House of Commons Hansard #115 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was conservatives.

Topics

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

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

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 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 98, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, May 9, 2012, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

I move that we see the clock at 6:30 p.m.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Is there unanimous consent to see the clock at 6:30 p.m.?

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Madam Speaker, in January 2012 I asked the Prime Minister to apologize for the government's characterization of first nations as adversaries in an internal government document on the oil sands.

My question was, “Will the Prime Minister apologize for this shameful position and affirm today that first nations have constitutional rights that must be recognized and respected when it comes to the development of anything on or affecting their traditional lands?”

Last January, Greenpeace Canada and Climate Action Network released an internal government document entitled “Pan-European Oil Sands Advocacy Strategy”, which contained a list that divided stakeholders, according to their positions on the oil sands, as “influencers”, “allies” or “adversaries”. First nations were appalled when they discovered that the government had labelled them as “adversaries”, along with environmental advocates.

I would like to remind the House that when I asked this question on January 31, the Crown-First Nations Gathering had just been held. At the gathering, the Prime Minister declared that the time had come to reset the relationship between the crown and first nations.

However, the gap between the Prime Minister's rhetoric on resetting the relationship and the reality of the government's total disregard for the rights of indigenous people to be fully recognized and respected when it comes to resource development is staggering. Let us not forget that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada has endorsed, obliges Canada to obtain the “free, prior and informed consent” of indigenous peoples.

I cannot think of a term more insulting than “adversaries”. I would remind the House that this characterization is entirely consistent with the Conservatives' default position on dealing with those who hold different views, which is that they are either with the government or against it.

It is equally disturbing that this same document characterizes the federal aboriginal affairs department and the National Energy Board, which is supposed to be an independent industry regulator, as “allies”.

For anyone who values the independence and impartiality of democratic processes like the NEB hearings, this characterization raises alarm bells about the independence and impartiality of the hearings and leaves little doubt that the government has already determined the outcome of the review.

The document goes on to justify the government's defence of the oil sands industry in terms of the creation of jobs and economic prosperity for all Canadians. I would ask an important question: what about the potential risks to first nations who are along the pipeline route?

I have heard from groups like the Yinka Dene Alliance, which opposes the northern gateway pipeline not because it is against development but because it believes this project could be potentially catastrophic. An oil spill in its traditional territories would not only be an environmental nightmare but would also jeopardize jobs that exist today for first nations in the vibrant tourism and fisheries sectors.

Once again, opposition to the gateway pipeline should not be misconstrued as opposition to development writ large. In the case of the Yinka Dene, these first nations are partners in a project to export liquid natural gas from a new terminal in Kitimat, a project that they determined carries low risks to both the economy and the environment.

For the sake of clarity, is the parliamentary secretary willing to clarify the government's position? Is the position of the government to treat the constitutional rights of first nations with the type of disrespect shown in the internal memo?

5:35 p.m.

Kenora
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the question asked by the member for St. Paul's.

I would like to assure the hon. member that the Government of Canada is committed to protecting the health and safety of first nations communities and the environmental integrity of reserve lands.

Canada has a legal obligation to consult and accommodate aboriginal peoples in certain situations. Our government takes its duty to consult very seriously and will consult aboriginal groups any time an activity proposed by the federal government could have a negative impact on any ancestral or treaty rights. Consultation with aboriginal groups is a key part of the environmental assessment process and the regulatory approval process in Canada.

In fact, Canada's approach includes new, up-to-date guidelines for federal public servants regarding the duty to consult, and these guidelines include guiding principles and directives regarding consultation. These principles and directives provide federal public servants with clearer and more up-to-date guidance regarding their legal obligation to consult.

Currently, we are working with aboriginal groups, the provinces and the territories to develop a collaborative process for consultation and accommodation that will result in efficient decision-making and reduce or eliminate duplication with other jurisdictions.

I would also like to add that Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada coordinates a whole-of-government approach to consultation by working with other departments to ensure that meaningful consultations are carried out for resource projects and other activities.

Canada seeks to fulfill its legal obligation to consult by undertaking meaningful consultations directly with aboriginal communities to ensure that their opinions are taken into consideration when the time comes to make a decision about an oil sands development project or other projects that could compromise their rights. These meaningful consultations benefit the Canadian economy by moving these projects forward.

By carrying out these meaningful consultations, we support the efforts of aboriginal peoples to improve their social well-being and economic prosperity, to establish healthy and more sustainable communities, and to increase their participation in the political, social and economic development of Canada.

Our government continues to work in concert with aboriginal people on both the development and implementation of strategies to ensure that informed decisions are made to meet today's needs and those of future generations.

May 2nd, 2012 / 5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Madam Speaker, I do not believe that the parliamentary secretary actually heard the question.

The question was this: is the position of the government to treat the constitutional rights of first nations with the type of disrespect shown in that internal memo?

How can we believe that the Conservatives are willing to work in partnership with first nations when they qualify them, in that very document, as “adversaries”—after the Crown-First Nations Gathering, after the timeliness of the budget implementation act debate today, of which the national chief has been so critical?

Again, the government does not seem to understand, in the budget implementation, that it is bound by the Constitution to uphold its duty to consult, which means it cannot unilaterally reduce these duties through changes to existing legislation.

It is extraordinarily important that the treaties be honoured and that the government treat the governments of first nations as government to government.

Will the parliamentary secretary apologize today for the disgraceful words used by his government to characterize first nations as “adversaries”?

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Kenora, ON

Madam Speaker, as I already said, our government takes its duty to consult very seriously. As the member for St. Paul's knows, the Crown has a legal obligation to consult, as needed, and to accommodate aboriginal groups any time a project could compromise ancestral treaty rights. That is precisely what we are doing.

The health and safety of all Canadians and the environment are top priorities for this government. That is why our government is working with other governments, aboriginal groups, scientists and the industy in order to monitor the cumulative environmental impact of developing the oil sands.

Understanding and minimizing cumulative impacts is a key part of environmental management and the overall governance of Canada's lands and resources. I repeat, meaningful consultation is a priority for our government.

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, I asked a question with respect to the F-35 costs back on January 31, and frankly it does seem to be light years away since January 31. We have since had the Auditor General's report, and the PBO is working on some form of attempted reconciliation between what the government chooses to tell us and what the realities are.

Ironically, at this stage, the PBO, the AG, and the cabinet are all roughly in agreement as to what the costs are. Why we have had to go through this horrible exercise of trying to drag out of the government the actual full life cycle costs of this asset, the F-35, is beyond me. There is really no dispute as to what is the way to do full life cycle costing. It is set out in the U.S. congressional handbook, in the U.K. handbook and even in our own handbook.

When the finance committee passed its motion back in 2010, which ultimately led to the dissolution of the previous Parliament and the fall of the government, it was clearly and completely known what the full life cycle costs were. Here we are, just over a year later, still dragging this information out through the nose of the government of the day. We would not be dragging it out through the nose if the government had been upfront with the Canadian people.

The Minister of Defence kind of fell into it this week when he said that the cabinet knew that it would be $25 billion. The cabinet was not misled. It knew there was this $10 billion gap between what Canadians and Parliament knew and what the full life cycle costs were, which is in line with what the PBO said. It is clearly in line with what the AG said. Therefore, the AG, cabinet and the PBO all knew what the right figure was. The only people who did not actually know what the correct figure was were the people of Canada and the Parliament of Canada.

We are almost there in agreeing on the actual number. It is a pity that we have to go through this level of confusion and these repetitive questions in question period, the castigating of anyone who actually tries to speak truth to power. I was witness to a shameful exhibition by the Conservative members on the finance committee, ridiculing the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who as we know is more frequently right than he is wrong.

I thought it was kind of ironic yesterday to have the deputy minister of defence actually say, when asked by another member about the two sets of books being run, that the column on the left hand side went to cabinet for decision making. In other words, that is the truthful column, the $25 billion column. The government decided to communicate the other number, the acquisition costs and sustainment costs with another number. He went on to say that they worked off the left hand column and that the right hand column was how they responded to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. In other words, mislead, mislead, mislead. It is the modus operandi of the government.

5:45 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering
Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, if we are going to have a discussion about confusion and misleading of the Canadian people on this issue, then I really do insist that the member opposite, my colleague, the vice-chair of our standing committee on national defence, the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, take some considerable share of the responsibility.

There has not been a true word spoken by any of the members of his party on this issue through the life of this debate. It is now several weeks, and Canadians deserve better.

We had notice that there would be a question from the hon. member opposite about how we should model our selection of an aircraft to replace the CF-18 on India's selection process. Obviously the member has moved on from that to the question of cost and life cycle costs. It has been discussed in various committees. It has been discussed in this place many times now.

Let me try to be absolutely clear for the member and for all of us.

First, full life cycle costs are the only basis on which an acquisition of this aircraft will take place. That was the central conclusion of the Auditor General's spring report, chapter 2, of which we are all seized. That was the focus of the one recommendation in that report. That recommendation, along with the conclusions of the report, and let me repeat, have been accepted by this government.

We are moving to determine what those full life cycle costs are. However, to say that somehow we know them but have not informed Parliament, that they are in this office and not in that office is misleading. They have yet to be determined in the future. We have been extremely clear about that.

No procurement has taken place. Not a penny of Canadian government money, taxpayer money, has been spent on the acquisition of a new aircraft for Canada. We will only be prepared to undertake that acquisition on the basis of full life cycle costs.

Lots of other costs have been put forward, cost projections and cost estimates. The member mentioned some of them. This is the point that is missed. Nothing, absolutely nothing has been hidden. The number that was used on several earlier occasions and discussed in committee was acquisition costs, a one-off cost for new equipment, and the sustainment costs, the setup, the new arrangements that are needed when there is a new piece of equipment.

That was the basis on which the member opposite's party introduced and announced its own procurement of a Maritime helicopter in 2004. There was no mention of full life cycle costs when that party was in power. That basis for an announcement struck that party as adequate at that time. It was not a problem.

Suddenly, they are all upset.

Now it is a problem because we have not met a standard that the Liberals never set for themselves.

Let me reassure the House that we will meet that standard on the basis of the work of the secretariat, on the basis of cost estimates that will be presented to the House, not once but annually until the acquisition takes place, and on the basis of the seven-point plan which has been exhaustively debated in question period and in the public accounts committee, in which many of us have had the pleasure to be recently with deputy ministers and soon with the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

There are concrete steps when the acquisition takes place. This is the point on which opposition members have really not been sound. They have not reminded Canadians that the acquisition has yet to take place, that a contracting arrangement to acquire new aircraft has not yet been entered into. When it takes place, it will be on the basis of full life cycle costs, of that you can rest assured, Madam Speaker.