House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was right.

Topics

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

December 9th, 2010 / 6:30 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, in Canada and Quebec we have the Library Books Service. What, exactly, is that? It is a program that allows all libraries to send library books through the mail to other libraries in Canada, at rates that are lower than regular parcel rates. This is available to recognized public libraries, university libraries and other libraries that are maintained by non-profit organizations or associations and are for public use in Canada.

The primary purpose of the Library Books Service is to enable libraries to exchange books. Over 2,000 libraries—90% of public libraries and over 60% of university libraries—have access to this service, which can benefit a million Quebeckers and Canadians per year. This represents over 3 million packages every year. This is a vital service for all libraries, especially those in remote regions. Small non-profit or academic libraries can easily access all of the books available in Canada.

To ship books at the library book rate, a library must complete the application form found on the website of the Canadian Library Association. Delivery rates are available only through a special electronic shipping system.

Videocassettes, CD-ROMs and DVDs cannot currently be sent through the library books service, and the bill would include these materials in this service.

Also known as the library book rate, or LBR, this service was established in 1939 and originally was directly funded by the Government of Canada. Canada Post gave preferential postal rates for certain types of periodicals under the publications assistance program, PAP, which was created and subsidized by Canadian Heritage.

Because of a 1997 World Trade Organization decision that preferential postal rates given to Canadian publications had to be paid directly to publishers and not via Canada Post, the cost of this rate then had to be absorbed by the crown corporation.

For the good of the public, Canada Post provides funding for the PAP within the framework of a government guideline. While Canada Post provides postal services to all Canadians, it does not have the mandate to promote Canadian culture by subsidizing postal rates for Canadian publications. This is the responsibility of the Department of Canadian Heritage. It should be said that postal subsidies from the PAP will end on March 31, 2010.

Since the library book rate is not considered part of the PAP, this program does not currently fall under the political authority of any federal department. Bill C-509 amends the legislation so that the crown corporation can reach an agreement with Canadian Heritage in order to maintain the library book rate and ensure the continuity of the service.

Consistent with Canada Post's obligation to ensure universal service, the service charter for Canada Post introduced in the fall of 2009 states:

As required by the Canada Post Corporation Act, Canada Post will charge postage rates that are fair and reasonable and, together with other revenues, are sufficient to cover the costs incurred in its operations.

The delivery rate offered in the context of the library book service is not funded by the federal government and Canada Post must therefore absorb the cost. Being a crown corporation that must support itself financially, the reduced rate can always be called into question and there is no regulation or legislation at this time to ensure that the reduced postage rate can be maintained in the long term.

It should be noted that in the past 30 years, the Canada Post Corporation has undertaken a major restructuring of its services in order to boost profits, even if that means going against the principle of universal postal service accessible to all and making continued attacks against the public postal service.

Although it says it continues to make a profit, CPC continues to engage in major restructuring that is having a direct impact on sectors it considers less profitable and public postal service. The library book rate is in itself a heavy burden for a company, and getting rid of the reduced rate might be a natural step for a company that is streamlining.

If the preferential rates given to libraries were eliminated or significantly increased, libraries could no longer continue to offer those services. In that case, postage could increase from $1 to over $14 a kilogram, and public libraries would have to absorb that increase, reduce services or have library patrons pay for postage.

A number of concerns have been raised with regard to maintaining the reduced library book rate. In 2005, Canada Post confirmed the possibility of putting an end to the inter-library loan program, a service that has been renewed year after year.

A brief published as part of the strategic review of Canada Post indicated that there was no official requirement for Canada Post to provide the library book rate, but that public pressure to do so has always been strong. In 2007, the crown corporation estimated that it had lost $6 million in revenue by maintaining this program.

Thanks to pressure from libraries and organizations in the library sector throughout the country, Canada Post agreed to renew the rate on an annual basis. The latest renewal will expire on December 31, 2010. After that, the future of the library book rate is uncertain, which is why Bill C-509 is so important.

Bill C-509, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials), sponsored by the Conservative member for Brandon—Souris, in Manitoba, was introduced twice as Bill C-458 in 2007 and another time as Bill C-322 in 2009. It would reduce the rate of postage for library materials under the library books service.

First, the bill broadens the definition of “library materials” to make audiovisual materials, such as videocassettes, CD-ROMs and DVDs, eligible for Canada Post's library book rate, which currently applies only to books.

The second clause amends subsection 19(1) to enable the corporation to “[provide] for a reduced rate of postage for library materials” by order of the Governor in Council.

Currently, the CPC can make regulations:

(g) providing for the transmission by post, free of postage, of

(i) letters, books, tapes, records and other similar material for the use of the blind, and

(ii) mailable matter relating solely to the business of the Corporation and addressed to or sent by a person engaged in that business;

Lastly, the bill adds subsection 21(1), which enables the crown corporation to maintain the library book rate otherwise than by regulation by agreement with the Minister of Canadian Heritage regardless of regulations made under subsection 19(1) quoted above.

The Bloc Québécois supports the principle underlying Bill C-509.

The Bloc Québécois believes that access to knowledge and information is a pillar of society and the knowledge economy. That is why all Quebeckers and Canadians, whether they live in rural or urban communities, must have free and easy access to a broad selection of books.

The Bloc Québécois also believes that providing a reduced postage rate is part of Canada Post's obligation to ensure universal, accessible service.

This service has proven very useful.

Audiovisual material is becoming more and more important nowadays, and the Bloc Québécois believes that there is good reason to include it in the definition of “library materials” so that these items can also be eligible for a reduced rate.

Therefore, the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-509 in principle.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to speak today in support of Bill C-509 and also to the importance of the library book rate.

The bill is intended to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act to protect the reduced postage rate for library materials, a measure that is especially important to rural Canadians who treasure their libraries and access a wide variety of materials just as much as their counterparts in the bigger city centres.

I congratulate the member for Brandon—Souris for sponsoring the bill. I understand that he has been committed to this issue since his election in 2004. He is right in trying to ensure that the book rate is maintained. On that aspect of this initiative, we can certainly agree. This special postal rate is important for all manner of reasons, not the least of which is it protects the opportunities of many Canadians who, for one reason or another, cannot share in the kind of library experiences most people have available to them. In that respect, I believe the member for Brandon—Souris has his heart in the right place with the intent of the bill.

There are ways this legislation could be made stronger, and I will speak to that in a moment. However, it is important to look at what is right about the book rate and this bill first.

As I mentioned, the book rate has served our library community and Canadians by ensuring a reduced postal rate for library materials since it was introduced in 1939. It allows our libraries to share each other's materials at a relatively low cost so smaller libraries, for example, can have access to the larger collections that exist primarily in Canada's bigger cities. That is critically important to remember when we discuss this.

The book rate serves smaller communities, the disabled and our students very well and it sends the right kind of message with respect to learning opportunities and literacy for all Canadians. It preserves the spirit of libraries by maintaining access to materials without driving up costs. It makes it possible to be literate and educated by texts, no matter what an individual can otherwise afford.

It is that opportunity for Canadians, for students, seniors, persons with disabilities and residents of rural communities that this rate serves best. In many cases, it brings the resources to people who would otherwise be unable to get to them. If the rate were lost, how many Canadians would see their education and entertainment from library resources wither?

The book rate allows libraries to better serve the people who are able to visit them as well. It allows for interlibrary sharing and helps to provide service that extends beyond the abilities of any one institution. The low rate that allows for this effective sharing of resources must be maintained or we could see our libraries offer less access to important texts, effectively creating a two-tiered library system in our country.

I want to point out that the rich and diverse resources available in Canadian libraries are not always found in our bigger centres. The sharing of materials is a two-way street and it is often the smaller, dare I say, out of the way libraries that retain truly unique materials in their collections.

It is clear that there are good reasons for Canada Post to maintain an appropriately priced book rate and I believe this bill's inclusion of CDs, CD-ROMs, DVDs and other audiovisual materials recognizes the changes to what libraries lend out and the evolution of how we consume information.

Still, it is important for us to take a look at how the bill could be made better and how the government could protect postal services as well.

It is not unreasonable to say that the legislation is designed to help preserve a level of service from Canada Post. It is natural then to take this opportunity to scrutinize the government's record when it comes to Canada Post, to review the way the government is asking the arm's-length corporation to operate and how it is ensuring what services will be provided by Canada Post.

With that in mind, I think it is fair to say that the intent of the bill runs counter to the more meaningful messages we see the government deliver to Canada Post and, by extension, to rural communities that rely on postal services to go about their daily business.

It is fairly clear that the idea of a lower rate for library material implies a subsidized price. To be able to do that, Canada Post needs to make money in other areas. Traditionally, one of the best ways for it to make money has been with international mail. However, the government has other things in mind when it considers the lucrative international mail market.

The Conservatives do not see it as a steady source of revenue to assist Canada Post to better serve Canadians. They see it as a way for someone to make profit. In this case, the government supports what are called remailers. The remailers are already cutting into Canada Post's exclusive privileges for international mail and the government has done nothing to stop them. If Canada Post loses this important revenue, it will see its budget slashed by as much as $80 million a year.

What happens when the fiscal capacity of Canada Post is compromised like this? Services suffer. Just ask the people of Constance Lake First Nation who went a few years without local delivery before pressuring the government to finally re-establish a post office in their community. At the time, they had to drive 40 kilometres to Hearst to get their mail. That is the kind of service the government is glad to have Canada Post give rural Canadians.

I honestly think a lot of people in this place do not understand the importance of rural and small town postal service. They cannot appreciate the way a rumoured post office closure goes through a town like a wildfire.

The constituency I represent, Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, has no big city. It is largely a collection of small towns and communities that are proud of their independence and contribution to Canada. Alongside that pride is a sense of vulnerability as well. I have seen this in places like Moonbeam, Chapleau and Iron Bridge, where rumoured post office closures can truly pre-occupy a town.

There is a fix for this particular problem. That would be to replace the moratorium on rural post office closures, with a policy that specifically protects these outlets. Once again, without appropriate funding, that becomes more and more difficult to do. Therefore, it becomes a question of the government's will to ensure Canada Post is a healthy and responsive corporation that has the funding available to preserve rural postal services. That includes the kind of mail we are talking about in this bill specifically.

I will return to Bill C-509 and talk about a specific shortcoming that has been identified and spoken to by my colleague, the member for Hamilton Mountain. She has already given a great speech on this legislation and has lauded the member for Brandon—Souris for his initiative. In that speech, she pointed out a critical oversight in the way any change to the book rate would be approved.

In the bill any changes to the rate will have to be approved by cabinet. This puts too much faith in the hands of too few people. If the book rate is as important as we have been saying in this debate, then it is only natural that the appropriate place to pass judgment on a change to the rates is in this chamber, where hundreds of members can weigh in on any proposal in a transparent process that ensures the voices of the communities most affected are heard. This would be a welcome change that would make the bill even better.

New Democrats are glad to continue our support of the bill and are pleased to see the addition of a parliamentary review of the materials covered by the book rate at least every 10 years.

There are a number of other pressing issues relating to Canada Post that we would like to see addressed as well and we will continue to take every opportunity to raise them in this place.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise and speak to Bill C-509, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials).

This bill was introduced by my friend and colleague, the hon. member for Brandon—Souris. At this time, I would like to recognize this member's efforts and his determination in addressing this important issue and moving this bill forward. He deserves to be recognized.

I would also like to commend the member for his work as chair of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. I consistently hear positive comments from members of all parties for his work there and his efforts to be objective. I think, frankly, that has had a great deal to do with this bill moving forward, the fact that not only is he addressing an important issue but the manner in which he consistently treats all of his colleagues.

I say that because it is important. The politics of Parliament are often very divisive over very real and tough political issues, but oftentimes members of different political parties come together to address important public policy issues. That is exactly what has happened here, and it has happened under the leadership of the member for Brandon—Souris.

Why is this issue so important? At this point what I would like to do is actually read, in part, from a letter from Joan Welch, chair of the Edmonton Public Library Board, who has approached me, as frankly hundreds of Canadians, thousands of Canadians, from across the country have approached their members of Parliament on this issue, spurred by the member for Brandon—Souris.

Ms. Welch approached me and said, with respect to this bill, formerly Bill C-323:

The Bill calls for an amendment to the Canada Post Corporation Act to provide for a reduction in the rate of postage for library materials.

Since 1939, Canadian public libraries have been able to exchange books at a reduced postal rate, known as the Library Book Rate. Since 1997, the costs of the program have been incurred by Canada Post. However, financial support by Canada Post is not guaranteed. Bill C-322 would provide that the Government of Canada support a concessionary postal rate for Canada's public libraries, thus guaranteeing the long-term sustainability of the program. The legislation would also expand the Library Book Rate program to include non-print materials such as CDs, CD-ROMS, and DVDs.

As the member for Brandon—Souris pointed out, some people have moved beyond his technological expertise and have moved beyond the eight track and the VHS tape. Ms. Welch concluded:

The Edmonton Public Library Board urges you to support the passing of Bill C-322. This bill will recognize the vital and necessary function libraries perform daily in Canada. Libraries not only help educate the public, they provide life choices for their users, help promote and engender literacy, and contribute to the quality of life of people of all ages, ethno-cultural groups and demographic backgrounds everywhere.

We ask for your assistance in supporting this bill. Please also urge your fellow MPs to support it.

I am doing that here today. I do want to thank Joan. I want to thank all of the libraries in my constituency who have approached me about this issue for their efforts, frankly, in engaging an important public policy issue in an appropriate manner by contacting their members of Parliament.

Just for some background, I do want to recognize that the library book rate did expire in 2006. Since that time Canada Post, however, has continued to offer the rate without a formal agreement with the government.

It should also be recognized that Canada Post has not raised the library book rate since 2005 and has recently announced that the rate will remain the same in 2011. As a result, next year will be the sixth year in a row that libraries and Canadian lenders have enjoyed stable rates. I do wish to commend Canada Post for continuing to offer these library book rates for these many years.

Colleagues who have spoken before me have spoken very well to the substance of the bill, but I do want to address some of the other issues.

I do want to thank libraries, frankly, for their efforts on a number of issues. First, on literacy. Literacy, as we know, is an issue of national importance. It is a very challenging public policy issue.

It is one our Senate colleague, Jacques Demers, is working very hard on, and he very courageously has stepped forward to acknowledge his own challenges. He is working with a lot of the literacy organizations on a national level and moving this issue forward.

I think we should also recognize Senator Joyce Fairbairn for her work on this issue on the Liberal side in the Senate. They should be recognized for their efforts on literacy.

I also want to recognize the efforts of the government in terms of the investments they have made in literacy. I think it is very important to do so.

It is also important to recognize the role that libraries have as gathering places in all of our communities. I can recall as a youngster going down to the Southgate Library, which has since moved to a much bigger location, and whether it was books or music I was being introduced to a whole series of authors who I have enjoyed since then. In fact, it turned me into a lifelong book lover, and I think we have to recognize the role that libraries play. I would certainly like to recognize the libraries in Edmonton, Devon and Leduc, which, when I as a member of Parliament ask to have a town hall meeting, are the first to step forward and say this is an issue, this is a public forum, we need to have public forums like this. They are very responsive in terms of offering their spaces. The library close to my office in Edmonton consistently has people coming in and saying that if we have any books that we are not using and we feel may be of benefit, whether they deal with politics or Parliament or whatever, please pass these on to them and they will ensure they are accessible to people. The role libraries play in the community must be acknowledged and that is another reason why this issue is so important.

I would also like to recognize the school libraries. All of us as members of Parliament have the opportunity to speak to students of all ages and go to school libraries. I want to recognize a very special person. As a youngster, Mrs. Ryan, who was in my high school library, was one of the persons who made me interested in politics. She would recommend a book here or there. I do have to acknowledge she did not share my political beliefs, so as I was reading more of people like Friedrich Hayek and she was happy that I was reading but perhaps a little distressed at some of the material that I was reading. But people like that do need to be recognized. They do have a tremendous impact on people.

I also want to recognize the important role of libraries in terms of lifelong learning, but also the role that teachers play. One of the reasons I asked the member for Brandon—Souris if I could speak to this issue today was the fact that I am the son of two schoolteachers. My father taught math and social studies and my mother was an English teacher and she taught English as a second language for 20 years. She knows perhaps more than anyone in our family the importance that libraries have and the importance that a bill like this, if passed by this Parliament and I am fairly confident it will be, will have in terms of educating people. Because someone like her would certainly say to the House that libraries are obviously important for all Canadians, but especially for her as a teacher of English as a second language for 20 years and for new Canadians who come to this country with very little. Libraries are their window to the languages of English or French in this country, are their window to Canadian society. So many Canadian authors are introduced to them this way, and the role that libraries play for new Canadians must be emphasized as well.

I would like to finish by again commending my colleague from Brandon—Souris for his outstanding effort in pushing the bill forward. Frankly, without his leadership and without him activating people across the country in terms of petitioning Parliament, writing and phoning their members of Parliament, this issue would not have come this far. I am very confident that Parliament will adopt the bill and I wish to see it receive royal assent as soon as possible so that libraries can continue to rely on this excellent service, rely on what Canada Post provides to them, and continue to provide the excellent service to Canadians of all walks of life wherever they may live forever in this country.

I encourage all my colleagues in the House to support this important bill as it goes forward.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

7 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-509 and I congratulate the member for sticking with the effort that he has put into it. He is nearly at the five-year mark now in trying to get this bill through.

I find it particularly interesting that we have a bill here that is supported by all members of the House and it takes five years to get it through the House, and it is not even there yet. In the next seven minutes we will be finishing the first hour of debate on third reading and, because of the government's policy in making certain that we proceed into the second hour, this bill will not be up again, unless it is traded up, until March.

We all know that by March we could be involved in another election. I know that when the House is prorogued private member's bills are reinstated when the government starts up again, but I believe elections do kill all bills. That is my understanding, contrary to what I read in the notes.

I find it amazing that we had all parties supporting the bill and after five years, although this bill could have made it through today, it will now be March before it makes it through, and then it has to go to the Senate, and hopefully no election will occur.

I am confident that we will be back here debating this bill again. I wish that were not the case, but certainly it is.

In reviewing some of the background on this bill I looked to the member for Brandon—Souris, whom I have known for a long time. He is a hard-working member of Parliament. Part of his backgrounder from 2009 indicates that since 1939 libraries in Canada have been able to exchange books at a reduced postal rate, historically known as the “library book rate”, originally funded directly by the Government of Canada. In 1997, a ruling by the World Trade Organization required that the cost of the program be incurred by Canada Post.

I was not aware of that. I have spoken on this bill before and I had read all of the background information, but I was not aware that it was a 1997 ruling by the World Trade Organization that required the costs to be incurred by Canada Post.

I was very pleased to hear the government member say this evening that Canada Post has agreed to continue the reduced rates for yet another year.

I do know that the member has had a difficult time in attempting to ascertain the cost of this initiative. The fact of the matter is that when we do produce legislation before the House one of the things we do, whether we are in government or opposition, is attempt to try to quantify the cost to the treasury so that we can understand the extent of the issue.

The member has indicated this evening that we are looking at a potential $5 million cost item here. In previous discussion on the matter, we looked at the Ottawa Public Library, for example, where the postage increases would be in the neighbourhood of $70,000. We did the math and multiplied that by the 2,000 libraries across the country. Of course, that would be a very large increase for these libraries to absorb.

One of the other positives that the member has added into the bill is the provision that other types of media would be covered. I recognize that today we are dealing with many types of media other than just books: CDs, CD-ROMs, DVDs. These types of materials should weigh a lot less than transferring actual books from library to library. This type of activity should lower the cost to the libraries over time.

The abilities that the libraries will have once they are connected with high speed Internet is another element that may have been discussed in the debates, although when I reread all of the Hansard at the second reading debate, I did not see any talk of it. We have seen a program over the last few years, starting with the previous Liberal government, to tie in municipalities, hospitals and libraries as well into high speed Internet connections so that the material can be transferred that way.

In the future I would think that books that are not actually scanned in to the Internet already will be put on line, certainly books in regional and rural libraries over time. That will be one way to be able to access material right across the country and across the world.

However, that day is not here yet. We know, for example, that in the member's own riding of Brandon—Souris, the Brandon hospital has the capability of putting X-rays on disks and sending them to Winnipeg, because the high speed connections are there. At least that was the case the last time I toured it, which was a year or two ago.

However, to deliver material to the hospital in Russell, I believe it was, the material had to be taken off, put on a diskette, taken to the bus depot and sent off to the Souris hospital so that the doctors could then decipher the material and read it. However sooner or later a high speed connection will be made and the Internet will be connected through to that hospital in that particular town, and the material will be sent directly through those connections. At that stage, there will be less and less reliance on Canada Post for transferring materials between libraries.

This is something that is very important. It really gets down to the history of the country and the connection with our rural roots. It is not long ago—

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order. 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.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the very important issue of tobacco labelling.

Over the past few months, Canadians have witnessed a bizarre spectacle from the Conservative government's Minister of Health. This past September in a closed door meeting the minister managed to overturn six years' worth of research and waste more than three million dollars' worth of funding in an announcement that stunned both her provincial health minister colleagues and Canadians across the country. Of course, I am referring to the decision to halt the rollout of renewed tobacco warning labels.

After years of product testing and impact research, these groundbreaking labels were ready to be printed and sold by January 2010. That is almost a year ago.

The new tobacco labelling rules would have replaced images which, frankly, after nearly a decade have gone stale, with new and updated photos. Studies have proven that images like these would decrease smoking rates but only if they are kept current. After a decade, I think we can all agree that it is time for a facelift.

There was even more to the program that the minister blocked. Health Canada would have increased the size of warning labels from the current 50% of the package to 75% of the package. To top it all off, every single tobacco product sold in Canada would have featured a 1-800 quit line that would link smokers struggling to quit with experts trained to provide that kind of advice.

These were regulations that Canadians wanted and would have been proud to support. It would have returned Canada to the forefront of the global fight against tobacco use, a position we used to have when our country first introduced warning labels to the world back in 2000.

In the weeks leading up to the surprise announcement, there was a sharp jump in the number of meetings the government held with representatives of the tobacco industry. From the Department of Health to the PMO, the government had twice as many meetings with big tobacco than with representatives of the health care community and civil society.

The results of this lobbying speak for themselves. The Minister of Health has sold Canadians out to big tobacco and allowed smoking regulations in Canada to languish. Instead of using labelling that science has proven to be effective, we get weak-kneed statements about Facebook and Twitter to try to do the job the government will not do itself. It is clear that the government cannot be trusted to stand up for the health of Canadians.

In light of this sordid and altogether incredible story, my questions for the government are simple. Why did the Minister of Health ignore Canadians' concerns and cave in to the tobacco lobby? Why is the government switching from scientifically based labelling to untested social media? Why is the government not capable of doing both at the same time? What is the minister waiting for?

7:10 p.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, that is really unfortunate. Of course I disagree with pretty much every statement the member made. She seems to be providing more misinformation and making more personal attacks instead of working with the government on this important issue.

I am pleased to rise this evening to discuss our government's commitment to tobacco control and our continued efforts to protect youth in particular.

As members are aware, the Minister of Health has indicated that the department continues to examine the renewal of health warning messages on tobacco packaging. I am pleased to outline for the House today what has been done to date and what remains to be completed on the project.

Canada is a world leader in tobacco control. However, no country in the world with a similar political and economic environment has a lower smoking rate. Only 18% of Canadians smoke and 13% smoke daily. This is a substantial decline from the over 50% who smoked in 1965.

Successive tobacco control strategies and actions since the 1990s, a strong Tobacco Act, collaboration with the provinces, territories, non-governmental organizations, community organizations, as well as the changing attitudes of Canadians toward smoking have all contributed to the smoking rate of 18%.

We are encouraged by the results of the recent Canadian tobacco use monitoring survey which showed that fewer young Canadians are smoking. In 2009, 286,000 teens were smoking, which at 13% is the lowest smoking rate recorded for this age group since Health Canada first reported smoking prevalence.

I am also very pleased to note that the smoking rate among young adults, that is, those 20 to 24 years of age, has decreased significantly to a low of 23%. This is an important change given that this is the age group with the highest smoking prevalence.

The health and well-being of our children is a priority for the Government of Canada. That is why we have followed through on our commitment to protect young people from tobacco industry marketing practices that encourage them to smoke.

Last fall we made changes to the Tobacco Act which will make it harder for industry to entice young people to use tobacco products.

Specifically, we put in place additional restrictions on tobacco advertising to address what had become a substantial increase in tobacco advertising in publications that were easily accessible to young people.

We also established minimum packaging contents for little cigars and blunt wraps, putting an end to the tobacco industry's practice of selling these products in single units or in kiddie packs that were obviously too attractive and easily affordable for youth.

Finally, we banned flavours in little cigars, cigarettes and blunt wraps, sending an important message to tobacco manufacturers that marketing tobacco to youth will not be tolerated.

Canada's banning of flavours and additives recently received acclaim from 130 countries that participated at the Conference of Parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which was held in November in Uruguay. In fact, the Conference of Parties agreed to embed this idea as a key best practice for countries to adopt in the guidelines to support the regulation of tobacco content and emissions.

Clearly the government's actions position Canada as a world leader in tobacco control.

Regarding health warning messages, Canada was the world leader in implementing full colour pictorial messages covering 50% of cigarette packages in 2000, and many countries have since followed suit.

Canada is also one of the few countries in the world to have rigorously tested the effectiveness of health warning messages. Our results indicate that the messages encourage smokers to quit and discourage youth from starting to smoke.

Health warning messages on tobacco packaging are an important tool but they must be factored into a larger tobacco control strategy. Hard-hitting health warning messages on the dangers of tobacco should not be a stand-alone initiative.

The social environment has changed significantly since health warning messages were introduced 10 years ago. It is a good time to refocus our efforts to ensure the warnings reach the largest number of smokers possible while remaining effective and cost efficient.

While the research conducted in recent years on potential images for new health warning messages has allowed refinement and ensured they appeal to a wide spectrum of smokers, we recognize there are better--

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order. The hon. member for Halifax.

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, Canada was a world leader on tobacco control.

I would like to point out that all the information the parliamentary secretary presented to us was about the past. Meanwhile, these changes are ready for rollout in January. Canadians have been waiting. Smoking-related illnesses and deaths keep rising while the minister dithers and makes promises that she has no intention of keeping.

We have no problem with a comprehensive approach. In fact, we would welcome it. That is not what the government is offering. A comprehensive response would mean using new social media and printed warning labels, not instead of printed warning labels. Twittering to Canadians while selling out to the industry is not only the wrong choice but is a deadly choice that will affect all Canadians.

Again I ask, what is the minister waiting for?

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, again the member is wrong. There is no indication from the government that we will be using social media instead of packaging.

It is really unfortunate that when it comes to standing up to big tobacco, we take no lessons from the NDP. The NDP voted against the $15.8 million for the tobacco strategy. The NDP would rather start a campaign of misinformation, which the member continues this evening, instead of working with the government on an anti-tobacco strategy, which is exactly what we are doing.

This is not a time to play partisan politics. We are dealing with lives of Canadians. The NDP should be ashamed of itself.

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to talk about a question I asked in the House. The government promised recreational infrastructure then turned down thousands of qualified projects across British Columbia. In B.C. alone, almost half of the proposals were rejected.

The Minister of State for Science and Technology bizarrely responded by saying that I was absolutely incorrect and that there were a number of projects accepted across the country, creating jobs from coast to coast to coast. Yes, there were some accepted, but almost half were rejected. That was my point.

Then the minister of state, again bizarrely, went on to say that I voted against any money for any arena in any part of Canada, which again was completely false, since the Liberal Party supported the government's budget in order to support people during a recession period.

In going over that interaction, I was very disappointed at the hon.minister of state's answer. It is an illustration of the lack of integrity in question period, in terms of answering the question, and it is a lack of respect for Parliament's role, which is to hold the government to account.

I have to wonder whether this lack of transparency by the minister of state has a purpose and serves the government's partisan, self-serving use of public funds. The money for recreational infrastructure was far more targeted at Conservative ridings than the percentage of Conservative ridings itself because 60% of the funds went to Conservative ridings, when only 46% of ridings are Conservative. We have seen this in other programs. We have seen it in the facilities to improve access for the disabled, where 90% of funds went to Conservative ridings.

Another point I made was that every sign for the Conservative's action plan cost money. Whether it is replacing a doorknob or a light bulb, there is a sign. Those signs cost, on average, over $2,000 per sign. This money should be used for recreational infrastructure, for playgrounds, for fitness facilities and senior centres, for field houses, all the things that were turned down by the minister responsible for the recreational infrastructure funding.

Canadians need recreational infrastructure funding for their health, for equality. Community centres in Vancouver Quadra, like Kerrisdale Community Centre, Point Grey and Dunbar, are desperate funds to update aging facilities so they can serve the public. The government, sadly, does not care much about families and their needs for recreational infrastructure. It has wasted money that should be spent on the priorities of families. It has wasted $1 billion with the G8-G20 nonsense that did nothing for Canadians. That funding could have funded every recreational infrastructure project across Canada.

My concern is the government's priorities are misplaced and its funding, using taxpayer dollars, is mismanaged.

7:20 p.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, over 18 months ago, my department, Western Economic Diversification, was tasked with the roll-out of economic action plan programs in western Canada and we delivered.

Through the recreational infrastructure Canada program known as RInC, we have been working tirelessly to get western Canadians back to work and to stimulate the economy. WED put out a call for applications and, as with any desirable program, the demand far exceeded the available funding. Over 1,600 RInC submissions were received from across the west requesting in excess of $400 million in funding from the federal government.

Consistent with the objectives and guidelines established for RInC, WED's due diligence focused on ensuring projects could start quickly and create jobs while almost meeting the March 31, 2011 deadline. In the end, 718 RInC projects were approved.

Because of this careful consideration, our investments are seeing results. As of October 7, more than 210 RInC projects are complete and over $50 million has been disbursed to communities. Our work under Canada's economic action plan is helping realize our government's goals under this program. From the Pacific Ocean to Hudson Bay, communities are hiring again and the western economy is making a recovery.

Without RInC funding, communities, such as Port Alberni, British Columbia, would not have the capital to support the construction of the new Alberni athletic hall, a central gathering place for first nations and locals. The original facility was destroyed by a fire in May 2009, which forced the cancellation of many annual sporting activities and events. This new facility will officially be open for business next month and already the bookings have been piling in.

Another success can be seen in the northern rural community of Buick Creek, British Columbia, where our funding is replacing an outdoor arena with a new indoor arena. This facility can now be used as an ice arena for an extra six months of the year and can be converted for basketball and indoor soccer.

Tom Walker, mayor of the district of North Cowichan, spoke about our government's RInC investment, as someone in the sports field, saying:

This would not have been possible without the commitment of the federal government to improving infrastructure and promoting healthy and active lifestyles for our citizens.

Wendy Lambert, coordinator of the Chemainus Community Schools' Association, had this to say about RInC funding in her community. She said:

In a small town like Chemainus, people know each other well. Now, with this new fitness equipment, we are getting to know each other really well, as we huff and puff side by side, getting into shape! [People]...are loving their new circuit! By contributing to this project, Western Economic Diversification Canada has supported a small Canadian business; delayed lay-offs and increased working hours in a field burdened by cutbacks, and created a brand-new part-time job in the not-for-profit sector. Citizens have a unique opportunity for healthy activity.... It’s a win-win.

Outcomes such as those illustrate how RInC objectives are being met and how important impacts have been made by our investments, mostly in terms of stimulating local economies and building healthy, vibrant communities.

I have demonstrated our work through Canada's economic plan in creating opportunities for western communities. Work is well under way, jobs are being created and our government's action plan is benefiting western Canadians.

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, just listening to the hon. minister's words, if the stimulus is helping to realize government goals, what are those goals? Is it the record deficit of $56 billion and record debt that the borrow and spend government has put Canada into? The stimulus funding helped to do that.

She said that they delivered. What did they deliver? They delivered far fewer jobs, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, than they claimed. It did not work. Youth unemployment is sky high. Temporary jobs are replacing full-time jobs. She claimed that all of the spending stimulated the economy. It did not work. The economy is sputtering and there are record debt levels for Canadian families.

The government has been wasteful with the public dollar, with historic borrowing and spending tendencies, and it has put Canadians in such a deep hole that unfortunately it will take the Liberals, once again, to dig Canadians out.

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, as I have already demonstrated, our government responded quickly to the global economic downturn with our economic action plan and, throughout our plan, we took decisive steps to protect incomes, create jobs, ease credit markets and help workers and communities get back on their feet.

Part of this plan was an investment of $500 million to improve recreational infrastructure in communities across the country. This includes 718 projects in western Canada and 224 projects in British Columbia, including. in the constituency of Vancouver Quadra. the École Jules Quesnel Playground , the Miraloma Cricket Club, improvements to UBC's recreational facilities and a new turf field at Jericho Park.

Work is well under way, jobs are being created and our government's action plan is benefiting western Canadians.