House of Commons Hansard #70 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was children.

Topics

The House resumed from September 23 consideration of the motion that Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When this bill was last before the House, the hon. member for Elmwood--Transcona had the floor. There are 11 minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks. I therefore call upon the hon. member for Elmwood--Transcona.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

10 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to continue with my speech on this bill. As indicated, I spoke yesterday on it for a number of minutes and I have about 11 minutes left, but for those who are listening in today and who did not have the benefit of listening to the presentations yesterday on this bill, I will recap and then point out some of the things that this bill would do.

It would suspend payments of old age security, OAS, and guaranteed income supplement, GIS, to all persons 65 years of age and older while they are serving time in a federal correctional facility, which, of course, would be a sentence of two years or more.

It would suspend payments of the spousal or survivor allowance to eligible individuals between 60 and 64 years old while the individual is serving time in a federal facility.

It would maintain OAS and GIS payments to spouses and partners of those who are incarcerated, and provide to receive these payments at the higher single rate based on the individual rather than the combined spousal income. It also would maintain the spousal allowance benefits to the spouses of incarcerated individuals.

The bill would allow the provinces to opt in by entering into agreements with the federal government to suspend OAS, GIS and spousal allowance benefits on the above terms to all individuals incarcerated for a sentence that exceeds 90 days in a provincial facility. This would take a process of having all of the provinces opt into this bill. Notwithstanding the above, the benefit payments could still be paid during the first month of the incarceration. Benefit payments would resume the month that an individual was released on earned remission, parole, statutory release or a warrant expiry.

In terms of some of the positive aspects of the bill, which speakers on this side of the House have noted, there is an inherent and undeniable logic to suspending payments designed to provide for the basic necessities of life in cases when the taxpayer is already funding the basic necessities of life, and that has been mentioned by almost all of the speakers to this bill.

Another positive aspect of suspending pensions for prisoners is that it does have a lot of support out in the public. It would save between $2 million a year and up to $10 million per year if all of the provinces and the territories were to opt in. The bill would also mitigate, to an extent, the financial impact on spouses by allowing them to receive OAS and GIS payments at the single rate based on their individual rather than a combined spousal income.

I did deal with an issue here yesterday to which I still do not have an answer. I asked at what point, what year and what government was in place when the OAS and GIS benefits were initially provided to inmates of federal institutions. I understand that the year was 1979 when Joe Clark was the Conservative prime minister. It was the Conservative government of Joe Clark that started paying OAS and GIS payments to federal prisoners in the first place. I asked whether, in developing this bill, the government had gone back to those days to determine the debates that had occurred and why the government in those days decided to provide these payments to the prisoners in the first place.

Was there Hansard debate available here in the House at the time? I am sure this must have come before the House of Commons for debate. If there is no Hansard available, then how did this measure start? Was it an administrative decision on the part of Joe Clark and the Conservative government to provide these pension benefits to federal inmates? Exactly what was the process? Was there a court intervention? Did somebody take the issue to court and win a court case and that is why the federal government made that move?

We know that when we get this bill to committee there will be an opportunity to ask these questions and more so we can get a full understanding of where this issue came from. Essentially, like a lot of the government's justice initiatives, it is basically knee-jerk. It is based on what the latest polling shows or what the latest press articles are. When an article comes out, the next week the government introduces a bill to deal with that issue. When in actual fact we know, and the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan pointed out very well yesterday, that what we need is complete pension reform in this country

We need to move forward. We have seen some good signals coming from the Conservative government that it is prepared to look at doubling the benefits of the CPP as opposed to taking the private route and rewarding private insurance companies on Bay Street. I applaud the Conservatives for that because that is to the benefit of Canadian citizens and not something we would necessarily expect coming out of a Conservative government.

In the area of the Criminal Code, it has been mentioned several times in the House that the Criminal Code that is 100-plus years old, that it is out of date and that it needs a lot of revisions. It is time for the government to take a total view of things and make an announcement that the Criminal Code will be revised, get all the parties involved and embark on this process.

I still go back to what has not been accomplished under this minority government. When we compare the minority government period of Lester Pearson from 1962 to 1968, those six years, to this government which is pushing five years, it is only a year away from actually exceeding being probably the longest minority government in history and it has very little to show for its now five years in office.

During the same time, the Pearson government had resolved some very controversial issues. It brought in the new Canadian flag, which was very controversial to the members of the Conservatives at the time. It unified the armed forces, also extremely controversial, melding the air force, the navy and the army together in one unit. It brought in the Medicare Act. That government did a lot of things and the present government could be doing the same thing.

I look to Manitoba as well, under the Conservative government of Gary Filmon, where, in a minority situation, it got a lot of things done because it was trying to make parliament work.

However, here we have a group that is undecided as to how it wants to proceed. It develops a wedge politics attitude and every issue it looks at it wonders how it can drive wedges between the opposition parties and create division within the country. That is not how Lester Pearson ran the government.

I do not know how long it will take for the government to figure this out but I hope it does it soon because it may not be around that much longer. I would hate to see the Conservatives wake up years after the fact and realize that if only they had done this. I can see the Prime Minister, 10 years from now, saying, “I was the Prime Minister for five years and I could have done X, Y and Z but I let the opportunity pass”.

Once again I would call on the government and the Prime Minister to take the initiative, to do the comprehensive revisions to the pension system in this country, to initiate major changes to the Criminal Code and, by doing so, will develop a national vision for the government, which it does not have at this time.

As was pointed out yesterday, our member for Burnaby—New Westminster has a motion, Motion No. 507, tabled before the House where he requested that the government prohibit the payment of old age security and guaranteed income supplement payments to individuals serving life sentences for multiple murders, except for the individuals released from prison, and allocate the proceeds to a victims compensation program administered by the provinces. This is a very sensible approach in that it would cut the payments to mass murderers, 19 of them in the system right now, and it would take the proceeds from their pensions and put them into a compensation fund for the victims where it rightfully belongs. That would go a long way to helping victims in this country. It shows vision and it shows leadership, something that is severely lacking from the government on this particular issue.

We are offering solutions that try to contribute to the problems in the country.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, if we look at the demographic changes in our country, we will have an explosion of those people who will be needing pensions. We also know there is a significant problem today of people not having enough savings and not having enough pension security.

I would ask the member's opinion on one of the things I think we could do. When pensions were put together, the average life expectancy was roughly 60 to 62. Today, the average life expectancy of a woman is 82 and for a man it is 80. There is a large gap between the time of retirement and the average end of life.

I would ask the member whether one of the challenges that a government would have and one of the solutions would be to incentivize individuals to be able to work after the age of 65. Maybe one way to do this would to enable people to take a part of their CPP tax free in order to incent them to work after the age of 65, and that number would actually increase from 65 to 70. This way it would have less pressure on our CPP levels while providing an incentive for people to work.

We are also seeing a contraction in our workforce as our population ages. The amount of workforce we have will contract because we know our population reproduction rate now is about 1.5 children per woman and the number needed just to maintain a population is 2.1 children per women.

Does my friend believe that a significant reformation of our pension system to incent individuals to work beyond the age of 65 would be to allow them to keep part of their CPP tax free?.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am always interested to hear from the member because he makes very insightful speeches on not only this but many topics.

I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance would be more than prepared to let him know this. In the last budget, and I am not sure whether it was in that 880-page omnibus budget bill that was presented before the House or whether it was in another part of the budgetary process, but the government actually did deal with part of what he just spoke of. It tinkered with the rules a bit to give incentive to people who wished to work an extra two or three years and they will get paid a little bit more than if they were to take early retirement. That is already on its radar and it was dealt with last year to that small extent.

I read an article about that issue where an analyst said that it was a bit of an incentive. People who stayed in the workforce an extra three or four years would gain a little bit but at the end of the day it really was not that much and therefore the incentive for staying probably was not worth staying the extra three years. It is not really quite enough. Perhaps what the member is suggesting, combined with what the government is already doing, might actually achieve the desired effect.

I do not think what has been done with the system right now will achieve the results that the government itself is looking for here. It did not offer a big enough incentive for people to stay in the workforce those extra two or three years.

The member is welcome to check with the parliamentary secretary on this issue because he has all the details. However, it was passed and I believe it is in force as we speak, or should be. What the hon. member has mentioned is certainly an added benefit that we should look at because I do not think what the government has done will give it the desired effect. I could be wrong but I do not think so.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is the House ready for the question?

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

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

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the motion adopted. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed from June 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-22, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When this bill was last before the House, the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona also had the floor. There are 18 minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks on this particular bill. I therefore call on the hon. member for Elmwood--Transcona.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to continue debate on what is now Bill C-22. I think this may be my last speech for a while, so all members can relax.

This is also a very important bill. Once again, it has been five years plus that we have been waiting for this bill, now titled Bill C-22. It was called Bill C-58 before the government prorogued the House. It is the child protection act online sexual exploitation.

There are some important points here that the members should know about this bill even though it has been knocking around now for five years and many speeches have been made about it. It is one of these bills where there really is not a lot of disagreement on the subject.

I personally am not really sure how it is going to play out. The reality is once we send it to committee, which should be fairly soon, and once the committee hearings are proceeded with, I really do not foresee many amendments to this bill and I do not foresee a lot of controversy with this bill. If anything, we may find that this bill is, in some respects, already out of date because it has been five years since we started discussing about it.

It is an act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service. Basically, an ISP is now going to be required to take action on this issue.

Bill C-58 was introduced in the House of Commons on November 24, 2009 by the Minister of Justice. Bill C-58, now Bill C-22, was intended to fight Internet child pornography by requiring ISPs, or Internet service providers, and other persons providing Internet services, for example, Facebook, Google, Hotmail, to report any incident of child pornography.

This requirement included several things, but one was that if a person providing Internet services was advised of an Internet address where child pornography may be available, the person must report that address to the organization designated by the regulations.

I know the member for Mississauga South is bound to ask me a question about the whole issue of the regulations. Once again, until the bill passes, the government sets up the regulations, and we actually will not know what the details will be of this particular part.

Also, if a person has reasonable grounds to believe that the Internet services operated by that person are being used to transmit child pornography, the person must notify the police, that is a logical thing, and also preserve the computer data.

In terms of provincial and international measures, in June 2008, my home province, the Manitoba Legislature passed a law requiring all persons to report to cybertip.ca, which seems to be a very successful longstanding website, any material that could constitute child pornography.

Ontario passed a similar law in December 2008.

Thank goodness Ontario and Manitoba moved ahead because if they waited for the federal government, they would have been waiting an awful long time to get the job done.

The United States and Australia adopted laws in 2002, eight years ago, and in 2005, Australia imposed this requirement on the ISPs.

In terms of the current legislation that affects this area, we have section 163.1 of the Criminal Code, which was passed under the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien back in 1993. This was actually a very good initiative in its day, prohibiting the production, the distribution, the sale, and the possession of child pornography.

The definition under the legislation is a visual representation of explicit sexual activity with a person who is or is depicted as being under the age of 18, the visual representation for sexual purposes of persons under the age 18, or any written material advocating or counselling sexual activity with a person under the age of 18.

Internet child pornography takes the form of images, sound recordings, videos, drawings of accounts of sexual assaults on persons under the age of 18. In 2002, Bill C-15A amended subsection 163.1 of the code, which prohibited the distribution of child pornography by introducing the term “transmits” and made available to prohibit the distribution of child pornography online. The bill also added subsections 163.1 and 163.1 (4.2) to the code making it an offence to deliberately access child pornography by visiting a website, as an example.

Bill C-15A also provided for a special warrant in relation to Internet child pornography under section 164.1 of the code. If there are reasonable grounds to believe that child pornography is accessible through an ISP computer system, the judge may order the ISP to provide the necessary information to identify and locate the person who posted it. In addition, the judge may order the ISP to remove the Internet child pornography in question.

With regard sentencing, child pornography offences are considered hybrid offences. The prosecutor may choose whether the accused should be charged with an indictable offence and be liable to a summary conviction. The offences of producing, distributing and selling of child pornography, if treated as indictable offences, are punishable by a maximum prison term of 10 years and a minimum of one year. On summary conviction, they are punishable by a maximum prison term of 18 months and a minimum term of 90 days.

The offences of possession and viewing of child pornography on the computer are punishable for indictable offences by a maximum prison term of five years and a minimum term of 45 days and on a summary conviction by a maximum term of 18 months and a minimum of 14 days.

In terms of statistics on this issue, according to Statistics Canada, which gathers all types of information on pornography and not just Internet child pornography alone, child pornography offences have increased significantly in Canada from 55 offences in 1998 to 1,600 in 2007. I have some statistics that indicate how serious the issue is in Canada, which I will get to in a couple of minutes.

It is currently estimated that there are over five million child sexual abuse images on the Internet. According to an analysis by cybertip.ca, from 2002 to 2009 54.7% of the images on Internet sites contained pornographic images of children under the age of 8, 24.7% were of children aged 8 to 12, and 83% were girls. Over 35% of the images analyzed showed severe sexual assault. Children under the age of eight most often subjected to sexual assault was at 37.2% and extreme sexual assault was at 68.5%. Older children were usually shown naked or in an obscene pose.

The fact of the matter is that this situation is just getting worse. We are seeing this whole problem snowballing and getting bigger on a day-by-day, month-by-month, year-by-year basis while we sit here and do not take action.

The cybertip.ca study showed that the Internet sites containing child pornography are hosted in close to 60 countries. We know which countries are hosting these sites. For example, in the United States 49% of the sites are hosted in the United States, in Russia 20%, in Canada 9%. When we consider that we have only 30 million people in the country and 9% of the sites are hosted in Canada, that is a very large percentage. In Japan it is 4.3% and in South Korea it is 3.6%.

These sites are very difficult to track down because all of the child pornography files hosted on a web page are not necessarily hosted in the same location. For instance, image A may be hosted in Canada while image B on the same web page may be hosted in the United States. The web page itself might be hosted in yet another country such as Japan.

Similarly, an illegal site can hide the host location through an anonymous proxy server or through server rerouting. There are a lot of technical terms here that the average individual may not be familiar with. Suffice to say that whatever laws exist, the criminal elements, and we are talking about criminal elements, try to be one step ahead. When there are tough laws in one country, they simply move to another country.

The Liberal Party critic for this area has spoken several times on this bill. He has pointed out countries that have simply blocked the sites rather than put money into fighting this problem. Maybe that is the answer.

I asked the minister at the time, who is no longer even a member of the Conservative caucus, why she was announcing that she was going to spend $42 million chasing these sites. I asked her whether this was new money or old money. That was a year ago. She was still a Conservative and a minister in those days.

In Hansard she tells me that she is going to get back to me on this issue. I have yet to hear from her or anybody else in the government as to whether the $42 million to track down these sites is actually new money or just the same old money being announced over and over again.

What I suggest is that rather than spend $42 million to chase these criminals, because that is who they are, we look at those countries that have simply blocked the sites. That is the problem solved right there, it seems to me. We would not have to keep throwing endless amounts of money at the problem.

Identical sites may also be simultaneously located on different URLs. In such cases, it can be very difficult to remove the child pornography. Even if the site is closed down, the offensive material may still be accessible on the Internet. Moreover, illegal sites regularly change location so that they can avoid being shut down.

I want to deal with the penalties under this act before I run out of time. The fact is that these penalties are not tough enough. For individuals, the penalties being proposed are perhaps accurate. However, when we start dealing with companies, and if one considers that criminal groups are running these sites, these fines are simply the cost of doing business. I think the fine for a third offence is approximately $100,000. I will get to that at the end if I have time.

As I indicated, illegal sites regularly change location to avoid being shut down. In a period of 48 hours, Cybertip.ca counted 212 IP addresses in 16 countries for a single website. A website can also change location in just a few minutes by utilizing a network of personal computers as zombies. These zombies relay the content of the website hosted on another server.

Cybertip.ca recommended that when zombies are detected, ISPs running the networks to which these computers are connected should be able to suspend service for those computers until the infected computers are restored.

Another reason this whole problem is snowballing day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year into a bigger and bigger problem is the fact that the computer hardware and software has gotten so much better.

I can recall, perhaps 10 years ago, when the Rolling Stones announced that they were going to do the very first concert on the web. Nobody had done it before. That was in the days when the cameras were operating at 15 frames per second. We all remember those images being choppy. It was certainly in its infancy. The Internet was very slow in those days. We did not have the gigabit ethernet pipes we have today.

What has happened is that today we have a much more technologically advanced system that is designed perfectly for these criminal elements to take advantage of. Taking advantage of it they are.

Governments are sitting around, basically proroguing Parliament every year. We are thrown a bill that is really non-controversial in the sense that just about everyone agrees with the bill.

We passed pardon legislation dealing with the Karla Homolka situation in June in literally a day and a half. If the government really wants to accomplish something here and get the bill through, it only has to sit down with the House leaders and make an arrangement to sit for perhaps a few hours extra in the evening, given that there is not a lot of disagreement about how important the bill is and how it should be passed and put into effect to deal with the issues.

Any person may inform an ISP or other person providing Internet services that a web page, host page, Facebook page, or e-mail appears to contain child pornography. The ISP or other person providing Internet services must then report the address of the site, page or e-mail in question as soon as possible to an organization designated by the federal government.

For example, under Manitoba law, the designated organization is the national reporting agency Cybertip.ca. I want to say that Cybertip.ca has played a very important role in this whole process so far.

After being notified by a member of the public or an agency that child pornography may appear through the Internet services it provides, the ISP or other person providing the Internet services may have reasonable grounds to believe that child pornography is being transmitted through its services. It may also reach this conclusion on its own. When this is the case, the ISP or person providing the Internet services must notify the police as soon as possible.

I am running out of time, but I want to deal with a couple of other issues. There is a provision in the bill that the police must keep the computer data related to the child pornography offence for 21 days. Several people have questioned whether 21 days is appropriate. It seems not only to me but to a number of other people that 21 days may be too short a period for that to properly happen.

I also dealt with the offences. In terms of individuals, the fine is $1,000 for the first offence, $5,000 for a second and a maximum of $10,000 or six months for a third.

For corporations, the criminals who are running these sites, it is only $10,000 for the first offence, $50,000 for a second and $100,000 for a third, which is no more than the cost of doing business.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak to Bill C-22 about online child pornography.

It is hard to imagine a more despicable, disgusting and appalling crime than the abuse of a child.

It is impossible for any of us to imagine that such a thing is possible, but we all know that today it is far too common. Unfortunately, the victims who bear the brunt of this abuse lay all too silent.

Most child victims of abuse are never found or are found far later in their lives. Their lives unravel at inexplicable times, and when we scratch the surface and go back into what started this, we often find episodes of child abuse.

Those who commit the abuse are often not found. Once individuals are found, it is discovered that not only have they had a few victims, but generally there has been a long-standing pattern of victimization. Many have abused dozens and dozens of children over a prolonged period of time. It is a psychiatric sickness, but it is also a cancer in our society that is absolutely intolerable.

The bill goes some way toward dealing with that and specifically with dealing with online child pornography. It was introduced on May 6 in the last Parliament and is being resurrected again in this Parliament.

The bill basically obligates people to report all website addresses they are aware of that may contain pornography. There is an obligation to report them to police if it is believed that a child pornography offence has or will be committed, based on the services one has. The provider must also preserve the relevant computer data for 21 days after notifying the police.

Failure of sole providers to report such a thing will result in fines of between $1,000 and $10,000, and failure of corporations to do this will result in fines of between $10,000 and $100,000. It is important to note that the bill does not require online providers to proactively seek out child pornography.

Therefore, the Liberal Party of Canada, given its long-standing history of addressing this issue, will be supporting the bill to go on to committee stage.

Legislative initiatives to deal with this go as far back as 2002, when the Liberal government of the day, for the first time, introduced legislation to deal with and criminalize online pornography and those people who contribute to it.

It would be worthwhile to talk a bit about facts and to discuss the depth and scope of this terrible problem.

The Internet is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it provides great opportunities to learn and disseminate information. The dark side of this, of course, is the issue we are talking about today, which is child pornography. It is important for us to understand what this actually means. No one thinks it is innocuous, but it certainly has to be dealt with in terms of how serious it is, as I mentioned, because of the long-standing trauma it inflicts on children. Children are not only being exposed to child pornography on sites but are also being victimized by it, as individuals try to lure children through the Internet capabilities they have.

Here is a little bit of information. Seventy-six per cent of offenders convicted of Internet-related crimes against children admitted to sex crimes against children that were previously unknown to law enforcement. Each offender admitted to 30.5 victims; so every person picked up as an offender has, on average, abused 30 children. That is an absolutely staggering number of children per abuser.

Of the 1,400 cases of reported child molestation, child pornography was used in the majority of cases by those who were the molesters. Child molesters almost always collect child pornography, and 80% of purchasers of child pornography who have been charged have actually been active abusers. We can see the strong connection between those who are actually engaging in and looking at child pornography and the fact that those individuals are also abusing children. There is a direct correlation.

The absence of contact with a child is probably the most significant factor in limiting the production of child pornography and the opportunity to access to children, which is an essential factor in the production of child pornography and child abuse.

The RCMP stands out as a shining example of a Canadian police force that has done an extraordinary amount of work in this area. The RCMP is known worldwide as being a leader in the area of combatting child pornography. All of us in the House should commend the RCMP for the excellent work it has done and the men and women who have to endure looking at these sites and horrible images. This cannot be an easy thing for them to do. For those men and women who work within the RCMP and who have to look at these sites, witness this horrible abuse and try to identify those individuals who do this, we thank them for their service to Canada and particularly for their service to the children of Canada and the world.

The RCMP has a site called cybertip.ca. This site has received over 35,000 reports, 90% of which were considered to be child pornography. If people who are watching this debate today are aware of or know of individuals who are engaged in child pornography or child abuse, I ask them to please contact 911 or cybertip.ca.

Only 30% of children who disclose that they have been sexually abused do so during childhood. As I said before in my opening comments, as a physician I have seen a lot of patients who have been abused sexually and oftentimes they have different problems. When their lives start to unravel and an indepth history is done, too often it is found that they have a history of sexual abuse.

I used to be a correctional officer. I also, as a physician, I worked in the jails. The number of people in jail who had been abused sexually as a child is very large. Many of them not only have psychiatric problems, but they also have substance abuse problems, a lot of which stems from early sexual abuse. Many of the pedophiles in jail were sexually abused as children. It is a vicious cycle that goes around and around.

The Liberal Party supports the bill. We also support the work that the RCMP has done.

One of the things we have to look at is the early childhood period. We need a better way to reach these children so when they are abused, they have a safe place to go to talk about it so the perpetrators can be arrested and the children can be taken out of that situation.

As I said before, only 30% of children disclose that they have been sexually abused before the age of six, which means that 70% of children who are sexually abused prior to the age of six never tell. They endure years of abuse unknown to anybody. We can deal with this by providing opportunities.

I will give the House a real life example of the impact of this.

I worked in a jail where two sisters around the age of 14 had been picked up for prostitution. Their mother, who I knew because I had treated in the detox unit and in emergency, had a substance abuse problem. She was prostituting her two little girls to raise money to pay for her drug abuse problem.

I told the two young women that they would wind up dead if they did not stop, and they laughed it off. A year and a half after that one of the girls was found dead in a ditch in northern British Columbia. After that, I was walking through the pediatric ward doing my rounds and this girl looked familiar. She was still a teenager and she had a very bad stroke affecting half of her body. Because of the environment she was in, she had been exposed to drugs. I do not know what happened to her after that, but what a profoundly tragic end to two little girls who could have had a full and complete life if it were not for the situation they had been in.

If we take a look at the broader scope, there is child sex tourism. This is a situation where we have adults from the west going to countries, generally third world countries but sometimes a lot go to eastern Europe, where laws are lax and interest is limited in terms of child abuse. Adults are going far away to Southeast Asia, eastern Europe, areas of extreme poverty, and they are using the very unstable situation to fulfill their warped and twisted sexual appetites.

The victims of this are literally millions of children. In fact, it is estimated that in India, there are 1.2 million child prostitutes. In Thailand, a favoured destination of pedophiles, 40% of the prostitutes are children. If we look at the cycle, sometimes individuals go into rural and impoverished areas that are in the grips of deep poverty. They tell parents that if they bring their sons or daughters to them, they will ensure the children get jobs and the money will go to the parents. They tell them that their children will do domestic work or some other legitimate form of activity. Instead they take the children and use them as sex slaves.

The children have no hope and no future. They are horribly abused. They suffer from malnutrition. Sometimes they get pregnant early on. They acquire HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. They die an early death. They are victims of extreme violence. They are often gang raped and no one hears about them. They are silent victims in this ever-growing epidemic.

Bill C-22 is an effort to try to deal with this.

We all see cases from time to time that come to forefront when individuals are caught. However, the number of people who are engaged in these behaviours, westerners who go abroad to engage in the sexual abuse of children, and who are actually caught is very small. Only a tiny fraction of these parasites are caught.

It speaks to the failure internationally of countries working together and collectively to address this. Too many times, domestic police forces turn a blind eye. In many of these impoverished countries, children have no rights. They are not really seen as being worthy of the protection of whatever legal rules they have. As a result, children are treated as little more than chattel. This leaves an environment that is ripe for this kind of dramatic sexual abuse and the horrible situations these children endure.

It occurs all over the world, as I said. It is very common in eastern Europe. It is very common in parts of Africa and certainly in Southeast Asia, but we are not immune from this here. Individuals acquire children and bring them to Canada and the United States. Children are abused in our country and we do not even know about it. The Internet is a route to doing that. When people are aware of the type of child pornography on the Internet, it is not a victimless crime. It is very much a crime, period, and the victims are the most underprivileged people in our society.

There are also a number of other very interesting endeavours taking place. The RCMP has, again, been at the forefront of it. It is trying to do a scan to determine the extent of the problem. It is trying to get a better handle on who does this so the people can be identified. It is trying to do a better job of understanding why people would try to go down this route in the first place and how they can be identified before they start to wrack up the number of victims.

Victim identification is also another challenge. Canada has not done a very good job on this. This is certainly something that needs to be addressed and dealt with.

All of us are very pleased that this issue has been brought forward, unlike the gun registry, which dominated the beginning of this Parliament. It is not even, by any stretch of the imagination, an issue that should be consuming Parliament in any way shape or form. There are thousands of other important issues that affect Canadians, such as jobs, money in their pockets, health care and myriad of other issues. This, at least, is an issue that is important.

It is also important to understand that the RCMP is working in an area that has received short shrift. When there is a disaster, in times of extreme insecurity, such as what occurred in the Tsunami in Southeast Asia, what is occurring in Pakistan today and what occurred in Haiti during the earthquake, children are extremely vulnerable. People lure children, taking them into sex slavery and prostitution. Like vultures they descend into these environments and try to find children who are lost, orphaned and found on the streets. At a time of insecurity, when the rule of law has been shattered, they go in and try to find children to abduct. This is a huge challenge, one on which compliment the RCMP for engaging in.

Right now the there is a strategy called “Operation Century”, which is an effort to try to prevent children, during the time of natural disaster, from being subjected to these kinds of abuses and from being abducted from their homes to be trapped. It is part of a national strategy in which the RCMP is engaged.

This all started back in 2002 when, for the first time, legislation was adopted and implemented to deal with something that was very new, which was the use of the Internet as a tool to capture children and use them for sexual abuse and to commit violent acts against them.

There is a national strategy for the protection of children from sexual exploitation on the Internet. The strategy was first launched in 2004 under then Prime Minister Paul Martin, and it extends to this day. I am very happy that the House has chosen to take this.

I hope all of us can agree that this is about our most vulnerable citizens, the children of our country and children from afar. Children deserve to have a life free of these kinds of abuses and violence, sexual abuse and exploitation to which some are subjected. No children should be subjected to that.

I think all of us support the RCMP's efforts to prevent it. We must work together to implement the legal tools that it needs to deal with an every-changing complex issue, which is the use of the Internet to exploit children.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I recognize the hon. member has completed his remarks and used the time allotted. There will be 10 minutes for questions and comments following his speech, but I think in light of the time, it is almost 11 o'clock, we will proceed with statements by members. He will have the full 10 minutes when debate resumes on this bill in due course.

Lela Irvine
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, Lela Irvine, former mayor of Creston, B.C., died on Saturday after a 10-month battle with cancer. She was 78.

She served as mayor for 14 years, earning a reputation as a straight-talking passionate promoter of the Creston Valley. Lela Irvine was a leader. Lela Irvine was selfless. Her purpose in life was serving others.

Lela was a tireless volunteer and earned many awards, including the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award, the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal, the Rotary Paul Harris Fellowship, and many others.

She always contributed to her community. She canvassed for many worthy charities. Lela was an active member of her church. She provided long-term support for senior citizens, offering company and friendship.

Her hard-earned reputation follows Lela as a legacy to the family. On behalf of my constituents, our deepest sympathy to Bill and their three children.

Our community is stronger and better because Lela Irvine was here.

Sindi Hawkins
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to pay tribute to a South Asian pioneer, Satinder Kaur “Sindi” Hawkins, who tragically passed away this week after an extended battle with leukemia.

In 1996, Sindi became the first Punjabi woman ever elected to any legislature in Canada. She served as a minister and deputy speaker of the house.

Sindi was a colleague, a friend and someone who was loved by everyone she came in contact with. She was a uniter of people and viewpoints by using her nurturing spirit as a nurse and her analytical training as a lawyer, and became one of the most effective politicians British Columbia has ever had.

She will forever serve as an inspiration to future generations. I speak for all of my colleagues in this House in saying that Sindi will be dearly missed.

National Bank Recognition Program
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, on September 16, the 17th National Bank recognition awards ceremony for the Drummond-Bois-Francs-Estrie-Mauricie region was held in Drummondville.

I am happy to share that a business from Drummondville, Drummond Électrique, won silver in the category of small business with $0 to $5 million in sales.

With a theme of "The future starts now", the event also highlighted the work being done in the agricultural sector. Ferme C.C.M. inc. in Saint-Bonaventure and its president, Christian Labonté, won bronze in the category of Agribusiness SME--$0 to $40 million in sales.

Équicosta, whose head office is located in Drummondville, won bronze in the category of Small Business.

Congratulations to the regional winners, our local businesses, on their achievements.

Water
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, it has been over 10 years since the Mackenzie River Basin Transboundary Waters Master Agreement was signed. Since that time, Ottawa has failed to do any work to get the bilateral agreements between the various provinces and territories finalized.

My constituency in the Northwest Territories is downstream from one of the worst environmental disasters in the world, the Athabasca tar sands. A study of water quality by University of Alberta researcher David Schindler makes it clear the tar sands have added cancer-causing toxins to the environment.

Due to the colonial nature with which Ottawa handles the territories, responsibility for water is still a federal matter. Ottawa has not taken up its responsibility, so there is no effective way to control this pollution.

The NWT wants to move forward and has developed a water strategy, but Ottawa's lack of action is getting in the way. If Ottawa will not take up its responsibility, it should hand over jurisdiction for water to the territories.

Foreign Affairs
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the following countries on celebrating their independence day this week: Mali, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia.

Since 1972, Canada and Mali have worked closely together to advance the cause of human rights and good governance.

Ukraine and Canada have maintained a deep historic friendship with one another through the generations of Ukrainians who have come to Canada and adopted Canada as their new home.

Each year Canada welcomes thousands of students from Saudi Arabia who come to learn in our fine academic institutions. These academic exchanges are an important element of our strong bilateral relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Canada and Indonesia are partners in a number of multilateral organizations, such as APEC and ASEAN. Such common memberships attest to the shared commitment to the Asia-Pacific region and multilateral co-operation.

This government will continue to work hard with our friends to ensure prosperity for all our citizens.

Open Government
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, in response to the culture of secrecy of the current government, Canada's federal, provincial and territorial access to information and privacy commissioners recently reached a unanimous resolution on the need for open government.

Calls for greater openness and transparency are exerting increasing pressure on the government to transform its traditional reactive information dissemination methods into a mode that facilitates proactive disclosure.

Enriching information resources provides communication channels, promotes citizen engagement, instills trust in government, fosters economic opportunities, and ultimately results in more open, responsive and democratic government.

Technological advances create risk as well as opportunities which require a comprehensive strategy to better protect our privacy and access rights.

Accordingly, it is time for the Government of Canada to commit to work with Canada's access to information and privacy commissioners and experts across the country to better protect our rights and achieve a more open, responsive and democratic government.

Hurricane Igor
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to be the member of Parliament representing the city of Fort McMurray.

Many of my constituents would jokingly say that Fort McMurray is one of the largest cities in Newfoundland. By some estimates, between 20,000 and 30,000 Newfoundlanders call Fort McMurray home.

After the tragedy that hurricane Igor has left in that province, many of my constituents are simply in disbelief. They are concerned for their families and friends whose homes are flooded, whose roads are washed away and whose properties are destroyed.

I stand in the House today to grieve with those from Newfoundland and Labrador and to make known that they are not alone. We stand together as Canadians and we will offer all the support and resources necessary. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of them.

Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to draw attention to the 75th anniversary of the Chambre de commerce de Terrebonne. Founded in 1935, the organization now has more than 600 members who, through their energy and commitment, contribute greatly to the city of Terrebonne and the entire regional county municipality of Les Moulins.

The 41 presidents who have each taken their turn heading the organization have worked hard to make this organization what it is today: a fixture in the region's economy.

This year, the chamber of commerce set a goal of revitalizing the businesses in Old Terrebonne. It is a credit to the chamber of commerce that it wants to showcase this historic neighbourhood in my riding, a jewel in the crown of the Quebec nation.

I would like to pay tribute to the board of directors and its president, Michel Philippe, who are continuing the work their predecessors began. I am sure that this anniversary will be extremely successful.

The Economy
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, international leaders are praising Canada's financial system as a model for others to emulate.

While we are slowly emerging from the economic recession, the economy remains the number one priority of Canadians and our Conservative government.

On the international stage, Canada's economy is envied for its strength during the global economic downturn. As Minister Flaherty highlighted, we have the lowest debt burden of the major advanced economies; we have rock solid banks; and Canada's economic action plan is delivering results and jobs for Canadians from coast to coast, almost 430,000 new jobs since July 2009.

Canada's economy has led the way on the international stage during the global economic recession. Just last week the World Economic Forum ranked Canada's banking system as the soundest in the world for the third consecutive year.

The Economy
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I remind the hon. member and others not to use member's names in their statements. It is contrary to practice in the House.

Pat Burns
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I invite my colleagues to honour a great Canadian, Pat Burns, for his lifetime of achievements.

When his passing was announced prematurely, Pat Burns set the record straight with characteristic feistiness by stating, loud and clear, “They're trying to kill me before I'm dead!”

People in the Outaouais first came to know Pat Burns as a police officer enforcing law and order. Then, from 1984 to 1987, he was behind the bench for the Hull Olympiques, where his strict methods taught his players the meaning of the word “discipline”.

In 1988, Pat Burns began his National Hockey League career and went on to coach four teams: the Montreal Canadiens, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston Bruins and the New Jersey Devils, the team with whom he won the Stanley Cup.

A passionate coach, Pat Burns scored a hat trick when he became the only coach to win the Jack Adams trophy three times for successfully coaching three different teams. Unfortunately, in 2005, illness forced him into retirement.

Pat, we salute you and we thank you.

The Economy
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, the economy remains the number one priority of Canadians and of our Conservative government. At a time when our economic recovery is still uncertain, our government is focused on maintaining jobs, security, and prosperity for Canadian families and communities.

This Conservative government knows that Canada's long-term prosperity is driven by the creativity, ingenuity and the common sense of entrepreneurs, small-business owners and hard-working families across the country.

As we move forward, our government's actions will be guided by three principles: supporting job creation and economic growth; keeping our communities, streets and families safe from terrorism and crime; and mapping the path to economic recovery, re-growth, and jobs for Canadians.

The stakes remain high, however. Now more than ever we must take the right steps in order to map out the long-term direction of the Canadian economy.

Stories of the Night Sky
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to share news of the National Association of Friendship Centres' project “Stories of the Night Sky”.

On the website www.storiesofthenightsky.ca, videos produced by aboriginal youth capture the essence of storytelling through the words of community elders. The stories, told in English, French and indigenous languages, also include a profile of the communities and the people involved.

I wish to thank the National Association of Friendship Centres and Maritime Television and Production Services for initiating this project, and to the youth and elders involved in sharing these stories.

Projects like these provide rich detail to educate all of us on the diverse history of our land and will make the next Aboriginal History Month in June 2011 all the more interesting.

Firearms Registry
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, this government knows that criminals do not register their long guns. Despite this important fact, the Liberal Party, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois voted to maintain the firearms registry.

We know that the long gun registry is wasteful and ineffective. The opposition members who changed their votes sent a clear message to their constituents, a message that clearly demonstrates that their boss's orders are more important than the voices of their constituents. Our party does not treat law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters like criminals.

We do not support this wasteful and ineffective registry, which does absolutely nothing to prevent crime.

We will continue our efforts to eliminate this wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. We on this side of the House voted freely.

AbitibiBowater Mill in Gatineau
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, for the past four months, a revitalization committee composed of a number of partners has been working on keeping the AbitibiBowater mill in Gatineau open. The president and CEO of AbitibiBowater told the parliamentary committee that the Gatineau plant would not reopen, which is not a very credible statement because he does not know the contents of the recovery plan, which he is funding in part.

Gaston Carrière, president of local 142 of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, and the plant workers believe the plant can be reopened. The Bloc Québécois supports their efforts and encourages them to continue with the feasibility study in order to reopen the Gatineau mill.

Clearly, had the Conservative government given the same support to the forestry industry as it did to the automotive and oil industries, it would not have come to this.

The Bloc Québécois supports the workers in Gatineau.

The Economy
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, this week the Minister of Finance made an out of touch, hyper-partisan speech that barely mentioned the economy at all. Could it be because the government's economic record really is not worth bragging about?

Consider that household debt is at record levels. Since January 2008, Canada has lost 150,000 high-paying full-time jobs. Canada's unemployment rate is 1.9% higher today than it was during the last federal election.

The Conservatives' imminent $13-billion employment insurance tax hike will cost Canadians 220,000 jobs. The government put Canada into a deficit even before the recession by increasing government spending by 18% in its first three budgets. Canada's deficit currently sits at $54 billion. That is higher than it has ever been in the history of our country.

Canadians are tired of the Conservatives' borrow and spend, out of touch priorities. They deserve better.

Firearms Registry
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal leader forced his members to vote against their conscience and against their constituents to support the wasteful long gun registry. The Liberal leader refuses to listen to his members, rural Canadians, or anyone who calls for the end of his party's $2 billion boondoggle.

Our Conservative government thinks that Canadians deserve better and that is why we are listening. We will continue to listen to law-abiding hunters, outdoorsmen and sports enthusiasts who are being criminalized by the long gun registry. We are also listening to the front-line police officers who continue to tell us that criminals do not register their guns; officers like Chief Hanson from Calgary who said that the registry creates a false sense of security and does nothing to stop gun violence between Calgary gangs.

Our Conservative government will remember these voices and we will continue to work to scrap this wasteful and ineffective registry.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have saddled Canadians with a $54 billion deficit, a deficit which began before, not because of, but before there was any recession.

So many Canadians were appalled to learn how the government has squandered $85,000 on snacks at just one hotel for G20 high rollers, $300,000 on bug spray, $14,000 on glow sticks, $2 million to rent 37,000 cars, and all of that just for two days.

What is the justification for this orgy of excess?

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, let me first congratulate the member for Wascana on his appointment as deputy leader of the opposition.

Let me also say this about Canada hosting the G8 and the G20. We are very proud of our accomplishment of these two summits that were put together, back-to-back, in an unprecedented fashion. We have said from the beginning that a majority of these costs were for security.

We had some 20,000 security personnel there to keep all those attending the summit safe and to ensure that the people in that region and the city of Toronto were safe. We think they did an outstanding job. The violence and destruction we saw there was the example of why we needed such stringent security.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, the government is anything but transparent. It did not divulge the embarrassing $200 million in expenses voluntarily. It was forced to do so by the Liberal MP for Pickering—Scarborough East and there is still more than $1 billion in additional spending yet to be revealed. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, for example, failed to answer anything.

When will the government come clean with full disclosure on all the expenses? How much of the non-security spending was sole-sourced, without tender, without competition, against every rule in the book?

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, we had an important responsibility to host the world. I often look for guidance to a former member of this place. He said, “Well listen, it's part of our responsibilities. We're members of the G8. Now it's turned into the G20. We cannot refuse. It's part of our responsibilities. We have obligations as a country. We have obligations to fulfill them. Obviously this money is flowing into our economy and this will increase Canada's prestige”.

Who said that? It was the Right Hon. Jean Chrétien.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, he was talking about money flowing in, not money flowing out.

Typical Canadian families are struggling to meet their living costs. Household debt is the highest in the western world. Families are worried they cannot afford child care, elder care, education or decent pensions.

They see their government blowing $16 billion on untendered stealth fighters, $10 billion on bigger jails, $6 billion on corporate tax giveaways, and $1.3 billion on a G20 photo op with $400,000 for high-end porta-potties.

How can the Conservatives be so out of touch?

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the deputy leader of the opposition is himself a former minister of finance. He knows that job creation and economic growth must be a priority for government.

I have here a press release that was issued by the Department of Finance. It says:

The Minister of Finance, today rejected...a call to roll back corporate tax reductions...saying that the Government's tax reduction plan has produced significant economic and social benefits for all Canadians....the true benefits of tax cuts-namely jobs and economic growth.

Who was the minister of finance that said this? It was the deputy leader of the Liberal Party, the member for Wascana.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are spending taxpayers' money heedlessly. That is how they grew the biggest deficit in Canadian history, a Conservative deficit.

Why did the summit they organized cost several times more than previous summits? Why were there so many untendered contracts? Who is responsible for this government's wastefulness?

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, that is quite a transformation we have seen from the Liberal Party. It was just in January that the leader of the Liberal Party said that the deficit was not his problem.

We are working hard to restore economic growth to Canada. We have seen the creation of some 430,000 net new jobs over the past 15 months. That is important, but the job is not yet done. We remain fully focused on the economy.

Canada did host the world. We are proud of the summit that produced significant results for both the economy and for those living in the third world. We are also very proud that the security worked so well, given the huge destruction that we saw by riotous protesters.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the extent of Conservative incompetence is now abundantly clear. The Conservatives are wasting taxpayers' money heedlessly. The summits cost—hold on, now— a shocking $1.3 billion. That is a staggering sum. To Canadians, this spending orgy is insulting. It seemed that everyone was spending, but nobody was keeping track.

Who is responsible for this wasteful spending? Who over there was overseeing this spending?

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, in terms of controlling spending, it is this government that brought forward a good budget this past year, a plan to return Canada to a balanced budget, and the Liberal Party stood and voted against it. It also said that we were not spending enough on every single area and opposed every single attempt to rein in government spending.

We are proud of the work that went on at the G8 and the G20. It was a good success for Canada. We did spend a significant amount of money on security to keep people safe, to keep those leaders who were visiting Canada safe and to keep the people of Toronto safe. It was important that police officers on hand got the support that they needed.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the G8 and the G20 cost well over $1 billion. The breakdown of the first batch of those expenses confirms the fears we had last spring. The whole show was an open bar for pointless, hare-brained and eye-popping expenses.

With the Prime Minister asking people to tighten their belts, has the Conservative motto become “Do as I say, not as I do”?

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean
Québec

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, Canada was the first country to host the G8 and G20 summits simultaneously, and we are proud of their success. We announced at the outset that most of the costs would be in connection with keeping those in attendance safe. We put on two great summits, and the whole world admires Canada's work.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a list of examples, and I would like the minister to explain how these items helped keep visiting dignitaries safe. The government spent $333,831 on sunscreen, bug spray and hand sanitizer; $14,306 on mosquito jackets—not bullet-proof vests; and $26,000 on mosquito traps.

I can see how an artificial lake would cost $2 million, but I do not understand how these expenses ensured security at the G8 and the G20.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean
Québec

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, as usual, the Bloc member is misinforming people. We justified all of those things. Canada performed well on the international stage in 2010. We hosted the best winter Olympic Games in history and a memorable G8 and G20. I can see how the Bloc might be troubled by Canada's success.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, although we have only seen 20% of the expenditures for the G8 and G20, we can only imagine that the worst is yet to come. It is already clear that the Conservative government completely lost control of its spending. We have every reason to be concerned when we see that the government agreed to pay $13,000 for umbrellas and $31,000 for flagpoles, all in the name of security.

How can the government and the member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean justify the fact that the unemployed, seniors and forestry workers are struggling, while the government indulges in an orgy of spending like this?

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean
Québec

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, Canada was responsible for the safety and security of heads of state, delegates, investors, visitors, as well as the Canadians who live and work in the vicinity of the summits. Twenty thousand people provided security during the summits. This spending, these investments, helped us make the events so successful.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, another example of the Conservative government's waste is the purchase of bottled water. Although Canada has the largest reserve of clean water in the world and 40% of civil servants have access to clean water, the government spent over $2 million to buy bottled water, which was probably just tap water anyhow.

Does the government realize that it has no credibility when it asks the public to cut back?

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, in terms of this report, to which the hon. member speaks, in terms of Environment Canada, I can assure the member that every precaution is being taken to ensure that our staff is drinking safe drinking water.

The steps that have been taken with respect to drinking water relate to circumstances on field trips, circumstances where our employees do not have access to safe drinking water. Every attempt is being made at this point to ensure those costs are reasonable and that employees of the Government of Canada are safe.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government's spending priorities are totally out of whack. Not only do the Conservatives put hotel snacks ahead of helping out Canadians, now we learn that the RCMP is being forced to absorb tens of millions of dollars in G20 security costs. This could result in significant cuts to the number of new recruits being trained.

Could the minister confirm that the RCMP depot is being forced to pay out millions for the government's misplaced priorities?

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, Canada had an important responsibility in hosting the G8 and the G20. Obviously there were significant security measures put in place, some 20,000 police officers and security personnel, designed not only to keep the people attending the summit safe, but also to ensure that people and property in the city of Toronto and in Muskoka were safe.

We accept our response in this regard. We are very proud of the success of the two summits for the global economy and for combatting poverty in the third world.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have heard the talking points before but where are the answers? The member's government chose to hold the summit in the heart of Canada's biggest city. His government allowed security costs to spiral out of control. The government should ask Canadians what they want their hard-earned money spent on: glow sticks and sunscreen or more cops on our streets.

G8 and G20 Summits
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the summit was held in the middle of the summer. We had some 20,000 security personnel and we do not apologize for providing the supplies to ensure their safety. We, on this side of the House, take the health and safety of our police officers very seriously.

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government happily burned through cash in Toronto and now the stimulus taps are being turned off for the rest of the country.

Instead of some arbitrary deadline, will the government have some common sense and agree to the proposal by the provinces to put aside money in trust funds so this much needed infrastructure money can be completed?

When will the government get out from its million dollar mess tent and agree to the very reasonable solution put forward by the provinces?

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, we have had success working with the provinces and territories on infrastructure. We have put aside politics, worked with political parties of all stripes across the country. Some 12,000 projects have been approved. More than 93% to 95% of those are either complete or under way. In fact, it has been an outstanding success.

We have always been fair and reasonable in working with the provinces and with municipalities. I want to assure the member opposite that we will continue to be fair and reasonable when we get our reports in from them in the remaining six months.

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, while the government is wasting millions of dollars on fake lakes and lighthouses, it is ignoring the thousands of people who work in our seasonal industries and who are under significant stress.

Along with the other two employment insurance pilot projects, the calculation based on the best 14 weeks of the year has helped employers and their employees become more productive. As well, these measures have eliminated grave injustices in the employment insurance system.

Why will the government not announce, today, immediately, that they are extending these important measures?

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, those were temporary targeted measures to help Canadians hardest hit. We were clear and transparent about that. There are some pilot projects that are ongoing. We are looking at the pilot projects and ensuring they are effective, they provide value for money and what their impact would be on our labour market. Decisions will be made and announced in the near future. I ask the member to stay tuned.

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, this morning, in fish plants, tourism businesses, lumber camps and agricultural operations, workers live in uncertainty and stress because the government refuses to do the right thing and announce the extension of these important measures which will expire in a few weeks. The best 14 weeks and working while on claim pilot projects have helped workers and employers retain and recruit workers.

They are applauding Liberal measures announced in 2005, so why will they not announce the immediate renewal of these pilot projects? Why force everybody to live in such stress?

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, we took a number of initiatives to help people in difficult times. We extended EI benefits to a number of people by five extra weeks. We invested a number of dollars for training. We did all of those things and members of the Liberal Party opposed those measures. They did not support those measures and now they are asking for extensions to be made.

We said that we would look at those pilot projects to ensure they have value for money and we will make an announcement soon. We would ask the members to be patient and to support us when we put them forward.

Child Care
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians cannot understand the poor economic choices the Conservatives continue to make with their tax dollars.

At a time of record deficit, the Conservatives are borrowing $20 billion to cut taxes for large corporations, and then they will make hard-working families pay the loan back with interest. Meanwhile, many young families are struggling because they cannot find affordable, quality child care spaces.

When will the Conservatives start making economic choices that actually make sense to Canadians?

Child Care
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, we have done a number of things through the economic action plan. Through tax reductions, we have put more money into the pockets of every Canadian family; an extra $3,000 that were not there when opposition members were in government. We have done a number of things to ensure that families have more dollars to work with and can look after their child care needs. We have also invested with the provinces to ensure that spaces are created.

Child Care
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Beaches—East York, ON

Zero spaces, Mr. Speaker.

Canadians are struggling with the cost of living and yet every day they see more of how the Conservatives choose to spend their hard-earned dollars and they are astonished. Today they learned that the Conservatives wasted $200 million at the G20 on things like giant televisions, fake lakes and glow sticks. They wonder where the remaining missing billion dollars went.

When will the Conservatives stop making poor decisions with taxpayer money and start investing in things Canadians desperately need, such as affordable child care spaces?

Child Care
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, we have committed $250 million to the provinces each year and they have announced over 62,000 spaces since March 2007, something they did not do under the previous Liberal government.

Taxpayers across the country are better today than they were during the Liberal government. This is what the opposition leader said, “We will have to raise taxes”. He went on to say, “...I'm not going to take a GST hike off the table...”. He described himself as a “tax-and-spend, Pearsonian, Trudeau Liberal”.

The public should be concerned about what will happen if a Liberal government is in place. We have reduced taxes and put more money in Canadian pockets than the Liberals ever have.

United Nations
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister went to the United Nations to lobby for a seat for Canada on the Security Council. Given this government's positions on child soldiers and the declaration on indigenous peoples and its sabotage of the Kyoto protocol, we wonder how he can have any hope of being successful.

Does the Prime Minister realize that with this track record, Canada does not deserve a seat on the UN Security Council?

United Nations
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Prime Minister highlighted Canada's commitment on the international stage. We have a record to be proud of. We have been in Haiti and in Afghanistan. We have doubled our aid to Africa. We continue helping around the world.

Canadians are very proud of our international record, and that is what we stand for.

United Nations
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada is in the midst of negotiating a free-trade agreement with the European Union but is refusing to vote in favour of a motion allowing a representative from the Council of Europe to speak at the UN General Assembly.

Does the government realize that its attitude seriously damages Canada's chance at a seat on the Security Council?

United Nations
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, Canada will stand on its principles when it is doing its international campaign. As the Prime Minister has said, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs has said and as everybody else has said, we will continue to stand for what is important for Canada.

On the same tone, we have a very strong relationship with our partners in the European Union and we will continue to maintain that strong relationship.

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, Quebec and the provinces are calling on the Conservative government to set up a trust fund so that any infrastructure money not spent by March 31 will not be lost. While the financial crisis continues, we cannot afford to lose those projects and those jobs.

Could the government show some flexibility for once and do whatever it takes to extend the March 31 deadline?

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

Our government has had a great partnership with the provinces, territories, municipalities, and with groups like the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. In fact, 99% of these projects are well under way and the overwhelming majority of these projects, more than 12,000 of them, will be completed on time. Our government will continue to take a fair and reasonable approach.

I would remind the member that we have six months left before the deadline, and that the provinces will be reporting in short order. Once we have talked to the provinces and heard from them, we will be fair and reasonable.

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, one third of the projects in Quebec risk being lost because of the Conservatives' inflexibility. The municipalities are being asked to complete all work by March 31 with no consideration for the constraints facing several municipalities, such as Lachute, for example, where there is a shortage of pipes. The 2-22 Ste-Catherine Street project, the exhibition facility in Rouyn-Noranda and the bridge reconstruction in Saint-Eustache have all been stalled by administrative red tape.

Will the government finally come to its senses and extend the March 31 deadline?

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to say that our government continues to work with our partners and we will continue to be fair and reasonable.

Let us understand where we are today. This Conservative government passed some great legislation to get infrastructure money out, to get stimulus money out, and the Bloc voted against every single one of these efforts. The member should be ashamed of himself for standing in this place and asking that question.

Census
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, francophone communities outside Quebec rely on the census to ensure that their rights are respected.

The census makes it possible to determine where French services are to be provided.

Does the Minister of Industry realize that his impromptu decision jeopardizes the survival of French in dozens of communities?

Census
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, as I already stated three days ago, we added two other questions on official languages to the short form census. We do not feel it is appropriate to require Canadians to provide private and personal information under threat of sanctions.

Census
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, they have put an improvised band-aid on their decision, which is just as improvised and unjustified.

If francophones are entitled to fair representation in the census to be properly served by this government, why are other groups not entitled to the same thing?

Why does it tolerate the under-representation of cultural communities?

Why does it tolerate the under-representation of Canadians in difficulty?

Are not all Canadians deserving of fair and equitable representation?

Census
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, as I said before, we still have the mandatory census. That has not changed with respect to the short form. With respect to the long form, as we said from the beginning, we want a reasonable approach in which we balance the need for data--and we can get usable and useful data through a long-form questionnaire--with the protection of privacy rights of Canadians.

I want the hon. member to stand in his place and justify why he wishes to threaten his fellow Canadians with jail time and fines rather than doing the reasonable thing.

Hurricane Igor
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, the devastating impacts of hurricane Igor are still being felt by thousands in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Roads are impassable, bridges have collapsed, communities are cut off and running out of food and medical supplies. The Prime Minister is making a quick sweep of the affected areas today, but what is required is a quicker response.

People are saying they will not put up with mere promises like the Prime Minister made during tropical storm Chantal in 2007. What urgent actions can the government report are being taken today and in the days ahead?

Hurricane Igor
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the member should know that he had it right. The Prime Minister has responded quickly. In fact, he is there in Newfoundland and Labrador today with the hon. member's premier and Senator Manning. They are touring some of the communities on Burin Peninsula and some of the areas most affected by hurricane Igor.

We are standing in solidarity with the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. We will be there to assist in whatever way necessary, whatever way possible. We realize the urgency of the matter. That is why the Prime Minister is there. That is why we are ready to act and to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Newfoundland and Labrador in their time of need.

Hurricane Igor
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, maybe the Conservative government did not hear. A 90-year-old stranded without electricity and food said, “If the Prime Minister comes down here, he better take me out of it”.

People are running out of food and medical supplies, and communications are down. This was the worst storm ever to hit the province and an extraordinary response is required. Neighbour is helping neighbour, but where is the federal government?

Communities need food drops and fuel drops. They do not need Prime Minister photo ops.

What is the government doing to help these people in their hour of need?

Hurricane Igor
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I would encourage the hon. member to look at this objectively.

We are working with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. We recognize the suffering. We recognize the disaster that has hit the island and that has affected the people of Newfoundland and Labrador in many small communities.

I spoke with the mayor of Bonavista yesterday. I have been in direct contact with the premier. The Prime Minister is there. We have the Canadian Forces ready to deploy. We have taken steps to ensure that the op centre in Newfoundland and Labrador is in direct contact with Joint Task Force Atlantic.

We are there with the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, the coalition voted to keep the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. In fact, 20 coalition MPs who had originally voted to scrap the long gun registry bowed under the pressure from their Ottawa bosses and voted to keep it.

My Conservative colleagues and I will continue to work hard to scrap this wasteful and ineffective registry. Can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety update this House on our efforts to scrap the long gun registry?

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his hard work on this file. I am glad that the member had the courage to stand in this place and represent his constituents.

The voters will remember those 20 coalition MPs who flip-flopped on the issue. This is the furthest we have come to dismantling the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry, and we will continue to work to scrap it.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, an internal Canadian Food Inspection Audit found that Canada does not have the resources to adequately inspect imported foods entering the country.

Canadians are more and more concerned about what is on their plates, and food imports are growing, so when will the minister give the agency more resources to keep people safe from contaminated foods?

Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, our government takes food safety very seriously, and that is why we are continually improving our food inspection practices.

The audit in question was done between 2005 and 2008. Since the audit was completed, CFIA has taken action to improve enforcement, prosecute more offenders, and increase the training of inspectors.

Since taking office, our government has added more than 500 food inspectors. This year alone CFIA's budget has increased by 13%.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, today we learned that the government has no strategy to ensure that health hazards are not entering Canada.

An audit into the safety of imported foods says that while imports are skyrocketing our food inspection agency is failing to keep Canadian families safe. The government inspects billboards, but there is no action for food safety.

When is the government going to put aside partisan games and shameless vanity, and actually take the health and safety of Canadians seriously?

Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, I would like to share a quote that absolutely contradicts what the member is saying, from the OECD report.

That report said, “Canada is one of the best performing countries in 2010 food safety performance world ranking study. Its overall grade was superior”.

As I said, our government takes food safety very seriously. Here are two other initiatives that we have taken. We have established import surveillance teams, which performed 480 border blitzes last year, and we delivered $233 million through the food safety action plan to improve controls on imported food.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, according to an internal audit, there are “deficiencies” in the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's oversight system when it comes to imported foods. The report mentions “multiple areas of risk” that need to be dealt with using drastic measures.

Can the minister explain why the situation is getting worse despite additional funding for the agency?

Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, I just explained the scenario regarding food safety and how seriously our government takes this matter. I also explained some of the initiatives that we have undertaken to improve food safety and I provided a quote from an OECD report.

The last comment I would like to make on this is that despite all of these measures every time we do something positive in the area of food safety that member, his party, and the opposition vote against it.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government lets foreign food products into the country without making sure they are safe, yet our own agricultural producers and processors face extremely restrictive standards. And we expect them to compete with those products price-wise.

When will the government decide to impose a reciprocal policy? What comes into the country should be of the same quality as what we produce here.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, for the member's benefit, I will read the quote one more time. It says, “Canada is one of the best performing countries in 2010 food safety performance world ranking study. Its overall grade was superior”.

I have explained, three times now, all the initiatives we have taken. What I expect from the member and his party is support for our initiatives to better serve Canadians and to improve our food safety system.

We have had enough rhetoric.

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, the United States is once again threatening protectionist legislation that will significantly harm Canadian businesses and jobs.

The minister's response? Nothing. First he said that we are just collateral damage in the battles between the United States and China. Then he said that we are hoping it will not get to a vote before the American elections. Then he said that if it does, if it passes, we will probably seek an exemption for Canadian companies.

Who is the minister kidding? Canadian businesses need something done. What action will the minister take and when?

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, in these difficult economic times, Canadians can count on our government to oppose protectionism and defend free and open trade on the world stage. That includes our close relationship with the United States.

We are following this bill closely and working to ensure that Canada's concerns are taken into account by the U.S. lawmakers.

It should be made clear that it is far from certain whether this bill will become law, but our government will continue to work closely with the Obama administration on issues like this.

As a result of our relationship, Canada was the only country in the world to be able to get an exemption from the buy American provisions of the U.S. stimulus program.

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, that heavily touted exemption actually covers only 37 states, so it does not go very far.

Second, the member said that we are “following” this effort. “Following” does not do anything for Canadian businesses and jobs.

I would say that the ambassador in the United States is working hard to pursue this. That is a good thing, because the minister is not.

I would offer that in this circumstance we need a strong, united Canadian front to battle this legislation, which could be very damaging, and we need to do it now.

I am offering my help. Will the minister accept? If so, can we start today?

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's offer of assistance. I am sure that the minister will be pleased to hear that as well.

The reality is that Ambassador Doer in the United States is working very closely with the American administration to try to make sure that this bill does not turn into law.

We can depend upon our government and our minister to protect Canadians' interests in the United States or anywhere else in the world.

United Nations
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, we all want Canada to win a seat at the Security Council, and we commend our diplomats from the Pearson Building to New York for doing a great job.

One of the things we need to see is members from all of the parties in the House helping with this.

Has the government considered working with the opposition to help Canada win a seat at the Security Council? Yes or no.

United Nations
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to hear that the NDP is willing to help us win the seat. I am extremely confused with the position of the Bloc and the Liberal Party.

The Bloc leader said that we do not deserve a seat, and yet we get questions from the Bloc critics asking when will we get on the Security Council.

It is the same way with the Liberal Party. Its leader said that we do not deserve a seat and yet all Liberal critics are coming out and saying we must work together to get the seat.

Would someone clarify what is going on on that side? My thanks to the NDP.

United Nations
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, according to his speech to the United Nations, the Prime Minister claims to understand that, “Our interests are all linked together: Climate change to health threats and pandemics, including, of course, the economy”.

However, the Prime Minister is a strange messenger for that message. To be taken seriously, Canada must follow through on her global commitments.

Will the Prime Minister back up his claims by reversing the freeze on our international development, committing to real action on climate change, and signing the UN declaration on indigenous rights?

United Nations
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Kootenay—Columbia
B.C.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, contrary to what the member is presenting, the fact is that we have doubled our aid to Africa. We have increased our total contribution to the world to $5 billion a year, which is the highest this country has ever given.

Our government is taking leadership because we recognize the responsibility that we have to the world as Canadians. All Canadians are proud of what we are doing.

Economic Development
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, our government, through our economic action plan, has been investing in the people, businesses and communities of southern Ontario and my riding of Kitchener Centre. We are seeing results. Since May 2009 over 200,000 new jobs have been created in Ontario alone.

In order to continue creating jobs and economic growth, we need a skilled workforce and businesses need to innovate. Could the parliamentary secretary please tell us what our government is doing to deliver these results?

Economic Development
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Kitchener Centre for his leadership on economic development issues not only in the Waterloo region, but in all of Canada.

A few moments ago in the Waterloo region, the Minister of State for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario announced the new graduate enterprise internship. This is an initiative designed to equip graduate students in science and engineering with real world experience through internships at companies throughout southern Ontario. Not only will this help graduates transition into the workforce, it will also provide businesses with greater access to the technical expertise they need to innovate.

Our government is committed to creating jobs and supporting economic growth in southern Ontario.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Michelle Simson Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Veterans Affairs still has not committed to make his new veterans policy retroactive to include all soldiers wounded since 2006.

The men and women of our armed forces in peacekeeping missions put their lives at risk daily, but the government is only offering lip service.

It is a simple question. Will the plan be retroactive to 2006, or will it exclude the veterans who have returned from the battlefield in the past four years, yes or no?

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Greg Kerr Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I certainly thank the member for her question and assume she will want an answer equally as long as the question, at least.

I do want to point out that we are all very proud of the announcement that was made just a few days ago on behalf of the very important veterans issues that are before us. I know the opposition shares that enthusiasm and support for these initiatives.

Certainly, we look forward to the discussions that will take place that come with the legislative process in which all members will get a chance to contribute in the coming weeks to make sure these extremely important initiatives get out to the veterans as quickly as possible.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Desnoyers Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, this government does not hesitate to spread misinformation to try to justify the absence of a tendering process for the F-35s. Claiming that that model was chosen by the previous government, the Prime Minister is completely misleading the House, because the deals reached with Lockheed Martin did not constitute a promise to purchase.

That being the case, how are we to believe the Prime Minister when he says that Quebec will get its fair share of the economic spin-offs, when he is manipulating the facts?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, let us review again what took place here. There was a very extensive and rigorous U.S.-led competition that took place between 1997 and 2001 under the previous government. There were two bidders. A competitive process resulted in a prototype aircraft. It was the Liberal government of the day that signed on to the joint strike fighter program in 2002. Following that extensive competition, the F-35 Lightning II was selected.

Since that time, we have now committed to move forward with the MOU to purchase the F-35 which will benefit the Canadian Forces and the Canadian aerospace industry--the Canadian aerospace industry--not one province.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, today the member for Edmonton—Strathcona released a study that shows the oil sands are a bigger environmental disaster than the Conservatives want to admit. Mutant fish, first nations health problems and increased toxins in the water have been linked scientifically to the oil sands. We need to regulate this pollution, start credible monitoring and expedite promised health studies, but the Conservatives continue to do nothing.

Will the government take off its blinders when it comes to the oil sands and start putting the health of northern Canadians first?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, my hon. friend goes too far, even by the standards of this place.

Clearly, we have to be the most environmentally responsible producer of all forms of energy in this country and that includes the oil sands. To that end, we are taking very specific steps in response to the scientific criticism that has been made about the existing water monitoring.

I have met with Dr. Schindler who authored those reports. I have met with the premier and the minister of the environment of the province. We have initiated a federal panel of federally appointed scientists, the leading scientists in this country on water monitoring. They will ensure that we have a state-of-the-art world-class monitoring regime in place, and if we do not, we will ensure we have one.

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, again yesterday the Leader of the Bloc Québécois went too far. In the newspaper Le Devoir, when talking about the vote on the long gun registry, he quoted the prime minister as saying, “We do not like this decision that was made democratically and therefore we will not implement it.” The leader of the Bloc continued, “That is not the action of a democratic government. That is the action of a dictator.”

I would like the Minister of State for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec to tell us what he thinks of this statement by the Bloc, which is again looking down upon people who live in rural areas.

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean
Québec

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, once again, the strong-willed Bloc leader has outdone himself in the art of rhetoric, as did his colleague who just spoke. If we used his logic, he and his colleagues would have had to abandon their sovereignist option because, on two occasions, Quebeckers have democratically refused to break up Canada.

Is it dictatorial to continue to push that option? Come on. The reality is that opposition to the ineffective gun registry has never been so strong and its dismantling has never been so close. The February 2007 headline in Le Devoir sums it up: “The Bloc Québécois is turning up its nose at the regions.”

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' treatment of our veterans is unacceptable.

It is increasingly obvious that this government uses our veterans for its public relations but ignores them when the time comes to defend their interests.

Why is the minister refusing to answer a simple question about retroactivity?

Why is he willing to treat injured soldiers returning from the battlefields of Afghanistan like second-class veterans?

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

Noon

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Greg Kerr Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I guess it is the same question, so I will try the same answer, maybe a little louder.

The fact of the matter is that there was a lot of ground to be made up from the previous government when it made all those cuts to the veterans program. A lot of initiatives have been taken in recent years. One of the biggest took place in recent days, which in fact addresses a lot of issues that were front of mind to the veterans.

The fact is that $2 billion is committed to our veterans in the coming years. I would think the members opposite would cheer that and say, “Good for us. Let's get on and support these most important people in our society and let's stay tuned to what is going to happen in the coming—”

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Rivière-du-Nord.

Cultural Products
Oral Questions

Noon

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, the cultural exemption, which excludes cultural products from trade, was hard won at the NAFTA negotiations. Yet in the current negotiations for a free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union, the EU is finding the cultural exemption clause too broad and is attempting to dilute it.

Does the government realize that any weakening of its position would send a very bad signal to the United States, which could be tempted to challenge this provision of NAFTA?

Cultural Products
Oral Questions

Noon

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, in this time of economic uncertainty, our government is working to open new doors for Canadian business and to help create jobs. An agreement with the European Union has the potential to give a $12 billion boost to the Canadian economy and increase bilateral trade by over 20%.

We will continue to work closely with all the provinces and territories. We are pleased to have found a way to directly involve them in the negotiations. They are participating in the negotiations in areas that fall, in whole or in part, under their jurisdiction. We will continue to look forward to a positive outcome to these negotiations.

Member's Voting Record on Bill C-391
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, as I rose yesterday on a point of order regarding the Conservatives' misrepresentation of my voting record on Bill C-391, I am rising again today because, of course, the member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin also did that.

This is not a subject of debate. This is a subject of the record of this Parliament for the voting that took place in an orderly fashion on Bill C-391 at second reading, where I voted clearly in one fashion, and also on the motion that was in front of this House on Wednesday evening, where I clearly voted again in a fashion. I stood in my place. This is part of the record of Parliament.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to rule on this and I would ask the hon. members to withdraw their comments.

Member's Voting Record on Bill C-391
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, I can reiterate for the record exactly what I said just not so long ago here. It is true; he voted one way then and then he flipped and he voted the other way. I simply said, “20 coalition MPs who originally voted to scrap the long gun registry bowed under the pressure from their Ottawa bosses,” and if he wants me to be more specific, their leaders, in other words, and voted to keep the wasteful long gun registry.

There is every bit of truth in that and I am not sure what he objects to in that statement.

Member's Voting Record on Bill C-391
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

It does sound to me like a dispute as to facts. Arguments about who was voting which way can be settled by looking at the record where there is a recorded division. I would have thought it would be quite clear from that. But I am not sure what the point of the hon. member for Western Arctic's objection is here, given the statement that has just been made.

Member's Voting Record on Bill C-391
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, part of the purpose in putting forward a point of order is to ensure that disorder does not remain in the House. When we have a situation where the Conservative Party is using the voting record in this fashion, we are getting into a situation where there is disorder in this House because the actual record of the House is being impugned.

Member's Voting Record on Bill C-391
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I will again examine the statements made yesterday, but it does not sound to me as though the record is being changed. It is just being reflected upon. Of course, reflections on events that happened in the House do happen from time to time, and I do not think they are necessarily out of order.

As indicated to the hon. member, I will look at this in greater detail to see if there appears to be a breach of the rules of the House.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

I move that the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, presented to the House on Wednesday, September 22, be concurred in.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on the motion. I will be sharing my time with the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.

This is very important. We are coming to a crossroads in our history. The motion calls for the reinstatement of the long form census. It is a very critical part of Canadian culture, society and business. What has taken place has been a debacle with regard to scrapping the long form census and replacing it with a survey in which the data will be skewed.

Universally, there has been outrage about this from all sectors of society. When we have the Chamber of Commerce all the way to the Canadian Labour Congress agreeing on something, then we know there is a problem. The Minister of Industry did a disservice to the House and to Parliament by introducing this change at a time when the doors of the House were closed over the summer.

I want to start by acknowledging that this will be the second time the New Democrats have fought to save the census. Back in 2004, we raised concerns when the Liberal government of the time brought forth a contract with Lockheed Martin. Through freedom of information requests and a series of different information gathering, we were able to determine that the government would privatize this, which it did. It cost more money and it also made sure it created a problem. In 2006 I warned the government of the day that there would be a problem. The information would be gathered and compiled outside of Canada's borders, which made it vulnerable to the patriot act.

What ensued was a campaign to have that information gathered, assessed and stored in Canada, where it was done, to ensure that there would be greater privacy protection for the census. That cost Canadians more money as well because of the ideology of privatization.

With this census, the Minister of Industry said, during his testimony at committee in the summer, that he had worked on this for months. He did this at a time when the doors of Parliament were closed. We reconvened the committee to hold hearings on the issue, at great public expense. Ironically one of the meetings was totally unnecessary, but the Conservatives wanted to make a point and it cost us more public money to have a brief meeting.

We had testimony from experts from all across the country, experts who looked at this issue quite seriously. They noted that if we can't count our nation properly, if we can't have the proper information, we would not only lose this census, but, more important, we would also throw away the hundreds of millions of dollars that we had spent on the previous census, because there would be no comparable data.

That has a major impact. It has a major impact on the francophone community. It has a major impact on housing issues. It has a major impact on municipalities. It has a major impact on businesses that rely upon this information.

It is almost embarrassing to watch the Minister of Industry in the House of Commons when he tries to defend this. He says that the opposition wants people to be put in jail if they do not fill out the mandatory census, because that is one of the penalties. Ironically it is the Conservative government's policy. It has been in power for four years and it has not changed that, so it creates this straw man. To suggest that we will lock people up, that Dog the bounty hunter will go to their doors, knock them down and drag them off to jail is absolutely absurd. It is not true. It is almost pathetic to see the Minister of Industry's response on this issue being solely based on that. It is embarrassing to watch because it is not real.

It has been clear that this party and the other opposition parties do not agree with that. Many experts do not agree. In fact, nobody has ever been arrested and locked up for not filling out the census. That is the government's policy. It did not change it. For the minister to use that is purely pathetic.

The second argument the government tries to use, with fearmongering, is related to the fact that some people feel the census violates their privacy. There is a big privacy conspiracy hatched by the minister. One of the first things I did was call the privacy commission and I talked to the deputy minister. I found out there had been very few complaints over the years. In fact, they had a 25-year working relationship with the privacy commission and Statistics Canada. That relationship was described as excellent working conditions.

What came to light, and it is important to note, is the census that the minister was saying had a privacy issue and was a problem, had to pass a Board of Internal Economy audit and a privacy audit with the Privacy Commissioner. The work has already been done. The complaints were not coming in. In fact, the office works on a regular basis to improve it.

What is critical about the census is getting accurate information from Canadians from all different economic and social backgrounds so we can use that information for our economy, for our culture and for planning our future. The census is important. It was brought in many years ago. Egypt, China, all developed countries do a census. People want to plan for the future. How can we do that?

We know what ends up happening with a voluntary census. We found out that during this process, Statistics Canada had run some tests on the minister's plan for a voluntary census and it showed that Canadians would not respond to this. The minister wants to increase the number of people who will get the census and voluntarily respond. He is going to bother more people. Supposedly the census is a problem, yet the minister is going to send it out to more people across Canada. On top of that, the minister's own little scheme is going to be a $30 million expense. It is going to cost Canadians more money to get the census on their doorstep, yet the test drive model failed.

We will get skewed data as a result of this. Interestingly enough, all the statisticians and experts agree that we will lose information on the lower and the upper income brackets. This will affect everything from social housing to transit, a whole series of things for municipalities. This is an absolute debacle when it comes to public planning and the use of taxpayer money.

Of the over 3,000 contacts to the minister's offices, through a freedom of information request, we found out that only a few hundred supported the minister. Over 90% of those individuals who called said that they disagreed with the minister's plan to pay more money to get a worse census and to throw away the data that we have accumulated over the last number of years. That is important.

As the Conservatives were doing their privacy fearmongering, as they were threatening people with jail, they were also saying that ordinary Canadians were the ones who did not want it. They were saying that the elite wanted this census, but they were not even paying their fair share, suggesting that a number of different research branches, a number of different municipalities, a number of different businesses were not paying the proper amount for the census and that they were freeloading on the public purse.

It turns out that the vast majority of the people who were complaining, over 80%, were just ordinary citizens who were concerned about our changing society, concerned about not having the proper information. They want to participate in this and not have a plan that will cost more, will get worse results and will cost them more in the long run.

I want to touch briefly on the fact that I helped with the 2000 complete count census in Windsor West. One of the reasons for the complete count was we were one of the few places that had door to door campaigning to increase the response rate. It is because it is a multi-cultural community. Windsor and Essex County is the fourth most diverse in Canada. The area has a lot of individuals who speak English as a second language. There are a lot of newcomers. There is also a university and a college, so we have a transient population of students, depending upon where they are in their careers. We are also a border community where people are active on both sides of the border.

We found we had poorer results in this area, so a plan was paraded for three ridings in Canada, and Windsor West was one. We worked with the multi-cultural community. We worked with many organizations. We increased that number. Why was that important? So we could plan the necessary services.

This is not just an issue related to poverty and health. It is also related to the economy, because we can actually plan out things, such as skill sets. That is critically important when we look at an area like Windsor West where there is a high unemployment rate. We have been hit hard by these economic times. We need to have that statistic information to plan and try to turn things around.

That is why so many experts are pleading with the government not to spend the money but to do the census the way it was actually designed. Do the census the way that it went through the privacy audit, when it went through the Board of Internal Economy audit. It has been through all of those different things that have now provided it a good stable base to get out the door. Do not print more censuses. Do it the way it was done before so Canadians will have the stability that is necessary

The government in all its candour and attempts to appease even tried at one point to misrepresent the chief statistician in this matter. The Chief Statistician stepped down during this process. That is terribly unfortunate. One of the most important things is we have some independence with this position. I believe this position should eventually be hands-off.

The government has a record of interfering in third party government agencies. There is no doubt about it. This is one where somebody stood up and said that this was wrong, that it would be wrong for the operation he was leading and for the men and women who served him diligently every day. He could not stand there with any credibility as a scientist and maintain his position anymore. The person then left and now we do not even have a chief statistician in place, as the government tries to run through the census really quickly. That is really sad.

Once again, it is like divisive wedge politics, trying to scare and spook on different things that are outside of facts. That is why we have seen so many people really upset about this issue and that is one of the reasons we think it should be returned. Quite simply, turn this around now.

The motion calls upon the government to cease its behaviour, stop and go back to what we have been doing. It is prepared, and Canadians need to know, understand and appreciate this. The census, in the old form, is ready to go. It has been audited and it can be done properly to gain the information necessary.

If we do not do this, the back door of all of this will be the Conservatives being able to cut measures for the weak and most vulnerable. This is really what it is going to be about. We will lose out on a series of studies and important measures that prove some of the important social measures that are necessary for a country. We know the government is not necessarily interested in doing some of those things, but it is still the responsibility of a government to know who is in the country, how they are, how they are doing, what their behaviours are and what the trends are.

As well, it is important for our economy. When we have businesses that will no longer be able to appeal to this information in a reliable fashion, it will undermine our competitiveness. There is no doubt about it that productivity and planning will suffer and we will lose investment as well.

A key component to all of this is at least having some type of a landmark, a picture, a frame of what a country looks like and what a country needs to do to go forward. Unfortunately the Conservative government is interested in neither.

We call upon the House to pass this motion. We call upon the minister to reverse his direction and to listen to the non-partisan experts who have inundated him with calls. Listen to Canadians. The government made a big to-do about the registry and voting with our constituents. When over 80% of those who called in as individuals are opposed to the minister, and it was in the thousands in a few weeks, the government should listen to them.

If the government wants to do what is right and does not want to be a hypocrite, it should listen to those people who have taken the time to say that they want to do this, instead of this madness plan where we will spend $30 million sending out the census to more and more people. More money will be spent on advertising, and we know the Conservatives are fond of that. There will probably be some billboards, a number of TV ads and a whole series of things, all to try to convince people of what we know scientifically does not happen, and that is when there is a voluntary census, the response rates do not go up.

Ironically, the government has not changed the law on the short form census. There is actually still prison or jail time for that. We had testimony in front of our committee. The agricultural survey is still mandatory. In cross-examining a witness who was a farmer, he complained about the fact that the census was too long. He had to take a couple of days off to file it out. He had to get an accountant and pay for that as well. It turns out he was talking about the long form agricultural survey, which the government is still maintaining.

At the end of the day, he did not appear too upset about the fact that this is still something he has to do. It is contributing to Canada. His concern was the cost. However, nothing changed for him in his world. It was all counter to the arguments that the government was putting forth. In fact, the government had a hard time finding witnesses who would come forward to talk about this issue. It was fairly interesting. It even brought radio personalities in, which was fun to a certain degree, but at the same time it was not the type of testimony that we would expect. In fact, the witness wondered what he was doing there.

I find it particularly strange that the minister would be working behind the scenes on this, that he would be scheming about doing this, and then when the House closes, take the first opportunity to go out with this and try to actually prevent the proper channels of democracy from working. We had to reconvene the committee itself and that cost taxpayers more money. Apparently the Conservatives are quite comfortable with this type of an atmosphere and this behaviour. We have seen it again this week.

I would say that it is the wrong way to do it. If we are going to try to create an environment with all the huff and puff about creating a Parliament that works, taking it easy and working in a more collegial way, why would the government start that off by basically trying to sneak something through the back door, especially something so important? We need to have those issues examined.

I think this is very important for Canadian society. If we are going to lose out on this particular census form, we are going to lose an opportunity to reverse a trend that we have seen with the government. I would hope that it would see things through and reinstate the census.

Many Canadians would simply just move on from this and would accept it. They do not want to have the additional information put forth to them at more cost, another $30 million, and they do not want to lose out on all the information that was necessary for this to go forward in the past and be able to compare that data.

In conclusion, I am hoping this motion is going to be passed in this chamber and that the government is going to live up to it. The Prime Minister at one point said that there was a moral and ethical responsibility to pass motions in the House of Commons. He has not lived by the mantra that he had often proposed when he was in opposition. I am hoping that the government reverses this, we work together and just move on.

There is a lot of stuff that we have to do in the industry committee. There is a lot of other information and bills that we have to press on. I certainly want to move on, but at the same time, if the government wants to kill our census and destroy some of the things that the census really helps to evolve, then it is going to have a fight, and we are going to stand strongly by it.

We have done it in the past with the Lockheed Martin and New Democrats will do it again with this particular issue.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Windsor West, who made a very eloquent speech, particularly when he alluded to the fact that no harsh measures, no coercive measures, had been taken regarding the long form census in the past. I think it was important that he point that out.

I note also that the long form next year is going to be sent to many more people and that each one of us will have one chance in three of receiving it at home instead of one chance in five, as was the case previously.

I would like to ask the hon. member specifically on the issue of coercion in filling out this long form, if no coercive measures were used in the past, what is the difference between being actually honest by calling it voluntary now where before it was called compulsory, when no coercion was used?

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member also sat on the committee hearings.

Nobody has been locked up in jail, but there have been cases where it has had to be impressed upon people to compile and finish their census and that, at the end of the day, a fine was possible. It is unfortunate if some people do not see it as their civic duty to do that.

I would ask the member to look at his own departments in terms of the industry department that test drove this and it failed. It failed miserably. We know that when we send out these voluntary census forms, the response rates range from 10% to 20% and for the mandatory long form census, it is 95% because people know it is something they have to do and there is going to be some type of penalty there if they do not do it.

If my memory serves me correct, one of the statisticians who testified said that they averaged it out and for a couple it will be once in every 50 years that they would have to fill out the long form because of the time period, the life expectancy and so forth. So likely in a lifetime, the long form will have to be filled out one or two times at best.

I say to the member, his own department proved that it would not pass and experts across the country already know that the rates are lower when it is voluntary.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member for his views on two areas where the Government of Canada has particular responsibilities that cannot be devolved through any other order of government. I am dealing with matters concerning the aboriginal communities and matters dealing with official language minority communities.

First, I will deal with the aboriginal communities and I will couple that with the concept of honour of the Crown by which the government is obliged to consult the aboriginal communities in any way, shape or form in decisions that might affect them. I did attend both sessions of the industry committee. We had one representative from the Inuit community and we asked that person whether or not there had been any consultations from the government vis-à-vis its decision to scrap the mandatory long form census and the answer was obviously no, there had not been any.

Would the member care to comment about the importance of the mandatory long form census and the information it yields to the ability of the Government of Canada to do what is right for our aboriginal communities?

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's question is an important one especially in aboriginal communities. He is correct. I believe it was the Métis who testified, but they represented a broad band of aboriginal organizations and were very much opposed to changing the census. The honour of the Crown is a good point to bring up and I am glad the member did so because there is a level of respect that we should already have, that is automatic.

The minister knew that he was going to do this several months in advance and had been working on it even when the House of Commons was sitting. He never bothered to actually consult a population that we know historically in Canada has had several challenges. There are several major issues going on with government relations and programs already that need to be there at the table. For them not to be consulted is clearly an insult at best. It is sad that we still have not learned enough to respect those agreements. When it comes to housing, fresh water, a whole series of things are going to be very important in a census, particularly for aboriginal populations.

These are issues where we know there have been tragedies and basically, in my opinion, a disrespect has been paid. How is it that in Canada we still have some of these conditions of squalor on some of our reserves? That is unacceptable. Many of us would like to see that changed and one of the ways to change that is to ensure that the census provides accurate and proper information so that we can advocate for those things. The census is scientific. It is done through a lens of science as opposed to opinion and that is what is critical for this measure.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up on a question concerning first nations, Métis and Inuit. I have certainly had letters, emails and other correspondence from Inuit, first nations and Métis. The Métis nation raised a particular problem. They indicated that their problem was more serious than any other aboriginal people because the federal government had no administrative database for Métis as it did for first nations. So for Métis, they are going to be even more severely impacted by the fact that the government did develop policies as a result of the long form census, but there is simply no other database that captures some of the issues confronting Métis.

I wonder if the member could comment on the fact that not only are first nations, Métis and Inuit going to be severely impacted by the destruction of the long form census in its current form, but also the fact that these groups are far less likely to complete a voluntary long form census.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's question is critical and brings out another angle of the debate that is important to note, especially when it comes to aboriginal populations, Métis and others.

When we do scientific research on those groups and populations, other surveys and measurements are used, but to reinforce them to be more scientific, especially ones that are voluntary if they are research projects and so forth, they are compared to the non-voluntary census itself to make that data more significant, powerful and accurate.

The risk that we are taking is not only to lose the census data regarding the volatility that will now come forth, but we are also risking all the other surveys and measurement tools that we are looking at through social programs, economic issues, environmental planning, civic planning, and all those other elements out there.

That is one of the reasons the business sector is so concerned about this. When it produces those elements, that is what the backstop is. The backstop is the mandatory Canadian census form which produces good data for business and social planning by incorporating other types of measurements in our society.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It has been brought to the attention of the Chair that at the beginning of his presentation, the member for Windsor West asked if his time could be split with the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan. That was missed by the Chair and the table officers, but it is my understanding that it did happen.

As a result, there are three minutes remaining in the NDP time slot, so at this point I would like to give those three minutes to the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan to make her comments. There will be no questions and answers. Then we will continue with the regular rotation.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate even the very short time I have to speak.

I want to acknowledge the good work that the member for Windsor West has done on the need to keep the long form census in place. My office has received a flood of emails, letters and phone calls from individuals as well as from organizations and city councils that are very concerned about the impact on their ability to plan long term in order to ensure they have services in place for their citizens.

I want to quickly refer to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I will refer to article 14, which states:

Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.

I referenced in my question to the member for Windsor West the fact that the Métis nation itself has indicated that there is no other database that captures some of the issues facing the Métis nation. For others, there are also very serious concerns.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs sent out some information titled, “Census is key to our survival”. In the release by the grand chief, he indicated:

The importance of the census is that the federal government uses the numbers to determine funding to provinces as well as First Nations--

For First Nations, where younger populations and overcrowding mean the federal government must provide funds for education and housing, this information is critical.

Now the government is attempting to make the long form census voluntary, which means many people will not fill it out. In fact, a poll shows that the majority of people who are most likely to fill out the census accurately earn over $80,000 per year, have a university education and no children.

This is hardly a realistic depiction of First Nations in Canada. Further, it means that the federal government can point to census numbers to say we do not need funding for homes and education--

Because the federal government affects almost every part of our lives, every First Nation person must understand that in order to make change, they must be part of the change.

He went on to say that they needed to vote in federal elections and fill out the census.

Of course, I had a number of other initiatives I wanted to touch on, but I can only emphasize the importance of the mandatory long form census in terms of developing social and economic policy in this country. It is the reliability and credibility of the data that we collect on an ongoing basis that allows us the retrospective to see where we have come from and to do some projections about where we want to be.

I urge all members in the House to support this motion. I am hoping that the government, in its wisdom, will listen to the concerns that are being raised from coast to coast to coast on the importance of this long form census in terms of developing that very important policy for the future of our country.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Burlington.

It is my pleasure to rise today to talk about the recently announced change from a mandatory long-form census questionnaire to the volunteer national household survey.

Every five years, Statistics Canada conducts a national census on behalf of the federal government. Since 1971 it has comprised a short form, with basic demographic and language questions, and a long form, to obtain more detailed socio-demographic information.

The 2006 census long form was 40 pages and went to 20% of households. In addition to the short-form questions, it asked questions in such areas as language, education, labour market, housing, ethnicity, citizenship and immigration, and income.

Section 31 of the Statistics Act states that a person who refuses or neglects to furnish information or who knowingly gives false information required under the act, such as for census questions, is liable, on summary conviction, to a maximum fine of $500 or to imprisonment not exceeding three months or both.

Our government does not believe that this threat of a fine or jail time, or both, is appropriate when it comes to a long-form census. This is why our government announced that we would no longer punish Canadians for choosing not to complete the 40-page, 61-question plus 36-subquestion long-form survey sent to 20% of the households.

Critics of this decision believe that if a Canadian refuses to fill out the 61-question long form, that person deserves to be prosecuted and given a criminal record. Clearly, this is just not right.

The government asked Statistics Canada to provide options for administrating a voluntary long-form questionnaire. I want to be clear on this point. Our government took the decision to put an end to the concept of threatening Canadians with fines and/or jail time for not completing the 40-page long form. We then sought options from Statistics Canada on how to implement a reliable survey. This led to the creation and implementation of the national household survey.

This reasoned and responsible approach is about finding a better balance between collecting necessary data and protecting the privacy rights of Canadians. Furthermore, this government has announced plans this fall to remove the penalty of imprisonment from section 31 of the Statistics Act.

Now, as Statistics Canada has noted, a voluntary long-form survey offers challenges. In particular, efforts will need to be made to maintain quality data, and Statistics Canada provided options as to how to address these challenges. The options provided included increasing the sample size of the national household survey.

In 2011, the new survey will be sent to 4.5 million households. This means that one in three Canadian households will receive the survey, compared to one in five households who received the old long-form census.

The census has evolved over time. Questions are modified, added, and deleted, taking into account a number of factors, such as consultation feedback, support to legislation, program and policy needs, respondent burden, privacy concerns, quality, cost, operational considerations, historical compatibility, and availability of alternative data sources.

Collection methods have also evolved. For example, in 1971, Canadians began to complete the questionnaire themselves rather than provide answers to an interpreter or interviewer, as in the past. Beginning in 2006, Canadians were given the option of providing their answers via the Internet.

The content of the national household survey is similar to the 2006 census long form, with 66 questions. It will provide information on key populations for public policy, including aboriginal peoples, recent immigrants, youth, seniors, and visible minorities. The national household survey will include questions on income and housing, which measure crowding and identify housing needs, for example, leading to the development of community housing programs.

It also includes questions on commuting and place of work, which are used in commuting pattern studies, leading to improvements in transportation infrastructure, public transit, and support programs.

Our national household survey content includes education, labour market, language, ethnicity, aboriginal peoples, and immigration and citizenship. Information from these markets, then, analyzed together, can provide insight into the labour market integration of various segments of the population such as, for example, youth, recent immigrants, or aboriginal peoples. This will lead to the development of various programs, such as those related to foreign credential recognition, skills and language training for those lacking knowledge of official languages, and programs aimed at narrowing the education gap between various segments of the population.

New content on child care costs and child and spousal support payments, when combined with income, will help provide better measures of disposable income. This may be useful in developing new measures of low income.

Statistics Canada is internationally recognized as one of the top statistical agencies in the world. This is due in no small part to the professionalism and commitment of its staff members and to the strong leadership provided by its management. I am confident that Statistics Canada will show the same professionalism and commitment in implementing the census and the national household survey in 2011.

StatsCan will use a variety of methods to encourage people to fill out these new voluntary surveys. This is the first time the national household survey will be conducted, and Statistics Canada will monitor the results carefully, applying the same sound methods and standards used for all its voluntary surveys.

In summary, the 2011 census of population remains mandatory, and the new 2011 national household survey, which replaces the census long form, is voluntary.

I would like to take this opportunity to invite all of my colleagues in the House today to encourage all of their constituents to participate in the national household survey if their household is contacted.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, the agency responsible for the census in the United States of America tried this approach of going from a mandatory form to a voluntary one, and after seeing the results, decided to revert back to a mandatory questionnaire. This was done during the George W. Bush administration.

The question for my colleague is this: If a country very similar to ours attempted what we are proposing to attempt and realized that it was not working, that the information it was yielding had a built-in bias, why then are we not willing to learn from that experience and not go down that road, spending $30 million more to get less valid information?

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, indeed it is true. The Americans were involved in this type of procedure.

I would like to suggest that the culture in America compared to the culture here in Canada is different. I would like to believe that when we engage the Canadian population in this particular endeavour, we will have good results.

The other important point is something that was brought out in our committee study, which we attended during the summer. In the past, the result of the mandatory census was that we were getting all kinds of strange answers. Oftentimes people felt that because they were compelled to give answers, for whatever reason, and we have a number of suggestions as to why, they were not accurate.

I believe that when we present this to the Canadian populace, they will believe in and rightfully express their patriotic duty and will certainly fill these forms out as necessary.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I find this situation very worrisome. I was at the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology this summer, and I heard the minister answer questions. It was not at all reassuring.

It is not complicated. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Association francophone pour le savoir, the Fédération québécoise des professeures et des professeurs d'université, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, as well as UQAM professors Jean-Pierre Beaud and Jean-Guy Prévost, experts on the census, are against this. And they are not the only ones. It is the science that is being threatened here.

Does my colleague want to do away with the science and make it so that we can no longer compare trends from one census to the next? That is very troubling.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his questions, and yes, we did sit across from each other during the proceedings this summer.

I would like to remind the member that the number is increasing. It will increase from two million to 4.5 million. That increase will have a direct effect on the answers we receive.

Yes, there will be some people who will choose not to fill out the form, but I really believe, as I stated in the last answer to the previous question, that when given the opportunity, when the people of Canada are asked to fill this out, they will respond. I think we will have a very accurate census, and I believe that the messaging we get back from that, the information we garner, will all be there. I am willing to even go a step further and say that it will be more accurate and that as a result, our citizens will give us better information.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague who just spoke. We are both on the industry committee. We sat through committee meetings this summer and it was a very interesting study that we did on the census.

I do not really have a speech. I have a few comments I would like to make and I am happy to answer any questions.

A reporter asked me why we were cancelling the long form census. In fact, we are not cancelling the long form census. If we look at the definition under the Statistics Act of what a census is, it must have penalties and there must be a requirement to do so. We can require people to do things but if there are no penalties at the end of it, in my view, it is voluntary. I think most people would understand that.

I think there is a bill coming that will get rid of all the jail term aspects of all census materials in this country, including the short form, which will still have a monetary penalty attached to it, but there is a penalty. That is what makes a census.

We are having a national survey which has the exact same questions. People have said that we are changing the questions. That is not accurate. It is the same set of questions that we would be asking in the long form census that had penalties attached to it. I will give one example.

Near the end of the census, it asks how many rooms are in one's house, how long one has been in the house and whether one is a renter or an owner. Under the present system, if an individual decides not to answer that question because he or she does not think it is the government's business, he or she faces either jail time, which we all know has never happened, or a fine, but the threat is there.

I want to give a concrete example of a question asked of a constituent, which I think is inappropriate for the Government of Canada. In the previous census, it asked for one's nationality. One of the options was native Canadian. This individual's parents, grandparents and four of his great-grandparents were born in Canada. He believes that he is a native Canadian. We know that this was talking about aboriginals and first nations, but he marked that off.

My constituent's wife received a call from someone at Statistics Canada who asked, “Can we have your husband's Indian number?” She said, “No, he is not an Indian”. The person said, “He filled out the census that he is a native Canadian”. She said, “Yes, he is, in his mind, a native Canadian”. The person said, “Well, he must be an Indian then”. She said, “I have been married to him for almost 40 years. I think I would know if he was an Indian or not. Call back and talk to him directly”.

Someone from Statistics Canada did call him back and they had the discussion about whether he was a native Canadian or not. The person from Statistics Canada said to this individual, “Sir, do you know that that carries either a fine or jail time for misrepresenting yourself on this census?” They agreed to change it and the information was changed. He was not going to go to court over it but he was making a point.

I think it was absolutely inappropriate that a government agency would call a constituent, a Canadian, because it did not like his information on the census and was threatening him with what the penalties might be.

All we are doing is removing the penalties, which will Canadians the option to either fill it out or not.

The NDP mover of this motion said in his speech that we are burdening more Canadians. If it is a burden, why is he supporting it in the first place? He called the census a burden in his speech. What we are saying is that it is not a burden. We are saying that it is a responsibility.

I agree with the member who spoke before me. I believe that Canadians will have the civic duty and the understanding that it is important information for policy-making at the government level. I think they are not so concerned that Wal-Mart buys the information in order to decide where to put a Wal-Mart so it is close to those who can afford to go there. I am not that concerned about the private sector.

However, I am concerned that we have good information. Let us look at the numbers. I am on the finance committee and I like numbers. We sent out about 2.5 million before and we had a 95% return rate. That is about 2.3 million back. Now we are sending out 4.5 million surveys and, based on the information we got this summer from all the experts, they think the return rate may be 70% at the low end. It may be higher but at the low end it was 70%.

Let us take the 70%. That return rate will be almost 800,000 more surveys that we did not have before. It is a huge increase. The argument is that those who have less education, those whose first language is not English and the poor will not fill it the survey. Are people saying that people only filled it out under the mandatory system of the census because of the threat of penalty? I do not think so. They filled it out because they knew it was right thing to do. In fact, the more information we have about those who are in need, the more ability we have to have policies and programs to help those people.

I am convinced that Canadians will fill out the survey at more than the 70% mark and that it will represent all income and education levels. It will not just be, as the NDP like to present it, the rich filling it out. Frankly, I think those who have more assets are less likely to fill it out because they do not want us to know what they have.

The difference between the survey and the census is the penalty piece, and that is it.

We had experts from the National Statistics Council tell us that they would talk about the volume and the quality. They said that if they send a survey in English to an all French community, whether they send 100 or 1,000, they will get lousy results. Of course they will. How can somebody from National Statistics Council talk about a built in bias in their survey? If a bias is built into the questioning in any survey or census, that bias will be there. That was a ridiculous answer. Let us be honest. We will get more back.

On the quality side, I believe we will get the quality back, although there was a concern about quality. In the second meeting we had this summer, I think most of the experts said that we would likely to get a decent return in terms of numbers and maybe even more than we got before, but it was the quality that they had an issue with. I disagreed with them and I still disagree with them.

I think it is important for us to be advertising and promoting that Canadians should fill this information out, whether they like it or not.

However, under the census system, there was a penalty per question. It was not a penalty for the whole census but if people decided they did not want to fill out one piece of the survey, there was a penalty on that. If there was another piece of the census they did not want to fill out, there was the potential for additional penalty. We should not be penalizing Canadians for giving us this information. We should be encouraging them to do so, without penalty.

At the end of the day, there has been much misinformation about this. I will be frank. I do not think we did a great job in terms of promoting what we were actually doing from the beginning. However, if people are listening now, they will hear the actual facts. It is clear that this is the same survey as the census, the difference being that there are no potential penalties. As far as I understand, every party in the House agrees that there should never be any threat of jail time with any of the remaining mandatory census forms.

We do still have a mandatory short form that will tell us where people live and what they do. It will give us a demographic look at where this country is. It is useful information. That is mandatory. It has eight questions. It asks people which language is their first language, and other questions. It is just not right for us to require people to do it. It should be voluntary. I appreciate the government moving in that direction.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, as for the matter of official languages, we will see how that ends because the matter will be determined in court very shortly, so I will leave that one alone for now.

I love this debate because the more the member for Burlington is trying to rationalize this decision, the more he digs the hole for his party, which is fine by me, because the people who attended the committee, the experts, were really quite clear.

The number of people who respond to this is not the issue. If we have a sampling, and all of the sampling must respond because it is mandatory, we therefore create a situation where we establish a benchmark and, from that benchmark, everything flowing can be tested, measured and validated. However, if it is voluntary, we create a built-in bias.

Those wealthy people will tend to seek anonymity and therefore will tend not to respond. Those who are more vulnerable, poorer or who do not understand the language as well will tend not to respond and we end up with data that has a built-in bias. Every expert on census confirmed that and the member just puts it aside by waving his hand. However, it does not work that way.

This is not a question. It is a comment--

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order, please. The hon. member for Burlington.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I completely disagree with my hon. colleague's comments.

After listening to the experts who came to see us, the concept that 95%, which means that 5% of the people did not fill out the mandatory survey, but that 95% of the people filled it out because of the threat of jail time or the threat of a fine is an erroneous argument. I think that 95% of the people of Canada who filled out the long form, filled it out because they thought it was the right thing to do for Canada. They knew it would assist us, social agencies and other agencies come up with good policies and programs.

I have confidence in Canadians that when they get the long form voluntary survey, they will also fill that out. We will get good quality information back and we will continue to provide the services those individuals need.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I will refer to a few of the statements that were made by the last couple of Conservative colleagues who said, “I would like to believe that this is the case”. Those words are not ones that inspire a lot of trust and confidence in what the government is doing. “I would like to believe that what I am doing is correct”. “I think that what I am doing is correct”.

We have heard evidence galore from every expert right across the country and from people who rely on the census who say that this is the wrong step, that even if we go in this direction we will skew the census for the next five years and we will end up with data that is not correct.

What we have is a situation where somebody who would like to believe or who thinks that this will work is running the ship on the census, and this is not correct.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would encourage the member who asked me the question to ensure that MPs understand and that they are telling their constituents the definitional difference between a census and a survey.

Under the law, a census contains penalties. All we are doing is removing the penalties. The form, the questions and the length will be the same. In fact, as I stated before, we are sending it to more people because, in my view, it is not a burden, like the hon. member's NDP colleague said, but a civic duty of Canadians to fill it out.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking my hon. colleague from the NDP for raising this issue today. He knows that we will be debating this issue next Tuesday during an opposition day of the Liberal Party, but today's debate gives us some additional time to get into the matter and certainly there is a great deal to cover.

I came into politics knowing that as a Liberal my views would be the views of my party, but that they would not necessarily be shared by other parties. That is fair enough. We live in a democracy. But I certainly felt entering politics that we would do things in an intelligent way whether we had differences of opinion or not.

I have to say that earlier this summer I was really shocked by the government's decision to make changes to the long-form census and specifically to transform it from something that was compulsory, and I will get into why it is compulsory, into something that is voluntary and now called a national household survey. I found this very perplexing.

As a person with a technical background who has always felt that whatever we approach we must do it with scientific rigour and must fully understand the consequences of our actions, I was staggered at the thought that instead of having a compulsory long-form questionnaire that gathered essential data about the Canadian mosaic on a host of topics and which therefore allowed governments at all levels, non-profit organizations and various other bodies to make intelligent decisions, we would now be left with a very imprecise and potentially misleading tool. I characterized it as a stupid decision the day that I first heard about it. I do not like to use the word “stupid”, but it is, unfortunately, the word that fits on this particular occasion.

I have spent the summer on the issue of the census because the Conservative government announced this initiative in the dead of summer. The Conservatives tried to sneak it by. Who would have thought in June that the long-form census put out by Statistics Canada would be an issue throughout the summer and now into the fall, one which has riled up, inflamed passions, drawn a huge amount of criticism from a large number of respected organizations? Who would have thought that this would happen when if the government had left well enough alone, nobody would be talking about the census today? However, it is revealing of the way the government operates because it did so on a number of fronts this summer. Of course, one has to mention the joint strike fighter announcement as another example of something that was brought out in the quiet of summer. This is something that the government has a tendency to do and it bothers me greatly.

What bothers me also is the fact that the Minister of Industry, whom I consider to be an intelligent person, made the comment that Statistics Canada was evaluating a number of options. He left the impression that Statistics Canada was very much on side with the alternative that was being proposed as though absolutely no impact would occur in terms of the accuracy of this information. Of course, this put the Chief Statistician in an untenable position. He quite rightfully said that it is his duty to carry out directives from the government, and no one is quibbling with that. However, for the Minister of Industry to leave the impression that Statistics Canada acquiesced fully with the alternative that was being proposed by the Conservatives and that it would yield the same quality of reliable data in its database is, in my opinion, an extremely misleading statement. It is a statement that he continues to propound even today.

Mr. Munir Sheikh, who is a very respectable and dutiful public servant, is only one example of many people who have fallen by the wayside under the Conservative government because they dared to speak up.

We all know about Linda Keen, president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. Her appointment was terminated two years early. Adrian Measner, president of the Canadian Wheat Board, was gone because he defended the board's monopoly. Pat Strogan is not having his mandate renewed. Sheridan Scott, head of the Competition Bureau, ran afoul over a brewery takeover. We know about Steve Sullivan, the first victims of crime ombudsman. His term was not renewed. The list goes on. I will not go any further into that.

I had the opportunity this summer to be on the industry committee when it held two extraordinary meetings and received witness testimony. It was very clear to me that an overwhelming number of professional organizations argued against the government's decision. One recent example is the letter that was co-signed by Ivan Felligi, an extremely respected chief statistician who built Statistics Canada into the world-leading organization that it is today, as well as two former privy councillors, Mel Capp and Alex Himmelfarb. A highly respected former governor of the Bank of Canada, David Dodge, sent a letter to the Prime Minister urging him to reconsider this decision.

There is a well-known website that publishes the names of organizations that have come out against the decision by the Minister of Industry and the Prime Minister with respect to the census. These are some of them: Alberta Health Services; Alberta Professional Planners Institute; Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services; l'Association des Retraité-e-s de l'Alliance de la Fonction publique; the Anglican Church of Canada; l'Association des statisticiens et statisticiennes du Québec; l'Association du Barreau canadien; Canadian Economics Association; l'Association des Soeurs du Canada; Association of Canadian Map Libraries and Archives; the Association of Ontario Health Centres.

I will get back to some more. It is just a staggering number at the moment. The list contains the names of 362 organizations that have said to the government that they do not want it to make changes because of what is going to happen to that database.

What is it that happens to that database that the Conservatives either do not understand or refuse to understand when we switch from a compulsory system, and about 95% of Canadians filled it out last time, to one that is not compulsory, now a household survey, and voluntary? If I do not want to fill it out, I can just throw it in the garbage and nothing would happen. That is the situation at the moment. As a Canadian, somebody who has worked and served in government all my life, I am going to fill that form out, but the point is that a lot of people will not. What will happen when that happens?

Statistics Canada said, and the minister is aware of this, that only about 50% of people would fill out a household survey if it was voluntary and then, if a big push was put on, and that is where the extra $30 million is coming from to try to educate Canadians, that number might be brought up to 65%. That is a far cry from the 95% that would allow it to be an accurate database.

Let us look at the one-third of Canadians who are not going to fill it out. It is the one-third of Canadians who stand to gain the greatest amount from having the census available--

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Useful and usable data. That is what StatsCan said. Why don't you quote StatsCan fully? What are you afraid of? Why do you want to throw people in jail? Why do you want to threaten fellow Canadians with jail? Answer that.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie has the floor. I would urge all hon. members to listen to what he has to say. There will be an opportunity for questions soon.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, what happens for the third of Canadians who do not fill it out? They are not white, middle-class Canadians. We know this from scientific evidence. We know that those people who are less likely to fill out the questionnaire are the disadvantaged. We are talking about the linguistic minorities, first nations, poor people, ethnic minorities, and they are precisely the people we want to target with government policy, but unfortunately, they will not be represented.

That is what the chief statistician called bias. It is a technical term, but one that is relatively easy to understand if one actually pays attention.

What happens is that the data is skewed. We cannot afford not to continue on our five-year plan to collect important information on the Canadian mosaic so that we have an accurate picture of what Canada is really like and so that we can target policies in an intelligent manner to help those who are most in need. That unfortunately is not going to happen.

I remember the very eloquent testimony of one of the witnesses who appeared at the first industry committee hearing. She represented the Inuit community and was also the mayor of Iqaluit. She spoke about what would happen if it became voluntary. Essentially, she said that if it became voluntary, nobody in the Inuit community would fill out the household survey. Why? Because they have difficulty understanding the questions in the English or French languages and need some help to do so. It is quite an involved process.

People from the Government of Canada go to those communities, which is why they start earlier in the year, in February versus May or June. They sit down with them, ask them the questions and help them fill out the questionnaire. This provides vital information that helps us have an accurate portrait of what the Inuit community is like. That is a dramatic example of why it is important to continue to support making the filling out of the census compulsory.

Let me quote the Minister of Industry who said in July, “I don't accept the fact that every time you make a change on every matter of government business you have to shout it from the rooftop”. I guess he realized this summer that whether he whispered it or shouted it from the rooftop, he sure provoked a reaction, because there was one heck of a reaction across Canada on a subject, as I say again, that I thought would never, ever be on the minds of Canadians as most Canadians dutifully filled out their questionnaires.

Even today the Minister of Industry raised the spectrum of jail time. Does he not know that for a long time now all of the other parties have decided to get rid of that notion? Why? Because nobody has ever been sent to jail. He should know that. Why is he bringing up old-fashioned answers when he is asked questions?

This statement is by James Turk of the Canadian Association of University Teachers:

—we are deeply concerned about the disastrous consequences this will have for the scientific understanding of Canadian society, and for the ability to make informed decisions about social and economic policies.

An economist with SRC Atlantique said:

We will no longer be able to know whether the gap between young and old or the gap between regions has grown. These kinds of analyses will not be possible.

The president of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council said:

You're not going to have the same level of reliability with a voluntary survey.

The executive director of the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women said:

This makes us even more vulnerable to a government or an interest group that claims something, because we will not have the data to contradict them.

I could go on with quotes. I want to name some of the other organizations. I will flip to another one of the 12 pages that I have of groups that have protested the government's decision: the Canadian Association of Journalists; the Canadian Association of Midwives; the Canadian Association of Public Data Users; the Canadian Association of Retired People. If these are groups that the government cares about, or at least pretends to care about, why is it not listening to them?

The Canadian Historical Association, the Canadian Institute of Actuaries, the Canadian Institute of Planners, the Canadian Library Association and a countless number of municipal city councils have spoken out against the decision by the government to make the changes about which are talking.

The Canadian Population Society, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Society for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Canadian Sociology Association, the city of Brampton, the city of Calgary, the city of Edmonton, the city of Fredericton, the city of Hamilton, the city of Kelowna, the city of Laval, the city of Moose Jaw, the city of Montreal, the city of New Westminster, the city of Ottawa, the city of Vancouver and the city of Gatineau have also spoken out against the government's decision

And it goes on. It is never-ending.

Why is this government not listening? These are the people it wants to talk to, the people whose interests, supposedly, are important to it. Why is the government not listening to them?

Despite a sustained outcry from a broad cross-section of Canadians against axing the mandatory long census and the unprecedented resignation of Canada's chief statistician, a man of honour who was forced into that essentially because he could not stand by and pretend that Statistics Canada acquiesced with the decision of the government and was made to look as though it agreed with something with which it did not agree, the government has not listened.

Liberals support the long form mandatory census and I am delighted that my colleagues in the other opposition parties also feel the same way. We have been together all summer on this issue and we will be on this issue during the fall as we present a private member's bill and as we raise this issue again next Tuesday, at least for the first time, and as many times as we can thereafter.

At the moment, the long form census has been shelved and has been replaced by the national household survey. The scheduling is that this is supposed to go out initially next winter to northern communities and then, I believe in June, to the rest of the population. Approximately one-third of Canadians will be receiving this.

I would like to urge the government to reconsider the decision that it has taken and that it persists in holding onto throughout the summer. It is damaging a vital database. It is not too late for the government to change its mind, even though the formulas are being printed as we speak.

We know very well that if a decision were made to reverse the government's decision, an additional page could simply be included with the questionnaire that is going to be sent to constituents, explaining that the government changed its mind and that the questionnaire is mandatory and not voluntary.

It is not too late to reverse the decision. And you can be sure that we will not stop pushing that message.

Munir Sheikh's resignation exposed an attempt by the current government to eliminate the mandatory long form census based on false arguments. Now the Conservatives are grasping at straws to defend their unpopular and unwarranted decision. I appeal to them to recognize that this should not be a triumph of ignorance, ideology and dogma over scientific rigour, common sense, truth and enlightenment. I hope they will take that seriously.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on his speech. I was at the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology this summer, at least at one of the two meetings at which this matter was discussed. As we know, the census has been mandatory since 1918. This summer, the Conservatives decided to throw a monkey wrench into this well-oiled machine.

The hon. member for Beauce, a former industry minister and former foreign affairs minister, has said he was receiving up to 1,000 complaints a week concerning the long form census when he was industry minister. In committee, however, the commissioner responsible for complaints told us that less than 10 complaints were received during the latest census period, that is, 10 in 10 years.

I wonder if my colleague could talk about this kind of misinformation concerning something as important as the mandatory long form census?

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Bloc member for his comments.

Yes, during the summer, we heard all kinds of misinformation about the census, including a comment from a member of the Conservative Party, the member for Beauce, who claimed that he had received 1,000 complaints a day when he was Industry minister and minister responsible for Statistics Canada. When someone asked him to back up those claims, he had nothing.

We also had a chance to speak to the Privacy Commissioner. As the Bloc member just said, she told us that in the past 10 years, she had received a few complaints. That is vastly different from the image painted by the member for Beauce.

Providing misinformation is part of this government's strategy, and we would like to hear the truth.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission
B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's comments. I am curious what he thinks about the decision of the American government for its 2010 census to no longer have a long form included with their short form and to have a survey similar to what has been proposed by this government.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I remind the hon. member that there was a pilot project, adopted by our neighbours to the south in 2003, to go toward a voluntary form of data gathering. We heard very clearly during the testimony over the summer that they gave that up. Why did they give it up? Because they could not, for the very reasons I have spoken of today, assure themselves that they would get valuable data.

Therefore, I urge my colleague from the Conservative side to read the report that dealt with that decision.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, when we come to this chamber, we bring different skills that help us in certain files. The hon. member's past has helped on this one and gives some credibility to some of the arguments that have been made. During the member's debate, once again, the minister was heckling and yelling, asking why we wanted to put people in jail. That is an absurd response to the situation.

First, it is the government's policy, and it has had it since it took office in 2004. The government is not changing that with regard to other types of surveys, such as for agriculture. It is something it could have done a long time ago. It is not the member's fault.

He rattled off a series of good examples of different organizations that were supporting our position.

Also, 3,695 responses were received by the minister about his plan. Of that, 3,456 opposed the minister's plan, and 90% of them were ordinary Canadians. I would like the member's thoughts on that.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is no question about the overwhelming amount of outcry and letters to the Prime Minister and to the government. If one puts that alongside those who support the government on its decision, it is really comparing a very giant list compared to something that is infinitesimal. In fact, we became aware of that during the course of the summer. The list for those who supported the government just did not grow. It had an initial bounce, but the one for those who opposed the government kept growing throughout the summer.

There is no question in my mind that the government has decided to dig its feet in and not listen to reason. Consequently it is trying to find arguments to justify its decision, but the arguments do not make sense. The minister today raised the spectrum of jail. That has been dismissed and put aside for quite some time now. This shows to what point the government is desperate and without any arguments with respect to its decision.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings on the motion at this time. Accordingly, the debate on the motion will be rescheduled for another sitting.

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

The House resumed from May 14 consideration of the motion.

Criminal Records Act Review
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Surrey North for her Motion No. 514 on public safety and criminal records. She is a long-standing champion of the rights of victims and for trying to make our justice system a better functioning system. I want to congratulate her for her tireless work in this area. This particular motion deals with criminal records and it is certainly one that needs to be changed.

There are a number of issues with respect to, for example, the pardon system. We saw the situation of the hockey player, Mr. James, who received a pardon despite having victimized dozens of young boys for a long period of time. All Canadians were outraged that this individual received a pardon and we have seen other individuals who committed very serious crimes receive or are going to receive pardons.

The whole issue of pardons and records came out of the Criminal Records Act. It was done by Don Tolmie back in the 1960s. It was done in a well-meaning way but unfortunately, such things have not panned out as they should. As a result of that, we have seen that changes are necessary with respect to how we do that.

Back in 2000, the then government of Mr. Chrétien made a number of amendments to the Criminal Records Act, including changes requiring that applicants whose pardon applications had been refused must wait at least a year before reapplying, and automatically revoking pardons for anybody with new convictions. There are certain things that can be done to move forward in this area, including precluding individuals who commit serious, indictable offences from ever getting a pardon. It is offensive that this occurs and I think a lot of the public would wonder, as many of us did, how this could possibly happen.

Historically, the National Parole Board's hands have been tied. What it does is assess somebody, and if he or she has had an unblemished record for five years after the conviction, the National Parole Board is obliged to give that person a pardon. That is the system that we have.

Changing the system and providing the National Parole Board with the ability to refuse pardons for individuals who have committed violent offences, including sexual offences, is something that is welcome and certainly sends a very clear message that individuals who have committed these serious crimes will always have it on their records. As I said before, this is something that needs to be changed.

I would also draw attention to something that needs to change in terms of the RCMP.

There was a decision called the McNeil decision that came down through the courts, which in many ways put the police on trial. It actually puts disclosure obligations on the police officer for a wide variety of crimes, from DUIs all the way to homicide investigations. In other words, in a trial, the RCMP officers are put on trial, and long aspects of disclosure in terms of personal information on them have to be disclosed to the defence and the court. This to me is absolutely absurd. It is not the RCMP officer who is on trial. It is the person who is charged with the offence who is on trial.

The impact of this, of course, has been quite devastating because it has put a huge administrative burden on the RCMP in terms of quite extensive legal, human resources and administrative costs. This is not a small problem. It is a large problem and a large impediment to the ability of our police officers to do their jobs and implement the legal system that we have in our country.

As a result, it is causing an entanglement within our justice system. I would strongly encourage the government to take a look at this McNeil decision and introduce in this House changes to reverse it. In times of fiscal austerity and a significant difference between the job that our RCMP has to do and the resources it has, now it is being forced to pour huge amounts of money into large administrative costs that are not necessary in terms of being able to deliver the justice and protection that the Canadian public needs.

Today, one could safely say that the system we have really does not take into account the complexity of the charter of rights, the duty to account, and the constitutional ambiguity that surrounds the job that police officers engage in today. Their job keeps on changing and the legal obligations on them keep on changing, which makes it much more difficult for them to do their jobs. I would strongly encourage the government to look at this and implement changes that are desperately required to enable our police officers to do their jobs.

Some of us in the House are disappointed that in coming back to the House after three months working in our ridings, the long gun registry came to the forefront. All of us understand that changes have to happen. Chief Superintendent Cheliak and his team did an excellent job of changing the registry, changing the administrative burden that had been on the shoulders of individuals who owned long guns. Whatever has to happen in the future to make this better, I would encourage the government to work with us and people who own long guns to ensure that whatever other changes are required do happen to make this less of an onerous task on them.

Most of the gun owners, at least in my community, have actually said that they support the registry, that the changes that were made by the RCMP and that the capping of costs at $4 million a year they found to be a fair and reasonable trade-off, given the fact that all the major police groups in the country, from the RCMP to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association and others, have actually asked for this.

There also needs to be some mending of fences between individuals who live in rural areas and those who live in urban areas. This has caused a wedge between them and we need to do a better job of understanding that there has been misinformation which needs to be corrected. Some of the concerns of those who own long guns must be listened to, and whatever changes that are required to improve the system need to be done.

I want to compliment the member for Surrey North. There is an opportunity for us to work together to improve the efficiency of our justice system. One of the first things that can be done is to listen to our police officers. They labour under some very difficult administrative and legal obligations which actually pull them away from doing their duty, which is investigating those who allegedly commit crimes in our country.

Because of the administrative overlay that they have, valuable and limited resources are being taken away from the sharp end of policing in Canada and are buried in administrative costs. Taking police officers away from front line duties to sit at desks, filling out endless forms, is not effective, not useful, and can actually mar the implementation of our judicial system.

There are a lot of opportunities to listen to the RCMP and other police forces across the country. Personally, I do not think they are being listened to right now in many cases. They have a lot of superb solutions that can enable us to achieve a fair and effective judicial system, but they are the ones on the front line. They are the ones who can provide some very innovative solutions and they ought to be listened to.

The government needs to understand there are things it can do on the judicial side that are important. The government did not use a good chunk of the crime prevention moneys. It has removed quite significantly moneys for victims. Moneys have been cut, which is remarkable, for victims rights groups. I would ask the government to reinstate those moneys.

There are two very powerful things the government could do to reduce crime. An early learning head start program will reduce crime by 40% to 50%. Changing the drug laws in our country would also significantly reduce crime because the current prohibition puts money into the hands of organized crime gangs in our country.

There are many fact-based solutions the government could implement to improve our judicial system and make our country a safer place. I would strongly encourage it to implement those solutions.

Criminal Records Act Review
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Kenora
Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford Parliamentary Secretary for Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, I am certainly grateful for the opportunity to join in this important debate on the motion from the hon. member for Surrey North, and I thank her for this opportunity to speak to it.

Recently, many Canadians were made aware that the current system of pardons in this country might not work in a way that always and unequivocally puts public safety first. Canadians were outraged when they learned that sex offender Graham James, for example, received a pardon. They are understandably concerned that other notorious criminals may also get a rubber stamp. That is why our Conservative government took swift and necessary action last spring.

Bill C-23A gives the National Parole Board the tools it needs to decide if granting a pardon is warranted, and it ensures that the waiting period to apply for a pardon better reflects the severity of the crimes committed. That is not all. I urge all members of this House to support the remaining reforms as they are contained Bill C-23B.

Our government has made listening to the views of Canadians and especially the voices of victims one of our top priorities since we were first elected in 2006. We have, in fact, heard from victims and victims groups that support these reforms.

I would like to first commend the hon. member for her ongoing work on behalf of victims and for bringing this important matter forward.

As we heard, the legislation governing the pardon system was such that a pardon was granted to nearly all ex-offenders who applied for one. Let me put that into concrete terms. According to the National Parole Board, just 2% of all applications for a pardon were rejected in 2008-09. That compares with only 1% in 2007-08 and again a mere 1% in 2006-07. In 2006-07, only 103 of 14,851 applications were rejected. The following year, only 175 of 25,021 applications for a pardon received by the National Parole Board were, in fact, rejected.

Those numbers raise some troubling questions and concerns for many Canadians. Many Canadians asked whether the current system simply operated as a rubber stamp. Others wanted to know whether there were enough safeguards in place. These were the issues we needed to examine very carefully, with an eye to making sure that the needs of victims and the safety and security of Canadians always comes first. We remain committed to ensuring that the pardon process is not a rubber stamp. That is why we brought Bill C-23 forward.

We advanced the most critical aspects of pardon reform before the summer break, but we have much more work to do. I call on the opposition to continue the work we accomplished in June and to side with victims and law-abiding Canadians and not with criminals.

The general rule of thumb at the time was that people convicted of summary offences were eligible for a pardon three years after finishing their sentences, provided they had not been convicted of any other offences during that period. Pardons in these cases were automatic, and the National Parole Board had absolutely no discretion to refuse an application.

For those convicted of more serious indictable offences, the waiting period was a bit longer, five years, and applicants had to demonstrate that they had had good conduct. However, each application was either accepted or rejected using exactly the same criteria, regardless of the nature of the offence. Again, it was a rubber stamp. There was no discretion to weigh the impact on victims. There was no discretion to say that granting a pardon in cases such as those involving sex offences against children might not be appropriate, despite the fact that such acts often leave a lasting and devastating scar on the victim, a scar that may never heal.

We heard from victims who, along with many other Canadians, questioned the fairness of a pardon system that would allow sex offenders to virtually wipe the judicial slate clean after as few as three years.

We heard from many Canadians who told us that some offenders should perhaps not be granted pardons at all.

All of this is why our government introduced Bill C-23, legislation that would implement fundamental reforms to help ensure, among other things, that the National Parole Board would have more discretion when reviewing applications for a pardon.

The changes our government proposed, and were approved by Parliament as Bill C-23A, allowed the board to examine factors such as the nature, gravity and the duration of an offence in reaching its decisions for an offender convicted of an indictable offence as well as the circumstances surrounding the commission of that offence, of course, information relating to an applicant's criminal history.

Other changes will mean the waiting period is now 10 years in the case of a serious personal injury offence, including manslaughter, when the applicant was sentenced to two years or more. The waiting period is now 10 years for those convicted of a sexual offence related to a child and prosecuted by way of indictment. Other applicants convicted of a sexual offence, prosecuted by summary conviction, must now wait five years. People convicted of an indictable offence will need to prove to the National Parole Board that receiving a pardon will contribute to his or her rehabilitation and not bring the administration of justice into disrepute.

Such changes are necessary in order to give the National Parole Board the tools it needs to ensure our justice system is not put into disrepute. Because we owe it to all Canadians, especially victims of serious crimes, to ensure that the system puts public safety first and the interests of victims first, we moved quickly and responsibly to bring forward these reforms which are tough but also fair.

Our government believes they were necessary because our justice system must always include compassion for victims.

I would like to reiterate once again that our government is prepared to take further necessary steps to ensure that Canadians can have confidence in our justice system, and that victims of unfortunate serious crimes lie at the forefront of our judicial policy with respect to their protection.

Furthermore, our record reflects our commitment to protecting Canadians, taking action to stand up for victims and cracking down on crime.

I, therefore, urge all hon. members to support Motion No. 514 before us today and to continue to work with the government to ensure we have a pardon system that works the way it should. That is the way a pardon system should work and that is the way the House of Commons should work. I am glad to see in this instance such is the case.

I again thank the member for Surrey North for this great opportunity to speak to Motion No. 514 which is an important issue in my riding as well.

Criminal Records Act Review
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Resuming debate.

With her five minute right of reply, the hon. member for Surrey North.

Criminal Records Act Review
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Dona Cadman Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity today to discuss Surrey North's motion before the House calling for a parliamentary examination of the pardon system.

In the last session, Parliament undertook an initiative in Bill C-23A in responding to the widespread concern of Canadians over a seemingly automatic pardon system.

Recently I shared the outrage of Canadians that notorious sex offender, Graham James, received a pardon and had his criminal record sealed by the Parole Board of Canada. The government was understandably concerned that other notorious criminals would also get a rubber stamp. That is why we took quick and decisive action to advance the most critical aspects of our pardon reform.

We listened to Canadians and, most important, we listened to the victims themselves, all of whom told us the same thing, which was that change was needed and that it was needed now. I, therefore, urge all my colleagues in the House to work together on this. We need to continue our good work and reform legislation to ensure the protection of families, communities and, most important, victims.

The way the rules were written allowed the vast majority of offenders to receive a pardon. If an individual had been convicted, served his or her time and was not convicted again for either three or five years after completing their sentence, he or she was entitled to a pardon.

The pardon approval rate under the previous system suggests that the Parole Board of Canada has been interpreting the Criminal Records Act as requiring it to grant a pardon in almost all cases. In essence, it has come to be an almost automatic entitlement. This does not mean pardons will not continue to play a very important role in the offender rehabilitation process. It will, but it will cease to be the rubber stamp it has become.

Under the previous system, the rules allowed for little difference between indictable and summary offences. For a summary conviction, offenders needed to wait three years after serving their sentence and before they could apply for and be granted a pardon. Those convicted of indictable offences needed to wait five years and demonstrate good conduct, after which they could apply for and be granted a pardon.

I believe there is a big difference between people who are convicted of an offence, such as break and enter when they were young, and people who are chronic serious offenders. We need to look very carefully at whether our pardon system should treat these people with very different criminal histories in the same manner. Our government tabled legislation will provide the Parole Board direction to consider such factors when rendering a decision.

The legislation that our government introduced and was eventually approved by Parliament established that the Parole Board can deny a pardon in any case where granting it would “bring the administration of justice into disrepute”. I believe that this is the central provision.

In addition, ineligibility periods have been extended, particularly for cases processed by indictment and involving sentences of more than two years, such as those offences involving personal injury and sexual offences against children.

I believe all members in the House owe the responsibility to not just their families and friends but to their constituents to ensure we make our promise good to Canada and make a better and safer place to live. I ask for the support of all hon. members in the passing of Motion No. 514. Together we can reform the pardon system to ensure it better reflects Canadian values.

Criminal Records Act Review
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The time provided for debate has expired. The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal Records Act Review
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Criminal Records Act Review
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

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

Criminal Records Act Review
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Criminal Records Act Review
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Criminal Records Act Review
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Criminal Records Act Review
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93 the division stands deferred until Wednesday, September 29, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

It being 1:54 p.m., this House stands adjourned until next Monday at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 1:54 p.m.)