House of Commons Hansard #168 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was conservatives.

Topics

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

moved that Bill C-321, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials), be read the third time and passed.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

October 24th, 2012 / 5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak to Bill C-321, an act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials). I congratulate the member for bringing this forward. This is not the first time that he has done so.

Reading the summary of the private member's bill took me back to the years when I first came to Canada as an immigrant from South Africa. As a young person, I lived on the west side of Vancouver, not far from the UBC gates, and there was no permanent library. Every Thursday afternoon I would head down to 10th Avenue where the mobile book library would come from downtown. It would circulate through the different parts of Vancouver and Thursday night was our night on 10th Avenue. I would spend at least an hour in the mobile library, a big van with rows of books. An important part of my becoming a Canadian was starting to read novels and non-fiction Canadian books. That is also why I have a lifetime love of learning and reading.

This legislation supports that kind of commitment to literacy and lifelong learning and will be supported by the Liberal Party as the right thing to do. It would create access to library materials for people who need them and extend these to reflect the realities of today.

Bill C-45--Notice of time allocation motion
Jobs and Growth Act, 2012
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Our economic action plan is working and it has helped support the creation of over 830,000 net new jobs since the downturn, but there is more to do. To continue this work we need to implement our plan for the passage of Bill C-45, the jobs and growth act.

I would like to advise that an agreement has not been reached under the provisions of Standing Order 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to the second reading stage of Bill C-45, a second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures. Thus, under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a minister of the crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at this stage. It is my intention to propose four further days for the second reading debate of Bill C-45.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-321, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials), be read the third time and passed.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, the final vote approaches on Bill C-321, which amends the Canada Post Corporation Act and allows for a continued lower postage rate for library materials.

I am strongly in favour of the bill, and I thank the member for Brandon—Souris for his continued efforts, as this is indeed his third attempt. New Democrats unanimously supported the previous versions of the bill, including in committee, so we are pleased to rise today to renew our support for the bill at third reading.

This bill hits close to home, for two reasons. First, as my colleagues undoubtedly know, I am a teacher, which is why I will always vigorously support this House's efforts to encourage lifelong learning—through reading in this case—and to support culture and the dissemination of knowledge everywhere in Canada. I could tell a great many personal stories involving the students I had the chance to work with for 25 years, but seeing as time is limited, I will have to move on.

The resource materials provided by our libraries contribute to the learning and education of every Canadian.That is why we hope books can be distributed and shared at a low cost across Canada.

I would like to remind my honourable colleagues present that, since 1939, Canadian libraries have shared books at a reduced postal rate. It is vital that a federal institution such as Canada Post, which must serve all Canadians, provide such a service.

We cannot deny that we are pleased to support this bill, which is rather unique in that it places more emphasis on cultural and educational aspects than on economic considerations. It is quite rare for the government to do so, and I wanted to highlight this historic first.

I am also pleased to see that the bill retains the broader definition of library materials, which includes audiovisual and reading materials, of course.

Today, a library is much more than just a place to store books. Libraries are cultural hubs that provide a great variety of documents in very diverse formats. The nature of books is changing and will probably continue to do so in the decades to come. By passing this bill, we are maintaining access to library materials for all Canadians and we are maintaining fairness within the national network.

We also encourage small libraries to lend their collections and their archival documents to larger libraries in urban centres and vice versa. We would also point out that this exchange of documents allows Canadians who might be far away from one another to get to know each other better and recognize commonalities among their diverse fellow citizens.

The second thing that drew my attention in the bill was the key role played by the Canada Post Corporation. I must express a number of concerns I have about this.

Under the direction of the Conservative government, the Canada Post Corporation is closing a number of post offices and transferring certain services to private sector outlets. In the first six months of 2012, at least 16 post offices closed or received a notice of closure. In the next few months, Canada Post is expected to close another 40 or so post offices across the country. I just received an email informing me that the post office in Durham will be closing, and the list will probably grow over the next few weeks.

The NDP strongly opposes this quiet privatization, which has a negative impact on service to Canadians and businesses, and jeopardizes the Canadian economy. This modernization of Canada Post, if you can call it that, is troubling in the context of the bill currently before the House.

Because of the Conservatives, more and more isolated towns and communities are losing their Canada Post services. How will they receive the books that this bill refers to? How can this bill achieve its objectives if Canada Post services continue to dwindle?

It seems ironic, and even illogical, to see some Conservatives rise to support our libraries—something we agree with—and to support maintaining reduced postage rates, while others—or even the same ones—are in the process of reducing the number of post offices across the country.

Bill C-321 is an important bill. If we lost the reduced postage rates for library books, we would end up with a two-tier library system, based on the user's means and wealth. That is unacceptable in a country where access to knowledge is the key to prosperity and future economic development.

Bill C-321 also shows that it is not a mortal sin to require a business to guarantee something that could be considered an essential service in terms of culture and education.

That is why, while the Conservatives are busy making budget cuts—such as the ones to Library and Archives Canada—I will vote in favour of this bill.

However, this does not mean that Canadian libraries are in the clear. Far from it. We must stop privatizing the Canada Post Corporation and ensure that our heritage collections are accessible to as many Canadians as possible.

Canada Post currently offers Canadian libraries a reduced rate for library books, and there is no reason to believe that the corporation could not continue to offer this reduced rate in the future.

This provision would prevent Canada Post from unilaterally changing its reduced postage rate, which could cut interlibrary loan services in rural regions and remote areas of the country.

We must act now to ensure that our library system remains fair and accessible to all Canadians in all communities, especially official language minority communities.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin

Resuming debate. Seeing no members rise, is the House ready for the question?

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin

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

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

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

Aboriginal Affairs
Adjournment Proceedings

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to begin the adjournment debate by discussing the selection of foods to subsidize for communities in the far north. I am very pleased because it will give me an opportunity to talk about my meeting with the UN rapporteur, Mr. De Schutter. If my memory serves me well, we met with him last April. I had the opportunity to speak to him for a few minutes. I gave him first-hand information. In fact, I had some photographs and privileged information about the real impact of the food subsidy program in Canada's far north and especially about the quality of food in remote communities.

By way of information, I would like to repeat that I come from a community located not far from the 52nd parallel. The quality of the food on my home reserve of Uashat is not always the best. What I told Mr. De Schutter from the outset is that junk food is available very cheaply in my community. For example, I provided the UN rapporteur with a photograph that showed that two litres of pop costs 99¢ in my community, while a carton of milk costs $4 or $5. The decision is obvious for families with fairly limited incomes. This is one of the subjects I discussed with the UN rapporteur. Even though, strictly speaking, my community has access to inexpensive food, the quality is not necessarily the best.

It is also important to understand that Mr. De Schutter's visit and the report he issued caused quite an outcry from the Conservatives. They tried to demonize the UN rapporteur, which I humbly submit does not bode very well for international relations. However, the report is worthy of note and of interest. By the way, I would like to say hello to Mr. De Schutter. Perhaps he is in Europe watching me right now.

While he was here, I emphasized the fact that the quality of food is sometimes questionable, that products for mass consumption, whether it be chips or pop, are far too widely available, and that children have direct access to these foods at corner stores and grocery stores in the community.

I also stressed another point that, until now, has been overlooked, and that is alcoholic beverages with a very high alcohol content, which are only available in remote communities and possibly in some of the poorer areas of Montreal. People are being targeted so specifically that when representatives of the Brewers Association of Canada came to meet with me and I spoke to them about these beverages with an alcohol content of 10% and 11% that are sold in 1.2 litre quantities, even they did not have any knowledge of them.

I mentioned this to Mr. De Schutter. In such remote communities, near the 52nd parallel, when you can buy 1.2 litres of 10% or 11% alcohol for $5, but a quart of milk costs $4 or $5, there is a real problem. It is a real problem. These products are targeted. That is what I wanted to say today: these poor-quality products are targeted at this country's remote and aboriginal communities. The same thing is going on in ghettos, inner cities and poor communities across the country.

That is all, Mr. Speaker.

Aboriginal Affairs
Adjournment Proceedings

5:45 p.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak to the question from the hon. member for Manicouagan. Our government is working with partners across Canada to deliver tangible and lasting results for aboriginal people and to ensure they are well positioned to be full participants in a strong Canadian economy. We support food security for aboriginal communities through a number of programs, including nutrition north Canada.

In April 2011, nutrition north Canada was launched with the goal of improving access to nutritious perishable foods such as fruits, vegetables, bread, meats, milk and eggs for Canadians living in remote communities. It is a subsidy program that encourages registered retailers, suppliers or wholesalers to choose the most economical options for shipping goods to remote communities. These retailers must then pass on the savings to their customers.

Nutrition north Canada data shows that the subsidy is reducing food prices and is encouraging northerners to buy more nutritious and perishable foods. Nutrition north Canada benefits 103 remote northern communities in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

The Government of Canada does not set or regulate retail food prices. However, under the nutrition north Canada program, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada has the authority to ensure that retailers fulfill their obligation of passing on the program subsidies to their consumers.

In addition, as country food such as Arctic char, caribou and muskox are a vital food source, our government is committed to ensuring it remains a key part of northerners' diets. That is why commercially produced country foods are included for subsidy under nutrition north Canada.

Country foods produced in federally regulated northern commercial food processing plants are eligible for a subsidy under nutrition north Canada. Health Canada and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada are working with other federal departments and stakeholders on options to improve access to country food in the north.

We welcome the public discussion that is under way on how various governments and stakeholders, including all members of Parliament, can work together to improve the health and wellness of northerners. Clearly, our government remains committed to providing northerners with healthy food choices through the nutrition north Canada program.

Aboriginal Affairs
Adjournment Proceedings

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government cares so much about the quality of the foods that will be distributed to remote communities that it allocated only a few hundred dollars for country foods in the latest budget. This was mentioned here. I am sure that its airtime is worth more than the money it actually invested.

If the mining and industry programs move forward, the caribou population will suffer and we will see a noticeable decline.

People are in charge of distributing country meat, which I should point out is happening less and less.

When the person in charge of distribution has to take care of staffing and distribution in remote communities, all they will be able to say is aputukut shuniau, meaning that there was no money invested and there was only about a hundred dollars for the whole country. That is not nearly enough for country food, which is essential and is part of the traditional diet in remote northern communities.

Aboriginal Affairs
Adjournment Proceedings

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, our government is taking action to improve access to fresh, nutritious food for people living in isolated northern communities. I am very proud to report that, working together with aboriginal people from across the country, we have made tremendous headway in ensuring that they have access to the same quality of life as other Canadians.

Our government will continue to work with aboriginal partners across Canada to deliver tangible and lasting results and ensure aboriginal people are well positioned to be full participants in a strong Canadian economy.