House of Commons Hansard #71 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pension.

Topics

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

All those opposed will please say nay.

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

In my opinion, the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, February 8, 2012, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

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

7:20 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, in November in question period I asked the Minister of the Environment this question. Who exactly does he work for? On this side of the House, we are working for Canadians, but on that side of the House I am afraid it seems they are working for the oil and gas industry.

The Minister of the Environment is failing to protect the environment and failing to take action for the environment. I can spell out why I believe this.

First, the government has absolutely failed to introduce any regulations about greenhouse gas emissions and the oil sands. These were promised to us back in 2009. The then minister of the environment said that they were coming, and we waited. At the end of last year, we were told not to worry because the regulations were coming, and we waited. Only months after that did the minister contradict himself by revealing that these regulations had stalled. It is 2012 and we still have no action on greenhouse gas emissions from the oil industry and the oil sands.

Conservatives disappointed Canadians from coast to coast to coast and our international partners when the Minister of the Environment announced that Canada was withdrawing from the Kyoto protocol.

Canada is the largest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. We do have a target, as I am sure we will hear in a moment, but the target is very weak. It is a 17% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020. Data shows that under the Conservative government our greenhouse gas emissions have risen 7% since it took office.

What the Conservatives do not seem to understand is the fact that withdrawing from Kyoto is not only putting the health of our environment at risk, but it is putting the health of our economy at risk. It is estimated that climate change will have impacts of $5 billion annually by 2020. This is obviously going to significantly impact our economy, not to mention our national security.

Now the Minister of Natural Resources has launched an attack against all Canadians, including first nations communities. I believe all Canadians respect the environment and want it protected. He has gone on the offensive, labelling them adversaries and radicals. The Conservatives are taking aim at thousands of Canadians who want to see us as a country uphold our international commitments and take action on the environment.

Government inaction on the renewable energy file also means that we are falling further behind. This is an opportunity for us to create growth in our economy and to develop incredible jobs in the renewable energy sector. Conservative inaction on climate means that we are falling behind, and the rest of the world knows this. Other countries are taking action and yet we are not. Instead, we have massive corporate welfare subsidies to the oil and gas industry instead of taking aim at the green economy of the future.

When will the minister start respecting the future generations of Canada that will have to clean up after his failed policies and broken promises? When will he actually start doing the job that Canadians expect him to do, and that is to start listening to Canadians and take concrete steps to protect our environment and our future?

7:25 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Madam Speaker, let us be honest. The member opposite wants to talk about jobs and when the NDP members start talking about Canadian jobs, they are actually speaking about the destruction of them. When they stand and speak it is about destroying hundreds of thousands of jobs. I am going to talk about that.

As I said on November 18, we believe we can move ahead with the proper environmental protections and the proper economic development. We are going to continue to do that for Canadians. We are going to continue to provide them with more jobs and more opportunities. We are going to do that with a balance, and we certainly do not find a balance on the other side of the House. Trying to find a job-creating project that the NDP actually supports is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Does the NDP support oil jobs? Absolutely not. Every time the member opposite stands in this House it is to speak against the economic opportunities that are creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic growth across this country. On Keystone XL, her party decided her opposition was not good enough to keep it in Canada, it sent her to our largest trading partner, the United States, and told it to reject a project that would create 140,000 jobs for Canadians. That is shameful.

It does not stop there. Whether it is the northern gateway, the Trans Mountain pipeline, Joslyn mine, or any other project that would provide jobs in our energy sector, the NDP and the member opposite firmly stand against Canadian job creators. It does not just stop at our oil sector. Shale gas, definitely not. Jobs in the nuclear sector, definitely not. In its submission to the Greenpeace election 2008 questionnaire, the NDP said, “Canada's New Democrats do not support nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is dangerous, prohibitively expensive and far from a solution to climate change”. That is another extreme position. That is 30,000 jobs across Canada which the NDP is saying no to.

Surely the NDP could at least support the forestry sector. Shockingly no, it cannot even do that. Let us listen to the NDP member for Winnipeg Centre who said at committee that we should not “be talking about a better way to cut down more trees and build with materials that begin to rot the moment you use it. We should be talking about ways to build without” wood.

While the NDP takes the puzzling position of supporting job creation by opposing all job-creating projects in our natural resources sector, our government has taken a different approach. We understand Canada is blessed with an abundance of natural resources that provide hundreds of thousands of jobs across this country and provide billions in economic growth. Over the next 10 years, there is $500 billion in potential investment in our natural resources sector. Gaining this investment is not guaranteed. It is not a foregone conclusion that requires us to sit back and watch it happen. We are fighting with countries around the world for this investment and the jobs that come with it. We must act to create the conditions necessary to put Canada's economy and environment on a firm footing going forward.

While the member and her party opposite continue to stand in the way of job growth in this country, our government will not apologize for doing what is necessary to put Canadians to work in good high-paying jobs.

7:30 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I will tell the member what jobs I support. I support jobs in the manufacturing sector that the Conservatives are killing by allowing unchecked, unbridled growth in the oil sands. I support jobs in the green economy of the future, a future that the Conservatives are killing by remaining in the 19th century and failing to think about this century and the next century.

I also support jobs in energy efficiency like, for example, the eco-energy home retrofit program that saw jobs created in each and every community across Canada. These are not jobs that can be shipped offshore. These are not temporary construction jobs for a pipeline that we are going to have to live with the environmental impacts of down the road. These are good-paying jobs in all our communities. What happened this week? The minister announced that the Conservatives are cutting the program when it worked and it created jobs.

When will the minister and the parliamentary secretary understand that jobs and the environment go hand in hand?

February 1st, 2012 / 7:30 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, we understand that full well. That is why we have a balanced position. The natural resources sector is poised to lead Canada in growth.

In this country there is a group that wants to stop all development of our hydrocarbons. There is a group that wants to destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs across this country for ideological reasons. There is a group that wants to destroy billions of dollars of economic development. Do members know who that group is? It is the NDP, the official opposition. Is there an economic development project in this country that it supports?

The member opposite suggests that manufacturing jobs are being destroyed by the development of the oil sands. She does not know what she is talking about. Maybe the NDP will turn its back on Canadian workers. Our government will not do that. We will stand with Canadian workers. We will develop the natural resource economy, and at the same time we will protect our environment.

7:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, on December 12, 2011 I posed 11 questions to the parliamentary secretary regarding ozone monitoring, as Canada has a critical role to play in the world as part of the global observing system for climate in support of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The questions were as follows.

Why have both the minister and the parliamentary secretary repeatedly stonewalled and said there will be no cuts to ozone monitoring, especially when their own briefing document is entitled, “Ozone Monitoring Cuts”?

Will monitoring be maintained in the lower atmosphere?

Before a decision was taken to cut the ozone monitoring program, was any research undertaken to assess the adequacy of Canadian contributions to the global observing system for climate in support of the UNFCC, yes or no?

Was Environment Canada aware of the two million square kilometre ozone hole over the Arctic when decisions were made to cut ozone monitoring?

How many people work in the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre?

Does the parliamentary secretary understand that if the person who runs the data centre is let go, the data centre will close?

By what percentage, in terms of money and positions, was the experimental studies division to be cut?

What percentage has been cut?

Can the parliamentary secretary table in the House a spreadsheet showing how many people work in the department, how many people received letters and who, if any, had their letters rescinded?

In response to my first nine questions, the parliamentary secretary said:

—as I have said several times before in response to my colleague's questions, we will continue to monitor the ozone. It is as simple as that.

It is, in fact, not so simple. This is about an issue that is critical to life on earth and enormously complicated. Ozone protects us from harmful ultraviolet or UV radiation from the sun, the radiation that causes skin cancer, cataracts, sunburns and local and whole-body immunosuppression. Without the ozone layer, life as we know it would not exist on earth.

Canadians deserve better than “It is as simple as that”. They deserve real answers to important questions. More important, if the parliamentary secretary is as committed to monitoring ozone as she says, then why has nothing been done to reverse the cuts to ozone science? Cuts reduce Canada's ability to monitor the environment and respond to problems, reduce our country's ability to explore the links between ozone and climate change and threaten international science and Canada's reputation. Is the government trying to eliminate science that it finds inconvenient?

My 10th and 11th questions were as follows: Do brewers and ozonesondes perform the same task; that is, is there duplication in the system, yes or no?

Why in May were ozonesondes critical and in fact believed to be in need of being expanded and not so in August? What changed?

Eleven questions, zero answers, zero accountability, zero respect for taxpayers despite the government's claim that it has a responsibility to manage and be wise stewards of taxpayers' dollars and to deliver services that are important. Canadians deserve better than “It is as simple as that”. They have a right to know the details, and every time the parliamentary secretary avoids providing the details, she fails to fulfill her responsibilities to the people of Canada.

7:35 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, it is great to be back in the House in adjournment proceedings talking to my colleague opposite about ozone monitoring.

We will continue to monitor the ozone, and because we were so committed to providing that answer again to my colleague opposite, she had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Karen Dodds, the assistant deputy minister of the science and technology branch within the Department of the Environment, at the environment committee before the Christmas break. The committee heard a large amount of testimony in answer to the questions of my colleague opposite. To reassure her beyond a shadow of a doubt and to re-emphasize the answer we keep giving in the House, the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Data Centre will continue to deliver its world-class services and core services will not be compromised.

There seems to be a bit of confusion here tonight on the part of my colleague opposite about the answer to those questions, so I am going to repeat what Dr. Dodds said in committee in response to the following question by my colleague opposite:

Why have the parliamentary secretary and the minister repeatedly said that there would be no cuts? Who is right?

Dr. Dodds responded:

There are no reductions to the monitoring—to the results—that Environment Canada needs to provide to meet our obligations to Canadians.

How we provide those results is something that we're having discussions inside about how best to use the dollars we have available to us.

This is about getting great science and great results for Canadians and being wise stewards of taxpayers' dollars. This testimony clearly shows that we are committed.

To some of the other questions of my colleague opposite, I will give a few select answers. Will monitoring be maintained in the lower atmosphere, yes or no? Dr. Dodds said yes.

In the interest of my colleague tonight, I would encourage her to read through that transcript because many of those questions were answered. To re-emphasize one more time for the House, we will continue to monitor the ozone.

7:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, Dr. Dodds did come on December 13. She appeared before the environment and sustainable development committee and committed to continuing the ozonesonde programs at three Arctic stations: Alert, Eureka and Resolute. I would like to congratulate the government for at last seeing some light.

However, there is no commitment to the southern ozone stations that are needed to keep pollution forecasts on track. The government still does not seem to understand that ozone pollution and the ozone layer are two different things.

The reality is that Canada is one of the largest countries in the world and we do not even have one ozonesonde per province. There are no ozonesonde launches in New Brunswick, Quebec or P.E.I. The European ozonesonde network is denser and they launch every three days for pollution forecasts. Canada really is headed in the wrong direction under the Conservative government.

I would point out that this speech was based on that testimony and most of those questions remain unanswered.

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Calgary Centre-North, AB

Madam Speaker, I will re-emphasize the answer that Dr. Dodds gave to our committee. There are no reductions to the monitoring, to the results that Environment Canada needs to provide to meet our obligations to Canadians.

Again, this is one more clear example, beyond myself and the minister saying this repeatedly in the House of Commons, that Environment Canada will continue to monitor ozone in this country.

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Madam Speaker, I stand this evening to further try to find some rhyme or reason with regard to the situation the government has created with the closure of EI processing centres. We know that 600 employees are going home over the next number of months because of the cutbacks in that particular department.

The unfortunate part is that under the Conservative government we know that more and more Canadians are finding themselves unemployed. We know there is duress, strain and stress that is created with being out of work. It is truly an unfortunate situation. However, when people file an EI claim, the stress is increased as some people are waiting six, seven, sometimes eight weeks. My office has dealt with cases where people have gone eight weeks without any income. These people are waiting to fill their fridge, fill prescriptions, fill their oil tank, whatever it might be, but they are without income. It puts a further stress on the family unit, which is truly unfortunate.

Hopefully I will get some kind of direction from the parliamentary secretary, the designated hitter today.

The fact is that the minister did not understand or recognize the extent of the problem. As a matter of fact, she dismissed the problem in a letter to the Charlottetown Guardian in saying that cheques were being sent out within 23 days. We know that is not a fact. We know that is not true.

A notification of processing goes out and that is received within 28 days. Within that period, some people receive a cheque. The ones that flow through the system with no problem get a cheque within 28 days, and that does happen. However, if there is the least thing, such as a hyphenated name with the hyphen left out, or the wrong postal code, or the record of employment does not match up with the application, or anything that might be outside the norm the least little bit, that application is spit out and it could be five, six, seven or eight weeks before the person receives any kind of income. That is a hardship for the most vulnerable.

The minister, before she even tries to attempt to fix it, has to realize that there is a problem. However, she does not realize there is a problem because she does not understand the process. When she appeared at committee and we pushed her on this particular point, it was a revelation. As a matter of fact, she could not answer the question. The deputy minister had to come in and explain the situation to her.

How can we address a problem if a minister does not understand the responsibilities within his or her portfolio? It is shameful and Canadians are being hurt.

Does the minister understand now that people are not being paid within 28 days? There is a notification, some are getting cheques, but a great number are being vetted out of that process and are not receiving cheques. They are getting notification of non-payment. Does the minister understand that now?

7:40 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure to address my colleague opposite for, I think, the first time in the House tonight. My colleague spoke about understanding priorities and I am glad he raised that because I am not quite clear on what the Liberal Party understands as priorities.

Our government understands that creating jobs and economic growth and also helping Canadians during their times of need is core to government. That is why we have undertaken numerous measures over the last six years to see that through, measures which my colleagues opposite have opposed several times.

I just want to remind my colleague opposite of some of the positive things that we are doing to help Canadians. First, even though there is a global economic downturn, we have created over 600,000 net new jobs. which is a positive statistic and a positive thing for Canadians.

With regard to some of the other things my colleague has said, we provided 2.6 million self-employed Canadians with access to special EI benefits on a voluntary basis. We improved the work sharing program. We capped EI premiums for 2011. We introduced the wage earner protection program. Those are all tangible measures to help Canadians in times of need because we understand that, yes, there is definitely fragility in our economy right now and we need to help people when they are out of work.

However, we also need to talk about ensuring that we have a service provision. Canadians have given our government a very clear mandate to eliminate the deficit and return to balanced budgets while making our services more effective and efficient. That is what we are trying to do here. We have established a service improvement agenda with short and long-term objectives and we are taking action to ensure that those Canadians in need of EI receive these benefits in a timely manner.

Automation is an important element of our EI service modernization effort. Why is that? Its aim is to alleviate the cumbersome paper based processes and get benefits to eligible people faster no matter where they live, exactly what my colleague opposite is talking about. To get benefits to eligible people is part of this process.

This year, as with other years, we added resources in anticipation of the peak period in December and January. In fact, over the last number of weeks, we have added about 400 employees to our processing efforts and shifted 120 staff from part-time to full-time, as well as substantively increasing our use of overtime. This is to get benefits out to Canadians in need.

Contrary to the claims of my colleague opposite, we are working hard to serve Canadians' needs and ensure that our system is modern and effective well into the future. We are also taking steps to reassign staff from non-core functions within Service Canada to get them out on those front lines to assist with claims processing during peak needs.

In the long run, and this is important, we are confident that we can improve service to Canadians through our three-year modernization initiative.

In summary, we are working hard and we are working hard on behalf of Canadians to improve the services we deliver.