deficits.

The Bloc Québécois has always done a thorough job. Moreover, our commitments are always costed and our election platform comes with a strict financial framework. We will be guided by that as we study this motion.

The Bloc Québécois recognizes the important role of charitable organizations. They do vital work in Quebec society and elsewhere in the world. For example, following the earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people in Haiti on January 12 of this year, Quebeckers turned to charities to support the earthquake victims. They contributed some $66 million to humanitarian and development organizations that provide relief for victims. This amount represents about a quarter of all the funds raised in Canada.

The Bloc Québécois feels that the some of the Conservative government's policies are hampering the work of charitable organizations.

The survival of these organizations is especially important as the Conservative government often looks for ways to reduce the deficit, which could mean reduced services for the public.

The Bloc Québécois would like the Standing Committee on Finance to discuss the proposals in the motion.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Finance, I look forward to questioning the witnesses who are coming to further educate us about the work they do and the role they play in our society. They will also be able to enlighten us on the provisions related to the Canada Revenue Agency that concern them.

Of course, the Bloc Québécois will be supporting this motion, which we are proud to be discussing here in the House.

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise on behalf of the people of Timmins--James Bay who elected me to come here and bring their concerns and review the legislation that we deal with at different times.

I am proud to rise today on Motion No. 559 on the question of working with charities and encouraging the ability of people to give to charities, and getting that to the finance committee.

It is certainly an issue that we should bring forward in the finance committee. There will be a number of questions about the efficacy of the approach that is being suggested, but if we hear witnesses and we work with all four parties, we could actually move toward a better role for charities.

I think of my riding of Timmins--James Bay and some of the phenomenal work that goes on. I would like to begin by talking about the Lord's Kitchen, which is still in the basement of old Nativity Church, although the parish has moved over to St. Antoine's. Some might say the Lord's Kitchen Society is a charity, but to me it is a community centre where seniors and young aboriginal kids come, where families come for weekly dinners. It is one of the most welcoming environments I have seen.

I think of Ed Ligocki in South Porcupine who has been running the Good Samaritan Inn for 10 years, and the amazing work the inn does in dealing with the homeless.

Homelessness is not just an issue in urban centres. We see it in the north and of course we see it in frightening numbers in our aboriginal communities. We see that level of grassroots charitable work, but we have it at a number of levels that shows the complexity of charitable giving in this country, for example, the work that is done by the Literacy Council of South Temiskaming. We see it with groups such as the Timmins highland dancers who are raising money this week for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. The Cochrane Temiskaming Children's Treatment Centre does amazing work with its integrated services for the northern children program.

All across the vast region of Timmins--James Bay there are people who are volunteering and who are doing so much of the work that needs to be done in order to make civil society a truly humane society, where people who are falling through the cracks are cared for. We see it with the support for arts in our area. We see it for the cultural organizations in our area. We want to encourage that people are able to continue giving money.

When I look at this motion, one of the questions I have is that perhaps a more efficient way of dealing with charities is to clear up what actually should be a charity and what should not be. There are many groups competing for charities and some of them perhaps should not be able to get charitable donations. If we cleared that up, there might be a better pool of money for the groups that are legitimate charities.

One of the groups that I think of right off the top of course is the Fraser Institute. The Fraser Institute claims that it is there to represent the free market. Of course, the Fraser Institute attacks all manner of public institutions, yet it does so under the guise of being a charity. I look at where the institute gets its money from.

It is very disturbing that Exxon Mobil, the oil company, could funnel money through the Fraser Institute to do so-called studies on climate change. We know what kind of climate change studies the Fraser Institute has come up with. The Fraser Institute has attacked the Kyoto protocol. Here is a quote:

The climate change activists are exaggerating the certainty in the linkage between human action and climate change.

The institute is bought and paid for by Exxon Mobil, and I certainly would not want to have any more sweetheart deals for Exxon Mobil being able to funnel money to the Fraser Institute.

Another group that gives money to the Fraser Institute is big tobacco, Rothmans and Phillip Morris. We see how the Fraser Institute, working as a front for big tobacco, led the fight supposedly for freedom against all manner of bylaws when it came to smoking bylaws in this country. We know how brutal the deaths from passive smoke have been for the waitresses and the people who have worked in the service industry, yet there was the Fraser Institute pocketing money from Rothmans and then going out and being interviewed on radio and television as somehow a disinterested third party just giving its opinion.

I do not have a problem with these right-wing think tanks. What I have a problem with is they use charitable donations in order to take money from corporations to basically subvert good public process.

When I look at a group like the Fraser Institute and its pals at Rothmans, Philip Morris and big oil, I certainly do not want them to get another dime through charitable giving. It undermines the phenomenal work that legitimate charities do.

I suggest for my hon. colleague that perhaps if we cleaned out the bad apples who are misusing charitable numbers for political purposes, then we would be able to ensure that the money goes to organizations such as the hearing society and the society for the blind, which do phenomenal work. The money that goes to them is so vital and important. I think of groups like the seizure and brain injury group in Timmins, which has done amazing work with little resources. If it did not have that charitable status, it would be unable to carry on that work.

I think of the groups all through Timiskaming that are dealing with the food banks. For example, the Cochrane Food Bank in our region is a centre for distribution of food throughout the north. It helps support the food banks in Iroquois Falls, Timmins, Englehart, New Liskeard and Kirkland Lake. These people volunteer their time day after day. If we go into the Cochrane Food Bank on any given day, we will see numerous volunteers. They are doing phenomenal work.

If there is a way we can, through the finance committee, look at aiding groups like the Cochrane Food Bank, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Seizure and Brain Injury Centre of Timmins through changing the tax measures, the New Democratic Party and I would certainly be interested.

However, we believe we need to close the loopholes so the bad apples, who are misusing charities on behalf of big oil, big tobacco and basically acting as a front for everything the neo-con Conservative spills on the Canadian public on any given day, cannot hide behind charities. They should have to go out and compete in the marketplace with their bogus ideas.

If Rothmans want to give money to fronts like the Fraser Institute to help groups like the Conservative Party, they should have to go out and compete for that dollar for dollar. There should be no incentive for this kind of money through the back pocket.

It is a slap in the face to the volunteers and the people who do such good work and the people who give with their hearts day after day, without thinking of the personal gain, unlike our friends at Rothmans, or at the Fraser Institute, or in the big oil industry who give money to the Fraser Institute and expect charitable money back and charitable breaks for usurping and subverting public process.

2:15 p.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to talk about the motion rather than a rant about NDP ideologies.

I want to speak in strong support of today's motion brought forward by the member for Kitchener—Waterloo, which has nothing to do with the Fraser Institute or in fact Greenpeace, the one about which he obviously avoided even talking. I do not think we want to address the funding of that.

Let me first of applaud the member for Kitchener—Waterloo for his hard work on this motion and his noble goal of helping Canada's charitable sector. What is more, since being elected in 2008, the member has been an intelligent and effective representative for his constituents, ensuring their voices are heard in Ottawa and their concerns are addressed. Without a doubt, Kitchener—Waterloo has a strong representative in Parliament, putting their best interests first.

Today's motion calls for the finance committee, of which I am a member, to conduct a study on charitable giving in Canada. Specifically, it asks the committee to examine how current tax incentives may be made more effective to encourage increased giving.

Unlike some other private members' proposals we see too often in Parliament, chiefly from the opposition, this is an intelligent way of developing good public policy. Instead of unilaterally dictating a solution to an issue, the member for Kitchener—Waterloo has asked the finance committee to study the issue first. He is asking for hearings to talk directly to Canadians, to listen to the experts, to listen to those who are involved in the charitable sector and to listen to them together across partisan lines.

I believe in working together, consulting with Canadians, looking at the facts, considering the costs and doing all of this in an open, public forum at our finance committee. I see this as a positive and constructive way to approach this issue. I am entirely confident my fellow committee members will be eager to undertake such a study and ensure it has a fulsome study.

Again, I strongly support the motion and truly hope all members would as well.

For the remainder of this speech, to help inform the discussion, I would like to provide some background on the framework for charitable giving in Canada and how tax incentives help support it.

First and foremost, all parliamentarians have long recognized the immense importance and good work of charities in communities across this country. There are currently over 85,000 charities registered with the Canada Revenue Agency. Being a registered charity under the Income Tax Act provides a unique privilege, namely the ability to issue tax receipts to donors for gifts.

Donors, in turn, are entitled to claim a tax credit for donations made to registered charities, thereby reducing the amount of income tax that they pay. I should note that even though Canadians can receive tax benefits for their giving, in most cases that is only a secondary consideration.

In the words of Peter Nicholson, an experienced investment adviser:

The last reason that someone is going to give is because they are going to get a tax break. I show clients how they should give but prior to me showing you how, there has to be a 'why' and a 'who,' and that is all done on emotion.

Clearly we all know Canadians support charities because of their desire to help others or to support the causes in which they believe. Make no mistake about it, Canadians firmly believe in the importance of charities.

That is why we are among the most generous people in the world. In fact, Canada recently ranked third on the 2010 world giving index, an international comparison of giving and volunteering generosity in over 153 different countries.

As I have already noted, the tax system encourages Canadians to support the charitable sector by allowing individuals to claim a tax credit for gifts made to charities. For instance, the charitable donations tax credit allows Canadians to increase their charitable giving by providing tax relief. This credit provides federal tax assistance of 15% on the first $200 of donations and 29% on accounts above $200. Combined with the provincial tax relief for donations, the total average tax assistance for giving is about 46% for donations over $200.

In addition to the general tax incentives for charitable donations, special incentives are provided to encourage Canadians to donate particular types of property. Donations of ecologically sensitive land, Canadian cultural property and publicly listed securities are generally exempt from capital gains. As a result, the total tax assistance provided on these types of donations can be even higher, in fact as high as 60% of the value of the donation.

Since taking office in 2006, our Conservative government has taken key steps to build on that framework by increasing the generosity of tax incentives to better help the important role charities play in communities across Canada. For example, we have introduced a complete exemption on capital gains tax associated with the donation of publicly listed securities and exchangeable shares to public charities and private foundations. We also extended the exemption to donations of ecologically sensitive land to public conservation charities.

I note that our Conservative government's actions have been warmly welcomed by charities across Canada.

For instance, the Community Foundations of Canada has noted it would “help philanthropy continue to grow and will benefit charities across the country. We all win when the government encourages people to give. This tax relief will be welcome news”.

The steps have already had a positive impact on charitable giving in Canada.

For instance, commenting on our change in 2006 to encourage the giving of publicly listed securities, the Saskatoon Community Foundation has publicly declared, “in less than two years the foundation's endowment has grown by several hundred thousand dollars through donated stock. We've had some pretty significant donations so far in terms of size”.

We continued to build on our record of supporting charities earlier this year in budget 2010. We did this when we significantly reformed the disbursement quota rules for charities, reducing administrative complexity to better enable charities to focus their time and resources on charitable activities. This made it easier for charities to raise the funds they needed to help people who needed it most. Again, this action was warmly welcomed by charities as well.

In the words of the Salvation Army, the reform would “provide the Salvation Army, one of Canada's largest charities, with increased flexibility in meeting the needs of Canadians...allow(ing) us to better respond to the needs of the people we serve in 400 communities across Canada”.

We have also taken steps to encourage more giving in response to specific international crises in Haiti and Pakistan by matching dollar for dollar the donations of Canadians to those relief efforts.

Clearly our Conservative government has been a strong supporter of charities and charitable giving in Canada. Nonetheless, we recognize it is always important to study whether we could increase charitable giving in Canada to keep the charitable sector vibrant. That is why I strongly support today's motion as it calls for a finance committee study.

Moreover, I am confident that I and other finance committee members will give careful consideration to both the effectiveness of any new measures we might propose and their cost, ensuring they are affordable and sustainable.

I strongly hope the motion will be successful and we can undertake this study. I again applaud the member for Kitchener—Waterloo for his leadership on this issue and for the great work he is doing in Parliament on behalf of his constituents.

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, once again I want to thank the member from Kitchener—Waterloo for his motion and certainly the contribution of the other speakers on this, particularly the parliamentary secretary.

It sounds as though we are on the right track. We know there has been a decline in charitable giving over the last couple of years. It may be as a result of the recession, but there could be other issues that are at play here.

I know there is another bill before the House that deals with the disclosure of the salaries of the top managers and CEOs. There is the issue of what portion of the donations actually reaches the people it is supposed to help and how much is used in administration.

It is conceivable that when these two bills reach the finance committee together we will be able to look at them as one big piece of the puzzle, but certainly there is some merit in what the member says. The reason I asked him the question initially was because I was not sure whether this was just an idea that he had, something that he had been promoting on his own for a while, or whether in fact it was being endorsed by the finance minister and the parliamentary secretary. Clearly the government seems to be reasonably behind this particular idea.

What we are doing here is simply fostering and approving that a study begin. We all know how quickly the current government moves at the best of times. Glaciers move faster than the parliamentary secretary, although I must admit that on the pension issue he seems to be getting some of the results that we in the NDP have been pushing for. We have been reasonably happy with him up to recent times; however, some of his recent speeches have cast some doubt on that.

The fact of the matter is that we are probably looking at an election in another few months anyway, so with all the good work we are doing now in getting these bills through the process, we are likely to see these bills again after the next election. However, this idea looks as though it is one that should be proceeded with.

The finance committee is looking at studies. We are going to have to look at the cost to the treasury and what impact that would have on the budget, where the government is not in very good shape right now with a $56 billion deficit and no clear idea of where we are going to be another 12 or 24 months out. By the time this study is concluded, we could be well beyond the next election. It could take a couple of years and the government may end up saying that it is going to cost too much money, that it cannot afford to give up the revenue and that it is going to phase it in over a period of time.

That was my original caution. I wanted to make certain that the members did not raise hopes among the charities that somehow they would be called to meetings, which I am sure he has had them attend, and think that somehow they are going to get some results from the government in short order. I think he should dampen those expectations a lot, given the past history of the government.

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

It being 2:30 p.m., the House stands adjourned until next Monday at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:30 p.m.)