House of Commons Hansard #49 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was grain.

Topics

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-18, An Act to reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board and to make consequential and related amendments to certain Acts, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Speaker's Ruling
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

There are 11 motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-18. The motions will be grouped for debate as follows: Group No. 1 will include Motions Nos. 1 to 6; Group No. 2 will include Motions Nos. 7 to 11.

The voting patterns for the motions within each group are available at the table. The Chair will remind the House of each pattern at the time of voting.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

moved:

That Bill C-18 be amended by deleting Clause 2.

That Bill C-18 be amended by deleting Clause 3.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

moved:

That Bill C-18 be amended by deleting Clause 6.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

moved:

That Bill C-18 be amended by deleting Clause 7.

That Bill C-18 be amended by deleting Clause 9.

That Bill C-18 be amended by deleting Clause 12.

Madam Speaker, I thank my seconder, the member for Sudbury, for reinforcing our opposition to this bill and helping us to move these amendments. I also want to recognize and extend my gratitude to the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for doing her part to try to correct what we believe is an extremely flawed and even, may I say, dangerous piece of legislation.

I will begin my remarks by saying that I believe the entire process and the federal government's treatment of this bill has been a sham and a travesty from the word go. We are of the view that the fast-tracking of this bill does a disservice and an injustice to the very prairie farm producers whose livelihoods would be dramatically affected and impacted by this bill.

The public should know, if they are not already aware, that the extreme fast-tracking of this bill resulted in only two committee hearings of four hours each where not a single farmer was heard. There was no consultation, no co-operation, no accommodation of the reasonable concerns that have been brought forward by producers, farm organizations and people in the rural areas who would be affected by the loss of their shortline railways, the producer cars, and all the thousands of things that are impacted by abolishing the Canadian Wheat Board. None of them have been given voice and none of them have had the opportunity to be heard in the context of this debate.

I would caution the government that, when it does this habitually, this chronic, habitual abuse of parliamentary procedure, it threatens to undermine the very integrity of our parliamentary democracy. I have been here 14 years and I have never seen anything like it in my life. The government has lowered the bar and I am concerned that it is doing irreversible damage to the integrity of our parliamentary institutions.

I would remind the government that good governance is a fundamental prerequisite for prosperity. The government thinks that its ideas have primacy over all other Canadians' ideas, that no other voices need to be heard as it implements its agenda. It has a legitimate right to put forward legislation but it does not have a right to undermine, sabotage, diminish and erode the fragile construct that is the Canadian Parliament.

That is the frustration that we have on the opposition benches. The Conservatives represent a majority in the House of Commons but they do not represent a majority of Canadians. How can they be so arrogant as to assume that the other 60% of Canadians who did not vote for them and who maybe do not support their agenda do not have a right to be heard?

No one has a monopoly on good ideas. Canada in itself is a fragile construct. The Parliament of Canada is a manifestation of that co-operation that keeps this fragile federation together. The government is chipping away and eroding, and I honestly do not even think it realizes the damage it is doing.

I will move to the motions that we have put forward today seeking to ameliorate and mitigate some of the impact of this bill. I will say from the beginning that I am sick and tired of the cutesy names that the government is inventing for all of its pieces of legislation. This bill is not about marketing freedom. It is about the freedom to sell grain for less.

With every one of its bills, the government makes up some editorialized comment and tries to put it off as the actual name of the bill. The real name of this bill is an act to reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board, but I believe it is an act to abolish the Canadian Wheat Board. Step by step, incrementally, the government is on this ideological crusade to abolish what we believe is a great Canadian institution, and one of those manifestations of a unique Canadian co-operation that is acting in the best interests of the producer instead of in the best interests of the big agrifood giants that will be the beneficiaries of this huge transfer of wealth.

The one thing we know about this bill is that it would take hundreds of millions of dollars out of the pockets of prairie farmers and put it into the pockets of the shareholders of the big agricorp and agrifood conglomerate giants that have been salivating over this market share ever since the Wheat Board was first created.

It is no surprise that Brian Mulroney is on the board of directors of Archer Daniels Midland, one of the big three that will gobble up this market share. He billed $650,000 worth of billings in the last two years alone as a member of the board of directors. People do not get that kind of money just for attending board meetings. They get that kind of money for using their influence to push the government into something that is not in the best interests of farmers. It is in the best interests of a very special privileged few, and that is the Cargills, Viterra and the other agrifood giants.

An example of how the Conservatives are trampling on the democratic rights of prairie farmers and denying them the right to vote is that, by virtue of this bill, they will fire all 15 members of the board of directors, 10 of whom were elected by prairie farmers, and replace them with a board of four members appointed by the government. It is a $6 billion a year corporation, one of the largest and most successful grain marketing companies in the world, and the Conservatives will appoint four of their stooges. I presume they have picked them out already. They are probably some failed Conservative candidates or some bagmen who did yeoman's due service to the political party of their choice--

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. While I am sure that some will appreciate the theatrics of the hon. member's speech, referring to Canadians, who he does not even know, as “stooges”, I find most offensive and he should apologize for that.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

I thank the member for his comment. I have not heard a personal attack directed to a specific person. It perhaps is not a very nice comment but I would not consider it unparliamentary in the context here that it is being raised.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, the first amendment that you read out today, seconded by my colleague from Sudbury, would delete clause 2, which proposes to reduce the board of directors from 15 down to 5, which would include a chairperson and a president. We think it is ridiculous. It is an appalling notion and we seek the support of all members of Parliament. If they have any kind of a commitment to good corporate governance, surely they would agree that the duly elected board members, elected by prairies farmers in the 10 districts, would be the better stewards of the Canadian Wheat Board in whatever manifestation is left after the bill undermines and guts it.

Clause 3, the second amendment we have put forward, is in a similar vein. It would delete clause 3 because it is undemocratic to change this. It would leave no direct input and say from prairie farmers into the operations of what remains as the shell of the Canadian Wheat Board.

I appreciate my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands participating in this debate today and moving meaningful, reasoned amendments. We encourage the Conservatives to at least entertain the fact that these are coming from a representative group that is larger than the group that they claim to represent. There are 60% of Canadians represented by the opposition members here. They did not vote for the Conservative Party. For the Conservatives to claim that the May 2, 2011, election gave them a mandate to run roughshod over democratic process and parliamentary procedure by fast-tracking the bill and denying the right of legitimate voices to be heard is, in and of itself, a travesty.

There is a reason that corrupt nations are poor. We should take a moment and reflect on some of the consequences of allowing our institutions to be eroded. I recently read a book by a former Liberal member of Parliament, Roy Cullen, called The Poverty of Corrupt Nations. It is hard to say which came first, if they are poor because they are corrupt or if they are corrupt because they are poor, but the two are inexorably linked. The Conservatives are taking us down a road where we are undermining not only our democratic institutions but the integrity of our Canadian democracy.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I did enjoy the member's remarks because I believe they are right on the money. He said in his earlier remarks that the government is threatening, with this action, the integrity of parliamentary institutions. The government has not threatened. It has hurt the integrity of this parliamentary institution because it went with a steamroller over section 47.1 of the current act and taken away farmers' right to vote in a legitimate plebiscite as it suggests in the act. The government has not only taken away farmers' votes, by the way it has handled committee as the member very well explained, but it has taken away farmers' voices.

Now we are finding out that the government, through executive order, and it has come out in the Gazette, is not only taking away farmers' votes and voices but it is now picking farmers' pockets by using their money in the contingency fund to offer a cushion for the new board. What does the member have to say about that?

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Malpeque for his long-standing advocacy to stand up for the Canadian Wheat Board. It is time for all friends of the Canadian Wheat Board to stand up and make their views known because with a majority in the House of Commons and a majority in the Senate, it is going to fall to civil society to put some constraints on the government, from the absolute power it seems to be revelling in as we speak.

However, I agree with my colleague that it is offensive to the sensibilities of any person who calls himself or herself a democrat to observe what is taking place here, in denying farmers the direction and control over their own institution, and the pot of money now that the government seems to be grabbing and clawing back.

This institution was set up as essentially a big co-op, a co-operative to act in the best interests of prairie producers, to protect itself from the historic gouging of the robber barons, the rail barons and the great grain barons—

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. There are many members standing up, so I would like to give the opportunity for a couple of other questions.

The hon. member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to ask this member a question. I did notice he talked about robber barons and I know he is doing the movember thing. I have to tell him that his moustache looks quite the part as far as robber barons go. I do like the member. When we have the opportunity to speak, it is quite interesting.

However, I know he spends a lot of time on Salt Spring Island and I know there are not a lot of wheat farmers there. I know there are not a lot of wheat farmers in downtown Winnipeg. I do know there are a lot of wheat farmers in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and across the country who are represented by Conservatives. Most rural ridings that actually do grow wheat and actually have constituents in them that are farmers are represented by Conservatives. I know that and most people in Canada know that.

A survey was done of the younger generation of farmers. Because they are the future, 76% of that younger generation said they wanted something other than a monopoly. I want the member to answer this question. Why are the younger farmers saying, “Let's have something other than a monopoly”? Yet, the NDP and the Liberals are saying, “No, we want to violate what young farmers want”. How does the member respond to that?

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to raise a point that I meant to get to. I have heard from hundreds of prairie farmers from Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba, many of whom said that they voted for the Conservative Party, but they did so with the knowledge that they were promised they would have a vote before anything happened to their Canadian Wheat Board.

Whether they voted for the Conservatives because of the gun registry or any number of other virtues and merits that were offered them by the Conservatives, they thought they were going to get to vote on the future of the Canadian Wheat Board. The government lied to prairie farmers to their face. We have it on record. We have the minister on record stating clearly that farmers would get to vote, that he believes in democracy. The Conservatives ignored all that and they are steamrolling this bill.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe that it is unparliamentary in this place to accuse anyone, any individual, or any party of lying. That is what the member just did. I demand he withdraw that.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I rise on the same point of order. What the member for Winnipeg Centre said is in fact true. The minister did, and I can find the quote if we have to find it, promise farmers a vote. He said that he believes in democracy.

Then, when it comes to introducing this bill, he is claiming that the vote was the election. That is not what he told farmers. I met with quite a number of young farmers in this town yesterday. They believed the minister. What the member for Winnipeg Centre is saying is the truth. The minister lied to those farmers.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

On the same point of order, the hon. member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca.

I am coming very close to offer a decision, unless there is a new point to bring forward.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, clearly, that is unparliamentary. The member knows better than that. Also, he represents absolutely zero western farmers because he is from P.E.I. I do not even know why he is trying to represent farmers. I do not know why the other member from Winnipeg is trying to represent farmers. Neither of them represent farmers.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

On the same point of order? Is there a new fact being brought forward by the hon. member for Nickel Belt?

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Yes, Madam Speaker. I want to inform the House that as hon. members we were elected to represent all Canadians, not just a fraction of Canadians. For the government side to accuse our member of lying when, Wednesday, these same members accused us of being traitors. That is highly hypocritical.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

On the same point of order? Is there a new fact being raised by the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso?

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Madam Speaker, I would like to build on that point, if I could. There is one member of Parliament in Atlantic Canada who does not have a fishing wharf in his riding and the government made him the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. How can he represent fishermen with no fishermen in downtown Fredericton?

So, to say that members in this House who do not have wheat farmers cannot speak on behalf of wheat farmers is asinine. I would like to add that to the point of order.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

On the points of order that have been raised by various members, I thank them for their comments because it is well-known that any language that causes disorder in the House is unparliamentary.

I would ask all members of Parliament to moderate their language. Usually, when language is used, where an attack is made against one person, one minister, it is definitely considered unparliamentary. I would certainly ask that members who have made a personal attack on one minister to withdraw it.

However, I am going to, at this moment, ask all members to remember that this is a strong debate where there are equally strong differences in opinion and to be respectful in their criticisms of the actions of both government and the opposition. I will leave it at that.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Winnipeg Centre for seconding my amendments. I am also proud to have seconded his.

As we begin this discussion over the next 10 minutes of my portion of the debate, I want to concentrate on what our amendments are actually about and then address the larger issue of why I personally, as the member of Parliament for Saanich—Gulf Islands where we actually do have some wheat farmers, very small levels of crops at this point, but there are people in Saanich—Gulf Islands--

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

How many under the Wheat Board?

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

I am sorry, I am unable to answer the hon. minister across the way as I explain our amendments.

We have put forward amendments to Bill C-18 that deal very specifically with changes to the sections of the bill that relate to the election of the board of directors.

It has been part of the Wheat Board ever since it was created in 1935 that the members of the Wheat Board's board of directors were primarily elected by farmers. It has been a 15 member board of directors, 10 board members elected by farmers, who themselves then are represented in a single desk marketing system, which is of course to the benefit of farmers, and that is why they were electing their board of directors.

The amendments we are putting forward at report stage of Bill C-18 are to revert control over the board of directors to the Canadian Wheat Board in whatever new position it is able to exert itself after passage of this legislation in order to ensure that it has representation elected by farmers.

The bill, as currently drafted, would eliminate board members elected by farmers and move to a five person board, all appointed through the governor in council, and of course the governor in council is essentially the cabinet, so it would remove the democratically elected portion of the board of directors, and that is a very serious matter.

I would love to take the temperature down on this matter this morning in the House. It is not an issue which is often debated in the House where it is somehow freedom versus oppression, or that there is this dreadful oppression from the Wheat Board and that all farmers wish to be freed from these shackles, from this terrible yoke.

The wheat and barley farmers in this country are clearly divided on the pros and cons of the Wheat Board in 2011. Clearly, we need to think about modernizing. Initially, the Wheat Board was created before 1935, which is the date we usually choose because that is when it came out in statute federally. Going back to the 1920s, farmers first formed co-operatives. They had every reason to be concerned. When my hon. friend from Winnipeg Centre referred to the robber barons, he was referring to those of the early part of the 20th century. Farmers had every reason to be concerned about whether they could they get a fair price.

When farmers were put in a circumstance of being at the mercy of large corporate buyers, what would that mean? Farmers were competing against other. Each one would lower their price to get the sale with the big conglomerate, and in that situation it was a buyer's market. It could pick off the farmers. Farmers could go bankrupt if they kept reducing their prices to get the deal. That is why co-operatives were formed. That is why the Wheat Board was formed in 1935 to ensure that, with single desk marketing, the Wheat Board would buy and guarantee the farmers a liveable price for the wheat and barley they grew.

It is not easy being a farmer in this country. Goodness only knows that the average farmer in this country is unable to make a living on the farm. Most of the income, increasingly, has to be made off the farm, and that applies not just to grain farmers, of course, but to farmers of fruit, vegetables and livestock.

Being a farmer in this country is difficult. We need a food strategy. We need to support our farmers. We need to support locally grown food. In this context, eliminating the Wheat Board is highly controversial.

We have large conglomerates today, and my hon. friend referred to one of them, Viterra, and there is Cargill. They are in a good position if farmers do go back to what happened in the early 1900s, competing against each other to get a price from a big buyer. That is why there is so much concern from farmers who want to keep the Wheat Board, that they will be exposed to the vagaries of a marketplace in which competition means undercutting each other.

The heart of the co-operative movement was to support each other so that through collaborative efforts, whether in the fisheries, grain farming or in milk and dairy products, farmers could get a fair and livable wage out of a very competitive marketplace. Therefore, it is not without its controversy.

The one vote that the Wheat Board undertook showed 62% of farmers wanted to keep it. That means a not insubstantial number of farmers want to do away with it. In fact, if the percentages are right, there are more farmers who want to do away with the Wheat Board than citizens who voted for the governing party in the last election. That is not a small group of people, so the farmers are divided on this.

This bill would have been better contemplated with respect to how to modernize the Wheat Board rather than how to destroy the single desk and expose the farmers who are so very concerned, as well as those who think the change would do them well.

No one really knows how this will go.

I did want to express concern because in the category of what we do not know are the costs. In terms of costs, we know that the Canadian Wheat Board has determined that an auditor will be brought in. The auditor winning the contract has been reported to be receiving between half a million and a million dollars to figure out employee severance costs, pension costs and the potential legal costs for breaking long-term contracts.

The analysis was carried out by the reputable accounting firm, KPMG. It concluded that the costs of eliminating the Wheat Board will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. This cost of course will be paid by the taxpayers, but in whose interest is this really? Some critics have pointed out that essentially paying hundreds of millions of dollars should be seen as a disguised subsidy to the Cargills and the Viterras because they will be the beneficiaries of this change.

It is clearly not an easy issue. I have talked to many members on the government benches who have told me that some of their farmers are terrified of getting rid of the Wheat Board. It is generally reported that the younger farmers are more prepared to innovate and figure out how to do without it.

There is no question that the Wheat Board could do a much better job helping farmers who are growing organic grain, but doing a better job should have been the goal. Getting rid of single desk marketing is a radical and dramatic change from what farmers in barley and wheat have known for years. The division, and the fact that the majority of the wheat farmers who have expressed themselves on this issue want to keep the Wheat Board, should have injected some caution into how this legislation will move forward. It is the absence of caution that is so deeply concerning to the members on the opposition side of the House. We need to protect the interests of Canadian wheat and barley farmers.

I know that members on the government benches honestly believe that they are acting in the interests of their constituents who farm wheat and barley. We on the opposition benches honestly believe that there are huge risks in moving so dramatically.

It is interesting that the Conservative members use the word “conservative” to describe themselves. They are really very radical. They are making radical changes to our criminal justice system, to prairie farming, and across the board, particularly in immigration. I do not think they like the term that they are the radical party, but that is much more the essence and substance of the changes we are seeing.

Therefore, in putting forward these amendments we are asking for one dose of caution: please allow these amendments to go through. Allow the farmers in the country to continue to elect members of the Canadian Wheat Board to represent their interests. With board members elected democratically by farmers, we could continue to allow all voices in the agriculture community to be heard. We could try to find the mechanisms that protect the farmers, after Bill C-18 passes, from the worst aspects of a competitive cutthroat market dominated by a handful of multinational corporations.

We must find a way to ensure that prairie farmers make a living wage and that they are not exposed to the kinds of practices that gave rise to the need for the Canadian Wheat Board in the first place.

I urge members opposite to consider these few amendments and to allow them to go through.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. You and I had a little chat about words I used in a previous debate where I did use pretty strong language against the minister.

I will quote what the minister said in Minnedosa, Manitoba on March 15:

Until farmers make that change I'm not prepared to work arbitrarily. They are absolutely right to believe in democracy. I do, too.

That is what the minister said.

I will withdraw my remarks, but I leave it up to others to judge those comments because he did not allow a vote.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

I thank the hon. member. Having withdrawn the comments, I consider the matter closed.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, I appreciated the member opposite's comments. She seems to be a little more rational than some of the other folks on the other side who have been bringing forward points that need to be considered here.

I am very glad to have folks from across Canada talk about these issues that affect western Canadian farmers, but I am not sure that she understands how much the communication issues have changed, the information issues have changed and the transportation issues have changed in western Canada since 1935. She seems to think that we still need a system that holds farmers in place and that they should know their place.

Does she understand the reality of how things have changed on the farms? Farmers are probably more often aware of information than even the grain companies themselves. Does she not think that is a good reason to give them their freedom to market their own grain and make their own business decisions?

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, as leader of the Green Party I have 305 candidates across the country and they represent the same areas that all the members in this House represent. The agricultural critic on the Green Party shadow cabinet, Kate Storey, and her husband are wheat farmers in Manitoba. They have informed me about what it is like for them to try to make a living as organic wheat farmers. They made that transition themselves.

I certainly am aware of how much has changed since 1935, but I believe that farmers should have the right to choose for themselves whether it is time to get rid of the Wheat Board and the single desk. In this instance, I think the government should have paid attention to the way the legislation was drafted and ensured that any decisions about getting rid of the single desk were based on a vote by the farmers. That is the freedom I think farmers want to have.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to bring a personal perspective to this debate. My grandfather, Vincent Varyu, who passed away in 1981, came to this country in 1926 from Hungary. He came pursuant to an immigration plan that encouraged farmers, particularly from Europe, to come to Canada. He landed in Halifax, took a train to the edge of Saskatchewan, walked 26 miles with his brother and came to a quarter section of land on the border of Saskatchewan and Alberta, near Dewberry, Alberta. The deal was that he would get that land if it was cleared within two years. He and his brother cleared that land by hand, got title to it and farmed it from 1926 until he retired in 1960.

My grandfather was a proud Conservative all of his life, but he was an absolute, avid and committed proponent of the Canadian Wheat Board. The reason, as he explained to me, was the protection it gave farmers. He said as a farmer he saw the protection that this board gave.

It is one thing to say that the Conservatives represent the rural ridings in western Canada, but again, those farmers may have voted Conservative on the understanding that they would have a vote on any attempt to get rid of the Canadian Wheat Board, which the Conservatives campaigned on. Did the Conservatives, during the campaign, tell the farmers that they would abolish the Canadian Wheat Board without a vote? Because that may have changed the perspective and opinions of those farmers. Many, like my grandfather, supported the Conservatives but did not want the Canadian Wheat Board to go.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I hear from farmers on this issue because we have spoken out on it. I hear from farmers who want to keep the Wheat Board and I hear from farmers who do not. I hear from farmers who voted Conservative and believed they would have a vote in a plebiscite before the Wheat Board would be dismantled as a single desk system.

We also know that farmers desperately need better rail transit and better transportation routes. We need to think holistically about what farmers need. I do not believe they need Bill C-18.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, it is great to be back to speak to the bill again.

I would like to inform the House and Canadians that farmers will have a choice. The opposition wants to give them a choice and we want to as well. They will have a choice between a voluntary wheat board, which the government is supporting, and their own decisions about marketing their own grain.

That is a good balance. That is the balance that the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands should be supporting. If the opposition were reasonable on this, it would support that as well.

I want to point out that the Conservative Party will not be supporting any of the amendments that have been moved by the opposition today. Unfortunately, as they did at committee, we believe opposition members are playing games with the future of the grain industry in western Canada, trying to delay this legislation and trying to create instability in western Canada.

I note that the member for Winnipeg Centre was complaining about committee and the times that were given to it. The reality is that he left early on two of the three nights and the third night we finished early because it was agreed that we had heard the witnesses and so could move on. It is interesting that he would complain about the committee process when he did not engage in a good part of it.

These amendments have been made to scuttle any--

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

I apologize for interrupting my hon. colleague's speech, but it is a parliamentary rule in the House not to comment on the absence of someone in the House. I wonder if that rule also applies to committee, because my hon. colleague just pointed out that someone was absent from committee. I may be mistaken, but I would like to raise that point and get your ruling, Madam Speaker.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

I thank the hon. member. It is not permitted to mention the presence or the absence of members.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, I hope I am not taking any time here, but I would not comment on the member's absence in the House. That is not what I was doing. I was talking about committee. I believe we are able to do that, but I stand to be corrected.

This argument probably will get stranger than even this morning when the Liberals speak. They have come up with some tinfoil hat conspiracy about the contingency fund, which is a very strange argument. The reality is the board asked us to increase the contingency fund.

The second reality is that the fund now needs to be protected from the present board of directors. It has already spent somewhere between $60 million and $100 million on ships that it did not tell farmers it was buying. It appears it is spending several million dollars on an advertising campaign in eastern Canada for which I and other western Canadian farmers have to pay. Certainly anything to do with a contingency fund with regard to the government's action would be to protect that for farmers, for taxpayers and for the future of the Canadian Wheat Board.

At committee, unlike the opposition, the Conservative Party, led by the member for Prince Albert, put forward two constructive amendments which were passed. We believe the House of Commons committee has done its job and we are very happy to be here this morning to support marketing freedom for western Canadian farmers.

I want to talk one more time about my experiences with this system. It is a bit frustrating to only have 10 minutes because I do not know if I can do a good job on this in that time.

I have lived on a farm my whole life. In my teenage years I started farming. We had to deal with the Wheat Board. In the early 1990s, we had a crop that froze in the fields. When we came to market it, the board said that it was not willing to market that grain because it did not find it to be good quality.

We were able to go to the United States to find a buyer for it. At that time, if one had the permission of the board, one could export. However, when we went to export it, the grain company came back and said that it would not take our grain because it already had a supply of grain. It turned out that it had made a deal with the Wheat Board, at the time the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, for our grain. Therefore, we received about 65¢ a bushel less for it than we had arranged with the U.S. grain company. We did get to follow the trucks from our own local grain elevator to the U.S. grain elevator to get that 65¢ less a bushel for each bushel of grain that was hauled from there.

That is really when attitudes in our part of the world began to coalesce and people realize they can do a better job of marketing than the Canadian Wheat Board.

The board lives off farmers. The board does not make its own money. Any money that it makes and any money that it spends is farmers' income. As the expenses at the board have increased over the years, farmers have become more and more concerned about how their money has been spent.

The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands said that this was not an issue of freedom versus oppression. However, for many farmers it is because they feel the board has bullied them for decades, and it has not stopped.

We can probably witness the bizarre scene, where apparently the board of directors now spends farmers' money to hand out muffins and CWB leaflets at Union Station in downtown Toronto to try to appeal to some folks in Toronto. It has been taking out full-page ads in eastern Ontario papers, on TV and on radio. I get to pay for that. It is a very strange situation. It is probably one more clear illustration as to why western Canadian farmers need freedom. If these folks want to spend money like this, they should spend their own money, not our money.

I grow my own wheat and pay the expenses when I grow it. Farmers harvest their own grain and store it. However, when it comes to selling it, we are not allowed to do that. I want to explain to Canadians what we need to do just to sell our own product.

We have to go to the Canadian Wheat Board and ask if it will sell our grain. It comes back and offers us a contract that we sign. Then the board tells me what percentage of that contract it will take. Typically it is 60% to 70% of the grain, but sometimes it is 100%. The board tells me that it will take that grain over the next 12 months, so I have to wait. It also tells me that it will pay me for part of it when I deliver and the rest will be paid in up to 18 months later.

I do not know if members have run a business, but it is impossible for people to make a living that way. Again, one of the opposition members mentioned that farmers have to go off-farm for income. This is one of the reasons why they have to do that. They do not even get paid for much of their own product until 18 months later.

There is a thing called a buy-back. I can go to the board and say that I would like to buy my own grain back, even though it is still sitting in my granary. The board will tell me what price I have to pay for my grain so I can try to make an arrangement for somebody else to sell it.

From personal experience, we have gone to them with a proposal. We had some durum a few years. The Wheat Board was only taking 60% of the durum. We found a buyer in the United States and the board had nothing to do with it. We went to the board and said that we wanted a buy back and it said that we would not get it at any price. It was contracting that percentage and we could not buy it back. That 40% of our product, our inventory, would sit in our bin until the Wheat Board was ready to take it and ready to say that we could sell it.

That is why western Canadian farmers know they need change and freedom. This is the freedom we want to bring for them. The freedom the Liberals and the NDP want for them is to keep them chained so they are dependent on other people and cannot make their own decisions. We are not prepared to go along with that.

There are a couple of illustrations of things that have worked in western Canadian where people have had freedom.

Let me talk a bit about canola. It is a fairly recent development in western Canada. It now brings in almost $5.6 billion to western Canada and is our largest value crop. One of the primary reasons for that is because farmers can go out and market their own grain. It has become the flagship product of our agricultural industry. I do not think we ever expected that. We have always been told that we are the heart of the grain world. Now another crop has passed grain in its value in western Canada.

Flax is a smaller crop and another Canadian success story. It is used in a whole host of products, from animal food to environmentally friendly flooring and those kinds of things. We are now one of the largest suppliers of flax in the world, producing almost half of the world's supply.

Mustard is grown in my area. It is another crop that has expanded in acres because farmers get out there and market their own crops.

I do not know if I need to talk about pulses and lentils, peas, lentils, chickpeas and what has happened with them over the last few years. There has been a multi-billion pulse and special crops industry that has developed in western Canada, primarily because people can grow it and they can market their own production.

The production of the eight major pulse and special crops have increased from a million tonnes in the early 1990s to 5.6 million tonnes in 2009, and that is at a time when grain has gone backward. When the acreage for grain has been diminishing each year, these other several crops have been increasing.

This is one of the reasons why we need freedom in western Canada, so we can free up the grain industry so it can begin to grow again. We have already heard there are at least two companies that want to build plants and begin processing in western Canada as soon as these changes are made.

I had to laugh when I heard the opposition say that it did not want processing plants in western Canada because that would mean they would pay less for their product. I have never heard such a strange argument in my life. If we really wanted to save money, I guess we should shut down every bit of processing and manufacturing in the country. That is just ridiculous.

We look forward to the $500 million per year of extra revenue that this will generate in western Canada. Freedom cannot come too soon for farmers. They need the stability from this legislation. We need the legislation passed as quickly as possible so they can begin planning for next year, so we can begin to see our grain production grow once again in western Canada and have western Canada remain the heart of agriculture around the world.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, much of the parliamentary secretary's speech is based on the same misinformation and propaganda that the Conservatives have been circulating across western Canada, taxpayer-funded misinformation and propaganda, while at the same time imposing a gag order on the directors of the Wheat Board so they cannot defend themselves and correct some of this misinformation.

One of those elements is this myth, this free market flight of fancy, that as soon as the government eliminates the Canadian Wheat Board, value-added mills will pop up out of the ground like mushrooms. In actual fact, for the last 10 years milling capacity has increased 50% under the current regime. Four new facilities have begun. The reason there is one hanging in the wings right now is because it is pretty sure it will be able to buy their grain for less, which means less money in the pockets of the prairie producer. The misinformation is reckless and irresponsible.

The $500 million figure that he used is the estimate from KPMG as to what it will cost to wrap up the Canadian Wheat Board. Will the parliamentary secretary verify its studies affirm that it will cost the government $500 million to realize this ideological—

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, once again we hear that overheated rhetoric for which the member opposite is so famous. There is a word we believe in that starts with the letter “f” and that is the word “freedom”.

I do not think he was listening. The $500 million are $500 million every year that western Canadian farmers will gain from finally being able to market their own grain, do their own production and conduct their own business.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I have a short question for the parliamentary secretary and I would like a direct and honest answer.

He said in the beginning of his speech that farmers would be offered choice between the Canadian Wheat Board and other companies in the open market. What he did not say was that there was no longer the choice of single desk selling, and that is the key point. It is not about the Wheat Board, it is about the issue of single desk selling.

Will farmers have a choice between single desk selling and the open market, yes or no?

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, the problem with the member opposite is he does not know that we cannot give people freedom and imprison them at the same time. We certainly will bring them freedom and we will give them the choice to deal with a voluntary Canadian Wheat Board or to market their own grain.

I should point out that when farmers wanted freedom, his party locked farmers up in jail. I do not think Liberals will even admit this, but one of the farmers was put in jail with a convicted murderer and stripped searched 58 times because of the ideological bent those folks had toward keeping farmers imprisoned.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, I want talk about choice in my constituency since the member from P.E.I. brought it up. My constituents who grow wheat do not have a choice. They have to sell to the Wheat Board. The farmers in northern British Columbia have to sell to the Wheat Board. Wheat farmers in the riding of the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands are in luck because they can sell it to whomever they want. If there are wheat farmers in the riding of the member from P.E.I., they can sell to whomever they want.

What do the constituents of the parliamentary secretary have to say? My constituents are clearly saying they want choice. They want freedom. In this case, all the constituents of the members who support the Wheat Board monopoly have a choice.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, my colleague makes a great point. He has done great work on this issue.

As I pointed out earlier, for canola, flax, peas and specialty crops, we all have choice. Those markets are growing and expanding every day. What we really need is for this legislation to pass as quickly as possible because western Canadian wheat farmers need stability and they need to begin planning for next year. The opposition cannot be allowed to destabilize the farmers throughout the next growing season. We need the legislation passed immediately.

Medal of Bravery
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today to recognize and honour two outstanding police officers in my riding, Sergeant Delkie Curtis and Sergeant Roger Thomas of the Cobourg Police Service.

On October 28, 2011, sergeants Curtis and Thomas both received the Governor General's Medal of Bravery award. On October 6, 2007, sergeants Curtis and Thomas rushed into a smoke-filled building in Cobourg, Ontario and rescued an incapacitated woman from the burning building. Sergeants Curtis and Thomas acted swiftly and with complete disregard for their own safety. Their willingness to risk their own lives in order to save another's is an exceptional act of bravery in keeping with the highest standards of all Canadian police officers.

On behalf of the good people of Northumberland—Quinte West, I wish to thank sergeants Curtis and Thomas for their bravery and dedication to duty. These two men are truly deserving of the honour that was bestowed upon them for their courageous and selfless act.

Battle of the Blades
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today, along with my colleague from Nickel Belt, to commemorate another great achievement by Sudbury native and Olympic gold medallist, Tessa Bonhomme.

On Monday night Tessa and skating partner David Pelletier were crowned the champions of the third season of CBC's Battle of the Blades.

The Battle of the Blades partners professional hockey players with professional figure skaters. Each week the pairs present a routine to the judges. Viewers then vote for their favourite performance.

Bonhomme, who won a gold medal as part of the Canadian women's hockey team at the 2010 Olympics, was the first female hockey player to take part in the show.

As the champions, Bonhomme and Pelletier won $100,000 for the charity of their choice.

Since the show's inaugural season in 2009, Battle of the Blades has made nearly $1 million in charitable donations to organizations in Canada, a truly remarkable figure. This year, Bonhomme has dedicated her prize to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure in my great riding of Sudbury.

Congratulations to Tessa Bonhomme.

Public Safety
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Essex, ON

Madam Speaker, with our Tackling Violent Crime Act, measures to strengthen parole, pardons and sentences for violent criminals, funds for more front-line police and to prevent at-risk youth from a life of crime, only this Conservative government is making our communities and streets safer.

According to StatsCan's just released 2010 crime severity index, Windsor--Essex is the safest region in Canada. Among the safest Canadian communities over 10,000 people, the town of LaSalle ranks second, Tecumseh fourth, Kingsville seventh, Lakeshore eighth, and Essex twelfth. Windsor is the seventh safest big city of 32. Topping the list of 238 safest towns and cities is my hometown, Amherstburg.

Thanks to our dedicated police, strong community involvement, our government's investments to prevent crime and tough laws to crack down on criminals, Windsor--Essex is the safest region in Canada.

Sir John A. Macdonald
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to an immigrant who worked hard to build his country.

He had a long-term vision for a big Canada, the Canada we are fortunate to inherit. He believed the federal government should lead in realizing that vision. He worked for this vision by serving as the first occupant of the seat that I am now proud to occupy and as the first prime minister of Canada.

In 2015 we will celebrate the bicentennial of Sir John A. Macdonald. I thank Mr. Arthur Milnes and the Sir John A. Macdonald Bicentennial Commission in Kingston, Ontario for organizing the commemoration.

As the Minister of Finance said, “All eyes should be on Kingston on January 11, 2015”. I thank him and Tory senators Mike Duffy and Linda Frum for their continuing support. As well, I thank the first person to lead a VIP Sir John A. tour in Kingston, the leader of the Liberal Party, the member for Toronto Centre.

Together, let us celebrate and honour our history.

St. John's Lutheran Church
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, on November 12 of this year, St. John's Lutheran Church in Vernon in my riding of Okanagan—Shuswap celebrated its 100th anniversary; 100 years of programs for children, youth groups, marriage counselling, seniors' activities, as well as ministering to the spiritual needs of the people of Vernon.

It has been said that for democracy to survive it must be supported by a virtuous citizenry. It is also said that elected representatives are a reflection of the values of the citizens they represent.

Churches across Canada have contributed to our Canadian democracy by teaching the brotherhood of mankind the call to serve one another and the obligation of accountability to our creator.

I thank St. John's Lutheran Church in Vernon and all churches in Canada that have contributed to the important work of tending to the spiritual well-being of Canadians and moulding those values that are the foundation of Canadian life.

Neuville Airport
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, on November 7, 2011, after opposing this project for months, the Neuville municipal council was forced to announce to the public that an airport would be built in their municipality.

Although the people of Neuville have clearly spoken out against the construction of this airport, the Carriage by Air Act, which is federal legislation, gives small groups of developers the freedom to set up where they want, without consulting the municipality or the public. For a long time, the mayor has been calling for a meeting with the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, but the minister has refused, claiming that municipalities fall under provincial jurisdiction.

Is the minister so disconnected that he has forgotten the Supreme Court ruling confirming that federal legislation has authority over Quebec legislation when it comes to agricultural zoning? This ruling clearly shows that the minister is responsible for this issue.

It is time for him to take his job seriously and publicly commit to meeting with the mayor of Neuville.

Rayne Dennis Schultz
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, last week we spent time remembering the service and sacrifice of Canadians in uniform. One in particular struck a chord with me.

Group Captain Rayne Dennis “Joe” Schultz was an Alberta boy who joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in July 1940 and started a distinguished RCAF career that lasted 37 years.

During the war, Joe flew de Havilland Mosquitos in the night fighter role with one of my old squadrons, the 410 Cougars. He finished the war as an ace with eight kills, including four in one night, which earned him and his navigator the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Known as “Mr. Flight Safety”, his efforts were recognized by the Flight Safety Foundation and the United States Air Force Aerospace Safety Hall of Fame.

In Canada, he was awarded the Trans-Canada McKee Trophy in 1978. He was inducted into Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame in 1997.

Like many young aviators, I received the benefit of Joe's personal advice and had the privilege of knowing him for many years.

After a fighter pilot's struggle, Joe slipped the surly bonds of earth for the last time, appropriately on Remembrance Day 2011, in his 89th year.

Noctivaga, Joe.

Medal of Bravery
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to Mr. Dale Brady from Valemount, B.C., who just received his second Medal of Bravery from the Governor General.

Dale Brady, chief pilot with Yellowhead Helicopters, and Steve Blake, visitor safety specialist with Parks Canada, rescued a group of hikers off Mount Robson in 2008 after they were reported overdue. These hikers had been on the mountain for three weeks when they found they could no longer continue. The chances of them surviving another night were very slim.

The rescue was extremely difficult as the weather at the top of the Canadian Rockies' highest peak was incredibly unstable. After getting a very small break in the weather, Brady and Blake headed to Mount Robson. Due to a steady hand and the experience of Mr. Brady, Mr. Blake was successfully lowered down from the helicopter and extracted the men off the side of the mountain.

Mr. Brady's courage and willingness to risk his own life to save another's is both admirable and extraordinary. His actions inspire a nation and command our deepest gratitude.

Child Poverty
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, November 20 is Universal Children's Day, commemorating the UN's adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989.

That same year this House voted unanimously to end child poverty. The motion was put forward by our former leader, Ed Broadbent.

Sadly, on this Universal Children's Day, Canadians are realizing that more and more children are slipping into poverty as their families suffer during the economic crisis.

That is why I want to echo the call of UNICEF and the Canadian Association of Social Workers who are celebrating today by calling once again for an independent children's commissioner.

The lack of movement on appointing a children's commissioner, first suggested in 2003, was highlighted by the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children in its report to the UN on Canada's progress.

A commissioner would be able to investigate government policies that discriminate against vulnerable groups, like aboriginal children, and measure the impact on children's rights of new legislation. In addition, a commissioner could tell us why, after 22 years, Canada still has made no progress on reducing child poverty.

National Child Day
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

Madam Speaker, I am rising today to bring attention to National Child Day, which will take place on Sunday, November 20.

We all have a role to play in ensuring that children reach their full potential as the future of our country.

Unlike the Liberals, the Conservative government has delivered real results to ensure that we are supporting Canadian children and families. In fact, we have made the largest investments in Canadian history.

This year alone, we will provide over $6 billion in early childhood development and child care funding. We have also introduced the universal child care benefit, giving $2.6 billion annually to 1.5 million families. We have implemented tax measures that have put more than $3,000 back into the pockets of every Canadian family. This makes a real difference for Canadians in these tough economic times.

Our government values the important contribution that families make to our country to improve its well-being.

I encourage all Canadians to participate in National Child Day on November 20.

Transgender Day of Remembrance
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I stand today to recognize November 20, the Transgender Day of Remembrance. This is a day when people in communities across Canada and around the world gather to remember the victims of transphobic violence and to dedicate themselves to working to end all forms of discrimination against transgender and transsexual people.

The House will have an opportunity to take an important step toward ensuring full equality by including gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act when my private member's bill comes forward in the new year.

Other actions are needed to help end discrimination in the workplace, in housing, in health care, in the justice system, and in the provision of identity documents.

Let us remember that transgender and transsexual Canadians are members of our families. They are our neighbours. They are our co-workers. They are our friends. Canada is richer for their life experience and the many ways they contribute to our communities. On the Transgender Day of Remembrance, they also help us to understand our own humanity and the full meaning of equality.

New Democrats are honoured to stand in solidarity with transgender Canadians on this important day.

National Flag of Canada
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Don Valley West, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today because later this afternoon we will be debating my private member's Bill C-288, the national flag of Canada act.

The bill is important because too many Canadians have been forced to take down their flag when they have been trying to show support and pride for this great country and the values in which we believe, Canadians like Mr. Vachon, the Cassidys, the Wittemans, and so many others like them. Later today I will be telling their stories.

These Canadians and so many more have stood up for our flag, our flag which represents freedom, democracy, courage and justice.

It is also time that we as members of Parliament stood up for our flag and all it represents by supporting these Canadians and so many more who have been treated unfairly for far too long.

I would ask all MPs in the House to join me and support Bill C-288.

Official Languages
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Madam Speaker, 25 years ago today, Ontario's legislative assembly passed the French Language Services Act, known in French as Loi 8. It guarantees an individual's right to receive services in French from Government of Ontario ministries and agencies in 25 designated areas throughout the province.

It would be impossible to mention this important anniversary without paying tribute to the work of Bernard Grandmaître, a good friend of mine, who was the Ontario government's minister responsible for francophone affairs at the time.

We should be thankful for the Peterson government's leadership and the influence this event had on other parts of the country with francophone minorities. In fact, since that time, other provinces such as Nova Scotia and Manitoba have passed laws or adopted policies similar to Ontario's French Language Services Act.

Today we are celebrating this turning point in our country's francophone history. The French Language Services Act was a very important step in the positive evolution of Canada's linguistic duality.

Coptic Christians
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Etobicoke Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, it has been confirmed that 29 Coptic Christians fell victim to acts of violence in Egypt yesterday while attempting to commemorate their brethren who fell as a result of violence during a peaceful demonstration on October 9.

Our government finds this violence in Egypt to be completely unacceptable. We passed a motion unanimously in the House calling for a transparent investigation into the violence and for those responsible to be held accountable.

We hear loud and clear the cries for support from Coptic Christians here and in Egypt.

On behalf of all Canadians, I offer our condolences to the families of the victims and to those whom they were commemorating.

Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right and a vital building block for healthy democracies. People of faith must be able to practise and worship in peace and security.

Once again in the House we will make it clear that discrimination and violence against the Coptic community must stop.

Pay Equity
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, yesterday, female Canada Post workers won the battle for their fundamental right to pay equity. The government had been denying them that right for 28 years, spending millions of dollars on court costs to oppose women's rights. With the Liberals' help, in budget 2008, the Conservatives took away the hard-earned gains that had been made in the area of pay equity. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Despite the Conservatives' attempt to suppress the rights of female workers, Canada is moving forward, thanks largely to the contribution made by one of the members of this House. Today the entire NDP team would like to recognize the efforts of the leader of the official opposition and hon. member for Hull—Aylmer.

Despite constant attacks by the Conservatives, she worked tirelessly with PSAC to improve women's equality in Canada. Despite desperate attacks by the Conservatives, she will continue to fight for women's rights and the rights of all Canadian workers. Now that is Canadian leadership. The united NDP team and our party leader are building a better Canada together.

Firearms Registry
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Madam Speaker, this week, committee hearings began on the ending the long gun registry act. Rather than inviting law-abiding hunters, farmers and sports shooters to talk about how the long gun registry affects them personally, unsurprisingly, the NDP chose to invite its big union buddies, the Canadian Labour Congress, as its first witness. That is the same party that robbed residents of two northern Ontario ridings of their voice in this place by placing a gag order on MPs who dared to vote the wishes of their constituents.

While Canadians find this sort of behaviour upsetting, it should come as no surprise. After all, it is always special interests first and constituents last with the NDP.

Our government will continue to respect Canadian voters who gave us a strong mandate to end the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry once and for all. Giving the stage to big union bosses and silencing ordinary rural and northern Canadians is yet another worrying example that the disunited NDP is unfit to govern.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Madam Speaker, yesterday, the Conservatives finally decided to compromise a little and allow members of Parliament to do their work and examine the provisions of Bill C-10. The Minister of Justice even demonstrated flexibility by indicating to the Government of Quebec that it might be possible to reintroduce the amendments proposed by his Quebec counterpart.

Can the government confirm that it is prepared to amend its bill in order to focus on rehabilitation and social reintegration?

Justice
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Minister of Citizenship

Madam Speaker, Canadians, including Quebeckers, want this government to take action to protect the people of Canada from criminals. That is why we introduced Bill C-10.

If the opposition parties have amendments to propose that will provide Canadians with stronger protection against criminals, the government will consider them. However, we are asking the NDP why it has voted against every bill designed to protect Canadians from criminals.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Until now, the government's approach has not been very constructive. Yesterday, all of a sudden, they saw the light. It seems that there is now a small opening.

Since statistics show that Canada's crime rate is declining, will the government commit to taking the necessary time to examine the bill? Are the Conservatives prepared to consider amendments in order to help communities invest in front-line police services rather than forcing the provinces to hire prison guards?

Justice
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Minister of Citizenship

Madam Speaker, we have already added resources to hire more RCMP officers and provincial and municipal police officers. We have already invested more in community crime prevention programs.

In fact, 77% of Quebeckers expect Parliament to adopt stricter laws and tougher penalties for criminals, and that is what the government is doing.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Madam Speaker, we can all agree that the government's heavy-handed approach has not helped to elevate public discourse and certainly has not helped to make Parliament work.

The Conservatives have used closure seven times in 25 sitting days and countless times at committees.

Shutting down debate is no way to operate for a government rejected by 60% of Canadian voters.

Will the Conservatives put an end to the repeated use of closures and let MPs do their work?

Justice
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Minister of Citizenship

Madam Speaker, by the same strange math, over 80% of Canadians voted against the NDP. They voted against the soft-on-crime, high-tax, job-killing agenda of the NDP. They voted for a government that will focus on job creation and safe communities. That is what we are delivering through our platform commitments.

We, of course, are committed to debate. These two bills, the budget implementation act and the crime omnibus bill, have received 48 hours of debate in this place and 152 speeches. Many of these items have been debated repeatedly in different sessions of this Parliament.

We are committed to debate but we are also committed to acting and keeping our platform commitments.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, yesterday, the government finally agreed to delay ramming Bill C-10 through committee to allow at least some debate, which is a good sign, but now the government must take the next step.

Will the government agree, not only to stop ramming this behemoth of a crime bill through, but to allow a meaningful debate and agree to reasonable amendments, like the ones suggested by groups such as the Canadian Bar Association, legal experts and the provinces?

Justice
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Delta—Richmond East
B.C.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Madam Speaker, Canadians are concerned about crime, which is why they gave our government a strong mandate to keep our streets and communities safe. We need to keep that focus.

The opposition wants to punish law-abiding duck hunters and farmers but oppose tougher sentences for pedophiles and drug dealers.

The fact is that Parliament has already seen and debated the measures contained in Bill C-10. Over the course of the past four years, the justice committee has had 67 days, which was 139 hours of discussions, 95 hours of debate, 261 speeches and 363 witness appearances.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, the Conservatives used to complain about Liberal arrogance but the behaviour of the Conservative government makes Liberal arrogance look like humility.

The government can do things differently. New Democrats are reasonable people. We have constructive amendments to bring forward based on what we heard at committee, including those proposed by the province of Quebec.

What was not reasonable was to shut down debate, limit time and refuse to work with others. It is not what Canadians want.

Will the Conservatives agree to listen to Canadians and change their ill-advised, prison-based crime agenda?

Justice
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Delta—Richmond East
B.C.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Madam Speaker, the time for talk is over. The time for action is now. By moving quickly to reintroduce these measures to make our streets and communities safer, we are taking action, as we committed to do. Our focus is to meet the promises we made and to stand up for all law-abiding Canadians.

I was in those same meetings yesterday and the hon. member was the one who moved the amendment to agree to time allocation to get this done by Wednesday at midnight, and we appreciate his co-operation.

Democracy
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Madam Speaker, as we all know, ever since Parliament opened in September, this government has not stopped showing its contempt for parliamentary democracy, either by constantly trying to limit debate on bills or by using secrecy and intimidation tactics in committee. Having a majority does not entitle the government to abuse its power.

When is this government going to change?

Democracy
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Minister of Citizenship

Madam Speaker, on the contrary, on two important bills—one on the budget and the other on crime—we had 152 hours of debate and 48 speeches. During previous sessions in the past few Parliaments, there have been many debates on a number of bills. At the end of the day, the government has a mandate from Canadians, who expect the government and Parliament to get moving on implementing our economic action plan and our bills to protect communities from crime. That is what we are going to do.

Democracy
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Madam Speaker, being in power also means working with the provinces. Over the past week we have seen this government's attitude toward Quebec. We have seen how the Conservatives are dealing with Bill C-10 and jeopardizing Quebec's approach to rehabilitation. We saw how this government dealt with Minister Dutil, who was told that the firearms registry database will not be available.

Working in our country, within this confederation, also requires working with the provinces. When are they going to do that?

Democracy
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Minister of Citizenship

Madam Speaker, this government has an extraordinary record when it comes to federal-provincial relations. That is why we have seen an extraordinary decline in support for separation in Quebec. Quebec has received a 60% increase in its federal transfers. Quebeckers expect Parliament to legislate harsher sentences for criminals. In fact, 77% of Quebeckers expect that and we are going to deliver. We are going to deliver a fairer justice system for Quebeckers and Canadians.

Democracy
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Madam Speaker, the arrogance of the government knows absolutely no bounds. It is limiting debate and pig-headedly refusing to work with the provinces. This week, one minister from Quebec said that this was not a government that was tough on crime, that this was a government that was tough on democracy.

Yesterday, in committee, a Conservative member told people that police representatives were misrepresenting the truth.

When will the Conservatives stop acting like bullies and act in a responsible manner in this democratic country?

Democracy
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Minister of Citizenship

The real question, Madam Speaker, is when will the Liberal Party finally learn the lesson of the last election. Canadians want parliamentarians to stand up for victims of crime rather than criminals. When will the Liberals understand that 77% of Quebeckers say that there should be more serious penal sentences for criminals? When will the Liberal Party understand that it is unacceptable to Canadians that too many repeat and even violent criminals end up with house arrest or go through the revolving door of bail?

Canadians believe that serious criminals should do serious time. We agree with Canadians and we will act to ensure that happens.

Pension Plans
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Madam Speaker, more and more Canadians are wondering if they will be able to retire one day. For example, I know of a retired nurse in my riding who has a pension of only $520 per month. She cannot even afford her diabetes medication or her mortgage and she is racking up debt.

With the Conservatives' new plan, retired Canadians would be risking their savings by putting them in a flawed program, without any guarantee of seeing their money again.

Instead, why not improve government pension plans such as the CPP and QPP, which are affordable and safe?

Pension Plans
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, as we have already said, our government is moving forward with its plans. Do not just take our word for it. I will quote Yves-Thomas Dorval, president of the Conseil du patronat du Québec, whose comments reiterate our commitment to this.

The Quebec government could follow the federal government's lead and put in place the conditions that would allow Quebec businesses to establish similar plans and encourage workers to make voluntary contributions to retirement savings plans.

Pension Plans
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Madam Speaker, by relying solely on the performance of the stock markets to provide retirement funds for Canadians, the government is playing a dangerous game. Families' retirement savings are melting away like snow in the sun. What is the government's solution? It will let big banks speculate with families' money. The Conservatives insist on going ahead with a program that just does not work.

Will this government finally listen to Canadians in order to protect their retirement savings?

Pension Plans
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, we have worked very hard to enhance Canadians' retirement security. For example, we reduced taxes for seniors and retirees by more than $2 billion, mainly by allowing pension income splitting. But the NDP voted against that. We restructured the framework for pensions that are under federal jurisdiction in order to better protect retirees. What did the NDP do? It voted against that. Together with the provinces, because we respect their jurisdictions, we reviewed proposals for making other improvements. That is why we are now introducing our pension plans—

Pension Plans
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order. The hon. member for Gatineau.

Pay Equity
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Madam Speaker, after almost three decades of legal battles the Supreme Court of Canada made a quick ruling in favour of women workers at Canada Post asking for pay equity. Women should not have to wait so long for justice.

The government has turned back the clock even further by introducing regressive legislation that excludes women from even making complaints.

Why does the government not believe in the right of equal pay for work of equal value? Why is the government so tough on women?

Pay Equity
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, the government is committed to equal pay for equal work. The decision in this three decades old case actually shows that the previous system was broken. Our government fixed the system, so that unions can no longer negotiate away equal pay only then to force legal, costly and adversarial court battles.

Women should not have to wait decades to get equal pay for equal work.

Pay Equity
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Madam Speaker, that is the problem. The Conservatives do not understand the concept of pay equity. We are talking about equal pay for work of equal value.

The Conservatives' pay equity bill is nothing more than a smokescreen. Women and unions are no longer able to make complaints. The result is simple: women must forget about justice. Today, women still earn 70¢ for every dollar a man earns. We need federal pay equity legislation similar to what we have in Quebec. Canadian women deserve equality.

Why does this government refuse to ensure that women earn the wages they deserve?

Pay Equity
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, our government believes that women deserve equality. Our Conservative government believes in the principle of equal pay for equal work. The decision made in this nearly 30-year-old case shows that the previous system was broken. Our government fixed the system so that unions can no longer negotiate away equal pay and then provoke long and costly legal battles.

Women should not have to wait decades to obtain equal pay for equal work.

Consumer Protection
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Madam Speaker, at the last G20 meetings the government signed on to the principles of consumer protection for the financial sector. It promised to guarantee access to a fair and independent complaints system for Canadians, and yet the TD bank recently walked away from the banking ombudsman without even a peep of concern from the government.

Why is the government refusing to stand up to banks and protect Canadian consumers from being gouged?

Consumer Protection
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, currently, all banks are required to have consumer complaints procedures in place and have a third party dispute handling body.

However, there is variation in procedures used, and this is of concern to us and to consumers. To better protect consumers, we are forcing banks to belong to government approved independent third party bodies. We are establishing uniform regulatory standards for internal complaints procedures. We are giving the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada the authority to monitor and enforce compliance. We passed legislation for this and are now finalizing regulations.

Unfortunately, the NDP voted against all of that.

Consumer Protection
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Madam Speaker, we vote against the government's inaction on creating jobs and the economy.

What we need to see from the government is not allowing the big banks to police themselves. The Royal Bank and the TD have dropped out. Others could soon follow. The Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments has helped protect Canadians for more than 15 years, the best way to keep the banks honest. However, the government cares more about tax breaks for banks than keeping them accountable.

When are the Conservatives going to close the door on allowing banks to leave the OBSI and protect Canadians?

Consumer Protection
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, I am going to close the door on that feigned concern for Canadians and the economy.

When we look at the real facts here, NDP members really do not care about jobs and the economy. Why are they pushing a $10 billion tax hike on employers that would kill Canadian jobs? Why are they subscribing to a massive CPP payroll tax hike that would kill jobs?

The NDP has an anti-trade agenda. It is anti-Canada by going to the United States and asking that Canadian jobs be eliminated. I would ask that the NDP members explain why they are so against our country and our people?

Natural Resources
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Madam Speaker, the United States is moving towards a green economy, and that is what Canadians want to do as well. We went to Washington to tell them what Canadians think about the Keystone project and to do this government's job.

But this government is still failing to take action on the environment. Canadians do not want a dangerous pipeline. When will the government stop listening to the oil lobby and start listening to Canadians?

Natural Resources
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, Canadians are extremely fortunate to have the third largest proven oil reserves in the world, including the oil sands. We intend to develop those. We believe we can do that with the environmental protection that is necessary.

It is unfortunate the NDP opposes all of those things. I do not know why it continues to denigrate our economy, and goes down to Washington trying to damage job creation in this country. We are going to continue to work for Canadians.

Natural Resources
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Madam Speaker, the government can shut down debate in the House, but it cannot shut up the opposition.

Rather than continuing its lobbying efforts on behalf of big oil companies, the government should do what it promised and actually regulate oil sands emissions. The government's PR campaign is not fooling the Europeans or the Americans.

When will the government stop listening only to the oil lobby and do the right thing by introducing emission regulations for oil and gas?

Natural Resources
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, the more I hear from the NDP about the economy, the more I understand why my province fell behind with NDP governments. They are disconnected from the real concerns and needs of Canadians.

We continue to work to build an economy. Why is the NDP working so hard to destroy Canadian opportunities?

Natural Resources
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, it falls to MPs on this side of the House to speak up for Canadians who care about the environment because that side is too busy meeting with oil lobbyists.

While we are working toward a green economy for the future, it has its own meetings. We found out today that TransCanada lobbyists met with government officials a whopping 56 times since May. It is such a cozy relationship that it is not hard to believe that the government is big oil's number one cheerleader.

Why is the government so willing to listen to big oil but not Canadians? Just who does it work for?

Natural Resources
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, why do the NDP members not support this country in the development of the economy across the country? Them talking about jobs and about pipelines, and oil sands is ridiculous.

Their former critic calls for a moratorium and actually some of their leadership candidates want to shut down development of the oil sands as well. Why do they not be honest? They are standing up and talking about destroying hundreds of thousands of jobs for Canadians.

We believe we can move ahead with the proper environmental protections and the proper economic development. We are going to continue to do that for Canadians. We are going to continue to provide them with jobs and more opportunities.

Government Expenditures
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Speaker, under the government's watch federal spending has shot up 37%. That is 60 billion more dollars a year spent. The Conservatives go around preaching small government, but meanwhile they have squandered the surplus and wasted so much money on gazebos, jails, and pet projects that they are now slashing departmental funding just to make ends meet. They spent Canada into a deficit even before the recession.

I am from a small business background where every penny counts, so I would like to ask, does the government need our help understanding the real priorities of Canadians?

Government Expenditures
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, it is true that we did increase transfers to the provinces for health care by some 33% after they had been slashed by the opposition when they had their hand at the helm.

We did restore funding for the military, this is true, and we did take action during the economic downturn with stimulus funding. As a result, we have been able to create over 600,000 net new jobs since that downturn. We have been delivering for Canadians.

It is also time now to ensure that we move toward that fiscal balance that is necessary. We are doing that by winding down stimulus spending and by implementing our deficit reduction action plan.

From the opposition, we only hear calls for higher taxes that will kill jobs and opposition to projects that will create jobs. We are delivering for Canadians with more jobs.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Speaker, lots of smug talk about fiscal balance, but we have just learned that the Prime Minister has overruled his own Minister of National Defence and is forcing National Defence to repaint a VIP government aircraft because he does not like its colour.

The current fleet of aircraft are painted military grey because they are used in critical military operations. The Prime Minister's vanity paint job will make the plane unsafe for those very military operations. Why is the Prime Minister putting his own vanity above the needs of the military?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Ajax—Pickering
Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, apart from being a complete non sequitur with the member's first question, the accusation made is completely unfounded. These changes would only happen in accordance with the regular maintenance cycle of National Defence and if they are cost neutral. These aircraft are repainted every six years and there is no current plan to change the paint scheme for any airbus aircraft.

Canada-U.S. Relations
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, we have known for some time that Canada would win the WTO challenge against the United States protectionist country of origin labelling. We know that this action has cost Canadian livestock producers in excess of $5 billion and has forced some Canadian farmers out of business. Yet, with that leverage in hand, where are the ministers? Doing a photo op. Ministers should be in the United States capital demanding compensation for Canadian losses and Canadian producers.

I ask the minister, has the government even entered negotiations with the United States to secure this victory for farmers?

Canada-U.S. Relations
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Madam Speaker, the hon. member is absolutely right, today the WTO panel released its final report which determined the country of origin labelling measures discriminated against foreign livestock and was inconsistent with U.S. WTO trade rules.

I can also tell the hon. member that we will continue to work on behalf of Canadian producers to supply more Canadian jobs and more opportunity, whether that means going to the WTO or going directly to our trading partners.

Border Crossings
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Madam Speaker, since April 1, three border crossings in my riding—Morses Line, East Pinnacle and Glen Sutton—have had their hours of operation reduced, while other crossings have been completely shut down. In addition to restricting the flow of goods and services as well as people, this also puts jobs at risk.

Does the government realize that it is seriously jeopardizing the socio-economic balance of that border region? Will it reverse its decision?

Border Crossings
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Provencher
Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews Minister of Public Safety

Madam Speaker, the government always carefully considers any decision it makes that may have an impact on the livelihood and trade that our nation engages in. What I am very concerned about is not only the jobs at our border but the hundreds of thousands of jobs that member's party is destroying by the destructive lobbying in the United States against Canadian interests.

Border Crossings
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Madam Speaker, under the pretext of cutting costs, the government is penalizing our region. While the economy remains fragile, the government's measures are harmful to farmers, tourists, emergency services that have cross-border reciprocal agreements, and all of the families that feel torn apart by these service reductions.

Will the government commit to reopening the border crossings that have been closed and returning the others to their former hours of operation?

Border Crossings
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Provencher
Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews Minister of Public Safety

Madam Speaker, let us talk about the hundreds of thousands of jobs that member's party, the NDP, wants to shut down. It wants to shut down the seal industry, a vital and important economic activity in many communities. It wants to shut down the forestry sector in B.C. and the aerospace sector in Quebec. It wants to shut down automobile manufacturing in central Canada. It wants to shut down the truck drivers who cross the border every day. It wants to shut down the GM food sector on farms across the country. Why will the member not work with us to create jobs, rather than shutting down our economy?

Border Crossings
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Speaker, once again, they are avoiding the question without answering it.

According to Canada Border Services Agency, “As part of its strategic review, the CBSA will be making some changes to its border operations...to ensure maximum efficiency and cost effectiveness.” Meanwhile, the Americans are investing in their border infrastructure. Closing these border crossings makes no sense in terms of economic development and tourism in Canada.

Do the Conservatives realize that they are not walking the talk when it comes to public safety and the economy?

Border Crossings
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Provencher
Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews Minister of Public Safety

Madam Speaker, what we know is that the New Democrats are focused on shutting down the Canadian economy. They will not have to worry about border crossings; there will be no jobs here. People will not come here for tourism or for economic reasons. The New Democrats want to shut down not only the province of Quebec, they want to shut down industry right across Canada. We will continue in our efforts to maintain our trade relationship with the Americans and the border crossings that are appropriate, to keep that border open.

Border Crossings
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Speaker, I will continue asking the same questions.

The Conservatives have let the Americans impose a $5.50 entry fee on Canadians; the Conservatives are going to be losers in the secret agreement on border security; and they are closing border crossings. What is wrong with this picture?

With the reductions in border services and staff, there has been an increase in criminal activities along the border between Dundee and Franklin. Even RCMP officers have said that closing the Franklin border crossing puts public safety at risk.

Why are the Conservatives suddenly being soft on crime?

Border Crossings
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Provencher
Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews Minister of Public Safety

Madam Speaker, we have hired hundreds of new CBSA officers. We have increased the number of RCMP officers. I know that when we came into office the Liberals had slashed the training of officers to 300 a year. In 2006, we trained 1,800 RCMP officers. We are concerned about security. We are also concerned about trade. I would ask that member to work with me to ensure that her party, the NDP, works to create jobs and opportunity and works for a safe country.

Canada-U.S. Relations
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Madam Speaker, Canada's agricultural products and agrifood industry are in high demand. However, the U.S. country of origin labelling process created uncertainty for livestock producers who depend on the smooth flow of livestock across our shared border. COOL was a step in the wrong direction and that is why we took action. The WTO COOL report was released today.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade explain why this is good news for Canada's livestock producers and workers?

Canada-U.S. Relations
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville for his hard work on this file and for his dedication in standing up for Canadian farmers and livestock producers.

In 2008, our government took action to defend Canada's high-quality livestock industry against the COOL measure. Today, the WTO panel released its final report, which determined that the country of origin labelling measure discriminates against foreign livestock and is inconsistent with the U.S.-WTO trade obligations.

Thanks to our government's action, our livestock industry can get back on track, creating more jobs and more prosperity.

Canada-U.S. Relations
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Canada-U.S. Relations
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. I would like a bit of order please.

The hon. member for St. John's South--Mount Pearl.

Service Canada
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Madam Speaker, Service Canada budget cuts mean fewer people are processing employment insurance claims and handling calls. Claimants are often forced to wait well beyond the normal processing time of about 28 days. With no income for six weeks to two months, workers and families are having a hard time putting food on the table and paying bills.

My question comes directly from a Service Canada employee in St. John's, Newfoundland. When is the government going to stop talking about automation and actually fix the problems at Service Canada?

Service Canada
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, it is really unfortunate that union leaders, who have clearly convinced the opposition party, are selfishly attempting to ensure that the old, ineffective, labour-intensive method of processing EI claims is what we should be focused on.

Our government's top priority is getting Canadians back to work and promoting economic growth. We are committed to providing timely service. As we have said before, no Service Canada offices will be closing nor will there be any cuts to front-line services offered by Service Canada.

Service Canada
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Madam Speaker, those guys just do not get the desperation of the situation.

I wonder if the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance would be prepared to visit an EI call centre to take a few telephone calls themselves. They could hear first-hand the damage their government is doing.

Across the country, fewer and fewer Canadians are eligible for EI. Almost 60% of unemployed workers in Canada do not qualify. Delays are way beyond anything acceptable.

When will the government stop steamrolling ahead with more cuts to Service Canada?

Service Canada
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, as I mentioned before, no Service Canada offices will be closing. As a result of this initiative, there will be no impact on in-person services offered by Service Canada.

Automation is important. Making sure we move forward to make sure more Canadians are served in a timely manner is important. We are going to move forward with this process.

Poverty
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, Sunday is Universal Children's Day and the government is celebrating with a dismal record on children and families.

One in ten children live in poverty while the government offers boutique tax credits to wealthy Canadians. Two out of every five food bank users are children. Food inflation continues to rise and the government offers big tax breaks to corporations.

Why does the government refuse to adopt a long-term, comprehensive strategy to eliminate poverty that would actually make it better for children and their families?

Poverty
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, every action this government takes is to help Canadians and their families become independent and able to contribute to the economy and to their communities.

We have had a decline since the peak under the Liberals of 18.4% to 9.5% under this government for children living in low-income families. The poverty rate for children living with single mothers has fallen to an all-time low of 21.5% from the peak of 56% under the Liberals. This government is moving forward on reducing poverty for children.

Why does the NDP not support our initiatives that are working?

Poverty
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, these same old lines the government keeps using will not help children. The Conservatives can pat themselves on the back, but the reality is that the number of children living in poverty has not changed.

Twenty years ago, the House unanimously passed a motion presented by then-NDP leader, Ed Broadbent, to put an end to child poverty in Canada. At least the government at that time was concerned about children.

Why is the current government indifferent towards children, especially children living in poverty?

Poverty
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, the average Canadian family now spends $3,000 less per year in taxes. Those are funds that Canadians can use to invest in their family and their own children, thanks to this Conservative government.

Whether it is enhancing the national child benefit, or enhancing the child tax benefit, this government is working for Canadian families and their children. Why does the NDP not support these initiatives?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Madam Speaker, the story of first nations education in Canada is a tragedy of lost generations. Still only 35% of first nations children are graduating from high schools. Preliminary reports from the national panel on first nations education made clear the shameful reality that often first nations students do not go to school because there is no running water in the school and the building itself is unsafe.

Will the government confirm today that yesterday's commitment to safe drinking water in first nations homes will also address the urgent priority of first nations schools?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Vancouver Island North
B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Madam Speaker, we are finding innovative solutions to improve the quality of education for first nations. We have a joint action plan with the national chief. The K to 12 panel is doing some very good work. We have also invested in a major way in school renovation and school construction across the country. We built or repaired 100 schools and work is under way on over 100 more. The economic action plan was a big part of this.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

Madam Speaker, the Conservatives are crossing flight paths in the confusion to defend their reckless procurement of the F-35s. The Associate Minister of National Defence contradicted himself when he said the Conservatives are not looking at other options, but there is a plan B. The Minister of National Defence finally saw the light and began to share the concern we have that the F-35 project will be in big trouble when the Americans pull out.

Who is running the show? Is it the Minister of National Defence, the junior minister of defence, the Prime Minister? Maybe it is the parliamentary secretary. Who is going to take the blame?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Ajax—Pickering
Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, as we have said many times in the House, our plan to equip Canada's men and women, to protect Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic and elsewhere remains absolutely on track. The F-35 is the right aircraft for that mission in coming decades and we are glad that our allies are reminding their parliaments of the importance of this important technology that is creating jobs for Canadian companies across this country.

As the Defense Secretary of the United States said today in Halifax:

The F-35 is going to be an essential fighter that will help NORAD and will be the future in helping us with the security challenges that we face.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, when will the government finally follow the advice of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel and stop playing judge and jury for the Federal Court of Appeal? Will the government finally listen to the Canadian Bar Association, Parliament's lawyer, and the opposition and wait for the courts to do their work?

When will Conservatives allow the courts to function independently and recognize that their political agenda comes second to their constitutional duties?

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Madam Speaker, I would respond to the question with a question. When will the NDP understand that this is about fundamental accountability and transparency for each and every Canadian? Hard-working Canadians contribute their tax dollars to this government. Many of those dollars go toward the support of the public broadcaster. All we are seeking from the public broadcaster is transparency and accountability because families in my riding and the member's riding deserve nothing less than transparency from the public broadcaster.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, we, too, are in favour of as much transparency as possible at the CBC, but being accountable does not mean ignoring political and legal processes. The actions of the member for Peterborough were illegitimate and illegal.

This precedent is contrary to our institutions and to the separation of powers. The government is setting itself above the constitutional role of the House. The Canadian Constitution also applies to the Conservative caucus. Will it respect the separation of legislative and judicial powers?

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Oral Questions

Noon

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Madam Speaker, I was here in the previous parliament when the previous Speaker ruled that Parliament was indeed supreme. It is a ruling that has in fact been reviewed in parliaments around the world that have similar systems to us.

I would simply say for the member that the average family of four in my riding and in his riding contributes the equivalent of a week's worth of groceries to the CBC. Do those members not believe that those hard-working families deserve transparency and accountability from the CBC? They deserve to see how their money is being spent. They deserve nothing less from their public broadcaster.

Democratic Reform
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Madam Speaker, the Liberals said only a few weeks ago that our government's fair representation act seemed like a fair bill. The bill moves every province closer to representation by population. It provides fair representation for faster-growing provinces, while at the same time protecting the representation of smaller provinces like mine.

As a member from a smaller province in our federation, I have serious concerns with the Liberal scheme to designate my province a loser of House of Commons representation.

Could the government House leader update this place on the government's fair—

Democratic Reform
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. The hon. government House leader.

Democratic Reform
Oral Questions

Noon

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, when we introduced our fair representation bill, the Liberals actually said that it was fair, but that did not stop them from coming up with the worse idea, and they announced that today. Their worse idea would actually leave Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia severely under-represented, yet at the same time it would take away seats from Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Under our bill, every province would move closer to fair representation, to representation by population. Under the Liberal plan, almost every province comes out a loser.

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Madam Speaker, recently I visited a grade 9 class of Cabot High in northern Cape Breton. Its number one ask of the federal government is to pay its share to finish its rink. Members of the community have put up mortgages, the junior hockey league has held a fundraiser and a community over 500 kilometres away has donated equipment. Two other levels of government have stepped up to the plate.

Muskoka got its rink. Does northern Cape Breton have to host a G8 summit to get the rink finished?

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

Noon

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Madam Speaker, a few things need to be corrected. Since 2006, over $160 million in funding has been dedicated toward 1,350 projects within Cape Breton and the Mulgrave area of Nova Scotia. This is the first thing that needs to go on the record.

Our economic action plan alone has represented $9.6 million invested in 54 projects throughout Cape Breton. The federal government has been standing up for Cape Breton.

Veterans
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

Réjean Genest Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, the government is abandoning the veterans who have served Canada. By negotiating to transfer to the Quebec government the last federal hospital that treats veterans exclusively, Veterans Affairs will lose 1,300 jobs.

How will veterans receive the services they are entitled to? How can the minister tell our veterans, who so proudly wore the uniform, that their government is abandoning them?

Veterans
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Mississauga—Brampton South
Ontario

Conservative

Eve Adams Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Madam Speaker, our government is taking action for veterans and our men and women in uniform. Our government has increased benefits to veterans.

The Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec have entered into preliminary discussions for the possible transfer of Ste. Anne's Hospital. Under no circumstances will the level of care that we provide to our veterans ever be compromised. We believe, unlike the NDP, that the province of Quebec can run a hospital.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Madam Speaker, we know that when first nations communities take control of their own future it benefits not only those communities but all of Canada.

Could the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development please explain to the House how we are working with willing partners to support the Labrador Innu and building Atlantic Canada and also the broader Canadian economy?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Vancouver Island North
B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Madam Speaker, today Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Innu of Labrador are signing historic agreements to positively impact the future of the Innu nation and the Lower Churchill hydro development project. The new dawn agreements include the Innu land claim and self-government agreement in principle and the Lower Churchill Innu impact and benefits agreement.

I congratulate all of the leaders who have made this happen, including the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, and the former Labrador Innu leader who represents Canada today.

Rail Transportation
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, let us talk about who is actually shutting down economic activity in my riding.

Let us talk about the rail service on Vancouver Island, which was guaranteed to British Columbia as part of Confederation. That rail service was shut down in April due to a lack of funding to repair the railbed. Now the bud cars that provided that service have actually been removed from Vancouver Island. That is not a good sign.

The owner of the track, the Island Corridor Foundation, is ready to go. The province, on June 28, provided a commitment to its share of the funding and is ready to go. All we are missing is action by the Conservative government.

Will the Conservative government now commit to providing its share, the $7.5 million that is needed to get this line running again or—

Rail Transportation
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. The hon. Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

Rail Transportation
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean
Québec

Conservative

Denis Lebel Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, as with all other important files, the owners of these businesses and organizations have a responsibility. And the owners usually assume that responsibility. Of course, we are aware of this file and we will continue to undertake the necessary analyses.

Justice
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, in his response to the Quebec justice minister on Bill C-10, the Minister of Justice expressed all his contempt for Quebec's 40 years of rehabilitation expertise, particularly its expertise in the rehabilitation of young offenders. The minister wrote that it is important to work with its provincial partners but this appears to be a one-way partnership—my way or no way.

Will the Minister of Justice put aside his ideological obsession and respect the will of Quebec by incorporating Quebec's required amendments into the bill, namely those pertaining to the long-term protection of the public and the rehabilitation and social reintegration of young offenders?

Justice
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Delta—Richmond East
B.C.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Madam Speaker, we are always happy to work with our provincial counterparts. The principles of rehabilitation and reintegration, which have been so successful in Quebec, will continue to serve as the basis for Canada's youth justice system.

We have responded to Quebec's concerns with a series of past amendments, as well as a new amendment that is tabled at the justice committee now.

We are taking a balanced approach. We are listening. It is time for the opposition to end its grandstanding, support victims and support our measures on Bill C-10.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Madam Speaker, this might be an interesting one. Ministers or parliamentary secretaries who quote from a text have to table the text in the House. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade was quoting the text from his iPad.

Would he table the iPad in the House so we can get a look at it.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:10 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Madam Speaker, it would be a bit incongruous to table the iPad, but I would certainly be happy to supply the page of text from which I was reading.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Before we begin routine proceedings, there was a point of order raised earlier this morning, and I would like to correct a statement I made about members in the House referring to the presence or absence of members at committee.

Having verified this practice, there is indeed a different standard used when referring to members attendance in committee, since in committee, as we know, attendance is recorded. There is a public record for those proceedings, whereas in the House there is not.

I apologize for any inconvenience or confusion that my comments may have caused.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

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

Republic of the Fiji Islands
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to present a petition signed by hundreds of people all across British Columbia, calling for the establishment of a high commission in the Republic of the Fiji Islands.

Many people from the Fijian community in Canada, which I would point out number over 100,000 strong, have pointed out that the lack of consular services in Fiji presents a lot of difficulties for them.

The petitioners note that Fiji is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. They state that that the lack of consular services in that country means the situation causes inordinate delay and efficient service for tourist, visa, business and immigration issues, both for Canadian and Fijian citizens. They also note that the United States, Australia, New Zealand, China and India all have embassies or high commissions in Fiji.

I want to point out the hard work of one of my constituents, Mr. Vince Sharma, who has collected thousands and thousands of signatures, calling on the government to establish this very important services for Fijians and for Canadians of Fijian descent who travel to Fiji on business and personal business very frequently. This would be of great assistance to them.

Assisted Suicide
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Madam Speaker, my constituents, primarily in the Quinte West area, make note that the Canadian Medical Association opposes assisted suicide and euthanasia and calls for suicide provincial programs to strengthen where necessary and urges its members to educate themselves and uphold the principles of palliative care.

The petitioners also wish that Parliament would retain section 241 of the Criminal Code, without changes, in order that Parliament not sanction or allow the counselling, aiding or abetting of suicide, whether by personal action or the Internet.

Service Canada
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Madam Speaker, once again, this is on behalf of many residents in the area of my riding known as Bonavista North, who had a unique relationship with Service Canada over the past five years at least.

The relationship was such that a community partnership developed between the Service Canada office in Gander. If one travelled about two hours away to Bonavista North, the local community had an office set up for people who wanted to get help with their Canada pension plan, their employment insurance and any other government service.

The problem is the government has now ended that partnership. Twice per month someone from Service Canada goes to that area. If people do not have computers or they are seniors who are not phone savvy, this becomes very problematic because many individuals appreciate the face-to-face contact they had at that office.

This petition is from many people in the Bonavista North area who want to restore that partnership.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, Question No. 173 will be answered today.

Question No. 173
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-François Fortin Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

With regard to the mitigation measures announced by the Prime Minister on June 6 for disaster victims in riparian areas in the Gaspé and Montérégie: (a) what is the exact description of these measures; (b) which government department or agency will be responsible for these measures; (c) who will these measures be directed at; (d) what criteria will be used in implementing these measures; (e) what amount does the government expect to spend on these measures; (f) on what date will these measures be accessible; (g) has the government discussed these measures with the Government of Quebec; and (h) how does the government intend to coordinate its efforts with those of the Government of Quebec?

Question No. 173
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Provencher
Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada recognizes the value and contribution of proactive mitigation measures taken before an emergency or disaster occurs to eliminate or reduce the impacts and risks of hazards in order to protect lives, property, the environment, and reduce economic disruption. Not only does mitigation serve to reduce the impact of disasters on the lives of Canadians, but it is also a cost-effective approach for reducing the economic burden of disaster response and recovery costs on all levels of government, businesses, communities, families and individuals.

On June 6, 2011, while visiting the Quebec region of Montérégie to see first-hand the impact of the 2011 spring floods, the Prime Minister announced that the Government of Canada will share on a 50-50 basis the costs of any permanent flood mitigation measures taken specifically for this year’s flooding that are not otherwise eligible under the federal disaster financial assistance arrangements.

Public Safety, the lead federal department for meeting this commitment, has been working with other government departments and the Province of Quebec to establish a one-time mitigation contribution program to cost share eligible permanent flood mitigation measures. Input is being sought from the Province of Quebec on the types of measures put in place and their costs to inform the development of the program terms and conditions, including the specific eligibility criteria for cost sharing.

The principles enshrined in “An Emergency Management Framework for Canada”, the national framework, second edition, approved by federal-provincial-territorial, FPT, ministers responsible for emergency management in January 2011, and in the national disaster mitigation strategy, endorsed by FPT ministers in January 2008, are being used to inform the development of this one-time mitigation contribution program.

As outlined in these key FPT documents, mitigation is an important part of a robust emergency management framework. Disaster prevention and mitigation measures are those that eliminate or reduce the impacts and risks of hazards through proactive measures taken before an emergency or disaster occurs. Measures may be structural, for example, flood dikes, or non-structural, for example, land use zoning and building codes.

Public Safety is seeking detailed estimates from the Province of Quebec on the costs of the permanent mitigation measures put in place for this year’s flooding in order to recommend a funding amount to establish a one-time mitigation contribution program, which would allow reimbursement of eligible incurred costs.

Once the program is established, the Government of Canada will share on a 50-50 basis the costs of eligible permanent flood mitigation measures put in place by the Province of Quebec. The exact amount that the Government of Canada will reimburse will depend on the costs of the eligible provincial measures put in place. Until a formal claim has been submitted by the Province under the program, it is not possible to estimate how much the Government of Canada will spend.

Public Safety is working closely with the Ministère de la Sécurité publique of Quebec as the program is being developed and will continue to do so as we move forward. The goal is to have the program established in early 2012. Once in place, Public Safety will share the detailed eligibility criteria with the province and work with it to facilitate the processing of its cost-sharing claim so that funds can flow in as timely a manner as possible.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, if Question No. 165 could be made an order for return, this return would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 165
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

With respect to the opening of the Department of National Defence (DND) offices at 3500 Carling Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario, also known as the Nortel Campus: (a) what was the total cost to open the facility for use by DND, broken down by (i) the initial cost to purchase the land and facilities, (ii) the cost to renovate the facilities to make it operational for DND purposes; (b) how many staff are currently operating from the Nortel Campus and is this the full complement that the facility will accommodate, or, if not, how many more is it expected to accommodate; (c) what are the functions that these personnel are engaged in, i.e, human resources, accounting, military command, etc.; (d) what is the time frame to transfer all of the services from the National Defence Headquarters (NDHQ) to the new location; (e) what, if any, services or functions will remain at the current NDHQ location; (f) will DND services at facilities other than NDHQ be moved to the Nortel Campus, and, if so, what services and from which locations, specifying the complete addresses of the buildings and the services, will be moved; and (g) what will be the total annual operational cost to operate the Nortel facility?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-18, An Act to reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board and to make consequential and related amendments to certain Acts, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to these amendments.

Thus far, in this discussion at report stage, the government has, in its way, tried to smear the board in the eyes of the public. I would think Canadians would expect that the minister and his parliamentary secretary, who both took an oath of office to uphold their responsibilities, would think ill of that.

One could Imagine what would happen if we had the Minister of Health trying to destroy the health system in this country, or if we had the Minister of State for Science and Technology trying to do away with science and technology.

What we have, in this case, are two ministers who are doing the direct opposite and doing everything within their power to smear the Canadian Wheat Board. It is for that reason that I want to put a couple of things on the record so that the public understands just what we are talking about here.

What is the Canadian Wheat Board? The Canadian Wheat Board has been working for wheat and barley farmers for over 75 years. It ensures that all wheat and barley farmers get the best possible price for their crops. The Canadian Wheat Board is paid for and run by the farmers it benefits. The Canadian Wheat Board sells grain all around the world. It arranges for its transportation from thousands of farms to customers in some 70 countries. The critical component for the Canadian Wheat Board to be able to do its job is single desk selling. That is the essence of the board.

How does the Board help farmers? The Canadian Wheat Board's annual revenues are $5 billion to $8 billion, all of which are returned to farmers, less operating costs, as profit. The cost of that operation is 7¢ per bushel. It is unbelievably efficient. Those returns going back to farmers are not taken off as shares for some private grain company. The benefits actually go back to the primary producers.

Studies by leading agriculture economists, using the Canadian Wheat Board data, concluded that the Wheat Board earned prairie farmers hundreds of millions of dollars a year more than they would have achieved on the open market. In fact, it was around $500 million.

The Canadian Wheat Board manages a supply chain that extends from the farm gate to the end-use customer. It has an envied international reputation for consistent quality and supply, superior service and technical support. However, without the authority of single desk, it will be almost impossible for the Wheat Board to do its job.

The parliamentary secretary went on at length talking about the fact that farmers would still have a board. However, they would have a board without teeth and without the authority to do its job. He said that the farmers would have a choice, that they could go to the board or to the open market. However, when I asked him about whether the farmers would have the choice between single desk and the open market, the parliamentary secretary failed to answer. He claimed that they would have their board. However, this new board would not be like the old board. It would be a board in name only. It would not have single desk selling.

In fact, this would be a government takeover with, as somebody said earlier, five stooges appointed by the minister. It would really be the minister's wheat board. The government is expropriating the Wheat Board, which is run, controlled and was built by farmers in Canada, taking it over and running it as its own agency. I will go through a little bit of that because that becomes clear with Bill C-18.

Bill C-18 begins by eliminating the 10 elected board members and replacing them with 5 ministerial appointed directors. Just who will those hand-picked directors be? According to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food's own officials, they will answer to the minister, not to the farmers.

I will quote what the assistant deputy minister said to the committee. He said, ”It”, meaning the legislation, “enables the minister to provide direction to the board in the manner in which it operates”. It could not be more clear. There is nothing vague there. The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, sitting in Ottawa, will now tell the board of directors what to do, how to do it and when.

We need to keep in mind that that is the minister who has never visited the Wheat Board, other than for 15 minutes, and has never walked into its war room to see how it operates. He has never walked into its transportation room to see how it collects all that grain, 900 miles from tidewater position, thousands of farmers spread over the Prairies, all different types and qualities of wheat and barley, and get that into a transportation system, delivered to a country elevator on a shortline maybe, down the main line and unloaded into the hole of a ship on time so there is no demurrage paid.

The minister has never visited the Wheat Board to understand that. All he is going on is an ideology. He has attacked the board. He has not allowed farmers, under this legislation, to even have a voice at hearings where they could have say.

There is not a single word in this legislation about farmer direction, farmer control or farmers having the right to choose the board of directors they want to run and manage this so-called voluntary Canadian wheat board. In fact, as I said, it is the minister's board.

What is interesting, as well, is that, while the minister picks his own directors, the minister has made sure there is nothing in the legislation concerning conflict of interest. What is to prevent those Conservative appointees from using their time as the minister's hand-picked directors to feather their own nests? Absolutely nothing. That comes from the legal counsel to the agriculture committee when he testified at the committee.

The elimination of an elected board of directors and replacing it with hand-picked appointees is based on what kind of model? I asked that question to Agriculture Canada officials. I asked, “Is there any marketing institution or marketing agency in this country based on this model?”. The answer from officials was, “We will get back to you.” The answer, quite simply, is that there is not a model like this.

Given that the effect of the government's illegitimate action to destroy a $5.8 billion institution, one would assume that there is evidence the government can produce to justify itself. The government has stated that the destruction of the Wheat Board will ensure predictability for western grain farmers. Really? What a fallacy.

I will look at just one issue, access for farmers in moving their grain. On page 6 of the working group report, it states:

...there are questions about whether all of the current market participants, particularly the smaller players...will have effective, competitive access to the entire grain logistics chain from farm to vessel. Similar issues were raised with...respect to short lines and access to producer cars....

Given that fact, the minister announced on November 8 that he would be setting up a logistics working group to examine these issues. Just where is the predictability? Clearly, right now there is not any.

The Government of Canada is putting at risk the farmers who deliver that grain to the tune of $5 billion to $8 billion a year. I can tell members who gains. Who is the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food working for? I think he is working for U.S. farmers. The U.S. has challenged the system 14 times stating that it was an unfair trader and we won every time. In fact, Senator Kent Conrad had a report prepared for him that stated that if the Canadian Wheat Board single desk authority were eliminated, the United States may become more competitive in offshore markets as the advantages enjoyed by the Wheat Board disappear.

So, who is the minister working for? However, the worst is that now the minister has, by executive order, put his hands in farmers' pockets to pickpocket them. He is taking the contingency fund of up to $200 million, which is farmers' money, the money they earned from the sale of their grain, to provide a cushion for this proposed new board of his hand-picked directors.

It is unbelievable that this could happen without farmers even having a vote or a say through hearings on how this could or should not be done.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Minister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, one of the things I have always found rather peculiar about the position of our friends in the Liberal Party on the question of the Canadian Wheat Board is that they believe that only western Canadian farmers should be compelled to sell their property to the government but not Ontario farmers, not Quebec grain farmers, and not Atlantic Canadian grain farmers.

I wonder if the member really believes in compelling farmers to sell their property to the government on pain of imprisonment because farmers have been put in prison. The Liberals are against increased prison sentences for violent criminals, but apparently they are for a system that imprisons grain farmers for selling their own property.

If they think it is so great, why do they not propose an amendment to make it a national wheat board and compel Atlantic, Quebec and Ontario farmers to sell their wheat to the government?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, there is one thing about Liberals. We believe laws should be abided by and we do not pick and choose which laws should be abided by. If a law was broken, it was broken. The Conservatives claim to support supply management, but if five or ten producers decide to ship milk outside of the supply management system, are they going to allow that to happen? A system has to work with rules and regulations.

I will say this to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. I will stack up my time on western farmers against him on farms any day of the week because I have been on farm after farm in western Canada, so allow farmers a vote, for Pete's sake.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to quote here from an email I received. It quotes the minister who said:

There wouldn't be any attempt to impose dual marketing on the CWB unless a majority of producers voted for it.

The minister went on to say:

Until farmers make that change, I'm not prepared to work arbitrarily. They [farmers] are absolutely right to believe in democracy. I do, too.

Could the member comment on that, please?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, we had quite a little discussion on that same quote earlier this morning where strong language was used in this House. In fact, I had to apologize to the Speaker.

However, these are the facts. If the minister made the statement in Minnedosa on March 27, as the member just quoted, and he did not hold a vote, it is up to Canadians to judge. It is on the record what I said earlier.

The minister obviously was not being truthful. He said he would provide farmers a vote. He said he believed in democracy, but he did not provide a vote. In fact, as the Wheat Board itself said, the Conservatives steamrolled over section 47.1 of the act.

However, the parliamentary secretary went on at great length to talk about what the Wheat Board is doing in terms of its advertising. It is living by its oath of office, but I have here a document which is paid for by the taxpayers of Canada, which is clear misinformation and a smear campaign by the Minister of Agriculture against the Wheat Board. That is wrong.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I believe it is important to get on the record at this time that, in fact, there was a plebiscite conducted by the Canadian Wheat Board because the Minister of Agriculture was negligent in not meeting what many would argue was a legal, definitely a moral, obligation to conduct a plebiscite to see what the farmers really wanted. The plebiscite that was conducted clearly indicated that a vast majority of the prairie grain farmers wanted to retain the Canadian Wheat Board.

Could the member provide further comment on that issue?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the plebiscite that was conducted by an independent agency by the Wheat Board, because the government would not do it, indicated that 62% of farmers believed in single desk selling of wheat, 51% in terms of barley. Single desk is what makes the system operate. That is what farmers want. There were young farmers in Ottawa this week demanding that this happen.

Earlier the parliamentary secretary mentioned that the Wheat Board had been around a long time, and that technology had changed, and yes it has. However, the Wheat Board is needed more than it ever was in the past. The prairie wheat pools are gone. Many short lines have been abandoned. The Wheat Board is there to protect producer cars and short line railways, and the consolidation in the grain industry is just about unbelievable. The Wheat Board is the only power—

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order, the time has expired for this particular round.

Resuming debate.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence is rising on a point of order.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, a few minutes ago in question period I said in this House, in reply to a member's question, that there was no plan to change the colour scheme on any of the airbus aircraft that the government possesses. I would like to be perfectly clear that there has been no decision in that regard and to ensure that the record reflects that additional clarification.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for his intervention. I am sure that the House appreciates the clarification.

The member for Malpeque is rising on the same point?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am trying to figure out what the parliamentary secretary is saying. Is there a plan or is there not a plan to paint the Prime Minister's aircraft in the colours that the Prime Minister wants, at great cost? Is there or is there not?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

We have heard the parliamentary secretary's clarification to an earlier part of debate today. Other points on this I am sure are really just a matter of debate. We are not going to redo question period.

Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to speak in the House today as part of a debate that, in my opinion, is critical to the future of western Canadian farmers.

The legislation that we are discussing today has been a long time coming. It gives western Canadian durum and barley farmers a right they have called for and richly deserve, and that is the right to choose how best to market the grain they grow.

As the House reviews this legislation, it is important to keep in mind why Canada has a reputation for the quality of our wheat, durum and barley. The answer is quite straightforward and it has nothing to do with the Canadian Wheat Board. Our grains are second to none because the farmers who produce them are committed to quality.

Organizations like the Canadian International Grains Institute and the Canadian Grain Commission play a big role in ensuring the quality of our world class grain handling system. CIGI and the CGC have always operated independently from the CWB and will continue to do so.

We encourage the Canadian Wheat Board to work with us in order to ensure a smooth transition toward marketing freedom in the best interest of the industry. We hope that the Wheat Board will continue to work with the many other stakeholders, such as brokers, buyers, sellers, inland terminals, export elevators, and the ports, not to mention the very large marketing network.

However, regardless of whether the Canadian Wheat Board participates, as we move toward marketing freedom, our government will continue to make every effort to ensure that everything is clear and certain for farmers and for the entire value chain during the transition period.

Our government is aware that the town of Churchill, which depends on the Canadian Wheat Board's grain shipments, may be affected by the industry's transition to an open market.

Our government understands the importance of the port of Churchill as a valuable asset, and has demonstrated its support and commitment to the north.

As part of the ongoing commitment to farmers and the importance of the port as the Prairies-Arctic gateway to the world, our government will provide an economic incentive of up to $5 million per year over the five year transition period to support shipments of grain, including oilseeds, pulses and special crops through the port.

The government will also provide support through funding of up to $4.1 million over three years to sustain infrastructure improvements and maintenance of the port during the transition period.

In addition, the deadline will be extended to 2015 for projects to be funded through an agreement with the Churchill Gateway Development Corporation. We are looking at a number of initiatives to continue to diversify the economy of Churchill.

We are also working with stakeholders across the agriculture industry, as well as other industries, to explore development opportunities for the port. We recognize that this major change brings with it not only many benefits, but also some challenges, and we do not shy away from these challenges. We share Canadians' concerns about job loss, the port of Churchill, and our short line railways and producer cars.

Mike Ogborn, managing director of OmniTRAX, the company which owns the Churchill port facility and the Hudson Bay Railway Company, told The Western Producer on July 14 that OmniTRAX is optimistic about the future of Churchill's port and railway. OmniTRAX understands how the change to an open market may be a challenge. But more significantly, the company sees it as an opportunity for economic diversity and for growth.

Our government is confident that Canadian grain companies will continue to use the port as long as it remains a competitive method of transporting their grain. Our government is also committed to improving rail service for agriculture shippers through the rail service review.

Further, the right to producer cars is protected in the Canada Grain Act. Currently, the CWB manages the marketing of grain shipped in producer cars, so that shipments are related to a sale.

Under the new rules, producers and short lines will be able to make commercial arrangements with grain companies or the voluntary CWB to market their grain. Short line railways are expecting some adjustments as they will have more options of marketing partners for the grain volumes they can attract from producers.

While we see some job losses for Manitoba initially, the future looks very bright. We can expect more processors to start up new businesses in that province, which is my home province, and across western Canada.

Milling firms will be able to purchase directly from the farmer of their choice, at whatever price they negotiate. Entrepreneurs will have the option of starting up their own small specialty flour mills and pasta plants. Just over the border from Manitoba in North Dakota many new pasta plants have sprung up and created jobs that should have been created in the Prairies. This, along with increased trade, has the potential to create many jobs.

Our government is confident that farmers will make marketing choices based on what is best for their own businesses. We want to put the farmers back in the driver's seat so that they can continue to drive our economy. We think an open, competitive grain market has room for a viable, voluntary pooling option. We are ready to work with the Canadian Wheat Board to chart the way forward.

Marketing freedom was a cornerstone of our election platform from day one and was included in last spring's Speech from the Throne. Grain farmers in western Canada want the same marketing freedom and the same opportunities as other farmers in Canada and the rest of the world. With this freedom, grain farmers will be able to sell their products based on what is best for their own businesses.

I am proud that we are keeping our long-standing promise to give western Canadian grain farmers the freedom to market their own grain.

I urge hon. members to give this bill some serious thought and to keep in mind that its timely enactment will help give farmers the certainty they need to plan for next year. What is more, it will give our clients here in Canada and in the rest of world the assurance that they can still count on the regular supply of high-quality Canadian wheat and barley.

I welcome any questions from my colleagues.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech and I would also like to congratulate her on her work on the Standing Committee on Finance.

With regard to the debates, cutting the time allocated for debate and, consequently, allowing less time for speeches is an attack on democracy. There has been another attack on democracy in this matter. The Conservatives promised to listen to farmers and to hold a plebiscite. Can the hon. member tell us why the government is not interested in listening to farmers and holding a vote on the future of the board?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague. It is truly a pleasure to work with him on the Standing Committee on Finance, and I appreciate his question. I would like to make it clear that farmers across Canada have been discussing this bill for years. We consulted western farmers many times about this matter. We even stated in our election platform that we would move forward on this issue. For that reason, most seats in the Conservative caucus are held by representatives of regions where farmers live. That is why we were elected by farmers. They were expecting us to introduce this bill to promote freedom for western farmers and farmers in other parts of the world and Canada.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the member for Saint Boniface took a lot of liberty with her comments on the Canadian Grain Commission and CIGI.

The fact is the Canadian Wheat Board is very much intertwined with the Canadian Grain Commission in the work they do. In fact, and I spent 10 days taking its course in the city of Winnipeg, the Canadian Wheat Board started CIGI.

Will the member not just admit that both those institutions, with the destruction of the Canadian Wheat Board's single desk selling, will be in jeopardy if the bill moves ahead?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, with regards to destruction, it was most destructive that the Liberal Party did not put forward these measures when it was in power for 13 years. It is most destructive that a member who resides in Atlantic Canada, whose farmers have freedom of choice to market their grain in any way they desire, would stand here and destroy the hopes and dreams of farmers in western Canada, who have been waiting and begging for this. The member takes this moment to somehow change all the questions that he puts to the House to make it appear as if he is actually concerned about western farmers. I call bull on that.

When we talk about freedom and fairness, we cannot trust the Liberals to put forward any freedom or fairness for our western farmers.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Provencher
Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, coming from the province of Manitoba, I have not yet been able to figure out why members from Quebec, Ontario and Atlantic Canada are making these strident comments in respect to the defence of the Wheat Board, which only impacts farmers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and a small part of British Columbia. They do not want to see the same system imposed on their farmers. Why is that? Is it for the economic advantage of their farmers to the detriment of the farmers in my riding?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his hard work in this place. I reiterate what the minister just stated.

The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism stood just moments ago and asked the member for Malpeque why he was not willing, if he really believed in this policy, to put forward a national Wheat Board that would make Atlantic farmers in his home community succumb to this arbitrary and restrictive pooling and selling of wheat through only the Wheat Board.

The member for Malpeque knows very well that if he were to do that, he probably would not be re-elected. That is what almost happened when he did not support the gun registry abolition that he had promised to do way back when he was first in the House.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for their excellent speeches, and I want to join them in defending the interests of farmers in western Canada.

After all the discussion we have heard so far on Bill C-18, I am sad to see that the government is undermining the principle of democracy by not honouring its commitments. The government was clear: it would not attempt to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board without first consulting its members.

To respect the democratic process, we must ensure that members of the Canadian Wheat Board have the right to decide their own destiny through a referendum. Excessive political interference has no place in a democratic country like Canada. Unfortunately, I am no longer surprised to see that every day, the Conservative government uses misinformation to get what it wants. In fact, in its own press release on the bill to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board, the government said that it had consulted with stakeholders from across the value chain before making a decision. Does this mean that farmers, including all those who want to keep the board, are not part of the value chain for their own products, since they were not consulted?

If western farmers are part of this value chain, why did the government not listen to the majority that spoke out during the plebiscite? Why is it turning a deaf ear? I am sure that western farmers will be shocked to hear that this government has excluded them altogether from the value chain for the products they have produced by the sweat of their brow and that it does not want to hear their opinion.

Also in the news release, the government explains that, and I quote:

[it] has listened to individual farmers who just want the chance to succeed by being able to sell their wheat, durum and barley at the time and to the buyer of their choice.

But what about those who want to sell their wheat, durum and barley through the Wheat Board desk? Were they also heard, or were they deliberately kept out of the discussions because their wishes were at odds with the government's intentions? The government is ignoring these people and, meanwhile, is outrageously continuing to impose its ideology, erode democracy and misinform the public.

I would also like to use my time to discuss the idea of majority, which has already been widely discussed in relation to this bill. I want to make sure that the hon. members across the way understand the concept.

Indeed, they appear to have a good grasp of the concept here in the House, ever since May 2, but the meaning of respecting the principle of a majority seems to become a little fuzzy when it comes time to talk about the issues they want to tackle. To set the record straight, I think we need to take a closer look at the numbers together: 22,764 wheat farmers voted to maintain the board as is, compared to 14,059 farmers who voted to end the monopoly. That works out to a majority of 62% against 38%.

People who respect a majority decision respect the principles of democracy, an example that this government could learn from. In an open letter, the Conservative government, in the person of the Minister of Agriculture, explained that the vote in last May's federal election gave the necessary legitimacy to advocates of change. Can someone explain to me how a federal election can legitimately interfere politically in an organization that is managed, controlled and funded entirely by western farmers, one that is not a crown corporation? Since when do election results legitimize and govern any unilateral actions the government wants to take without any consultation or impact studies and without listening to the people, even though we live in a democracy?

Is it because they have a majority? Oh, yes; they respect that majority scrupulously. It is the same old story: another double standard.

In addition to this so-called legitimacy, the other point that should be mentioned here is the lawfulness of the act itself.

The laws currently in effect require Ottawa to consult the directors of the Canadian Wheat Board before amending the act that created the board. The potential dismantling of the board without prior consultation is a direct violation of this act.

I am very sorry to see that we have before us a government that legitimizes its actions, which are not based on any valid foundation or democratic principle.

In the speech he gave several weeks ago now, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board even went so far as to say that it was time to put an end to the tyranny of the Canadian Wheat Board.

On this side of the House—the NDP side—we maintain that, instead, it is time to put an end to the tyranny of the government, which went so far as to outrageously cut off the necessary debate on this bill, as it has been constantly doing since the beginning of this session of Parliament.

I am the member for the riding of Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles. The members opposite may be wondering why a member from Quebec would stand up for the interests of people who are so far from her riding. To that, I say that one would have to be pretty gullible not to understand that the mechanisms of the world economy are felt from one end of the country to the other and throughout the world.

Any bad economic decisions that are made for western Canadian agriculture will affect the entire country. The negotiating power lost with the dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board will weaken the position of western farmers on the world market.

This weak negotiating power to sell our Canadian wheat at the best possible price on the market will eliminate the smallest producers to the benefit of the large multinational grain companies. Less negotiating power for the sale of Canadian wheat means our wheat will be sold at a lower price. Selling at a lower price means less income for our families and farmers. This vulnerability will be felt throughout Canada, not just in the west.

Canada's economic health is an issue we must deal with together so that all Canadian households get what they deserve—a prosperous future.

In conclusion, the NDP is demanding no less of the government than respect for the democratic process so that western farmers can have an independent say when it comes to their own future and their own destiny.

The NDP will proudly stand up for farming families in western Canada and will listen to what they have to say, demanding nothing short of abandoning Bill C-18, which does not address the needs of the public and which is completely out of touch with Canada's current economic reality.

And closer to home, the Quebec families I represent today will unanimously support the families in western Canada in their fight to protect their income, their retirement and, ultimately, Canada's economy.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that during this debate a couple of ministers have tried to sway the discussion away from the democratic principle that is at stake, and that is why farmers were not given the right to a vote, which was legislated. What is at stake, as I asked the parliamentary secretary earlier, is whether there is a choice between single desk and the open market under the new Wheat Board, and we know there is not. The single desk no longer exists.

The province of Quebec has two single desk marketing agencies, the maple syrup board and beef, I believe. What does she think would happen in Quebec if government, without a say and without proper hearings, took the right away to have the single desk, without people being given a voice?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

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

We firmly believe that in unity, there is strength. That is a principle of economics 101. As soon as a bill like this is introduced, it becomes dangerous. If the framework is dismantled, small producers lose the ability to work together to get a better price. The same thing will happen to maple syrup and eggs with the supply management bill. In the end, families and small farmers in the west will pay the price. And in Quebec, our farmers will soon pay the price.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to congratulate my colleague on her speech. She just spoke about the fact that producers have a right to organize and said that in unity, there is strength. Will the dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board not deal a blow to small producers, who benefited from a single desk? Does the member think that small producers will benefit from the government's decision?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I personally believe that the small producers will suffer the most from this bill when it comes into force. Companies like Cargill will benefit from the legislation.

Earlier, the hon. member spoke about improving infrastructure—ports and railways. Why not do this for other existing infrastructure that is in dire need?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I really enjoyed the speech that my colleague just gave on the Canadian Wheat Board, especially the parts about democracy and the impact on Quebec.

I represent a riding where the land is nearly 80% agricultural and where all of the farmers stand together. Currently, 38,000 western Canadian farmers voted to keep the Canadian Wheat Board's single desk—that represents 62% of those who use it—yet the government has still decided to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board.

Does my colleague feel this decision is democratic? Could she delve a bit deeper and make some additional comments on this subject?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, to use a term that is floating around a lot right now, I want to say that there are many people who are outraged. The people involved in the occupy movements in Toronto, Montreal and Wall Street are all outraged. And there are members here who are outraged at this obvious mockery of democracy. A law exists and the government is not above the law. It must consult with farmers; that is the law. Once the law changes, if it is no longer obliged to consult farmers, then it will not have to do so. But right now, it must comply with the current law and it must consult them.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this historic legislation which is opening such an exciting time for farmers in my home province of Manitoba and right across western Canada.

Contrary to what the members opposite think or say, our government was elected on a platform to deliver marketing freedom to farmers, and we are following through on that with this legislation.

As other members have already said, this bill will end the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly over the sales of wheat, durum and barley in western Canada. It will give wheat and barley farmers across western Canada the same rights that farmers in Ontario and the rest of Canada enjoy.

It is interesting how members on this side of the House present this debate versus how members opposite present the debate. All the members opposite ever talk about is process. I am not going to comment on the process that they are criticizing. What we focus on is results, good policy creating good results for western Canadian farmers and rural communities.

Policy is very important. The focus of this government on good policy that will generate real and tangible results is the right thing to do.

The removal of the monopoly will allow farmers to sell their grains directly to a processor, whether it be a pasta manufacturer or a flour mill, or any other venture that adds value at the farm gate. That not only grows businesses for the farmers, it creates new jobs for the rural economy.

I am being approached with increasing frequency by constituents who have terrific value-added ideas for what they can implement after the Wheat Board monopoly has been changed. In fact, just last week during the break week, two young entrepreneurs approached me with a very exciting plan to build a microbrewery in my constituency. I can hear applause from all across the chamber, and I can understand why.

These young constituents are the kind of creative entrepreneurs that Manitoba, western Canada and all of Canada need. Two young men with a great idea want to make a difference for their communities. They specifically pointed out to me that the removal of the CWB monopoly is the trigger that is going to make their enterprise work. They are very excited.

We in rural western Canada simply cannot continue to export jobs south of the border to places like North Dakota. An open wheat market will bring jobs back to the west and to cities like Winnipeg. This legislation will reduce costly red tape and inefficiencies, leaving farmers more time to drive our economy.

We saw a perfect example when a previous Conservative agriculture minister removed oats from the Wheat Board monopoly. Almost instantaneously Can-Oat Milling, a company in Portage La Prairie, sprang up. It is in the constituency of my good friend, the member for Portage—Lisgar.

The Can-Oat plant in Portage La Prairie employs 125 people. These are well-paying jobs in a rural community. What is really neat about Can-Oat as a company is that it has become the largest industrial processor of oats in North America. That is what happens when the creative power of entrepreneurs is unleashed.

I listened with great interest to the member for Malpeque's speech. I can refute every single thing he said with one word: canola.

What happened with canola after some very important research was done to create a crop that the marketplace really hungered for is that the production of canola on the free market and marketed through free market principles absolutely exploded. I think it has eclipsed wheat as the Cinderella crop in western Canada. Not only that, it is a very high-value crop that is marketed through the “evil grain companies” that members opposite are so quick to denigrate. Farmers are growing canola in droves, and the price right now is very high.

In addition, 30% of the canola that is produced in western Canada is processed in western Canada and represents 1,000 full-time jobs. There are more canola plants going up all the time.

Once the changes are made, there will be added demand from farmers for strong marketers, business analysts and other specialists in the grain trade. Even the promise of an open market is encouraging the value-added investments that I am so excited about in western Canada.

In September the Prime Minister was in Regina to celebrate the launch of the first commercially significant pasta plant for Canadian durum in the west. Members on that side talk process; we deliver results. That is the difference. This facility will create an estimated 60 new full-time jobs and 150 construction jobs.

Again, as a member who represents a rural, agricultural, western Canadian constituency, I have lived there long enough to see the population decline in many prairie rural communities. If the Wheat Board was that good, why did that occur?

I am convinced that policies that promote the export of raw product from an area really are not that good for small communities. Processing what we grow at home is what will help grow our rural economy.

Western Canadian processing plants are expanding for all crops, except for wheat. Now with wheat and barley, we will see this expansion and the pasta plant in Regina is just a beginning.

A very important concern for Manitoba MPs in particular and many Saskatchewan MPs too is the port of Churchill. Under this change there will be a period of adjustment for the port of Churchill, as it admittedly relies heavily on CWB grains. However, it is no secret that Canada's north is the cornerstone of our agenda. We understand the importance of the port of Churchill as a valuable asset, and it will remain the Prairies' Arctic gateway to the world.

Jim Carr, president and CEO of the Business Council of Manitoba agrees with us. He said that the business council sees Churchill as more than a port for grain, but as the Arctic gateway.

When our new bill is passed, the port of Churchill will remain an important shipping option. It is no secret that our government has already provided significant support to the port over the years, and we will continue to support it for use by businesses across the Prairies.

I have met with the Hudson Bay Route Association. Many of the municipalities in my constituency belong, and they see some tremendous opportunities.

As part of our ongoing commitment to farmers and the importance of the port as a shipping option, our government is making significant investments to ease this transition and help the port continue to be a viable northern shipping gateway.

We will provide an economic incentive of up to $5 million per year over the five year transition period. Our government will also provide support through funding of up to $4.1 million over three years to sustain infrastructure improvements and maintenance of the port during this transition period.

In addition, projects with the Churchill Gateway Development Corporation will be given more time to finish, with an extension of two years, or until 2015.

These significant investments are complementary to our other strategic investments, such as Transport Canada earmarking more than $13 million to implement upgrades to the Churchill airport. This is in addition to operating the Churchill airport and subsidizing VIA Rail service.

Since 2007 the government has also committed $20 million for rail line improvements, $4 million for port improvements and $1 million for marketing and development of the port.

I will finish with a quote from Mike Spence, the mayor of Churchill, who said:

I'm the type of person who is always optimistic. I'm looking in a positive direction, hoping that we'll be able to secure more grain and the port will diversify.... I think we can do that.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to ask a government member a question, because this is an important one that we often forget to ask. It has to do with something that all Canadians have a right to know: the cost of dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board. Many numbers have been tossed around, but I think a government member like him should be able to tell us exactly how much it will cost. Canadians have a right to know that information in order to decide if they agree with the government's position.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, those of us on this side of the House certainly agree that nothing comes for free, but, having said that, the benefits of dismantling the board and allowing farmers marketing freedom will greatly outweigh any costs that may occur.

Transitions for many people and change for many organizations is difficult, but if the Wheat Board is as good as it says it is, a voluntary board where farmers will have marketing choice to either use the board or use the open market will allow the market to sort that particular decision out. Overall, there will be a net benefit to western Canada with this change.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette missed the point when he talked about canola. I figured he would stand there and thank previous Liberal governments for the public research that canola came out of. It is just too bad that the current government cut that.

I have been in the member's riding many times in a previous life as a farm leader and I know there are many farmers in that community. However, how can a backbench member of the government allow the minister, who is putting together his private fiefdom, and we need to keep in mind that this is a government-run agency, to put his hands in farmers' pockets and take $200 million out of the contingency fund to cushion that government-run agency in the future? How can he allow the minister to pickpocket farmers in his region whose share of grain sales put that money in the contingency fund in the first place? How can he allow that to happen? Why does he not stand up and be counted?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, members on this side of the House, especially those of us representing rural agricultural constituencies, will take a backseat to no one in defending our communities.

In terms of canola, I, too, am a strong supporter of public research and very much agree with the member that the canola story is nothing but good news, regardless of who happened to be in power at the time.

Regarding the CWB contingency fund, it has always been separate from the pool accounts. Mr. Oberg, the current chair of the CWB, has already wasted millions of farmers' money on his personal political agenda. It is truly unclear what liabilities he will leave behind with his scorched earth policy. We took this prudent measure to protect the future of western Canadian farmers and Canadian taxpayers.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member caught my attention when he mentioned the magic words “artisanal brewery” earlier in his comments. I want to return to that because it is a subject that is close to my heart and, based on experience, is close to the hearts of one or two other members in the House as well.

The creation of a differentiated value-added product that comes from an agricultural base, like microbrewed or artisanal beer, is fundamentally based on a differentiated original product, a high value product that is not mass produced or commodified. That is true whether it is grapes for wine, we all understand that, apples for cider, rice for sake, and it is equally true when it is grain for beer.

I am guessing that the member believes that the opening of a freer market will allow for a greater differentiation of that original product, adding money into the pockets of farmers and also allowing for the greater participation of people like craft brewers. I would be interested in his comments on that.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, my hon. friend is exactly correct. Specialization and selling it to niche markets and doing things that no one else is doing is the way to success for a small business.

I have been privy to some commercial secrets from some constituents of mine, so I cannot talk too specifically, but we have a market now that is searching for authenticity. Therefore, prairie homegrown grains, making a niche, outstanding micro-products that can only be purchased in one or two spots will be very attractive in this new marketplace.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to stand proudly with our farmers and my party in opposition to this very bad bill that would dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board.

In recent weeks, we have seen the powerful symbol of farmers with tape on their mouths to symbolize that the Conservative government is not listening to them. However, we, in this party, along with others, have heard our farmers. Here in Ottawa and across the prairies, farmers are rising to say no to this. It is time to stop this Conservative steamroller that is bent on doing the bidding of the agribusiness giant corporations.

Western farmers are being taken for granted. As my hon. colleagues from Churchill and Winnipeg have said, the recent CWB plebiscite indicated that a majority of farmers are opposed to the Conservative plan. The Conservative arrogance of not supporting those farmers is an indication of the way in which the government is failing to listen to western voices.

Sadly, we see the Conservative arrogance on too many files here in Ottawa and across the country.

I saw the Conservative arrogance when I was in Washington this week. Incredibly, the Conservatives were expressing their outrage that elected members of Parliament in a democratic country were there to tell Americans that there were better alternatives for our economy and the environment than the Keystone project.

I would like to add that, since I was in Washington, I have received numerous emails from Americans thanking us for bringing the Canadian voice, the real Canadian voice, to Washington.

We see the Conservatives' arrogance and hypocrisy in defending provincial rights until provinces tell them that they are wrong about their law and order bills or wrong in destroying the data of the long gun registry.

I would like to use my time here today to speak to what this bill would do to farmers and what would be a fair position to take for our farmers. As an Ontario MP, I will also talk about how illogical it is to use what happened with the wheat farmers in Ontario and what might happen now to the prairie farmers without the CWB.

Bill C-18 proposes to dismantle the farmer controlled and funded Canadian Wheat Board by eliminating the single desk marketing of wheat and barley in Canada. Just like the provinces, when the farmers disagree with the government, they are given no choice whatsoever with respect to their decision on the CWB.

The Conservatives claim that this would benefit farmers by opening the market for them and giving them choice. This flies in the face of all the evidence we have now, with the depressed economy and market debt left behind. Left alone, it would wreak havoc on our farmers. The bill is reckless. It would spell economic hardship for prairie farmers during these tough economic times.

It is beyond me why any government representing Canadians would side with the interests of large American grain companies and assist in eroding prices and eroding market security for our own farmers.

The farmers in western Canada are much like the farmers in my own riding of Nickel Belt. They do not expect or want a free ride. They work very hard. They want to be in their fields farming, with a market that is fair to all and not to only a few. They have a right to expect fairness from the Canadian government.

Canadian farmers want to be heard. They have the right to be listened to.

In a time of economic instability, the federal government is jeopardizing $5 billion in exports and forcing grain farmers into an open market without the Wheat Board's protection.

Bill Gehl, a Saskatchewan farmer and chairperson of the non-partisan farm group, the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance, has said, “local food advocates should be concerned about the end of the Canadian Wheat Board”.

Gehl went on to explain:

Today Canadians can be confident that the grain in all the bread, pasta, and most of the beer they consume is still grown by Canadian farmers. However, if [the Prime Minister] succeeds in killing our Wheat Board, private corporations will then control our basic food stocks and will simply buy the cheapest grain they can from any source.

As an Ontario MP, I want to comment on the argument made by some Conservatives that the Ontario experience with removing the single desk can be applied to western farmers. This is truly illogical. It is comparing apples to oranges. We need to be clear: Ontario wheat farmers ended their single desk through a farmer-led democratic process.

Ontario wheat farmers produce wheat that is used for pastries, cookies and cakes and has a ready market available locally. They produce less than one-tenth of the volume of wheat that prairie farmers produce. Ontario wheat farmers sell about 90% of their product within Canada or to northern U.S.A. They have low transportation distances and costs. Worst of all, Ontario wheat farmers now pay grain companies more to handle their crops.

On the other hand, prairie wheat farmers voted in favour of keeping the CWB and face having it taken away against their will. Prairie wheat farmers produce hard red spring wheat used for bread and durum used for pasta, which does not have an extensive local market.

A crucial difference in terms of understanding the impact of this bad bill is that the prairie wheat farmers produce 80% of Canada's wheat. They also must pay freight costs to transport grain long distances to inland terminals and to ports. Prairie wheat farmers rely on the CWB to ensure fair market access for all, including users of producer cars.

Our position is clear: the NDP believes that any decision on the future of the board should be made by farmers for farmers. Grain farmers have expressed their opinion: a majority of them want to keep this single desk system. The bill should be withdrawn. Before any changes are made to the board, the government must study the impact of dismantling it and examine the effect this will have on Canadian grain farmers. Otherwise, it is gambling with the prairie economy and the income of western farmers.

Allen Orberg, a farmer and chair of the Canadian Wheat Board's board of directors, said that this government does not have a plan, has done no analysis and did not even consult farmers. He also said that the government's approach is based solely on its blind commitment to free markets. Yet here it is, about to dismantle, in just a few months, a marketing system that has been working very well for 75 years.

The facts are clear: the CWB mitigates a risk for farmers. It helps determine when and if they will get paid on time, whether they are selling their grain to the right buyer on the right day and how to get their grain to the buyer, which is a significant issue given the vastness of the prairies.

Farmers pay for the operations of the CWB from their revenue. The CWB is not a government agency or a crown corporation. It is not funded by taxpayers.

There is the example of Australia to know what is in store for our farmers when the single desk is eradicated. This is alarming to say the least. When the Australian wheat board had its single desk power, Australian wheat commanded premiums of over $99 a tonne over American wheat. However, by December 2008, it had dropped to a discount of $27 per tonne below U.S. wheat. In three short years, 40,000 wheat farmers in Australia, which had 12% of the world's wheat production worth about $5 billion, went from running their own grain marketing system and selling virtually all of their wheat on their own behalf to being mere customers of Cargill.

I recognize this bill for what it is: Conservative ideology and politics trumping what is best for our farmers and best for Canada. The CWB is currently controlled, operated and funded by farmers for farmers and the government is meddling where it is not wanted. This bill must be defeated.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my hon. colleague from Nickel Belt on a very informed and thoughtful speech.

We are talking about the Canada Wheat Board and the merits of keeping it. We have heard passionate arguments on both sides of the House, but the key question for me comes down to what the farmers of western Canada want. We know that the legislation requires that a plebiscite be held for those farmers to tell us what they want.

I have two questions. First, why will the government not honour that legislation and allow farmers to have a vote so we will know once and for all what the farmers of western Canada want, instead of hearing people say what they want?

Second, did the Conservatives, during the last election campaign, tell the farmers of western Canada that they would get rid of the Canadian Wheat Board without a vote?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, farmers have already indicated through their own plebiscite that they want to keep the Canadian Wheat Board, but the government does not want to bring it to a vote because it would lose that vote. I just told the member why the government does not want to bring it to a vote. It does not want to bring the issue to a vote because surely it will lose the vote and then lose face with the farmers in western Canada.

Just a while ago the member for Saint Boniface said that MPs from Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia should not be defending these farmers because we do not represent them, but the last time I was in Saint Boniface I noticed that there are no farmers there. We were elected to represent all Canadians.

The Conservative government should bring this to a vote so farmers can have their say.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the member's answer was right on the money. The government will not allow a vote for the simple reason it knows it would lose the vote. It is that simple. The government has really violated every democratic principle in order to not allow that vote. It brought in a law to basically break the law, get around the law.

What is important to Canadians is, are we not really witnessing a government using its majority in the pathological belief that it can impose freedom by suppressing democracy? The Conservatives talk about freedom but they have taken away the freedom to have a vote on a farmer's specific institution.

Is the government really imposing freedom by suppressing democracy, and not really getting to freedom at all?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to first comment on the government's majority. We all know that 39% of Canadians who voted, voted for the government. That is not the majority of Canadians.

To answer the other part of the member's question I would like to quote from an email that I received from the acting executive minister of the United Church:

[T]here wouldn't be any attempt to impose dual marketing on the CWB unless a majority of producers voted for it. According to the CWB, [the minister said,] “Until farmers make that change, I'm not prepared to work arbitrarily.... They [farmers] are absolutely right to believe in democracy. I do, too”.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I cannot stop laughing down at this end because of some of the comments that are being made by the opposition.

We had a vote on May 2 on this.

Believe it or not, I represent the oil sands but there are a huge number of farms in my area. Seventy to eighty per cent of those people vote and seventy to eighty per cent vote for the Conservative Party. They have clearly indicated to me that they do not want people in Ontario, Quebec, southern British Columbia and P.E.I. telling them where to sell their grain because those people get to decide where they want to sell their grain. They feel prejudiced. In Alberta, 27 out of 28 seats are held by Conservatives and they won by 70% to 80%.

I am going to ask the member for Nickel Belt how he would feel if the roles were reversed. If his constituents were told where they could sell their nickel and all of the rest of the producers in Canada could sell wherever they wanted, how would his constituents feel about that?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that the member mentioned the election on May 2. I would like to remind him again that the Conservatives were elected by 39% of the Canadians who voted. That is a long way from a majority.

I would like to quote from an email that I received from a farmer in Saskatchewan, of all places. This is from Dianne and Ken: “We are cereal and pulse growers operating 1,800 acres in southwest Saskatchewan. We have been permit holders for 43 years and have been certified organic for 19 years. We support the Canadian Wheat Board single desk selling of Canadian grains for the following reasons”.

I am sorry I cannot give the member the reasons. My time appears to be up.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

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.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Don Valley West, ON

moved that Bill C-288, An Act respecting the National Flag of Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to have the opportunity to rise today and to speak to my Bill C-288, An Act respecting the National Flag of Canada, a bill that encourages Canadians to proudly display our national flag.

This bill represents an opportunity for us to stand behind those who wish to display our most important national symbol.

It also allows us to demonstrate to Canadians who wish to display our national flag that they have our full support. There have been far too many Canadians who have been forced to take down the Canadian flag on Canadian soil.

Some of us will remember our flag being adopted in 1965. Since that time, Canadians have proudly worn it on their backpacks while travelling the world. Displaying our flag abroad has immediately conveyed the values that we hold dear, freedom, democracy, courage and justice. Everywhere Canadians go, our flag is recognized and respected.

Despite proudly displaying our national flag when we are away from home, it is often said that Canadians are reserved in their patriotism and that they are not likely to put on a grand display of pride for their country.

I agree that in the past we have been hesitant to acknowledge our accomplishments, but Canada has come of age. As a country we have matured. We are no longer reserved about trumpeting our many accomplishments and letting the world know about our great country.

Our flag represents freedom, democracy, courage and justice, but today we are also proud to display our national flag as a symbol of leadership in the world and as a symbol of our accomplishments as Canadians.

The purpose of the bill is to protect Canadian citizens who want to proudly display the Canadian flag at their home. There are many reasons why one would want to display the flag; simply though, Canada is a great country.

When I hear stories of veterans who have been displaying the flag for years and are forced to take it down on threat of fines or even evictions, I am appalled.

There are stories such as those of Guy Vachon from Ottawa who served 25 years in the army, including combat in Korea, or Fred Norman, also from Ottawa, who served under our flag for 23 years. They were forced to take down their flags on threat of eviction. Mr. Vachon flew a Canadian flag for 11 years without a problem. Then one day he was told that unless he took down his flag he would face legal action with potential eviction.

There is the story of Brian and Linda-Lee Cassidy from southern Ontario who have been flying the flag for almost 40 years at their homes. They were told their flag looked like "trailer trash", both an insult to the flag and the people who live in mobile homes. The Cassidys are now members in bad standing at their homeowners association even though they have always paid their dues and followed the rules. The Cassidys want to fly the Canadian flag because they simply love Canada. They believe in what this country represents and they are honoured to be Canadians.

There is Rose Wittemann and Richard Field. Rose wanted to fly the flag because her brother was being sent to Afghanistan to fight under the Canadian flag for the freedom that we enjoy every day. They were told that unless they took down their flag, maintenance workers would come and take it down for them and they would be charged for the work that took place. In the notice they were given they were told:

While we appreciate your patriotism, Canada Day has now passed and we require that the flag be removed immediately.

Canadians should have the right to fly the flag on more than just Canada Day. We are Canadians every day of the year and we should be allowed to fly the Canadian flag every day of the year.

Lynn Riley hung a flag on her backyard fence. Shortly thereafter she received a letter from a legal firm representing her condo association, forcing her into expensive mediation.

Ex-serviceman Mark Murray placed his flag on his balcony in remembrance of the men and women he served with and those who never came home. He has received encouragement from family members of those who lost their lives to keep flying the flag. He faced eviction as a result but Mark said, “Remembering those who were lost was well worth it”.

Or there is Kirk Taylor in Calgary who also believed in what the flag represented. He received a notice to take down his flag but he refused. The issue took years to resolve, including expensive mediation.

Thousands of Canadians risk their lives every year with the Canadian Forces for the sake of what the flag represents. They risk it all for Canada. Why would we force them to fight more battles here at home while trying to remember those who are still fighting or those who never came home?

We all have special memories that involve the Canadian flag. This summer, I was inspired whenever I had the opportunity to go to an immigration ceremony to welcome new Canadian citizens. When these new citizens would stand up I would give each one a small Canadian flag, a symbol, and they would often be overwhelmed with emotion and tears. I was reminded repeatedly that Canada is a refuge, a safe place, where millions of people all over the world desire to live. Our Canadian flag represents everything that they strive for: freedom, democracy, justice and many more attributes that we take for granted every day.

If hon. members think back over the past number of years, can we say that Canadians were shy about displaying our flag during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games? Of course not. Our flag was visible everywhere. It was proudly displayed by Canadians from coast to coast to coast for the entire world to see. Canadians expressed their immense pride in their athletes and that was even before they owned the podium for Canada. Of course, they were not just proud of Sidney Crosby's winning goal, they were proud that Canada had once again welcomed the world with such tremendous distinction.

We do not only show our pride in our flag at sporting events. Canadians proudly display our flag during times of national celebration. Of course we can think of Canada Day. On July 1 every year, Canada is transformed into a sea of red and white. Our flag can be seen flying in every town and city across the country. Flag Day on February 15 also comes to mind.

However, we also saw our flag waving all over the country to welcome Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge this past summer. We all know that a tour from our Queen would not be complete without the familiar red and white flag lining the streets to greet her. Certainly, Canadians will be eager to display our flag in celebration of Her Majesty's diamond jubilee in 2012. As Canadians, we have much to celebrate. No symbol can match the unifying power of our flag to help us celebrate together.

Our flag represents us overseas as well. It flies at our embassies and missions around the world and it is a beacon of hope for people around the world when it flies with the Canadian Forces in areas such as Afghanistan.

Canadians are tremendously proud of their flag and want to see it displayed both at home and abroad. Canadians want to show their pride in their country every day of the year. They want to show their support for our democracy, freedom, courage and justice.

Our national flag is our greatest symbol. Around the world it stands for those values. It accompanies the men and women in uniform who go out into the world and risk all for the sake of that democracy.

Our flag unites us all. It honours our history, shows our pride in our accomplishment and brings us together in time of celebration and in times of mourning. Canadians want to be able to display it proudly and should always be able to do so.

The bill would help Canadians who want to show their pride in Canada. Canadians like Guy Vachon, Fred Norman, Brian and Linda Cassidy, Rose Witteman and Richard Field, Lynne Reilly, Mark Murray, Kirk Taylor and so many others just like them. They have all sacrificed so much for the sake of our flag, for the sake of what our country stands for.

As their elected representatives, we have a responsibility to support Canadians who want to show their love of our great country. We must encourage Canadians to display our national flag and send a message that no one should prevent it from being displayed respectfully. What better way to do so than to make it easier for Canadians to display our national flag every day of the year.

For this reason, I urge members to join me and support Bill C-288. I also urge members, if they have not already done so, to join me and other Canadians in showing our pride and in celebration of our great country by displaying the national flag of Canada at our homes.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Tyrone Benskin Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question for the hon. member for Don Valley West is this. How would making people criminals forward the democracy that the flag represents? How would it help the individuals, who the member has mentioned, fly their flag by making other individuals criminals?

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a good question.

We need to take the bill to committee. My goal is to see some amendments come forward that would reduce that element of the bill. Importantly, I hope to create a dialogue between those who wish to fly the flag and those condominium associations or ratepayer associations about the right of people to fly the flag.

It is certainly not my intention to create disparity between the two sides. I want to see a unity in this that creates an environment where we come together as Canadians and agree that this is the right thing to do, both on the side of the building owners or condominium associations and those who wish to fly the flag.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the words of the member for Don Valley West. I agree with much of what he had to say about pride in Canada, what the flag represented and how important it was to Canadians.

I am an immigrant who came to Canada and I have immense pride in the flag. The Liberal Party has immense pride in our red and white flag that it brought forward for Canadians to be proud of over the years. However, what is mystifying to me is how one converts those words around pride, freedom and democracy into the creation of a condo board inspector team to check on the decisions being made about this.

While I appreciate there might be some changes to the bill, the last thing we want is the flag police. That is antithetical to freedom and would get in the way of people's inherent right to exercise their democratic freedom with respect to the flag as well.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, nowhere was the pride in our flag more evident than in her riding during the 2010 Olympics. We saw the flags lining the streets of Vancouver and that area.

Like the hon. member, it is not my wish nor my goal to see flag police. This is not about that. This is about creating a dialogue.

It is my hope that opposition parties will join me in taking this to committee where we can develop a group of amendments that would truly make a unifying bill, not a divisive bill. It is my hope that the hon. member will join me in this effort.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague, whom I would also like to congratulate. I would like to know his thoughts on the following subject.

I wonder what he thinks of civil society organizations that receive public subsidies, money from Canadian taxpayers, and refuse to fly the Canadian flag?

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the bill is to create a unifying environment where we can create a dialogue in which we can talk about what it will take to bring both sides together. I support the initiative of those who want to fly the flag at their homes, on their balconies, et cetera. That is the core of what we are talking about today.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Tyrone Benskin Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, one of my staffers became a citizen of the country Wednesday. I wanted to join her in Montreal when this happened, but was unable to. She shared her pride with me on becoming a citizen. Some 400 individuals became new Canadian citizens at her ceremony, representing some 64 different nationalities, I believe.

I, like so many of us, am an immigrant. I moved here from England when I was child. My parents moved here from Barbados via England. We all hold an immense pride in our country and the flag that represents it.

For clarity's sake, our flag is an enduring symbol of unity, freedom and national purpose, which is rightly celebrated by all Canadians, regardless of their origin or political affiliation. It stands as a powerful testament to the sacrifices of generations who gave their all to ensure our future and to build and preserve our democracy.

Recent events around the world, such as in Libya and Syria, the Sudan, remind us how precious freedom is and the profound sacrifice that is required to assure its survival. That profound sacrifice, however, does not preclude the freedom that the bill represents, which includes the right to speak out and the right to not have the flag raised. I would hope, and I think we all hope, that common sense prevails in situations like this.

Canada's official opposition enthusiastically supports the right of every citizen to display our national flag with pride, as it represents the freedom of expression this bill seems to want to curtail.

We commend the member for wanting to ensure that Canadians who wished to show their connection to Canada would not be unduly hindered in their expression.

Jail time, fines, this is the type of heavy-handed punitive vision that clouds the obviously honourable intent of the member for Don Valley West. However, I must confess that in my daily interaction with my constituents and citizens from across the country, the pressing issues I hear from them are on the economic, social and environmental fronts, to name a few. I am not hearing anything about issues regarding their right to display our flag.

The member for Don Valley West has shared some of the stories that he has heard from his constituents, and I thank him for that. However, that in itself shows the isolated nature of this issue, an issue that should be dealt with at a municipal and/or provincial level, where it belongs.

Canadians who wish to express their support for their country are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights under the freedom of expression. If through some municipal bylaw, or provincial legislation or even condo bylaw an individual's freedom of expression is being challenged, then there is recourse through municipal means, through the Charter of Rights, through provincial means. Is it really necessary to turn a hapless caretaker, following through on a condo bylaw on behalf of a condo board, into a criminal with threatened jail time?

I cannot help but be reminded that the bill is eerily similar in substance and spirt to a much maligned American law, the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act, which was introduced in 2005 by Roscoe Bartlett, who incidentally was a founding member of the Republican tea party caucus. Though bustled through Congress on the strength of a Conservative majority, the law pilloried as an opportunistic political grandstand, thus the sentiment that may have fostered the bill was lost.

Canadians are smart people. They are perfectly capable of finding their way through issues such as their desire to fly their flag. Does the government's hubris stretch so far as to make municipalities, fire departments and condo associations criminals when enacting their bylaws within their jurisdiction?

Respect for jurisdiction is a convenient evasion for the government when being asked uncomfortable questions on transportation or health care, but it seems that for their pet projects, jurisdiction does not matter.

Let us get to the heart of the matter. Patriotism cannot be legislated. Attempts to do so have always led to discontent. Patriotism is and always should be something that individuals arrive at when shown the honour and the heart of their nation.

The honour and heart of this nation is not simply based on military history but on the social responsibilities it has adopted over its 144 year history. A country built on the promise of democracy, inclusion and a shared goal in its building. These are a few of the elements that make us proud to be Canadians and proud to wear our flag.

The bill puts at risk that freedom, the freedom that the flag represents. Let us get back to the business of creating real middle-class jobs that are eagerly awaited, pension security and EI reform.

Canadians are crying out for real environmental agenda changes and restraints on mounting ethical abuses by the government. The government has continuously used closure and time allocation to stifle the very democracy this flag represents.

The government does not have a monopoly on patriotism and honouring men and women who fight for this country. Those valiant men and women offered up their lives and safety, so that we could live and uphold the fine democracy and traditions which have always been a source of strength to this nation.

How does the bill do that? It does not. What it does is find more reasons to throw Canadians in jail.

I hope that the words shared by the member for Don Valley West that it is not his intent are true. I hope that when the bill gets to committee, we will be in a position to sit down, and truly discuss what the bill means and what the bill can do.

However, to make a federal case, pun slighty intended, out of an issue which should be left to municipalities, we should show municipalities and condo associations that there are other ways to deal with matters when it comes to the Canadian flag. Making these individuals criminals, forcing them to pay fines, and throwing them in jail is not the answer.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, over the past couple of weeks I have looked into the ramifications of this bill quite a bit and sought out many opinions about how people feel about this. We are getting into an interesting discussion about pride in the flag. We talk about what happened in Vancouver at the Olympics. The hon. member for Vancouver Quadra knows this quite well, as was pointed out earlier. Many celebrate Canada Day as the sun breaks over the Canadian flag on Signal Hill in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador and it is certainly a moment that stops one's heart, a true Canadian heart.

I would like to make a few points that have been brought up in debate so far. These are technical matters because as I look into this bill, it is the technicalities of it that really bring it down even though it has the best of intentions.

I want to thank my hon. colleague because he is onto something with regard to the situation that happened in his riding and it certainly deserves the attention of the House.

In the beginning I may not have thought that, but as time goes on, I actually believe it does because these are people who are told they cannot do something to express pride and therefore they are diminished.

That being said, in the House we have several measures by which we can express the opinion of those who wish to be proud of their flag, and those who want to do it and not be hindered to do so. What the member is looking at is more of a private member's motion than a private member's bill because the bill takes the idea of ensuring someone has the right to fly the flag and unnecessarily penalizing people in many respects. I do not believe that was the intention of the bill to begin with.

The member talks about sending the bill to committee for the sake of making major amendments and then bringing it back, but the problem with that is that once it gets to the heritage committee, if the amendments that we make go against the principle and scope of the bill, then the Speaker would have to rule it out.

The way to get around that is to send the bill to committee before second reading, before anyone in the House says yes to it because there are many things we cannot change.

I know many people will tell me not to worry. If the committee says it wants a change, it will change. That is not how it works. If the changes go beyond the principle and scope of the bill, the Speaker has the responsibility to say we cannot do that, but the Speaker had already said yes to it.

I bring that up because some of the amendments that we choose to make to this proposed legislation, my hon. colleague from Jeanne-Le Ber in the NDP and members of the Liberal Party, really go beyond the scope of the bill in my opinion.

Back to the bill itself there is a case in point. Several years ago, by way of protest, the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador of the day, Danny Williams, ordered the provincial buildings to take down the Canadian flag. May I humbly suggest, do we send in the RCMP to the premier's office to serve an order? I bring this situation up simply because these are some of the things we may be faced with and certainly some things that changes in committee cannot get around.

There are many other aspects. For example, how have the provinces been brought into this conversation? Fundamentally, it works like this. The Attorney General of Canada makes an application in the superior court of the province and therefore provinces have to enact this. They have to ensure it is enforced. The first thing they do is to serve notice or serve a court order to tell a person not to fly the flag. If it goes beyond that, we are looking at a maximum of two years imprisonment which is particularly harsh given what we are dealing with here. In order to do that, the provinces have to carry this out. I do not know what conversations have taken place with the provinces on this piece of legislation, but it creates a myriad of responsibilities that have not been fundamentally addressed.

Despite the fact that we are all proud of our flag, our symbols, and our emblems, I believe that the headaches created by this would really be too much to handle right now. That is why I would have suggested the member move a private member's motion, committing this House to the flag itself and the freedom to fly the flag, and not so much to the penalty phase of it.

For example, there are so many questions that arise. I cannot stand in front members here today and hold up the Canadian flag. The Standing Orders say I cannot do that because it is a prop. Members are pointing to the flag that stands next to the Speaker. I cannot hold that flag because it is considered a prop. But it stands in its rightful place. So, there we have it. I have not been permitted to fly the flag, just as a point of reference.

Just by way of explanation, the bill has two orders. Primarily, the bill would give remedies that the court could use when someone is denied the right to fly the flag. They are restraining orders, injunctions, orders of compliance, and any such order necessary. The secondary punishments can be given at the discretion of the judge, including either a fine, the amount set at the discretion of the court, and again we go back to the provinces, or a prison term not to exceed two years.

I heard the member speak earlier about the situation he had with the condo development people. It is a good point. I do not think, in many of these cases, these people should be allowed to prohibit someone else from flying the national flag.

What about provincial flags? It is the same story. If I am not mistaken, I believe provincial flags are also owned by the Government of Canada. So, why are provincial flags not in here as well? I would suggest that could be the case.

The province of Quebec says that the provincial government buildings are not allowed to have many emblems on them regarding the Government of Canada, if I am not mistaken. Would we go to the province of Quebec and tell it we are going to serve it with an order and a prison term not exceeding two years and so forth?

We can see the layers and the problems that we would face with this. I would respectfully say that despite the good intentions of the bill, there is nothing we could amend in committee that would ensure these intentions remain just that, good intentions, as opposed to the problems that we would create and the situations that I have illustrated here.

It was tried in the United States in 2005. There were some changes that had to go through there. The bill was brought forward by Roscoe Bartlett. He was a member of the Republican Party and a member of the tea party faction of the party, if that actually exists. In any event, that is what he claimed. There were problems similar to what we are talking about here, and my hon. colleague from Jeanne-Le Ber mentioned the same thing.

I suspect that if we were to debate it today, it should have been a motion as opposed to a bill. That is why we are voting against this right now. I think there is another way of going about doing this. The ramifications within this particular proposed legislation, despite the good intentions, are not that functional, especially when we are dealing with the fact that we have the Attorney General of Canada petitioning provinces about doing this, and they have not really been brought into the discussion, as well. I am sure they would like to see much the same for their own flags.

I thank the House for this time, and I also would like to thank the member for his good intentions.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in support of Bill C-288, a bill brought forward by our new colleague from Don Valley West, who I commend for taking up an important issue and creating a very important dialogue in the chamber. I encourage members to support this bill. It is important and I will get into the substance of it in just a moment.

My colleague from Don Valley West is new to the chamber and has done a phenomenal job of bringing this issue to bear. I think all of us in this chamber recognize i the importance of our national symbols and what they mean to us and do for us. Our flag is a great symbol. It is a great expression of national unity and how we pull together. It is an expression of the values that we have in common, freedom, democracy, respecting the human rights of others and accepting that we are not ruled by the whim and dictates of an individual but we are all under the rule of law.

Those are very important values, which are not prevalent everywhere in the world, I might add, which is why a symbol, like our national flag, can become such an important point of hope for others. I am talking about others who seek to flee their own situations and come to a land of hope, such as the story of my biological mother and her oldest sister who left difficult economic conditions in eastern Europe in the late 1960s early 1970s to come to a place where there was economic hope and opportunity and the promise of starting a new life.

The flag also represents the hope and values that others wish to have in their own countries and hope to bring to their own countries some day. The flag is important because of its ability to inspire us. I am now in my eighth year as a member of Parliament, which is a great privilege, and every day when I leave this building I look up over my shoulder at the flag flying at the top of the Peace Tower and it never fails to take my breath away. It is a great thing.

I have to say that I am a little troubled by what I am hearing from the opposition with regard to this bill. The member for Jeanne-Le Ber questioned the government's priorities. First, this is a private member's bill, not a government bill. We should clarify the two right off the bat.

In terms of individual member's priorities, a bill that deals with the national flag of Canada and the right of every Canadian citizen to fly that flag is probably better than the bill introduced by the New Democrat member for Windsor West who wants to ensure that there is proper labelling for things that contain cat fur. In terms of the quantum of priorities, the right to fly a flag or to be notified if there is cat fur in a product, I know which priority I think is more important.

I have been told that the New Democrats do not see desecrating our flag as offensive. That troubles me. In fact, that disturbs me. This is not about a right to disassociate from flying the flag. This is about restoring the balance between those who are denied the right by those who are the elite seeking to deny them. That is what this bill hopes to address.

When I listen to Liberal members, I am troubled as well. This bill is not about pride. It is about being denied the free expression of that pride, which is incredibly important.

Listening to members' interventions brings up a curious oddity for me. Opposition members, be they New Democrats or Liberals, have no problem imposing fines and jail sentences on Canadians who do not fill out a long form census, but they will not support a bare minimum fine for someone who would urinate on the flag. That is desecrating the flag. It is in the bill. Apparently they have no problem with that, but sock it to the Canadian who does not fill out a long form census. I am astonished by that position. In fact, I am almost embarrassed that that position has been brought forward in the House, but it is their right. Notwithstanding that, I hope that members will come back to exactly what this legislation is about.

The member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor said that a motion should have been brought forward and not a bill. I will remind the member that a motion would not deal with the issues that may be uncomfortable for members to deal with, like the desecration of the flag.

We are challenged with a bill today. It is not a perfect bill but it is a good bill on balance. I accept that there could be some changes to this. However, it is a step in the right direction, which is why I felt it was necessary to both second it and speak in favour of it.

I hope all members, at bare minimum, will let this legislation get to committee and, if they want to make some changes to it that are within the scope of the bill, then let us go ahead and do that. Maybe the jail sentence is too much. Fair enough. Maybe it could be the bare minimum of a fine. However, there should be something to acknowledge that Canadians have the right to fly the flag and that right should be respected.

It should not be up to a homeowners association to decide that a veteran in my community in Lake Shore cannot fly a flag over his garage because others do not like the way it looks or it violates some rule of the homeowners association. That is bunk. The bill would remedy that situation. This issue has been in the newspapers back home and the homeowners association does not care about the bad press. It thinks it is still right. I say that it is not.

We need a bill like this. People who put their lives on the line for this flag deserve to have their right backed up and they deserve to have a Parliament that will stand behind them on that.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to discuss Bill C-288. I want to begin by thanking the hon. member for Don Valley West for his speech and for what seems to be a commendable intention. I congratulate him. His speech was very respectful, unlike some other speeches I have heard recently in the House.

I would, however, like to talk about the flaws in the bill. We cannot really attack the intent of the bill, which is commendable. However, this is a bill that will add another clause to the Criminal Code. It is therefore a relatively serious issue and it deserves to be addressed.

The bill lists three main conditions with regard to the Canadian flag: that it be displayed in a manner befitting this national symbol, that it not be displayed for an improper purpose or use, and that it not be subjected to desecration. These are three important conditions for allowing a person to display a flag.

One of the main flaws is that there is absolutely no definition of what constitutes a manner befitting this national symbol. And what does it mean to display a flag for an improper purpose or use? Even the definition of desecration seems complex. I think we can all agree, but knowing the limits of the definition of desecration is not so obvious.

For example, much is being said about condos and homeowners' associations. We can also talk about people living in condos or rented houses who want to use a flag as a curtain. Is that an improper use of a flag? I think that if we are talking about a flag as a symbol that should be treated with respect, some people might take issue with that use. If a flag is used as a door or a curtain between two rooms, is that a proper use of the flag? Some reasonable people might not think so.

I think this bill is quite flawed in terms of how the use of the flag is defined. Although the hon. member for Don Valley West wants to ensure that this bill contributes positively to the discussion, I think it might complicate the discussion between members of homeowners' associations and condo associations.

Another aspect of this bill—making the offence in question a crime—has already been raised in this chamber. Once again, I definitely understand that the member for Don Valley West wants to improve dialogue and discussion about this matter. However, criminalizing something and taking sides in a dispute can cause problems. By passing this bill, the Government of Canada would be taking sides in any dispute involving a Canadian flag, and that would tip the balance in favour of one party over the other party, which might have legitimate objections in a dispute.

For that reason, I fully support the arguments of my colleague from Jeanne-Le Ber, who said that this type of discussion should probably take place at the municipal level, where matters pertaining to residences and property are handled. The discussion would be much more appropriate at that level. Discussions could also take place at the provincial level. However, at the federal level, we are talking about criminalizing a dispute involving a national symbol. The dispute is also about how land or property is divided, and the rules that are agreed to and applied by property owners.

I believe that the bill goes much too far by introducing criminalization and that it does not achieve the purpose intended by the member for Don Valley West, who wants to create a dialogue. In the end, it may prevent dialogue and polarize any dispute that could arise in similar cases.

I would also like to say, and this has been mentioned, that there is no flag crisis at the moment. There are isolated and regrettable incidents because the parties in a dispute about displaying the flag cannot come to an agreement. However, introducing a private member's bill that would increase criminalization or add another article to the Criminal Code is probably excessive in the circumstances.

Another one of the issues that was raised by the hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor is the double standard.

We know full well that, based on the rules of the House, the Board of Internal Economy has already decided that flags cannot be flown in the windows of Parliament Hill offices. However, this issue was raised by a media outlet, which mentioned the existence of a double standard: one for ordinary Canadians and one for Parliament Hill.

The member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor has already pointed this out but, if we had to resolve a dispute or make a decision in this regard—as one of your predecessors did—I would surely not like to see you be given a prison sentence of two years for a ruling contrary to the essence or intent of a bill, even though I know that members of the House benefit from parliamentary privilege.

The fundamental issue here is that there is a double standard. We cannot impose on the House what we want to impose on Canadians, specifically members of homeowners associations and condomiiuim associations.

I would like to point out another issue, namely, that of freedom of expression. The goal is to allow people to express themselves more freely or to give them the opportunity to express their patriotism by flying the Canadian flag without anyone preventing them from doing so. It is important to realize that freedom of expression is currently protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Any dispute that may occur about the flying of the flag—and these are usually arguments between two or three individuals or among small groups of people—can be resolved by the mechanisms in place to ensure that the provisions of the Charter are upheld. Once again, although the intent of the bill may be commendable and although no one in this House wants to attack this intent in any way, the fact remains that the bill seeks to remedy a situation that is already covered by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Fourth—and this will be my last point—I mentioned that there was a problem with the definitions and the way in which some of the conditions set out in the bill are defined. The fact that the bill is so vague and yet so broad could result in unpredictable situations that may be a little bit embarrassing. The bill tries to cover almost any controversy that could arise, even though most of these controversies seem to pertain to very similar situations. For example, associations of homeowners or condominium owners.

I will give an example that has been brought up by the media. The current member for Vaughan on the government side was formerly the Ontario Provincial Police commissioner. Six years ago, while carrying out his duties during the incidents in Caledonia, he arrested a protester, or rather a counter-protester. This person was arrested for flying a Canadian flag during the counter-protest. According to this clause, would the member for Vaughan, while exercising his duties as Ontario Provincial Police commissioner, have been subject to punishment? Once again, I do not think that was the intent of this bill, but the way it is currently written could lead to embarrassing and unpredictable situations that could cause a lot of problems for law enforcement that the member for Don Valley West did not intend.

Honestly, if I examine the merits rather than the intent of this bill, I see that the bill as drafted is much too vague and imprecise. It tries to resolve a problem that arises only in very isolated and often similar situations— disputes among two, three or four individuals. These could be resolved amicably or through mediation, without such heavy-handed measures as a fine or prison sentence under the Criminal Code.

I would like to ask the member if he would withdraw the bill to try to improve it, as has been mentioned. Because opportunities to make amendments in committee are limited, it would be appreciated if he would withdraw the bill and improve it by taking into account the problems mentioned.

It is difficult to support the bill in its current form.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise today and express my support for Bill C-288, , an act respecting the national flag of Canada. The bill would ensure that Canadians would not be prevented from proudly displaying our national flag.

In my riding of Okanagan--Coquihalla, we have many retired veterans. We have two veteran settlement communities that were created after the Second World War. To this very day, veterans still proudly call these communities home. Just last week, it was an honour to announce funding for a cenotaph in the veteran settlement community of West Bench. A former member of the House and mentor to me, Fred King, is a proud veteran who lives in the wartime settlement community of Kaleden.

However, many veterans have reached a point in time where they now live in a strata community, perhaps a condo, a townhouse or an apartment. Some of these veterans are prevented from flying the Canadian flag.

The Canadian flag has a unique history. It was through national debate and the participation of over 2,000 citizens who submitted designs that a new flag was finally chosen in 1964.

The Canadian flag is the legacy of inclusion. We should take note of this inheritance as we make a decision today. Did the parliamentarians at that time realize the overarching impact of their decision? I think they did. It is for this reason that such care was given to the selection.

The Canadian flag is an important symbol of our great nation, of its core values and natural history, a flag that all Canadians can proudly display. Yet some Canadians are prevented from doing so. I support the principle of this bill because I believe it is time to change that.

As Canadians, we have all stood tall on Canada Day and felt that immense sense of pride in the love of our country. We have felt it while singing the national anthem at a hockey game, while watching our triumphs at the Olympic games or overseas through the contributions made by our brave troops on behalf of all Canadians.

The Canadian flag is more than the material it is made from. It is a symbol to all of us that makes Canada a truly great country. It is a symbol of excellence, of inclusion, of tolerance, of making the world a better place. It is a reminder and one that I submit should not be denied.

The Canadian flag is the most visible and recognized symbol of Canada. When people come together, there is but one symbol to choose. The distinctive maple leaf has become a symbol of pride for Canadians from every walk of life and from every part of this nation. The flag inspires Canadians. Athletes, guides and scouts, school groups, service clubs such as the Rotary Club and Kiwanis, groups that serve their communities are inspired to contribute to their country, which is recognizable through the main symbol of the flag.

Above and beyond any other institutional affiliation, it is the flag that is used to unify people. Canadians feel close to the flag. They feel a sense of ownership. What place could be more important for its display than from their own homes?

For people to fly the flag in their place of residence is to make a statement about where they belong and what is important to them. The message of the flag is always one of unity and purpose of freedoms and acceptance. Canadians should be free to fly the flag, free to see it in every part of the country, from villages to cities, from tiny islands to the highest towers. The flying of the flag is a time-honoured tradition that binds Canadians to our shared past and is with us on each new challenge. It is important for Canadians to be able to continue to pass on the customs and practices of diverse regions and cultures that make this country great. The flying of the flag is a key part of the Canadian identity. It identifies us and brings us together.

I speak today on behalf of the flag. It has a distinguished history that has united Canadians for generations and will continue to do so for many years to come.

I believe that the bill does require some further fine tuning and agree with some of the comments made by my colleagues with respect to the penalties. I believe these concerns can and should be addressed at the committee stage.

I ask all members of the House to be mindful of this and to unite behind the flag.

May our Canadian flag always fly freely across this nation from the homes of any and all who wish to participate in what it means to be Canadian.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

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

Before adjourning, I would like to wish all members and staff of this chamber a good weekend. I hope they travel safely every weekend.

It being 2:31 p.m., this House stands adjourned until Monday at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:31 p.m.)