House of Commons Hansard #122 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

The House resumed from May 10 consideration of the motion that Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

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10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to stand in the House today to speak to the budget implementation act and Canada's economic action plan 2012.

I am proud that Canada is slowly emerging from the recent economic recession and atop all other G7 countries. This is something that we should all be proud of. We should remain committed to continued prosperity for years to come. I am positive that the budget will do just that. It will stimulate the economy through jobs and growth while helping to ensure long-term prosperity for Canada.

I would like to start by looking at the basics of economics. It is easy for those in government to lose track of the simple things. These simple rules ensure we are doing not only what is best but what is possible.

It is easy to say that we can provide many services to everyone but we also have to be reasonable. We have to be realistic and realize that there is only so much that government can or should do. The ability to work with what we have and deliver reasonable services within the budget is what makes good government.

When it comes to economics and operating a fiscally responsible government, there are certain things that we must all remember that are vital to remaining economically sound.

I would like to present five key points that cover some of the basics of economics. First, we cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity. Second, what one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. Third, a government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not take from somebody else first. Fourth, we cannot multiply wealth by dividing it. Fifth, when half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and also when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they worked for, it is the beginning of the end of any nation.

All we have to do to realize this reality is to look at a number of European countries that are now in grave economic trouble.

These five points clearly outline the basic philosophy of how to succeed economically. The budget is very much in line with these points.

One of the main economic issues facing Canada in the past couple of years has been the deficit. No one enjoys paying down debt, but the hard truth is that it must be done. I am happy that economic action plan 2012 will address the need to reduce the national deficit and aim for a balanced budget by 2014.

To understand the importance of reducing this deficit, we can look to a simple example of managing and maintaining one's own house. There may come a time when the roof of a house needs replacing. It cannot be ignored, it has to be repaired. While the funds for this may not be immediately available, it is possible to take out a mortgage or loan so that this task may be completed. However once the roof is repaired there comes a time when that debt must be paid back.

Today, Canada has worked through the recent recession. With the aid of stimulus funding we were able to build a new roof for our country and we find ourselves reasonably economically sound.

However now that we have somewhat of an economic stability it is time to pay back what we owe. The 2012 budget addresses this by reducing the deficit in 2011-12 to be $8.5 billion lower than it was in 2010-11. Furthermore the budget would continue to lower the deficit in years to come. This is something we should be proud of.

As the member for Bruce--Grey--Owen Sound I represent a rural riding. I am happy about the commitment in economic action plan 2012 to support rural communities. There are strong programs and provisions in the budget that will ensure the stability and prosperity of economic growth in rural areas. One of these provisions would forgive portions of Canada's student loans for new family physicians, nurses and nurse practitioners who practise in rural areas. This would make rural areas, such as my riding, a more attractive place for up and coming doctors, nurses and other health care professionals. This would certainly help in ensuring that rural residents in Canada have the quality health care that they need and deserve.

In addition to advancing the medical field in rural areas, the budget also promotes economic growth in rural areas by providing $225 million to Industry Canada over three years. This funding would be used to develop and implement a strategy to extend broadband coverage to a number of rural communities. Anyone with a rural riding, and there are many across the country, knows there are still gaps in the ridings where that service is not there. This will help to address a lot of that. The new and improved Internet access for rural areas would ensure economic opportunities and would also provide access to valuable services that are needed to ensure economic stability in rural areas.

I was also very happy to see that the budget includes funding for Canada's port system. The budget calls for $27.3 million over two years to support regional port facilities and the continued operation and maintenance of federally owned ports. This funding would be very important in ensuring that Canada maintains a strong port system, which is a vital part of our national transportation system. For example, I have a number of ports in my riding and this funding has a potential benefit for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.

This budget would continue to provide tax credits for hard-working Canadians, while at the same time reducing the deficit and creating long-term prosperity for Canada. Our government has implemented many tax credits that put money back into the pockets of Canadians.

One of these tax credits is the very popular volunteer firefighters tax credit. Volunteer firefighters are a vital part of Canada's emergency response system. They provide volunteer service to their communities and willingly put themselves in danger to protect their communities. In 2011, our government recognized the contributions made by volunteer firefighters in Canada by introducing the volunteer firefighters tax credit. This credit is based on an amount of $3,000 to volunteer firefighters who perform at least 200 hours of service.

Another tax credit that our government introduced is the family caregiver tax credit. This tax credit gives support to those who take care of their families, whether they are dealing with cancer, MS or a number of medical issues. This is a very popular tax credit as well. There are many Canadians who are forced to stay home to support their loved ones, and our government recognizes their hard work through this tax credit. The credit is based on an amount of $2,000 for caregivers of ill dependants.

I am also pleased that economic action plan 2012 combines the ability to deplete the deficit, while at the same time providing beneficial tax credits, such as the volunteer firefighters and caregiver tax credit for hard-working, and certainly deserving, Canadians.

Along with the many tax credits we have provided are the tax cuts that the government has made to put money back in the pockets of Canadians. Our government has cut taxes over 140 times since 2006, and has also reduced GST from 7% to 6% to 5%. This will put nearly $1,000 back into the pocket of an average Canadian family.

It is very clear, Mr. Speaker, that this budget is on the right track for Canada. As I stated earlier, paying off our deficit is a top priority for Canada if we wish to continue to remain atop the world economic leaders. The budget would ensure that we start getting our deficit paid off while at the same time providing those tax credits I mentioned and tax cuts that would allow Canadians to keep their hard-earned money. The budget supports growth all over Canada, including supporting many rural areas by providing funding that would ensure economic prosperity in these regions.

I am very pleased with the budget and its commitment to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity, but also to debt reduction and creating a realistic plan for Canada. Just today, new job recovery numbers came out just as I was leaving my office. It was great news and certainly went beyond expectations. It is just another sign that this budget is taking us on the right track.

I urge all members in the House to really think about what the budget can do. It is realistic. It is not a fancy, dressed-up budget, it is just plain realistic, and I urge all members to support it.

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10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for the speech and for mentioning MS during MS awareness month.

I have some major concerns about the budget, particularly the fact that it would destroy 50 years of environmental safeguards. The repeal of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act would affect regulatory decision making and the risk of project specific and cumulative environmental impacts. I would like to know what analysis has been undertaken to ensure the adequacy of the environmental assessment process in each province, and what are the projected costs of changes to the act for the provinces and territories?

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10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, like the hon. member across the way, MS has affected my family. I have a sister with MS. I certainly appreciate the member's hard work on getting the government to do what it can for MS.

To her question, I am certainly glad to hear that she is supporting our changes to the environment and the like, something that will definitely get rid of the delay tactics. There is a lot of fear-mongering out there as to what is involved in this.

I am very happy that these issues are in the budget. With respect to our rural caucus, approximately six years ago, the one thing we constantly heard across the country was what effect the Fisheries Act was having outside its boundaries on farmers' drains and ditches. We heard of a case in Manitoba last year where the banks of a river flooded and fish got onto a farmer's field. He was expected to get rid of those fish at his cost. This bill will address ridiculous issues like that. I am very happy those reforms are in there.

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10:15 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate there may be good news. I have not seen the numbers yet, but I will take my colleague's word that there has been job growth in Canada this month.

However, I am wondering what this budget does for urban ridings. I come from an urban riding in the city of Toronto where for about 30 years we have had growing poverty and no investment in housing or transit. There is a growing legion of working poor because the quality of jobs being created in this country is going down. We have lost 100,000 manufacturing jobs in and around the city of Toronto.

Would the member tell us what exactly this budget does to help urban ridings in this country?

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10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is a huge influx of jobs that have just been created that we heard about this morning. Urban ridings tend to be more populated, so I would think that this member's riding should benefit as much as anybody's from these jobs that have been created.

The member talks about housing, transit, and those kinds of issues. This government has made great investments in those over the years. I know that my own riding has benefited, not so much from the transit side but from the housing side. I know his has as well. I thank him for supporting those moves.

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10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague also chairs the agriculture committee. He has been doing a great job in that area. I know the committee is reviewing some of the programs that have worked in the past and looking at what to put forward for the future.

I also know recently there was an announcement to encourage young people to get back into the field of agriculture. Would my hon. colleague elaborate on that please?

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10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, the constituents of the riding of Brandon—Souris are very fortunate to have a member like my colleague who understands agricultural issues.

He is right. As members know, one of the big obstacles in agriculture is high land prices and the ability of interested young farmers to purchase land. The changes that we have made relate to low-interest loans that will allow young people and new farmers, no matter what age, to purchase land with reasonable loans and reasonable payback conditions. We have had a lot of positive feedback on that.

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10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to address Bill C-38, the 2012 budget implementation act. This is a very important bill for all Canadians as it is a real plan for jobs, growth and prosperity for the near and long term.

We could take the easy road. We could sit back and say that everything is okay and just keep ragging the puck. We could continue to brag about Canada being a world leader in job growth, financial stability and strong presence in the world. We could kick the can down the road and say that looming issues are someone else's problem. We could but we are not.

Budgets are about choices. Just like families in my riding that make choices about how to spend their money, how to save and invest for the future and how to care for themselves and others, so, too, must government. In fact, I would argue that government must lead by example and, through budget 2012, we are doing just that.

However, we must remember the record. Through responsible management, our government has helped the Canadian economy create over 700,000 net new jobs since July 2009, most of which are full-time positions. Canada's economy has expanded for nine of the last ten quarters. Our unemployment rate is well below that of the United States. The World Economic Forum ranked Canada's banking system as the soundest in the world for the fourth consecutive year. Canada continues to have a solid AAA credit rating.

Building on this success, economic action plan 2012 provides $1.1 billion over five years to support research and development and $500 million for venture capital. We know that prudent investments and partnerships with the private sector will continue to create good jobs for Canadians in the future.

The budget also improves support for advanced research through granting councils, such as Genome Canada, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and the Canada Foundation for Innovation. Mississauga—Streetsville is home to many research and development companies in life sciences, pharmaceutical, high technology and niche manufacturing that will benefit from these programs.

Canada is a very rich country in terms of its resources. Whether it be oil, natural gas, forestry or mining, Canada has a unique natural advantage over most other countries in the world. That is why this budget bill focuses on responsible resource development by ensuring that major resource projects are not bogged down by duplicative regulations and that one project receives only one thorough review.

The city of Mississauga is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. We have residents from hundreds of countries of origin who call Mississauga their home, and we are happy to have them. What is even more exciting is that many of these people work in companies that do business around the world, rely on strong trade relationships and do import and export services worldwide. That is why I am so pleased that our government has the most ambitious trade expansion plan in Canadian history.

We know that free, fair and open trade is good for Canadian business. We know that Canadians can compete with the best in the world and we can win. We know that signing free trade agreements with countries around the globe give Canadians fair and better access to international markets.

As well, the bill would reduce red tape that often frustrates business and acts as a disincentive to invest. It would reduce the tax compliance burden for small businesses and make a number of significant administrative improvements at the Canada Revenue Agency.

I am also pleased to report that Bill C-38 would extend the hiring credit for small business for another year, providing up to $1,000 for one year to encourage the hiring of new employees. This budget would also provide $50 million to the youth employment strategy and $6 billion to expand the successful ThirdQuarter project to help employers find experienced workers over 50 who want to keep using their skills in the workforce. There also are $150 million for investing in small public infrastructure to support repairs and improvements to existing community facilities. This would build upon the very successful infrastructure stimulus program that brought together the provinces, territories and municipalities in the most co-operative program in Canadian history.

Like every Canadian family, the federal government, too, much re-look at how it spends hard-earned taxpayer money and constantly ensure both value for money and spending on the most important priorities. The budget focuses on eliminating waste in the internal operations of government and making government leaner and more efficient, totally $5.2 billion in ongoing savings. This represents just 2% of total program spending in 2016-17 and, with this and other initiatives, I am pleased to report that we will remain on track to balance the budget over the medium term as we promised.

To continue to help families, we are improving the registered disability savings plan, increasing the travellers exemption, continuing support for Participaction and enhancing the victims fund. No government in recent memory has done more to support Canadian seniors than this one. I was pleased in the first budget, on which I was able to vote as a member of Parliament, that we brought in the largest one-time increase in the guaranteed income supplement in over 25 years. We have significantly increased funding to the new horizons program, and I am delighted to report that the Hindu heritage seniors group in my riding has just received one of these grants.

Further, our government continues to provide support to the old age security program for existing recipients and those near retirement at current levels with no reductions or changes whatsoever. However, we have a responsibility to ensure that the OAS system is protected for future generations and not simply pass the buck to some government down the road. That is why we are moving forward with a prudent, responsible and proactive change to the OAS by raising the age of entitlement from 65 to 67 by 2029.

I just marked my first year of being elected to this place. It has been an exhilarating experience and an honour of a lifetime. I knew that part of my responsibility as a member of Parliament was to do my very best to make this a better country for everyone but I also knew that tough and maybe unpopular decisions would need to be made to make this happen. As one member of Parliament in this place, it would be completely irresponsible for me to sit here and pretend that the OAS will be sustainable for my generation. I cannot even imagine the MP who will replace me one day in the future having to deal with this issue a decade or so from now if we do not act today. Why on earth would I saddle a future government, a future Parliament or a future MP for Mississauga—Streetsville with this issue in the future when I know we can act responsibly now?

The number of Canadians over 65 will increase from 4.7 million today to 9.3 million in 2030. The cost of OAS will rise from $36 billion to $108 billion. Meanwhile, the number of taxpayers that pay for OAS will go from 4 today to 20 in 20 years. With statistics like this, how can we possibly close our eyes? Even though this decision may not be popular, it is simply the right thing to do.

At the beginning of my remarks today I said that we could take the easy road. We could sit back and soak it all in. We could say that we are better than most and rest on our laurels. However, that is not leadership for the future and that is not helping the next generation. We must move ahead.

I encourage all members to support this excellent budget.

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10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the speech given by the hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville.

I wonder if the hon. member is aware of what has been said about this enormous 425 page budget bill by people like Conservative commentator Andrew Coyne, who talks about the length of it, the fact that it amends some 60 different acts, repeals half a dozen and adds three more, including a completely rewritten Canadian Environment Assessment Act.

He wrote:

It ranges far beyond the traditional budget concerns of taxing and spending, making changes in policy across a number of fields from immigration...to telecommunications...to land codes on native reservations.... So this is not remotely a budget bill, despite its name.

He goes on to say:

Moreover, it utterly eviscerates the committee process, until now regarded as one of the last useful roles left to MPs. How can one committee, in this case Finance, properly examine all of these diverse measures, with all of the many areas of expertise they require, especially in the time allotted to them?

I wonder if the hon. member would like to answer Mr. Coyne's question.

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10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, like all journalists, Mr. Coyne is certainly welcome to his opinion. I read him thoroughly and there are days I agree with him and days I do not.

If the hon. member had been listening, he would know that I spoke about timely leadership in difficult times. That is why we have brought forward a budget that is comprehensive. It does a lot of things, no doubt. However, we will have the longest debate we have seen in 20 years on this budget bill. Members of Parliament have a lot of time to have input on a wide variety of issues that are covered under this budget bill.

The bill is about moving Canada forward in a responsible way in the near, medium and long-term. I think the hon. member should get on board and support the initiatives.

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10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville does a fantastic job of representing his constituents in a neighbouring riding to mine. I would like to ask him about seniors who he is speaking to in his riding and what they are saying about OAS, particularly the sustainability of the program for future generations.

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10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, during our last two week break I actually held a half-day seniors' forum. We talked about a whole variety of issues. I was pleased to do that for my constituents in order to update them on things that were going on.

It is interesting that when one sits down and talks to seniors today about the proposed changes that will start 11 years from now and one explains the numbers and demographic changes, it is amazing how they get it. They understand. They want the OAS system to be there so their children and their grandchildren will be able to collect it, just like they are collecting it today.

Generally speaking, in talking with constituents, I find they understand the challenge we have with respect to the long-term viability of the old age security system and that they generally support the direction in which we are trying to go.

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10:30 a.m.

NDP

Marc-André Morin Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member for Mississauga—Streetsville's speech, but unfortunately, I have not reached the same conclusions as he.

Certain facts cannot be denied. Canada is in an enviable position compared to other countries, but that is in spite of the government, not thanks to it.

I remember an election campaign a few years back just before the crisis hit. The Prime Minister accused those who saw the crisis coming of being defeatist and enemies of Canada. Today we see the same thing happening. It is all well and good to boast about how strong our banking system is, but it is worth pointing out that our banking system is strong because it is better regulated than those of other countries.

In the long term, if we continue down this path, we are headed for chaos. I would like to know what my colleague thinks about that.

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10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, actions speak louder than words.

We only need look at the actions of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance during the worst worldwide economic recession in my lifetime and compare Canada's results to the world's. We are the envy of the world in how Canada reacted to that crisis and the work that our Minister of Finance continues to do. There is no question that we have lots to be thankful for in Canada because of that leadership.

We have lots more to do, and that is why Bill C-38 needs to be passed by this House. We need to get on with the job.

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10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to the budget implementation act.

I am going to focus my remarks on three main areas. I am the member of Parliament for Charlottetown. Prince Edward Island is still a province, but it has been left out of this budget. I am going to focus initially on the impact of the budget on my home province. Then I am going to spend some time talking about the impact of the budget on veterans. I am the Liberal Party critic for veterans, and this budget has targeted them quite unfairly. Then I am going to talk about old age security. As members know, last night we had a debate in the House on my private member's motion with respect to old age security, and the budget effectively kills it.

The impact of this budget on Canada's smallest and nicest province is devastating. We feel left out. The Department of Veterans Affairs is the only federal government department that has its national headquarters outside the national capital region. Its headquarters are in Prince Edward Island. At the Department of Veterans Affairs, 232 jobs will be cut, partly as a result of this budget and partly as a result of what the Department of Veterans Affairs calls its transformation agenda. I will comment more on that later. The impact of those budget cuts in a province like Prince Edward Island and in a city like Charlottetown is devastating. It affects the entire community.

Prince Edward Island does not have oil in the ground. It does not have a manufacturing sector. We have a seasonal economy. The number of well-paying jobs is not what it is in other centres and to gut the public service, as this budget does, unfairly singles out our province. However, it is worse than that. It is not bad enough to cut the jobs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, but Prince Edward Island will now be one of only two provinces in this country where EI claims are not processed, because the government has closed the EI processing centre in Montague. Again, more well-paying civil service jobs are being lifted out of our economy. Prince Edward Island is now one of the few places in this country where, if people want to talk to someone about their immigration issues, they will be out of luck because the immigration office in Prince Edward Island will close as a result of this budget. Prince Edward Island is the only province in this country where people cannot get a passport processed. If they want to get a passport processed, they have to go to Halifax or Fredericton.

Infrastructure is very important, particularly in my riding of Charlottetown. There are two very significant infrastructure projects right now that are in dire need. One is a storm sewer separation project. The storm sewer system and the sewage system are one, so every time we get a heavy rainfall, the bypass has to come through because the volume is too great to go into the waste water treatment facility in Charlottetown. As a result, untreated sewage pours into the Charlottetown harbour every time there is a heavy rainfall. This is an $18 million problem. It is a serious problem. It desperately affects those who depend on the oyster fishery in and around Charlottetown.

The City of Charlottetown and the Province of Prince Edward Island have stepped up to solve this problem. They have kicked in. The City of Charlottetown has repeatedly made representations to the federal government to have it cost share in the project. Basically what it has been told is maybe in 2014. This is something for which there is a dire need, and it is nowhere to be found in the budget.

Also on the subject of infrastructure, we are in a situation in our city where we are using more than 90% of the available drinking water from the source that we have in the Winter River basin. We need a new source of water. It is a matter of public safety.

Prince Edward Island is one of the only provinces that is 100% dependent on groundwater for its potable water. We need to develop a new well field. One has been identified. There is a need for infrastructure funds for that. Again, it is the city and the province that have stepped up and the federal government is nowhere to be found. There is nothing for that in the budget.

We have this dearth of public services in the province, and the rationale we continually hear from the Conservatives is that they are streamlining and modernizing, doing all these things in the back office, that they need to depend more on technology, yet they have cut the community access program. They have cut the CAP sites. Those who cannot afford a computer, those who do not own a computer, are out of luck. The CAP sites will close as a result of the cuts in the budget.

Prince Edward Island has 140,000 people. Last year, CAP sites were accessed more than 80,000 times. They are necessary. They are used, but thanks to this budget, they will be gone.

Veterans Affairs and the veterans of this country once again have been shortchanged in the budget. The party line is that veterans benefits have not been touched. That is what we hear the Conservatives say, that all of the savings supposedly have been found in the back office in reducing red tape.

The budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs is $3.5 billion, and 90% of that budget is paid out as veterans benefits. That leaves $350 million to run the department. The cut this year is $36 million. We will hear the Conservatives say that they have spared veterans, that the cut to the department was only 1%, $36 million on $3.5 billion, when in actual fact the cost to run the department has been slashed by 10%.

Way back when, we know that every federal government department was asked to submit a 5% plan and a 10% plan. We hear the Conservatives say that veterans have been spared. Spared? In actual fact, the Conservatives could not have swung a heavier axe. Given the choice between a 5% cut and a 10% cut, they took the 10%.

Make no mistake, veterans will be affected. We cannot believe for a minute that veterans are going to receive the same service when 800 employees are being cut from the department.

I see that I am running short on time, so I will sum up by saying that Prince Edward Island is an equal partner in Confederation, but as a result of this budget, it certainly does not feel that way.

I would urge all hon. members to vote against the budget, and to urge the government to afford fair-handed treatment to all regions of the country.

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10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, Prince Edward Island is an important tourism destination, and tourism is an important part of its economy. Many small businesses welcome people from all over the world to see the great things that the island has to offer, including its wonderful environment, the ocean life and also some of the historic and cultural sites.

The Canadian Tourism Commission brings international tourists to Canada. It had its budget cut by 20%. We have now found out that visits by international tourists have declined by 15% since 2006. Under the Conservative government's watch, fewer international tourists come to Canada to spend money.

What will the effect be on Prince Edward Island of the government's policies to strangle the tourism industry with extra visas, cutting the GST rebate, cutting funding for the Canadian Tourism Commission, high airport taxes and fees, and other policies that are killing our tourism industry?

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10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, the three biggest industries in Prince Edward Island are tourism, agriculture and the fisheries. It has a population of 140,000 and gets one million visitors a year.

While civil service jobs are extremely important to our economy twelve months of the year, the engine that drives the seasonal economy is very much the tourism trade. As I indicated, basically our population goes almost ten-fold. The summer in Prince Edward Island is not really long and that is when we see the bulk of people. The cruise ship industry is one of the success stories in Prince Edward Island.

Anything in the budget that has a negative impact on tourism is yet another blow to a province that has been treated very unfairly in the budget.

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10:45 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to talk about Bill C-38.

I am sad because this bill is worse than any other this Parliament has debated, and that is for two reasons.

First, without consulting Canadians, the government chose to introduce sweeping changes to many laws that affect environmental, social and economic aspects of Canadian life. This approach is illegitimate and outrageous. The process is unacceptable and an offence to true democracy.

Second, beyond the process that is so offensive, the bill that purports to be a budget bill is, in substance, something quite different. The substance of the changes is equally alarming.

Laws this bad take some explanation. As I have sat through the truncated debate on this process at second reading, what we have had are presentations from the Conservative MPs providing lists of things they like in the legislation, and presentations from the opposition benches providing lists of things we do not like in the legislation. That leaves out a big piece of the puzzle.

We have also been confusing measures that are a budget measures that are not in Bill C-38, things like fighting the deficit. There are things we do not like, like killing the Centre for Plant Health in my own riding, which is necessary to protect the health of the economy, particularly in the grape growing regions and wineries, and killing jobs in national parks, again in my riding of Saanich—Gulf Islands, the Gulf Islands National Park jobs in ecological work.

However, again, these are not in Bill C-38. The debate has been combatting lists. We like this and we hate this.

I want to step back and try to understand what is going on here. Why do we have this enormous package of measures, most of the substantial changes being those that unravel environmental law in our country?

I have been involved in the development of most of the laws that we now see being unravelled, particularly the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy Act. What I see behind all this is a shift in mindset.

I worked in the Mulroney government. The Progressive Conservatives understood that conserving involved conserving the environment. This is not necessarily the current mindset of the current brand of conservatism, which I find alien from the traditions and roots of people like former fisheries ministers John Fraser and Tom Siddon. Both have spoken out against the devastating changes to the protection of fish habitat in Bill C-38 and the unintended consequences that this will surely have.

This mindset reminds me most of what the former senior economist to the World Bank, Herman Daly, used to describe as “treating the earth as a business in liquidation”, an everything must go mentality and it must be done fast. He offered the opposite view. He said that we needed to understand that the economy was a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, that these things were not in conflict and that it was so wrong-headed to say that we would only get jobs if we destroyed the environment. It boggles the mind.

When we understand that this is the way this entire omnibus budget bill has been prepared, then it begins to make sense. Then we understand the narrative and then we can understand that someone in the PMO picked up the phone, called the Department of Justice or maybe just sent an email, said that it should find all those things for which the federal government is responsible for the environment and find ways to withdraw from them to the maximum extent possible without offending constitutional requirements to protect such things as migratory birds, because we have a convention with the U.S., or fisheries, because that is in the Constitution.

For example, there is no other way to understand why the Conservatives repealed the Environmental Assessment Act and put in place an entirely new act. Most of what we have heard is that they wanted to have timely assessments. I do not think there would be much debate over that.

In 2005 I proposed to the minister of the environment that in order to get a review of the proposed cleanup at the Sydney tar ponds, which itself presented risks, a timeline would be a good idea. In fact, a 12-month timeline was put in place for the joint review panel of the cleanup proposed for the Sydney tar ponds back in 2005. That could be done under the existing legislation. We do not need to repeal the act and start over.

To all these complaints, the Conservatives claim that industry was demanding this be done, I have in front of me a briefing note from the Mining Association of Canada from January of this year in which it praises the current process under Environmental Assessment Review. It says, “the amendments that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act made in 2010 were implemented quickly and competently by the agency” and it has “provided mining project proponents with relief”. It says that for the first time “provincial and federal assessments are synchronized”. This is from the Mining Association of Canada, allegedly one of the interest groups for whom the Conservative government is destroying all of our environmental laws. The Mining Association of Canada says, “our primary interest in the review of the Environmental Assessment Act is to convey support for the new system brought in...and to renew funding for the Environmental Assessment Agency”.

It is critical to understand that the government did not have to repeal the Environmental Assessment Act in order to have a process that worked for all the players. It looks as though this desperate attempt to be in a hurry is where the problem lies. What the government has done is so egregious. The Environmental Assessment Act being repealed and replaced with a whole new scheme that will never get proper review through the process we have in an omnibus project.

The Conservatives are removing what had always been a federal trigger for a proper environmental assessment, if federal money was being spent. That is no longer there. They are removing comprehensive studies. They are no longer there.

There is no real definition of what an environmental assessment would be. We have a reference in the budget document to something called a “standard environmental assessment”, but Bill C-38 has removed all definitions of what the process would look like.

Killing the comprehensive studies and creating panels that can be substituted with the province without criteria, in my view, would have the industry coming to government asking what it had done as the process had worked pretty well. In fact, the Mining Association of Canada says, “very well”. Now we will not know what project has to go to review or what project does not, when we go to the province or when we do not.

At the same time, in order to unravel the federal responsibilities that trigger an environmental assessment, the government has created a crazy scheme for fisheries. It still requires a permit to add substances “deleterious” to fish, but the protections for fish habitat have been removed.

This means, and as we all know this is a real-life example, that if one wanted to have a large-scale project, for instance, to put tailings into an existing lake, we would be better off, if the lake were in a remote area where no one fishes, to drain the whole lake, kill all the fish and destroy the habitat because that would be legal without an authorization. Whereas adding substances “deleterious” to fish into a lake currently would require authorization. This is the ultimate example of haste makes waste.

The bill has not properly contemplated the changes to the Fisheries Act, the Environmental Assessment Act, or the changes to the Species at Risk Act. The bill is out of control through the false notion that we will create jobs through waste and haste.

I remind people that it is now 20 years since the Westray disaster in which 26 men died. There was no environmental review at that time, as it was back in 1988 when the project was approved, but there were warnings. The experts in the department of mines said that the area was too high in methane, but no, the local politicians and some federal politicians wanted those jobs. They wanted them so badly that they overrode expert advice. They said that they had to get that Westray mine built come hell or high water, that they would do it and that they did not want to hear complaints about causes or what might happen to get in the way. Therefore, federal money flowed. We created a bomb and put men in it, and 26 men died.

Now we are creating another kind of bomb. The first speaker on the bill was not the Minister of Finance, but the Minister of Natural Resources who brought forward all the reasons to change the scheme. He said that we must hurry as there was no time to waste. He quoted from the International Energy Agency on the current state of fossil fuel requirements around the world, but he never quoted the warning from the International Energy Agency that if we did not act on the climate crisis, it would soon be too late. The quote from the International Energy Agency from earlier this year is this, “Delaying action is a false economy. As each year passes without clear signals to drive investment in clean energy, the 'lock-in' of high-carbon infrastructure is making it harder and more expensive to meet our energy security and climate goals”. We must change direction. This bill is putting pedal to the medal to go as fast as possible to a very large brick wall.

Going back to the bomb we built for the men at Westray, we are now building a climate bomb, a carbon bomb. The proposed legislation is so wrong-headed it must be withdrawn in its entirety.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, for the past 10 minutes, I listened to my colleague as she tried to describe this omnibus bill in as much detail as possible. Providing a carefully considered opinion about a 400-page bill in just 10 minutes is practically impossible. It is an incredible tour de force.

She talked about attacks on democracy and on institutions and spoke at length about the environment. However, she did not say much about the actual budget.

I would like to ask her if she thinks that this omnibus bill introduced by the Conservative government has been deliberately designed to orient the debate away from the government's economic vision. Is the government trying to distract us with dozens of other things, all of which, unfortunately, are important? We should have a chance to focus on each of these issues individually in the House.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I completely agree with my friend.

It is true that some bills are too short, such as Bill C-36, which is only four paragraphs long. It is a very serious process. It is an important bill to protect seniors, yet it is a very small bill.

In stark contrast, here we have an omnibus bill that is over 400 pages long that fundamentally changes over 70 pieces of legislation and in which everything is hidden. This is because the Prime Minister knows that it is not a good bill.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order. There will be three minutes left for questions and comments after question period.

Right now we will move on to statements by members.

Walk So Kids Can Talk
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Sunday, May 6, along with hundreds of great supporters and volunteers, I attended the Walk So Kids Can Talk event in Streetsville Memorial Park supporting Kids Help Phone. This walk raised more than $150,000 in Streetsville and $2.5 million nationally.

Walk So Kids Can Talk is held in over 40 communities across Canada and helps kick off Mental Health Awareness Week, which is concluding this weekend. Kids Help Phone is Canada's leading phone and online professional counselling service for youth. For more than 23 years, professional counsellors have been available to youth 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This service is funded exclusively through fundraising and corporate support, such as the millions raised at last Sunday's walk. Unfortunately, one in five youth will develop mental heath struggles, but of those, only one in five will receive the support he or she needs.

I would like to congratulate the team at Kids Help Phone and thank them for being there to listen to our youth, often at times when no one else will.

Green Power
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to congratulate the owners of the Café Morgane chain in Trois-Rivières, Suzanne and Guy Marcotte, on a wonderful initiative. In partnership with Duguay properties as well as InnovaTek and GRIDbot Canada, this week Café Morgane opened the first electric car charging station in Canada, under the banner “Puissance verte” or green power.

Unsurprisingly, travel by electric car requires occasional stopovers to recharge the battery. What better time to stop and have a coffee, read a book or—why not—even plan a business meeting? The recharging station will become the cornerstone of a new way of life.

With that in mind, Puissance verte is already developing virtual tools in order to make it easier for electric car owners to plan their travels. The innovative people at Puissance verte are also working on a residential version of the charging terminal, which will be assembled here in Canada, in Mauricie.

Founded in 1992, Café Morgane now has over 120 employees working at 11 locations. The firm is one of the most credible businesses in Mauricie. I doff my hat deeply to—

Green Power
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Mississauga South.

Human Trafficking in Peel Region
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to call attention to a serious problem in the Peel region of the greater Toronto area. It is a cause for great sadness and concern among my constituents in Mississauga South, as well as other residents of Peel region, to know that human trafficking is being carried on there.

This government takes this problem very seriously. I am glad to know that in 2007 this Conservative government allocated funding to theMinister of Public Safety to combat child exploitation and trafficking. In 2009, the Minister of Public Safety established a program to increase awareness and to inform Canadians. The RCMP has a human trafficking national coordination centre to combat and disrupt human trafficking in Canada, but still it is my understanding that Canada is a primary destination for human trafficking from other parts of the world. There is still much to be done to eliminate this horrible crime.

Environmental Sensitivities
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker,I rise today to draw the attention of the House to environmental sensitivities, a health issue that affects the quality of life of over a million Canadians.

Environmental sensitivities occur when individuals become sensitive to chemicals and other substances in the air that are commonly tolerated, resulting in a multitude of often severe symptoms that can be devastating to those affected.

The Environmental Health Association of Québec does outstanding advocacy work that includes creating awareness campaigns about air quality, providing educational resources on this phenomenon and, most recently, constructing a healthy housing project, which makes available to those with severe sensitivities a living space free of toxins.

On behalf of the association, I am asking the government to support those suffering from environmental sensitivities by working to declare the month of May in Canada environmental sensitivities month and May 12 environmental sensitivities day.

Falun Gong
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, Falun Gong practitioners promote the cultivation of mind and body and encompass the universal principles of truthfulness, compassion and forbearance. However, the Falun Gong are persecuted ruthlessly. In China, freedom of belief is non-existent, and the Falun Gong are subject to arbitrary arrest, torture, lack of medical attention and, most disturbing, live organ harvesting.

I am proud to serve as the chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Falun Gong, and as such I spoke at a rally on Parliament Hill on Wednesday that was attended by hundreds of Falun Gong observers. The Parliamentary Friends of Falun Gong call on the Chinese government to put an end to the ongoing persecution of the Falun Gong. Falun Gong are peaceful, law-abiding citizens, and there is no excuse for the human rights violations they have endured.

As the great civil rights leader Martin Luther King said 50 years ago, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals”. I am inspired by the passion, the sacrifice and the struggle exemplified by the practitioners of Falun Gong.

Events in Scarborough Southwest
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Dan Harris Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, one year later, the honour and privilege of representing the people of Scarborough Southwest, this vibrant and diverse community that my family has called home for over 80 years, is even greater than it was.

Last weekend I attended the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 13's 90th anniversary in the community and thanked them again for their continued service to our veterans. It was a treat also to go to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee tea, put on by the local osteoporosis society.

Over the coming months I look forward to the many wonderful local events. I look forward to the 100th anniversary of Courcelette Public School later this month. That is 100 years of teaching our kids. This summer, many weddings will take place at Rosetta McClain Gardens and many family events in Bluffers Park. There is Art in the Park, Birchmount baseball, many festivals and fairs by local schools and BIAs, and farmers' markets too.

I am very proud to be the MP for Scarborough Southwest and humbled by the continued trust of my constituents.

Events in Brantford
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is springtime in Brantford, and I am excited to tell the House that whether one is a local, a tourist, or just passing through, my riding has something exciting to offer this wonderful season.

The Brantford Red Sox kick off their 2012 season tomorrow and begin their drive for five as they seek to tie their own record and become the second team in Intercounty Baseball League history to win five consecutive championships since 1945. Soon after, we will kick off the sixth annual Walter Gretzky Street Hockey Tournament, which holds the record for the largest ball hockey tournament in the world, with participants showcasing their hockey skills in a vibrant, friendly competition.

Events kick off in our beautiful downtown Harmony Square and at the breathtaking and historic Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts, which will host the fifth annual Brantford International Jazz Festival later this summer.

With all of this and so much more, I invite all Canadians to come and take part. I guarantee they will have a blast.

Niagara Folk Arts Festival
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow morning, back in St. Catharines, the Niagara Folk Arts Festival will kick off its 44th annual folk arts festival. It is Canada's oldest continuous heritage festival, and I am proud our government has given more support to the folk arts festival than any government previous.

These events are important, as our government has welcomed more immigrants than any other government has in decades. We have reunited more families than previous governments and have cut landing fees for new immigrants. We have strengthened Canada's citizenship guide with updated citizenship tests and a new guide itself. We have invested in skills training and accreditation for immigrants and are attracting more economic immigrants who suit Canada's labour market needs.

Our government is moving beyond the era of backlogs, fraudulent refugee claims and unrecognized foreign credentials. I am proud we are building a fast, fair and flexible immigration system that will serve the country well.

Back home with the folk arts festival and our understanding of where we are going in the direction of immigration, we are going to have a good time for the next two weeks.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Marc-André Morin Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-38, a perfect bill for the paper shredder. The Cascades paper company would be happy to de-ink the confetti and make useful, recycled paper out of it.

The death of democracy is seldom sudden. It is almost always a slow and painful death caused by indifference, apathy and cynicism. The first signs of this death are the authoritarian regime's loss of perspective and its insensitivity towards the people. Next, people lose their freedom and the means to criticize the regime.

I would like to read a quote in English. I am relying on the interpreters to ensure that the member opposite understands.

“There is no doubt that dictatorship is a much more efficient way to govern”. That was George W. Bush.

Osgoode Carleton Snowmobile Trail Club
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report to the House that the Osgoode Carleton Snowmobile Trail Club is officially the best in Canada. The club has almost 700 members, 200 volunteers, 20 different activities, 300 kilometres of land and 175 generous property owners who donate their land for snowmobile use.

I was pleased to work with Councillor Doug Thompson to help deliver a multi-use pathway that has helped to invigorate the local snowmobile community.

As a result of all these achievements, the Canadian Council of Snowmobile Organizations has declared the Osgoode club to be the best in Canada. Club president George Darouze deserves special praise for winning best snowmobile volunteer in Ontario. He is a great leader who makes Osgoode proud.

Organizations like this in the community help to lift the quality of life, unify local citizens and make Osgoode one of the funnest and friendliest places to live in all of Canada.

Mother's Day
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to commemorate Mother's Day and the strong, beautiful women who are our mothers, aunties, sisters, grandmothers and daughters.

Mother's Day was started by a woman who wished to honour her mother, a peace activist, at the turn of the 20th century. Ann Jarvis was a mother who fought for peace in her country for the sake of her children. Her daughter, Anna, was so struck by the integrity of that fight she worked to have a day to commemorate her mother and all mothers.

Today, mothers are still fighting for rights for their children, be it affordable housing, equal pay, reproductive rights, child care, retirement security or access to education. These are the dividends of peace and should be a reality for our children.

On Sunday, we should all take some time to thank our mothers for their care, their love and their hopes for better lives for their children, and show them that we appreciate all that they do.

New Democratic Party of Canada
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, the no development party continues to rail against jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. Its anti-jobs, anti-trade agenda is quite clear. It call for a moratorium on oil sands development and for slower growth. It sends MPs to Washington, D.C. to attack the Canadian economy and good, high paying unionized jobs in the energy sector. In fact, a number of NDP members actually praised the U.S. when it turned down an earlier application to build and operate the Keystone XL pipeline.

Now the NDP leader is attacking the economic success of the Prairie provinces.

Canada deserves better than an official opposition that cheers and rails against the prosperity of our country. Canada has seen three-quarters of a million net new jobs created since July 2009. The NDP should support further growth and not attack Canadian jobs and the families that they support.

National Nursing Week
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, this is National Nursing Week and this year's theme is “Nursing - The Health of Our Nation”. We have over 266,000 registered nurses in Canada, constituting the largest group of health care professionals in Canada.

Nurses work on the front line of our health care system and have a real influence on Canadians' lives. Nurses play an important role. They provide care when we are sick; they do their best to reduce wait times; and they work together with other health care professionals in order to provide the best care possible.

We have seen how nurses can play a leading role in reforming our health care system through the National Expert Commission, as well as through their role in multidisciplinary community health care teams.

I encourage all members to take a moment today and celebrate the valuable work that nurses do each and every day on behalf of Canadians.

New Democratic Party of Canada
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, the NDP leader continues to say one thing in one part of the country that he will not say elsewhere. Canadians are noticing and the Premiers of Saskatchewan and Alberta have called him out for criticizing responsible resource development.

The NDP leader is trying to pit Canadians against one another instead of supporting sectors of the economy that create good. high paying jobs.

Yesterday, the NDP trotted out Lorne Nystrom, a senior advisor to the NDP leader, to say that the NDP leader will soon clarify the no development party's position against gives jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. This is totally unacceptable. Canadians are not buying it.

Premier Redford said this about the NDP leader, “I always think it's better for people to comment once they have the information than before they do”.

Using a former Saskatchewan MP to try to cover up the NDP leader's real position, its anti-jobs, anti-growth agenda is not going unnoticed by the people of the Prairies and, in particular, the people of Saskatchewan.

Government Appointments
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday, the Conservatives reached a new level of absurdity. In an outrageously over-the-top statement, the Prime Minister said that government appointments have never been based on anything but merit.

Never mind that the Senate is full of campaign organizers like Doug Finley or defeated candidates like Josée Verner.

I have a quiz for the people at home.

Is the vice-president of the CRTC: (a) a man with a strong communications background; or, (b) a friend of Senator Housakos with no experience?

Those who chose (b) are correct.

Was Bernard Généreux appointed to the board of directors of the Quebec Port Authority for his love of the blue waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, or for the blue on his election signs?

The answer is obvious.

It is pathetic, but a fact is a fact. No agency can escape Conservative patronage.

New Democratic Party of Canada
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, the leader of the opposition recently announced his shadow cabinet, a team that threatens dangerous economic experiments, job killing taxes and reckless spending that Canadians simply cannot afford.

He made the member for Halifax his deputy leader and environment critic. The member does not stand with Canadians. She has, in fact, travelled to a foreign capital to lobby a foreign government not to support Canada's oil and gas sector and jobs for thousands of Canadians.

When faced with a choice between radical special interest groups that oppose Canada's ability to develop its natural resources and the ordinary Canadian families that benefit from that prosperity, the member of Parliament for Halifax would side with the radicals.

With the NDP against development of natural resources, it is no wonder Christopher Smillie, who represents around 200,000 trades workers, warned that the NDP would be very bad for workers and the entire Canadian economy.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence is having yet another challenging week. Back in October he told the House that the all-up costs of the mission in Libya would be $50 million. Today we learned that the mission in Libya actually cost $350 million. That is seven times more than the defence minister said it would cost back in October.

What is it this time? Is the government so incompetent that it still cannot get its numbers straight or was it misleading Canadians yet again?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to congratulate my friend from Hamilton on his promotion to deputy leader of the opposition.

The member could not be more wrong. The numbers that he speaks of were actually tabled before Parliament. Obviously, the mission to Libya was extended on two occasions. It was much longer than was originally envisaged.

The great news is that the members of the Canadian Forces did an exemplary job on behalf of Canada and Canadians. They saved literally thousands and thousands of innocent civilians and Liberals—I mean Libyans.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Forces are remarkable but they are not that remarkable.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, yet one more challenge for the government to rise to.

We also learned today that the minister's department has decided that DND's strategic investment plan is now a classified document. This 15-year previously public plan for spending on equipment is now a national security issue.

However, every procurement program in this department is now behind schedule or over budget: F-35s, close combat vehicles, search and rescue planes, submarines.

Why does the minister think it is better to stamp “secret” on these documents rather than just fixing the problems?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, just a few short days ago, the Minister of National Defence tabled a significant amount of information in this House for transparency, openness and accountability.

Obviously, before any purchase can take place, we need to have a parliamentary appropriation and, therefore, no purchase can be made before Parliament is fully informed and appropriates the money.

Just this week the defence minister spent four hours answering questions in committee of the whole. That is an unprecedented amount of transparency in the last year for any minister.

Government Appointments
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister's troubles do not end there. We also learned today that the minister's old department of ACOA is being investigated by the Public Service Commission for 11 politically influenced job hires. It seems that being friends with that minister is becoming a new government employment strategy.

The Conservatives were elected by promising to put an end to political interference in hiring. Why do the Conservatives keep breaking their promises to Canadians regarding their perpetual political port patronage placements?

Government Appointments
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it seems that we have a new poet laureate in the House today.

There are strict rules in place concerning hiring to ensure that agencies run their own competitive processes free of political interference. These rules are tremendously important and must be respected.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Manon Perreault Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have one set of rules for their friends and another for the rest of Canadians. They really have no shame.

While hundreds of organizations are following the rules and waiting their turn for funding to make their buildings wheelchair accessible, the Minister of Foreign Affairs did not hesitate to give a free pass to one of his good friends, even though the project does not meet the criteria set by public servants.

Why is there a double standard when it comes to the Conservatives' friends?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I will be very clear. I had a constituent approach my office asking for support for a project to help people with disabilities. I was very happy to inform my colleague, the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, that this organization does good work. That was the extent of any involvement I had.

Members of Parliament from all sides of the House regularly represent their constituents, and good for them. That is their job and that is their responsibility.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Manon Perreault Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is not so-called interference, it is ministerial interference.

A project evaluation system was used to give money to organizations that really deserve it. When the project was refused funding because it did not meet the criteria, the Minister of Foreign Affairs had the nerve to go and see the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development to have the rules changed.

Will the Minister of Foreign Affairs at least apologize to all the organizations that followed the rules and submitted better projects, but were denied funding because they did not have enough Conservative friends?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, the enabling accessibility fund has made nearly 650 community projects and public spaces more accessible to Canadians with disabilities.

The Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development approved this project because it met the criteria for funding. An external evaluator certified the project and it provided value for money.

The NDP voted against the enabling accessibility fund when it was placed as an opportunity for them to support.

This government is proud of its record for families and Canadians with disabilities.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, there is screw-up after screw-up at National Defence. On top of the F-35 scandal, now the Libya mission cost 700% more than the ministry reported at the end of the mission, and Canadians are actually being lied to about what the contracts are actually for, claiming transmission parts instead of whole armoured vehicles.

Audit and control functions across government are being chopped, the Auditor General himself by some 10%. Access to Information is clamped down.

Why is the government choosing to hide the deceit and incompetence instead of actually fixing it?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it will not come as any surprise to the member for Wascana that I do not share the premise of his question.

Let us look at what the minister did. He tabled substantial documents before Parliament, as he is required to do. He has been fully open and transparent.

Let us look at a backgrounder on the website of the Department of National Defence dated July 8, 2009, which explains the whole project. Let us look at the MERX listing from April 11. It indicates very clearly a Leopard 2 conversion to an AEV, not transmission equipment.

The minister has been completely open and completely transparent on this file.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is all well and good but, despite the answer given by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, it appears as though the costs in Libya have increased from $50 million to $350 million. Yet, three days before that mission ended, the minister said on television that the costs were still below the $60 million threshold. Luckily, the minister was not flying a plane in the air raids because I do not know where the bombs would have landed, since he is already missing his budget targets.

The question is thus very simple. Is there a pilot flying the plane? Is there a minister at the Department of National Defence? And, does he know how to count?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, let us be very clear. The men and women of the Canadian Forces did an exemplary job on behalf Canada. They helped to defend civilians on the ground in Libya. They did an exceptional job. The minister came forward with the costs associated with the mission. He tabled them in this House.

There are obviously incremental costs and obviously costs with respect to the assets that were used, that were already in Canadian ownership before the initiative.

The good news is that the Canadian Forces did an exemplary job defending innocent civilians on the ground in Libya. We should all be tremendously proud of them.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, the issue is the minister, not the military.

On Wednesday night, surrounded by the deputy minister and the Chief of the Defence Staff, the minister could not even tell the House the cost per flying hour of the F-18s, an airplane we have had for 30 years. It is therefore no surprise that the Conservatives have grossly understated the cost of the Libyan mission.

Every procurement under this Conservative government seems to have two sets of books. It takes a special brand of incompetence to confuse 105 million dollars' worth of armoured vehicles with transmission parts. Is the minister again running two sets of books?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the member and the media's description of this is dead wrong. In fact, as has already been stated, this information has been posted on the DND website for over three years. It was, in fact, included in a press release three years ago.

We are proud to continue to build the Canadian Forces, to make the investments in the equipment, the personnel, the programs, the places where they train, work and live.

We will continue to make those investments, despite the efforts by members opposite to oppose us in that regard.

Government Appointments
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Public Service Commission is now investigating 11 questionable appointments to ACOA, more jobs handed to Conservative supporters on a golden platter.

Merit and competence were thrown out the door and now it is the old boys' network of who one knows: a close friend of the Minister of National Defence, one of his former staffers and a failed Conservative candidate for good measure.

Why are Conservatives not looking beyond their Facebook friends when they appoint people to this taxpayer-funded group?

Government Appointments
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member would know there are strict rules in place surrounding hiring to ensure agencies run their own competitive processes, free from political interference. These rules are important and must be respected.

The hon. member is ignoring, however, the fact that employment is up in Canada by 58,000 jobs. The private sector alone has acquired 86,000 new jobs. Full-time jobs are up by 44,000. The hon. member might want to pay attention to those numbers as well.

Government Appointments
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, not only is it patronage as usual under the Conservatives, but they are using their Trojan Horse budget bill to quietly get rid of the patronage-fighting Public Appointments Commission.

ACOA employees are receiving pink slips and the government is dismantling the watchdog while Conservative insiders keep making big bucks. Five out of seven board members are Conservative Party donors and their donations total over $9,000 since 2007.

When will the Conservatives realize that appointments should go beyond their friends, their donors and their ex-employees?

Government Appointments
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, we have been making outstanding appointments to serve the public in a number of capacities.

We did attempt to establish a Public Appointments Commission Secretariat and when we went to put someone in charge, the NDP blocked that. Then the NDP went on to resist the expenditure of funds. Members on that side of the House stood frequently to complain that money was being spent on it.

We made our efforts to make sure we had a thorough and complete process on public appointments. As a result, we are now able to accede to the request, eliminate the waste of money, and ensure that Canada has outstanding public individuals serving in the public service.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, favouritism, patronage, questionable ethics and donations; that is the Conservative record.

This government's management of the contracting process is troubling, and so are the close ties between the Conservatives and SNC-Lavalin. Executives donated a lot of money to the Conservatives while they were lobbying the government. Miraculously, AECL was bought by SNC. We have seen the favouritism extended to the party's friends.

Are they now hoping that Canadians will believe that there is no link between the donations and the awarding of this contract?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, once again, the allegation is false. Why is the NDP repeating in the House of Commons the same allegations about robocalls when one of their members has already had to apologize? Why is the NDP accusing us of accepting legal and ethical donations when its leader received the same type of donations from the same people?

The NDP does not want to talk about the creation of 750,000 new jobs, an achievement celebrated by Canadians. The NDP should also be celebrating.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, the premise of his answer is completely false, and I invite the parliamentary secretary to repeat these false allegations outside this House.

The ousted CEO of SNC-Lavalin, Pierre Duhaime, lobbied the federal government with respect to its nuclear policy at the same time that people like Riadh Ben Aïssa were donating thousands of dollars to the Conservatives.

Did the questionable funding campaigns influence this sale: yes or no? That is simple.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows full well that those allegations are completely false. The government followed a transparent and open process. If he had been here prior to the election, he would have been aware of that process.

What those members really want to do is make sure that Canadians do not know about the great success that we have had in creating jobs over the last couple of months. This is the largest two month job growth that we have had in decades. It is unbelievable that people are going back to work the way they are.

This week the member's leader attacked the energy industry in western Canada. He talked about manufacturing jobs. While he was making up stories, 24,000 people were going back to work in the manufacturing sector.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government's mismanagement of military procurement continues to amaze and astound.

The Conservatives are spending billions to arm ourselves for a war the government said is over, while our forces here at home do not have enough parkas, cold weather tents or heaters to do their jobs.

The Conservatives claim Arctic defence is a top priority. When will our forces get the equipment they need to do their job here at home?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, those are more inaccuracies from the member opposite.

As always, we are equipping our men and women in uniform not only for Arctic response but for the response they need to provide around the world. This gives our forces the unique ability to respond to the many different environments in which they work.

The Canadian army is very well equipped to participate in various Canadian Forces exercises in the Arctic in both winter and summer conditions. The small amount of extra equipment that was bought by Land Force Atlantic will augment the Canadian army's ability to participate in these important Arctic exercises.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hear about the government support for the troops, but I do not see it. Those without parkas, cold weather tents and heaters will not be feeling it either.

Information that was once public is now being kept secret by the Minister of National Defence. The Conservatives tried to use the term “vehicular power transmission components” to conceal the fact that they were actually purchasing 13 armoured vehicles. They are either trying to hide the billions they are spending or what they are spending the billions on.

Why are the Conservatives misleading Canadians on military procurements?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, wrong again. If the hon. member wants to see what we are doing, he should come out of Beaches—East York in Toronto and take a look around.

With respect to the investments that we have made, these investments were posted on MERX three years ago, clearly indicating Leopard 2 conversion to AEV, as was previously stated.

We have been crystal clear on these investments. In fact, a detailed description and summary that appeared on the Public Works and National Defence websites have been there for three years. There was information released to the public and to the press three years ago.

This is just baseless media and member criticism that is incorrect.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, let us be serious. Military procurement is deeply flawed.

The Prime Minister flies off to the far north for photo shoots every year, but our soldiers do not even have proper coats to carry out Arctic missions. There is an equipment shortage.

It is outrageous for the Conservatives to accuse the opposition of not caring about our troops and not wanting to give them the best equipment when they cannot even provide basic equipment for Arctic missions. How can they justify that?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, we speak the truth. The member opposite and her party absolutely oppose every investment that we make in the Canadian Forces. That is well documented.

Also well documented on DND and Public Works websites are the investments that we have made. For years in the Arctic we have augmented the equipment the Canadian Forces need to conduct operations and training there.

I want to go on record as congratulating the Prime Minister, the first in history to be spending so much time in the Arctic and so much time supporting the Canadian Forces.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, with respect to Libya, I think that the Minister of National Defence has some serious problems doing the math. Because of his inability to add things up, the cost of the F-35s was underestimated by $10 billion. Now he is making the same mistake with costs related to the mission in Libya. In October, he said that it would cost $50 million.

Today we learned that it cost seven times that, or $350 million.

Why does the minister have such a hard time being honest when it is time to disclose true costs?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, wrong again, as always.

In fact, what I said was that as of October 13, figures that I have received from the department were under $50 million. Of course the mission went on. There were extensions. There were, in fact, the costs associated with bringing equipment and personnel home.

This is incremental costing. I think the member has been around long enough to understand that.

As I have stated, earlier numbers showed that these expenditures to October 13 were accurate, were correct. There were further costs incurred, of course, and, as we have seen, twisted logic tells us that they were withheld by tabling them in the House.

Firearms Registration
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, they cannot even control costs in areas under their own jurisdiction, yet they want to tell the provinces how to operate.

Take, for example, the Minister of Public Safety, who was told to mind his own business this week when he tried to intervene in provincial areas of jurisdiction with respect to firearms registration. Ontario told the minister that it would ignore his attempt to encroach on provincial jurisdiction and would continue to do what needs to be done in the interest of public safety, which is maintain a record of sales.

Will the minister stop interfering in provincial affairs that are none of his business?

Firearms Registration
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Portage—Lisgar
Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is completely incorrect.

Our legislation ended the long gun registry across Canada. The minister has been very clear that we expect jurisdictions which are working under federal law to respect that.

Bill C-19 should be complied with, the spirit and the letter of the law. The minister directed CFOs throughout the province and the RCMP to comply with that.

Canada Revenue Agency
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, millions of Canadians volunteer and donate to charities and NGOs to help build a better Canada.

The non-profit and charitable sector employs millions and it is worth billions to our economy, at little cost to the taxpayer. Yet the Conservative government is engaged in a political witch hunt designed to muzzle and punish anyone who disagrees with it. If an NGO does not agree with the government, the government will undermine, audit and demonize the NGO and eliminate its funds.

Why is the government trying to systematically dismantle this vital part of Canadian society?

Canada Revenue Agency
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Egmont
P.E.I.

Conservative

Gail Shea Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, we agree that charities are a vital part of Canadian society.

I want to be clear: the rules for allowed charitable activities are long-standing and are not being changed. We understand that charities do great work across the country, and we encourage Canadians to donate generously. When Canadians donate to charities, they want to know their donation is being used for its intended purpose.

Canada Revenue Agency
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government has been attacking the reputations of NGOs with which it disagrees.

The environment minister is quick to deflect questions about his shameful attacks by citing the work of a Senate committee on the NGO issue. Unfortunately, this Liberal-proposed study in the Senate has been blocked by Conservatives in the Senate.

Will the government commit to holding fair and thorough hearings on this very important issue? Will the environment minister appear before the Senate committee to explain his outrageous accusations against reputable Canadian charities?

Canada Revenue Agency
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Egmont
P.E.I.

Conservative

Gail Shea Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, we have announced measures in our budget to provide more education to charities to ensure they are operating within the law and to provide more transparency for those Canadians who donate so generously.

In order to protect Canadians' interests, we have a duty to ensure these organizations are operating properly and in compliance with federal laws. We are taking action so that Canadians can be assured that charities are using their resources appropriately.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the House could get an update from the Minister of National Defence as to how he is getting along with reading the Federal Court judgment that ordered the Conservatives to stop clawing back veterans' pensions.

When I first asked the minister about that on May 1, he said it had been only a few hours since the court had issued the ruling and he needed time. Now it has been 10 days. Is the minister prepared to tell the House he will not appeal the ruling, or does he need more time to read the 31 pages?

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I will tell the legal expert opposite that this is, of course, a case that has gone on for years. It is a case that is being reviewed by the Department of Justice. A decision will be coming.

Budget
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is all well and fine for the government to try to dress up its budget bill with some slogans, but the fact remains that this bill will affect almost every aspect of Canadians' lives. Now the Conservatives want to go even further and avoid any in-depth debate.

Why do the Conservatives want to prevent Canadians from having a say on this bill? Are they afraid that if Canadians know too much, they will reject the bill?

Budget
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, the debate we have had on this budget is the longest budget debate of the past two decades.

With our economic action plan, we have successfully created more than 58,000 new jobs in the past month. That is a huge success.

It is thanks to the economic action plan we have been pursuing that Canada has had economic success, different from virtually every other country in the world. We have to stay on that path. That is why we are delivering on our budget.

Budget
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, allow me to inform the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons that more than half of the budget implementation bill contains measures that were not announced in the budget.

We are talking about the health of Canadians, their retirement, the future of their children and of our environment. With the cuts to public services and social programs, this government has already clearly lost the support of Canadians.

Like a Trojan Horse, this bill is hiding measures and cuts like those imposed on the Commissioner of Official Languages.

Why are the Conservatives refusing to be transparent and accountable?

Budget
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, we have a comprehensive economic action plan.

Our budget seeks to ensure Canada's economic success in the short and medium term, and indeed long-term prosperity. That plan includes harnessing the tremendous potential Canada has in our resources, in the most skilled workforce in the world. An important part of that plan is working to ensure we have a balanced budget so we do not go down the path of other countries that cannot manage their debt and deficits, and as a result cannot deliver social services.

We will not go down that path. We are going to stay on the path that has delivered more than 750,000 new jobs since the economic downturn. That is the path Canadians want us on. They want us here, working to make decisions. We are going to do that with this budget.

Employment
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, hiding changes in the budget to avoid accountability is simply wrong. Another hidden change: cutting employment insurance and gutting the appeals tribunal. Instead of separate tribunals with dedicated staff, we now have one big tribunal with a fraction of the staff. Asking 70 staff to review over 30,000 appeals is not going to make the system efficient. It will grind it to a halt and the government knows it.

Why is the minister using these underhanded tactics to cut services for Canadians?

Employment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, we are combining several appeal tribunals and boards at HRSDC into one organizational structure. This means a simple, more efficient, single window for Canadians to access appeals and the appeals process, something Canadians are looking for. The expertise of individual boards and tribunals will be maintained.

Employment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, fewer Canadians than ever can access EI under the Conservatives. The government should hang its head in shame, but it gets worse. Now the minister is giving herself exclusive powers to force unemployed professionals to take unskilled jobs or pushing unemployed fishers to take construction jobs. The minister gives no explanation or justification but barrels ahead with these sweeping changes.

Why does the minister think she should have the power to decide what is suitable employment for anyone?

Employment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, these allegations are simply false. This government is focused on job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity for the country. We are making sure that EI is focused on our local labour markets to make sure that it is being effective so that Canadians can get jobs. That is what they wanted. In evidence alone, what we have seen just today is that there are 58,000 net new jobs in this country so Canadians are getting back to work. That is across the country. I encourage the members opposite to support our initiatives to get people working.

Employment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, economic action plan 2012 takes responsible action to support our economy now and over the long term, while keeping taxes low and returning to a balanced budget. While our Conservative government is working to help Canada's economy by implementing economic action plan 2012 through Bill C-38, the NDP and Liberals want to play partisan procedural games to delay and defeat the pro-economic and pro-job growth measures.

Can the minister please inform the House how we are keeping Canada's job market strong?

Employment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Egmont
P.E.I.

Conservative

Gail Shea Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, our government is focused on what matters to Canadians, and that is jobs and growth. While the opposition plays games, as reported with this morning's job numbers, we are getting results. There were 58,000 net new jobs created in Canada in April. This builds on the strong growth of the previous month. There have been over 750,000 net new jobs since July and 90% of them are full time.

We are on the right track for Canada's economy and for Canadian families. This is recognized around the world and we as Canadians should be proud of this. It is time for the opposition to put Canada's economy first and stop threatening—

Employment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Saint-Lambert.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, doctors from around the country are gathering to protest the Conservatives' refugee health cuts.

Attacking refugee health will not prevent human trafficking or prevent people from abusing the system, nor will it save the government any money. This is an attack on legitimate refugees and vulnerable families seeking refuge.

Why play such political games and why prevent refugees from having access to basic health care?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, it would be nice, for once, if the NDP would ask a question, when it comes to immigration, that is on the right side of Canadians instead of the wrong side of Canadians.

The premise of her question is completely false. The fact is that in this country we do not want a system in which any group gets better benefits than Canadians do, whether it is Canadian seniors, whether it is taxpayers, whether it is the working poor. It is all about fairness. Let us ask the 58,000 people who found jobs in the last month whether they think the health care system in this country should be fair to them or better for others.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not know about the first part of that response, but he might want to check the record and apologize to Canadians after that.

Taking health care away from the most vulnerable is unethical, it is wrong and will cost Canadians more. When chronic diseases do not get treated, when preventive care cannot be accessed, people end up in the ER. The government knows that. Who pays? Canadians and taxpayers together.

Can the government tell us how much more this will cost the Canadian health care system by denying this right to the most vulnerable?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, it would be nice if the member would actually get his facts straight. We are not talking about Canadians. We are talking about those who come here seeking to be Canadians through our refugee system. We believe they should get and deserve an equal health care system, the same kind of medicare that is offered across this country. If you think they deserve more than every Canadian why do you not stand up in the House and acknowledge that?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I remind the parliamentary secretary to address his comments through the Chair, not directly at other members.

The hon. member for Ottawa Centre.

Aerospace Industry
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, he might want to stick to the little piece of paper in front of him. It would be safer for him.

Two years ago, the Prime Minister announced funding for new RADARSAT-2 —

Aerospace Industry
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Aerospace Industry
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The hon. member for Ottawa Centre has the floor. Order, please.

Aerospace Industry
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, two years ago RADARSAT-2 was vulnerable and was going to be shut down. The government said it was going to be saved. The government said it would put finances to ensure we saved this important technology. Now we hear it is going to be cut. Will the government stand behind our technology and our sovereignty and finance RADARSAT-2 and -3, yes or no?

Aerospace Industry
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable
Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, it is quite clear we are committed to the RADARSAT project, and this is the bottom line. This is a very important project that we will deliver in the most cost-effective way.

Aerospace Industry
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister loves to go to the far north for his annual photo shoot. However, Canadians want concrete action.

With every passing day, the RADARSAT Arctic surveillance project is falling behind. While the minister dithers, MDA Corporation will have to lay off its scientists.

Why not honour these funding commitments? Why encourage the brain drain?

Aerospace Industry
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable
Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, measures have been taken to ensure that massive investments were made in the area of science and technology and that there is a brain gain rather than a brain drain. The figures show this to be true.

To come back to RADARSAT, we have been very clear. We are committed to this project. This project is very large and important but it has to be delivered to Canadians in a cost-effective way. That is what Canadians expect: good management by their government.

Old Port of Montreal Corporation
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take advantage of the presence of the Minister of Industry, who is also the minister responsible for Montreal, to ask him a question about the Old Port of Montreal Corporation.

In light of what was said yesterday by the corporation's chairman, former minister Gerry Weiner, who is also a friend of Leo Housakos, it seems a consultant has already evaluated the Old Port of Montreal Corporation. I also heard that Old Port of Montreal Corporation could likely be put under the management of the Canada Lands Company.

Can the minister confirm whether such is the case? This is a 40-acre jewel and we do not want it to be subject to real estate speculation for the building of condos. We are opposed to that.

What can the minister tell me?

Old Port of Montreal Corporation
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière
Québec

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, we are concerned by the reports about this departure from the board.

The Minister of Public Works has asked the Auditor General to conduct an independent audit to get to the bottom of any undue expenses.

The Budget
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, here is an example of why the massive budget bill needs fixing.

To be eligible for a registered disability savings plan, people must first qualify for the disability tax credit, meaning that they have to have a severe disability right now. However, if they suffer from a debilitating condition like multiple sclerosis that leads to serious future problems, but not right now, they are not eligible for the DTC and therefore they cannot have a savings plan now when they could really use it. That is just wrong. For the second time, will the government correct that flaw?

The Budget
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Egmont
P.E.I.

Conservative

Gail Shea Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, it has been common practice to include various measures in the budget and the subsequent budget implementation bill. This is nothing groundbreaking. It simply reflects the central and important role of the budget to the government's agenda. There will be seven full days of debate on the budget bill at second reading alone, before being referred to a committee. This is longer than the average time of debate for a budget bill in at least the last 20 years.

The Budget
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government just keeps hiding from accountability. With its massive budget bill it wants to get rid of the oversight of CSIS. The former senior chief counsel to CSIS put it simply in saying that the CSIS Inspector General makes sure that CSIS is accountable to the minister and to Canadians.

What do the Conservatives have against being accountable?

The Budget
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Portage—Lisgar
Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I reject the premise of the opposition's question.

The Security Intelligence Review Committee provides comprehensive, vigorous and independent oversight for CSIS. We are able to eliminate duplication, save the taxpayers' dollar and actually provide better oversight for CSIS.

It is time for the NDP to realize that these are measures that Canadians have asked us to take: to be more efficient and to be rigorous in what we are providing.

The Budget
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, considering what the government opposite is doing, it is as though all oversight mechanisms automatically create obstacles, so they had to be eliminated as soon as possible.

The reality is that the Inspector General found some major weaknesses at CSIS concerning the agency's operational mechanisms here in Canada. The problem is that if the government goes ahead with these extremely irresponsible changes, Canadians will never hear about this again.

Will the minister reverse this dangerous decision and finally show some transparency?

The Budget
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Portage—Lisgar
Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is wrong and unfortunately does not understand the different bodies that have overseen CSIS.

Unfortunately, duplication sometimes can actually be a problem, so instead we are providing is comprehensive, vigorous, independent review by the Security Intelligence Review Committee. It is going to save dollars for taxpayers. It will continue with the oversight of CSIS.

We ask the NDP to look at what we are doing. We are creating jobs. In the last month we have created 58,000 jobs. The NDP needs to get on board with our tax-saving measures and job creation measures.

Natural Resources
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition has some explaining to do. Instead of praising the importance of the resource sector, he would rather call it a disease, pitting one region of the country against another. The Leader of the Opposition needs to explain to the hundreds of thousands of Canadians employed throughout our resource sector just what his NDP cure is for this supposed disease.

Could the always lucid Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister explain just how important the resource sector is to Canada?

Natural Resources
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I have been pleased to work with the member for Wetaskiwin since 2006 on building a stronger Canadian economy together. That is what the government is focused on. We do not work with one region, pitting one region against the other. We want to make all regions in the country as strong as we possibly can.

What I can say to the member from Alberta is that the value-added sector in Ontario is strong and is getting stronger, especially in oil and gas and natural resources. It is the number two economy in Ontario, and it is strong because the Alberta economy is strong and because the Saskatchewan economy is strong. The Ontario economy is getting stronger, as is the Quebec economy. I know 58,000 net new jobs--

Natural Resources
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please.

The hon. member for Halifax West.

Health
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health has her head in the sand and continues to say that the voluntary reporting system for drug shortages is working. Right.

When patients show up at pharmacies to refill their prescriptions for the epilepsy drug Epival and its generic forms, it is not available. There is no information about this on the drug reporting sites.

If the voluntary reporting system is working, could the minister explain why doctors, pharmacists and patients cannot find out when Epival will be available?

Could she tell us when it will be available?

Health
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Nunavut
Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Minister of Health and Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

Mr. Speaker, as we have said all along, the shortage resulted from decisions by the provinces and the territories to sole-source their drug contracts.

Our role is to ensure that drugs are safe before they enter the market. We are working around the clock to address this issue by identifying new suppliers for the provinces and the territories, fast-tracking approvals and providing access to the national emergency stockpiles system. In fact, we have approved 16 replacement drugs and approved more than 120 drugs through the special access program since the drug shortage occurred.

Finance
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

François Lapointe Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives and credit card companies are hiding behind a code of conduct that is clearly unacceptable. Of course, consumers and SMEs are the ones to pay the price. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the Competition Bureau agree that the obligation to accept certain cards and absorb the additional fees binds SMEs.

Will the government finally listen and respond to the legitimate demands of a pillar of the Canadian economy: owners of small and medium-sized businesses?

Finance
Oral Questions

Noon

Egmont
P.E.I.

Conservative

Gail Shea Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, we heard the concerns that small businesses raised and we introduced our code of conduct. The code has been welcomed by consumers and business groups, especially small business.

The opposition voted against the code and against supporting small business and consumers. We continually monitor compliance. Any possible violation will be investigated, and we have the power and ability to make the code involuntary if necessary.

I will offer this quote from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which said that “...the code has served merchants extremely well” and “...has done an excellent job in ensuring some fair ground rules and maintaining Canada's”--

Finance
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Brandon—Souris.

National Defence
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, after the Liberal decade of darkness, our Conservative government has re-equipped the Canadian armed forces. After years of Liberal neglect and NDP indifference, our military is finally getting the tools it needs. I am proud of our government's record, and we do tell Canadians about these investments.

Today there is a media report on the new armoured engineer vehicles that suggests the government should have communicated its intentions to Canadians. Can the minister confirm that this was done, and when?

National Defence
Oral Questions

Noon

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, yes I can.

I want to thank the member for Brandon—Souris, home to the great Canadian Forces Base Shilo. As he said, the media and opposition criticism on this defence project and on the Libya costing are baseless, incorrect, and the result of poor research and blind partisanship.

The MERX posting clearly describes these projects. It is a detailed project description, and summaries appear in both the Public Works and Government Services and the Department of National Defence websites. We can table them. For almost three years that information has been publicly available. It was provided to the media and the general public July 8, 2009.

This will add to the great job numbers that are out there today and continue to support the Canadian--

National Defence
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Repentigny.

Manufacturing Industry
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

Jean-François Larose Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, May 1 was International Workers' Day. To celebrate the day in a symbolic way, employees of the Mabe, Aveos and Electrolux plants got together and marched in the town of L'Assomption. These workers have one thing in common: this past year, they were given the bad news that the plants where they work are closing and they are losing their jobs.

My constituents' question is clear: what will the government do to stop the hemorrhaging and ensure that the plants stay here, where we have the best workforce?

Manufacturing Industry
Oral Questions

Noon

Mégantic—L'Érable
Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, we must not increase the tax burden on businesses, as the NDP is proposing. More regulation has the exact opposite effect. Canada is now considered the best place to do business. In Quebec, 23,000 net new jobs have been created. In the manufacturing sector, 24,000 net new jobs have been created. We are seeing results.

Doing the opposite, as the NDP is proposing, would kill the economy. I can assure Canadians that we will never go down that road.

The Economy
Oral Questions

Noon

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am concerned that the Conservative members who are speaking to this issue of the recent comments by the Leader of the Opposition are distorting what is a well-known term in economic literature. It should not be that controversial to recognize that since 2008, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has warned Canada that by distorting our policies in resource development, we are creating unnecessary impacts through something called “Dutch disease”.

I have heard there are people in the Conservative ranks who have studied economics. Could they please explain to their colleagues what the term means and that it is not calling any section of this country any derogatory term whatsoever? It is an economics issue. It is valid and it should be discussed.

The Economy
Oral Questions

Noon

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, we all know that the member opposite and her party would love to stop resource development in this country. The reality is that we now have the largest two-month job growth in decades. She should be standing up and congratulating us on that.

While the NDP member was attacking western Canadians, it turns out Canadians actually were not listening. Instead, they were going back to work.

There were 58,000 new jobs last month, 24,000 of them in the manufacturing sector that the member talks about. The problem on the other side is not Dutch disease, it is foot-in-the-mouth disease.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order to ask for unanimous consent that I am able to table the MERX documents that demonstrate on the DND website as well as on the public works website that there was ample information available on projects that were incorrectly being reported today when members opposite alleged information was not available. I would like to table proof positive that the information was available to all Canadians three years ago.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The minister does not need the unanimous consent of the House as long as it is in both officials languages.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed, and I would be pleased to provide that information.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

If it is in both official languages, the minister does not need unanimous consent. Therefore, it is so tabled.

On a point of order, the hon. member for Bourassa.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, is the document that we have just tabled bilingual?

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I have just been told it is in both official languages.

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 responses to 12 petitions.

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association respecting its participation at the joint visit of the Committee on Civil Dimension of Security and the Sub-Committee on East-West Economic Co-operation and Convergence, held in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, from October 25 to 27, 2011.

Employment Insurance Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-422, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (elimination of waiting period).

Mr. Speaker, this is a private member's bill that amends the Employment Insurance Act to eliminate that two-week waiting period.

As we all know, young families suffer incredibly when they lose the job that sustains them. It is very traumatic. Low-wage single-parent families live from paycheque to paycheque. Therefore, the point of this bill is to make sure that those interminable two weeks are eliminated, because that waiting period can indeed put a great strain on any family.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Iran
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations between all parties and I believe you will find unanimous support for the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, a take-note debate on the subject of the horrific state of human rights in Iran take place pursuant to Standing Order 53.1 on Monday, May 14, 2012, and that during the debate no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be received by the Chair.

Iran
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Iran
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Iran
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Iran
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Iran
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

Business of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, while I am on my feet, pursuant to Standing Order 81(4)(a), I would like at this time to designate Tuesday, May 15, for consideration in committee of the whole of all votes under Environment in the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013.

Aboriginal Affairs
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I am presenting two petitions. The first is from the students, parents and community of John Paul II Catholic Secondary School in London.

These community members ask Canada to draw attention to the situation in Attawapiskat. They ask the House to demand that the Government of Canada immediately act on the housing crisis there.

The petitioners also call on the Government of Canada to provide the first nations community of Attawapiskat with the financial supports to address short and long-term housing needs and pursue a functional working relationship with the first nation and to use measures and means other than third party management to achieve a better quality of life for the residents of Attawapiskat. They also ask the government to honour its commitment to provide the students of Attawapiskat with a new school.

Republic of Congo
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from a community in London, Ontario that is supportive of democracy in the Congo.

The petitioners draw the attention of the Parliament of Canada to the fact that the November 28, 2011 elections in the democratic Republic of Congo were fraudulent. They also draw the Government of Canada's attention to the continuous Congolese demonstrations taking place in major western cities around the world, including in Canada.

The petitioners wish to point out that Canada contributed $9 million over five years to the UN to help fund the election in the Congo. Six Canadians took part along with 118 observers. The petitioners want Canada to ask the tough questions about the electoral process there because they are concerned and want to put--

Republic of Congo
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The hon. member knows that members are supposed to provide a succinct summary and she has had the floor now for almost two minutes. We better move on to accommodate everybody.

The hon. member for Kitchener--Centre.

Abortion
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition from my constituents in Kitchener Centre who point out that Canada is the only nation in the western world, and in the company of China and North Korea, without any laws protecting the rights of children before birth. They said that Canada's Supreme Court has said that it is Parliament's responsibility to deal with this issue.

The petitioners call upon the House of Commons to enact legislation to restrict abortion to the greatest extent possible.

I would be happy if we could just have an informed discussion about the rights of children before birth.

Multiple Sclerosis
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, this petition is regarding CCSVI.

Yesterday marked the two year anniversary since I first asked for an emergency debate on CCSVI in the House. In two years, 800 Canadians died of multiple sclerosis. It is also two years since the member for St. Paul's and myself began asking for a registry and clinical trials for CCSVI. The government eventually committed to both but, unfortunately, neither has begun.

I remember all those we have lost and their families.

The petitioners call upon the Minister of Health to consult experts actively engaged in the diagnosis and treatment of CCSVI to undertake phase III clinical trials on an urgent basis in multiple centres across Canada and to require follow-up care.

Katimavik
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by Canadians who are very disappointed by the government's decision to stop funding the Katimavik program.

This petition calls on the government to acknowledge that approximately 600 young people, who were looking forward to July when their program was to begin, now they can longer participate in it.

The petition calls on the government to restore funding to that program.

Rights of the Unborn
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present two petitions today signed by constituents in the riding that h I represent and they are both on the same topic.

The petitioners are concerned that Canada's 400-year-old definition of human beings says that a child does not become a human being until the moment of complete birth, which, in their opinion, is contrary to 21st century medical evidence.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to confirm that every human being is recognized by Canadian law as human by amending section 223 of the Criminal Code.

Nuclear Disarmament
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present two petitions today.

The first reminds us that the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has proposed a summit on nuclear disarmament and that, in 2010, the Senate and the House unanimously passed a motion encouraging the Government of Canada to deploy a major worldwide Canadian diplomatic initiative in support of preventing nuclear proliferation

In short, the petitioners are calling on the House of Commons to invite all countries to join Canada in undertaking discussions about imposing a worldwide ban on nuclear weapons.

Pensions
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition deals with a subject of interest to millions of Canadians, old age security.

The petitioners are asking the government to maintain funding for old age security, and to make the necessary investments to enhance guaranteed income supplement benefits and end poverty for all seniors.

41st General Election
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions.

The first states that it is absolutely essential to have fair, free and open elections. As a result of the scandalous events that took place during the last federal election, petitioners from Toronto and Dorval are demanding that the government and the Prime Minister set up a full, independent and adequately funded inquiry to identify those involved in the scandalous events that took place during the last federal election.

Human Rights
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is relevant this week. This week, many people around the world celebrate Falun Dafa day and, on behalf of petitioners from Guelph and Waterloo region, I place this petition before the House, as many other members have marked these occasions in relation to the persecution of practitioners of Falun Dafa, Falun Gong around the world, but particularly in China. I am mindful, as we call for their human rights, that we also call for human rights for people within Tibet, for Tibetan monks, and for Christians within China who are unable to practise their faith.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 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. 557.

Question No. 557
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

With regard to information supplied by the government of France to the government of Canada regarding secret bank accounts and possible tax evasion in Switzerland as of March 23, 2012: (a) since the government received the names of 1800 Canadians with bank accounts in Switzerland, have any other Canadians been identified as having undeclared bank accounts in Switzerland, and, in total, how many Canadians have now been identified as having undeclared bank accounts in Switzerland; (b) what actions have been taken by Canadian officials to recover unpaid taxes associated with Canadians' undeclared bank accounts in Switzerland; (c) how many identified Canadians have availed themselves of the Voluntary Disclosure Program (VDP) with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA); (d) how many identified Canadian accounts have settled with the CRA; (e) how much money has the CRA assessed as a result of investigating these secret banks accounts in Switzerland in (i) unpaid taxes, (ii) interest, (iii) fines, (iv) penalties; (f) how much of the money in (e) has been collected; (g) how many of the cases are under appeal; (h) how many cases remain open; (i) how many more cases does the CRA anticipate will be opened; (j) how many cases have been closed (i.e., the full amount of taxes, interest, fines and penalties have been collected); (k) how much money in (j) has been collected in (i) unpaid taxes, (ii) interest, (iii) fines, (iv) penalties; (l) how many account holders in the cases have made a partial payment; (m) of the partial payments made, what was the (i) largest amount, (ii) smallest amount, (iii) average amount; (n) how much does the CRA have yet to collect in (i) taxes, (ii) interest, (iii) fines, (iv) penalties; (o) of the amounts of money contained in the Switzerland accounts declared or discovered by the CRA, what was the (i) largest amount, (ii) smallest amount, (iii) average amount; (p) on what date was the CRA first made aware of the names of Canadians with accounts in Switzerland; (q) on what date did the CRA begin its investigation; (r) on what date did the first audit of an individual account holder begin; (s) how many of the identified Canadians with bank accounts in Switzerland have (i) had their account or accounts audited, (ii) had their account or accounts reassessed, (iii) been the subject of a compliance action; (t) how many of the identified Canadians with bank accounts in Switzerland (i) have not had their account or accounts audited, (ii) have not had their account or accounts reassessed, (iii) have not been the subject of a compliance action; and (u) how many tax evasion charges have been laid?

Question No. 557
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Egmont
P.E.I.

Conservative

Gail Shea Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, the Canada Revenue Agency, CRA, has an obligation to follow confidentiality and privacy legislation closely. Information is often provided to the CRA from various sources on the basis that it cannot be further disclosed by the CRA. Where the CRA is at liberty to provide information, it will endeavour to do so. In other instances, it will be limited in this ability.

In order to both respect confidentiality requirements and maintain harmonious international relations, the CRA must adhere to the requirements that international tax treaties and agreements impose on the disclosure of information received from Canada’s treaty partners.

The preamble in the above-noted question asserts that the information was provided to Canada from “the Government of France”. Since this information was received by the Government of Canada via an international tax treaty, it is protected under both the Exchange of Information article of the relevant tax treaty, in this case article 26 of the Canada-France Income Tax Convention, and paragraph 19(1)(a) of the Privacy Act.

Therefore, for these reasons, the CRA cannot provide the information requested in the question above.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 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, if Questions Nos. 552, 553 and 554 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 552
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC

With regard to tax evasion and its effects on the Canadian economy: (a) does the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) publish estimates of the tax gap caused by offshore tax avoidance, and, (i) if so, which method does the government utilize to calculate this gap, (ii) if not, why not; (b) what is the 10-year trend for (i) the number of transfer pricing audits, (ii) the budgeting for and Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) staffing of auditors dealing with transfer pricing audit; (c) what is the amount of annual capital flow from Canada to the United States resulting from bilateral trade mispricing (i) per capital flow, (ii) by proportion of total trade, (iii) per tax loss; (d) what is the amount of annual capital flow from Canada to the European Union resulting from bilateral trade mispricing (i) per capital flow, (ii) by proportion of total trade, (iii) per tax loss; (e) what is the amount of annual capital flow resulting from multilateral trade mispricing (i) per capital flow, (ii) by proportion of total trade, (iii) per tax loss; (f) what are the internal deadlines set by the Exchange of Information (EOI) Services (CRA) as concerns responses to EOI requests received, (i) how many EOI requests received does the CRA deal with per year, (ii) what is the 10-year trend for EOI requests received by the CRA, (iii) what is the median response time for an EOI request received by the CRA, (iv) from which jurisdiction does the CRA receive the most EOI requests, (v) from which jurisdiction does the CRA request the most EOIs; (g) does Canada collaborate with its EOI partners to ensure the EOI provisions are not restricted, and, if so, (i) with which jurisdictions, (ii) to what specific ends, (iii) have there been any changes to the CRA approach as a result of these collaborations; (h) how prevalent are bearer shares in Canada, (i) what measures exist to ensure that ownership information is available with no exceptions, (ii) are all nominees obliged to maintain relevant ownership information when they act as legal owners on behalf of any other person, (iii) has the government studied the possibility of subjecting nominees to anti-money-laundering laws, and, if not, why not; (i) are credit card, ATM, and stored-value cards defined as monetary instruments in the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act; (j) do law enforcement and customs services have, or has the government studied extending to them, card reading capacities aimed at catching suspected brief-case bankers; (k) how many Canadian financial institutions operate in lower tax jurisdictions and what are their names; (l) how many Canadian financial institutions engage in capital arbitrage by allocating capital to lower tax jurisdictions and thereby lowering their effective tax rate; (m) does the government calculate the effects of Canadian financial institutions operating in lower tax jurisdictions on (i) Canadian financial institutions tax rate, (ii) increases in after-tax earnings, (iii) net income; (n) what is the percentage of auditors and numbers of FTE auditors (i) working on individual tax evasion, (ii) working on corporate tax evasion, (iii) working on corporate transfer mispricing, (iv) what is the 10-year trend for the budgeting for and staffing of these auditors; and (o) what is the percentage of auditors and numbers of FTE auditors (i) auditing individuals using tax havens, (ii) auditing corporations using tax havens, (iii) what is the 10-year trend for the budgeting for and staffing of these auditors?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 553
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC

With regard to the government’s strategy for combating tax havens: (a) does the government plan to reform the arm’s-length principles under section 247 of the Income Tax Act; (b) has the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or any department studied the impact of replacing Canadian Generally Accepted Accounting Principles with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) in terms of (i) taxable impact, (ii) reporting, (iii) tax fraud; (c) has the government studied the possibility of requiring multinational corporations to report on a country-by-country basis on all their transactions, including, (i) labour costs and number of employees, (ii) finance costs, third-party and intra-group transactions, (iii) profits before taxes, (iv) provisions for taxes, (v) taxes actually paid; (d) has the government studied the possibility of providing disclosed information available within federal institutions to provincial Attorneys General for the purpose of civil forfeitures; (e) has the government studied the possibility of lengthening the detention-accountability regime found in section 490 of the Criminal Code; (f) has the government studied the possibility of modernizing the Canada Evidence Act; and (g) what will be the effect of cuts on the CRA auditor capacity to investigate offshore bank accounts and tax havens?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 554
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

With regard to mortgage loan insurance provided by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC): (a) has the CMHC put in place an allocation plan for insuring mortgages, and, if so, what is the plan and does the plan prioritize mortgages according to whether or not they are required to be insured or according to the value of the mortgage; (b) does the CMHC intend to ask the government to increase the $600 billion limit on insured mortgages; and (c) what kind of risk mitigation or contingency plan does the CMHC have in case of a multi-year recession or other scenario in which the CMHC might have difficulty meeting its obligations for mortgage insurance payments?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 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

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to request an emergency debate on the possibility of splitting the budget implementation bill, also known as Bill C-38.

As you probably know, a week ago now, the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park, the House Leader of the Official Opposition and I tried to work with the government to split the bill into separate pieces that could be studied more thoroughly.

This bill is very large, has a very broad scope and affects over 60 laws. That is why we should examine it more thoroughly. This has been our party's position from the beginning.

As you undoubtedly know, House of Commons Procedure and Practice states that an emergency debate is legitimate when the matter “could not be brought before the House within a reasonable time by other means, such as during a supply day”, which is the case here. It also says that an emergency debate must be on a topic that is immediately relevant throughout the nation. This request for an emergency debate indeed meets the requirements set out in this book.

It is impossible for us to properly debate this bill, which is over 425 pages long. In fact, the House has passed a time allocation motion, and the government refuses to split the bill into pieces that could be studied by the appropriate committees.

In my opinion, it would be completely appropriate for the members of the House to rise, speak about and discuss the possibility of splitting this bill so that Canadians and we, as parliamentarians, can be better informed about the scope of this budget implementation bill.

I therefore request authorization to hold this emergency debate in the House.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, as you know, I wrote to you earlier today requesting an emergency debate on the refusal of the government to split the omnibus budget bill into separate pieces for proper study at the proper committee.

According to page 693 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, an emergency debate is legitimate when the matter “could not be brought before the House within a reasonable time by other means, such as during a supply day”, which is the case here.

As time allocation was moved by the government to limit time for debate and as this is the last day of debate on the omni-budget, I believe this warrants an emergency debate. It is the case that we have a budget before us that is over 400 pages long when, historically, budgets have been about 30 pages long. It touches everything from the environment to old age security, assisted human reproduction, employment equity, CSIS, the Seeds Act, and telecommunications. It really does touch the lives of every Canadian as far as I am concerned.

The NDP has tried to negotiate with the government, asking it to voluntarily split this bill into the appropriate subject matters but it has denied us this. You, Mr. Speaker, may also have heard that yesterday it was my intention to move a motion during the public session of committee to try to have the environment committee review the environment parts of this budget bill. We were not even able to be in public for me to do that. I was denied the opportunity to even move a motion to consider some of the environmental aspects at the environment committee where it properly belongs.

I urge you, Mr. Speaker, to take this application for an emergency debate seriously, to see the urgency of this issue and to grant an emergency debate on the government's refusal to be transparent and accountable on this bill.

Speaker's Ruling
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I thank both hon. members for their interventions. I do not think that requesting an emergency debate on legislation that is currently being debated would satisfy the parameters of the Standing Orders, therefore, I am not prepared to grant it on this particular occasion.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

When statements by members started we were on questions and comments. The hon. member for Okanagan—Shuswap.

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12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague from British Columbia earlier and I commend her on the good work she does in protecting the environment. We, on this side, are also concerned about protecting the environment.

Related to our bill, this is a comprehensive bill that has a plan in place for jobs and growth. The member knows that the Province of British Columbia, for a number of years, has been requesting that the federal government streamline the environmental review process to stop the duplication and to make the process happen in a more timely fashion.

Could the member tell me if there is any compromise to the actual regulations? No, there is not. It is simply the fact that we are trying to do it in a more timely fashion and to cut the duplication of the reviews.

We on this side are concerned about the environment and we are simply trying to expedite this. We are not saying that we are doing it to ensure there is a yes answer to the applications, that is not case. We are simply saying that those applications, for resource development or whatever, for environmental review get a timely yes or no answer. That is the important thing—

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. I would like to give the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands an opportunity to respond.

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12:20 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Okanagan—Shuswap for his question and for the respectful way in which it was posed. I will return with equally good spirits.

My concern is exactly what he put his finger on. There are ways to make the process work for everyone more expeditiously. I mentioned in my speech that, under the existing law, timelines can be placed by a minister on a panel review. It does not require repealing the act to do that.

The industry was pleased with the progress being made under the environmental assessment to have timely reviews. There are ways to ensure federal-provincial co-operation but this is going too far. By completely repealing the act, we are not amending the existing act or finding compromises within the existing act, we are destroying the existing act and replacing it with something.

I have read this bill over and over again and there are 67 pages of the new Canadian environmental assessment act, 2012 buried in the budget bill. As an environmental lawyer, I am warning the House now that this will cause more confusion, industries will not be more satisfied and environmental reviews will not only not go faster but they will not happen at all and they will not examine all the aspects of environmental, social, economic and other unforeseen impacts.

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12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, legislation to implement key initiatives contained in the 2012 economic action plan.

When we introduced the first phase of this plan more than three years ago, the Canadian economy was threatened by a looming recession, begun beyond our borders, yet endangering our prosperity. Acting decisively, our Conservative government introduced temporary measures to fight the effects of the global recession through stimulus to safeguard jobs and protect the incomes of Canadians, while making important investments to ensure long-term growth.

Today the positive impact of our plans is abundantly clear, despite the misguided commentary we hear from the opposite side of the House. One should not take that opinion from me. Patricia Croft, former chief economist with RBC Global Asset Management, recently said, “In a global context, I think Canada is in a fabulous position. Canada continues to manage its fiscal affairs in a fabulous fashion”.

Thanks to our plan, our fiscal record is second to none. Although judging from their remarks throughout the debate on the bill, opposition members seem to be ignorant of these facts.

Both the IMF and the OECD have forecast that Canada will have among the strongest record of economic growth in the G7, both this year and next. Not only that, but for the fourth year in a row the World Economic Forum has rated Canada's banks as the most solvent in the world.

We all know that the prestigious Forbes magazine has ranked Canada number one in its annual review of the best countries in which to do business. The three major international credit rating agencies, Moody's, Fitch Ratings and Standard and Poor's have reaffirmed their top ratings for Canada.

I think it is clear to anyone who is listening that under our government's stewardship, Canada has weathered the economic storm with strength and the world has noticed.

This praise is not hollow. In truth, it speaks to the sound fiscal planning that has been the hallmark of this government. Our economic resilience reflects the actions our government took before the crisis, lowering taxes, paying down debt, reducing red tape and promoting free trade and innovation. I am proud the prudence continues to be reflected in action plan 2012 and in the measures contained in Bill C-38.

While my time is limited, I would like to speak specifically to our government's actions to ensure the retirement security of Canadians, as these measures reflect our commitment to fiscal planning that is sustainable well into the future.

This is of particular importance to my constituents in Okanagan—Shuswap, as we are the number two destination for Canadians to retire, and we actually have the largest number of seniors per capita in any place in Canada.

Since 2006, our government has taken steps to strengthen Canada's retirement income system, including increasing the guaranteed income supplement for the most vulnerable seniors, introducing pension income splitting, increasing the age credit and creating innovative savings vehicles like the tax-free savings account and co-registered pension plans.

Economic action plan 2012 takes further steps to ensure that Canadians will have access to a secure retirement for years to come by ensuring the sustainability of old age security and the guaranteed income supplement by gradually raising the age of eligibility from 65 to 67, starting in 2023.

The facts on OAS are clear. The OAS program was conceived at a time when Canadians were not living the long and healthy lives that we are today. We know with certainty that over the next 20 years the number of Canadians over the age of 65 will increase from 4.7 million to 9.3 million. Consequently, the cost of the OAS program will increase from $36 billion per year in 2010 to $108 billion per year by 2030. Meanwhile, by 2030, there will only be two taxpayers to support every senior, down from four to one in 2010.

We are not the first government in the world to recognize this inevitable demographic reality. Many countries are increasing the age of eligibility of their public pension programs. Of 34 OECD countries, 22 have recently increased, or announced plans to increase, the eligibility age. It is a long list that includes: Australia, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and United States.

This change in Canada does not start tomorrow. It would start in April 2023, with full implementation by January 2029. That is a 17-year notification period and, as such, it would not affect anyone who is 54 years of age or older as of March 31, 2012.

There is no question that this is the right move to ensure that our generous system of retirement benefits is there for Canadians when they need it most. Just listen to the words of the Globe and Mail editorial board, speaking directly to the measures contained in the bill that the opposition is voting against. It said, in part:

The two-year deferral of the Old Age Security for those now below the age of 54 is a fair and reasonable adaptation to an era of greater longevity and mostly prolonged health... Likewise, the reform of public-sector pensions, by higher employee contributions and a normal retirement age, will before long greatly relieve strains on the public purse....[The Prime Minister] and [the Minister of Finance] can, and do, truthfully say that the federal government’s finances are on track....Ottawa’s books of account are headed in the right direction. This is why the Conservatives were elected, to prudently manage public finances in a tumultuous time.

Canadians have told us that as they live longer and healthier lives, many older workers wish to remain in the workforce and increase their retirement income. Our changes to the OAS program reflect this new reality, while assuring that the OAS program is on a sustainable path.

To this end, we are also improving the amount of flexibility and choice Canadians can exercise by allowing the option of deferring the take-up of their OAS benefits to a later time. This way, should Canadians wish to work and save a little longer, they will receive higher annual benefits when they eventually collect their pension.

This too has received support from the strongest voice of Canada's small business community. The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses has said, “[we are] supportive of the idea that Canadians should be incented to work longer by receiving additional OAS if they push back their retirement”.

Further, we are working to provide increased support to the retirement income system with pooled registered pension plans. These will provide an accessible large-scale and low-cost pension option to employers, employees and the self-employed.

Not only that, we will continue to deliver on promises to Canadians to keep taxes low and return to a balanced budget over the medium term.

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12:35 p.m.

NDP

Dan Harris Scarborough Southwest, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to hear the member's take on the fact that so many changes are being put into this bill that really have no business being in a budget bill.

The Prime Minister, when he was in opposition, said that MPs would have to go against their principles to vote for such a bill. Would the member tell me where his principles went?

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12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, this bill is about budget 2012-13 and our first priority in this bill is jobs and growth. This is a strategic plan to move forward. It is multifaceted and comprehensive. It is important that all of these initiatives are in the bill so we can continue on the path of job creation and growth for Canadians.

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Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, our economic action plan was put in place at the base of the recession in order to bring us to a position of creating over 700,000 net new jobs, which is something to be commended. Economic action plan 2012 is moving in exactly that direction. Individuals who live in my riding of Simcoe—Grey are delighted with the direction of this budget.

Could my colleague, the member for Okanagan—Shuswap, comment on what he is hearing from his constituents on the good news that is in the budget?

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12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, part of the economic action plan was well received in my constituency because there were initiatives in that plan for the forest sector, to help increase market accessibility in the Pacific Rim and to look at innovative ways for the use of fibre. I have heard many comments from the operators of the mills in my constituency regarding that initiative.

That is all part of this huge plan. It is about growing our economy through trade and assisting people with training to ensure they can get jobs. This is a huge plan. Opposition members criticize the document, but, like I said before, it is multifaceted so that with all of the pieces of the puzzle, we can move forward on jobs and growth.

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12:35 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague, the hon. member for Okanagan—Shuswap just said we are criticizing the document. Indeed, we are criticizing it for how thick it is, for what it contains, for the leaps we have to make to connect items as different as the Canadian Artists and Producers Professional Relations Tribunal and the old age security program. These are very different topics that deserve lengthy debates so that we can find a good parliamentary solution that reflects our democratic tradition.

It is not just the document that we are criticizing. After everything I just said and everything we have been saying for ages, that is not the issue. The issue is that we are not being given any time to make amendments. That is the type of thing we are being denied even in committee.

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12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, as was said before, the budget bill has been debated longer than any other bill in the last 20 years. I really do not agree with the member in respect of that criticism.

There are a lot of things in the budget, but we have had adequate time to address them in debate in the House. I would ask him to support this so we can move forward with providing jobs for those in his constituency. People who are out of work and looking for employment need these initiatives.

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12:40 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I am happy to have this chance to speak in the House today about this Trojan Horse budget. I was concerned that all discussion would be shut down by the government because, unfortunately, this is a budget that includes many separate bills that have very little to do with fiscal management.

If passed, this omnibus bill of over 400 pages would do little to get our economy going or to help people get back to work. What it would do is gut environmental protection, rewrite Canada's fishery law and change the age of retirement in this country.

While this so-called budget implementation bill is supposed to implement the budget, it would go far beyond what was outlined in the recent federal budget. Quite simply, it is profoundly inappropriate for the government to put so many sweeping changes to so many different areas in this omnibus bill. It is bad public policy and it is becoming abundantly clear that the members opposite are trying to hide from their obligation to provide responsible oversight. Rather, they seem determined to avoid accountability.

I want to highlight some of the key changes this bill would make.

It would raise the age of eligibility for OAS and GIS from 65 to 67.

It would repeal the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act. This would mean the government would no longer be required to report on its greenhouse gas emissions under the act. It would gut the environmental assessment regime and fish habitat protection in order to speed up major projects, including pipelines.

It would give cabinet the ability to ignore the National Energy Board and approve a project that the NEB has turned down. It would delegate environmental assessments to other authorities, including the provinces, and would change the definition of “interested parties” to weaken public participation in environmental decision-making to exclude anyone not directly affected by a project.

It would eliminate the Inspector General of CSIS. This would drastically reduce accountability at CSIS.

Also, it would eliminate Auditor General oversight of a number of agencies.

It would repeal the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act. This would allow employers to undercut union wage rates for construction workers engaged in projects funded by the federal government.

It would amend the Employment Equity Act so that it would no longer apply to federal contractors. This is a direct attack on women, aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, and visible minorities.

It would amend the rules for determining the extent to which a charity has engaged in political activities and would modify the rules for registering certain foreign charitable organizations as donors.

It would amend the Seeds Act to potentially allow private contractors to perform food inspection.

It would also remove foreign ownership rules for wireless telecommunications companies with less than 10% market share, and would allow foreign-owned companies to grow beyond a 10% market share.

It is very interesting to note that the Conservatives claim that budget 2012 is about job creation, but the Parliamentary Budget Officer says that this budget would cost 43,000 Canadian jobs. In fact, the budget actually plans for unemployment to rise.

Bill C-38 would also gut workers' rights. As I indicated, it would repeal the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act, which was created in the 1930s to set minimum standards for wages and hours of labour for construction workers engaged in projects funded by the federal government. In practice, removing these minimum standards would allow employers to undercut prevailing wage rates. How would making it difficult for workers to provide for their families help create jobs?

The bill would also amend the Employment Equity Act so that it no longer would apply to federal contractors. This is a direct attack on women, aboriginal peoples and visible minorities, as I said. Ten years ago, it was recommended that the employment equity provision for the federal worker contract program be strengthened through legislation. Instead, the government is deliberately weakening these provisions.

Bill C-38 targets immigrants with its proposed changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Budget Implementation Act, 2008, by allowing for a returning of the applications from federal skilled workers who applied to come to Canada before February 27, 2008. It would cause the fees of these workers to be refunded. What is not clear is how and who decides who gets pushed out of line and whether or not it will be voluntary. This is not a fair way to deal with the immigration backlog. Many of these applicants have already waited for years to have their applications considered.

The bill would also amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to authorize the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to give instructions establishing and governing classes of permanent residents as part of the economic class.

As I mentioned previously, Bill C-38 proposes changes to OAS by gradually raising the age of eligibility to retire from 65 to 67. While the Conservatives claim that this is necessary, the reality is that OAS is sustainable as it is and we can absolutely afford to ensure all seniors are free from poverty and live in dignity.

This is about making smart choices and intelligent practical investments. It makes much more sense to invest in people, our seniors, not in megaprisons, fighter jets and tax cuts to profitable corporations.

New Democrats fundamentally disagree with this proposed change to the age of retirement, and seniors do too. According to CARP, its members soundly reject raising the OAS eligibility age and see better ways to help younger Canadians, such as increasing job opportunities. CARP has been clear and is on the record stating:

The age of eligibility for OAS should not be increased from 65 to 67. If there is a need to relieve budgetary pressures, there are other options such as the potential savings from health care reform or the reduced military spending once the Afghan mission is complete. A fundamental change such as raising the OAS eligibility age should be fully debated especially given that the issue was not put before the voters and the implementation date is far enough away to allow for measured deliberations.

Unfortunately, the government is curtailing debate and attempting to silence those who do not agree with it.

CARP is not alone. The National Pensioners and Senior Citizens Federation argues that the government is not being honest about the ability to pay the OAS obligations. Several economists, internal finance department studies and even the Parliamentary Budget Officer all conclude that the existing OAS obligations are sustainable. The government's own figures prove that OAS is affordable now and in the future, because after 2030, the cost of OAS as a proportion of GDP will decline rapidly and significantly.

Tragically, in its efforts to sell this so-called OAS crisis, the feds have found some seductive words to try to persuade young workers and make them believe that making matters worse for them in retirement is somehow a fairness issue. Talk about the big lie. The current generation is not just being squeezed by income inequality, but will also face declining retirement security in their senior years.

Quality pension plans are under attack in both the public and private sectors. Only one-third of Canadian adults can afford RRSPs. The CPP is not being upgraded, despite the near consensus of provincial finance ministers just over a year ago that it was important to make pension improvements. Now the government is preparing to make negative changes to OAS for future retirees.

It does not have to be this way. Spending, taxation and other public policy decisions are always, in the end, political decisions.

I am convinced the people of this country do not believe the government is doing the right thing. They have been very clear that they do not wish to see the decline of our OAS.

How could a responsible government ever contemplate such a thing while recklessly proceeding with the purchase of non-tendered fighter jets and corporate tax cuts that continue to deny the country the needed revenue to finance our social programs? For the fifth year in a row, the government has given huge tax breaks that are tacked on to the public debt. It is the next generation that will pay the bills and be denied a decent pension. Some fairness.

It is not just me or seniors' organizations that see the problems here. Edward Whitehouse, leader of the OECD pension team, has clearly stated:

The analysis suggests that Canada does not face major challenges of financial sustainability with its public pension schemes....Long-term projections show that public retirement-income provision is financially sustainable. Population ageing will naturally increase public pension spending, but the rate of growth is lower and the starting point better than many OECD countries. Moreover, the earnings-related public schemes (CPP/QPP) have built up substantial reserves to meet these future liabilities.

We need to listen to this with clarity. It is pension expertise. It is also essential that we consider the people who will be hurt--

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12:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order. The member's time has elapsed. Perhaps she could conclude through questions and comments.

The hon. member for Brandon—Souris.

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12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, I listened to my colleague's comments. I have heard it repeated over and over again. I am not sure if the thinking is that the more often it is said, people will start to believe it.

I have a very simple question for the member. She talked about the new prisons being built in Canada. I have searched everywhere and I am not having any luck finding a new prison. I wonder if she might be able to provide us with the address.

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Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

An hon. member

Osoyoos, British Columbia.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
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12:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please.

The hon. member for London—Fanshawe has the floor.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
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12:50 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I am grateful for the question, and I am grateful for the comment from my colleague.

In addition to the fact that capacity within our current prison system has been increased significantly by the government, at great cost, for unreported crimes, apparently Osoyoos, British Columbia has a new prison, thanks to the so-called crime bill.

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12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Speaker, I was struck by the member's words around old age security and the next generation paying the bills. I agree with those concerns, however, I want to talk about the next generation paying the bills with respect to damaging our environment.

We know from Michael Porter of Harvard Business School and many other researchers that companies that have strong regulations are more innovative and more profitable. We know that ecosystem services are incredibly valuable for the air we breathe, the ocean's sea food and the water we drink. They are very expensive to replace when we destroy them.

I wonder if the member could talk about human security in terms of having an environment that is sustainable over the long term and continuing to provide those services. Who is going to pay the bills if we screw things up as the Conservatives are doing?

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12:50 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, it is interesting that the government keeps talking about the economy versus the environment. There is no economy without a clean, sustainable environment. There is no future for our children or for any economy unless we get things right.

We know that right now billions of dollars have been set aside and billions have been spent to clean up the messes of the past, the various sites across the country that are polluted and are causing harm to human health, the land and the air. Billions have been spent because there was no protection and no environmental standards in the past. We are paying for that in spades.

Unfortunately, when the government trumpets how effective it has been in cleaning up these hot spots, it fails to mention it has only managed to get half of that cleanup done, and people are still in jeopardy. Reducing environmental protection now will mean that in the future, our children will pay a hefty price and our environment will be further jeopardized.

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12:50 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, in the House I have mostly bemoaned and raged against the changes to environmental laws, but I want to support what the member has been saying about changes to old age security.

How could such a fundamental change to our old age security system have been brought in when it was not debated during the last election campaign? It was only mooted at an international conference in Davos, and now we find our whole scheme for old age security is being changed.

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12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, on a point of order, I do not want to debate this, but I am sure the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands knows that the proposed new prison that is going into the Oliver-Osoyoos area is a provincial prison, not a federal prison.

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12:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

That is a matter of debate. It is not a point of order.

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12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
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12:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please.

The member for London—Fanshawe has 40 seconds to respond to that last question.

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12:55 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, this was done by stealth. The government never told Canadians it would raise the age of retirement. It never told seniors that future generations would be asked to pay this incredible price.

The young people the Conservatives keep talking about who will be paying this terrible debt are trying to raise families. They are trying to manage huge tuition debts, mortgages and a lack of job creation in the present. The reality is that they will not have a decent retirement at all. This bunch will, but not the seniors of the future.

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12:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. The hon. member for London—Fanshawe had the floor, and now the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation has the floor. I would ask the minister and all members to allow that member to speak.

Resuming debate, the hon. parliamentary secretary.

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12:55 p.m.

Newmarket—Aurora
Ontario

Conservative

Lois Brown Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on Bill C-38, the budget implementation act. Indeed, I am proud to participate in this debate, the longest ever allotted for a budget bill certainly within the last 20 years.

Our government's priority remains the economy. This budget is squarely focused on job creation and economic growth for today and into the future. It has been said before, and it is worth repeating, that the best way to reduce poverty is to ensure that Canadians have jobs. That is exactly what this budget will accomplish. How will we do that? By keeping taxes low, investing in our future, creating opportunity and returning to balanced budgets at an appropriate pace. At the same time, we are supporting our families, investing in our communities and taking care of our most vulnerable.

Our government has proven to be excellent managers of the economy. In fact, we are the envy of the world. As members know, Forbes magazine ranks us as the best country on the planet in which to invest and grow a business. That is not accidental, but a result of six years of focused work.

In 2006, members may recall, we launched Advantage Canada, our strategic and comprehensive economic plan to foster strong, sustainable, long-term growth. We set out to show the world who and what we are, a modern, dynamic and tolerant country. We did this by understanding and building on Canada's advantages.

Our tax advantage comes from setting out to reduce taxes for all Canadians and establishing the lowest tax rate on new business investment in the G7. Our fiscal advantage comes from charting a course to eliminate Canada's debt. I am proud to say that we paid down $37 billion before the global recession struck in 2008. Our entrepreneurial advantage comes from committing to reducing unnecessary regulation and red tape and increasing competition in the Canadian marketplace. Our knowledge advantage comes from creating the best educated, most skilled and most flexible workforce in the world. Our infrastructure advantage comes from building the modern infrastructure we need.

We set out four principles which would guide our policy decisions to improve our quality of life and make Canada a world leader for today and future generations.

We are focusing government on what it does best, so that it is responsible in its spending, efficient in its operations, effective in its results and accountable to taxpayers.

We are creating new opportunities and choices for people by creating incentives for people to excel right here at home, reducing taxes and investing in education, training and transition-to-work opportunities so that Canadians can achieve their potential and have the choices they want.

We are investing for sustainable growth by investing and seeking partnerships with the provinces and the private sector in strategic areas that contribute to strong economies, including primary scientific research, a clean environment and modern infrastructure.

We are freeing businesses to grow and succeed to create the right economic conditions to encourage firms to invest and flourish.

I raise these points today because it is important for Canadians to know that their government has a focused, long-range strategic plan committed to improving their quality of life. Our economic plan is working. Budget 2012 is a continuation of our unwavering commitment to keep Canada the envy of the world.

I am proud to be a member of a government that understands the fundamental economic principle that resources are limited, and that there is only one taxpayer. Unlike the opposition, we understand that governments cannot continually raise taxes. Indeed, government, just like all Canadians, has to keep its house in order. That is what we are doing with budget 2012. We are getting our house in order. Through generating ongoing savings from operational efficiencies and making modest reductions, we are on track to returning to balanced budgets over the medium term. I emphasize that we are doing this without reducing transfers to persons or to other levels of government.

In fact, federal transfers to provinces and territories will reach an all-time high this year of $59 billion, which is $3 billion more than last year.

The facts speak for themselves. We have created almost 700,000 net new jobs since the recession ended in July 2009. These are good jobs: 90% of them are full time. We are one of only two G7 countries to regain all of the jobs lost in the recession. We continue to garner global praise for our management of the economy.

I mentioned that our priorities are jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity. I would like to highlight some of the ways we are accomplishing these.

We are lowering taxes. Today the average family of four is paying $3,000 less in taxes than when our government took office in 2006. We did this by reducing the GST from 7% to 5%; allowing seniors to split their pensions between spouses; establishing a working income tax benefit for low-income, working Canadians; establishing the registered disability savings plan and the tax-free savings plan; reducing the lowest personal income tax rate from 16% to 15%; and bringing in measures such as the children's arts tax credit, the children's fitness tax credit and the very popular tax-free savings account.

We reduced business taxes. By reducing corporate taxes to 15%, we are now one of the most attractive places to invest, an incredible advantage we worked hard to achieve. We will see the benefits of this now and in the future. We cut the small business tax rate to 11% and we increased the threshold to $500,000. In total we have provided $60 billion in business tax relief, money that is available for reinvestment, purchasing and, most importantly, hiring.

We created new opportunities through trade. Since 2006 we have signed nine free trade agreements. These are benefiting people in Newmarket—Aurora and all of Canada. As a result, our businesses are benefiting from new economic opportunities that extend beyond our borders. We have exciting possibilities with many more agreements. They are progressing with the EU, India and Japan, just to name a few. Economic action plan 2012 proposes to intensify Canada's pursuit of new trade opportunities.

We are growing the economy by creating value-added jobs through innovation. Canada's long-term economic competitiveness in the emerging knowledge economy demands globally competitive businesses that can innovate, collaborate and create high-value jobs.

We are enacting a comprehensive plan to improve support for business innovation and to make Canadian firms compete better in the global marketplace. We are doing this by investing $1.1 billion to directly support research and development. We are refocusing the National Research Council and injecting an additional $110 million into that institute, which will include the doubling of support for the international research assistance program.

We are helping high-growth, innovative firms to access risk capital by making $500 million available for venture capital activities. This is most welcomed by the entrepreneurs in my riding of Newmarket—Aurora. Investments through programs like the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario and the industrial research assistance program have helped businesses expand, bring products to market and create jobs. Companies like Gum Products, Axiom, Your Solar Home and Treefrog International have all added high-value jobs and helped diversify our local economy.

We are making investments to assist more young people gain the skills and experience they need by investing in training, infrastructure and opportunity. We are putting $30 million into the opportunities fund to help Canadians with disabilities acquire work experience. We are making EI predictable for employers, allowing them to better make employment decisions while removing the disincentive to work at the same time.

We have also reduced red tape for businesses. Reducing red tape is good for everyone. It helps our businesses compete and creates jobs for Canadians. It represents a low-cost way to stimulate the economy and boost productivity. That is why we are working hard for Canadians.

I look forward to questions from my colleagues.

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1:05 p.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I take issue with what my colleague from the Conservative government just said in her speech. First, let me point out that we are in the process of debating an omnibus bill. This is a bill that contains measures that have nothing to do with the budget, including the Kyoto protocol, environmental assessment, fish habitat, and so forth.

The NDP feels that this is preventing parliamentarians from doing their jobs and providing oversight. We are being forced to vote on a bill that contains many measures that we do not have time to review.

I would like to know whether my colleague agrees that this is preventing parliamentarians from providing real oversight.

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1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Madam Speaker, this is the longest debate that any budget bill has had in nearly two decades. I would remind her that her colleague took up 13 hours of time in the House when about 78 other members could have had the opportunity to speak. He took up time with things that did not make any sense and had nothing to do with the budget bill. That was time that should have been spent by her and her colleagues debating the bill with the government.

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1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, while the parliamentary secretary claims that the government is looking after the most vulnerable, in some parts of our country families eat only one meal a day instead of three and, more often than we would like to admit, some family members eat while others go hungry. When this happens, children may stop growing and they may be too hungry to learn. When they are older, they may be undereducated and unable to work to their full potential. No family should face such choices in Canada, not in a country of such enormous wealth.

We signed the World Declaration on Nutrition and it is up to us to ensure the promise. Children do not want excuses. They just want food to fill their tummies. We need a pan-Canadian nutrition program in this country.

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1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the efforts that our government has made in that regard. Since 2006, we have been working to put money back in the hands of average Canadian families.

I will tell the member a few of the things that we have done. We cut the personal income tax rate to 15% and removed over one million Canadians from the tax rolls altogether. We increased the amount that Canadians can earn tax free. We reduced the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%, putting money back in the hands of average Canadian families.

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1:10 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to focus on what is happening with foreign affairs, one area where this budget is quite regressive, although there are many. My colleagues have talked about the process itself and the fact that this is not a budget bill but an omnibus bill that is very ominous in what it would do in terms of regulation.

There is one area that we have not discussed as much as I think we should and that is the killing of Radio Canada International. A previous government tried to do this and it was resuscitated. Radio Canada International is our voice in the world. Every commonwealth and G8 country has it. The government is killing it in this budget.

The member has a responsibility when it comes to international affairs. How can she stand by and watch as our voice is being silenced on the international stage?

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1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Newmarket—Aurora, ON

On the contrary, Madam Speaker. I think Canada's voice around the world is very strong. Just from my own work in the portfolio dealing with international co-operation, Canada has a remarkable reputation. I have been in many countries where we have CIDA projects and there is incredible gratitude toward Canada. The voice that we are carrying in those countries is enormous.

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Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Hull—Aylmer. I must tell her in advance that I will have to interrupt her at 1:15 p.m.

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1:10 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Madam Speaker, things are looking very bad. I really mean it. The Conservatives have invoked closure for the 18th time on a bill that is over 400 pages long.

Bill C-38 is no mere budget implementation bill. It is an omnibus bill that amends at least 60 Canadian laws. The proposed measures are so numerous and will have such serious consequences that people will be feeling their effects for decades, not just over the coming year.

We need enough time to study such a far-reaching bill. If the Conservatives truly believed that the measures in this bill were reasonable, they would split it up and make real debate possible. Instead, they would rather do things on the sly. What are the Conservatives really afraid of?

Canadians are fed up with the government's lack of transparency. The Conservatives should lay their cards on the table. But that is not what they are doing. By using Bill C-38 as a Trojan Horse, the Conservatives have made it clear that they have a hidden agenda. Our fellow citizens want all of the necessary information about the proposed measures. They have the right to know. But being transparent is not how the Conservatives operate, and all Canadians will end up paying the price for that.

Bill C-38 reduces the Auditor General's oversight powers. This is the same Auditor General who said two weeks ago that Conservative ministers knew the real cost of the F-35s. How can the Conservatives possibly justify to Canadians this decision to slash away at an institution as important and respected as the Auditor General? My constituents and I find this very disturbing.

In terms of jobs, Bill C-38 only makes matters worse; it does not improve anything. The Parliamentary Budget Officer recently confirmed that the most recent budget will lead to the loss of up to 43,000 jobs by 2014. From a strictly economic standpoint, every member of this House should be considering the consequences of so many lost jobs on the economy in our communities and on Canada's economic recovery.

When a factory that employs 1,000 people shuts down, the socio-economic repercussions are felt in that region immediately. Suppliers, small and medium-sized businesses and families are all affected. What the Conservatives are proposing is the equivalent of closing 43 factories that employ 1,000 people each, all across Canada.

The Prime Minister made a commitment to Canadians to create jobs, not to increase unemployment, which is what he is doing. In my riding of Hull—Aylmer, several thousand people—people who have families—are going to lose their main source of income, all because of the Conservatives' austerity budget.

Meanwhile, the government continues to claim that its top priority is employment. How can it seriously tell Canadians that its priority is job creation, when it plans to cut 43,000 jobs? Any good economist will agree that job losses have a negative impact on household spending. When Canadian families are not spending money, small businesses are forced to close. And when small businesses shut down, people lose their jobs. It is a vicious circle, as we know. The Conservatives should know that.

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1:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

I must interrupt the hon. member.

It being 1:15 p.m., pursuant to order made Thursday, May 3, 2012, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the second reading stage of the bill now before the House.

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

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1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

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1:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

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

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1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

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1:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

All those opposed will please say nay.

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1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

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1:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 45, the recorded division stands deferred until Monday, May 14, 2012, at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

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1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Madam Speaker, I ask that you see the clock at 1:30 p.m.

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1:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Is there consent to see the clock at 1:30 p.m.?

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1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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1:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

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.

Nutrition Among Children
Private Members' Business

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) continue its dialogue with the provinces, territories, health stakeholders, industry and Canadians to promote and maintain healthy weight for children and youth; (b) encourage discussions to address the factors that lead to obesity, such as social and physical environments, physical activity, as well as the promotion of and access to nutritious food; (c) encourage individuals and organizations to commit to participating in the promotion of a healthy weight; and (d) consider the federal, provincial and territorial framework for action to promote healthy weight entitled “Curbing Childhood Obesity”, that resulted from the endorsement of the “Declaration on Prevention and Promotion” by the federal, provincial and territorial Ministers of Health and Health promotion/Healthy Living, as the basis for action to address obesity, particularly in children, promoting physical activity and making healthy food choices.

Madam Speaker, first I will thank my seatmate and friend, the dedicated member for Okanagan—Shuswap, for being the seconder of this motion on a topic that is dear to me and to the good and wise people I represent in this place.

I am very pleased to address this House and all Canadians on this day, my 2,301st day as the servant of Ottawa–Orléans, in order to raise an issue of paramount importance to the future of our fine country: child nutrition.

“Youth is the smile of the future in the presence of an unknown quantity, which is itself”, wrote legendary poet and playwright Victor Hugo in his masterpiece, Les Misérables.

In his famous poem, Rabbi Ben Ezra, the English poet and playwright, Robert Browning, wrote:

Therefore I summon age
To grant youth's heritage,

In the past few decades, we have witnessed the rise of a worrisome phenomenon: more and more children and young people with a weight problem.

In 1953, when Madame Jeannette Dupuis-Desjarlais was my grade 1 teacher, very few of my classmates were chubby. That is no longer the case.

Twenty-five years later, when I served on the Ottawa-Carleton health council, the trend we are seeing today was already apparent.

I believe it is important for us to pay special attention to this problem, which affects all of us, and for us to begin discussion among parliamentarians. It deserves a national discussion.

This is why I am pleased to speak today to my private member's motion, Motion No. 319. It addresses the promotion and maintenance of healthy weights for children and youth. It encourages the federal government to continue to work in areas that are aligned with current priorities and activities following from curbing child obesity, a federal, provincial and territorial framework for action to promote healthy weights. I do not know why they have long titles like that.

Canada is facing an obesity epidemic, mainly in children and young adults. The rate of obesity in children and young persons has almost tripled in the past 25 years.

More than one in four children and young persons in Canada are overweight or obese: one in four.

These rates are even higher in aboriginal communities.

The Public Health Agency of Canada warns that childhood obesity increases the risk of obesity later in life, as well as the early onset of a number of illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure and all kinds of others that we cannot even pronounce.

The repercussions of what can be called the obesity epidemic threaten both the health and the economy of our country and because, as I have just shown, the weight problem among young people has worsened in the past decades, Canada's future could suffer.

Links have been established between obesity and the incidence of asthma, gall bladder disorders, osteoarthritis, chronic back pain, cardiovascular illnesses and certain types of cancer, including colon, kidney, breast, endometrial, ovarian and pancreatic cancer.

We have to invest in the future of our children. It is critical that we ensure that everyone understands the importance of promoting and maintaining a healthy weight in the early years.

In the May 8, 2012 edition of the Journal de Montréal, journalist Héloïse Archambault wrote about how young persons, particularly young women, attempt to lose weight. In her article on teenagers who want to be thin, she quotes Jacinthe Côté, a psychology professor at Université du Québec à Chicoutimi and the author of a study on how young persons try to lose weight.

Her alarming observations are a concern. According to the study, while three out of four young women between the ages of four and eighteen are unhappy with their figure, what they do in an attempt to become thin is frightening.

The most popular weight-loss method include, for nearly 45% of young women, skipping meals. More than one in five young women decide not to eat all day. Dieting, starting to smoke or going back to smoking, taking appetite suppressants or laxatives and vomiting after meals are also among the attempted solutions.

By taking such drastic measures, these young women are jeopardizing part of their future. Is that the sort of approach we want our young people to take in order to lose weight?

The situation is an economic burden on Canada and if nothing is done, it will become increasingly problematic.

The direct health care costs of overweight and obesity have been estimated at $6 billion a year and the indirect costs are roughly an additional $1.1 billion per year in Canada. I am sure that the various levels of government have other uses for what is, on its face, taxpayer money.

Canada is not alone in this situation. Many developed countries are facing similar obesity trends. This is one of the reasons we are seeing renewed momentum to address chronic diseases, including risk factors such as overweight and obesity, on a global scale.

Last September, for example, Canada participated in a United Nations meeting on chronic diseases. At that meeting there was clear recognition that obesity is a global health problem, and countries agreed to make it a priority. While it is not the role of government to force people to adopt particular lifestyles, the government must endeavour to raise Canadians’ awareness of this situation and must become involved in the search for solutions.

In this search for solutions, the government is already moving forward.

Families that register their children in physical activity programs are entitled to a $500 income tax credit each year. The government also funds Participaction, an agency that helps Canadians adopt healthy lifestyles through physical activity and sport. One year ago today, this highly beneficial agency honoured two young constituents from Ottawa—Orléans.

Alexis and Loïc Gagnon-Clément, two brothers studying at Garneau high school and St. Joseph elementary school respectively in Orléans, were the winners of the Dare2Move Your Own Generation Teen Challenge.

In this contest, ParticipACTION invited young people across Canada to produce a short video to educate young Canadians about the inactivity crisis. In the winning video, Loïc plays the role of an obese tweenie, using humour to illustrate times when physical inactivity is a drag.

After the scenarios, the two students present scary statistics about the health of Canadian young persons.

This is exactly the kind of program the government should be encouraging.

My motion is meant to encourage this dialogue among all the sectors, particularly health care, the economy, the environment and education. It also encourages individuals, families, industry, NGOs and governments across the country to take action and to raise awareness.

First, this motion encourages the federal government to continue its dialogue with the provinces, territories, health stakeholders, the industry and Canadians to promote and maintain healthy weights among children and youth.

This motion also calls on the federal government to encourage discussions that address the factors leading to obesity.

For example, we must expand the dialogue to include key areas for action in order to promote strategies for building social and physical environments that encourage physical activity and promote healthy eating and access to nutritious foods.

My motion calls on the federal government to encourage individuals and organizations to commit to participating in the promotion of healthy weights.

We know that engagement and collaboration are fundamental aspects of mobilizing action.

This brings me to the final element of my motion.

The fourth part of this motion urges the federal government to use this framework as the basis for action plans to address obesity, particularly in children, and to promote active living and healthy food choices. This will ensure that governments continue to work together in three specific areas: first, to promote healthy eating and active lifestyles; second, to create favourable environments; and third, to promote multi-sector partnerships.

Canada is sending a clear message to the rest of the world that everyone has a part to play in healthy weights.

Members may know that in January 2010, I started a gym fitness and nutrition program. My goal is to be in good shape for the years to come.

Getting started at my age is not easy. I still have a lot to learn about healthy eating. Habits are hard to break, especially for people in their sixties.

In rising in the House to speak to members today, I earnestly hope that the Canada of the future, which this motion addresses, will have the means to make wiser choices than I did. While it is true that it is never too late to change one's habits, efforts are a lot easier to muster with the energy of youth.

In walking the walk—not just talking the talk—I am going to take Canada’s Food Guide in hand as my pilgrim’s staff and visit schools in the constituency of Ottawa–Orléans that I serve, to take part in the promotion and discussion projects described in the motion I have moved in this House.

Over the next few weeks, all the schools in the constituency of Ottawa—Orléans, from St. Peter High School to Gisèle-Lalonde, by way of Cairine Wilson, will be invited to take part in this activity that I propose. I invite all hon. members, regardless of political stripe, to do the same.

Obesity is a complex phenomenon, and addressing its causes is a long-term goal that will require not only changes in individual behaviour, but also innovative action by governments, industry, non-governmental organizations and other partners.

We each have a role to play.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the employees of Health Canada for their support in this project.

I would also like to thank my staff for their support: Lynne Bernard, Andrej Sakic, Gina Vilsaint, Amanda Weir, Colette Yelle and my executive assistant, Brian Michaud.

I hope all members of the House will support my motion and take part in these discussions and awareness projects to further the important cause of child nutrition.

Young people are our future. Let us not allow this dark cloud to loom over them.

I thank you, Madam Speaker, for your kind attention and assure you that I shall take questions from my colleagues with the same respect.

Nutrition Among Children
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Ottawa—Orléans for presenting this initiative in the House.

I noted that he said in his speech that it is time to walk the walk, and not just talk the talk. As we all know, twice now, the government has created expert panels on health, specifically to address the problem of obesity: in 2005, a task force on trans fats and, in 2009, just a little over two years ago, an expert panel on sodium. In both cases, the Minister of Health shut down those panels without implementing their recommendations.

I would like to know my colleague's thoughts on this. Since it is time to now walk the walk, will he speak with the Minister of Health so that she follows the recommendations of her own experts?

Nutrition Among Children
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Madam Speaker, I sincerely thank my colleague for pointing out these things.

On this side of the House, we cannot be held responsible for decisions made by previous governments—governments that have since been thrown out.

However, with regard to an action plan on health—primarily youth and children's health—we must not forget the tax credit for physical fitness, which was offered to all Canadians. We have a myriad of advice that we can give to young people, including of course Canada's Food Guide.

Any warnings the members can provide to us would be very useful.

Nutrition Among Children
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for raising student nutrition in the House.

Child hunger is a major issue in Canada. That is why we need a pan-Canadian nutrition strategy. We remain one of the few industrialized countries without a national breakfast program.

Physical inactivity is also a major public health issue in Canada. Only 9% of boys and only 4% of girls meet the Canada physical guidelines. There is a real disconnect between the government's articulation of the importance of the childhood inactivity crisis and its leadership and investment.

We need a comprehensive pan-Canadian strategy to promote physical activity. We need to commit to that strategy, and we need the investments. Stakeholders across the country have been calling for that.

Nutrition Among Children
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Madam Speaker, I am not sure I heard a question in there. I think I discern some support for which I thank the hon. member for Etobicoke North.

It is important to have national strategies. This is why it is important for the provincial and territorial governments and other agencies responsible to get together with the Government of Canada to get on with it. Frankly, this is why I am standing today.

I appreciate that the hon. member stood in support.

Nutrition Among Children
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's remarks. As the mother of a 17-year-old daughter myself, I realize the importance of activity and how important it is that the government has put forward initiatives to promote physical activity among young people.

What are my colleague's goals and what should be the goals of this kind of strategy? In other words, why is the member putting it forward?

Nutrition Among Children
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Quite frankly, Madam Speaker, that is a very reasonable question.

In everything that we do, our first goal should always be pedagogy. My line is this. I want to teach young people not to make the mistakes I have made, to eat more healthy foods, to not give in to the immediate pleasures that unhealthy foods could give them and to not starve themselves in the process,

Nutrition Among Children
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Speaker, first of all I would like to once again thank my colleague from Ottawa—Orléans for this motion.

Obesity is a chronic disease that is becoming increasingly prevalent among children and youth. Today, 26% of children between the ages of 2 and 17 are overweight or obese. Setting aside the statistics, we are dealing with children who are made to feel self-conscious by others. In addition to living with the physical problems caused by obesity, such as diabetes and respiratory difficulty, overweight children are often the targets of teasing and bullying in the street or schoolyard. The insults often leave permanent scars.

A study by Dr. Wendy Craig, a professor of psychology at Queen's University in Kingston, indicates that obese children are more often victims of abuse, which robs them of their confidence and self-esteem.

Dr. Rebecca Puhl, a professor at Yale University in Connecticut, has also studied the psychological effects of childhood obesity. In addition to affecting their self-image, abuse fuels their unhealthy eating habits and inactivity.

Childhood obesity also increases the risk of adult obesity. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, an obese 4-year-old is 20% more likely to become an obese adult. This rate increases to an alarming 80% for adolescents. Over the span of a quarter century, the rates of obesity among children and youth have almost tripled in Canada. We are now seeing children with “adult” problems such as high cholesterol, sleep apnea and high blood pressure.

We must remember that the causes of obesity can be a combination of social, cultural, environmental and economic factors and that some populations are at greater risk than others. Aboriginal populations have a high rate of obesity. Approximately 20% of aboriginal children aged 6 to 14 living off-reserve are obese. And for children living on-reserve the rate is even higher—26%.

One of the causes is that it is difficult for aboriginal people to access healthy food that is affordable. For example, a litre of pop is often three times cheaper than a litre of juice or milk.

Healthy and nutritious foods—fresh fruits and vegetables, for example—are more expensive and harder to find the further away we get from large urban centres. The rate of obesity is often higher in rural areas and in the far north of Canada.

Access to nutritious food is therefore a major part of the problem. Many people cannot afford to buy these foods. Over 800,000 Canadians need to use food banks to survive and, today, over 2.5 million Canadians are affected by food insecurity.

Nevertheless, the right to food is recognized by most of the major international conventions that Canada has signed. The first of these to come to mind may be the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but there is also the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 24 of this binding treaty requires states parties to “combat disease and malnutrition...through the provision of adequate nutritious foods and clean drinking-water”.

The situation in Canada has deteriorated to the point where the UN rapporteur on the right to food is here in Canada, and has been since Tuesday, on a mission to assess the situation. The rapporteur will consider access to healthy and affordable food for vulnerable groups such as children, aboriginal people and people in remote areas. He will examine factors such as obesity, malnutrition, and food production and distribution.

Today, junk food is everywhere and is offered at low prices by large fast food chains, while healthy, nutritious, locally produced foods are often more expensive and more difficult to find. Some elementary and secondary school cafeterias still have french fries, hot dogs and hamburgers on their menus. Some snack bars are strategically located close to schools. Young people simply have to cross the street at lunch time to get a poutine. This certainly does not help combat childhood obesity.

Physical inactivity is also an important contributing factor to the growing problem of childhood obesity. Many parents cannot afford to register their children in sports or to buy the equipment needed for these activities. In small communities, there is often not enough funding to build sports infrastructure. Even the way our cities are designed does not encourage people to be active. This motion makes it possible to continue the public debate on the critical issue of obesity. But right now, we need more than debate: we need to take action. All the experts are saying so.

Obesity is not just a health problem. It is a problem that is costly for society as a whole. A recent analysis conducted by the Public Health Agency of Canada showed that the total cost of obesity is estimated to be $4.3 billion—$1.8 billion in direct health care costs and $2.5 billion in indirect costs.

There is no more time to lose. Studies, expert committees and recommendations have been piling up for years, but the government still refuses to do anything about it.

This motion is based on the Declaration on Prevention and Promotion signed by federal, provincial and territorial health ministers, and on the framework for action on curbing childhood obesity. The declaration states that population health depends on environmental, social, economic and cultural factors in society. We need measures to tackle the social and environmental conditions I have just described: taking into account remoteness, the price of food, the need for infrastructure that supports physical activity and junk food regulation, among other things.

Unfortunately, I am not aware of any useful measures the government has introduced recently to address these issues. Worse still, Bill C-38 undermines all existing regulations that might help people achieve better health.

I would also like to remind the House that, in 2005, as I mentioned earlier in my question, the federal government set up a trans fat task force, which recommended limiting trans fat content to 2% of total fat content for all vegetable oils and spreadable margarines, and 5% for all other foods.

In 2007, the government agreed to all of the recommendations and gave the industry two years to voluntarily reduce trans fat content in its food products. Some companies took action, while others did nothing. In 2009, the Minister of Health, the current Conservative minister, promised to take further action, but we learned recently that the plan to draft regulations was aborted. In February, a research centre obtained documents under the Access to Information Act showing that in 2010, the minister ordered the regulatory plan scrapped.

Why? Such measures would have helped fight child poverty. That was one of the recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Health in 2007 when it studied the issue. The committee also recommended establishing childhood obesity reduction targets to bring the obesity rate down to 6% by 2020. The committee also recommended implementing measures with the first nations to address problems of access to food.

All of these measures could make a real difference in the fight against childhood obesity.

The NDP has always pushed for regulations governing trans fat content in foods. In 2004, the member for Winnipeg Centre introduced a private member's bill that was adopted unanimously.

Another group of experts, who studied sodium in processed foods, also made recommendations to the minister two years ago. We know that high sodium intake is a significant risk factor for high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks. The working group recommended an annual reduction of 5% in sodium intake until 2016.

Guess what? The government decided to disband the working group. In December 2010, the minister said that she no longer needed the group. We do not know what strategy the government will adopt with respect to reducing sodium in food.

One member of the group, who is also the national coordinator of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, had this to say:

What is worrisome, is not just that the group was dismantled, but that the minister has remained silent about the future of our recommendations. This suggests that the department is not on the same page as the group's experts.

So why is this government afraid of experts, researchers and scientific facts? Why set up working groups on trans fats, sodium, the environment, the F-35s and others, and then dismantle all these groups and reject all their recommendations? Is this government protecting the interests of some—industry, to name just one—to the detriment of all Canadians?

In short, with regard to what we are discussing today—childhood obesity—I will support the hon. member's motion, but at the same time, I would like to remind the House that, although the causes of obesity are complex, we know what can be done to tackle this issue. The time for debate and discussion is over: it is time for action.

I hope this government will take the action necessary to combat childhood obesity in order to protect children's health today and in the years to come, and will take into account the recommendations by the expert panels that it put in place itself.

Nutrition Among Children
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in this debate. I would like to thank the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans for bringing this issue to the attention of the House of Commons so that we could have this important discussion.

I am very happy to have an opportunity to participate in this debate around childhood obesity, something that is, unfortunately, a problem for too many Canadian families. It is an issue that was included as part of the health committee's 2011-12 study on health, health promotion and disease prevention.

The Standing Committee on Health also tabled a report on obesity in 2007 that called for a public awareness campaign, simple label packaging and the removal of transfats from the Canadian diet.

Those of us who are parents know the challenges of raising children in an age where kids are more interested in playing video games than in going outside to play catch, or street hockey, or ride their bikes. I am pleased to say that tomorrow I will be out with my 15-year-old son and his venturers company, as it is called, cycling in the St. Margaret's Bay area, partly in the riding of my colleague from South Shore—St. Margaret's and partly in the Halifax West riding. I am looking forward to that. However, I know what a challenge it is for all parents to get their kids away from their Game Boys, their XBoxes--

Nutrition Among Children
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

An hon. member

CPAC.

Nutrition Among Children
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

CPAC, as my friend says. It is not too difficult to get them away from watching CPAC. That seems to be pretty easy. That is a pretty quick channel click it seems to me, as it is for many people, but, hopefully not too many at this very second, although we have to expect some of that too.

There are also plenty of statistics to back up what we know about obesity and they do not paint a very nice picture. However, I believe most of us are familiar with these very shocking statistics. Children age 2 to 17 have an obesity rate of 26% today. That is up from 15% in 1979. That is an enormous and scary increase. Youth age 12 to 17 have a much higher rate of obesity these days. First nations children and youth off reserve have a combined obesity rate of 41%. Sadly, the statistics in Nova Scotia are no better. Approximately one in three Nova Scotian children between the ages of 2 and 17 are overweight or obese. Of course, as recent studies have noted, this is tough on parents. Parents worry about this, as we should.

The studies indicate that approximately one-third of normal weight 20-year-olds will become overweight within eight years. If the trend continues, in 20 years we can expect 70% of 35 to 44-year-olds in Canada to be overweight or obese versus 57% who are currently overweight or obese. That is an enormous change and we should be concerned about it.

There are significant economic costs for Canada as a result of obesity. We ought to reflect on what this means for life expectancy. We have the government saying that it needs to increase the age for receiving the old age supplement because people will be living so much longer. That flies in the face of what we are talking about and what my hon. colleague from Ottawa—Orléans has said about this very issue. He has talked about the increase in diabetes, osteoarthritis, pancreatic cancer and a whole range of other ailments and diseases. I think he would agree with me that we can expect that all of this, along with the increases I have talked about that are foreseen in obesity, overall, at this point at least, will have, unfortunately, a negative impact on the life expectancy of Canadians.

That is something that surely the government ought not to be ignoring when it is looking at what it is doing, put aside the fact entirely that there is no basis for what it is doing anyway. The Parliamentary Budget Officer, the OECD and the government's own experts are saying that there is no need, that our old age security system is economically sustainable.

The government will use all kinds of inflated numbers ignoring the fact that inflation will change the value of our dollar. It kind of treats it as if a 2012 dollar will be the same as a 2032 dollar. We know, for example, that a 1980 dollar is not the same thing as a 2012 dollar.

Inflation changes what that means. One has to find a way to look at this and say what it will cost in today's dollars, which of course makes it a lot less dramatic than the picture the government paints.

In 2001 the direct and indirect costs associated with obesity were estimated at $4.3 billion, so this is a really big problem economically as well as health-wise and socially for our country.

I think we can all agree we need to build on and support existing initiatives. For example, there are provincial strategies such as the active kids, healthy kids and healthy eating strategy in Nova Scotia. We should be focusing on policies such as food and nutrition policies for public schools and regulated child care settings to make sure people are getting the nutrition they need.

We have all experienced the challenge of finding a place to eat a healthy meal out or buy a healthy snack. An awful lot of what we see offered in a lot of places is certainly not healthy and tends to help make us obese.

I think most of us have been guilty sometimes of not eating as well as we should. I sometimes say that I am on the Y diet: I only eat sweets on days that end in "y". I hope my wife is not listening, because she is really tired of that joke. It is a good thing I exercise a lot; otherwise, I would be feeling the effects of that diet. I try not to overdo it and I eat lots of vegetables too.

It is hard for a person with a nice-looking oatmeal chocolate chip cookie or brownie in front of them not to want to enjoy it and to choose instead to have a piece of celery or broccoli, as they ought to do. If we are talking about desserts, of course we they should choose some fruit. Most of us do not do enough of that. We need to make those choices more often and be good examples for our young people.

Marketing strategies and food companies have researched every aspect of how to entice adults and kids alike from biological, psychological and physiological perspectives, from all those levels that go deeper than just the basic conscious decision of whether to choose one thing or another and whether to indulge or resist. I do not blame companies for doing that, but we have to make difficult choices. It is hard, but I understand they are out to sell their products and are doing so in very clever ways. I think we have to be aware of those things. Perhaps the most important thing is understanding the impact of advertising on us and the kinds of messaging being used.

Nova Scotia families need resources and information in this fashion to provide their children and families with healthy meals and snacks and to make those right decisions.

It is not surprising that I support many of the measures proposed in this motion. We must encourage discussion to remedy the factors that contribute to obesity, such as the social and physical environment and the lack of physical activity.

We need to do more when it comes to the promotion of and access to nutritious food. We must encourage individuals and organizations to commit to participating in the promotion of a healthy weight by exercising. Frankly, I think it is important for MPs to be seen out getting exercise.

Of course, the federal government must continue discussions with provinces, stakeholders and individuals regarding childhood obesity and addressing factors leading to this epidemic.

While this motion does not call for any new action by the federal government, I hope it will nevertheless treat it seriously and move forward on issues such as having a sodium reduction plan and regulating trans fats and energy drinks, all of which the Conservative government has refused to act on.

While I would commend the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans for bringing this motion forward, it is clear he has a lot work to do to convince his own colleagues of the merits of this motion and to convince them to take real action on what he is talking about. The government likes to talk the talk on childhood obesity and healthy living, but it refuses to walk the walk or perhaps run the run, if I may say so.

The Minister of Health refuses to regulate the amount of trans fats in foods despite the evidence showing that the voluntary system is not working, for example, the drug shortage reporting system. She has failed to move forward on a sodium reduction strategy, et cetera. There is quite a way to go.

I do thank my hon. colleague for bringing the motion forward.

Nutrition Among Children
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak in support of Motion No. 319, put forward by my hon. colleague, the member for Ottawa—Orléans.

This is an issue which I feel passionately about due to my work as a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and as an advocate for children and youth. “Reaching for the Top”, published in 2008, really focused on these issues.

Good public policy is not about ignoring issues when they exist. Good public policy is about taking a look at what is really going on and then taking action to address the root causes of these issues.

The motion is about taking action. I commend my colleague for bringing it forward. The motion calls on the government to continue promoting and maintaining healthy weights for children and youth through a number of means, including continuing dialogue with all sectors of society, encouraging discussions about the factors that lead to obesity, encouraging Canadians and organizations to promote healthy weight for children, and building on the federal, provincial and territorial framework for action to promote healthy weight.

Rates of obesity among Canadian children and youth have tripled in the last 25 years. More than one in four children are now overweight or obese, and rates are even higher among aboriginal populations.

The costs of these trends are high. Obesity is strongly linked to high rates of type 2 diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Even more concerning, children and youth are being increasingly diagnosed in places like my clinic with what have been traditionally known as solely adult diseases.

These trends translate into direct costs for our health care system and put an ever increasing burden on the provincial health care systems.

In 2006 obesity-related chronic illnesses accounted for over $7 billion in direct and indirect costs. This figure is likely an underestimate of the true impact.

Being obese and overweight also has a huge impact on Canadians, particularly children and youth. That is why addressing these risk factors early is a large part of the solution.

The strength of Motion No. 319 is its acknowledgement of the important foundational work we have already done to tackle this issue. The government has taken action.

Two key milestones will guide future work on childhood obesity. These milestones were endorsed by federal, provincial and territorial health ministers in 2010, followed by ministers responsible for sports, physical activity and recreation in 2011.

The first milestone is the declaration on prevention and promotion. This declaration is a statement of the ministers' vision to work together across all sectors to promote healthy living. At the same time, the declaration makes disease, disability and injury prevention priorities for action.

The second milestone is on curbing childhood obesity, a federal, provincial and territorial framework for action to promote healthy weights. Through this framework Canada's ministers of health agreed to make childhood obesity a collective priority and to focus efforts on three pillars. The first is to make the environment where children live, learn and play more supportive of physical activity and healthy eating. The second is to identify the risks of obesity in children and address them early. The third is to increase the availability and accessibility of nutritious foods.

This framework is strongly rooted in results. Ministers have committed to measuring and reporting the collective progress, thus ensuring value for dollars spent and public accountability.

Reversing childhood obesity trends is an important focus that requires action from all sectors of society, including governments, industry, communities, families and individuals. The task of organizations such as the Sandbox Project and others across the country is to focus on bringing these sectors together to provide leadership in this area.

Consistent with the motion, the Government of Canada has been a leader and a catalyst in moving the dialogue forward among these groups. This is critical because this dialogue identifies the actions that are required to promote healthy weights.

Moving forward, we will continue building on these successes while fostering collaboration and continued dialogue across all sectors. One thing we have already learned from these cross-sectoral discussions is the profound impact that social and physical environments have on healthy weights.

By promoting healthy eating and physical activity early on and in places where children live, learn and play, we can reduce the risk of childhood obesity in the future.

In keeping with this motion, the government is involved in a number of cross-sectoral initiatives that target these environments and support children in learning important lifelong healthy habits.

Currently federal, provincial and territorial governments are collaborating through the Pan-Canadian Joint Consortium for School Health to support comprehensive school health programs. These programs provide a supportive school environment for healthier eating, increased physical activity and healthier weights among children and youth. We have contributed to these projects aimed at getting more families walking and wheeling to and from school by bringing together community stakeholders to identify barriers to active transport.

Families and communities play an essential role in supporting the attainment of healthy weights for children and youth. To this end, the Government of Canada has made major investments in communities and families to support healthier lifestyles and increased physical activity.

One of these examples is the children's fitness tax credit, an initiative that I was proud to chair the expert panel for, which encourages parents to get their children out and active and to participate in sports and programs. This tax initiative offsets those costs. This model initiative has since been emulated by several provinces and territories that have introduced similar tax credits to get children off of the PlayStation and onto the playground.

The government supports the development of community spaces and activities. Through its recreational infrastructure Canada program, we have given funding to municipalities across Canada to improve and develop sports and recreational facilities. In turn, these facilities provide Canadian families with the benefits of community-based physical activity.

Through ParticipACTION, a national leader in physical activity and sports participation in Canada, we promoted healthier lifestyles for Canadians through physical activity and sport. Participaction works with partners in the not-for-profit, public and private sectors on a range of campaigns, tool kits and knowledge exchange initiatives to inspire Canadians to become more physically active. I am sure everyone in the House remembers doing the flexed-arm hang and other running activities in order to get out and active.

Consistent with the motion, the government has also developed a number of tools that provide Canadians with the information they need to make healthier choices around physical activity and healthy eating. For example, the Get Active tip sheets help Canadians incorporate regular physical activity into their lifestyles, while the Eat Well and Be Active tool kit supports the health and educational sectors to teach children and adults about healthy lifestyles.

Healthy weights is a theme for a number of the government's community-based initiatives, the Canadian diabetes strategy being among them. As well, we have the aboriginal diabetes initiative, the nutrition north Canada program, the Canada prenatal nutrition program, aboriginal head start, the healthy living fund and the innovation strategy for healthier weights.

As well, the community action programs for children are serving vulnerable Canadian children across the country and their families by supporting and promoting healthier lifestyles, including risk awareness for factors of unhealthy diets and physical inactivity.

These are all steps in the right direction, but more needs to be done. When tackling obesity, it is essential to identify challenges early so that children and families have the support they need.

A key component is the federal, provincial and territorial framework for action to promote healthy weights, which is supported by Motion No. 319. It will ensure this information is in place and accessible to decision-makers. To this end, we are investing in understanding trends and filling knowledge gaps.

Through Statistics Canada's Canadian community health survey and the Canadian health measures survey, we have access to information about the healthy behaviours and health outcomes of Canadian children. Canada also funds the national portion of an international survey on the health behaviours of school-aged children. This survey compares the health and health-related behaviours, including physical activity, of young people in 43 jurisdictions, which helps improve our understanding of physical activity levels by providing comparable international figures. Data from these surveys, along with other measures, help us determine the effectiveness of our actions.

In addition, our government has invested in obesity-related research. Through CIHR and its Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes, we have invested over $34 million in 2010-11 alone. This research will help build our knowledge and understanding of obesity and support communities in addressing the challenges in improving health across the country.

I know that in my community of Simcoe—Grey, the YMCA in Collingwood and the physical activity teachers in Collingwood Collegiate Institute, Jean Vanier High School and the Banting Memorial High School all benefit from this research.

Under the federal, territorial and provincial framework, we have continued working with partners to gather information on obesity trends and to track the progress of actions taken by health educators, by the recreation sector and by all levels of government. These include reporting to Canadians on key indicators that track trends and factors contributing to childhood obesity. Canada's ministers of health will report every two years on the progress of this work.

I want to commend this member and the government for the action they are taking in this area. It recognizes the importance of encouraging physical activity as a key to reducing the risks of obesity and chronic illness in Canada's children and youth. Though much groundwork has been laid, more needs to be done to curb childhood obesity and to help children and youth attain a healthy weight. This requires a collaborative effort over time.

The motion before us recognizes the essential elements to this path, the importance of collaboration and dialogue across all sectors, the role we all have in creating healthy environments and supporting healthy weight, and the need to continue building on the foundational components put in place by the federal–provincial–territorial framework. By this motion, we can advance continued discussions and actions in the promotion of—

Nutrition Among Children
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. I regret the hon. member's time has lapsed.

The hon. member for Beaches—East York. I should let him know ahead of time that I will have to interrupt him at 2:15 p.m.

Nutrition Among Children
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Madam Speaker, I am rising today in support of M-319. I must tell members and my colleague from Ottawa—Orléans that my support for this motion is tepid. It is tepid because the motion itself is tepid. I support the motion only because it is better than nothing and the issue of childhood obesity requires a response, and an urgent one at that.

Knowledge of something that creates harm creates an onus on us to respond. That is not just a principle of health promotion or disease prevention. It is just a principle and it is a principle from which we cannot waiver, a principle that is imperative to follow. When those who are being harmed are unable to protect themselves, such as with the case of childhood obesity, it is of critical importance.

So here is what we know. We know that childhood obesity is an enormous problem. As of 2007-08, data indicate that one in four Canadian adults were obese, 60% of adults were overweight or obese and that is 14.1 million Canadians. Overall, 26% of kids aged two to seventeen are overweight or obese. Childhood obesity rates have nearly quadrupled in the past three decades and the rate of obesity among aboriginal children is significantly higher than it is for others. We know also that obesity in children and adults impairs health in some very serious ways. It has been suggested that 90% of type 2 diabetes, 80% of coronary disease and one-third of cancers could be prevented by healthy eating, regular exercise and non-smoking. It has been estimated that the health cost most consistently linked to obesity is about $4.6 billion to $7.1 billion annually. Those costs represent an enormous increase of estimates over just a decade earlier. Most shockingly and importantly, it is estimated that as many as 48,000 deaths per year in Canada are related to poor nutrition. The disappointing and disheartening, if not outright tragic, thing about what we know is that we have known this for a long time.

In 2007, the Standing Committee on Health presented its report entitled “Healthy Weights for Healthy Kids”. It was a report about this very subject, childhood obesity. That report begins with this very clear statement. It says, “Childhood obesity has become an 'epidemic' in Canada”. In response to the question, “How serious is the problem?”, the report says, “The committee was shocked to hear how much overweight and obesity rates among children and adolescents in Canada have increased over the past three decades”. It goes on to state, “The situation for Aboriginal children is the most alarming”.

What followed was a list of 13 recommendations. The report talked about establishing targets; establishing a comprehensive public awareness and promotional campaign, which is obviously useful; implementing mandatory, standardized, simple front-of-package labelling about nutritional values on food; establishing regulations limiting trans fats; collecting data; creating knowledge exchange; creating a research capacity and a research focus on the issue of childhood obesity; leadership mechanisms, including federal leadership of all things; assessment and reporting; evaluation; establishment of a reliable baseline to assist in the research and management of this process; the provision of standards and programs; and so very importantly, funding. The final recommendation called for new and dedicated infrastructure funding to facilitate access to varied options for children with respect to quality physical activity and healthy food choices. All of this was to be done in collaboration with provincial and territorial partners. It was such a sensible response to such a critical problem, but what happened?

I am the father of three kids. I used to be an attentive father before I got elected to this place but I still do most of the family shopping when I am home on weekends. If we were making progress on these recommendations, I dare say, as a father, I would know about it. However, it has eluded us. All we hear about are programs, et cetera, in speeches from folks on the other side of this place. The recommendations of that committee have not been acted upon, certainly not in any discernable, meaningful way. I know the government has been involved in creating the Declaration on Prevention and Promotion and Curbing Childhood Obesity but what is incumbent on us is action.

I heard my colleague from Ottawa—Orléans respond to a question earlier in the House that he always responds first with pedagogy. That is an important component, without question, but hardly a substitute for action, action based on the kinds of rigorous principles expressed in those 2007 report recommendations.

The kind of action that this motion contemplates does not at all reflect the serious nature of this issue, nor the full knowledge that we have of the causes and the outcomes, both health and financial, of childhood obesity.

In this motion my colleague proposes to continue dialogue, to encourage discussion, to encourage individuals and organizations, and to consider. It is hardly an adequate response, hardly a principled response in light of what we know about childhood obesity and its impacts on children and our health care system.

The NDP has made a call for action. It has consistently called for regulations on trans fats in foods to reduce the contribution to poor diet and to childhood obesity. A colleague of mine from the NDP caucus has introduced previously a private member's motion to regulate the level of trans fats in foods.

The NDP has consistently questioned the Minister of Health about regulation of processed foods, including why the minister cancelled the plan to lower trans fats in foods and why the minister has not listened to the call to lower sodium in foods.

We have heard today from the other side a lot about programs and steps and so on. However, as I mentioned before, I am a father to three kids, and it is important to this debate today, because if meaningful action was taking place on childhood obesity, if it was real, I would know about it as a parent.

Nutrition Among Children
Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member will have three minutes left for his intervention when this motion returns to the order paper.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

It being 2:19 p.m., the House stands adjourned until next Monday at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:19 p.m.)