House of Commons Hansard #86 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trade.

Topics

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Private Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Scarborough Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, Canadians gave our government a strong mandate to deliver safer streets and communities with our tough on crime agenda, and that includes holding offenders accountable and developing a correctional system that actually corrects criminal behaviour.

During our last debate on Bill C-293, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (vexatious complainants), the NDP member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant was correct when he noted that this bill has a laudable goal. The goal of the bill is to crack down on vexatious complainants, attention seeking inmates who wilfully abuse the fair complaint process and prevent it from functioning properly.

The NDP member was also correct when he stated, “the complaint and grievance process is a tool that helps ensure transparency and accountability”. While the process is valuable, there is still room for improvement. Accountability is a two-way street and prison inmates who file grievances should be held accountable for the complaints that they file.

Bill C-293 would correct a costly problem that currently exists in Canada's correctional system. The bill targets a specific group of inmates who file more than 100 grievances per year. The accumulated total of these complaints account for a whopping 15% of all grievances filed, with some cases occurring where offenders have filed in excess of 500 grievances.

The bill would allow the Commissioner of Correctional Services Canada, or his assigned representative, to designate an offender as a vexatious complainant. Once this has occurred, the offender would be held to a higher standard of proof for future claims. Someone designated as a vexatious complainant would have his or her complaint shut down after the first of four levels of the grievance process if the institution decided that the claim was vexatious and not made in good faith.

I am certain that Bill C-293 would considerably improve how grievances are processed in our correctional system.

Bill C-293 is important to Canadians for the following reasons: One, the current system does not require that grievances be filed in good faith. Two, the current system is a financial burden on the taxpayer. Three, the system allows prisoners to act like they are the victims. Our government was given a mandate to support Canadian families and law-abiding citizens and this means supporting the real victims of crime. Four, allowing prisoners to file numerous frivolous complaints detracts from their ability to focus on real rehabilitation. Five, the present system creates a negative impact on the morale of staff involved in managing the grievance process.

The benefits of Bill C-293 are obvious. I must say that I am very pleased to hear that the members of the Liberal Party, hon. colleagues of mine, will be supporting sending this bill to committee.

I would like to state the specific reason Bill C-293 is a benefit. The correctional system would no longer require correctional staff to process large volumes of complaints without merit. This would mean that the correctional system with respect to the complaint process would function more effectively and in the manner that it is supposed to by focusing on legitimate complaints.

Ultimately, Bill C-293 would correct a costly loophole in our correctional system which would be a benefit to all Canadian taxpayers. In the last debate on Bill C-293, my hon. colleague from the NDP stated, “The NDP supports legislation that will make our prisons safer. We also support legislation that will allow our prisons to operate in a quick, fair and efficient manner”.

If that is the case, then I am sure the official opposition, the NDP, will vote with our government and the Liberal Party of Canada in support of the bill.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Private Members' Business

7 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

The period provided for debate has expired. Accordingly, the question is on the motion.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Private Members' Business

7 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Private Members' Business

7 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Private Members' Business

7 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Private Members' Business

7 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

All those opposed will please say nay.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Private Members' Business

7 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Private Members' Business

7 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Private Members' Business

7 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, March 7, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

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

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, on November 29, 2011, I followed up on my questioning from the day before. I had asked, if the minister accepts that climate change is real, as he claims, and the government promises accountability and transparency, why is he planning to withdraw after the Durban conference? The parliamentary secretary, of course, ignored the question and finished with, “We have a plan, an action plan, and it's working”.

Let us unpack the spin. What plan? Just final stages of writing new regulations for coal-fired electricity and mere beginning consultations with the oil sands, cement, gas and steel industries? There is no plan. The government is proposing a sector by sector approach meant to delay rather than develop a comprehensive climate change strategy to reduce the annual $21 billion to $43 billion adaptation costs by 2050.

The basic elements of a cost effective greenhouse gas emission reduction strategy for Canada have been well understood and articulated for some time. The government should develop a green economy strategy to create a more environmentally sustainable economy. Specific measures might include green agriculture, energy supply, forestry, industry, the building sector, transportation and waste. This will require the meaningful engagement of all stakeholders, progress in investment of renewable energy and tough questions about the government's management of the oil sands.

Where is the long-term plan? What action has been taken to regulate the pace and scope of development? What progress has been made to protect air quality, boreal forest ecosystems and water resources? What assessments are being undertaken to investigate the potential human health impacts of development and what solutions is the government considering?

More stringent actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions cannot be postponed much longer, otherwise the opportunity to keep the average global temperature rise below 2°C is in danger. Serious impacts are associated with this limit, including an increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, shifts in growing seasons, and sea level rise. Tragically, the latest analysis suggests that the world is likely on track to a warming of 3.5°C.

The Prime Minister's opposition toward action on climate change was well-known before he ever took office, having once described the Kyoto protocol as a socialist plot.

Press from Canada's withdrawal in the international media was overwhelmingly negative. Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN framework convention on climate change said:

I regret that Canada has announced it will withdraw and am surprised over its timing.

Whether or not Canada is a Party to the Kyoto Protocol, it has a legal obligation under the Convention to reduce its emissions, and a moral obligation to itself and future generations to lead in the global effort.

A spokesman for China's foreign ministry told reporters that the decision was regrettable and that it flew in the face of the efforts of the international community. A spokesman for France's foreign ministry called the move bad news for the fight against climate change.

Then there was the low lying nation of Tuvalu, which is most at risk for rising sea levels. The lead negotiator said, “For a vulnerable country like Tuvalu, it is an act of sabotage on our future. Withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol is a reckless and totally irresponsible act”.

Tim Gore, international climate change advisor for Oxfam, also condemned Canada's decision. He said:

Canada’s exit from the Kyoto Protocol, the one existing agreement that legally binds some countries to emission cuts targets, is an affront to the nearly one billion people who struggle every day to feed their families in the face of increasingly frequent and severe droughts, floods, heat waves and storms.

7:05 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by addressing the question of my colleague opposite by quoting something from the International Institute for Sustainable Development. A report by this agency noted that “Canada is moving in the right direction on GHG policy...” and is “establishing the policy architecture to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”.

This is evidence of a real plan that is working. Finally, after years of inaction on climate change by Liberal governments, to the point where the previous Liberal party leader even said that his government had not got the job done when it came to climate change policy, we are seeing a balanced and strong approach put forward by this government. Balance means balancing economic growth with environmental stewardship and approaching the problem of climate change in a balanced, pragmatic, action-focused way.

Our approach is two-fold. First, we need to take domestic action at home, and we are doing that. We have a sector by sector regulatory approach by which we are seeking to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in some of the most intensive emission sectors. We are working together with partners in those sectors to make sure that those regulations are smart, implementable and workable and do not harm our economy.

This is real action. This is action at home. We are seeing a clean energy sector developing here in Canada, one that we can be proud of. We have a strong environmental regulatory framework here at home. These are things that our country can be proud of because we are a leader in this area.

The second prong of the approach, to deal with my colleague's question on the Kyoto protocol, is acknowledging that this framework does not have all major emitters sitting around the table and agreeing to binding targets. As the Kyoto protocol stands right now, a very low percentage of emissions are covered by that agreement.

In order for us to see real reductions on a global basis, we need to have the Chinas, Indias and Brazils of the world signing on to an agreement and requires them to be transparent in their reporting on greenhouse gas emissions. This is what we have been seeking to achieve in our talks in Copenhagen, Cancun, and this year at Durban.

It is that two-pronged approach, taking international leadership and adopting a stance that we need something more functional than the Kyoto protocol, that would not damage our economy and under which we could take strong leadership at home.

Contrast that to the previous Liberal government where greenhouse gas emissions rose during its tenure.

My colleague opposite talks about our having no plan. The closest thing we have seen to any sort of plan from the Liberal government in recent years has been a carbon tax, which was resoundingly rejected by the Canadian electorate in 2008.

Our government's approach is balanced. It seeks real action, and it is one that we are proud of.

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, we hear about this balanced approach, but what does it mean? It says nothing. Where is the green economy strategy, for example, in this plan? The government has reduced its targets by 90% and it can get us only 25% of the way there by 2020.

We need an ambitious, effective and fair agreement based on sound science. I urge Canadians across our great country to send the government a strong message on climate change. Together we can find a solution to our most pressing environmental challenge. Together we can build momentum to protect the only planet on which we are living, the only planet that we will hand over to our children, grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.

I beg our government to understand that our home planet earth is finite and that when we compromise the air, the water, the soil, we steal from the endless future to serve the fleeting present.

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Calgary Centre-North, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to go back to the previous comments of my colleague opposite with regard to a green energy strategy and point out some shortcomings of a Liberal colleague of hers in the Ontario government. The premier of that government implemented a green energy strategy, which the auditor general of that province noted would see electricity prices potentially rising in that province by up to 41% and significant job losses in the private sector due to that increase.

That is why it is so important for us to have balance and pragmatism and action in our environmental policy. It is not about inaction. It is not about making grand promises and signing on to grand international accords with no plan to implement them. It is not about simply maligning our economy and our economic growth in certain sectors of our economy.

We have a strong sector by sector regulatory approach. We are focused on jobs and the economy, and we taking strong international leadership in asking for an agreement that all major emitters will sign on to.

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, on November 29, I rose in the House to address what I thought was a disturbing trend happening at the Immigration and Refugee Board, or IRB. The trend appears to be that there are more and more Conservative appointments being made to that body and fewer and fewer claims for refugee protection are being accepted. We now have the lowest rate of approvals in Canadian history.

I and many MPs have stood in the House to highlight cases where the system appears to have failed and we have called on the government to act to help an immigrant family or refugee. Invariably, the minister or parliamentary secretary responds that all applicants have gone through our system and we must trust that the system works. They say that the process is fair. They claim the IRB is independent. They say that our system has several opportunities for appeal.

Most important, when asked if there is anything they can do to prevent a deportation of a particular individual, they often point out that they do not want cases to be decided by the whim of the minister or to be subject to political interference. I could not agree more with that sentiment, but political interference is, regrettably, becoming apparent throughout the system. How are we supposed to have faith in our system when we hear about patronage appointments made to the IRB?

When I asked the minister about patronage appointments in the House, he said that he knew of only two appointments that had Conservative ties. In less than 24 hours, we were able to find 16 former Conservative politicians, candidates, donors or advisers to ministers of the government had, in fact, been appointed to the IRB.

Since November, we have learned of two more recent patronage appointments, people appointed to the IRB apparently because of their Conservative ties as opposed to their independence or expertise. Worst of all, we have learned that these board members seem to be biased against granting refugee protection. One member, who was recently reappointed by the government, was reappointed despite granting zero out of 169 refugee claims that he heard.

This would not be so troubling if the lives of people were not at stake, but they are. The integrity of the IRB is critical to the integrity of the whole system. If we cannot trust the independence of the IRB, then all the appeal processes in the world do not matter. What we know about appeals, particularly in relation to the Federal Court of Canada, is that the appeals are not based on the merits of the case. They are not even based on the facts of the case. The appeal process simply determines whether the process was followed properly and whether procedural justice and natural justice principles were observed.

We are told to trust the independence of the system, but the minister introduced Bill C-31, which inserts great potential for political interference into our immigration system. With Bill C-31, we learn that the minister wants even more power to be concentrated in his office. He has backtracked on a pledge he made to all parties in the House and all Canadians to approach refugee issues with a better sense of fairness and balance.

The minister wants the discretion to designate countries, in his opinion, as safe. He wants the sole discretion to determine by that discretion who has access to the Refugee Appeal Division. The minister wants the sole discretion to decide if a refugee's arrival in Canada qualifies as irregular. The minister wants the power to impose mandatory detention for up to a year on people whose biggest crime may be thinking that Canada will offer them safety from persecution.

It is getting harder and harder to take the government's advice to trust the system. How can we when we see the creeping of political interference and political judgment into a process that should be quasi-judicial and completely free of any kind of partisan hand.

Will the government stop this disturbing trend toward injecting political ideology into our immigration system and return to a commendable record of having an independent IRB and immigration system?