House of Commons Hansard #116 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environment.

Topics

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I really enjoyed the Conservative member's speech because it brought back some happy memories.

That being said, I disagree with him. I am an agronomist and I worked on agricultural watershed projects to improve water quality.

I know that farmers are concerned about water quality, not only in waterways but also in ditches. They are looking for ways to improve it. Changing the legislation is not going to help them in this regard because water flows everywhere. It leaves a ditch and travels to a stream, which flows into a river that leads to the ocean. Everything is connected and interconnected. We have to find solutions to protect fish habitats—solutions other than those proposed by the hon. member.

We have to think about conservation and about compensating farmers.

I would like to know whether the hon. member has anything to suggest that will help farmers while protecting ditches and waterways.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Keith Ashfield Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, the waterways that maintain our resources and aboriginal, commercial and recreational fisheries are of the utmost importance to us as a government.

The member opposite talked about farmers' fields. I have heard numerous stories across this country about some of the obstacles farmers face each and every day. A gentleman, the other day, was telling me that he had a drainage culvert that was plugged and he could not get DFO authorization to unplug it. It went on for years and flooded his fields. In the end, what did he have to do? He built a road down the middle of his farm and ditched it on both sides so he could drain the water away from his fields. Those types of things are happening across this country, on the east coast and the west coast and in central Canada.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission
B.C.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans for his speech as well as his service to Canada and Canada's fisheries. I know he works hard on behalf of all Canadians.

His speech was about the protection of Canada's fisheries in general. The committee, in recent weeks and months, has been looking at the Great Lakes fisheries, particularly the potential threat that aquatic invasive species pose to what is about a $7 billion or $8 billion fishery, both recreational and commercial. The witnesses have pointed out there are some gaps in both the law and the regulations about how aquatic invasive species are managed, their transportation and importation and those matters.

Can the minister tell us if the changes in the Fisheries Act that are in this piece of legislation would address that regulatory gap?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Keith Ashfield Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, that is a good question because there is a major gap in the current fisheries legislation when it comes to aquatic invasive species. Whether it be Asian carp, zebra mussels, lampreys or others, we have to be very aware of it. There is nothing in our legislation now that allows us to address that. The changes in the act would address those issues. It would establish a list of aquatic invasive species and regulate the way aquatic invasive species are controlled to prevent their spread. It would also address the transport of live fish across borders. There is a huge market in Canada for Asian carp and we have to end that type of policy. Therefore, yes, the changes would address the regulatory gaps.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

May 3rd, 2012 / 5:45 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to speak to Bill C-38. We New Democrats oppose the bill for content and process. I will get into both of those themes during my deliberations this afternoon.

I would like to carry on with a little discussion with regard to the Great Lakes. People in Windsor live along the Detroit River. There has been a lack of action by the government on the Great Lakes despite the U.S. Obama administration addressing some of the issues. The Americans recently made a $500 million investment into the Great Lakes, and in the budget prior to this one, put $800 million into it. In fact, because so little was put into our Great Lakes system, the fake lake in Muskoka got more per capita contribution than any of the Great Lakes did.

That is important, because we are deficient not only in terms of environmental practices but also in services. We do not have some recovery services for men and women in distress on the Great Lakes. Our Coast Guards do a very good job of responding when they can, but at the Ambassador Bridge, for example, there is no recovery immediately available there when work is being done, and something needs to be done about that in case somebody falls off, a worker in particular. We had another death recently when a worker fell off into the Detroit River.

I want to move toward some of the content of the cuts that are taking place with regard to the budget. I will start with the OAS and the GIS, and in particular the raising of the age from 65 to 67.

Just so the public is aware, individuals have to apply for the GIS, the guaranteed income supplement. It is not automatically provided, so if people do not know this—and we deal with this situation all the time—they would not automatically receive that additional supplement. I would encourage the viewing audience out there to look at their pensions and, if they are past the age of 65, to inquire of their members of Parliament as to whether they are eligible for the GIS. It is a very important supplement that does not always get moved through to them.

Similar to that is the disability tax credit. If people do not actually apply for it, they will not get it. Both the GIS and the disability tax credit could be retroactive. It is important to know that, and people should contact their local members of Parliament.

A number of years ago I had the opportunity to go across this country on what was called the seniors charter of rights. It was a motion that was put forth to this House for a number of years, and it built up enough support over that time that it was eventually carried by another member, the member for Hamilton Mountain. The motion was then passed, but sadly, this has not been brought to fruition.

Many of the elements of the seniors charter of rights called for increasing the government's contributions to the pensions. It noted that we had to look at this issue because many seniors were in poverty. It called for housing as an adequate strategy to deal with poverty and issues like that, and for more inclusion in society by making sure that seniors were not left out of government policy. It even looked at a seniors minister as a potential solution to making sure seniors' voices would be heard as the demographics of the aged increased. As well, there were provisions related to pharmaceutical and other costs that we identified.

We heard quite clearly across Canada that seniors were very concerned about all of these issues, and never would I have imagined at that time that the government would be looking at increasing its date for acquisition of benefits.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer and other experts have noted that we are not in a crisis with regard to that issue. With proper prudent fiscal management, we will be fine.

Second, we are opposed to a corporate tax cut. Right now, a corporate tax cut basically goes to the corporation. There is no guarantee it will actually be spent in Canada. In fact, some corporations are taxed on worldwide profits, so Canada does not actually benefit from some of the taxation on those corporations that takes place in other countries.

We still have continuation of subsidies to the oil patch. That is unacceptable and should be stricken right away. As well, the OAS and the GIS supplements, in the vast majority of cases and unless individuals leave the country with the money, are generally spent in the country, providing a multiplier effect much higher than the corporate tax cut.

I know it has been argued many times that the corporate tax cut is a job creation strategy; it is not. It could be used as one of several tools to try to spur investment, but the reality is that it has not. It is actually counter to what has been happening in the manufacturing sector. Over the years that the Conservatives have been reducing corporate taxes since coming to power in February 2006, we have lost around 365,000 manufacturing jobs. That is shocking.

It is shocking because it also speaks to the Conservative trade policy, which has failed this nation significantly and continues to do so. I especially want to note the auto industry. What we have seen, counter to that, is higher corporate taxes in U.S. states, as well as higher federal taxes, and the United States has been growing its manufacturing jobs. The Obama administration has a job strategy to win back jobs, including jobs from Canada, and we have done nothing on that.

The auto industry was again ignored in this budget. The automobile is the number one value-added item traded throughout the world. Sadly, the government is looking at some trade agreements that actually threaten the auto industry. I would note, on the Canada-European trade agreement, that right now the EU has a $20 to $1 trade surplus with us, so they are dumping autos into Canada.

South Korea has a potential trade agreement. South Korea sells literally hundreds of thousands of vehicles in Canada, and we barely sell any at all—maybe 50, I am told—in South Korea. They have tariff and non-tariff barriers. We also have the potential of a Japan agreement, where again we cannot enter their market.

Japan, Korea and Germany have state-supported auto industries. They are actually involved in crafting policy, providing resources and making sure the jobs are going to stay local. Some of these countries actually have shares in the companies.

The government originally ran away from the auto bailout, the auto loans that were needed. Thank goodness for the public pressure to reverse that decision. Now we have success, but it is still very fragile. The auto industry is very fragile right now.

I would point out the government's lack of interest in the auto industry and the fact that the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council has not met in years. Only the executive has met. There have been very few meetings, and they have not been very robust. It is very unfortunate, because that model brings in the suppliers, the auto workers, the companies, the tool and die mold makers and the dealerships. They crafted a plan that provided a benchmark system to cherry-pick the top items we could actually work on to create a robust auto strategy.

The government's response to the Bush administration's $25 billion auto and energy act was basically a $250 million fund over five years, which is virtually an empty tank right now. That is a big problem.

I do want to talk a little bit about process, as much of that legislation did not come to the chamber. One of those pieces of legislation is a shiprider program. A shiprider program is going to allow United States officers to participate and actually arrest and detain Canadian citizens. That is actually not going to go to committee. A similar bill went to the Senate. It was very extreme. It did not distinguish the new teams. We do not have the details on it. It is sad.

Right now 1,100 jobs at CBSA are being affected through the cuts that are taking place. It is $143 million cut from our Canada Border Services Agency. We are now going to be doing more work with less resources. It involves the investigators, who take drug smuggling, child pornography, human smuggling and all those things very seriously.

The government is actually cutting 25% of the dog teams; 19 dog teams are being eliminated. They cost $100,000 for the investment in training for the human and the animal. Those are going to be sunsetted. That is unfortunate, because they are very specific and get the things that got past the original set of border officers.

It is very important that those positions remain. By allowing this to happen, we are certainly going to see more guns on the streets and more drugs on the streets, and organized crime will benefit. It is terribly unfortunate, because the evidence is there.

The government is cutting a number of the investigators who work with U.S. and other officials to break these cases open. They are undercover, in many respects. They are going to be affected as well.

As I conclude here, it is rather unfortunate that this is taking place, because t is not acceptable for Canadians.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his dissertation this afternoon. I am not sure I understood most of it. He was all over the map.

My question for the member is based on his last few comments. The member is not in favour of the government finding the $5 billion in savings. The math is simple: to balance the books, we either raise revenue or cut expenses. In this case, that is what we are doing: cutting expenses.

What taxes would the NDP raise to be able to balance the books? Does the member have that answer?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry the member did not understand my speech.

There are many things that we could do to cut taxes. We could stop the corporate tax cuts to the oil and gas industry.

We have to improve our revenue stream. Under the Conservatives' rule, the manufacturing deficit has gone from $16 billion to $80 billion. That is costing our revenue stream. Those companies provided important value-added jobs and paid taxes. They were not just shipping out logs or oil and gas or other resources. Value-added jobs have been lost in these sectors, and those revenue streams need to be recovered.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Windsor West, with whom I serve on the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology

He spoke about the process for this bill. I would like him to comment on the importance of studying the different parts of this bill in committee, especially the parts that deal with the Investment Canada Act and the Telecommunications Act, which will bring about major changes.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, over the last number of years, starting with the Martin administration, the government started to add different pieces of legislation into budget bills. When that happens, the normal process does not take place. Those different pieces of legislation are not independent. They are not tabled in the House or debated in the House. They are not passed on to committee, where they would be studied and sent back to the House, possibly with amendments. They would be looked at again and possibly passed.

There is an improvement process. In the previous Parliaments the parties actually co-operated, and some amendments were made to certain bills that made them more important and better. The Investment Canada Act is a good example. That legislation was thrown into a budget bill, so the entire improvement process was missed. That act is coming back in another budget bill because it is still broken.

That is the problem. We are not going to hear witnesses with respect to this legislation and we will not have an opportunity to improve it.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, putting all of these bills into this one omnibus bill is an attempt by the government to speed up legislation and avoid scrutiny by elected officials. It moves Canada closer to a dictatorship.

I wonder what the member thinks about that.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the OECD has best practices for budgeting. It has suggested that a budget be tabled three months in advance of the beginning of the fiscal year so that people can debate it and digest it.

We do not do that here in Canada. In fact, we do not follow any of the OECD's best practices for budgeting.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

It being 6:01 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from December 13, 2011 consideration of the motion that Bill C-307, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (pregnant or nursing employees), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to stand in the House today to talk about this issue of great importance. I want to congratulate my hon. colleague, who is new to the House, for bringing this forward. It is always nice to see members bring their private members' bills into this particular place to argue and debate. One of the greatest acts we can do as parliamentarians is to bring our own legislation into the House. I congratulate him for doing that.

By way of background, Bill C-307 is an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, which would allow pregnant or nursing employees in the circumstances of a preventive withdrawal and working for a federally regulated business to opt out of the Employment Insurance Act and receive benefits under the provincial regime. At the present time, this would only create equity between pregnant and nursing employees in Quebec working for federally regulated businesses or not. Quebec would be the only province benefiting from the provisions of the bill since other provinces rely on the Employment Insurance Act to obtain compensation.

However, the bill contains a provision in the eventuality that other provinces would want to mirror Quebec's regime and create a compensation scheme in the case of preventive withdrawals. Indeed, pursuant to subsection 132.1(5) of the bill, the Minister of Labour can enter into an agreement with the government of a province or its agent to determine the administrative and financial implications of certain measures. A province could probably refuse to enter into such an agreement because of the costs related to implement such a regime and since the provinces outside of Quebec have been relying for numerous years on the Employment Insurance Act for compensation for pregnant and nursing women in the circumstances of a preventive withdrawal from work.

The bill entirely mirrors the provisions of Bill C-380, which was an act to amend the Canada Labour Code for pregnant or nursing employees, that was tabled in 2005, in the first session of the 38th Parliament, by a member of the Bloc Québécois, Robert Vincent. At the time, the NDP and Conservatives voted in favour of the bill and, of course, the Liberals voted against it.

Taking a look at the Canada Labour Code, under subsection 132 of the code, a pregnant or nursing employee who is subject to the code may apply to be reassigned to another position if her work constitutes a danger to herself or her child. If the worker cannot be reassigned by the employer to another job, the employee can obtain leave without pay under the code. Compensation will then be granted under the Employment Insurance Act or the collective agreement.

In Quebec, the program for maternity without risk of La Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail offers benefits to women who must leave their jobs for that particular reason. However, employees working for federally regulated employers in Quebec are not eligible for this program. It is noted that no other Canadian province offers compensation as Quebec through its health and safety at work measures. Consequently, in provinces outside of Quebec and in the circumstances of a preventive withdrawal, the employee will have to refer to her current collective agreement to receive compensation, the Employment Insurance Act or the employer's private insurance plan.

Therefore, the rationale behind this is one that is meant to be in good measure. I understand that, as anybody in the House would certainly agree, the bill as presented certainly does seem reasonable. The same benefits that are available provincially, in this case mainly referring to Quebec, would be applied to women who work in the federal area under the federal Canada Labour Code if those benefits are better. The problem is that no other province has the kind of benefits available to pregnant women that are available to workers in Quebec. If the bill were to be adopted, only women in Quebec who work under the federal labour code would benefit from this particular legislation, as well intentioned as it may be.

The bill, therefore, creates two categories of workers: workers in Quebec and workers in other provinces. It creates a precedent, where an employee subject to the Canada Labour Code could opt out for the provincial program if she deemed it more generous, essentially cherry-picking the jurisdiction and laws that would apply in her case. The bill would allow employees to choose their effective jurisdiction, which is no way to run a federal country or administer a federal code.

Therefore, as well intentioned as it may be, because of the problematic nature of that in one province and not the others, we vote against the bill in its present form.

In effect, through the Canada Labour Code, the bill forces the federal government to live by present and future labour laws of the provincial governments without having any say in exactly what one has to live up to, even though the federal government has jurisdiction in its own area. In this case, the provinces would be dictating what is happening to the Canada Labour Code with respect to federal undertakings. This would be costly for the federal government, which would compensate the provinces under the terms of an agreement provided under proposed section 132.15 of the bill, which would create two payment systems under the provincial legislation and the Employment Insurance Act.

Again, I would like to remind members that when we bring private members' bills to the House and the principle is to help affected people, we believe that this should be looked at. However, sometimes we take the principle of a particular bill and vote accordingly. However, if we look at the bill and the flaws within it, sometimes they become too overbearing and we therefore vote whichever way we must. In this case, the flaws contained within it would certainly be overbearing to the system.

The bill would create a regional inequality in the Canada Labour Code that does not currently exist, which is what we put forward in 2005 when the bill first came into the House under Bill C-380 under the Bloc Québécois. It would create a separate system for employees under federal jurisdiction. The practical effect of Bill C-380 would create a separate system for employees, those working in Quebec, and those under federal jurisdiction who are working in other regions or other provinces and territories across the country. We certainly do feel that these arguments stand, as well intentioned as the bill may be.

If the proponent of the bill was concerned with pregnant and nursing mothers, the bill would have been drafted with those concerns in mind. As much as we compliment the member on the particular intentions within the bill, we certainly have to look at it on a national basis. In 2005 these were the arguments that we brought forward. These are the arguments that we adhere to in this situation. Therefore, we vote against it as a party.

As I mentioned earlier, under section 132.15 of the code, a pregnant or nursing employee who is subject to the code may apply to be reassigned to another position if her work constitutes a danger to herself or the child. If the worker cannot be reassigned by the employer to another job, the employee can obtain leave without pay under the code. Compensation will then be granted under the Unemployment Insurance Act or the collective agreement itself.

In Quebec, the program for a maternity without risk of the CSST offers benefits to women who must leave their jobs for that reason. It is also called preventive withdrawal. However, employees working for federally regulated employers in Quebec are not eligible for this program. We agree with the principles that I outlined before. It is noted that no other Canadian province offers compensation as Quebec through its health and safety at work measures. Therein lies the reason why the party votes against it.

Again, I congratulate the hon. member for bringing this into the House as it is certainly a pertinent issue. Hopefully, we can rectify these problems and get back to looking after the people who need it the most.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to support Bill C-307 sponsored by my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.

Bill C-307 would amend the Canada Labour Code to allow a pregnant or nursing employee to avail herself of provincial occupational health and safety legislation.

More specifically, this bill would affect pregnant or nursing employees who work in a job that comes under the Canada Labour Code. It would allow these women to benefit from applicable provincial laws, making it possible for them to request preventive withdrawal, a transfer to another position, or financial compensation under provincial legislation. The last subclause of this bill makes a very important point: an employee who decides to exercise the rights conferred by this bill will not be subject to sanctions or reprisals of any kind. This subclause, which highlights the importance of the absence of prejudice, is an important addition, and I congratulate my colleague for thinking of it.

My colleagues on the other side of the House made a number of arguments for not supporting this bill. I listened carefully to the arguments. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour is concerned about the cost of these measures.

After giving the issue a great deal of consideration, I believe that the health of women, fetuses and infants is well worth the $11 million that this bill will cost. The sum of $11 million seems to me to be very little when you think of all that can be accomplished with this increased protection for Canadian workers. What my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie is proposing is to protect the health and safety of mothers and future mothers.

In fact, this bill tackles a major problem in our laws. Currently, a pregnant woman or a nursing mother must incur the costs of leave without pay in order to ensure her own safety and her child’s. The employment insurance program is not much help, either. Each week of leave taken before the birth of the child is a week that is not taken afterward.

This means that a woman must choose between spending less time with her baby while she is on maternity leave and ensuring her safety and her baby’s safety while she is pregnant. In my opinion, this does not make sense. We ought to support pregnant or nursing Canadians. Why should a woman bear the economic burden of her own safety at work? It is not fair.

In Quebec, there are provisions that entitle women to preventive withdrawal from the workplace and allow them to receive 90% of their salary. Since 1981, pregnant women are protected if their job entails dangerous tasks, such as carrying a weight of more than seven kilograms, interacting with people who might be potentially dangerous for her or her child, working in an environment that is too noisy or standing for more than seven hours.

These provisions can make all the difference between a happy pregnancy and a stressful pregnancy. In my riding, there was a report that one couple expecting a baby were surprised to learn that the pregnant woman was not entitled to preventive withdrawal. As a trucker, a job that is covered by the Canada Labour Code and therefore under federal jurisdiction, the woman was not entitled to the preventive withdrawal benefits which her counterparts covered by the CSST enjoy. This means that, despite the dangerous conditions, the long hours of work and the continuing vibrations, she is not entitled to preventive withdrawal. She must take unpaid leave and pay for it herself, or find a safer job, perhaps losing her seniority.

This situation is totally unacceptable. For this couple, a provision like the one proposed in my colleague’s bill would mean peace of mind for the future mother about her financial situation, her baby’s safety and her own well-being.

Another job that is potentially affected by this bill is that of flight attendant. I cannot imagine how a pregnant flight attendant must feel when she finds out that she must take leave without pay to ensure her own safety and that of her child.

Imagine being pregnant. As your pregnancy progresses, you realize that a job that involves standing for seven hours in a plane shaken by turbulence could have a negative impact on your health and that of your fetus. So you have to make a decision, and it is not an easy one: continue working, putting your pregnancy at risk, or make the financial sacrifice and take leave without pay to protect your health. That is totally unfair. Women should not be punished because they have chosen one career over another.

This bill is exactly what CUPE has been fighting for. Nathalie Stringer, a flight attendant and president of the Air Transat component of CUPE, said:

CUPE has long been demanding this equal treatment for Quebec female workers under federal jurisdiction. In the airline sector, for example, a number of flight attendants have had to make the difficult choice between their financial situation and health risks. Since it is the health of pregnant women and unborn children that is at stake, we are counting on all MPs in the House of Commons to support this excellent initiative and leave partisanship out of it.

This is about the safety of women, fetuses and babies. This is about women's equality and a social safety net that supports a just, fair and healthy society.

If the government really wants to help Canadian families, it has to walk the walk. It has to stop penalizing pregnant women. I encourage all of my colleagues to support this bill, make a real difference in the lives of millions of families, and make our society more just.