House of Commons Hansard #131 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was changes.

Topics

Government Priorities
Adjournment Proceedings

May 31st, 2012 / 5:40 p.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today as a follow-up to a question that I raised on March 2, regarding the bad environmental and economic choices made by the Conservative government.

Since I asked my question, the government has tabled a budget and a budget implementation bill that illustrate once again its inability to reconcile the environment and the protection of our economy. I am going to provide a few examples.

The budget implementation bill proposes to repeal the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. In addition to speeding up the process and restricting public consultation, the government reserves the right to overturn rulings made by review panels to allow major projects promoted by powerful oil interests. To make matters worse, the new regulations will apply to review processes that are already underway, so that projects such as the oil sands and the northern gateway pipeline could escape close scrutiny.

The second example is taken from the budget. The government is giving $8 million to the Canada Revenue Agency to monitor charities, including environmental groups, to ensure they do not get involved in the public debate. The government claims that these groups should not get involved in politics. In addition to interfering with a fundamental freedom, namely the freedom of expression, this measure seeks to prevent environmental groups from participating in the public debate and will yet again weaken the environmental assessment process by giving free reign to lobbyists representing big oil companies.

My third example is the changes to the Fisheries Act. Relaxing the act's requirements will jeopardize the economic activity related to commercial and recreational fisheries. In fact, John Fraser and Tom Siddon, two former Conservative ministers of Fisheries and Oceans, have condemned these changes. I think they are absolutely right. It does not make any sense to want to promote economic development by jeopardizing the work of thousands of fishermen and workers whose livelihood depends on tourism.

The budget also repeals the Kyoto Implementation Act. I have said it repeatedly in this House: this is an ideological decision that will end up costing us more in the long run. First, there is the issue of costs related to climate change. We can think, for example, of shoreline erosion, of the impact of global warming on agriculture, and of the destruction caused by severe weather events. But there is also the whole issue of missed opportunities for Canada regarding jobs in green industries.

With the elimination of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, the major decisions regarding our collective future will now be taken without any serious analysis. Unfortunately, it is future generations that will pay the price.

Finally, the budget also targets environmental sciences. I particularly condemn the abolition of the experimental lakes program run by the Freshwater Institute in northern Ontario, and of the MRS program, as well as the research, technology and instrumentation grants program run by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Hundreds of scientists will be affected by these cuts, and some important and irreplaceable data will be lost.

Will the government introduce a sustainable plan to develop our natural resources and to preserve them for future generations, for our children and grandchildren?

Government Priorities
Adjournment Proceedings

5:40 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

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

It is always a pleasure to address the member in the House on such important issues. I would like to start with her original question that she put in the House on March 2.

She made a claim that the government would “slash the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency's budget by 43%”. I hope she has read the budget since then to see that in fact not only was the entire funding allocation for this agency renewed, but there was increased allocation for participant funding. Once again, this demonstrates our government's commitment to ensuring that there is rigour in environmental assessment in opposition to what she has been saying tonight.

The one thing I picked up on was the member spoke with great disdain around the terminology “big oil companies”. She uses it like a term of derision. I find that very interesting because her leader is in Alberta today. He is touring the oil sands in Fort McMurray, which is a great wealth of natural resources. I hope she will listen to some of the comments he made. He did agree that this was a great driver of the Canadian economy. I certainly hope we will see a change in tune from him rather than these divisive comments pitting workers in Alberta against workers in Ontario.

Instead of acknowledging that this is a resource that should be developed for all Canadians, she talked at the end of her speech about ensuring that it was around for generations to come. I agree with her. We do need to ensure that we see this develop sustainably. That is why our government has implemented what has been called a world-class monitoring system for the oil sands. The commissioner for the environment has called it robust. He has called it leading and world class. It is a step in the right direction. We have great partnership with the province of Alberta on this.

Also, there are technologies being developed by industry in partnership with government to ensure that those resources are developed and that land is reclaimed on the back end.

I think my colleague is originally from Alberta. I hope she would visit her hometown, as her leader has done, to see the big oil companies. Frankly, I hope I do not hear that term used by her party as derision. We should be talking about the energy sector as a driver of the economy.

I will close with some quotes that came out of our subcommittee on finance reviewing the changes in the budget implementation act, which are designed to ensure we have environmental sustainability with economic growth. We want to ensure that businesses have predictability and timeliness in process but that we still ensure the rigour. In the environmental assessment, we feel the bill does that.

We asked the commissioner of the environment about the screening level assessments. Right now screening level assessments comprise 99% of the environmental assessments that are conducted through the Environmental Assessment Agency. I asked him if he would characterize us transferring resources from 99% of these screenings, 94% of which he is on the record saying have little to no environmental impact at all, to focus on larger projects to ensure we have resources within the agency and to ensure that those big projects, which the member talked about, are adequately concluded.

We are on the right track. I certainly hope she will support our measures in this regard.

Government Priorities
Adjournment Proceedings

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to all of the points that my hon. colleague raised, but unfortunately, I have just one minute to do so.

I would like to repeat that the government made cuts to important environmental monitoring programs, such as the experimental lakes program in the Experimental Lakes Area.

This is about the fundamental difference between the NDP and the Conservative Party. The difference is that the NDP supports economic development and the development of Canada's natural resources. However, New Democrats support responsible science- and research-based development that conserves resources for future generations.

I would like to repeat my question. When will the government introduce a sustainable natural resource development plan that respects provincial jurisdiction and maximizes benefits for Canadians?

Government Priorities
Adjournment Proceedings

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Calgary Centre-North, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to clarify that “cut” does not mean renew funding or implement world-class monitoring systems. We have invested in environmental assessments. We have invested in world-class monitoring systems. We have invested in research and development funding for clean energy technology.

In fact, in the budget we have added stiff penalties for people who do not follow up with the guidelines in the environmental assessments. All of these are contained in the budget bill. They are designed to ensure that sustainable growth.

I hope my colleague will support it.

41st General Election
Adjournment Proceedings

5:45 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to pursue a question that I initially put to the Prime Minister on March 1. It relates to an issue that is increasingly worrying to many Canadians regardless of how they voted.

This is not a partisan issue, and I want to set that out as a foundation. I include in my statement of non-partisan interest in this issue that I do not believe for a moment that in ridings where there were alleged dirty tricks there is a chance that Conservative candidates, many of whom I have great affection for, would have known about the voter suppression techniques that were used in the election that took place on May 2, 2011.

With the context out of the way, I want to pursue the question I asked on March 1, which was this: in the context of the voter suppression phone calls, which some people call robocalls, we need to understand them as multiple acts of illegal activity. Each single phone call purporting to be Elections Canada when it was not Elections Canada represents a crime. It is a crime on two levels. It is a crime against our fair and democratic free elections under the Canada Elections Act. Purporting to be someone you are not for purposes of fraud is also a crime under the Criminal Code.

It is criminal activity that occurred multiple times in multiple ridings. That is the context. You can call them robocalls, but it is election fraud we are discussing.

My question for the Prime Minister on March 1 dealt with the fact that I am personally aware of extensive evidence of electoral fraud that occurred in Saanich—Gulf Islands, the riding I represent, in the election in which I was not a candidate, the one in 2008, about which the New Democratic Party filed complaints. The Liberal Party filed complaints. Public interest groups like Democracy Watch filed complaints. Third party groups that were concerned about election fraud also filed complaints. Yet, despite a lot of evidence, the RCMP and Elections Canada were unable to get to the bottom of it, which is why I do not think we are yet on the right track to get to the bottom of what happened on May 2, 2011.

This is not to suggest malfeasance on anyone's part, it is just the reality that I examined. Let me tell you what happened. The failure to get to the bottom of that leads me to the inevitable conclusion that the Prime Minister must call a public inquiry that is properly funded and has subpoena powers and a proper staff to find out how election fraud took place in 2008 in Saanich—Gulf Islands and across Canada on May 2, 2011.

The reality is this. Calls were made in Saanich—Gulf Islands at the last minute on the night before the election only to those voters who supported the New Democratic Party. What would be strange about how this unknown, mysterious calling program got the phone numbers of people only supporting the NDP, as far as I know, to call purportedly from the NDP and urge people to go out and vote NDP?

There was no NDP candidate on the ballot. The name remained but the candidate had withdrawn. These were spoof calls, as we now know the term, in that the phone number that appeared on the call display was actually a home fax number for an executive within the NDP, who filed complaints. With the information they had, they pursued it. He was initially told to go to the Saanich police and complain there. Then he went to the RCMP.

Nothing was discovered because it was not properly investigated. With issues this important, must we not have a full public inquiry? I asked for a full public inquiry from Elections Canada in May of last year and have still not had a response.

I ask the Conservative Party representatives here tonight to explain how we are going to get to the bottom of this if we do not have an inquiry.

41st General Election
Adjournment Proceedings

5:50 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

Mr. Speaker, I will remind the member that we are here in Parliament. This is not about parties. This is about speaking to each other as parliamentarians. We are the government here.

As the government stated numerous times in this House regarding issues like this and the most recent issues, we want Elections Canada's investigations to go ahead regarding the most recent events. However, regarding concerns the member may have for previous elections which she has raised tonight, I would encourage her to follow up with Elections Canada.

41st General Election
Adjournment Proceedings

5:50 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the parliamentary secretary's invocation that we are parliamentarians here. We are, and as a parliamentarian, I am part of the government, and that is the difficulty we have. When we mess up our language and refer to opposition parties and government parties, we defy the traditions of Westminster parliamentary democracy. I speak here as the Leader of the Green Party, and I speak to my hon. friend, who is a representative of the Conservative Party in the Government of Canada.

Once again I say taking it up with Elections Canada is an inadequate response to a serious problem. In 2011 we know there were dozens of ridings in which election fraud took place. I find it absolutely shocking that representatives of any party in the House would be so little concerned, so little troubled that they would leave it to Elections Canada, particularly when budget 2012 cuts Elections Canada's budget by $7.5 million, further compromising any ability of that agency to get to the bottom of criminal activity.

41st General Election
Adjournment Proceedings

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, this government has expressed its significant concern with these types of issues. As we have said, we encourage and we want Elections Canada to go ahead with investigations on the most recent issues.

Regarding something quite significant that happened in the past, as I mentioned to the member already this evening in the House, I would encourage her to speak with Elections Canada.

41st General Election
Adjournment Proceedings

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 5:56 p.m.)