House of Commons Hansard #136 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was funding.

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A message from His Excellency the Governor General transmitting estimates for the financial year ending March 31, 2012 was presented by the President of the Treasury Board and read by the Speaker to the House.

International Labour Organization
Routine Proceedings

March 1st, 2011 / 10 a.m.

Halton
Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to article 19 of the International Labour Organization Constitution, member states are required to introduce new ILO conventions and recommendations to the competent authorities. I am pleased to submit to the House, in both official languages, two copies of the report on the Canadian position with respect to conventions and recommendations adopted at the 91st, 92nd, 95th and 96th sessions of the International Labour Conference, Geneva, Switzerland.

With respect to ILO Convention 187, on a promotional framework for occupational safety and health, which is referenced in this report, in January I met my provincial and territorial counterparts and I am working closely with them towards Canada's ratification of this convention.

National Defence
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Conservative

Maxime Bernier Beauce, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on National Defence concerning the condemnation of stoning in Afghanistan.

Justice and Human Rights
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

In accordance with the order of reference of Monday, December 6, 2010, your committee has considered Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sexual offences against children) and agreed on Monday, February 28, 2011 to report it without amendment.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 14th report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

In accordance with its order of reference of Wednesday, May 26, 2010, your committee has considered Bill C-501, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and other Acts (pension protection), and agreed on Tuesday, February 15, 2011 to report it with amendments.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development entitled, “From Food Mail to Nutrition North Canada”.

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I move that the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration presented on Monday, February 14, be concurred in.

I am moving this report to concur in the motion that I placed before the citizenship and immigration committee to reverse the funding cuts to settlement services agencies. This cut of $53 million was announced quietly just before Christmas.

We know that citizenship and immigration services are often the lifeline for newcomers who arrive in Canada often not knowing where to find a job, housing or language training. They rely on these service agencies to provide them with this kind of connection. The sooner these new immigrants can get settled, find a job and their kids can find a school and adapt, Canada will be a more productive place.

It is unfortunate that this cut was made because last year Canada accepted more new immigrants than ever before. Therefore, it makes no sense to inflict the cut at this time.

We understand that many of the staff in some of these agencies work long hours but are not well paid. Many of them volunteer their time and have their relatives and friends help them out. They are involved in fundraising activities in their communities to enhance the service that can be provided to them. I dare say that for every dollar that the government invests in these services agencies, these people raise much more and we get many more hours of volunteer activities from them.

It is shocking that this elimination of services for these agencies is done without any transition plan. Many of the agencies are in leased premises. We have heard that the Afghan Association of Ontario signed a five year lease but now, with only two years remaining on the lease, it has had its funding pulled. We were told that it was Citizenship and Immigration Canada that asked it to sign a long-term lease in the first place. The cutting of the funding for the Afghan Association means that the voluntary board of directors and the members themselves are now on the hook for two more years, something like $300,000, for an office it no longer can afford.

We also heard that because there is no transition plan, instead of the staff being let go through attrition, the community action resource centre estimates that over 1,000 workers from these agencies across mostly Ontario will be facing layoffs within the next two months. Without this funding, agencies will be forced to shut their doors and their valuable services will be lost. It is not good for the economy and it is not good for Canada's productivity.

Given that many of these agencies will be closing down, I thought it would be good today in the House of Commons to read out the names of these agencies so that those who support this cut can hear directly from the agencies that are being eliminated.

The list of organizations that will not have their contracts with CIC renewed include: the Afghan Association of Ontario; African Community Services of Peel; African Training and Employment Centre; Albion Neighbourhood Services; Asian Community AIDS Services; Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario; Audmax Inc. in Mississauga; Bloor Information Life Skills Centre in Toronto, which is in my riding; the Canadian Hate Prevention Network in Brampton; Canadian Newcomer magazine in Toronto; the Community Action Resource Centre in Toronto; Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga; Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood Centre in Toronto, which is next door to my riding; Eritrean Canadian Community Centre in Toronto; Ethiopian Association in Toronto; Gateway Centre for New Canadians in Mississauga; George Brown College in Toronto; Northwood Neighbourhood Services in Toronto; the Ontario Chamber of Commerce; Ryerson University in Toronto; the Salvation Army in Toronto; San Romanoway in Toronto; Social Planning Council of Peel in Mississauga; South Asian Women's Centre in Toronto; Tropicana Community Services in Toronto; the University of Western Ontario in London; Workers' Action Centre in Toronto; York Weston Community Services in Toronto.

I do not have time to name the other agencies that will receive less funding.

What is most tragic about this is that the immigration committee of this House spent many months last year studying best practices in settlement services. We looked at agencies and programs that would best deliver settlement services across Canada and have a series of recommendations. Just as we were about to embark on massive improvements to the settlement services, $53 million were cut.

There are six areas of programming that should receive funding: information and orientation, language and skills development, labour market participation, community connections, needs assessment and referrals, and support services. These programs would help newcomers make informed decisions about their settlement, understand life in Canada, have the proper skills needed to function in Canada and be able to find employment commensurate with their skills and education. As well, newcomers would receive help to establish social and professional networks so that they are engaged and feel welcome in the community.

These programs would ensure effective delivery and achieve positive settlement outcomes across Canada. They are the kind of programs that we believe will make a big difference in people's lives. After all, immigrants are nation-builders and are not in Canada just as economic units. We believe the faster they integrate into the community, the more productive they are and the better it is for Canada. That is why we firmly believe that spending $390 million last year to settle newcomers was a good direction. We do not want to see cuts to these services.

The committee proposed that, if possible, agencies should work together and submit joint proposals for a comprehensive approach. Because of the committee report, the agencies spent quite a bit of time connecting with each other to ensure that the services they provided were not duplicated and that services would be delivered in the most efficient way.

After they went through that exercise, some of them, unfortunately, were told that their services were no longer needed, which was a huge disappointment. They felt that the Government of Canada told them to work with each other but in the end they were being eliminated. It is seen as a betrayal by many of these agencies as they tried to improve their services.

We also noticed that there was really no performance review to tell these agencies that what they did was not up to par. There has been no attempt to talk to the agencies to tell them that they need to do something else in order to make sure their service is delivered well. Some of the service agencies that lost their funding have been commended and have received awards for delivering good services.

We also noticed that there was no transition plan to ensure that the newcomers these agencies served continued to receive service from other agencies. As a result, thousands of newcomers to Toronto will not be able to get the kind of service they need to help them settle in Canada quickly.

We find that the funding formula is deeply flawed. The minister said that funding to Ontario had been cut because it had fewer immigrants. There were only 4,000 fewer landed immigrants in Ontario last year, which is at most a 3.6% decrease, but 81% of the $53 million cut this year was inflicted on Ontario. Ontario has been shortchanged. It has 3% or 4% less immigrants. yet its funding was cut by 81%.

There is no justification for treating Ontario this way. Ontario continues to attract a large number of immigrants. Many immigrants choose to stay in the greater Toronto area. The majority of agencies being eliminated are in Toronto. It is as if Toronto is being punished for its successful method in settling newcomers. That is blatantly unfair and that is why we believe those cuts should be reversed.

The agencies that I mentioned will have their funding cease by March 31, which is in a few weeks time. Even though the immigration committee recommended that the Government of Canada continue to support and expand these immigration partnerships in Ontario and look at some of the pilot projects that have been successful in Ontario, it should be spread to other interested provinces. We studied the local immigration partnership and we believe this is a good route to take. Yet, Ontario is being punished.

The immigration committee thought it was important that we not only provide training to newcomers but also help them find jobs. Newcomers may have family issues, so we feel family counselling should be included in the theme of support services.

The six recommendations that came from the immigration committee on the best practices in settlement services need to be implemented and the funding cuts need to be reversed.

At the end of the day there are really only two ways to treat immigrants. First, we can tell them that they are in Canada only because we want them to work and we see them as economic units in the labour force.

That is one way of looking at immigrants. Another way is to say that they build our nations, that we welcome their families and their children, and that we believe that as their children go to our schools, libraries and community centres, they will enhance our communities and neighbourhoods.

A country that is willing to look ahead, be creative, and to help newcomers to adopt is the kind of country that would be far more productive and successful in the global competitive market. That is why we firmly believe that the $53 million in cuts to immigrant services really should be reversed.

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague with respect to her overview of what has been described as a desperate situation that exists in Ontario, particularly in the greater Toronto area and Toronto.

The member has given some statistics with respect to this impact. The predication upon which these cuts have been suggested is that immigrants are, in fact, not coming to Ontario at the rate they have in years gone by.

I would like to point out that the number of new immigrants coming to live in Ontario actually increased in the last census period by 109,000 to 580,740 or 23%, and yet, as the member has pointed out, we are making cuts to organizations that are delivering skills upgrading, employment search tools and language training.

It is, in fact, taking away the capacity for those people to either re-enter the job force or to enter the job force for the first time. This is creating havoc.

I would like to ask the member a question. She has outlined that there were principles that the committee had agreed on. Was there any discussion, prior to these cuts being made, with the committee where the government took the committee recommendations into its consideration when looking at those principles saying, “Look, here are the objectives we have. We are going to apply the principles, and then we will make a policy directive in a rational and informed manner”.

Did that happen? The impact is absolutely desperate in the Toronto area.

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Madam Speaker, there was no warning. There was no discussion or co-operation with any other levels of government.

With respect to this committee report, actually many service agencies came to Ottawa to talk about best practices. We learned a tremendous amount and that is why we have the report that was issued in March of last year.

One of the key things talked about in this report is co-operation and partnership. It talks about how the Canadian government is not alone in delivering services. Local municipalities, United Way agencies in Ontario and the provinces, and the territorial government also provide settlement services.

The best programs and the best services delivered on the ground are when all levels of government and all service providers come together and work together. That is when the best kinds of services are out in the community at the grassroots level.

Yet, with this service cut that happened just before Christmas, no other levels of government were given advance notice. The United Way of the greater Toronto area, Toronto, Mississauga, and the province of Ontario, none were given a heads up.

There was absolutely no transition plan in place. It was my way or the highway, which is really the way the Conservative government has been behaving, and that is unfortunate.

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, in northern Ontario, in mining country, there are numerous issues with regard to bringing skilled immigrants to the north and integrating them into society. While we are aware of the importance of building our communities with people who want to become Canadian citizens, we see a backlash in general in society questioning whether multiculturalism works.

An element that makes multiculturalism work, a traditional stand on immigration, is integration within the larger society. When we bring immigrants to Canada, we need to ensure they become part of our communities. We see the Conservative government taking two approaches that are sending us in the wrong direction.

One is the cut of $53 million to settlement and adaptation services, so that immigrant communities are left to themselves and are not able to integrate into the larger society. The other is to use labour programs to bring workers over on short-term work contracts and then send them back. Canadians do not benefit from this at all because sometimes it pushes down the labour market. Also, we are using cheap labour, sending workers back, and we do not get any benefit in our communities.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague a question. Why does she think the Conservative government is going on such a knowingly wrong-headed approach to deal with something as vitally important to Canadian society as immigration?

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Madam Speaker, a few weeks ago the committee heard from service agencies in Thunder Bay in northern Ontario. A service provider described the kinds of very precious services that she provides to newcomers. She described how newcomers are able to settle, find housing, and that the children are happier because of her agency's services. By no means is she well paid. She uses many volunteers. Because of the services she provides to Thunder Bay, newcomers in the community are immensely richer because of it.

At the end of the day, there are two competing visions. One is to treat immigrants and their families as nation builders. We accept them and believe the faster they integrate, the better it is for our society, and the more productive we are. The other vision is seeing immigrants as economic units, that we should get them to work for us and then send them home, in which case we do not need to worry about how they settle. That is a very flawed vision. That is not how Canada is built and that is certainly not the New Democratic Party's vision for immigrants.

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Madam Speaker, I received a press release put out by many of the organizations the member has spoken about. It is called “Fair Start--Let New Canadians Succeed”. That press release pointed out that the number of staff that will be dislocated is almost 1,000 of the organizations that were not consulted and the number of people those organizations served is over 100,000.

My question is this. Does the member think there is some sort of a non-partisan way we can transcend the kind of rhetoric that often creeps into these kinds of issues and that perhaps the committee could look at the issue again? We have a bit of time because the province of Ontario has stepped in for a short period to provide some interim funding to these organizations.

Armed with that action by the provincial government, could we not assert our concern to the committee and have it review this decision?

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Madam Speaker, there really needs to be a transition plan. The Government of Canada should work with other service agencies in the province of Ontario, the city of Toronto, and other cities to find ways to ensure these 100,000 newcomers would not be negatively affected.

This kind of transition plan would take at least six months to a year to put together. I hope that there will be co-operation, that we would transcend partisan games and lines to find a way to come together to ensure that newcomers do not end up losing the services.

One group of newcomers are Afghan interpreters who have put their lives on the line for our Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. They are arriving in Canada just as the Afghan Association of Ontario is having its funding cut. These Afghan interpreters, coming to this country after serving us well, deserve a way to adapt, so they could—

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Resuming debate. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, I want to say a few words this morning to let those Canadians who may be watching know exactly what is occurring here today.

As members in this place know, today we were supposed to be debating Bill C-42, the strengthening aviation security act. However, only one party in this place is opposed to that piece of legislation, the party of my colleagues across the floor, the NDP.

What they are attempting to do by the use of a concurrence motion, which we see before us today, is to cut three hours out of parliamentary debate. They used the same tactic yesterday to delay debate on Bill C-42 by a further three hours. It is very ironic because, on the one hand, the members of the NDP are fond of saying publicly that they are here to make Parliament work, but in reality, what we see happening is that they do not want to make Parliament work. Bill C-42 is supported by all parties except the NDP--