House of Commons Hansard #12 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was speech.

Topics

Supplementary Estimates (C)
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

Supplementary Estimates (C)
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, just to be clear, in the list of business given by the government House leader, he made mention of the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement implementation legislation. Could he say again which day he intends to call that legislation?

Supplementary Estimates (C)
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, recognizing that there are consultations ongoing on that particular bill, it would be my intention to consider that next Wednesday.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary for Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, I would like to raise a point of order with respect to something I saw and heard during oral question period. It involved a member of the opposition, the member for Québec, and was directed at our minister responsible for the Quebec City region.

When the minister spoke, the Bloc member for Québec made inappropriate gestures and used unparliamentary language in remarks about our minister.

I was completely offended by what I saw and heard. I believe the member from Quebec owes the minister a sincere apology. I do not believe we should put up with that kind of behaviour here in this honourable place.

I am here to work very hard for this country. The minister is working very hard for the country as well and particularly for the province of Quebec. To have to put up with those kinds of remarks, which I cannot even repeat in the House, is absolutely unparliamentary.

I would encourage you, Mr. Speaker, to view the tape and consider what the Bloc Québécois member had to say and what she was gesturing toward the minister, and ask that she apologize to the minister as quickly as possible.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, our colleague opposite is evidently unable to relay the specific remarks of the member for Québec. I know that we are not supposed to speak about the absence of colleagues, but I will say that she is not here at present as she had to catch a flight to return to her riding.

However, in points of order, knowing what was said is necessary to determine whether remarks are unparliamentary. In the case of inappropriate gestures, the burden of proof falls on the member raising the point of order.

Therefore, I believe that you should at least wait for the member for Québec to return in order to obtain an explanation.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, the gestures made by the member for Québec were so unacceptable that it would be inappropriate for me to repeat them for you. I am asking you to look at the video. If you wish, after this exchange, I could meet with you to show you the gestures she made. I can also repeat the words she used but it would be very inappropriate to use such unparliamentary language in the House. However, I am prepared to speak to you, one-on-one, after this exchange, if you wish.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for her diligence. We can certainly discuss this and I could also see what shows up on the video. That concludes this point of order for the time being.

The House resumed consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Before question period the hon. member for Charlottetown had the floor for his remarks. There are six and half minutes remaining in the time allotted to him for his comments. I therefore call upon the hon. member for Charlottetown.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, when I started my remarks prior to question period, I said that this is a strange debate because there really is not anything in the Speech from the Throne that I would consider has anything to do with an agenda, a vision or futuristic programs. It is a compilation of things that might have been done in the last three or four years. It talks about the situation in Haiti and it talks about the Olympic Games, but really there is nothing there at all.

There is probably a reason for that. This is the third Speech from the Throne in 14 months. It makes a mockery of the whole thing. Anyway, this is what is in front of us. There are several issues that we should be having a public discussion about and which should be in the Speech from the Throne.

The first one is the major demographic transition that is going on in Canada which will have dramatic effects on our labour force, on our future health care costs, on our pensions, on our care of the elderly. There is no public discussion going on about that at all. Some think tanks are writing reports, and some of them are quite alarming, but in the Speech from the Throne and the budget, there is dead silence. I find that alarming.

That leads to the second point, and that is the whole issue of pensions. This has become a very important issue for Canadians from coast to coast. Statistics indicate that approximately two-thirds of Canadians do not have sufficient savings for their retirement. There were no proposals in the Speech from the Throne. There was nothing in the budget. I know that some discussions are going on and there is a lot of hiding behind this jurisdictional shield. The federal government has the power to convene and to show leadership. I am looking for leadership on this particular issue and I know that all Canadians are as well.

As we look forward as a society with a declining workforce we have to look for greater productivity. Our productivity is substantially lower than that of the United States and it is falling lower. Forty per cent of all Canadians do not have the literacy and numeracy skills to compete in the knowledge economy. Nothing is being done about it. No leadership is being shown by the government. Very little leadership is being shown by any of the provincial governments. The universities are not involved in this issue. The community colleges seem to be ignoring it. It just does not get any public discussion anywhere. This issue will affect dramatically the future productivity of this nation. It is an issue that I thought would have been mentioned in the Speech from the Throne.

Dealing with the issue of productivity, there are significant barriers to post-secondary education developing in Canadian society. A lot of high school graduates are deciding not to go to university or to a community college. Their decision is based upon income. They do not want to incur the significant debt that is required. That is becoming a determinant for people to go to university. The country will suffer because of that. That issue should have been included in the Speech from the Throne as we look at the business and agenda of this House going forward.

Perhaps the item that is most blatantly not in the Speech from the Throne is the whole issue of the environment and climate change. The Conservative government is in its fifth year of governing. There have been three environment ministers. There have been three plans.

The first environment minister's agenda was to create a made in Canada plan. Did we ever get it? No. Did we get anything done at all on the environment or climate change? No.

When she was dismissed, she was replaced with the second environment minister. His program was to bring forward very tough regulations so that the largest emitters in Canada would be regulated. Was this ever done? No, it was not done. Was anything ever done? No, nothing was done.

Then there is the third environment minister. His plan is to start a dialogue with the Obama administration. Has this dialogue started? We do not know. The other day he was reported in the press as saying that the dialogue may take two or three years, and in the meantime we cannot do anything.

I, and I believe most Canadians, find it troubling that we can go from one year to two years to three years to four years and not do anything about climate change, other than suggest that at some point in time we are going to start a dialogue with the Obama administration.

I know there is a certain percentage of Canadians who do not believe in climate change. They support the remarks of the Prime Minister that this is an unproven science and it is a socialist plot. However, the majority of Canadians do not support that thought. There should have been something in the Speech from the Throne dealing with environmental issues, dealing with climate change and dealing with a future agenda and programs that this country would expect to see from the government in power regarding the environment.

I come from the political ideology that I believe there is a positive role for the federal government to play. A country as large and as diverse as Canada cannot function if there is not a strong federal government. I am not seeing it, and I am certainly not seeing it in this Speech from the Throne. I really do not see anything. It is disappointing, but there is some explanation for it. This is the third throne speech in 14 or 15 months. That is probably one of the biggest issues that I would have liked to see in the Speech from the Throne, that is, the constant attacks on democracy and the institutions of democracy, such as this institution, Parliament.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the speech by the Liberal member, who spoke about climate change and said that a number of Conservatives did not believe in climate change. While the entire world believes that the future is in a knowledge-based and green economy, the Conservatives continue to turn a deaf ear.

This $280 billion budget allocates $180 million to energy efficiency and $25 million to renewable energies.

On a per capita basis, China invests four times more than Canada in green and renewable energies, while Europe invests seven times more, Korea invests 16 times more, and the United States invests 18 times more.

How can the Liberals support the throne speech and the budget when the Conservatives deny the existence of climate change and are not investing any significant amounts of money into green and renewable energies?

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the comments made by the questioner. There is a certain segment and depending on whose numbers we believe, probably 20% of Canadians do not believe in climate change. They share the comments of the Prime Minister. They think it is an unproven science and it is a socialist plot for the developing countries to take money from the developed countries.

The member makes a very interesting point that a lot of countries, such as Germany, China and the United States, are really into developing the green economy. Most economists believe that is the future, that we have to transition from carbon-based fuels to alternate sources of energy. Technology is what is going to take us there. A lot of countries are ahead of us. Canada is not doing very much. Some of the provinces are doing some things, but it is disappointing to see the role taken by the current federal government.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I know the member to be an excellent chair of the public accounts committee. As a matter of fact, he has been the chairman now for about four years. I knew him from before I even got to this place.

I liked what he had to say about the lack of initiative on the part of the government to negotiate with the United States. We know that tourism on both sides of the border has dropped off a lot since the imposition of the new passport regulations, and here we have the government wanting to introduce a new biometric passport when it cannot even get the old passport to work properly. It should be negotiating with the American government to have a reduction in the price of the passports on both sides of the border for a six-month period or perhaps a two for one promotion, anything to get the tourism business back on track along the border.

I wonder whether the member would like to comment on that aspect of the throne speech.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, this is an important issue. The member is quite right. Over the past 6 to 10 years we have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of United States tourists coming to Canada. It is not just one issue that is behind it; there are a number of issues. There is the thickening of the border. There was the confusion over passports, do people need them, do they not need them. There is the marketing issue. There is the price. Another issue was the whole way the government handled the GST rebates for foreign visitors. Altogether this has led to a dramatic reduction, unfortunately, for our tourism industry. It is just not a priority.

This is one of those issues the government has backed away from because it thinks it is a provincial jurisdiction. I take the contrary point of view that this is very much a federal jurisdiction. The federal government ought to show leadership. It has the power to come forward with national strategies. It could be doing a lot more to assist our businesses in the tourist industry.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

3:20 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, every so often around this place as members of Parliament, we get a chance to advance the aspirations and dreams of the people we meet, the folks we represent. This is one of those occasions for me.

Some months ago I was door knocking in the former township of Osgoode which is in the south end of the amalgamated city of Ottawa. I knocked on the door of a soldier who had just returned from Afghanistan. When left for Afghanistan, he left behind a five-day-old newborn with his wife and he went to serve out his mission in one of the most dangerous places in the world. He came back and applied for parental leave under the employment insurance system, and why would he not? The employment insurance program provides parental benefits to individuals who are adopting a child or caring for a newborn, which he was. The only problem is that during the time when he was risking his life overseas on our behalf, the period of eligibility for collecting parental benefits had expired. While he was sacrificing for us, the system expired the benefits he had paid for his entire life as a working Canadian through EI premiums.

It struck me as an incredible injustice that we could ask people first to pay into the employment insurance system with the promise that one day they might draw from it in order to extract the parental benefits that are part of the program and then send them into harm's way and tell them when they got back that the benefits for which they had paid would no longer be theirs.

I brought this matter to the Minister of Human Resources and she acted swiftly and decisively to have the finance minister put the following words into the budget documents:

For Canadian Forces members whose parental leave is deferred or interrupted because of the military requirements, the Government will extend the period in which they are eligible by another 52 weeks.

That is the right thing to do. It is about families and soldiers. We are all here because of those who sacrificed before us. We have a great duty to work every day and in our own small way to try and repay that sacrifice. If members look at the budget documents that I just cited, they will find that is exactly what we have done here.

I want to thank that soldier who brought this concern to my attention. It is due to his work that we were able to identify this problem and fix it for soldiers who make similar sacrifices in the future. I thank him and I thank the House for giving the occasion to serve people like the gentleman on whose doorstep I learned of this problem. I hope that we can all put aside our differences on an issue as unifying as this one to help our soldiers and our families, to uphold the great pillars of what make our country so great: hard work, family, patriotism, sacrifice.

With the passage of this budget and this particular provision, I hope we can do that.