House of Commons Hansard #61 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trade.

Topics

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Minister of International Trade

moved that Bill C-2, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to again speak in the House to the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement. This agreement is an important part of the government's ambitious free trade agenda, an agenda aimed at supporting Canada's economy, Canadian workers, Canadian businesses and building prosperity for our economy.

The fragility of the global economy emphasizes the value of expanding trade and investment relationships by improving access to markets abroad.

Our government is committed to pursuing this initiative and building Canadian prosperity through bilateral and regional trade relations. Canada's economy is export-focused, and as such, it is in our best economic interest to find as many new foreign markets for our producers and exporters as possible.

By improving access to foreign markets for Canadian businesses, we support economic growth and create new jobs for Canadian workers. That is the experience of the North American free trade agreement and the experience of new free trade agreements under this government with Peru and with the European Free Trade Association.

We have had other free trade agreements, one before this Parliament on Jordan and another one recently signed with Panama, and we are currently negotiating a very ambitious free trade agreement with the European Union. This Canada-Colombia free trade agreement before the House today is an important part of that agenda.

Canada's exporters, investors and service providers are calling for the opportunities that all of these free trade agreements provide, and this government is listening.

Colombia is a significant trade partner for Canada. In 2009, our two-way merchandise trade totalled $1.3 billion and, over the past five years, Canadian merchandise exports have grown by over 55%. Clearly, Canadian businesses and producers see potential in this market.

However, the reality is that Canadian exports, particularly commodities, are at a disadvantage when compared to many of our main competitors, like the U.S., for geographic reasons.

Speedy implementation of our agreement with Colombia will help our exporters strengthen their position. Canadian exporters are in danger of finding themselves at an even greater disadvantage in this important market. Once in place, the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement will benefit Canadian exporters by removing a number of major trade barriers to the Colombian market. For example, Colombia will eliminate duties on nearly all current Canadian exports to Colombia, including wheat, pulse crops and mining equipment.

In 2009, Canada exported agri-food products worth $247 million to Colombia. In fact, Colombia is the second largest market for Canadian agricultural exports in South America.

Once this free trade agreement is in place, over 85% of Canadian agricultural exports to Colombia will be duty-free immediately. The removal of these duties is a significant advantage for Canadian agriculture and agri-food producers. This government is standing up for Canada's agricultural producers. This sector is critical for Canada. It contributes about $100 billion to the country's gross domestic product and employs over two million Canadians.

The benefits of this deal extend across the Canadian economy. It is also expected to have a positive impact on the Canadian manufacturing sector. This sector has been hit particularly hard during these recent difficult economic times and it is a sector that would benefit from new market opportunities.

With rapid growth in the Colombian economy in recent years, Canadian companies made important investments. The strong presence of Canadian companies has also created many export opportunities for Canadian exporters of industrial goods, particularly oil and gas and mining equipment manufacturers.

Some of Canada's leading exports to Colombia include off-road dump trucks and auto parts. The manufacturers of these products would benefit under this agreement, and I need not point out the obvious, that auto parts manufacturers in the auto sector have been hit hard in recent years and the workers in this sector would appreciate the economic opportunities this would present.

Knowledge of infrastructure needs and the production of industrial goods are areas in which Canada excels.

These export sectors are integral to our economy. They are part of every Canadian community, large or small. That is why our government is seeking access to new markets.

Colombia is also a strategic destination for Canadian investment, and two-way investment is an absolutely critical driving force in today's global economy. It is important for Canada to maintain both inward and outward investment with our global partners, partners including Colombia, with the stock of Canadian investment in Colombia reaching approximately $800 million in 2009, and thanks in great part to Colombia's oil and gas a mining sectors, this number is expected to grow over the coming years.

Those are just a few areas where Canada has significant interests and can offer a lot to our Colombian partners going forward.

The Canada-Colombia free trade agreement offers both Canadian and Colombian investors an unprecedented degree of stability, predictability and protection.

This agreement establishes a stable legal framework and strict obligations to guarantee freedom of investment capital transfer and to protect investors from expropriation. Thanks to this agreement, investors will also have access to transparent, enforceable and impartial dispute resolution procedures.

In terms of services, this sector is a primary driver of the Canadian economy. It is responsible for 71% of our gross domestic product and for three in four Canadian jobs.

The Colombian market holds many opportunities for growth across this service sector in areas such as financial services, legal services, engineering and architecture, and high technology, for example. Canadian service providers already have a substantial presence in the Colombian market. Our services' exports to Colombia are in the area of about $80 million to $85 million each year. Propelling these numbers are Canadian financial, mining, engineering, petroleum extraction sectors and tourism.

Service sectors like these in Canada have a lot to gain. This agreement would afford service providers a secure, predictable, transparent and rules-based trading environment, and would provide an added measure of confidence.

Under this agreement, Canadian service providers can plan for the future knowing that they will receive the same treatment as Colombian service providers.

In addition, the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement will provide direct benefits in other areas that are important to Canada. Thanks to the procurement provisions in the accord, Canadian suppliers will be able to bid on requests for proposals for goods, services and construction issued by most Colombian federal departments.

There are also comprehensive provisions covering the temporary entry of business visitors, intra-company transferees, traders and investors, spouses, technicians and an extensive list of professionals. This would ensure timely processing and transparency in the review of temporary entry applications. Businesses would directly benefit from this expedited process and the people to people movement would mean that Canadian investors and Canadian professionals would be better positioned to benefit from the opportunities offered in the Colombian market.

Those are just a few examples of the many benefits that would be achieved and accomplished by this free trade agreement.

In difficult economic times, we cannot hide behind walls or behind barriers. We need to seek out new opportunities on the global stage, and that is why this government has been committed to securing access to foreign markets for Canadian businesses through negotiations with the European Union, Ukraine and others across the Americas.

It is now time to move ahead with this legislation. it has been debated at length by this Parliament, by numerous speakers and by extensive evidence at committee. It has been studied as thoroughly as any other agreement, perhaps even more than the North American Free Trade Agreement, I hasten to suggest. Of course, we believe that in this agreement, our parallel agreements on environment and labour help address the concerns that some have raised with regard to Colombia.

I ask for the support of all hon. members for the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement and the parallel labour co-operation and environment agreements. This would be a great step forward for Canada, another addition to our overall free trade agenda, which is leading to growth and prosperity for the Canadian economy and for the benefit of Canadian workers, which is why we think this is a long overdue agreement.

Canada would lead the way, ahead of those in the European Union and in the United States that have agreements in place but have failed to ratify them as yet. We would be in a position to do that. This agreement would provide an advantage and an opportunity to our Canadian workers, an advantage that this government is committed to capitalizing upon.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, there was little comment in the minister's speech. The minister is a failed minister with a failed trade strategy.

It is not just the softwood lumber sellout that killed tens of thousands of jobs right across the country. It is not just the buy America sellout that has been condemned as the second worst agreement ever signed by Canada. It is not just the shipbuilding sellout. It is not just the consistent, wrong-headed policies of this government. The reality is that when we have signed bilateral trade agreements, our exports to those markets have gone down in real terms. The minister has tried to hide behind that by using inflation-related dollars but, in real terms, our exports go down to those markets after we have signed trade agreements in every case except one.

The minister simply cannot defend the record of his government and he certainly cannot defend what the Conservatives and Liberals have done on this agreement. They refused to hear from the Canadian Labour Congress, from some of the largest unions in the country and from the Colombian free and democratic labour movement. The only labour movements they would hear from were the government affiliated labour unions. They refused to hear from African Colombians and aboriginal Colombians.

Now we find out that this secret report the government has been hiding for the last six months refers to the murders, which are directly government-related to those communities, and also lesbian and gay Colombians.

We have a systematic obstruction, a refusal to get any sort of real input from the people who would be affected by this agreement and now we have closure. What a shame. I say shame on the Conservatives and shame on them all.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I give the hon. member credit for consistency. He has always been against free trade and continues to be, and I do not expect that will change regardless of what changes are brought forward on any trading ground.

First, I will address his contention about this report. The report to which he was referring was not prepared for the Canadian government. It was being prepared for the United Nations and it was the United Nations that chose to cancel that work. That being said, the draft report and the benefit the United Nations had of it did not change the fact that the United Nations International Labour Organization, actually for the first time in 21 years, moved Colombia off its list of countries that it watches for violations of international workers' conditions and rights.

That indicates that the United Nations believes, as does the Canadian government, that Colombia is making considerable progress on that front. That is the position of the International Labour Organization. I know the hon. member is sometimes at odds with the International Labour Organization and does not stand with workers the way we do. We stand with workers by ensuring they have opportunities for free trade.

The hon. member suggests that somehow free trade agreements have resulted in less opportunity for Canadian workers. The fact is that two-thirds of our economy is trade related. That tells us that there has been significant growth in our economy because of trade that has resulted and why Canada is now posting the strongest economic growth and job growth of any major developed economy in the world. The reason we have posted hundreds of thousands of new jobs at a time when economies all around us are losing jobs is because of our commitment to a free trade agenda that creates opportunities for Canadian workers and marketplaces around the world.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his support of this agreement and the importance of it to Canadians.

I would note that just recently there was an election in Colombia and a new government was elected. In those elections, the party that represented the anti-free trade faction garnered 7% or 8% of the vote in Colombia, less than 10% of the vote, and they are still complaining about the free trade agreement.

That reminds me of the position of the NDP members in this House. They have obfuscated, delayed, obstructed and have moved dilatory motions. They have done everything possible to prevent this from moving forward. However, it is obviously time for democracy to prevail, which is a notion I know the NDP really do not agree with, and for members to vote on this important issue.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will resist the invitation from the hon. member to comment on electoral processes in other countries, particularly since Colombia is in between rounds in its successive elections. However, I believe all the leading candidates who will participate in the runoff elections are supportive of the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement, as is the overwhelming majority of Colombians, which is not surprising. This agreement offers tremendous benefits for Colombians.

Free trade is always a win-win proposition, where there is economic growth on both sides. If people are genuinely concerned about the living conditions of the Colombian worker, then they would want opportunities for more jobs, higher incomes, a better standard of living and a greater opportunity to build brighter futures for their children. Colombian workers are looking for that. That is why they so strongly support the Canada-Colombian free trade agreement.

I know the approach of the New Democratic Party has always been to raise walls and isolate and cut ourselves off from the rest of the world. That is why it opposes every free trade agreement that comes along. However, we know the world has changed. That perspective was thoroughly discredited in the 1930s when walls of protectionism and an economic downturn brought the world to its knees in the greatest depression ever and saw the workers of the world suffering more than ever before.

This time around, the world has resisted that protectionism, resisted the siren calls of the left and the socialists to do exactly what the NDP is saying today. As a result, the world is now heading into economic recovery with more opportunities for workers everywhere.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, as you would know, farmers in parts of Saskatchewan are unable to put their crops in the ground. It is a difficult time. While cattle and hog prices have improved, they have gone through a very difficult time.

We all know the trade agreement will help bolster the income of farmers, not only now, because it will take some time to enact, but at times like this in the future. Yet members of the New Democratic Party and the Bloc have blocked this agreement. I do not understand why they would have so little concern for farmers across the country. They have to know, because they have been paying attention, that this agreement will help the income of farmers in the livestock and the crop sectors long into the future.

The minister referred to this in his speech. Does he have some idea as to why those two opposition parties are showing so little regard for the farmers of our country?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will simply put it down to them doing the job of representing their constituents, none of whom are Saskatchewan wheat and pulse farmers.

Those who stand to gain from this are the farmers across western Canada, in particular, who grow and produce the exact products of which the Colombian market already obtains in large numbers and wants more. Canada will now have a privileged access that many of our competitors growing the same products will not have should this agreement pass. Those farmers are not constituents of the NDP and the Bloc and that is fair.

If people are representing organized labour and have an agenda of resisting any kind of free trade agreements anywhere, they are doing their job. Quite frankly, though, it is a job and a perspective with which we disagree. We believe in creating opportunities for our farmers and workers who are looking at trading on the world stage, selling their products all around the world, offering Canada's high-quality agricultural products to markets around the world.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, could the minister speak to the participation of Liberal Party, in particular of my colleague from Kings—Hants, that resulted in an addition to this free trade agreement with respect to human rights, of which Liberals are very proud? I believe it was singularly important in being able to get our support for it.

Could the minister speak to Liberals' very constructive participation in the process?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the opposition trade critic, the member for Kings—Hants, and the Liberal Party put forward an amendment proposing the exchange of annual reports on human rights between this Parliament and the Colombian Parliament. Our government did not believe it was necessary. We believe there has been very sound and solid progress on human rights. However, we recognize there are some critics still looking to be convinced and, as such, we are agreeable to the proposition of this amendment as a way of providing assurance to those individuals.

The result is we now have an amendment, a parallel treaty, on human rights with Colombia. Through the ratification of that amendment with the vote in the House on report stage, we believe the treaty has now been given the approval of the House to go forward and—

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Willowdale.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, I commend the efforts of all our colleagues in the House because of our very strong collective interest in the promotion of human rights elsewhere in the world. My thanks go to everyone for the spirited debate, the substantive discussions that have taken place in the House with that as an end.

In some cases I know we disagree very much on the how, but I want to stress that I believe very sincerely that there is a view among all members of the House that human rights are very important and, in particular, that the rights and protections of Colombians are very important to us all.

I want to thank all my colleagues in the House, because I know we have not necessarily always agreed during our debates, but I want to assure the public that I believe all members in this House want to see human rights respected all over the world. We are now talking about Colombia. We all want to ensure that human rights are respected in Colombia as well. We now have differing ideas and opinions as to how we can accomplish what we want to do in terms of human rights.

I will to speak now on why we have those differences and perhaps why I, in particular, feel strongly that the Liberal Party supports the free trade arrangement with Colombia. We believe very strongly that in the support of increased human rights, there is the option to say that we will put up walls and allow human rights abuses and other activities, which we find abhorrent. We can encourage the building of walls so people can hide behind them, or we can participate in the opening of windows through which we and the world can see and through which daylight can shine.

We can engage in avoidance. We can pretend that bad things are not happening and we can say that we are going to carry on with our own activities, or we can actively engage.

My view is that engagement is the opportunity to participate in encouraging, not just improvements in trade, not just improvements in the economic situation of both countries, but improvements in human rights in Colombia. We can engage in criticism. We can wag our fingers and say that they must do better, or we can engage in support of action and wherever possible support improvements where we see them.

As I said, I believe that all members in this House want to improve human rights, but the question is how to go about it. We have options. We can help build walls so people can hide behind them, or we can participate in the opening of windows through which we and the world can see and through which daylight can shine. We can pretend that bad things are not happening or that they are not our problem, and we can say that we are going to carry on with our own activities, or we can actively engage.

With my speech today, it is clear that my view—and I believe the view of the Liberal Party—is that engaging with Colombia is much more important. We can criticize. We can stand here and say they are doing things we do not like, or we can give our support when we see progress and the possibility of improvements. That is exactly what I want to see Canada participate in by supporting progress wherever we see it.

It ultimately comes down to a philosophy of whether it is better to encourage human rights. I absolutely believe in free trade on the basis that it will encourage economic prosperity in Canada and in all the countries with which we engage in free trade, and in this case with Colombia. Free trade is an avenue to greater economic prosperity for both countries and for the people.

However, clearly the issue, as has been discussed in the House with great emotion, has been the concern about human rights in Colombia. Therefore, I will focus on that. It is, without question, a philosophy of whether we believe that if we engage, it will help the cause of human rights in Colombia, or whether it is better to retreat and to avoid. I firmly believe engagement is the right direction for us to take.

I will use China as an example, and I know some of my colleagues may find it a bit odd. We all know that China still has major human rights issues about which we are all very concerned. However, I have a little anecdote. My mother travelled to China 30-35 years ago. When she came back, she had all sorts of very interesting stories, but one had to do with the control. It was not even a question of freedom of speech; it was a question of speech at all. Everywhere she went, she had someone controlling her move. She was prevented from speaking with anyone locally on the ground. It was not a question of freedom of speech, it was a question of speech alone.

I will look at what has happened with China over the last 35-40 years. It has been extraordinary. We know there are still significant concerns with regard to human rights, but the situation has so massively improved. I will venture to say that it has to do directly with the incredible growth of engagement, primarily on an economic level between China and the rest of the world. I will stress again, things are not perfect, but they are far better now than they were a mere few decades ago.

On that basis, I will speak about the issue of whether we need to focus on the status quo, or whether we need to focus on the current specific situation in Colombia, or whether we have an opportunity to look at the importance of the direction of the progress. Again, I refer to China. It is far from perfect, but the direction that country has taken in the last number of decades, the improvement in the rights people and the improvement in economic opportunities, has been extraordinary.

It is that progress and improvement that I hope all our colleagues can focus on rather than what has happened in the past in Colombia. We need to look at the significant improvements in that country, not only in terms of economics, but also in terms of democracy and the improvements in human rights and treatment of civilians in Colombia. Again, it is not perfect, but Canada has an opportunity, with this agreement, to participate in a significantly greater way with Colombia and Colombians. If we engage in more trade, if we engage in more investment, not only will we allow a greater opportunity for economic advancement and jobs, but we also allow an opportunity for more and more Colombians to see how the rest of the world operates, how Canada operates and how we stress the importance of human rights.

I firmly believe there is an opportunity for Canadians. When we engage more in trade and economic activity, it gives us that many more opportunities and occasions to engage in discussions and debate.

Not too long ago one of my colleagues suggested that if we put up those walls and said no to the windows, in a very short period of time Canada would end up focusing on something else, the European Union for example. That would be our focus in terms of trade negotiations.

Very quickly, nobody in this House will even be speaking of Colombia anymore. Colombia, as a country, will disappear from our radar and that would be a real shame. This is an opportunity for Canada and for Canadians to increase the level of discussion, to increase the level of engagement with Colombians through greater economic activity that can lead to greater exchanges and greater engagement on the educational front, the cultural front, and simply in terms of more people working and discussing with each other. This is a real opportunity.

I would like to talk about the improvements that could be made through stronger engagement. I will use China as an example. Some of my colleagues may find it a bit odd that I am using China as an example to talk about human rights. However, I am not talking about the current situation, but the difference between today's China and the China of 30 or 40 years ago.

I would like to tell a short story. My mother travelled to China 30 or 35 years ago. It was incredible; not only was it impossible to speak frankly and openly, she was not allowed to speak at all. There was someone with her at all times, controlling her entire visit. She could not speak or even have informal conversations with the locals on the ground.

I am using this example because I feel it is an example of engagement. The difference between the China of 30 or 40 years ago and today's China is incredible. We know that there are still issues with human rights, but things are evolving and progress has been made.

We now have the opportunity to ask what we can do. Do we want to build walls and do nothing because the situation in Colombia is not perfect? Even though there are issues, there has been significant progress in Colombia. We have the opportunity to support this progress. Canada, by engaging in more trade with Colombia, is improving that country's economy. And we have the opportunity to help with that progress. We can help Colombians contribute to this progress and ensure that the progress already realized in Colombia will continue.

That is a fundamental philosophical view that not all of my colleagues share.

There is a tremendous opportunity for Canada either to put up walls and wag our finger, and tell Colombia that we will not play with it until it does better, or we have an opportunity to engage because it has worked hard to improve, it has made progress even though it is not perfect, but we are there to engage as much as possible so that we can help the country to improve.

I will conclude with the fundamental view that it will not be Canadians who will ultimately change Colombia. It was not Canadians who changed China. In the case of Colombia, it will be Colombians. In the case of China, it was the Chinese.

Canada does have a role to play in engaging. I am proud of the role that Canada played with respect to China, in encouraging engagement, in encouraging the Chinese to demand greater opportunities for themselves within their own country. Canada has an opportunity to do the same thing with Colombia. We know it is not perfect. We know Colombia is making progress. We know that if we can engage even more with Colombia in terms of trade and economics, and in all of the other engagement that encourages, then we have an opportunity to help Colombians to help themselves economically and also with regard to human rights.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her comments and I would like to add a few comments to maybe flesh out a little more some of the things that she talked about.

I appreciated her comments regarding China and the comparison. I would like to make the comparison that when we were studying Colombia at the international trade committee, we went to Colombia. The Colombian government was only too eager to talk and to show us Colombia, to have us travel in Colombia and to meet people. It was more than accommodating on finding people who did not agree with the free trade agreement and ensuring that we had access to those individuals at committee, to know that there was a protest among a minority of Colombians, but still a protest among some Colombians who were against the free trade agreement.

I would say that I appreciated the intervention by the member for Kings—Hants regarding the side agreement on human rights in this agreement. We were, quite frankly, stymied at committee. We were not moving forward. It enabled us to move forward.

My question for the hon. member is this. The Colombian government itself is made up of various fractions, from the centre left, from the centre right, from the far right and the left, and they represent a total makeup of Colombian society. To me, that speaks of democracy and that speaks of individuals who want to improve upon--

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
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10:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Willowdale.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
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10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his comments. I will point out that earlier, the minister had said that the addition in terms of human rights was not necessary. I am glad to hear my colleague now acknowledging that in order to move this through and to get approval, in fact, the work by my colleague from Kings—Hants and the Liberal Party was instrumental in getting this to the point of getting it through the House, so I thank my colleague for that.

I will also say that when the government first came to power a few years ago, the attitude was not the one that I have been promoting. There was an element of sitting here in Canada and wagging our finger at other countries that did not engage in activities the way we preferred them to be. The government, to its credit, has acknowledged and has realized over the last few years, and it has a long way to go but at least it is making some progress, in recognizing that Canada cannot accomplish what it sees to be opportunities internationally by wagging our finger, but rather through engagement.

I will also comment on the reference to democracy in Colombia and reiterate what other colleagues have said. It is a democratic country. It is not perfect, but in the elections that we have seen, we have seen an overwhelming support by Colombians for free trade. They understand the value of engagement.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
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10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. Liberal member a question. How can she explain such a drastic change in the Liberal Party's position since last fall, both in committee and in the House, regarding possible support for a free trade agreement with Colombia?

This support was very clearly expressed at the Standing Committee on International Trade. Unanimous consent was reached regarding the need for an independent study—before Canada ratifies the agreement—on the Colombian government's respect for human rights and what it is doing to prevent human rights abuses.

Why such a difference between the Liberals' position last fall and their current position, whereby a report submitted a year later will suffice? With all due respect, their words sound like empty rhetoric to me. This seems to completely contradict their position, which was well argued, entirely plausible and reasonable.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
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10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.

I would like to say two things. First of all, I am proud to be a member of a party that brings together people with different opinions, a party in which we can have discussions in order to achieve consensus and one that is able to find common ground that we can support. In the end, we determined that it was better to adopt this position for Canada and for people elsewhere.

I would also like to say that the speeches given by my hon. colleague from Kings—Hants on human rights greatly helped convince other Liberals that, as a party, we can now support that position.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
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10:45 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, first, as far as the Conservatives are concerned on agricultural policy, after the vicious attacks on the Canadian Wheat Board, after the fact that Alberta has the lowest farm receipts in the entire country, and after putting supply management on the table in the Canada-E.U. negotiations, this party takes no lessons from the Conservatives on agricultural policy.

I would like to go back to the member now. The Conservatives' record is very clear. Alberta has the lowest farm receipts in the country. So, farmers are not being well-served by the current government.

I like the hon. member. I find her a little disingenuous, to say the least, on this particular issue. I know that she is not a member of the trade committee and has not been to Colombia. However, the reality is the Liberal Party systematically obstructed and refused to hear from the Canadian Labour Congress; refused to hear from the National Union of Provincial General Employees; refused to hear from the Public Service Alliance of Canada; refused to hear from the free and democratic labour unions in Colombia, where over 90% of Colombians who are workers and unionized are in that sector; refused to hear from African-Colombians; and refused to hear from aboriginal people in Colombia. It shut off all debate before the committee.

Two years ago, when we went down to Colombia, the trade committee came back with a unanimous recommendation to not proceed with this agreement. That is the one time when the trade committee did its job.

It did not do its job on Bill C-2 because of Liberal interference and Liberals refusing to hear from the groups that actively requested to come before the committee.

For the Liberals to say they are for human rights when they have accepted and in fact promoted closure, and cut off all of those important witnesses who wanted to come before the trade committee is disingenuous, at best.

I know that many activists have expressed this to Liberal members. The Liberal leader has simply said to all of the members within the Liberal Party caucus who have misgivings about this tragic turn of events with no human rights override at all in the Colombia trade deal, that the only thing the Colombian government is obliged to do is produce a whitewashed report on itself once a year.

My question for the member is very simple. Will her leader allow a free vote on the Colombia free trade agreement? Will her leader actually say that those many Liberal MPs who have expressed misgivings about this Liberal sellout on human rights will have the opportunity to vote on this agreement without being bludgeoned through a whipped vote here in the House?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
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10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his initial kind words.

Despite the temptation to descend into a more personal approach, because I believe very strongly in our obligations here in this House to work together as much as possible with as much respect and civility without personal labels, I will say that in addressing the one issue about the trade committee's position on this issue I will repeat what I said in my answer to my other colleague from the Bloc Québécois.

We have been able, through the hard work and the excellent work of my colleague from Kings—Hants, to address significantly the fundamental concern that so many people have had with regard to human rights through the amendment, through the extra portion of this agreement on human rights, specifically. I am very proud of that fact. It was because of concerns raised by members of our own party, it was because of concerns raised by members of the public, that we were able to address those specific concerns. That is why, now, the Liberal Party is in a position to support this free trade agreement.

I want to commend all the colleagues who participated in that. I want to commend the colleagues on the opposite side of the House who appreciated the fact that that intervention, that amendment, that focus on human rights, was in fact what we needed to allow this to move forward. I would hope that my colleague would understand that we are at least trying to make progress.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-2 is now at third reading, and I would like to begin by saying that I find this rather strange and even a bit anachronistic. I am very disappointed that we have gotten to this point.

Both in committee and in the House of Commons, we have seen the Conservative government use closure to put an end to extremely important, interesting and relevant debates, especially about respect for human rights, and to prevent witnesses, including Colombians, from testifying about what their lives are like. The issue of human rights affects them directly, yet the government is using procedural tactics to prevent them from talking to the committee and is putting an end to this debate to prevent witnesses from being heard.

Moreover, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster raised a question of privilege in the House about what happened in committee, where, with the Liberals' support, the government denied members access to the committee clerk to check some information.

So it is disappointing that this bill is at third reading today, especially since the government has imposed closure to put an end to this debate. With the issue of human rights a top priority, it is particularly significant that the government is using closure, seeing as how it is bound, bent and determined to do whatever it takes to implement an extremely controversial bill.

What the government is doing goes completely against the unanimous position of the Standing Committee on International Trade, which had unanimously recommended two years ago that the government wait before implementing this agreement, because the Colombian government's respect for human rights was highly questionable.

A number of people have still not had a chance to be heard to this day. Even though Colombia has one of the worst human rights records in Latin America, the Conservative government keeps on saying that Colombia's human rights situation has greatly improved.

In all honesty, the situation may not be as bad as it was a few years ago, but it certainly is not ideal or worth celebrating, as the Liberals and Conservatives are doing by implementing a free trade agreement with a country whose trade with Canada is quite insignificant compared to other countries.

Is trade the real reason the Conservative government is so eager to implement such a trade agreement with support from the Liberals?

It begs the question. We believe that the government is not trying to promote trade through this agreement. The government is instead trying to help Canadian mining companies exploit the natural resources of another country.

They want to go after the natural resources at the expense of human rights. I said earlier that Colombia has one of the worst human rights records. It is a country where the government tolerates extreme violence. I will continue after—

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member will have 15 minutes following question period.

Larry John Rudd
Statements by Members

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, last week in Brantford, Ontario, big yellow ribbons and Canadian flags lined the streets as thousands of people came out to bid a final farewell to Trooper Larry John Rudd, who died on May 24 serving our country in Afghanistan.

Standing more than six foot six, Trooper Rudd was known among his comrades as a gentle giant. At his funeral he was described as a phenomenal soldier, friend and Canadian. Larry John Rudd is a true Canadian hero who will be dearly missed by his family, friends, fellow comrades and the communities of Brantford and Brant.

Trooper Rudd is one of 147 Canadian men and women who have given their lives serving their country in Afghanistan. On behalf of all Canadians, I salute these brave men and women. Their commitment and sacrifice will remain a source of pride for all.

Afghanistan
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week parliamentarians and government ministers hosted one of the most courageous and compelling heroines of our day in the person of Dr. Massouda Jalal, distinguished physician, the former minister of women's affairs and the first woman to run for president of Afghanistan.

Dr. Jalal's testimony before the foreign affairs committee's Subcommittee on International Human Rights was clear: that we are witnessing in Afghanistan a regression from the initial progress at the beginning of this decade; that a developing extremism is driving a culture of fear amidst a culture of impugnity; that, in a word, the empowerment of women can underpin democracy and freedom and usher in a culture of peace. As Dr. Jalal herself put it:

Women's rights are the key to fighting dictatorship and extremism, militarization and warlordism. Women are the key to the future.

Dr. Jalal's courage and strength should inspire us all and underpin our mission in Afghanistan now and beyond 2011, the protection and empowerment of women, and thereby, the promotion and protection of democracy and freedom for all Afghans.

Mario Cusson Competition Team
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was proud to learn that the Mario Cusson Competition Team from my riding recently distinguished itself at the Quebec provincial Golden Gloves boxing championship.

The team took first place as the most improved club and second place for number of wins.

I would like to congratulate the winning boxers: Charles Boismenu, Sarah Dasylva, Mélanie Carrier, Gino Colangelo, Mélanie Grenon, Martine Vallières-Bisson, Samuel Francisque, Parwiz Payman and David St-Pierre.

A big thank you to the team's head trainer, the president and former champion Alain Bosmenu, whose energy and dedication help young people excel at a competitive sport.

Good luck to Longueuil's Mario Cusson Competitive Team in the 2010 Quebec Cup, an international competition that will be held in Longueuil from June 24 to 27.

Bangladesh
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bangladesh became a country after a war of independence that began about 40 years ago.

After many challenges in the early years, the restoration of democracy in 1991 gave hope to the people of Bangladesh for a better life for themselves and their children. That is why it is with grave concern and great sorrow that Canadians have learned of recent arrests of journalists, in particular Mahmudur Rahman. Hundreds of members of Canada's Bangladeshi community have written to me asking me to share their condemnation of these arrests.

As a sister Commonwealth country, Canada will always have a keen interest in what happens in Bangladesh. A vibrant and industrious Bangladeshi community that shares the values of democracy, freedom of expression and freedom of the press is asking the Canadian government to take note of these disquieting developments and to do whatever it can to avoid a slide back from those values.

FIFA World Cup
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians, I wish to extend our heartfelt best wishes to the people of South Africa as they host the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the very first on African soil.

I am confident that South Africa will stage a world-class tournament. The world again will have a chance to see the vibrancy, growing self-confidence and optimism that is emerging from the continent of Africa, the continent where I was born.

Over the 20 years since Nelson Mandela's release from prison, Canadians have watched with pride as South Africa has emerged to take an increasingly prominent place on the global stage. Hosting the World Cup is yet another world-class achievement by our great friend and ally.

Let us celebrate the friendship between our two countries and wish South Africa every success as it brings us the joy and excitement of the World Cup.

Dr. Jacques Corbin
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to highlight the work of Dr. Jacques Corbin who, on May 28, was awarded the Dr. Garfield Moffatt Medal. This medal recognizes excellence of health care provided by a New Brunswick doctor.

It is awarded to an individual who demonstrates an interest in professional development in medicine, education of patients and health care team members, and leadership and service to his community, in addition to focusing on quality of family life.

We are proud that this medal has been awarded to one of our doctors. A native of Edmundston, Dr. Corbin has accomplished a great deal in the health field. He was awarded this medal—and has had a successful career—because of his belief that the patient always comes first.

Dr. Corbin, on behalf of the citizens of Madawaska—Restigouche, we congratulate him on this medal and, most of all, we thank him for everything he has done for our community. Once again, Dr. Corbin, congratulations on behalf of all the citizens of the riding of Madawaska—Restigouche.

Afghanistan
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, after spending last week in Afghanistan, I rise today to pay tribute to the men and women of the Canadian Forces, the RCMP, members of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Canadian International Development Agency, Canada Border Services Agency, Correctional Service Canada, and others who are doing tremendous work and are delivering results under very difficult circumstances.

I want to take this opportunity to remind all members of the House to appreciate the efforts and dedication of the members of our whole of government team who are doing a tremendous job and are making Canada proud in a difficult land on the far side of the world.

Our people are doing terrific work and are making a real difference in the lives of the Afghan people. Just the other night, a revered CBC sports commentator said that the one thing soldiers always say to him is that the message they want to put to politicians and the people is, hey, be more worried about them, the guys who do it, than the Taliban who are trying to blow them up.

Grapes gets it. Our government gets it. The Canadian people get it, and in the words of Don Cherry, I say amen to that.

Government Spending
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, welcome to Harperland, built for the modest sum of $2 million in taxpayers' money. This fake resort comes complete with a fake lake—even though the location is on the shore of Lake Ontario—and some comfy lakeside chairs where you can watch bucolic scenes on a giant screen.

The goal is to recreate Huntsville, in the riding of the Minister of Industry, a place you will not actually be able to see during the G8 and G20 summits. To be able to visit these facilities, you must be an accredited journalist, because this marketing pavilion is for you, and only you—whom the Conservative government is hoping to manipulate with this propaganda, because you are certainly not there to report on the facts.

And what does the rest of the world think about this? Who cares if the French foreign affairs minister, Bernard Kouchner, thinks that Harperland is costing too much money? All the Conservative government wants is to control the message as much as possible, at the expense of access to information.

Afghanistan
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, media reports indicate that recently, as part of their ongoing intimidation campaign in Afghanistan, Taliban insurgents systematically executed a seven-year-old boy they accused of being a spy. If these reports are true, it is horrific, disgusting, and shocking beyond words and says more about the Taliban and its disregard for human life than virtually anything we have seen or heard yet.

These are the people we are battling in Afghanistan. These are the people who are killing our brave Canadian men and women in uniform.

Canada's continuing objective is to help Afghans build a stable and secure country based on the fundamental values of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

Let us never forget who the real enemy is in Afghanistan, and may our courageous soldiers know that this government and all Canadians stand behind them every step of the way.

Beaconsfield
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the City of Beaconsfield, a magnificent community on the shores of the St. Lawrence River in Montreal's West Island.

The year started with great pomp and circumstance when young Ben Mumme carried the Olympic flame to Centennial Park, where it lit up the crowd and the winter night in anticipation of future Canadian Olympic glory.

Last Friday I had the honour of riding in Beaconsfield's 100th anniversary parade with Mayor David Pollock; his council; MNA Geoffrey Kelley; former mayor Ed Briggs; former councillors Ernie Dahl and Jim Hasegawa; Beaconsfield's first mayor, Joseph Perron, personified by Christian Habel in 1910 period costume; Danièle Bouchard-Serhan, chair of the Beaconsfield 100 committee; Judith Clark, coordinator of the evening's celebration; and Michèle Janis, the city's irrepressible cultural director.

Beaconsfield is known for those values that make a community strong: citizen engagement, caring for others through volunteerism, respect for difference, and concern for the environment.

I would like to invite all of the members to join with me in wishing a very happy 100th anniversary to the City of Beaconsfield.

Quebec City Armoury
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are known for keeping their promises to Quebec, and the Quebec City region is no exception.

The Quebec City armoury is the most recent example in a long list of Conservative government achievements for the people in the beautiful Quebec City region.

Once again, the Conservatives have kept their word and honoured the promise made by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs following the fire at the armoury. They committed to preserving this precious piece of Quebec military heritage, which is located in the heart of Quebec City.

This morning, after considerable preliminary efforts, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs announced the Conservative government's plan to rebuild the Quebec City armoury.

Quebeckers know that only our Conservative government keeps its promises to Quebec and the people in the Quebec City region, thanks to strong leadership from our Prime Minister.

Aboriginal Affairs
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is the second anniversary of the government's historic apology to first nations. Our country was deeply moved by the authenticity of that nation to nation exchange. However, an apology without action is empty rhetoric.

The promise of the government to sign on to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has yet to be honoured. With the stroke of a pen, that could be changed today.

Nationally, we must take action on those rights to improve the lives of first nations, Inuit, and aboriginal peoples. Here, on Algonquin territory, we must join the call for the establishment of a national aboriginal centre on Ottawa's Victoria Island, just metres away from this place. This is a joint vision by elder William Commanda and the renowned architect Douglas Cardinal.

Reconciliation requires acknowledgement. Acknowledgement requires action.

We have acknowledged. Now it is time to act.

Meegwetch.

Aboriginal Affairs
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, two years ago today, the Prime Minister stood in this House and asked forgiveness of the aboriginal peoples of this country for Canada's role in the Indian residential school system. That historic event paved the way for a new era of reconciliation and a repairing of relationships with the aboriginal peoples of Canada. An understanding of the legacy of Indian residential schools and a desire to work together in a spirit of renewed faith and partnership is building a better foundation and a promising future.

Since the apology, acts of reconciliation by individuals, communities, and churches have been taking place across our country. Another such summit is taking place this very weekend as thousands of first nations, Inuit, and Métis participants gather in Ottawa to respond to the official apology.

We still have a long way to go. We are learning to walk together, and we are committed to achieving a better future, a future of hope and opportunity for all Canadians.

Transparency and Access to Information
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Vincent Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, since the Conservatives came to power, democracy, transparency and access to information have taken a beating.

Access to information requests are taking much longer to process, and that is when they are not blocked outright by political interference. Ministers either refuse to answer journalists' questions or are forbidden from doing so, as are government officials. Journalists' access to events is being increasingly restricted, which makes it impossible for them to provide balanced, impartial reports. The Conservative Prime Minister prefers to supply photos and videos produced by his own people so that he can control the tone and image conveyed.

This way of doing things is akin to propaganda and information manipulation. The outcome is that people do not have access to the facts or to clear, accurate information. We condemn this kind of excessive control and lack of transparency, which constitute a threat to democracy.

Daniel Richer, known as La Flèche
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

For fear of usurping your privileges, Mr. Speaker, I will not cry out “Oyez, oyez, oyez!”

Today, I ask my colleagues to acknowledge the great Canadian crier and storyteller Daniel Richer, known as La Flèche.

Armed with a background in theatre and singing, Daniel Richer has been crying his art all over America and at numerous international events. His instrument, a 110 decibel voice, has allowed him to practice his art for over 29 years.

The history of town criers goes back to the antiquity, and criers were very popular during the Middle Ages. Nowadays, criers are primarily called upon for protocolar or tourist events.

Daniel has won several international town crier titles, including that of best dressed international town crier, and that of best ambassador.

Daniel will be taking part in the World Town Crier Tournament, in Chester, England, from June 13 to 20. He will be one of eight Canadians participating in this tournament, and our only French-speaking representative.

We wish Daniel the best of luck.

Opposition Coalition
Statements by Members

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, Canadians know that the Liberals and the NDP share many of the same policies. As former Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella has recently said, “When you look at the fundamentals, what divides us on the policy side, it's actually not a lot”.

That is why recently, in a Helen Thomas moment, the position of the coalition became clear. In an interview with the NDP House leader, she said that she believed the Israeli occupation actually began in 1948, essentially with the creation of the state of Israel. She also said that she supported the boycott, divestment, and sanctions against the Israeli state as well.

These comments by the member of the Liberal-NDP coalition are shocking and inappropriate. I call on the Liberal leader now to join me in demanding an apology from the Liberals' NDP partners over there.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, nine professional organizations representing the most important Canadian journalists have criticized this government's obsessive and maniacal control of information. They accuse the government of censorship, muzzling sources and manipulating public opinion. There is no better example than the grandiose expenditures on the G8 and G20 meetings.

I will ask the question again: what are the real costs?

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, we have an important responsibility to communicate with Canadians to ensure they are aware of government operations, initiatives, policies, programs and services that are available to them.

We are also working hard to welcome the world to the G8 summit and to ensure that Canada's best face is put forward. We look forward to welcoming the thousands and thousands of delegates from around the world to the G20 summit.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives will not disclose the total cost of their G8-G20 boondoggle because it is horrendous and it is ludicrous: fake lakes, fake lighthouses, sunken boats, gazebos in vacant lots and a million bucks for signs and wallpaper. It is grandiose and self-indulgent, all to feed the Prime Minister's tender ego.

While Canadian families struggle with the heaviest household debt loads in the western world, how can the government squander such a massive amount of money on a three-day orgy of excess?

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I do not think we will take lessons on spending from the Liberal Party.

Let us look at an article I read in the Ottawa Sun today. The Liberal Party has rented the Taj Mahal of portable toilets, with granite countertops, wood panelling and, if we look at the photo, it is using fruity-fresh almond-scented soap.

That may sell in the south of France or at Harvard but it does not sell with Canadians.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, no amount of red herrings from the minister will divert us from the course.

This session of Parliament began with the disgrace of an illegitimate prorogation, plus the government's suppression of documents about torture, plus its tampering with witnesses in parliamentary committees, plus the intimidation of anyone, KAIROS, CCIC, women's advocates, who dared to try to tell the truth, and now this G8-G20 boondoggle, blowing more than a billion bucks on a vacuous three-day photo op.

How will such utter waste and manipulation help Canadian families pay for their kids' education?

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, again the Liberals want us to follow their example. Let us look at the Liberal caucus.

One Liberal member is pocketing tens of thousands of dollars by bilking taxpayers for her taxpayer-subsidized home. Another one is being criminally charged for refusing to take a breathalyzer. Another one is pimping himself out on the Internet to try to lobby the government with foreign interests. Now we find out the Liberal leader is forcing taxpayers to pay for his fruity-fresh almond-scented soap.

We have no lessons to take about from the Liberal Party.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, fake lakes, fake lighthouses, fake chairs, fake canoes, even fake ducks, but most troubling is the fake answers from the arrogant, wasteful and inefficient Conservative government.

It knows this billion dollar weekend is indefensible, outrageous and completely out of control. Even if the Conservatives know it, they hear it from their constituents and it makes them squirm in their seats.

For once, why will the government not listen to its own nervous backbenchers? At the very least, why will it not stand up and apologize to Canadians for this billion dollar boondoggle?

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, as we have indicated in the House, a majority of the costs that are associated with the holding of both summits that will be taking place in June are costs associated with security. These costs were given to us by a number of consultants.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

How much did you pay for the consultants?

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

How much did you pay for the almond-scented soap?

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Pontiac, QC

They have been deemed to be in line with the cost of summits.

Maybe the member for Wascana, instead of yapping as he is doing, should be listening to the answers then he would not ask ridiculous questions.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, the government has such disregard for taxpayer money that another billion dollars does not phase it a bit. It is just like water off a fake duck's back. That billion dollars could pay the full cost of four full years of post-secondary education for 23,376 low-income students.

Does the government believe that the 72-hour spendapalooza, fakes lakes, lighthouses and choosing wallpaper that would make Martha Stewart blush is a better use of our money than investing in the future of Canadian students?

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, both the G8 and the G20 are excellent opportunities to showcase Canada's strengths to the world, to attract investment and, obviously, create jobs.

We are leading by example. As members know, we have the lowest taxes on new businesses and new business investment of any major economy. We have the lowest debt of any major economy. We have the strongest economic growth of any major economy, including from 2010 to 2011 to 2012. All of this is according to the IMF. We are getting the job done.

Access to Information
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, in an open letter, journalists from all the media and all parts of Quebec and Canada condemn the Prime Minister's information control. They say—these are their own words—this is designed to manipulate public opinion.

Will the Prime Minister admit that the set-up for journalists at the G20, complete with a fake lake and virtual and cardboard decorations, is another illustration of his obsession with controlling the message at the expense of the public's right to information?

Access to Information
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, not at all. Communicating with the Canadian people is one of the government's most important jobs. That is why the Prime Minister and other ministers have spent the past 18 months travelling from coast to coast telling Canadians the good news about our economic action plan. It is also why we have gone the extra mile to communicate with the local and regional media. Canadians can count on us. We are going to keep on communicating with Canadians.

Access to Information
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the problem is that all the parliamentary bureau chiefs across Canada, including Hélène Buzzetti here in Ottawa, have said the exact opposite.

These same journalists are witnessing the erosion of democracy under the Conservatives: redacted documents, muzzled officials, intimidated witnesses, broken parliamentary rules when the Conservatives ban their political staff from testifying in committee, broken laws as in the case of the Minister of Public Works and the Access to Information Act.

Will the Prime Minister admit that all these tactics have one goal: not to be accountable to the public—

Access to Information
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Access to Information
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is quite normal for a government to communicate with taxpayers. That is what we are doing and what we will keep on doing so that we can tell people about the good things our government has done, especially stimulating Canada's economy and creating jobs. Those are things that count, not just for Quebeckers, but for Canadians. Unfortunately, I cannot say as much for the Bloc Québécois, which has accomplished nothing in Quebec in the past 20 years.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc has been rising in this House for 20 years to stand up for Quebeckers.

Clearly, the Conservative government has used the G8 and G20 summits to reward its friends. For instance, a $20 million arena was built in the industry minister's riding. To justify this expense, the government is telling us that it is to accommodate the members of the press at the summit. However, with the events about to start in just a few days, organizers are now saying that the arena will be used for neither the G8 nor the G20 summit.

These summits have essentially become open bars for the friends of the Conservatives, have they not?

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, as we have indicated, a good part of the costs involve security. Yes, a part will be used for the promotion, the marketing of Canada and the province of Ontario, as well as the area where these events will be held. That is perfectly normal, and that is the standard practice in other countries when they host summits. Many officials are applauding us for it.

I will say one last thing. For the past 20 years, they have been big on claims, small on delivery. They have not delivered a thing for Quebec.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is not the impression we have been getting from Quebeckers in one election after the other.

On top of buying his industry minister's re-election with an arena, the government has lost control of its spending on the G8 and G20 summits. The list of ridiculous expenses keeps growing: $2 million for a fake lake and its scenery; $400,000 for a steamboat; $300,000 for a washroom located 20 kilometres away from the summit site; $1 million for a backdrop and bear-proof garbage cans.

How can the government display so much arrogance when taxpayers are fuming over its patronage and wasteful spending?

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, infrastructure spending has been and continues to be part of programs that necessarily had to be approved by the House, by government. That is our economic action plan. The benefits of this plan introduced by the government can be seen across the country. We certainly are extremely proud of delivering. I can say that, over the course of 20 months, we have delivered—

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Outremont.

Standing Committee on Finance
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, after hearing dozens of witnesses and experts, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance is currently preparing its report on pensions. Yesterday evening, the Minister of Finance announced his agenda for this issue without waiting for Parliament's report.

The Standing Committee on Finance is chaired by a Conservative and his contribution has been collaborative, non-partisan and excellent.

By pre-empting his Conservative colleagues and the other members of the Standing Committee on Finance, is the Minister of Finance respecting our parliamentary institutions?

Standing Committee on Finance
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I share the view of the deputy leader of the New Democratic Party which is that securing Canadians' pensions is important and that we should work in a non-partisan way to advance that cause. I also strongly agree with him on the great work done by the finance committee and its chair, the member for Edmonton—Leduc.

The government has launched consultations with the ministers of finance from around the country to look at what we can do to secure the future retirement pensions of Canadians. It is something that I think is a priority for all of us.

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, a year ago, the House unanimously adopted an NDP motion calling for the government to allow Canadians to increase their CPP contributions. The government finally appears to have gotten the message, but what is missing from its plans is any effort to lift seniors out of poverty by increasing the guaranteed income supplement. The finance minister does not need the provinces to do that.

If the government is willing to throw more than $1 billion at the fake lake summit, then why will it not invest a mere $700 million to lift seniors out of poverty?

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, this government has been focused on retirement income for seniors overall. Through the tax reductions that this government has put in place, we have taken almost a million people off the tax rolls. They are no longer paying taxes. That is action.

We have put in place a process, a consultation with our partners throughout the country actually consulting with Canadians on what they think we should do. We are coming together with our partners at the provincial and territorial finance ministers' meeting this coming weekend to talk about where we go--

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Hamilton Mountain.

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, tax cuts do not help seniors in poverty. Those seniors are not paying taxes. Canadian workers and failing or bankrupt companies like Nortel and many others need action to protect their pensions. Just last year the underfunded pension plan for CHTV employees in Hamilton wound up with an $8 million shortfall, this, while the executives at CanWest were given $41 million to top up their underfunded pension plan before entering CCAA protection.

New Democrats have legislation before the House to protect employee pensions of companies in trouble. Will the government join us in passing our bill and protect Canadian workers by putting them--

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what we attempted to do in our budget bill but, unfortunately, the changes that we put in there, the NDP members voted against. If they had read the budget they would have seen that we have put in place regulations to ensure those funds are completely paid up, that the employers fully fund those pension plans so that if anything were to happen the pensioners would get their money.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, Canadians across the country are frustrated by how the Conservatives are managing taxpayers' money and, above all, by the foolish spending for the G8 and G20.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives have cut funding to the Atlantic innovation fund. Funding to that program has been cut by nearly $32 million this year, which is equal to about 120 minutes of spending for the G8 and G20.

Why must the Atlantic provinces pay the price for a fake lake, washrooms and stuffed moose? This is really happening in this country; this is not fiction. But the Conservatives seem to be living in fantasyland.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, once again, I would remind my hon. colleague that a large part of this spending is related to security. Of course some is also being spent on our marketing strategy. I would also add that certain aspects of the G8 and G20 summits allow us to celebrate Canada's achievements, particularly in terms of the Canadian economy as well as job creation and other indicators that show that we are the strongest country in terms—

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Madawaska—Restigouche.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, clearly, the Conservatives to not realize that Canadians do not agree with their decisions. The Atlantic innovation fund is essential to the development of knowledge in the Atlantic provinces. So why did they cut that program by nearly 46% this year compared to last year? Canadians understand that 120 minutes of the G8 and G20 summits cost the same as the $32 million cut from that program.

Will the Conservatives treat the people of Atlantic Canada with respect and return those 120 minutes of expenses to them?

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Greg Kerr Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I know the member would also want to go on and explain the millions and millions of dollars that have been invested in Atlantic Canada, particularly through Canada's action plan. ACOA has provided a terrific amount.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

A lot of doorknobs.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Kerr West Nova, NS

One does not want to be set aside by the doorknob across.

I just want to point out that I am sure the member meant to preface his question by saying he is very pleased with the money spent by this government in Atlantic Canada.

Government Programs
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, cross-country festivals that had their funding stripped by the government can thank the industry minister personally.

Yesterday, the department's top civil servant testified that while the minister found money for a fake lake, a fake lighthouse, and a sunken steamboat, he could not spare a dime for festivals like Les FrancoFolies de Montréal or Toronto's Gay Pride.

The minister said he had limited funding for cultural programs, so how can he defend shovelling millions into his pet political projects?

Government Programs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, this is just another example of the Liberals' approach over the past four years.

We announced an effective program with worthy recipients, in this case 47 that met the criteria. The Liberals then identified the next 10. They complain about them not getting funding. Of course, if we funded those 10, the Liberals would find the next 10 and complain about them not getting funding.

That is the problem with the Liberal Party, whose leader sees his only two responsibilities as tax and spend.

Government Programs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to the parliamentary secretary that the festival funding program had $12 million in extra funding that was never spent. The minister, instead, shifted cash to dubious G8 projects in his riding, $1 million for sidewalks that obstruct the fire hydrants and a $100,000 gazebo.

Canadians see this for what it is: blatant pork-barrelling politics at the expense of vital cultural events. How can the government possibly defend this action?

Government Programs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, as part of Canada's economic action plan, we are making infrastructure investments with municipalities, with the province, and Parry Sound—Muskoka. We are also making important economic investments in every part of the country.

We are investing in the city of Toronto. We are investing in the Royal Ontario Museum, not far from the member's riding. We are investing in the Art Gallery of Ontario, not far from the member's riding. We are investing in a new cultural centre in Regent Park, not far from the member's riding. That is all the federal government is doing to support culture in the city of Toronto.

Government Programs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Industry has been caught rigging the selection criteria for the marquee tourism events program in order to exclude certain festivals for ideological reasons. The festivals are right to be upset because the government changed the rules after the applications had been submitted.

Will the government admit that it changed the criteria midstream in order to exclude certain events for ideological reasons?

Government Programs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to supporting culture, this Conservative government has done more than any government in Canadian history. We have been more supportive for culture than any government before.

In fact, I would point out a couple of examples to the member. Les FrancoFolies received $350,000 over two years, the Pop Montreal International Music Festival received $7,300, Le FestiVoix received $36,000, The Envol and Macadam Festival received $25,000, Jazz and Blues Festival in Chicoutimi received $8,300, Festival du nouveau cinéma received $91,000, and Festival Mode & Design received $53,000.

I have a long sheet here. I can keep going.

Government Programs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, in addition to adapting the selection criteria to the Conservative agenda, the Minister of Industry, who managed to get money out of the G8 budget for an arena, diverted $8 million from the festivals program to the Canadian Tourism Commission, a crown corporation that already receives its funding from Parliament.

Does the minister realize that if he had not diverted that $8 million, he could have funded, among others, the FrancoFolies, the Festival des Rythmes du monde and the New France Festival?

Government Programs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the MTEP is to help out the Canadian tourism industry, which is in great need. The goals of this two-year recovery program have been met. During the first year of the program, almost 75% of the funding was granted to large Canadian cities. During the second year, we want to make sure that the smaller cities and towns can also benefit from the program and that is why 19 new events will receive funding this year.

Forestry Industry
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, while the forestry industry is recovering from the crisis elsewhere in the world, Quebec and Canadian companies continue to experience difficulties. According to an international comparison done by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the top five Quebec companies listed on the stock exchange lost $466 million in the last quarter.

Why does the government refuse to help these businesses and workers get through the crisis with measures such as loan guarantees?

Forestry Industry
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière
Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, we are working with the Government of Quebec and with the forestry industry to find short-, medium- and long-term solutions.

Forestry Industry
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, many proposals have been made, but the government rejects them, even though they are worth considering, according to officials with the Department of International Trade. Loan guarantees are legal.

Foreign governments have taken advantage of the crisis to invest and modernize their forestry industries. As the recovery is starting to take hold, these companies are ready to capture the markets. Businesses here will be emerging from the crisis weak and in debt, and will not be able to take advantage of the new opportunities that will be out there. Why does the Conservative government refuse to invest—

Forestry Industry
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière
Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, one thing is clear, we are working with the forestry industry. Imagine a Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition. Imagine the Leader of the Bloc Québécois as Minister of State for the Economic Development Agency of Canada.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, it looks as though the government's sole-sourced purchase of new fighter jets is going to cost at least $16 billion. That is $16 billion to create jobs outside this country. At the beginning of this week, reports said $6 billion, then $9 billion, and now it is going to be $16 billion.

When Canadians are being asked to contain their spending, how can the government justify spending $16 billion without any competition and without any regional development? How could the government not even consider a single alternative?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, that is just absolute rubbish from top to bottom.

The government has been looking at the next generation fighter capability for many years. In fact, it started with the previous Liberal government. This is a program that was started by Art Eggleton when he was minister of national defence.

Everything that we do is going to have economic spinoffs for Canadian industry. That is how every program has been run so far and that is how this program is going to be run as well.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

The question is competition, Mr. Speaker. Is our Prime Minister just a puppet on a string for U.S. industry? What about Canadians and what about Canadian jobs? A sole-sourced contract to a U.S. parent company is just plain unacceptable.

Costs for new fighter jets are going up faster than the security costs for the G8, from $6 billion to $9 billion to $16 billion. This is the height of incompetence.

With a $50 billion deficit, how can the Conservatives justify spending $16 billion without competition?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, my noisy friend from the porta-potty party over there is playing with numbers that he knows absolutely nothing about of which he states.

The simple fact is this a capability that is required by the Canadian Forces. It is required of us by our allies. It will give jobs to Canadians. It will give jobs to Canadians by the thousands.

Every program that we have done, and frankly any program that the Liberals did when they were in power, every contract that the military does has dollar for dollar value back to Canadian industry, back to Canadian jobs, and back to the people of Canada. The hon. member should get his facts straight.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, two years ago today all parties gathered in the House to recognize and apologize for the suffering of first nations, Inuit and Métis who had been mistreated and abused in residential schools. It seemed like a turning point, but unfortunately, they were merely words from the government. Since then it has been one failed policy after another.

This year the Conservatives promised to finally endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but they have changed their minds.

Why does the government continue to say one thing and do another when it comes to Canada's aboriginal people?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon
B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Au contraire, Mr. Speaker. Not only was an apology made, it was an apology made by the Prime Minister of Canada after a long, long wait where other parties did not make such an apology.

After that apology, we have made record investments in housing, a record amount of investments in new schools and in education, tripartite agreements across the country, investments in child and family services from coast to coast to improve the lot of families, and important legislation to give more rights to aboriginal people.

In word and deed, we continue to work closely with our aboriginal--

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Labrador.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, which helped thousands of people across the country deal with the legacy of residential schools, has been killed by this government.

There were 134 projects from coast to coast to coast simply abandoned. Aboriginal students received $2,000 less in educational support than the Canadian average, and they fall further behind. There are more than 8,000 first nations children in care and the government ignores their pleas.

Where is the hope and promise the apology was to bring? Why the hollow words two years ago?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon
B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, there is quite a bit of nonsense in that statement. Not only was an apology made and forgiveness sought in a very sincere way, but this was a very historic moment here in the House of Commons and across the country.

What I hear from aboriginal people is that they do not want empty promises. As former minister Bob Nault said about the Kelowna accord, “That thing won't work”. It is okay to say we want things to get better for aboriginal people, but we actually have to do things. Part of doing things involves increasing child and family services, and changing the model. It involves increasing funding for education and changing the model, and Mr. Speaker, we--

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, this week has been a busy one for Canada's immigration minister. He introduced legislation to crack down on crooked immigration consultants as well as to make Canadian citizenship more difficult to obtain through fraud and easier to lose because of it.

Meantime, the Liberal Party's position on refugee reform would change, based on whichever side of the bed the Liberal leader's former Quebec lieutenant happened to wake up on that day.

Will the immigration minister update the House on how this week's immigration changes will benefit all Canadians, including immigrants?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Minister of Citizenship

Yes, Mr. Speaker, this week we did announce changes to crack down on crooked consultants, to throw the book at those who would exploit newcomers to Canada by charging them thousands of dollars. These consultants basically con newcomers. We will make that a criminal offence.

We have also brought in legislation to protect the integrity and value of Canadian citizenship from those who would cheapen or abuse it. We will make sure that residency means physical presence in Canada, that crooked citizenship consultants are now regulated in the future.

These measures, combined with an emerging parliamentary consensus to address the urgent need for refugee reform, are very positive for all Canadians, particularly new Canadians.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, TV's Mike Holmes tells us we should not even build a sundeck without getting three quotes because competition is the only way we know we are getting best value. Yet, the Conservatives want to sole-source the largest military procurement in Canadian history without any competition. That means we pay their price on their terms with no competitive pressure whatsoever.

If Karlheinz Schreiber were not in jail in Germany, I would be convinced he was bamboozling another generation of Conservative cabinet ministers.

What other arms dealing lobbyist has convinced this government to throw reason, logic, good judgment, and any business sense out the window?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, to repeat once again, the next generation fighter capability is important to Canada and important to our Canada first defence strategy. No decision has yet been made. Any decision will conform to government rules.

I would point out that if it were up to that party over there, we would not have a military.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the problem is that as recently as May 27, the Minister of National Defence stood in his place right over there and guaranteed to us that there will be an open, competitive, transparent process in the purchase of our next fighter aircraft, yet secret cabinet documents reveal now that the minister has no intention of having an open and competitive process, because the Americans would not like it.

A competitive bidding process would give us a better plane for a better price and would provide better regional and industrial benefits. Since when are the Conservatives opposed to a free market? Since when are the Conservatives opposed to free competition?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the member knows absolutely nothing about which he speaks, except I will point out, or maybe ask the question, if it is a secret cabinet document, how did he get it? Did he break the law? It really cannot be much of a secret if he got the document.

Again I will say that the program for the next generation fighter is important to Canada. It is important to jobs for Canadians. The process is going to follow all government rules. We are going to get the job done for our Canadian airmen and airwomen and the people who rely on them.

Climate Change
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the most recent report by the Ouranos group of 250 Quebec scientists looks at the negative impact that climate change will have on Quebec. Among the problems, the report mentions shoreline erosion, warming cities and change in river flow.

Is it not time for the Conservatives to wake up, open their eyes and realize that siding with the oil companies will have disastrous consequences to the economy of Quebec?

Climate Change
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Langley
B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the member knows that is not true.

Canada is a country of unparalleled beauty. This government is committed to preserving and protecting the natural environment for this generation and coming generations. The fact is that for the first time in Canada, under this government greenhouse gas emissions have stabilized and they have gone down. How much have they gone down? Over 2%. What happened under the Liberals? They skyrocketed. They went up 26%.

We are getting it done.

Climate Change
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, people everywhere are sounding the alarm and calling for solutions to climate change problems. Just recently, six Nobel laureates called on the Conservative government to put climate change on the agenda for the G8 and the G20.

As the host country, why is Canada refusing to take action?

Climate Change
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, maybe the hon. member did not understand the response, but the question was asked yesterday by the Leader of the Bloc Québécois, and the Prime Minister answered by saying that notwithstanding the fact that the G20 is an economic meeting, the fact remains that a large number of topics will be addressed and discussed. The Prime Minister has met with President Calderon and, as the Prime Minister mentioned yesterday, this topic will be discussed.

Automotive Industry
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, last year GM terminated 240 Canadian dealerships in a process described as being a “mistake” and “arbitrary” by GM's CEO. Under U.S. congressional pressure, 660 U.S. dealerships were reinstated. Guelph's Robinson Pontiac Buick, cited by GM for over 100% sales efficiency in 2009 and having just spent $2 million on upgrades at GM's request, is being closed for no good reason.

Why, as a GM shareholder, does the government refuse to take action to protect these Canadian dealerships and the jobs and they represent?

Automotive Industry
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, of course that is a question to be asked of GM, not of the Government of Canada.

While I am standing I would point out that the actions taken by this government saved thousands of Canadian jobs in the auto sector. In fact, due to the actions of this Canadian government, we have created over 300,000 new jobs in the last year.

We are applauded across the world by every industrialized country for our actions taken. In fact the IMF, the World Economic Forum and the OECD have called Canada a star. The Economist said that we are an economic star. The OECD said that we shine.

Automotive Industry
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have met with General Motors and we have also met with a number of their dealers.

It is clear that GM's intransigence makes no sense. A number of very successful and very profitable dealerships might have to close.

As a shareholder of General Motors, it is time for this government to follow in the U.S. government's footsteps and support the dealerships who are fighting with GM to stay open.

When will the shareholders across the way stop being complicit in these closures and layoffs?

Automotive Industry
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, that question has nothing to do with government business, but this government has shown unprecedented support for the auto sector.

With regard to the economy, I would point out that a number of commentators and experts have talked about Canada's performance. One of those experts is Christine Lagarde, France's finance minister, who said:

I think...we can be inspired by...the Canadian situation. There were some people who said, “I want to be Canadian”.

We do not even know how the Liberal leader feels about that statement.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, back in January we were told that Canada's G8 and G20 summits would highlight the environment, development and the global economy. Climate change, we were told, would figure prominently at both meetings, and Canada would set an example by increasing its own spending on maternal and child health in developing countries.

Today the Conservatives are offering nothing more than an expensive tourism ad campaign. The environment is nowhere on the agenda. There is no money on the table for maternal and child health.

The question is: What went so wrong? How did it go off the rails? Where is our commitment--

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order. The hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has asked two questions.

First, the Prime Minister assured colleagues in the House that this issue will be discussed at the upcoming G20 meeting. Climate change will be discussed by the leaders. As members know, the Prime Minister did meet with President Calderón.

On the issue of child and maternal health, let me tell members what Jill Sheffield, president and founder of Women Deliver, said in the Ottawa Citizen. Colleagues should know about that. In talking about the Prime Minister, she said:

“It is a wonderful thing for him to do”, said...Jill Sheffield of [the Prime Minister]'s initiative. “It puts him right in step with the secretary general of the United Nations and heads of all these UN agencies.”

Colombia
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, after six months of stonewalling, the NDP forced the release by the government of a withheld report on Colombia.

In addition to the systematic killings of labour activists, aboriginal people, Afro-Colombians and human rights advocates by government forces, we now find out about the systematic targeting of lesbian, gay and bisexual community leaders. We mourn their deaths.

Why did the government hide this information and why is it rewarding the Colombian regime for the murder of lesbian, gay and bisexual community leaders?

Colombia
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, this is a draft report. It was never completed, nor was it publicly released by its authors. This draft report was prepared over two years ago by Conflict Analysis Resource Center for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It was not written by or prepared for the Government of Canada.

Canada supports the continued improvement of human rights in Colombia, which is why the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement and the labour side agreement contain strong and enforceable provisions to protect and promote human rights.

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government has been working hard on improving Canada's retirement income system.

First, we are improving federally regulated pension plans. Then, because nearly 90% of pension plans are provincially regulated, we are working with our provincial and territorial partners to come up with pan-Canadian solutions.

Both levels of government are listening to the ideas of everyday Canadians on how we can make our pension plan and system better for all retirees.

Would the parliamentary secretary please inform the House on the next steps we are talking about to strengthen Canada's retirement system?

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the House that early next week our award-winning finance minister will be meeting with his provincial and territorial partners to discuss Canada's retirement income system.

Based on the ideas we have heard from Canadians, we have proposed some smart improvements for discussion. They include modest increases to the Canada pension plan and tax changes to encourage multi-employer pensions.

One thing our government will not do is impose unilateral federal dictates that some would have us do. We will work with our provincial and territorial partners.

Offshore Drilling
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, $30 million to $40 million is what the government is pouring out for every 15 minutes of the G8 and G20 meetings. Thirty to forty million dollars is also the ceiling for corporate liability if Canada were to suffer a catastrophic oil spill. Meanwhile, in the Gulf of Mexico, damage from crude oil is estimated at over $3 billion.

Will the minister ensure that it is the oil companies and not the Canadian taxpayers on the hook for a major oil spill in Canada?

Offshore Drilling
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if people are lying about this issue, or if they are just plain misled, but clearly Canadians are being misled. The requirements for drilling include things like worker safety plans, contingency plans and emergency response plans. The member knows that if she had been listening to the testimony that has been heard at committee, she would know that the safety regime in this country is as good as that in any country in the world.

International Cooperation
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, after women's groups and international cooperation organizations like KAIROS and Match International, it is now the Canadian Council for International Cooperation's turn to be hit by ideological and retaliatory cuts made by this government. The president of the Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale, Mr. Brian Barton, is calling for more transparent funding criteria and asking that CCIC's funding be maintained.

Will the government heed this call?

International Cooperation
Oral Questions

Noon

Kootenay—Columbia
B.C.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, the government is very proud of the work that it has been doing with respect to these kinds of organizations. As the applications are received, they are duly considered and the minister is currently considering.

Manitoba Overland Flooding
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the overland flooding caused by extraordinary rainfall in Manitoba two weeks ago wreaked havoc in some areas in my own riding such as south Transcona, as well as other parts of Winnipeg, Brandon and communities across the province. Following the substantial rainfall, the provincial government immediately announced it would provide assistance to homeowners affected by this natural disaster, but there still has been no word from the federal government.

Will the Conservatives provide federal support to these families in need?

Manitoba Overland Flooding
Oral Questions

Noon

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite should know that there is a plan in place. Federal-provincial agreements are in place and when all of those agreements are followed, then certainly the federal government is involved. We do not get involved without the province taking on its responsibility first and then dealing with the federal government.

Israel
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, the NDP House leader has stated in an interview that she believes the Israeli occupation began in 1948. That is the same date as the creation of the state of Israel. She also has said that she supports the campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against the state of Israel.

Warren Kinsella, a senior Liberal, says he believes there is not much that divides a Liberal-NDP coalition.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister please respond to these outrageous statements?

Israel
Oral Questions

Noon

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, members of Parliament, both on the government side and on the coalition side, should condemn in the strongest of terms these despicable remarks.

It was our government under the leadership of this Prime Minister that was the first in the world to cut off international aid to the Hamas regime in Gaza. It was the first to announce it would not participate in the Durban hate festival. Other countries later followed. This government was the first to march out on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech at the United Nations. We were the only country to stand up to an unbalanced Francophonie resolution targeting Israel.

This Prime Minister is prepared to stand for what is right, even when it means standing alone.

Canada's Engagement in Afghanistan—Quarterly Report to Parliament for the Period of January 1 to March 31, 2010
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, a report entitled “Canada's Engagement in Afghanistan—Quarterly Report to Parliament for the Period of January 1 to March 31, 2010”.

Indian Residential Schools
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon
B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to once again give honour and pay tribute, on behalf of the Government of Canada, to the tens of thousands of aboriginal children who were isolated from their families, traditions and cultures by the Indian residential school system on this the second anniversary of the Prime Minister's truly historic apology. That apology stands as one of the pivotal moments in the journey to reconciliation between aboriginals and other Canadians.

The story of the residential schools tells of an education policy gone badly wrong. However, going forward, our government is working with all willing partners to strengthen and reform education and to support student success and provide greater hope and opportunity.

Next week, I will attend the first of seven national events being held by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. As noted recently by Mary Simon, president of ITK:

The only way you can have reconciliation between aboriginal peoples and other Canadians is to understand each other's cultures.

This first event of the TRC, and the ones to follow, represents significant opportunities in that journey toward reconciliation. I would strongly encourage all Canadians to take part in this and other initiatives being held across our country as we move forward together on reconciliation.

To quote the Prime Minister:

The burden of this experience has been on your shoulders for far too long. The burden is properly ours as a Government, and as a country.

Thankfully the era of positive change is upon us. The federal government is working in close partnership and collaboration with first nations, Métis and Inuit to help forge a new strengthened relationship between aboriginal people and other Canadians.

On this the anniversary, the historic statement of apology to former students of Indian residential schools, we must commit ourselves anew, that in word and deed we are not simply making up for past wrongs; we are going to make sure, and we are making sure, that the future is bright for all Canadians.

Indian Residential Schools
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honour all the grandmothers and grandfathers, the young and the old, to acknowledge the pain and struggle of generations of my indigenous brothers and sisters.

I rise today to honour the apology, which thousands across our great country witnessed two years ago. We honour this occasion with openness and honesty.

While I appreciate the minister's statement today, to my ears and to many others it rings hollow.

It rings hollow because this year the government ended funding for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. It did so despite the fact that the funding provided valuable services to residential school survivors.

It rings hollow because the educational funding gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal students is still an obstacle to overcoming the residential schools legacy. We, as a country, cannot afford to lose even one student in this generation, or waste any opportunity to plant the seed of education in a mind, in a community, and in a nation.

It rings hollow because the government has not kept its promise to address the issues surrounding those schools which were similar to the Indian residential schools. The Prime Minister himself made a promise to Ile-a-la Crosse in Saskatchewan. He has yet to honour those words. In Labrador former boarding school students have had to resort to a class action suit to have their voices heard and obtain justice.

It rings hollow when more than 8,000 aboriginal children are in care and the government will not listen to their pleas for more help.

It rings hollow when hundreds of aboriginal women and girls have gone missing or murdered and the outcry is little more than a whimper.

The apology was historic, it was moving, it was overdue. Unfortunately, the sincerity of the government has been in question in the days and months since. Whether through the hurtful words of a government member two years ago, or through the actions and inactions since, the words spoken in this chamber are in doubt.

The apology was significant, but it must be imbued with a true sense of reconciliation and real change.

Indian Residential Schools
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to highlight the second anniversary of the Prime Minister's official apology to the 150,000 former residential school students. It is important that we all remember what happened and take the necessary steps to ensure that it never happens again. Let us not forget that the policy was designed to kill the Indian in the child. Children were made to wear European-style clothing, and their hair was cut as soon as they arrived at school. That first symbolic stage was designed to humiliate and assimilate.

Two years ago, the Bloc Québécois leader recognized that an apology was necessary. Necessary, but not sufficient. When he endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Prime Minister had an opportunity to show aboriginal peoples that he had learned from the mistakes of the past and was prepared to make a solemn promise to the victims that their children and grandchildren will be treated with respect and dignity.

Two years have since passed. Canada has not yet signed the declaration; it has merely stated that it would ratify the declaration with some restrictions and is still compromising the future of young people. Aboriginal education is still underfunded. For example, education funding was capped at 2% in 1996 despite a quickly growing population. The education funding formula, which dates back to 1988, is out of touch with reality. School infrastructure on reserve is not up to provincial standards. Thousands of young aboriginals do not have access to post-secondary education.

The government's attempts at reconciliation must begin with the unconditional ratification of the United Nations declaration and more funding for aboriginal education to ensure a better future for them.

Indian Residential Schools
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I believe the social conditions of Canada's indigenous people are the greatest failure of a great country and it is important to acknowledge the significant role the Indian residential schools played in shaping these conditions.

Today we mark the second anniversary of the Prime Minister's apology, on behalf of all Canadians, for the lasting and damaging impact this policy had on aboriginal culture, heritage and language and for failing to protect generations of children from abuse and neglect.

The apology of June 11, 2008, was genuine and sincere, and I was proud of the government as it was delivered. However, it was also a moment that raised expectations. For an apology to have meaning and weight, it must be offered, accepted and include efforts made to remedy the offence that gave rise to the apology to the greatest extent possible.

It now falls upon us to ensure that we meet those expectations by putting meat on the bare bones of the apology of two years ago. We must commit ourselves to concrete actions so the next generation of Canadians does not have to apologize for the failure of this one to provide equal opportunity and a better quality of life to first nation, Métis and Inuit people.

Next week the healing process takes another historic step, as former students of the residential schools are invited to have their stories heard at the Truth and Reconciliation hearings in Winnipeg. This will be difficult and painful and will take great strength and courage. Our best wishes and support go out to all those who participate, as both sides will surely benefit from this open and honest process.

In the words of the Prime Minister, there is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian residential schools to ever again prevail.

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration on Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Federal Courts Act. The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House, with amendments.

Environment and Sustainable Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development in relation to the order amending schedule 2 to the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act, together with a report to Parliament, “Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site”. It is my intention to seek unanimous consent of the House to concur in this report later today.

Income Tax Act
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-534, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (in-home care of relative).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to introduce legislation that was first brought to my attention by good friend, Judy Wasylycia-Leis, the former MP for Winnipeg North, who, along with her adviser, Chuck Brabazon, did all the heavy lifting to make the bill's tabling possible today.

I am proud to stand on their shoulders and sponsor this initiative through the legislative process because it will make a profoundly positive difference for the thousands of Canadians who are the primary caregivers for their spouses.

Let us look at the bill. My bill would bolster the family income of persons living with disabilities by extending the caregiver tax credit to the spouses of persons with disabilities. It is outrageous that spouses are excluded from a tax credit for which almost every conceivable relative of a person living with disabilities can apply, including a child, grandchild, brother, sister, niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, parent or grandparent. Not included is the one person who is most likely to provide care on an ongoing basis, the spouse. That is patently unfair and undervalues the caregiving that spouses provide every day of every week of every year.

A quarter of Canadians provide informal care to a family member or friend with a serious health problem every year. More than 75% of these caregivers are women. The Canadian Caregivers Association estimates that caregivers contribute $5 billion of unpaid labour per year to the health care system, which represents an enormous savings to federal and provincial governments.

Making spouses eligible for the caregiver amount is a small step forward. It will send a strong signal that the federal government recognizes the exceptional contribution that spouses make as caregivers and provide a new support for them to help a loved one who is in need of care to live with dignity and as much independence as possible.

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

Environment and Sustainable Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations and I believe you would find unanimous consent of the House to concur in the second report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development tabled earlier today.

Environment and Sustainable Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Environment and Sustainable Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Environment and Sustainable Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

Justice
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have four petitions, three of which are from the citizens of Canada who want to draw the attention of the Government of Canada to their extreme concern with the increase in violent assaults against public transit, school bus, paratransit and intercity bus workers across Canada. Not only are these operators at risk when assaulted, but so too are the passengers who place their faith in the operator to transport them safely to their destinations.

Therefore, the petitioners request that the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada amend the Criminal Code to recognize the growing incidence of violence against public transit, school bus, paratransit, intercity transit operators, affecting their safety and that of the travelling public in Canada in the same fashion that peace officers are recognized in the code.

Animal Welfare
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

The next petition, Mr. Speaker, is on behalf of citizens who want the Government of Canada to support a universal declaration on animal welfare.

Given that there is scientific consensus and public acknowledgement that animals can feel pain and suffering, that over one billion people around the world rely on animals for their livelihoods and that animals are often significantly affected by natural disasters and yet are seldom considered during relief efforts and emergency planning, the petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to support a universal declaration on animal welfare.

Post-Doctoral Fellowships
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to present two petitions today mainly from Ontario and Quebec. These are from post-doctoral students who highlight one of the real flaws of the recent budget, which was the elimination of the exemption for post-doctoral students.

The petitioners point out that this will create strong disincentives for junior researchers at the beginning of their careers and discourage the attention of highly-qualified recent Ph.D. graduates within Canada. It makes no sense at all, in their view that, while we want to encourage research and innovation and bring and keep researchers here, this exemption was taken out. It will be harmful and they think, at the very least, the government should have consulted with them and other stakeholders before it went forward with this.

Mineral Exploration Abroad
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I received a response to a petition from the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The response indicates that Canada recognizes the right to participation and the right to consultation.

Some citizens in my riding and across Quebec signed a petition, because they learned from different countries that mining companies often organize botched consultations. The scheme consists of creating division among people by promising benefits to others.

In light of Bill C-2, this petition is very pertinent. Young people are worried and are calling on the government to ensure that, beforehand and with full knowledge of the facts, all exploration projects in certain countries come with a complaint and redress process, along with compensation for the victims.

Caffeinated Beverages
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present today. The first is signed by dozens of Canadians and is a call against Health Canada's recent authorization of caffeine in all soft drinks. Health Canada announced on March 19, 2010 that beverage companies will now be allowed to add up to 75% of the caffeine allowed in the most highly caffeinated colas to all soft drinks.

Soft drinks have been designed for and marketed toward children for generations. Canadians already have concerns about children drinking coffee and colas, as they acknowledge that caffeine is an addictive stimulant. It is difficult enough for parents to control the amount of sugar, artificial sweeteners, and other additives children consume, including caffeine from cola. Therefore, the petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to reverse Health Canada's new rule that allows caffeine in all soft drinks and not follow the deregulation policy of the United States and other countries that would sacrifice the health of Canadian children and pregnant women.

Earthquake in Chile
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my second petition is signed by dozens of Canadians. It calls on the Canadian government to match funds personally donated by the citizens of Canada for the victims of the earthquake in Chile.

On February 27, 2010, an 8.8 magnitude earthquake occurred in southern Chile. The community has been mobilized in Canada. Fundraising has been ongoing since the earthquake, and people are asking why the government does not allow the donors to have funds matched by the government and provided to these victims.

Falun Gong
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present today. The first is from those condemning the Chinese Communist regime for organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners. They call upon the government to help stop these atrocities. They urge the Chinese regime to end the prosecution of Falun Gong and to release all Falun Gong practitioners immediately. They also ask for active measures to help stop the mass killing of and organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners.

Child Pornography
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is put forward by constituents and Canadians who are concerned about child pornography and victimization. They call upon Parliament to protect our children by taking all necessary steps to stop the Internet being a medium for the distribution of child victimization.

Iran
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the fraudulent Iranian election, I am pleased to table a petition, with hundreds of signatures from across Canada collected by Holy Blossom Temple, ARZA Canada, Emunah Women, and Congregation Beth Haminyan in Toronto, among others, calling upon the government to act against the Iranian regime's clear and present danger to international peace and security, and increasingly, and alarmingly, to the Iranian people.

In particular, the petitioners urge the government to combat the Iranian four-fold threat: the nuclear threat; the threat of state-sanctioned incitement to genocide; the threat of state-sponsored terrorism; and the threat of massive domestic repression. They urge the government to enact the Iran accountability act to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear arms; to hold President Ahmadinejad and Iranian leaders to account for violating the prohibition against incitement to genocide in the genocide convention; and to support Interpol arrest warrants against Iranian leaders implicated in terrorist acts against the AMIA in Argentina.

On the anniversary of this fraudulent election, we stand in solidarity with the Iranian people. We remember Neda and those like her who have lost their lives and continue to suffer at the hands of this repressive regime, and we commit to action as set forth in this petition.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I wish to inform the House that because of the ministerial statement, government orders will be extended by eight minutes.

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain has 14 minutes and 30 seconds to complete his remarks.

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will pick up where I left off by recapitulating. I was telling the House that I was terribly disappointed to see this bill making it to third reading, thanks to the Conservative government, with the support of the Liberals, imposing closure twice, once at the Standing Committee on International Trade and again in this House, in order to limit debate. Such reversal of position is disastrous and very disappointing coming from the Liberal Party.

The Conservatives keep telling us over and over that, in their opinion, the human rights situation in Colombia has greatly improved. I agree that the situation may not be as disastrous as it used to be, but it is far from ideal. People continue to be displaced and unionists to be murdered. Canada's former ambassador to Colombia, Mr. Matthew Levin, from whom the current ambassador took over, basically said the same thing. On the Colombian economy, he had this to say:

The [Canadian] government knows that the Colombian reality is not ideal. There is poverty, violence, lack of access to services.

There is more. When he appeared before the Standing Committee on International Trade, Pascal Paradis, of Lawyers without Borders, said that the UN and the Organization of American States considered that the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet was still going on in Colombia.

It is hard to believe that a government would push us and cut the debate short to incite us to pass this type of bill. If it passes, it will do so with the support of the Liberals alone and not the Bloc Québécois. We will do our utmost to keep opposing this bill and to say to the people of Quebec and Canada that this agreement is completely unacceptable due to human rights violations.

At the Standing Committee on International Trade, the Conservatives and Liberals often say that they have been there. I was not a member of the committee at that time. They say that the situation has improved, that workers' rights are better respected, that there is less displacement of people and fewer murders. That is what we hear from the people who have been there, but there are also people who are saying the exact opposite.

How can it be that there are credible people who are testifying that the situation has not improved that much? It is impossible that Canada—which was once regarded as a leader for its defence of human rights in various countries—is now promoting a free trade agreement with a country like Colombia.

In order to get an idea of the situation, since I did not go to Colombia, I have read a lot and listened to witnesses. I know that there are four people who think the opposite of what the Conservatives and Liberals are telling us. They say that the situation has not changed. I would like to lend them my voice and my speaking time because they also need to be heard. They were silenced when the debate was cut short. They were not able to appear before the committee.

In 2008, four Canadian public sector union leaders went to Colombia. They were: John Gordon, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada; George Heyman, international vice-president of the National Union of Public and General Employees; Denis Lemelin, national president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers; and Paul Moist, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

They toured the country and produced a document with joint and individual statements about the status of human rights in Colombia. Their report paints a totally different picture than what the Conservative and Liberal members are telling us in the Standing Committee on International Trade.

In July 2008, these four public sector union leaders made a one-week tour of Colombia. What they saw and heard there prompted them to share their observations in the hope of making as many people as possible understand the dangers workers in this South American country face.

Having seen the damage unregulated commercial activity causes most Colombian families, the Canadian union leaders promised to deliver a message of concern, solidarity and resistance to their millions of members in Canada—which is nothing to sneeze at—the Canadian government and all Canadians.

This document and other measures are part of that process. The document contains comments and personal observations from the leaders, who met with many Colombians and listened to their concerns about the harmful effects of free trade with Canada on the Colombian people.

These union leaders were inspired by the hope these people cling to and the growing resistance movement they witnessed. During their tour, the leaders focused on human rights.

I am delivering this message on their behalf, because the Bloc Québécois' greatest concern is that the government is ignoring human rights violations. It needs to ignore them if it is going to ratify an agreement that makes no sense.

The union leaders focused on human rights and labour rights, working conditions and the impact of privatization without guaranteed human rights and labour rights. They shared their concerns with representatives of the many sectors of Colombian society, including the Colombian interior minister and other senior officials, the Canadian ambassador and members of his staff, leaders of the central union of workers or CUT and union leaders at all levels, members of the opposition party—the Polo Democrático Alternativo—leaders of the indigenous peoples' movement, members of NGOs, groups representing Afro-Colombians and other displaced persons, as well as journalists and ordinary people.

Although three of the four leaders had never travelled to Colombia before, their unions were already familiar with the struggles of Colombian workers. All four have been working at the international level with Colombian unions for a number of years. They have been cultivating union relations as part of projects funded by their international solidarity funds and through exchanges of Canadian and Colombian workers.

You might wonder why they would embark on such a tour. After returning from Colombia, they followed up with a video on how the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement, which was only a proposal at the time, would be disastrous for these workers.

All the unions opposed the signing of such an agreement, especially in light of the horrifying human rights and labour situations in Colombia. The leaders knew very well that more trade unionists had been assassinated in that country than anywhere else in the world.

To strengthen the arguments against the free trade agreement and to consolidate the union solidarity already established, the leaders decided to go to see for themselves what the Government of Colombia had done to this South American country since President Uribe gained power in 2002. What they saw convinced them that they had to oppose the free trade agreement even more vigorously and in very clear terms. The leaders were asked many times to be the voice of the Colombian people and to oppose the agreement as long as the government of Alvaro Uribe has not shown that it has solved the problem of the permanent repression of trade unionists and other activists and guaranteed their protection.

This document gives them a voice and proves them right.

What we heard from the people who took this trip to Colombia gives even more weight to the fact that, in 2008, the Standing Committee on International Trade also adopted a resolution that an independent, impartial, and comprehensive human rights impact assessment should be carried out before the Conservative government considered introducing its bill in the House.

Proof was needed, coming from an independent study, that human rights were being respected. Now, it is the opposite. The Liberals and Conservatives are breaking their word. A Liberal member even proposed an amendment suggesting that we wait for the agreement to come into effect and the bill to be passed.

They will be happy with an assessment of the situation by the Government of Colombia. Colombia will be both judge and judged, and Canada will be satisfied with that. This will allow the agreement to be adopted, when we know very well that the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement does not necessarily propose any major increases in trade between Canada and Colombia, but instead, aims almost solely to protect the investments of Canadian mining companies that will exploit natural resources and workers in Colombia.

It is truly unfortunate to watch this going on. The Bloc Québécois will vote against this agreement at third reading.

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is a relatively new member to the committee for international trade and I appreciate his interaction on that committee. However, I am sure he read over previous reports and studies from the committee and therefore would be well aware, although he said in his statement that there was no preliminary study on this bill, that there absolutely was a preliminary study on this bill in the last Parliament.

The committee travelled to Colombia. I travelled to Colombia myself on this study. We met with Colombians, labour leaders, union officials, human rights groups, Afro-Colombians and indigenous Colombians. All the very groups that the NDP has said that we never met with, we did meet with, and then we met with them again at committee hearings.

My question for him is quite simple. For the first time in 21 years, Colombia will not be included in the United Nations International Labour Organization's list of 25 nations to be examined for failure to comply with international workers' conditions. That is absolutely in recognition of the fact that Colombia has moved forward on workers' rights and on the protection of union leaders. The Colombian government officials will tell us that things are not perfect there yet but that they are moving in the right direction.

I wonder if the hon. member would comment on that.

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, after hearing the member's question and comment, I realize that we can get statistics to say whatever we want.

The member missed part of my speech earlier. He said I was not on the Standing Committee on International Trade at the time. I want to point out that, just as there are two sides to a coin, there are always two versions of the same situation. The Conservatives, supported by the Liberals, say that all is well in Colombia, as I mentioned in my speech. But others take a different view. Other people have travelled to Colombia and say the opposite is true. That is the point I was making by quoting these individuals earlier.

They told us that the reality was not all that rosy. It is far from being as rosy as the government purports it to be. The situation has not changed, far from it. Murder and forced displacement continue. All this agreement is about is favouring and benefiting mining companies. It is far from being a true free trade agreement. The Bloc Québécois is not against free trade agreements, but this particular one does not ring true.

Since there are two different views of the human rights assessment, we believe that, when in doubt, the thing to do is to abstain. It is better to vote against this bill and wait for a real, independent preliminary study to be conducted.

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the United States-Colombia free trade agreement that was signed four years ago in 2006 under the Bush administration, it is still to this day sitting in the U.S. Congress and it is in no hurry whatsoever to pass that agreement.

Therefore, it is true that this agreement would not be passing in this House either had it not been for the good luck on the part of the Conservatives that the member for Kings—Hants became the new critic for international trade and basically flipped on the issue from the previous critic's position and decided to endorse the Conservatives' position. That is why and how we find ourselves here today.

We would be no further along the path than the Americans are in the United States had it not been for the change in Liberal leadership and the change in Liberal critics, which moved the Liberals' position on international trade to the right, right in line with the Conservatives' own position on foreign trade. The one and only reason this deal is moving forward now is because of the Liberals. Otherwise, this deal would be as dead as it is in the United States.

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12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, the NDP member compared the Canada-Colombia agreement to the agreement between the United States and Colombia. He reminded us that responsible members of the U.S. Congress realized they had to negotiate further before pursuing the agreement, all the while keeping an objective eye on the human rights situation in Colombia.

The Americans put the agreement on hold. The agreement was negotiated, but the American people's representatives have not yet signed it into law. They realized that this would be like rewarding the Colombian government for its indifference and for being unable to enforce human rights on its territory.

The U.S. government is to be congratulated on its foresight and proper management of the situation. It was able to stand up to a country like Colombia, which many consider to be one of the world's worst offenders.

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12:40 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative member wants to argue with me about whether the American Congress is prepared to entertain moving this agreement forward.

I do not know who he has been talking with in the United States, but the member for Kings—Hants and myself were part of the U.S.-Canada visitation program back on February 19 and 20. In fact, we met with perhaps 40 senators and congresspeople and, in the case of at least three Republican legislators who support the agreement, have great respect for the Uribe government and who would do anything to have this agreement proceed, they told us straight out that this agreement was dead, that it was going nowhere.

Therefore, why has the Conservative government put this as one of its top priorities? It is very curious that the top priorities of the government are to close down the six prison farms in Canada and to deal with issues such as a Colombia free trade deal. One would think there would be many more initiatives that a government would want to be pursuing rather than a free trade deal with Colombia that is going nowhere in the United States, contrary to what the government member was trying to insinuate.

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12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member has made another interesting comparison. He pointed out that the United States is conducting a thorough and objective analysis of what is going on in Colombia.

The Americans do not appear to be interested in signing an agreement that would have a negative effect on human rights, particularly because they know that the Colombian government cannot or will not do anything to control violence in its country.

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12:45 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, Bloc members have spoken to the fact that this free trade agreement is really all about investment for big companies. I wonder if the member could confirm that.

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12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, this agreement does contain a provision to protect the investments of Canadian companies planning to exploit Colombia's natural resources. Considering current trade volumes between Canada and Colombia, it seems to me that there are other priorities that the Conservative government—

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12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona.

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12:45 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am really thrilled to be speaking again. I am sure that this time around the hon. Conservative member will be recognized for a question when that time comes. I am sure he will be very eager and feverishly working on a question or two over the next 20 minutes. Nevertheless, he will have to wait for 20 minutes before he gets to ask his question.

We have gone through a very, very lengthy process dealing with this particular piece of legislation. I certainly want to compliment our critic for his enormous efforts over the last year or so on this issue. The member for Burnaby—New Westminster has been tireless in his efforts to stop this free trade agreement. It took the combined coalition of the Conservative government and the Liberal opposition to crush his efforts, and they did it in a very unsavoury way at the end of the day. The fact of the matter is, they denied key witnesses who should have been able to present on the bill.

Many key witnesses from Colombia, as well as Canadian and Colombian trade unions, were denied the right to appear at the committee, including the CLC, which represents 3.5 million workers. The National Union of Public and General Employees, NUPGE, one of Canada's largest unions with over 340,000 members, was refused. Several other organizations were cut out of the process by this unholy alliance between the government and its Liberal servants in this case.

I only have to look back to two years ago historically to see that there was a point at which the Liberal Party was on side, more or less, in terms of opposition to the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement. Under the previous leadership and the previous critic, the Liberals were in agreement to have an independent human rights study, which is what has been demanded and still is being demanded as something that is absolutely necessary in this process.

As soon as the Liberal Party changed leaders and the leader changed the critic, the position of the Liberal Party on the Colombia free trade deal turned right in line with that of the Conservatives. The Conservatives received a bit of a gift, because they knew that the deal was dead. They knew this deal was as dead as the Colombia-United States deal.

Let us deal with that for a moment. The George Bush administration signed the agreement with Colombia and the United States in 2006, four years ago, and the U.S. Congress to this day has still not ratified that deal. The member for Kings—Hants and I were in Washington on February 19 and 20 meeting with up to 40 individual members of Congress and the U.S. Senate.

While we did not include this item on our agenda, we let them bring it up. There were at least three Republicans, not Democrats, but Republican members of Congress who said, “We love Uribe. We love the Colombian-U.S. free trade deal, but it is dead. It will never make it through the Congress of the United States. It is very sad, but it will never happen”. Why does the Conservative member opposite cling to this hope that passing it here in Canada will somehow revive it in the United States? Maybe that is the government's intention, to basically show, in the Conservatives' own minds, leadership and pass the Canada-Colombia free trade deal and ratify it so that it will be an example. Perhaps that is the strategy here. The Conservatives could go to the United States Congress and say that Canada passed it and the U.S. should follow suit.

We have argued all along that this is absolutely the wrong way to deal with free trade, particularly with a country like Colombia. As I indicated before, this deal was dead in the House in terms of ratification until single-handedly the member for Kings—Hants resurrected the whole process through some late night partying with the Colombian leadership. I think he claimed he was dancing until the sun rose. He did get a signature on an amendment which he felt would make the agreement fly.

The Conservatives were only too willing to go along with this because they had nothing to lose. They were going nowhere until the member for Kings--Hants saved them. He has brought in an amendment which essentially says that the Colombian government will make up its own human rights annual reports. Is that not sweet? That is the standard to which the Liberals are prepared to hold the Colombian government. Essentially it would put full trust and faith in the Colombian government to police itself.

It is going to be business as usual in Colombia. There is no real incentive now for the Colombian government to clean up its act in terms of human rights. Before we ratify this free trade deal, we have the power over the Colombian government to say that unless and until it can show that it has changed its approach and cleaned up human rights abuses we will not ratify this agreement. What have the Conservatives done? They have simply laid down, given up, and rolled up the white flag. The government is going to ratify the agreement regardless of what happens in Colombia. Colombia can come up with its own annual reports and self-assess its progress on human rights.

That is a terrible way for the Liberal Party to approach agreements like this. I feel worse for the Liberals than I do for the Conservative government because they actually believe all this stuff and they got what they wanted.

It has been pointed out that the NDP has given more speeches than there are members in the NDP caucus. The government said that 40 NDP members have spoken but there are only 36 members in our caucus. I have no idea how the government does its math. Suffice it to say that we have fought this agreement for as long as we could.

People must wonder why this agreement is such a high priority for the government. In 2008, two-way merchandise trade between Canada and Colombia totalled more than $1.3 billion. We have always said that there is trade with Colombia and there always will be trade with Colombia, but there is just no reason to implement a free trade agreement.

Canadian merchandise exports to Colombia totalled $703.8 million in 2008. Major exports include agriculture goods such as wheat, barley and lentils, as well as industrial products, paper products and heavy machinery.

Canadian merchandise imports from Colombia totalled $643 million in 2008. Major imports consisted of coffee, bananas, coal, sugar and flowers.

Bill C-2 has attracted considerable attention from the media and various civil society groups, many of which were opposed to Canada's implementing a free trade agreement with Colombia because of its human rights record and because of the fear of the impact of free trade on investments and the environment.

We have experience. We have dealt with NAFTA for a number of years now and in the case of agriculture, for example tomato growers, in certain parts of Mexico, we have found that indigenous farmers have been put under a lot of pressure and put out of business because of the free trade agreement. If that could happen under NAFTA, it can be suggested that the same could happen under this type of free trade agreement.

I will deal with this later if I have enough time, as it is hard to fit in all of the points, but the fact is that there are indigenous farmers all over South America and certainly in Colombia who have sustained themselves for many years with their small farms. Free trade will flood that market with imported foreign food and will put those farmers out of business. That is what happened in Mexico and that is not good for the long-term sustainability of the local population.

We seem to think that somehow trucking produce around the world and spending a huge amount of money on fossil fuels, gasoline and trucks to get the produce there is the way to go. The reality is that we should probably be pulling back and trying to produce as much of our product in the local market. We should be encouraging the Colombian farmers to improve their farming methods but also certainly to produce the products there so they become more sustainable, rather than simply specializing in nothing but one product to export to Canada, and then of course have other products sent from Canada to Colombia, as opposed to developing independent self-sustainable enterprises.

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12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Why do you hate Canadian farmers, Jim?

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12:55 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

My good friend from Brandon—Souris is getting excited about something I have said.

In terms of the young people, I am very impressed with a lot of the young people's approach to sustainability. I do see them on an individual basis embracing vegetarianism, embracing healthy lifestyles, embracing fair trade products, for example, fair trade coffee. They are prepared to pay a little more for the product as long as the product is being obtained through proper channels and not being produced by slave labour at really low prices. That is where we should be going in terms of free trade agreements.

The Conservatives love to argue with us and say that we would never support a free trade agreement. The fact of the matter is that we would. If attention is being paid to sustainability, the environment and labour rights, if an agreement is promulgated that includes all of those items, then not only the NDP but progressive parties will in fact support free trade agreements. It is only the Conservatives who are being hijacked by transnational big business, who sign on slavishly to big business, who continue to push these sorts of free trade agreements that we have in force right now. We see the negative effects of those agreements as we progress.

I want to deal with some of the companies that are involved in Colombia. For example, 43 companies have been accused of having ties with paramilitary groups in Colombia, with forced displacement of communities and assassination of trade unionists. Among those companies, according to the Colombian trade union movement, were Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Chiquita Brands. However, I found one of great interest, which was BP. What have we recently heard about BP? British Petroleum is involved in the gulf drilling oil wells, very unsuccessfully at this point, and trying to clean up a major spill, which is enormous in size and damage it will cause to the world environment.

Bloc speakers have mentioned in a lot of their speeches that the real reason for this free trade agreement is to protect investment. We are going to be protecting the investments of companies such as British Petroleum that not only has caused an oil spill and huge environmental damage in the Gulf of Mexico, but has also accused among the 43 companies of having ties with paramilitary groups in Colombia. That is hardly an example of corporate responsibility, but those are the kinds of companies we are dealing with in this environment.

There are many reasons why Canada should ditch this free trade agreement. For example, more labour leaders were killed in Colombia than in the rest of the world combined. There have been 470 labour leaders killed since 2002 and 2,865 in the last 25 years.

In terms of Colombian labour laws, members have said that they are very good and strong. The fact is they stifle the rights of workers. The rate of unionization in Colombia is less than 5%, which is the lowest of any country in the western hemisphere. Few of the crimes against workers and other civilians have ever been investigated by the government. In fact, thousands of demobilized paramilitaries have formed new groups.

This is a really important point. The member for Kings—Hants points out that there are on no more paramilitary groups because they have all been demobilized. I do not know what planet he has been on or where he lives. He assumes that just because he is being told by Colombians that they have demobilized the paramilitary groups, all of a sudden these groups have disappeared. Why would he want to believe something like that?

The fact is the paramilitaries did not disappear. They have now formed new, even more deadly groups than they were before. Sixty-two criminal networks control economic activities and political institutions in many jurisdictions. In fact, 27 high-ranking army officers were accused in 2008 of kidnapping and executing civilians and dressing them up as FARC guerrillas. That was the false positive program about which many members have spoken.

Colombian unions have said no to the NAFTA model because it will create more poverty and unemployment. Signing a deal with Colombia will simply legitimize state terrorism and undermine the struggle for democracy in the country.

In 2008 the Standing Committee on International Trade pushed for an impartial human rights assessment before any agreement was signed. This was crucial because this was when the former Liberal critic for international trade was onside with the Bloc and the NDP in opposing the deal. Had we proceeded with that and had the Liberals not changed leaders and critics, we would be having an impartial human rights assessment carried out. That is what we really wanted. That is what we should have had. That is what Canadians deserve in this. However, the Liberal leader single-handedly changed the critic and the critic changed the position to mirror exactly what the Conservative government wanted him to do. I know he was a former Conservative in the past and—

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1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Hamilton Mountain.

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1:05 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know the member for Elmwood—Transcona could have used another 20 or 30 minutes to put his case fully. Just like all the rest of us in the New Democratic Party, he feels very strongly about this issue. The fact that the debate is coming to an end today is profoundly disappointing to all of us, especially since the end is coming as a result of a time allocation motion. We are not even allowed to fully debate this issue in the House. However, I will ask the member one brief question.

I was surprised that in my home town of Hamilton, some of the biggest proponents of putting an end to this Canada-Colombia free trade agreement were people affiliated with the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace. They saw a critical nexus between this issue and their advocacy for corporate social responsibility, particularly in the global south.

I want to commend some people for their work on that issue. Father Ted Slaman, in particular, was a prime mover of the petition campaign and card campaign that was launched in our community. People like Rita Dugas and Kathy Somers were instrumental as were students at Catholic high schools right across my riding. In particular, I single out St. Jean de Brébeuf high school. Students there care passionately. They believe this is an issue of fundamental human rights. It is an issue of corporate social responsibility.

Could the member address those concerns?

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1:05 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, that was an excellent question. Specifically, I will deal the question of time allocation. The Conservative government, when it was in opposition for many years, decried the Liberal government's use of closure. I believe the Liberal government were quite excessive in its use of closure. I think someone said that it used closure perhaps 150 times. The Conservatives were suitably outraged about that. Those were in the old days when they were Reformers and they believed in free votes and in transparency and democracy, all of the things that they have dropped and forgotten about since they have become government.

However, the Conservatives have gone back on their previous word that they would not bring closure into the House. What are they doing? They are doing it now on a routine basis. My prediction is that we will see more and not less of the current government's—

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1:05 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Complete disdain for Parliament.

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1:05 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Yes, it is a fundamental disdain for Parliament.

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1:05 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I have been in the House going on to my 14th year, so I would think nothing would surprise me. However, every once in a while I am.

The member opposite was stating what it would take for the NDP to support our free trade agreement. He said that it would take an agreement on the environment, on labour and on human rights. All three are side agreements to the Colombia-Canada free trade agreement, but the NDP does not support that.

The reality is his party has never supported a free trade agreement. It does nothing but criticize trade agreements, which supply jobs for Canadians, and has no option set aside for what it would do.

The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster, at committee, stated:

We had another massacre a few weeks ago. Twelve representatives of the Awa first nation were brutally killed....I understand that you're not here to testify on human rights issues, but if you would care to comment on how the Canadian government should act when an arm of the Colombian government brutally massacres 12 of its citizens...

The hon. member very clearly implicated the Colombian government in this massacre. When we found out the truth about it, it was the FARC, which is their socialist colleagues and their insurrection in the jungle in Colombia, that brutally murdered two families, twelve individuals in total, of Awa indigenous peoples in Colombia.

What does the hon. member think of someone misleading committee like that and refusing to apologize for doing it?

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1:10 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member asked about the kind of a free trade deal New Democrats would support. I did explain that in my speech. We support fair trade policies to protect the environment by encouraging the use of domestically and locally produced goods, which involve less freight, less fuel, less carbon, and by promoting environmentally conscious methods for producers that ship to Canada. By contrast, free trade policies, even those created with the environment in mind, do little to impede multinational corporations from polluting with abandon. The environmental side effect of NAFTA, for example, has proven largely unenforceable, particularly when compared with other protections for industry and investors.

A system of fair trade can encourage the growth of Canadian jobs, both in quality and quantity. In fact, fair competition rules and tougher labour standards will put Canadian industries on a level playing field with our trading partners and slow the international race to the bottom, which has resulted in the loss of Canadian manufacturing jobs. That is the type of free trade deals the Conservatives have signed up until now, which really end up in a race to the bottom.

Fair trade can also protect labour rights by fostering the growth of workers' co-operatives and labour unions. The environmental side accord NAFTA labour agreement has gone mostly unenforced, giving industries that are willing to violate workers' rights incentives to relocate Canadian jobs. The member knows that is a big issue not only in Canada but in the United States. Fair trade policies that favour co-ops, unions and equitable pricing will protect workers in the developing world, who might otherwise be exploited, and take away reasons for Canadian producers to exploit jobs.

In addition, fair trade rules will also protect societies and human rights around the globe. Although some predicted a human rights benefit from unrestricted free trade, this is yet to be seen. Regardless of what the member for Kings—Hants would like to pretend that somehow this will improve human rights—

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1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Nickel Belt.

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1:10 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am baffled that the so-called law and order government wants free trade with Colombia. There is a big difference between fair trade and free trade. We are certainly not against fair trade. However, with Colombia, it is a national pastime, killing trade unionists, raping women and children and kidnapping people.

The interesting thing is the product that we import the most from Colombia is beef. We are a beef producing country.

First, why would we want to deal with a government that believes in killing and raping women and children? Second, why would we want to import its beef when we have lots of beef in Canada? That certainly would help the beef industry in Canada.

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1:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the fact is clearly the Americans, who signed the agreement four years ago in 2006, have no appetite to ratify the free trade agreement with Colombia. They have refused to do it. Now under the new presidency of Barack Obama, the current Congress is refusing to ratify the agreement. It will not ratify the agreement, regardless of what the Conservative member thinks will happen.

What is happening is he and his friend from Kings—Hants are now going to take this ratified agreement and they are going to be on the phone to the United States, trying to stir up their Republican friends in the Congress. They are going to try to give them encouragement and get them to ratify the agreement in the United States. However, the member he is wrong, wrong, wrong. They will not have the votes to do it.

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1:15 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House to speak to the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement again. I have spoken to it several times already. However, after listening to the member opposite, it gives me an opportunity to correct the record.

The great thing about the Parliament of Canada is that everything we say is on the record, all the facts can be checked. It is important for Canadians and for people interested in the debate to actually go back, see what has been said, and then go check the facts.

Of course, they have to go to appropriate and proper websites. They cannot just go to bogus, make up what they want websites. They have to actually go to authorities and they have to respect statistics, being careful when they read the statistics to understand that often statistics lie and sometimes liars state statistics. That is always a caution.

There are two things I wanted to finish up on in the short time that I had to ask the hon. member a question. I will touch on them. I have 20 minutes and then 10 minutes for questions and answers, so I think I have enough time to get my statement out.

My question was not answered, and I did not expect it to be answered, so I will put it out in full this time. The member for Burnaby—New Westminster, the NDP member who sits on committee, came to committee full of bluff and hyperbole and stated to our witnesses:

Obviously there are fundamental concerns about labour rights, about human rights. We had another massacre a few weeks ago. Twelve representatives of the Awa first nation were brutally killed. Human rights groups and eyewitnesses say that the Colombian military killed them. There has been no investigation. There is virtual impugnity for this kind of crime. I understand that you're not here to testify on human rights issues, but if you would care to comment on how the Canadian government should act when an arm of the Colombian government brutally massacres 12 of its citizens--

That was stated by the member for Burnaby—New Westminster. It is on the record at the committee for international trade. It is patently false. We later found out that the hon. member's brethren, the socialist insurrection in the jungle, FARC, because of their narco-trafficking, brutally murdered these 12 unfortunate individuals. There has been no apology to the committee. There has been no apology to the House. I just find that repulsive, actually, that anyone would attempt to mislead the committee in that way.

The other thing he said was about some type of bogus support for a free trade agreement that does not exist. This free trade agreement has everything in it that the hon. member mentioned. It has a side agreement on the environment and labour. Very strong and modern side agreements, I might add.

Finally, with the help, quite frankly, of the member for Kings—Hants, we agreed on a side agreement in this particular trade agreement on human rights. It is still not enough to satisfy the NDP, or the Bloc, I may add.

There is nothing that will satisfy them. It really does not matter what the agreement is, they will find an excuse. They will make up something. They will accuse somebody of some outrageous crime that would horrify any citizen in this country to find an excuse not to support something.

He talked about the cattle industry. Members of the Canadian cattle industry are some of our strongest supporters for this agreement. Do we think for a moment that they would be our strongest supporters if they had any worries about this agreement, that somehow they would be disadvantaged?

The reality is, we have a bilateral trading situation, not an agreement. We have bilateral trade today, not tomorrow, not next year, not five years down the road, not 10 years ago, but today, of $1.3 billion between Colombia and Canada.

We are proposing stronger, more stringent, and clearer guidelines and rules around this agreement. I am breaking it down to the lowest common denominator so the hon. member will understand it. We are trading right now with Colombia. We are going to put clearer guidelines around that trading so it is rules-based.

To further enhance this agreement, we have a side agreement on labour, so there can be no child labour, no forced labour. There have to be clear labour standards that protect workers.

On top of that we have a side agreement on the environment to ensure companies react in environmentally responsible ways. We also have a side agreement on human rights to ensure that all proponents in this agreement obey and follow human rights guidelines.

I know that is not enough for the party opposite, but when it is clearly explained, it is enough for most Canadians.

What do we have in Colombia? Colombia is a nation of 48 million people, many of them living in poverty, who want jobs, opportunities, and a future for their children. They want basic human rights policies and they want those policies to be followed and obeyed.

The government in Colombia has been maligned and accused of horrendous offences by the opposition. President Uribe and his ministers will tell us that the situation in Colombia is not perfect. Each and every single one of them will say the same thing, that the situation is not perfect, but compared to where the country was in the late eighties and early nineties, it has moved forward light years.

There was a time in Colombia when there were 30,000 paramilitary in the countryside. Those 30,000 paramilitary have been disbanded. The government will tell us that its own numbers indicate that 8,000 or 9,000 have been reinstated, but the Colombian government is working hard to ensure they are disbanded again.

Unfortunately, because Colombians do not have access to the global economy the same as other countries, they have been forced into narco-trafficking and the drug trade to make money. There is very little else for Colombians to do. We can continue to force them into narco-trafficking or we can actually help them find jobs in other areas.

We have to really look at the individuals in the Uribe government. Members of the NDP and the Bloc tell us that they are all nasty, fascist, right-wing dictator types. I ask people watching this debate today to go on the website and find the names of the individual members of the Uribe government, and look at their backgrounds. The Colombian government is made up of a hodge-podge of individuals.

A member of cabinet was a former left-wing newspaper editor. He was kidnapped and held by the paramilitary for I think two and a half years. He had a long period of time to worry about his personal safety. He was finally released. The foundations of democracy are strong enough in Colombia to allow him to run for elected office and become part of a government that is largely right of centre. He is certainly not right of centre.

Other members of cabinet have been kidnapped by FARC, the socialist insurgency in the jungle. People from every political stripe and every possible background make up the government in Colombia. They have one commonality: they all want a better Colombia.

They all want a better life for themselves and their families. They all want increased personal safety. They want the ability to travel on their roads and railroads, and in their buses and on their streets, the same as we expect to do in Canada. They have, by and large, been given that by the Uribe government. That is why he has 80% support. That is why we have an anti-free trade political party, the Polo Democratico party in Colombia, with less than 8% support. There is no question about what Colombians think.

I listened to the opposition talk about the welfare of Colombians. I will give just one small example of what this free trade agreement holds for the welfare of Colombians. It may not be important to the members of the Bloc. It may not be important to the members of the NDP, but it is important to me. It is called healthy, nutritious food that is affordable.

Right now, red beans, which are a significant source of protein, are imported into Colombia at 50% tariff. That tariff will be reduced over a 10-year time frame to zero. The reason for the time frame is to assist local farmers in growing red beans themselves, to actually protect local agriculture. Even at the beginning of that time period, I think it is reduced by 20% of 25%, so we have a significant source of protein, healthy food for men, women and children, at an affordable cost, that will do nothing but help Colombians. Somehow that is a bad thing for the opposition parties.

I really have difficulty understanding the logic of what is wrong with rules-based trading. I have difficulty understanding the logic of what is wrong with cheap, affordable, healthy, and nutritious food. I have difficulty understanding what is wrong with Colombia being taken off the ILO's watch list, the first time in 21 years that the United Nations International Labour Organization has said that Colombia has moved forward far enough with respect for labour rights that it will not be on the international watch list.

Instead of applauding that, we have two parties in the House that say, “There is a chance to take a kick at these guys. We will penalize them for good behaviour”. What would happen if we did that in our school system? What kind of children would we raise in this country? It just goes on and on.

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Unanimous consent to resolve that Jack Layton is the leader of the official opposition, agreed.

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

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

I will give an example that is close to me. I have a small fabricating company in my riding of South Shore--St. Margaret's that has a niche--

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Oh my God, the Liberals are back. We were just about to make Jack Layton the leader of the official opposition.

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Speak intelligently. Has it ever happened to you?

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

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

If the hon. members would only listen, I am trying to help them out here.

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Glad the Liberals showed up for work.

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

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

They have a niche market--

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, order. There seems to be another debate taking place in the chamber and the Speaker would appreciate it if members could hold off on that or take their conversation outside the House because there are still a few minutes left for the hon. parliamentary secretary.

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, what is interesting is that this particular company works in partnership with another fabricating company in Calgary. It also has a company in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia that partners with a company in Calgary. The company produces equipment for oil and gas companies and it has a multi-million dollar contract in Colombia. It also has a sub-company in Mexico that has a contract for the oil and gas sector in Colombia. Do members know where the company is seriously looking at building and producing that contract? In Mexico because it can ship its product from Mexico to Colombia tariff free.

Those jobs will not be Bridgewater, Nova Scotia jobs or Calgary, Alberta jobs. If we do not pass this bill, they will be Mexican jobs. This will be good for Mexico, as it needs jobs and opportunities for its citizens, but it should not be at our expense.

The other thing that is totally ignored by the members opposite is how we got to this position today. We just did not pick Colombia out of a hat. Colombia is one part of a much wider strategy.

When we came to power in 2006, we had a number of issues before us. One of them in international trade was our global commerce strategy, how we would work, interact and trade with the rest of the world. The other one we called re-engagement with the Americas. We were part of the Americas but all of our trade was basically going into one basket, or NAFTA, the United States and Mexico. That is important trade, without question, but we needed to look beyond the United States and Mexico.

What do the rest of the Americas think of Canadians? I can tell the House that they want to do business with us. The agreement that we looked at, the re-engagement with the Americas, was based on the fact that Canadian foreign investment in the Americas was somewhere in the neighbourhood of $200 billion. We wanted to follow the money and get some of it back in bilateral trade between these nations.

When we started our free trade agreement discussions with Colombia, the United States had already signed. This was an opportunity to actually get ahead of the U.S. for once. The European Free Trade Association has already signed with Colombia and countries like Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland are trading with Colombia. The Europe Union is on the cusp of signing its free trade agreement with Colombia. Everyone holds up the European Union, as do all of us on this side of the House, but it is not asking for a human rights side agreement on its free trade agreement with Colombia.

We have these opportunities. We have signed free trade agreements with Peru and Panama and we are continuing to work on what is called the Central American four: El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala. For my socialist brethren in the NDP, Nicaragua—

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order, I would ask the House to give unanimous consent to make the member for Toronto—Danforth the leader of the opposition for the rest of the day.

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I am not sure that is a motion that the Speaker can entertain at this time. I doubt that consent would be granted anyway.

There are only a couple of minutes left, so I will give the floor back to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade to conclude his speech.

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that I have a little bit more time left but I do have a lot more to say that cannot be crammed into a bare 20 minutes of discussion on this important issue.

I was talking about a re-engagement with the Americas. When I was at the WTO talks in Delhi, Bolivia wanted to talk about Canadian investment. Even the NDP would understand that Bolivia certainly does not have a centrist government, that it would be a left of centre government, but it wants the Canadian extractive sector in Bolivia because we are the best in the world at what we do. We have very high corporate social standards and many countries want to do business with us.

I have tried to understand but I cannot wrap my head around why two parties in the House cannot see the advantages in this agreement. They can only see the disadvantages in this agreement. The disadvantages will be quickly left behind once this agreement comes into force because we will then have a clear set of rules and a clear set of guidelines. We will have enhanced rules on the environment, enhanced rules on labour and enhanced rules on human rights, all of which I would expect they would be happy about.

I have worked on this trade agreement for three years, including visiting Colombia, listening to over 122 witnesses at committee, speaking in this House a number of times and listening to over 50 speeches on this issue. It has been debated to death. Now it is time for democracy to actually prevail and have members in this place vote on it.

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

It being 1:38 p.m., pursuant to order made on Wednesday, June 9, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the third reading stage of the bill now before the House.

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

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

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

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
Government Orders

1:35 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 45, the recorded division stands deferred until Monday, June 14, at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

moved that Bill C-386, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce Bill C-386, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers). I would like to summarize it. Parliamentarians in this House are familiar with this bill as this is not the first time it has been introduced. We continue to hope that the Liberal and Conservative members will understand its importance.

On the one hand, the bill would prohibit employers governed by the Canada Labour Code from hiring replacement workers to carry out the duties of striking or locked out employees; on the other hand, it would require employers to maintain essential services. It also sets out fines for violations.

The best way to acknowledge the outstanding contribution of those who are building today's society is to truly respect their rights, starting with eliminating the use of replacement workers during a strike or lockout.

Therefore, it is imperative that workers governed by federal legislation have the same rights as those governed by Quebec's labour laws, including the true right to strike. By employees under federal jurisdiction we mean those working in telecommunications, the media, the Internet, banking, ports, marine transportation, bridges, and air and rail transportation.

The Canada Labour Code must be amended and brought into line with the Quebec Labour Code. Anti-scab legislation would ensure that workers governed by federal legislation enjoy balanced bargaining power. That is the objective of Bill C-386.

Unlike in Quebec, which has prohibited replacement workers since 1977, there is currently nothing in the Canada Labour Code that clearly and specifically prohibits the use of replacement workers.

Subsection 94(2.1) of the Canada Labour Code contains a prohibition relating to replacement workers, but only where an employer uses replacement workers for the purpose of undermining a trade union's representational capacity.

However, a firm prohibition is essential for civilized bargaining to take place during a labour dispute and to promote industrial peace, and is also the cornerstone for establishing an equitable balance of power between employers and employees.

I will give some examples. Quebec workers in industries that are governed by the Canada Labour Code make up about 8% of the Quebec labour force.

According to Quebec's labour department, Quebec workers whose employer is federally regulated are almost always overrepresented in the number of days of work lost because of disputes.

While they account for just under 8% of Quebec's labour force, they experienced 18% of the person-days lost in 2004 and 22.6% of the person-days lost in 2003. In fact, a peak was reached in 2002. While 7.3% of Quebec workers were employed in federally regulated organizations, they accounted for 48% of days of work lost because of labour disputes.

In a nutshell, there were, on average, two and a half times more person-days lost in the last decade in labour disputes in Quebec involving workers governed by the Canada Labour Code than those workers represent in demographic weight.

This means that the disputes last longer and are therefore more violent. Such disputes are happening right now in Quebec, just as they have occurred over the past ten years. Consider the dispute at Sécur, or the Vidéotron dispute that lasted over six months and involved acts of sabotage. There was also the dispute at the Cargill grain elevator in Baie-Comeau that ended in 2003 after a three-year lockout imposed by the employer.

Let us not forget Radio Nord and the television networks: TVA, TQS in Abitibi and CBC. We saw this with the Journal de Québec and we are seeing it now with the Journal de Montréal.

From the beginning, the Conservative government has indicated its opposition by hiding behind doom and gloom scenarios because it lacks any real arguments, when the situation is clear in the details I just provided. In the statistics on days of work lost to labour disputes alone, we see that workers under the Canada Labour Code are without work two and a half times longer than workers governed by Quebec labour laws, which prohibit the use of replacement workers.

This is not the first time this type of bill has come before the House. The last time, we introduced Bill C-257, which passed at second reading. At report stage, the Liberals decided to reverse course, saying that the bill did not include measures on essential services. That is why the bill before us today includes the protection of essential services. We are prepared to do our part.

I will try to explain something. We are at a turning point in employer-employee relations. A number of major companies are located in my riding: Bell Helicopter, Bombardier, and Pratt & Whitney to name a few.

I am interested in labour relations. I recently attended a seminar on the sociology of work. The Conservatives, and even the Liberals, are not aware of the change taking place in our society. The new generations do not look at work the same way we do. I am part of the baby boom generation. Those who came before me are part of what sociologists call the veteran generation. After me come generations X and Y. Baby boomers like me, and the veterans who came before me—my father—have lived to work, while generations X and Y work to live. It is completely different. Who is right? Did we take our work too seriously? Perhaps we were afraid to lose our jobs because there were so many of us. Now, the young generations no longer have this mindset about work. They think more about their family. They think more and more about balancing work and family. I would add that employers who do not understand that will simply not survive. In other words, they will not be able to find employees to work for them.

I realize that the Conservatives and Liberals will always be regressive when it comes to replacement worker legislation. However, it is not helpful if we allow employers to use scabs or replacement workers to avoid resolving a conflict. We will see more and more businesses under federal jurisdiction having a hard time finding employees. We already see that in the interprovincial ground transportation sector. Employers have a very hard time recruiting employees, and the average age is very high. It is not very well known, but there is currently a shortage of airplane pilots. The new generation does not like the schedules and working conditions in the airline industry. That is a reality we will have to face. Banks are also having a hard time recruiting employees. You need only visit a branch to see how many retirees have been brought back on contract, because the banks could not fill their positions. The new generations want work environments that encourage personal development.

If we allow a business to use replacement workers during a conflict, and if there are lockouts, and jobs are lost in an economic sector for two, three or four years—that is not uncommon—there will be no new employees coming into businesses of that kind.

That is what is in store for companies under federal jurisdiction. It would be nice to keep managing as though people were all still veterans and baby boomers, but companies need to be careful because generations X and Y see work in a whole new way.

Here in the House of Commons, we have to be visionaries. It is time to make companies, particularly those in sectors under federal jurisdiction, understand that they cannot use replacement workers to avoid conflict resolution. The time has also come to add essential services. Businesses in certain sectors provide services to all communities. Those services should therefore be considered essential and even mandatory in some cases.

The Bloc Québécois has always been against forcing people to stay on the job and always will be, but it is important to negotiate essential services and maintain certain services. When disputes arise, it is important for employees to have the right to strike so they can make the employer understand that things are not working. That is the best way to move labour relations forward.

Over the past few months and the past year, a forestry company in my riding, the Fraser company in Thurso, placed itself under the protection of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act because it did not have a recovery plan and had decided to sell the company.

I have been a member of the House since 2000. In my own way, I advised the president of the company union, who is a childhood friend. Every time he negotiated an agreement—there have been four since 2000—he asked me what I thought of the situation. I always advised him to the extent of my knowledge, but I am not clairvoyant.

I looked at what was happening at the Conference Board and at Statistics Canada in terms of employers' offers. I talked to him about it, and it was all very nice. Often, after the negotiations, I found that much of the advice I had given him had found its way into the final agreements.

This past year was a terrible one for the employees. Just prior to June of last year, they found out that their company was closing.

My friend called me again to tell me that it seemed to be over and to ask what I thought. I told him that “it ain't over 'til it's over.” Good old Piton Ruel of the Montreal Canadiens used to say that. The same can be said of an exercise that decides the fate of an industry.

The only advice I gave him was to approach the employer about renegotiating working conditions, in case the company were to start up again.

It is not easy for employees and an employer to talk together. It is easier when you know you will keep your job, but when you have already lost your job and no one knows if the company will survive, that makes it hard.

Believe it or not, they negotiated new terms for working conditions in the three or four months following the closure, even though the company was not in production mode. It was difficult. Salaries were reduced by 20% and retirement eligibility was moved from age 55 to 65, but it meant that the company was able to start up again. The company's buyer had no say in the working conditions that had been negotiated by the employer's representatives and the employees while the company was closed. That meant that the company could start up again.

If this company had been under federal jurisdiction and a lock-out had been imposed, these employees would have been laid off for three or four years and the union and employer would never have been able to start negotiations. The tension would have been so bad that they would have wanted the company to close because of the lay-offs.

Once again, I am asking my colleagues to vote in favour of this bill, which is a new way of looking at labour relations.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for introducing this legislation. As the member knows, this legislation has been in force in Quebec since René Lévesque's day, in 1977. I notice that it has survived many changes in government, as well. When the Liberals become government, they do not repeal it, as was the case in Ontario when Mike Harris came in, and the current government of Jean Charest has not repealed it either. Obviously it must have some beneficial effects in Quebec.

Could the member give us some statistics as to why and how this legislation has survived so long in the province of Quebec?

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the statistics I just gave speak for themselves. There are two and half times fewer days of work stoppages because of lock-outs or strikes at companies under provincial jurisdiction than at companies under federal jurisdiction. This means that disputes are shorter and therefore less likely to become acrimonious.

As the saying goes, what is left lying around gets dirty. That is definitely the case with labour relations in companies under federal jurisdiction. Disputes go on far too long and they become dirty because people hold grudges for decades. When the time comes to try to save a company together, people would often rather see it close and the owner lose everything because he did not manage to find the right balance in labour relations.

Labour relations need to be protected by legislation, as they are in Quebec, where there is a true right to strike and essential services are maintained. That is a fairer and more balanced way to deal with labour relations.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission
B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, the member would probably agree that the goal of any legislation like this, or the goal of workplace relations, should be to reduce the incidence or duration of strikes. I know that he has talked about some within the Quebec jurisdiction. However, I would like to ask him if, at the federal level, he has any evidence that legislation like this would actually produce either of those results, a reduction in either the incidence or duration of workplace stoppages.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the federal government's habit of imposing things through legislation is a terrible way to proceed. So it is rather difficult. In the case of a labour conflict, transportation, whether it is air, maritime or ground, is considered an essential service, and legislation is imposed. I can understand that the Conservative members want to pass a law to show that they are big and strong, and to impose working conditions. What often happens is that employers rely on that and do not negotiate with their employees.

They tell themselves that the federal government will pass legislation and will impose working conditions, and that that is how they will resolve their conflicts. But that is not the solution. I urge the Conservative member to look at his own statistics. Currently, businesses under federal jurisdiction receive fewer job applications from the younger generation because they do not respect the living conditions that this new generation is looking for.

By always giving the employer the upper hand and by ramming working conditions down people's throats, the Conservatives will run a lot of companies out of business, since they will not be able to recruit employees. That is the case with the ground and air transportation sectors. I know what I am talking about; the member should talk to some airplane pilots. There are no new employees coming in, because the working conditions are imposed; nothing is negotiated. The new generation does not want to work in those sectors. We can choose to think like the regressive Conservatives, who are 40 years behind, or to be visionaries like the Bloc Québécois, which is 30 years ahead.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege to join members today in this debate regarding the provisions of Bill C-386. This proposed legislation calls for significant changes to key sections of the Canada Labour Code. If passed, it would prohibit federal employees from hiring replacement workers to perform the duties of employees who are on strike or in a lock-out situation.

This initiative, tabled by my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, is the most recent in a long line of attempts to use this kind of legislation as a means of rewriting the rules on what can happen during a work stoppage. As members know, this House has debated similar bills and motions on this very issue countless times. Indeed, I have come to understand that there have been 14 such proposals just since the year 2000, and not one of these bills has been supported by Parliament. What we should be learning from the experience is that this is not in fact the right way to address labour relations and it is not an effective way of preventing work stoppages.

Our government's position on Bill C-386 is very clear. Workers, unions and businesses all deserve more than this piecemeal approach as would be prescribed by this bill. Instead we need to stick with an approach that leads to a positive result for everyone, each of the workplace parties. It is an approach based on the prevention of work stoppages, first of all, but also in terms of consultation and compromise between the parties.

The drafters and supporters of this bill in any of its earlier manifestations are fond of citing Quebec as an example of a jurisdiction that has successfully enacted a legislative ban on the use of replacement workers, but they are less likely to mention that Quebec's efforts were enacted more than 30 years ago. It is important to keep in mind the context here. The economic and labour issues faced by the province of Quebec in the 1970s are absolutely not the same as the ones faced by the Government of Canada today. It is an entirely different scenario.

Even in the spirit of labour relations today, it is very different from what we saw and certainly what the province of Quebec saw in the 1970s. Consider, for example, the success rate that we have achieved at the federal level. Over 97% of labour disputes were resolved last year without strikes or lockouts. Even in the rare cases that do result in a work stoppage, federal employers tend not to use external replacement workers.

The numbers speak the truth. The approach we have in place now is working very well. The Government of Canada's approach to maintaining good labour relations is based on getting at the root of disputes. The accent is on preventing work stoppages from ever happening in the first place.

That is one of the key reasons that in 2008 we commissioned a study conducted by an industrial relations expert, Peter Annis, on the causes and effects of work stoppages in the federally regulated private sector. His report was tabled about a year ago. Among his findings, Mr. Annis found that there is no conclusive empirical evidence, none, to support the idea that banning replacement workers would lead to a decrease in the incidence of work stoppages or the number of person days not worked. His findings are supported by a number of other independent academic studies.

Instead, Mr. Annis maintained that what we really need to be doing is focusing on prevention mediation. We need to find ways for all sides to work together in a spirit of co-operation through the life of the collective agreement. I am sure all members would agree that this would be an entirely preferable arrangement.

It is not enough for both sides to address an issue once every three or four years, or each time a collective agreement finishes during collective bargaining. That is how people become disengaged from each other, and disputes become more difficult to resolve quickly and thoroughly. Things become much more difficult.

I would like to share something Mr. Annis said in regard to the subject at hand, because it is an important insight for us all to consider. He said that if one diminishes the adversarial nature of the relationship and gets the stakeholders into problem solving and they see the collective agreement not as a contract to be fought over and enforced tooth and nail, but rather as a living snapshot of the relationship that they have to work on throughout the whole period, it will bring down the number of work stoppages.

It is absolutely clear that this is the preferable approach and the one that the Government of Canada supports wholeheartedly.

Our government agrees with this assessment. When we can find ways to engage both sides on an ongoing basis, we will be able to get to the root causes of labour disputes. Parties will indeed be better equipped to work out their differences. When they both have a stake in maintaining positive relations, relationships that are adversarial will become, instead, constructive. Where there is a collaborative relationship, there is an incentive to avoid work stoppages.

Do the provisions in Bill C-386 seek to engage parties in a positive, constructive manner? Do they encourage the parties to build long-term relationships based on trust and mutual respect? I would say that the simple answer is no, they do not. If anything, they do the opposite.

We need to avoid driving the two sides apart with such divisive tactics. Instead, we need to focus on supporting innovative government policies that prevent conflict and enhance labour-management relationships in the long term.

Good labour relations are about sustaining a balance. We know that to be true. It is not about taking sides. It is about being fair and giving both sides an incentive to work together. That is what Canada achieved when it amended the Canada Labour Code in 1999. The code's current replacement worker provision is an approach that provides an important balance between the needs of workers and those of their employers. It was the outcome of hard work and hard-fought debates.

The amendments followed after a lengthy and extensive review process involving broad-based consultations with client groups. It may not be a perfect solution, but it is one that has struck a balance, one that has been achieved through dialogue, co-operation and compromise.

That is where I would say the focus of the House as it relates to Bill C-386 should remain. It should not remain on debating one legislative attempt after another, each seeking to ban replacement workers without consultation, without compromise and without balance.

It is for these reasons that I remain opposed to Bill C-386. I call on all members of the House to vote against these provisions becoming law.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate on Bill C-386, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers). As the labour critic for my party, I will not be supporting this bill, and in my remarks I will lay out some of my concerns.

Under the current Canada Labour Code there is no general ban on the use of replacement workers. This bill proposes to amend the code so there would be a ban. As my colleague from across the aisle has just noted, the House has considered this type of bill, and motions as well, a number of times over the past decade and they have all failed to pass.

The Canada Labour Code was last revamped in 1999 as a result of recommendations in the Sims report. Most of the issues were agreed on by the stakeholders who had been consulted in the course of the study by the Sims task force.

The controversial measure around replacement workers was not fully agreed on by the stakeholders at that time. However, the task force did recommend that there be no general prohibition on the use of replacement workers after consulting and giving due consideration to the issue. I will quote a recommendation in the task force report:

Replacement workers can be necessary to sustain the economic viability of an enterprise in the face of a harsh economic climate and unacceptable union demands. It is important in a system of free collective bargaining that employers maintain that option, unrestrained by any blanket prohibition. If this option is removed, employers will begin to structure themselves to reduce their reliance on their permanent workforces for fear of vulnerability, to the detriment of both workers and employers alike.

The Liberal government of the day accepted the recommendations of the Sims task force, and the blanket provisions that some of the stakeholders were looking for on the use of replacement workers were not included in the Canada Labour Code at that time.

The business sector believes that since the changes to the code were made, there has been little controversy over the use of replacement workers in the federal sector, but other stakeholders would disagree with that comment.

Where are we today? There are arguments on both sides of this issue. Some would argue that it is an unfair labour practice for employers to use replacement workers in an attempt to undermine a union's representational capacity, for example, to attempt to break a union.

I think all members of the House would agree that unions serve an important function in their representation of workers in collective bargaining with respect to benefits and health and safety conditions.

On the other side of the argument, some have argued that while a union has the absolute right to strike, an employer also has the right to continue to operate and customers have the right to service. This is a very polarized argument.

It is clear that some provinces have been successful with respect to both sides of this issue. Some of my colleagues have talked about the ban on replacement workers in Quebec. There is also a ban on replacement workers in British Columbia, and that was put in place by an NDP government in the 1990s. When the B.C. Liberal government took office in 2001 it was widely expected that it would amend the labour code in British Columbia to remove the ban on replacement workers, but it chose not to do that.

As a proud British Columbian and as a former member of the government of that day, I would note that British Columbia went from having the slowest growing economy in Canada in 2000 to having the fastest growing economy a few years later, still with the ban on replacement workers in place.

There is no evidence that one way is right and another way is wrong. In fact, several provinces with NDP governments have maintained the aspect of their labour codes that allows replacement workers. In a way, this is not even an ideological divide.

The example of Quebec shows that the number of days lost to work stoppage is not substantially higher than the average number lost under the Canada Labour Code. In terms of a severe impact from having a ban versus not having a ban, I would contend that we do not see that.

What is at the core of my argument that we should not be supporting this private member's bill? The key to the situation really is fair and free collective bargaining that is balanced between employers and unions. I would assert that this balance cannot be maintained and improved through a selective private member's bill that picks one side of a historically polarized issue in the absence of a clear crisis that demands immediate action.

I would further assert that we face some serious challenges in the future, we being Canadians, in the broader context within which we need to look at labour relations and our approach to labour relations. Is the historic polarity between organizations representing labour and those representing the private sector on this issue the framework within which we want to make decisions for the future?

Do we want to maintain that polarity and weigh in on one side or another, or do we want to find a place away from that dichotomy, a place where employers and employees work together with the co-operation and co-ordination of their representatives to address larger external threats to the quality of life and the well-being of Canadians? That is exactly what I believe needs to happen.

What are some of the serious challenges? As I have said, I do not believe that this is useful legislation to help achieve the objective of improving people's lives. Some of the challenges include the re-entry into major deficit into which the Conservative government has placed Canada. There is the mounting debt we are facing.

At the same time, we have the demographic of an aging population such that there will be relatively fewer people in the workforce a generation from now. Perhaps two in ten Canadians will be in the workforce. There will be far more people aged 65 and over than there are today, along with the related costs for health care and other services. That is the challenge facing Canada that we cannot ignore, though the government seems to be doing that.

Some would assert that four in ten Canadians are challenged in their ability to be successful in their jobs because of illiteracy. We need to increase Canadian productivity and better match people with jobs, because we are faced with a million Canadians who are out of work and a million jobs for which there are not skilled people.

In the future, when there are fewer people of working age, we will need higher productivity. To be competitive, we need to be working together to face the challenges of the major economies of the Asia-Pacific and their success and growth.

We need a new economy that is based on green jobs. As we change the way we use energy, we increase our efficiency. We need to be thinking about all those kinds of technological innovations that underpin the transformation of our economy.

Does this legislation address any of those problems and help to solve them? I would say that it does not. We need employees and employers working together. We need governments working with employees and employers, finding the successes, building on them, and then addressing the huge challenges we face in the future.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-386, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers).

In short, the bill is anti-scab legislation. It is almost identical to my bill on the same subject. In fact, my bill, Bill C-337, was introduced prior to the one we are debating today, but the lottery system that governs the timing of private member's business is such that Bill C-386 has come up first. That is absolutely fine, as long as we can ensure that the long overdue ban on replacement workers finally becomes law.

The last time I spoke to this issue in the House, I was deliberately provocative by quoting Jack London. London, of course, is best known for his novels, The Call of the Wild, White Fang and The Sea-Wolf. However, germane to the debate today is his 1915 Ode To A Scab. I would still recommend that poem to all Canadians who may be watching this debate today. A quick Google search will lead you straight to the verse. However, despite its powerful description of the odious and destructive nature of scab labour, in the interest of not teasing the bears on the Conservative and Liberal benches, I will refrain from reading it into the record today.

Let me, instead, begin by quoting the preamble of the Canada Labour Code. It states:

—there is a long tradition in Canada of labour legislation and policy designed for the promotion of the common well-being through the encouragement of free collective bargaining and the constructive settlement of disputes;

The intent of the preamble is to create some balance in labour relations. Capitalist economies embody inherent conflict between the economic interests of business and the economic interests of workers. The very nature of the employment relationship is authoritarian and exploitative and thus conducive to insecurity, distrust and class antagonism. The level to which these underlying conflicts manifest themselves in the workplace is uneven. However, combined with broader social inequalities and precarious labour market opportunities, employers hold the upper hand. That remains true with or without anti-scab laws.

The introduction of a formal regime of collective bargaining, the right to strike, minimum wages and occupational health and safety laws were all accomplished by the struggles of the labour movement to right that imbalance.

The one piece that is still missing in establishing a reasonable balance of power in the workplace relates to the fact that most businesses in Canada are still permitted to hire people to do the jobs of striking workers.

It is true that there is a provision in the Canada Labour Code that prohibits the use of replacement workers if they are used to undermine the union's representational capacity. That provision is enshrined in section 94(2.1) of the code. While the section sounds like it ought to be effective, in fact, it is a paper tiger. As long as a business keeps up the facade of continuing to bargain with the union, it allows employers to carry on business as usual with the help of scab labour.

That situation is untenable. It undermines a fair and reasonable balance in negotiations between employers and employees. Allowing employers to bring in replacement workers during a legal labour dispute negates entirely the only power that workers have at the bargaining table, and that is the right to withhold their labour.

When workers are so unilaterally stripped of their power, they become desperate. There is a scene in the film Billy Elliot where replacement miners in northern England are bused to work, while the striking workers pelt them with eggs and hurl insults at them. It is a stark visual of what is true in Canada as well. The largest single source of injuries on a picket line is scab labour.

By contrast, anti-scab legislation promotes civilized negotiations during labour disputes, during strikes or lockouts, and reduces picket line violence and the social and psychological problems caused by the extraordinary stress of labour disputes. Banning replacement workers would diminish the resentment that employees feel upon returning to work and would foster a just balance and greater transparency in the negotiations between employers and employees.

That is not simply idle speculation. We know for a fact that anti-scab legislation does indeed have that desired effect. It was well-documented in Canadian jurisdictions that have had anti-scab legislation at the provincial level for some considerable time. Specifically, I am referring to Quebec and British Columbia.

Quebec was the first province to enact the ban on replacement workers in 1977. In the year prior to the ban, the average number of working days lost through labour disputes was 39.4. In 1979, after the act was passed, the average was 32.8 days. In 2001 it was 27.4 days.

Looking at aggregate numbers, the picture is even more impressive. In 1976, the year prior to the adoption of anti-scab laws in Quebec, 6.4 million worker days were lost to strikes. In 1977 the number of days lost dropped to 1.2 million.

Another interesting set of statistics makes an equally powerful case for anti-scab legislation. In all cases, they demonstrate that banning replacement workers helps to reduce the number of work days lost to labour disputes.

First, the average work time lost from 1992 to 2002 is 15.9 days for workers who come under the Quebec Labour Code and 31.1 days for workers subject to the Canada Labour Code. That represents a difference of 95.6% in days of work lost. Those lost days represent a lot of money for both companies and Canadian workers.

Second, and again looking at 2002 statistics, despite the fact that workers under federal jurisdiction made up only 6.6% of the labour force in Quebec, they accounted for a whopping 48% of the days lost as a result of labour disputes.

Third, the number of days lost per 1,000 employees from 1999 to 2002, was 121.3 for workers covered by the Quebec Labour Code compared to 266.3 for workers subject to the Canada Labour Code. That is a huge difference: 145 more days of work lost. Again, this can largely be attributed to the use of scabs.

Quebec is not the only province where anti-scab legislation is in effect. British Columbia passed a similar law in 1993, which had the effect of reducing strike days to levels comparable to those in Quebec. It also resulted in a 50% drop in the ratio of time lost.

Ontario, too, adopted anti-scab legislation, albeit all too briefly. The NDP government enacted it in 1992 and Mike Harris repealed it immediately upon taking office. Nonetheless, even in that brief period, precipitous declines in work stoppages were evident in Ontario as well.

Clearly, the introduction of anti-scab legislation did not lead to the creation of strike-happy unions run by unreasonable and irrational negotiators. One of the biggest fears of employer organizations has always been that a ban on replacement workers would render unions more militant and difficult at the bargaining table. However, there is little evidence to suggest that any relationship exists between jurisdictions using anti-scab legislation and increased wage demands or settlements. Unions are not interested in negotiating an employer out of business. Economic conditions, rather than the presence of anti-scab laws, are what continue to dictate the tone and content of negotiated agreements.

Where does that leave us? Anti-scab legislation diminishes picket line violence, fosters a fairer balance in the negotiations between employers and employees, reduces the legal proceedings that arise during strikes and lockouts, and mitigates the bitterness felt by employees when they return to work. All of these are benefits to both the workers and the businesses involved in labour disputes. Clearly, it is a win-win.

Why then is the Canadian business community so adamant in its opposition to a ban on replacement workers? It is fundamentally about power and who wields it. That is why the existence of anti-scab laws not only matters to workers and bosses, but also to anyone concerned about the growth of corporate power and its consequences for democracy.

The Conservatives have made their agenda clear. At every step they support their corporate friends at the expense of hard-working Canadians. As recently as their last budget, they chose to give $6 billion in additional corporate tax cuts to their business friends in the most profitable corporations, while at the same time robbing the employment insurance fund of its $57 billion surplus. They know which side they are on.

However, there are more of us than there are of them, both in the House and right across this country. Labour rights and democratic rights are basic human rights, and yet they were not won without a struggle. Without resorting to hyperbole, it is true that people literally gave their lives to secure these rights for those of us who follow.

Now the responsibility falls to us to defend those rights. Each and every one of us in the House has a choice to make. We have to ask ourselves what kind of Canada do we want to leave for our children and our grandchildren? We have to ask ourselves, which side are we on?

So far, each time similar legislation has been before the House, New Democrats and the Bloc supported it unanimously and each time, as would be expected, the Conservatives opposed banning scabs. We all know which side we are on.

So, the spotlight will shine once again on the Liberal members in the House. On all previous occasions that the ban of replacement workers was debated on the floor of the House, the Liberals said all the right things. But when push came to shove and they had to stand up and be counted, they voted against the legislation in sufficient numbers to ensure its defeat.

Although I make no claims of clairvoyance, I am absolutely certain that under the current Liberal leadership the same will happen again. They will once again allow Bay Street to determine how they will vote and I fear this bill, too, will be defeated.

Canadians deserve better. They deserve a Parliament that is working to represent their interests when public policy decisions are made, and there is nothing more fundamental to those interests than the protection of their basic human rights.

I hope all members in this House will reflect upon this bill in that light and then maybe, just maybe, we will--

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Shefford.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Vincent Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on Bill C-386 introduced by my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel who, on behalf of his political party, is trying for the umpteenth time to put an end to the use of replacement workers in Canada and Quebec.

While Quebec legislated on this a long time ago, workers governed by the Canada Labour Code working in Quebec are not covered by Quebec's Bill 45, passed during the first mandate of the late René Lévesque. This Conservative government is once again ignoring one of the main demands with respect to how the whole area of work relations is governed.

Why is anti-strikebreaking, or anti-scab, legislation necessary? For one thing, the Bloc Québécois would like all workers in Quebec, whether governed by the Quebec Labour Code or the Canada Labour Code, to have the same rights. The Conservative government's stubbornness is creating two distinct classes of workers in Quebec. The Bloc Québécois believes that the best way of recognizing the outstanding contribution of all these men and women who are helping build the Quebec society on a day-to-day basis is to show genuine respect for their rights, starting by banning the use of replacement workers during strikes or lockouts.

Anti-scab legislation would ensure that workers governed by federal legislation enjoy balanced bargaining power, and would keep tension on the picket lines to a minimum. That is the basic objective of Bill C-386, which would prohibit the hiring of replacement workers.

At this point, I would like to list what the Conservative government has done in response to the many expectations of the labour movement. It is a very short list. How much has the Conservative government given to help the unemployed, the tens of thousands of workers who have lost their job in the forestry sector? Peanuts, compared to the billions of dollars it has showered on Ontario to help auto workers. What has the Conservative government done to eliminate the two-week waiting period for people who become unemployed? Nothing.

Workers who lose their jobs go through stress and anxiety. Their income is cut off at the source. Meanwhile, they are expected to wait patiently for a Service Canada official to examine their file, and often they have to endure processing delays, not to mention the 1-800 telephone line, which is insane. In addition to waiting for an answer, the poor jobless people have to put up with this irresponsible treatment.

I will continue with my list, because since I came to the House of Commons in 2004, my social priorities have always included the unemployed and older workers. This government is still refusing to support our proposal to increase the maximum EI benefit period for workers with a serious illness from 15 to 50 weeks. It is currently 15 weeks, as if someone's cancer could be treated in 15 weeks.

I could pull out the list of measures we have called for in recent years and the many bills we have introduced to help our workers. The list of no's from ministers and members is as long as our list of requests. By the way, the government voted against Bill C-429, which would have promoted the use of wood in the construction of federal buildings and would have helped workers in Quebec. But no, the government ignored our workers again. That was another trademark vote by the Conservatives.

I would like to remind hon. members once again of one of the most anti-worker statements ever heard here in the House. On December 3, 2009, the member for Souris—Moose Mountain said this:

I do not see anything in the bill's proposed provision that would help boost Canada's ability to create jobs and to be more competitive in today's economy. What I do see in the bill is a recipe for instability and uncertainty in Canadian labour relations.

What an explanation. According to him, having workers out on the street for months or years is what will stimulate employment, as will the uncertainty of the workers who do not have sufficient power to assert their legitimate rights. What is the government doing about the uncertainty experienced by the many families of strikers affected by these lasting disputes? Nothing, nothing and more nothing. It prefers to build lakes—that is a good one—for journalists and delegates at the G8. In their right-wing vocabulary, the Conservatives call this “stimulating the economy”. I call it keeping families in poverty.

Let us get back to the Conservative government's sad record.

Here is a clear example of that record. During the CN conflict, the Conservative government passed special legislation with respect to Canadian National. The latter had been training its managers and a large group of non-unionized employees for several months in order to maintain service. In the case of CN, they were maintaining over 60% of service. However, Canadian Pacific, which has two parallel lines across Canada—one used by CN and the other by CP—could have covered the other 40% that CN claimed it could not. They could also have resorted to trucking, as well as the short lines in the regions, to serve the Canadian public.

For the Montreal region, for example, AMT had signed an agreement for continuous passenger service and CN would have covered not just 100%, but 120% of the service provided to its clients.

Given all these responsibilities and possibilities, I wonder why the Conservatives thought there was a crisis and why was there a need for additional service? We have to allow negotiations between the parties to continue in good faith and force them to agree on a collective agreement, and not vote on a special law to force workers back to work.

I would also point out to my hon. colleagues that CN is a private corporation, which is why I do not understand why the government became involved in the dispute. Indeed, when it comes to private corporations, we believe that they are in a position to negotiate with workers themselves and capable of doing so, but they do not, nor do they have to. All they have to do is call up the government and say that they are going on strike and will not be able to provide the service. Since it is a transportation service, it is very important. What did the government do? It passed special legislation to force the workers back to work. They forget about negotiating; they make them work and everything goes back to what it was before, without any thought given to negotiating with the workers. I find that unreasonable on the government's part. It is always trying to denigrate workers. Yet our workers form the foundation of the Canadian and Quebec economy. And they are the first people the government tries to steal from.

We saw it again with the $57 billion that the government stole from workers. It is not enough to tax them or to take taxes off at the source, it always wants a little bit more. As for employers, their taxes have been cut. It is not employers that are producing what Canada needs to survive. It comes from the taxes paid by workers.

I could also talk about the theft from the employment insurance fund surplus. My mother always told me that when you take something that is not yours, it is stealing. When they dipped into the employment insurance fund that was not theirs, it was stealing. I will not contradict my mother here today. If she said it, it is because it is true. Nothing will change my mind.

Back when the Conservatives were in opposition, they constantly condemned the Liberals' practice of pillaging the employment insurance fund. Now, with Bill C-9, they are about to keep doing the same thing. How? By wiping the slate clean, as they say. The Conservatives are telling workers and employers, the people to whom that money belongs, that they should forget about recuperating the $57 billion that the government siphoned off over the years.

The Prime Minister himself once recognized that employment insurance fund money was misappropriated to pay down the deficit. He promised workers that he would repay the $57 billion that Ottawa diverted. Now he is breaking that promise.

The proposed new employment insurance measures are particularly sickening because the Conservatives are trying to hide them among the dozens of other initiatives in Bill C-9. Unfortunately, these kinds of anti-democratic manoeuvres have become par for the course with the Conservative government.

With the end of the parliamentary session just days away, on behalf of unionized workers subject to the Canada Labour Code, and on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, we urge the Conservative ministers and members to say yes to anti-scab legislation.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

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

It being 2:39 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:39 p.m.)