House of Commons Hansard #37 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senate.

Topics

The House resumed from April 29 consideration of the motion that Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate term limits), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

CONSTITUTION ACT, 2010 (SENATE TERM LIMITS)
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-10.

The first part of the debate started yesterday. We have had a very interesting debate. The minister was here and participated in the debate yesterday. We welcome that. It is the second time this week that we have had ministers from the government in attendance, and I think that is a very positive sign.

This is actually the fourth time that the government has tried to bring in this type of a bill to limit Senate terms, and I think this time could be the lucky time. I must tell the President of the Treasury Board that it all depends on several things, such as whether the government tries to engineer another election or whether it prorogues Parliament. That is why the bill did not make as far as it could have the last two times. Perhaps the first time around there were some other forces that scuttled his bill, but certainly the last two times it was self-inflicted.

As our critic, the member for Hamilton Centre, pointed out yesterday, we have no problem with this bill and with this concept. For many years now our party has been solidly on the record as being in favour of the abolition of the Senate. At this point in our history, I think many of us believe that incrementalism may in fact be the answer here. If we can chisel away at this structure a little bit at the time, we might get it into a better form than it is. For that reason, we think this is a positive step.

Eight years seems like a fairly long time for Senators to serve. Under an ideal structure, if we were to be electing Senators, we would more than likely want to be electing them on a five year cycle, like the members of the House, and maybe in alternate years so we did not have a total and complete transfer of political power in the country in one election cycle. We could build it like it is done in the United States over a two year cycle.

That is not what we are dealing with here because we have the constitutional requirements of the country. The government has nibbled around the problem sufficiently to be able to confidently propose this particular bill with the knowledge that this will in fact be constitutional, regardless of what the Liberals keep referring to, that they want to send it off to the Supreme Court. That would buy them another 10 or 20 years.

The fact is the government is on pretty solid grounds to make this particular incremental change to the Senate. What is exciting about the whole process at the end of the day is that some of the provinces are electing their own Senators. I believe Alberta has been electing their own Senators, but Saskatchewan and now Manitoba are planning to follow suit.

I do have the November 2009 report from the Manitoba all-party special committee on Senate reform. The President of the Treasury Board understands how Manitoba has worked in a minority government. He was there for that period. He knows that under the former Filman government and under the Doer government for the last 10 years, Manitoba's solution to many very controversial problems has been to resolve it through an all-party process.

We did that with the smoking in public places issue, which I believe was actually an issue introduced by one of the Conservative backbenchers at the time in opposition. We dealt with this issue very effectively during Meech Lake as well.

I once again encourage the government to look at a model that has worked in the past in other provinces.

What the legislative committee came up with was fairly interesting because it consulted broadly in the process. The mandate of the committee referred to the fact that the federal government would be moving forward with Senate reform and in response Manitoba would establish an all-party committee to ask Manitobans how senators should be elected.

The federal government asked the provinces to consult and asked for input on Senate selection. The all-party process on consultations reflected Manitoba legislation passed in 2006 and I will get to that fairly soon.

It is timely to move forward because the legislation to create an eight year term limit for senators was introduced recently in Parliament.

For the public who are watching, the fact that we are simply limiting Senate terms is not being done entirely in isolation. There are other things being done across the country.

The act to establish the committee was also set out in that particular mandate. The committee considered matters relating to the election of senators from Manitoba, the manner in which an election of senators should be conducted, including whether senators should be elected using proportional representation or any other type of voting. Therefore, we did not prejudge the situation and limit it to one option. We left it wide open and ensured that the election of senators would result in better representation for all the regions of Manitoba.

Once again, it was chosen by a fairly large all-party committee. There was a seven person subcommittee that was set up as well. It had public meetings all over Manitoba, in Brandon, Carman, Dauphin, Flin Flon, Norway House, Russell, St. Laurent, Steinbach and Winnipeg. It advertised these meetings on websites rather broadly actually. At the end of the day there were 51 presentations at the public hearings. There were 31 written submissions sent.

As I indicated before, on June 13, 2006, Bill 22, the election reform act was approved by all parties in the Manitoba Legislative Assembly. The act stated that if it was not to be abolished, the Senate should consist of democratically elected members rather than members appointed by a process involving patronage appointments.

The Manitoba Senate was abolished in 1875 and a single legislative assembly has served the province well since then. I have never heard anyone in Manitoba ever asking me to bring back the Senate. As a matter of fact, I have never heard of anyone in my constituency, over 23 years as a provincial MLA, even knowing there was a Senate in Manitoba. It disappeared in 1875. It has been long forgotten and no one is concerned about it. So we would not want to be entertaining ideas of reconstituting a Senate in Manitoba. We have to deal with the one we have right now. That is the problem.

There was a clear consensus that evolved out of this particular process. The recommendations were that if the federal government moved forward on its commitments, elections would be held in the province of Manitoba to elect nominees to the Senate and forwarded to Ottawa. Elections would be administered through Elections Canada with the cost being the responsibility of the federal government. The method of voting would be first past the post.

That is controversial even in my own caucus. There are a number of people who are very strong supporters of proportional representation and there are some valid arguments for that proposal as well, but the Manitoba all-party committee, after hearing presentations, after discussing the whole issue of PR and other methods, decided that it would prefer the first past the post.

There should be a regional representation among Manitoba's allotment of six Senate seats. The committee took the six Senate seats for Manitoba and applied three to Winnipeg, which has actually more than 50% of the population, two in southern Manitoba, and one in the north.

Elections would be held in each of the regions. The persons with the most votes in each region would be placed on the list of nominees that would be submitted to the prime minister. Once again, the current proposal of an eight year term limit by the federal government is in keeping with what was heard from the presenters.

Regardless of my views on whether eight years is enough or not enough, the committee in Manitoba certainly was endorsing the eight year option. I understand that the Liberals are looking at a 12 year or 15 year option and it seems to me that they are probably just grasping at straws in this case. I actually feel the Liberals will maybe for the wrong reasons change their minds on this bill and support it as well because they are losing influence in the Senate.

The Conservatives are now, I believe, in a majority situation, not by much, but fairly close. Even when Liberals, on their good days, look at the Senate situation, they too will recognize there are some serious problems in appointing people on a lifetime basis.

Our critic, the member for Hamilton Centre, dealt with this issue brilliantly yesterday and for those who were here to hear his speech, it was certainly one for the ages. It was an excellent speech. He had the House rocking. He looked at the preamble of the bill and read it:

WHEREAS Parliament wishes to maintain the essential characteristics of the Senate within Canada’s parliamentary democracy as a chamber of independent, sober second thought.

He went on to detail the history of the Senate and how it is such a joke, that people would view this body as a chamber of independence. He pointed out that the government has a leader in the Senate. There are caucus meetings in the Senate. The senators participate and agree on strategies in the Senate. Even so, the Senate is loaded with political operatives. It is blatantly obvious that senators do not even try to hide the fact.

When John Turner was running against Brian Mulroney, Brian Mulroney was able to change the debate and flow of the election by attacking him for going along with the final Trudeau Senate appointments, which were just blatantly patronage appointments. I do not have the list of the recent Conservative appointments, but they are not any different than the Liberal appointments. We have a senator from Manitoba who was the national president or national director of the PC Party and guess what, he is one of the appointments to the Senate.

As was pointed out by one of the speakers yesterday, basically the entire Conservative national campaign team, including fundraisers and the whole gang, have been appointed to the Senate. The only difference from Liberal days is that they are there for eight years as opposed to, as the Minister of State for Democratic Reform pointed out, a maximum of 45 years, up until age 75. So there are eight year appointments in place.

In the Senate, as we speak, there could be a campaign committee strategy session of the Conservative Party of Canada over there because the players have all moved from the party over to the Senate. So the senators are travelling around the country, totally unaccountable, as the member for Hamilton Centre pointed out yesterday. They do not have public meetings.

I remember appearing before a Senate committee a number of years ago in Manitoba. So I know the Senate is active and that it does have hearings on issues. It has bills, like we do, and it deals with the process. However, from a public point of view, rarely do we see senators in the media dealing with issues. We do not see them having public meetings on issues or leading any sort of political discourse in this country. The result is that the public becomes very cynical.

If we were to ask people in Manitoba to name their senators, I do not think they could, other than Senator Carstairs who they know because she was the Liberal leader who took the party from obscurity to prominence in 1988 for a two-year period and then took it back to non-prominence. However, she is in the Senate and she might register on a poll asking people who their Manitoba senators are. However, I guarantee members that without mentioning the names of the senators, literally nobody will know who their senators are. Clearly, that is not even healthy for the senators. I can imagine how desolate it must be for them to be appointed to a body for 20 or 30 years and find out that nobody knows who they are and nobody cares and they do not really do anything. I have not talked to any senators about it but they must have some questions about this role themselves.

I know there have been initiatives in the Senate in the past to make themselves more relevant in the process but I do not think the public will ever agree that the Senate is in a position to reform itself. As dedicated as some of the senators might be to cause reforms to occur to their own structure, there is a believability gap there. The public will not believe that the Senate, at the end of the day, will make any fundamental break with the past. That is what the hunger is for out there in the population.

I draw members attention back to what some members of the Conservative backbench members might refer to as the “good old days” when Preston Manning was leading the charge about 20 years ago. I refer members to the triple-E Senate where the Reform Party wanted an elected Senate, an equal Senate and an effective Senate. It did make a lot of waves and had a lot of support right across the country, but particularly in western Canada where the concept started, for the idea.

I think it was during that period of time when people started to think that the idea of abolition was not the only answer. Up until that period, I think it was either a choice of living with what was there or, if we did not like it, to simply change the party in power so it would appoint a new brand of senator. However, they were either red ones or they were blue ones. Abolition was the only option at that time for people who wanted to do something with the Senate.

It was only when the triple-E people came in with their idea that a number of people who were only interested in opposition at that point started to change their attention to the triple-E idea as a different option. However, then they found that would not fly either because of the constitutional implications in the concept.

That is where we sit with this. I recognize that the government is moving ahead in a tentative fashion because it cannot push those constitutional bounds. It is also trying to do this because it has been frustrated for four years. It has not been able to get its legislative agenda through the Senate and this is one way for the government to try to clear the roadblock and enable it to function. The problem is that if the government does not get these reforms now it may get comfortable with the system the way it is and then change will stop.

CONSTITUTION ACT, 2010 (SENATE TERM LIMITS)
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, it is a little ironic that a member of the NDP would criticize the people who supported the triple-E Senate for being in opposition in perpetuity.

The fact is that the NDP is well established in saying that it would like the abolition of the Senate, which is fine, but that will not happen any time soon because of the obvious constitutional obligations and so on.

The government is taking a step by step approach that is within the purview of Parliament. The eight-year non-renewable limit is one of those things, and I appreciate the NDP supporting that.

The senatorial selection act, which was introduced in the other place, would allow people to have a direct say in who the nominees for the Senate would be. The NDP provincial government said that it would look into this, which it has with a bipartisan committee. This would give even the NDP the opportunity to run candidates for the Senate within eight years if both pieces of legislation go through as planned.

Why would the member not support Senate selection when he does support the eight-year term limit?

CONSTITUTION ACT, 2010 (SENATE TERM LIMITS)
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will ignore the member's first criticism.

The member is part of the government that chooses the pieces of legislation that it sees fit to put before the House. We are the opposition and we will decide whether we like legislation or whether we will amend it.

Our critic and I have said that we are willing to support the legislation and get it to committee. I am not certain whether there will be amendments at that point but, on the surface, I do not have a problem with the bill. As a long-term abolitionist of the Senate, I still hold that view but I am prepared to see incrementalism take its course here and see what comes out of this particular bill.

It is just a fact of life that in 2006 the Manitoba government moved ahead in anticipation of this and set up an all party committee, which has worked well on a number of issues. It has passed its set of rules, which first past the post will be the way it will do it. It will have three seats in Manitoba, two in southern Manitoba and one up north.

The Government of Saskatchewan, which I understand is doing roughly the same thing, may have a different take on it. It will elect its senators in the way it wishes to do it. As the member knows, Alberta was the first province to do this.

I was not criticizing the triple-E Senate people. I was just saying that up until they came around, abolition was the only option. When they came around, a number of people said that since we cannot get rid of the Senate that maybe the triple-E is a good idea. They then found out after a certain period of time that that idea would not fly because they ran up against the Constitution.

I am not precluding anything here to the minister. I am just happy he is here asking questions. All I can say is just bring on the bills and if we can support them we will and if we cannot we will tell the government why.

CONSTITUTION ACT, 2010 (SENATE TERM LIMITS)
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the NDP member's speech, and I would like to ask him a question.

Bill C-10 is moving ahead in the House of Commons. The government introduced this bill without consulting the Quebec nation or the provinces. Quebec will certainly mount a challenge, and other provinces likely will as well. This issue will wind up in the Supreme Court. Once again, we represent our supporters and the people of the provinces and Quebec at the federal level, and we are having to debate a bill the government introduced without consulting the provinces or Quebec at all.

I would like the NDP member to explain why the members of his party are going to go ahead and study this bill in committee when it should not even be before the House. Quebec and the provinces should have been consulted before Bill C-10 was introduced.

CONSTITUTION ACT, 2010 (SENATE TERM LIMITS)
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my good friend on a lot of political points but there are some on which I do not agree. I think the public is eager and hungry for change here and this could be a very popular move. I do not think that even the members of the Bloc would object to senators being elected by the people. I think their objection would be that this may run up against the Constitution. They may be right but I do not think so.

The minister pointed out that in the past 143 years there has only been one change to the Senate and that was in 1965 when the age of retirement was limited to 75 years where it had previously been unlimited. It is clear that the House can make certain decisions and the government obviously contends that this is one of them. I tend to agree with it. This should be one of the changes that the government should be allowed to make.

Where we get into the constitutional question is when there is more fundamental change to the structure. On that basis, I think the Bloc member may be right. If the government were making more fundamental changes, perhaps there would be room for a court challenge, but this is not, to my mind, a huge change that would require a challenge to the courts. The members say that may happen, and it may at the end of the day, but it also may not.

Yesterday the Liberals mentioned that they think there could be a court challenge here. On the other hand, they are saying that they might be able to go along with this bill if we were to limit it to 15-year terms. I think the Liberals are holding their cards open here and in that way they can win either way. Their argument is that if it is going to go through, they want to have a 15-year term. They are thinking that if they get it thrown over to the courts it will be another 10 or 15 year delay. However, when they lose their majority in the Senate, watch them change their view on that. Then they will be complaining that the Conservatives are dominating the Senate, ramming legislation through and being unfair to them. I think the Liberals, in particular, are in a very difficult, dicey situation here because no matter which way they turn they have a problem.

CONSTITUTION ACT, 2010 (SENATE TERM LIMITS)
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, the only practical reason I can see for the NDP to support this particular motion is that perhaps when we are government in eight years we will want to see some changes in the Senate. Quite obviously, having a much more progressive legislative agenda than the House has ever seen, we would be having a lot of trouble with the people over in that house.

I will get back to the elected issue, which is the second phase of the Conservative plan. The arguments right now are regional based. We have a different system in this country than in the United States. If we had two houses elected here, we would have big trouble. We have strong provincial governments that represent themselves well and have very strong powers under our Constitution. They do not need the protection of another house here.

What the federal government needs is strength in order to provide national leadership. With an elected Senate, I am afraid that we would end up being stalemated on so many issues that are of national scope and yet regional concerns always play the biggest card. For that, I would never support an elected Senate.

CONSTITUTION ACT, 2010 (SENATE TERM LIMITS)
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-10, which would limit senators' terms to eight years. I am certain that in opposing this bill, the Bloc Québécois is like a goaltender, defending the interests and values of Quebec. I would even say we are the Halaks of this House.

To my way of thinking, the NDP member who just spoke is somewhat naive about the Conservative strategy. On its own, Bill C-10 may seem like a relatively minor change, but together with the bill currently before the Senate that would require that an election be held before a senator's name is placed on a list, it represents major changes in the nature of the Senate.

The position of the Government of Quebec, which was outlined by Benoît Pelletier when he was minister for Canadian intergovernmental affairs, is that these changes require constitutional negotiations with the provinces and Quebec. The government cannot get around that.

I find it rather deplorable that the government thinks Bill C-10 is acceptable, when another bill concerning the Senate is currently being examined in the other place.

Then there is Bill C-12, which would marginalize Quebec's political influence. Together, these three bills call into question the 1867 Confederation agreement. This is fundamental, and I would even say this is major. If Bill C-10 and the two other bills I mentioned are passed, it would be a clear sign to the Quebec nation that it has no future within the Canadian federation, and that it might be time to step up and move towards sovereignty, in order to take full control over its future.

We cannot consider debating Bill C-10 without considering the bill that is before the Senate and Bill C-12, which we will probably be examining next week. We are therefore not in favour of this bill, because we want such changes to be the result of constitutional negotiations with the provinces and Quebec.

The Conservative government is trying to indirectly do what it cannot do directly by slowly bringing in its Senate reforms, in an attempt to turn it into a chamber that is more legitimate than it is right now. It wants to ensure not only that Quebec is even more marginalized in the House of Commons, but also that all senators from across Canada can speak in the Senate with much more political legitimacy. We will be oppose that fiercely. The former minister of Canadian intergovernmental affairs, Benoît Pelletier, was very clear in 2007. He appeared before the legislative committee to speak about Quebec's traditional position:

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

That was in a press release issued by Quebec's Canadian intergovernmental affairs minister on November 7, 2007. It could not be more clear. Our position is that we want to abolish the Senate, and I believe that that was, until quite recently, the opinion of the NDP as well.

I remember that, seeing that his Senate reform would not get through, the Prime Minister started threatening the Liberals by saying that he would abolish the Senate. I do not know if he was also threatening the NDP. The problem is that if the Prime Minister wants to abolish the Senate, he will have to undertake constitutional negotiations with the provinces and Quebec.

Surely Quebec will want to ensure that in such an important reform of federal institutions, its relative political weight—and I am talking here about the 24.3%, not the 75 members—remains the same, regardless of the changes made to the Senate or to the number of seats in the House of Commons.

In fact, the same day, that is November 7, 2007, the National Assembly unanimously passed the following motion: “That the National Assembly of Québec reaffirm to the Federal Government and to the Parliament of Canada that no modification to the Canadian Senate may be carried out without the consent of the Government of Québec and the National Assembly.”

So it is not only sovereignist members who share this opinion, but federalist members from Quebec as well. Everybody in Quebec agrees that the change to the Senate, in fact both changes proposed by the Conservative government require constitutional negotiations despite the ruse employed by the Conservatives.

When the Conservatives realized that their first bill on public consultation to create a pool of candidates from which the Prime Minister would appoint senators would not get through because the Liberal Party, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois were opposed to it, for completely different reasons, they decided to make a small change. The Liberals wanted the rights of their senators to be grandfathered. The NDP wanted the Senate abolished and was wondering why we should change in any way an institution that it wants to see abolished. As for us, we were adamant that such changes could not be made without constitutional negotiations. We will have the opportunity to discuss this further when the Senate is done studying this bill.

The Conservatives have made it optional. The provinces that do not wish to set up an electoral process to consult the people about who should be in the pool of potential senators will have to live with the current practice, partisan appointments by the Prime Minister.

They are attempting, through the back door, to apply pressure to implement a general practice that will become a constitutional convention. Subsequent prime ministers will appoint Senate candidates chosen by popular consultation. Why pick the second, third or fourth candidate when the first garnered the most votes?

We will end up with senators elected for a term of eight years. Perhaps the Conservatives will eventually introduce another bill to reduce the term to four years. It is very possible that in 10 or 15 years we will end up with two chambers, the House of Commons and the Senate, with elected members and elected senators. It would act as a counterweight to the presence of Quebec in the House, already under attack with Bill C-12.

We are not naive. The Conservatives' game plan is obvious and we will oppose Bills C-10 and C-12 with respect to the bill being studied by the Senate.

The Conservatives' game plan is clear because, for a long time, we have been hearing the Prime Minister promise his electoral base in the west that there will be a triple E Senate, one that will be equal, elected, and effective. That is the Conservatives' project. Given that their project is not going over well, they will resort to getting it in through the back door, as is their custom. They will do indirectly what they have been unable to do directly.

I will give another example to show that this is not the exception, but the rule. According to the Constitution, securities commissions are clearly the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces. What is the Conservative government doing? It says it is putting in place a single pan-Canadian organization and telling dissenting provincial securities commissions that if they do not want its system, they can keep their own.

We know very well that, with a single securities regulator, there will be a great deal of pressure to integrate dissenting provincial commissions into this process. We are not naive.

Having said that, I am convinced that Quebec will fight until the last, until the moment it decides to become sovereign, because abandoning this important lever is out of the question.

What will happen to Alberta, which is opposed to this? I think we all agree that Alberta is not its own nation. It is part of the Canadian nation. Companies in Alberta would most likely prefer one commission instead of having to register twice, once in Alberta and once in Toronto to get a licence from the minister of finance. A single Canadian securities commission would slowly be built, even though the Constitution is very clear on this subject.

They are going about this indirectly because they cannot do it directly. As I said earlier, protecting our securities commission, from now on known as the Autorité des marchés financiers, is not the problem. We will maintain it no matter what, because when Quebec is a sovereign nation, we will need this type of authority to ensure that businesses have access to Quebec's financial market. We will make agreements, as is usually the case, with this Canadian securities commission if we have to, but we will maintain our own.

We will be following the debate in Canada closely. The federal Conservative government must not, and this is exactly what we are worried about, make registration with a single Canadian commission mandatory while registration with Québec's Autorité des marchés financiers would be optional. That would put an end to this financial authority. I can assure my colleagues that it would be a fierce battle and a constant fight and that we would win in the end, in any case.

We are wary of these bills because we know what the Conservatives are up to: they always try to do indirectly what they cannot do directly. But that is not all. There is also their pathological refusal to recognize the Quebec nation. They will say that the House of Commons recognized the Quebec nation in November 2006. In reality, however, since then, every time we seek concrete expression of that recognition, the Conservatives totally and completely refuse, with the complicity of the Liberals most of the time and that of the NDP some of the time.

We understand that the interests of the Canadian nation are the main focus of most of the members in the House, and we do not hold that against them. However, they must also understand that the main focus of the Bloc Québécois members is defending the interests of the Quebec nation. It should be the same for all members from Quebec. Unfortunately, that is not the case. To repeat the comparison I made at the beginning of my speech for the benefit of my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, we are the Halaks of the House. In fact, Slovakia is a good example for us to follow.

As I was saying, the Conservatives have totally and completely refused to recognize the Quebec nation. We introduced a bill to ensure that the Charter of the French Language applies to enterprises under federal jurisdiction. This would include banks, interprovincial transportation, airports and telecommunication companies.

What was the response of most members of the House, representing the Canadian nation for the most part? They completely rejected it. I would point out that a few NDP members supported us, and I encourage them to continue on that path.

When we talk about Quebec culture, and again my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert can attest to this, we are constantly told that Quebec culture is a regional culture of the broader Canadian culture.

We do not have a problem with the broader Canadian culture. However, we think that Quebec culture is the culture of the nation of Quebec and not a regional culture. Nonetheless, we are denied that at every turn and the way the arts budget is divvied up is a good example. Another example is the film industry, which is viewed as two entities in Canada: English-language film and French-language film. In fact, there are two types of films: Canadian films with a French-language minority and Quebec films with an English-language minority. This means that Quebec gets penalized in Telefilm Canada's budgets.

Culturally speaking, the government is once again refusing to recognize the nation of Quebec in the way Quebec integrates new arrivals into society. We know this is a challenge faced by all countries that welcome immigrants, such as Canada, Quebec, the United States and Great Britain. We have developed a unique approach in Quebec. It is not an Anglo-Saxon multicultural approach, which Canada has borrowed from Great Britain. Nor is it a U.S.-style melting pot approach, which does not seem to be producing the results American society had hoped for. It is not the republic adopted in France. It is a model we call inter-culturalism, where new arrivals are invited to enrich the common culture. There is only one common culture, though: it is the culture of Quebec with one official language, one common public language, and that is French.

By promoting bilingualism and multiculturalism, the Canadian nation is taking aim directly at the recognition of the Quebec nation and, in a way, interferes with our development and the harmonious integration of newcomers.

As we can see, this is very widespread. As a further example, I could talk about telecommunications, where the same thing is happening. We are prevented from having our own Quebec radio-television and telecommunications commission. Legislation to that effect is currently under consideration. Overflowing with optimism, I trust that this legislation will eventually be passed, that those members from the Quebec nation and from Quebec who just did not get it will see the light and understand that this is a necessary tool to ensure the cultural and linguistic development of Quebec.

A bill will soon be put to a vote, but the last time, it was flatly rejected. It is very interesting to note that Quebec established its radio-television and telecommunications commission before Canada created its own commission. Let us hope this will meet with approval, but again, I am not too confident.

Last I will address the refusal to give tangible expression to the recognition of the Quebec nation in the so-called economic action plan of the Conservatives, where they systematically ignored the needs of Quebec with respect to industries and regions that needed and still need help. I am thinking, of course, of the forestry sector, but the same is true of the aviation industry. A great deal of assistance was provided to the automotive industry—$10 billion—and we had no objection because it did need a shot in the arm. Why is it, however, that when it comes to industries concentrated in Quebec, we have to rely on the marketplace?

Yesterday, during question period, the Minister of State for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec again said about the forestry crisis, the problems facing the pulp and paper industry, that the issue was just markets. As if the crisis in the automotive industry was not a market issue. If we saw fit to help the automotive industry, notwithstanding the market, we should also help the forestry industry and the aviation industry. On the one hand, Canadian interests are promoted and, on the other hand, the needs and interests of Quebeckers are ignored. That is something that is widespread.

Quebec is opposed to Bills C-10 and C-12 and to the bill that is currently being studied in the Senate. A motion regarding Bill C-12 was unanimously passed in the National Assembly last week. Quebec's government is a Liberal and therefore a federalist government. Its leader, Jean Charest, once sat in the House as a member of the Conservative Party. He was part of the Special Senate Committee on Senate Reform in 2007. In a memorandum from May 31, 2007 we read:

The Government of Quebec is not opposed to modernizing the Senate. [Obviously, that is the position of Quebec Liberals.] But if the aim is to alter the essential features of that institution, the only avenue is the initiation of a coordinated federal-provincial constitutional process that fully associates the constitutional players, one of them being Quebec, in the exercise of constituent authority.

On one hand, a piecemeal approach to reform is not acceptable. On the other hand, reform would require constitutional negotiations.

I will finish by quoting another excerpt from the Government of Quebec's report:

The Government of Quebec, with the unanimous support of the National Assembly, therefore requests the withdrawal of Bill C-43 [a bill proposing an elected Senate]. It also requests the suspension of proceedings on Bill S-4 [which became Bill C-19 and then Bill C-10 on Senate term limits, the bill before us now] so long as the federal government is planning to unilaterally transform the nature and role of the Senate.

My colleagues can rest assured that the Bloc Québécois will shoulder its responsibilities, just as we hope the Canadiens and Halak will do tonight.

CONSTITUTION ACT, 2010 (SENATE TERM LIMITS)
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, in his comments the member talked about many things.

Bill C-10 is about an eight-year non-renewable term limit. The member talked about representing the interests of Quebec, but in fact he does exactly the opposite. An eight-year non-renewable term would allow the Senate to be refreshed. It would bring new perspectives. It would strengthen Quebec's voice in the Senate.

Taking that in context with the senatorial selection act, which is a voluntary suggestion on the provinces to have direct consultation with the people of the province to say who would go to the Senate, it would greatly improve the representation that Quebec has in Parliament.

Bill C-10 is one step. It is the eight-year non-renewable term. It would allow for new perspectives from Quebec. It is within the Constitution, as Canada did it in 1965 in regard to term limits.

I would ask the member to be frank with Quebeckers. We live in the greatest country in the world, and the Bloc's objective is not to improve Quebec representation in Parliament but really to do anything that would lessen Quebec's representation in Parliament. At the end of the day, the Bloc is advocating zero seats in the House of Commons and zero seats in the Senate.

CONSTITUTION ACT, 2010 (SENATE TERM LIMITS)
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. minister for his question. I would also like to congratulate him on his article in Le Devoir this week. The article was quite profound.

As for Bill C-10, we are not naive. We understand very well that if it were only a question of Bill C-10 and there were no other bills, this reform by the Parliament of Canada would probably be acceptable, as was the reform to create an age limit of 75 for senators.

However, we know that Bill C-10 is part of a suite of other bills: the bill that is currently before the Senate, which first creates legitimacy through consulting the public and then leads to the actual election of senators. There is also Bill C-12, which aims to diminish Quebec's political weight in the House. Accordingly, Bill C-10 cannot be examined in isolation.

I would like to say to the minister quite frankly that if we were dealing only with Bill C-10 and there was nothing else on the sidelines, we would probably be willing to agree that the Canadian Parliament could carry out this reform, limiting terms to eight years. However, we must take into account the fact that Bill C-10 is not alone, that there is other legislation involved, and that the intent behind that legislation is unacceptable.

I will close by reminding my hon. colleagues that our position is the same as that of Daniel Johnson, Robert Bourassa and René Lévesque. It is the position defended by Gil Rémillard in the days of René Lévesque, as well as the position currently taken by Jean Charest: no major Senate reform—and once again I am taking both bills into account—without constitutional negotiations.

CONSTITUTION ACT, 2010 (SENATE TERM LIMITS)
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Joliette for his excellent and very informative presentation on Bill C-10. I have a question for him.

The minister of state says he wants to refresh the Senate, and I believe that everyone takes the same basic view that the Senate as it stands is not effective.

I would like to know what my colleague thinks about this: if the Senate wants to change, then why does it not change what it can before the government introduces a bill and makes a constitutional change? The Senate is the master of its own affairs, and it can change its practices as it sees fit.

The senators can be present, they can play an active role, they can be energetic, they can work hard, they can change things.

Why do the senators not start by making changes themselves? Why does the Conservative government appoint senators who are not in the Senate? Why is the government itself part of the problem?

CONSTITUTION ACT, 2010 (SENATE TERM LIMITS)
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert for her question. I think she gave a good overview of the situation. Léger Marketing conducted a survey a month ago, in March 2010, and 20% of Quebeckers and 23% of Canadians opted not to respond because they did not know the role of the Senate. Roughly a quarter of the respondents said they did not know what the Senate was and could not answer the survey.

I would also point out that only 8% of Quebeckers want in-depth reform of the Senate, while 43% would prefer that the Senate be abolished. Basically, what Quebeckers want is for the Senate to be abolished, but as I said, this will require constitutional negotiations.

CONSTITUTION ACT, 2010 (SENATE TERM LIMITS)
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When the bill comes back before the House, the hon. member for Joliette will have four minutes for questions and comments.

Hockey
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for the riding of Palliser, I am proud to stand today in the House of Commons to congratulate the Notre Dame Hounds on their record-tying fourth Telus Cup.

On Sunday, the Hounds successfully defended their title as Canadian Midget AAA champions by beating the Mississauga Reps 3 to 2. They have now joined the Regina Pat Canadians as the only teams in Canada to win the Telus Cup four times.

It is a testament to the success of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League that this is the 13th time a team from the province has won the national tournament since it began in 1979. It is also the fifth time in the last six years.

I stand today to recognize the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League for its incredible success.

I ask all of my colleagues to join me as I congratulate the Notre Dame Hounds on winning their second consecutive Telus Cup.

Education
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, there are 75 million children who do not have access to basic education around the world. Seven out of 10 live in sub-Saharan Africa or South and West Asia. That is more than all the children in primary school across Europe, U.S.A., Canada and Australia combined.

As global citizens, we have a responsibility and an upcoming opportunity to ensure that every child has an education and the chance to get out of poverty.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa is a landmark moment. It is the first ever World Cup to be held on the African continent. As the world's eyes turn to Africa in June, this opportunity can highlight the need for every child to receive an education.

1GOAL is a campaign seizing the power of soccer to ensure that education for all is a lasting impact of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Canada should be a global leader on this issue. The world's children cannot wait any longer.

Seniors
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois has always recognized the contributions made by community organizations. National Volunteer Week, which was held from April 18 to 24 this year, gave us a chance to hear about the work and the achievements of these groups.

I would like to congratulate the Grand Rassemblement des Aînés de Vaudreuil et Soulanges, better known as G.R.A.V.E.S., on its publication of the anthology, Raconte-moi-ton histoire. This project enabled G.R.A.V.E.S., its volunteers, artists from Traitdartiste, from the Centre d'histoire La Presqu'île, from Les Hebdos du Suroît and from the Saint-Lazare library to pool their knowledge and expertise.

The participants had nothing but admiration for G.R.A.V.E.S. and its associates. Seniors deserve our full respect, and that is why the work of organizations like G.R.A.V.E.S. must be supported.

In honour of National Volunteer Week, my Bloc Québécois colleagues and I congratulate G.R.A.V.E.S. and acknowledge the contribution it has made.

Community Health Centres
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is Community Health Day in Ottawa. This declaration by the City of Ottawa gives me an opportunity to pay tribute to the community health and resource centres in Ottawa and across the land.

The people who work in our community health centres provide services to many people. They help strengthen our communities. Community health centres provide basic health services to citizens. They help new Canadians settle in our communities. They are leaders in preventive health care, such as nutrition, harm reduction and seniors' care. They understand the key determinants of health like affordable housing, maternal care and proper education for all. Their vision that everyone matters is a vision we should all share.

I thank all of those who work in our community health centres. They make our communities stronger. They make our country stronger. Today we salute them.

Bay of Fundy
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Kerr West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, as most of us are now aware, the Bay of Fundy, which is located between two of our provinces, has been named as a finalist in the running for one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.

The New Seven Wonders of Nature campaign started with over 440 entries representing over 220 countries. Today, the Bay of Fundy is one of the 28 entries remaining and the only entry left representing Canada.

I am very pleased that our government is supporting this wonderful initiative and has committed federal funding toward the Bay's campaign.

This is an exciting time for the residents in the area. Terri McCulloch of Bay of Fundy Tourism has worked hard on this endeavour and often repeats that we must take maximum advantage of the worldwide exposure and tourism potential this contest provides.

I am asking all members of the House to support this initiative and encourage their constituents to vote for the Bay of Fundy. The contest continues through the year and the winner will be announced in 2011.

Take the time to vote online at votemyfundy.com. A vote for the Bay is a vote for Canada.

Beaconsfield Library
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, last Saturday I had the honour of being at Beaconsfield Library with Mayor David Pollock, MNA Geoff Kelley, councillors Roy Baird and Michael Montagano, retired long-time councillor Dr. Jimmy Hasegawa, Head Librarian Beverley Gilbertson, her staff and the Friends of the Beaconsfield Library to celebrate the library's 60th anniversary.

In 1949, some Beaconsfield parents became concerned about the lack of books for their children.

The next year, Kay Betts and her committee began canvassing door-to-door for books for a library and the Beaurepaire Children's Library was born in a broom closet in the basement of a local school.

Next, the library launched a bookmobile to visit local neighbourhoods. Today the library occupies its own modern pavilion and offers innovative programs including a children's summer reading program and a mother-and-daughter book club.

That pretty much sums up the Beaconsfield spirit. Pinpoint a need, bring some volunteers together, create a vision and get it done.

On the 100th anniversary of Beaconsfield, please join me in congratulating the library on its 60th anniversary.

Firearms Registry
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, once again the Liberal leader is proving how out of touch he is with Canadians. He is turning his back on rural Canadians by clearly stating that he still supports the wasteful Liberal long gun registry.

In an act of desperation, he is ignoring the wishes of his own caucus and enforcing a whipped vote on Bill C-391.

I know it is hard for the Liberals to admit they have ever made a mistake, but it is clear to everyone that this billion dollar boondoggle has done nothing whatsoever to prevent crime. Instead it has made criminals out of law-abiding citizens like duck hunters and farmers.

Eight Liberals voted in favour of the bill. The question is now what they will do. The member for Labrador clearly stated that he will “vote subsequently to scrap the long gun registry”. Another Liberal went so far as to call the registry disgusting.

I call upon the Liberal eight as well as my colleague from Wascana to stand up for their constituents and vote for their wishes and vote to end the long gun registry.

Firearms Registry
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, because of the support of 8 Liberal and 12 NDP members, the Conservative Bill C-391, which provides for the dismantling of the firearms registry, has not yet been defeated. Quebec Liberals are now trying to save face by attacking the Bloc Québécois, whose membership voted in favour of keeping the registry intact.

Rather than falling prey to partisanship, if they wished to act responsibly, the Quebec Liberal members should attempt to convince the dissenting Liberal members so that these eight members will support maintaining the gun registry at the next vote.

Until then, the different points of view should be heard in committee. When it comes time to vote, we shall see who the true supporters of the registry are. We hope that all Liberal and NDP members will join the Bloc Québécois in defeating the Conservative Bill C-391.

Cancer Awareness Month
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, as all hon. members know, April is daffodil month, otherwise known as Cancer Awareness Month.

I encourage all Canadians to join in the fight against cancer. We can all take action to reduce the risk by working to have a healthy lifestyle.

I am proud to say that our government is committed to working in partnership to fight cancer. Our support for the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, in which we invested $260 million, is leading the tangible actions that will benefit all Canadians in the prevention and the control of cancer.

In addition to this, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research provided $138 million for cancer research funding.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers and caregivers for their support to patients and organizations that fundraise to help find a cure.

Everyone in the House has been touched by cancer in some way. Let us all work together to eliminate cancer.

Bernard Derome
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to take a moment to commend and congratulate one of the greatest journalists and news anchors of our time, Bernard Derome.

Last night, Mr. Derome won the Hyman Solomon Award for Excellence in Public Policy Journalism.

Canadians across the country will remember all the years Bernard Derome spent behind the desk of Radio-Canada's Téléjournal and his coverage of the most pivotal events of the past few decades.

And how can we forget election nights, being glued to our sets watching Bernard Derome, hanging on his every word and waiting for that fateful moment to hear him say what he said every election night, “Radio-Canada predicts that, if the voting trend continues, the next government will be formed by—”. Then we would hear cries of joy or sorrow, depending on the results announced.

Bernard Derome has always been the epitome of journalistic integrity, professionalism and discipline. We all see him as a role model for anyone aspiring to a career in journalism.

Congratulations and thanks to Bernard.

Taxation
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, on this the tax filing deadline, Canadian families are reaping the rewards of our government's commitment to lower taxes. Our government believes that low taxes fuel job creation and economic growth.

Since taking office, we have cut taxes for families, seniors, students and individuals, thereby reducing the overall tax burden to its lowest level in nearly 50 years. Total savings now exceed, for an average family, $3,000 a year.

According to the Liberals, Canadian families are not paying enough taxes. That is evidenced by the fact that they are still promising to raise taxes, which would kill jobs and stop our economic recovery.

We, however, will make sure that Canadians keep their money in their pockets and their bank accounts, where it belongs.

Royal Newfoundland Regiment
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, of which all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are very proud and which is celebrating the 215th anniversary of its roots in 1795. New colours were presented by Princess Anne, the honorary Colonel-in-Chief, last Saturday.

The Newfoundlanders were part of General Brock's forces defending Canada in the War of 1812, long before Confederation and even longer before Newfoundland and Labrador joined Canada in 1949.

During World War I, the regiment earned many battle honours and its members were the only North Americans in Gallipoli in 1915. The most famous battle was at Beaumont Hamel in France on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, where the bravery and sacrifice of the soldiers were extraordinary. The event is seared on the national memory of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who mark July 1 as Memorial Day.

Their courage, ability and determination in battle earned them praise as better than the best, and the designation "Royal" was conferred during World War I. The regiment's proud history of more than two centuries continues to this day, with many of its members serving in Afghanistan. They deserve our praise and congratulations.

Firearms Registry
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

John Duncan Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca has now made it clear that he will ignore his constituents. He is going to allow his vote to be dictated to him by the Liberal leader, and he will be forced to support the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry.

What is even more confusing is that the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca said on Friday that witnesses had already appeared on the long gun registry bill. This is strange, because the public safety committee has yet to hear witnesses on Bill C-391.

If the member really wants to talk to police about the long gun registry, he should talk to Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson or Evan Bray from the Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers or even the four Conservative members of Parliament who served their country as police officers themselves.

The member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca has a choice. He can vote to keep the ineffective Liberal long gun registry or he can vote to scrap it. We know his constituents want him to scrap it.

International Workers' Day
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Vincent Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow, May 1, is International Workers' Day.

Quebec has been celebrating this day since 1972, as a day for the union movement and workers to reaffirm their beliefs and to remember their contribution to our society.

This year's theme, “for a fair Quebec”, serves as a reminder of our values of fairness and social justice in Quebec. It is clear that we cannot count on the Conservative government for that.

This is the government that made pay equity a negotiable right, that is refusing anti-scab legislation, and that refuses to improve the employment insurance system. Fairness for workers is far from being a concern of this government.

On behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I salute the workers of Quebec, and my party and I commit to continuing to work towards a fair Quebec, in spite of this government.

Ethics
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, had it not been for media reports and a private investigator, Rahim Jaffer would still be lobbying his old cronies in the Conservative cabinet. He would still be using his wife's parliamentary email account, and senior Conservative ministers would still be taking his calls, bullying bureaucrats and never reporting any of it to anyone.

The Conservatives only handed over any documents after the lobbying commissioner and the RCMP were already investigating. Documents only started appearing after Liberals filed a complaint with the lobbying commissioner and after Liberals tabled motions at committee ordering ministers to come clean.

It is not transparency once one has been caught red-handed. What is more, we still cannot be sure that none of Mr. Jaffer's projects did not get funding because we still do not have all the documents. Why have we seen nothing from the natural resources minister, who was responsible for most of the green funds?

Canadians can see through these games. We have had enough of the catch-me-if-you-can Conservatives. It is time to end the Conservative culture of deceit.

Liberal Party of Canada
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party in its infinite wisdom has sent the member for Papineau into Lethbridge, Alberta, this weekend to teach Liberals how to win. You heard me right, Mr. Speaker. The son of Pierre Elliott, the creator of the national energy program, is off to Alberta to teach Liberals how to win. That is like sending Colonel Sanders to an animal rights convention to lecture about the rights of chickens.

Just what will the member for Papineau preach to Albertans? Will he tell us more about the Liberals' plan for a culture war? Will he promote the Liberals' support for the long gun registry? Will he preach the virtues of a Liberal carbon tax? Will he tell Albertans about the Liberals' shutting the door forever to unilingual Canadians from serving their country on the Supreme Court? We would not be surprised. The member for Papineau already thinks unilingual Canadians are lazy.

Albertans and Canadians know that the Liberal Party just does not speak for them. That is because Liberals are not in it for Canadians; they are just in it for themselves.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are trying to distance themselves from Mr. Jaffer and his wife, the former minister. They are claiming that the government did nothing wrong. But I have this question for them.

Is it legal for a public office holder like a parliamentary secretary to discuss funding with a lobbyist and allow that lobbyist, a friend, to promote his personal interests? Is it legal, yes or no?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, serious allegations were brought to the Prime Minister's attention. A number of allegations have been made since then. They are all in the hands of an independent Commissioner of Lobbying. That independent Commissioner of Lobbying was established by this government. She operates at arm's-length. She is currently reviewing the matter. I have a lot of confidence that she will follow the law and come to a good conclusion.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, the government's evasiveness only serves to confirm its vulnerability.

The issue here is the legal onus on public office-holders, not lobbyists. Therefore, let us try again, and remember that handwritten note, “From Rahim, submit to department”.

When a parliamentary secretary gives preferential treatment to someone based on the identity of the person who represents that individual, is that an offence against Canadian law, yes or no?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, let me be very clear. No government money ever flowed as a result of these allegations. We brought forward a strong lobbyists registration act. We beefed it up. Every step of the way, when we were trying to toughen that law, the Liberal Party tried to stop us, tried to slow it down. We believe we have raised the bar. We have an independent Commissioner of Ethics, and she will adjudicate these matters as is appropriate.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, the government is having difficulty with the facts. It talks about everything but the question. That means it has been caught red-handed.

Providing opportunities for buddies and friends to further their private interests, giving preferential treatment to certain people based on the buddies and friends who represent them, this behaviour is illegal, regardless of whether government money changed hands or not.

Why do Conservatives brag about the laws they do not enforce when other Conservatives are involved?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, Canadians can see the difference in this fight. When Mr. Jaffer came forward and had meetings or sent emails and the like, no government money flowed.

When the Liberal Party was in power, bags of money went to Liberal insiders. The Liberal insiders then gave kickbacks to the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party then was required to repay some of that money to Canadian taxpayers. It sent a cheque for $1 million back to the taxpayers. That is very true.

Today is the day when Canadians have to pay their taxes. It is time the Liberal Party paid up the $39 million that are still missing.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, four weeks ago today the former minister for the status of women was kicked out of cabinet and the Conservative caucus. Since then, there are allegations of illegal lobbying and influence peddling, confirmation of questionable personal side trips while on official government business in Belize, airport security regulations broken, denial of cocaine use while in possession of the illegal drug and so much more. Yet we are told none of this was the reason for the minister being fired. Therefore, what was it?

Why did the Prime Minister fire her? What could possibly be worse than all of this?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, serious allegations were brought to the Prime Minister's attention. What did he do? He immediately referred it to independent authorities so they could look into the matter and make a determination. This is something that is tremendously important. That shows a high ethical standard.

We want to see the Liberals exercise a high ethical standard. Is there a single member in the Liberal caucus who will stand and apologize right now for the Liberal sponsorship scandal? Just one member stand up right now.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister's routine is wearing thin, and he knows it. However, he is after all the leader of the magnificent seven, or is it eight or nine?

The minister of transport claims to have not discussed over dinner with his good buddy Rahim Jaffer the very proposals under consideration at the very same time by his department. That is no surprise. The minister has a pattern of involving himself in secret dinners where political favours seem to be on the menu.

Will the Prime Minister now order his ministers to reveal all of their dealings with Rahim Jaffer?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite seems confident in what he is saying. If he has any allegations he wishes to make, I would encourage him to step outside of the House and make those allegations.

The reality is the member for Ottawa South will not do that because he does not have any evidence. He does not have any facts. He is just plain wrong.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' Quebec lieutenant exerted such strong pressure when he was Minister of Public Works and Government Services that it made senior officials extremely uncomfortable, especially since the emails they were receiving came from the office of Rahim Jaffer's wife, the former minister for the status of women.

Will the government admit that it did everything it could to help Rahim Jaffer gain access to officials in order to promote his interests?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. We have provided the committee clerk and the lobbying commissioner with all the appropriate documents. If the member has any proof or allegations, he should refer them to the lobbying commissioner. That is exactly what the government has done, and I encourage the Bloc to follow our lead.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to the minister that they did not send the lobbying commissioner the documents the Prime Minister sent the RCMP.

The Conservatives' Quebec lieutenant pushed officials so hard to give priority to Rahim Jaffer's projects that the deputy minister was concerned about the impact on the work of the department and officials even considered implementing a policy to manage such requests. That shows the extent of the harassment.

Will the government admit that it did everything it could to promote the interests of Rahim Jaffer, an unregistered lobbyist?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the facts are clear. No money went to Mr. Jaffer or his projects. We cannot be any clearer than that. That is why we created the position of independent lobbying commissioner. She is going to investigate. If the member has any evidence, he should forward it to the independent commissioner.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government's defence does not hold water. Just because Rahim Jaffer was not able to secure a contract does not mean that he is not a lobbyist. Thanks to Quebec's godfather, he was able to make his sales pitch directly to top civil servants. These civil servants were so tired of the constant pressure and never-ending follow-ups from the office of the Quebec lieutenant that they complained numerous times.

When will the Quebec lieutenant admit that his staff were instructed to look out for the interests of former Conservative member Rahim Jaffer?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, that is not the case. If Mr. Jaffer tried to sell something, the government did not buy it.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, we never said that he was good, just that he was an unregistered lobbyist. Just because he did not get a contract does not mean that he was not a lobbyist. Had it not been for the hard, honest work of civil servants, Rahim Jaffer would have hit the jackpot with help from the Quebec lieutenant.

Will the Conservatives' Quebec lieutenant admit that he, like Alfonso Gagliano, is more concerned with the interests of his party's friends than the interests of taxpayers?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, that is not at all the case. Serious allegations have been forwarded to independent authorities and we will let them make a determination. It is this government that established an independent commissioner of lobbying. We will wait for her determination.

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, on the topic of maternal health and the upcoming G8 and G20 meetings, the Conservative government has been vocal on issues where it should not have been and silent on issues where Canada needs to take a strong stand. Let us start out with what it should not have said.

Ignoring advice from the WHO to provide funding for access to safe abortion, the government decided instead to dictate its Conservative ideology to women in developing countries.

Does the government really believe it knows better than the WHO? Could it possibly be that arrogant?

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Louis-Saint-Laurent
Québec

Conservative

Josée Verner Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I would simply like to inform the House that this week the G8 ministers expressed their support for Canada's maternal health initiative. The government wants to save the lives of mothers and children in the developing world in a way that unites, rather than divides Canadians.

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the reality is the government is taking a stand that puts us at odds with our international partners and aid organizations, yet it is silent on issues where Canada's voice is desperately needed.

Why has the government said nothing on mother-to-child transmission of HIV? Four hundred thousand babies are born annually with HIV. The international goal is to eliminate mother-to-child transmission by 2015.

Will the government commit today to support initiatives to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV?

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Louis-Saint-Laurent
Québec

Conservative

Josée Verner Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, our initiative will focus on training and support for front line health workers, on treating and preventing disease, and on screening for and treating sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV-AIDS.

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, clearly initiatives aimed at the spread of HIV and AIDS would also protect mothers by increasing their access to ongoing treatment. Surely, the prospect of ending mother-to-child transmission is a goal that we can all get behind. We need to get behind the full plan, not just one element of it.

Why has the government been ducking this issue? We want to know if the government will listen to the experts and get behind the full goal and the full program of eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2015. It should get behind not just some little part of it, but the full deal.

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Louis-Saint-Laurent
Québec

Conservative

Josée Verner Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, as I just told the House, our initiative focuses on screening for and treating sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV-AIDS, as well as proper medicine, obstetric care and training for front line nursing staff.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transport is not correct when he claims that ministers voluntarily handed over documents. An email from a public servant tells a very different story. This is a quote from one assistant deputy minister, who said, “The MP for St. John's South—Mount Pearl has put forward a motion...produce all papers and records from Patrick Glémaud and Rahim Jaffer...we may not be given much time to respond”.

Why has the government not yet produced any documents in the Department of Natural Resources, the home of over $1 billion in green funds?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the government has been very forthcoming. We have submitted information to the committee and to the independent Commissioner of Lobbying so they can make a determination as to what the facts are. We established an independent Commissioner of Lobbying. She has in place a tough new regime that this government legislated. She will look into the matter and make a determination, as is appropriate.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, transparency does not mean one tells when one is caught. This is more stonewalling on this issue. The government has been anything but transparent.

Why did the Conservatives pressure bureaucrats to fast-track the files of Mr. Jaffer and his business partner? Why will the Conservatives not even answer simple questions?

Let me try one more time. Who wrote on the Dragon Power proposal, “From Rahim, submit to department”? It is a simple question. Who wrote it?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, we are having all of this debate in the House because this government released all the documents in question. There is no document in question or fact that has been put forward that any money was given to any of these projects. That is a high ethical standard.

What a difference from the previous Liberal government. This individual got nothing. Previous insider Liberals got millions of dollars and then they kicked it back to the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party was forced to write a $1 million cheque to the taxpayers when it got caught with its hand in the cookie jar. We have $1 million back. Today is the day when every other Canadian has to pay their taxes. It is time the Liberal Party paid its debts.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, half a dozen ministers have been linked to Rahim Jaffer's schemes. His files received privileged treatment and political staff pressured our bureaucrats to fast-track his requests and arrange high level meetings for him.

But there seems to be something missing. We are still in the dark about Mr. Jaffer's efforts with Natural Resources Canada, which oversees major green subsidy programs.

Does the government expect us to believe that Mr. Jaffer lobbied everyone but the Natural Resources Canada officials?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, there were such priorities and such pressure that no money was given to any of these projects. That is the amazing thing. Canadians at home can see the difference. No money was given to any of these projects, but when Liberals were in power, literally millions and millions of dollars went missing.

The Liberal Party got kickbacks. The Liberal Party was so embarrassed by this that it actually wrote a cheque for more than $1 million to the taxpayers. That is $1 million down and $39 million to go. I ask my friend to stand right now and tell us where the $39 million is. Canadians want their money.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Keephills project received $342 million from Natural Resources Canada.

We also know that Rahim Jaffer used the name of the former minister for the status of women in making representations to Environment Canada about this same Keephills site.

But the government still has not disclosed the communications between Mr. Jaffer and Mr. Glémaud and the Natural Resources Canada officials.

Do Canadians not deserve full disclosure now that we know the extent of Mr. Jaffer's scheming with Conservative ministers?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Hull—Aylmer is making some very serious allegations. If he has any evidence, I encourage him to hand it over to the commissioner of lobbying, who is an independent commissioner. If he has any serious allegations, I encourage him to forward them to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and the RCMP.

Government Appointments
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government is so blinded by its partisan ideology that it does not see any problem with appointing as a judge a commercial lawyer for the Hells Angels. In addition to hiding this fact at the time of his appointment, Justice Jacques Léger, this former president of the Conservative Party, was scheduled to preside over the trial of four members of the Hells Angels. The least we can say is that Mr. Léger, or should I say “Mr. Heavy”, has poor judgment.

How can the government claim to get tough on criminals when it appoints one of their own lawyers to the Quebec Court of Appeal?

Government Appointments
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean
Québec

Conservative

Denis Lebel Minister of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec)

Mr. Speaker, all judicial nominees are referred to the Minister of Justice by one of the 17 judicial advisory committees across the country, and each of these committees are made up of eight members. All judicial nominee are subject to a very serious and in-depth investigation by the RCMP. We are abiding by these rules very well.

Government Appointments
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, like the Liberals before them, the Conservatives are acting as if the government belonged to them. They put their friends on the government's payroll, sometimes as judges, and sometimes as senators. Also, when making government announcements, they have no qualms about printing the Conservatives' logo on the cheques, as if the money for bridges and roads came out of the Conservative Party's coffers.

When will the Conservative government stop mistaking the interests of the Conservative Party for the public interest?

Government Appointments
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

North Vancouver
B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has been clear on where he stands.

As he said last October, the use of party logos on ceremonial cheques is improper. We accept the commissioner's recommendations and will look at strengthening Treasury Board policies as they relate to government announcements.

Let us not forget that at the end of the day, the Ethics Commissioner said there was no violation of any code or any act.

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are trying to fool us when they claim that they care about women's health. The reality is very different. By refusing access to abortion to women in developing countries, they are directly contributing to increasing the already high risks associated with clandestine abortions for women in Africa and Latin America. In these regions, 95% of all abortions are unsafe.

Does the government realize that its ideological stubbornness regarding abortion is irresponsible and threatens women's health?

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Louis-Saint-Laurent
Québec

Conservative

Josée Verner Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, our government is trying to save the lives of women and children in the developing world in a manner that unites Canadians, instead of dividing them.

I realize this is a principle the Bloc has a hard time embracing, since its primary objective is to split the country.

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives refuse to see the numbers. Do those who defend such regressive policies know that an African woman is 65 times more likely to die from an abortion than a North American or European woman?

Does the government realize that its policy on abortion will contribute to making this tragic situation even worse?

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Louis-Saint-Laurent
Québec

Conservative

Josée Verner Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, Sharon Marshall, from World Vision Canada, said that, every day, 8.8 million children die from causes which could easily be prevented with actions that cost very little money. She added that the voice of these children has stopped being heard since this debate was reopened in Parliament and in the media.

Nuclear Industry
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government is jeopardizing thousands of Canadian jobs with its plan to sell our world-class nuclear technology to foreign interests. Backroom deals, shrouded in secrecy, and driven by Republican ideology are not in the public interest.

Does the minister not realize that selling off AECL without consulting the industry is setting the stage for another Avro Arrow fiasco?

Nuclear Industry
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Actually, Mr. Speaker, the fiasco was the Liberals in government for 13 years and refusing to fund AECL properly.

Our government is restructuring AECL as part of an effort to strengthen Canada's nuclear industry, and position it to retain and create highly skilled jobs. We are investing $300 million in its operations to help strengthen Canada's nuclear advantage.

Nuclear Industry
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, the government's real scheme to sell off our world-class Candu technology is becoming clear. Instead of entering into a private sector partnership as promised, senior industry insiders report the government is secretly negotiating an outright sale.

This culture of deceit and deception is deplorable. Why are the Conservatives hollowing our another key segment of our economy and jeopardizing thousands of Canadian jobs?

Nuclear Industry
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows what he is saying is just plain rubbish. He has been at committee when we heard clearly that AECL needs to restructure in order to remain competitive. As part of that ongoing restructuring, investors were invited to submit proposals for AECL's commercial reactor division.

It needs strategic investors to seize new opportunities here at home and around the world. We are prepared to see it through so that it gets that opportunity.

Snow Crab Industry
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, the devastating announcement by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans of a 63% decrease in the snow crab quota in the southern gulf has left the industry reeling.

Could the minister tell the House and the industry, how did the biomass get in such a mess? Who dropped the ball? If this information is true, is the minister prepared to step up to the plate and assist the people involved in the snow crab industry who will lose millions of dollars?

Snow Crab Industry
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Egmont
P.E.I.

Conservative

Gail Shea Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, a sound evaluation of this resource was taken into account with all available information, including the results from the whole fishing season. I remain confident that the science is right in this instance.

Our priority is the conservation of that stock so that fishery is healthy into the future. Surely, the member is not saying that we should be allowing overfishing of the crab.

Snow Crab Industry
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, everybody involved in the snow crab industry in the southern gulf is fully aware that the government has totally mismanaged the snow crab fishery.

That being the case, could somebody in the government stand up in their place and indicate to the people involved in the snow crab fishery in the southern gulf what special programs would be put in place so that the plant workers can survive this devastating mismanagement?

Snow Crab Industry
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Egmont
P.E.I.

Conservative

Gail Shea Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, as I have said in the past, this certainly was not an easy decision.

I can assure the hon. member that we are doing everything we can and working with the province to ensure that those who are impacted by this decision receive some assistance through the province or through some other federal government programs.

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal leader has whipped his members into supporting the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. We hope that those Liberals who voted for Bill C-391 will not deceive their constituents by changing their vote just to satisfy the Liberal leader. The choice is clear for all MPs, especially those who voted for the bill at second reading. We either vote to scrap or keep the long gun registry.

Could the Minister of Public Safety update the House on this important issue?

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Provencher
Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for all her work on this file.

Let me be clear. It is time to end the senseless prosecution of our hunters and outdoor enthusiasts once and for all. We hope that all Liberal MPs put the calls of their constituents above the latest order from the Liberal leader.

The Liberal leader is not fooling anyone with his unconstitutional proposals. We trust that the NDP will support this bill in its original form, instead of following the Liberal-led coalition of deceit.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, it seems that the Conservatives have recreated the glory days of Brian Mulroney, unbridled patronage, rum bottle politics, and crooked lobbyists darkening the towels of the most senior offices on Parliament Hill. I know it sounds like Camelot to old school Conservatives, but it makes the rest of us sick.

Ordinary Canadians have to pack a lunch if they want to penetrate the red tape of the green fund, but somehow well-connected Conservatives, like Rahim Jaffer, have privileged access to top officials whenever they feel like it.

It is too late for damage control. Who is going to stand up and apologize for breaking the promise that was the Federal Accountability Act and breaking--

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order. The hon. Minister of Transport.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise and answer the question from my friend from Winnipeg Centre.

That question is a perfect example why the member for Winnipeg Centre was recently named by The Hill Times as the most quotable member of Parliament. I want to congratulate him on that.

However, let me be clear, we brought in the toughest lobbyist registration and lobbying reforms in Canadian history. Every Canadian is expected to obey the law and to follow the law.

We have an independent Commissioner of Lobbying who will conduct a review of this matter and make her own determinations as to the facts.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, some say it is too bad the Federal Accountability Act was not written on softer paper because it could take its place in the outhouse next to the Eaton's catalogue.

In a blatant and textbook case of influence peddling, we know Rahim Jaffer promised his clients he could secure a green fund loan of $5 million at 2% interest, repayable only if the company turns a profit.

The jig is up for Jaffer and anybody else in the government who was aiding and abetting his deceitful ambition. It takes two to tango. Who in the government gave Jaffer the specific details about the green fund loans?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the green fund, which I am privileged to oversee, has not given out any loans. What we are doing with the green fund is we are spending $100 million in Hamilton so it can stop dumping raw sewage into Lake Ontario. That is welcome.

We are building new hydroelectricity transmission lines in northwest British Columbia so we can get dirty diesel off the grid. That is also going to facilitate economic development for people who really need it.

We are also working in Yukon with the territorial government on a clean transmission line. Step by step we are really delivering for the environment and that is the whole purpose of the green fund.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, former minister Hélène Scherrer is another victim of the diplomatic conflict between Canada and Mexico with regard to visas. She and her husband were turned back at the border because the Mexican authorities require holders of Canadian diplomatic passports to present a visa. This measure was implemented after the Conservative government decided to require visas from Mexican nationals.

Rather than launching a diplomatic war that is harmful to tourism and trade, why does the Conservative government not stop requiring visas from Mexican nationals?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas)

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.

Mexico, as my colleague knows, is an important and strategic partner with Canada in North America, in the hemisphere and around the world.

The Government of Canada made the decision last year to impose visas to protect our refugee system and in October last year Mexico imposed a visa on those citizens travelling on diplomatic or official passports. Those holding diplomatic or official passports have a responsibility to stay informed about restrictions on their use abroad.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, by requiring visas of Mexican nationals, the Conservative government is assuming they are all fraudsters. And, I might add, it is not afraid to compromise our privileged relationship with this economic partner.

Instead of blaming Mexicans for the backlog in the refugee claimant system, why does the government not establish a real refugee appeal division for all nationals, regardless of their country of origin?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, the House is fully aware of the decisions that were made with respect to Mexico and Costa Rica regarding visas.

What I would like to ask the opposition is this. We have Bill C-11 that will go to committee next week to put in place some of the most aggressive refugee reforms we have seen in decades in the House.

I ask that member and I ask the opposition to support that bill at committee. Let us bring it back to the House of Commons, and let us have a vote and send it to the Senate before the summer recess.

Economic Development
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, northern New Brunswick has been hit even harder by job losses in the manufacturing and forestry industries. The Conservative government used the money from the community adjustment fund for a variety of projects.

But only 12% of the money for that program was allocated to stimulus projects in northern New Brunswick. The Conservatives have always shown their disdain for the north.

Why are they penalizing the people of northern New Brunswick yet again? Why are we still paying the price today?

Economic Development
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean
Québec

Conservative

Denis Lebel Minister of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec)

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague, the minister responsible for this economic sector, said recently, our government has invested a lot of money in all regions in New Brunswick and the Atlantic provinces. The forestry industry has received more support than ever, and we will continue to support it.

These people do not seem to have any clue about the crises in the market. We will continue to show them the way.

Economic Development
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, if he thinks that 12% of the money allocated is a lot of money for northern New Brunswick, he will soon get the message. That I can guarantee.

In northern New Brunswick, only three community projects and a single business project were approved by the Conservatives.

Instead, the so-called economic stimulus program helped develop a funding program for standard ACOA projects, in particular, some art gallery renovation projects.

How do the Conservatives expect to create long-term jobs in the north when only one business was able to benefit from the program?

When will we see long-term jobs in our regions?

Economic Development
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, this is a very unusual question today when yesterday the Liberal leader was holding a round table and he basically took our policy and tried to present it as his own. He said that we need to work toward trade opportunities, we need to work toward new markets and we need to work toward developing new products. That is exactly what the government has done and that is exactly what we will do in the future, and the forestry industry will thrive once again.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, today the United States is facing an environmental disaster of epic proportions as the massive oil slick from the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil platform strikes land. These same oil companies want an exemption from having to drill relief wells for their operations in the Beaufort Sea.

With this clear evidence that the most stringent environmental protections must be applied to offshore drilling, will the government stand up to the oil companies, enforce drilling relief wells and come up with a real plan to deal with disasters in our Arctic waters?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I am sure everyone in the House is saddened and worried by what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico and the possible ecological damage.

Canadians can take confidence from three facts. First, we have among the most robust offshore drilling policies anywhere in the world that applies in Canadian waters. Second, there are currently no authorizations for exploratory wells anywhere in the outer Beaufort Sea. Third, the National Energy Board is, in any event, reviewing its relief well policy and it obviously will be attentive to how this develops.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, the environment minister might also be interested to know that we have problems on the other side of the Arctic. Denmark has issued drilling permits in Davis Strait, right up against our maritime border in the Arctic. Davis Strait is also known as “iceberg alley”. All we have protecting us is a non-binding agreement on oil pollution.

What is the government doing to ensure Denmark is taking all the steps necessary to protect the environment in the strait, or are we going to wait until oil is washing up on the shores of Nunavut?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member goes too far. In light of what is happening in Louisiana and the concern the entire world has about the possibility of ecological damage, I think he should be somewhat measured in his comments.

The Government of Canada has an excellent relationship with the recently elected Home Rule Government in Greenland. In fact, the Canadian government has signed the very first agreement with that new government in Greenland, which was to protect the polar bears. We have an excellent relationship. We have discussed these very issues with that government and Canadians can be assured that the environment will be protected.

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal leader keeps ignoring the economy. In fact, the only idea the Liberal leader has brought forward is to harm the economy by raising taxes on Canadians. From higher personal taxes to a hike in job-killing business taxes, he wants Canadians to pay more.

In contrast, our Conservative government's top priority remains growing the economy with Canada's economic action plan.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance please update the House on the latest news on the economy?

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Sarnia—Lambton for her hard work on delivering Canada's economic action plan that obviously is working. It is working because Canada's economy will be proven to out-perform the G7 with the strongest growth for 2010-11. That is according to the IMF and the OECD. Since July 2009, some 180,000 new jobs have been created. That is good news. But there is better news today. February showed that our economy grew for the sixth straight month in a row.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Michelle Simson Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Ethics Commissioner has found that dozens of government cheques branded with the Conservative logo and handed over by numerous members and ministers went “too far in their self-serving partisanship”.

Will the Conservatives apologize to Canadians for this misleading and deceitful partisan practice?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

North Vancouver
B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I would remind the member that the Ethics Commissioner said that Liberal government publications and communications have in the past emphasized red and white. We all remember how the Liberal Party used the Canadian flag as its own partisan logo back in the days of the sponsorship scandal.

The Ethics Commissioner said that there was no violation of any code or any act. We accept her recommendations and are acting on them.

Official Languages
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, in a country that recognizes the Quebec nation and claims to be bilingual, it is rather surprising to hear some senators wondering if it is necessary that Supreme Court justices be bilingual. The Commissioner of Official Languages steadfastly believes that being a competent Supreme Court justice means being bilingual.

Will the government stop trying to kill the bill that would ensure that all Supreme Court justices understand French without the help of an interpreter?

Official Languages
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary for Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.

Our position on this issue is very clear and it has been the same since the outset. Our government will continue to adhere to the principles of merit and legal excellence when selecting Supreme Court justices.

However, we do not believe that candidates who are not perfectly bilingual, be they francophone or anglophone, should have their application for a position as a Supreme Court justice thrown out.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the government on the appointment of Colonel Don Ethell as Lieutenant Governor of Alberta. The government made a very good choice.

However, Colonel Ethell would be very disappointed to know that veterans and their families in the city of Calgary, the Prime Minister's own city, have to go to a food bank to get medical, dental and food.

Why does the Prime Minister think that he can be wined and dined at 24 Sussex but in his own city with nine Conservatives, veterans and their families have to get food from a charity? This is absolutely disgraceful. Every Conservative in this country should be disappointed with themselves.

What are the Conservatives going to do to stop this from--

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Greg Kerr Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we accept the congratulations. It was a wonderful appointment and it has been well received across the country.

That statement seems pretty rich coming from a member and a party that has not supported any of the programs that we have put forward in recent years. It is a little rich when the member singles out the fact that the Prime Minister is showing compassion for these homeless veterans who, in many cases, do not want to be identified. As the ombudsman said, we have a lot of work ahead of us but we are working very carefully to--

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Newmarket--Aurora.

Democratic Reform
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, this week our government reaffirmed its throne speech commitment to democratic reform. We moved forward with our democratic reform agenda to improve our institutions so they can be accountable to Canadians.

Would the Minister of State for Democratic Reform tell the House what he is doing to improve our democratic institutions?

Democratic Reform
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, this has been a great week as far as democratic reform is concerned. We have introduced legislation to increase voter participation. We have brought forward legislation to give people in the provinces a direct say in who will represent them in the Senate. We introduced a bill yesterday to get rid of political loans.

Why does the Liberal Party not support getting rid of political loans?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Michelle Simson Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, the commissioner found that the conflict code has a giant loophole that the Conservatives abused for partisan purposes.

She said that the Conservative cheques were “not appropriate” and that they have “the potential to diminish public confidence in the integrity of members”.

Will the Conservatives close this loophole and stop their deceitful campaign to undermine democracy?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

North Vancouver
B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, we accept the commissioner's recommendations and will look at strengthening Treasury Board policies as they relate to government announcements.

We must not forget that at the end of the day the Ethics Commissioner said that no violation of any act or any code took place.

Airline Industry
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, in the last six months, the Obama administration has leaped ahead of Canada in the area of air passenger rights.

Last November, the U.S. imposed the first tarmac delay penalties in North America. That means that after a three-hour tarmac delay, the airline has to pay $27,500 per passenger in fines. Just three days ago, the U.S. fined Southwest Airlines $200,000 for overbooking passengers.

When will the government catch up with Europe and the United States and start protecting air passengers' rights?

Airline Industry
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I understand that I have a meeting to discuss this important issue with the member in the next few hours.

I can tell the member that airline passenger rights is tremendously important, as is the airline industry. I understand that he presented a bill to Parliament that has been defeated in committee.

I certainly look forward to the opportunity to discuss this important issue with the member.

Omar Khadr
Oral Questions

Noon

Bloc

Jean Dorion Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, negotiations have been taking place on the sidelines of Omar Khadr's trial, in regard to his collaboration with the justice system. His repatriation was at the heart of these negotiations. Human rights are not negotiable. Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen. He was a child soldier when these events took place.

Without passing judgment as to his guilt, why will the government not repatriate this citizen, the last westerner in Guantanamo, especially since we know that he has been tortured?

Omar Khadr
Oral Questions

Noon

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, our government's position has not changed on this matter.

Mr. Omar Khadr faces very serious charges, including murder, attempted murder, support for terrorism and spying. However, the Government of Canada continues to provide consular services to Mr. Khadr. DFAIT officials are in attendance at his pre-trial hearing.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, with respect to First Nations University, since this issue was last raised in the House on Monday of this week, can the government now confirm that all of the applications and all of the business plans that have been required and requested by the government with respect to First Nations University have been received and are in hand within the department?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

Noon

Vancouver Island North
B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I can confirm that the University of Regina-sponsored application under the ISSP program has been received and it has been vetted. The minister has made an announcement that we will be funding that application for $3 million, which will allow the students, who we are most concerned with, to finish their academic year that runs until August 31.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. When I was answering a question for my colleague, I want it to be very clear that what I was referring to was we introduced legislation to clamp down on political loans that were not being presented in a genuine manner as far as transparency and accountability and I was just asking the other parties to support it, including the Liberal Party, which is not.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

St. Catharines
Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Just for clarification, during my response in question period, I mentioned visa restrictions with respect to Mexico and Costa Rica when it should have been Mexico and the Czech Republic.

Aboriginal Affairs
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Vancouver Island North
B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, under the provisions of Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, copies of the 2007-08 annual report of the state of Inuit culture and society in the Nunavut settlement area.

Also, under the provisions of Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, copies of the annual report for the years 2006-07 and 2007-08 of the Nisga'a Final Agreement.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 26 petitions.

An Action Plan for the National Capital Commission
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-20, An Act to amend the National Capital Act and other Acts.

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

Federal Sustainable Development Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

moved that Bill S-210, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act (involvement of Parliament), be read the first time.

(Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)

Firearms Registry
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to table a petition on behalf of my constituents who are so outraged at the prospect of having to register their long guns. It is an affront to their sensibilities. I am happy to table this petition on their behalf.

The petitioners are calling on Parliament to get rid of the ineffective and wasteful long gun registry.

Post-Doctoral Fellowships
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to present a petition from a number of post-doctoral fellows in Canada who were caught off guard by the government's decision regarding post-doctoral fellowships to eliminate the exemption. What they are looking for is a suspension of that decision until at least the post-doctoral student association can meet with the government. There are a number of people from Ottawa and some from my own community of Halifax asking for that to happen.

Air Passengers' Bill of Rights
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

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

The first petition is signed by thousands of Canadians calling on Parliament to adopt Canada's first air passengers' bill of rights, Bill C-310. The bill would compensate air passengers with all carriers in Canada, including charters, anywhere they fly in the world. The bill would provide compensation for overbooked flights, cancelled flights and long tarmac delays. It would address late and misplaced baggage issues. It would require all-inclusive pricing by airlines in their advertising.

The legislation has been in effect in Europe since 1991, but it has been revamped into its current form in the last five years. The question is why Canadian passengers on Air Transat and Air Canada get better treatment in Europe than they get in Canada.

Airlines would have to inform the passengers of flight changes, either delays or cancellations. The new rules would have to be posted at the airport. The airlines would have to inform passengers of their rights and the process to file for compensation. If the airlines followed the rules, it would cost them nothing.

The petitioners call on the Government of Canada to support Bill C-310, which would introduce Canada's first air passengers' bill of rights.

Prison Farms
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is signed by dozens of Winnipeggers. It calls on the government to stop the closure of the six Canadian prison farms, including the one at Rockwood Institution just outside Winnipeg, which I toured last week.

These prison farms have been functioning for many decades, providing food for prisons and the community. The prison farm operations provide rehabilitation and training for prisoners through working with and caring for plants and animals. The work ethic and rehabilitation benefits of waking up at six in the morning and working out of doors is a discipline Canadians can appreciate. Closing these farms would mean a loss of infrastructure and would make it too expensive to replace them in the future.

The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to stop the closure of the six Canadian prison farm operations across Canada. They want the government to produce a report on the work and rehabilitative benefits the farm operations provide to prisoners and on how the program could be adapted to meet the agricultural needs of the 21st century.

Access to Medicines Regime
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to table my very last petition in the House before I leave this place after 13 years. Actually, this will be the very last time that I will say anything on the official record of the House of Commons. I cannot think of a better issue around which to do this than on the matter raised by petitioners from my constituency and across Canada, particularly from the Canadian Grandmothers for Africa organization.

The petitioners call upon this House to follow through with the support that it gave Bill C-393, my private member's bill on the access to medicines regime, to ensure that more drugs flow at costing rates to Africa and other developing nations.

Members will know that this bill was supported by the House of Commons at second reading. It has gone to committee and the petitioners implore members of the House from all parties to see the process through, to discuss this matter at committee, to call witnesses, and to ensure that we change Canada's access to medicines regime to ensure that drugs flow to countries in need and to ensure that Canada lives up to its reputation as a leader in terms of humanitarian and compassionate issues around the world.

I thank all of those who have worked so hard on this issue, especially the grandmothers across Canada. I urge the House to help me leave this as a lasting legacy for all Canadians and the world.

Aboriginal Healing Foundation
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present two petitions that come from people across the country who are calling for the restoration of the funding for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

They say that the Aboriginal Healing Foundation is aimed at encouraging and supporting aboriginal people in building and reinforcing sustainable healing practices that address the legacy of physical and sexual abuse in the residential schools system, including intergenerational impacts. They are asking the Government of Canada to leave a true legacy of action to residential schools survivors and support the process of healing through an extension of funding for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 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, Question No. 149 will be answered today.

Question No. 149
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

With respect to energy drinks: (a) what is the status of legislation to ban the sale of these products to minors; (b) what regulations and penalties are being put in place to offer policing and consequences that deter aggressive marketing to teens and children; (c) will these drinks be moved from the natural health products category into a different category within Health Canada; (d) what is the status of creating more effective labels to increase public education about the effects of these products; and (e) what is the status of an education campaign concerning the potential adverse health effects of these products?

Question No. 149
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Nunavut
Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, with regard to a) Energy drinks are currently regulated as natural health products, NHPs, in Canada. To market NHPs in Canada, companies must first obtain the necessary product and site licences required under the Natural Health Products Regulations by submitting evidence demonstrating that their product is safe, effective and of high quality. The product must also carry detailed label information to allow consumers to make safe and informed choices. Only NHPs that are supported by adequate levels of evidence and carry appropriate labels are authorized for sale and issued a product licence. Health Canada does not regulate the place of sale, including age restrictions, for sale; only the provinces have that ability. Health Canada is responsible for assessing and authorizing natural health products prior to their sale in Canada to help assure that they are safe, effective, of high quality. All energy drinks licensed by Health Canada clearly state that they are not recommended for children.

With regard to b) If, after energy drink products are licensed by Health Canada, it is discovered that they are being sold or marketed in contravention of the conditions of sale outlined in the product licence or the Food and Drugs Act and the Natural Health Products Regulations, appropriate compliance action will be taken by the Health Products and Food Branch Inspectorate in accordance with the NHP compliance policy and the Health Product and Food Branch, HPFB, compliance and enforcement policy, POL-0001.

With regard to c) Currently, energy drinks are classified as natural health products because they meet the substance and function components of the NHP definition. Health Canada is continuing to monitor the use of energy drinks and will take appropriate measures to ensure the health and safety of Canadians. Part of this includes an assessment of new information provided to the Department, such as the reports of adverse events associated with the consumption of energy drinks and other scientific literature. Results of this assessment will inform the development of additional risk mitigation strategies which may include the development of additional cautionary statements on product labels with regard to who should not consume them and known adverse effects and a review of the most appropriate regulatory framework for these products.

With regard to d) Energy drinks currently approved for sale in Canada must contain the following dose and caution and warning statements: dose not to exceed 400 mg/day of caffeine; not recommended for caffeine-sensitive persons, children, pregnant or breastfeeding women; and, do not use with alcohol. Health Canada is developing a new labelling standard for all energy drinks sold in Canada. The new labelling standard will add certain risk statements and reword some existing ones for clarity. This standard will help ensure consumers understand the potential risks and the benefits of taking these products, and have the information they need to make an informed decision about their use.

With regard to e ) A communications package is being developed for the release of the new labelling standard. It will include an update to the “It’s Your Health on the Safety of Energy Drinks”, as well as an Information Update on the new labelling standard.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, if Questions Nos. 138, 140, 142, 143, 144, 145 and 146 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 138
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

With regard to the government’s budgets: (a) what programs in the 2006 budget used less than 50% of their allocated funding and for each of these, (i) what is the total amount of funding they were allocated and how much did they use, (ii) which programs were cancelled or not reintroduced in the 2007 budget, (iii) which programs were continued in the 2007 budget, how much funding did they receive in the 2007 budget and how much did they use; (b) what programs in the 2007 budget used less than 50% of their allocated funding and for each of these, (i) what is the total amount of funding they were allocated and how much did they use, (ii) which programs were cancelled or not reintroduced in the 2008 budget, (iii) which programs were continued in the 2008 budget, how much funding did they receive in the 2008 budget and how much did they use; and (c) what programs in the 2008 budget used less than 50% of their allocated funding and for each of these, (i) what is the total amount of funding they were allocated and how much did they use, (ii) which programs were cancelled or not reintroduced in the 2009 budget, (iii) which programs were continued in the 2009 budget, and how much funding are they to receive?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 140
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

With regard to proposed stimulus spending for infrastructure and construction projects outlined in the government’s 2009 budget: (a) how much funding has been allocated for these projects; (b) what projects are currently known to be funded or have been proposed to receive funding; (c) where are these projects occurring; (d) how is the funding for these projects distributed; (e) how are the locations for these projects selected; and (f) what system determines the priority of these locations and projects?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 142
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

With regard to the Treasury Board and the Department of Finance: (a) what process is in place for gender-based analysis on departmental policies in each department; (b) what measures are put in place to ensure gender-based analysis is done on legislation in each department; (c) if a policy or legislation does not achieve gender parity through a gender-based analysis, what measures, if any, are taken to ensure the policy or legislation is gender appropriate in each department; (d) what measures are taken to ensure gender parity in policies or legislation in each department; (e) are gender-based analyses on any policy or legislation conducted in each department and, if so, what is the content of those analyses; (f) how many staff are dedicated to do gender-based analysis in each department; (g) to whom do staff in (f) report in each department; and (h) what direction does each department give to staff on gender-based analysis?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 143
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

With regard to violence against women and the Office of the Coordinator of the Status of Women, since 2006: (a) how many programs have been approved by the Department of Justice and the Office of the Coordinator of the Status of Women to address this issue; (b) how much has been allocated to those projects; (c) what are the priorities of each project approved; (d) how many programs have been denied funding; (e) what is the total funding that would have gone to denied programs; (f) what were the parameters of each project that had been denied; (g) what were the reasons given for each project's denial; (h) what initiatives have been introduced government-wide addressing violence against women; (i) what specific bills have been introduced that address violence against women; (j) what departmental initiatives have been introduced by the Office of the Coordinator of the Status of Women to combat violence against women; (k) what specific bills have been introduced by the Department; (l) what gender-based analysis has been done on all government initiatives addressing violence against women; (m) what gender-based analysis has been done on all government bills concerning violence against women; and (n) what gender-based analysis has been done on all bills put forward by the Department of Justice?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 144
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

With regard to the New Horizons for Seniors Program: (a) how many applications have been received from Manitoba in the last three proposal calls; (b) what organizations have received funding from the Program in Manitoba from the last three proposal calls; (c) how many weeks was the call for proposals available for all organizations; (d) what are the criteria for funding in each of the last three proposal calls; and (e) what is the rationale for any changes that have been made in the program criteria over the last three proposal calls?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 145
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

With regard to FedNor in 2007, 2008 and 2009: (a) how many funding applications were received by Industry Canada; (b) what were the top ten categories of funding requests; (c) how many funding applications were approved by Industry Canada; (d) what were the top ten categories of approved projects; and (e) what funding projects were approved, what were their value and in which federal constituency were they located?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 146
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

With regard to bids submitted for the contract for the Integrated Relocation Program of Public Works and Government Services Canada in the years 2002, 2004 and 2009: (a) how many bids were submitted by qualified bidders and under what names; and (b) how many bids were submitted by all bidders, qualified or otherwise, and under what names?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

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

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of addressing the House today on the issue of Senate reform and specifically with respect to Bill C-10. I would like to state that I do support Senate reform. I do support sending this bill to committee so that the issue can be studied in full. However, any type of Senate reform must be logical, democratic and constitutional. I do not believe that this bill fits any of those three criteria.

Why has there been no consultation with the provinces at all by the government? The Conservative Party espouses provincial rights. The Conservative Party talks about that and tries to compare and contrast with other parties. Why has the Conservative government ignored provincial rights? Why have the Conservatives not consulted them? Why is this bill so urgent that the government cannot consult the provinces in circumstances where it had a virtually identical bill, Bill S-7, that was introduced prior to prorogation?

The Conservatives had no difficulty suspending Parliament and killing that bill through prorogation, yet they must now take the position that this is so urgent that, although they killed the bill through prorogation, they now do not have time to consult the provinces with respect to this bill. I think that is wrong.

If the government does not even know if the provinces will support any amendments, notwithstanding what the government is trying to do, or if the provinces are prepared to support amendments, what type they would be, why are we taking the time of the House of Commons to deal with this? Should we not first know that the provinces will support this?

In order to get a meaningful constitutional amendment through, which I believe is what needs to occur and not simply this bill, we need the support of 50% of the population representing at least seven provinces. Even on a basis of good faith, I would like to know why the government has not taken the time to consult with the provinces to see whether there is that form of support across the country for this.

I mentioned three criteria. One criterion is democracy. Whenever somebody talks about Senate reform, they assume that they are proposing something that should be followed or that there is some urgent need for it. If we are going to do this, we should not make the situation worse. My fear is that an eight-year term would be a risk to democracy, not a benefit.

Various people have thought about this. The Senate is supposed to be a chamber of sober second thought. In order to get that, we need people with some institutional memory and experience who have been around for a reasonable period of time. More than that, we need to consider what they will do when they are there.

I would refer to an article written by David Akin which appeared in the press a couple of weeks ago. There are arguments against the eight-year term. The main argument is:

For example, under the terms of [the Prime Minister's] initial proposals, any Prime Minister representing any party would be able, over the course of only two Parliaments, to appoint – yes, appoint – senators to every one of the 105 Senate seats. Talk about a rubber stamp! Any semblance of the institution’s independence would be gone.

The first issue, especially in circumstances where we have had minority governments since at least 2006, is that it would be a risk to democracy to allow any sitting prime minister to, in theory, appoint the entire Senate through only two mandates.

In short, the Liberal Party is in favour of Senate reform, but we have to work in conjunction with the provinces to get there. We would like to know what our provincial partners think. We do not think it is appropriate to ignore them and not consult them, as the government has done.

In terms of the exact proposals, other comments have been made. From that same article, I quote:

The proposals by the present government, one to limit the terms of senators to eight years, and another for indirect senate elections, are not real or meaningful reform, in that they do not propose to alter the Constitution in any way. In fact, they have been painstakingly designed to avoid doing so.

If we are to have meaningful, long-term, democratic Senate reform, it requires consultations with the provinces to get that required 50% of the population with seven or more provinces, and we need to amend our constitution in a proper manner. Anything short of that, frankly, is unacceptable.

There is another comment in terms of Senate reform and limiting the terms. We already have the risk that we have discussed in terms of having one prime minister potentially appointing the entire chamber if the term is eight years, but there is another issue also. I would like to go to a journal article of UBC entitled “Transforming Canadians Governance Through Senate Reform Conference, April 18-19, 2007”.

There is another issue, and I think this is actually the more important issue. It is not so much what the terms are for the Senators. I support doing something about this. I am not against it, but once again, it has to be democratic, constitutional and logical.

The bigger issue is not the term, but the legitimacy of the Senate once in power, because as indicated, having reference to the United Kingdom's House of Lords, the issue is to keep the chamber bipartisan, so we actually get sober second thought, the main original goal of the Senate, and we have some check, some thought about the legislative agenda of the House of Commons. I will read from this article as well. On the question of legitimacy, and it is talking about a presentation, it states:

—stressed the legitimacy of the currently constituted House of Lords in the sense of broad public endorsement of an appointed chamber challenging the legislation of a popularly elected government. The secret, Meg Russell argued, was in the partisan balance maintained in an the appointment to the House of Lords, so that neither government nor opposition alone had the ability to control the chamber. Legitimacy came from independent—or at least bipartisan—action by a parliamentary chamber, not only from the mode in which members were selected.

In short, the problem with the proposal in this legislation is that in theory it gives the Prime Minister the power to appoint the entire chamber and there is no check on how that gets done. We need a method to ensure that the bipartisan, the rough balance that we have in the Senate, is maintained so all parties are represented and so it is not simply a government Senate chamber, whatever the government of the day may be.

If we deal with Senate reform and spend the time of the House of Commons and of a parliamentary committee, bring witnesses in and incur expenses, should we also not know that it is constitutional? Why is there no reference to the Supreme Court of Canada?

In 2006 the Prime Minister, when he appeared before the Senate committee speaking on Bill S-4, said, “The Government believes that S-4 is achievable through the action of Parliament itself”. This is not democratic, and I do not think it is even constitutional. We have scholars such as Alexandra Dobrowolsky, the chair of the Department of Political Sciences, St. Mary's University, who clearly says “that the failure to consult with the province violates the constitutional conventions”.

The Library of Parliament of Canada disagrees with the Prime Minister. I will quote from its writings on August 17, 2009:

There is, however, an involved debate as to whether the constitutional amendment procedures introduced in the Constitution Act, 1982 would allow Parliament to modify the main characteristics of the Senate without the consent of the provincial legislative assemblies. The Supreme Court has issued an opinion stating that Parliament does not have that authority, but the decision dates from 1980 and thus precedes the amendment mechanisms introduced in the Constitution Act, 1982. The question is therefore unresolved.

I do not think it is responsible for the government to go through this process without first consulting the provinces, as I have already indicated, but also knowing whether this is constitutional.

It is common sense to state that there should be a reference to the Supreme Court of Canada to make this determination rather than requiring persons after the fact to engage in lengthy and expensive litigation to challenge this. I anticipate that if this goes through, some group will challenge this, there will be such legislation and we will be tied up. Why not, since the Prime Minister has the power, simply refer this to the Supreme Court of Canada now and seek a ruling?

There is a certain irony in terms of what is occurring with these proposals. I am going to read three quotes. The first is, “Only candidates elected by the people will be named to the Upper House”. The second is, “the Upper House remains a dumping ground for the favoured cronies of the prime minister”. Both of those quotes in 2004 were from the Prime Minister.

Another quote from the Conservative Party was “A Conservative government will not appoint to the Senate anyone who does not have a mandate from the people”. I am sure Canadians will find that most ironic considering what has taken place.

Another example from May 28, 1996, the Reform Party opposition day motion speaking to it at paragraph 3049, stated:

The Reform Party proposal for a triple E Senate, a Senate which is elected by the people with equal representation from each province and which is fully effective in safeguarding regional interests would make the upper House accountable to Canadians. Implementing changes to the Constitution to provide for a triple E Senate, an extension of Alberta's Senatorial Selection Act into other provinces, is the best means to proceed in permitting Canada's regions to have a greater say in Ottawa and bring democratic accountability to government.

What happened to that? What happened to the positions of the government members when they were in opposition? Why are they not fulfilling their promises in seeking an attempt to bring meaningful Senate reform to Canada with consultations with our provincial partners? Why this legislation in this form? It is not democratic and it is quite ironic that the government is doing this considering its various prior statements.

In terms of other broken promises, I already read the quotes of the Prime Minister in terms of never appointing senators who have not been elected. I find it ironic that a record was broken with the Prime Minister appointing 27 senators in one year. There have now been 33 unelected senators appointed by the Prime Minister, despite very clear promises that he would never do that. That must go to the credibility of the government. Of course this is not the only promise that has been broken.

We also had the promises of income trusts, the public appointments commission, to never run deficits, to follow fixed election dates, which we know did not take place during the last election, and to not raise taxes, although we have a huge payroll tax, which, according to economists, will kill 200,000 plus jobs. This is just a litany of broken promises by the government that Canadians frankly need to know about.

Since this is under the democratic ministry, let us talk about democracy. With the 33 Senate appointments that the Prime Minister has made, let us examine them. These were not bipartisan appointments for the benefit of Canadians. Essentially these were Conservative mainly defeated candidates. I think Canadians need to know this.

I quote an article, once again by David Akin, of January 20, 2010. He states:

There is an irony to the appointments [the Prime Minister] has made that is not lost even on some of [the Prime Minister's] own advisers and supporters. As a young Reform party organizer and MP, [the Prime Minister] campaigned vigourously to make the Senate more independent of the prime minister. And yet, to create the Senate he wants, [the Prime Minister] now needs a Senate that will do precisely what he wants.

With the five members he is expected to appoint Friday, [the Prime Minister]—who once said he would never appoint senators—will have named 33 senators since taking office in 2006...

Who are those people? He goes on to state:

In fact, 20 of the 33 appointees were failed Conservative candidates, former political staff to Harper or the party, or were members of the Conservative party or its predecessor parties, the Reform party, the Progressive Conservative party and the Canadian Alliance.

I think Canadians have a right to know who those people are. This is the lost: Bert Brown, Reform Party organizer; Claude Carignan, failed Conservative candidate; Fred Dickson, adviser to former Nova Scotia Premier John Buchanan, a Progressive Conservation; Nicole Eaton, writer and community leader who chaired the Conservatives last two national conventions; Doug Finley, Conservative national campaign manager; Michael Fortier, co-chaired of Conservative national campaign; Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis, former Progressive Conservative MP; Stephen Greene, Reform Party staffer; Michael MacDonald, Conservative Party executive; Fabian Manning, former Conservative MP, lost re-election in 2008; Yonah Martin, failed Conservative candidate; Percy Mockler, New Brunswick Progressive Conservative; Richard Neufeld, provincial politician active in social credit reform and B.C. Liberal Party; Don Plett, former Conservative Party president; Michel Rivard, failed Canadian Alliance candidate; Judith Seidman, co-chaired the Prime Minister's 2003 leadership bid; Carolyn Stewart Olsen, long-time Prime Minister communication aid; and the last, John Wallace, failed Conservative candidate.

In terms of John Wallace, I will have to admit I know him. He is a good appointment. However, did the Prime Minister actually ask Senator Wallace before he was appointed to limit his term to eight years? Did he know this was coming? Senator Wallace gave up his lucrative business to come here. Maybe he should have asked him. Maybe that would have been fair. Maybe that would have been trustworthy.

There is a history here. Why are we dealing with this Senate reform package now? Obviously it was not urgent, because if it were so urgent, the government would not have killed it by proroguing Parliament, which also killed the legislation. It would have continued with Parliament to ensure this was taken care of before.

We do have urgent matters, though, that the government has sought to avoid by bringing forward this type of legislation, Senate reform at this stage. I am not saying we should not do this at some point, but why now? I have made this point in terms of the law and order legislation as well. Although I support almost all of it, why now? Why not deal with the issues that are urgent for Canadians when we are living through the worst recession since the last depression? Why now?

I am going to give one example. I have a top 10 list here that, frankly, the government should have dealt with already or should be dealing with, which it is seeking to avoid. This has nothing to do with the recent scandals and everything that has been going through question period. It has to do substantive issues that matter to Canadians for their ordinary daily lives. They are simply being ignored.

I sat in the transport committee this week, but I am not on the committee. I was shocked. In questioning pilots, as one example, members talked about these new SMS safety standards. In 2007 there were amendments to the Aeronautics Act contained in Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act. This would have clarified Transport Canada's authority to regulate SMS, enhanced the sharing of safety data with Transport Canada and provided protections for employees who reported safety concerns internally under SMS.

The pilots who testified clearly stated that this was something they needed, that it was important, that it was required for the safety of air passengers across Canada. How many Canadians travel on aircraft? Yet it has not been reintroduced and the pilots, who were before the committee, want it introduced. Why has that not been done rather than go through with this law and order legislation and go through Senate reform at this stage? Why not pick other meaningful things that should be dealt with for the benefit and safety of Canadians?

As I essentially have no time left, I will not have a chance to go through the entire list. That is one example, and there is a whole litany of those that have been ignored.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's speech and frankly, I cannot understand why the member does not get it.

Confederation in this country occurred in 1867. The Senate is still stuck there. A lot has changed but not the Senate. It is still a place where political patronage extends for life.

What possible objection can the member have to Senate term limits? I just do not understand.

I can tell the House that in my riding my constituents want more democracy in this country. They want change in the Senate. Senate change must occur. Frankly, the member knows well why it has not occurred. He knows that for years and years, and decade after decade, the Liberal Party used the Senate as nothing more than a house of political patronage.

It is time to change. It is time to get into 2010. It is time for the member to stand for his constituents. It is time to stand for accountability. It is time to stand for democracy. It is time to stand for the Senate reform bill that is before the House.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry that the hon. parliamentary secretary obviously did not have an opportunity to listen to my speech. Rhetoric does not solve the problem. Facts and figures do.

We talk about democracy. Could the Conservatives please explain why they have not consulted the provinces? We talk about risking democracy for an eight year term because in theory the Prime Minister could appoint the entire chamber and many independent persons have indicated that it would not be constitutional. What we really need is some method to ensure the bipartisan or balanced nature of the Senate. How is talking about democracy a response to that?

I am looking for reasoned responses and logic so we can actually debate the issues rather than debating conclusions and rhetoric.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the member about the concerns he has with the bill. He itemized and went through a role call of all the government's patronage appointments to the Senate. I heartily agree with the member that it is not the right way to go, but the question is this. Is the Liberal Party's position different from that?

I do not have to tell the House about how the other place has been treated by both the old line parties. It is a place to stuff one's friends; it is a reward system.

I hear the member's critique. We will listen to independent voices and references to the Supreme Court which is fine, but that is process. I would like to know from the member, what is the Liberal Party's position on the Senate? Is it fine the way it is? I do not think Canadians are in line with that. If not this, then what?

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I indicated that the Liberal Party's position is not that the Senate is fine in its current form. The Liberal Party's position is that it must be changed in a reasonable and logical manner, working together with the provinces.

If we are going to have meaningful change, it means actually doing something substantive, which means amending the Constitution of Canada in a method that the provinces will accept.

The Liberal Party does not want to tell our provincial partners what is going to be done and then challenge them to go to the Supreme Court of Canada to seek a ruling that what the federal government has done is unconstitutional.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, just to be clear because I want to take the answer the member has just provided to the next step.

I gather from his comments that the member agrees that there should be Senate reform. He thinks it is a good time right now in Canada, when the primary concern of most Canadians is the economy, although judging by the questions for the last month from the Leader of the Opposition we would not know that, to open up a constitutional debate in Canada. Would that not be wonderful?

Why not just move with simple democratic reform measures for the Senate now? He has the ability. He was elected in the last general election. He has the ability to be a proponent of change, to bring democracy, and to bring the Senate into the 21st century to represent the views of his constituents.

He is saying no. Here is a can of worms. Let us open this up right now while Canadians are concerned about the economy. Nonsense. This is a good bill and the member should support it.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary is absolutely right. This is not the time to deal with Senate reform. If it is going to take place, it has to be legal, which means constitutional, which means consulting the provinces.

The government should instead be dealing with things like Kelowna and Copenhagen. We are an embarrassment on the international stage with respect to the environment.

The government should be looking at making EI changes to help individuals. It should be looking at affordable housing, day care, the huge deficit that we have, the Nortel bankruptcy and the ignoring of pensioners, the waste that we have, and the loss of 500,000 full-time jobs. It could also look at the Aeronautics Act that I just mentioned.

You are absolutely right. Now is the time to deal with issues that matter to Canadians, which are mainly economic issues. The reason you are not dealing with these things is because you do not want people to know that the Conservatives are bad economic managers.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I would just remind the hon. member for Brampton West to address his remarks through the chair and not directly at other members.

Questions and comments.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are economic managers who are leading the G8 in growth, economic managers who have just produced six consecutive month of economic growth, and economic managers who are creating jobs while other countries are still losing them.

Canadians see what this government is doing on the economy and they are impressed by it. I am very proud of this government's record on the economy. The Liberal Party has no record on the economy recently at all because the Leader of the Opposition has not asked a single question on it in at least a month.

Let us go back to the issue at hand. We have a bill before us for democratic reform, something that would put more power back in the hands of the people we serve. That is what we are here for. This is not just some place of process, just some place of patronage, some place that is removed from the people. We are the representatives of the people.

It is time to move the Senate forward to make it more accountable. The member mentioned senators that we have appointed recently. Those senators are committed to Senate change, committed to Canadians, committed to the initiatives that this party has undertaken to bring the Senate into the 21st century. The Senate offers great value to Canadians, of that I have no question.

We can do much better when we can bring democratic reform that each and every Canadian will appreciate. That member has that opportunity. He should support the bill.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Brampton West, ON

Economic managers, Mr. Speaker. The Conservatives, under former Prime Minister Mulroney, left us with a deficit of approximately $43 billion, which the Liberal Party cleaned up when it was in office. Before the recession took place, the Conservatives gifted us with a deficit of approximately $14 billion. They took a $14 billion surplus and turned it into a $14 billion deficit.

The member talked about economic management. Recent independent information shows that the stimulus package is not working. We are going to have a $60 billion-plus deficit. Is this a gift for our children?

You talk about the loss of 500,000 jobs. Yes, some part-time jobs are being created. I do not think the people in my riding who want a full-time job are very impressed that they might, maybe if they are lucky, get a part-time job.

If you want to talk about economic management, then you should talk about day care. How are poor families supposed to work when they receive a taxable $100 per month for a child under six? Everybody knows that these people cannot afford that. For poor families--

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The time for the answer has come to a close.

I would just remind the hon. member to address his remarks through the chair and not directly at other members.

I would remind all members that we are at second reading on a bill regarding Senate reform. The Standing Orders regarding relevance do apply. While members may wander into other areas as they make their points, we should try to keep our questions, comments, and speeches directly on the subject-matter of the bill.

There is enough time for a very brief question or comment, perhaps 30 seconds. The hon. member for Ottawa Centre.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member could speak to the fact that while this bill would put some parameters around the Senate, it is a problem in terms of how senators get there. In other words, there would still be this fundamental problem around the way senators, at the end of the day, even with this mechanism of local elections, are appointed.

Is this not really denying the fact that we need real Senate change and not just this incrementalism to get to a legitimate Senate?

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, my friend is right. One of the quotes that I read said exactly that. UBC has already stated that this is not what should be taking place; it is not logical.

If we want to have true Senate reform, we need to amend the Constitution Act in consultation with our provincial partners. We should not be telling the provinces what they should be doing but rather working with them.

There are more important issues right now, such as the economic issues that I mentioned. They should take priority for the benefit of Canadians.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to oppose Bill C-10, which was introduced by the government to limit to eight years the tenure of senators who are summoned after October 14, 2008.

As a number of my Bloc colleagues have already explained, Bill C-10 does not take into consideration a unanimous motion passed by the Quebec National Assembly.

We are opposed to Bill C-10. Just as it does with Bill C-12—the side legislation to Bill C-10—which seeks to reduce the political weight of the Quebec nation in the House of Commons, the Conservative government wants to reform the Canadian Constitution without the consent of the Quebec government and its National Assembly. The Conservatives have the support of the Liberals who, unfortunately, still have not learned their lesson from the sponsorship scandal and the 1982 patriation of the Constitution. The government wants to ignore the powers of the Quebec nation and of all the provinces of Canada.

This attempt by the federal government to amend the Senate without consulting the Quebec government shows that it cares very little about the recognition, by the House of Commons, of the Quebec nation.

It is increasingly clear that this recognition was just an election strategy by the Conservative Party, which proposed the motion. Since the Conservative government recognized the existence of the Quebec nation, it has systematically targeted that nation—which it claims to have recognized—and rejected any proposal to give tangible expression to this recognition. It refuses to recognize the language of the Quebec nation, which is a francophone nation. Indeed, when the Bloc Québécois introduced legislation to this effect, the government refused to recognize the French language in all federal institutions. It recognizes Quebec as a nation, but it does not give it any right.

We see this again, here in the House, with respect to securities. The government recognized the Quebec nation, but it interferes in Quebec's jurisdictions.

Instead of giving expression to this recognition, the Conservatives, often with the support of the Liberals, propose changes that only seek to weaken Quebec and to punish it for not voting for them.

Bill C-12, which, like Bill C-10, aims to diminish Quebec's political weight, completely disrespects the Quebec nation. Now they want to call into question political party funding in order to further diminish Quebec's voice, which is expressed by the Bloc Québécois, in the House of Commons. We are the only party, as we have seen again here today, that fully defends the wishes of Quebeckers. Now the Conservatives want to reform the Senate without consulting Quebec and all the provinces.

It is as though we were from another planet. I am a Quebecker; I am from Quebec. Other members come form other provinces like Manitoba, Alberta, Ontario. We are elected in our provinces and we are here to represent our constituents. Yet the Conservatives are introducing and passing bills without consulting the provincial level, the Quebec nation.

It is unbelievable. It could almost be described as collective schizophrenia, as though we are members of this House, yet in no way accountable to the people who elected us.

We believe that any reform affecting the powers of the Senate—the method of selecting senators, the number of senators to which a province is entitled or the residency requirement of senators—can only be made in consultation with the provinces and Quebec.

We are not the only ones to think so. The Supreme Court of Canada has answered that question. In the late 1970s, the Supreme Court of Canada considered the capacity of Parliament, on its own, to amend constitutional provisions relating to the Senate. According to a ruling handed down in 1980, any decisions related to major changes affecting the essential characteristics of the Senate cannot be made unilaterally. Thus, any reform affecting the powers of the Senate can only be made in consultation with Quebec and the provinces. The Supreme Court clearly states this. But, no, the government continues to go ahead with a bill that will likely be disputed as far as the Supreme Court. Of course this will cost Quebec and all the provinces a great deal in legal fees.

It is hard to understand why the government has done this. Before making any reforms to the Senate, would it not have made more sense for the government to consult with Quebec and the provinces and work together with those on the front line and with the public? No, it is pushing ahead. Any reform affecting the Senate's powers can only be made in consultation with Quebec and the provinces.

Historically, Quebec's position on the Senate and possible Senate reform has been very clear. Since the unilateral patriation of the Constitution by the Liberals in 1982, successive Quebec governments have all agreed on one basic premise: they have made it very clear that there can be no Senate reform until Quebec's status has been settled. But what are the Conservatives and the Liberals doing? They are pushing ahead.

Why such contempt for this federal parliamentary institution? It is not just sovereignists from Quebec who share my position. Federalists share the same position on Senate reform as sovereignists in Quebec. For example, there is the former Quebec minister for Canadian intergovernmental affairs, Benoît Pelletier. He is a Liberal and every Quebecker and Canadian knows that he is a strong federalist. We all know it. He himself reiterated Quebec's position on this on November 7, 2007. To Mr. Pelletier, it is quite clear that for the Government of Quebec the Senate does not come solely under the federal government's jurisdiction and there cannot be any reform or abolition of the Senate without the consent of the Government of Quebec.

What is more, the very day he made that statement, the National Assembly unanimously adopted a motion. All the parties, the Liberal Party, the ADQ, the right, the sovereignist party, the Parti Québécois, adopted a motion. I want all hon. members from Quebec in the House to listen closely:

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

Can it be any clearer? That is what was said by Quebec's democratic institution. This government, in a moment of schizophrenia, we might say, has introduced Bill C-10 in the House and unilaterally wants to reform the Senate with the help of the Liberals. What can we say? It is disappointing and distressing. It goes around and around and comes back to life. They are repeating the mistakes of the past.

The members of the Bloc Québécois will defend the following position without hesitation and without compromise: Quebec and the provinces must be consulted about any desire to reform the Senate. As our opposition leader stated in his speech, we are the Halaks of the House. We must once again block the blistering shots on Quebec by the Conservatives and the Liberals. However, as we have demonstrated, we are in great shape. This bill directly attacks the rights of the Quebec nation and its National Assembly and we cannot accept that.

Unfortunately once again, the Quebec members on the Conservative side, in particular the members for Jonquière—Alma and Mégantic—L'Érable—as good tame, token Quebeckers—support this bill. Whose interests do they represent? Certainly not those of Quebec. The unanimous motion from Quebec's National Assembly clearly states that no reform of the Senate may be carried out without the consent of Quebec. They are not defending Quebeckers' interests. They are defending the interests of the House, and have isolated themselves. It is shameful. They are defending the Conservative Party and the Liberals are defending a few of the other provinces in Canada interested in this reform, but they are not defending Quebeckers and that is shameful.

They do not respect the voters and the Quebec nation that they represent. They have voted against other bills. These Quebec members voted against French being the sole language in Quebec and having all Quebec institutions use French. They voted against that. In Quebec, people believe in the right to abortion, but these members, once again, rise and vote against the interests and values of Quebeckers. That is also what they are doing by supporting Bills C-10 and C-12.

No surprise there. Let us not forget that these are the federalists who imposed on Quebec the 1982 constitutional amendments. It is deplorable and disgraceful for this Parliament to defend this bill as it does. The federalists never learn. They do not understand Quebec. They are simply unable to stand up for Quebec and support our desire to have a Quebec nation respected for what it is, which promotes our culture and values within the global community.

As with Bill C-12, the Conservative government and the Liberals are showing how little they care about the recognition by the House of Commons of the Quebec nation, this unique francophone nation.

With bills like that, the federalist parties are clearly showing that they get along extremely well on at least one thing: they will stop at nothing to deny any significance to the recognition of the Quebec nation. To us in the Bloc Québécois, recognizing the existence of a nation is much more than a symbolic gesture or nice words spoken in the House of Commons. Nations have fundamental rights like the right to control their societies' social, economic and cultural development themselves.

However, since recognizing the existence of the Quebec nation, the Conservative government has continued to use every power and means at its disposal to try to impose bilingualism on Quebec, and refused to ensure that corporations under its jurisdiction are required to adhere to the Charter of the French Language. It will not take into account the existence of our national culture in the administration of its laws and the operation of its institutions with cultural or identity significance. It will not even consider letting Quebec have its own radio-television and telecommunications commission to make regulations based on the interests and challenges unique to Quebec.

Of course, the Conservatives and the Liberals will refuse to limit federal spending power, even though that was a promise made by the Conservative Party to buy votes in Quebec. This is shameful.

For the Conservative government, recognizing the Quebec nation does not mean anything, and its will to amend the Senate without the consent of the Quebec government is an example, among many others, of that government's disrespect for Quebeckers' wishes.

In this context, Quebeckers have a very clear view on this issue, and the government should listen to their needs. In a poll conducted in Quebec a short while ago, only 8% of the respondents believed in the Senate's role, which is quite low. According to that same poll, 22% of Quebeckers would prefer an elected Senate, but 43% would rather see that institution abolished altogether, because its annual costs to taxpayers are in excess of $50 million, and they get nothing in return.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

It is social assistance for the rich.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

The Conservatives are saying that they respect the will of the public, but that is not true. If they did, they would not go forward with this legislation. Instead of focusing on this bill, they should reform the employment insurance program by waiving the waiting period, or by increasing the number of weeks of benefits. There are some people in my riding who are battling cancer and who get only 15 weeks of EI benefits. At the end of that period, they have to turn to social assistance. These people get poorer and must sell their belongings.

In conclusion, if the House passes this bill, as it is about to do, that will be taken as an insult to the Quebec nation. Quebec abolished its legislative assembly in 1968. A number of other provinces have abolished their Senate. Has that changed anything? I personally think that the legislative and democratic institutions of the provinces and of the Quebec nation work very well.

In any case, it does not matter whether we support the Senate or not. Before introducing this legislation and moving forward on this issue, the government should have consulted Quebec and all the provinces.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to hear the member for Berthier—Maskinongé, who gave us a comprehensive reminder of the number of times the Quebec National Assembly has adopted unanimous positions.

I remind the House that a unanimous position at the Quebec National Assembly is the position of the four political parties represented there, which represent both federalists and sovereignists, and these four parties represent all of Quebec. That is what a unanimous position of the Quebec National Assembly means.

The Quebec National Assembly has taken unanimous positions a number of times for or against bills. I will mention some examples that were brought up by my colleague. It took a unanimous position against Bill C-12, which would reduce Quebec's political weight; a unanimous position against the creation of a single securities commission—this came up during question period today—; a unanimous position calling on the government to hand over the $2.2 billion we are owed for harmonizing the GST, which the government refuses to pay. Federalists and sovereignists alike have called for that. We often hear that sovereignists talk about how they never get anything, but federalists are not getting what they are asking for either. The National Assembly also took a unanimous position against Senate reform without consultation with the provinces.

Every time they took a unanimous position, all of the federalist members from Quebec, whether they are Conservative or Liberal, good little Quebec members, elected by Quebeckers and paid by Quebeckers to defend the interests of Quebec in Ottawa, always took Canada's side over Quebec's.

Does my colleague, who is well aware of this, not think that this explains why the Bloc Québécois has been winning elections, the majority of the votes in the House, since 1993?

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for that excellent question.

The real question is why these Conservative and Liberal members from Quebec act this way.

I will try to explain. They are in the minority in these political parties, so they take a certain attitude in order to rise through the party ranks and achieve greater prominence or even become ministers in some cases. We can see this in the Conservative Party with the member for Beauce, who is travelling across Canada denigrating Quebeckers to try to get more votes and please Canadians.

This is how these Quebeckers, who are in a minority situation in these federal parties, choose to take their place within these parties and get more respect from their colleagues from the other provinces. They become what we call token Quebeckers. It is the only way they can survive in these federalist parties.

What makes the Bloc Québécois strong is that we are all members from Quebec. We can take a stand in favour of Quebeckers, defend unanimous positions of the National Assembly and defend Quebeckers' identity, values and language.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Royal Galipeau

Especially demagogy.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's comments. We live in the greatest country in the world. Quebec is an important part of this great country. Bill C-10 is trying to make our democratic institutions better. The fact that the member and the rest of us are here in the House of Commons demonstrates what a great democracy Canada is.

Parliament includes the Senate. Bill C-10 would allow for eight-year, non-renewable terms. This would strengthen the representation of Quebec in Parliament by allowing fresh and new ideas from Quebec to come into Parliament. We have the senatorial selection act. If Quebec chose, it could implement this, and the people of Quebec could decide who comes and sits in the Senate.

Let us be honest. The real reason the member does not want us to improve Quebec representation in the House is that the member's party does not want Quebec to have any senators in Parliament and zero members in the House of Commons. The reason for that party is not to increase or improve representation of Quebec in Parliament. It is to ensure that Quebec has no representation in Parliament.

That is not good for the people of Quebec and it is not good for the people of Canada. That is why we work together in this democratic institution to move forward in the interests of Quebecers and all Canadians. Will the member just admit that we live in the greatest country in the world at the best time in human history to be alive? Will the member just acknowledge that Canada is the best country in the world, with Quebec?

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell my colleague something. He wrote an article in Le Devoir this week on euthanasia. I took the time to read the article, and I congratulate him on the ideas he put forward. He has added to the debate on this issue, and I have heard good comments from some of my colleagues.

Never mind whether or not we want to abolish the Senate. He talked about a democratic institution. The government did not act very democratically when it introduced Bills C-10 and C-12, because the members of Quebec's National Assembly unanimously opposed reforming the Senate without first consulting Quebec.

Before introducing the bill in the House for debate, the government should have consulted Quebec and the provinces, as Supreme Court rulings require. If this bill goes ahead, it will be challenged, which will mean legal costs for the provinces and Quebec.

What will be gained by this? Absolutely nothing.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the things my colleague talked about was consultation. It is interesting to look at the current government and its consultation on this file. I recall well that, when I was on the procedure and House affairs committee and we were dealing with democratic reform, and I know that the minister responsible will remember this, we had a motion in place to have a consultation process in this country.

Do members know what the government did? It contracted the consultation out to the Frontier Centre, for instance, a centre that claims not to believe in things like proportional representation. That report was useless. I do not see it anywhere in these bills. The government paid a lot of money, did not consult Canadians and claimed it had done its consultation. It said democratic reform was taken care off and checked it off the list.

Does the member think that consultation for the current government is simply a matter of contracting out? Or does he think it actually has it somewhere in its plans to consult Canadians when it comes to democratic reform?

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have been sitting as a member since 2004. It happens quite often that people are consulted and a report is written. That report then sits on a shelf. We spend a lot of money doing that. That is what happens in the various House committees. There is money here. We can hold committee meetings and have people testify. We can undertake large-scale consultations and research and then ignore it. It is incredible.

I agree with the member who is wondering what consultation means. We have to listen to the citizens. It goes to the very heart of the Constitution. If they had done consultations, I know that they would not have introduced Bill C-10, which will surely be contested by Quebec and other provinces anyway.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak about Bill C-10, which was introduced by the Conservative government. This bill would amend the Constitution Act, 1867 by limiting Senate terms.

Earlier, I spoke about Bill C-12, which would reduce Quebec's political weight. The Bloc Québécois is in Ottawa to defend Quebec's interests, and issues related to its political weight here in Ottawa are important. We are fighting for the rights of francophones. As we will see, the people of Quebec and the National Assembly believe that Quebec should be consulted before any constitutional changes take place, especially because Bill C-10 would change the structure of the Senate and shift the political weight for strictly ideological purposes.

The minister's comments about Bloc Québécois members is another example of the Conservatives' preconceived notions. The consultations were sloppy and the introduction of this rushed legislation is not justified. Throughout history, many governments and legislatures have tried to change the Senate.

The public is beginning to seriously question the legitimacy of senators. Newspaper headlines demonstrate this every time there is a new appointment to the Senate. Senators are chosen by the Prime Minister. These are partisan appointments. Each province has a certain number of seats and many people have criticized how they are distributed. Could that chamber be much more effective? Could the measures proposed by the government improve how the Senate operates? I doubt it.

The Bloc Québécois opposes Bill C-10. We wonder about the real intentions of the Conservative government, which for the past few weeks has been introducing one bill after another that aim to change fundamental aspects of our democracy, without the provinces' consent and under false pretexts.

We believe that the Conservatives want to reform the Constitution on the sly by going over the heads of the provinces and Quebec. We have become accustomed to these ploys. Considering the number of times they have hidden obscure and discriminatory provisions in bills, no one can blame us for asking for clarification about their real objectives. Furthermore, why do they bother creating laws and regulations when they are the first to disobey laws and regulations in order to satisfy their partisan appetite?

Limiting Senate tenure is merely the beginning. In order to make any changes regarding the Senate, the Conservative government must consult Quebec and the other provinces.

The changes proposed by the Conservatives serve only to undermine Quebec and the Quebec nation. Our analysis of the concept of open federalism has been extremely disappointing for Quebeckers. There has been no concrete recognition of the Quebec nation and its attributes, and the Conservatives have missed a number of opportunities to restore the balance between the two nations, which only increases the level of scepticism among the people of Quebec.

The open federalism vaunted by the federal government has instead been restrictive for Quebec.

We simply have to look at the bills recently introduced by this government, such as Bill C-12, which reduces Quebec's political weight in the House of Commons, the various proposals for Senate reform or the fact that they have called political party financing into question.

Who is this government really targeting? In order to better understand the Bloc Québécois' position, one must analyze what the Conservative government is proposing, while keeping mind that this government is always trying to diminish Quebec's influence.

I must mention that any reform affecting the powers of the Senate, the method of selecting senators, the number of senators to which a province is entitled or the residency requirement of senators can only be made in consultation with Quebec, the provinces and the territories. Why did the government not think it necessary to seek consent from the key players on an issue that affects the Constitution Act, 1867?

Let us look at this together. What is the impetus to the bill and what does it offer to Quebec? Currently, a senator is appointed by the government, by the Prime Minister, and that appointment is effective until the maximum age of 75, at which point the senator must retire. A person appointed at age 30 would receive a term of over 45 years. The Conservative government is proposing to uphold the retirement age of 75 and, in addition, would impose an eight year term on senators. Despite being appointed for an eight year term, if the senator reaches age 75 during that term, he or she must retire from the Senate. There is another provision whereby no senator can request that their eight year term be renewed.

Although this seems like a good idea, what impact could an eight year term have on democratic life?

If this bill is passed in its current form, it would mean greater turnover of senators. And since senators would still be unelected, there would be an increase in partisan appointments.

It is not a stretch to think that a government could change the composition of the Senate by making partisan appointments, thereby taking control of the Senate and having every government bill passed or defeated according to the whim of that very same government.

It could change the parliamentary agenda of the House of Commons by systematically obstructing bills it did not like or that came from opposition party members.

When they are elected to power, Canada's old parties try to make changes that favour their base. They even contradict what they may have said when they were in opposition. I have an example. The Prime Minister, who questioned the Senate's partiality when he was first elected, is now introducing a bill that will boost partisan appointments. Obviously he has changed his tune, but why? In order to impose a regressive Conservative program and satisfy the Reform Party members of the Conservative Party.

When I read the wording of Bill C-10, I get a better grasp of the government's intentions and, more importantly, a better idea of how it wants to get its legislation passed.

The first paragraph in Bill C-10 provides that the Senate must evolve in accordance with the principles of democracy. That paragraph includes examples of institutions which, over time, have had their structure amended. The second paragraph seeks to explain how the Senate can better reflect the democratic values of Canadians. Finally, it is in the third paragraph that mention is made of the change to Senate terms.

What I find disturbing is that the government mentions too often that Parliament can amend the Constitution. It uses as an example what the government did in 1965, when it set the retirement age for senators.

It is in the fifth paragraph that the Conservative government confirms its intention to ignore Quebec and the other provinces to make changes to the Senate. The fifth paragraph of Bill C-10 reads, “Whereas Parliament, by virtue of section 44 of the Constitution Act, 1982, may make laws to amend the Constitution of Canada in relation to the Senate;”.

May I remind hon. members that Quebec did not sign the 1982 Constitution? I also remind them that the patriation of the Constitution was done unilaterally, without Quebec's agreement. Lastly, let us not forget that the minimum condition set by successive governments in Quebec on Senate reform has always been clear: there will be no Senate reform without first settling the issue of Quebec's status.

That is why the Bloc Québécois is opposed to Bill C-10. It is very clear that the Conservative government wants to ignore Quebec and the other provinces. Need I remind the House of the reasons why the Bloc Québécois was founded?

It was because of the record of failure in constitutional negotiations that the Bloc Québécois was established. In order to avoid discussing the Constitution with Quebec, the Conservative government claims to have the power, under section 44 of the Constitution Act, 1982, to unilaterally change the provisions dealing with the Senate.

This is yet another attempt by Ottawa to work against the interests of Quebec, and even those of the other Canadian provinces and territories.

In November 2006, the Conservative government tabled a motion recognizing the Quebec nation. Since then, no action has been taken by the government to follow up on that recognition. It looks as though the Conservative government does not want to accept that Quebec is a society that developed by itself and that applies its laws based on its specificity and its own attributes.

I invite parliamentarians to read certain documents to better understand Quebec's claims. I also invite my colleagues to be prudent and vigilant, because by changing the length of senators' terms of office through this bill, the Conservative government is opening the door to various changes to the Senate without obtaining the consent of Quebec, the provinces and the territories.

In the brief submitted by the Government of Quebec in 2007 on federal Senate bills, the Government of Quebec stated that:

...the Senate is an institution whose basic composition forms the very basis of the compromise that created the federation. The Senate is not simply a federal institution in the strictest sense. It is an integral part of the Canadian federal system. The Senate is an institution whose future is of interest to all constitutional players within the federation.

In a press release dated November 7, 2007, the former Quebec minister of Canadian Intergovernmental Affairs, Mr. Benoît Pelletier, a Liberal Quebec minister, reiterated the position of the Quebec government:

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

The Government of Quebec is not opposed to modernizing the Senate. However, if an attempt is made to alter the basic characteristics of this institution, the only avenue is engaging in a coordinated federal-provincial constitutional process that will fully engage all constitutional players, including Quebec, the provinces and the territories.

Senate Bill S-8 proposes the appointment of senators by the Prime Minister after elections held by the provinces. This bill is called An Act respecting the selection of senators.

The government claims that it could fundamentally alter the process for appointing senators without necessarily requiring a round of constitutional negotiations.

Although this type of appointment was carried out once in 1990 and there was no challenge, does it justify not consulting Quebec and the provinces?

As I mentioned earlier, the people of Quebec are questioning the usefulness and effectiveness of the Senate in particular. There are certainly many ways to reform the Senate. In March 2010, Quebeckers were polled about the Senate. The results are very interesting and indicative of how they feel about the Senate in its current form.

In looking at the data, we can see that the majority of Quebeckers do not see a value in the Senate as it is currently configured, and 43% of Quebeckers agree with abolishing it. I should point out that only 8% of respondents believe that the Senate plays an important role and that the system for appointing senators works. Only 8%.

Let us talk about the place of francophones in the Senate. Considering the number of francophone senators, the government could consider making changes that would ensure francophones are fairly represented in the Senate. Elections could end up decreasing their representation in the Senate and could create an imbalance for francophone rights in the Senate. This is something that concerns us as well, which is why it is important not to ignore Quebec and the provinces. The bill before us does not take that into account.

If we are going to change the fundamental role of the Senate, why not abolish it altogether? The Bloc Québécois believes that any Senate reforms must be the result of constitutional negotiations.

I have many reasons for believing that the Senate should be abolished. Historically, many upper chambers have been abolished and the operations of these institutions were not affected. The main motivation for provinces to abolish their upper chamber was financial. Second chambers were extremely expensive for the provinces.

That logic should lead us to consider studying this aspect of the Senate. Is the $50 million we spend on Senate operations essential and justified? As with any major reform, abolishing the Senate also requires amendments to the Constitution.

To have a constitutional change approved, the government needs to obtain consent from seven provinces representing at least 50% of Canada's population or the unanimous consent of all the provinces.

Until proven otherwise, Canada is a confederation. Provinces have to be consulted before any amendment to the Constitution, which means that in order to pass Bill C-10, an act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 by limiting Senate terms, the federal government would have to enter into constitutional negotiations. It is obvious from reading the bill that the Conservative government wants to ignore Quebec. It ignores francophones.

The sixth paragraph in the bill tries to legitimize the Conservative government's position that senators' terms can be amended by regulation.

In the late 1970s, the Supreme Court of Canada examined parliament's ability to unilaterally amend constitutional provisions relating to the Senate.

According to its ruling, decisions pertaining to major changes to the essential characteristics of the Senate cannot be made unilaterally. In view of the fact that senators would not be able to renew their terms, we assume that there would be even more partisan appointments and, more importantly, that this change would alter an essential characteristic of the Senate. For that reason, the Bloc Québécois is not in favour of Bill C-10.

It is sad to see that this government is governing according to a Conservative ideology that does not correspond to the values of Quebeckers. I have now been sitting in this House for six years and have seen that the Conservative government is using every means to diminish the influence of Quebec. We need not look too far to find examples. Bill C-12 will reduce Quebec's political weight.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges has five minutes left to finish her speech the next time the bill is before the House.

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

The House resumed from March 25 consideration of the motion that Bill C-288, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions), be read the third time and passed.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have the chance to implore the opposition members to reconsider their support for this costly, misguided and bad proposal by the Bloc Québécois.

We need to be clear on what this proposal would do and how much it would cost. Bill C-288 would grant a temporary special tax subsidy for a chosen few graduates being employed in any of the ill-defined designated regions. Moreover, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, this poorly thought out proposal could cost over half a billion dollars a year.

For anyone who has actually studied this proposal, they would quickly realize the two biggest problems with it, besides the fact that it is counterproductive economic policy. First, the conditions surrounding qualifying employment are vague, and second, the list of designated regions that would be eligible is antiquated.

With respect to qualifying employment, Bill C-288 would, in essence, provide a temporary tax subsidy to almost any recent post-secondary graduate employed in the designated regions under Bill C-288.

According to the legislation itself, the subsidy could be claimed by any graduate if, “the knowledge and skills obtained during the individual's training or educational program are related to the duties performed”. That weak and overly broad definition clearly targets no particular skill or occupation and does not even specify on what basis this would be or could be determined, the ultimate result being that any graduate would easily qualify as any job would make use of general problem solving skills naturally obtained during the course of one's education.

Likewise. they would qualify for this tax subsidy irrespective of there being an actual surplus or a shortage of workers with that particular skill. This, obviously, makes little or no sense.

With respect to designated regions, Bill C-288 selects areas where graduates would be eligible for the subsidy. Specifically, the credit would be available to any graduate taking up work in a region defined in another piece of legislation called the Regional Development Incentives Act, only excluding metropolitan areas with populations over 200,000.

Under that specific act, there is a list of designated regions that have been classified as economically challenged because “existing opportunities for productive employment in the region are exceptionally inadequate”. However, there is the catch. That list of designated regions is an actual list that has not been updated since 1981, in other words, in nearly three decades.

Obviously such an outdated list based on the Canadian economy of the early eighties has little to no bearing on the economic realities of today.

Under Bill C-288, therefore, both the entire province of Manitoba and the entire province of Saskatchewan would be designated regions declared economically challenged, save cities within the provinces with populations exceeding 200,000.

Is Manitoba, with an unemployment rate 3% lower than the national average and whose economy a Laurentian Bank economist deemed as weathering the “recession with an ease that must surely make other provinces envious”, economically challenged?

Is Saskatchewan, with an unemployment rate also 3% lower than the national average and whose provincial economy has been recently pegged by CIBC economists as the one that will “lead other Canadian provinces in economic growth this year”, economically challenged?

Plainly, no reasonable individual would call either Manitoba or Saskatchewan economically challenged or in desperate need for tax subsidies to spur job creation, promote growth or attract workers. However, that is exactly what this poorly thought out Bloc Québécois proposal would do.

Even more interesting is that under Bill C-288 another set of designated regions would include large parts of rural and northern Alberta, Fort McMurray included.

I know the Bloc Québécois members tend to ignore the rest of Canada but I am truly stunned that they would bring forward a bizarre proposal that would suggest that Fort McMurray, the heart of Canada's oil sands, is economically challenged and that its workers need tax subsidies.

For the benefit of the apparently isolated Bloc Québécois members, let me familiarize them with the situation by reading a portion of a recent article from the Fort McMurray Today newspaper, which dealt with the local economy. I will quote at length:

There's less unemployed people in Fort McMurray than anywhere else in the province....

Craig Mattern, a market information manager with the Alberta government, said....employment numbers...remained through the economic downturn of the past year....

“There's been very little movement throughout most of the year. Unemployment continues to sit at the lowest rate throughout the province at 4%...”....

...job growth in the region has been substantially helped by developing local oilsands projects but other sectors have also been contributing....

“We continue to see employment gains in the accommodations, food service industries, wholesale retail trade and shops continue to show growth. Same with actually the healthcare and social assistance fields," Mattern said.

That Fort McMurray would be classified as economically challenged should alone be enough to cause any reasonable individual to stop and question Bill C-288.

What is more, Bill C-288 is also blatantly unfair to new graduates not in the designated regions. It would create very serious inequities between new graduates who work in different regions of Canada. Under Bill C-288, two similar recent graduates at similar jobs with the same pay but working only a few kilometres apart, perhaps, would face completely different tax bills. While one new graduate would receive a tax subsidy, another one would be paying $3,000 in federal taxes to help pay for that subsidy.

Canadians expect tax fairness. For those new graduates, Bill C-288 would not meet that test.

This Bloc Québécois proposal is so flawed that it is almost comical, almost, until we realize it carries a potential price tag of over $0.5 billion. The Parliamentary Budget Officer himself reviewed the proposal for the finance committee and concluded:

Overall, assuming no behavioural change on the part of graduates and based on the foregoing assumptions, these ranges suggest that at full phase-in the program could have a cost estimate of between over one hundred million to approximately six hundred million per annum.

We know that the Bloc Québécois really does not care about adding to the national debt and that fiscal responsibility is foreign to them, but they alone cannot pass Bill C-288. They need and are getting the support of the NDP and the Liberals.

We know the NDP is notorious for being fiscally irresponsible, so its support is a given. However,, the Liberals claim they are different. They claim they are not the NDP. The Liberal leader told Canadians recently, before endorsing any new proposal that, “One of the issues we have to confront is: How do we pay for this? We can't be a credible party until we have an answer for that question.... We have to be courageous and we have to be clear on the subject. We will not identify any new spending unless we can clearly identify a source of funds without increasing the deficit.”

I ask the Liberals how they expect to account for the cost of this proposal they support so forcefully now. What taxes would they raise to offset the cost? What spending would they cut?

Unfortunately, we do not have answers to those questions. I doubt the Liberals have thought about that or even closely reviewed this proposal and the many problems with it. I say this to the Liberals: That is not credible; that is not responsible.

Without question, the government will not support this costly and poorly constructed Bloc proposal. We hope the official opposition will come to its senses and reconsider its support.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-288, a private member's bill that would provide a tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions.

I will begin by commenting on the speech of my colleague from the Conservative Party. It is a little hard to imagine that a Conservative MP would want to talk about the issue of fiscal responsibility considering the record of the government.

When the Conservatives left power in 1993, they left a deficit of $42 billion and it took time and a lot of sacrifice by Canadians to overcome that problem. However, when the Liberal Party left government in February 2006, it left a surplus of $13 billion, which the present government, in less than three years, managed to turn into deficits, deficits that it started by its decisions even before the recession began.

The Conservatives want to say that the deficit exists because of the recession. The fact is that it started before that. They created, what has been called by economists, “a structural deficit” because of their decisions in the years leading up to the recession not jut because of the recession. That is a very important point when they talk about this question of fiscal responsibility, when they have no fiscal responsibility to show. They do not have a leg to stand on when it comes to that.

They react strongly to that. Obviously it stings when I say this because they know it is true and it must bother them. If they call themselves Conservatives, one would think they would be fiscally conservative, and yet we have not seen that from the government. It must be for backbenchers who may believe in that idea of fiscal responsibility. The fact that they need to defend their own government's abysmal record when it comes to the nation's finances must be discouraging. It must be frustrating for my hon. friends across the way to go from a $13 billion surplus to a deficit in such a short time is truly remarkable.

However, I will now get to the bill that we are discussing today. The idea of a tax credit for new graduates working in rural areas across this country, particularly depressed areas, is a worthy objective and it is one worth support.

Like many other colleagues here, on a nearly daily basis I try to check the obituaries in my home paper, The ChronicleHerald in Halifax, to be aware of who may have passed away or what sad news there may be that day. One of the things I also look at is the places they have come from because The ChronicleHerald is the main newspaper for my province of Nova Scotia, as my hon. friend from West Nova will attest. He will know that it shows obituaries from across the entire province.

When I look at it, I look to see what communities people are from. It is remarkable most days how many of the people whose names are there are from small rural communities around Nova Scotia. When I see that it troubles me in terms of what I know is happening in those communities as they are aging. The demographic problems in those communities are real problems and we need to find ways to encourage young people to go there. Among other things, with our aging population like those in smaller communities, people need a variety of supports. One of the most obvious ones is in relation to health care, whether it be doctors, nurses, medical technicians or physiotherapists, a whole range of health care support systems and expertise are needed in those areas.

This bill is the kind of thing that would help to encourage young people coming out of post-secondary education training with particular skills to go into those kinds of communities and provide that kind of help and service to people who need it. This is very important in terms of keeping communities alive because if they do not have those kinds of supports, then what happens? More and more people leave those areas and that is a grave concern for many hon. colleagues when they think about those kinds of communities across the country.

The other thing this brings to mind is the issue of regional development. This relates to regional development, particularly in rural areas, smaller communities, which is a real challenge. It is certainly a challenge in my region of Atlantic Canada where the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, ACOA, plays an important role.

One of the very important programs that was started back in 2000 by the previous government was the Atlantic innovation fund. The estimates just released not too long ago for 2009-10 showed that, when the Atlantic innovation fund is combined with the innovative communities fund, a total of $113 million was spent in the fiscal year that just ended.

What do we see in the budget? The government says it is going to spend a total of $19 million for both those programs next year. It has gone from $113 million for this very important area of regional development, particularly important for research and development or supporting small communities, to $19 million. That is from $113 million to $19 million. Talk about slash and burn. Talk about a lack of interest, a lack of resolve to help small communities, to help a region that needs assistance, especially during this period. That has to be frustrating for members on that side. How do they defend that?

Let us talk also about student debt. This bill really is designed, as well, to help those students coming out of university or other post-secondary institutions, like community colleges, who are shouldering debt in the range of $50,000, $80,000 or $100,000, as many are.

This is not a huge amount. It would obviously not pay off that debt in a hurry, but it would help. It is a modest incentive of between $250 and $750 per person, per year. It is not enormous for individuals but it may be enough, we hope, to help encourage young people to go to particular areas where they are needed. That makes sense to me.

The government's record in relation to students is deplorable. Think about the fact that, in the height of the recession, the government's answer in terms of students and their need for summer jobs was to cut the summer jobs program. One would think the government would have done as we suggested last year, as part of its stimulus program to get the economy going, and that is to put money into helping students get summer jobs. The government showed no interest whatsoever in doing that. To me that was unimaginable.

I find it very difficult to comprehend why the government would not choose to invest in assisting students find summer employment, when it was going to be much harder to find that in the private sector during the recession. That was a natural spot for the Government of Canada to intervene. I guess it is just that the government does not believe government should play that kind of role. But that is not the kind of thing most Canadians believe. Once again they see the government out of line with where Canadians really are.

Another important element of this bill is that it proposes a maximum community size of 200,000. One might argue about what size that should be and how we would define the regions that would apply. That is something we could certainly look at.

This legislation is going off to the Senate after this, and with the Conservatives now controlling the Senate, it probably will not end up becoming law, even though it has come to this House many times already. Perhaps it will become law in the future. Perhaps in the future there will be opportunities to make other changes.

My community is in the Halifax Regional Municipality, which has a huge geographic area and a population of 370,000, give or take a few. My community would not apply. However, that geographic area of HRM, as we call it, includes tiny areas like Ecum Secum, Middle Musquodoboit or Upper Musquodoboit that are a long way from the urban area and unfortunately would not qualify. The good news is that they are within a somewhat reasonable distance of the metropolitan area of Halifax where there is a stronger economy and the opportunity for jobs.

The opportunity is better for them than it is, obviously, for someone farther away from the major area. Generally speaking, within an hour or so of Halifax the opportunities for jobs are pretty good. There is a need for this kind of program in the farther outlying areas where it is much tougher, which is what this program is designed for. I think it makes good sense.

I know I am near the end of my time. I have lots more notes here. It is always a good sign when you have more to say, I suppose. My colleagues on the other side would probably say I said too much. I do think this bill is worthy of our support. It has a worthy objective. I hope the government itself would bring forward measures like this to make a difference in the depressed regions of rural communities of our country.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to stand and speak to Bill C-288, which would give certain tax incentives to graduates who return to their regions or to rural regions across the country. In doing so, it would provide important services to those regions and the same kinds of services that people in metropolitan areas take for granted.

I live in a very rural area. My riding is slightly larger than the province of Ontario and within it we have a few people. We also had a very expanding economy in the last decade through the development of the diamond fields. Interestingly enough, as the economy expanded in the last four or five years, the population declined until we had a huge expansion in our gross domestic product.

Why was that? It was not because young people did not like living in the north. The allure of the north is big among young people across the country and there are many young people who would like to live in rural and remote areas. It was the cost of living. The cost of living in northern conditions is so high that people simply cannot make ends meet and they relocate.

We find that we replace a lot of these people with fly-in workers from across the country, from Newfoundland, from Nova Scotia, even from Ottawa here. I have sat in the airport in Ottawa and heard the talk of people around me who were headed to the Diavik diamond mines in the Northwest Territories. Right across the country, people take advantage of the economic opportunities in rural regions, but they do not live there and they do not provide continuity of service.

I lived in the north all my life and never had an opportunity to have a family doctor. I dealt with locum doctors throughout my whole life. I was lucky enough to live in a community that actually had locum doctors. Many of the smaller communities might be lucky to have locum nurse practitioners. They might be lucky enough to have a nurse in a nursing station. Many of the communities really do suffer because of the cost of living and the lack of the kinds of incentives that used to exist for living in the north.

My parents moved to the north in the fifties. Through the sixties, there were programs in place where all the costs of education for young northerners were paid. Young northerners could go to university. They could go to technical schools. They could go to colleges in the south and they would see that their costs were completely covered. It was a great system. It encouraged young people to get their education and as time went on, the governments of the region got smarter and said, “If you want to get that kind of break, rather than just giving it you, we will give you a remissible loan based on the years that you come back to the region and work there”. That system also has worked quite well.

What we are seeing with this type of program, this type of effort, is something that is actually replicated in the Northwest Territories now. It is one of the ways that we try to bring our young people back to the Northwest Territories and try to get them to work and live there.

Why is that important? It is because the north and rural areas in Canada are great revenue generators for the rest of Canada. Where are the mining industries in this country? Where is the oil and gas exploration? Where are the things that make our economy run? They are in rural areas. They are in northern areas.

Those things are so important to our economy and they are so important to the people who can live and work in those areas, and build those areas as successful places.

The mining industry estimates that it will need 80,000 new workers over the next two decades to service the mining industry. It is desperate to find people to come and work in those regions, to enjoy the opportunities that come with the mining industry and to settle and take the work there seriously.

The type of program we are offering with Bill C-288 is one example of utilizing the tax system nationally to help all the regions in a uniform fashion. We do have one program like that. It is something that I worked very hard on to get approved when I first came to Parliament. The northern residents tax deduction is an excellent program that goes right across the country and gives everyone in northern areas a tax break. If they are in an intermediate area in the northern parts of the provinces, including Conservative ridings, they are given a break on their taxes as well. That is good.

The problem with the program was it had been in place for 19 years and the real dollar amount had never changed over that time. Members can check the records. There was not much talk about this before that. When I got here, I worked very hard to get that into the mind of the government. In 2007 it agreed to increase the northern residents tax deduction by 10%. We were asking for 50%. Every organization in the north said that 50% was the only fair amount. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce came onside for the 50%.

The Conservative government realized that it had a problem. Its solution was not to offer up what was fair. It offered up a little so it could say it did it. I thank the government very much for the 10%. Everyone appreciates that. That is a couple hundred dollars a year extra in the pocket of the average northerner and the average rural person. That is great, but it was clearly not enough.

There is more work to be done there with the tax system to improve the lives of people in the regions of our country who make money for our country. The Conservative government wants to give away huge tax revenues from banks, from oil companies, from that same mining industry and from those that extract the wealth out of the country. When it wants to do that and not put money back into those regions and into the pockets of young people who want to build the region and build our country, that is sad.

It is a sad statement to make today in Parliament about the nature of a Conservative government that would stand up against this bill and against the idea of the bill. Yes, the bill has issues. These issues can be worked out. The principle of the bill is fine. What is wrong with the idea that we use the tax system to enhance the ability of people to live in northern or rural regions? What is wrong with the idea that we support Canadians in their efforts to build a better country that will be successful in the 21st century? What is wrong with the Conservatives? They cannot see past their end of their nose on this question of tax breaks.

I am glad it is Friday. I will have time to unwind over the weekend and return to Parliament with a slightly better feeling about my members on the opposite benches.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of Bill C-288. At the risk of losing the rest of my audience, I realize I am in competition with the great Canadian singer, Bryan Adams, who is in the lobby. I am glad to see that not everybody has disappeared, but I am glad to have them back.

This is a bill that has had a fair amount of debate. It has been through committee and is a bill that we are happy to support. It is an act to amend the Income Tax Act regarding tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions. It would give every new graduate who settles in a designated region a tax credit. The purpose of the measure is to encourage new graduates to settle in designated regions, thereby curbing the exodus of young people from those regions and promoting their economic development.

This is an age old problem. Anybody who has grown up in a rural area, lived in a rural area, recognizes that as cities develop and as facilities develop in cities, particularly in health care but not limited to health care, people are attracted to the cities. If they do not move there when they are young, because they need to further their education, children leave their local areas after grade 12 and move to the city to go to university. They form friendships there and eventually get jobs in the city, and they do not return to their homes.

Likewise, we have a problem, particularly in the west and perhaps across Canada, with people hitting retirement age who do the same. They sell their property in the country, their farms, and once again they too move to the city. Just in the space since 1970, the population in Manitoba was roughly 50% rural and 50% urban, and today, only 40 years later, the population pattern now is about 70% urban and only 30% rural, and that is continuing.

That is in spite of continuing efforts on the part of governments over the last 20 years to keep people in rural areas, to offer incentives, and to make it easier to transfer family farms from one generation to the other. It is interesting to me that most of the Conservative caucus represents rural areas. I would think that the Conservatives would be more in tune to this issue as members on this side of the House because they know the efforts we have to make to keep people living in and moving to rural areas.

In Manitoba, we have offered, and other provinces have as well, incentives to doctors to move to the rural areas. Even in the days when the member for Souris on the Conservative side was a provincial member of the legislature, we were working out programs to encourage doctors to move to rural areas, particularly doctors from Winnipeg, but also doctors that we brought in from outside the country.

We have discovered over the last 10 years that we were better off training professionals, training doctors, who actually came from those rural areas, with the hope that they would go back to their home town. We altered our strategy somewhat to encourage people, say, from Thompson to become doctors, and then move back to Thompson, because we found we had a better chance of getting them to go back and keeping them there.

The Conservatives have focused greatly on the cost of the program. There will certainly always be a cost and the question is whether the cost is justified. It seems to me to create a bit of a balance here to try to reverse the flow of graduates from the rural areas to the city, but this certainly would be justified. We could argue about what sort of provisions should be enacted and whether or not the bill has hit the spot one hundred per cent.

There is talk that the list we are going to follow for designated regions is over 30 years old. It should be simple enough for the government to update the list of regions. That is something that can be fine-tuned to more adequately deal with the problem.

In terms of the cost, this is something that has bounced around, not only with respect to this bill, but with respect to other bills in this House, too. The Conservatives have wildly inflated the cost of some bills in the past. Upon reflection and examination, when we in the opposition have also costed the government's bills, we have come up with a figure that maybe is one-tenth of the government's figure. What sort of statistics are being used to do this calculation?

Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer from the Library of Parliament, appeared at the finance committee. He was asked about the cost of Bill C-288. As I indicated, the bill would provide non-refundable tax credits to new graduates who settle in certain regions of the country. He said that he had been drawing on the expertise of provincial governments, academics and government executives to assess the reasonableness of the cost assessment presented to the committee. There were two extremes, two diametrically opposed figures. The Conservatives' figure was on the extreme high side and the opposition's figure perhaps was a little more on the low side than it should be. I do not know. That is why he was asked to look at the issue.

As I outlined in my note, he said that the two cost estimates are based on different assumptions regarding the size of the regions that would be designated as eligible for the proposed tax credit and the propensity of new graduates to take up the new credit.

Last year the Conservatives knew that there was tremendous uptake on their home renovation tax credit program. The parliamentary secretary who is listening attentively now would say that he could not tell us what the total cost to the treasury was going to be until the end of the income tax season this year when the people who partook in the program filed their tax returns. Only then could the government tell what the renovation tax credit program was going to cost the treasury. It is true that until we actually implement the program and see how many graduates actually use the tax credit we will not know what the true cost to the treasury will be. It may be much lower than the government is suggesting.

I would advise the government to try it for a year. It could play with the designated areas. The Conservatives think that the current designations are 30 years out of date and cover the whole province of Saskatchewan and the oil sands area of northern Alberta. If they do not like that, we can always change the criteria to exclude those areas. Then based on what the uptake is, we will have a better idea over time about how this bill would work.

To reject the bill outright is absolute nonsense when there are increasing disparities between rural and urban parts of Canada. We do not want the urban and rural splits to widen. We want to lessen them. Anything that will help young graduates return to their hometowns to work in their hometowns and benefit rural Canada is something that we should be encouraging. Members should not be standing and saying that the sky is falling and that this is going to lead to terrible things, because that is not what is going to happen.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Before I put the question to the House, I will give the hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle her five-minute right of reply.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to conclude this long debate on my Bill C-288. Next week, this House will again have to take a stand on this bill.

It has been a year since I introduced Bill C-288, which would introduce a tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions. My colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord and I have travelled throughout Quebec to tell people about how this bill would benefit them. In Abitibi—Témiscamingue and Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, on the north shore, in Gaspé and in the Lower St. Lawrence, people support this measure, because it could help their region economically.

Bill C-288 has received the support of various groups and different generations throughout Quebec, including the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec and the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, which respectively represent 40,000 and 125,000 students all over Quebec. Moreover, the Quebec Federation of Senior Citizens, which has 255 members, and the Fédération Québécoise des Municipalités, which represents 972 Quebec municipalities, have given the bill their full support. The bill also has the support of a number of RCMs, chambers of commerce and youth employment centres.

In recent debates, we have demonstrated the importance of this initiative to attract young graduates to remote regions. The bill would solve two main problems affecting these regions: the exodus of young people and the serious shortage of skilled labour.

It is important to encourage young graduates to move to the regions to start their professional careers, and to recruit skilled labour for the good of the regions. Much thought has gone into Bill C-288 so that we can eventually offer all young, eligible graduates in Quebec and Canada a tax credit. The problem with the exodus of young people is not unique to Quebec. Across Canada, economic activity has gradually moved from the so-called rural areas to the major centres. My Conservative colleague who spoke earlier said that my proposal was almost comical. This comment shows a lack of respect for provinces like Quebec, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Manitoba, which already have a tax credit similar to the one proposed in Bill C-288.

The Conservatives tried to derail the debate on this bill by grossly inflating the cost of the program. In his report of November 24, 2009, the Parliamentary Budget Officer assessed the proposal according to a number of different scenarios. I would like to clarify some of the data so that members can focus on the essence of the bill. The regions designated in this bill will be determined by the Minister of Finance, after consulting with the provinces involved.

Also, the regions will not be designated based on the number of people who would be affected; they will be based on the needs identified in these regions far from Canada's major cities. I should point out that the bill excludes metropolitan regions with more than 200,000 residents.

Furthermore, the bill must focus on areas that are far from large centres and on rural areas with low rates of urbanization that are struggling with long-term unemployment rates, an indicator of poor employment prospects.

Finally, we used economic and health regions as geographic criteria. We then used the long-term unemployment rate to determine the regions where job prospects are more difficult. Of these regions, we considered only those that had over 12% of their population living in rural areas. In total, we identified 34 health regions that met these criteria.

I am still counting on the support of my Liberal and NDP colleagues, and I also hope that my Conservative colleagues from Quebec will vote in the interests of Quebeckers.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 98 the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, May 5, 2010, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

It being 2:15 p.m., House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:14 p.m.)