House of Commons Hansard #129 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was workers.

Topics

Standing Committee on Finance
Privilege

10 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, as you are aware, we gave notice that the NDP will be speaking this morning regarding the privilege motion that was brought forward by the member for Kings—Hants I believe on Monday of this week.

At the outset, it is troubling that we are having this debate on this motion, given the historical ruling you made--

Standing Committee on Finance
Privilege

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The member knows we are not having a debate on the motion. The motion has not been allowed yet.

We are on a point of order as to whether or not there is a question of privilege to be raised here. I think that is what the hon. member is making submissions on. I know he would not want to debate a motion since one has not been allowed at this point.

Standing Committee on Finance
Privilege

10 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for that correction.

The request for the finding of privilege that was brought by the member for Kings—Hants is troubling in that he had to do this on behalf of both the members of the finance committee, at least the opposition members of the finance committee, and all of us in the House. I say that in light of your ruling 11 months ago; a historical ruling by any standards in this House.

Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, and I do not want you to feel that I am buttering you up, but the reality is that the ruling was also a historical ruling in any number of other legislatures that use the Westminster system of representation in Parliament. It was acknowledged as such in a number of other legislatures.

Therefore, it is very troubling, given the nature of the request for the finding of privilege or breach of privilege at that time on the issue of the Afghani detainee issue, that we are back here less than a year later on essentially the same issue.

The Conservative government of the day is claiming cabinet confidence and refusing to divulge information to the finance committee members that is clearly necessary for them to do their job. That is the essence of the privilege request.

I think it is important that we walk through what has happened here.

There were requests at the finance committee for two types of information. This goes back to November 17, 2010. I will quote from the committee minutes at that point and from the report issued by the committee and presented to the House the first week of February.

On November 17, the committee reported that:

The committee also orders that the Government of Canada provide the committee with electronic copies of the following: Five-year projections of total corporate profits before taxes and effective corporate tax rates (2010-11 to 2014-15);

The response from the government, I have to say from discussing this with some of the members of the committee, was a bit surprising. It was an immediate verbal response at that time by members of the committee. I am not even sure that the government leadership was involved in this.

Subsequently, there was a response from the government as follows:

Projections of corporate profits before taxes and effective corporate income tax rates are a Cabinet confidence. As such, we are not in a position to provide these series to the Committee.

That was the first one.

We know that the cost of the government's prime legislation, if I can use that generic term, has been an ongoing debate in the House, in various committees of the House, and in the general public.

Again, it is crucial that we have this information in order to engage in the debate and the discussion around those issues, not only in the House but in the country as a whole.

Therefore, the committee asked the government, in effect, ordered the government, to produce information with regard to a series of crime bills. That is set out in the report from the finance committee.

The attempt on the part of the committee is obviously to make informed decisions on legislation that is before the House and to share that information with other committees. There is a whole series of bills that the committee set out in the order for information.

I will not quote all of the bills because it is in the report, but I will quote the information that members on the finance committee wanted with regard to those pieces of legislation before the House or those which have already been passed. They wanted to know:

--the incremental cost estimates broken down by Capital, Operations & Maintenance and Other categories;

For a government that touts its fiscal prudence, it is interesting to note that it is unwilling to give that information to other members of the House in order for them to make decisions based on facts and good economic planning. Economic planning or public policy cannot be done without the facts. They wanted the costs.

The committee wanted to know:

--the baseline departmental funding requirement excluding the impacts of the bills and Acts, broken down by Capital, Operations and Maintenance and Other categories;

Members also wanted to know:

--the total departmental Annual Reference Level (ARL), including all quasi-statutory and non-quasi-statutory items, including Capital, Operations and Maintenance and Other categories, including the incremental cost estimates;

Finally, the finance committee asked for:

--detailed cost accounting, analysis and projections, including assumptions, for each of the bills and Acts, conducted in accordance with the Treasury Board Guide to costing.

Finance committee members are asking for information that we know is available because it is required under Treasury Board criteria. We know from past practice that it is available and it has been submitted to ministers. In most cases, these bills would have also been in front of cabinet.

The government's response to that was:

The issue of whether there are any costs associated with the implementation of any of the Government's Justice bills is a matter of Cabinet confidence and, as such, the Government is not in a position to provide such information or documents.

By claiming cabinet confidence, the government absolutely refused to provide the information to the committee.

As I said earlier, the report containing this information is before the House, before you, Mr. Speaker, and is the basis on which the request for finding a breach of privilege was brought before the House.

To digress for a moment, I would like to make this important point. Both of these issues, the estimates of what the savings are going to be to the private sector by the tax cuts and what the projection for profits for those corporations is going to be, are crucial to the country. This may be the defining issue in the next election.

This is not a periphery area that we are trying to get information on. It is essential that we have this information in order for Canadians to understand the issue. At a personal level, it is absolutely crucial for us as members of Parliament to have the information when we are voting on the budget, on monetary bills, and a number of public policy issues.

As justice critic for my party, I have been asking for this information from justice ministers and ministers of public safety for four years, and regularly I get two answers.

First, the cost analysis has not been done, and I have to wonder about the truthfulness of that answer. That may have been accurate earlier on when the government came into power in 2006, but that has not been the case since then. We know that these projection analyses have been done on the capital cost of the crime bills, and on the operation and maintenance costs.

Just last week our critic on public safety had some material leaked to him showing how many more employees were going to be hired by Corrections Canada. The government has that information.

The whole issue of crime legislation has been a centre point for the government. It has been a centre point for the Conservative Party before it was government. However, when we try to ascertain the facts as to what this will cost, how many additional prisoners we will have in custody, we are denied that information.

Again, this is not a peripheral issue here. It is a very basic one that is very much in public debate not only in the House but across the country. That debate has been both in this House and in committee. It has been narrowed down to a very narrow scope because we cannot get access to this information.

With regard to its history, as I have previously stated, we have had the refusal from the government. Of course, it is not the first time it has done this, as I have said earlier, because of your ruling. It is just vitally important that it is not allowed to get away with it.

Last night, as I was preparing some notes on this, I was thinking about how important information and knowledge is. We hear the cliché that knowledge is power. That is really what this is about. It is a very fundamental part of our democracy and, in particular, of the parliamentary system. We can go back hundreds of years and I will be making some reference to that.

Historically, over centuries, the theory and principle of the divine right of kings was undermined once people realized that because one was born to a certain family, it did not give that person divine powers to govern better than a person who was born a peasant. This allowed democracy to flourish.

Also, throughout the Renaissance period in particular, if we look at advancements such as the development of printing and the ability to communicate information and knowledge, we see a huge increase in the rate at which democracy came to the fore.

Governments, particularly in Europe but also true in other areas of the world, restrained the development and sharing of scientific fact and information as they feared it would undermine their control.

As a species, and I will move into Star Trek fairly soon if I continue on this way, we find ourselves seeking out information because we believe it enhances our lives as well as our lifestyles. For instance, we proved that the Earth was not flat by moving beyond the continent that we were on at the time.

All of that is the basis on which the Westminster system determined that parliamentarians have an absolute right to information.

We as a country developed and so did our democracy. For instance, we instituted the CBC, the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, in an effort to share more information to help unify the country because it allowed us to know and understand more about each other.

We are doing the same thing in this generation with the Internet, which is now also used to share information, as our--

Standing Committee on Finance
Privilege

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Perhaps the hon. member could keep his remarks relevant to the point of order on the question of privilege that was raised. It is interesting to hear about the Westminster model and its impact on Canada. However, the point that we are dealing with is a question regarding these documents and what constitutes a cabinet confidence.

Perhaps the member could be more specific in his comments and deal with this point.

Standing Committee on Finance
Privilege

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think it is relevant that we understand where that came from. I will stop with the examples in that regard but it is fundamental to this democracy in Canada that we have access to these documents.

I will now go to the points you made in your ruling, Mr. Speaker, back on April 27 of last year. I will quote from that decision because when we look at what is going on here, there is absolutely no way that this confidence that is being claimed exists. As I finish, I will be talking specifically about the provisions within the Evidence Act and the Information Act to show even more extensively that this information has to be divulged to the Canadian people as a whole.

However, within the context of Parliament, you ruled at page 19 of the hard copy of that decision of April 27, that:

Before us are issues that question the very foundations upon which our parliamentary system is built. In a system of responsible government, the fundamental right of the House of Commons to hold the government to account for its actions is an indisputable privilege and in fact an obligation.

Embedded in our Constitution, parliamentary law and even in our Standing Orders, it is the source of our parliamentary system for which other processes and principles necessarily flow, and it is why that right is manifested in numerous procedures of the House, from the daily question period to the detailed examination by committees of estimates, to reviews of the accounts of Canada, to debate, amendments, and votes on legislation.

That is very pertinent to the request that was made by the finance committee.

You go on to say:

As I noted on December 10, 2009, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, states at page 136:

By virtue of the Preamble and section 18 of the Constitution Act, 1867, Parliament has the ability to institute its own inquiries, to require the attendance of witnesses and to order the production of documents, rights which are fundamental to its proper functioning. These rights are as old as Parliament itself.

Mr. Speaker, at page 978 to 979, you state:

The Standing Orders do not delimit the power to order the production of papers and records. The result is a broad, absolute power that on the surface appears to be without restriction. There is no limit on the type of papers likely to be requested, the only prerequisite is that the papers exist--in hard copy or electronic format--and that they are located in Canada....

No statute or practice diminishes the fullness of the power rooted in the House privileges unless there is an explicit legal provision to that effect, or unless the House adopts a specific resolution limiting the power. The House has never set a limit on its power to order the production of papers and records.

If I can just digress for a second, that is very pertinent to what is being requested. We know from a number of things that the paper exists. There are some points that we expect the government will say, such as that there are some limits on this, but I will come back to that in a few minutes.

You go on further, Mr. Speaker, by quoting Bourinot's fourth edition at page 70, to state:

The Senate and House of Commons have the right, inherent in them as legislative bodies, to summon and compel the attendance of all persons, within the limits of their jurisdiction, as witnesses, and to order them to bring with them such papers and records as may be required for the purpose of an inquiry.

In the arguments presented, the Chair has heard this power described as unabridged, unconditional, unqualified, absolute and, furthermore, one which is limited only by the discretion of the House itself. However, this view is not shared by all and so it is a privilege whose limits have now been called into question.

Again, you were referring to the position that the government took at that point, under a national security argument, that we were not entitled to the documents that were being sought.

Mr. Speaker, you went on to say:

The government's view is that such an unqualified right does not exist for either House of Parliament or their committees.

That was the position the government took. Again, I just find it very troubling that it is taking that position again now. You went on to say:

The executor, the holder of the sensitive information sought by the House has competing obligations.

That was the argument it was making at that time. I will not go on because that argument had more to do with the issue of national security and that is not being raised in this one.

I want to go on because the claim for confidence that we got was a cabinet confidence as opposed a ministerial claim for confidence. I do not know if the government was trying to make a differentiation there.

Mr. Speaker, you went on in the same decision, to state:

...Bourinot’s Second Edition notes that even in instances where a minister refuses to provide documents that are requested, it is clear that it is still ultimately up to the House to determine whether grounds exist to withhold documents.

It is not in the minister's control and not in the cabinet's control. It is only here in this House that that decision can be made.

Mr. Speaker, you go on to quote Erskine May as an additional authority for that. Again, I want to emphasize the historical nature because it goes way back. There is no basis on which the government can be doing what it is doing at this point.

Mr. Speaker, you quote Erskine May stating:

...underlying the Bill of Rights [1689] is the privilege of both Houses to the exclusive cognizance of their own proceedings. Both Houses retain the right to be sole judge of the lawfulness of their own proceedings, and to settle—or depart from—their own codes of procedure. This is equally the case where the House in question is dealing with a matter which is finally decided by its sole authority, such as an order or resolution, or whether (like a bill) it is the joint concern of both Houses.

That power resides here in this chamber, or in the other House, but not in the hands of a minister or the cabinet, which is really what is being claimed at this point, if the short answer and short denial we got can be understood without any interpretation.

Mr. Speaker, you go on in that to look at other legislatures, Australia in particular, where it had made similar findings as to what you found in that decision.

Mr. Speaker, you ultimately concluded, at page 27 of the hard copy, that:

It is the view of the Chair that accepting an unconditional authority of the executive to censor the information provided to Parliament would in fact jeopardize the very separation of powers that is purported to lie at the heart of our parliamentary system and the independence of its constituent parts. Furthermore, it risks diminishing the inherent privileges of the House and its members, which have been earned and must be safeguarded.

As has been noted earlier, procedural authorities are categorical in repeatedly asserting the powers of the House in ordering the production of documents. No exceptions are made for any category of government documents, even those related to national security.

The government is certainly not claiming that in this case.

You went on, Mr. Speaker, and drew the very definitive conclusion and made the decision that there was no authority to hold back those documents, that provisions had to be made for those to be released if we accepted the government on its face that they were national security documents.

Here we are talking about documents that are of a financial nature, information that is clearly available, as well as the information on the cost of the prisons and those related crime bills.

I also want to note that we have heard from the Liberal Party, both from the member for Kings—Hants and the member for Mississauga South, on this point and the official opposition is taking the same position. We are taking the same position and are asking you to uphold the decision you made last year, in this case.

I have the position taken by the Bloc Québécois in the arguments it made on March 18 of last year before your ruling, Mr. Speaker. Its position was that there was no basis for the government's claim and even less, if you look at that. However, I would draw to your attention the argument that was made at that point. You may want to consider that if the Bloc does not speak to this before you make your ruling.

I have one final point, which moves more into the legal area. There is a provision in the Canada Evidence Act, section 39, that sets out a procedure by which the government must exercise its right to claim cabinet confidence and under what circumstances. Then there is the Access to Information Act that sets out in section 69 where it cannot claim that under some circumstances. I will just deal with the criteria.

Normal procedure is for the Clerk of the Privy Council to certify which documents cabinet confidence can be claimed and where it applies. We do not know if that has been done here. For the two pieces of information we want, we got a bland denial. We do not know if the Clerk of the Privy Council, because we do not have that fact in front of us, has certified some of these documents as being within cabinet confidence.

Under the procedure set out in section of 39 of the Canada Evidence Act, the Clerk of the Privy Council is required to exclude from any claims of cabinet confidence discussion documents. It would be our position, based on the information that we are seeking, that it would fall into the category of discussion documents and, therefore, the confidence does not apply.

However, even if it does apply and the documents can somehow be construed as not being discussion documents, which I find hard to imagine as my mind is not quite that creative, although maybe the government is, subsection 69(1)(3) sets out that a claim of confidence is only applicable until a decision is made. In this case, it is quite clear that the decision around corporate tax breaks was made several years ago in the form of a budget. All of the crime bills have been tabled in the House and some have even passed. On all of that, a decision has been made in both cases.

I want to quote section 69 so it appears in Hansard. Subsection 69(1) sets out the fact that there is a double step. The right to access the rest of the act is all the authority one has, both as individuals and as individual members of this society, and we have to ask for information from the government.

Subsection 69(2) defines who fits into that category where information does not have to be given and the cabinet is part of that. It states:

Definition of “Council”

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), “Council” means the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada, committees of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada, Cabinet and committees of Cabinet.

Right now we have a claim by the government that it is a cabinet confidence. We do not know if any certification has been done under section 39. However, under section 69 of the Access to Information Act, the documents are only excluded if a decision has not been made, which brings us to subsection 69(3), which is an exception. It states:

(a) confidences of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada that have been in existence for more than twenty years;

We are not claiming that. However, then it goes on to say, “discussion papers described in paragraph (1)(b)”, and there is a long description. Clearly the information we have sought, and was sought by the finance committee, would fit into that category.

It goes on to say in subparagraph 69(1)(3)(b)(i), “if the decisions to which the discussion papers relate have been made public”. I go back to my point made earlier. The tax breaks for the corporate world, particularly large corporations, were made in a budget in either 2007 or 2008. Those decisions are public because they have been implemented and the corporate world has been receiving those major tax breaks.

There is a second category that also says, in subparagraph 69(1)(3)(b)(ii), “where the decisions have not been made public, if four years have passed since the decisions were made”. There is no absolute claim to privilege on an ongoing basis. However, the section that is applicable here is subparagraph 69(1)(3)(b)(i,) which states that if the decisions have been made public, that information has to be made available to the public, including to this chamber.

I am setting out that information because I do not know what the government will argue. Up to this point, it has not come before us to make its argument. If the government tries to shelter under section 39 of the Canada Evidence Act and under section 69 of the information and privacy act, it does not hold water. There is just no basis for that.

In summary, what are we faced with? We are faced with a government that is clearly attempting to thwart the work of us as individual members of Parliament. It is again a significant underpinning for our democracy that members of Parliament have information of that nature, not only for the purposes of our role in this chamber and in committee, but in the general public so we can share that information with the general public. It is very much striking at the heart of our democracy.

I have cited the authority, as well as your ruling, Mr. Speaker, under the rules of the House, the practice that has grown up literally for more than 300 years. I have also cited the legislative authority with regard to cabinet confidentiality.

I would argue, Mr. Speaker, that it is absolutely imperative that you rule in favour of the request for finding a breach of privilege by the member for Kings—Hants. The message did not get through to the government 11 months ago. It is repeating the same misbehaviour, so it is absolutely crucial that the message go very clearly to the government that it is not allowed to take these kinds of undemocratic steps to thwart the work of individual members of Parliament and to thwart information getting out to the general public.

Standing Committee on Finance
Privilege

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am saddened today to feel the obligation to rise to address comments with regard to the question of privilege raised by the member for Kings—Hants on February 7.

It is like the movie Groundhog Day. Anyone is familiar with that movie knows it was very successful. American actor Bill Murray relives the day over and over again until he learns his lesson.

It appears the government is reliving the same thing and forcing all other members of the House of Commons and Canadians to relive the same days we experienced back in 2009-10 with regard to a request from the special committee on Afghanistan for the production of documents from the government. The government resisted that. It took a question of privilege to be raised in the House. It took comments from many members of the House. It took considerable reflection and study on your part, Mr. Speaker, before you made a ruling that there was a prima facie case of privilege in that regard.

Yet, again, we are faced with the exact same situation today.

If I look at the timeline, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance tabled its 10th report on Monday, February 7. The member for Kings—Hants, pursuant to that report, raised the question of privilege of which we are now all aware.

I want to concur with the arguments raised by my colleague for Kings—Hants, as well as those raised by my colleagues from Mississauga South and Windsor—Tecumseh on the issue.

However, I wish to note a number of points. I also wish to address, in particular, the issues of cabinet confidence and the requests with regard to all the justice bills. It is important to do so, particularly with the time of events and the government's response to date to the committee's requests for the production of documents. We have not yet heard the government's response in the House with regard to the question of privilege.

On November 17, 2010, the Standing Committee on Finance passed a motion, ordering the Government of Canada to provide the committee with five-year projections of total corporate profits before taxes and effective corporate tax rates from the 2010-11 fiscal year until the 2014-15 fiscal year, inclusive. The November 17 motion also ordered the government to provide the committee with certain financial information pertaining to justice bills, which I will enumerate.

As all members in the House know, I am the justice critic for the official opposition. Therefore, all the information, all the documents requested through the motion of the finance committee have direct pertinence to the committee on justice and human rights. Those justice bills were Bill C-4, the youth criminal justice bill, Bill C-5, Bill C-16, Bill C-17, Bill C-21, Bill C-22, Bill C-23A, Bill C-23B, Bill C-39, Bill C-48, Bill C-50, Bill C-51, Bill C-52, Bill S-2, Bill S-6, Bill S-7, Bill S-9 and Bill S-10.

The motion specifically requested:

—detailed cost accounting, analysis and projections, including assumptions, for each of the bills and Acts, conducted in accordance with the Treasury Board Guide to Costing.

Members are now aware, by the issue of privilege raised by the member for Kings—Hants, that the motion established a deadline of seven calendar days, which ended on November 24, 2010.

On November 24, Finance Canada replied to the committee, and I will read the department's response in its entirety because it is quite important, particularly to any Canadian and any member sitting in the House who takes his or her work as an elected official representing Canadians, a sacred duty in fact, to know the response. It said:

Projections of corporate profits before taxes and effective corporate income tax rates are a Cabinet confidence. As such, we are not in a position to provide these series to the Committee.

The department claimed it was not in a position to provide these documents to the committee because, according to the government, these documents were a cabinet confidence. That is the heart of the matter. Do the documents requested constitute a cabinet confidence and, if so, are they excluded from the rule of the House of Commons, the power and authority of Parliament, to require documents to be provided?

As the House knows, because it has been mentioned by others in the House who have commented on the issue of privilege raised by the member for Kings—Hants, the government has yet to speak to this issue. I understand that one of the parliamentary secretaries has said the government is taking note of all of members' comments in the House, relating to the issue of privilege, and will respond in due course.

On December 1, 2010, one full week after the deadline of November 24, 2010, the committee received a reply from Justice Canada regarding projected costs of the justice bills. I will read the response by Justice Canada in its entirety. It said:

The issue of whether there are any costs associated with the implementation of any of the Government's Justice bills is a matter of Cabinet confidence and, as such, the Government is not in a position to provide such information or documents.

That is interesting because in justice committee, of which I am a member, when we have repeatedly asked the minister for the cost analysis of a government bill before the committee, the minister has never stated that he could not give us that information because it is a matter of confidence. I would challenge members to check the transcripts of justice committee. What I did hear was he did not have the information with him or some befuddled answer that did not answer the question.

On December 7, 2010, after the government had refused to provide the information ordered by finance committee by the established deadline, the member for Kings—Hants provided the committee with written notice of a motion by which, if passed, the committee would draw the attention of the House to what appeared to be a breach of its privileges. That has been done. The committee adopted the motion and the member for Kings—Hants rose in the House to speak to the issue.

On December 10, the committee received an additional response from the Department of Finance Canada in answer to its motion ordering the production of documents relating to the projections regarding corporate taxes before profits.

In response, the department stated:

To the best of its knowledge, the Department of Finance has determined that [the] "series" or projections of corporate profits before taxes or the effective corporate income tax rates have never been previously disclosed. These projections are from a comprehensive economic and fiscal projection that constitutes a Cabinet confidence.

To reiterate, according to the second or additional response of the Department of Finance to the finance committee, the Department of Finance, acting on behalf of the government, claimed that these projections have never been previously disclosed and constitute a cabinet confidence.

As pointed out in this chamber before, but which bears repetition, I would suggest to any Canadian to Google the phrase, “Corporate tax profits before taxes”, and restrict their search to the domain of the Department of Finance Canada. That Canadian would get exactly two results: the HTML and PDF versions of “The Economic and Fiscal Update“ from November 2005. In that update, we find precisely the information that the Department of Justice, in its December 10 additional response to the finance committee, claimed had never previously been disclosed because it constituted a cabinet confidence. In fact, it was disclosed in the November 2005 economic and fiscal update that was issued by the previous government comprised of the Liberal Party of Canada's elected members of Parliament.

Therefore, the assertion on the part of the government, through its Department of Finance, justifying its refusal to obey, respect and act on the order of the finance committee to produce the documents is an outright fabrication.

The government department could have said that in the past the information had been released, but that the policy had been changed with a new interpretation of what constituted a cabinet confidence and, as a result, would not be releasing those documents to the finance committee. However, that was not the reason given by the department, by the government, for refusing to release that information. The reason given to the committee for not providing that information, that it is a cabinet confidence, is pure nonsense.

What is the state of legislation regarding cabinet confidence?

As mentioned, one can look to the Access to Information Act and the law of evidence act, and one will find that the government does not have a leg to stand on, and in fact does not have two legs to stand on.

Any reasonable Canadian reading the pertinent sections of the Access to Information Act and the law of evidence act would see that the two responses given by the Department of Finance and the response given by the Department of Justice are nonsense.

As I said, we know that in 2005 the previous government recognized that projections of corporate tax profits before taxes were not covered by cabinet confidence. Such projections are not considered a cabinet confidence when, as is the case with Finance Canada's revenue model, these projections are used by the department in a manner not exclusively related to cabinet operations.

What has changed between 2005 and 2010-11? On what grounds is the government now claiming that these projections constitute a cabinet confidence when there was no such assertion in the past and governments in the past have in fact provided and disclosed that information?

The costs of the justice bills are also important because the Department of Justice, as well, replied to the finance committee by claiming cabinet confidence as a justification for not releasing that information to the finance committee.

We know that due diligence would have required that cabinet consider the cost implications of each justice bill before making a decision to proceed with each bill. We know that under normal practices, an analysis of the cost implications of each justice bill would have been included with the memorandum to cabinet prepared for each justice bill.

Why do we know this? We know it because the Liberal Party of Canada has formed government in the past. We know that when we came power the government that preceded us, the one formed by the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, had done that as well. So these are normal practices. These are practices of a prudent, diligent and competent government.

No diligent, prudent and competent government would consider an issue, whether amendments, or a justice bill bringing in new legislation to the Criminal Code or amending existing sections of the Criminal Code, because that constitutes government policy, would do so without informing itself of the cost of those changes.

That is what previous governments have done, because those previous governments, whatever their faults, have followed prudent, diligent and competent practices with regard to taking decisions on issues brought before cabinet.

As I said, we know that under normal practices, an analysis of the cost implications of each justice bill would have been included with the memorandum to cabinet prepared for each justice bill.

Now let us look at the legislation that deals with what is, or is not, cabinet confidence and whether or not something that falls into cabinet confidence can be accessible.

If one looks at section 69 of the Access to Information Act, it tells us that such analysis and background information is not, and I repeat, not, a cabinet confidence, if the cabinet decision to which the analysis relates has been made public.

A cost analysis of the implications of a justice bill should have been included, and I believe was included, in the memorandum to cabinet, as it is on each and every justice bill.

Standing Committee on Finance
Privilege

10:55 a.m.

An hon. member

So it is a cabinet document.

Standing Committee on Finance
Privilege

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

A memorandum to cabinet is a cabinet document. It is part of one. However, under the Access to Information Act, section 69 stipulates that once the decision to which those discussion documents relate is made public, those discussion documents are no longer cabinet confidences and can and should and must be released publicly when so requested.

Once the proposed justice bill that cabinet is considering and the Minister of Justice is proposing to government through cabinet to adopt as its official policy, to be brought forth in public through tabling in the House, and once cabinet approves the bill and the minister or a representative of the government rises in the House to table the bill and to move first reading, this cabinet decision will have been made public. Therefore, the discussion documents relating to the issue will no longer be cabinet confidences. That is the point.

If one looks at the Ethyl case, the federal court has been clear that this analysis and background information can be severed from a protected document and be disclosed. When legislation goes to cabinet for a decision before it is introduced in Parliament, those discussion documents are privileged.

The very act of introducing government legislation in Parliament is a public declaration of cabinet's decision to support the legislation and to inform the public through Parliament that this is the government's decision. At that point, those discussion documents are no longer covered by privilege and, therefore, when the Standing Committee on Finance adopted the motion ordering government to release the cost analysis of each and every justice bill, those bills had been introduced in the House and therefore were now public. The cabinet's decision was now public and the discussion papers, which included cost analysis, were no longer covered by cabinet privilege and no longer a cabinet confidence.

We already know through O'Brien and Bosc at page 137 that:

It is well established that Parliament has the right to order any and all documents to be laid before it which it believes are necessary for its information. …The power to call for persons, papers and records is absolute, but it is seldom exercised without consideration of the public interest.

Should the government argue that notwithstanding the fact that, one, its first argument for refusing to provide these documents relating specifically to the justice bills is a matter of cabinet confidence failed--

Standing Committee on Finance
Privilege

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am afraid the hon. member will have to resume her remarks another time. It being 11 o'clock, we will not proceed with statements by members.

Africa
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, on January 28, I had the opportunity to attend the 16th African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. My trip was to reaffirm our government's engagement with Africa.

I had many productive meetings with my counterparts at the summit. We discussed many issues that were of interest to both Canada and Africa, such as the Sudan referendum, the situation in the Ivory Coast, and issues regarding the International Criminal Court and the UN Security Council reforms.

I also had a bilateral meeting with my Ethiopian counterpart and saw firsthand the many development projects that Canada, through CIDA, was engaged in. While there, I announced Canada's contribution of $18 million to the agricultural growth program in Ethiopia.

Our government views Africa as a partner on the international scene, a historical relationship that this government will continue to strengthen.

Mount Pearl Frosty Festival
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the Frosty Festival in Mount Pearl is not just one of the best winter carnivals in this country, it is also a prime example of the tremendous work being done by volunteers in the community.

This year is the 29th annual Frosty Festival, an outstanding fun-filled event that exudes the strong community spirit and pride of the people of the great city of Mount Pearl.

The talent and entertainment is incredible and the fun and friendship bring warmth during the winter. The adults and children who participate create memories and friendships that will last forever.

This year's schedule features over 50 separate events. There are visits to seniors homes, a costume skating party, a tailgate party, a film festival, hockey games, dinner theatre and Mount Pearl Idol. There truly is something for everyone at this year's Frosty Festival.

I ask members of the House to join with me in thanking chairperson Andrew Ledwell, his entire board of directors, the many volunteers and sponsors for their dedication and contribution to the Frosty Festival. They make Mount Pearl a great city.

Shipping Radioactive Waste
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois is formally opposed to the issuing of a permit to Bruce Power Inc. to ship radioactive waste. The company plans on shipping over 1,600 tonnes of radioactive steel to Sweden via the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway.

The millions of Quebeckers who get their drinking water from the St. Lawrence and the communities along the seaway, including many in my riding of Verchères—Les Patriotes, have valid concerns.

As with the Trailbreaker project, which would reverse the flow of the oil pipeline between Montreal and Portland, Quebeckers are being asked to take on all the risks without getting anything out of the project.

By issuing this permit to Bruce Power, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has created a dangerous precedent in maritime transportation. The government must overturn this decision. Ontario made its energy choices, and it must take full responsibility for them.

Screening of Workers
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that people wanting to work with Canada's most vulnerable populations must be thoroughly screened. None of us would entrust the care of our children or failing parents to anyone whose background had not been thoroughly checked.

That is why vulnerable sector screening is now required for teachers, social workers, taxi drivers, daycare workers, sport coaches, and many more.

However, instead of supporting these people who are providing a valuable service to our community, the screening process is so under-resourced that all too many are losing their jobs and losing their interest in becoming volunteers.

In my office alone, I heard about someone who lost his job at a nursing home because his VS check took too long to meet the employer's needs. In another case, the provision of residential care for autistic children is on hold because of delays in processing. For some volunteers, the 120 days it now takes to get a reply means that the sports season is over before he or she is cleared to coach.

That is simply unacceptable. This is not rocket science. The backlog is due to a lack of resources. If the government is going to implement a new policy, it must provide the means to carry it out effectively. Canada's most vulnerable deserve nothing less.

James Pelehos
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, on January 1, 2011 Alberta lost one of its sports icons. Jim Pelehos, a local sports hero in Wetaskiwin, passed away at the age of 90 at his daughter's home.

Before living in Wetaskiwin, Jim was involved with the Saskatoon Elk's hockey club, the Humboldt Indians Junior hockey club, the New Westminster Royals hockey club, the Vancouver Minor Lacrosse Association, the New Westminster O'Keefe lacrosse club, the Edmonton Oil Kings hockey club and the Edmonton Oilers hockey team.

In 1992, Jim became involved with the Wetaskiwin Icemen Junior “B” hockey club, which he founded. He served on its board of directors for 18 years.

In 1986, Jim was named Wetaskiwin's Citizen of the Year. His outstanding contributions to the Icemen Junior “B” hockey club were recognized when he was awarded the president's award in 2000 and again in 2003. Jim was also a two-time recipient of the certificate of appreciation for his contributions to the community lottery board grant program.

I want to take a moment and honour the passing of Jim Pelehos, a great Albertan, a great man. He will be dearly missed by his friends, family and all who knew him.

Canada Winter Games
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, Halifax-Dartmouth is abuzz as the Canada Games kick off today. Athletes from across Canada gather in Nova Scotia to compete in 25 sports, to explore our beautiful province and to meet other young athletes and make lifelong friends. These will be fantastic games celebrating our best young athletes, but also celebrating Canada and featuring local culture and talent.

Congratulations to the organizers who have done a fabulous job preparing for these games. J.P. Deveau, a great Dartmouth boy, has worked tirelessly as chair of the board; and Chuck Bridges, vice-chair, and Chris Morrisey, the CEO, and their teams have ensured that these games will be fantastic now and will leave a great legacy for our community. A year ago, Canada was celebrating the Olympics, culminating in Nova Scotian Sidney Crosby's golden goal. Now we gather in Nova Scotia to cheer on our future Olympians.

Halifax is the place to be for the next two weeks. We will see people at the venues, at the oval, at Celebration Square and on the streets. Book tickets, get to the games. It is going to be rocking all the way through in Halifax for the Canada Games.

Fort Severn First Nation
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge Fort Severn First Nation from the great Kenora riding.

For six years, Fort Severn First Nation has worked in collaboration with the Keewaytinook Okimakanak Research Institute and faculty members from Lakehead University. It led an ongoing research project on the preservation of polar bears and our cohabitation with them, as both have shared the land together on the shores of Hudson's Bay since time immemorial.

Two years ago, Fort Severn's work was recognized by then Minister of the Environment, Jim Prentice, and took its rightful place at the Polar Bear Forum in Winnipeg to present its key findings. In January, Chief Matthew Kakekaspan of Fort Severn was invited to speak at the Polar Worlds International Conference in Paris, France.

I ask my colleagues to join me in congratulating Fort Severn First Nation on this great achievement and recognition of Cree knowledge by the international community for its valuable research. It is just another example of what is so great about the great Kenora riding.

Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Day
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Day. Every day, women and men of all ages contract sexually transmitted diseases because of lack of education and, above all, insufficient resources, programs and services.

In Canada, we need only think about our aboriginal sisters. According to the Canadian Women’s Health Network, aboriginal women account for approximately 50% of all HIV-positive test reports among aboriginal people, compared with only 16% of their non-aboriginal counterparts.

Unfortunately, the Conservative government has offered very few concrete solutions to improve this situation. Its failure to act is not overly surprising, though, given that this is the same government that, for ideological reasons, refused to subsidize abortion services under the G8 maternal and child health plan. Thousands of women's lives would have been saved.

Canada Winter Games
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Kerr West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, this evening the Prime Minister will join many other Canadians in the city of Halifax and the wonderful province of Nova Scotia in celebrating the opening ceremonies of the Canada Winter Games.

One year ago, the curtain rose on the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Over the coming days, our next generation of world-class athletes will be competing in my home province.

The Olympics spread excitement and pride right across our country. From coast to coast to coast, Canadians allowed themselves to be inspired by our athletes, whose commitment, determination and spirit demonstrated that the pursuit of excellence is in fact a very Canadian trait.

I look forward to the next generation of Canadian athletes who will be pursuing excellence at the Canada Winter Games and some day will be wearing our nation's colours at other major sporting events. Congratulations to the organizers and the volunteers, and best of luck to all athletes at the games.

Child Soldiers
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in recognition that tomorrow, February 12, is International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers or Red Hand Day. This day serves to commemorate those children who have been coerced into the conflict of war, and it is a global peace initiative.

On February 12, 2002, the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict came into force as an addition to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. By failing to recognize the horrific plight of child soldiers, such as in the case of Omar Khadr, the government has failed to live up to Canada's international obligations.

Liberal Senator Roméo Dallaire has worked tirelessly to stop the abuse of children as soldiers. He says that Khadr's situation is, “--dead against the [Geneva] Conventions we have agreed to.... We’ve been tested with one of our own, and we have failed flagrantly--”.

The government should listen to the message of this day, it should hear the cries of children used by adults in war, and should lead the world in protecting the young. Even one child soldier is too many.

Taxation
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals recently unveiled their plan to hike taxes and kill jobs. The Liberal leader calls himself a proud “tax and spend” Liberal. Now the Liberals are shockingly trying to convince Canadians that small businesses actually want to pay higher taxes. Of course they are wrong, as they so often are.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is against Liberal tax hikes. In fact, the head of the CFIB had this to say: “I'd just like to clarify that the corporate income tax reductions are not exclusively a big business issue...our very competitive corporate tax climate...has already brought investment to Canada and naturally that's a win for everyone--all business and also for the creation of employment”.

The Liberal tax plan is worrying more and more Canadian businesses. It is clear that Liberal tax hikes will kill jobs, will hurt the economy, is bad for business and bad for families. Why will the Liberals not join with me and the member for Surrey North and protect small businesses?

Protection of Workers
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address a very serious issue in Thunder Bay—Superior North and across Canada.

Recently, hundreds of forestry sector workers in northwestern Ontario lost their severance and termination pay, which they had earned through many years of hard work. Many are out tens of thousands of dollars because bankrupted companies are not held accountable to ensure that pensions, severances or back wages are protected. We have even seen companies or parent companies raid their workers' pay for their assets. Many people have lost their homes, small businesses, marriages and some have even lost their lives to suicide.

There is legislation before the House that will start to fix these wrongs. I seconded Bill C-501, introduced by the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River, after seeing the damage done to communities when owners and bankers come before workers. We must protect workers and their families and pass Bill C-501.

The Economy
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government's top priority is the economy in all regions of Canada and Quebec. Unlike the Bloc Québécois, our government does not want to embark on a costly election campaign when we know that the economic recovery remains fragile. It is not surprising that the Bloc Québécois and its leader are making unreasonable demands for the next budget.

This is nothing more than an attempt to trigger an unnecessary election that no one wants. The Conservative government is listening to Quebeckers in the regions. Canada's economic action plan was developed in consultation with Quebeckers and Canadians from all regions. That plan is what enabled Canada to come out of the global recession. Unfortunately, the Bloc Québécois voted against that plan, just as it always votes against the initiatives that are good for our regions.

Fortunately, Ottawa has a Conservative government that defends the real interests of Quebeckers in all regions of Quebec.

Child Soldiers
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, February 12 is International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers. There are an estimated 300,000 child soldiers around the world. One-third are young girls whom militias have kidnapped to use as maids, cooks and sex slaves, but also as killers. A taboo subject, these girls have a hard time reintegrating into their community when they are released.

The signatories to the optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including Canada, are called on to treat soldiers under the age of 18 as victims and to ensure their full social reintegration and their full physical and psychological recovery.

Omar Khadr was a child solider who was enlisted by his father and arrested in Afghanistan at age 15 and who has been held in the U.S. prison in Guantanamo ever since. Canada has completely abandoned Mr. Khadr and trampled on his rights, creating a dangerous precedent according to UNICEF.

This Conservative government encourages other countries to reintegrate their child soldiers; perhaps it should clean its own house first.

Canada Games
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party is proud to support all Canadian athletes. In the next two weeks, thousands of young athletes from across Canada will be competing in the hope of reaching the podium at the Canada Games.

As the largest multi-sport competition in Canada for young athletes, these games represent an important step on the road to becoming future Canadian Olympic champions. These talented athletes, who have dedicated themselves to their sport for years, are role models for all young Canadians and an inspiration to everyone.

They certainly deserve our support. However, the Conservatives have frozen the athletes assistance program fund for top competitors at 2004 levels. That means these young people are less and less able to manage the costs of training and competition. They have asked the government to close this growing support gap, to no avail.

Canadian athletes are struggling while large profitable corporations are getting yet another tax holiday. Please give our future champions a break.

Hockey Day in Canada
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the community of Oakville will be celebrating Hockey Day in Canada.

The annual CBC special broadcast has chosen to feature the arena in Oakville as one of its remote locations when it celebrates Hockey Day in Canada this weekend.

Scotiabank will be working with the Oakville Hornets Girls Hockey Association to create a Scotiabank girls hockeyfest. The girls will have an opportunity learn from female Olympians on and off the ice throughout the day.

The footage of the festivities in Oakville tomorrow will be highlighted as we celebrate this nation's winter sport. This year Hockey Day in Canada's main event will be held in Whitehorse.

I would like to wish the communities of Oakville, Whitehorse, and all others taking part the best as they prepare for this special event.

Government Spending
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are fed up with supporting the Conservatives, who are borrowing $6 billion to offer tax breaks that do not benefit 95% of our businesses, and at the same time, making cuts to the arts, culture and assistance for newcomers, to name just a few areas.

Canadians are fed up with the Conservatives, who want to build megaprisons but refuse to say how much that will cost.

Do the Conservatives understand that Canadians do not share their priorities?

Government Spending
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, here is what we do understand.

We understand that the Canadian economy has created 460,000 net new jobs. We understand that a lot of Canadians are still looking for work and we must remain focused on job creation in the economy. We believe that a competitive environment for Canadian business will be very important to that job creation.

We are making Canada a magnet for jobs, for investment, and for opportunity. That is why Catherine Swift, the president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, supports our economic plan on taxes.

Government Spending
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are looking at a $56 billion deficit, yet Conservatives want to borrow another $6 billion just to give Canada's wealthiest corporations a tax break they obviously do not need because tax rates are already low.

Meanwhile, small businesses, those who employ more than half of all Canadians, get hammered with higher payroll taxes. Not a single child care space gets created and Canadians caring for ailing loved ones are told to go it alone.

Can the Conservatives not see that Canadians are fed up with their misguided priorities?

Government Spending
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, these tax policies have already been legislated by this Parliament. Who supported those tax policies? The Liberal Party of Canada.

Let me be very clear. We are going to do everything we can to create jobs, hope and opportunity. That is why a competitive tax structure is so important.

Something is going on in Canada that is simply not happening in other parts of the world. That is why Canada is creating so many jobs, but the work is not done. We must remain focused. The very best social program for Canadians is full-time employment. That is why we are staying focused.

Government Spending
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, we know that the government would rather spend our money on prisons and punishment instead of on policing and prevention, on an irresponsible purchase of jets to please the Pentagon and on tax breaks for large corporations, while they raise taxes for SMEs.

When will this government understand that Canadians need us to invest in them and that good social policy is at the heart of good economic policy?

Government Spending
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the member for Papineau talks about justice policy. Our government believes that dangerous offenders should be locked behind bars. People who sexually abuse children and who do serious crime should face serious time.

We strongly believe that community safety is an important priority for this country. For far too long, lax policies brought in by the previous Liberal government have not ensured that our communities are safe. We are putting victims first and we make no apologies for that.

Government Spending
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are facing stark choices. It is the government's deep deficits and increasing debt that are forcing those choices.

We care about families. The Conservatives prefer fighter jets.

We prefer to be tough on the causes of crime. The Conservatives prefer to spend billions on U.S.-style megaprisons.

We prefer to see Canadians retire with dignity. The Conservatives prefer to give billions to a mere 5%, the wealthiest, the biggest companies.

What do the Conservatives not get about what Canadian families really need?

Government Spending
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, what we get is that Canadian families need to have mom and dad working. They need to have health care. They need to have important quality services. That is why this government made a really stark decision.

Back in the last recession, the Liberal Party eviscerated public health care in this country. It cut back health care by $25 billion. I know that because the Liberal member for Toronto Centre was the biggest critic of that Liberal government when it cut health care.

That is why we are putting more money in the hands of provinces, so they can hire more nurses, doctors, and deliver better health care for Canadians.

Government Spending
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are breaking the law to protect their own law and order agenda. What irony.

They have seen the facts. They have seen the projections for their crime legislation, but they will not let anyone else see them, even though the law says they should. The same thing for corporate tax projections.

Excuse us if we have gone a little past accepting, “Just trust us”.

Why do the Conservatives not just come clean and admit that they cannot afford their own reckless agenda?

Government Spending
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, can we afford to let down victims of crime? The answer is an unequivocal no.

Just before question period, the Liberal Party was working to obstruct criminal justice legislation that would help Canadian victims.

Let me give members an example. A while-collar fraudster can steal the retirement benefits of literally thousands of Canadians and be eligible for parole after only one-sixth of his or her sentence.

The Liberal Party wants to stand behind these white-collar fraudsters. I can tell members this government, this party, will never do that. We are fighting hard for victims and we make no apologies.

Gateways and Border Crossings
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, while the Conservatives are determined to use the St. Lawrence as a highway to ship nuclear waste from Ontario and the United States, they are investing heavily in the Pacific gateway.

Instead of threatening the environment and the economic development of the St. Lawrence and its banks, why does the Conservative government not give Quebec its fair share of the gateways and border crossings fund?

Gateways and Border Crossings
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Louis-Saint-Laurent
Québec

Conservative

Josée Verner Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak to the premise of the member's question.

The decision concerning nuclear waste is based on science from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. The Minister of Natural Resources received a technical briefing about the safety of people and the environment, which he found to be reassuring. He also instructed the commission to give technical briefings to anyone who wanted reassurance about the decision that has been made.

Climate Change Adaptation
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, if the Conservatives were listening to Quebec rather than threatening the St. Lawrence shoreline, then they would create a climate change adaptation fund to fight shoreline erosion, among other things. They would also help the victims of the high tides that occurred in the Lower St. Lawrence and Gaspé regions in December.

Are the Conservatives going to abandon their plans to make the St. Lawrence a highway for nuclear waste and invest in the priorities of Quebeckers and Quebec's regions?

Climate Change Adaptation
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Louis-Saint-Laurent
Québec

Conservative

Josée Verner Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, our government's objective is to protect our citizens and the environment. The Minister of Natural Resources was very clear yesterday. He received a technical briefing that reassured him regarding the decision that was made. He has offered all stakeholders the opportunity to attend a technical briefing session about the decision.

Quebec City Arena
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives repeat ad nauseam that it takes Conservative MPs to move matters forward in Ottawa.

In the case of the multi-purpose arena, they even donned hockey jerseys to make us believe that the Conservative government would fund Mayor Labeaume's project. However, when the time comes to foot part of the bill and return part of our taxes, it is all hot air.

Will the federal government finally undertake to do its fair share?

Quebec City Arena
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Louis-Saint-Laurent
Québec

Conservative

Josée Verner Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the government has not changed its position on the sports arena. We have asked for all the information, including information about private sector investments. As for the Quebec members of the Conservative caucus who wore Nordiques jerseys, I would like to say this to the member for Québec: we represent citizens who wanted to show that they care about the Nordiques, and the caucus participated in the blue march demonstration with these citizens.

Quebec City Arena
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, the multi-purpose arena proposed by Mayor Labeaume is a major engine of economic development for our national capital. It will attract important international events. In addition, it is part of a larger project to revitalize the neighbourhood.

When will the government undertake to do its share to complete the financing for the Quebec City multi-purpose arena? When will it show up with some money?

Quebec City Arena
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Louis-Saint-Laurent
Québec

Conservative

Josée Verner Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I realize that the member for Quebec City is asking for money because her party will never be able to resolve this matter on its own. It will never be able to make any sort of contribution to any promising economic projects for the Quebec City area.

The reality is that we are waiting for all the information required. Mayor Labeaume has promised to send it. We will examine the file when we receive it.

Securities
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canadians were hoping that the Conservatives learned a lesson after the potash affair, but with the takeover of the TSX by the London Stock Exchange, it seems all they have learned is political caution. Three days later, they are still ducking the issue, fiddling, while Bay Street is burning.

When will the Conservatives announce a full public review of the takeover of Canada's biggest capital market?

Securities
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, last week we learned that the Bloc Québécois wanted to work with the government to strengthen criminal legislation. I thought that was remarkable. Now we are getting questions about capital markets and capitalism from the New Democratic Party. It appears that the New Democratic Party is now standing up for big banks on Bay Street. That is quite interesting.

Here is what we will do. We will follow the existing legislation that the government is mandated to do. If it requires a review, the Minister of Industry will conduct one. The one thing members can count on with the Minister of Industry is that he will do the right thing for Canada.

Securities
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not think Canadians can count on anything. Apart from losing a key institution in the Canadian economy, a serious prospect in itself, there are some 300,000 jobs at stake: traders, financial analysts, consultants and yes, even Bay Street lawyers.

Why the complacency? Canadians are expressing concern over our future ability to control our own markets. When will the Conservatives take responsibility and stand up for the Canadian economy?

Securities
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this government stands up for the Canadian economy each and every day, but will follow the law accordingly. The Minister of Industry will always stand up and do the right thing for Canada.

I wish the New Democratic Party would join us in bringing the economy into an even more competitive shape by cutting taxes, cutting regulations and making Canada a magnet for jobs, investment, and opportunity. We need the NDP aboard. Let us hope it will do the right thing on the budget.

Securities
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting that the minister does not want to answer the question. We all know it was not the government that did the right thing on potash. It was the Canadian public that pushed the Prime Minister to drop his blind support for that hostile foreign takeover. The Canadian public also wants a say on this takeover.

When will the government commit to a full review and public hearings so Canadians could hear the full implications of this deal? Why will the government not let Canadians have their say? What is the problem with that?

Securities
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, we will follow the letter of the law that requires the Minister of Industry, with certain financial transactions, to conduct a review. We have said in the past that we believe the act needs modernizing so it can be more transparent. The Minister of Industry can be counted upon to do the right thing. He did the right thing on potash and he will do what is required on this important issue.

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are trying to hide the real cost of their prison policies, but now the cat is out of the bag. At yesterday's Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates meeting, the Commissioner of Correctional Service Canada, Mr. Head, said that at least 4,000 new prison guards would have to be hired in the next two years. In payroll alone, we are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars.

How many billions will the whole policy cost?

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, the one thing we know for sure is that there is a cost to victims. The members on the other side have always ignored that fact. The minister and others have appeared. As this evolves, the opposite side should be well aware that this side stands on the side of victims.

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, then why did they make cuts to victim support programs? It is a matter of choice. The Conservatives would rather build megaprisons than improve support for family caregivers. The Conservatives would rather hire prison guards than give small businesses real tax support, even though small businesses provide over half of all jobs to Canadians.

Those are the Conservatives' choices, but will there be anything left to help family caregivers or support our small businesses?

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, as the House leader mentioned earlier this morning, we want to help victims. The Bloc members have agreed with us. People who have taken money from seniors across the country and have been sentenced to prison will be released after serving one-sixth of their time. I wish the opposite side would look at that cost and work with us.

Government Appointments
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Public Safety once sniffed that “the evidence is overwhelming that politics plays a significant consideration in judicial appointments”. He must have been talking about his own Conservative Party.

One week, Brian Abrams is a Conservative candidate getting ready for the next federal election. He steps down and just weeks later he is appointed as a judge.

The integrity of the appointment system is in question here. Will the government commit to an independent review of just what happened?

Government Appointments
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Mississauga—Erindale
Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, our government is guided by the principles, merits and legal experience in the selection and appointment of judges to Canada's superior and federal courts and will remain vigilant in seeking linguistic competence in both official languages.

The government will continue to select and recommend for appointment women and men of undisputed merit and legal excellence with input from a broad range of stakeholders.

Government Appointments
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, there were others. Lawrence O'Neil, a former Conservative MP, was made a judge in Nova Scotia. Chris Bondy, who has given thousands to the Conservative Party, was made a judge in Windsor. In all, 39 Conservative insiders have been appointed to federal courts since the last election.

Could the government confirm that each and every one of these appointments were endorsed by the judicial advisory committee?

Government Appointments
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Mississauga—Erindale
Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, as the member will know, all judges are appointed with recommendations of the 17 judicial advisory committees across the country. Our government will continue to appoint men and women of undisputed merit and expertise.

Since coming to power, the government has made over 350 judicial appointments. We have move expeditiously to fill all vacancies in the courts with qualified and respected candidates.

Conservative Party of Canada
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday on the show Enquête some disturbing issues were raised. We learned that Faytene Kryskow, the representative of MY Canada, a powerful evangelical group that lobbies members of the Conservative government, has received privileged access to Parliament thanks to an exclusive security card, a sort of VIP pass.

Can the government explain how many of these cards exist, what criteria need to be met before such a card is issued and how Ms. Kryskow managed to get one?

Conservative Party of Canada
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I understand this group, MY Canada, had a reception on the Hill, and there were a few Bloc Québécois members at it.

Conservative Party of Canada
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the piece on Enquête identified a number of MPs, including the member for Winnipeg South and the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, who are members of the religious group MY Canada.

Does the government not find it disturbing that so many fundamentalists gravitate to the Conservative Party to stack the government and impose their religious values?

Conservative Party of Canada
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this government meets with literally thousands of people every year to hear their ideas and suggestions on how we can build a better and stronger Canada.

Just in the last few months, I have had the great privilege to meet with Jewish groups, Sikh groups, Muslim groups, Hindu groups and, I want to say something remarkable, I have even met with a few Christian groups.

Natural Resources
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is meeting the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador today to discuss the underwater cable project. We know that Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are trying to get funding from the Conservative government for electrical transmission lines to get around Quebec and send electricity from Labrador to the United States.

Since Quebec developed its electricity network without federal assistance, will the Prime Minister tell Newfoundland and Labrador in no uncertain terms that Quebeckers' taxes paid to Ottawa will not be used to fund this project?

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

Mr. Speaker, our government has created the Public Private Partnerships Canada to ensure Canada's infrastructure needs can be met in the future.

As the member knows full well, a crown corporation operates at arm's-length from the federal government. It reviews all applications on a merit basis. That is what we have to say about that.

Transport
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Desnoyers Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, Air Canada executives have announced their intention to transform Toronto into a gateway to North America. Meanwhile, no major expansion is planned for Montreal in 2011 and Aveos may move some of its maintenance operations to El Salvador.

Is the government going to ensure that Air Canada respects the spirit of its incorporating legislation in order to prevent the company from ceasing its activity in Montreal?

Transport
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, Air Canada continues to man operational and overall centres in Winnipeg, Montreal and Mississauga.

The application by Air Canada before the Canadian Industrial Relations Board is a private matter between the airline and its labour union. We understand from Air Canada officials that there will be absolutely no job losses if the application is approved.

I appreciate working with the Bloc members on this particular issue, and if they have more questions I would be happy to answer them.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development must apologize to the Métis people of Canada for failing to consult with them on a government effort to standardize Métis registration.

It is an insult that the government signed a sole-source contract with the Canadian Standards Council to help determine Métis registration without consultation and without assessing the registration data and processes of the Métis themselves.

How can the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development explain this grave insult to the Métis of Canada on a matter so integral to their collective future?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Kenora
Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, the member should check her facts.

The minister has indicated that he will not be reviewing the CSC contract. The contract is not to decide who is Métis but to give the government a way to ensure the registration system in the five Métis provinces are satisfactory and respond to the Powley Supreme Court decision. This approach will be developed in collaboration with Métis organizations and provincial governments.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, Sisters in Spirit is a groundbreaking program that has brought together the families of 600 missing and murdered aboriginal women across the country, all victims of crime.

Despite the importance of Sisters in Spirit and the quality and depth of its research, the Conservatives cancelled its funding. Now the government is advising that an unelected senator is the government's spokesperson on this file, not the part-time minister for the Status of Women.

How many more women need to die before this matter becomes a priority for the government?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Mississauga—Erindale
Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, the government is committed to ensuring that all women in Canada, including aboriginal women, are safe and secure, regardless of the community in which they live.

This is a pressing concern that cuts across many different sectors, including the justice system, public safety and policing, gender issues, women's rights and aboriginal affairs.

The Minister for Status of Women recently announcement that the Government of Canada would invest $10 million over two years to improve community safety and to ensure that the justice system and law enforcement agencies can better respond to the cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe all members here to be reasonable people. In your words, then, of yesterday, we must all be “extremely concerned, if not shocked, and might well begin to doubt the integrity of certain decision-making processes” of the government.

We know experts at CIDA were over-ridden with the stroke of a pen, cutting funding to 23 well-established projects supported by the Canadian church body, KAIROS.

We know why this decision was, political, but will the minister come clean and tell us the what, where, when and how of the decision to cut this funding?

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Newmarket—Aurora
Ontario

Conservative

Lois Brown Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, the minister has been quite clear on this matter. The project put forward by KAIROS did not meet the government's priorities.

Unfortunately, we cannot fund every project that comes along. We continue to work with the KAIROS partner organizations, like the United Church of Canada, the Lutheran World Relief and the Mennonite Central Committee, to name but a few.

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary obviously did not see the Globe and Mail this morning.

Reasonable people want a reasonable answer. We know officials from CIDA gave KAIROS the green light. It met all the stated criteria for funding. It is effective and efficient at delivering international aid.

I will reiterate. We know why this cut was made. KAIROS is committed to the things the government cannot abide. Its ministers have confirmed that.

What exactly can it not abide: equality of women, economic development, clean water, democracy building, human rights or peace? Could the government tell us?

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Newmarket—Aurora
Ontario

Conservative

Lois Brown Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, indeed I did see the Globe and Mail this morning.

This government is working to ensure our aid is efficient, effective and focused. We want to ensure our assistance is getting into the hands of real people.

Our new aid effectiveness agenda is focusing assistance on food security, children and youth, and sustainable economic growth. We want to ensure our assistance is getting into the hands of those who need it the most.

Sealing Industry
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, our government is firmly committed to defending the legitimate economic activities of Canadians. The fact remains that the Canadian seal hunt is humane, sustainable and properly regulated.

Could the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans inform the House on the latest steps taken to protect the traditional livelihoods of our Canadian sealers?

Sealing Industry
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Egmont
P.E.I.

Conservative

Gail Shea Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, we believe the EU ban on Canadian seal products is inconsistent with the EU's international trade obligations. That is why today our government formally requested a WTO dispute settlement panel.

Our Conservative government is firmly committed to protecting traditional markets and to opening new markets for Canadian seal products. We will continue to defend Canada's sealing industry and the coastal and northern communities that depend on the seal hunt.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, every time we have called for a public inquiry into the detainee issue, the Conservatives have huffed and puffed that finding the truth is just too expensive. It turns out that hiding the truth is not so cheap either. It cost Canadians $1.6 million for the government to lower a cone of silence on the issue altogether, $1.6 million to keep the public in the dark, $1.6 million to undermine parliamentary supremacy and $1.6 million to cover up torture.

When will the government end this charade and allow transparency and daylight in?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Mississauga—Erindale
Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, we continue to work in good faith with our colleagues on the document review committee. This work is being done in a manner that protects legitimate national security concerns as well as international relations. This process is working well. Under the process agreed to, documents are being made available to committee members.

If NDP members were truly concerned about the fate of Taliban prisoners, they would be a part of that committee and doing their job.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is no there, there. We need a search warrant for the information.

The government wants Canadians to think there is nothing to see here, but recent documents obtained by the NDP show that even ISAF was complaining about the government's handling of detainees, and that is just the tip of the iceberg, After months of secret meetings between Conservatives and Liberals, after wasting $1.6 million, Canadians are nowhere closer to the truth.

The government has broken trust with Canadians. Does it not realize what accountability is all about?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Mississauga—Erindale
Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, while the other opposition parties spent months looking for evidence of mistreatment of Taliban prisoners, the NDP did nothing. If those members were that worried about Taliban prisoners, they should have been there looking at those documents and doing the job that Canadians elected them to do.

Contraband Tobacco
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, moving the border crossing from Akwesasne to Cornwall in June 2009 shifted tobacco smuggling to Quebec. According to the RCMP, cigarette smuggling has increased by 400% since the border crossing was moved. In two weeks, the police in Valleyfield seized 15 tons of tobacco and several vehicles.

Is the federal government going to fulfill its responsibilities and strengthen the police presence along the St. Lawrence in order to put a stop to smuggling?

Contraband Tobacco
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, this government and provincial governments along the border have taken up additional roles. The seizure of contraband and illegally produced cigarettes has gone up. As the member knows, we take this issue very seriously.

We have been working with our American neighbours to patrol the Great Lakes and this has been a factor in cutting down on that.

Contraband Tobacco
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, anti-tobacco organizations are concerned because contraband cigarettes are sold at reduced prices to get people addicted. Contraband is not only an issue of security but also one of public health.

When will this government follow the Bloc Québécois's plan to end the scourge of contraband tobacco?

Contraband Tobacco
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, we are happy to work with everyone to cut down on illegal tobacco entering the country and the illegal manufacture of tobacco in our country. That obviously impacts everyone.

We look forward to working with our colleagues across the floor as we have been with agencies inside and outside of government.

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, just before the start of the new year, Atlantic Canada was battered by storms. Damage was extensive to wharves and breakwaters.

In just one year the Conservatives have no problem finding $600,000 for their backdrops for their photo ops. That money could save our breakwaters. If they are not fixed soon, the sea will wipe away the livelihoods of many in northern Cape Breton.

My question is for the minister. When will the government get its priorities straight and provide the funds to avoid further disasters?

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Egmont
P.E.I.

Conservative

Gail Shea Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, in 2006, and the hon. member knows this well, we inherited from the Liberal Party a massive backlog of needed work at all our small craft harbours. The wharves were rotting and fishers were not getting the facilities they needed to work safely.

That is why, under our economic action plan, we invested $200 million to address this backlog. Work is now under way at over 270 harbours in Canada. We are getting the job done.

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, she is talking about 2006. This storm was in 2010.

I have another question for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. Many wharves in my riding do not fall under the jurisdiction of DFO, but they are vital to the economic importance of these fishing communities. One such wharf in Englishtown requires urgent attention, and she knows it. If it is not fixed this spring, the boats will not be able to dock.

Will the minister commit to helping the people of Englishtown?

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Egmont
P.E.I.

Conservative

Gail Shea Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, departmental staff are inspecting small craft harbours to determine the extent of the damage and to estimate the repair costs.

Members can be assured that public safety is our first priority. We are working to secure all the sites and ensure that the most pressing repairs are undertaken prior to the upcoming fishery season. We will be there for our fishers.

Health
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, according to a new report, 30% of people over the age of 50 who visit private clinics must pay for colonoscopy services. Making people pay for a service that helps prevent cancer is contrary to the Canada Health Act.

The federal government has the responsibility to protect the Canada Health Act. What actions will it take to correct this situation?

Health
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, our government is committed to a universal and public health care system. We support the law of the land, the Canada Health Act. That is why we have increased transfers to provinces and territories by more than 30% since we formed government, so they can continue to meet the health care needs of their residents. We have also invested significant project funding to communities across Canada.

Health
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, each year the federal government receives reports on health service delivery from the provinces. However, the government has repeatedly turned a blind eye to infractions and blatantly missing information.

The federal government does not insist that the provinces comply with recording rules. Vital information is left out, meaning Canadians are left in the dark as to how funds are being spent. The Auditor General has expressed concerns in the past over lack of transparency and accountability.

We know that infractions are occurring. Will the government ensure that provincial reports accurately reflect this and will it enforce the Canada Health Act?

Health
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I repeat that we do support the law of the land, the Canada Health Act. Charging patients for insured health services is not consistent with the Canada Health Act. Provinces and territories are responsible to ensure that the delivery of insured health care services are done in compliance with the act. They have the responsibility to follow up on these accusations. The minister has asked her officials to assess these situations as they come up.

Health
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are becoming concerned about increasing rates of obesity. We have heard about some of the good work our government is doing on the issue, such as the federal-provincial-territorial framework for action to promote healthy weights endorsed by the minister and her provincial-territorial partners.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health inform the House about some of our government's other initiatives to combat obesity and promote healthy living in Canada?

Health
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, our government is concerned about the rising prevalence of overweight and obesity among youth. As the member mentioned, we are taking action.

We recently launched an educational advertisement campaign to deliver health and safety information to Canadian parents. Only yesterday, the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada commended our work, saying that Health Canada and the minister hit the mark with the recently launched children's health and safety campaign.

When it comes to the health and safety of Canadians, this government is getting the job done.

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, despite racking up the largest deficit in Canadian history, the government has done little to help the region of Peel. At Christmastime, I saw, first-hand, my constituents lining up at food banks, while their EI was expiring.

Why did the government increase taxes on every small business in Peel and hurt their efforts to create jobs for the unemployed?

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, what we have done is try to help Canadians through the toughest part of this recession. That is why we have made an effort to ensure they could get back to work. We put on extra staff to ensure EI claims were processed quickly.

Also, to help those less fortunate, we have taken a number of steps. We have increased the working income tax benefit and doubled it. We have also sped up the processing of benefits such as the Canadian pension plan and old age security. We have automated renewal of the guaranteed income supplement. All of these are to help Canadians who are facing tough times.

Agri-Food
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of State for Agriculture is trying to hide his government's incompetence in the “Product of Canada” labelling issue. With its Eat Canadian program, it is stepping on the toes of Aliments du Québec, which has been around for 15 years and is recognized by the people of Quebec.

Does the minister realize, as was stated by Marie Beaudry, the director general of Aliments du Québec, that it is useless to duplicate work and that it makes more sense to make consumers aware of what already exists and avoid adding more labels and logos that could confuse them?

Agri-Food
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government is extremely proud of our product of Canada labelling initiative. Canadians want to know what is in their food. Our initiative with respect to product of Canada labelling tells them that if it says “Product of Canada”, 98% of the product contained within that product is Canadian.

We continue to consult with industry and consumers to ensure these guidelines work. The member should speak to the member for Malpeque, her opposition colleague, who says:

—the...regulations provide consumers with honest information on the contents they purchase and the changes could also increase the consumption of Canadian products.

Canada Border Service Agency
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, the CBSA is creating a centralized office in southern Ontario. Windsor is Canada's largest border gateway. In addition, we are in process of building a new bridge. Therefore, we were not surprised to hear that an independent, impartial study recommended that office be set up in Windsor.

Instead, what has happened is the office is going to the Minister of Justice's riding along with 100 jobs from Windsor.

Will the Conservative government explain to the House, to the Canadian people and to my constituents how that political interference could come to that kind of a decision?

Canada Border Service Agency
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, CBSA announced that merging its administrative services in southern Ontario would be done to increase efficiency and save taxpayer money. Fort Erie, Ontario has been chosen as the location for the new regional headquarters office.

Let us look at the facts. All points of entry will remain and there are no border closures as a result of merging these regions.

I call on the NDP and the opposition coalition to stop caring more about the perpetrators of crime than they do about victims and pass our bill to abolish accelerated parole review.

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canadian exporters are hurting. The global economic recession has cost jobs and in many cases has led to increased protectionism. Canadian businesses are among the most competitive in the world, but they need the government to go toe to toe with foreign governments to open new markets.

Could the Minister of International Trade please tell the House what he is doing to open those doors?

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, as I have said many times, our government's focus is on the economy and creating jobs and opportunities for Canadians. We are doing that through trade, through an ambitious campaign to promote Canadian goods and products and through negotiating free-trade agreements with eight countries and being in negotiations with close to 50 others.

Today there are new statistics that show we are making progress. In December there was a posting of a 10% increase in our merchandise exports. For the first time since February 2010, we are now posting a trade surplus rather than a deficit. This is good news.

However, the economic recovery remains fragile. We must continue our efforts. That is why we are working on things such as our free trade negotiations with the European Union to deliver jobs and prosperity for Canadians.

Government Priorities
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government cut $6 billion in taxes for the richest and largest corporations, while it hiked payroll taxes for every small business in the country. It has cut millennium scholarships for students and has wasted billions of dollars on megaprisons. It has cut off spending on affordable housing, but have billions to spend on fighter jets.

Why is this government ignoring the real needs of families?

Government Priorities
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise for the first time to defend businesses and families across this country.

Just the other day, the Liberal Party claimed to represent the interests of small businesses, misleading the House, indicating that the Canadian Federation of Independent Business supported its plan to increase taxes by $6 billion.

I am going to take this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to ask you to encourage the Liberal Party to apologize to the CFIB today for that misleading comment.

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, for decades the building trades have been lobbying for income tax deductions for travel and accommodation when their members are working away from home. My Bill C-227 would achieve that goal, but frankly, I have told the Minister of Finance that I do not care who gets the credit as long as we get the job done.

Past Liberal governments refused to act and ignored the evidence that this initiative actually saves the government money. The tax cut is cheaper than paying EI for workers who cannot afford to accept jobs in other parts of the country.

I know that the finance minister cannot reveal what is in his budget, but will he assure the building trades that he is working on giving them support?

Taxation
Oral Questions

Noon

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, we look forward to seeing the member's bill.

The Minister of Finance is currently receiving submissions for his next budget. We have had literally hundreds of round tables right across the country. We obviously want to do everything we can to ensure that jobs are created and we are on solid economic footing.

I would appreciate, though, if the member from the NDP would read the budget before she decides to vote against it.

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

Noon

Bloc

Josée Beaudin Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Champlain Bridge is in such a state of disrepair that its entire deck needs to be replaced. According to an engineering report, the patchwork approach announced in the last budget is inadequate because the bridge does not meet earthquake standards and the costs related to extending the life of the bridge are expected to rise quickly.

Can the government tell us what it has planned for the Champlain Bridge? What options are being considered?

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

Noon

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the joint study by the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated and Le ministère des Transports du Québec will be finalized and delivered to the government by the end of February. Conclusions of the study will be made public after an analysis of the results. Everyone can be assured that we are going to act in the best interests of Quebeckers.

My question is, why did the Bloc members vote against every economic action plan investment that this government put in Quebec, every bridge, every new road? They should be ashamed of themselves.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a point of order arising out of question period with regard to the answer I received from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation.

She would be well aware that her predecessor had to issue an apology for having misled the House of Commons. He had to apologize because he stated that the government's priorities had not been met by the application made by KAIROS for funding its 23 projects. He said that he did not know and was not aware that the priorities had actually been met.

We now know that the priorities of the government were stated to CIDA. KAIROS put in an application, they were approved for funding by the officials and now the parliamentary secretary, once again, has indicated that this application did not meet the priorities.

This is the second time that a member on that side of the House has attempted to mislead us by stating that the government was not made aware of the priorities. It was made aware; it is on the record.

A previous parliamentary secretary has been shuffled out and, once again, the House is being misled. I think the House deserves an explanation.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

This is clearly a dispute as to facts. These things happen in the House from time to time, but I do not think it serves as a point of order. I suggest that, if members wish, they can have a debate on the subject, but it will not be now.

Canada Elections Act
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Conservative

Steven Blaney Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-623, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (voting with an uncovered face).

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to introduce today, in both of Canada's official languages, English and French, a bill to strengthen public confidence in our democratic system. The proposed legislation would require everyone to uncover his or her face to vote in federal elections. The bill includes an exception for medical reasons. I would like to thank my colleague from Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar for seconding the bill.

This is simple, straightforward legislation that aims to increase the transparency of our democracy. Furthermore, the bill includes an exception for medical reasons.

I invite all parliamentarians to support this bill so that it may be in force during the next federal election.

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

Protection of Beneficiaries of Long Term Disability Benefits Plans Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-624, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (providing protection for beneficiaries of long term disability benefits plans).

Mr. Speaker, last Christmas this government left a lump of coal in the stockings of 400 sick and disabled Canadians when the Prime Minister ordered senators to kill a bill that would have prevented their medical benefits from being cancelled.

Aside from it being a right and decent thing to do, Bill S-216 was legally prudent, fiscally sound, and would have saved taxpayers millions of dollars. Despite this, the Prime Minister turned his back on hundreds of sick and disabled Canadians.

Today, I am tabling the bill that would right this wrong and restore the medical and income benefits needed by this group of disabled Canadians. It would also make sure that the rest never find themselves in this situation.

Canadians deserve better than to be thrown to the wolves when they get sick. This bill will work to protect some of the most vulnerable people from having their sick benefits taken away when they are needed the most.

I am happy to present this, proud to support it, and hope that all members will do the same thing.

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-625, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (amphetamines).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to introduce this bill. This bill has come about as a result of the original Bill C-15 that came through the House on the mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes. This was a bill that the NDP fought against because we thought it was a very bad bill. We pointed out over and over again that there was no evidence to show that mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes worked.

As we know, that bill eventually passed through the House of Commons and went to the Senate. Then it was eliminated because of prorogation. The bill was reintroduced in the Senate and is actually now back in the House as Bill S-10 , and I am very glad the NDP will remain in opposition to that bill.

However, in debating the bill, we did agree that there was one element of the bill that we thought was important, and that was dealing with amphetamines and how they were listed in the various schedules under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

I made a commitment during the debate that we had on the original bill that I would move a private member's bill to transfer amphetamines from schedule 3 under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to schedule 1 under the same act, so the punishment would be more severe for offences involving amphetamines.

That was something we actually did support in the original bill, so I am pleased to rise in the House today to bring this forward, to make it clear that we did support that element, and we agree that those drugs should be moved from schedule 3 to schedule 1.

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

National Anthem Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-626, An Act to amend the National Anthem Act (gender neutral).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise again in the House to present this bill. It is actually a very simple bill, but I know it would probably generate a fair amount of debate. It has to do with our national anthem, O Canada. It was a bill that was formerly presented by my colleague, Judy Wasylycia-Leis. I know she felt very strongly about this.

It is basically a bill that would substitute the words “of us” for the words “thy sons” in the English version of the national anthem, thus making it gender neutral.

I was going to sing the new version, but my colleagues talked me out of putting people through that pain. I think people are very familiar with going to public events and actually hearing a growing number of people voluntarily substituting gender neutral language in our national anthem.

I know some people do not agree with that. They say that it should stay the way it was written, so I think we will probably have quite an interesting debate on this. Nevertheless, I put it forward because I think it is important that our language be gender neutral.

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

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-627, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting).

Mr. Speaker, this is a piece of legislation that we would be amending that goes back hundreds of years, back to the British parliament. It was introduced as part of the transfer of legislation here.

At the current time, we are allowed to bet in Canada legally in several areas, but in particular on sports activities, and only if it is three or more events. That is the legality. It is strange how that came about. I do not fully understand it.

The effect of this bill would be to allow us to bet on individual events. There is a great deal of criminal activity that is going on, both inside and outside the country, where moneys are flowing out and Canadians are betting illegally on those activities.

This would be a way of allowing government, and government agencies, to run these events much as we allow for casinos and horse racing betting, so it would move it into that area. I have heard from all the casinos and a good number of the provinces. They want the ability to do this.

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

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-628, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (consent).

Mr. Speaker, this is a bill that really should not be coming forward by way of private members. The Minister of Justice should have brought this in quite some time ago.

These particular sections of the Criminal Code discriminate against the gay community with regard to sexual activity and the age of consent with regard to that sexual activity.

The pertinent section has actually been struck down by more than one court in this country, including at least one appeals court. In spite of that, the government, and the previous Liberal government, have not moved to correct that discrimination which exists in the Criminal Code and this bill in fact would do it.

Members will see that there are 12 or 15 sections of the code that have to be amended in order to do away with that discrimination against the gay community

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

Notice of Motion
Ways and Means
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1), I have the honour to table a notice of a ways and means motion to amend the Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006. I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of the motion.

Mr. Speaker, while I am on my feet, I move:

That the House do now proceed to orders of the day.

Notice of Motion
Ways and Means
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Notice of Motion
Ways and Means
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Notice of Motion
Ways and Means
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

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

Notice of Motion
Ways and Means
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Notice of Motion
Ways and Means
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

All those opposed will please say nay.

Notice of Motion
Ways and Means
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Notice of Motion
Ways and Means
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #178

Ways and Means
Routine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, Bill C-59, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accelerated parole review) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, shall be disposed of as follows:

1. not more than one sitting day shall be allotted to the second reading stage of the bill and, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day of the consideration of the said stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment;

2. not more than four hours following the adoption of the second reading motion, any proceedings before the Committee to which the bill stands referred shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the committee stage of the bill shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment; a representative of the Committee may report the bill to the House by depositing the said report with the Clerk of the House, whereupon it shall be deemed to have been duly presented to the House, provided that if the bill is not reported from the Committee by 11:00 p.m. on the day of the adoption of the second reading motion, the bill shall immediately be deemed to have been reported from the Committee without amendment; that for the sole purposes of this Order, the deadline for notice of report stage motions shall be 3:00 a.m. the day following the adoption of the second reading motion;

3. the bill may be taken up at report stage at the next sitting of the House following the notice deadline for the presentation of report stage motions, provided that a motion for third reading may be made immediately after the bill has been concurred in at report stage;

4. not more than one sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage and third reading stage of the bill and, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day of the consideration of the said stages of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the said stages of the bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment;

5. should a recorded division be requested on any motion in relation to any stage of the bill and such a division is eligible to be deferred pursuant to Standing Order 45, the division may be deferred to a time not later than the end of Government Orders on the day that stage is under consideration and the operation of Standing Order 45(6) shall be suspended in relation to this bill.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the chance to rise in support of the motion before us today which would help to ensure that we pass Bill C-59 into law in the most timely and expeditious way possible.

The issue of accelerated parole review has been raised and debated in this place, as well as in other venues, and in the media, for quite some time. All of us have heard about the devastating consequences that while collar crimes such as fraud can have on the lives of Canadians. All of us have heard from Canadians about the need to take action to ensure that white collar criminals are held to account for their actions and the need to stand up for the victims of their crimes. Canadians have been quite clear. They want us to take action now and they want us to take action quickly, which is what the motion today intends to do.

Just a few years ago, many people might have regarded crimes such as fraud as victimless crimes since they seem to be committed against large organizations, corporations or governments.

Today, things have changed. We are now increasingly seeing the human face of fraud. I think it is safe to say that many Canadians have been shocked and angered by the harms caused by these acts. Savings have been wiped out and lives have been ruined. For many victims, they can never be returned to the position they were in before the crime.

As we know, under the current system, white collar offenders can be released after as little as one-sixth of their sentence in prison for their crimes. Bill C-59 would give us all a chance to change this and to support Canadians who have become the victims of crime.

Helping victims of crime has always been at the heart of this government's public safety and justice agenda. Our government is committed to ensuring that their voices are heard and that their concerns are taken seriously. That is one of our highest priorities and why we have taken action on a number of fronts.

Crime places a heavy toll on individual victims, their families, communities and society at large. That is why we have taken action to ensure that the scales of justice are balanced to include victims. One way we did this was by committing $52 million over four years to enhance the federal victims strategy so that government could better meet the needs of victims.

As one of our first moves, we created the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime as an independent resource for victims.

The National Office for Victims at Public Safety Canada is also working to give victims a greater voice in the corrections and conditional release process and assisting victims in getting access to the information and services that they might need.

The Policy Centre for Victim Issues at the Department of Justice is also helping the government better meet the needs of victims, for example, by giving them the resources to attend parole hearings and to seek help if they experience crime while abroad.

Our government is also going one step further in helping victims connect to the services they need with the online victim services directory, which is available on the website of the Department of Justice Canada. The directory lets victims search for appropriate agencies in their area according to the type of victimization they have experienced and the type of support they seek. Our hope is that it can help ease the burden on victims of crime who do not know where to turn or which services are available to them.

All of those measures help to bring victims front and centre in the justice system and to ensure that their voices are heard.

In addition, of course, our government has also introduced a wide range of legislation to crack down on crime, gun crimes, in particular.

As well, our government has passed legislation to help combat the complex, serious and growing problems of identity theft and identity fraud.

We have also ensured that victims have a greater say in this country's parole system by introducing legislation that, among other things, would enshrine in law a victim's right to attend and make statements at Parole Board of Canada hearings, while preventing offenders, in most cases, from withdrawing their parole applications 14 days or less before a hearing date.

Victims of crime have asked for these changes. And our government has delivered.

Bill C-59 builds on and strengthens this already impressive track record of standing up for victims.

Victims of white collar crimes, and of fraud in particular, have been dismayed, in many cases, to find out that the offenders who carry out these acts can be released so soon after they are sentenced. Unless the Parole Board of Canada has reasonable grounds to believe these offenders will commit a violent offence if released, it must automatically release them into the community under supervision. This means that in some cases a fraudster, for example, could be back on the streets early.

Such a criminal could be sentenced to 12 years, but actually released into the community on day parole in just 2 years and fully paroled in just 4 years. The status quo gives the Parole Board of Canada no discretion in dealing with these cases.

The test is whether an offender is likely to commit a violent offence. As a result, even if the Parole Board believes the offender is likely to commit another fraud, theft or drug offence, it is compelled to release him or her. This truly offends Canadians' sense of justice. It undermines their faith in our justice and corrections system. Victims and, indeed, all Canadians want to see justice carried out and sentences served. Bill C-59 would do that.

Bill C-59 would, first and foremost, do away with the current system's accelerated parole review, whereby offenders who commit non-violent crimes such as fraud can be released on day parole after serving as little as one-sixth of their sentence. Under the changes our government is proposing, offenders who commit fraud and other white collar crimes will be put on the same footing as other offenders. They will be eligible for regular day parole review six months prior to full parole eligibility and full parole review after serving one-third of their sentences. They will have to face the full consequences of their actions.

The message that we are sending with Bill C-59 is that if people commit the crime, they will do the time. We are saying with this legislation that the needs of victims are paramount. We are saying that their interests come first. We are saying that all of us remain committed to cracking down on crime and standing up for the rights of victims. That is what Canadians want. They want us to continue standing up for victims and to ensure that their voices are heard. They want us to continue to ensure that all offenders are held to account for their actions.

Most of all, Canadians want us to work together in the spirit of co-operation to take action now to ensure the changes our government is proposing are passed into law so victims of fraud and other white collar crimes can in fact see justice done.

I therefore urge all hon. members to support the motion before us today and to work with the government to ensure Bill C-59 receives speedy passage.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, I just have one question for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety.

How does he feel now that he is part of a Conservative-separatist coalition?

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, I feel very bad that the Liberal Party has no concern for victims. I met with some of the victims of these frauds. They are elderly people who almost feel like they have sexually abused and that party refuses to support those victims.

I am happy to stand with my colleagues in the Bloc on this matter. They understand the importance of protecting the interests of victims.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, I urge the parliamentary secretary to read the transcripts of the hearings that the justice committee held on Bill C-21, the white collar bill.

First, he will find that the Liberals supported the bill. He might want to also check the media coverage of a press conference held over two years ago in which Liberals called on the government to remove the one-sixth accelerated parole release for white collar criminals.

In the justice committee this past fall, when the white collar crime bill was being examined, it was a Liberal member who brought in an amendment that would in fact have eliminated the one-sixth accelerated release or early parole release, as it is commonly called, for white collar criminals and major fraudsters. Guess what? A Conservative chair ruled it out of order. I challenged the chair and the Conservative and Bloc members voted to uphold the chair's ruling. Therefore, they voted against eliminating the one-sixth early parole. The member may wish to check his facts before he says that Liberals do not support victims.

The second point—

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

On a point of order, the hon. government House leader.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I wish to give notice that with respect to the consideration of government Business No. 10, which we are currently debating, at the next sitting a minister of the Crown shall move, pursuant to Standing Order 57, that debate be not further adjourned.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

I am not sure that is in order, Madam Speaker. Can we have a ruling as to whether that motion by the government House leader is in order?

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

This will be considered at the time the motion is presented. It will be taken into consideration, and we will come back further to the hon. member's point, if necessary.

It is my understanding from what the minister has just said that he has simply given notice. He has not introduced a motion.

I will ask the hon. member to conclude her question. She was nearing the end.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, I would also ask the member whether or not he has actually checked his government figures on the financing of victims support programs and the fact his government has cut its financing of those programs by almost half.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, I do know that this bill is before this House today and that the Liberals and the NDP took time this morning so that this did not get debated. I do know there are victims across this country who are waiting for this legislation. I wish the members opposite would get on-board and support this party and the Bloc on this bill and get it done quickly.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, the Conservative member provided a good explanation. For once, we actually agree with the government; it is important to truly focus on the issue of serving one-sixth of a sentence. The Liberal member would like us to discuss many other topics when, in fact, we already have before us a fine bill.

White collar criminals are always eligible for parole because they have not committed violent crimes. However, they have been very psychologically abusive to the people against whom they committed fraud. I would ask the hon. member to explain to the Liberals and the Conservatives the benefit of supporting this bill.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, to be very frank, these victims are feeling very much violated, in the same manner as people who are victims of violent criminal acts. Frequently they are older people and it is their whole life savings. Many of them have contemplated very drastic measures to themselves as a result of the frauds committed by these people. They have been drained of their whole life's savings. They have lost their trust in society. They have lost their trust in individuals. They blame themselves for these things. I cannot understand why any party in the House would not support this bill and get it passed quickly so that these people are not victimized again.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, maybe this will be more of a statement than a question to the parliamentary secretary, because he does not know. It is not much use asking the question of anyone on that side of the House.

The reality is that at any given time, somewhere in the range of 1,500 people incarcerated at the federal level are eligible for the one-sixth exemption. We do not know who composes that, but I can tell the member what I have been able to discover up to this point, that white collar criminals form less than 1%. Those are the figures we have right now.

If the Conservatives really want to do something, why do they not just bring forward a bill that targets white collar criminals, as opposed to everybody else who may in fact be entitled, by any objective standards, to the use of this section? Why do they not do that? Then they would get the support of both ourselves and the Liberal Party.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, once again, the NDP always supports the criminals. There is nobody in prison that has not been convicted of a criminal act.

What we are talking about is criminals doing their time in jail. That is what Canadians expect. In particular, we are dealing here with a number of issues, but I do not know why the NDP and, in this case, the Liberals want to stand up for the rights of criminals but not the rights of victims.

That is what this is all about. It is about victims and justice truly being done. I do not understand the position of either of those two parties. I certainly appreciate the support we are seeing on this from the Bloc.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary and have him confirm that what we are dealing with here are individuals who commit white collar crimes, in particular those individuals who commit crimes akin to fraud and steal people's life savings. We are talking about individuals who steal from people who may be saving for their retirement or for their children's post secondary education, from people trying to save enough money to buy a house or from people who just want to be able to trust the system so they can enjoy retirement without having to worry about many of the things that many folks in this country worry about.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

An hon. member

Human dignity.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Yes, human dignity.

I wonder if the parliamentary secretary can put a human face on the victims who have been defrauded. Their sentence is basically a life sentence, a life, in some cases, of poverty.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the question from my colleague who is also a former police officer and has dealt with both sides of this issue, including victims.

My friend from the NDP mentioned some 1,500 who are incarcerated and might be eligible for this. I have news for him. There are thousands of victims out there, and, as my friend said, these victims who are serving a life sentence. For many of these people, it was their total savings that they had planned for retirement. I know many of them had to give up their homes and are living in a state of poverty that was not of their doing. It was by reason that they trusted these people who took advantage of them, people who they thought were friends and for some they were relatives.

I do not know why anybody would want these people to get the advantage that is currently offered, nor do I understand why they would not support this bill going forward.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Before resuming debate, I would like to come back to a point of order that was raised about the appropriateness of the notice of motion by the minister. It clearly indicated that the debate on the item, which is the subject of the notice, must have begun before notice of closure may be given. Therefore, it is in order.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, I would not say that words fail me just because I will not be debating the bill itself. I want to debate the motion that would prevent any discussion of the substance of the bill. I find it rather odd that the Bloc supports the government's attempt to stop any possibility of debating the substance of the bill.

No one in the House can accuse the Liberals of not supporting the proposal to abolish one-sixth accelerated parole for white collar criminals. Two years ago, my colleague from Bourassa, our candidate in Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, and the member for Lac-Saint-Louis participated in a press conference with a number of Earl Jones' victims to urge the government to quickly introduce a bill to eliminate eligibility for one-sixth accelerated parole for white collar criminals, especially those who commit major fraud and have many victims. No one can accuse the Liberals of not supporting this idea. I find it shameful that the government is making these types of accusations when it is fully aware of the Liberal position. That is my first point.

Second, I want to talk about the debate and the possibility that there will be closure. Barely seven months ago, the Bloc members rose in the House to criticize this government for doing what it is about to do with Bill C-59. The government had moved a motion to prevent debate. The Bloc member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain rose in the House last June to admonish the government because it moved a motion to prevent debate on the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act. The Bloc member for Hochelaga also rose to oppose the government's time allocation motion to prevent debate on the Jobs and Economics Growth Act, Bill C-9.

We oppose this time allocation motion because we believe that this is an important matter. In addition, the Liberals have been asking the government for two years to abolish one-sixth accelerated parole for white collar criminals such as Earl Jones, Vincent Lacroix and others. I find it regrettable that the Conservatives are trying to make people believe that the Liberals do not care about the victims. That is not true.

As I mentioned, when the government introduced Bill C-21 regarding white collar criminals and it was sent to committee, I proposed an amendment to eliminate the one-sixth accelerated parole rule for white collar criminals. The Conservative and Bloc members defeated the motion.

It is a matter of responsibility. Every member has the right to speak about the bills that the government introduces in the House. This is an extremely important issue.

We would like to hear from experts. It is possible that experts will tell us that we should eliminate the possibility of parole after one-sixth of a sentence for white collar criminals who committed a crime over a certain amount or if there were multiple victims. But for white collar crime that is not fraud, we believe evidence shows that parole after one-sixth of the sentence is served is very effective and that the recidivism rate is lower. I do not know. With this motion to limit debate, we will perhaps never know before we are asked to vote on this bill.

The Liberals are against this motion to limit debate. It is not justified, and we are sorry to see that the Bloc has decided to join the Conservatives to limit debate on this bill. As for the substance of the bill, up until today, no one could accuse the Liberals of not showing their support for eliminating the one-sixth accelerated parole rule for white collar criminals.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be speaking about Bill C-59, and I do so with the hope of enlightening my Liberal and NDP colleagues.

In 2007, the Bloc Québécois, through its excellent justice critic, the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin and former Quebec attorney general, introduced a bill to abolish parole after one-sixth of a sentence. The Bloc Québécois always acts with a great deal of caution when it comes to amending the Criminal Code. We are very aware of that. However, crime is constantly evolving. There are crimes today that were practically unthinkable a decade ago. Now there are white collar criminals, whereas it used to be mostly people selling poor-quality products. Sometimes certain criminals were able to extort small amounts of money.

Over the past decade or so, globalization has resulted in an explosion of financial products on the market. Crooks, criminals, figured that there was money to be made by fooling honest people out of their hard-earned money. These criminals promise incredible interest rates and astronomical returns.

I had the opportunity to speak with a victim of white collar crime. It is not always easy to recognize this kind of criminal. Often, these criminals will do their work when it has been announced that a mutual fund or investment fund has had incredible returns.

People who have seen this kind of news on television are offered a product with similar returns by an acquaintance or a friend of a friend. The would-be victims do not say yes right away. People protect their savings; they are tight-fisted and take their time. White collar criminals take a step back and wait for more media reports about returns.

The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec does not make a lot of noise when it suffers a loss, but when the returns are amazing, it does not hesitate to hold press conferences. And I am not even talking about corporate and bank profits.

People pay attention to the news. These days, information travels at light speed. Something that happens on the other side of the world will be reported on our little devices. I will not name them, because I do not want to advertise them. Our little hand-held computers allow us to access information very quickly. People of all ages, people who are not necessarily financial experts, but who have worked hard for their money, can have their life savings stolen from them by crooks.

The criminals are then caught and put on trial, and this gets lots of media attention because it affects a lot of people. They do not swindle just one individual.

When people are exploited and realize that they were not the only ones, this means that whoever swindled them knew what he was doing. In order to cheat dozens if not hundreds of victims, criminals need to have a good sales pitch, and they often use the media to make their pitch.

When these criminals are sentenced, the sentence can be considered important. The problem is that since the entire parole system is based on reintegration and how violent the crimes were, our judicial system is not set up for criminals who are not physically violent. These criminals are mentally violent, but not physically. In order to steal the life savings of honest people who worked their whole lives, one would have to be very psychologically violent. This is not physical violence; it is another kind of violence.

Obviously, the entire parole system has not been able to adjust to this because the principle of social reintegration still prevails. The criminal goes to prison, behaves very well, and in any case, the system has ruined him and that is just great. Often, the criminal has declared bankruptcy. He no longer has any assets. He has nothing left. We try to find out whether he hid anything in a tax haven. When we see the agreements the Conservative government is signing with Panama, a country on the OECD's blacklist or grey list of tax havens—it does not reveal the names of people who invest there, and there is no tax agreement with Panama—these questions remain. People always want to know whether the criminal has managed to hide money away. Most of the time, when the individual leaves prison, he is ruined. He no longer has any money and he leaves with his tail between his legs to try to reintegrate into society. And he gets parole after serving one-sixth of his sentence. It is very difficult to find out that someone like Vincent Lacroix can get out after serving one-sixth of his sentence, after he has ruined lives and admitted during his trial that he spent exorbitant amounts of money at strip clubs and the like. The judicial system will adapt.

I hear the Liberals and the New Democrats getting all worked up and saying that some criminals who would have been entitled to parole will not be, but a criminal is a criminal. He receives a sentence and he has to serve that sentence. There will still be parole, but not after one-sixth of the sentence has been served. Judges will adjust the sentences accordingly.

That is why the Bloc Québécois is very reticent about minimum sentences. We want to leave sentencing up to the judiciary, to judges. A judge is a neutral and competent person who often is called on to hear a number of similar cases and is able to hand down a sentence that fits the crime. Now the judge will know that the criminal can no longer be released after serving only one-sixth of his sentence. We will see how the courts adapt.

One thing is for certain: this must stop. Parole after serving one-sixth of a sentence is no longer acceptable given the new crimes that have been committed in our society over the past 10 years. Clearly, the biggest losers will be the criminals. Are we going to cry over what happens to criminals? I have heard the Liberals and the New Democrats crying, but I will not. These criminals were sentenced and they must serve their time. That is life and, as I was saying, the judges will adjust sentences accordingly.

Once again, the Bloc Québécois is prepared to support any measures that are reasonable and acceptable to our society, and Bill C-59 falls into that category.

The types of crimes that have evolved over the past 10 years have led us to where we are today. We can no longer allow criminals who are said to be non-violent but who are extremely psychologically abusive to be released simply because they behaved well in prison. The problem is that their behaviour before they went to prison was intolerable. They must serve their sentences.

The Bloc Québécois has given the Liberals and the New Democrats the opportunity to adjust to the crimes of the 2000s since it is now 2010. Not surprisingly, they prefer to live in the past and they will have to live with that. We will support Bill C-59—

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member. He will have about nine minutes left to finish his remarks when debate resumes.

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

The House resumed from October 30 consideration of the motion.

Older Workers
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona had six minutes left for his comments on this motion.

Older Workers
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for Edmonton East for bringing forth this motion. I want to read it at the beginning so people watching will have an idea of what the motion is about. It reads:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should continue to recognize the vital role of older workers in the Canadian economy and ensure its labour market programs and policies encourage older workers to contribute their skills and experience in the Canadian workforce.

I would expect that the motion will in fact pass. It comes out of a number of initiatives the government has taken in support of older workers and retraining in the workforce.

I want to note that the member for Edmonton East, when he made his presentation on October 4, 2010, gave some statistics that I found rather interesting in his speech. He indicated that in 1900, over a century ago, Canadian men had a life expectancy of only 47 years, while women could expect to live just under 3 years longer.

When the first old age pension was brought in by the federal government in 1927, payments began at the age of 70. On that basis, most Canadians would not live long enough to collect the pension as the average life expectancy was, by that time, 59 years for men and age 62 for women.

As indicated, under the Canadian pension plan, the pension was introduced in 1927. I want to make some observations about that, because after World War I, there was increased urbanization in Canada and industrialization. It led to an increase in demand for old age pensions. I had statistics on pensions in other countries. There were a number of countries had pensions in place before 1935.

The member for Winnipeg North will be pleased to hear that in 1916, Manitoba, our home province, was the first province to pass a Mothers' Pension Act to provide a small but assured income to widows and divorced or deserted wives with children to support, deemed the worthy poor.

Within five years, all provinces from Ontario west had similar legislation called public assistance. This help was based on a means test and constituted a modern version of the English poor law.

This will show how things really have not changed over the years. In 1919, the federal Liberal Party pledged to pass legislation on health insurance, contributory old age pensions and unemployment insurance, but alas, none of these promises were kept. At that point, the British North America Act was cited as the main impediment. The reality is that business interests which funded the two major parties at the time were a hindrance.

It was 1927 before the old age pension did in fact become law. It came about during the government of William Lyon Mackenzie King, but the introduction was based on a promise to the two Labour MPs at the time, J.S. Woodsworth and A.A. Heaps. It provided a maximum, by the way, of $20 a month, and it was subject to a means test.

I have a copy of the letter which was sent to Mackenzie King in January 1926. I spent some time early this morning reading Hansard from 1927. It was a very interesting experience.

The letter was sent to both the Liberal leader, Mr. King but also, as an equal opportunity group I gather, it was decided to let the Conservatives have a chance at it too. It reads as follows:

Dear Mr. King:

As representatives of Labour in the House of Commons, may we ask whether it is your intention to introduce at this session legislation with regard to (a) Provision for the unemployed; (b) Old Age Pensions. We are venturing to send a similar inquiry to the leader of the opposition.

We must remember that it was a minority government and the leader of the opposition was Arthur Meighen. The Conservative leader was unwilling, even if it meant getting his hands on the government, to support either proposal at the time. Woodsworth and Heaps, the two labour representatives, accepted Mackenzie King's offer to pursue old age pensions and gave him their support. When his government finally won a majority in 1926, Mackenzie King followed up on his promise to Woodsworth and Heaps by introducing legislation that became the Old Age Pensions Act in 1927.

The battle for old age pensions goes back many years, from the time the act was originally discussed, passed and implemented in other jurisdictions. It took a minority government situation to force the Liberals to promise to bring in the--

Older Workers
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member has run out of time.

Resuming debate. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development.

Older Workers
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, I certainly hear the history lesson from the hon. member.

We are here talking about older workers and I would like the House to know that I fully support the motion and would like to thank my colleague from Edmonton for proposing it, who I understand will also be speaking to it as well.

Our Conservative government recognizes the high value and potential that older workers bring to the workforce. Their knowledge and invaluable capacity for mentoring younger, less experienced workers is incredibly valuable to our economy, especially at this time.

The motion is also timely as it speaks to our Conservative government's focus on providing appropriate labour market programs and policies so that older workers can continue contributing to our economy by their skills and experience. Their experience, knowledge and talents are key factors in our full economic recovery and Canada's continuing international competitiveness.

The motion also recognizes a shift in work patterns and in retirement planning. Given that Canadians are living longer, healthier lives than in the past, more workers are choosing to extend their careers through their late 60s and into their 70s. Today Canadians expect to live about 30 years longer on average than we did a century ago. They know they can continue to contribute and still have time for a well-earned retirement and leisure period when they are a little older.

Mandatory retirement for the most part is a thing of the past as older workers in good health want to continue contributing to society. This is an important development and one that will not only become more important in the short and medium term, but well into the future. Our population is aging and our workforce is not growing as quickly as it did in years past. Given our demographic challenges and a slower growth in our workforce, Canada needs as many workers as possible to be active and contributing in the coming years.

In a very short time, our labour market will again begin to experience serious labour shortages. Our task is to remove as many of the disincentives as we can that face workers who want to and who are able to continue working. We need to be active. We need to promote activity in the workforce. We certainly cannot be passive. Failing to act in this way will only serve to reduce our prosperity in the future.

For older workers who do not want to retire and are healthy enough to continue working, I ask why not? Why not utilize their wealth of knowledge, skills and enterprise? This is certainly good for the economy. If Canadians choose to continue working we should facilitate their wishes.

Our Conservative government agrees and we are taking action to encourage older people to be engaged in worthwhile endeavours of their own choosing. We named a Minister of State for Seniors who is tasked with supporting our aging population, whether it be working to combat elder abuse or supporting volunteer initiatives through the new horizons for seniors program which we expended in the last budget.

Another initiative to address a larger issue of an aging society was our government's creation of a National Seniors Council in 2007 to advise the government on all matters related to seniors' well-being and quality of life. To date, the council reported on elder abuse, low income issues among seniors, volunteering among seniors, and positive and active aging. We are working with the provinces and have increased funding under the targeted initiative for older workers program to assist unemployed older workers in vulnerable communities to retrain and gain new skills.

More than 14,000 unemployed older workers have been assisted through more than 200 projects that have been approved to date. This is concrete help that is good for the workers as individuals and good for Canada as a whole.

As one participant said, “This has strengthened my belief that I can and will re-enter the workforce.”

Under labour market development agreements, older workers can also receive assistance. They are part of the unemployed workforce that is being helped with a $1.95 billion fund provided to the provinces and territories. Under these agreements, the workers receive programming to help them get back to work.

In Canada's economic action plan, funding was increased by $1 billion over two years. More than 100,000 workers over the age of 50 participate in these programs each year.

For workers not eligible for unemployment insurance we have labour market agreements that help unemployed workers, including older Canadians, return to work.

As well, our Conservative government appointed an expert panel on older workers in January 2007. The panel examined the long-term issues facing older workers, including any barriers or disincentives to their continued participation in the labour market. The report recommended an employability approach and advocated removing all systemic barriers.

This motion and our Conservative government's actions are in agreement with the report's findings. Our government is interested in working closely with all the provinces and territories. We recognize there are regional differences in their approach and regional needs. Our labour market development agreements and labour market agreements are flexible enough to take that into account.

Through our actions, we have shown that we welcome the chance for older workers to contribute their skills and experience to our labour market. In doing so, they are increasing their prosperity and the prosperity of all of Canada. We have faith in older workers and we have demonstrated that faith through our actions.

Unfortunately, it seems that sometimes we see an astonishing lack of faith for some of the members of the opposition, especially members of the Bloc Québécois. While they say that they support older workers, they have consistently voted against all help for older workers that we have put forward. The proof is in their voting record.

The Bloc Québécois members have voted against the targeted initiative for older worker program. They have voted against our Conservative government's extension and improvements to the work training program, which has helped to protect the jobs of over 265,000 Canadians through over 9,000 agreements. They have voted against our legislation to provide extra weeks of employment insurance benefits to long-tenured workers. They have voted against tax reductions for seniors.

However, the Bloc members continue to call for the reintroduction of failed passive income support programs, which were proven to be costly and ineffective and would serve as large disincentives to work and labour force participation. Therefore, they appear to be in favour of those things which are harmful to our economy and harmful to the prosperity of workers that simply do not work and have been proven to be so. I am not sure what they have against older workers. However, they need to stand up and support the older people. They should stop attempting to resurrect failed programs that do nothing to help older workers, but in fact do them harm.

Our Conservative government will continue to stand up for older workers. We will continue to have faith in older workers and to value and encourage their participation in the workforce.

I hope all members of the House of Commons will support not only this motion, but support our government's positive efforts for older Canadians.

Older Workers
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, in preparation, I have drawn upon the excellent work done by the member for Saint-Lambert, our critic for older workers.

I would like to tell the Conservative member who just spoke that the Bloc Québécois will support motion M-515. However, we maintain that an assistance program for older workers would be one of the best tools for helping workers aged 55 and older who have lost their jobs. Such a program would help them to find other employment and would provide them with income that could cover the difference between the wages they were earning and the wages of their new job, as was the case when such a program existed.

The Conservatives think that when people lose their jobs, they simply need to retrain and find new ones. With this retraining program, all of our forestry workers will end up being computer experts. That is how the Conservatives work, but the trees continue to grow. Forestry operations must continue. We should be ensuring, instead, that we hold onto these workers who have lost their jobs so that they can be put to work again when the economy is doing better. That is why the program for older worker adjustment, which was abolished, was so important. It was abolished for two reasons. At the time, the economy was doing better and the Liberals had a lot of trouble with their own spending and never saw fit to get it back on track. The Conservatives are heading in the same direction, which is sad.

Motion M-515, regarding older workers, states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should continue to recognize the vital role of older workers in the Canadian economy and ensure its labour market programs and policies encourage older workers to contribute their skills and experience in the Canadian workforce.

We will support this motion, even though it seems incomplete. We agree that older workers actively contribute to the economy. In moving this motion, my colleague is surely making reference to the targeted initiative for older workers, or TIOW. This program was designed to improve the employability of participants from 55 to 64 years of age, and assist them through activities such as prior learning assessment, skills upgrading and experience in new fields of work. But this measure is in no way an income support measure for older workers who are unable to find a new job. As I said in the beginning, this is far from being the program for older worker adjustment we once knew.

In fact, this Conservative government continues to ignore the needs of older workers who are the victims of mass layoffs or plant closures. The Bloc Québécois has been fighting in the House for years to give these older workers an income support measure to help them through the transition until they receive their pension benefits.

In fact, the Bloc has been defending this position since 1997. We must remember that in 1997, the Liberal government at the time eliminated POWA, the older worker adjustment program. In the same way it misappropriated employment insurance funds to pay down the deficit on the backs of the unemployed, that same Liberal government eliminated POWA to pay down the deficit on the backs of older workers.

Since that time, the Bloc Québécois has not relented in calling for a support program for older workers who cannot be retrained.

In 2005 we even convinced the House to unanimously adopt a motion asking the government to implement a strategy to help older workers who were losing their jobs due to factory closures in the wake of globalization. This strategy was to include income support measures. Let us remember that the Conservatives, who were in opposition at that time, supported this motion. As for the Liberals, they did not reinstate the program they had eliminated in 1997.

In April 2006, the House unanimously adopted the Bloc's subamendment to the Conservative government's Speech from the Throne. This subamendment once again called for a strategy to help older workers who were losing their jobs. Again, this strategy was to include income support measures. And, just like the Liberals, the Conservatives did nothing to help these workers. They continue to refuse to implement this type of program, saying that it does not help older workers return to the workforce. However, workforce reintegration measures and income support measures are not mutually exclusive.

We agree that these workers should have access to assistance programs in order to reposition themselves on the labour market. However, we also need to provide income support measures for those who cannot retrain. Age does present a certain challenge after losing one's job, because employers are more reluctant to hire older workers. Moreover, although people aged 55 and over are less affected by unemployment than younger people who are unemployed, it is usually for a much longer period than the average.

An income support measure like the one we are proposing would stop these workers who cannot retrain from having to dip into their hard-earned retirement savings. Such a measure would give them some income support after their employment insurance benefits end and before their retirement pension begins. It would serve as a bridge for them while they are waiting for another job or for their pension. It is simply a matter of social justice and that is precisely what the Conservatives do not understand. A perfect example is the member for Jonquière—Alma. In the December 2, 2007, issue of the weekly newspaper Le Réveil, in response to urgent calls to restore the POWA, the member suggested that workers should move to Alberta. He said:

—in Alberta, there is a labour shortage and they do not know what to do to find workers. In the meantime, we cannot pay people between the ages of 50 and 55 to stay home.

On October 28, 2009, the House adopted Motion M-285 moved by my colleague from Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, which read:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should as quickly as possible implement a genuine income support program for older workers who lost their job in order to ease their transition from active employment to pension benefits.

Again, the Conservatives have not lifted a finger. They prefer to ignore the requests of workers and unions. As the Minister of Natural Resources and member for Mégantic—L'Érable put so well recently:

I am the spokesperson for, the voice of th2is true of all my colleagues. That is the big, big difference.

Indeed it is different, and that is precisely the problem. As it is for my colleagues in the Bloc, it is an honour for me to represent the concerns of my voters, of Quebeckers. We are the voice of our constituents in Ottawa, not the other way around, like the Conservatives.

That is why, election after election, Quebeckers elect a majority of Bloc Québécois members. They want their voice to be heard in Ottawa, they want their concerns conveyed to Ottawa. It is also for that reason that the Bloc Québécois continues to defend older workers in Ottawa.

The crisis in the manufacturing sector and the economic crisis have led to the closure of businesses, which in turn has hit older workers hard. Providing them with access to training is one thing; however, those who are unable to find a new job are left to fend for themselves. If they are still unemployed after exhausting their employment insurance benefits, they are forced to turn to social assistance. To access social assistance they must deplete their assets. The Conservatives remain insensitive to these situations and prefer to deliver Ottawa's message: income support does not provide an incentive to work. But establishing an income support program is a matter of social justice, dignity and respect for these workers who helped build the Quebec we know today.

We will support motion M-515 but we are still calling for an assistance program for older workers. These people have made major contributions to our economy. I am thinking particularly of the forestry sector, which accounted for 45% of Quebec's economy. Now, it amounts to approximately 22% of the Canadian economy. These people have lost their employment for economic reasons. We cannot simply tell them that they need to retrain. At age 55 or over, it is not easy for people to find a job and to retrain because of their age and because of employers' restrictions. An assistance program for older workers would enable these people to receive a decent income after their employment insurance benefits end and until they retire.

That is why the Bloc Québécois will fight every day for older workers. We will support motion M-515 but the Conservative government must understand that, if it had $10 billion to help the automotive industry, it should be able to help older workers. It has the resources. The Bloc Québécois will continue to work toward this goal.

Older Workers
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate concerning Motion No. 515 which states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should continue to recognize the vital role of older workers in the Canadian economy and ensure its labour market programs and policies encourage older workers to contribute their skills and experience in the Canadian workforce.

This is a pretty innocuous motion. Of course, I support it. Anybody would be foolish not to, I think. However, I am left with the question, what will this motion do?

I know that for private members' bills and motions, in order for one to be effected by government, they cannot trigger a royal recommendation, so they cannot be money bills so to speak. Private members' bills and motions are somewhat constrained in how they are drafted, but there is still a lot of room to draft motions and bills that actually have substance. We are sent here to be legislators, after all.

Recognizing and supporting older workers is not only laudable, it is actually essential. The problem is that the rhetoric of the motion does not even take a baby step toward that goal. My colleague from Hamilton Mountain spoke to this motion earlier in the debate. She said, “It is as inoffensive as it is ineffective”.

I would like to use my time in the House to move beyond the empty words in this motion and actually address what needs to happen if we want to do more than talk the talk, if we want to actually walk the walk. I want to use my time to discuss the real issues facing older workers in Canada.

Older workers will not be workers forever, obviously, and we need to consider life after work. A new survey confirms what the NDP has been saying for a long time that improving the Canada pension plan is the best way to secure a comfortable retirement for all Canadians. The survey found a whopping 76% of Canadians want the government to increase CPP benefits. However, that flies in the face of the Prime Minister's recent decision to ignore the CPP in favour of a private sector retirement plan.

The survey also reinforces the New Democrat retirement security plan. Our plan proposes a phased-in doubling of CPP benefits to $1,868 a month. A full 93% of Canadians are already members of the CPP. It is low cost, secure, and inflation protected. That really makes it the best retirement option out there. Canadians know it, the New Democrats know it, but the Conservative government still does not have a clue.

Canada is facing a retirement crisis. The recession exposed deep flaws in the way we prepare for retirement. Families have lost their savings and they simply do not have enough to support themselves. That is why the NDP wants to take a lead on pension reform. In addition to raising CPP, we want to protect workplace pensions from corporate creditors and raise the GIS to lift seniors out of poverty. While the Prime Minister is ignoring the crisis, we are taking leadership and actually proposing practical solutions to make Canadians' lives better.

As I said, the recession revealed deep cracks in Canada's retirement security plan because years of savings suddenly vanished, leaving millions of Canadians unprepared for the future. We did take the lead on calling for comprehensive reform to the Canada pension plan, like proposing doubling of the maximum monthly payout over time to ensure that all Canadians could retire comfortably.

The Conservative government seemed on board, hinting for nearly a year that it would improve the CPP. Then, the Conservatives abruptly changed their mind. In December, the finance minister announced that the government would ignore the CPP, choosing instead to introduce a private sector plan administered by financial institutions.

Pension advocates and most provincial leaders, including the provincial leader and the minister of finance in Nova Scotia, expressed shock and disappointment. They asked, why would the government abandon the CPP, which is secure, portable, and low cost? Why would they turn over retirement savings to the very financial institutions whose outrageous management fees could wipe out up to 50% of a person's pension contributions over a lifetime?

The Conservative government's plan just does not make sense for older workers and when older workers move into retirement.

Canada is in a pension crisis and that is why the NDP will continue to push for practical reforms to CPP; ones that benefit Canadians and not the big banks.

Older workers are disproportionately represented among the long-term unemployed. This is true across Canada, but it is especially true across the industrial heartland of our country.

These companies were institutions in our communities. They were unionized workplaces where seniority mattered and where companies had the benefit of the skills, experience, and expertise of their long-tenured workers. A senior workforce also means that when a plant closes or downsizes, 60% to 70% of the newly unemployed are older workers.

One would think that successive governments might have assumed some responsibility for addressing the unique issues confronting older workers in Canada. Despite often lauding our incredibly skilled older workforce, they did nothing to ensure that these workers would remain a vital force in our economy.

To this day we do not have a manufacturing sector strategy for our economy. To this day we do not have an auto sector strategy. To this day we do not have a green industry strategy and we also do not have an industrial strategy. Instead, we allow foreign companies like U.S. Steel, Xstrata and Vale to buy up Canadian companies without an ounce of a guarantee that they will protect Canadian jobs. It is absolutely disgraceful.

Compounding the problem is the fact that this is the very government that did nothing to protect these jobs in the first place. It is the same government that is doing nothing to protect displaced older workers.

These unemployed Canadians need to keep working. They need a few more years of income before they can retire. They cannot cash in their retirement savings because that would be cutting off their noses to spite their faces. Surely, we cannot expect them to sell their homes or take out a new mortgage. These older Canadians have worked hard all their lives. They played by the rules and now, through no fault of their own, they have become incapable of building a secure future for themselves and for their families.

It is time for the government to step up to the plate and offer real assistance to these displaced workers. Unfortunately, instead of setting up effective programs for worker adjustment, the Conservatives have been setting up barriers to re-employment instead.

In the time I have left, I would like to talk about the health of older workers.

To support our senior workers, we need to support their health and the health of their families. In addition to protecting seniors financial security through our pension proposals and increasing GIS, we need to look seriously and critically at the issue of health for older workers and retirees.

First and foremost, we need to tackle the issue of social determinants of health. People cannot be healthy unless they have a home to live in. We need an affordable housing strategy for this country. I am very proud that Bill C-304, our bill for a national housing strategy, is actually at committee and hopefully coming back for third reading soon.

We need something like a pharmacare strategy to ensure that older workers, their families, and all Canadians have access to the prescription medications they need to stay healthy. We hear time and time again from pharmacists who tell us that every single day at least one person, often more, will come to the counter, put in their order for prescription medication, but when they get the package and look at the bill, they walk away and leave it behind. That happens every day.

In my old job as a community legal worker, I had clients who would often cut their pills in half or take their pills every second day. They simply could not afford the cost of the prescription to take their medication as prescribed.

A universal pharmacare plan for all Canadians to access the drugs they need to stay healthy would be a definite support to older workers and their families. We can do it if we work with the provinces and territories to establish a Canada-wide prescription drug program.

Further, once older workers have finished working, we need to look at a system of home care and long-term care. It is much less expensive than acute care in a hospital and it makes good financial sense for supporting retired workers.

Older Workers
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Edmonton East, for his right of reply.

Older Workers
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Goldring Edmonton East, AB

Madam Speaker, I wish to thank the hon. members on both sides of the House, the hon. parliamentary secretary from Souris—Moose Mountain for his generous support, and recognizing this very important issue.

For the record, I will repeat the motion. It states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should continue to recognize the vital role of older workers in the Canadian economy and ensure its labour market programs and policies encourage older workers to contribute their skills and experience in the Canadian workforce.

An important aspect of this is the recognition that people of my age have been in the workplace since the early 1960s and have contributed to the prosperity of this country, leading it to be the economically-envied country of the world of today. Many of us are quite capable of continuing to work for some years ahead.

As has already been stated, many Canadians are choosing to stay in the workforce past what used to be considered the traditional retirement age. The reasons for this decision are as varied as each worker involved, but the one they have in common is the need for support from the Government of Canada.

Of note, some 110 years ago, just a little over a century ago, Canadian men had a life expectancy of 47. Today, that life expectancy is in the region of 78 years, considerably higher than it used to be a short 100 years ago. With that in mind, our government has already shown its commitment to older workers in Canada through programs such as the targeted initiative for older workers and the labour market development agreements we have signed with the provinces to provide assistance to older workers.

Canadians know that with our government's strong leadership, Canada has weathered the recession better than any other G8 country. However, the economic recovery is not yet complete. We need to encourage all Canadian workers who are contributing to the economy.

Older workers have, as the motion states, skills and experience that are essential to allow Canada to compete effectively in the global economy. They are also frequently, with the majority of their family responsibility commitments behind them, more flexible than younger workers in their scheduling hours and availability for overtime, if necessary. It makes sense that governments would offer support to these older workers to allow them to continue to contribute to the economy and the well-being of their families as long as they wish to do so.

It has been noted that honouring seniors is a tradition that is fading from some parts of our society. That is certainly one of the reasons that elder abuse has risen in recent years, particularly elder financial abuse. Our government is aware of that increase in elder abuse and working to combat it through a combination of education and criminal enforcement.

As someone who would be considered to be an older worker, I suppose in a way I speak for all older persons who can contribute and want to continue to contribute to society, to their family's financial well-being, and who want to be reminded that there is still true value for this contribution.

I urge all members to support this motion. Older workers are an important part of our economy and the House should stand with them, reaffirming their value, and offering support where necessary.

Older Workers
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

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

Older Workers
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Older Workers
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

It being 2:20 p.m., this House stands adjourned until next Monday at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:10 p.m.)