House of Commons Hansard #70 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pension.

Topics

Food and Drugs Act
Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all parliamentarians who spoke in the House of Commons for their support of Bill C-313. I believe this legislation would strengthen consumer protection measures for Canadians and would serve to address the concerns raised with me by Canadian eye care professionals.

I also thank the House of Commons private members' business office and also legal services for their excellent work leading up to the introduction of Bill C-313. All of their work behind the scenes for MPs' legislative business is greatly appreciated.

In addition to my parliamentary colleagues, I thank the many professionals within the eye care community who have supported my private member's bill. In fact, members of the eye care community have been calling for the regulatory changes contained in my PMB for over a decade now. Bill C-313 has gained the support of three prominent national eye care organizations. The Canadian Association of Optometrists, the Opticians Association of Canada and the Canadian Ophthalmological Society are important stakeholders in any discussion on eye care.

Furthermore, my office has been contacted by numerous provincial bodies and even eye care organizations from across the United States and Europe, each of whom are extremely supportive of the work we are doing here today with regard to helping to make Bill C-313 law.

I believe the work of these professional eye care stakeholders in Bill C-313 would finally address the lack of regulatory oversight on what are called “non-corrective cosmetic contact lenses”.

Due to the importance of Bill C-313 toward consumer protection and the overall health and well-being of Canadians, I was able to obtain the full support of all the opposition parties and their health critics when my bill was first introduced. Today I thank them for that same support to send my bill to committee for further study.

I am also honoured to have the support of the Minister of Health and I thank her for her support on the bill.

Asked by constituents and others why I would bring Bill C-313 forward, I have explained that my objective was to fully address the concerns held by myself, other parliamentarians and thousands of eye care professionals across Canada about the impact that cosmetic contact lenses was having on the health of our youth and those unaware of the potential side effects of using such a consumer product.

For example, in the past few months, since Bill C-313 was introduced in the House, millions of cosmetic contact lenses have been recalled across North America. These lenses were sold by various companies over the Internet with little to no regard for the safety of the customer purchasing these products, which is exactly what this legislation intends to prevent.

Severe complications did occur for some of the consumers who purchased these tainted lenses, which led to the recent recall in question. Such complications are likely to occur due to unsafe handling and wearing an improperly fitted lens in one's eye. These issues are also known to increase with the lack of professional oversight when these products are initially obtained by the consumer. A list of complications would include the following: conjunctivitis, corneal abrasions, giant papillary conjunctivitis, microbial keratitis and other forms of bacterial, allergic and microbial infections as specified by the eye care industry.

Already we know that these complications all occur with prescribed corrective lenses, which is exactly why Health Canada regulates the use of those products through opticians and regulatory bodies.

Before I finish, I will share with members a quote from Dr. Lillian Linton, president of the Canadian Association of Optometrists. After Bill C-313 was introduced, she stated:

This is about people’s eyesight…. There are daily news stories from around the world about the complications that can arise due to ill-fitting cosmetic lenses or improper use and handling. It is an important vision health issue and the optometrists, opticians and ophthalmologists of Canada are asking for unanimous support from the House, Senate and Health Canada to adopt this amendment and enact it with haste.

The time has come for us as parliamentarians to join together to support Bill C-313 so we can ensure that the required regulatory changes are made. In doing so, we, as MPs, can ensure that the eye health of thousands of Canadians remains adequately protected.

With this in mind, I call on all parliamentarians in the House today to stand in support of Bill C-313.

Food and Drugs Act
Private Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

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

Food and Drugs Act
Private Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Food and Drugs Act
Private Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Health.

(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.

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, I am rising on a question that I asked in the House regarding child and family poverty, the use of food banks in this country, and the very dismal statistics that 38% of food bank users are children. In this context, I want to specifically address some of the issues that are contributing to child and family poverty. It may surprise you, Madam Speaker, but I want to talk about the impact child care has on women in later life.

In an article in the Vancouver Sun on January 24, 2012, Paul Kershaw outlined a number of factors that are contributing to the ongoing child and family poverty in this country. He indicated:

UNICEF reports that Canadian family policy falls among the worst industrialized countries because it invests little in families with children under age six. The OECD agrees when measuring public investments in child care services. Similarly, a U.K. Fairness in Families Index ranks Canada 15th out of 20 countries because our policy is weak in supporting men and women to equally share parenting and breadwinning.

Poor family policy rankings have tangible consequences in the day-to-day lives of Canadians, which result in lower retirement incomes for women.

Current parental leave policy provides the typical two-parent family with nearly $5,000 in incentives for the lower-earning spouse to withdraw from employment to care for a newborn, rather than share a year of leave between parents. Given that Canadian women age 25-44 continue to earn about 70 cents on the dollar compared to men’s earnings, the lower earner is most often the mother. The result is that Canadian leave policy encourages women to take on primary responsibility for child care, and discourages dads’ involvement.

He went on in his article to talk about the fact that because women have lower earnings, in their retirement years they end up with far less income. In particular, women over 65 who live alone have a low-income rate that is 40% higher than men who live alone.

He gets to parental concerns on child care. He said:

Inadequate parental leave isn’t the only family policy barrier to women’s earnings and retirement security. The fact that Canadian provinces typically have child care spaces for just one in five preschoolers is an equally significant obstacle, as is the high cost of the limited services that are available.

When a two-parent family with a toddler considers whether one parent (typically the mother) should stay home full-time, it is the cost of child care that is the major economic disincentive to a return to work. Child care costs dwarf the extra taxes the parent will pay on additional earnings.

In B.C., Alberta or Ontario, child care services will cost more than $7,200 annually, even after deducting child care fees from income taxes owed.

I need to point out that in Quebec there is a much more progressive child care policy. It has been demonstrated that that child care policy contributes to women continuing to have higher rates of earnings.

As a package, our family policies interact with cultural expectations about gender roles in Canada to pressure women to shoulder the lion's share of responsibility for child care at the expense of earnings and saving for retirement.

Canada's failure to make much progress on the report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women from 1970 helps to explain why the World Economic Forum ranks Canada 18th on its international gender equality index, despite our formal commitments in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It is no coincidence that our family policy and gender equality rankings converge near the bottom of OECD countries. They emerge from a common cultural reality. Canadians are content to ask young women to sacrifice their earnings, career ambitions and future retirement security to compensate for our national failure to prioritize family policy investments.

I come back to my original question, to which I did not get an adequate answer at the time. Is the government prepared to invest in high quality affordable child care programs, or is its continuing answer to our nation's hungry children that they should just get a job?

6:50 p.m.

North Vancouver
B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and for Western Economic Diversification

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan and to explain what our government is doing to combat child poverty.

There is no doubt that jobs are the best way to escape poverty.

Our government provides almost $2.5 billion each year to the provinces and territories to enable them to deliver critical services and supports to Canadian workers who need help to make the transition to new jobs. Our government's approach to reducing poverty focuses on giving Canadians opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency while providing targeted supports to those facing special barriers.

We recognize that families are the most important building block for society. That is why our government provides over $14 billion per year in benefits for families with children. These funds are invested through the Canada child tax benefit, including the national child benefit supplement for low-income families, and through the universal child care benefit and the child tax credit.

Something must be working because the poverty rate for children has almost halved in recent years from a peak of 18.4% in 1996 to just 9.5% in 2009. Children under age 18 and female headed lone parent families saw their rate of poverty plummet to an all-time low of 21.5% in 2009, down from 56% in 1996. This progress can be explained by the fact that mothers are earning more income through employment. It also reflects the positive effects of the national child benefit supplement and the working income tax benefit.

The Government of Canada also supports families with young children through the Canada social transfer. About $1.2 billion was transferred to the provinces and territories in 2010-11. That investment will grow to almost $1.3 billion by 2013-14.

Let me say a little more about the Canada child tax benefit. It is a basic benefit that goes to some 90% of Canadian families with children. The Canada child tax benefit, which includes the national child benefit supplement for low-income families, provides a tax-free monthly benefit of up to $3,485 per year for the first eligible child under the age of 18.

Budget 2009 increased accessibility for the Canada child tax benefit and the national child benefit supplement for low-income families. This allows families to earn additional income and still qualify for a full or partial benefit.

The national child benefit initiative has been successful in reducing the number of families with children living in poverty. It has also improved living standards for those families who continue to live below the poverty line.

We have made real progress in reducing poverty, especially for families with children. We will continue to help families and the most vulnerable Canadians to achieve self-sufficiency.

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his response but we have different realities.

In another article by Paul Kershaw on the struggles of the next generation, in talking about social policy he indicated:

This reticence is especially evident in our slow national response to a disturbing reality -- that the generation raising young kids today is the first in a long time to struggle with a dramatically lower standard of living than their parents.

Canada allocates just 0.34% of GDP to child care and kindergarten services for children under age six.

That was in 2008 and talked about 38% of children using food banks. He also indicated that Canada has one of the worst records in the OECD countries for child and family poverty.

The member may talk about those rates coming down, but the reality is that a significant number of children and families are still living in poverty in this country.

Again, I come back to my original question. When will the government invest in a high quality, affordable child care program, or is the government's answer to children to just get a job?

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

Madam Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, the low-income rate for families with children has shown a significant decrease in recent years, from 18.4% in 1996 to 9.5% in 2009. Both the 2009 and 2010 budgets introduced broad-based tax relief as well as significant investments to assist vulnerable Canadians.

We have made improvements to the national child benefit and the Canada child tax benefit.

In 2011, about 1.5 million working Canadian families are expected to benefit from the working income tax benefit. Our goal is to support families as the building blocks of society. We will continue to make investments that make a positive difference in the lives of Canadians and their families.

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Madam Speaker, this evening I am coming back to the question of the Auditor General of Canada, who is an officer of Parliament. We all remember everything that happened in the fall when the government presented the results of a process it had itself initiated by publishing the criteria in the Canada Gazette that the candidate had to meet. The announcement stated very clearly— it was written and spelled out—that fluency in English and French was essential. When the Prime Minister consulted the opposition party leaders in writing, he did not mention the fact that the candidate who had been chosen was not in fact bilingual.

When this became known, it caused a lot of ink to be spilled. It made a number of waves, and it is not over. Even the then President of the Public Service, Ms. Barrados, when a question was put to her at a parliamentary committee about the procedure followed by the public service when someone did not meet the specified criteria for a competition, said very clearly that if the person did not meet the language requirements they simply did not get the job, particularly if fluency in both languages was considered to be essential.

The mere fact that the government went ahead with the appointment and forced the vote in the House on the appointment of a person who did not meet the basic criteria is evidence of a lack of natural justice.

I know people who did not apply because they were not bilingual, when the position required it. If the government was going to insist on appointing someone who is not bilingual, then, and everyone acknowledges it, it should have started over from zero and changed the criteria, but it did not do that. It bent the selection process. The Conservatives’ answer, and I do not doubt they will spin the same yarn tonight, is that they looked but they could not find anyone. To offer that kind of rationale is absolutely unbelievable.

There is another major concern: there are several parties sitting in the House. There are at least three that are recognized because they have enough members to have party status: the Conservative Party, the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party. There are also Bloc Québécois representatives and a representative from the Green Party. However, what we have to realize is that when the vote was called for, to approve the appointment of Mr. Ferguson, only one party supported it, when an officer of Parliament should have the support of more than one party. The New Democrats, the Liberals and the representatives of the Bloc and the Green Party voted against it.

The government has set a dangerous precedent for this officer of Parliament position. I think it will have consequences. I think Canadians are entitled to know that the government set up a process and then failed to abide by it, and that it put Mr. Ferguson in an extremely delicate and embarrassing position by insisting that he be appointed even though he did not meet the basic prerequisite in a country with two official languages, where the Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that loudly and clearly.

As well, only one party in the House supported it. The situation this creates is a matter of considerable concern, and I think the government should revisit its approach.

7 p.m.

North Vancouver
B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and for Western Economic Diversification

Madam Speaker, with respect to the appointment of the new Auditor General, Canadians can be confident that we have found a highly qualified individual for this very important position.

Mr. Ferguson brings with him the experience gained during a successful career in a series of senior financial positions with the Government of New Brunswick. We are fortunate to have found someone of his calibre to take on the demands of this important position.

As members know, the Office of the Auditor General plays a central role in ensuring the accountability and integrity of the Government of Canada. The Auditor General's job is one of the top financial jobs in the country, and it requires a top financial mind.

We looked for bilingual candidates. After an extensive process, Mr. Ferguson was chosen because he was the best qualified.

He has been a non-partisan public servant since 1985 and has had a distinguished career by any measure. Mr. Ferguson has succeeded in three important roles in New Brunswick: as comptroller general, auditor general and deputy minister of finance. In fact, he has had success after success in senior financial positions in the bilingual government of that province.

New Brunswick is a wonderful province with a rich heritage in both English and French. Mr. Ferguson's success in that bilingual jurisdiction is a good indicator of success in the federal government. Undoubtedly, the outstanding qualities that he brought to his career in New Brunswick will serve him well here in Ottawa.

The Auditor General has committed to improving his language skills in French. He has characterized this as a number one priority for him, including during his appearances before committees of the House and Senate.

Mr. Ferguson is a highly respected person in this field. We can be sure that he will carry on the high standards of auditing independence, integrity and excellence set by his predecessor Madam Sheila Fraser.

As Canada continues its efforts to strengthen accountability and transparency in its public institutions, while at the same time reducing the deficit and balancing the books, we will need a highly qualified individual in this post. That person is Michael Ferguson.

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Madam Speaker, I knew they would hide behind Mr. Ferguson's candidacy. That is not what we are criticizing. We are not criticizing the man, just the fact that the government said it wanted someone who was fluent in both of Canada's languages, which is perfectly reasonable, but that did not happen. The government did not even satisfy its own criteria. I hope there will be consequences.

The Commissioner of Official Languages, who is responsible for ensuring linguistic duality here in the House, is investigating the matter. I am looking forward to the results of that investigation. We cannot let this go without raising a fuss. This indicates a total lack of respect for Canada's two linguistic groups. When an agent of Parliament is required to master both languages, but the appointee does not fulfill that criterion, that demonstrates lack of self-respect and lack of respect for Canada's two linguistic groups. That is what we are not happy about, not the candidacy of any particular individual. The government should respect its own criteria.

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

Madam Speaker, as I have previously stated, the government voluntarily sought bilingual candidates for this position. Upon completion of a rigorous process, the best qualified candidate was chosen.

The Auditor General's position is one of great importance within the government. It requires a person with expertise and many years of experience in the auditing field. Michael Ferguson is highly qualified and he is the right person for this job.

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Speaker, I have the pleasure of rising to continue debate on a question that I asked the government in October. That has to do with the mandatory minimum penalties in Bill C-10. This bill removes a judge's discretionary power to determine an appropriate sentence based on the crime and circumstances. Since that question was asked, this bill was rushed through the House with time allocation and closure. It is on its way to being the law of the land, unfortunately. This is another expression of the government's disrespect for Parliament, parliamentarians, Canadians and stakeholders who are represented in the House of Commons.

Bill C-10 had no consultation on some of its elements. They were new. They were not bills that had been previously discussed. Worse than that, the bill had many aspects that had been discussed, debated and brought forward in committee. It had input from stakeholder groups and experts across the country, and all of that expert testimony was ignored. The vast array of troublesome aspects of Bill C-10 had no modifications, no amendments permitted and, essentially, the expert advice from Canadians who knew about these issues was brushed off.

It is not my word on this. I want to put on record the voices of people who know about these issues. While the government claimed that Bill C-10 would make Canadians and streets safer, that is clearly completely false. It is a marketing ploy by the government. In fact, the vice-chair of the Canadian Bar Association's National Criminal Justice Section said:

We believe the substance of this legislation [Bill C-10] both to be self-defeating and counterproductive, if the goal is to enhance public safety. It represents a profound shift in orientation from a system that emphasizes public safety... rehabilitation and reintegration to one that puts vengeance first.

The executive director of the Washington-based Justice Policy Institute stated:

Republican governors and state legislators in such states of Texas, South Carolina, and Ohio are repealing mandatory minimum sentences, increasing opportunities for effective community supervision, and funding drug treatment because they know it will improve public safety and reduce taxpayer costs. If passed, C-10 will take Canadian justice policies 180 degrees in the wrong direction, and Canadian citizens will bear the costs.

The Assembly of First Nations' national chief said:

—the Conservative government's tough-on-crime bill will hurt First Nations people, who are already disproportionately represented in federal, provincial and territorial jails.

In fact, it will hurt first nations people and discriminate against them, as well as youth and people with mental illness.

The justice minister for Newfoundland and Labrador was clear that “incarcerating more people is not the answer”.

The bill's approach is contrary to what is known to lead to a safer society.

That was a statement made by the Canadian Bar Association.

I have pages and pages of testimony, all ignored by the Conservative government in Bill C-10, which is going to create more crime, greater costs and less justice.

January 31st, 2012 / 7:10 p.m.

Delta—Richmond East
B.C.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Madam Speaker, let us review Bill C-10.

The hon. member has raised the issue of judicial discretion. Part 2 of the Safe Streets and Communities Act includes former Bill S-10, the Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act. These reforms were introduced in three previous parliaments, passed by both chambers but never by both in the same session.

Bill C-10 proposes to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, to impose mandatory minimum penalties or MMPs for the offences of trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking, production, importing, exporting and possession for the purpose of exporting drugs, all serious drug offences.

Drugs covered are schedule 1 drugs such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and schedule 2 drugs such as marijuana. These offences would only carry an MMP where there is an aggravating factor, including where the production of the drug constituted a potential security, health or safety hazard, or the offence was committed in or near a school.

Importantly, there is an exception that allows courts not to impose a mandatory sentence if an offender is eligible for and successfully completes a drug treatment court or DTC program. The program involves a blend of judicial supervision and incentives for reduced drug use, social services support and sanctions for non-compliance. There are six DTCs in Canada: Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton and Vancouver.

If there is no drug treatment court in a particular jurisdiction, the court can delay sentencing to allow the offender to attend another approved treatment program. The Canadian drug treatment court model was initiated by federal prosecutors looking to effectively deal with repeat offenders whose crimes were motivated by drug addictions. By assisting the offender to overcome addiction, criminal recidivism is reduced and success is being achieved.

Bill C-10 also aims to further restrict the use of house arrest and conditional sentences never intended to apply to serious and violent crimes. Bill C-10 includes amendments that explicitly state that a conditional sentence is never available for offences punishable by a maximum of 14 years or life, for offences prosecuted by indictment and punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years that result in bodily harm, involve the import, export, trafficking and production of drugs or involve the use of a weapon, or for specific serious property and violent offences punishable by 10 years and prosecuted by indictments such as criminal harassment, trafficking in persons, motor vehicle theft and theft over $5,000.

Do the critics of our law reform agenda really believe that an offence with a maximum sentence of 14 years should ever be served in the comfort of the offender's home, even under the strictest of conditions? Do these critics believe that drug traffickers should serve a conditional sentence? This government is committed to ensuring that conditional sentences are only an option for appropriate offences. This will result in some offenders serving time in custody. Some will receive other types of sentences. This is as it should be.

Bill C-10 also proposes to denounce all forms of child sexual abuse through the imposition of new and higher mandatory minimum penalties and the creation of two new offences to target conduct which facilitates sexual offending against children. These amendments were included in former Bill C-54, which had been passed by this House with all party support and was at third reading debate in the Senate when it died on the order paper last March. I would be surprised if these reforms are not still strongly supported.

The government intends to keep its promises. One such promise is to better protect our most vulnerable, including children. There will always be critics, but we will be quick to defend our public safety approaches because we do so for the--