House of Commons Hansard #126 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was refugee.

Topics

Groundwater Contamination
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Groundwater Contamination
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

All those opposed will please say nay.

Groundwater Contamination
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Groundwater Contamination
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, May 30, 2012, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

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

Official Languages
Adjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise again in this House today on another matter: to decry the end of official language training at the Canada School of Public Service.

After cutting the number of translators at the Translation Bureau, now this Conservative government is attacking second language teachers. With the end of French and English second language courses at the School of Public Service, nearly 200 teachers are losing their jobs.

From now on, federal institutions will have to rely on the private sector for language training and miss out on the specific expertise the government has developed over the years. The Conservatives' main argument to justify this draconian change to these government services is, of course, you guessed it, the supposed cost savings resulting from this change.

According to this government, the private sector can offer the same services at a lower cost. We are starting to get used to the Conservatives' broken record, which, more often than not, just does not add up. Before accepting this Conservative dogma for absolute truth, let us start by looking at the facts.

First of all, every department is responsible for ensuring that its own employees receive language training. Each department will therefore select the institution with which its employees will do business and which second language program they will take. Decentralizing language training to such an extent makes it very difficult, if not almost impossible, to obtain information on the real cost of language training in this context.

But frankly, should we really be surprised at the lack of disclosure and the unavailability of information from this government? The Conservatives have a strong tendency to hide figures, and this is not going to change anytime soon. Moreover, an article in the Ottawa Citizen last December reported an increase in the cost of language training at the Treasury Board Secretariat over the past few years. Between 2006 and 2010, the average fee paid by the department apparently increased from $429 to $943. We are talking here about $2 million every year.

In this case, clearly, using the private sector to try to cut spending has failed miserably. With the end of language training by the Canada School of Public Service, questions may well be asked about the quality of the courses that will be offered by the private sector. As I mentioned earlier, over the years, the Canadian government has developed expertise and specific standards in language training.

In the private sector, there is none of this standardization, and this raises a number of concerns. First, how is the market regulated? Are the services provided by private institutions evaluated somehow? Even though the Public Service Commission still monitors the evaluation of public servants’ language skills, it does not evaluate the quality of the courses given. If the training received by public servants falls short of the mark, they will just have to spend more time in the classroom to reach the bilingualism level required for the job, and this will just drive up costs over the years.

In addition, on May 10, the Commissioner of Official Languages appeared before the Standing Committee on Official Languages, of which I an a member. In his testimony, Mr. Fraser announced that his office would be conducting extensive research into the changes made by this government to the way in which language training is provided to Canadian public servants. The commissioner too has a number of concerns about maintaining the quality of language training for government employees. During his appearance before the committee, the commissioner said:

I decided that we have to see what the outcome of those changes has been and whether language training continues to be as effective. I admit that I have a certain bias. I still believe that some people pass their exams but are not able to communicate, whereas others are able to communicate, but cannot pass their exams.

Even the Commissioner of Official Languages is concerned about the potentially negative impact of eliminating the language training offered by the Canada School of Public Service. Will the Conservatives also try to discredit him because he does not share their twisted vision of Canadian bilingualism? That would not be surprising. Unfortunately, ever since the Conservatives became the government, it has become clear that bilingualism is at the bottom of their priority list.

How can the government justify cutting 200 good jobs, when there is no guarantee of savings? How can it justify the privatization of an effective public service that Canadians need to receive proper services in the language of their choice?

Official Languages
Adjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

North Vancouver
B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and for Western Economic Diversification

Madam Speaker, I would first like to say that most of what the hon. member said is absolutely false.

I am happy to rise in the House to speak to the question of language training, and more specifically the way this training is provided.

First, we are well aware that the private sector and the universities and colleges have recognized expertise and the resources to provide language training directly to the public service.

In fact, before the changes in question, the Canada School of Public Service was already playing a minor role in the direct delivery of language training to the public service. The school’s expertise will continue to be used to develop learning methods and technologies, in particular, access to online language training, linguistic products and the creation of language learning plans.

I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to correct the previous statement of my hon. colleague about our government's record on economic management.

Canada's economic performance during the recovery from the global financial economic crisis has been nothing short of remarkable. Members do not have to take my word for it, though; our economic leadership during the global economic crisis has been recognized around the world.

Last year both the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development forecast we would have among the strongest economic growth in the G7 in 2011 and again this year. For the fourth year in a row, the World Economic Forum rated Canada's banking system as the world's soundest. In addition, three credit rating agencies, Moody's, Fitch and Standard and Poor's, have reaffirmed their top investment grade ratings for Canada. Forbes magazine recently rated Canada the world's best place to do business.

By any standard, Canada has weathered the global economic crisis and ongoing financial uncertainty well, particularly when compared to most other developed nations. If my hon. colleague does not want to take the word of these respected organizations, I encourage her to look at the facts. The numbers do not lie.

Since introducing Canada's economic action plan in response to the economic downturn of 2008, we have recovered more than all of the output and all of the jobs lost during the recession. About 750,000 more Canadians are working today than when the recession ended, resulting in the strongest rate of employment growth during the recovery by far among G7 countries. Real GDP is now significantly above pre-recession levels, the best performance in the G7.

We do not intend to rest on our laurels. That is why we are freeing businesses to grow by cutting red tape that can stifle productivity. That is why we are creating opportunity through our move to open government. That is why we are reducing the deficit and balancing the budget over the medium term.

The government has a clear plan for Canada and the Canadian economy based on sound economic management, and the plan is working.

Official Languages
Adjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, I like it so much when my colleagues rise in the House to boast about their excellent economic management, when they are not even capable of getting themselves out of the F-35 scandal. They are wasting billions of taxpayers’ dollars, when taxpayers would honestly much prefer to see that money invested elsewhere, maybe to provide bilingual services for Canadians everywhere. So in that respect I found it very amusing.

A number of witnesses came to see us at the Standing Committee on Official Languages. They explained the need for standardization in language training courses, because there is none at present. There are no standards. There is no way to ensure quality or determine whether the courses are equivalent or equal in same quality to the government’s.

I would like my colleague to explain exactly where he sees this standardization could exist and how the government could guarantee quality. The Commissioner of Official Languages is also concerned, as are a number of other people. I would like to get a clear answer.

Official Languages
Adjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to point out the enormous progress we have made since Parliament enacted the Official Languages Act in 1969.

The vast majority of official language minority communities have access to federal services in the official language of their choice. Forty years ago, those communities had to communicate with federal institutions in the majority language. In 40 years, we have gone from a virtually unilingual public service to a bilingual public service.

Our road map for Canada's linguistic duality, which we adopted in 2008, supports English and French minority language communities and ensures Canadians can obtain government services in both official languages. We can be proud of how far we have come and, as we move forward, we do so knowing there is an excellent foundation to build on.

The Environment
Adjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to return to a question that I raised on February 17, 2012, about the government's record on climate change.

As chance would have it, since I asked my question, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development has issued a report on the Conservative government’s performance with respect to the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act passed by Parliament in 2007 to ensure that Canada meets its commitments and obligations.

The Conservatives boast that they are champions of law and order. They may preach observance of the law, but they themselves flout it.

In 2007, Parliament passed an act requiring the government to publish annual climate change plans and to explain how it intends to achieve the emission targets set by the Kyoto protocol.

The Commissioner of the Environment is responsible for verifying whether the government is fulfilling its obligations — hence his most recent report. As one might imagine, the results are pathetic.

The commissioner’s judgment is terse: the Conservatives have not managed to reach the Kyoto protocol targets. To meet the 6%, Canada would have had to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 805 million tonnes more by 2012.

However, here is what irritates me most. I quote the Commissioner:

If all the measures in the annual climate change plan had been implemented and the total expected reductions in the plan had been achieved, it would still not have been sufficient to meet the government’s Kyoto Protocol target. To meet the target, GHG emissions would have to be reduced by an additional 805 million tonnes by 2012.

More clearly stated, this means that the Conservative government did not even try to meet the Kyoto targets. Not trying is worse than failing.

The government recently confirmed that it would rescind the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act. To avoid having to face the public, the amendments were included on page 401 of the Budget Implementation bill. Thus the Standing Committee on Finance will have to study the elimination of Canada's international obligations with respect to the Kyoto protocol at the same time as examines amendments to 60 other acts. It is ridiculous.

We in the NDP would have liked to have the budget implementation bill split to allow the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development to be responsible for studying amendments concerning environmental statutes. Would that not be logical? Apparently not for the government, which hopes to keep out of the public eye.

We will not let the government do that. We are going to give Quebeckers and Canadians the opportunity to be heard. The NDP will be organizing five large meetings across Canada so that ordinary people can provide their opinions on the budget implementation bill. One meeting will be held in Montreal, near my riding, on Wednesday, May 23, in the Saint-Pierre centre on Panet Street. There is still time to change things. We need an open debate for the health of our democracy.

I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment a few questions. Will the Government of Canada finally be honest with Canadians about the costs related to climate change? Will it be honest with Canadians about the sectors that will be affected by the cuts made at Environment Canada? Will the minister stop muzzling scientists and admit that an open debate is necessary to the well-being of our democracy? Will it listen to Canadians who want to leave their children a better, more sustainable, greener and more prosperous country, or will it continue to govern with blinders on?

The government is attacking not only our environment, but also our democracy by preventing an open debate. This very morning, three Government of Canada ministers appeared at a parliamentary committee without notice and gave testimony for an hour. After having regurgitated the talking points from the Prime Minister's Office, they did not leave the members much time for questions.

I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary if she will allow an open and honest debate.

The Environment
Adjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, I am really glad to be able to address my colleague opposite tonight. Since she has moved portfolios, and I congratulate her on her new appointment, we have missed her at the environment committee greatly.

At one of the most recent environment committees, we had the Commissioner of the Environment come and talk about his most recent report. In April of this year, the most recent report on greenhouse gas emissions in Canada was released. That data showed that while the economy grew by 3.2%—meaning we saw a growth in the economy and an expansion of industry—our greenhouse gas emissions virtually stabilized. There was only a 0.25% increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

For the first time in this country, we are seeing the economy grow while greenhouse gas emissions growth stabilizes. This is a very good thing.

I will bring the member up to speed on what was said in that meeting. One of my colleagues asked,

Did I hear correctly that the inventory data that was not reflected in your report dealt with 2010 emissions?

The evironment commissioner repled,

That's correct. There's a lag between the year and when Environment Canada compiles all the data and releases it.

Those data were not reflected in the most recent report, and in fact the regulations that we are putting in place on certain sectors of the economy were not included in the forecast as well.

What we are trying to do is, again, balance environmental stewardship. We understand the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in this country, but we also need to do that while encouraging economic growth.

The original question my colleague put on the order paper, and I am not sure if she remembers, dealt with the $35 million for climate change research that was announced through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

In the member's new portfolio, I would like to talk about an institution, a granting council that I worked with quite extensively in my previous career and this great program, because I would like to encourage my colleague to vote for our budget. We are investing heavily in science and technology, specifically in an institution she should be quite familiar with at McGill University.

In fact, a search of McGill University's NSERC grants since fiscal year 2006 shows an investment of over $250 million in McGill University. There are actually at least two Canada Research Chairs in climate change; I think there are more than that. I would encourage the member to go and talk to her colleagues who received NSERC funding since our government has been in power. I encourage her to talk to them about the impact of NSERC funding on their careers.

What we are doing in this budget is actually increasing funding to the granting councils. For example, we are providing $500 million to the Canada Foundation for Innovation over five years. This is a great program that provides research infrastructure to researchers across the country.

I certainly hope that she would support important investments into research and development across the country, and specifically I would like to remind the member about the investments that our government has made in climate change research. In fact, since 2006 we have invested over $252 million to support regulatory activities to address climate change and air quality.

Another institution that the member should familiarize herself with in her role is Sustainable Development Technology Canada. This is a great organization that works on commercializing technology that is related to clean energy.

All of these institutions work to address problems related to industry use and to resource development and climate change here in our country. We are actually best practice leaders in a lot of this research.

I hope she will go and talk to her leader, who is pitting workers and regions against one another. I hope she will support cross-Canada research that we are investing in that addresses these problems.

The Environment
Adjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, while the Conservative government has an abysmal record on attacking climate change, it is trying to take credit for what the provinces have been doing. We know that in my home province, the provincial government has taken various efforts to try to reduce its greenhouse gases.

While the government has an abysmal record, it is trying to take credit for work that it did not do. The parliamentary secretary also mentioned the Sustainable Development Technology Canada program, which it cut in this budget.

We are missing out on an occasion to participate in the $1 trillion global green technology market.

Despite what my hon. colleague said, budget 2012 and Bill C-38 are two more measures that prove that the Conservative government does not care about the environment.

First of all, Bill C-38 confirms the repeal of the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act. Then, it eliminates the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, an organization that advises the government on sustainable development. Initially, the minister said that the organization was being abolished because the unique research it did was available on the Internet. However, the government recently admitted that it had been embarrassed by the organization, which was a thorn in the government's side—

The Environment
Adjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

I regret to interrupt the hon. member, but her time has run out.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment.

The Environment
Adjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Calgary Centre-North, AB

Madam Speaker, my colleague opposite prefaced her answer with “working with provinces” or “the work that provinces have done”. I find this so timely, given that her leader has come out and accused provincial premiers who are standing up for their economy and speaking against the derogatory terms he has used this week in the media and will not step back from. Working with provinces does not entail denigrating their resource sectors when we should be looking at a united Canada and a united economy.

The last thing I will highlight tonight is the $35 million to support climate change and atmosphere research that the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada has undertaken. The program was launched in March. I encourage people across the country to look at the results that will come out of this funding and the cross-Canada research collaborations that will be created because of it.

Infrastructure
Adjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities for being here this evening. I appreciate it.

The ice storm that hit the Magdalen Islands in February 2012 demonstrated the importance of transportation infrastructure and focused attention on extending the runway at the Magdalen Islands airport, an issue that has dragged on for 30 years.

At the time of this sad event, Quebec Premier Jean Charest noted the importance of extending the runway. Subsequently, we learned that, during this major power outage, the airport's generator failed. I would like to remind members that the Magdalen Islands archipelago is located more than 100 kilometres from the Gaspé, in the middle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The residents of the Magdalen Islands revel in their isolation, but it does create major transportation challenges, which the Conservative government must address. Air transportation is the only direct link between the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands. The alternative is very long: a five-hour ferry ride to Prince Edward Island and then a ten-hour drive to the Gaspé.

Airport service is vital in emergency situations, as well as for personal travel, business and tourism. The federal government has recognized this situation by designating the Magdalen Islands airport as a remote airport. Transport Canada therefore manages the airport.

Since 1983, the main runway has been 4,500 feet long, when most runways in less remote areas are 5,500 feet or longer. Why do the people of the Magdalen Islands have one of the shortest runways in Quebec? In extreme weather conditions, planes are often forced to call off their landing or turn back.

The air ambulance, which transports patients who cannot be treated on the Magdalen Islands, also faces the same situation. The people of the Magdalen Islands are wondering if this government realizes that, for people living in remote communities, this transportation infrastructure is crucial and that they should not have to settle for second-class infrastructure.

The existing runway is hindering economic development. Such a short runway limits the kind of aircraft that can land regularly and is preventing larger carriers from serving the islands. The people of the Magdalen Islands are worried about the future renewal of air fleets—meaning Dash 8s. The community has been rallying for years now to have the runway lengthened.

Lengthening the runway by 1,400 feet in two stages would help support the development of the archipelago, promote safe landings in frequent extreme weather conditions and reduce the number of cancelled flights and missed approaches. The islands want development. We have more tourism, more exports and more young people who are leaving the island to continue their training than we did 30 years ago.

The people of the Magdalen Islands are looking towards the future and calling on Transport Canada to do the same regarding the airport. Will this government finally support the people of the Magdalen Islands?