House of Commons Hansard #22 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.

Topics

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member. Perhaps I mentioned that, a few years ago, I decided that this expression was not acceptable in the House. I forgot this when the hon. member used it yesterday,

The hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie on a point of order.

Statements by Members
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, during member's statements, the member for Beauport—Limoilou falsely stated that I was defending criminals, such as Mr. Olson, saying that they should receive their pension, which is completely untrue. I said the same thing as the Prime Minister said: that I understand that people are shocked by the situation and that I am as well, that the law needs to be reviewed, but that there is no simple solution. I do not have a solution and the government does not have one, given that it has not introduced a bill either.

It is appalling that people, such as the member for Beauport—Limoilou or Senator Boisvenu, would take part in such grandstanding and deceit. Yet, it does not surprise me because I know that the Conservatives have established a pattern of lying.

Statements by Members
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

In my opinion, the point raised by the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie is regarding a problem he has with another member's comments. He has now responded. This is not a point of order; it is a matter of the facts. I consider this matter closed for now.

There are others rising on a point of order.

Statements by Members
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 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, in response to the recent intervention by the leader of the Bloc Québécois, at least on translation, the words came across accusing the government of lying, lies and untruths.

I wonder if the member could confirm that is what he said, and if so, would he withdraw his remarks immediately.

Statements by Members
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I never claimed that the government had lied. I said that the Conservatives had established a pattern of lying. That is quite different.

The Speaker already confirmed to the House that we may talk about reaching the heights of hypocrisy. That was one of your rulings, Mr. Speaker.

Statements by Members
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that the Bloc leader, the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, is wasting the time of the House on his debating points.

Mr. Speaker, I urge you to ask the Bloc leader to retract his statements, which are unparliamentary. He was throwing out insults during question period. He does not seem to do anything but insult the Quebec members who sit in this House and who were elected democratically.

Speaking of hypocrisy, I would love to hear whether he has sold his shares in the oil sands, or whether he is waiting for the Easter break to do so.

I hope he will retract his statements, because they are insulting to all members in this House and to the Quebeckers, both men and women, who are working here for Quebec. I demand an apology from the Bloc leader.

Statements by Members
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I will look at what has been said in the House when the Hansard is available. If need be, I will come back to the House with a ruling in due course.

References to members or ministers--Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on March 24, 2010, by the hon. member for Joliette, concerning comments made on the social networking site Twitter by the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans regarding the presence or absence of members in the House.

I would like to thank the member for Joliette for having raised this matter and the member for Ottawa—Orléans for his comments on March 29, 2010.

In raising his point of order the member for Joliette informed the House that the member for Ottawa—Orléans on March 11, 12, 18 and 19, 2010, using the Twitter site, posted the exact number of members of each party present in the House, as well as the names of some members who were absent or present.

Noting the longstanding practices that a member is not allowed to make comments on the presence or absence of members in the House and that members cannot do indirectly what cannot be done directly, he contended that these rules should also apply to members using new technologies.

Intervening on March 29, 2010, the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans asserted that the Speaker has no authority to rule on statements made outside the House, citing House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at page 614. He stated that not only is the social networking site Twitter outside the House, but that the House leader for the Bloc Québécois had presented no evidence that the public information shared via Twitter was initiated from the floor of the House or from the galleries.

Furthermore, he noted that, contrary to the claim of the member for Joliette, the information posted was not privileged but, in fact, very public. He concluded by reiterating that members have an obligation to respect privileged information, but should not have fewer rights than any other citizen in disseminating public information.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, contains a number of references to the prohibition against reflecting on the presence or absence of members in the House, including the one referred to by both members at page 614, and others at pages 126, 127 and 213.

In particular, I would like to draw to the attention of members the passage on page 213 which states:

One of the Member’s primary duties is to attend the sittings of the House when it is in session, unless the Member has other parliamentary or official commitments, such as committee meetings, constituency work or parliamentary exchanges. This obligation is enshrined in Standing Order 15: “Every Member, being cognizant of the provisions of the Parliament of Canada Act, is bound to attend the sittings of the House, unless otherwise occupied with parliamentary activities and functions or on public or official business”. The Speaker has traditionally discouraged Members from signalling the absence of another Member from the House because “there are many places that Members have to be in order to carry out all of the obligations that go with their office”.

As members are repeatedly cautioned, it is clearly unparliamentary to make reference in debate to the presence or absence of other members. The case before us is somewhat novel and, while I accept the viewpoint of the hon. member for Joliette, I also appreciate the argument made by the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans. It is clearly impossible for the Chair to police the use of personal digital devices by members, for example, by trying to distinguish whether certain texting has originated from the Chamber or not. Nor would the Chair want to change its longstanding practice of refraining from comment on statements made outside the House. That said, however, it seems to me that statements like the ones complained of are—at the very least—unfortunate and I would strongly advise all members to refrain from such behaviour in the future as you undoubtedly understand the possible repercussions on colleagues and on the reputation of the House itself.

All the same, I want to take this opportunity to address the broader issue of the ways in which these new technologies and tools challenge our historic practices and procedures. While they are extremely useful in reaching out to colleagues, constituents and the public, these technologies need to be used judiciously, not least because of the speed with which messages and images can be distributed once they are on the Internet.

On various occasions over the past months, members have raised concerns over their use in conjunction with House and committee proceedings. In fact, the very use of the social networking site Twitter has been raised as an issue in this House several times, including the case before us. For example, on October 20 and 27, and again on November 17, 2009, postings on Twitter resulted in members apologizing to this House.

More recently, a posting on Facebook gave rise to concern for the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt when a photograph of the member, and a statement related thereto, were posted on the popular networking site.

The House and the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs have already dealt with some of the issues related to new technologies. For example, in response to concerns about the re-use of parliamentary webcasts on March 5, 2009, the House concurred in the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. This allowed us to strengthen and broaden the Speaker's permission that appears on the back page of Debates, concerning the reproduction and use of webcasts of House and committee proceedings.

Given the increasing frequency of incidents involving social networking technologies, I believe it would be helpful if the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs would consider the issues related to these technologies and their impact on House and committee proceedings.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-9, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 4, 2010 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise here today to speak to Bill C-9. I will begin by saying that we will be voting against this bill.

I have been a member in this House for over four years. Twice now the people of Ahuntsic have given me the privilege of defending their interests and Quebec's interests with my Bloc Québécois colleagues.

My duties here have allowed me to witness first-hand the Conservative government's failure to act, and above all, its political grandstanding. In fact, even the name of the bill, the Jobs and Economic Growth Act, rather than the budget implementation bill, is itself an example of this smoke and mirrors act, as they try to convince the country that they are taking care of people.

In my speech on the budget implementation act, I will demonstrate that the government is trying to impose its right wing ideology to the detriment of women, children and even the victims it claims so loudly to defend.

First of all, consider the firearms registry. The underlying message of this budget is that the government wants to save all the pennies it can, putting the lives of our citizens in danger, particularly the lives of women and children, and even police officers. To save less than $3 million—the undisputed number from the RCMP—the government is supporting a bill that will exempt long guns from the current firearms registry, and 90% of all guns are long guns. And they are the weapons that kill the most women and children.

Before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security on March 18, 2010, the Senior Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP, Bill Sweeney, expressed his support for maintaining the full gun registry and pointed out that there is ample evidence proving that the registry contributes to the safety of police officers and the public. He said:

I believe that there is compelling evidence that the registry promotes officer and public safety...I believe that there will be an opportunity for the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police to present to a cabinet committee that evidence.

It is clear that the gun registry not only allows for better coordination of law enforcement interventions, but also for the prevention of domestic tragedies by facilitating the seizure of weapons. It also makes it more difficult to steal firearms and easier to conduct and conclude police investigations, and that allows police to arrest criminals more quickly. The registry is consulted more than 12,000 times a day by more than 80% of police officers across Canada.

On the issue of the gun registry, the government has achieved an exceptional level of absurdity. For $3 million in so-called savings, the government, which has more than $242.2 million in expenditures in this budget, wants to compromise the safety of the public and law enforcement officers.

For the government, public safety is just another prop in their show. All the government ever does is put on shows and make the same old announcements. I have some examples. By the way, the shows are not very good.

The Minister of Public Safety made a major announcement on the sex offender registry by saying that the government will tighten its grip on pedophiles. We were told that $14 million was being allocated over two years for DNA analysis. It was a big show.

In fact, we were addressing this issue before the government prorogued the House and the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security had produced a report on the sex offender registry. Furthermore, in April 2009 our committee met with the directors of two major labs, one in Quebec and the other in Ontario. There are three major laboratories in Canada: those two and the third one, run by the RCMP, which does analyses.

We received Mr. Prime from the Centre of Forensic Sciences, and Mr. Dufour from the Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de médecine légale. These two labs do roughly 70% of all the tests. What did these directors say in April 2009? That not only was there no agreement with the federal government, but they also had to do a tremendous amount of tests—nearly 70% of the tests—with very little money.

This means that it can take up to a year to get the results of these tests.

On March 18, at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, I questioned the minister about the funding for these laboratories. I was told that there still was no agreement in place and that Quebec still had not signed the agreement for the current year. So there is no agreement.

I asked how the $7 million a year would be split among these laboratories, and I got no answer. They do not know how they are going to divide up the money. Currently, each lab gets just over $2 million, so they will likely get exactly the same amount, with no increase. Once again, the government is making a great show of things, but in reality there is nothing new. Even worse, nothing is being done.

I want to tell my colleagues about something that is completely absurd. They say they want to crack down on pedophiles. No problem. Yet for the past three years—during which time there have been three public safety ministers—I have been warning the government and calling on the Conservatives to stop transferring pedophiles to Correctional Services halfway houses, also known as community correctional centres, near schools and daycare centres.

The Montreal school board has also been calling for this. It passed a resolution to that effect, but nothing was done. This does not require any investment of money—it does not cost a cent—and it does not even require that a law be passed. All it requires is a simple directive at Correctional Services. Did they agree? No. Three years later, they still have not done anything. What are they waiting for? I do not know. I hope with all my heart that they will not wait for a tragedy to occur before they do something, which is what usually happens.

I will give another example. For four years, this government has been saying that it is very concerned about victims of crime. So it makes a big deal about a paltry $6.6 million over two years to improve the federal victims strategy by making it easier for relatives of crime victims, specifically murder victims, to receive EI sickness benefits.

There is even a spokesperson who spouts all manner of falsehoods. I say “falsehoods” because I do not want to use unparliamentary language. I would use another word if I were not here in the House, but that is another story.

Why did they take four years to come up with a paltry $6.6 million? After putting on a show for four years, claiming to be there for the victims and feeling sorry for them, they did something, providing $6.6 million over two years. Why? On closer scrutiny, what do we find?

We know that the member for Compton—Stanstead introduced—more than once—Bill C-343 respecting the families of victims of crime. This bill would provide assistance in the form of employment insurance benefits not only to the families of murder victims, but also the families faced with the death of their minor child or the suicide of a spouse, common-law partner or child, and to parents whose minor child suffered a serious physical injury during the commission of a criminal offence. It would mean that any member of these families affected by tragedy could receive up to 52 weeks of benefits and maintain their employment relationship for up to two years.

What is the government proposing? It is proposing $3.3 million per year only for the families of murder victims, which boils down to approximately 15 weeks of benefits. We are asking for 52 weeks for a larger number of individuals. That is what I call really helping the victims of crime.

They are so frantic that, on March 19, Senator Boisvenu, their spokesperson, was still telling and writing falsehoods, not to use unparliamentary language, about Bill C-343. He attempted to defend the indefensible. We will see how absurd that was. He said that budget 2010 included an additional commitment of $52 million to help victims of crime and $6.6 million to support the parents of a murdered child through the EI program.

That is not true. There is no $52 million in the budget for the victims of crime. The Conservatives just love putting on smoke and mirrors shows. They are world champions at it. Unfortunately, these are not very good shows. I would not recommend them, because the shows are more pitiful than anything else.

I would like to speak about an issue that is important to me—crime prevention. We will see that they have a rather poor record. Crime prevention is not in their vocabulary. For the Conservatives, crime prevention is an obscure concept, one that they do not even understand. If they did, they would have thrown money at it since coming to power. I would say that previous governments did not do much more. However, the Conservatives claim that they are concerned about crime. Crime prevention is fundamental if we do not want people to become criminals. If we want to save our youth, we have to have prevention.

What if we are wrong? Well, I will prove that we are not wrong. We are not the only ones saying it.

There is nothing in the budget for prevention, there is nothing for the national crime prevention strategy. However, the National Crime Prevention Centre web site talks about providing communities tools, knowledge and support to undertake crime prevention initiatives in communities large and small across Canada. It is great to read that. It is encouraging.

This year, no new money has been allocated. Consequently, for over a year—and this may continue next year—the National Crime Prevention Centre, Quebec section, has been telling agencies in my riding, and they have told me as well, to not submit applications for new projects until further notice because it does not have any money and allocated amounts have already been disbursed.

I asked the minister about it when he came before the committee. It seems that no one could provide an answer. We will receive one in writing at some point, at least we hope so. I have dealt with a fair number of departments. It is fairly difficult to obtain information and a response from the department responsible for the NCPC. I will not go into that.

What are the Conservatives doing? They are doing the easiest thing, what they are paid to do and what they were sent here to do: they are making laws. Making laws is the easiest thing to do, unbelievably easy. However, making intelligent laws is not as easy, I can assure you. And when the time comes to put money into implementing those laws, it is a different story. Furthermore, there is always that narrow vision that would have us believe that putting more people in jail is in some way fighting crime. Let us just put people in jail and throw away the key and everything will be just fine. I am sorry, but no matter how many and how long the jail terms are, those individuals will be freed one day and once back on the streets they will be even more prone to crime and more dangerous.

Last Tuesday—as life and destiny sometimes take us to some cities at the right time—I was in Winnipeg where I replaced my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin at the justice and human rights committee, which was studying organized crime and street gangs. I must say that I was moved and touched by what I saw in Winnipeg, particularly by the condition of aboriginal children. All the witnesses we heard told us that more money was needed for prevention.

I met outstanding aboriginal women who work tirelessly for organizations in terrible neighbourhoods to save aboriginal children, to get them off the streets and to prevent them from being recruited by street gangs or organized crime groups.

I want to take this opportunity to talk about Mr. Wiebe, a man who stood out to me, although all of the testimonies were touching. Mr. Wiebe's 20-year-old son was murdered on January 5, 2003. It was a very violent murder planned out by young men aged 17 to 20.

This man was suffering a lot. Despite the fact that he and his wife were still suffering, he said that he had read that the Canadian government wanted to increase the budget for prisons by 27%, by $3.1 billion. He encouraged the committee to press the government to take 100% of this increase and re-allocate every cent into human rights and prevention. He said that we needed to save these kids before they became criminals. He said that his son would perhaps still be alive if his murderers had gotten some help.

What I saw and heard in Winnipeg regarding the situation with aboriginal children made it clear why these young people join street gangs.

Why, between 2005 and 2007, did Winnipeg police report more than 8,000 car thefts per year committed by members of street gangs, by 11- or 12-year old kids? These kids are living with poverty, unsanitary housing—I saw it myself—violence, drug use, high drop-out rates, parental abandonment, sexual violence, despair and lack of love. And nothing in this budget will meet these desperate needs.

What aboriginal children need is good food, decent housing, the opportunity to go to school, homes free from violence and drugs, and parents who are proud of their culture and their history. They do not need prison.

Aboriginals are already over-represented in federal penitentiaries in the prairie provinces as well as in juvenile facilities in the region. Like all children in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Saskatoon, these children need greater solidarity. They need help to keep them from being recruited, used or killed by criminal gangs.

In my riding, in Quebec and in Winnipeg, I have seen compassionate, loving people who scrounge pennies every day to help children escape misery and to prevent them from being recruited by street gangs. They know that is the way to fight crime.

I get emotional about this because I care so deeply. This is part of my mission as a politician and as a human being.

I hope that the government will listen to Mr. Wiebe. I hope that it will quit showboating and realize that we cannot play games with people's lives. I also hope it will understand that the key to winning the fight against crime is making major investments in preventive measures targeting distressed children and youth everywhere in Quebec and Canada.

The most important thing is figuring out not how to put people in jail, but how to save our children. That should be our first concern. They are the ones who will eventually be looking after us. We must remember one thing. One day, our children will be looking after us. If we do not look after them, if we leave them to rot in jail, they will not do us any favours when it is their turn to look after us.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to what the member opposite said and I was very disappointed in her speech.

First, I heard a lot of criticism of the crime bills that have gone through Parliament. The Bloc has voted against virtually every crime bill, yet she talks about trying to make Canada safe.

On top of that, she talks about my city of Winnipeg. I know all those people and they told me, after she came back from the justice committee, that she spent 90% of her time on her BlackBerry, not listening. I know what goes on in Winnipeg and I know the many different programs that are there for these children. I also know we have the largest number of women who have disappeared or who are abused.

The people wonder why she did not support the human trafficking bill, which they supported and told her that at committee. After this so-called emotional speech in Parliament, how does she square that with what the public has told me in Winnipeg?

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. I must say that I am a little taken aback by what she said about my BlackBerry, but, in politics, one has to expect low blows. I have become immune to all this nonsense.

What she said about the bills is completely untrue. I supported at second reading the bill she put forward because I figured it could be referred to committee where it could be improved. Unfortunately, at third reading, I could not support it simply because it was bad, it was not a good bill.

I am very disappointed in the member. We have sat on the Standing Committee on the Status of Women together, and she never asked her government to stop issuing visas to exotic dancers. What is she waiting for to do so?

I travelled to Winnipeg. This is not a personal attack. I happened to go there, and I was very disappointed with what I saw. How come young 11 and 12-year old girls continue being assaulted almost on a daily basis by men in luxury cars near the railroad in the North End, in her riding? And she wants to fight human trafficking! She should start by looking after what is going on in her own riding.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for her passion. I know that she is very concerned about what is happening on the crime issue. I disagree with the member who asked the question.

I have an article from December 2008, which shows very clearly that crime rates are inextricably linked to economic performance. It means that if we look at the unemployment rate and track it, violent crime goes up almost as much, but property crime is even more of an increase than the increase in unemployment.

What it says to me is that when people get desperate, when EI benefits run out, when they do not know how to pay the next bill, sometimes they make mistakes.

Much of the legislation that the Conservative government has brought forward shows the Conservatives want to punish everybody, throw them all in jail and throw away the key. In fact, we should be managing the economy better, then there will be less crime. That is a perfect crime prevention example.

I want to thank the member for raising it. I will give her an opportunity to comment.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague. He summarized the situation beautifully. Unfortunately, crime does not just spring up out of nowhere. Criminals are not born, they are made.

I am still talking about Winnipeg, but it could be anywhere. At the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, I met youth who were barely 16. Their experiences included the death of a parent, poverty, dropping out of school, sexual assault, drugs, violence. How can we judge children in this type of situation and not think that they will be recruited into street gangs? These youth are looking for love and a family, and street gangs say that they are their family, that they will feed them and give them power, that they will protect them and make them stronger than everyone else, that they will be their family. That is what street gangs give them.

We should not put these children in jail. They are victims. We should give them the chance to work, to go to school, to be loved and to live. That is how we will fight crime.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I know you want me to ask a question about Bill C-9, the 880-page omnibus bill that the government has introduced in the House today.

I know the member is certainly interested in the softwood lumber issue. This particular bill raises the export tariff on softwood lumber products from Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan by 10%.

It is basically designed to bring Canada into compliance with the decision of the London Court of International Arbitration tribunal regarding the evaluation of export volumes from Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The tribunal ruled that Canada must apply compensatory export charges of $68.26 million in accordance with the softwood lumber accord.

We know the forestry industry is already in trouble with widespread unemployment. My colleague, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, has talked at length in this House about the softwood lumber sellout perpetrated by various parties in this House. Would the member comment on this provision of Bill C-9, which will basically further hurt the forestry industry in this country?