House of Commons Hansard #22 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crime.

Topics

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #33

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the amendment lost.

The next question is on the main motion.

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

Vote #34

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

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

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I brought a question to the House that was really a humanitarian question. It was a question about services that were missing for veterans and were causing great problems for an individual who did not deserve that kind of neglect.

The answer I got back to a genuine concern was a pure platitude, so I will give the Conservative government opposite another opportunity to address this concern from a constituent in Vancouver Quadra.

The essence of my concern is that Veterans Affairs is failing those whom it is designed to serve and that the government's spending priorities are completely out of whack. It has allowed this problem to happen.

To recap my question, it was about retired Major Gordon MacLean Logan, a 93-year-old veteran who was wounded six times in World War II in Italy and whose entire career was spent in the military.

This gentleman has been using the veterans independence program, to which he is entitled, and that has helped maintain his independence.

His caseworker used to come to his house to meet with him when necessary, but over the past three years the Veterans Affairs Canada caseworkers have become swamped, and retired Major Logan and his family have had to pull teeth to get service.

Major Logan had been restricted to his home for more than six months due to mobility issues that were completely preventable. Veterans Affairs Canada had authorized equipment, and then it failed to complete the paperwork so that it could be installed.

Finally Major Logan's own daughter paid up front for the porch lift. She put her own money on the line in order to help her father. A complaint was filed with the Veterans Ombudsman, but the family has never heard back. That was the case that I brought to the minister.

Since I have raised this issue in the House and written a letter to the minister, I will acknowledge that the office of theveterans affairs minister attempted to reach the family. It left a message. However, when the family tried to call back, their messages were never answered.

The Veterans Ombudsman's office did call the family that had filed this complaint. It left a message. When the family made several attempts to call back, they received a message saying that the ombudsman's office could not take calls.

Unfortunately, Major Logan has been in rehabilitation in a transitional care unit because of a progressive debilitation and weakness from not having mobility. The family is optimistic that he will get home soon and that the future will be better.

My question really is this: why is the government spending $450 million just this year on one of the parts of the Conservative crime bill while neglecting Veterans Affairs Canada and all of the invisible veterans who do not have the family or the ability to actually file a complaint and insist on help?

7 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for her question on behalf of Canada's decorated veterans.

While I have not personally met Major Logan, his service in the Second World War tells us everything that we need to know about this retired major's devotion to Canada and his dedication to our shared values of peace, freedom and democracy.

I am sure that all Canadians feel the same gratitude and pride knowing Mr. Logan's remarkable story of courage and sacrifice. I am sure they are also concerned, as am I, to hear that Mr. Logan is in failing health and that he may not be receiving all the help that he has earned and so much deserves.

I will reassure the House that our government is committed to ensuring that all veterans receive the services and benefits they are entitled to without fail and without exception.

I thank the member opposite for her question regarding the spending on behalf of veterans. It is an issue that seems to receive too little attention in this chamber. I welcome the chance to share the facts.

First and foremost, I believe Canadians will be reassured to know that, over the past five years, our government has invested heavily in veterans and their families. That includes investing in sweeping improvements through the new veterans charter and doubling the number of operational stress injury clinics, facilities where soldiers who return emotionally scarred by the intensity and trauma of the theatre can receive support and assistance in their recovery.

We have also established a veterans bill of rights and created the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman to strengthen the government's ability to respond quickly and fairly to the concerns of Canada's veterans. It includes extending the veterans independence program to more widows and widowers of veterans, and restoring and expanding benefits to our allied veterans.

We have done all of this for one reason and one reason only. It is because it is the right thing to do on behalf of Canada's veterans, because we owe them so much and because we intend to, in the best ways we can, repay the enormous debt of gratitude they have earned on behalf of this country.

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Veterans Affairs caseworkers are overworked, calls are not being answered and veterans are imprisoned in their own homes through a lack of services that they have been promised.

Could the government explain why it would rather spend $500,000 on one crime bill rather than on supporting veterans in their time of need? Could the government explain yet another tax cut to the largest and most profitable corporations and yet Veterans Affairs will be seeing budget cuts because of the profligate spending in the past by the government?

We need to think of the inhumanity of the choices that are being made by the government and of the access to services being denied to our veterans through the shortcomings in planning and compassion on the part of the Conservative government.

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will repeat that Canadians are grateful for retired Major Logan's service to our country. We understand the great debt we owe all of our veterans. That is why we have worked so hard over the last five years to make improvements in the benefits and services for these courageous men and women. That is why we continue to invest in benefits and programs that will make a real difference in the lives of our veterans. That is why new enhancements to the new veterans charter will come into force in the coming weeks. That is why new enhancements to other programs have already been implemented, whether it is the operational stress injury clinics or the improved programs for wounded soldiers who come back from theatre.

We are continuing to make the best investments in ensuring that those who serve us are treated with the utmost care and that every one of their needs, to the best of our ability, is fulfilled. We will continue to work with veterans to ensure that they are honoured and that they receive the care and love they deserve.

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to talk again about the Canada-U.S. border, in particular, the Windsor-Detroit border.

On June 21, I asked a question of the minister because we have a border crossing, a brand new crossing, blocked by the State of Michigan right now. The corridor along the Windsor-Detroit gateway has 40% of Canada's daily trade and we have aging infrastructure.

I started my municipal career in 1997 with the first public meeting to get a new border crossing. Since that time, we have gone through a lot of ups and downs, pushing on several governments, to get a new border crossing capacity to deal with the challenges of the modern infrastructure necessary to be competitive with the United States. We finally had an agreement through the DRIC process, a binational planning process, to create that new infrastructure. A lot of compromise has taken place to get to that point.

However, the final decision necessary to get the bridge built has been blocked in Lansing, Michigan, for a number of months now. This crossing is very important because a lot of Canadian trade, jobs and social economy moving back and forth is dependent on it. I asked the government to intervene in June and to be more forceful, active and engaged.

There is a private American citizen, who owns the Ambassador Bridge, lobbying with millions of dollars to protect his empire and his monopoly. That is at the expense of the environment and the economy. With more delays we would see the expense of the project going up. Things do not go down. We would see a greater cost borne by citizens and the payback for the project would take longer. I wanted the minister to get more engaged in June.

Right now we still have Michigan debating this law in Lansing and we still see a vacuum of leadership from the Minister of Transport on this file. We have not seen the type of leadership necessary to get the ball over the goal line, so to speak.

It is important that this is not seen as just a local issue. This is one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Canadian history. It is one of the most important things for our economy and trade with the United States. There are 34 states that have Canada as a number one trading partner. This is a conduit and lifeline for much of that trade and affects everything.

A quick example is the auto industry. An automobile built in Windsor or Detroit, Michigan, like the Volt, will literally have parts going back and forth across the border a number of times. This is why businesses have been in favour of this and environmental groups have been in favour of this to get some of the idling trucks off the city streets.

There has been great compromise by the citizens who have to bear the result of the construction and subsequent inconvenience. We need this to be successful right now. We need better leadership from the government to ensure that Michigan knows that we need to get this across the goal line. The government also has to engage Washington to ensure it is pushing this issue as well.

7:10 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the member will be pleased to learn that I agree with him. Most of the action that he has implored of this government is already done.

We support the bridge. We have set aside the funds. We have a plan to recover the costs through a system of tolls. We are accelerating, to the best of our ability, the approvals for the entire construction to go ahead.

He correctly points out that the decision now rests with the Michigan legislature and that it is up to legislators in that body to decide whether or not they want to have the jobs, the economic opportunities, and the enormous spinoffs that this project would engender in their communities.

To date, we have worked with businesses and other stakeholders who share our interest. They include local communities, unions, trade associations, Michigan's Fortune 500 companies, the big three automakers, the chambers of commerce, Michigan agri-food industry, and neighbouring states. All the benefits of this project are accrued to them and as such, they are supporting the project and exercising their influence, accordingly.

Most significant, though, since taking office in January 2011, the Michigan governor and the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario have become strong champions of the project. This government has made an effort to assist the governor with his efforts in convincing the Michigan legislators to support the building of the crossing. Our consulate general in Detroit has been promoting the project at every opportunity, even delivering speeches to business groups, chambers of commerce, and has met with individually Michigan legislators, in an effort to educate them and the citizens of the benefits of this new crossing.

We have also been working closely with the Canadian embassy in Washington in providing outreach and advocacy, to ensure that accurate information about the project is present.

Officials from Transport Canada have also been making, and will continue to make, significant efforts to advance this project. They have conducted detailed briefings on the project with state senators and other legislators to answer any questions that may remain.

As the hon. member will know, as he participated in the event staged last month by Transport Canada, we have also conducted several tours with Michigan legislators and border stakeholders.

In June, a senior official from Transport Canada, along with our consulate general in Michigan, Detroit, testified at the senate economic committee and reiterated Canada's financial commitment of $550 million to cover the costs of project components in Michigan that would not be funded by the public-private partnership, to ensure that this project moves ahead.

We are 100% behind this project. We will continue to work toward its success.