House of Commons Hansard #88 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was financial.

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The House resumed from March 1 consideration of the motion that Bill C-28, An Act to amend the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.

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10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I participate in the debate on this bill in the sense that financial issues are something which all Canadians are concerned about. The direction in which the government is going and the sense of commitment in terms of education on financial matters are something that we should all have concerns about.

It was not long ago when the U.S. took a nosedive. Many economists did their best in trying to explain the circumstances that led to it. When I reflect on the discussions that I had with constituents from, at that time, Inkster, but all residents of Winnipeg North, many of those discussions pertained to what we thought had taken place that caused the American economy to take that radical turn. As people will recall, the price of housing dropped quite dramatically in certain areas of the United States and there was a great deal of speculation as to why. Many individuals sat around the table in discussion groups and we talked about the American debt, loans and mortgages, and the way in which housing was being financed in the U.S. I raise that because there is a general need for us to appreciate how important it is that the population as a whole has a sense of how finances are administered, both at the micro-level and the macro-level.

There was a time when going through school we had a basic economics class and that was it. There was nothing more to trying to understand finances. Today, depending on the high school one goes to or even in elementary schools, we are starting to see more interest and education in that field. That is something which we think is a good thing because the economy and the way in which we manage our financial affairs is so important. If we look at the types of decisions we need to make, the better informed and educated the population is on financial matters it is at the end of the day better for government.

An example for which people could get a good sense of an appreciation is the issue of retirement. The amount of financial planning to be considered for retirement is significant. When I was a bit younger, 25 years ago or so, first getting elected when I was 26, a pension was not an issue for me personally. I never thought about pensions. There were other bigger, broader pictures that I wanted to think about, at least at that stage in my life, and I think many of my peers would have thought likewise. When we are 25, we are not thinking of retirement but it is critically important for us to be thinking about that. Upon reflection and with hindsight, there are a number of things that I would have done differently.

We need to look at the role that government needs to play from both the consumers' perspective and the government's perspective. We need to bring it to the government. The government appears to be on the brink of making a decision to reduce the benefits for old age supplement. People who are 55 years old today will not be able to retire when they hit 67.

If we go to that generation, many individuals in the workforce, some of it very labour intense and other aspects of it requiring people to work as lawyers or whatever it might be, planned on the 65 retirement age. Once people start hitting the age of 40 or 45, they start thinking more about retirement and then bank accordingly. People need to learn what it is they need to do in order to retire at age 65. There is that learning curve.

We need to recognize that there are hundreds of thousands of people who will be affected by the anticipated decision by the government to increase that age. As a result, it will have an impact on the finances of many Canadians across Canada as they will need to start reviewing what sort of retirement funds they will have. They reflect on their homes and where they are investing their moneys today. A lot of people are on fairly tight budgets but they know they will need to increase their RRSPs if they still want to retire at age 65 to bridge the gap between 65 and 67, something we hear a great deal about from the government. People may not necessarily have the same sort of cash flow as they once would have had or they may have allocated their disposable income and it will be difficult for them to generate the type of resources they will require in order to continue with their plans to retire at age 65. There are many different options for people to be exploring at a younger age. That is just one component.

To bring it around to housing, people need to have a good understanding of the housing market and how it relates compared to mortgage rates. It was not that long ago, in the late 1970s, when there were skyrocketing mortgage rates on homes. It was in and around 18% or 19%. We can talk about a relatively small amount of money being financed in order to own a home, but when it is rated at somewhere around 18% or 19%, it takes away a good chunk of a person's disposable income.

Over the last 20 years, if we look at interest rates, they have been considerably better than what they were during the 1970s. As a result, more middle-class Canadians are buying homes that cost $250,000 or $300,000 and they can afford it because interest rates are so low in comparison to the 1970s in particular, but also the 1980s. If the interest rate today were to go up two or three points, we can only imagine the profound impact that would have on thousands of families across Canada. When people finance homes for $300,000, it is often two people working in order to support their lifestyle in that house.

I have had opportunities to have discussions with individuals who are in that sort of situation. Their homes are their futures and they are literally banking on it. People get mortgages for 25 or 30 years nowadays with an interest rate of 4% or 5% and two individuals are working. We can only think of the impact if the interest rate were to go up by two points. They would not have the disposable income, for the most part, in order to address that.

There is a great deal of pressure, whether it is on the Bank of Canada or on the government, to be cognizant of the interest rate because of the impact it would have on consumers and their life savings. The home can be the single greatest expenditure that people have.

We could continue talking about other types of expenditures by consumers, individuals who go out and purchase large ticket items, such as vehicles. They are brought in, in good part, because of low interest rates.

When we talk about financial literacy, it is a disseminating of information that will ensure there is better overall education for all Canadians. I think that could be done in many different ways.

On the surface, the bill looks great. We all support financial literacy and moving in that direction is something we want to encourage and promote. In essence, the government is saying that it will create an office of sorts and there will to be a reporting mechanism for this particular officer.

Within the Liberal Party, we see financial literacy as a major issue. Therefore, we are wondering why the government is not providing a better definition of exactly what it is it is proposing with the legislation. What sort of a budget are we talking about? I believe it is a bit vague or unclear in terms of where and how it might reach out into our communities.

I believe the provinces have a critical role to play in this discussion. To what degree has the federal government worked in co-operation with the provinces to ensure we are moving in the right direction? At the provincial level, we could go right into the schools, which could involve the school trustees or administrators.

What I am suggesting is that there are many different stakeholders who have a vested interest in trying to do what this bill is hoping to do, which is to achieve a higher level of financial literacy. To what degree has the government done consultations to bring forward legislation that is all-encompassing and that will provide for a better level of literacy for all Canadians?

In my short time in the House, I have found that there is a different attitude from the present government and the way in which it approaches public policy compared to members on the opposition benches, in particular with regard to the Liberal Party. We in the Liberal Party believe that the national government has a strong role to play. I would suggest that it is a leadership role in trying to ensure that there are standards across the nation and that we have something that reaches out in a co-operative manner, supporting provincial and other initiatives where we can.

I believe the gambit is wide, which is why it would have been good to have received some sense of a commitment from the government as to how much money it is prepared to commit to a commissioner of this nature. What sort of office will it be? The government may be looking at the possibility of the banking industry having to cover the cost of this new office or to facilitate the needs of this particular legislation. However, we do not know what the dollar value of it is. We also do not know how the government will bring in the stakeholders with regard to this important issue.

I started off by talking about the financial crisis that occurred in the United States. It did not take long for people to get an appreciation of exactly what was taking place, how people had overextended themselves on loans and how the housing market and its artificially high prices led to the crash of the housing market. Ultimately, hundreds of thousands of Americans went bankrupt because of what the banking industry was unable to do, because of a lack of healthy, strong regulations.

In Canada, there was a great deal of pressure to allow for more deregulation of the banking industry. However, there were safeguards in place. During the nineties, individuals like Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien said that we needed to have regulation to ensure that mortgages did not become 40 or 50 years in duration. People learned a lot by watching the news and hearing how so many Americans were losing their homes. Canada was in good part able to avoid a lot of that because of good policy decisions made during the nineties.

This brings us back to the issue of what we can do to ensure that Canada's financial markets, industries and consumers are best protected. That is the reason we talk about the importance of education. That is really what it is all about. When I make reference to issues such as RRSPs, owning a home or making major purchases, we want citizens to be educated to make the best decisions possible. The only way we can achieve that is to ensure that there is some sort of an educational process regarding financial literacy from coast to coast. The greatest challenge the government has in regard to financial literacy across Canada is to demonstrate that it has a national, strong, healthy leadership role to play in this area. I am not convinced the government members believe they have to play that lead role.

I know some provinces have gone a long way in providing better consumer education on financial matters, from banking fees to cheque cashing stores. They have increased the level of consumer awareness. There are many initiatives which have been taken by individual provinces. This bill brings forward the idea of the need for the federal government to play a role in financial literacy. I would challenge the government to reflect on what degree it is prepared to say that Ottawa needs to get all of the stakeholders working together to ensure that a financial literacy office has teeth and the ability to make a difference.

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10:20 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his discussion on Bill C-28. I have some concerns about the bill, having dealt with the government for six years. Many times the government sets up straw dogs that really do not accomplish much. The government has established a commission to look into complaints for human rights and environmental conditions around Canadian mining companies in other countries. The commission has basically done nothing.

In this country, we need a lot of consumer protection and consumer information. Financial information is a very important part of that. It is a very complex field for Canadians to understand how to best use their financial system to their own benefit. We are talking about playing a game against people who have much larger and more elaborate plans. How can we guarantee that what is in this bill will actually deliver anything for Canadians?

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10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I see that the member shares my concern about the issue of leadership. Indeed, the government can put measures into legislation so that it can go around the country and say that it wants to play this role, but my concern is about what is in the bill. It is that real sense of commitment that we are looking for. I think that has been lacking from the national government.

There are issues within the financial industry that should be raising flags. People are concerned about interest rates on credit cards, user fees, banking fees and so forth. There is so much more that we could be doing.

I want to emphasize the leadership role of bringing all the stakeholders together. We need something more than just saying, “Here is a bill”. We want to say that we have passed the legislation. We want effective leadership on this particular front. At the end of the day, it saves our consumers, it provides for consumer confidence and it is better for the overall economy if the government is genuine. I just do not necessarily believe that the government is prepared to play that strong national leadership role. That is the biggest concern I have with respect to this bill.

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10:25 a.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am a little uncertain whether the member does support the concept of a financial literacy leader. I have noticed, since starting to work on this issue, the number of people across the country who are making an effort with respect to financial literacy, whether it is through non-governmental organizations, institutions or individually. They are asking for national leadership, which he pointed out in his speech. Therefore, they do want a financial literacy leader and they do want him or her to work with the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

Can the member clarify for the record if he supports this leader and does he support him or her working within the gamut of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada?

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10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the federal government has a responsibility to take action on the principle that the member is talking about, the need for financial literacy and strong leadership. Whether it is driven by the private sector or the non-profit sector, there is just cause for us to be much more proactive on financial literacy and education for all Canadians. The quicker and the more sincere we are at addressing that issue, the healthier our economy will be in the long term. That could be done through ensuring there is more accountability and transparency. It could be done by a government that is prepared to get all of the stakeholders around the table and take a proactive approach, whether in school divisions, schools, governments, work environments or television ads, whatever it takes to increase the financial literacy of the population.

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10:25 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I see nothing objectionable in Bill C-28. We need greater financial literacy among Canadians.

I wonder if the bill has been costed. We are considering creating a new office within the federal government. I imagine the bill speaks to the expense accounts of that office and someone with the title financial literacy leader.

Have we examined as a House whether the goals of the bill could be better accomplished through sufficient support to groups like the Consumers' Association of Canada or Democracy Watch? They have done a lot of good work in making Canadians aware of their banking processes.

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10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the government has not provided Parliament with a plan regarding Bill C-28. We do not know how much it is going to cost. In regard to the financial literacy leader, we need to know what sort of resources the government is prepared to allocate to the position.

As my NDP colleague mentioned, we have to be excused for not just buying into everything that the government is trying to sell with this legislation. It is one thing to say here is a bill but it is another thing to put some teeth in it. We are not convinced that there is a solid commitment to having a well financed office that would produce the desired outcome. We recognize how critically important the issue of financial literacy is. It is an important file. Young people need to be more involved in the financial environment. The benefits far outweigh any sort of potential costs that might be incurred in making sure that we do it right and that the federal government plays a leadership role.

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10:30 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his lovely speech. He said that it is important to educate people about financial matters. I agree that that is a good idea. Education is one thing.

According to my Liberal Party colleague, is the Liberal Party's objective to prioritize average Canadians, to protect average consumers, to offer a better financial security plan for retirement and to level the playing field between average Canadians and big institutions by regulating the industry?

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10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments but I do not necessarily agree with them.

The primary objective is to ensure that Canadians have a better understanding of financial matters. These include mortgage rates, consumer prices and what is happening within the macro and the micro environmental conditions in our communities. That is really what we are looking for. That is best done by a national government working with the different stakeholders and having the resources to do that so the overall quality of education related to financial matters improves.

We have not necessarily seen the required leadership from the government. The government is saying here is the bill, but we are concerned about the lack of commitment to follow through with the bill itself.

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10:30 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles.

This is yet another in a series of governing on the back of an envelope from the government side. The government tried to amend Bill C-10, and discovered it could not. It then had to send the bill to the Senate to have some amendments made. Now it will come back to the House.

We then had the lawful access bill, the awful access bill, which the government had to withdraw. It had to send the bill to committee so some amendments could be made to please Canadians.

Now we have this bill. It seems to be extremely poorly thought out. It does not actually deal with the recommendations of the task force, except to create a new bureaucracy. Canadians do not need another level of bureaucracy.

According to the bill, a position would be created, with no definition of what the person would do and with a very vague statement of consulting with stakeholders, which have not been defined. Are the stakeholders the big banks? Are they the payday lenders? Are they the big and powerful corporations that want better tax regimes? Who are the stakeholders in this?

The bill does not deal with the bulk of the recommendations that came from the task force. In fact, it only deals with half of one, which is to appoint a leader. The other recommendations suggested that the government spend money on making Canadians better able to deal with their day to day financial pressures. They are such things as integrating financial literacy into the Canada student loans program. That would require an expenditure. This proposed new individual would not have the authority to spend money.

There was the recommendation that government make financial literacy training programs for young Canadians eligible for funding through the youth employment strategy. Again, the bill would not do that. There was the recommendation that the Government of Canada, as part of the renewal of the urban aboriginal strategy, make financial literacy training programs for young aboriginal Canadians eligible for funding. Again, funding is not a part of the bill.

The recommendation to provide relevant financial information and education services for recent newcomers through the newcomers to Canada program, again, would require funding. In Toronto the funding for CIC programs is being cut.

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10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There does not appear to be a quorum in the House.

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10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

There appears to be 20 people in the chamber.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for York South—Weston.

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10:35 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, the task force recommended that, “the Government of Canada, as well as provincial and territorial governments, invest in the capacity of the voluntary sector”. The individual would not have the power to invest anything. It also recommended that, ”the Government of Canada support existing capacity-building initiatives in First Nations communities by offering culturally relevant financial literacy tools, training and resources”. However, there is no funding in the bill for resources. The bill is all about creating a bureaucracy that has absolutely no ability to do anything except perhaps talk to a few people about what they ought to do with financial literacy.

There is no definition in the bill of financial literacy. What is it? Let us talk about some real examples of missing financial literacy in my riding. Would the bill actually fix these things?

A 59-year-old gentleman in my riding was laid-off from his job. As he had paid into the EI system for many years, he tried to collect it. However, EI was not available, not because of his fault or the fault of his employer, but because of the fault of the EI administration. It took 11 months for him to finally get his EI. In that period of time, would financial literacy have helped him collect EI better? I do not think so because it was not forthcoming.

In that 11-month period, he managed to lose his house. Would financial literacy have prevented him from losing his house? No. The big bank, I think it was the Royal Bank, decided he had missed too many payments because he did not get his EI in time. When he did get his EI, but by then it was too late.

We have an example of an individual for whom financial literacy means absolutely nothing because the systems and structures that are in place do not prevent the horrible impacts that the delay of 11 months for EI had on he and his family. He now lives on somebody's couch.

On subprime loans in the U.S., would financial literacy have helped the migrant farm worker making $12,000 a year decide to say no to a quarter-million dollar loan? Would financial literacy have prevented the subprime mortgage crisis in the U.S.? I do not think so.

If I am making $12,000 a year and somebody tells me that I could have a quarter-million dollars to buy a house and live in it for as long as I wanted because the government would back the loan, would I turn that down because there was a financial literacy program? I do not think so. These kinds of things just do not happen.

Would the financial literacy program help eliminate payday lenders? We hope so. However, what of the single mom who is told by the doctor that she has to buy a prescription for her sick daughter and she does not have the money for it because her paycheque does not come in until Thursday? There is no drug plan in any of the three part-time jobs she has to hold down in order to keep her head above water. Would financial literacy prevent her from going to a payday lender? I do not think so. Although she knows it is wrong and stupid to pay 1,000% on a loan, she does not have a choice because the financial structures in our country do not prevent the need for these payday lenders.

According to the member for Newmarket—Aurora yesterday, financial literacy would help Canadians understand some of the complexities of what was going on in financial markets and how they could respond as individuals to the things that were happening. What does that mean?

As an ordinary Canadian consumer, I have to respond to something going on in Greece and the financial markets in Europe and Tokyo? Maybe 1% of Canadians do, but I do not think that 1% have a need for financial literacy training. Canadians depend on the government to look out for them on these kinds of things. They depend on the government to pay attention to what goes on in those financial markets and act accordingly.

The government should not be considering financial literacy as a way for ordinary consumers to somehow find a way to protect themselves from these financial markets. Maybe the answer is to put all of our RRSP money in our mattresses and then we would not lose half of it when those financial markets go down.

I do not think there is going to be a financial literacy course anywhere in our country that is going to tell people to put their money in their mattresses because those financial literacy courses are going to be conducted by the big banks, whose job it is to ensure that people are investing in them, and the take 2% or 3% of people's money to keep their profits up.

Financial literacy for Canadians is knowing a bunch of things about their own financial health, such as knowing, for example, that being in a union means better wages, benefits and retirement security. Will that be part of the financial training? I doubt it. It is knowing that the tax credits for children's arts programs and other things, which are non-refundable, do not help most of the people in my riding. They are too poor to afford the children's arts program in the first place and they do not pay enough taxes to use that credit. It is knowing that non-refundable tax credits for transit passes are not of any benefit to the poor, but they are the people who use transit passes. The non-refundable tax credit does nothing for them.

It is knowing that indiscriminate tax cuts to rich and powerful corporations do not trickle down to the indefensible individuals in my riding. It does not create jobs for them. The jobs have disappeared. There were 400,000 manufacturing jobs that disappeared in Ontario alone since the government took office and those jobs were family supporting and created employment in a way that people could afford to have families, mortgages and live above the poverty line. Those jobs have disappeared under the government and have not been replaced.

Financial literacy is knowing which side of the House is good for ordinary Canadians. Financial literacy is knowing that we are.

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10:40 a.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague talked about the establishment of a new bureaucracy. We are not going to recreate the existing Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. It will be the agency that works with the financial literacy leader if the bill passes.

Is he aware that there will be co-operation between an existing agency, not a newly-created agency, and the financial literacy leader if the bill passes?

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10:40 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, yes, I am quite aware that this position is incorporated, in part, in another agency. I was not suggesting that the government was creating another agency. I said that it was creating another level of bureaucracy, without any definition of what that bureaucrat would do or how the individual would accomplish tasks. He or she would have a salary, an office and staff. The person may require French-language training if the individual does not have the required bilingualism.

It is not creating another agency, I agree, but it is creating a position with very little to do.

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10:40 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I heard the presentation yesterday by the Conservative member for Saint Boniface, who mentioned a number of different things that would be accomplished within the financial literacy leader's role. I understand the nature of what is going ahead and yet, when I read the bill, I see nothing that indicates any surety that these things are going to become part of the financial information and direction that the government provides to corporations that lend money to Canadians or engage in financial transactions with Canadians.

How can we agree to this position when the government seems intransigent on the needs of consumers? How can we expect anything good to come out of the bill?

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10:45 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, we want good things to come from the government, but the bill does not do it. The bill does not deal with the fact that credit card interest rates are one of the biggest scourges in this land. There are credit card interest rates of 30% and 40%, yet the prime rate is around 1.5% or 2%. The rest of it is pure profit. There are systems in our country that actually pick on the poor and vulnerable. Nothing in the bill would deal with those issues.

The bill, apparently, would simply create an office. Without any of the other things in the recommendations, it will not accomplish what we want it to accomplish.

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10:45 a.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-28, An Act to amend the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada Act, which would create the position of financial literacy leader to strengthen Canadians' financial literacy. This initiative was inspired by a report from the task force created by the Conservative government and chaired by bankers, including Donald Stewart of Sun Life Financial and Jacques Ménard of BMO Nesbitt Burns.

I went through the literacy report that was released in February 2011. To my great surprise, it contained not a word about credit card companies' quasi-usurious interest rates, not a word about financial institutions' lack of transparency concerning their fees, not a word about the questionable practices of banks that demand exorbitant fees when people try to pay off their mortgages early. Do not expect to find a mea culpa in this report from bankers who have sold highly speculative toxic financial products for years and continue to do so. Honestly, I was very disappointed.

The Conservatives keep telling us that consumers get themselves into debt because they do not know how to read a credit contract. But the government is ignoring the fact that annual interest rates on credit cards are often around 20%.

I would like to quote from the evidence given by a few individuals who expressed concern about this bill. First of all, Ken Georgetti of the Canadian Labour Congress said, “Canadians need better government policy rather than lectures on how to save money.... This report heaps blame on 'uninformed' individuals, and completely ignores the predatory behaviour of financial institutions.”

Jim Stanford of the CAW said,“Many financial literacy programs devolve into admonishments for individuals to save more. This is misplaced....”

Lauren Willis, a professor at Loyola Law School in the United States, also denounced the government's approach. She said, “When consumers find themselves in dire financial straits, the regulation through education model blames them for their plight, shaming them and deflecting calls for effective market regulation.”

The ministers of this government like to rise here in the House of Commons and tell us that it is up to Canadians to save and plan for their futures. Those same ministers then turn around and slash social programs like the ones designed to ensure a decent retirement for our seniors.

For instance, instead of strengthening the public pension system, they created a pooled registered pension plan, which will only encourage investors further to choose risky private funds and stock markets.

We also know that the Prime Minister told the bankers in Davos that he was going to make cuts to the old age security program and that one way he was going to do so was by increasing the eligibility age from 65 to 67.

Last week, I held a public consultation in the town of Boisbriand in my riding. I can tell you that people are very worried about the fact that the government refuses to take responsibility where the financial security of our seniors is concerned.

It is not up to the public to pay for the Conservatives' F-35s. It is not up to the public to pay for the tax credits that are given to corporations.

With the creation of pooled registered pension plans, the dismantling of old age security and the reinforcement of tools for small investor autonomy, the Conservatives' message is very clear: the government, as they see it, does not need to look after the financial security of seniors and retirees. That approach makes no sense.

For Barrie McKenna of the Globe and Mail, “Looking to financial literacy to fill the void is like asking ordinary Canadians to be their own brain surgeons and airline pilots. The dizzying array of financial products, mixed with chaotic and increasingly irrational financial markets, makes the job of do-it-yourself financial planning almost impossible—no matter how literate you are”.

The other problem is that households with a high debt load often do not have the means to use these individual retirement planning mechanisms. Some 30% of Canadian families do not have any retirement savings outside the Canada pension plan.

As Jim Stanford of the CAW clearly observed, personal savings will never be a significant source of financial security for most Canadians since they are unable to save as a result of their low incomes.

It is all well and good to encourage personal saving, but it is this government that caused Canadians to lose well-paid jobs, particularly in the manufacturing sector, and replaced them with unstable jobs. It is under this government that Canadians' quality of life has declined. Single mothers who struggle to put something away for retirement are not to blame. Students in debt who cannot count on secure employment when they graduate are not to blame. And the seniors whom the government is asking to work two more years even though it knows that many of them not capable of doing so are certainly not to blame.

The New Democrats have a better plan for financial security at retirement. We are proposing that the government strengthen the guaranteed pension plans in Canada and Quebec and gradually double benefits in an affordable manner, thereby giving Canadians an acceptable level of guaranteed income during retirement. These are the general circumstances surrounding Bill C-28.

In the time I have remaining, I would like to address two other issues: the bill adds a useless bureaucratic institution and it does not require the candidate to be bilingual.

Given that Canada's current consumer protection regime is extremely fragile, I fail to see how adding a new layer of bureaucracy will help consumers. Without any real political direction, guidance on how to increase financial literacy or accountability mechanism, there is no reason to believe that the financial literacy leader will have the tools needed to carry out his mission. As the hon. member mentioned, this bill does not even include a definition of financial literacy.

At a time when the Conservatives are preparing to cut government programs by 10%, it does not make any sense to create another bureaucratic structure responsible for protecting consumers. If the government really wants to invest in protecting consumers, why does it not simply support the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, Option consommateurs or the Réseau de protection du consommateur du Québec?

I am thinking of an organization in my riding, the Lower Laurentians ACEF, which does an excellent job of teaching budgeting on a low income. This organization really helps the people in my riding. As an aside, I cannot help but criticize the fact that the bill does not explicitly state that the financial literacy leader must be bilingual. The past actions of this government betray its insensitivity towards French. Members will recall that this government did not hesitate to appoint judges and an auditor general who do not know French.

In the circumstances, it is understandable that the official opposition will try to amend the bill to ensure that bilingualism is one of the job requirements. Yes, financial literacy is very important, but this is not the type of debate that we should be having right now in the House of Commons. Furthermore, creating the position of financial literacy leader is a false solution. This new bureaucratic creature does nothing to allay the growing financial concerns of small investors.

We believe that the best way to support consumers is to create a department or agency that would be a one-stop shop for all consumer protection issues. This organization would cut down on bureaucracy because it would consist of structures that already exist, but are scattered throughout government.

I will now take questions from my hon. colleagues.

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10:55 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her brilliant speech.

I realize that the Conservatives' bill is intended to help well-connected insiders rather than average people. With that in mind, I would like my colleague to explain why the NDP believes it is so important to help Canadian families deal with the current economic situation and to leave nobody behind, including young people, adults and seniors.

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

The NDP is worried about the fact that Canadians do not save enough money. That being said, our primary concern should be the disparity between the rising cost of living and wages. The Conservative government has presided over job losses in the manufacturing sector. Well-paid jobs that enabled people to support their families have been replaced by unstable, poorly paid jobs. We think that is the debate we should be having in the House.

Financial literacy is certainly important, but the real challenge Canadians are facing is the fact that the cost of living is going up, but wages are not keeping pace.

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, with respect to financial literacy, most Canadians think about interest rates, consumer debt, banking fees, things of that nature. It will take a group effort by stakeholders, including consumer advocacy groups and different levels of government, the federal government in particular. We recognize the federal government has a leadership role in ensuring overall improved consumer financial literacy.

Would the member agree that the federal government's role is one of leadership on this file?

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I agree that the government needs to take action, but leadership is not something we find in this legislation. As my colleague mentioned before, we do not find a definition of financial literacy. We do not find a clear mandate for this new bureaucracy.

The government keeps saying that it needs to cut bureaucracy and lay off people. Why is it trying to create new levels of bureaucracy that do not have a clear mandate or a clear idea of where they are going? Yes, this is a problem we need to deal with, but the legislation simply does not do that.

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to congratulate my hon. colleague on her speech on such an important topic.

In my speech yesterday on the same topic, I spoke at length about the government's reprehensible abandonment, which Bill C-28 will definitely not resolve. What really troubles me is that, because of this abandonment, and because of the complexity of the financial products coming on the market more and more, many people have become victims of their own lack of knowledge and inability to face the music.

Is the government not trying to heap blame on the very people who are likely to lose out here, who will become victims of abuse of these products?

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, indeed, those less fortunate cannot afford to set any money aside for their retirement. We also know that single mothers, for instance, who are simply trying to feed their children, should not be expected to save. Of course, it is much easier for the wealthiest members of society to put aside some money for their retirement. We really need to take care of those less fortunate, those who are most vulnerable, and this bill does nothing to help that demographic.

Mennonite Central Committee Stores
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, today I congratulate the Mennonite Central Committee thrift stores. This year they are celebrating their 40th anniversary.

In 1972, the first shop opened in Altona, located in my riding of Portage—Lisgar. Since then MCC thrift stores have become a household name in many communities, where residents can donate and shop for new or used items.

Over the past 40 years, MCC has opened stores in Manitoba, as well as 40 more in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. These stores are run by dedicated volunteers who sort, price and sell the items while being a friendly face in their community.

Proceeds from these thrift stores are used locally and globally, and have gone to support relief projects that include disaster relief and sustainable community development. Last year the 16 stores in Manitoba raised just over $2.5 million in donations.

We congratulate the MCC thrift stores on their milestone. I wish them many more years of success.

Louise Penny
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to announce today in this House that Louise Penny's crime novel series is being adapted for the small screen by CBC Television. A drama series featuring Inspector Armand Gamache is coming soon to television. Ms. Penny's first two novels are being adapted.

Louise Penny lives in Sutton in my riding. Her novels have been translated into 23 languages. Her varied cast of characters deal with crimes set against the enchanting backdrop of the Eastern Townships in the imaginary village of Three Pines. Georges-Hébert Germain wrote in L'actualité about the author and her works that she is “a woman who kills. From her village in the Eastern Townships, Louise Penny exposes Quebec society in her detective novels that are becoming best sellers”.

Congratulations to Ms. Penny, a woman of talent. I look forward to watching the series premiere on television.

Religious Freedom
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, today is the World Day of Prayer and the first anniversary of the death of Pakistan's federal Minister of Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti.

Mr. Bhatti, a Christian, was assassinated for being one of the country's few influential politicians prepared to speak out against Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws. His visit to our human rights subcommittee shortly before his death left an indelible mark on many of us in this House, strengthening our resolve to fight for human rights and religious liberty around the world.

I call on members of Parliament and Canadians to promote religious freedom through the rule of law. The theme of this year's World Day of Prayer, “Let Justice Prevail”, reminds us of the sacrificial work of the martyred defenders of minority rights such as Minister Bhatti.

To honour and respect his memory, on April 2 my office will once again be hosting in Ottawa a parliamentary forum on religious freedom. We will be discussing the issues of religious freedom and governance. Everyone is invited to join with us.

Bernard Grandmaître Awards Gala
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, the mood was festive at the Bernard Grandmaître awards gala held by ACFO Ottawa on February 23. This annual event recognizes francophones and francophiles who have distinguished themselves by their achievements, their dedication and their commitment to our community.

I want to pay tribute to Chanel Fournier, who won the young person of the year award; Kathleen Stokely, who was named francophile of the year; Najat Ghannou, who won educator of the year; and Gilles Laporte who was named citizen of the year. Congratulations also to the organization of the year, UMOJA Hope.

The Bernard Grandmaître award was presented to the hon. Jean-Jacques Blais, a former Liberal member of Parliament from 1972 to 1984 and a member of the Trudeau cabinet. He has been putting his heart and soul into the community for several decades, particularly during his time as chair of the board of trustees for the Montfort Hospital and chairman of the Heart Institute's board of directors.

Congratulations to Jean-Jacques and all of the finalists and award recipients. Congratulations also to the organizers of this wonderful evening, particularly Claudette Boyer.

International Year of Co-operatives
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to the attention of the House that 2012 has been proclaimed the International Year of Co-operatives by the UN General Assembly, with the support of the Government of Canada.

The theme of this international year is “Co-operative enterprises build a better world”. For more than 100 years, co-operative enterprises have also been building a better Canada.

Across Canada there are more than 9,000 co-operatives, including credit unions, agricultural co-operatives, consumer co-operatives and housing co-operatives. Collectively, they have more than 18 million members, more than 155,000 employees and control more than $370 billion in assets. They make a significant contribution to the Canadian economy, creating jobs and keeping wealth in local communities.

The government is working with the Canadian co-operative sector to support the international year and foster the development and growth of co-operatives for the benefit of all Canadians.

I would like to wish all co-operatives, their members and employees a successful international year.

Death of Three Quebeckers in Cuba
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

François Pilon Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Saturday, February 25, three residents of Sainte-Dorothée, in my riding of Laval—Les Îles, lost their lives in a tragic accident in Cuba.

Maikel Mendoza Prieto, 29, Francis Tremblay, 26, and David Tartre, 27, died when their vehicle collided with a truck that was pushed into their path when it was struck by another truck. The only survivor of the accident was Ginette Sénécal, who was celebrating her 50th birthday that day.

I invite my NDP colleagues and all members of the House to join me in extending our sincere condolences to Ms. Sénécal and the families of the three victims. Take heart; our thoughts and prayers are with you in these difficult times.

Saskatchewan's Economy
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, I am very pleased to report to the House that Saskatchewan's hot economy keeps hitting new records.

Saskatchewan's employment reached record highs for the month of January. Saskatoon itself has seen year-over-year job growth of 2,900 jobs.

Saskatchewan's real estate sector is also very strong. Saskatchewan's building permit increases led the nation in 2011 with a 25% increase over 2010. Building permits totalled $2.6 billion in 2011, the highest on record.

Also, Saskatchewan's December manufacturing shipments totalled $1.1 billion, up year over year by 17.7%, ranking Saskatchewan first among the provinces. Saskatchewan's retail sales and wholesale trade posted the highest annual totals in the province's history.

I echo the enthusiasm of my provincial colleagues:

With sustainable growth, a competitive and opportunity-rich investment climate, and a high quality of life, there are more reasons than ever for people to call this province home.

Religious Freedom
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, a year ago today a tragic shooting in Pakistan sent an ominous message to the world.

It was March 2, 2011 when Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian minister in Pakistan's government, was ruthlessly ambushed and shot dead in the streets of the capital.

We remember his legacy of advocating for peace and religious tolerance under the toughest of circumstances. He stood up for religious minorities and against extremism, and for that he was brutally murdered.

As Canadians, we must continue to advocate for those in the world who yearn for the freedom of religion and worship, a basic right that we hold so dear but that eludes millions.

We remember Shahbaz Bhatti's great legacy at a time when another example of intolerance of religious minorities is unfolding in Iran. There have been media reports that Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, jailed for the past two years, has been sentenced to death in Iran for peaceably practising the basic tenets of his faith.

I ask all members to join me in the urgent and renewed appeal for international pressure on the Iranian government on behalf of pastor Youcef Nadarkhani.

Jeannine Poloni
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Sana Hassainia Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, one of my constituents in Verchères—Les Patriotes, Jeannine Poloni, is facing deportation after having lived in Canada for 47 years. Now 67, Ms. Poloni has spent her entire adult life working in Canada. Her only sources of income are old age security and the Quebec pension plan. She has a mental disorder for which she has been receiving treatment for several years. Because of her mental disorder, kleptomania, Immigration Canada considers her a serious criminal and wants to deport her to France, her country of origin.

If the government deports this woman, it will present a shameful image of Canada as a country that picks and chooses its immigrants and decides who is more Canadian. Ms. Poloni is proud of her French roots, but her life is here, and she feels just as Canadian as anyone else. In France, she will have no source of income, and for all practical purposes will find herself in the street. Ms. Poloni has been struggling with mental health issues for years and has been suffering from deep depression since learning that she is to be deported. She needs help. She does not want to leave Canada, which is her country now.

We hope that the minister will review her case and do everything in his power to ensure that Ms. Poloni receives the care and support she needs here in Quebec.

Member's Staff
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, our presence in this place is temporary, and our work would be for naught without the support of the dedicated and hard-working permanent staff.

Today I would like to pay tribute to a prince of a man who has given 34 years of tireless, loyal service to all members, regardless of their political affiliation. I am talking about our dear friend Charles Lavergne of the House of Commons post office.

In good days and bad, Charles always displays an infectious smile that motivates both his colleagues and his clients to return the same.

Throughout his long career, noted for reliability, Charles has always been there to help his clients and his colleagues. But he does not stop there. In his leisure time, he devotes himself entirely to his community. He is always there for others, especially those who need him most.

Charles, congratulations on your much deserved retirement. May it be long and fruitful. I wish you much happiness with your wife Diane and your daughters and granddaughters. And above all, go Habs go!

Macdonald-Laurier Institute
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, today I bring to members' attention the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, Ottawa's truly national policy think tank. MLI is a rigorously non-partisan organization dedicated to making poor policy a thing of the past in Ottawa. The institute has a phenomenal impact on public policy debates, on topics that really matter to Canadians.

Even though it opened its doors only two years ago, the institute's work has already been cited by five present and former prime ministers, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist magazine and the editorial boards of The Globe and Mail and National Post. Now the institute has been recognized with an extremely prestigious international distinction. In January, MLI was ranked one of the top five new think tanks in the world. This distinction is part of the 2011 Global Go-To Think Tank rankings, an annual review of think tanks worldwide by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania.

I tell my personal friend, Brian Lee Crowley, to keep up the good work, along with all of his associates. We wish them good luck now and in the future.

Shahbaz Bhatti
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I draw the attention of this House to the first anniversary of the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's Minister of Minorities. He was only 42 years old when his life was brutally cut short. He was a remarkable man who fought for religious freedoms in Pakistan. He was a man of valour and courage who stood for the rights of minorities. His death was a huge loss, as he was a man who fought to make Pakistan a much better place.

A year ago, our Prime Minister called the killers gutless and this House passed a motion condemning his murder. I commend his brother, Paul Bhatti, for taking up his brother's cause as a special advisor on minorities to the Prime Minister of Pakistan and as a leader of the All Pakistan Minority Alliance.

Our government supports religious freedoms around the world. I extend my personal and deepest condolences to his family, sisters and brothers, especially his brother Peter Bhatti, as they commemorate the tragic anniversary this evening in Mississauga.

Iran
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, parliamentary elections are taking place in Iran in the shadow of a massive state-sanctioned assault on the human rights of the Iranian people, the imprisonment and silencing of all opposition in the run-up to the Iranian election, actions that are constitutive of crimes against humanity, including arrests, beatings, torture, detentions and the highest per capita rate of executions in the world.

We are witness also to the imprisonment of the entire Baha'i leadership; the imprisonment and silencing of more journalists, bloggers and filmmakers than any other country; the persistent and pervasive assaults on the women's rights movement; the criminalization of fundamental freedoms of religion, speech, association and assembly; and the shutting down of all independent civic and trade union organizations.

While the world is focusing on the threat posed by the Iranian nuclear weaponization program, we cannot abandon the people of Iran who are themselves the targets and victims of the Iranian regime's massive assault on human rights. We must champion their case and cause and let them know that the world is watching, that they are not alone and that we stand in solidarity with them.

Israeli Apartheid Week
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday marked the beginning of York University's participation in a nationwide smear campaign against Israel, known as Israeli Apartheid Week.

Today, as we welcome the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to our nation's capital, we know that the idea that Israel is an apartheid state is patently false. All Israeli citizens, be they Arab, Jewish or Christian, share the same rights and freedoms. Arab and Islamic people are freer in Israel than in any other state in the Middle East; there is equality for Muslim women; and voting is allowed and encouraged. As a result of these freedoms, 82% of Israeli Arabs say they would rather be a citizen of Israel than of any other state in the region.

While the activists are entitled to express their views, those views are grossly inaccurate. They are a disgrace and their hate-filled words and tactics must be condemned by all who believe in freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. I urge all members to join me in condemning this ugly smear campaign.

Service Canada
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, we knew this government was refusing to provide answers; now we know that it is trying to censor the questions.

This summer, the Minister of Industry went around his riding bragging about how he lobbied to steal Service Canada jobs for his riding. A successful centre from Rimouski is being transferred to Thetford Mines, in the minister's riding; what a coincidence. When one of my colleagues asks legitimate questions about the minister's role in all this, he files a formal demand against my colleague.

Let us be clear: the Conservatives will never succeed in muzzling the NDP. The minister will never succeed in preventing us from asking questions that show the extent to which patronage and Duplessis-style politics are poisoning that party. The Minister of Industry is going to have to stop hiding behind his lawyers and start telling the truth to Quebeckers, who find his actions to be unacceptable.

41st General Election
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, the NDP and the Liberal Party continue their baseless smear campaign. It is clear that they have no information to back up their claims.

After a week of unsubstantiated attacks in the House of Commons and in the media, the facts remain clear, Elections Canada has confirmed that polling locations were changed at at least 127 locations, representing 1,000 polls, and potentially affecting nearly half a million Canadians in the 2011 federal campaign.

Liberal supporters received calls from people who identified themselves as calling from the Liberal Party of Canada, and the Liberals have claimed that in some ridings Liberal supporters received calls at inconvenient times that could be described as harassing from people who identified themselves as calling from the Liberal Party of Canada. The Liberals have claimed that these calls originated from the United States. The Liberal Party is the party that sourced its phone calls from the United States during the last election.

The facts are clear. The Liberals must prove that these calls were not in fact made by the Liberal Party.

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, Elections Canada is reviewing 31,000 complaints into election fraud. The CBC reported last night that the Conservative Party was reviewing tapes related to illegal calls that came out of Thunder Bay.

Why are the Conservatives now themselves reviewing these tapes if they do not think they are involved? What exactly are they doing to these records before they are given over to the authorities? Why not give to the records to the Elections Canada personnel who are investigating it and do that immediately, today, right now?

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

That is very interesting, Mr. Speaker. Of course, I need to correct what the member just said because I am sure he wants to be factual in what he says. Elections Canada has reported 31,000 contacts, not complaints, and, secondly, the Conservative Party is doing no such thing.

As we have said in the House many times, everything that the Conservative Party has done is available to Elections Canada. We have nothing to apologize for but perhaps the NDP does because we see the riding president from South Shore—St. Margaret's is now saying, “There's just no way that I can add any fuel to this fire, if there is a fire. I have no idea how the riding got on the list”.

Perhaps the hon. member would like—

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh.

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I certainly know how my riding got on the list. It is because I got a call directly at my home, which was turned over to Elections Canada on the same day, as opposed to what the Prime Minister has suggested.

The Conservatives are getting their stories mixed up. Yesterday, the Prime Minister confused a Canadian company with a company in North Dakota. All week, the Conservatives have been denying their involvement in the fraudulent phone calls. They defend themselves by saying that the Liberals did the same thing. Even if that is true—which is not impossible—that does not justify the Conservatives' actions.

We want the truth. When will we get the truth?

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, there is still no evidence from the opposition to support their allegations. However, we know that the Liberals spent millions of dollars to make hundreds of thousands of calls during their election campaign. We also learned that Liberal supporters were irritated by calls from people claiming to represent the Liberal Party. The onus is surely on the Liberals to explain these complaints by their supporters and to confirm whether these calls came from the Liberal Party.

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, the onus is on the Conservatives to answer questions. The Conservatives say that they had nothing to do with the fraudulent calls. However, they previously said they were not conducting an internal investigation, but now they are.

This House unanimously called for all information on voter suppression and illegal phoning to be provided to the RCMP and Elections Canada.

Why do the Conservatives not hand over all the records immediately?

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, we have already given all the information to Elections Canada. Therefore, it has already been done. What we should discuss is the fact that the Liberals spent millions of dollars on hundreds of thousands of calls during the election. We have also learned that Liberal supporters were irritated by calls from people who said they were representing the Liberal Party. It is the Liberal Party that has some explaining to do.

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, in many ways, our worst fears are being realized. The evidence is mounting that the 41st general election may have been hijacked by the most comprehensive electoral fraud in our nation's history, with 32,000 people, and counting, having come forward. It went from a trickle to a torrent as people's memories are being jogged that someone tried to cheat them out of their right to vote.

Is it the government's position that these 31,000 people are also a part of this drive-by smear campaign? In my experience, it is cheaters who lie, not good, honest Canadian citizens who are concerned about their democracy.

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to accuse anyone of lying but it certainly seems there may be some misrepresentations, specifically on the part of the NDP.

“There’s just no way that I can add any fuel to this fire, if there is a fire,” said Wolfgang Ziemer, who was the NDP riding association president in South Shore–St. Margaret’s, Nova Scotia during the campaign. “I have no idea how the riding got on the list”.

Is that part of the hon. member's evidence?

What we can say is that the Liberal Party paid millions of dollars to do hundreds of thousands of calls right across this country. Is it not plausible that those are the calls?

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, if the Conservatives won their razor-thin majority by cheating using American style dirty tricks, their mandate has no legitimacy.

This week we passed a unanimous motion in the House of Commons that all parties would bring forward all of their information to Elections Canada. That motion did not say anything about editing, sanitizing or even scrutinizing the material before it got handed over.

Why have the Conservatives dispatched the Rose Mary Woods brigade to Thunder Bay? If they have nothing to hide, why is it that I hear shredders going in the background?

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I cannot speak to that. Perhaps it is the cappuccino machine in the opposition lobby. I have no idea what the hon. member is hearing.

What I can say unequivocally is that everything that the member just indicated is an unsubstantiated smear. He has absolutely no evidence. In fact, on part of the evidence that the NDP has provided, one of its own members has come out and said that it is just not true. It is not us saying it. It is an NDP riding association president who is saying that it is just not true. The NDP should answer for that.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I know this will come as a shock but I actually want to ask him a question about the visit here of Prime Minister Netanyahu.

I want to ask him a very direct question concerning exactly what the position of the Government of Canada will be with respect the situation vis-à-vis Iran. Both the government of the United States and the government of the United Kingdom have made it clear that they view with a great deal of concern the notion that there would be some kind of unilateral effort on the part of any government to attack directly the state of Iran.

. Is it the position of the Government of Canada that we are with our NATO allies and the United Nations in terms of insisting on a unilateral--

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I would agree with the leader of the Liberal Party, and I am surprised that is his question.

We obviously do not want to see any military action, which is why we are working hard with the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom and others to take every diplomatic effort necessary to ensure that Iran does not achieve nuclear weapon status. We are working hard to ensure that we address its abysmal human rights record and to address its support for international terrorism.

We believe that the best course to take right now is every diplomatic action, and that is exactly what Canada is doing.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the minister's response, but I would like to ask a question on other aspects of the discussions between the Prime Minister and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Since 1967, the Government of Canada has always considered the Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal, since the West Bank is governed by the Palestinian Authority.

We still believe that a two state solution is possible, with both states living side by side in peace, and we maintain that position. I want to ascertain whether this position will be taken—

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, Canada supports a two state solution where we can have a young Israeli child and a young Palestinian child growing up in peace and security, living side by side. That is exactly the same Canadian policy, and we will continue to pursue it.

I think all parties agree that this issue is best settled at the negotiating table where both parties can come together without precondition. We will continue to strongly support that initiative.

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to give the government an opportunity to use its speaking notes for today.

Earlier in the week, the speaking notes were particularly clear saying that there was no evidence. Then it was an unsubstantiated smear. Then, yesterday, it was all the fault of the Liberal Party, which, apparently, had some sort of spoof number in North Dakota.

I want to give the government a chance, whatever, 30 seconds or a minute, to tell us what its speaking notes are, its robopoints that it wants to make today.

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, my recollection of the week is somewhat different from that of the member opposite. I remember early in the week when the leader of the Liberal Party had to stand in his place and apologize for a dirty, sleazy, underhanded attack on the Minister of Public Safety. That is part of my recollection from this week.

What I can say to the member opposite is the Liberals have known all along that the Liberal Party spent millions of dollars to make hundreds of thousands of calls to people right across this country. Those callers called on behalf of the Liberal Party and Liberal candidates. Is it not plausible to the member that those are the source of the calls the Liberals are complaining about?

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, certainly from our perspective, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs is having a very bad week. On Monday, he told us that there was no evidence of election fraud. On Tuesday, he told us that there was no such riding as Edmonton East. Yesterday, he was unable to differentiate between the company involved in the fraudulent calls and another American company.

When will he stop taking Canadians for fools and tell the truth? Elections Canada is investigating 31,000 complaints. Are the Conservatives now ready to recognize that the investigation goes beyond the borders of Guelph?

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, we know that the Liberals spent millions of dollars to make hundreds of thousands of calls during the election campaign. We have also learned that Liberal supporters were annoyed by calls from people who said that they represented the Liberal Party. So surely it is up to the Liberals to explain the complaints from their supporters about the calls made by Liberals.

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, Elections Canada is investigating over 31,000 complaints. Within an hour, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs appeared on television to say that the Conservatives were conducting an investigation and then contradicted himself by saying that no investigation was under way. The Conservatives must stop trying to create diversions.

The question is very simple: are the Conservatives conducting their own investigation or not?

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative Party already gave the documents to Elections Canada. We submitted them after the election. We have always shared the information we have with Elections Canada because we ran an ethical and honest campaign. We are fully prepared to co-operate with Elections Canada in all of its work.

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, another scandal, another Conservative excuse. I am not impressed. Of all the far-fetched excuses we have heard this week, the best was when they accused us of having no evidence.

Let us consider the facts. RackNine made robocalls pretending to be Elections Canada. The Conservatives were the only party that hired the firm. RMG called voters to confuse them about their polling station. The Conservatives paid RMG $1.3 million. Canadians have filed 31,000 complaints with Elections Canada.

Are the Conservatives conducting an internal investigation or not?

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, we have already answered the question. After the election, we turned all of the information and documents over to the agency in question. We have always been open and transparent with Elections Canada. We will answer all of Elections Canada's questions now and in the future. The opposition is making baseless accusations. I encourage them to come up with some evidence before accusing others.

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, sure the Conservatives are open. In in 2011, and out in 2015.

For the past week, the Conservatives have been questioning the word of 31,000 Canadians while waging a fear-mongering campaign against them. The truth is that thousands of Canadians who believed Elections Canada made a mistake now know that they were victims of fraud. This morning, Elections Canada confirmed that it is conducting a sweeping investigation. The Conservatives' election spending reports prove that they had contracts with RMG and RackNine.

Are they conducting their own investigation? Are they co-operating with the Elections Canada investigation? Will they turn over all of the documents, yes or no?

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, we have already turned the documents over to Elections Canada.

Budget
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, not only did the Conservatives resort to electoral fraud, but they are also abusing taxpayers' money. The government has spent $12 million to promote the upcoming budget. That means $12 million taken right out of Canadians' pockets. I repeat, $12 million. Then the Conservatives turn around and tell families to get ready for $8 billion in cuts to services.

How can the Conservatives ask families to tighten their belts, when the Conservatives cannot lead by example?

Budget
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as we know, our economic action plan has benefited Canadians from coast to coast to coast. When taking measures to move our economy forward and to create jobs, it is crucial that we keep Canadians informed. We will continue to inform Canadians because our plan is on track to succeed.

Budget
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, as usual from the government, it just does not pass the smell test. The only thing these ads tell Canadians is how little credibility the Conservatives have left. We are talking about billions of dollars in cuts and more than 100,000 jobs under the Conservative axe. Yet the government goes around blowing $12 million on vanity ads. Talk about being out of touch.

How can the government tout a so-called jobs and growth budget when it is about to kill jobs and slash services that Canadian families need?

Budget
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, this gives me a perfect opportunity to report some good news to the House. I hope that the NDP member will celebrate this good news.

We have received information that Statistics Canada reported just today that the economy has grown by 1.8% here in Canada.

I would insist that the NDP member vote with us on the upcoming budget because it will focus once again on a low-tax agenda that will help to create jobs and bring our economy more success than it has ever seen. I ask the NDP to please vote with us on the next budget.

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, what is really growing is this government's propensity to make up stories.

In four years, the cost of the old age security program was overstated three times by the Conservatives. This is indicative of their credibility and their ability to count.

Now, they are crying wolf and scaring Canadians, young and old alike, by announcing the imminent failure of the pension system.

Will the minister put an end to the suspense and tell us exactly what awaits current and future retirees?

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should understand that OAS is the single largest transfer the federal government makes to Canadians. In the supplementary estimates, yes, there was an indication that there was a difference. What happened was our forecasters came within 1% of what the actual expenditures would be. Any business would say that was pretty remarkable.

In fact, expenditures on OAS last year were 5% higher than the year before. That is tracking and it is growing. We are going to see that trend. That is why we have to take action now to protect OAS for the future.

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, taking action now also means using available data. After inventing a false OAS crisis, the Conservatives are now backpedalling.

The minister is now saying that there is no need to rush to increase the retirement age. Once again, the government will say anything, depending on the mood of the day and the polls.

Will the minister finally confirm that the retirement age will remain 65 for eternity?

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, in fact what I said was that we have to start now to make sure that we are taking action before there is an absolute crisis. We want to make sure that Canadians have access to OAS today, but also for future generations. As the population of seniors grows dramatically over the next 20 years, the proportion of people who are in the workforce to pay for that is going to be cut roughly by half.

We need to take action. We need to start taking it now to make sure that everyone will have access to OAS.

Science and Technology
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Dan Harris Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, last month when 6,000 scientists from around the world met in Vancouver, the minister for science could not be bothered to show up. Now the world's leading scientific journal, Nature, has condemned the government for muzzling its scientists.

We know that the Conservatives do not follow scientific advice, but it is indefensible to block others from hearing it. Will the minister issue a clear directive permitting scientists to speak to the public, or is he afraid that the evidence will not help his party's ideological agenda?

Science and Technology
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Cambridge
Ontario

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Minister of State (Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, let us be very clear on who is standing up for scientists. On this side of the House we have delivered more funding investment to the science and technology community than any time in our nation's history. Every single time we have added more money for scientists to do more work and to discover more cures for various health issues, the NDP has voted no. We are standing up for scientists. The NDP is not.

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, on the Conservative robocall election fraud allegations, the Prime Minister continues to use the same tactics and the same lines the Conservatives used on the in-and-out scandal, where the Conservative Party eventually pleaded guilty to election fraud.

In this latest devious venture with allegations swirling around them, they are suggesting the Conservative Party should review all tapes before Elections Canada. For what reason? Why should Conservative operatives review the tapes first?

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, there are too many mistakes in the statement made by the member for me to correct them all in the time I have.

What I can say is we know that the Liberals spent millions of dollars to make hundreds of thousands of calls during the election. We also hear that Liberal supporters claim to be irritated by calls claiming they were calling on behalf of the Liberal Party.

Surely the onus is on the Liberal Party to explain these complaints from their supporters on these calls. Is it not plausible to the member that these very calls were the calls that the Liberal Party paid millions of dollars for, and this is nothing but an unsubstantiated smear campaign from the Liberal Party?

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, last year the Conservatives pleaded guilty to election fraud for sketchy accounting practices. They just do not learn. The Guelph campaign filing reports no relationship with RackNine, but on the very day of the fraudulent Pierre Poutine robocalls, their campaign repeatedly called RackNine.

When are the Conservatives going to come clean with Elections Canada, with the RCMP, and with Canadians who deserve the truth?

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, of course the Conservative Party did no such thing in the settlement with Elections Canada. The member knows this full well. He is misrepresenting it to the House.

I want to be clear on the issue of Guelph. What is alleged to have happened in Guelph is unacceptable. We want to get to the bottom of this. The Conservative Party is assisting Elections Canada in this regard.

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Lise St-Denis Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have learned that, in an act of despair, the Conservatives are reviewing all tapes of telephone calls made during the last election, even though they defended themselves by stating that they ran a clean campaign. The RCMP, not the party suspected of committing fraud, should be reviewing the tapes.

When will the Conservatives hand over all the documents to the RCMP?

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, we need to recognize that the Liberals are saying that their supporters were irritated by calls from people who said they represented the Liberal Party. These calls originated in the United States. We have learned that the Liberals paid millions of dollars to call centres to make hundreds of thousands of calls. We have also learned that the Liberal candidate in Chilliwack admitted that he paid a call centre operating in the U.S. Perhaps the Liberals should explain the origin of these calls.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, last week we brought to the attention of the House 90-year-old World War II veteran, Ted Shiner from Bedford, who was denied VIP services.

This week on the minister's desk, he has the file of Mr. Louis Dionne and his wife, Muriel, from North Vancouver. Mr. Dionne is 97 years old and as of yesterday is hospitalized. He is about to be released to go home. His 89-year-old wife said she is unable to look after him. They applied for VIP services, but they were told it will take 16 weeks before they get an answer. Mr. Dionne is 97 years old. When is the government going to help the Dionne family?

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Lévis—Bellechasse
Québec

Conservative

Steven Blaney Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, while I cannot comment on the specifics, I can assure the member that the people in my department are devoting their heart and soul to making the lives of our veterans better. This government is committed to that.

We are serving more than 200,000 veterans, families, spouses, widows and RCMP. We are delivering the VIP and other programs to them.

I have instructed my officials to give the best service to our veterans in a timely manner.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, the minister just said that the department looks after only 200,000 people. There are 750,000 retired military and RCMP veterans and their spouses and many of them are being denied help by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The minister can speak about this file because he has it on his desk. We gave it to him two days ago. The Dionne's do not have 16 weeks to wait to get help. They need help as of yesterday.

I am asking a very straight-forward question. Will the minister now tell his officials to provide the help that this World War II hero and his wife so richly deserve?

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Lévis—Bellechasse
Québec

Conservative

Steven Blaney Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, while I can appreciate the member's question, the real question is, why does the member vote against our budget initiatives?

We introduced the new veterans charter. We introduced enhancements to the new veterans charter. We created the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman. We introduced the helmets to hardhats program.

Why does the member vote against our initiatives? We will stand up for our veterans because they deserve the best.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, the plan for veterans is not the only thing that is missing the mark. When the associate minister went to see Lockheed Martin in Texas last year, it was not because everything was running smoothly. He went there to express his concern over the cost of the F-35s. While the Conservatives were swearing to Canadians that everything was going well, they were saying the opposite to Lockheed Martin.

We want to know: is everything still going well with the F-35 fiasco, or are the Conservatives going to admit that they need a plan B?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, that is not true. As always, the hon. member is speaking against the interests of the Canadian Forces, against the interests of our aerospace industry.

Our government is determined to obtain the best equipment for the Canadian Forces, at the best price for Canadians in order to provide the best benefits for businesses and workers in Canada.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I find it interesting that the minister says I am not concerned about the Canadian Forces when he knows full well that I served in the Canadian Forces for three years. If anyone is concerned about the Canadian Forces, it is me.

The Conservatives are in Washington today to attend an emergency meeting on the problems and delays in the F-35 program. The Conservatives have to provide clear answers now.

How many F-35s is Canada buying? How much will those planes cost? When will they be available and operational?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, it is again a rhetorical rant from the no defence party opposite that we have heard time and time again. Those members have no plan B. Their plan B is not to buy equipment for the Canadian Forces.

Our associate minister is showing leadership on the Canadian file. He is meeting with our partners in the joint strike fighter program. They are working together.

Having served in the Canadian Forces, she should support those men and women who need this equipment. She should support the Canadian aerospace industry that will get huge advantages, in the millions of dollars, from the joint strike fighter program.

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the global economy remains uncertain, but Canada has been doing the right things.

While the NDP would ruin Canada with reckless and endless deficit spending, we are focused on jobs and economic growth with the right economic policies, and it is working. Over 610,000 new jobs were created since July 2009, the strongest job record in the G7.

Today, the latest evaluation of Canada's economy came with our GDP numbers. Would the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance please share details on Canada's performance?

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as everyone knows, we are focused on what matters to Canadian families, and that is creating a healthy economy and helping to create jobs on which families really depend.

We have taken the right and prudent steps to do that and we are getting results. Statistics Canada has announced that our economy grew 1.8% in the fourth quarter, among the strongest in the G7, and we are proud of that.

The economic action plan 2012 will keep on supporting jobs and growth and fight the NDP's job-killing agenda.

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, today we learned that the minister had given CSIS the go ahead to provide information to foreign intelligence agencies, even when doing so includes “substantial risk it will lead to torture”. The message the government is sending is that while Canada does not employ torture, it is okay to help others to do so.

This is a matter of right and wrong. Is it the minister's position that Canada now treats torture as a necessary evil?

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Portage—Lisgar
Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is completely wrong. Our government does not condone and certainly does not engage in torture. The directives are very clear: CSIS will only share information in accordance with Canada's legal obligations.

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government is running out of excuses to try to save face. The Conservatives seem to forget that international law is unambiguous. Torture is illegal, period.

What the Conservatives are proposing is tantamount to giving the green light to all the regimes that want to use torture, with information sent from this government to boot. Canadians expect their government to oppose torture unconditionally.

When will the minister reverse his decision and cancel this directive?

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Portage—Lisgar
Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is being very misleading. We have very clear directives. We expect CSIS to comply and it does comply with those directives. There are Canadian laws that have to be upheld. We do not condone torture.

In all of our decisions regarding the safety of Canadians, that is our number one priority. Those directives are in line with that.

Government Priorities
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, the estimates provided this week indicate that the government will slash the budget of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency by 43%, even though the agency asked for more resources to better evaluate new oil sands projects.

The Conservatives say that there is no money and that cuts have to be made. However, they are spending millions of dollars on lobbying that will sabotage the environmental efforts of other countries.

Why are the profits of big oil companies being put ahead of the best interests of Canadians?

Government Priorities
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the premise of the question is false.

Either the member does not understand or cannot read the main estimates, or is being somewhat disingenuous in her question.

The differences in funding in the estimates are a result of programs that are sunsetting, in other words, coming to a predetermined end. Some of these programs will be renewed, of course. Others will be reshaped to better serve Canadians in the future.

The government is committed to environmental protection and to protecting jobs and the economy.

Government Priorities
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister can rehearse his talking points all he wants, but the proof is in the pudding. The Conservatives have not been able to regulate the oil sands and that is why Americans have rejected Canadian oil.

At the end of the day, it is the Canadian economy that suffers. By placing all our bets on the oil sands, this has resulted in job losses in the manufacturing sector, jobs that are well-paying and family supporting.

Instead of cutting in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, when will the government listen to our economic partners and when will the government put into place a sustainable plan for the development of our natural resources?

Government Priorities
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, again, my hon. colleague does not seem to understand the estimates. I would invite her to come to the environment committee on the 13th of this month when I will be available to explain all of the detail.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of National Defence. What will it be? Will he tell the brave men and women of the Canadian air force that they are going to get less than the 65 jet fighters that he promised them, or is he going to tell the brave men and women of our country, known as the Canadian taxpayers, that he is going to spend way more than the $9 billion that he promised them this project would cost?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I would tell the brave men and women of the Royal Canadian Air Force that we will invest in the proper equipment, the equipment that they in fact want, which is the joint strike fighter program.

This is a program the member opposite should be aware of because it actually started under the previous government. This program is moving forward with huge benefits for the Canadian aerospace industry. However, most important, we will have the right aircraft for the 21st century for those brave men and women so they can achieve mission success and come home safely to their families.

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans refused to give a straight answer on the question of whether his government was changing DFO's fleet separation and owner-operator policies. If the minister goes ahead with these changes to this long-standing policy, it will mean the end of the inshore fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador and across all of Atlantic Canada. Large processing companies and corporations will take over the fishery and traditional independent fish harvesters will be a thing of the past.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries give us a straight answer? Is the government going to change the owner-operator policy and fleet separation policy, yes or no?

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission
B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, my colleague will know that Canada has the world's longest coastline and fisheries have been an economic driver in many of our coastal communities. We on this side of the House believe that fisheries should still make a significant contribution to regional and local economies. Therefore, we are presently consulting with Canadians about how to streamline policies and rules to improve opportunities for economic prosperity.

The consultations were due to end February 29 and the minister asked that they be extended to March 14. There is still an opportunity for my colleague and his constituents to provide some input. I encourage him to do so.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Ontario First Nations Economic Developers Association was promised in January that it would receive core funding from Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, but still no funds have arrived and the project manager has added an ultimatum.

Let us look at this for a minute. To receive the funds, it must report on the project. It cannot start the project until it receives the funds. What kind of practice is this? Does the government not want first nations to become economically independent? The Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development is holding the association in a Catch-22 with no funding.

Why are the Conservatives so dead set on making first nations funding a Catch-22? Will they release the funds?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Kenora
Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, we are very proud of the work of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, particularly when it comes to supporting economic development and economic outcomes for first nations communities. Each year we invest in a range of social, educational and economic programs on reserve that are designed to alleviate hardship, reduce poverty, generate wealth creation and improve community well-being.

We continue to work with first nations across the country, provinces and the private sector to improve the lives of first nations people, increase economic opportunities, access to jobs and stronger communities.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the UN is investigating the government's lack of action on the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women and Amnesty International has condemned the government for its failure to take action. The Assembly of First Nations is working on concrete solutions, but not one Conservative member attended its meeting last week. Aboriginal women have waited long enough. The federal government must take action.

When will the Conservatives implement the Assembly of First Nations' recommendations?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

London North Centre
Ontario

Conservative

Susan Truppe Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, we have taken our responsibility to protect vulnerable women seriously. I am proud that we are the first government to take concrete action to address the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians gave our government a strong mandate to keep our communities and streets safe. Part of that means ensuring that foreign criminals do not come here to take advantage of our generous immigration system. Our government has taken strong action on this front. However, Craig Scott, the NDP candidate in Toronto—Danforth, has published a report calling a particular judge “biased against criminals”.

While I certainly believe it, and I know all members on this side share that bias, could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety please comment on this report?

Public Safety
Oral Questions

Noon

Portage—Lisgar
Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I find it concerning, but not surprising, that the NDP would extend its soft on crime ideology to attacking a sitting judge. NDP candidate Craig Scott's report was shut down by the courts and described as gratuitous, intemperate, ideological and falling well short of the mark.

Attacking judges for not adopting a left-wing, soft on crime stance shows how irresponsible and reckless the New Democrats are.

Service Canada
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, Canada's unemployment rate is rising. Approximately 135,000 employers and over a million employees are using the job bank website. Unfortunately, this site has been shut down and out of service for weeks now. This site is a crucial tool, with more Canadians than ever before looking for work.

Since the minister took over Service Canada, EI wait times are longer, old age security is out of reach, student job centres are being shut down and now the job bank is out of service.

Will the job bank reopen and when?

Service Canada
Oral Questions

Noon

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, our number one priority is job creation and the growth of the economy. Getting access to jobs and job information is critical to that. Unfortunately, the job bank did suffer a breach of security. It was limited, but significant. We are taking every step possible to get it back up as quickly as possible. Officials are working around the clock to make that happen. We hope to have it up in just a few days so that people can indeed have access to information to help them get the work they need.

Transport
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

Sana Hassainia Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, over $1 billion lies dormant in the government's coffers, when that money should be spent on upgrading trade corridors. This government has rejected all of the Port of Montreal's funding applications under the Ontario-Quebec continental gateway initiative.

After demonstrating such a lack of leadership in the transportation sector in the Montreal region, can the minister explain to us why he is so intent on punishing the south shore by refusing to improve road and port infrastructure?

Transport
Oral Questions

Noon

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, that question is based on false information.

The member says that we have not invested in infrastructure. In fact, the clear measurement of the quality of our infrastructure is how old it is. This year our infrastructure is younger than at any time in the past three decades. The average age of a piece of infrastructure in this country is 14.5 years. That is two or three years younger than when it reached its peak only a decade ago under the Liberal Party of Canada. That is because of the massive buildup, the massive renewal of infrastructure. We are getting the job done. We are producing results.

Canada-Israel Relations
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, after leading a very successful high-level visit to Israel last month, could the Minister of Foreign Affairs please update the House on the state of our bilateral relations with the Jewish state?

Canada-Israel Relations
Oral Questions

Noon

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, a tough question, but fair. I am very pleased to report to the House that Canada-Israel relations are strong and are getting even stronger. We were very pleased to welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu to Canada early today. He was especially pleased that the member for Nepean—Carleton could be there at a very early hour for that. He will be here meeting with the Prime Minister and others to discuss international security issues, the Arab Spring and the global economy. Israel, like Canada, is one of the few industrialized countries where the economy is growing and creating jobs. We want to work with the international community to create even more jobs to have more hope, opportunity and prosperity in this country.

International Trade
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, cities like Toronto continue to raise red flags over Conservative backroom trade talks with Europe. They have formally complained that the deal would handcuff their ability to invest in jobs for priority neighbourhoods like my riding. Under this deal, cities like Toronto can no longer require that local jobs go to local workers. Why are the Conservatives so quick to sell out Canadian jobs to the highest foreign bidder and why are they selling out our cities and our workers?

International Trade
Oral Questions

Noon

Abbotsford
B.C.

Conservative

Ed Fast Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell the member very clearly that these have been the most transparent, collaborative negotiations that Canada has ever undertaken. We have collaborated broadly with the key stakeholders right across the country. We have collaborated closely with municipalities. I have met with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities on more than one occasion to share with it what we are doing in our negotiations. It strongly supports the direction we are going. Trade is a key driver of economic prosperity in Canada. I can assure the member that we will only sign agreements that are in the best interests of Canadians.

Employment
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-François Fortin Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, the people in my community are still in shock over the brutal closure of the RockTenn containerboard mill in Matane. Over 100 jobs were lost—they disappeared overnight. This loss will have a major impact on the people in my riding and on the region's economy.

Rather than giving up, people in the community are joining forces and forming a revitalization committee to reopen this state-of-the-art mill, but they need help.

In light of these circumstances, can the Parliamentary Secretary for the Economic Development Agency for the Regions of Quebec make a formal commitment to these people that the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec will meet with them as soon as possible in order to assist them?

Employment
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière
Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question.

Since 2006, the Economic Development Agency of Canada's mission has been to promote the long-term economic development of the regions of Quebec by paying special attention to those where economic growth is slow. In carrying out its mandate, the Agency takes measures to promote co-operation and complementarity with Quebec and its forestry communities. Our government is proud to work in partnership with the Government of Quebec and with Quebec's forestry communities.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 10 petitions.

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to this House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canadian Section of ParlAmericas, representing its participation in the bilateral visit to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Asbestos
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to introduce a petition signed by literally thousands of Canadians all across the country who call upon the House of Commons and Parliament assembled to take note that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer that the world has ever known.

The petitioners say that more Canadians now die from asbestos than from all other industrial and occupational causes combined. Yet Canada remains one of the largest producers and exporters of asbestos in the world. They also point out that Canada spends millions of dollars subsidizing the asbestos industry and blocking international efforts to curb its use.

Therefore, these petitioners call upon Parliament to ban asbestos in all of its forms and institute a just transition program for asbestos workers in the communities they live in, and to end all government subsidies of asbestos both in Canada and abroad. They also call upon Parliament to stop blocking international health and safety conventions designed to protect workers from asbestos, such as the Rotterdam Convention.

The Environment
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I stand here today to present a petition from 35 of my constituents.

In the spirit of global solidarity, they call upon Parliament to take collective action by signing and implementing a binding international agreement replacing the Kyoto protocol, that commits nations to reduce carbon emissions and to set fair and clear targets to ensure that global average temperatures stay below a 2° Celsius increase from pre-industrial levels.

They also call upon Parliament to demonstrate national responsibility by committing to a national carbon emissions target and national renewable energy policy to achieve sustainability; and to play a constructive role in the design of the green climate fund under United Nations' governance and to contribute public funds to assist the poorest and most affected countries to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.

Pensions
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to present a petition on old age security. It is signed by hundreds of residents in my riding calling upon the government not to change the age of old age security.

There are seniors out there who are very scared and concerned about this possible change. This change would most affect those who are earning less money and who need the guaranteed income supplement. It would not help the finances of the country by changing this at this time. I call on the government not to go ahead with this.

Abortion
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition from hundreds of Canadians who state that Canada is the only nation in the western world without any laws restricting abortion. The petitioners call upon the House of Commons to speedily enact legislation that restricts abortion to the greatest extent possible.

Abortion
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I also present a petition on behalf of constituents from Edmonton and Devon, Alberta. They call upon the House of Commons and Parliament to enact legislation that would restrict abortion to the greatest extent possible.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the following question will be answered today: No. 408.

Question No. 408
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

With respect to the July 2009 “Report of the Independent Investigator into the 2008 Listeriosis Outbreak” (Weatherhill Report), what progress has the Canadian Food Inspection Agency made as concerns each of the report’s 57 recommendations?

Question No. 408
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Battlefords—Lloydminster
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, in the summer of 2008, an outbreak of food-borne illness caused by the presence of listeria in ready-to-eat meat resulted in 191 recalls, 57 reported cases of listeriosis and the deaths of 23 Canadians. The Government of Canada immediately put in place preventative measures and launched reviews to find ways to reduce the risk of similar outbreaks in the future. The government also appointed an independent investigator, Sheila Weatherill, to examine the factors that contributed to the 2008 outbreak. In July 2009, the independent investigator submitted a report, the Weatherill report, which identified gaps in the food safety system and put forward 57 recommendations to minimize the risk of a similar outbreak in the future.

In September 2009, the government announced that it would act on all of the recommendations in the Weatherill report and committed $75M over three years to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, CFIA; Health Canada, HC; and the Public Health Agency of Canada, PHAC, to improve the government’s ability to prevent, detect and respond to food-borne illness outbreaks.

To date, considerable action has been taken, as outlined in the government’s reports, “Progress on Food Safety,” of March 2010, October 2010, and June 2011; and the “Final Report to Canadians”, December 2011.

Budget 2011 allocated $100 million over five years to the CFIA to improve inspection capacity. This initiative will also enable the CFIA to complete the outstanding recommendations that pertain to equipping inspectors with modern technology, training of inspectors, and the development of an integrated laboratory network proposal. These investments build on the government’s 2009 investment of $75 million to implement the Weatherill recommendations and the 2008 commitment of $489.5 million over five years in the food and consumer safety action plan.

For more detailed information, please refer to the report entitled “Action on Weatherill Recommendations to Strengthen the Food Safety System: Final Report to Canadians”. This report was posted on the government’s food safety portal, www.foodsafety.gc.ca, on December 19, 2011.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, if a supplementary response to Question No. 398, originally tabled on January 30, 2012, as well as Question No. 407 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 398
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

With regard to the costs incurred by the government in settling lawsuits or claims, as identified in the 2011 Public Accounts totaling $654 million, divided by department, what are the: (a) identities of the claimants or organizations; (b) details of the grievance including the (i) times, (ii) location(s), (iii) type(s), (iv) nature of dispute; (c) monetary amounts and any other terms requested in the claimant's initial claim or lawsuit; (d) subsequent government responses including (i) monetary offers, (ii) any other terms; (e) dates of settlement agreements; (f) types of settlements; (g) amounts of the settlements, and all other terms agreed to in the settlements; (h) the amounts that have been paid by the date of December 7, 2011; (i) estimated costs of not settling and using judicial channels; (j) names of government employees involved in the settlements and their role; (k) Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) hours spent on each claim's settlement; (l) legal fees incurred by the government (including those, if applicable, of the claimant) in each claim's settlement; and (m) steps taken to ensure the events leading to the lawsuit or claim are not repeated and any further lawsuits or claims are mitigated?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 407
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

With respect to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA): (a) how many new full-time meat inspection staff were hired by the CFIA between July 2009 and December 2011 and what positions and titles do these inspectors hold; (b) how many inspection staff and field inspection staff were hired by the CFIA to work on work-related food safety, as opposed to work related to plant and animal health between July 2009 and December 2011 and what positions and titles of these inspectors hold; (c) what is the total number of full-time equivalent meat inspectors employed by the CFIA currently and annually since January 2006; and (d) what was the total amount of funding allocated to the CFIA during 2010 and 2011?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Petitions
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, normally I would not do this. However, I think if you check the blues, the member for Winnipeg Centre told this House that he was presenting a petition that was signed by literally thousands of Canadians across the country. In fact, the number of pages in his petition looked to be about three or four. I know that on a petition there can only be about 25 names on a page. This is just typical of the embellishment that the member continually does in the House. I think you should check the blues and ask him to apologize for misleading the House and the viewers today.

Petitions
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The chair will review the matter and take action if necessary.

The House resumed from February 29, consideration of the motion that Bill C-24, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to again enter into the discussion on Bill C-24.

Bill C-24 would implement the free trade agreement and the related agreements on the environment and labour co-operation entered into between Canada and the Republic of Panama, done in Ottawa on May 13 and 14, 2010.

We have said previously that the Liberal Party is supportive of this legislation and we remain so. However, we maintain the concerns we raised previously with respect to the fact that as the government is pursuing new agreements, it has been neglecting our relationship with our largest trading partner, the United States.

Pursuing new trade agreements is certainly worthy of support. However, we have to keep these agreements in context. I have raised questions in this House several times, that while the minister is travelling all over the world talking about trade here and trade there, the government is ignoring our most important trading partner.

The government is also ignoring another trading partner, and that is Korea. Hog producers and beef producers have been in my office over the last few weeks. They are very concerned about the South Korean market. We have an established market of over $1 billion of trade on beef and pork. It is a growing market. However, now that the United States has moved ahead and signed a trade agreement with South Korea, the tariffs will be coming down for the Americans. We are their most important competitor, and we will be left uncompetitive in that marketplace. We will in fact lose that market rapidly over time.

What seems to be the problem with the government in so many areas is that rather than being about results, it is very much about spin. It wants to be able to say that it has signed nine trade agreements, or has had 15 or 20 or 40 discussions, when in reality it is the results that matter. Again I emphasize that we are very concerned about the fact that the government is ignoring some of our largest trading partners while it talks and signs agreements with others around the world. The new agreement does not add up to the losses we are facing as a result of the government not emphasizing the agreements we already have in place.

While the Conservatives have proclaimed the promotion of trade, it has been under their watch that the mismanagement of the file in terms of trading relationships has resulted in trade deficits for the first time in over 30 years. Let me emphasize that. We hear the minister talk about all the great things the government is doing. Last year for the first time in 30 years, Canada had its first merchandise trade deficit. That tells me the results are far different from the spin we are getting from the Minister of International Trade.

With respect to the United States, we have seen the government surprised by increased United States protectionist actions. It was surprised by the initial buy American provisions in the 2008 United States stimulus package. It was again surprised in 2011 when the new buy American provisions were returned by the Obama administration. Those buy American provisions in fact will affect Canadian jobs and will hurt both the U.S. and Canadian economies.

The Conservative administration was also surprised by the announcement by the United States Federal Maritime Commission at the instigation of United States senators of an investigation into U.S.-bound container traffic being diverted to Canadian ports and whether to impose fees or tariffs as a result of this diverted trade. This would be another potential fee placed on Canada.

The government was also surprised when the United States government, in signing the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement, withdrew the exemption Canada had of $5.50 per individual in terms of sea and air entry into the United States.

I was in Washington, D.C. over the last few days where I met with senators and congressmen about a number of issues between our two countries. They too seemed to be caught by surprise in terms of that clause in the U.S.-Colombia trade agreement that took away Canada's exemption. After my visit to the United States, I am now more concerned by the fact that we had a lot of allies in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives but the government failed on its watch to pay attention to that serious issue which puts another fee on Canada.

The importance of the U.S.-Canada relationship is in the value of trade, and that exceeds about $1.4 billion to $1.6 billion a day. The government is very much ignoring our most important trading partner.

I want to emphasize again in the House that while the government is pursuing Panama, Jordan, and others, it is ignoring our most important trading markets. I have to outline this point with the minister.

Will the minister get on the ball and get on a trading relationship with South Korea? We need a free trade agreement signed with South Korea, or we are going to be displaced as a result of being uncompetitive with the United States which has signed a trade agreement. I cannot emphasize that enough. That is worth $1 billion in trade.

In spite of the global economic downturn, Panama's GDP grew to 10.7% in 2008, one of the highest in the Americas. In 2010, Panama's GDP growth stood at 7.5%. Panama is Canada's largest export market in Central America.

Panama is an important market especially for folks in my province of Prince Edward Island. We export fish, shellfish, french fried potatoes and other agricultural products. It is very important to producers in Prince Edward Island. We need this agreement.

The bilateral trading relationship has grown 61% since 2009, reaching $213 million in bilateral trade in 2010.

As I said, the primary Canadian merchandise exports to Panama include machinery, vehicle electronic equipment, pharmaceutical equipment, pulses, frozen potato products and other agricultural products, and shellfish. Canadian service exports include financial services, engineering, information and communications technology. These are also important. We import precious stones from Panama and a number of fruits and nuts, fish and seafood products. The relationship is important.

I do have to point out what remains a concern to us within the Liberal Party. The tax haven issue with Panama has not been addressed. The President of France talked about that at the G20. The tax haven issues that a number of countries have around the world have to be addressed. In particular, the Canadian government has to work harder with Panama to address that issue.

The bottom line is that we support this trade agreement. We especially want to see the labour, environment and tax issues addressed in it though.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to question my colleague who has brought up a number of issues in regard to Bill C-24. I know that those issues are important to all of us in the House. Over the past years that we have been working on this bill, we have proposed many amendments on the subjects the member has concerns about, yet I do not see that the Liberal Party has come through with support for those amendments. Can the member explain his and his party's actions in that regard?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am not entirely sure what specific amendments the member is talking about, but I can certainly say I know that his party is concerned with labour and environment issues. We do see these as a side agreement in the agreement. It is a step forward that labour and environment are attached as part of the agreement.

I will admit that one of the concerns I have with both labour and environment in many of the trade agreements that have been signed is that there is not the ability to enforce those rules as strongly as we would like. However, whether it is with respect to some countries where human rights are a concern, the Liberal Party's point of view is that having an economic relationship and trading relationship with that country in fact does provide an even greater ability to argue on human rights and other issues because it is then a part of the package.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham
Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned in his speech how important this deal was to his region of the country because there are a lot of exports from Prince Edward Island. I am wondering if he could explain why in 13 years of a Liberal majority government he was not able to deliver any type of deal like this for his province. I am wondering if he could also explain to me if the type of relationship building that he talks about with our friends to the south is the example we saw of the previous government where it was stomping on dolls of the American presidents and saying, “We hate those”, and I will not use the word in the House. Is that an example of the type of relationship building he is mentioning?

Again, perhaps the member could tell me about the Liberal Party's desire to build relationships with our American friends and why in 13 years the Liberal majority government and the member were unable to deliver a deal that is so important, as he said, to the people of his province.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to the member that maybe he could get his head out of the sand. Maybe he could stop the divisiveness and look at the realities.

The fact of the matter is that when we were in government we balanced the books in this economy and gave the country the foundation which we find ourselves in today. It was the Liberal government. I was a backbencher and part of a committee that made the recommendations to ensure that the banking system remained sound in this country, which now his leader, the Prime Minister of the country goes around the world and brags about, but at that time the current Prime Minister was opposed to that particular merger.

I will tell the member that in terms of the U.S. relationship, the first government in 30 years to have a merchandise trade deficit on exports in this country is in fact the current government. Yes, we were there to establish a relationship with the United States, and we did. We continually built on that relationship.

I am proud of my time as a Liberal. I just cannot understand why the government and its members, whether they are talking from speaking notes from the PMO or what I do not know, constantly use divisiveness and fear tactics. That is what the member does in the House of Commons, and it is completely unacceptable.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I rise again to speak to this particular bill, which now has a new title and a new time in the House of Commons. Through the last Parliament we debated the bill at length because we had incredible concerns about our ability to understand what we were doing with our free trade deals across the world. We understand the difference between free trade and fair trade, but we want to know what the government stands for when it makes these types of arrangements with these countries and what drives it forward.

We agree that certain products are going to be easier to move into Panama. That is fine, but do we weaken our integrity in doing so? Do we weaken the direction our country can move in? Do we weaken the state of the world when we make deals that are unsatisfactory? Is that what we accomplish when we reach a free trade deal with Panama, a country dedicated to money laundering and tax evasion? Panama has so many corporations listed there, not because they do any work there but because they take advantage of the very lax practices there. Not only are the practices lax there, but they actually promote tax evasion and money laundering as a basis of industry.

Here we are, entering into a relationship with a country that has those principles and values. Does it bring us down to that level? By going along with these types of relationships, does it mean that we then lower the bar as far as our ability to enhance our prosperity is concerned? Is that what we are doing? Are those the trade principles of the Conservative government? That is our question, and I think it is a fair question.

I would welcome a debate in the House on trade, generally. We see that the government is engaged in trade discussions with other countries. We are all concerned with what the Prime Minister's visit to China means for our country and our relationships. Before the Prime Minister left for China, I remember his interview with Peter Mansbridge on CBC Television, in which he stated unequivocally that our energy policy is made by the free market and that we are an energy exporting country. He was saying that our exports are determined by the free market. That is his point of view. Two weeks later he was off to China, where he set up a deal to move energy, in a certain fashion, to the Chinese. We now see that the government, in its relationship with China, has agreed to terms and conditions regarding the environment and the processing of energy products with China. Those do not strike me as part of the free market, but rather an expression of Canada's need to enter into various relationships with a command economy like China's.

Do I appreciate those relationships? No, I do not, because I think the Prime Minister should have come back to Canada and set up a national energy strategy in which we could actually determine the value of the relationships we are establishing in exporting our products to countries like China. When we do export raw bitumen to China, as is proposed for the Gateway pipeline, we will become a supply link in a chain that can only be filled with that product moving to China for upgrading there. That is pretty clear. At the same time, interestingly enough, we have struck a deal to liquefy natural gas in Kitimat. Natural gas will be shipped over to China where it will be used to upgrade the same bitumen.

In reality, we are taking two energy products that we can use in Canada to increase the prosperity of our economy and do so in an environmentally correct fashion, and yet are moving them over to another country. That is our trade policy. That policy has an impact on billions of dollars of trade.

How does that fit with a free trade agreement with Panama?

That is my point, because we do not have any definition of what the government wants to accomplish with trade. What we have, as the Prime Minister said, is an ideological commitment to a free market. However, that is seriously disengaged from the reality of many of the products we are selling. I believe we are the only energy exporting country in the world that does not have a direct say on those energy exports. Now we have to take it on faith, and by confusion, and have to fill that role anyway.

We cannot be honest with ourselves and look at how the world is actually developing. It is not developing in the direction that we thought it would through the 1990s and the last decade when free trade was the mantra. No, in an era of increasing population and declining resources, command economies are taking over. We are starting to see that is the way of the world now. It is in this context that Canada, with its natural resources and riches, which we should be preserving for our grandchildren, is making decisions that are not correct.

When we come back to the free trade agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, we have to ask where the logic of it is. How does it work? Is it really a free trade agreement or is it a free investment deal? Is this really about Canadian multinational companies that want to take their profits out of Canada and invest them in things like the Panama Canal? Is that what this is really about? Is that the underlying principle that we are dealing with? We do not know because the Conservative government very rarely, if ever, presents principles and directions so that we can understand the purpose behind its actions.

When we look at these free trade deals, we have to be able to say to ourselves that, yes, we have followed to principles regarding non-criminal activity in our marketplace. We espouse the need to close down tax loopholes that have starved governments around the world from their rightful share of the riches that are made by corporations. These are things that we espouse, yet at the same time we are quite willing to give them up because some Canadian companies could perhaps invest in the expansion of the Panama Canal, then take those profit and give them to their shareholders around the world.

When we talk about free trade deals, we have to take them in the context of what the world is doing. The world is changing quickly in this new era, in which command economies will play a larger and larger role. We understand that and have addressed it.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Kenora
Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, at the very end of the member's intervention he commented on the context.

Here is the context: the people of Northwest Territories, who make significant contributions to our supply chain in a number of important areas, are involved as a part of many, if not all, free trade agreements, including with Panama. I wonder if the member can tell us what kinds of products are involved in the Panama free trade agreement.

Why is he not standing up for the interests of the great folks up in the territories who want to contribute to this and produce goods for a number of countries, including Panama, where there are exciting economic opportunities for them and that country?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, that is a bit of a strange question, but I will try to answer it the best way I can because I appreciate my colleague's concern about the Northwest Territories. In the Northwest Territories right now, our people have all agreed to build the natural gas pipeline. That pipeline would supply the oil sands with needed natural gas to perhaps upgrade bitumen to a synthetic oil.

By aiming to put a million barrels a day across the border with the Keystone pipeline and 800,000 barrels a day out the door from Kitimat in northern B.C., we are basically saying to the Northwest Territories that we do not want to develop its natural gas now because we are going to send this product, unprocessed, to other countries where they can develop their natural gas supplies. In fact, we are going to take the natural gas from northern B.C. and liquefy it at a cost of about 35% of that energy and we are going to send it to China where the processing can be done.

Where does that leave the Northwest Territories in this whole equation?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the House that my colleague speaks not only highly of the Northwest Territories but that he is also a very hard-working member of Parliament for the north.

Trade deals are a reality, as we live in a global society. However, are the bases of these trade deals fair, equitable and sustainable? We know for a fact that Panama has been used as a money laundering state by drug cartels from Mexico, Colombia and other parts of South America.

I am very concerned about the danger of some of the money being laundered through Panama being invested in products or funnelled to Canada. Does the member share those concerns?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, it is a very good point that my colleague makes. What happens to money laundered in Panama when there are many corporations that have registered in Panama to take advantage of a situation where money can be cheap? When money has to be laundered, there is an opportunity for other companies to pick it up. The more relationships we set up with Panama, the more we legitimize the work that is going on between our corporations in Panama and Canadians. The more we say that the free flow of money between Canada and Panama is going to be unhindered, the more we are saying we support this process. That is the reality of it and it really does not matter what the Conservatives say: reality is reality.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for this opportunity to enter the debate on Bill C-24. I thank my colleague for Western Arctic for very capably articulating many of the positions of the NDP and the reservations we have with this bill. I will do my best not to repeat the many legitimate points my colleague made.

However, I will say with some frustration that I have been tracking and following this debate since August 11, 2009. when the government, unilaterally and without consultation from Parliament, concluded its negotiations. I cannot criticize this, as governments do have the right to enter into free trade agreements. However, they then need to ratify them with the Parliament of Canada where the legitimate concerns that the parties may have on behalf of our representatives can be made known. In any serious consultation, there should be some accommodation of the legitimate concerns the other parties brought forward in the context of the free trade agreements entered into.

I raise this only because it has been a constant source of frustration to us that the consultation has not been meaningful or robust and it does not, by any stretch of the imagination, even meet the definition of true consultation if the government side has not accommodated at least some of the legitimate concerns brought forward. I would refer members to recent Supreme Court decisions that dealt with the issue of what constitutes meaningful consultation.

I do not think, by any stretch of the imagination, we can conclude that meaningful consultation took place, because not one of the amendments brought forward by the official opposition were entertained or allowed by the ruling party, even though some of the concerns brought forward would meet the nod test from the general public. A lot of Canadians would be upset to learn that we are entering into this trade agreement with a country like Panama without taking steps and measures to ensure that Panama is worthy of a free trade agreement with Canada.

I do not use that word lightly. Trade with Canada is a privilege, not a right. I am the first one to admit that free trade can help elevate the standards of both parties to a trade agreement. We do not look for mirror image countries. This is not some kind of vanity exercise where we will only trade with countries that are just like us, but surely they must meet some minimum ethical, labour and environmental standards. For Heaven's sake, they should not be the tax haven of choice and the money laundering country of choice for the international drug cartel. Why would we reward bad behaviour?

It comes to mind that Panama is probably dining out on the fact that it has achieved a good housekeeping seal of approval by Canada which has seen fit to enter into a trade agreement with it. It says that maybe all the accusations of being the drug laundering capital of Central America and South America cannot be true because otherwise a nice country like Canada would not sign the agreement with it.

I am here to say that the world is not satisfied that Panama has taken corrective action. It is not a responsible actor in the international financial community. The president of France said so as recently as November 5, 2011. He cited a number of countries that should be shunned by the international community. Guess what countries are on that list? They include Antigua, Barbuda, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Botswana, Brunei, Panama, Uruguay and Venuatu. President Sarkozy threatened that the countries that remain tax havens will be shunned by the international community. How does that jibe with us having this debate today and about to enter into a process that legitimizes and validates the behaviour and past practices of that country.

International tax havens are a scourge on the international financial world and they should be stamped out. They should not be allowed. I go to chartered accountants' websites sometimes to track what is being pushed around here. They call it “tax motivated expatriation”. That is the nice sanitary term for what I call “sleazy tax cheating loopholes” that are ubiquitous among a certain financial class of people.

The OECD has a grey list. Panama was removed from the grey list. It reads:

Panama today moved to the OECD’s list of jurisdictions considered to have substantially implemented the standard for exchange of information when it signed a tax information exchange agreement with France. This brings Panama’s total agreements to the critical 12 that meet the international standard.

Since then, it was when Mr. Sarkozy, in a speech made at the G20 conference in Cannes, named the Caribbean countries and eight others, including Panama, as countries that remain tax havens and should be shunned by the international community.

What is this almost obsession to sign as many of these trade agreements with as many countries as humanly possible without even doing the due diligence, the scrutiny and the oversight that one would expect? These are binding agreements.

The amendments that my colleague brought forward, the terms and conditions under which the government could garner NDP support for these, were reasonable ones that I think would meet the nod test from almost all ordinary Canadians. One was that we address the status of labour rights in Panama. If it is our goal to use our trade relationships as an objective to elevate the standard of living conditions for the trading partners with which we sign these agreements, why do we need to have a side agreement on labour rights that is virtually unenforceable? Why is that not part of the substance of the text of the actual agreement?

Environmental concerns are something that the NDP always wants to see addressed. We should be setting the industry standard, not tacitly endorsing the bad practices of other countries by entering into these legitimizing trade agreements.

There has not been a business case made on how this is categorically in the best interests of a majority of Canadians. Of course we want trade. We are a trading nation and we do rely on trade. We are blessed with natural resources. We export, we extract and export. However, some of us would say that current and recent past practices would indicate a lack of commitment and perhaps a disturbing trend of not putting enough emphasis on value adding our resources before they are exported from this country.

I will give one example as it relates to my own riding of Winnipeg Centre. I used to have 43 garment manufacturers in my riding, the largest of which had 1,800 employees at its peak. Many of them had 300, 400 and 500 employees. Some were small boutique custom made shops. We are now down to nine. I am talking about the period of time that I have been a member of Parliament, from 1997 to today. It went from 43 to 9, 10,000 to 12,000 employees, just in my riding, and that does not include Winnipeg North where my colleague used to have garment manufacturers.

We decided to cut that sector loose. Somebody made a conscious decision to stop the duty remissions and all the efforts we made to keep manufacturing in Canada. Somebody turned a blind eye to the trade provisions. When China was invited into the WTO, the partners to the WTO could have signed phase-in agreements but Canada chose not to.

Therefore, we got the 200% and 300% impact all in one year. Countries like the United States had a 10-year phase-in at 5% to 10% a year. For Canada, it was all or nothing and, believe me, that was the death knell of the garment industry in my city. To whose benefit was that? Those were great entry level gateway jobs, often for new Canadians. They were not big paying jobs but they were good unionized jobs with a day care centre, a pension plan and a dental plan, and they are all gone. The government in its wisdom watched them fly out the window and did not lift a finger to save them. That is the same attitude that we see toward these trade agreements. The government is being irresponsible.

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12:50 p.m.

Kenora
Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, as usual, the member's use of the English language and the emphasis he puts on it is sometimes inspiring and sometimes not so inspiring.

The member said that there was no business case for the Panama free trade agreement. However, let us look at Manitoba with its precious stones and metals, oilseeds, cereals and pork. Farmers working in the province of Manitoba want their member of Parliament to stand up in this place and explain to them why he cannot support an agreement that would do so much for the great people of Manitoba, my next door neighbours, “Mantarians” we call ourselves collectively. The member should stand up for what is right in Manitoba and Mantario. Why will he not do that?

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12:50 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the member from Mantario, for that remark and for the backhanded compliment about my oratory.

Since he raised agriculture, I will point out that the Conservative government just systematically dismantled the most effective export instrument that the Canadian agricultural sector has ever known, the largest and most successful grain marketing company in the world, a $7 billion a year corporation. The Conservative government just legislated it out of business. That was how we used to export the product of the prairie region, 20 million tonnes a year, consistently providing the best rate of return ever. We have the evidence, the Conservatives have none. They were on some ideological crusade because they thought it was Communism or something. When prairie farmers united together to act in their own best interests, the Conservatives systematically destroyed the largest, most effective and most successful grain marketing company in the world.

Canadian farmers will still export their grains and their products but we do not need to do a deal with drug dealers to sell our products. If we want the free movement of goods and services, then we should trade things that are legal, not deal with some narcoeconomy of money launderers and dope dealers.

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12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I do not blame the member for Winnipeg Centre for getting a little agitated at that last question from the member for Kenora.

I have had the opportunity to work with the member for Winnipeg Centre and I saw how he stood up for farmers in western Canada and others in the Canadian Wheat Board fight. However, the one thing I did not see were the backbenchers on that side who come from Western Canada stand up. They did not allow democracy to flourish. They would not allow a vote. They broke the law in order to implement their ideological position.

My question for the member on the Canada-Panama trade agreement is--

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12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There are some things that we can let pass in the House, and the member for Malpeque has a lot of liberalism in the House, but he just stated that the Conservative government broke the law. He knows very well that the court decision that just came down about 10 days ago or less said that the Conservative government acted in full respect of the law in all of the legislation and everything that pertained to it.

The member should correct himself.

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12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, one of the big areas in the Panama trade agreement is the reconstruction of the Panama Canal to allow super Panamanian vessels to go through it. The government has not informed us on this issue but the Panama Canal authority gives preference to Panama nationals and maybe even to the United States in this area.

Does my colleague see that as a concern?

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12:55 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I absolutely do see that as a concern. I think this might be a half-baked document that we are dealing with. If we have not gone to the greatest length possible to ensure the best advantage to our country and not just to benefit others in this, then why are we in such a rush to do it? We believe that fair trade should be the overarching principle and not just an afterthought of these negotiations.

We should not need to debate these things in the House. Eleven legitimate amendments were put forward at committee and not one was accommodated by the other side. Members cannot tell me that none of our international trade critic's comments had any merit whatsoever. That is not the spirit of open and honest debate and consultation. That is ramming something through for some other vested interest, not the best interests of Canadians and Canadian industry.

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12:55 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is always better to follow the member for Winnipeg Centre because then everybody on the other side of the House is awake and I appreciate that.

I get nervous when I read about free trade deals with countries like Panama. I come from a labour background, working for trade unions. I know when we reach agreements with other countries that have very poor labour relations records and very low wages, generally Canadians suffer. Canadian workers suffer, unionized or not, because we are now trying to enter into a race to the bottom. That nervousness is part of what drives me to want to speak to this bill.

The agreement with Panama does not correct the very shoddy state of the labour relations in Panama. We are not dealing with a country on an even footing. I appreciate the comment of my friend from Winnipeg Centre, that we do not always want to be on an even footing. We want to have agreements with countries regardless of whether they are our equals because we hope that our entering into these agreements will raise everyone's standard of living in both countries.

However, the experience I personally have had is that when there is a low-wage jurisdiction to send jobs to and there is nothing to prevent the products or services that come from that low-wage jurisdiction, Canadian corporations, even big multinational corporations based in Canada, are quick to send those jobs to those other countries, thus hurting Canadian workers. Even in knowledge-based industries, film and television production and in the newspaper business, we have seen jobs move out of Canada into low-wage jurisdictions like Panama because there is nothing the government has done to prevent it. There is no barrier whatsoever. With this bill, we would create even fewer barriers to a low-wage jurisdiction and one that has very little, if any, labour protections for organized labour in that country.

We spent quite a bit of time debating Bill C-10, which had in it some raising of the bar for people who were involved in drug trafficking, with a mandatory minimum five-year sentence those people. Even if that person is growing as few as six pot plants to alleviate symptoms from multiple sclerosis, he or she might go to jail for five years. The good news in that case is that person would not stay in jail for five years because he or she would likely be dead before that.

The problem is we are about to enter into an agreement with a country with a large part of its economic basis being the drug trade. How is it that we are opposed to the drug trade when it is in Canada, but we are in favour of entering into a deal with a country where probably billions of dollars, because there is no way of disclosing how much, is being laundered from the drug trade in that country? That gives me pause and it should give everyone here pause, that we should not be encouraging deals with drug dealers. That is just not on, as far as this side of the House is concerned.

There is no agreement on tax information exchange, so we do not even know the size of the problem. Both the Conservatives and the Liberals have agreed that the tax-doubling agreement is enough. It is not enough. It does not disclose any of the illegal income that is floating around in that country as a tax haven, a tax haven for drug dealers and drug cartels. We believe most of this income is from money laundering that cannot happen in Canada because we have good financial and taxation regimes that prevent it. Now we getting into bed with a country that permits it and will not even disclose it. The OECD had it on its grey list as one of the countries to not do business with, yet we are about to do that.

There are already too many drug dealers in my riding. What kind of a message does it send to those people who are doing harm to our community and our citizens when we are entering into an agreement with a country that is notorious around the world for being a haven for money laundering for drug dealers? I am sure there are a few Panamanians in my riding, although not very many. There are probably far more drug dealers.

Last summer we had the police task force on anti-violence and drugs in my riding. Our riding was showered with many more police officers over the course of the summer to try to weed out some of that drug problem. Yet we are saying that it is okay to do business with what essentially is a country that harbours and is a haven for the drug trade. That does not make sense to me and it should not make sense to my constituents either.

For example, last week I had a meeting in my riding with a bunch of youth from the York Youth Coalition. One of the young folks asked me what he should tell the kids in the riding who could not get jobs. Over the course of the past few years of trade deals all the manufacturing jobs have left the riding. In part, they have gone to the U.S. and to low-wage countries as a result of free trade deals that the government has signed with other countries. These kids who cannot get jobs, or if they do get jobs, they are for 20 hours a week at $9 or $10 an hour, discover very quickly that they can earn $300 or $400 in an hour standing on a street corner selling drugs. He asked what he should tell these kids. He said he told them that it is wrong to sell drugs, but he wanted to know what to tell them about how they could move forward in society, how they could expect to, at some, point make a living that would sustain a family when the jobs had disappeared.

As with my friend's riding of Winnipeg Centre, which had huge and burgeoning textile businesses, we used to have a litany of manufacturing that was part of Ontario's manufacturing industry, to the point where every June the manufacturers would line up in the high schools to solicit the kids graduating to come and work in their factories. The last time that happened was probably 30 years ago. Stores like Wal-Mart certainly do not line up in the high schools looking for kids. The kids come pounding on those doors looking for $10 an hour jobs. It is a very desperate situation where I am. We have only ourselves to blame as a result of some of these trade deals.

I am not saying that we, as an opposition, are opposed to anything to do with trade. That is not the case. However, we need to protect our interests. We need to protect the interests of Canadians in the deals that we do exercise with other countries. We need to protect the labour rights in those countries. We need to ensure that we are not in a huge race to the bottom in which our minimum wage will never go up because we now compete with minimum wages of $1 an hour or $1 a day, depending on the jurisdiction with which we are about to compete. There are no protections from labour unions in those same countries.

We have made proposals in the past to amend these agreements to protect the labour rights of Canadians and to protect environmental rights and they have been rejected by both the Conservatives and the Liberals. Therefore, these kinds of sensible applications need to be made to this kind of an agreement before we enter into it.

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1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, if I understand the member correctly, he is saying that Canada should just ignore countries that have some internal problems with which they are struggling. In the case of Panama, he says that the drug industry is creating an economy there and that there is no hope for it. We should let the good folks of Panama suffer under whatever type of nasty environment is there, cut them loose and forget about them, rather than try to develop a relationship with them through trade and show them that there is another way to improve their economy, which is through good trade practices with a country like Canada. We have many things we can teach countries like Panama.

A few short years ago, Colombia was a country that no one wanted to go to. Look at Colombia now. We have a trade agreement with it. It has a burgeoning tourist industry. It has turned around because there were some people in charge of the government who said that there was a way out, that there was hope for the country and they looked for help.

Does the member, maybe just for a second, think that Panama is asking Canada to give it a hand to get out of that desperation? Is he cutting the kids in his riding loose? I do not think so.

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1:10 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, the issue is not that we cut these countries loose. The issue is that we insist, when we enter into negotiations, that they clean up their act, that part of the condition for Canada entering into an agreement with a country like Panama is that it prevents the money laundering that continues to go on for the drug cartels, that it enters into legislation that gives workers the right to organize and the right to have their disputes settled by arbitration.

Those are the kinds of things we should do, but for some reason, the government is opposed to those kinds of measures in these trade agreements. I think it is because they are really investor agreements and not trade agreements and the government is trying to protect the investors. I hope I am wrong.

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1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, Canada depends on international trade. We are a trading nation. Canadians share the same values in terms of wanting to do what they can to fight for issues such as human rights and basic labour standards. We do not like child labour. We want to ensure that environmental concerns are being addressed. The whole concept between sustainable development and so forth.

These are issues that are very important to us, but also we see the value in terms of international trade. There are trading countries in the world that we have concerns with today. I could cite China and many others that were very dependent on those trade links. Now we have a free trade agreement that we are supportive of in principle. We still believe we could have done more with our neighbours to the south and other nations like Korea and so forth, but we do believe in value for free trade agreements.

The NDP, to the best of my knowledge, has never voted in favour of any free trade agreement. Members are trying to make Panama look like an ugly nation when there are many positive things in Panama. Has the NDP ever voted for a free trade agreement, whether it is Panama or any other agreement that has come before the House of Commons?

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1:10 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member that we are a trading nation. One of the difficulties with the current position on trade is that we do not all live in Alberta. Therefore, we cannot all benefit by the jobs created in Alberta because we do not all live there. As the jobs disappear from Ontario, 400,000 good manufacturing jobs that disappeared since the government took office, those people are unemployed and that is a problem.

The NDP believes in trade. We know that trade is a good thing, but there have to be protections in the agreements that we sign with trading partners before we will agree, and there are none in this agreement.

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1:10 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a question of privilege. I will be brief because not all the facts are in, but given the rules regarding a question of privilege, I understand it is my obligation to make you aware of circumstances at the earliest opportunity. If you wish, I will make an effort to gather the rest of the information and submit those details at the earliest possible opportunity next week.

Some of my colleagues have been experiencing various levels of obstruction from fulfilling their duties today by virtue of the extraordinary security measures on Parliament Hill. I understand the need for more security when a head of state is here, but I believe that the balance is out of whack in this case. In one case, a 15-year veteran member of Parliament who was known by a security officer was sent back to his office to get proper identification.

I raise this question in the context of the larger issue that I have tried to raise in the House of Commons before, in that it is a disadvantage to members of Parliament and I believe it can even be a matter of violating our collective privilege in that we are not masters of our own chamber but only tenants in the House of Commons. I refer to the fact that although the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Speaker of the Senate are in fact masters of the parliamentary precinct, they have delegated the authority for all the operations, maintenance and security to the Department of Public Works and Government Services and other agencies and we are not, in fact, in control of our own chamber. This, I believe, contradicts the 2000 edition of Marleau and Montpetit, page 275, chapter 7, which states:

One of the fundamental privileges of the House is to regulate its own internal affairs, holding exclusive jurisdiction over its premises and the people within.

Notwithstanding the fact that certain government departments have a role in the upkeep, such as the Department of Public Works and Government Services and Heritage Canada, it is our collective privilege to control the House and the surrounding precinct. If in fact we are only tenants in our own House of Commons, the disadvantage that members of Parliament and the NDP experienced today would suggest it is time for a tenants revolt in the House of Commons.

I refer the House to page 170 of Parliamentary Privilege in Canada by Joseph Maingot, where it is stated:

--the House of Commons is not a department of the government of Canada, but exists as a constituent element of Parliament.

It is further stated on page 170:

Each House of Parliament is entitled to the administration of affairs within its own precincts free from interference.... Control of the accommodation and services within the Parliament Buildings is therefore vested in the Speakers...on behalf of their respective Houses. Thus Public Works and Government Services and other government departments act only on the advice of officials of each House.

This came up when I tried to have the Canadian flag lowered to half-mast whenever a Canadian soldier was killed in Afghanistan. It was ruled that simple act of respect was beyond the purview of either chamber in Parliament and it was the responsibility of the Department of Public Works and Government Services to decide how and when to raise and lower the flag atop the Peace Tower in the Parliament of Canada. That struck me as absurd. Are we not masters of our own domain? Why do we have to ask a department under the direction of the government for an expression of our Canadian Parliament? We have to put significant distance between Parliament and the ruling party, between Parliament and any government department under the direction and control of the ruling party.

It is stated on page 230 of Maingot's second edition:

Members are entitled to go about their parliamentary business undisturbed.

In House of Commons Procedure and Practice, chapter 3 on privileges and immunities, at page 85 on the topic of obstruction, authors Marleau and Montpetit state the following:

In circumstances where Members claim to be directly obstructed, impeded, interfered with or intimidated in the performance of their parliamentary duties, the Speaker is apt to find that a prima facie breach of privilege has occurred. This may be physical obstruction, assault or molestation.

My colleague was not molested to the best of my knowledge, although he may want to share with us if he was. However, members were interfered with to an extent that I do not believe is justified. It was like a fortress today around Parliament Hill. I approached the double fence and asked the RCMP officer if I could pass through. He asked me if I was a member. I said, yes, that my office was in Centre Block, and he allowed me through. However, three or four other members, and even my colleague here, were denied access and were sent back to their offices to get further identification.

Mr. Speaker, I think you would be the first to agree that all members of Parliament are equal in their privileges in this House of Commons and no one should have been interfered with or disadvantaged in any way in accessing their office to conduct their duties as a member of Parliament.

That is the extent of my intervention. I raise it without any criticism of the officers in question. I have every respect for the work that they were doing in following out their orders to make Parliament a secure place and to welcome our guest, the head of state of Israel who was here today.

However, I do remind the House that as members of Parliament we should be in control of our own parliamentary precinct. This work should not be contracted out to Public Works and Government Services Canada or anybody else. It should be the Speaker of the respective houses who control the operations, maintenance and conduct of every aspect of Parliament. We are not just tenants here. As it was put very capably, we are a constituent element of Parliament.

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1:20 p.m.

Cambridge
Ontario

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Minister of State (Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to the House that this morning when I approached the Hill I too had my vehicle stopped. The trunk was searched. I did not mind at all because we have a well-respected international leader visiting our House today.

I know the NDP like thuggery tactics and would like to see all this security taken away and I do know that the member opposite loves the sound of his own voice. However, I am here to say that I do not mind that minor inconvenience to protect another human being who is visiting our House.

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1:20 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I would report on an incident that happened last fall when there were protesters on the Hill against the Keystone pipeline.

The Hill was double-fenced and the stairs were closed off. I approached the RCMP officers who were doing due diligence there and asked if I could stand on the stairs. The RCMP told me I was not allowed to do that. A discussion incurred. An RCMP officer went away and came back with a book on procedure. After reading the procedure with me, he granted me access to that space. Quite clearly, no parliamentarian can be denied access to the Hill for any particular reason.

I would say that an issue that is brewing is the unrelenting increase in security which is hampering our privilege on the Hill. I would like to see the Speaker deal with this question of privilege in good fashion and come back to us with a report on the nature of security vis-à-vis the privilege of parliamentarians.

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1:20 p.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills
Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Minister of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, reasonable people have to find a balance between security and access. I acknowledge that members of Parliament have the right to operate within the precinct with free will as long as they are not impeding anybody else. However, when there are visitors here, and we have had many honoured visitors, the security has to go up. When the Prime Minister is around, the security goes up. We have to balance security and access.

This is not the 1800s any more. There is a lot of communication and we have many threats of terrorism from all over the place. We have to make sure that a tragedy does not occur here and that someone does not get injured or killed because security was lax. There will always be difficulty in finding a balance between security and access.

I am sure the Speaker will take this up and investigate it. However, I cannot believe that there was any bad intention to try to impede MPs. I recommend that the Speaker look at this and make sure that there is a balance between security and access.

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1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, in terms of access to the Hill, it is incredibly important that members of Parliament feel confident in their ability to access this chamber, especially when the House is sitting. A very obvious statement that needs to be reinforced is it is critically important that members of Parliament representing Canadians have the ability to be in here when the House is actually sitting.

There are arguments to extend it beyond that, but I do not want it to be a reflection on the people in security. My understanding is that they do have pictures of all members of Parliament. Identification is provided to us. We have a special pin. It is not unrealistic for us to expect that we might have to produce identification at some point. The other day I was walking to the chamber with some of my Manitoba colleagues who have been around a bit longer than I have. I was asked to produce some identification. There is always a changeover of staff and some staff members may not know the faces of all 308 MPs.

Having said that, there needs to be something in place that provides comfort to all members of Parliament that they will have the necessary and warranted access to Parliament Hill. The point on access is very critical for us.

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1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The Chair thanks all members who have made contributions relating to this question of privilege. What I can share with all hon. members is that earlier today the House did request a report be brought forward in terms of what did happen this morning. One of the hon. members asked that a broader report also be tabled. I will leave that for the Speaker to determine. He will come back to the House in good time with a response to this question of privilege.

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1:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is not a question of the NDP being against free trade. What we have always asked for is that trade be fair, and that labour and environmental standards be enshrined in trade agreements. That is a tenet of a social democrat. It is no good that the workers in this country benefit, if workers in the country that we are trading with do not benefit as well.

Let us look at Mexican workers. We were told during the free trade deals with Mexico that their living standards would rise and rise, and so would ours. Well, 400,000 people lost their jobs in Ontario, no rising there. I have been to Mexico a fair number of times, and I have seen some whose standard has not changed too much.

In trading with Panama, the reality is this is a country that is inadvertently a tax haven for nefarious organizations, such as the drug cartel. One would think that if Canada wanted to trade with Panama that it would be paramount that we get Panama to agree to stop being a tax haven for that type of activity. That should have been number one.

Number two, where are the labour and environmental agreements enshrined in this agreement? They are not there.

Number three, the fact is our colleague, the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster said very clearly that with the 11 amendments that would have strengthened the agreement, it would have gotten New Democratic support. However, every single one of the amendments was ignored.

I remember a Conservative committee that denied every amendment from a gentleman from Mount Royal on Bill C-10. Every single one of those amendments was defeated at committee. Yet, when it came back to the House for third reading, the government wanted to institute those amendments, but it could not do it. The government took it to the Senate, where the amendments that the gentleman from the Liberal Party proposed were then put in.

Why did the government do that? Just because it has a majority does not mean it has all the good ideas. Our colleague had some very sound and basic ideas to improve and strengthen the trade deal with Panama. They were rejected outright. It was not because the members of the committee understood what he was saying, it was because they were told to reject them. It is as simple as that.

If the government brings us back an agreement that includes labour and environmental standards, and ends the tax haven for drug dealers, maybe the NDP will support this initiative. Until that happens, the government should send it back. The reality is that on every single trade deal that has been out there, the NDP has been front and centre. We have been very clear that there is no deal unless labour and environmental standards are enshrined in the deal. There can be no side agreement, no bargain back here. They should be enshrined in the context of the deal.

That way, labour unions in Panama could collectively bargain with their employers and with their government to have the same rights that our trade unions have here in Canada in their collective agreements. That is the commonality we look for. We also want environmental standards to increase in both countries in order to improve the natural environment of both countries.

If the government does that, we should be able to enter into trade deals in order to assist businesses and workers. Unless that happens, there is really no deal on this side.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order, please. It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper. The hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore will have six minutes remaining when the House returns to this matter.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-290, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting), as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

There being no motions at report stage on this bill, the House will now proceed, without debate, to the putting of the question of the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

moved that the bill, as amended, be concurred in at report stage.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

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

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

(Motion agreed to)

When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

moved that Bill C-290, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting), be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, the bill itself is a very small, short bill. It would delete one small clause of the Criminal Code that prohibits anyone from wagering on a single sports event. It has been long standing in Canada that we can place bets on multiple sports events. Most people who are like me tend to follow one team, know a lot about the one team and do not know a lot about other games in the same league. The bill would do away with that prohibition. It has been in the code for a long time. It goes back to English history.

There are two reasons for my pushing for this change and for the widespread support that it has garnered.

One is the economic development tool that it provides to communities, particularly those with existing casinos or racetracks and other gaming operations. We have heard from some provinces, as they are the ones responsible for deploying this tool, that they would be placing the operations at one of those centres, some more broadly and others on a more limited scale. We had a study done by the Canadian Gaming Association last summer and it showed, for instance in my region which has a very substantial commercial casino, that it would either save or create 150 to 200 new jobs. The same is true for the casino in Niagara. The focus on those two casinos is because we are immediately adjacent to the American border. A number of bets would be placed by our American neighbours because this practice is illegal in the United States, with the exception of Nevada. It would be a good economic tool that would draw gaming dollars in from the United States and potentially from other parts of the world, depending on how it is deployed.

The other major reason was the inspiration for the initiative. This gaming is going on now but it is almost exclusively offshore. In Canada it is completely controlled by, and is a major revenue source for, organized crime. We have estimates of billions of dollars being gained in Canada and tens of billions of dollars in the United States because it is illegal there. This would strike a blow against organized crime by taking revenue away from it. We know one of the major tools a government can deploy to fight organized crime is to take away financial incentive. This would help us do that. The extent would depend on how many provinces use this resource and to what extent they use it.

I want to acknowledge the support I have had for the bill. I want to start with members of Parliament from all of the parties. We have had very close to unanimous support for this, for both reasons that I have already cited: the economic development and the fight against organized crime. People understand that. Members of Parliament understand it and are supportive that this is a good step forward. I also want to acknowledge the work by provincial governments, particularly Ontario and British Columbia. They have been very strong. They have already been working up plans, if this bill goes through, as to how they would deploy it in their provinces. I want to recognize the Canadian Gaming Association. It has done a fair amount of the background on this, including the study I mentioned. I want to recognize the Canadian Auto Workers Union. It represents a number of people at some of the casinos across the country and it has also been very supportive in pushing this bill forward.

Finally, I want to recognize both the City of Windsor and the City of Niagara Falls. Their municipal councillors have passed resolutions in support of the bill.

With regard to the process, we are at third reading stage now. At second reading the bill passed with no opposition at all in the House. It went to committee. It was supported unanimously at committee with one amendment.

There are still some negotiations going on in consultation with some of the provinces. The government felt the need to hold off giving royal assent, assuming it gets through the House and the Senate, until it finalizes those consultations. Members of the NDP are strong supporters of extensive consultations with the provinces. The legislation should not go through unless the provinces are fully aware of what the bill will do and its consequences. I anticipate that the consultation process will finish some time this year.

Now the bill is back in the House and looks like it has substantial support. I am not going to say anything further because my voice is about to disappear. I want to again thank all members of the House, both those who are here and those who in the past have supported it. I appreciate that widespread support.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe
New Brunswick

Conservative

Robert Goguen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I will be speaking in favour of the private member's bill of the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh, Bill C-290, an act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting), as amended by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Bill C-290 itself is very brief, being only two clauses long. Clause 1 of the bill would repeal paragraph 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code. Clause 2, which is the standing committee's only amendment, is a coming into force clause that would see the bill come into force on a date to be fixed by order in council.

The repeal of paragraph 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code would have the effect of permitting provincial governments to conduct and manage lottery schemes that involve bets made on a race, fight, single sports event or athletic contest.

Bill C-290 would leave it to each province or territory to decide whether to offer single sports event betting and, if so, whether to operate the betting by telephone, Internet and/or land-based locations. Such provincial-territorial decision-making is precisely what now exists in section 207 of the Criminal Code with respect to other forms of lottery schemes, such as video lottery terminals and slot machines.

For example, under the current lottery scheme provision of the Criminal Code, only a provincial or territorial government may conduct a lottery scheme that is operated on or through a computer, slot machine or video device. A province or territory may not licence others to do so. Some provinces currently place video lottery terminals and slot machines in a land-based location such as a casino or a race track or another location. Similarly, under Bill C-290, a province or territory could place a single sports event betting operation in a casino, race track or any other location it might choose.

Furthermore, under section 207 of the Criminal Code, a province or territory may also conduct a lottery scheme in co-operation with another province. We know that the provinces and territories, using this authorization, have worked together to offer such national ticket lottery schemes, such as Lotto 6/49. Similar inter-jurisdictional co-operation would be possible under the amendment proposed in Bill C-290 for single event sports betting. A province or territory could choose to work co-operatively with another province or territory as it sees fit.

As I have previously indicated, it is important to note that Bill C-290 would leave it to each province or territory to decide whether or not to offer single sports event betting, and if so whether to operate the betting by telephone, by Internet, and/or at land-based locations.

Conversely, it would be up to the provinces and territories to ensure that they consulted with sport organizations to ensure the integrity of the games on which single sports betting were offered, and it would also be up to the provinces and territories to consult with problem gambling service providers to ensure that single sports event bettors gambled responsibly.

On the issue of problem gambling, I would note that provinces in Canada have already dedicated major funding for the prevention and treatment of problem gambling. In this regard, the provinces are far ahead of their counterparts in the United States and, possibly, the world. Quite rightly, Canadian provinces have addressed problem gambling because they hold the constitutional legislative authority for matters relating to health, including problem gambling.

Provinces and territories have had many years experience in conducting a broad range of lottery schemes. It makes sense that the range of lottery schemes that they are authorized to conduct be expanded to include single sports event betting.

It would also make a lot of sense to keep Canadian gambling dollars within a province or territory rather than sending that money to illegal bookmakers in Canada, or to offshore Internet betting sites that poach Canadian bettors, regardless of whether those offshore sites are legal or illegal in another country. Bill C-290 would be a step in that direction.

I support private member's Bill C-290 and will be voting in favour of it. Provinces and territories certainly have the experience to offer this form of betting, it that is what their electorate wants. On the other hand, if a province or territory chooses not to go in that direction, that would be its local decision.

I see this private member's bill as responding to a growing demand and as modernizing the Criminal Code's lottery scheme provision to reflect our circumstances in the 21st century. That is the direction we want to take.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party members support the passage of Bill C-290. We acknowledge that it allows for wagering on the outcome of single sporting events.

I want to add a few comments. I do this from a capacity that I used to have during the nineties when I was the critic for lotteries in the province of Manitoba. That was when casinos and betting really became a major part of the economic activity of not only the province of Manitoba, but shortly after other provinces started to pick up on it.

The member who spoke prior made reference to some of the social costs of gaming. There are some horrendous social costs to it. All we need to take a look at the makeup of our prisons, which ranges from gambling addictions to suicides. There are all sorts of issues which are related to the negative side of gaming. As provinces move more and more toward the gaming industry, and now this will just one component of the gaming industry, compensation or resources should be provided to fight some of the social costs of having a very active gaming industry.

Over the years, I have had many discussions with different stakeholders that have expressed their concerns. I appreciate the fact that the reason we are passing the bill is because it is in provincial jurisdiction. Therefore, I say this more as a concerned citizen and someone who has a casino located within Winnipeg North. It is known as the McPhillips Station Casino. I have first-hand experience with numerous complaints that have ranged from everything from bankruptcies to marriage breakups to suicides to crimes that have been committed. If managed properly, and that is the key, it can be a win-win. It does provide economic activity. It is a great form of entertainment. However, let us not lose sight of the fact that there is a social cost to this. We do have a role to ensure that the resources are there to support that. Earlier we were talked about educational programs. We encourage provincial jurisdictions to take the responsibility of promoting responsible gaming. There are far too many people's lives destroyed as a result of this industry every year, if not every day.

We support the bill because it is under provincial jurisdiction, but we want the government to be aware of the strong social costs of gaming. There is a burden of responsibility that governments at the provincial level have to take, in some cases more seriously, in order to prevent the damages caused by irresponsible gaming policy.

With those few words, we are happy to see it pass.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will respond to the issue that has been raised with regard to problem gambling.

I was on the first public board for casinos in Ontario, which was an administrative board initially. I am proud of the work that I did in that period of time with regard to demanding, insisting and cajoling the provincial government to put additional resources into dealing with the problem of compulsive gamblers.

The point that always needs to be made when we are looking at this legislation is that this gaming is going on now. We also know, from a number of studies that have been done, that there is at least some reasonable expectation that once that form of gaming is legalized there is an increased opportunity and probability that the compulsive gambler will be, one, identified, and two, encouraged to get assistance. There are very few compulsive gamblers who cannot be treated. It is like any other addiction. With the right type of counselling and professional assistance, it can be beat.

All of the big casinos in Ontario have locations on site where compulsive gamblers can go to or be directed to. I do not think we spend enough money on it. I want to be clear on that. I have said repeatedly, as I have worked on this project, that the provinces that deploy this should be morally compelled, if nothing else, to look at the problem of compulsive gambling, to see how much they are spending in their provincial jurisdictions and to seriously consider increasing the amount they spend so professional counselling and treatment is more widely available.

I have looked at some studies that break it down province by province and the per capita spending is quite dramatically different. Ontario and Quebec lead the way. B.C. is fairly far behind in spite of the amount of legal gambling that goes on there. It would be in the best interests of all of the provinces if they looked at the issue and dedicated additional resources.

The final point I want to make, which I meant to make in my opening remarks, is that, as we all know, assuming this bill passes and goes to the other House, I have spoken to members of the other House and I have a sponsor. Senator Runciman has agreed to sponsor the bill in the other House. I know he is looking forward to it getting there so that he can encourage its rapid passage at that level.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Is the House ready for the question?

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

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

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

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

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It being 1:50 p.m., this House stands adjourned until next Monday at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 1:50 p.m.)