House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

Topics

The Environment
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I must inform the hon. member that the information he cited is incorrect. Period.

Our government is firmly on track to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. We have mandated 5% renewable fuel. My friend's research is flawed. He should visit the Environment Canada website to get the data that form the basis of our program.

Transport
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, shockingly, Canada is the only OECD country that does not have a national public transit policy. Cities like Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and Montreal invest in their transit systems, but there is no national plan. High quality public transit creates jobs, improves air quality and our environment.

Today I tabled the national public transit strategy act. Will the government support my bill so Canadians can finally have a fast, affordable and accessible public transit system?

Transport
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon
B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, of course the primary relationship on transit is between the provinces and cities and townships across the country. That being said, we have contributed mightily and in an increasing way not only by doubling the amount of money in the gas tax and making that permanent, but also by making major infrastructure investments across the country.

There is one other question I have when it comes to transit. Why is the member almost exclusively and all by herself the only one against improving transit to the Toronto downtown airport? I do not get it. Why is she against making that an efficient airport hub for Torontonians?

The Economy
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the global economic recovery remains fragile and the government's top priority must be to continue to help create jobs and economic growth for Londoners and all Canadians.

We have seen strong results from our economic action plan, with almost 400,000 jobs being created and five straight quarters of economic growth. Canada has the best job creation track record in the entire G7, with our unemployment rate almost 2% lower than the United States. However, the job is not done.

I would like to ask the Minister of Finance to please advise the House on how our government will continue to create jobs and economic growth for all Canadians?

The Economy
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, our government believes in keeping taxes low. It is well known that the opposition favours higher taxes and irresponsible spending. Our low-tax plan is creating jobs for individuals and families across Canada. The average saving from lower taxes in this country is about $3,000 per family. This is not the high tax and spend plan of the coalition opposite. Canadians cannot afford—

The Economy
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order, please. The hon. member for Simcoe—Grey.

Public Safety
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Independent

Helena Guergis Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I support the ministerial directive on the release of criminal record information for vulnerable sector screenings by the RCMP, which closed a loophole that could have been exploited by pardoned sex offenders who change their names. Volunteer groups, employers and organizations support this change, but they are faced with a dramatic increase in the length of time it takes to screen individuals. A bottleneck is straining the system and it is now taking up to six months.

The vulnerable sector, not-for-profits, the unemployed and small business cannot wait this long. A joint effort to streamline this process is required to preserve the integrity of this important public safety measure.

What is the Minister of Public Safety going to do?

Public Safety
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Provencher
Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, here are the facts. There are mechanisms and safeguards in place to ensure that when the system is followed, criminal records for pardoned sex offenders are properly identified and accurate, and that innocent individuals are not being mistakenly identified as criminals.

Ninety per cent of the checks are done within 30 days. I know that there have been some issues with delays, and I look forward to working together with the member to improve the efficiency of the system in order to protect individuals.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

February 3rd, 2011 / 3 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the government House leader what the business will be for the remainder of this week and, of course, next week. I also would like him to address, if he could, two specifics in anticipation of next week.

First, what are the allotted days for opposition day motions, particularly opposition day motions broken down by party, based on the agreement that we negotiated with all parties prior to Christmas?

Second, I would like to ask specifically, which will be the second or third time that I have asked the minister in the House and several times privately, when the government plans to bring Bill C-49, which was given first reading on October 21, 2010, some three and a half months ago, to the floor of the House. It is important, because the Prime Minister, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, the House leader and many ministers in that cabinet spend a lot of time talking to Canadians about what they consider to be the merits of this bill but they simply will not bring it to the floor of the House of Commons. The official opposition is ready to deal with that bill and to have it both in the House and in committee.

Perhaps the minister could explain to the House where Bill C-49 is.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, we are working hard to make Parliament work. I know that when it comes to Bill C-49, the Liberal House leader and his caucus want to kill Bill C-49. They do not want to send it to committee. We will call Bill C-49 for debate. We will call it for a vote and we look forward to members going on record to take their positions on that very clearly.

The government continues to make Parliament work and has been able to move our legislative agenda forward this week. I thank all members of the House for passing Bill S-6 Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act, which would get rid of the faint hope clause, and make its way through the House of Commons. I think that was a good day. There were a number of victims' representatives in the gallery and I was very proud of that, as I think all members should be. We also passed Bill C-48 Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act, which will move to the other place.

Today we will continue the debate on the report stage of Bill C-46 Canada-Panama Free Trade Act, Following Bill C-46, we will call Bill S-10 Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act, and Bill C-55 Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act.

Next week we will continue with the unfinished business from this week, plus Bill C-57 Improving Trade Within Canada Act; Bill C-50 Improving Access to Investigative Tools for Serious Crimes Act; Bill C-12 Democratic Representation Act; and Bill C-20 An Action Plan for the National Capital Commission, .

To respond to the Liberal House leader's question, we will have opposition days scheduled for Tuesday, February 8 and Thursday, February 10, which would be for the Bloc Québécois.

I also will be giving priority to any bill that is reported from committee so that we can continue to move the legislative agenda forward.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I need to point out how wrong the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities was. On December 2005, I announced the cable agreement, fully funded, fully committed. It was announced and that government cancelled it. It is time it re-committed the money.

The minister is absolutely wrong in what he told the House.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite made a campaign commitment during December 2005. The House was prorogued at that time.

The reality is that the Liberals had four terms and could not get it done. If they had just had that fifth term, I am sure they could have got it done.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I do not think that is a point of order. It sounds like a dispute as to facts. I suggest we move on to orders of the day.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this legislation, the free trade agreement between Panama and Canada.

The fact is that Canada has its trade deficits today. For the first time in 30 years, we actually buy more than we are selling internationally. That is ominous for a small, open economy like Canada has that depends disproportionately on external trade for our standard of living and our wealth as a country.

If we look at where the world is headed and where the growth will be over the next five to ten years, we see that it will be in China, India and in the Asian economies. We also see a lot of opportunities in Africa, despite the governance concerns in certain countries. We see a lot of progress in Africa and we see a tremendous amount of growth and opportunity.

Then we look at the Latin American countries and increasingly it is clear that being dependent on the traditional economies of the U.S. and Europe is not where we want to be.

The fact is that the Conservative government spent its first three years in office chiding China and ignoring India. It did more to damage Canada-China relations than any government I can imagine. In fact, it imperilled a profoundly positive relationship that goes back 40 years ago to when Pierre Trudeau, a Liberal prime minister, was the first western leader to establish diplomatic relations with post-revolution China.

We know growth will be coming from Asian economies such as China and India. We also know that growth will be coming from Africa. What are the Conservatives doing with Africa? In fact, we cannot find Africa on a Conservative map. The Conservatives have completely ignored Africa. They have ignored the important opportunity and responsibility we have to transform Canada's relationship with Africa from one of aid and dependency to one of trade and opportunity. I believe there is a tremendous opportunity for Canada to deepen its traditionally strong relations with Africa and to move forward as trade partners.

I want to speak to Latin American opportunities and specifically to Colombia because we face some very similar challenges.

There are a lot of natural resources in Latin America. We in Canada, of course, have a lot of natural resources. We have seen an ascension of our Canadian dollar from 62¢ back in the earlier part of 2002 and now it is almost at par. If we look at Latin American countries we see a tremendous rise in Latin American currencies. This is as a result of the demand for our natural resources, our commodities.

Throughout the Americas, both Canada and Latin America face a very similar challenge with Dutch disease and the crowding out of our traditional manufacturing sectors and jobs, which is why it is important that we work together to bring down the trade and regulatory barriers between our economies so that we can be more competitive and be competitive with some of the emerging economies in Asia.

In terms of FTAs with the region, we have had an FTA with Chile since 1997 and with Costa Rica since 2002. The FTAs with Colombia and Peru were ratified in 2010. We now have this agreement with Panama.

I had the opportunity last week to meet with President Martinelli of Panama. We discussed the free trade agreement and we discussed the need for our two countries to work together for the good of our citizens.

Panama is a country that has made tremendous progress. I actually shared a panel with President Martinelli at the World Economic Forum last week in Davos where we were discussing the trade opportunities within the Americas and the need to work together because the American political system and Congress right now face tremendous challenges when it comes to trade issues. The level of protectionism in the U.S. that is so pervasive in Congress right now is preventing the U.S. from playing the leadership role that it ought to be playing in places like Latin America.

This creates a responsibility for Canada to be a good partner with Latin American countries that face very similar challenges and some similar histories as Canada. The American protectionism in Congress right now creates a responsibility for Canada to act and to lead in Latin American but it also creates opportunities for our construction and infrastructure companies, our financial services sector and our agriculture sector.

One of the things we watched with the Colombia FTA was that after we ratified the FTA, American farmers are now putting increased levels of pressure on their legislators to get their FTA ratified with Colombia because American farmers are losing out and Canadian farmers are actually gaining market advantage in Colombia. The same will happen in Panama because it is clear that we will ratify this FTA, or I certainly hope so, in Canada before the Americans have the opportunity do it.

When we look at the roles that some of the Canadian companies are playing in the region, we see Brookfield Asset Management; AIMCo, the Alberta investment fund; the Bank of Nova Scotia which bought Royal Bank of Scotland's Colombia assets; Pacific Rubiales; Talisman; Canaccord; and Columbus Communications, a Canadian company that has 14,000 kilometres of undersea fibre optic cables throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. Those are some of the important roles that Canadian companies are now playing in shaping the future of Latin America and the Caribbean region, and it just the beginning.

One of the things that has emerged over the last several years in Canada is that we have become a global centre for mining. Fifty-seven per cent of the world's publicly traded mining companies are now listed on the TSX. Eighty per cent of the volume for all mining equity financing in the world is in Toronto, which is actually 33% of global equity financing in dollar terms. To put this into perspective, the U.S. markets only account for 9%.

This gives us an opportunity to lead in these sectors, not just in terms of trade and commerce, balance sheets and financial statements, and shareholder returns and dividends, but in terms of corporate social responsibility and in terms of Canadian companies helping to set the standard in terms of social, progressive and environmentally responsible behaviours.

Last week I met with President Luis Moreno, the president of the Inter-American Development Bank. He shares with me the belief that Canada can play a leadership role in helping shape corporate social responsibility throughout the Americas by working with the Inter-American Development Bank. Canada does best when our companies and our governments work together with other governments multilaterally through agencies that we support and invest in, like the Inter-American Development Bank.

I know that some concerns have been raised about the tax haven issue, but I think it is critically important to recognize that Panama has actually proposed double taxation agreements to the Canadian government. We believe it is very important to move forward with these agreements and we want to see the government do that.

Some of the concerns that some of my colleagues in the NDP have raised have been very similar to concerns they have raised about every FTA. In fact, we could simply take out of the NDP talking points the name of the country and say that it opposes the FTA with a certain country, and then just fill in the country and add the reasons, which are basically always the same reasons. There are no new reasons because it is an ideological as opposed to a practical argument against the odd duties created by traded.

One of the arguments that the NDP members used against the free trade agreement with Colombia was that there had been some level of illicit drug trafficking and money laundering in Colombia in the past. I want to address that because if we are serious about working with the Government of Colombia and the people of Colombia to reduce that drug trade, the most important thing we can do is provide alternative economic opportunities through legitimate trade. I would argue vigorously that failure to do so would make us complicit with that drug activity.

What does one expect the people of Colombia to do if we do not trade with them and we do not provide legitimate economic opportunities? Desperate people will make their livings in the only way they know how. The best way to liberate them from the tyranny of the drug trade is to provide legitimate economic opportunity.

I also met with President Calderon last week from Mexico. One of the things President Calderon and his security advisers told me was that the success of President Uribe in Colombia, in the Colombia Plan with the United States, in stamping out the drug trade has led to the drug trade growing in Mexico.

It is a multilateral issue. Canada, the United States, Mexico, all the countries in the Andean region throughout Latin America have to work together, not just to help achieve security in one country but to help achieve security throughout. We have to do it multilaterally.

A good place to start is through free trade agreements with these countries that are moving forward and enabling Canadian businesses and farmers to participate in the opportunity of helping these countries move forward and the opportunities to prosper in Canada.