House of Commons Hansard #133 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trade.

Topics

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

9:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

9:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #258

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

9:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion adopted.

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

Air Canada
Adjournment Proceedings

9:55 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in adjournment proceedings to follow up on a question about why the government did not apply the 1988 public participation act when Aveos declared bankruptcy.

We have seen a few developments since then. Today, for instance, Air Canada admitted to labour unrest and decided to launch a low-cost carrier, damn the evidence against such risky ventures. The only way that it could accomplish such a risky venture amidst all of this labour unrest is through the strong arm of the federal government and its rush to back-to-work legislation.

The government continues with its program of prosperity for the few and propping up the losers in our economy.

Let us look at the history of Air Canada. Some people in the chamber may remember Zip Airlines, which did not fare so well when competing with other low-cost carriers. Now Air Canada is trying again. Instead of Air Canada strengthening what it has, it is recklessly going out of its way in risky ventures because it knows that it has a friend in the Canadian government and can take on such risky ventures.

Let us look at the situation here. Top executives at Air Canada get double-digit compensation increases while the company preaches austerity for its employees who keep the company running. This is just not fair to the workers who have given their lives to Air Canada and its affiliated services.

Usually a system of merit exists for executive bonuses. At Air Canada stock shares are currently tumbling, yet executives are increasing their pay. It used to be that bonuses were awarded for performance and merit, but now the Conservatives' philosophy that the market will regulate all leads to this sort of wild capitalism in which compensation for Air Canada's executive team rises by a whopping 47%.

Let me name off some of the executive team of Air Canada who received bonuses: Calin Rovinescu, $4.5 million; Michael Rousseau, $1.68 million; Duncan Dee, $1.62 million; Benjamin Smith, $1.37 million; and David Legge, $1.15 million.

This is very disturbing, because the workers have been taking austerity measures for several years and shares are tumbling, yet this team takes executive compensation. The airline lost $249 million last year.

When asked about the truth in advertising bill, which said that consumers should know how much they pay in airline prices, the parliamentary secretary stated that “...we do need to ensure that the regulations...are not harmful to an industry that employs people across this country”. We see that from the Conservative government.

When it comes to labour regulations, the government is not there. When it comes to safety regulations, the government is not there. Somehow when it comes to protecting workers affected by bankruptcies or a balance between executives compensating themselves and workers getting paid money owed to them, the government is not there to regulate that either.

It is an unfortunate situation. We hope that the Conservatives will come around to seeing things our way.

Air Canada
Adjournment Proceedings

10 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, everyone regrets when 2,600 people lose their jobs as a result of a company going bankrupt, but what do the NDP members propose that we actually do about it? They say that we should apply the Air Canada Public Participation Act. On that point, I asked the assistant deputy minister for business and regulatory law at the Department of Justice during the March 29 committee hearings. He is an independent and non-partisan public servant.

I asked him, “Is there anything in the Air Canada Public Participation Act that would require Aveos to come out of bankruptcy protection? Is there any section in the Air Canada Public Participation Act that would compel taxpayers to provide a bailout to Aveos to bring it out of bankruptcy protection?”

His response to both questions was “No”.

I asked, “Could the Government of Canada ban Aveos from filing bankruptcy protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act?”

Mr. Legault said, “The Government of Canada has no relationship with Aveos itself, so I would not speculate on that.”

I said, “What I'm saying is that if ACPPA is being violated now, as the opposition argues, there is nothing to stop a court from independently finding that after a complaint is brought.”

Mr. Legault said, “Possibly they could do so.”

I said, “So the Government of Canada does not have the legal authority to compel a company to end its bankruptcy filing?”

Mr. Legault replied, “It's in the hands of Aveos.”

I asked, “Can you list the sections in the Air Canada Public Participation Act that require Aveos to continue operating?”

He replied, “Aveos is not mentioned in the act.”

I asked, “And what sections in the act compel Air Canada to receive its maintenance and overhaul services from Aveos?”

He replied, “All the act provides is that Air Canada has to include in its articles an obligation to continue maintenance in the three cities.”

I asked, “Through Aveos?”

He replied, “No”.

The reality is that there is nothing in the law that can force Aveos not to go bankrupt. There is nothing in the law that can ban it from going bankrupt. There is nothing in the law that can bring back these 2,600 jobs.

Perhaps the NDP is proposing that we introduce a special bill that would ban just this company from going bankrupt. It would be the only company in Canada that the law would forbid to declare bankruptcy. However, I am not sure how an act like that would be enforced. Would we send in the police and force the company to spend money it does not have on wages or any other expenditure? I do not know. I look forward to the member explaining how exactly such an action would be taken.

Given that the opposition has proposed no remedy whatsoever to compel Aveos and its 2,600 jobs back into existence, we can only assume that it is proposing a bailout. However, the company has burned through $1 billion in investor money in the last five years. To keep it operating for another five years, it would need another $1 billion of taxpayers' money.

It should be noted that Air Canada offered a partial bailout of $15 million to Aveos, which it rejected. Aveos also rejected coming to explain itself before a parliamentary committee in this chamber. Yet the opposition continues to propose that we take $1 billion out of the economy through taxes and spend that money bailing out a company that has clearly failed. We reject that proposal.

Air Canada
Adjournment Proceedings

10:05 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, no one here tonight or before has asked for a bailout of Aveos.

It is a simple fact that governments have a role to play in protecting workers. I am proposing that, when a company goes bankrupt, the government enact legislation so that the workers do not get abused by the company in one form or another.

We saw Nortel pensioners left out in the cold. There are pensioners who worked and gave throughout their life to build that technology company. They are aging, out of the workforce, and there is nothing for them. There was no protection given to them. We can see that the same thing might happen to the workers at Aveos.

The fact is that Air Canada Technical Services, in the last couple of years of its existence, made a lot of transfers of its workers to Aveos. Given that the company is not in great shape right now, it would not be a pragmatic suggestion for Air Canada to take those workers back. However, the federal government could have shown leadership on this file and tried to find another company, such as Lufthansa Technik, that could have taken the place of Aveos. The government did not show any leadership on this file whatsoever.

The government can make laws to protect workers from abuse through bankrupt proceedings.

Air Canada
Adjournment Proceedings

10:05 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the opposition's position has now changed. At the outset of the debate, the member said that we should simply enforce the Air Canada Public Participation Act and the jobs will come back.

I meticulously demonstrated through the testimony of the most senior legal expert in the government on the question that that was impossible, that there was nothing in the act that could ban Aveos from going bankrupt, nothing in the act that could compel it back into existence and nothing in the act that could recreate those 2,600 lost jobs.

Therefore, having lost that argument, the opposition stood up and said that now it does not want Aveos to come back into existence, that it now wants just changes to the Bankruptcy Act so that the workers who have lost their jobs will be protected.

That is an entirely different debate than what he has been having already. The reality is that we cannot pass a law to forbid a company from going bankrupt and we will not spend a $1 billion tax dollars to sell such a failed company when it does.

Foreign Affairs
Adjournment Proceedings

June 4th, 2012 / 10:10 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to pursue a question that I put in the House for the hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs on March 5.

The issue deals with the question of the integrity of Canada's ability to enforce sanctions against Iran when we are increasingly dealing with what we consider new markets or new trading partners, however we want to put it, but essentially allowing state-owned Communist Party enterprises owned by the Government of China to become increasingly large investors in Canada.

Some of the very same companies, not just the general concept of state-owned Chinese enterprises, are major investors in Iran. In fact, the single largest customer for Iranian oil is Sinopec. Sinopec, as people may know, has been investing heavily in the oil sands. In fact, it purchased a 9% share that used to be ConocoPhillips' share of the oil sands, and at the same time, the ConocoPhillips' share was a share of Syncrude, so it is a major investor now in Syncrude, but it is not the only company that deals with Iran as well as investing in Canada.

I would mention, for instance, China National Offshore Oil Corporation, sometimes called CNOOC, has completely purchased, or one of its subsidiaries has purchased, the Long Lake oil sands mine in Alberta. At the same time, it is doing a $16 billion investment with Tehran in the North Pars gas fields. That is not the only company. If we look at PetroChina, it has a 25 year deal with the National Iranian Gas Export Company, and at the same time it was only six years into its 25 year deal with the Iranian National Gas Company when that same company, PetroChina, purchased all of the mine at MacKay River oil sands project.

What does this mean for us in terms of our sanctions? On March 5 I said that in light of the increased tensions around Iran and around nuclear issues, the importance of sanctions could not be overestimated. I asked the minister, in this light, whether we were concerned that our new trading partner, Sinopec in China, which is the largest buyer of Iranian oil, was undermining the sanctions.

The minister's response, while interesting, did not relate to my question. I hope this evening, as we pursue this matter, we can perhaps get an answer to the question.

I would like to put into the discussion we are having this evening that I am not the only member of Parliament who is concerned about Chinese investments in Canada at the same time that these same Chinese companies are the major oil customers for Iran, undermining sanctions. This is a quote from the hon. member for Mount Royal that reproduced in the Ottawa Citizen:

To the extent that we’ve now got sanctions-violating companies here in Canada that are doing business in Iran, the implications are serious.... They are very, very serious.

Again, that was the hon. member for Mount Royal, who has a very strong record in the area of working as hard as we all can to ensure that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad understands that Canada is not his friend. We are friends of the people of Iran but we are not his friends.

How then did they perceive what is going on in global diplomacy when we are opening our arms? We are actually undermining environmental laws, and Bill C-38 was its destruction of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. It appears to be in the interest of speeding things that Sinopec wants. How do we justify that?

Foreign Affairs
Adjournment Proceedings

10:10 p.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for bringing this concern to Parliament today, as has the member for Mount Royal.

Canada is deeply concerned by the Iranian government's continued disrespect for the human rights of its citizens, its destabilizing regional role and its nuclear proliferation activities.

I will say quite clearly that Iran clearly knows that Canada is no friend of Iran. We have the largest, strongest sanctions against Iran, going beyond what the Security Council has said.

Most recently, on January 13, we expanded existing sanctions by adding five entities and individuals to our list of designated persons. Prior to that, on November 21, 2001, Canada implemented a number of strong measures against Iran under the Special Economic Measures Act. These expanded sanctions prohibit all financial transactions with Iran or any person in Iran, adding individuals and entities to the list of designated persons and expanding the list of goods prohibited for export.

The member has raised the question of China. As a result of the sanctions that we have put on Iran, there is no direct energy sector relations between Canada and Iran.

Furthermore, all Canadian sanctions against Iran were drafted as broadly as allowed under Canadian law. There is no power in Canadian law to apply sanctions to non-Canadians outside Canada. However, the prohibitions apply to persons in Canada and Canadians abroad, and they apply to financial transactions carried out for the benefit of and on the direction of or order of any person in Iran.

Canada's concern about the nuclear, and not only nuclear activities but also human rights violations has been long-standing. As part of our ongoing efforts to promote respect for human rights in that country, Canada led the adoption of the resolution on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran in the fall of 2011 session of the United Nations General Assembly. This marked the ninth consecutive year Canada led this initiative. The resolution was co-sponsored by 42 member states and supported by 89 in the vote, with only 13 members voting against it. This represented the largest margin of adoption since Canada assumed the lead on this resolution in 2003.

I do join with the member on the opposite side in expressing the concern that she has expressed about the nuclear proliferation by Iran and the threat that Iran poses to the region. We will be working with our international allies, and that includes China as well, to ensure that sanctions are applied and that as much diplomatic pressure is put on Iran as we can.

Foreign Affairs
Adjournment Proceedings

10:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the parliamentary secretary believes there is a problem, but I am astonished that he could put forth the notion that there is not an issue of concern when we have Sinopec, CNOOC and PetroChina buying from Iran and investing in Canada at the same time, the same subsidiaries in and out of the same pockets.

When we talk about nuclear issues, we know that we have just approved the sale of yellowcake from Saskatchewan to China under terms that the U.S. finds too shaky to meet the terms of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. We cannot track yellowcake adequately under these new rules. We, therefore, could be not only dealing with companies that buy the Iranian oil and prop up that regime, as China props up Syria, but we could also be in a situation where Canadian yellowcake makes its way into the Chinese nuclear program or even into the Iranian nuclear program. We cannot track these sales.

We have let the horse out of the barn without paying attention. In 2009, when we amended the Investment Canada Act, we should have put a clause in, as the experts recommended, for national security checks to be included. We have no protection. We are not paying attention.

Foreign Affairs
Adjournment Proceedings

10:15 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, I want to make it very clear for the hon. member that we are concerned with what is happening in Iran, as she herself is concerned with the situation. However, our approach is to work with our allies. Of course we are aware that China is one of the larger customers of Iran going back before these sanctions were put forward and therefore diplomatically the pressure is being put on China from everyone to reduce the imports of oil into China.

The member keeps talking about China. It is India as well that is reducing its imports from China. However, this is working together diplomatically with all our allies to ensure that pressure is put forward on China and on other countries that are buying the Iranian oil to get them to come to the table and talk about the nuclear activities.

Right now as we talk the second stage of that conference will be taking place pretty soon in which all five countries, including China, will be talking with the Iranians in reference to their nuclear activities.

Science and Technology
Adjournment Proceedings

10:20 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, Charles Townes, in describing the discovery of the laser, showed how much that discovery depended on a massive amount of research on atomic spectroscopy and the study of atomic beams, work seemingly of little commercial use.

This observation, reported in the journal Physics in Canada last summer, is at the heart of the debate on innovation in Canada.

The best-known Canadian scientific institution is undoubtedly the National Research Council of Canada. The NRC is behind one of the greatest symbols of Canadian scientific achievement, the Canadarm.

In March, the Minister of State for Science and Technology announced the dramatic restructuring of the NRC. In a speech to the members of the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa on March 6, he stated that the National Research Council of Canada “will be hopefully a one-stop, 1-800, ‘ 'I have a solution for your business problem’.”

The Minister of State for Science and Technology must realize that the NRC is more than just a one-stop Staples store. The National Research Council of Canada plays a crucial role in Canada's science culture. It is a symbol of our commitment to the advancement of science.

Between 2007 and 2012, the government gradually reduced core funding for the three granting councils: SSHRC, NSERC and CIHR. Social science research has been reduced by 10%, or $40 million, and health research has been cut by 4%, or $41 million, according to the memorandum submitted by the Canadian Association of University Teachers as part of pre-budget consultations.

Cuts to basic scientific research are leaving Canadian researchers with less and less money to pursue research that could contribute to advances in physics, chemistry and biology. Essentially, innovation is not getting any easier; rather it is becoming more difficult.

Eventually, underfunding for basic research will jeopardize the overall size of our scientific community. In other words, it will shrink, and this will reduce our chances for innovation.

The second outcome of this government's policy is that it will threaten technology transfers themselves between universities and the private sector. The marketing pipeline has two ends and if the source dries up, nothing can come out the other end. In other words, good ideas are needed before they can be marketed.

The third outcome of the government's science policy is that it will create a new brain drain in Canada. The vice-president of research at the University of British Columbia agrees. In Research Money he states, and I quote:

“We're now starting to lose talented mid-career researchers to the EU. The EU Framework program, France and Germany are all increasing their basic research envelope. Germany is increasing funding for basic research by 5%....These are huge increases in funding. They (European countries) can do targeted recruitment and the are making spectacular offers. That's my main concern. Canada has built a very strong university research community and I don't want to see it taken apart by foreign competition”.

My question is the following: will the $67 million announced in budget 2012 for restructuring the National Research Council be used to give severance packages to Canada's top researchers?

Science and Technology
Adjournment Proceedings

10:25 p.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, our government has shown a strong and long-standing commitment to science and technology since the release of our science and technology strategy in 2007. The strategy recognizes the important link between knowledge and the capacity to innovate in the global economy. More important than simply having a strategy, we are taking action.

Economic action plan 2012 builds on this foundation, creating a comprehensive and forward looking agenda that will deliver high quality jobs, economic growth and sound public finances. It builds on our positive record of achievement to help further unleash the potential of Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs to innovate and thrive in the modern economy to the benefit of all Canadians.

By focusing on the drivers of growth and job creation, innovation, investment, education, skills and communities, we will solidify, strengthen and draw upon the Canadian entrepreneurial spirit as the driving force behind Canada's economy.

Supporting publicly-funded research is important to the government. Our government's spending on science and technology for fiscal year 2011-12 is expected to exceed $11 billion. Sadly, the opposition continues to oppose every investment that our government makes in science and technology. Our government's investments help support world-class Canadian research and help us achieve key social goals, such as improving public health, building a strong and vibrant economy and ensuring a clean and healthy environment for future generations.

However, we recognize that despite high levels of federal support for R and D, Canada continues to lag in business R and D spending, commercialization of new products and services and thus productivity growth. That is why we asked an independent panel, led by Mr. Tom Jenkins, to review federal investments in business R and D and provide advice on optimizing this support.

Through its response to elements of the Jenkins panel report, budget 2012 also announced a new approach to innovation that would more actively support business-led initiatives to better meet private sector needs. In particular, we will transform the National Research Council, or NRC, to refocus its efforts toward business-driven, industry-relevant applied research that will help Canadian businesses develop innovative products and services. The model being developed will be built on proven approaches used by successful global innovation players, carefully adapted to the Canadian reality.

In addition, economic action plan 2012 invests an additional $110 million a year in the industrial research assistance program, or IRAP, to better support R and D by small and medium sized companies.

Through these and other measures, we have taken action because we are committed to creating an environment where Canadian ideas and innovation can be turned into new marketable, competitive and beneficial products that result in jobs, growth and prosperity for all Canadians in the years ahead.