House of Commons Hansard #135 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rescue.

Topics

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

It being Wednesday, we will now have the singing of the national anthem today led by the pages.

[Members sang the national anthem]

GlobalFest
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, GlobalFest is a very popular summer event held in my riding of Calgary East. I am delighted to announce that this summer GlobalFest will celebrate its 10th anniversary.

GlobalFest celebrates Calgary's cultural diversity and artistic excellence, with six nights of multicultural festivities and spectacular international fireworks. Each night features a different country's display.

This event is unique in the world and offers an inclusive cultural experience meant to promote engagement and understanding in the community.

Every year, over 100,000 people attend this event. This year, GlobalFest will be held from August 16 to 26.

I want to congratulate all those who have been involved in bringing us this fantastic event in the past 10 years. I wish them the best of luck for GlobalFest 2012.

Finally, I invite all members of the House and all Canadians to visit Calgary this summer to experience GlobalFest.

Bill C-38
Statements by Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, the current Conservative budget, Bill C-38, not only goes far beyond simple changes to tax and monetary measures but, due to the non-monetary parts of Bill C-38, it takes away the ability of MPs to effectively do the due diligence required by the institution of Parliament to ensure and protect the rights of Canadians.

Bill C-38 has dozens of changes in policy areas, including the environment, natural resources and human resources, which demands that these changes be reviewed by the other committees of Parliament responsible for these files.

The would bill repeal the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. It would change the Fisheries Act. It would scrap the Office of the Inspector General at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. In the shadowy world of CSIS, independent oversight is essential. It would remove the oversight of the Auditor General from a dozen government agency. Was that because the Auditor General released less than flattering reports on the government's record on fiscal mismanagement?

The bill should have been called the eliminating transparency and settling old scores act.

Alberta Beach Lions Club
Statements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize an outstanding accomplishment of an organization in my riding of Yellowhead. T

his coming Saturday, June 9, in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, the Alberta Beach Lions Club will be receiving an award at the International Snowmobile Congress 2012.

This group's great work has been recognize by the Canadian Council of Snowmobile Organizations, which has bestowed upon it a national excellence award for outstanding promotion and development of snowmobiling in 2011-12. This promotion of snowmobiling by the club is done with the common goals in mind in respect to the environment, conservation, access, education and accountability.

In Canada, there are over 603,000 snowmobiles registered and the industry has $6 billion of economic impact annually.

I am very proud of the Alberta Beach Lions Club for its hard work in promoting activities that are not only fantastic and fun, but also ones that bring family, people and communities together.

Trinidad and Tobago
Statements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I stand to pay tribute to the land of my birth, Trinidad and Tobago, on its 50th anniversary of independence.

A small country of 1.3 million people, Trinidad and Tobago punches well above its weight in the Commonwealth and in the world.

Trinidad and Tobago is the original multicultural nation, its rich cultural diversity spawning renowned author like Vidya Naipaul and Nobel Prize poet Samuel Selvon; bringing to the world calypso, limbo and the only new musical instrument of the 20th century, the steel pan.

Through effective long-term management of its natural resources, this little island is now one of the wealthiest countries in the Americas. It was recently removed from the OECD's list of developing countries and named the third best place in the Commonwealth to raise a female child. I am one female grateful for the excellent opportunities Trinidad and Tobago gave me as a child of poor parents.

On behalf of the Liberal caucus, I congratulate my fellow Trinnies on their 50th anniversary and echo the last verse of the national anthem:

Here every creed and race find an equal place and may God bless our nation.

Ukraine
Statements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, last month, the foreign affairs committee travelled to Ukraine to study the state of democracy as well as the status of projects funded by the Canadian International Development Agency.

We were privileged to have Taras Zalusky from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Borys Potapenko from the League of Ukrainian Canadians and Bob Onyschuk from the Canadian Ukrainian Foundation accompany us and assist us with our task to help Ukraine move from a socialist system into a free market system, with free and fair elections.

In Canada there are 1.3 million Ukrainian Canadians.

Canada supports Ukrainians as they struggle to achieve the longing of their collective souls for a free Ukraine, free from servitude, free from corruption, free from the horrors of the Soviet past and free to live and prosper as an independent Ukraine.

This government stands with Ukrainian Canadians as they work in their churches, in their community organizations and as individuals in contact with relatives, to bring true democracy and freedom in Ukraine. We challenge the Ukrainian government to have a free and fair election next fall.

No Makeup Day
Statements by Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I proudly rise in this House wearing no mascara or lipstick, and not even a hint of foundation. Today is the third edition of Quebec's No Makeup Day—the Journée sans maquillage.

On this day to raise awareness of self-esteem, all women are encouraged to leave their makeup cases behind for 24 hours and to go natural. The event encourages women to feel naturally beautiful in their own skin. This initiative started in 2010, when Canal Vie and ELLE Québec presented a documentary and special issue dealing with some women's obsession with makeup. The event has been gaining in popularity every year since then. High schools, artists and well-known Quebeckers have decided to participate.

Today I encourage all women, young and old, to go without a layer of makeup and to show off their natural beauty. I thank my colleagues who are participating in this event.

Plunkett Foundation
Statements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay special tribute to Steve Plunkett, a constituent who is the epitome of community leader. Steve is the president of the Plunkett Foundation, which provides support in areas of medical research and equipment. Through his profound generosity, Steve honours his parents, Dr. Earl Plunkett, an internationally renowned and respected physician, and his mother Corinne Plunkett. To date, the foundation has delivered $4 million to support critical and innovative health care initiatives.

Their flagship event and biggest fundraiser is the annual Fleetwood Country Cruize In, held this past weekend in London. In its eighth year, it is the largest outdoor car show in Canada, with 3,000 plus vintage cars, hot rods and custom specialty vehicles on display. In the past he has included four air shows in conjunction with the car show. He brings in world-class entertainers. All of this is hosted on his private estate, with two museums open to the public and incredible live concerts. They bring in the most famous cars and celebrities in the world, all in London, Ontario, all to support many local charities. Steve is the most passionate volunteer at the event.

I am proud of Steve and London is proud of Steve. I thank him for caring so deeply.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Statements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, tonight every member of the House has the opportunity to vote for freedom. For far too long every Canadian's fundamental right to freedom of expression has been needlessly suppressed by an overzealous bureaucracy armed with section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, a vague and highly subjective law operating under the cloak of ambiguity. While section 13 may have been implemented with well-meaning intentions, its implications reach much further, chilling free speech and stifling the growth and development of free expression in our society. It is time to take back our right to freedom of expression as the bedrock upon which all other freedoms are built and repeal section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

It is time to take a stand for the rights of Canadians and our future generations. It is important that all members of the House take a moment to consider what we, as a free and democratic country, will lose if section 13 continues to be allowed to erode our freedom of speech.

Thank you Mr. Speaker and God bless.

D-Day
Statements by Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, 68 years ago today, Canadians woke up to know that their heroes were landing on the beaches of Normandy with their allies the Americans, the Brits, the Poles, the Australians, the New Zealanders and many others, to fight against the terrible scourge of Nazism that was going across Europe.

Our heroes like Reid Myers of Fall River, Nova Scotia, landed on the beaches of Normandy. Murray Knowles operated a naval gun, and while he was doing that on June 6, his son was being born in Nova Scotia at the exact same time of the landing on Normandy. Harold Chuck Elliott, one of the heroes, landed as a paratrooper at midnight that night behind enemy lines.

These are three examples of the thousands of brave men and women who sacrificed everything for the freedom of Europe and the world.

On June 6, 68 years later, we stand in the House of Commons and thank them and honour them. We say “God bless their memories” to them and their families and God bless Canada. To a free Europe and to a free world, they truly are Canada's greatest heroes.

Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada
Statements by Members

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the leader of the third party for the first time in quite a while stood in the House of Commons to talk about the economy. After seeing the job he did with Ontario's economy in the 1990s, it is no wonder the leader of the Liberal Party and former premier of Ontario has not spoken about the economy in quite some time.

While the leader opposite was the NDP premier of Ontario, he devastated the economy, raised taxes, ran record deficits, opposed trade, saw unemployment almost double. Clearly, the government will not be taking advice from the leader of the third party.

Our government has a proven track record of creating jobs and creating economic growth. Over 750,000 net new jobs have been created since July 2009.

We will continue on this path, and we call on the leader of the Liberal Party to support our positive plan. We also call on the leader of the Liberal Party to return the $40 million the Liberals owe Canadians.

Jordan's Principle
Statements by Members

2:15 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, many in the House are familiar with the story of Jordan River Anderson from Norway House Cree First Nation.

He was born with complex medical needs, but bureaucratic in-fighting about home care fees kept him hospitalized. Jordan died at the age of four, never having spent a day in his family home.

Maurina Beadle of Nova Scotia faces a similar jurisdictional battle as she seeks help in caring for her 15-year-old special needs son, Jeremy, but thanks to Jordan and the principle that bears his name, she is fighting back.

Along with Pictou Landing First Nation, she is taking the federal government to court for failure to implement Jordan's Principle, a child first private member's motion unanimously supported in the House in 2007. It calls on the federal government to pay medical bills first and determine who pays later.

Maurina Beadle's landmark court case set for next week could create the legal precedence to entrench Jordan's Principle in law so that sick kids are no longer caught in the middle of jurisdictional squabbles.

Today I salute Maurina in her quest for justice, not only for her son but for all first nation children.

Human Trafficking
Statements by Members

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Wai Young Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, human trafficking is a despicable crime that preys upon vulnerable women and children.

Our government has taken strong action on this file, such as supporting the private member's bill put forward by the member for Kildonan—St. Paul to implement mandatory minimum sentences for those who are convicted of child trafficking, as well as supporting the RCMP in their “Blue Blindfold” campaign to raise public awareness.

However, we can do more, which is why we committed during the last election to delivering significant resources to combat this terrible crime. We are working to ensure that young female immigrants who arrive in Canada alone are protected from illegitimate work. We are supporting organizations that provide assistance to victims and we are implementing a national action plan to combat human trafficking.

I am very pleased today to see the Minister of Public Safety announce a $25 million national action plan, which will help to finally put a stop to this terrible crime.

Canadians can count on our government to always put victims, especially those who are among our most vulnerable, first.

D-Day
Statements by Members

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, on the evening of June 5, 1944, the skies over the English Channel in northern France cleared enough to allow General Eisenhower to order the largest flotilla in human history to cross the channel and land on the beaches of Normandy.

They were young, courageous and even fearless. They came from all over. Canadians and the other allies knew that this attack was the only way to liberate Europe. June 6, 1944, is a day that will forever be etched in the memories of all those who know that democracy and freedom sometimes require extraordinary sacrifices.

Onto the beaches they came and through northern France, Belgium and Holland. A generation that fought for Canada fought and, in too many cases, died for freedom and a cause that was truly just. Then they came home and helped to build a country. They have been called our greatest generation. A grateful country pauses each year on this day to remember, to mourn, to celebrate and to remain ever vigilant and mindful of their courage and of their marvellous example.

D-Day
Statements by Members

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Eve Adams Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, today Canadians from coast to coast mark the 68th anniversary of D-Day. On this fateful day, allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy to begin the liberation of western Europe. Before dawn on June 6, 1944, 450 Canadians parachuted inland where they engaged, harassed and confused the enemy.

A few hours later, 15,000 Canadian soldiers landed and fought on Juno Beach.

By evening, the Canadians had made it further inland than any of their allies. At the end of D-Day allied forces had landed as many as 155,000 troops in France. The Atlantic wall had been breached. The victory on D-Day was not without cost. German defences were heavily fortified and inflicted significant casualties on the allied forces.

Today, we remember their sacrifices.

We remember the courage, valour and patriotism they displayed and the example they left for us to follow. Let us never forget.

The Budget
Statements by Members

2:20 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, this past Sunday a town hall meeting was held in my riding to discuss the Conservative Trojan horse budget bill, which is going over like a lead weight in Newfoundland and Labrador. I have put together a top-five list of the best quotes from that day.

The number five quote regarding the cuts to DFO and the Coast Guard was, “It will come to the point where a mariner will be asked, 'Are you up to your neck in water yet? No? All right, you're good, call back when it gets there.'”

The number four quote regarding the attack on Atlantic Canada was, “Perhaps we're paranoid, but that doesn't mean they're not out to get us.”

The number three quote regarding the cuts to environmental legislation was, “Less science equals less knowledge. It's basically like driving with the lights off.”

The number two quote was, “This Prime Minister isn't my Prime Minister. He's the CEO of corporate Canada and his cabinet are the board of directors.”

The number one quote from the town hall in my riding regarding the Trojan horse budget bill was, “The Prime Minister doesn't know his arse from a hole in the ground.”

Political Donations
Statements by Members

2:20 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Goguen Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday Elections Canada confirmed that union sponsorships at the NDP's 2011 convention are unquestionably illegal donations. Using union dues, big union bosses paid between $25,000 and $35,000 to be sponsors at the NDP convention.

As the opposition well knows, union and corporate donations were outright banned in 2006, yet this is the second NDP breach of the elections financing in less than one year. Last year the NDP was forced to admit that it was guilty of illegally issuing tax receipts for tax donations made to left-wing pressure groups. It is clear that the NDP is prone to ignoring political financial rules for its own political gain.

Given that the NDP received sponsorships at its 2009 convention, Canadians deserve to know the full extent to which big unions have been subsidizing the NDP with illegal donations. How much money did the NDP rake in and where is the money?

The Economy
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Outremont
Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, last night in London the Prime Minister mused about catastrophic events about to hit the global economy. He laughed about Canadians facing the most volatile stock market since the Great Depression. He claimed that Canada does have a contingency plan to deal with another recession, but he refused to say what it was.

Clearly and simply, does the government have a plan to fight off another recession? If the Conservatives have a new plan, let us hear it.

The Economy
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister articulated well, Canada's economic policies have helped make Canada an island of economic stability in a world that is troubled on that front. We are not immune to those problems. That is why we have taken measures through our economic action plan, including economic action plan 2012.

The Leader of the Opposition asked where the plan is. That is where the plan is. It is a plan for short, medium and long-term prosperity to ensure that the unique advantages Canada has are harnessed to create jobs for Canadians and to ensure our prosperity and economic security in the short and long term.

The Economy
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Outremont
Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, despite the talking points, no country is an island in the world we live in today.

What the Prime Minister had to say yesterday evening was not reassuring in the least. He even went as far as to talk about the dismantling of the European Union and to conjure up disaster scenarios. He is even saying that there will not be enough time to avoid another crisis. Either the Prime Minister was sounding off irresponsibly yesterday or there is a real need to implement a new economic plan—and fast.

Is everything fine or not?

The Economy
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister indicated yesterday, our government's economic policies make Canada a stable country, one of the pillars of the struggling global economy.

Canada is not immune to the problems other countries are experiencing, and we are working on taking additional steps to implement Canada's economic action plan and its job creation measures. Through this action plan, we have created 650,000 new jobs to date, and we intend to continue working to create new jobs for Canadians.

The Economy
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Outremont
Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister pretends to be concerned now, but two months ago in Washington the Conservatives were singing a different tune.

At the G20 meeting in April the Minister of Finance led the effort to block an international plan to resolve the European economic crisis. He told European countries “to step up to the plate” and fix the problem on their own, as if our fate were not intimately connected to theirs, and he gets applause for that from the peanut gallery.

When will the Conservatives stop lecturing European countries and put forward a real plan to protect and create jobs here in Canada?

The Economy
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, when the Prime Minister travels abroad, people talk to him about Canada's economic success, the fact that we have the lowest debt of any of the major developed economies, the fact that we have posted the strongest economic growth and job growth of those economies coming out of the economic downturn. They look at us and ask what our key to success is. The reason is we have been pursuing a planned economic action plan and now economic action plan 2012 that delivers new jobs.

When we go abroad we talk about the ways to balance budgets and create jobs. When those members go abroad, they talk about how to kill Canadian jobs in our important resource sector.

The Economy
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister said that if the economic crisis were to get worse, he was prepared to launch a new phase of stimulus investments. While the global economy is weakening, the Conservatives have decided to focus on cuts rather than on economic growth and job creation.

Can the Minister of Finance confirm that new investments will be made, or is he going to take even more money away from seniors, unemployed workers and public services?

The Economy
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Minister of State (Finance)

Mr. Speaker, there are always new investments, but once again, as we have seen the track record on the last three budgets, the NDP would actually vote against those. Those members voted against a hiring tax credit for small businesses in this country. It is unbelievable what they will stand up and vote against simply for their partisan reasons.

Canadians want to get back to work. Canadian businesses want to hire more people. The NDP will not even step up and help.

The Economy
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, with what is happening in Europe, what the world economy needs right now is leadership, something sorely lacking from the Prime Minister, who prefers to play the blame game.

Conservatives are not focused on growth or job creation. They are preoccupied with cutting old age security, cutting employment insurance and dismantling environmental protection.

Will the Conservatives now rethink their job cutting budget and come back to the House with a real plan for job creation and growth?

The Economy
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Minister of State (Finance)

Mr. Speaker, I might observe that actually the last three budgets we put in place have helped the Canadian economy grow over 750,000 net new jobs. That is pretty important. For those people who are working now who were not working at the end of the recession, that is pretty good news.

The sad part is that whatever policy we put forward to help with long-term prosperity, with job growth, with growing this economy, it is opposed by the NDP.

The Economy
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has been on a lecture tour in Europe. He has been lecturing the Europeans on fiscal integration. Meanwhile, he runs this federation as if he were Louis XIV.

We have no co-operation on health care, no co-operation on transportation, none on infrastructure, none on housing, none on employment insurance, none even on taxes.

When will the Prime Minister be coming back to Canada to sit down to meet with the premiers for the first time in six years to finally practise what he is preaching over in Europe?

The Economy
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, what the Prime Minister has been talking about in Europe is Canada's approach to fiscal management, to economic discipline, to achieving balanced budgets, to achieving job creation and economic growth by adopting those measures. That is what we are doing through our economic action plan 2012.

We have an opportunity in this House to vote on things like a tax credit for the creation of jobs by small businesses. That is something that is important to help add to our 750,000 net new jobs.

Why does the leader of the third party oppose a measure like that to create new jobs?

The Economy
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government has increased taxes paid by employers and employees by $1.2 billion. At the same time, it has downloaded costs onto the provinces. The Prime Minister cannot talk about fiscal integration when he is transferring the burden of federal expenses to the provinces without having held a single meeting since the start of his reign as Prime Minister, as if he were Louis XIV.

When will the Prime Minister sit down with the premiers to develop a real Canada-wide program?

The Economy
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Liberal Party is wrong.

The reality is that the biggest increase in transfers to the provinces in my lifetime, and perhaps in his as well, has come under this government.

It is an example of the commitment to strengthening our federation that we have seen the biggest increase in transfers to the provinces. We have delivered on our commitment, and we have also done it in a way that allows us to deliver a balanced budget.

When Liberals look for a way to balance the budget, what do they do? They slash transfers to the provinces. I think he remembers that from when he was an NDP premier.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, on another subject, the chairman of the Conservative brain trust, the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, at an interview that he gave to the Meaford Independent apparently has suggested that it is time for Canada to withdraw from the United Nations.

I would like to ask the government House leader, has it really come to this on that side of the House? Has it really come to the point where the government is seriously contemplating withdrawing from the United Nations? Is that now the international policy of Canada?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, our foreign policy is a values-based foreign policy based on those fundamental values we share of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, values we seek to promote around the world, values that we have promoted through our participation in a United Nations-sanctioned mission in Afghanistan, where we have helped to advance those values that we have delivered on, and a United Nations-sanctioned mission in Libya led by a Canadian, Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard.

We will continue to work to see that those values are advanced at every opportunity, including trying to see them more advanced at the United Nations.

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Human Resources is finally being honest. There will be no consultations with Canadians about the massive cuts that the Conservatives are planning to make to the employment insurance program. There will be no consultations about changes that will leave thousands of unemployed workers empty-handed. There will be no consultations about changes that will force even more young people to leave their communities and that will deal a harsh blow to seasonal businesses.

Why is the minister afraid to consult people about these changes?

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry, but I have to correct all of the erroneous, unfounded statements that the member made.

The changes that we are making to the employment insurance system are the result of consultations and what we have heard from employers and workers across Canada over the past few months. We need a system that is equitable and fair. Claimants need to understand their responsibilities.

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is pretty pathetic.

The consultations that the minister was talking about as recently as last week were actually discussions that took place in cabinet. They were not public consultations. If she wants public consultations, she should go to the Atlantic provinces or talk to people in her Conservative colleague's riding of Kootenay—Columbia. These changes to employment insurance will affect millions of Canadians. Why insult them? Why not consult them?

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, the NDP is the party that keeps insulting Canadians. We are the ones who want to help them find available jobs that suit their skills in their own regions. We are going to remove the obstacles that prevent unemployed people from working. There are many such obstacles in the system.

However, we know that there is a labour shortage across Canada, and we want to connect unemployed workers with available jobs. That is what we are going to do.

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, no one is buying the idea that muzzled Conservative MPs are a substitute for genuine public consultation. The minister did not even bother to consult with premiers.

Today, Atlantic Canadian premiers are meeting in P.E.I., and the Conservatives' reckless proposed changes to EI are at the top of their agenda. Communities across Atlantic Canada rely on seasonal business and some of these communities are already struggling.

Will the minister now agree to be accountable and work with the premiers before she makes these changes to EI?

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, as I said to all of my Atlantic minister counterparts, I am open to hearing their concerns and taking those into consideration.

I have to tell the member that the representatives of people from right across the country have been informing me of their constituents' views. What we are trying to do here is help connect Canadians with the jobs that are available, because right now we have a shortage of skills and labour across the country. We want to help connect people with the jobs. Why does the NDP not? We want to ensure that people are better off working than they are on EI.

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, punishing out-of-work Canadians is not the same thing as helping them. Right now, 40% of unemployed Canadians even qualify for employment insurance. With these changes it would mean that even fewer Canadians would qualify. More young people are going to leave their communities. Our businesses are going to be undercut and our communities are going to suffer.

Why are the Conservatives refusing to hear from the very people who would be forced to take low wages and work outside their fields? Why will the minister not stop hiding from Canadians, and when will she actually talk to the people who will be affected?

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, let me be very clear. Let us get the facts on the record. Of those people who work and pay into employment insurance, almost 85% of them can collect when they lose their job through no fault of their own. The hon. member is misrepresenting those numbers.

We want to help those Canadians who have been unfortunate enough to lose their jobs connect with jobs in their area within their range of skills so that they and their families are better off. We are making changes to the EI system to ensure that when people work they are better off than when they do not.

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, either the minister does not understand or she does not want to understand. Lobsters are not trapped on Yonge Street in Toronto. They are trapped in Chaleur Bay. It is not the workers who are seasonal; it is the work.

The Conservatives are insulting workers in Atlantic Canada and in the seasonal industries. The Conservatives want the money, like the Liberals before them, in order to pay for limousines.

When will the minister consult the provinces and talk with the Atlantic premiers?

The Atlantic premiers do not want these changes. When will the minister and the Conservatives do their job?

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, what we want is to continue to create jobs. Our government's priority is economic growth and job creation. For that, employers need to have workers with the necessary skills or their businesses will collapse.

For there to be economic growth, there need to be workers. The obstacles preventing them from working need to be eliminated, and that is precisely what we will do. If workers have more work, they will earn more money and that will be better for them, for their families and for their province.

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, the attacks on Atlantic Canada and the fisheries continue. Today we hear that no less than six Department of Fisheries and Oceans offices will be closing in Newfoundland and Labrador. These offices provide front line support for the fishing industry on the east coast. They cannot be replaced by a 1-800 number.

When will the minister stand up and do his job, stop these closures that are harming not only the economy but the communities that depend on the fishery?

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Fredericton
New Brunswick

Conservative

Keith Ashfield Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated many times, it should be no surprise to the member opposite that we are trying to find efficiencies in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. We are doing that. We are not only making it more efficient, we are saving taxpayer dollars, and we will continue to do that. We think that is the best way to operate.

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

2:40 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, why does the minister not go and visit Trepassy, Arnold's Cove, Burgeo and the other rural outports that will be losing their DFO offices? Try to explain to those people how job losses and shutdowns are going to somehow make the fisheries better. Explain how they will be able to regulate the fisheries with no local office.

Consider this an invitation. Will the minister come with me to these outports to explain to the people why the Conservative government is abandoning them?

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Fredericton
New Brunswick

Conservative

Keith Ashfield Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. A consolidation of conservation and protection offices will improve the overall efficiencies the conservation and protection program will provide for a more strategic deployment of limited resources to higher-risk areas.

Parliamentary Budget Officer
Oral Questions

2:40 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are closing the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices after announcing the dismantling of the Fisheries Act. This is just one more institution that is being attacked, much like the office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

The Conservatives have basically told the Parliamentary Budget Officer to get lost, when he is merely asking for numbers that, under the Conservatives' own law, should be provided to him. Imagine—he might have to take them to court just to do his job.

Why are the Conservatives hiding information from an independent officer of Parliament, whose only job is to check the government's numbers?

Parliamentary Budget Officer
Oral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, that is not the case. We will continue to report to Parliament through all the usual channels, including the estimates, the quarterly financial reports and the public accounts.

As usual, with budget 2012, we are supporting an economic action plan to boost our economy, fight unemployment, create jobs and encourage economic growth. That is our goal, and with budget 2012, we will succeed.

Government Spending
Oral Questions

2:40 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, the law is clear. The Parliamentary Budget Officer is mandated to provide MPs with independent analysis of budgets, estimates and spending. The objective is ensuring MPs are not voting blind on fiscal measures.

Despite promises of openness and accountability, the Conservatives continue to withhold key information on cuts from the PBO and from Parliament. The Parliament of Canada Act requires the government to disclose this information.

Why are Conservatives refusing to comply with their own accountability laws?

Government Spending
Oral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member well knows as she has been in this place long enough, there are a number of different ways and means that this government reports to Parliament and through Parliament to the people of Canada. We do so through the estimates, we do so through the quarterly financial reports and we do so with the public accounts.

We also think it is important, if there are to be changes in the workplace, that we contact the workers first so they can go through their workforce adjustment. That is the compassionate thing to do.

I am surprised that the hon. member, who purports to come from a party that is on the side of the workers, is not in fact on that side.

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, under the Federal Accountability Act, the PBO has an absolute right to full and timely access to financial data.

After the Auditor General's scathing report on the F-35 costs, I asked the PBO to get an update. DND blew off the PBO with a non-response which looked eerily similar to the minister's non-responses in question period.

Is this what transparency and accountability look like under the ultra-secretive government which takes no prisoners?

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Vaughan
Ontario

Conservative

Julian Fantino Associate Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is wrong.

In actual fact, the Minister of National Defence and I appeared for four hours before the committee of the whole, where we answered over 100 questions from all opposition parties. I have also dutifully answered several hundred F-35 questions and disclosed a myriad of documents to the opposition during the past year.

We have been open and forthright. It is unfortunate that the member opposite has not been listening.

Government Spending
Oral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, MPs must make informed decisions, especially on a budget cutting $5.2 billion and slashing 19,200 jobs. Yet the government will not release vital information to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. Providing information to the PBO is more than an election promise; it is a legal duty.

Why did the Prime Minister order his deputy minister to stall who and what the government was cutting until it was politically convenient? When will the government actually adhere to its own Federal Accountability Act by giving that information to Parliament and the PBO?

Government Spending
Oral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, at the risk of repeating myself, I would remark that we are reporting to Parliament precisely in the normal means, through the estimates, the quarterly financial reports and the public accounts. We also have an obligation to the workers who report to us to inform them of any changes in the workplace that might affect them through workforce adjustment. Then we do our reports to Parliaments.

This is the normal way that the government reacts to changes in its expenses. We do report to Parliament and through that to the people of Canada. The people of Canada want to know that we are focused on jobs and economic opportunity.

Government Spending
Oral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I see that while the emperor is in Europe, the court jester is here.

The problem we have right now is that not only does the union agree with this, but the government is required by law to give all the information to the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

What do the Conservatives have to hide? Which public servant are they going to try to blame? It is not complicated. The law must be enforced. We want to know. Why are the Conservatives preventing the Parliamentary Budget Officer from having all the information? Everyone agrees except the Conservatives, who have something to hide.

Government Spending
Oral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, this is not about the union. If we decided to inform workers first, it is because we have compassion for them. Of course, as I said earlier, we then have the obligation in this House to inform Parliament and the Canadian public through the usual channels, such as the estimates, the quarterly financial reports and the public accounts. That is normal. That is how it usually works.

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, the search for the truth into why a young Canadian soldier killed himself after returning from Afghanistan is being blocked by the Conservatives.

The Minister of National Defence has prevented the release of documents about his department's investigation into the case and many of the documents that have been released to the inquiry are censored.

How can we avoid another tragic incident like this one if the minister is making it impossible for the commission to get to the bottom of this? Why will he not release the documents?

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Vaughan
Ontario

Conservative

Julian Fantino Associate Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, we are deeply saddened by this tragedy.

The Government of Canada has reiterated its commitment to co-operating with the commission and within the proper limits of the commission's mandate and the law. That is exactly what we have been doing.

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence is the only person who has the authority to release the crucial documents in this case. The commissioner has said that the government's action “flies in the face of seeking the truth.”

This is not just about a specific case; it is about the government doing everything it can to meet the needs of the thousands of soldiers coming back home, suffering from psychological or physical injuries.

Why will the Minister of National Defence not do the right thing, release the documents and let the inquiry do its job without censorship?

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Vaughan
Ontario

Conservative

Julian Fantino Associate Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, we are totally and absolutely committed to supporting our soldiers not only in theatre but also those coming back from service.

In this matter, the issue is being dealt with through the commission. I understand as well that there are legal considerations with respect to lawyer-client privilege. We are in fact working to resolve these issues as we speak.

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, let us continue to speak about the lack of transparency.

The Conservatives still do not have a plan B with regard to the F-35s, or else they are simply refusing to share it. Meanwhile, the problems are continuing to pile up. The program is in its third reconfiguration. The employees who are building the F-35s are on strike and an American Senate committee is talking about serious problems with production.

When will the government realize that coming up with a plan B is a higher priority than a $47,000 photo shoot?

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Vaughan
Ontario

Conservative

Julian Fantino Associate Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the member opposite, I do believe that she is in fact misinformed. We are working diligently to find ways to replace our aging CF-18s. We are guided by the work of the secretariat. We are committed to doing that. We are following diligently the recommendation made by the Auditor General.

It is really unfortunate that the member opposite and her party will not have faith in the recommendation made by the Auditor General.

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives may want to ignore the problems with the F-35, but the U.S. Senate armed services committee has serious concerns, concerns with affordability, with production quality and with warfare capability. Therefore, it seems the model F-35 was pretty close to the real thing after all.

What will the Conservatives say to the members of our air force when they find out they have to patrol the Arctic on the back of a flatbed truck?

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Vaughan
Ontario

Conservative

Julian Fantino Associate Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, that is one of the most outrageous accusations I have heard. It is totally misplaced, misinformed and misunderstood no doubt by the member.

The member opposite is strictly misleading Canadians. We are working to procure the right aircraft for our men and women to replace the CF-18s. That member and his party should get into line and support our military.

Justice
Oral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, human trafficking is a despicable crime that preys on the most vulnerable members of our society. Experts estimate that up to 15,000 men, women and children in Canada are victims of human trafficking and such victimization has happened in the very riding I represent.

It is our Conservative government, led by the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, who took action to ensure that those who engage in this sort of criminal activity face serious jail time. However, there is much more work that needs to be done.

Could the Minister of Public Safety please comment on what our government is doing to combat human trafficking?

Justice
Oral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Provencher
Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, together with the Minister for Status of Women, I was pleased to announce today the national action plan to combat human trafficking.

We are focusing on four pillars of this strategy: prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership. These measures will strengthen the coordination between our front line police officers to put a stop to human trafficking.

Our government is committed to ensuring we stamp out this despicable crime once and for all.

Ministerial Expenditures
Oral Questions

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, parading around Davos to meet with the elite of international finance is priceless. Renting a vehicle from Lately Embassy Services is costly. The Minister of Finance, the President of Treasury Board and the government House leader literally put the pedal to the metal when it comes to wasting public money. A luxury sport utility vehicle, even if it is a hybrid model, costs more than a regular hybrid.

I have a simple question. If the Minister of International Cooperation's limousine expenses were inappropriate, why are his appropriate?

Ministerial Expenditures
Oral Questions

2:50 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the World Economic Forum is an opportunity for Canadian ministers in attendance to talk about Canada's economic success story, which is exactly what they were doing in 2011. That is an easy thing to do because of Canada's strong economic performance compared with other developed countries during this economic downturn.

What I can tell members in terms of the facts of the particular situation is that the vehicles that were obtained were rented not by ministers' offices but rather by the department. They did so following an open and competitive process to obtain the lowest cost vehicles. Those vehicles were utilized to transport not just ministers, but staff and also departmental officials at this important conference.

Ministerial Expenditures
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, when we form the government, we will go to Davos, but it will be to talk about sustainable development and not to steal seniors' money.

The Conservatives have been caught in the act and we can sense the panic. However, their problem is that they change the rules depending on which way the wind is blowing and they make up their own rules. There are rules for the unemployed and there are rules for the Conservatives. There are rules for seniors and there are other rules for the Conservatives.

In some cases, people are allowed to rent luxury cars and in others they are not, but we do not know why.

Can the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons enlighten us and spell out the exact rules for the appropriate use of a limousine?

Ministerial Expenditures
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the leasing that was done by the departmental officials was done in accordance with Treasury Board guidelines and it was done to achieve the lowest possible costs while still satisfying the criteria set by the World Economic Forum.

The reason it was important for Canada to be there, and the reason the NDP did not want us there, was that we were talking about Canada's economic success. We were talking about the fact that we have the lowest debt and deficit of the major economies and the fact that we have the lowest overall tax rate by far for new business investment among industrialized developed countries. Why were we talking about that? It was because we are trying to create jobs here in Canada by telling those who are looking to invest where the best place in the world is to invest and create jobs. And that is Canada.

Ministerial Expenditures
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, let us talk about what they were talking about in Davos among the millionaires in Europe. They were saying that Canada was so poor that they were going to squeeze back the pensions of Canadian seniors. That is where they made that announcement. They did not tell Canadian seniors. They told the European millionaires.

Yesterday, the member told the House that they had to spend $23,000 on limos because it was about looking good. Is this standard established by the Durham minister now that they need to look good when they travel in Europe?

Why are they so interested in looking good in front of European millionaires instead of being accountable to Canadian taxpayers and to Canadian seniors?

Ministerial Expenditures
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I did not say any such thing. What I said was that we had to comply with the rules that the World Economic Forum has for vehicles that will be within the World Economic Forum conference area.

The reason we were there was to talk about Canada's economic success, the fact that Canada has been performing well on the world stage and the fact that Canada is the best place to invest and create jobs. That is what we were talking about because there were people there who were trying to decide. They have a choice, the whole world, where they can go and invest and create jobs. We want them to come to Canada because we want to see jobs created here. We have done it for 750,000 Canadians so far. We will keep on working on that track record.

Ministerial Expenditures
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Come on, Mr. Speaker. This is a question of fairness. It is not like we are asking them to take public transit.

Let us look at what they spent at Davos. The Muskoka minister racked up $8,000 on a limo that sat idle. We are not asking him to hitchhike. We are not asking him to turn back the gazebo. I will give him the receipts if he did not look at them.

My question is simple. Why are they not showing the same care for taxpayers dollars, the hard-working Canadians who sent them to Davos so they could hang around in limos looking good?

Ministerial Expenditures
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have every confidence that the officials at Foreign Affairs did their best when they sought to have a public competition to obtain the best possible costs. They did so but they also had to do so in a fashion that complied with the rules of the World Economic Forum for that conference.

However, the reason we were there is the important issue because the NDP members do not care about that and would not want us there. We were there to create jobs. We were there to tell Canada's economic success story. We were there to talk about the fact that Canada has the most skilled workforce in the world, with the highest proportion of post-secondary graduates in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. That is why we have an economic action plan now to make that skilled workforce even better and more effective so we can create more jobs and prosperity.

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, Otto Langer, retired head manager for the fisheries department in B.C. and Yukon, describes the government's changes to the Fisheries Act “as the biggest setback to conservation law in Canada in half a century. ...and the waste of his lifetime of work”. That was said by someone who knows the issue.

Mr. Langer is just the latest expert speaking out about this historic backward leap that will lead to the sure destruction of fish and fish habitat.

When will the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans stop dissembling about the real and permanent damage that he is inflicting on Canada's ecosystem and our economy?

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Fredericton
New Brunswick

Conservative

Keith Ashfield Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. We are focusing on fish and fish habitat protection.

The opposition likes to ignore a lot of the good things that are in the changes to the act, such as identifying ecologically sensitive areas, making the Fisheries Act conditions enforceable and allowing higher maximum penalties for rule breakers. It would also allow the creation of new, clear and accessible guidelines for Canadians to follow for projects in and around or near water.

The Budget
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, for weeks, Canadians have been speaking out against Bill C-38. Recently, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities passed a motion requesting that the government remove sections of Bill C-38 which gut environmental protection, including changes to the Fisheries Act. Municipalities want these changes sent to the relevant standing committee for thorough review and debate.

Is the government really so ignorant that it cannot find any way to protect farmers without gutting the Fisheries Act?

The Budget
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Fredericton
New Brunswick

Conservative

Keith Ashfield Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, there was some concern about my comments in the House yesterday but I have to say that the recommendations coming out of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities this past weekend reaffirm and strengthen my comments of yesterday. It says that many of the amendments to the Fisheries Act proposed in Bill C-38 respond to the municipal sectors' long-standing position that the act must be updated to “reduce duplication; streamline the process for small, low-risk projects; remove unnecessary and costly administrative burdens on municipalities....”

That is exactly what we are doing.

Arts and Culture
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member that what was said yesterday in the House was not very bright.

So we will give the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage another chance to find something intelligent to say, because yesterday he was way off base.

The Conservatives can claim that they invest in culture, but when we look at their actions, we see that, really, they are destroying this sector. The Conservatives are axing thriving institutions, although they claim to support artists. They are ruthlessly closing the CineRobotheque in Montreal and Mediatheque in Toronto.

Can the government explain how these closures are supposed to help culture?

Arts and Culture
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham
Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, our government is very proud of the investments it has made in the cultural sector, particularly in the NFB. That institution has begun digitizing its collection of 13,000 titles, which is good news for Canadians. There are already 2,000 titles available online.

Not everybody lives in Montreal and Toronto. People live all across the country and they want access to the dramatic and great collection of the National Film Board. By putting it online, we are ensuring that Canadians from coast to coast to coast have access to those collections.

Arts and Culture
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is funny, but telling me that things are being digitized does not necessarily reassure me in any way regarding what is happening at Library and Archives Canada. It really seems as though the Conservatives believe that Canadians can be easily manipulated.

As for Canadian cinema, we have been very successful in recent years, with several awards and nominations. This year, the Philippe Falardeau film Monsieur Lazhar was nominated for an Oscar.

Yesterday, Philippe Falardeau himself spoke out against the fact that the government is “getting rid of things without any idea of how to replace them”. Someone mentioned consultation earlier. This is the same thing.

Is this how the government wants to reward such tremendous international success, by making these draconian cuts to the NFB?

Arts and Culture
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham
Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I can understand that it is not a good time to be an opposition critic for culture and heritage. We have invested more than any government in history has in arts and culture.

Our Minister of Finance has helped create 750,000 net new jobs, taxes are down, interest rates are down and our artists and musicians are at the top of the billboard charts. Our film directors are winning awards across the world. Our television productions are being picked up. not only by big American broadcasters but by broadcasters around the world. We just learned that our AM and FM radio stations have returned to pre-2008 recession levels of profitability and are creating jobs and economic opportunity.

The Economy
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, Canadians expect their elected representatives to focus on the economy and help create jobs. That is exactly what our Conservative government has been doing since 2006, especially through the economic action plan.

While we focus on the economy, the NDP is focused on playing procedural partisan games, a record of partisan games that has included voting against the economic action plan in 2009 and opposing support for the Canadian economy during the greatest depression we have seen since the Great Depression.

Would the Minister of State for Finance please inform the House of the NDP's latest attempt to put its self-interest over the Canadian economy and why the NDP should be totally ashamed of itself?

The Economy
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Minister of State (Finance)

Mr. Speaker, the NDP should be putting Canadians ahead of its interests. Canadians are telling us that they are getting tired of the NDP members constantly talking down our economy, and not only talking it down, but actually voting against it. They are voting to kill jobs. They are trying to stop our budget implementation bill and economic action plan 2012 which would put in place an extension for a hiring credit for small businesses that encourages businesses to employ more Canadians. They are voting against new funding for skills and jobs training. They are voting against new funding for infrastructure. They are voting against new support to encourage responsible resource development.

Search and Rescue
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and from my riding are shaking their heads from revelations that they have lost yet another vital search and rescue asset for their area.

The Canadian Coast Guard vessel, the Harp, has been removed from its summer stationing in St. Anthony and will be removed permanently. In its place, a duty vessel, located somewhere between the St. Lawrence Seaway and Cape Spear, will travel up to 1,500 kilometres to respond to local search and rescue concerns in Newfoundland and Labrador.

My question is for the MP for Labrador, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. How could he let this happen? When will he speak up and say something?

Search and Rescue
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Fredericton
New Brunswick

Conservative

Keith Ashfield Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Coast Guard ship, the Harp, is slower and less capable than other Canadian Coast Guard ships, which are larger, faster and can better service and deliver the area.

Following the decommission of the Harp, more capable, multi-task vessels will be used to deliver the same search and rescue levels of service to the area.

Unlike the Liberals, we are investing billions of dollars in the Coast Guard, while they left ships tied up at docks, rusting and without fuel.

Air Canada
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we learned that no new investor has come forward to purchase Aveos. If the Conservatives do nothing, Air Canada will go ahead and use foreign maintenance providers, which is against the law. Some 1,500 decent aerospace jobs will leave Canada for good because of the Conservatives' negligence.

Will the Conservatives continue to sit idly by or will they stand up, apply the law and protect our jobs in this industry?

Air Canada
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean
Québec

Conservative

Denis Lebel Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, as we have been saying from the start, this matter involves a private company. Air Canada has 2,500 maintenance workers—but they will never say so. Air Canada has its own maintenance team. Of course, it has some heavier maintenance contracts with other companies. We will continue to ensure compliance with the law and ensure that our workers continue to have jobs. We are talking about a private company. I hope Aveos will find a buyer today and that its former employees can go back to work.

Justice
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are very worried and appalled that so many people who have committed heinous crimes are let off with a slap on the wrist after being found not criminally responsible. Worse still, these people can get permission to go out in public after just a few weeks even if they are no longer in therapy. People were shocked at the cases involving Vincent Li in Manitoba and Guy Turcotte in Quebec.

Can the Minister of Justice tell us what our government is doing about troubling cases like these?

Justice
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely correct. I have heard from Canadians across this country and they have expressed serious concerns about individuals found not criminally responsible.

We believe that public safety must always come first. We are working to obtain support from the provinces and territories to ensure that the protection of society is the paramount consideration for review panels.

I have also instructed my officials to examine the applicable law and identify any necessary changes. We will continue to work in the interests of victims and law-abiding Canadians so that our streets and communities are safe.

Employment
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' laissez-faire economic policy is causing more and more collateral damage.

Last Friday, 360 workers at the Camoplast factory in Roxton Falls found out that their jobs will disappear in July 2013. Those jobs are being transferred to Mexico. Nearly one-quarter of the people of Roxton Falls will lose their jobs. This is a tragedy for families and local businesses. The region's economy will be hit hard.

Do the Conservatives have a plan to protect jobs like these, or will they continue to stand idly by and watch the manufacturing sector crumble?

Employment
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable
Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, our government has a plan, the economic action plan, which is responsible for the creation of over 750,000 jobs since the recession in 2009. We have introduced measures that foster a healthy investment climate, create jobs and drive economic growth. We have reduced taxes, eliminated tariffs on machinery, and introduced a hiring credit to help businesses recruit employees. We have implemented measures to stimulate the economy and safeguard our industries in a climate of healthy competition. The NDP could have voted for those measures. That would certainly have helped.

Public Safety
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, 13 days ago the video of a sordid crime was posted on the Internet. It has been 13 days that our children have been able to access this video, which shows the murder and dismemberment of an unfortunate victim. It has been 13 days that this government, which claims to ensure the safety of our streets and communities, has allowed a website to broadcast this horrible video, which serves only to enhance a murderer's notoriety.

My question is simple: what is the government waiting for to enforce the Criminal Code and have the images of this barbaric act removed from our children's sight?

Public Safety
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Provencher
Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, everyone on this side of the House as well as that side condemns the horrible mutilation of a human being. We are very concerned that this type of material would be broadcast. Since this is a police investigation, I am going to let the police continue their investigation. There are laws on the books that can deal with this. We have to leave this in the hands of the police to do the right thing.

That is a member who does not support giving police powers, but the police are doing a good job with the powers that they have.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I would like to draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the hon. John Yap, Minister of State for Multiculturalism for British Columbia.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear! Hear!

Statements by Members
Points of Order

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I wish to apologize for my use of unparliamentary language in my member's statement.

We Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have a colourful language. I have to remind myself of where to use it.

Statements by Members
Points of Order

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I appreciate the withdrawal from the hon. member.

The hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands is rising on a point of order.

Comments by Minister
Points of Order

3:10 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, this relates to unparliamentary language that was used yesterday. It was not as colourful, perhaps, as that used by the hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl, but I found it quite disturbing.

It was an exchange between the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North and the hon. Minister of State for Science and Technology during the debate on the NDP opposition motion.

Mr. Speaker, you may want to look at it in Hansard. The hon. Minister of State for Science and Technology said, according to Hansard:

Madam Speaker, what I would recommend to the hon. member is that when he tightens that towel around his neck at nighttime that he not do it for more than 20 seconds. It actually ends up causing cerebral anoxia that leaves permanent brain damage.

I thought the towel comment was so odd. I could not figure it out. I made the mistake of asking someone what it meant. Then I was even more disturbed, because it apparently refers to deviant sexual practices.

I think that is completely outrageous. I ask that the hon. Minister of State for Science and Technology, a member of cabinet, should not use such language.

Comments by Minister
Points of Order

3:10 p.m.

Cambridge
Ontario

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Minister of State (Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, I clearly meant no such thing. I am certainly sorry that the member has the range to think I meant that.

I meant that the question seemed to suggest that the hon. member actually had brain damage and should be careful.

However, I withdraw the comments quite sincerely. I meant no such thing.

Comments by Minister
Points of Order

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I appreciate the withdrawal of that comment as well.

Tabling of documents, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Foreign Affairs
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the treaties entitled: Protocol Amending the Convention between the Government of Canada and the Government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital, done in Luxembourg on September 10, 1999, and done in Montreal on May 8, 2012; Exchange of Notes concerning the Convention between the Government of Canada and the Government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital, done in Luxembourg on September 10, 1999, and done again in Luxembourg on May 8, 2012, and in Brussels on May 11, 2012; Convention between Canada and New Zealand for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income, done in Wellington on May 3, 2012; Convention between Canada and the Republic of Poland for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income, done in Ottawa on May 14, 2012; and Convention between Canada and the Republic of Serbia for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital, done in Belgrade on April 27, 2012.

An explanatory memorandum is included with each treaty.

National Research Council
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to table, in both official languages, the National Research Council of Canada's 2010-11 departmental performance report.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's responses to 45 petitions.

Public Accounts
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 8th report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, in relation to its study of the Public Accounts of Canada, 2011.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109 of the House of Commons, the committee requests the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 27th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs in relation to requesting an extension to consider the review of the conflict of interest code for members of the House of Commons to a later date.

If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the 27th report later today.

Competition Act
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-430, An Act to amend the Competition Act and the Food and Drugs Act (child protection against advertising exploitation).

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the talented member for Vancouver Kingsway for seconding my bill.

By the time Canadian children graduate from high school they have seen on average 350,000 television commercials. Many experts have said that young people today are targeted with a greater intensity and frequency of ads than any previous generation.

This legislation would amend the Competition Act and the Food and Drugs Act. It would protect Canadian children against exploitation from commercial advertising. It was developed in collaboration with the Centre for Science in the Public Interest. The bill is based on legislation passed in Quebec in 1980 and is similar to new regulations adopted by the United Kingdom in April 2007. Sweden and Norway have also adopted similar laws. Many grassroots and professional organizations in Canada support this legislation, including the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, the Ontario Public Health Association and the Association of Local Public Health Agencies.

This kind of legislative approach would protect the rights of children and produce results with outcomes such as lower obesity. That is one of the many potential benefits. If we responsibly regulate the advertising children are exposed to, we can help children increase their chances of living healthier, better lives.

I certainly hope that this legislation will receive support from both sides of the House.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, following the usual consultations among all parties, I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That the Third Report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, presented to the House on Monday, May 14, 2012, be amended by replacing the seventh paragraph, on page 12, with the following:

As highlighted below, the Committee has decided to endorse three of the Commissioner's recommendations (recommendations 1, 2, and 7) as well as eight recommendations brought forward by various witnesses who testified and made submissions during the Committee's statutory review of the Act.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the House gives its consent I move that the 27th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs presented to the House earlier today be concurred in.

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do anticipate that if you ask the House you will find unanimous consent that notwithstanding any Standing Order for the consideration of the supply period ending June 23, 2012, Standing Order 81(18)(c) shall be amended by replacing the word “10 p.m.” with the word “8 p.m.”.

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House?

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Business of Supply
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order, for the consideration of the supply period ending June 23, 2012, Standing Order 81(18)(c) shall be amended by replacing the word “10:00 p.m.” with the word “8:00 p.m.”.

Business of Supply
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Business of Supply
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of Supply
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of Supply
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of Supply
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

(Motion agreed to)

Rights of the Unborn
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition to present signed by a number of my constituents, mostly from the Lacombe, Blackfalds and Ponoka area.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to discuss an issue that is very near and dear to their hearts. They point out that Canada's 400-year-old definition of a human being says a child does not become a human being until the moment of complete birth, contrary to 21st century medical evidence. They note that Parliament has a solemn duty to reject any law that says some human beings are not human.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to confirm that every human being is recognized by Canadian law as a human by amending section 223 of our Criminal Code.

Community Access Program
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to table a petition on behalf of many Ottawa residents who are deeply disturbed by this issue. They urge the government to reinstate funding to the community access program.

Quite unbelievably and sadly, the Conservative government is disconnecting Canadians from their communities, from business opportunities and from government services. It is shutting people out of the online conversations that are shaping our society and that we have all come to count on.

I am pleased to table this petition on behalf of my constituents.

DNA Databases
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, today I have the honour of presenting three petitions that are very similar in intent and indicate strong support for a DNA databank. In fact, these petitions have a total of 7,816 signatures. The petitioners agree that the families of missing persons deserve to know the fates of their loved ones, and a DNA identification databank would be a crucial tool toward reaching that goal.

One petition calls upon Parliament to enact legislation to create a missing persons index and victim index.

The second and third petitions call upon Parliament to create a DNA missing persons database and an unidentified human remains database, which would link with the existing national DNA database.

Child Nutrition
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to present this petition regarding access to healthy food, which is critically important for a child's development but is often limited for Canadian children who live in poverty. Child and youth nutrition programs are cost-effective ways to encourage the development of lifelong healthy eating habits, support Canadian farmers and food producers in the development of local markets and reduce future health care costs.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to provide national leadership and support for child and youth nutrition programs from the ministries of health and agriculture and to develop partnerships with farmers, food producers, et cetera to stimulate economic development.

As Buzz Aldrin says, “If we can conquer space, we can conquer childhood hunger”.

Rights of the Unborn
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to present a number of petitions on a related subject close to my heart.

First, I present a petition from residents of the riding of Burlington who begin by saying that whereas Canada's 400-year-old definition of a human being says a child does not become a human being until the moment of complete birth, contrary to 21st century medical evidence, and whereas Parliament has a solemn duty to reject any law that says some human beings are not human, they therefore call upon the House of Commons and Parliament assembled to confirm that every human being is recognized by Canadian law as human by amending section 223 of our Criminal Code in such a way as to reflect 21st century medical evidence.

The second petition is from constituents in the riding of Westlock—St. Paul. In substantially the same terms, it also suggests to the House that human rights are universal and that every human being's human rights should be recognized, and it calls upon the House to confirm that every human being is recognized by Canadian law as human by amending section 223 of our Criminal Code in such a way as to reflect 21st century medical evidence.

The next petition is from the riding of Mississauga—Erindale. Constituents in that riding are asking the House of Commons and Parliament assembled to confirm that every human being is recognized by Canadian law as human by amending section 223 of our Criminal Code in such a way as to reflect 21st century medical evidence. They do not want members of Parliament to turn their eyes away from 21st century medical evidence on this point.

The last petition has 202 signatures from the riding of Oakville. Constituents of that riding are affirming that Parliament has a solemn duty to reject any law that says some human beings are not human and, in so doing, to affirm that human rights are universally respected in Canada and that every human being is a human being. They are asking the Parliament of Canada to confirm that every human being is recognized by Canadian law as human by amending section 223 of our Criminal Code in such a way as to reflect 21st century medical evidence.

I would be happy if Parliament would not shut its eyes and would conduct a study of the evidence on this point, as is its duty.

Rights of the Unborn
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I will remind hon. members that during petitions one does not express editorial opinions one way or the other.

Presenting petitions, the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

Animal Welfare
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present this afternoon.

The first is from residents of Burlington, Ontario, as well as Vancouver, Mill Bay and Victoria, British Columbia, some in my own riding. This petition relates to the issue of consumption of horses as human food. The petitioners remind the House of Commons that we should take steps under the Health of Animals Act and Meat Inspection Act to prohibit the raising of horses for slaughter as human food.

The Budget
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from residents from many parts of Canada: from my riding, Pender Island, Mayne Island, Saanichton and Sidney, as well as from High River, Alberta; Sooke, B.C.; Kitchener, Ontario; Uxbridge, Ontario; Gabriola, B.C.; Saint John, New Brunswick; and Waterloo, London, Haliburton and Minden, Ontario.

These petitioners cite the numerous ways in which Bill C-38 is not properly an omnibus budget bill. They call on the Government of Canada to withdraw Bill C-38 and remove the sections that are not properly part of a budget bill and resubmit them to the House.

Super Visa
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, back in November of last year the government made the decision to put a freeze on sponsoring parents from overseas, which has had a fairly profound negative impact in many communities. The government came up with the super visa idea, and this petition deals with the super visa.

The petitioners are saying that the super visa is not affordable, and many individuals in Canada are not able to acquire super visas for their parents. They are calling upon the Prime Minister and the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to change the super visa requirements so that they can be reunited with their parents from abroad to attend many different types of events and special occasions here in Canada.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, if Question No. 617 could be made an order for return, this return would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 617
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

What is the total amount of government funding, since fiscal year 2011-2012, up to and including the current fiscal year, allocated within the constituency of Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, listing each department or agency, initiative and amount, including the date the funding was allocated?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Is that agreed?

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Unparliamentary Language
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday when we were debating the Trojan Horse budget bill and the member for Oak Ridges—Markham was responding to a question from the Liberal member for Kingston and the Islands, I let my emotions get the better of me and I want to apologize to my colleagues across the aisle, as well as to the Speaker, and ask that my remarks be withdrawn.

Unparliamentary Language
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

I am sure the House appreciates the withdrawal of remarks by the hon. member for Nickel Belt.

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government must recognize that saving lives is the top priority for Coast Guard search and rescue services, and that local service and knowledge, as well as the ability to communicate in the language of the communities served, are essential to delivering effective and timely life-saving operations and, therefore, must reverse the decisions to close the Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Centers in St. John’s and Quebec City and the Kitsilano Coast Guard station in Vancouver.

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Since today is the final allotted day for the supply period ending June 23, 2012, the House will go through the usual procedures to consider and dispose of the supply bills. In view of recent practices, do hon. members agree that the bill be distributed now?

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present this opposition day motion on behalf of my party, seconded by the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, who has taken a great interest in this matter and of course is extremely familiar with the local circumstances in the area of Vancouver and indeed of all of British Columbia.

I am dealing with three different closures here, and we will have speakers going into detail on each of them. My riding of St. John's East is very near to the marine rescue coordinating centre in St. John's. There is one in Quebec City, and the member for Québec will speak to that issue a little later. In dealing with the Kitsilano Coast Guard station in British Columbia, we will also hear directly from the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam.

I should say that I am splitting my time with the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam.

I will take a moment to first of all to sadly acknowledge the deaths of two Coast Guard auxiliary volunteers who died on Sunday in British Columbia at the Skookumchuck Narrows in the Sunshine Coast, near the entrance to Sechelt Island. They were engaged in a training mission and, very sadly, lost their lives when their boat capsized. It is with great sadness that we acknowledge this and pass on our sympathies to the families and friends of those involved who, acting as volunteers, took great risks and unfortunately and sadly lost their lives in this incident.

What we are dealing with here underscores the great seriousness with which search and rescue should be taken and needs to be taken by the government. The motion is aimed at urging the government to recognize that the saving of lives has to be the top priority for the Coast Guard search and rescue services, and the closure of these three operations merely to save the cost of 36 jobs—12 in St. John's, 12 in Quebec City and 12 in Kitsilano Coast Guard station—is gross neglect of the top priority of the Coast Guard services.

Sad to say, the government and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans have downplayed the importance of these operations when, for example, the issue of the marine rescue coordinating centre in St. John's and Quebec was talked about in terms of the vital necessity of having operations located where the coordinators of these rescues were engaged in local knowledge of the people at sea, the geography of the area, and in both cases, understanding directly the people and the communities they are dealing with.

In the case of Quebec City, the language is French, but it is not simply the French language: it is the language of French as it is spoken in that specific area. I am obviously not an expert in the French dialects of Quebec, but I am given to understand that people in Quebec do not all speak the same version of French or the same dialect, and it takes some experience, knowledge and understanding to get what is being said.

I do know that in my own province of Newfoundland and Labrador, not everybody speaks English the same way I or others do. We have been told by the marine rescue coordinators that it is very difficult sometimes to understand what is being said, even though they know the accents and the dialects and how people speak in one part of the province and another. They sometimes have to play the emergency tapes several times to catch what someone is saying, because they understand that in a rescue situation, an emergency situation at sea, people are panicked. They are worried about losing their lives and speak based on their panic and their need to get out what they have to say. Understanding them at the other end takes that kind of local knowledge.

They also know the coastline that they are dealing with. They know the geography. They know there are one or two dozen seal coves in Newfoundland. They use clues to figure out where they are. Understanding the place names is very complex in a place like Newfoundland and Labrador. They are people with that experience, and that is why they are there.

In the case of Newfoundland and Labrador, the marine rescue co-ordinating centre handles about 500 rescues per year. There are about 2,000 calls, 500 of which are actual at-sea situations of peril. They are the coordinators.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, incomprehensibly, kept referring to them as call centres, as if they were some sort of call centres that could be outsourced to Italy, or India, which is where unfortunately certain medical calls were outsourced after the centre closed in April.

It is not a call centre. It is a rescue co-ordinating centre with trained people who are mariners. They have experience at sea. They know the Coast Guard ships that are involved. They know what assets are available. They are dedicated to making sure that rescues are effectively co-ordinated.

In fact, when the defence committee was in St. John's in February 2010 as part of a study on search and rescue, we visited this marine rescue co-ordinating centre and were told directly by national Coast Guard officials the reason the centre was there. By the way, the Quebec centre and the St. John's centre were installed in 1977 for this reason. They are there because of the necessity of local knowledge, such as the circumstances of the currents, the geography, the people and the language. It was important enough to make sure those centres were there.

In the case of British Columbia, and my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam will talk about that in some detail, there are 12 people who provide direct rescue services 24 hours a day. They will be in a rescue cutter within one to two minutes of a call, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. That is being replaced.

The minister said that we do not need to worry about that because the Coast Guard auxiliary are going to look after it. The coast guard auxiliary is miles away. I spoke to some of the individuals who work at this station. There are three on duty at any one time. They provide 24-hour service. They are in the water within one to two minutes.

To get to that very same point, the Coast Guard auxiliary would take about 40 minutes after receiving a call. There is another station on the other side of the peninsula by the airport, but it is 17 nautical miles away.

That service is being provided. My colleague will provide a lot of numbers. We heard them at a meeting in British Columbia last Thursday. We heard the passion with which people spoke. They said that lives would be lost. It is the same message we are hearing from Newfoundland and Labrador, from those who know the circumstances.

There was a letter to the editor written by a former minister of fisheries in the Conservative government, James McGrath, my predecessor in St. John's East. He was complaining about this decision, how wrong it is and how it will increase the risk at sea and possibly lead to the loss of life.

It is an extremely important issue in the communities of Newfoundland and Labrador where we rely on the sea to make a living, where we have ferry boats sailing all the time. There are half a million passenger trips between St. John's and Bell Island on a ferry boat. There is the gulf ferry service. People go back and forth to the oil rigs daily and hourly. There are thousands of fishermen at sea working on boats 24 hours a day all throughout the year.

This is an extremely important service. There will be a reduction of that service. With those three operations going, there were six rescue coordinators available to do the work for this huge area of responsibility, which includes Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. Now there will be three people to do the job. That is not enough. It is very complex. It involves life-and-death decisions being made all the time.

This decision has to be and ought to be reversed for the sake of the lives and safety of the people who need this service.

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his great summation of the situation we are faced with regarding the Coast Guard and search and rescue, the two units that work to save those in need along the coast. The 103 Search and Rescue Squadron is in my riding.

My question deals with a visit which the member and I made a few years back. In the last session of Parliament we were on the defence committee together and we did a tour of the marine rescue sub-centre which the member mentioned is being closed down.

My impression of that visit, and Conservative members were with us, was extremely positive and that the service is necessary. They talked about functions of ice surveillance and communications, but the number one issue they spoke of was just how important knowledge of the local geography was.

I wonder if the member would like to add a few comments regarding that visit. Every parliamentarian in that room agreed that it was a vital instrument in saving lives.

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, in the member's riding of Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, the 103 Search and Rescue Squadron does a remarkable job. Although we have complaints about response times, it is not the squadron's fault; it is the military's fault, and we will get to that on Monday in a different debate on a private member's motion.

We were impressed by the activity around the marine rescue co-ordinating sub-centre and the other operations of the Coast Guard. It was extremely important that there were people working the Coast Guard boats, operating the weather stations and looking after the ice patrols.

I have to say that at one of our hearings in St. John's, a government member, in talking about Coast Guard rescue, said that it would never have occurred to any of them, even on the Ottawa River, to count on the coast guard to come and help them, that they would do it themselves. I do not know if he remembers, but it was the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke who said that.

It is unfortunate that people on the other side sometimes do not understand the importance of this service in saving lives.

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to thank the members for St. John's East and New Westminster—Coquitlam for coming to Vancouver and hearing from so many people. The closing down of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station is a very hot topic in the city of Vancouver.

We know that five million people travel through Vancouver's harbour each year. We also know that although the Jericho Sailing Centre has a 40-member volunteer rescue team, the general manager, Mr. Cotter, made it very clear that there is absolutely no way they would be able to respond. The federal government should not be relying on a small volunteer operation to basically shoulder the responsibility that the Coast Guard and the federal government have.

I wonder if the member could comment on that. It seems absurd that a small organization is somehow meant to pick up the slack when there are so many people moving through Vancouver's harbour.

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I was delighted to be in Vancouver.

We heard first-hand from a large number of very concerned passengers and people travelling within the area. There are 120,000 take-offs and landings of float-planes going back and forth between the harbour and Vancouver Island. There is an awful lot of traffic. This year that station has already responded to 70 calls and has saved 55 lives. It is vital that the service be retained. To expect volunteers to pick up the slack is definitely wrong.

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the motion by the hard-working member for St. John's East, and I am happy to second the motion.

I am pleased that the member has brought this important motion before Parliament so we can debate the Conservative government's short-sighted and reckless cuts to the Coast Guard search and rescue services right across this country.

The closures are a result of a massive $56 million in cuts proposed to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Because of these cuts, coastal communities will see the closures of the St. John's marine search and rescue coordination centres, as well as the closure of the Quebec marine rescue centre.

The cuts will also result in the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station in Vancouver. The Kitsilano Coast Guard station is one of the most active in the country, servicing approximately 300 distress calls per year in Canada's largest port. Most of these calls deal with serious emergency situations, such as a person in water, medical responses, suicide attempts and fires.

There is no question the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station will increase response times, as the next nearest rescue boat would then have to travel 17 nautical miles from Sea Island in Richmond to Vancouver.

Last week the member for St. John's East and I held a packed emergency town hall meeting at the Jericho Sailing Centre. We heard a variety of perspectives, but all attendees were in agreement that the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station was a huge mistake that would put people's lives at risk. Many citizens showed up to voice their concerns about the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. Those in attendance included recreational boaters, kayakers, yacht owners and club members, representatives from labour unions, retired Coast Guard members, Coast Guard employees, Vancouver parks board commissioners, environmentalists and residents of Vancouver.

One of our panellists at the event, Mike Kelly, a retired captain and 37-year veteran of the Coast Guard, stated:

The coast guard is disaster driven. Bases don't fall out of the sky because they have got too much money. They only fall out of the sky because somebody paid for it in blood, and it is always blood on the deck before anything gets done. We must not pay that price again.

We also heard from Mike Cotter, the general manager of the Jericho Sailing Centre Association. He brought up some excellent points. He told the audience that over five million people travel through the Vancouver harbour every year, and billions of dollars' worth of cargo travel through the First Narrows.

He also stated that the Vancouver harbour is the busiest port in the country.

According to Mr. Cotter, the Kitsilano Coast Guard has the ability to respond to an emergency in this region within six minutes. If British Columbians had to rely on the Coast Guard auxiliary for an emergency, according to Mr. Cotter it would take at least 45 minutes for a response from Horseshoe Bay and 50 minutes from the Deep Cove auxiliary to reach the First Narrows. He wondered why the Conservative government would not come up with the $900,000 to ensure the safety of people and products travelling through this busy port of entry.

Both the Vancouver parks board and Vancouver city council have passed motions opposing the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. The B.C. NDP opposition leader has written to encourage all B.C. MPs to speak out and oppose this closure. The premier of British Columbia has also urged the federal government to reverse course.

Yet the government refuses to listen to the very people who know the region, the waters and the services that are required to keep people safe.

We held the town hall meeting to give people an opportunity to voice their concerns and anger. The Conservative government so far has refused to listen, despite mounting outrage. We promised to bring the people's message back to Ottawa.

One of the attendees at the meeting was Katrina. She works in insurance for the yachting industry. She asked what impact this decision would have on insurance costs.

Since then, she has written an open letter, and it is excellent. I want to quote from that letter. She said:

Weighing shades of grey and ethical dilemmas which cut across political, moral and industrial divides is a hobby I take great pleasure in pursuing. These sorts of dilemmas in Canada are many and complex; our ability and willingness to navigate these concerns and stay united despite our differences somehow defines us as Canadians. However, I assure you wholeheartedly, my fellow Canadians, that the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station is not a decision that falls into this category. There is no political, economic, social, moral, or nautical justification which would warrant the closing of this base; not one. Any politician suggesting there is has misunderstood grossly some or all of the reasons which compel this location to remain open. If this station is closed lives will be lost, full stop. Any politician suggesting otherwise is in grave error and in gross neglect of their duty as a public servant. At no point were they elected to put human lives at risk; at no point will the sea bow down and say, “I will quell my force in obedience to Ottawa”. At no point will one human life lost at sea be forgotten conveniently in order to make this issue go away.

Those are powerful words.

One message we heard repeatedly is that the protection of the public must be the top priority for any government. Everyone was adamant that the Conservative government must not balance the budget at the expense of marine safety. British Columbians are also upset that, once again, the government has failed to consult them on a major decision, such as shutting down the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station.

After assurances from the Minister of Canadian Heritage, who is the lead B.C. Conservative MP, that a broad consultation had taken place, we soon discovered that the department had only consulted with the Department of National Defence. This lack of consultation does not instill a sense of confidence that this short-sighted decision is in the best interest of British Columbians. The choruses of disapproval from people who are active in marine safety, who have the local knowledge of the area and know the level of service required, is growing.

If the government had taken the time to consult, it would have heard that on the May long weekend alone the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station saved nine lives, or that so far this year the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station has responded to 70 calls and saved 55 lives.

If the government had bothered to ask Fred Moxey, retired commander of the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station, he would have told them, “Very simply, lives will be lost.”

Attendees at the town hall all wanted to know how the government could justify relying on volunteers to protect citizens in the water. They wondered who exactly was consulted about this. They wondered who was consulted when the decision was made to use the hovercraft and volunteers to replace trained professionals.

People do not trust the government on this issue. They are shocked and appalled that this decision was reached without public consultation, particularly with people who are active in marine safety and have the local knowledge. Also, the City of Vancouver and the Province of British Columbia were not consulted.

Marine safety should be a high priority for the government. The federal government has a responsibility to provide this essential service. To shut down the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station is an abdication of their duties.

The message from the town hall meeting was clear: the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station creates an unacceptable risk for Canadians. I urge the government to reconsider this reckless cut to close the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station, and keep it open.

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member. As members of Parliament for British Columbia, we both know that British Columbians are scandalized and horrified by this cutback in fundamental services: the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station, the Tofino station.

The search and rescue station in Kitsilano is the focus of this today, of course, as are search and rescue operations on the Atlantic coast.

Could the hon. member tell us whether or not he has had any communications that suggest how on earth the government thinks it can do this without risking lives, not just in the greater Vancouver area, but on the coast of British Columbia in general?

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is certainly a question we heard time and time again at the emergency town hall meeting that was held last week. They are certainly appalled with the cuts to the station. They want this decision reversed.

However, one of the things they were extremely concerned about was the lack of consultation. They wanted to hear the analysis. They wanted to see the reports that were made. They wanted to hear the rationale and the justification for this, so they could understand as well why the government was making this decision.

What we heard from the Minister of Heritage, as I mentioned is the lead Conservative MP in British Columbia on this, was that there was broad consultation. What we found was that is simply not the case. That is not true. What we found was that only DND was consulted and that this analysis does not exist.

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have also had an opportunity to take my young family out on the Burrard Inlet where a lot of recreational boating happens. It was reassuring a few years ago, when I knew there was a Coast Guard available, in case something did happen. It is very critical now. Because summer is coming up, there is going to be a lot of boating on the Burrard Inlet.

We have ministers wasting tens of thousands of dollars on photo ops, and others taking limousine rides, where are the government's priorities?

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, those two points were certainly brought up at the consultation we held last week. There were a number of individuals who said they like to recreate on the waters off Vancouver. They like to take their families out. Whether it is a pleasure craft, a sailing boat, a kayak, or a canoe, they like to enjoy the waters. They want to know that they are going to be safe. They felt that with the closure of the station, which could respond to emergencies within minutes, that would not be the case.

Because there are so few dollars needed to keep the station open, they were asking where the priorities of the government are. They feel marine safety should be a top priority and a high priority, and it should be fully funded.

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the west coast. Being from the east coast, we have a large network of volunteer services, most notably, the Coast Guard auxiliary. Thousands of boats across the area engage in this, and they do regular training.

I am wondering if the hon. member could comment on that, and how much more stressful this will be on the volunteer network of auxiliary coast guard for the west coast?

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague raises a good point. I would like to point out the difference between each coast. On the west coast, the auxiliary is like a volunteer fire brigade. They certainly have training, but they are not trained to the level of the Coast Guard. While volunteers play a vital role as part of that network my hon. colleague talked about, they recognize they cannot be a substitute for the Coast Guard that can respond within minutes.

Auxiliary members would have to come from home or work. They would have to generally drive to the station, which would take many minutes, then get their equipment ready, get in the craft and get to the distress call. As has been described by others, this would take 45 minutes, most likely at best, and that is unacceptable.

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:05 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 am pleased to have this opportunity to respond to this issue raised by my hon. colleague, the member of Parliament for St. John's East, regarding the consolidation of the Canadian Coast Guard search and rescue services, and to correct much of the misinformation that I have been hearing so far.

Please let me begin by expressing, on behalf of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, our commitment to ensuring maritime safety throughout Canada.

The recent announcements relating to the Coast Guard search and rescue program are a product of our fiscal responsibility, as well as a positive step towards a more streamlined and efficient maritime search and rescue program. I can assure members that the decision to consolidate search and rescue services, and the consolidation of search and rescue services in Greater Vancouver, in particular, were made with careful consideration to public safety.

When Canadians went to the polls on May 2 of last year, they delivered a strong and clear mandate to us, the newly elected government. Canadians chose public safety balanced with fiscal responsibility. Canadians asked that the government provide the same service at reduced cost, and this is what the Department of Fisheries and Oceans along with all other departments, have set in motion.

My colleagues and I are in agreement that we will deliver on this mandate, by ensuring the Canadian Coast Guard is providing effective and efficient services in the best interests of all Canadians while ensuring that safety is not compromised. Saving lives remains a top priority for this government, and indeed for all federal departments and agencies.

For those who do not know, the Canadian Coast Guard search and rescue mandate is to coordinate search and rescue missions within the three search and rescue regions and international waters, provide vessels to respond to search and rescue incidents in areas of the Canadian Coast Guard responsibility and provide communications and alerting services. Although the Coast Guard ensures search and rescue coverage is provided in areas of federal responsibility, it does so within a system of available resources. This means there are numerous players that can be called upon to respond to a search and rescue incident. Moreover, Coast Guard vessels may not be the most appropriate asset to respond to a mariner in distress, depending on the proximity.

The search and rescue system is, “The combined facilities, equipment and procedures established in each search and rescue region to provide the response to search and rescue...”. This systems approach allows Coast Guard search and rescue coordinators to task the closest available asset to respond to an incident on the water.

Canada is a signatory to the 1979 International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, and over the years we have built strong partnerships, both internationally and domestically, to deliver one of the most effective maritime search and rescue services in the world. The Canadian Coast Guard search and rescue record speaks for itself. On any given day, it saves eight lives. In any given year, it coordinates responses to over 4,000 maritime search and rescue calls across the country.

The Canadian Coast Guard fleet includes 116 vessels, plus one additional training vessel and 22 helicopters. This fleet provides support to search and rescue, with 41 station-based search and rescue vessels or lifeboat stations that operate year-round, or during the peak season of April to November in Quebec and the central and Arctic regions. There are also six patrol-mode vessels, which provide offshore search and rescue services, and other large Coast Guard vessels that can be called upon.

Across the country, the Coast Guard also operates 24 inshore rescue boats that augment services during the busy summer boating season, typically from the end of May to the beginning of September. In fact, the inshore rescue boats handle up to 914 total search and rescue incidents in a three-month period.

The consolidation of the marine rescue sub-centres in St. John's and Quebec City with the joint rescue coordination centres in Halifax and Trenton will facilitate incident response coordination by co-locating both air and maritime personnel in a single rescue centre. Co-location will provide for closer communication between the Canadian Coast Guard and Canadian Forces personnel, ultimately to the benefit of Canadians.

All centres are staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year-round, by Canadian Coast Guard maritime search and rescue coordinators, who are responsible for the planning, coordination, conduct and control of maritime search and rescue operations. These services will continue to be available in both official languages. As a result of improving existing language profiles at the Halifax and Trenton centres to meet the needs of francophone mariners, bilingual capacity will actually be increased above the levels currently in place at those centres.

All facets of consolidation have been considered, planned for and addressed through a solid implementation plan, which will cover all operational requirements and lays the groundwork for a successful transition. I am pleased to report that the marine rescue sub-centre in St. John's was successfully consolidated on April 25 into the joint rescue coordination centre in Halifax. On-the-job training of new coordinators is continuing, and levels of service are being maintained.

Efforts to consolidate the Quebec sub-centre into both Halifax and Trenton are well underway, in co-operation with our partners at the Canadian Forces. We expect to see a successful transition in Quebec, as we saw with the consolidation of the St. John's centre on April 25, perhaps by the spring of next year. As we have always said, this transition will have no impact on existing search and rescue coordination service standards.

The Canadian Coast Guard, on behalf of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, is responsible for the effective and efficient use of federally supported maritime search and rescue resources to respond to search and rescue calls. Collectively, the Canadian maritime search and rescue system saves 95% of lives at risk annually. These results could not be achieved without a system of resources to call upon.

Maritime search and rescue in Canada continues to require a network of assets and resources to work together to provide coverage, and capability to respond to mariners in distress or potential distress. These resources include Coast Guard's lifeboats, inshore rescue boats, large Coast Guard vessels, and Coast Guard auxiliary units, which are reimbursed through contribution agreements.

Search and rescue coordinators also have access to and are able to mobilize other on-water resources, such as police and fire vessels. In addition to these responders, any vessel close enough to provide assistance to a vessel in distress can be called upon under the Canada Shipping Act and international law. These are referred to as “vessels of opportunity”.

I would like to take this opportunity to specifically address the concerns surrounding the planned closure of the Kitsilano lifeboat station in Vancouver harbour.

It is important for Canadians to understand that Vancouver is currently the only major port in Canada with a Canadian Coast Guard lifeboat station. In fact, in addition to a lifeboat station, it has the Sea Island hovercraft station. Search and rescue services in other major Canadian ports, such as Victoria, Halifax and Montreal, are provided by a combination of responders that, for the most part, do not include Coast Guard lifeboats. The Kitsilano station is also only 17 nautical miles away from the Sea Island hovercraft station. No two other Coast Guard lifeboat stations are located so closely together. Typically, the radius of coverage is at least 50 nautical miles.

Although it cannot be denied that there is a high volume of traffic in the area and a high number of search and rescue incidents, many of these incidents are humanitarian and, therefore, outside of the Coast Guard's primary service mandate; by that I mean that they sometimes run out of gas, they find themselves at low tide or on a sand bar or those kinds of things.

The Canadian Coast Guard carefully considers the available response resources in a given area and their combined capacity and capability to meet local search and rescue needs. With respect to Kitsilano, there are five Coast Guard auxiliary units in the area, as well as local partners and numerous vessels of opportunity. These are valuable resources that contribute to the search and rescue system in the area.

The Kitsilano station responded to approximately 200 maritime search and rescue incidents in 2010. Of these, approximately 75% were non-distress and 25% were distress. It is true that, due to its 365 days a year operations, the Kitsilano station has one of the highest cumulative workloads among lifeboat stations in Canada. However, the intensity of its workload is not significantly different from other search and rescue stations.

When only comparing search and rescue incidents occurring during peak summer months there are inshore rescue boat stations in the country with higher workloads than Kitsilano. For example, the Oka inshore rescue boat station in Quebec responded to over 130 search and rescue incidents in 2010, which is significantly higher than the Kitsilano caseload during the same months, which was approximately 75.

In addition, Kitsilano has traditionally been used as the primary responder to search and rescue cases in the Vancouver area but there are multiple resources in the area. A better utilization of search and rescue partners will lead to a more even distribution of workload.

It should be noted that the province of British Columbia has the highest number of federally funded search and rescue resources in Canada with 12 Coast Guard search and rescue stations, 3 inshore rescue boat stations, 61 Coast Guard auxiliary units and 2 offshore search and rescue vessels. It has been determined that the best mix of resources to provide search and rescue response in the Vancouver area include the addition of an inshore rescue boat in Vancouver harbour, the Coast Guard's hovercraft at Sea Island, the strengthening of the Coast Guard auxiliary presence, local emergency responders and, as always, vessels of opportunity.

I would like to address the benefits of some of these Coast Guard resources in more detail, starting with the addition of an inshore rescue boat in the Vancouver harbour. This seems to be a detail often excluded from conversations surrounding the closure of Kitsilano.

It has been determined that the addition of an inshore rescue boat in Vancouver harbour, operating during the peak summer months from the May long weekend to the September long weekend, would, if the sole responder, though that is highly unlikely, be able to cover 41% of Kitsilano's total yearly workload. The inshore rescue boat station will be strategically located in Vancouver harbour aiding with response to mariners in distress in this high traffic area during busy summer months.

The Sea Island hovercraft will be another resource at the disposal of search and rescue. There have been concerns voiced about whether Sea Island's hovercraft will be available for search and rescue taskings in the Vancouver area due to its use performing aids to navigation functions. I can assure the House that the availability of primary search and rescue assets to perform search and rescue missions will not be affected by aids to navigation duties.

In the last five years, the hovercraft at Sea Island has spent less than one day a month performing aids to navigation duties and search and rescue will always have the priority.

Over the coming months, the Canadian Coast Guard will be contracting out more of its buoy work, allowing search and rescue resources, including the hovercraft, to focus more on safety missions.

The two hovercrafts at Sea Island are the most capable search and rescue hovercrafts in the world. The hovercraft provides a large, stable platform that offers high speeds, up to 35 to 40 knots, and endurance. The hovercraft is capable of operating safely and effectively and it can be under way within three to five minutes of receiving a search and rescue call.

The new hovercraft currently under construction in the United Kingdom to replace the Penac will be equipped with an updated system and is scheduled for delivery in autumn 2013. The Sea Island hovercrafts have capacity to take on additional taskings in the greater Vancouver area.

Another important asset to the Canadian Coast Guard search and rescue system is its dedicated partners from the auxiliary. I know the members opposite demean the auxiliary, but I will give them some facts. I will reiterate that the search and rescue system relies on this network of resources to save lives and the Coast Guard auxiliary makes a significant contribution to search and rescue each day. Canadians ought to be thanking it for the good work that it does.

The Canadian Coast Guard manages $4.9 million in contribution funds to the Coast Guard auxiliaries to support federal search and rescue activities and initiatives. These dedicated volunteers include professional fishers and other experienced boaters who share a common goal and desire to save lives. On average, Coast Guard auxiliary nationally responds to 25% of all maritime search and rescue incidents. Specifically, Coast Guard auxiliary Pacific, now known as Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue, responds to about 400 incidents a year and its units are the sole responder to 280 incidents annually. The Pacific auxiliary has the highest membership in Canada with 1,115 members.

Auxiliary members in the Pacific region undergo extensive certification and training prior to becoming a trainee crew member on a search and rescue mission, including training in an advanced rescue vessel simulator. They must successfully complete additional testing and at-sea training prior to becoming a full crew member and are encouraged to continue completing higher levels of certification. The Pacific auxiliary has a fast reaction time averaging 19 minutes.

There are five 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week auxiliary stations serving the Vancouver area, two of which, Howe Sound and Indian Arm, are newly equipped with 37-foot search and rescue vessels capable of withstanding 50 knot winds, 5 metre seas and are rollover tested. The Delta and Crescent Beach auxiliary stations will be putting new vessels into service this fall and Richmond station is equipped with three vessels, including a new 30-foot cabin vessel. Collectively, these five auxiliary units responded to 112 maritime search and rescue incidents in 2010. Of these, 32 were distress incidents and 80 were non-distress incidents.

In order to ensure a smooth transition of safety services in the Vancouver harbour, discussion with our municipal and local partners have begun, as well as an increase in additional funding to the Pacific auxiliary. When all measures are put in place and the Coast Guard determines that safe services can be assured, the Kitsilano station will be closed. This is currently scheduled to be around the spring of 2013. It is important to understand that no one resource will be expected to undertake the entire caseload of Kitsilano, rather, many partners will work collectively to maintain the high level of service currently provided.

I want to point out that a similar mix of resources is used in other major ports. For example, Victoria harbour, which is another very busy harbour, utilizes as part of its search and rescue team one docked fast rescue craft, one Coast Guard auxiliary unit, a Pacific coast pilot vessel, the Victoria police and fire department vessels and, finally, the RCMP border integrity unit, but no Coast Guard station nearby.

In the Victoria area over a five year period from 2006 to 2010, the Coast Guard auxiliary units responded to 66% of the cases while the Coast Guard search and rescue vessels responded to only 20% of the cases.

A different mix of resources proves effective in Halifax harbour with one large Coast Guard vessel, a small DFO science vessel, a Coast Guard fast rescue craft, an inshore rescue boat during the summer months of May to September, fire and police vessels, pilot boats, Halifax Port Corporation work boats and other vessels of opportunity.

Montreal harbour is equipped with one inshore rescue boat from June till September, seven Coast Guard auxiliary units and two Montreal Fire Department fast rescue crafts. There are three other municipal fire department fast rescue crafts outside of the harbour limits that could also respond if necessary.

The point I am making is that each region, port or harbour utilizes a different mix of resources for their search and rescue needs and yet each is effective. Thus, the best mix of resources for Vancouver harbour has been identified.

The Canadian Coast Guard is a national and international leader in maritime safety and the Coast Guard search and rescue program is among the best in the world. As such, the Coast Guard continually strives to provide outstanding maritime services to Canadians and improve upon service delivery whenever possible.

Finally, the Canadian Coast Guard remains committed to ensuring maritime safety in the Vancouver area, as well as in the rest of Canada. We recognize the critical importance of these safety services and I can assure members that the Coast Guard's number one priority remains safety.

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am concerned with the remarks from the parliamentary secretary.

We have great respect for volunteers, whether they be volunteer firefighters or volunteers with the Coast Guard auxiliary on the east and west coasts. However, I do not know if the minister would want to say that we should, for example, rely on a volunteer fire brigade and close down a full-time fire station with 24-hour service provided by people who were hired to do the job and who could respond within a couple of minutes.

It is also noteworthy that the Coast Guard auxiliary on both the east and west coasts oppose this move. They do not think that it is appropriate or adequate.

As for the east coast, technology and saving money were the reasons given for closure at the beginning. However, these were not set up for technological reasons. They were set up for their local knowledge, local geography and local language, which cannot be duplicated in these new centres in Trenton and Halifax.

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, in answer to the latter question, they in fact can. We will have highly trained people in those centres to respond and they will provide coordination services. They will not be the ones going out on the water. They will provide coordination services to ensure that the response to the incident is an appropriate one.

That is in fact the way it works in the Vancouver harbour as well. The call does not go to the Kitsilano station. The call goes the joint centre and it tasks it, whether it be to Kitsilano, the auxiliary station at Indian Arm, Howe Sound or perhaps a vessel of opportunity that it knows is close by.

That is the way that it works. The personnel in these joint rescue coordination centres will be highly trained and able to do their job.

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, I would like to go back to the member's comment of just a minute ago when he talked about where the calls would be going. That is exactly what we are arguing. The government is taking away that local knowledge. When it comes to dialect and an understanding of the geography in the area, it cannot all be isolated to one central location. That was the whole purpose of the local centre.

In his speech, the member made it sound as if we were still keeping that knowledge, but we are not. The local knowledge and local dialect that is so important is being taken away.

When people are in danger there is only a split second to hear where they are calling from. We cannot say that we will call them back or ask them to say it a second time. We are talking about seconds to save someone's life when it comes to understanding where they are calling from. It is not as simple as asking several questions. We need to know instantaneously where a person is calling from, which is the problem with the closure of these local centres.

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not recall hearing how this member became an expert in these areas.

However, I can assure him that we do have experts in these areas. They have worked in this area for a long time. They have assured us that the consolidation of these centres will continue with proper training of these personnel. It is an important component, as we admit. That is why we are taking longer with the consolidation of the Quebec centre into Trenton: to make sure they have the necessary linguistic abilities, for example, and that they are also trained in the many other ways that will allow them to provide services in an effective, efficient way.

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, first I want to pay tribute to two of those heroic auxiliary workers, Beatrice Sorensen and Angie Nemeth, from the riding I represent, who perished last weekend in the course of their duties.

There were four things missing when my colleague opposite, the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, related what he said was happening. We did not hear about any dedication to reducing the deficit. We did not hear about inshore vessels, which the parliamentary secretary just mentioned were going to be added. We did not hear about the close proximity between the Kitsilano branch that is going to be closed and the nearest branch, which are closer than any other two in Canada. We did not hear about the engagement of local partners.

I would like the parliamentary secretary to reiterate all of the steps being taken to make sure there is no prejudice to safety while we deal with this deficit.

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague makes a very good point. On the other hand, I would say that this is not primarily a cost-cutting exercise.

We have said, though, that we feel, as every responsible government should feel, an obligation to take the available financial assets and make sure they are used in the most efficient and effective way.

When we took a look at search and rescue services in the Vancouver area, it became clear to us, after extensive analysis and consultation with our search and rescue partners at national defence, that it could be done in this way while providing the same effective level of service that mariners in the Vancouver area have come to expect.

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I remind my colleagues that the department is facing a $56 million cut. I am not sure how my colleague across the way can say with a straight face that marine safety will not be compromised.

If the most strategically located rescue station in Vancouver port, the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, is removed from the equation of marine safety, we then have to turn to the Sea Island hovercraft or to the Howe Sound or Deep Cove auxiliaries to fill the gap. All of those examples will take at least 30 minutes in good conditions, with availability, to get there.

How can the parliamentary secretary say with a straight face that marine safety will not be affected? If he had any analysis done, will he provide that analysis to the public? The public feels they were not consulted, and they want to hear the information.

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, I find it interesting that in his recitation, the member did not mention the new inshore rescue boat station, which in many areas of the country provides the first response.

They have boats that go at about 45 knots. They are capable and effective. The people who are part of that station are well trained, and they will be in the heart of the harbour somewhere.

Nor did the member mention the fact that we continue to have discussions with the Pacific auxiliary, the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue people, about perhaps strategically locating another station. With these assets, in addition to the vessels of opportunity—the police boats, and so on—we are very convinced that we can do this in a safe and effective way.

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary talked about the need to balance fiscal responsibility versus public safety. That is valid.

However, this is from the party that has the largest deficit in the history of Canada, owing to huge tax reductions to big banks and big oil at less than half the U.S. rates.

In terms of public safety, the environment does not feel safe, pensioners do not feel safe, scientific researchers are certainly not safe and mariners are not safe.

The other big issue here, besides rescue centres, is the question of marine communications and traffic services. The government is going to kill the one in Thunder Bay, and then the closest one will be either in Sarnia or in B.C., and the government has picked Sarnia. How can staff there possibly understand and serve the needs of Thunder Bay with half the people and twice the workload?

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member clearly does not understand this issue very well.

We looked at our marine communications and traffic centres. We found out that we had quite a few across the country, and yet they were not as effective as they should be. At times centre A and centre B could not even communicate with each other.

It became very clear to us that if we were to keep, as we are doing, the same number of radio towers and the same number of radar installations, which really do the work on behalf of these centres, and put new technology into a smaller number of centres so there can be the necessary redundancy in case one service goes down as a result of an unexpected event, then we can do this task in an efficient and better way with this new technology in a smaller number of centres.

Opposition Motion--Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Before we resume debate, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for St. John's East, Fisheries and Oceans; the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, Fisheries and Oceans; and the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst, Fisheries and Oceans.

I see the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London may be rising on a point of order.

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the House gives its consent, I move that the 27th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House earlier today, be concurred in.

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Is there consent?

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Random—Burin—St. George's.

The Liberal Party has argued for the last year against cuts to vital search and rescue operations in St. John's and Quebec and has argued that such cuts would endanger lives. In spite of this warning, the government recently announced the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station in Vancouver, B.C.

This comes on top of the closure of major marine communications stations in British Columbia in Vancouver, Comox and Tofino, leaving only Victoria and Prince Rupert to regulate traffic and give early warning to the longest coastline and some of the most treacherous waters in Canada.

The irony, obviously lost on the government, is that it is spending millions of dollars to celebrate 50 years of the Canadian Coast Guard while cutting $79 million in resources, eliminating up to 763 positions and stretching Coast Guard regions from five to three, leaving fewer rescuers to cover more ground when responding to emergencies.

I do not know how that makes sense. I do not know how one can celebrate a Coast Guard and then go and gut it and cut it.

Indeed, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is quoted as saying, “Our government is proud of the Canadian Coast Guard, and of the men and women who provide critical services to Canadians every day”. Then he cut those critical services. It makes no sense to me.

My colleague will speak to the issues facing search and rescue in the Atlantic. I would like to direct my attention to my province of British Columbia and what the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station in Vancouver would mean.

First and foremost, this is an irresponsible, short-sighted and reckless endangerment of life. Combined with the cutting of marine communications in British Columbia, this decision will sever vital marine links that serve British Columbia.

In spite of protestations from the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages that this decision to close the Kitsilano base was made with broad consultation, it was not. There was no consultation with the B.C. Coast Guard itself. There was no consultation with the province. There was no consultation with the City of Vancouver. There was no consultation with the auxiliary coast guard resources, nor was there any consultation with the communities that are going to be affected by this closure. This was a decision made in Ottawa by the Department of National Defence, with no understanding of the needs of the people on our coast.

This in fact prompted the British Columbia government to formally protest the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station and to ask the Conservative government to reverse its decision. B.C. justice minister Shirley Bond said, “Protecting public safety must be a guiding principle for all budget exercises”.

In a motion last week, the City of Vancouver's city council expressed its opposition to the closures and urged the federal government to reverse them, saying “The closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard search and rescue station is another marine safety service for Vancouver being eliminated by the federal government, along with the recently announced closure of the Coast Guard communications centre in Vancouver and the B.C. command centre for emergency oil spills”.

The idea of emergency oil spills needs to be taken into consideration.

The City of Vancouver council continued, “Any response to increased risk to marine public safety due to federal cutbacks may be borne by the City's first responders, such as the VPD's marine unit”.

Financial costs are going to be downloaded to the city, which does not have the ability to put in the proper resources or to have the finances to do it. Not only that, it was never even given the courtesy of a discussion beforehand.

It is interesting to note, however, that the Vancouver police boats cannot respond to an on-sea incident, only ones that affect and are linked to the shore. Even if the city were rolling in money and wanted to put forward VPD boats, it could not do it because it has no authority over that area.

Even Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservative fisheries and environment minister, John Fraser, opposes this move.

Here are the facts. The Port of Vancouver is the busiest port in Canada. It costs approximately $900,000 a year to run the Kitsilano station. By comparison, the federal government could operate the Kitsilano Coast Guard station for over 130 years for the cost of just one F-35 fighter jet.

I want members to also know that the Kitsilano Coast Guard station serves five million people who come through the port each year. It responds to over 350 emergency calls annually.

It serves a large area that spreads up Salmon Arm, up the Burrard Inlet, through the areas of False Creek. This is an area that is not only a port that has cargo ships and cruise ships come through it regularly. It is also an area where there are fisheries and fishery vessels. I have one of the largest fisheries in False Creek. People go up to the salmon run. Last Sunday people drove by and hooted their horns in support of the Coast Guard station in Kitsilano. That is where they turn to when they are in distress.

It also serves oil tankers that will go through the harbour. In fact, there has been a decision by the Department of Transport to double the number of tankers going through the port of Vancouver, which is an accident waiting to happen. This is what we are talking about when we are talking about the port of Vancouver.

The response time from the Kits Coast Guard station to anything going on in the port is six minutes. Kits is strategically located and it can get to Richmond where the government is moving the Coast Guard station, but it can also get up to the northern areas where there is Salmon Arm and the Burrard Inlet, which is even further to get to from Sea Island in Richmond. We are talking about an additional 30 minutes to an hour if we continue to use the Sea Island station.

This is not about central calls. This is not about coordination. It is about an actual boat, or a hovercraft, or plane going out to the problem or a firebird that is there to deal with an issue.

I was there about 15 years ago when the Coast Guard station, which was a wooden station, caught on fire because of a boat that went out of control and blew up right next to the harbour. The fire spread rapidly. This whole area is populated by people who live all along that coastal area along Kits and moving up that area. If we had to wait for something to come from Sea Island, members have no idea how much of the Lower Mainland in Kitsilano area would have been devastated with the loss of lives.

I want people to understand the nature of what they are dealing with here. I would like members to go to Vancouver. I would like the parliamentary secretary and the minister to go to the Kits Coast Guard station, travel up Burrard Inlet and see what the distance is. A hovercraft could not do it.

This is putting people's lives in danger.

Perhaps the government will eventually realize that it has made a mistake after someone dies. If we look at listeriosis and Walkerton, it is obvious the government has to wait for that to happen before it does anything. Why must it always take a tragedy for the government to back down and realize it made a mistake.

In this area there are paddlers, kayakers, sailors, powerboats, personal watercrafts, cruise ships, cargo vessels and float planes all competing for the same space. There will be emergencies and instead of waiting for six minutes, they will be waiting for an hour.

I want to close by quoting retired Coast Guard David Howell, who worked in Kitsilano station for 37 years. He said it best when he said:

You got the Heritage Minister telling me that safety is not affected and I got 30,000 SAR calls under my belt and I am telling you that it is, now you choose which one you want to believe but I will tell you one thing, and you can take it to the bank, safety is being affected. It will end up costing lives, there is no doubt in my mind what so ever and I don't have a penny to earn no matter if that station opens or closes...Incompetent to the level that I believe it is border line criminal I mean this is so foolish as to make me almost...I get a knot in my stomach and almost want to throw up...its ridiculous.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like my colleague to tell us more about what long-term effects she believes will result from the cuts to the Coast Guard Services.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is a very important question because at the end of the day this is not about saving money, as the province of British Columbia pointed out, when we take into consideration the cost of life. It is about understanding the area being served. This is not about somebody in Ottawa making a decision that will be cost effective and all that nonsense. This is about knowing the terrain. It is about understanding how close people live to the shoreline in British Columbia. It is about understanding that this is an area that serves 1.3 million people and more. It is about looking at the cost of life. The people in that whole area are up in arms. Everyone is speaking out. Everyone is upset. Everyone is concerned. Everyone is angry.

I referred to the fire that occurred 15 years ago, which could have taken out huge blocks in our city if the Coast Guard was not there to do something about it immediately, not an hour later, not 30 minutes later.

This is about one thing. It is about human life in one of the crowdest and most busiest ports in Canada.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:45 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, while I thank my colleague from Vancouver Centre for her attempt, there were so many inaccuracies in her speech that I hardly know where to start. For one thing, her speech was so full of fear-mongering that she really should be embarrassed. Pretending that a station at Kitsilano is going to deal with oil tankers coming down the B.C. coast is just ludicrous, ridiculous at least.

The minister and I have probably been on many more Coast Guard ships and at more Coast Guard stations than she has. Has the member ever visited a Coast Guard auxiliary station and talked to those people who are well trained and who put their lives at risk on behalf of Canadians for no money? We provide money so they can have the proper equipment to help them with that. Has she ever visited there?

The member referred to Salmon Arm. It is actually Indian Arm. Salmon Arm is in the interior, the place of my birth. There is one there and there is one at Howe Sound, so they cover the area up to the Lions Gate Bridge, both from different directions. There are three others in the area. I wonder if she knows that. I also wonder if the member has ever visited them.

Did the member miss the point that we are putting in place this new inshore rescue boat station which is used throughout the country in a very effective way and will be able to respond to exactly the kinds of things to which she is referring?

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will answer the question. I just wish that when members across the way ask questions, they will try not to be so personal and insulting. It does not get them anywhere. If they have a point to make, they should make it.

The bottom line is I do know. I live in Kitsilano. I live near the Coast Guard station. I was there when the fire occurred and I saw it. I know this area.

I could not care whether the member has been on 59 boats in his life, or marine boats, or defence boats, or whatever. I am talking about a reality that affects everybody. I talked to the auxiliary people who do not feel that they were able to cope.

The member should not ask me if I have been to an auxiliary. That does not make any point. The auxiliary people have said openly that they cannot take on the problems that will occur if something goes on.

I did not suggest that the Coast Guard conduct oil tanker traffic. However, by closing the marine communications centre in Vancouver, the oil spills response in Vancouver and increasing the number of tanker traffic will be an accident waiting to happen. There is going to be a fire, people are going to be hurt. That is where the Coast Guard comes in. It does not have anything to do with tankers. Therefore, try not to be so obtuse in future.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

I assure the hon. member that I will not be obtuse. I would remind hon. members that they should direct their comments through the Chair.

Message from the Senate
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received which is as follows:

ORDERED: That a message be sent to the House of Commons to acquaint that House that the Senate do agree with the House of Commons in the following Address:

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty the Queen in the following words:

TO THE QUEEN'S MOST EXCELLENT MAJESTY;

MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN:

We, Your Majesty's loyal and dutiful subjects, the Senate and the House of Commons of Canada in Parliament assembled, beg to offer our sincere congratulations on the happy completion of the sixtieth year of Your reign.

The People of Canada have often been honoured to welcome Your Majesty and other members of the Royal Family to our land during Your reign, and have witnessed directly Your inspiring example of devotion to duty and unselfish labour on behalf of the welfare of Your People in this country and in the other nations of the Commonwealth.

In this, the Diamond Jubilee year of your reign as Queen of Canada, we trust that Your gracious and peaceful reign may continue for many years and that Divine Providence will preserve Your Majesty in health, in happiness and in the affectionate loyalty of Your people.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of the NDP motion, presented by my colleague, the member for St. John's East. This is an issue that all of us from Newfoundland and Labrador have addressed on numerous occasions because of our knowledge of how important search and rescue is, not only to Newfoundland and Labrador, but to people who have a need to access search and rescue services when they travel on the ocean around our province.

The idea of closing down the maritime rescue sub-centre in St. John's, and the one in Quebec I might add, has been met with public outcry for a number of reasons, but certainly because of the impact it will have on safety. The work of MRSC St. John's and Quebec, when it closes in a year because Quebec has been given a one-year reprieve, will be consolidated and delivered by the joint rescue coordination centres in Halifax and Trenton. However, given their already heavy caseload and the small number of search and rescue coordinators at these centres, it is unlikely they will be able to handle the increased workload caused by the St. John's and Quebec City closures.

Let me just speak to the maritime rescue sub-centre in St. John's. On average the centre has overseen 500 calls a year, many of them distress calls, resulting in approximately 600 lives saved annually. We are talking about life and death situations. The parliamentary secretary suggested that this was one way to deal with the deficit, a deficit that I might add has been created by the government, not by ordinary Canadians from coast to coast to coast, the largest deficit in our country's history. Now this will be handled on the backs of Canadians from coast to coast to coast. The problem we have with that is the government is really putting safety on the back burner, while it tries to deal with the deficit.

The reality is that in Newfoundland and Labrador in particular, we have so many coves and harbours, places where local knowledge and expertise is really important. Local knowledge of a dialect is critical. We have had examples in fact where people have been out and have made a distress call and because their dialect is such that if one were not familiar with the place names, one would have a hard time recognizing where they are located in order to be rescued.

Therefore, we cannot just take the positions out of Newfoundland and Labrador and move them to Halifax or Trenton. Bear in mind none of the search and rescue coordinators who work at the centre in St. John's, Newfoundland will actually move to either Trenton or Halifax. Therefore, that local knowledge and expertise and appreciation and understanding of the dialect is not moving. It is not going to be in Halifax and it is not going to be in Quebec.

We have another issue in Quebec because we have the French language. My understanding is that at this point in time the people are having difficulty finding coordinators who can speak French. On another front, they are also downgrading the qualifications of people who would have been expected to come with very high qualifications prior to the closure of the maritime rescue sub-centre in St. John's and Quebec. They will now be employed with many fewer qualifications. This is a serious issue and one that I can speak to because I know the public outcry. I know that people are naturally nervous.

When I say it is the maritime rescue sub-centre in St. John's, Newfoundland, this does not only apply to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Do not forget, Newfoundland is now an oil producing province. Off our shores we have oil platforms. There are people working on those platforms from every part of this world. Therefore, it is not just Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who we are speaking about here.

It is the same with tourists who are coming from all over the world. When we talk about safety, it is their safety that is being put in peril as well. People tend to think that it only applies to fishers. That is absolutely not true. Yes, of course our fishers need assistance when they get in trouble and yes they are the ones with the local dialect that when they need to be rescued, they really need to have that local knowledge there. However, when we have oil platforms off our coast, a vibrant tourism industry, then closing down research centres will impact dramatically those people as well. It will put their lives at risk.

I cannot say it enough. What we are talking about here is safety. While we need to deal with the deficit as the government has said, there are so many other avenues it can go down to deal with the deficit, one being the F-35, another being the megaprisons it is looking at building. However, to even draw a comparison between those and search and rescue safety issues does not make sense.

I have to question the government's understanding of and appreciation for exactly what it is doing here. I cannot believe that it would do this with a full understanding and appreciation of what it would mean .

I want to quote the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke when she commented on the use of search and rescue by mariners on the Atlantic. She said that in Ontario they would never ever think of calling the Coast Guard for help if they found themselves in trouble on the Ottawa River. Can anyone imagine comparing being on the Ottawa River with being on the Atlantic Ocean?

That is why I have to question whether or not the government really understands what it is doing here. If the example is that people on the Ottawa River would never think of calling the Coast Guard, that they would help themselves, I would love to see the member out in the middle of the North Atlantic needing to be rescued, but saying, “No, we're not going to call the Coast Guard. We're going to help ourselves”.

There is no understanding, no appreciation of the volatility of the weather. It can change in a minute. This is what people are exposed to when they are on the North Atlantic. This is what people experience when they are out fishing. This is what people experience when they are out on the oil platforms. This is what people experience sometimes when they are travelling on Marine Atlantic and are stuck trying to get into port, or they cannot leave North Sydney to go to Newfoundland and Labrador because the weather conditions are such that they cannot cross. They can be out in the middle of the ocean and they will have to stop because of the weather conditions.

It does not make sense to me. When I hear a quote like that from a member of the government, I have to wonder where the advice is coming from. Then maybe that is where it is coming from. Maybe there are others in the government who think that way, who have no idea of the role of search and rescue, who have no understanding of what it is like to be in distress, who have no idea of what it is like to travel on the Atlantic Ocean.

I am making a plea to whoever is making the decisions in the government. Even though it has closed the maritime rescue sub-centre in St. John's, even though the SAR coordinators, who have done a wonderful job, who are so experienced, who have given so much, who have devoted their lives to this, who know exactly what is required when someone gets in trouble, have been laid off, I am asking the government to reconsider. This has to be one of the worst decisions it has ever made because this will, without a doubt, result in the loss of life. Nobody, but nobody, would want that to be the outcome of this particular decision.

The SAR coordinators know exactly what they are doing. My fear is that because the government or the centre in Halifax or the one in Trenton is having difficulty attracting those with the qualifications necessary to do the work that is required in the search and rescue centre, they will downgrade those qualifications. That will make it even more difficult. That means that people on the ocean will not be able to have that sense of comfort that there will be someone there if they should be in distress and need to be rescued.

This is such an important issue. This decision needs to be reconsidered, because loss of life is imminent if this decision is not changed.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to mention that my father was an Acadian from Nova Scotia and that I was lucky to visit that province quite often. It was home to my ancestors and I still have family there.

I have not yet had the opportunity to go to Newfoundland, but there is something absolutely fascinating about the Maritimes. The Nova Scotia coastline is very dangerous. My colleague who moved this motion described it very well. There are a great many small bays where all kinds of vessels can get into trouble.

I would like to ask my Liberal colleague to talk about the long-term consequences of closing these Coast Guard centres.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the member, having been to the Atlantic provinces, has a sense of exactly how difficult the coastline with its many coves, harbours and bays is for the mariners and other people who are on the ocean, such as people on the oil platforms, and tourists travelling on Marine Atlantic. It is not just the coastline that is an issue in terms of safety. There are many bays.

For example, in the riding of Random—Burin—St. George's there are seven isolated communities. Those communities can only be accessed by ferry. There are those, of course, who get there by helicopter for medical services if care is needed, but by and large, people in isolated communities travel on ferries or use their own boats. If search and rescue is not available—

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I do not wish to interrupt the hon. member, but time is limited and I know there are other hon. members who wish to pose questions.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, this may come as no shock, but I want to congratulate my colleague on her wonderful speech, not because we are sitting in the same area, but because she has been a strong advocate for this issue.

Earlier the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans made a few comments, and the logic is really quite puzzling. He mentioned that co-location is such a wonderful thing when it comes to moving St. John's to Halifax. If we take that to its logical conclusion, we would also put Halifax into Trenton given that co-location is such a wonderful thing. Yet that is not done and the reason is for knowledge of local geography.

The other interesting part is that his colleagues went to the centre they closed down and loved it. They thought it was a fantastic asset for search and rescue, but I guess they forgot to give the message that it is a wonderful asset to use.

I would like my colleague to talk about the fact that the government never got any input as to what local expertise can provide, such as individuals like Merv Wiseman in Newfoundland and Labrador, whom the member knows. I wonder if she could comment on that and the conversations she has had with local experts there.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, the problem with the decision the government has taken is that there was absolutely no consultation with those who have local knowledge and expertise. There was no consultation with the province. The premier was blindsided by this. How can the government possibly close down a search and rescue centre in a province like Newfoundland and Labrador, a portion of which is an island, and not understand the consequences or not want to know the consequences of doing that?

To suggest that co-location will work is suggesting that the search and rescue coordinators in Halifax and Trenton do not already have a heavy caseload, which is not my understanding. Now we are going to load even more work on them, putting at risk the time they can expend if they happen to get three or four calls instead of one looking for search and rescue.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to try to get the government to use some common sense.

If the government had some sense it would support the motion of the member for St. John's East, as I plan on doing. The government must recognize that in order to protect the lives of Canadian mariners, we need an effective communication system.

Here are some facts for the Conservatives. Through operations carried out by the Canadian Forces, every year we respond to 8,000 incidents, save on average more than 1,200 lives and rescue more than 20,000 people. And 25% of these annual incidents are covered by the four centres that are closed or are being closed.

I want to talk about the Coast Guard's search and rescue centre in Quebec City, the maritime rescue sub-centre St. John's, the Kitsilano Coast Guard station and the Rivière-au-Renard maritime radio station.

Canada is in last place, far behind Australia, Ireland, Mexico, the United Kingdom and even the United States, in terms of response times for search and rescue operations. In the west, the Kitsilano Coast Guard station employs 12 people and received nearly 300 calls in 2011. Since the beginning of the year, the station has responded to 70 calls and has saved 55 lives.

In the east, the Coast Guard's maritime rescue sub-centre in Quebec City employs nine people and responds to some 1,400 maritime incidents every year. Most of the calls related to those 1,400 incidents are in French.

The centre's coverage extends from Lac Saint-François to Blanc-Sablon and includes the Gaspé peninsula and the Magdalen Islands, covering approximately 148,000 km2 and 4,600 km of coastline.

The Quebec City centre is the Coast Guard's only officially bilingual search and rescue centre in Canada. I repeat: this is the only officially bilingual centre in Canada.

The maritime rescue sub-centre in St. John's was closed on April 30 even though it responded to over 400 distress calls every year, 25% of which were emergencies at sea. The centre covered over 900,000 km2 of ocean and just over 28,000 km of coastline.

This means that safety in over one million km2 of ocean and along 32,000 km of coastline in eastern Canada will be compromised despite the fact that many people participate in marine activities in the area aboard recreational craft, fishing vessels and transatlantic ships. The area is also home to gas and oil exploration and development. The Conservatives have clearly abandoned the region.

We see this with the changes to employment insurance: the Conservatives are severely punishing the Atlantic provinces. Closing the search and rescue centres will put the lives of Atlantic mariners at risk.

In my riding, Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, people are worried about this change in marine safety and are wondering why the Conservative government is abandoning them.

In situations of distress, the language of the caller must be understood by the search and rescue centre. It is not a good time to get out one's French-English dictionary. When the centres were transferred to Halifax and Trenton, the impact this had on the staff was obvious. We already know that the Coast Guard search and rescue station in Quebec City cannot close, precisely because the government cannot find people who can respond to the needs of fishers and mariners in my region in both official languages.

The Coast Guard search and rescue sub-centre in Quebec City is the only one that is officially bilingual. I have opposed this closure from the beginning, because I knew it would be very dangerous for the people of the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands, who are primarily francophone.

Furthermore, I am not the only one who feels that way. Recently, the Commissioner of Official Languages indicated in his report that this service must be provided equally in both official languages and at all times. The commissioner is wondering how bilingual anglophone employees will be able to maintain their French when the francophone populations in Trenton and Halifax are only 3% and 4.7% respectively.

However, language is not the only problem related to these closures. All of the knowledge of the local environment is also being lost. This local knowledge is very important. It means being familiar with ocean currents, tides and the geography of the sea bed and the land. In addition to this geographic knowledge, there is also the knowledge of local people.

They have to know who is nearby for the rescues, and intervenors such as the staff at all 35 of Quebec's 9-1-1 centres with which the Quebec City maritime rescue sub-centre has maintained close ties over the years.

The closure of the Rivière-au-Renard marine radio station is a good example of the type of expertise being lost. The closure affects 16 employees, including 12 communications officers who know the region. This is an essential service that has been offered for more than 100 years, a service that provides help with navigation and rescues, and marine traffic communications management. This centre was responsible for a dozen or so stations in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. These will be transferred to Les Escoumins where the already very busy centre will be responsible for 18 stations. It is hard to imagine how people can listen to so much marine traffic and still be able to provide first-rate service.

The closure of the Rivière-au-Renard centre will result in the loss of roughly $1.5 million in payroll and other spinoffs for my region. The people of the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands have faith in this centre's ability to rescue them in an emergency. The loss of this payroll will be heavily felt in a region that is already struggling.

With the government's policy, we do not know what will become of this expertise. The fact is that this local, bilingual expertise will be hard to maintain from Trenton or Halifax.

My question is as follows: why are they doing this? Why save money at the expense of fishers and mariners? They are putting the lives of mariners at risk to save how much money? How much are mariners' lives worth to this government?

It seems that endangering the lives of thousands of Canadian mariners is worth $1 million to the Conservatives. It makes absolutely no sense.

The Conservatives claim that they are saving money. They talk about saving $1 million just by closing the Quebec City centre. But they have not disclosed how much they will spend on relocating employees. What are the actual savings?

Closing all these centres will result in the consolidation of search and rescue operations under the joint rescue coordination centres in Halifax and Trenton, Ontario.

This means that these centres' caseloads will increase by the number of incidents normally covered by the centres that are closing. If the Trenton and Halifax centres do not receive additional resources, staff will be overworked. An increase in resources will result in an equivalent reduction in the expected savings. I believe that the savings will be paltry compared to the risk posed to thousands of mariners, fishers and recreational boaters.

I am therefore asking the Conservatives to support the motion of the hon. member for St. John's East because marine safety must be a priority, because the savings pale in comparison with the safety of mariners and because the Minister of Finance misled Canadians by saying that the cuts would affect only “back-office operations”. He even went so far as to refer to the rescue co-ordinating centres as call centres.

It seems clear to members of the NDP that marine safety is definitely not a back-office operation. The rescue co-ordinating centres are not call centres. On the contrary, these are front-line operations that save lives. It seems that the Conservatives do not realize that thousands of people rely on the sea to make a living and that their jobs are very dangerous.

This government is responsible for protecting these people. The maritime rescue sub-centres in Quebec City and St. John's, the Coast Guard station in Kitsilano and the marine radio station in Rivière-au-Renard are essential for ensuring these people's safety.

The federal government has an obligation to provide services in both English and French, particularly when people's lives are at risk. It is true. It is part of Canadian law. The risks associated with communication problems are simply too high.

Local expertise is essential for a quick response time and increased protection for thousands of Canadian mariners. Relocating these jobs puts this expertise and thus the lives of mariners at risk.

We absolutely must support the motion that is before us today. We know full well that the lives of the mariners and fishers in our region are being jeopardized in order to fulfill the Conservatives' ideological obligations.

Life is much too precious to allow something like that to happen. I urge all members of the House to support the motion before us.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 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 understand my colleague's concerns, particularly about the consolidation of the Quebec City marine sub-centre into Trenton.

I wonder if the hon. member could comment on the concerns he has raised in terms of the linguistic ability, for example. We are concerned about that, and that is why we are moving more slowly in terms of that consolidation. In fact, we have said that will not be an operational transition until we are convinced that all of the necessary abilities and qualifications are in place, including the ability to have bilingual communications.

We do not have a date for that, but the one on the east coast has already happened. This one is at least several months away, while we get those in place. I wonder if the hon. member is aware of that.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his question. It truly is an important and very interesting question.

It is true that in the Trenton region, there is a huge lack of workers with the linguistic abilities to meet the needs of a rescue centre like the one we have now in Quebec City. The government thought that some workers would transfer from Quebec City to Trenton, but that did not happen. Trenton is not a bilingual city. There are very few francophones in that area. It is not an area we should ask francophone federal public servants to move to. They know very well that their children will lose their French.

I would also like to point out that in the centre that was closed in St. John's, there were so many language problems that apparently a doctor in Rome is be better able to respond to distress calls than an anglophone or francophone in Halifax. In short, I would like the parliamentary secretary to comment on the fact that we are now offering services based in Rome to serve Canadians. Is that where the cuts have gotten us?

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for explaining so well the impact of the closures in his community, because we are facing the same thing in the city of Vancouver with the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station.

What is really surprising, listening to Conservative members, is that they are ignoring all of the local expertise on the ground, people who know the trade, who know the marine life. It is really quite shocking that it has somehow gone out the window, despite the fact that we have had Conservative members who have claimed they had consultation.

I wonder if the hon. member could inform us whether he is aware that there was any consultation in his community, because there certainly was not in ours.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, there certainly was a serious lack of consultation in eastern Canada, and I think it is probably equivalent to the consultation that happened in western Canada. Fisheries associations, sailors associations, even fisheries industry people, have commented very clearly that they were not consulted.

The fact that they were not consulted, I think is reflected in the laws the government is proposing. They do not reflect the needs of the communities, and they imperil the lives of our fishers and our sailors.

If the Conservatives had bothered to consult, they would have understood that. They should probably take a step back and restart their consultation process and have a real one, where they are actually meeting people instead of just setting up pages on a website.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am supporting this motion and plan to vote for it, but my question is, why did the NDP not include in the motion the ten marine communication service centres, which will also be cut at the same time?

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, today's debate is on search and rescue, and we are addressing that very clearly.

It is important that the member share with us all of his concerns. There will be ample opportunity to criticize the government on a number of its decision when it comes to fisheries, and when it comes to oceans and protecting the lives of fishers and maritimers.

Today, though, we are speaking about search and rescue centres. It is very important that we address that matter clearly and make it clear that the government has made some terrible mistakes. Imperilling people's lives is simply never acceptable.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured today to speak to the motion moved by my colleague from St. John's East, a motion to maintain the services provided by search and rescue centres, including those in Quebec City and St. John's. Several times now, I have asked the minister to reconsider his decision to close the Quebec City and St. John's East centres and to move them to Halifax and Trenton, literally splitting them in two.

Every time I have asked the minister about this, he has refused to listen. He has never come to Quebec City to see what goes on there and talk to Canadian Coast Guard employees.

I agree with my colleagues on the subject of public consultations. Clearly the government did not listen to local people at all.

I have been following this story for a year now. Since last June, I have asked several questions in the House, held several press conferences, met with the people who work at the Quebec City centre and visited the centre to see what goes on there every day. I have also met with several organizations, elected officials and associations. Municipalities along the river, associations and organizations have passed over 117 resolutions. That is a lot. I still remember the day when there were just a few and I was the one telling them what was about to happen. Since then, everyone I talk to, all of those different associations cannot believe this terrible decision.

We have the support of a range of sectors including associations of recreational boaters, fishers, police, firefighters, shipowners, boating clubs and the list goes on.

The Quebec City centre is the country's only officially bilingual centre. Closing it will certainly be a very bad decision. This is about respect for francophones.

When it comes to the French language, I cannot mince words. I cannot overstate how important it is to fight for the preservation of the French language. We French-speaking Canadians have the right to be understood in our language. For instance, when it comes to distress calls regarding something that has happened on the waterways of the St. Lawrence River or the Gulf of St. Lawrence, we French-speaking Canadians have the right to be understood in our mother tongue. Even if one is bilingual, in situations of distress, it is easy to forget one's second language and one may not be able to speak at the same level, since we are talking about situations of distress. It is important to understand this.

I heard my colleagues from Newfoundland say that, sometimes, even anglophones do not understand Newfoundland English. Understandably, it is hard to justify going ahead with this decision. I cannot help but think of all the regional accents we have in Quebec alone. The Gaspé accent is different than the Saguenay accent. With so many accents, how will someone who barely speaks French be able to respond appropriately to what is being asked? I am sorry for having doubts, but I am not the only one who has them.

In addition to all of the support I have received over the past year, I have received considerable support from the Commissioner of Official Languages. The government did not take into account the Official Languages Act, and we are still awaiting the commissioner's final report. However, based on his analysis of the staff available in Nova Scotia and Ontario, the commissioner believes that getting a response in French cannot be guaranteed at all times. This is extremely disturbing. The government cannot simply say that it is concerned; it must take action accordingly.

Apart from the safety of francophones, I would also like to talk about knowledge of the waterway. If these centres close, particularly the Quebec City centre, we will lose very precious knowledge about this waterway. We are talking about many, many kilometres of shoreline. Certain tiny islands in the St. Lawrence are unknown to everyone else. They are not indicated on any maps; they do not necessarily have names; but for the people in this sector, when you talk about a given island, they know exactly which one you are talking about.

“Oh, that small island next to the town of such-and-such. That is where you are. We are coming.”

It is that kind of expertise that we are losing because of this bad decision. We cannot put a price on this knowledge of the seaway.

Let us be clear: this is not just a call centre that we are losing. In addition to being a rescue centre, it is also an ice research service. People have told me that they are worried about the rescue service, but many others have said that they are worried about the ice research service. Shipowners have talked to me about this because they use this ice research service.

Allow me to say a few words about the Ice Centre. The ice watchkeepers, who are coordinators from the Quebec Ice Centre and ice experts from Environment Canada, provide up-to-date information on ice conditions, routing advice and icebreaker support where available and considered necessary, and they organize convoys if required. This work is extremely important for marine traffic.

The Ice Centre coordinators are in contact with icebreakers at all times and follow the progress of the ships they are monitoring. The ice watchkeepers also maintain direct contact with shipping agents, shipowners, charterers and port authorities as needed. In addition, the Ice Patrol aircraft and the Canadian Ice Service in Ottawa both work with Ice Operations Centres on a full-time basis throughout the ice navigation season. They can therefore coordinate everything.

That is in fact why the search and rescue centre in Quebec City was working throughout the year and could be extremely effective. It had expertise in both rescue and research. This centre has done a lot and continues to do a lot today because so far, it has been spared.

Just the thought of closing the Quebec City centre takes us back 35 years. In 1977, the government decided that the Quebec City centre had to be established because expertise was needed to serve francophones and also to expand our knowledge of the seaway. These are the reasons that led to the establishment of this centre 35 years ago. Now, suddenly, this is no longer important to this government. Suddenly, we will go back in time 35 years for I am not sure what reason. And the government will not save more money, that is for sure.

I would also like to make another very important point. The people who work at the Quebec City centre have forged important ties with the staff of Quebec's 911 emergency centres. When they put out a call to a certain place, they know that a specific 911 centre in Quebec will pick it up. They are able to coordinate the response and take action. All this expertise will be lost.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the fact that they have not found people to fill the positions in Trenton. No one wants to go to Trenton, and it is very difficult to find francophones who want to go there. The government has decided to launch competition after competition and to lower the qualifications. Even senior management is concerned by how few specialized and bilingual candidates have expressed an interest in going to Trenton.

What are the logistical costs? We have no idea. To date, we do not know how much this decision has cost the government. It is not working, because the move will be delayed by a year. How much more will it cost? The government claims that the closures will result in savings, but there will be changes to make and a great deal of work to be done. It is going to be very expensive.

You cannot really put a price on people's safety. I cannot believe that the government is making these cuts. You cannot play Russian roulette with these services.

For that reason, I urge this government to support the motion in order to keep services in St. John's and Quebec City. As the member for Québec, I believe it is very important.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have just one point, and then I have a question.

As I said to my colleague from Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, we are well aware of the preliminary report of the language commissioner, and that is why we are moving more slowly on this and making sure we have the necessary people in place.

It is certainly not impossible to do that. It sounds as though they are quite pessimistic about finding those kinds of people with those abilities. Whether it is people who take the transfer and move, or whether it is people who are found or trained, this transition will take place when that capability is in place.

The member makes it sound a little bit as though the person who takes the call puts down the phone, heads out the door, gets into a boat and makes the rescue. Surely she knows that it does not work like that. This is a communications function.

The same people who responded to an incident a year ago are going to be the people who respond a year from now, after this transition. I wonder if the member is aware of that.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question.

After speaking with the people in the community and those who work at the centre, I believe that this is much more than just a call centre. It is insulting to say that it is just a call centre. These people coordinate rescue missions. They call the fire department, the police and anyone else who needs to be called to coordinate the appropriate response and save lives. It is really much more than a call centre. That is the first thing.

With regard to francophones, when enough bilingual people could not be found to work at the centre in Trenton, a decision was made to reduce the qualifications and experience needed, to reduce the skills and official language requirements. That is insulting.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I note, with the member from Quebec, that the centre in Quebec and the one in St. John's were set up 35 years ago, in 1977, as specific, separate centres because of the need for local knowledge, whether of geography, maritime conditions or language. I would say language applies in both cases, but more so, I suppose, in the member's case.

What has changed after 35 years, so that instead of having six coordinators at one time, two in each of Quebec, St. John's and Halifax, there are now only going to be three serving the same area?

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, what a great question. What has changed? That is indeed the question. I think that what has changed is that we now have a majority Conservative government that believes that it can do whatever it wants and that does not listen to the local communities or the experts in this regard. We members of Parliament are merely representatives. We are here to represent our communities. We are here to bring forward their concerns in this chamber. We are hear to listen to them and to share their concerns in this House through worthwhile debate. And this is a debate worth pursuing. We are talking about maintaining services in St. John's East and Quebec City. If the Conservative government wants to show good faith and maintain its investments in safety, it would be appreciated.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Madam Speaker, if I remember correctly, our motto is “From sea to sea”. I think that what is going on now shows contempt for this beautiful motto that is so representative of Canada. It seems as though some nickel and diming is going on here. My colleague made an excellent speech, and I would like her to elaborate on the loss of expertise. I found it very interesting when she spoke about the loss of expertise when it comes to studying ice.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, so much direct and indirect expertise will be lost. We will lose the connections staff had made, as well as their qualifications and contacts.

I will conclude by reminding members that the universal marine rescue motto is “So others may live”. The coast guard in Quebec City is celebrating its 50th anniversary. In light of what is going on, this will be a very sad anniversary.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering
Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, I will share my time with the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie.

To start, I would like to respond to my dear colleague, the hon. member for Québec. If it is simply a matter of mastering Canada's two official languages, does she truly believe that there are talented and qualified francophones only in Quebec City or in the province of Quebec?

In an Ontario riding like mine, about 7% to 8% of the population is francophone. The Trenton military base, in the Trenton region—very well represented by the member for Northumberland—Quinte West—has more than 2,000 people. There is a strong representation of francophones, with francophone families.

There are people with language abilities in all regions of the country, and especially in eastern Ontario, which is close to Quebec. This region is proud of its francophone roots, which date back to colonization. That is where the first villages and first forts were established under the French regime. Francophones are not found in just one province, the belle province of Quebec.

Now that I have answered that question, I would like to discuss the motion.

While the hon. members opposite are right to stress the singular importance of search and rescue to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Canadian Coast Guard, the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Forces, they are absolutely wrong to suggest that the measures taken by this government are doing anything other than enhancing the safety and security of Canadians on the water and of mariners across this country, making our systems more effective and increasing the capacity of all the relevant agencies to meet the needs of Canadians, because—and this is my main point—it is this government that has invested in vessels for the Coast Guard, is renewing the Canadian navy and has given the Royal Canadian Air Force the aircraft that no party on the other side chose to invest in for well over a decade.

It is these capacities, platforms and tools that save Canadian lives on the sea, and not the fact that we have a dozen or half a dozen or three coordination centres across the country.

The members opposite are misleading Canadians in Vancouver, in Kitsilano and in Atlantic Canada. However, Canadians will not be fooled once they learn, as they have heard today from the parliamentary secretary for fisheries and oceans and as they will hear from many of us on this side, what is really happening with regard to the ability of these proud Canadian institutions to protect mariners at sea. The opposition must stop misleading Canadians.

Search and rescue is Canadian teamwork at its best, and I am here to talk about the Canadian Forces' role in that equation. However, there are many groups. We have heard about the Coast Guard. We have heard about the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which does a superb job. There are also federal, provincial, territorial and municipal departments and agencies. There are first responders, community partners and industry partners, and more volunteers than ever because of this government's determination to promote a culture of volunteers.

I heard the member for St. John's East denigrating the capacities of our Coast Guard auxiliary, saying that it was not up to scratch compared to the full-time experts at Kitsilano.

I am sorry, and he is nodding his head, but that is shameful behaviour for a member for St. John's, for an island, part of a province that depends on the sea, where the culture of service and volunteerism has always been strong and where this government will remain absolutely committed to multiplying it, deepening it and bringing Canadians forward to look after their fellow mariners, because that is what every Canadian wants to do. It is a principle of our law and of our custom. It is in our history and our best traditions.

Harnessing what each of these actors has to offer can be complex, especially given the different stakeholders that are mandated to take the lead depending on the varying circumstances. Parks Canada leads rescue operations in our national parks and the Canadian Coast Guard takes the lead in maritime responses.

However, the Canadian Forces also plays a crucial role within this integrated system. It has primary responsibility for responding to search and rescue incidents involving downed aircraft. It also provides air support to the Canadian Coast Guard for incidents that occur at sea.

Given the size and diversity of this country, this division of labour makes perfect sense. It would be unreasonable to expect a single organization to be everywhere all the time or to have the assets and knowledge to deal effectively with every type of incident. By working in collaboration, each search and rescue partner contributes as it is best able and taking the lead in those areas where it has the most experience, expertise and resources.

I will emphasize again that the government has expanded the capacities, renewed vessels and is building new vessels for each of these institutions. We are supporting the police. We are giving tax credits to volunteer firefighters because we think that they are good, unlike the members opposite. Nevertheless, coordinating these various actors is a challenge, doubly so since each jurisdiction has its own mechanisms.

At the federal level, joint rescue coordination centres located in Victoria, Trenton and Halifax do excellent work in coordinating efforts. These centres are operated collaboratively by the Canadian Forces and the Coast Guard. We have found that having men and women from both of these organizations working shoulder-to-shoulder in the same location has been essential in ensuring that our military and Coast Guard assets are put to best use.

Do the members opposite understand what we are saying? The joint rescue coordination centre of the Coast Guard for Atlantic Canada will be alongside the maritime security operation centre where the lead is with the Royal Canadian Navy. We will have them co-located. What a novel idea.

In this day and age, yes, language and local knowledge play a role, but a much bigger role is played by technology, remote sensing and the networks that all of these organizations are part of but which need to be brought into play when someone goes missing at sea. We will not find all of these networks coming together and exchanging information, using all the technology available to them at 20 different locations in Atlantic Canada or 5 different locations in Ontario in central Canada. We need to integrate in one place.

I was at a conference in Halifax yesterday delivering a speech for the Minister of National Defence who, as everyone knows, was outside of the country, where flag officers from 15 different countries came to Halifax for the maritime security conference. This was the first time the conference was held outside of Europe and the first time in Canada. Our military maritime security operations centre was the envy of that group, which had representatives from the United States, several European countries and several from other parts of the world. They had never seen this level of integration that included the Coast Guard, naval assets and air assets to look after our huge territory of land and sea in any of their countries.

It is not happenstance that we are consolidating and integrating. It is with a drive to which we are absolutely dedicated to give better service to Canadians.

The Canadian Forces deploy assets in response to about 1,100 of the approximately 9,000 search and rescue incidents reported every year. We have heard from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans that it is much higher for the Canadian Coast Guard. However, we are constantly looking for ways to improve our search and rescue service as new technologies and capabilities emerge.

By investing in these new capabilities and training the brave men and women who day after day put their lives on the line so that others can live, we are making mariners safer. We are helping all Canadians who live off the sea, who work at sea and who do the selfless and dangerous work they do with more security.

The savings from the consolidation of search and rescue headquarters can be used for education and information campaigns and to multiply the actual capacity on the ground.

The member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, as the parliamentary secretary pointed out, conveniently forgot to mention the fact that the auxiliary Coast Guard has more units in British Columbia than in any other part of the country and that there will be a new inshore rescue vessel right in Vancouver harbour, not be at Kitsilano, but where the most traffic is and where the most need is.

These sorts of enhancements are investments we have made over years, not just this year, which we are committed to keeping and to multiplying in the service of Canadians at sea, and in the service of that absolutely essential task of search and rescue to which all the agencies of this government are absolutely dedicated.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, it is very distressing to hear the parliamentary secretary say that we are misleading Canadians. I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that the information we are presenting in this House has come from people in the affected local communities. What the parliamentary secretary is really saying is that the government is completely dismissing the impact and what the experts and people in local communities are saying.

I know the hon. member is not from Vancouver, so I certainly understand that, but has he actually spoken to anybody in Vancouver in the marine community who knows what is happening on the ground to understand what the impact will be of the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station? This is not about misleading anyone. This is about representing the impact that this will have on the city of Vancouver.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Madam Speaker, it is perhaps an unfortunate question that the member has posed because I was in Vancouver this past weekend where I had the opportunity to speak to people at Coal Harbour, on English Bay, on the seawall in Stanley Park and in False Creek. I asked them all how they used the sea. I asked them all about their recreation. I asked them all if they had the full information about what has been happening on this front and on the improvements that are being made.

I would ask the hon. member a question in return. Has she mentioned in any of her public appearances that there are five Coast Guard auxiliary units in the area? Has she mentioned in any of her media opportunities that there has recently been the addition of three new 47-foot motor lifeboats? Does she know what the CCGS Cape Palmerston is? Does she know about the Cape Naden and the Cape Dauphin? Does she care to mention that the government is providing a rescue craft for Vancouver harbour, in addition to the other measures to consolidate that we are taking?

We have studied the issues and looked at the statistics. The experts in the Coast Guard have—

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. I regret to interrupt the hon. member but I see many people rising to ask questions.

The hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, since 2007 a government priority has been fixed wing search and rescue aircraft trying to replace the 50-year-old Buffalos that exist on the west coast. In addition to the ailing Hercules on the east coast, this has been back and forth between departments now for quite some time.

Perhaps this is a golden opportunity in this debate for the parliamentary secretary to bring forward plans about getting an airplane for search and rescue. What type of airplane does the government see as being most beneficial to our coasts?

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Madam Speaker, obviously this is an issue of great concern to the government. Fixed wing search and rescue has been discussed in this place and at the national defence committee. The hon. member for St. John's East has contributed strongly to that debate.

I can say that we have made more progress on that issue in recent years than we made in the previous decade. These aircraft would not be so old and so close to the end of their effective performance had we made these investments earlier.

I must note with regret that, in the whole nine years of the Liberal government that preceded our coming into office in 2006, there were no new procurements in this area.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rodney Weston Saint John, NB

Madam Speaker, in his speech, the parliamentary secretary laid out a very clear case for why we should be looking at how to deliver services in a much more effective and efficient manner.

I come from an area where people certainly believe in putting money where their mouth is. We believe that priorities are backed up by actions.

Could the parliamentary secretary reconcile why the opposition parties would not support the government's economic action plan, which invests in Canada's Coast Guard?

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Madam Speaker, I cannot reconcile it. It is idle to talk about better coordination and about rescuing Canadians when one is not prepared to invest in the capacity. That is what the government has done for six years now. That is what the Liberal Party absolutely failed to do in the area of fixed wing aircraft, which is what I was speaking about earlier. And the NDP votes against it every year.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Madam Speaker, I will respond to the issue raised by my hon. colleague, the member for St. John's East, regarding Canadian Coast Guard search and rescue services.

My colleague and I are in perfect agreement on one very important fact: saving lives is a top priority for the government and, indeed, for all federal departments and agencies.

I want to reiterate that Fisheries and Oceans Canada remains dedicated to the safety of all Canadians and to ensuring that timely and appropriate maritime search and rescue coordination and response services are available to all marines.

When Canadians took to the polls last year, they delivered a strong and clear mandate to their newly re-elected government, demanding efficiency and economic diligence. It is, therefore, our responsibility to streamline and focus service delivery and to deliver on our promise to Canadians.

The recent announcements relating to the Coast Guard search and rescue program are part and parcel of this and a positive step toward a streamlined and more efficient search and rescue program.

First, I will focus on the Canadian Coast Guard search and rescue system in general. I will then touch upon the recent announcements regarding the search and rescue program.

As the federal government, we are responsible for providing primary response to aeronautical distress incidents and maritime search and rescue incidents in the Canadian area of responsibility on the oceans and in Canadian waters of the Great Lakes, which is in my riding, and the St. Lawrence River system.

The hon. Minister of National Defence is the lead for the overall search and rescue program, while the provinces and territories are responsible for all ground search and rescue responses.

Maritime search and rescue, which falls under the responsibility of the hon. Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, accounts for 85% of search and rescue incidents in Canada. Services include searching for and providing assistance to people, ships or other craft that are or are believed to be in imminent danger.

In Canada, there are three search and rescue regions, each associated with a joint rescue coordination centre that h are jointly operated and staffed by the Department of National Defence and Canadian Coast Guard personnel. Historically, they were complemented by two marine rescue sub-centres in St. John's and Quebec City operated by Coast Guard search and rescue coordinators. The primary difference at the sub-centres is that the search and rescue coordinators are required to call on either joint rescue coordination centre Trenton or joint rescue coordination centre Halifax to request the assistance of air resources when required.

The search and rescue program maintains a few essential services, such as coordinating and delivering on-water response to maritime search and rescue cases, supporting the safety of life at sea, assisting the Royal Canadian Air Force in providing response capacity to aeronautical cases and managing partnerships essential for the efficient coordination of response services. Each rescue centre has a range of search and rescue aircraft, helicopters and primary search and rescue vessels assigned on a standby posture, and these can be tasked directly by the coordinators on duty. In addition, the joint rescue coordination centres can call upon assistance from either of two volunteer organizations: the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association and the Canadian Coast Guard auxiliary, the Coast Guard's volunteer partner in search and rescue.

It is important to emphasize the value of the Coast Guard auxiliary as a critical partner that makes valuable contributions to maritime search and rescue missions. The Coast Guard auxiliary has a total of approximately 1,100 vessels across the country and approximately 4,000 volunteers. In fact, the auxiliary participates in almost 23% of all search and rescue missions and is, in some cases, the sole responder.

Our coordinators at the rescue centres who make the important decision as to what resource is most appropriate to task in a given situation are professional, trained and resourceful. The maritime search and rescue coordinators occasionally also contract commercial resources to expedite the evacuation of an injured survivor from an incident site.

The search and rescue region commanders also have access to Canadian Forces ships and other aircraft and can bring them to bear in search and rescue case resolution if necessary.

Annually, the three Canadian joint rescue coordination centres handle more than 8,000 cases, almost equally distributed among them with the majority of approximately 6,000 being marine in nature.

The Canadian Coast Guard component of the search and rescue program includes two units. The first is the primary search and rescue units. These units are composed of large coast guard vessels dedicated to search and rescue, lifeboat stations and inshore rescue boats. There are 24 inshore rescue boat stations across the country that operate in the busy summer season. The second unit, our secondary search and rescue units, are large coast guard or fisheries vessels which have another program as their primary mandate, such as science, and a secondary mandate for the provision of search and rescue.

In addition to the primary and secondary search and rescue units, the coast guard also relies greatly on aeronautical resources from the Royal Canadian Air Force, other resources from the Canadian Coast Guard auxiliary volunteer response units and vessels of opportunity, which is any vessel close enough to provide assistance to a vessel in distress which can be called upon under the Canadian Shipping Act and international law.

It is clear that maritime search and rescue relies highly on a system of resources and partners at many levels, including the coast guard, Canadian Forces, vessels of opportunity, Civil Air Search and Rescue Association, local responders, such as the RCMP and local police, and the Canadian Coast Guard auxiliary volunteers.

The coast guard strategically places its assets where risks are highest. The coast guard operates 41 lifeboat stations around Canada's coastlines south of 60°, each with a radius of influence of some 50 nautical miles. In addition, there are 24 inshore rescue boat stations, with 20 nautical mile radius of influence at 45 knot speeds. These boats are seasonally based according to pleasure craft activity levels.

In Canada, we also expect that members of the public, our search and rescue customers, so to speak, act responsibly and take appropriate precautions to prepare for the unexpected.

We will not deny that there needs to be adequate resources to respond in the event of an incident. However, these resources can come from all possible sources, not simply government provided, but those of other citizens or the commercial sector that are available to effect a rescue in a timely and effective manner. Our coast guard search and rescue coordinators will always task the closest resource to respond to a vessel in distress and task all available resources when the situation warrants it.

I know the federal maritime search and rescue program will always face the challenge of achieving the right balance between enhancing the chances of survival while applying adequate effort to do so, within constrained costs to the public.

In fact, the coast guard carefully considers the level of risk associated with the types of calls received when determining the appropriate mix of resources in a given area. We do, however, sometimes have to make the difficult decision to remove an asset or to streamline services to achieve efficiencies in how we provide our coordination and response services while protecting public safety. I can assure the House that we take these decisions very seriously.

In the last year we announced plans to consolidate the two marine rescue sub-centres in St. John's and Quebec City into the existing joint rescue coordination centres in Halifax and Trenton. We have now successfully consolidated the St. John's sub-centre into the joint rescue coordination centre, Halifax. As we are committed to ensuring safety, a solid implementation team was put in place to address all the necessary requirements before we finalized the consolidation. We are continuing to address the requirements of consolidating the sub-centre in Quebec into the joint rescue coordination centres in Halifax and Trenton. We will only consolidate fully when we are confident that levels of service can be maintained.

Recently we also announced our intention to consolidate search and rescue services in the greater Vancouver area. The Kitsilano lifeboat station is the only lifeboat station located in a major port, and is just 17 nautical miles away from the Sea Island hovercraft station.

After the closure of the Kitsilano station, the following mix of search and rescue resources will provide the same level of search and rescue services in greater Vancouver--

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. I regret to interrupt the hon. member but his time has elapsed. He might be able to make a few additional comments during questions and comments.

Questions and comments.

The hon. member for St. John's East.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I wonder if the member would like to comment. I do not know how much he knows about the Vancouver situation. I was out there last week and met with a lot of people. They are not improving the situation. They are in fact taking away 12 full-time direct rescue people who can get in the water in response to a call one or two minutes after receiving it. They are replacing them with volunteers and a seasonal rescue boat operated by students and summer people located at a station some miles away. That is not an improvement at all and just because it is the only one, that does not mean it is not necessary in saving lives each and every day.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Madam Speaker, the member is correct. I do not know a lot about Vancouver. I have been there once. However, what I do know a lot about is this government. I do know a lot about the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. I do know a lot about the parliamentary secretary. I do believe the words they are saying. I have done my research. I know what we have invested as a government in search and rescue in British Columbia, and that in itself tells me that these are the right decisions that we are making.

In terms of some of those investments, as a government, we have invested $175 million in the Canadian Coast Guard to procure 68 new small vessels and 30 environmental barges and to undertake major repair work on 40 of its largest vessels. Many of these investments have benefited the mariners in British Columbia and the vessels that serve them.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

Rodney Weston Saint John, NB

Madam Speaker, I wonder if the hon. member would speak a bit about the consolidation of the two marine rescue sub-centres with the joint rescue coordination centre. Would he talk a bit about the efficiencies and the effectiveness of this consolidation?

When we listen to the opposition it is all doom and gloom. Obviously, there are some efficiencies, some benefits, that are going to come from this. Would the hon. member outline some of those benefits?

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Madam Speaker, in my role as a CGA, one of the things I focus on, and have focused on, is efficiencies and duplication of service. In this particular case, with these consolidations, we are aligning expert resources, those of DND, those of our coast guard, and those of search and rescue coordination, to ensure effective and more efficient search and rescue operations.

This would ensure that those involved in search and rescue can work alongside one another in a more focused and collaborative environment, which is very important.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Madam Speaker, can the member tell me what motivated these major changes to Canada's Coast Guard? What studies were they based on? Who was consulted about this?

I would like to know what evidence and what consultations were taken into account in the decision to make these cuts to Canadian Coast Guard centres.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Madam Speaker, the motivation is straightforward. The motivation is efficiency. The motivation is Canadian taxpayers and the effective use of their taxpayer dollars. That is the motivation.

In terms of consultations, the coast guard consulted its Canadian federal search and rescue partners on its modernization and reorganization of assets. That is what this is. This is a modernization and reorganization of assets. What is being done is totally appropriate and safety will absolutely not be compromised.

Bill C-25—Notice of time allocation motion
Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, our government remains focused on jobs, growth and the long-term economic security of Canadians. That includes planning for their retirement and ensuring that Canadians do have a secure retirement. Bill C-25, the pooled registered pension plans act, will create a new low-cost plan for these Canadians to help them save for their retirement.

In the last election, we committed to implementing this bill as soon as possible. It has been over a year since the election and Canadians expect the government to keep its commitments. Thus, it is with regret that I must advise that an agreement has not been reached under the provisions of Standing Order 78(1) or 78(2) concerning the proceedings at third reading of C-25, An Act relating to pooled registered pension plans and making related amendments to other Acts.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a minister of the Crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at that stage.

Bill C-24—Notice of time allocation motion
Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, while I am on my feet, I might add that I did have the great pleasure of being Canada's international trade minister in representing Canada around the world. On May 14, 2010, in that role, I signed the Canada-Panama Free Trade Agreement. This agreement will help Canadian businesses create jobs and economic growth through expanded exports, but only if it becomes law.

It has been 754 days since I signed that agreement. Unfortunately, we have had an opposition that is ideologically opposed to free trade and unwilling to let the bill get to a vote. Thus, I regretfully again must advise that an agreement has not been reached under the provisions of Standing Order 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to the second reading stage of Bill C-24, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a minister of the Crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at the said stage.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue.

The motion before this honourable House today says that the government must recognize that saving lives is the top priority for Canadian Coast Guard search and rescue services. This motion is much like the motion that was debated in the House just weeks ago. That motion called for Canada to adopt an international search and rescue readiness standard of 30 minutes at all times, around the clock, for the military's search and rescue Cormorant helicopters.

The response time for a Cormorant helicopter varies depending on the time of day. Between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday to Friday, the wheels-up response time for a Cormorant helicopter is 30 minutes. After 4 p.m., on weekends and during holidays, the wheels-up response time is up to two hours. Needless to say, that response time has cost mariners their lives. A fire department would never operate that way. People would revolt. It would make no sense because people would most surely die. People have died on the water because of the search and rescue response time policy. In fact, according to the CBC's The Fifth Estate, there have been nine cases in the last eight years alone where people died waiting for search and rescue that did not come quickly enough.

The Conservatives voted against that motion. The previous motion calling for Canada to adopt a 30-minute around-the-clock response time and the motion before the House now are about saving the lives of mariners, about how saving lives should be a top priority. That is the common theme: saving the lives of mariners.

Why did the Conservatives vote against that motion at the end of April if lives would have been saved because of it? I will tell members why. I have a quote from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, who we heard just a few minutes ago. He stated:

We also do not think it is the place of the House, this member, or other members to determine what the actual response times of the Canadian Forces, or any other body, ought to be on these matters.

I will repeat that quote:

We also do not think it is the place of the House, this member, or other members to determine what the actual response times of the Canadian Forces, or any other body, ought to be on these matters.

I could not believe it when I heard him say that it is not the place of the House to debate a search and rescue policy of the Canadian Forces that impacts the lives of Canadian mariners, that it is not the place of the House to debate an adequate search and rescue response policy that has been directly linked to the deaths of Canadian mariners, that it is not the place of the House to debate a search and rescue response policy that the Conservative government is reluctant to change because of the associated cost. How much is a life worth? Can the Conservatives give us a cost breakdown? Is that in the Conservatives' action plan?

I say it is our place to stand up for Canadians who cannot stand up for themselves or to stand up for any injustice on land or on water. It is our place to stand up when a policy falls short of protecting the Canadians it was instituted to protect. It is our place.

Here we are today debating another motion stating that the government must recognize that saving lives is the top priority for Canadian Coast Guard search and rescue services. I cannot believe we are actually debating this. How the Conservatives can argue this is beyond me. The next part of the motion before us reads, “that local service and knowledge, as well as the ability to communicate in the language of the communities served, are essential to delivering effective and timely life-saving operations...”.

Closing the maritime rescue sub-centre in my riding of St. John's South--Mount Pearl, more specifically on the south side of St. John's harbour, was the wrong move. It was the wrong move because those distress calls are now directed to Halifax, Nova Scotia, or Trenton, Ontario.

I do not know if anyone has noticed, but Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have unique accents. Most Canadians know that. Myself, I am not so lucky to have a full-blown Newfoundland accent, although we all sound different on the wharf. Many mariners are not so easy to understand unless one is from the place. If a ship is going down and there are mere seconds to send off a mayday, a mainlander would have a hard time understanding a person from Outport, Newfoundland and Labrador, who is also probably over-excited, facing a life or death situation. A mainlander would have a hard time pinpointing the various locations around Newfoundland and Labrador on a map. There are countless sea coves and countless Bell Islands, so local service and knowledge and the ability to communicate in the language of the communities served are essential. They are more than essential, they are critical. They are more than critical, it is a matter of life and death.

It was bad enough the Conservatives closed the maritime rescue sub-centre in my riding, directing distress calls again to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Trenton, Ontario. How did the Conservatives next fail our mariners? I will give the House an unbelievable example.

Medical calls for help from ships off Newfoundland and Labrador, and only off Newfoundland and Labrador, were routed 5,000 miles away to Italy. That is right. The calls were being directed to a Rome-based non-profit organization that has been described as the soup kitchen of telehelp. It was bad enough the Conservatives closed the maritime rescue sub-centre in my riding, but mainlanders, let alone Italians, have a hard enough time understanding the people where I come from.

Our search and rescue response times are among the worst in the world. That is not debatable. Our mariners have died waiting for help that did not come, and so did 14-year-old Burton Winters of Makkovik, Labrador.

The Conservative government has written off our fishery and now our mariners. The resentment toward the Conservative government is growing and will continue to grow unless the Conservative government changes tack and drops its defeatist attitude toward the east coast.

The last part of today's motion calls on the Conservative government to reverse the decision to close the maritime search and rescue coordination centres in St. John's and Quebec City as well as the Coast Guard station in Kitsilano, Vancouver.

I have had conversations with former employees of the maritime search and rescue coordination centre in St. John's. I have heard these former employees say that lives will be lost. I ask members on the other side to hear me: lives will be lost because of the Conservative government's decision.

These former employees know what they are talking about. They have worked on the front lines for decades at the rescue sub-centre. These front-line employees know the coastline of Newfoundland and Labrador like the backs of their hands. These front-line employees know the dialects of Newfoundland and Labrador. We must keep in mind that accents can be different from one cove to the next cove. These front-line employees are familiar with the hundreds of communities that dot our coastline. They know many of the men and women who ply the waters. They know not just the mariners but their friends and their relatives. That on-the-ground knowledge is critical in a search and rescue situation, where seconds seem like hours, where hours seem like days, and if it is days, well, the person would probably be dead.

I implore members of the House to vote for the motion, to vote for saving lives, to vote for making the saving of lives the top priority above saving money, above petty politics.

I implore the government to reverse its decision and to do the right thing. Show the mariners of Newfoundland and Labrador, show the mariners of Atlantic Canada, show mariners all over Canada that it knows where its priorities are, so that in the words of our late leader Jack Layton, no one is left behind on land or on water, no one is left behind.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rodney Weston Saint John, NB

Madam Speaker, I have come to know the hon. member through the fisheries committee. He certainly brings a lot of sincerity and a lot of passion to any cause that he gets behind.

We know how important the funding for refitting and the new vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard is to enable the Canadian Coast Guard to continue doing its job. When the hon. member stands here tonight and says he implores people to vote for the motion, I would implore him to vote for the budget so that we can see that funding flow so that those people can have the tools to do the job that he so rightly sets as a priority.

Would the hon. member do the right thing and vote to ensure that those people in the Canadian Coast Guard have the right tools to do the job?

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Madam Speaker, the hon. member opposite is from the Maritimes, from New Brunswick, if I am correct, so I cannot believe I actually have to say this. He is from a maritime province that is near the water, but the quickest way to get to a ship or a person in distress on the water is not by a Coast Guard ship, it is by Cormorant helicopter. That is the quickest way. If there is a two-hour response time after 4 p.m., and on weekends and holidays, and a 30-minute response time between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., how can he say that is okay? How can he stand up and argue for it?

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I want to compliment the member on his intervention on this important issue. I wonder if he would comment on the closure of the St. John's and Quebec City rescue centres. When all three are operating, there are six rescue coordinators on duty and when the government finishes its handiwork, if it does not change its mind, there will only be three coordinators dealing with the entire area. All of the rescue missions will be coordinated through one centre. Does the member think that having half as many people will cause problems, as well as having everything handled by one place?

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the motion that he presented and argued before this House at the end of April and for today's motion. These motions are critical for all of Canada, for all our maritime provinces.

The answer to his question is obviously yes. If they cut the number of personnel at these rescue sub-centres in half, from six to three, and they are expected to handle the same number of cases in a given number of hours and on top of that they have to deal with things that I mentioned in my speech, such as particular dialects on the east coast and the geography of the communities that dot our coastline, it is going to be an impossible situation.

I had a conversation with a retired employee of the rescue sub-centre in St. John's a little while ago. He said that it is a matter of time before lives are lost.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue has the floor. I must inform her that I will have to interrupt her in about seven minutes at 6:30 p.m.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I am extremely pleased to speak to this opposition motion. As a former Canadian Forces member and emergency and intensive care nurse, I have a good understanding of what happens during distress situations. That is why it is so important to me to express my thoughts on this issue.

This motion is about two factors that are critical to effective service: knowledge of the local situation and services and the ability to communicate in the primary language of the community served.

In search and rescue, in life or death situations, every minute counts. Three minutes can mean the difference between saving a life and recovering a body. This is very real. This is human life.

I will be more specific about the ability to communicate in the community's language. I would like to speak more about the Quebec City search and rescue centre, the only bilingual centre in Canada, whose closure could mean that people in anglophone regions will respond to emergency calls. As a result, even if these people are bilingual, if they live in an anglophone region, it is extremely difficult for them to keep up their language skills. For example, in Halifax, only 3% of the population speaks French and only 4.7% of the population does in Trenton. So it is very difficult for a person to maintain good language skills when living in an anglophone community, even if they start out bilingual or even francophone.

Members must understand that if people do not regularly speak French, they forget some of the common and colloquial expressions that people will use. That can be a problem because during a distress call, people do not speak properly. They panic. They use unusual expressions. They will say, for example, that their boyfriend is bleeding out—pisser le sang—and that they need someone there right away—au plus sacrant. It will not be proper French. I apologize if the words I used were not very clear.

It is also important to understand that, during distress calls, there may be interference on the line and people will have accents that may be very different. They may be ill or having a heart attack. Imagine a situation where a person is already just barely getting by in French and, in addition to interference on the line, the caller is speaking with an accent and is very out of breath because he is having a heart attack. It would be very difficult to understand the caller. That is why it is essential that a francophone centre be kept in a francophone region.

I would also like to specify that, even though I am bilingual—I am able to understand all of my hon. colleagues here—if one of my colleagues were speaking to me in English and was out of breath because he was having a heart attack and there was interference on the radio, there is a good chance that I would have trouble understanding that person and that I would have to get him to spell words because I would not be sure that I understood him correctly. There would thus be a delay in acting to save that person's life.

I would like to talk more about geography and knowledge of the local area. When people call, they are in a panic. They do not give precise directions. When people call because they are in distress, they rarely provide the ten numbers corresponding to their geographic coordinates. People use regional terms that can be hard to understand. For example, if I say that I live on the “rang de la Ferme Bordeleau”—the Bordeleau Concession—in Clerval, would any of my hon. colleagues understand me? No. But people in my region, in my community, would know exactly what I am talking about. Someone two or three provinces to the west would most likely have no clue and would have to ask me to repeat myself and be more precise.

In many cases, when people call because they are in distress, they provide information based on historical information. For example, they might say that they are close to where Mr. Faucher's boat sank five years ago. That will not mean much to someone from Trenton, but someone who lives and works in the community will remember the incident and will immediately know exactly what place the caller is talking about. That is more efficient and wastes less time.

Unfortunately, in other cases, children or teenagers call to report distress situations because the parent or grandparent they are with has suffered a medical emergency and is not doing well.

To begin with, if one does not understand the language well, and then, if the person trying to explain what is happening is an eight- or nine-year-old child, it could be a very difficult situation and precious time could be lost. Several factors must be considered.

I would remind all of my hon. colleagues that any time human lives are at stake, we cannot put a price tag on that. We are talking about human lives. In my opinion, there is no price on saving a life and I think that if we were talking about my hon. colleagues' children and spouses who were in distress, they would want previous governments that enforced the legislation and regulations to ignore the numbers and do whatever it takes to save as many lives as possible.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

It being 6:30 p.m., and today being the last allotted day for the supply period ending June 23, 2012, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the opposition motion.

The vote is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

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

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

All those opposed will please say nay.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 81(18), the division stands deferred until later this day.

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Main Estimates 2012-13
Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

Edmonton—Sherwood Park
Alberta

Conservative

Tim Uppal Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Vote 1, in the amount of $57,933,343, under PARLIAMENT — The Senate — Program expenditures, in the Main Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013, be concurred in.

Madam Speaker, I stand in the House this evening to join debate on the main estimates' allocation of funding to the Senate of Canada.

While I am always happy to discuss the ways in which our government is taking action to bring greater effectiveness and democracy to the Senate, it is disappointing to be discussing such issues as a result of partisan manoeuvring by the NDP. Rather than discuss real and achievable Senate reform measures such as term limits and getting provinces to hold a Senate nominee selection process, the NDP would rather pull procedural stunts in order to call for constitutional battles with the provinces. We know what calls for Senate abolition really are: they are calls for long-drawn-out constitutional clashes with the provinces.

At a time when the global economy is still fragile and Canadians are rightly worried about their savings, their retirement and their financial future, long-drawn-out constitutional clashes with the provinces would be a recipe for sideshows, distracting the government's attention away from the economy.

It is not surprising that the NDP would be advocating for bombastic constitutional sideshows, because it would need a sideshow in order to distract from the misinformed economic statements of a leader who shows such little regard for critical components of Canada's economy. In fact, we could say the NDP is doing that right now. Instead of talking about ways in which we can ensure jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians, the NDP is forcing a debate tonight to create a sideshow in order to distract from the leader's gaffes in calling key sectors of the economy a disease.

Frankly, if the NDP was so concerned about the state of the Senate, it would not stall the Senate reform act, yet it resorts to procedural tactics, including filibustering the Senate reform bill and creating this sideshow tonight, because it is afraid that our reforms will work. Once senators are selected by Canadians, the case for creating long-drawn-out constitutional sideshows diminishes greatly.

Our government has always been clear about our commitment to bring reform to the Senate chamber. We pledged to do this in our most recent election platform and we repeated our promise in the Speech from the Throne. While our government's top priority remains the economy, we have to do something about the status quo in the Senate. The Senate makes, reviews and passes laws that affect Canadians every day. It is not right that senators have no democratic mandate from the people they represent, nor that they can sit in the other place for decades at a time.

I believe that the Senate can play an important role in our parliamentary system. It reviews statutes and legislation, often from different perspectives than those found here on this side. It serves to represent regional and minority interests in a way different from the way they are represented in the House. Many of its members and committees have demonstrated and provided appreciable research and investigative skills and thoughtful recommendations. It can be a place where a broader range of experience and expertise can be brought to bear on the issues facing our country.

Unfortunately, I believe that the contributions of the Senate are overshadowed by the fact that senators are selected and appointed through a process that is neither formal nor transparent, with no democratic mandate whatsoever from Canadians. Moreover, there are no strict limits on the number of years an individual can sit in the Senate. Under the Constitution, an individual can be appointed at the age of 30 and serve until the age of 75. That means that senators can serve for as long as 45 years. Taken together, the Senate lacks any essential democratic characteristics. Its effectiveness and legitimacy suffer from its democratic deficit.

We must then ask ourselves this simple question: is this good enough? Our answer on this side of the House is no. Our government does not believe that the current situation is acceptable in a modern, representative democracy, and neither do Canadians. Our government has long believed that the Senate status quo is unacceptable, and therefore it must change in order to reach its full potential as an effective and democratic institution.

One, we can have a long-drawn-out constitutional Senate reform showdown with the provinces, which the NDP advocates; two, we can keep the status quo in the Senate; or three, we can have reasonable reform that can be done through Parliament.

In July of last year, public opinion research found that seven out of 10 Canadians reject the status quo in the Senate. Although striking, this is not shocking. The Senate and its reform have been the subject of numerous reports, proposals and studies over the past several decades.

While recommendations on how to reform the Senate have differed and differ still, there is one consistent theme that runs throughout. Nearly all reports and studies agree that the Senate is an important democratic institution and that reform is needed to increase legitimacy in the context of a modern democratic country.

It is clear that while there may be different approaches to solving the problem, reform is necessary. Senate reform of any kind has proven to be a complicated process. Under our Constitution, reforming fundamental aspects of the Senate, such as its powers or the representation of the provinces, requires the support of seven provinces, representing 50% of the population of the provinces.

Achieving the necessary level of provincial support for particular fundamental reforms is a complex and lengthy process, with no guarantee of success. Abolishing the Senate, for example, at the very minimum requires the consent of at least seven out of ten provinces.

Canadians do not want drawn-out constitutional battles that would detract from our government's focus on Canada's top priority, the economy. Added to this is the fact that there is not consensus among provinces to pursue large wholesale reform.

It must be said, though, that the lack of agreement on large fundamental reform does not leave us with a lack of options, if only we have sufficient will to act. If we are to begin the journey towards reform, we must do what we can within the scope of Parliament's authority.

Our government believes that Senate reform is needed now, and we are committed to pursuing a practical, reasonable approach to reform that we believe will restore effectiveness and legitimacy in the Senate. That is why we are moving forward with the Senate reform act.

Through this bill, our government is taking immediate and concrete action to fulfill our commitment to Canadians to increase the effectiveness and legitimacy of our upper House, and to work cooperatively with the provinces and territories.

The Senate reform act includes two initiatives that will help bring the Senate into the 21st century.

First, the act provides a suggested framework to provinces and territories that wish to establish democratic consultation processes to give Canadians a say in who represents them in the Senate.

Second, it introduces term limits for senators appointed after October 2008, which will ensure the Senate is refreshed with new ideas on a more frequent basis and allow Canadians to select their Senate representatives at regular intervals.

While each of these initiatives can stand on their own merits, combining these measures allows our government to act quickly to implement our promise to Canadians to bring about Senate reform.

As I have already noted, our government has long been committed to Senate reform. Our commitment to reform remains as strong as ever, and we are now in a position to act on our commitment.

We have consistently encouraged provinces and territories to implement a democratic process for the selection of Senate nominees. The Senate reform act would give clarity to our flexible approach.

The act would require the Prime Minister to consider the names of individuals selected from the holding of democratic processes with Canadians when making recommendations on appointments to the Governor General.

The act would not bind the Prime Minister or the Governor General when making Senate appointments, nor would it change the method of selection for senators. Therefore, Parliament is able to enact this provision through its authority under section 44 of our Constitution.

Under section 44 of the Constitution Act 1982, Parliament has the legislative authority to amend the Constitution in relation to the Senate. The act also contains a voluntary framework, attached as a schedule to the act, for provinces and territories to use as a basis for developing a democratic selection process to consult voters on their preferences for Senate nominees. The framework is based on Alberta's Senatorial Selection Act.

The framework is meant to provide enough details to facilitate the development of provincial or territorial legislation, without limiting provinces and territories in the establishment of a consultation process or the precise details of such a process, which may differ between jurisdictions as local needs may demand. This is, after all, a cooperative venture. Provinces and territories would not be required to implement the framework precisely as written. Rather, they would be encouraged to adapt the framework to best suit the needs of their unique circumstances, as we have seen recently with the legislation introduced in New Brunswick. It is our hope that this built-in flexibility would further encourage provinces to provide a democratic process to give greater voice to their citizens and their province in the Senate.

Before moving on to explain other aspects of the bill, I would like to note that the approach proposed in the Senate reform act has already been successful. This type of reform has already gained a toehold in the Senate.

In 2007, the Prime Minister recommended the appointment of Bert Brown to the Senate. Senator Brown was chosen as a senator-in-waiting by Alberta voters in 2004. A selection process was held under the authority of Alberta's Senatorial Selection Act, which was introduced in 1989. Senator Brown's tireless work for reform, both inside and outside the Senate, is greatly appreciated, not only by me and our government, but also by the many Canadians who want Senate reform and who have campaigned for it for many years.

Alberta may have been the first province to pass this type of legislation and to see its nominees appointed, but it is not the only province that has taken steps to facilitate reform. In 2009, Saskatchewan passed the Senate Nominee Election Act, which enables the provincial government to hold a consultation process on Senate nominees. Saskatchewan has not yet held a consultation process, but I encourage it to do so at the earliest opportunity. Our government continues to be welcoming toward discussion and cooperation, wherever possible.

In British Columbia, the premier's parliamentary secretary has introduced a bill that would provide the provincial government with the authority to hold consultation processes. Last week, a bill was introduced in the New Brunswick legislature to hold a Senate nominee process by 2016.

I will be following the progress of this legislation closely, and I would encourage my provincial colleagues in their legislative assemblies to support the passage of both bills. More broadly, I would encourage all colleagues, in all provincial and territorial legislatures and assemblies, to consider supporting and moving with similar initiatives.

I will move on to the other major initiative of our Bill C-7. In addition to encouraging the implementation of a democratic selection process for Senate nominees, the act would also limit Senate terms, which can span several decades under the current rules. Public opinion research has consistently shown that over 70% of Canadians support limiting the terms of senators. When we begin to talk about specific reforms, that amount of support for one particular provision is impressive and encouraging.

Under the Senate reform act, Senators appointed after the bill receives royal assent would be subject to a single nine-year, non-renewable term. The nine-year term would also apply to all senators appointed after October 2008. The nine-year clock for those senators would start upon royal assent.

As with the earlier provision, limiting the terms of senators would amend the Constitution, but again it is a reform that can be accomplished by Parliament through section 44 of the Constitution Act 1982. Similarly, in 1965, Parliament, acting alone, introduced a mandatory retirement age of 75 for senators. Prior to that, senators were appointed for life.

I believe it is far to say that while many in this House agree that changes to the Senate are necessary, we sometimes disagree on the way forward. Our goal is to begin the reform process, and we want to be as constructive as we can while ensuring we are moving forward.

In contrast to the position of the other parties, it is clear that our government's approach is a practical and reasonable way forward. It is the approach that can truly achieve results. In fact, the stated positions of the opposition parties are essentially arguments in favour of the status quo in the Senate. Their proposals have such a low chance of success that they might as well not even propose them at all.

For example, the official opposition would try to abolish the Senate. Aside from the very obvious sideshow that the NDP is attempting to create using procedural tactics this evening, the position on abolishment is unattainable, for a number of reasons. First, there is no consensus among the provinces to abolish the Senate. Second, to take away the Senate without significant other reforms would be to seriously damage the effective representation of large sections of our country and our Parliament.

Our upper chamber, though flawed in some ways, can serve valuable democratic functions if we can reform it to make it more effective and legitimate. We should have enough respect for our institutions and our democracy to work towards the improvement of an institution in need of repair. We should not throw our hands up in the air in defeat without first attempting reform.

The position of the Liberal Party, on the other hand, has been to advocate for a process, not a result. Liberals do not support reform of the Senate, and their 13-year record of inaction demonstrates their opposition. They have been clear about this. Yet, their suggestion is to open the Constitution and begin a process we know will end in bitter drawn-out national conflict without Senate reform being achieved. Their approach is a recipe for accomplishing nothing.

I reject the opposition's obstructionism and encourage them to join us in implementing constructive reforms that are reasonable and achievable. Let us be clear. Our reforms are reasonable and achievable. They are absolutely within Parliament's authority to enact.

Our government is dedicated to reforming the Senate so that it better reflects the values of hard-working Canadians across the country. My constituents tell me they want change. I believe it is time for change in the Senate, and that time has come.

With the Senate reform act, our government is presenting modest but important and attainable changes that will improve the Senate by providing it with greater legitimacy in the eyes of Canadians.

I consider the enhancement of our democratic institutions to be a significant responsibility, and I am privileged to be working with my hon. colleagues to meet this common objective. I encourage all of my colleagues to work toward achieving these reforms and giving Canadians a stronger voice in determining who represents them in the Senate.

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Main Estimates 2012-13
Government Orders

6:50 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, my colleague must feel that he is the parliamentary secretary to the Titanic or something. The portfolio he has been given to oversee and supervise has been long abandoned by his party and by his Prime Minister.

Surely my colleague will recognize that people have to be judged by what they do, not by what they say. The Conservatives have been flogging this dead horse for six years now, since they have been in government. More and more prominent people from across the country have pretty much declared this notion of Senate reform as dead on arrival.

I was here when the member's colleagues used to put on sombreros and do the Mexican hat dance in front of the Senate, mocking them with derision, saying it was the most useless institution in God's creation, that it should be abolished and that it was no good for anything. Even the myth of the triple e very rapidly turned into a triple u. Nobody wanted the unelected, undemocratic and effectively useless Senate.

I challenge the member to show the Canadian people that there is any sincerity whatsoever on the part of the government on Senate reform, because I believe his party and his leader, the Prime Minister, have put this on the too-hard-to-do pile.

The Conservatives accuse us of some kind of mission associated with generating a legitimate debate on the future of the Senate when they are using it as a fundraising tool. They are trying to mislead their base that they are still sincere about this, when in fact they have given up on Senate reform. The Conservatives have come to like the Senate the way it is. No government has ever stacked the Senate more egregiously with their hacks and flacks and bagmen than that particular Prime Minister and government, in the history of the unelected and undemocratic Senate.

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Main Estimates 2012-13
Government Orders

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Madam Speaker, the hon. member is absolutely wrong.

First, he is correct in that we have long been committed to Senate reform. That is why we introduced the senate reform act last year. It is currently before the House at second reading. I would ask the member to talk to his colleagues and allow the senate reform act to move from the House, bring it to a vote and get it to committee where we can further work on it.

On this side of the House, we are committed to the senate reform act. We are committed to reforming the Senate to make it a better and more democratic institution.

On that side of the House, the NDP members are committed to talking about it. They essentially want to continue to talk about the bill, but not vote on it. I would ask that they allow the bill to come to a vote. Let us vote on it and let it take the next step that it deserves in the House.

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Main Estimates 2012-13
Government Orders

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the minister for his speech, except for when he is imputing motives to other parties. We can rationally discuss his speech.

Could the member explain to the House precisely what the difference is between the method of selecting senators, something that this Parliament cannot change alone, and which he agrees with, and the framework for the selection of senators that the bill would change? How can we change the framework without affecting the method? The member would have a tough time explaining that to the Court of Appeal in Quebec.

The member said that we should not start constitutional disputes, but that is exactly what the bill would do. When it goes to court, he will have to explain the difference between the method and the framework. I wish him good luck.

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Main Estimates 2012-13
Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Madam Speaker, it is always good to discuss these issues with him inside and outside of the House.

The method brought forward in the senate reform act is a voluntary framework for provinces to hold a consultation process with their citizens. I will give the example of Alberta.

Alberta has, for a number of years, held consultation processes, essentially an election, where the citizens of Alberta vote for their choice of senator. That list is then provided to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister recommends to the Governor General from that democratic process.

This has already resulted in senators who are currently in the House of Commons, including Betty Unger, a senator from Alberta. She is the first woman elected to the Senate. We are very proud of her achievements and very proud of this process.

This process has already been working in this place. It is a very strong precedent and a process that I would ask other provinces to look at. I encourage them to look at Alberta's process and model their voluntary frameworks after it because it works very well.

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Main Estimates 2012-13
Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Madam Speaker, the Minister of State for Democratic Reform gave a fine speech on the estimates related to the Senate and also about the results that come about from an effective Senate.

Not too long ago, we debated in the House some important legislation that emanated from the Senate, such as the statutory review of the Financial Institutions Act.

Could the minister of state give us other examples of some of the good work that the Senate, with its unique structure and composition, could provide to Parliament?

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Main Estimates 2012-13
Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his commitment to Senate reform, like other members on this side of the House.

The member is quite right. Senators do introduce legislation, review legislation, provide feedback and make changes to legislation. The work that senators do affect Canadians every day. That is why it is so important.

Senators work on the legislation that we pass in the House or legislation that they bring forward and we work on here. Therefore, it is very important that Canadians should have a say in who represents them in the Senate.

I believe we need to give Canadians a say because senators work on and introduce legislation in the House that affects Canadians every day. Canadians deserve to have a say in who represents them.

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Main Estimates 2012-13
Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Winnipeg Centre for bringing forward the suggestion that we withdraw this aspect of funding in the estimates, which has triggered this debate. It is an important debate to have about the role of the Senate and its redundancy because it raises the question of democratic reform overall.

I listened to the Minister of State for Democratic Reform speak about democratic reform, but it seems to me the Conservative Party has gone so far from its original propositions around democratic reform that it is now just a pale echo of what it once stood for.

In speaking about democratic reform, we in the NDP have always called for democratic reform of our electoral system, for example, proportional representation, which is a much stronger and more credible position to ensure there is fair and democratic representation in Canada and that the way people vote actually counts in terms of the reflection of the House.

Why does the Minister of State for Democratic Reform, who is supposedly responsible for democratic reform, have nothing to say about the question of something like proportional representation and how important that has been in many different legislatures and parliaments in the world? In fact, we are now one of the very few places that does not have some form of proportional representation.

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Main Estimates 2012-13
Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Madam Speaker, regarding proportional representation, the fact is that Canadians in many provinces have actually rejected that idea. The hon. member knows very well that when Canadians were asked about proportional representation, they rejected the idea and preferred our current system.

As for the motion before the House today, I am quite disappointed that the NDP would rather pull this political stunt on funding to the Senate, essentially creating a constitutional crisis if this were ever to move forward, rather than debate real issues related to the main estimates. We could be talking about the economic action plan or the plan for jobs, growth and long-term prosperity, but unfortunately the NDP would rather pull this political stunt. It is disappointing.

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Main Estimates 2012-13
Government Orders

7 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, let me preface my remarks by saying that no legitimate procedure in the House of Commons and the Parliament of Canada is a stunt. I resent the implication that anything that happens in this place that is properly within the rules and constitutional bylaws of this place is a stunt. There is nothing stuntish about bringing up a legitimate debate on a legitimate expenditure within the main estimates of the Parliament of Canada. I do not know where the parliamentary secretary gets off, but he should apologize for that remark at his first opportunity.

I moved a perfectly legitimate opposition motion to a spending item. As the chair of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, I have some knowledge of the main estimates in the Parliament of Canada and the government's obligation to come before the people to ask permission for spending.

Let us put this into perspective and into context. Perhaps the most sacred, so to speak, aspect of our parliamentary democracy is that the government is not allowed to spend money without going to Parliament to ask permission, to ask the representatives of the people for their permission, and those representatives of the people are entitled to have an opinion on how that money is spent. If I want to oppose one budget line of the main estimates, I will, and it is not a political stunt. It is perfectly legitimate and it is my right, my duty and my obligation as a member of Parliament and a representative of the people.

I put forward an opposed vote. I put forward a motion to oppose the vote that would give the budget to the Senate of Canada and I did it for specific reasons, many of which seem to have been either glossed over or missed altogether by the person whose duty and obligation it is to handle that file.

The government has asked that the Parliament of Canada approve, the House of Commons approve, $57,933,343 to fund the activities of the Senate. I oppose that spending and I oppose it for perfectly legitimate reasons. I can assure members that I am not alone in that opposition. In fact, if we polled the people of Canada, increasing numbers are calling in to question the need, the efficacy and even the desirability of having the Senate at all.

I would like to begin my remarks by quoting journalist Andrew Coyne, for whom I have a great deal of respect on some issues and I certainly admire his mastery of the English language. He says:

The Senate is Confederation’s original sin, the great stain on the [founding] fathers' handiwork, from which much greater evils have flowed. Structurally, it has contributed to the divisions and weaknesses that have bedevilled the federation. Without some constitutionally appropriate vehicle for expressing the concerns of the regions in federal politics, it has been left to the premiers, inappropriately, to do the job.

Worse, however, has been [the Senate's] corrosive effects, compounded over time, on our political ethics. It is of course intolerable that a free people should be governed, even in part, by those to whom they did not expressly grant such power. That would be true even if the Senate were filled with Solomons, and not the bizarre cargo of bagmen, strategists, failed candidates, criminals, cranks and other political problems that prime ministers have traditionally solved by the expedient of the Other Place.

Yes, some senators do good work. Committees of the Senate often produce thoughtful reports. But they have no more democratic right to translate their views into law, to move, amend, pass or reject bills and otherwise exercise the powers of legislators than I do. Though by convention the Senate’s powers are less than they appear on paper, they are still more than any patronage house should rightfully have, and have been exceeded on more than one occasion.

I enter those words into the record because I do not think I could put it better.

However, let me share some of the frustration expressed by Mr. Coyne, especially on his final point, that they “have been exceeded on more than one occasion”.

I am not going to restate some of the well-known objections that the NDP had historically to the Senate. What really put me over the top was when the Prime Minister exploited the opportunity and stacked the Senate with not only the campaign manager of the Conservative Party but the president of the Conservative Party, the chief fundraiser of the Conservative Party and his own communications director of the Conservative Party. The entire war room of the Conservative Party is now on the public purse. Not only do they have a full salary and travelling privileges and four staff people, but they are also doing partisan work on the taxpayers' dime. It is offensive to the sensibilities of anybody who would call themselves a democrat.

Not only that, more and more frequently we are finding bills being introduced into the House of Commons beginning with the letter “S”, not the letter “C”. The people in the other place have no right to introduce legislation. Nobody elected them to be legislators. They were appointed because they were party faithful, because they had a Conservative Party membership card in their back pocket, because they performed some duty for the party that has nothing to do with having the right. Mr. Coyne put it very appropriately.

What really pushed me over the top, what changed me from a person who believed that the Senate could be reformed, what really made me give up—just like Premier McGuinty, just like Premier Wall, just like Premier Selinger, just Premier Dexter, just like Roger Gibbins from the Canada West Foundation—was when the Conservatives abused a right that I do not believe they have: to kill legislation that had been introduced and properly debated and approved in the House of Commons, had gone through first reading, second reading, committee stage, report stage, third reading, and wound up in the Senate, where it was killed without a single witness being called, without a single hour of debate. It was summarily executed.

That bill was of great significance to me and to my party. It was the bill in the name of Jack Layton, the climate change bill. It would have been the only piece of environmental legislation passed by the House of Commons in a decade. It was three years in the making and it was carefully crafted. After garnering the support of the Liberal Party, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP, and after it had passed through all stages in the House, it was killed in the Senate without a single hour of debate. That was the final straw for a lot of Canadians.

The other bill that the Conservative summarily executed without any trial or any meaningful debate was the drugs for Africa bill. For God's sake, it was Stephen Lewis's initiative to provide generic AIDS and malaria drugs to Africa at a reduced cost so that we could challenge the global pandemic with the wealth and the opportunity of the west going to developing nations. That bill was five years in the making. That was agonizing, because we had to get it past big pharma. We had to get it through all the obstacles. It was an almost impossible task. It finally went through the House of Commons, but the Senate killed it.

These two noble, worthy initiatives—developed, introduced, debated and passed by the democratically elected representatives of the people—were summarily smashed by a bunch of hacks and flacks and bagmen taking partisan orders from the PMO instead of being any kind of objective chamber of sober second thought. The triple-E Senate is probably the latest in a string of Conservative principles that were jettisoned in the interests of political expediency. There have been many others.

With all due respect, I do not believe the parliamentary secretary. I am not calling him a liar. I just do not want anybody to think I believe him, because I do not. I do not believe the Conservatives are sincere about Senate reform. Now that they control the Senate, they like the Senate. It is 59 members to 35 members. They have a solid majority of senators in that chamber, and they are an extension of the Conservative caucus, as they are with Liberal senators as well.

It used to be quality people doing important work, almost in a public service way. I am thinking of Senator Yves Morin, a wonderful man, a gifted cardiologist from the University of McGill, who did not need to be a senator at the end of his career, but he did.

Those were good people. There was Senator Wilbert Keon, the head of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute in Ottawa. These are fine people. Even people like Lowell Murray and Hugh Segal, the old-timers, at least had some memory of what the Senate was supposed to do and supposed to be like. This new bunch is not like that. The 20 or 30 that the Prime Minister has stacked the Senate with recently are just a bunch of partisan pawns. They take their direction from the cabinet and the PMO. They are not giving intelligent second thought to legislation, they are killing it out of hand at the direction and control of the Prime Minister. They are an extension of the Conservative Party. They are not doing any material good. They are not enhancing democracy. In fact, they are sabotaging democracy.

Why would we spend $57 million to undermine the integrity of our democratic institutions? I can think of a lot better places to spend that money, and that is why I introduced this opposition motion today. If the parliamentary secretary thinks it is mischief or a political stunt, it is anything but. I believe to the core of my being that the Senate is a barrier to the democratic process. It has ceased to serve any valuable function whatsoever. It is a hangover.

He says that there is no appetite for constitutional reform. I took part in the 1992 Charlottetown Accord hearings that criss-crossed the country. I was an ordinary Canadian, a journeyman carpenter at the time. Joe Clark was the minister responsible.

There were five huge conferences across the country, fully supported by educators, academics and parliamentary staff. It got hundreds and hundreds of ordinary Canadians together to rethink the Constitution, to give it some serious thought, and the Senate was on the table as a topic. We underestimate Canadians if we think there is no appetite. It is only people who have a vested interest in keeping this decision-making away from the Canadian people who maintain that the Canadian people do not want it. I argue that there is a great deal of interest and a great appetite now, just as there was in 1992.

It has been 20 years since any government has had the temerity to open up the Constitution to try to fix some of the intergovernmental affairs that need addressing, to revisit whether we still want the monarchy to be our head of state, to revisit whether we really want a Senate, to modernize Canada and keep up with the times. Instead of being dragged backward, we could be moving forward with a plan of what we want Canada to look like. Those are reasons that the Constitution is a living, breathing entity, not something that has been carved into a marble template like Moses and the Ten Commandments. That is not what a constitution is.

We cannot be afraid to open the Constitution because it is difficult. If these guys think we cannot look at the future of the Senate because it is too hard to do, then they are not worthy of being the government of the day. That is not leadership. That is the polar opposite of leadership.

I feel strongly about this issue. This is not the first time that I have tried to cut off the blood supply to the Senate. I am the first to admit that it is a long-drawn-out process if we are to look at meaningful Senate reform. I do not think the Conservatives are trying hard enough. I think they like abusing the power that they have gained now that they have stacked the Senate and used it as a paid job for their fundraisers.

I have to point out a couple of really atrocious things. It offends me to no end when I see senators managing political campaigns on a senator's salary. They are not even elected representatives. They are supposed to be out of the elected world, but yet, sure enough, the former party president, Senator Plett, is the campaign manager in the federal election for the province of Manitoba, full time, flat out, on salary, using those travel privileges, using all the resources he has at his disposal. That, to me, is absolutely offensive.

As well, it offends me when I see Senator Mike Duffy flying around like a stand-up comic, entertaining at Conservative Party fundraisers. It seems to be his full-time job. The rest of the time they seem to be like the Harlem Globetrotters, only these are like the globe-trotting hog-troughers. They take every parliamentary junket possible. They never, ever miss an opportunity to fly around the world.

Do we really need to be spending $57 million on that?

To put it in perspective, yesterday I held a press conference complaining about the cutback of $2 million a year to the Experimental Lakes Area, which is a scientific research project in northwestern Ontario that brings us great credibility in the future of both freshwater fisheries and freshwater lakes. That is $2 million a year and 17 scientists gaining us enormous international credibility, and in fact it has paid for itself time and time again, saving us a fortune in mistakes. That is gone, yet we unquestioningly approve $57 million for something hardly anybody wants and nobody needs, something that gets abused all the time and in fact undermines the integrity of our democratic system.

We really have to wonder what we could do with $57 million if we did not have to fund a bunch of washed-up former candidates.

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Main Estimates 2012-13
Government Orders

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

First of all, Larry Smith.

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Main Estimates 2012-13
Government Orders

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Larry Smith—I am not even familiar with Larry Smith. What does Larry Smith do? It will come to me.

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
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7:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order. Could the hon. member speak to the House rather than engage in a one-on-one conversation?

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
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7:20 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, all of the provinces used to have senates, but they got rid of their second chambers. A lot of other Commonwealth countries either got rid of their second chambers or successfully reformed them. That is where I really question the sincerity of the current Conservative government about whether it actually intends to reform.

I went with the Prime Minister when he first announced his first Senate reform bill. I wandered down there. We were in the middle of the Federal Accountability Act, and I used to believe that the Conservatives were sincere about transparency and accountability. I do not believe that any more. I went with them when they announced to the Senate that they were going to change things, that today they were introducing a bill that was going to rock their world. A lot of senators were peeved, too; it was a very frosty reception, even from the Prime Minister's own Conservative senators.

Other similar Commonwealth democracies have done it. Australia set out about doing it, and did it. It fixed it. It is not an insurmountable problem. There is a lack of political will or finesse or ability, I suppose, building into it as well. However, no one call tell me that it is too hard to do, because I know it can be done and it certainly has been done. We should never question the resolve of the NDP to fix this ridiculous situation.

I realize I am from the west, so we are particularly aggrieved, I suppose. The province of British Columbia is one of the most under-represented, if there was a representative Senate. British Columbians probably have more right to complain than most: they have six senators and, I believe, four million people. There is about one senator for every 650,000 people.

This is how goofy it is and how desperately we need Senate reform: the province of New Brunswick, I believe, has 10 senators and less than a million people. Obviously there is even a greater imbalance when we look at the territories, but no one blames them. They are under-populated. They have one senator each. The province of Manitoba has six senators for only one million people, and Prince Edward Island, where Senator Duffy hails from, has in fact four senators and 135,000 people.

There are 100 good reasons to do away with the existing Senate. I obviously do not have time to go through them all, but let me say that I speak for many Canadians and even most recent opinion polls.

Two-thirds or more want serious Senate reform. As many as 61% say that they would like to open the Constitution to abolish the Senate. Two-thirds say they would like to open the Constitution to reform the Senate, and 61% say they would like to abolish the Senate. We are on the side of the angels in this one unless our intent is to abuse the right and misuse the powers of the Senate, as the government is doing; then, frankly, the only avenue of recourse we have, if we have any integrity, is to abolish the Senate.

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Main Estimates 2012-13
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7:20 p.m.

Edmonton—Sherwood Park
Alberta

Conservative

Tim Uppal Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments.

As a government, we have a responsibility to think ideas through and to make sure that a proposal that we bring forward is actually achievable. Therefore, I just want to sincerely ask the hon. member this. What are the next steps for his proposal tonight? How does the NDP really see this playing out?

The Constitution binds Parliament to support funding for all parliamentary institutions. Is the member suggesting that we enter into some type of constitutional crisis over funding?

I just want to know what the next steps are here.

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7:20 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I was hoping the parliamentary secretary would begin his remarks with a formal apology for accusing the NDP of raising this issue as some kind of a political stunt. Duly elected members of Parliament, availing themselves of the rules as they stand in the House of Commons, be it Marleau and Montpetit or O'Brien or Bosc, and exercising their democratic right as parliamentarians, should never be described as performing a political stunt. If I were able and wanted to filibuster on this issue, that would not be a political stunt. That would be exercising my democratic right as a member of Parliament. The member has missed one opportunity to apologize. Perhaps he will take time in the questions and comments period to rise on his feet again and give it another go.

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7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would certainly not say that what my colleague is proposing is a political stunt but I would respectfully suggest that it is complete nonsense, unless I do not understand what he or his party wants to do. If I understand well, the NDP members are proposing to cut the funding for the Senate so it will stop existing and functioning. Then what? The Constitution requires Senate approval for bills to become the law of the land. Is the member proposing that we should bust the House, too, and stop it from existing? That would be the consequence of what he is proposing. It is completely absurd.

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
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7:20 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my Liberal colleague, who may be guided by the fact that he sits in caucus with 35 other senators, should at least recognize that this is the one time per year, during the process of main estimates, that we get the issue of the Senate before the House of Commons where we can legitimately raise the issue of the legitimacy and efficacy of the Senate and the desirability of maintaining it. He should also know that what we are voting on tonight is $57 million out of the $90 million budget of the Senate. This deals with salaries, et cetera. I have a number of emails from Canadians who suggest that if we reduced the salaries for senators down to about minimum wage, we would probably solve the problem of who is in it as a legitimate public service and who is in it to enjoy the great largesse that chamber seems to offer its denizens.

My Liberal colleague raises a legitimate point. We are bound in a system that is bicameral. Some of us believe it should be unicameral. We know that the process is onerous to achieve true constitutional reform to deal with the Senate structure. It has been done in other places. The Conservatives are not trying hard enough to reform the Senate in any legitimate way that would earn our support. In fact, they are abusing the advantage that they had to date by killing legislation that was legitimately introduced, debated and passed by the elected chamber of the House. It is the unelected dictating over the elected and, as Andrew Coyne says, that should offend the sensibilities of anyone who considers himself or herself a democrat.

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7:25 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre for his eloquence and knowledge and for providing some background on this.

If my calculations are correct, there are 30 years between 1982 and 2012. It has therefore been 30 years since he took part in the Meech Lake accord consultations. I would like him to elaborate on that. He was talking about Canadian public opinion polls.

How do Canadians feel about the Constitution or possibly reopening the Constitution in order to reform the Senate?

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
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7:25 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, polls indicate that Canadians are not only ready and willing to reopen the Constitution, but have a desire and an appetite to see the Constitution reopened to solve a number of intergovernmental issues that do require amendment.

Perhaps the best comment we could close this debate with is from the current Prime Minister of Canada himself. On September 11, 2006, which was shortly after the Conservatives were elected, he said that the Senate should vanish if it is not reformed. He has had six years. He went on to say:

The mandate to govern when it is given directly by the people is a great honour and a great responsibility. It's the very essence of responsible government and it is the minimum condition of 21st-century democracy

He said this in a speech to the Australian senate:

The prime minister noted that Canadian senators are appointed and can "warm their seats" for as long as 45 years.

He suggested that if the Senate were not reformed, it should be abolished. He said that Canadians understand that our Senate as it stands today must either change or, like the old upper houses of our provinces, vanish. That is what a newly elected Prime Minister said, and now, after six years of failure, we agree with him. It cannot be fixed. It is too damaged. It is irreparably broken and it should be abolished and thrown on the trash heap of history.

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Main Estimates 2012-13
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7:25 p.m.

Edmonton—Sherwood Park
Alberta

Conservative

Tim Uppal Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, twice now the hon. member has been asked about the next steps.

Whether it is called political stunts or nonsense, as the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville has said, we would like to hear the next steps. If the member is not going to answer that question, which he has not in the last couple of questions, I would like to know why the NDP is stalling Senate reform act.

The Senate reform act would make the Senate more democratic and it would limit terms, which are some of the things the member talked about in his speech. Canadians want this. The member has said that 70% of Canadians would like to see the Senate change.

We have brought forward a bill. Why is the NDP delaying that bill?

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
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7:25 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is something Orwellian about my colleague's question. He is trying to imply that it is the NDP that is holding up a piece of legislation. That is the government. It has moved closure on every piece of legislation that it has put before the House of Commons since it has been government. It has moved closure and time allocation like it was giving it away with gas purchases, for heaven's sake.

It is not the NDP holding up the bill. If the government were serious about the bill, the House leader would put it on the legislative agenda for debate. I think the government is afraid to have a legitimate debate on the future of the Senate because it knows public opinion has shifted. It is worth too much to the Conservatives as a fundraiser. Now that they have lost the gun registry, they have nothing to go to their donor base with anymore except dangling this tantalizing illusion, this promise that they have no intention of fulfilling, of actually introducing Senate reform.

The Conservatives love the Senate the way it is because it is their safeguard. It is their stop-gap measure. If something should actually get through the House of Commons they can always kill it in the Senate. Their hacks, flaks and bagmen are standing by on guard and on duty.

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
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7:30 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the speeches by my two colleagues, the Minister of State for Democratic Reform and my NDP colleague, who made this proposal.

I would like to express, as respectfully and rationally as possible, the reasons why I disagree. Let us start with the NDP proposal, which consists in preventing the Senate from doing its job.

The Constitution requires that the Senate approve legislation. We could not have any legislation in this country if we prevented the Senate from doing its job. My colleague's proposal is absurd. I have no other word for it.

I know that we are opposition members and that the government wants nothing to do with the opposition and does not accept any proposals from the opposition. However, that is no excuse to come up with any old thing. Members of Parliament have a responsibility to submit meaningful proposals to this House.

Whether we like it or not, Canada is a bicameral federation. In other words, we have two chambers. Both chambers have to approve legislation. We have to allow both chambers to do their jobs.

Our NDP colleague's proposal makes no sense.

It does not make sense. I would like to understand the NDP's position now. I thought it was to abolish the Senate after a referendum. Is it the New Democrats' view now that they want to abolish the Senate before or without a referendum? Is it their point of view that we should switch from a referendum to disbanding the Senate and that we should do it unilaterally? Then the question is: In which provision of the Constitution does the House of Commons have the power to disband the Senate?

I do not know if my colleague is listening to me. I am asking the question because I am completely puzzled. If there is no provision in the Constitution for this House to unilaterally disband the Senate, why is he coming in with this proposition today? Of course there is no mention in the Constitution about that.

In no federation of the world that I know may one of the two chambers unilaterally abolish the other chamber. In fact, in Canada, even if the Senate wanted to abolish itself, it cannot do that because it needs the unanimous support of the provinces. It is not only seven out of ten, as the minister said, it is unanimity because Prince Edward Island made sure it would be unanimity when it accepted the 1982 Constitution, and the Constitution gives it the certainty that it will always have as many senators as MPs. If the Senate ceases to exist, the protection for P.E.I. would not exist anymore. Therefore, we would need to have the support of P.E.I. and the nine other provinces to abolish the Senate, which leads me to another problem I have with the NDP proposition.

Let us assume that the NDP members stick to their former proposition, which is not to disband the Senate unilaterally but to hold a referendum. What would be the exact question? If the question were, “Do you want to abolish the Senate?” The majority of Canadians who prefer to reform the Senate will be squeezed between a yes and a no that would not reflect what they would like to do, which is to improve the Senate through reform. I think it would be completely unfair to come with only two possibilities, a yes or a no, to abolish it.

What would be a clear majority? Would it be 50% plus one nationally? No, because we need the unanimity of the provinces to abolish the Senate. A premier, who had received a majority of voters asking to keep the Senate, could say, “I am accountable to my voters and my voters want to keep the Senate”. I guess the NDP proposition would be a referendum with a majority in every province of our great country. I guess it is that. It is for them to say. We do not know. Any time we ask questions, they do not answer. I guess they do not know the answer. They never think about that or try to give us the answer.

If there is something in what I have said that is wrong, I would ask NDP members to please tell me where I am wrong. I think it is time for my colleagues in the NDP to be adult about this issue and be serious about the question I asked. If it is referendum, what would be the question and would the question be fair and clear? What would be the majority? Is the majority in every province as the Constitution requests? This is, I think, a very good question.

Will the NDP members withdraw what they are proposing today, which is completely absurd? I will not say that it is a political stunt because I do not like the expression. It is not my style and I am not sure what “stunt” means in English anyway. However, I will say that it is complete nonsense, or in French, c'est du n'importe quoi.

What the NDP may say is not very important because the government will never listen to what the NDP has to propose. However, I hope the minister will listen to what I have been telling him for months.

There is a basic law in political science that the problems of tomorrow may be the result of the ill-considered reforms of today. I think that many of the bills we get in this House are very bad. However, I sincerely believe that this bill is the most dangerous for Canada. It is not because I am against the idea of an elected Senate. All my life I have argued that it would be a good idea. However, the main reason we cannot have an elected Senate would not be solved with the bill. On the contrary, the bill would make it much worse.

The main problem is that our provinces do not agree among themselves on the number of senators for each province. This has been the reason that, for decades upon decades, attempts to reform the Senate have failed. However, the member proposes that we ignore this problem and proceed anyway, despite whatever circumstances might arise. The consequence of implementing such a bill would be a huge constitutional fight in this country. Canada does not need that. We never need that kind of thing, but certainly not now with the difficult economic situation we have. Why would there be a huge constitutional fight? It is because no province would want to surrender any seats after a reform that was unilaterally decided by the federal government without the proper consultation and acceptance process that the Constitution requires.

The provinces would feel shortchanged if the bill were enacted. After a while, it would be completely unacceptable for Albertans to have only six senators out of 105 as the powerful elected Senate would be able to veto any bill in this House, and it would do so at a very high speed. Once senators were elected, they would have a mandate and commitments to their voters that they would want to respect.

Therefore, the practice we have today where senators almost always give the last word to the House because they are not elected, would disappear. These elected senators would try and try again to have the last word because that is what they were elected for.

At the moment, the member may find that his own province of Alberta and the province of British Columbia would be so under-represented that it would be unfair to the Canadians living in those provinces and would not be tolerable. Therefore, they would, of course, request that be addressed. But why would Atlantic Canadians agree to give some of their senators to Alberta and British Columbia when they see that the weight of Atlantic Canada in this House is decreasing census after census?

The premier of New Brunswick said that he wants to elect senators in New Brunswick in order to have a stronger voice for New Brunswick. That is fair for him, being the premier of New Brunswick, but we are here to think about the whole of Canada.

It is clear that people of Alberta and British Columbia would say that it is unacceptable that they are so under-represented in the elected Senate. They may not be saying that now because few Albertans are aware that they have only six senators.

In every democracy, citizens' understanding of their institutions is usually very low. That is why I caution the hon. minister on the poll he just cited that 70% of Canadians are willing to have an elected Senate.

How many Canadians know the number of seats their province has in the Senate today? If they knew that, then maybe they would agree with the overwhelming majority of constitutional experts who say that the bill the minister is proposing is wrong for Canada. These are experts who understand the Constitution and that it is very dangerous to have some provinces under-represented in an elected Senate.

The second problem that the minister never answered, no matter how many times I told him about it, is that if the Senate is elected, there will be two elected chambers competing with each other, able to stop each other, to create a stalemate between themselves.

We could count on my fingers the number of times the Senate vetoed a bill of the House in the last two decades. It happens very rarely. Why? The senators, not being elected, give the last word to the House. The very moment they are elected, they would veto a lot of bills whether it is 20%, 25%, 40% or 50%. We would like to know if the minister has any idea about that. I do not think he does because it is impossible to predict.

When we look at what has happened in other countries, we know it has happened. In some countries, it is creating a big stalemate, a big gridlock, like in the United States and in Mexico. I understand the rules in the United States are a bit complex, and sometimes it is 60% and not 50%.

We would create a new federation with this bill, bit by bit, over the years, as elected senators replace non-elected senators. Then, we would discover that we do not have any dispute resolution mechanism for how to solve disagreements between the two chambers. Except for a few exceptions, the Senate, according to the Constitution, has the same powers as the House.

The House would not be able to overrule or veto the Senate. The Senate would not be able to do that to the House. In other countries, they have decided to have dispute resolution mechanisms, like in Germany with the Bundesrat and the Bundestag. The Bundesrat cannot veto bills from the Bundestag unless it is linked to Länder jurisdiction, something that cannot work in Canada because we do not have the power to rule on provincial jurisdiction. By definition, the German model would not work in Canada.

We will need to think of something else, maybe something like the model in Australia, where the prime minister has the power to dissolve the two chambers at the same time and to send everybody to an election when there is a stalemate.

We may think it would be good for Canada, but can Canada decide that by asking Parliament? That is something that all the partners of the Constitution must decide together.

He is proposing to elect the Senate without any dispute resolution mechanism. I am asking the member if there is a federation that has this kind of situation, a parliamentary federation? We do not have a president who can decide a lot of things, independently of the two chambers.

All of us are sitting in these two chambers. In parliamentary systems, they made sure that the rep by pop chamber, the chamber where the government is responsible, is more powerful than the other chamber. That is what has been done in other parliamentary democracies of the world. Why not in Canada?

We cannot do that alone, though. We need to have the provinces at the table. So the minister is creating two problems. The first one is he will create a huge sense of unfairness in the federation without any idea of how we will solve it. I think he was right when he asked NDP colleagues what the next step would be to stop the funding of the Senate. They cannot answer.

Can the minister answer my question, what is the next step after this bill? What is the next step once the senators are elected? They would try to use their full powers against the House, without any dispute resolution mechanism, and with two provinces terribly shortchanged in the federation. It would be completely unfair and unacceptable.

The minister is telling me that what I am proposing, which is to work with the provinces to find a way for them to agree on the distribution of senators, may take too long. It has been tried in the past. I know it is difficult.

Canada is a difficult country. In order to solve problems, we cannot ignore problems. We cannot pretend to solve a problem and take for granted that the problem does not exist. The problem of the unfairness of the current representation of senators by provinces in Canada exists. It is tolerable because the Senate is playing a minor role facing the House. The moment the Senate has the same role, then the problem will not be tolerable anymore. It will be a huge crisis in this country.

That fact that we do not have any dispute resolution mechanism between the two chambers would be intolerable in a country that is so decentralized like Canada. We need to be sure that the common institutions of the country work for the country.

If we paralyze these two chambers, it will be at a cost to every Canadian and at the cost of Canada's ability to play its role in the world, a Conservative role according to the minister, a Liberal role according to us. It is democratically decided whether it will be Liberal, Conservative or NDP, but at least it should be something, not nothing, not paralysis, not stalemate, not gridlock, not unfairness for Alberta and British Columbia.

I was speaking in English because I wanted to make sure that my colleague understood. Now he will listen to the translation. What I said in English is just as valid in French. At any rate, he will have to defend his bill in French before the Quebec Court of Appeal.

He accused me of wanting to start a dispute between the provinces and the federal government on the issue of the Senate. The opposite is true. This side of the House wants to work with the provinces and not bully them or make changes that fall outside our jurisdiction.

The minister assures me that he will win in the Quebec Court of Appeal. He claims that his bill is constitutional. He says that his bill does not change the method for selecting senators, which cannot be done by Parliament alone, but which must be done by at least seven provinces representing 50% of the population.

The minister says that he is not changing the method but rather the selection framework. But what is the difference between a framework and a method? What court will say that they are two different things? How can we change the framework without changing the method—in English, in French and in Latin?

What the minister is saying does not make any sense. Of course he is changing the method. I would like to remind him that the Constitution refers to the selection of senators, not their appointment. The minister is saying that of course he will not change the appointment process and that it will still be the Governor General who appoints senators. How lovely. Thank you so much. I am sorry. The minister is not going to touch the Governor General's authority and, on that very narrow ground, he believes that he is respecting the Constitution.

However, if constitutional experts had wanted only to talk about the Governor General's authority to accept the Prime Minister's recommendations and appoint senators, they would have spoken about the framework for appointment rather than the framework for selection. All constitutional experts make this basic distinction. Selection is the framework.

The court clearly stated that Parliament alone could not change the unelected Senate into an elected chamber. We do not have that authority. We may wish we did. Personally, as a democrat, I would prefer it, but we do not have that power. In the meantime, we have a Senate.

Can I suggest that the Prime Minister review his way of appointing senators and that he appoint more competent senators who are more prestigious in the eyes of Canadians?

The appointment of Senator Dallaire is a decision that reflects on the Prime Minister who appointed him. It is possible to appoint people with experience of whom all Canadians approve and who make excellent parliamentarians. They can be partisan. Appointing Don Boudria would not have been bad for Canadians because he was an excellent parliamentarian. Senators can be partisan. It is good for them to have been a member of a party and to have worked within a party. These people must be respected. We should be able to say that they will be great parliamentarians because of the experience they bring to the table.

It is important to realize that this chamber, the House of Commons of Canada, has one of the highest rates of turnover.

In one of the shortest turnovers of the whole democracy of this House, when we have a wave like the last time, the orange wave, we can see a lot of good MPs disappearing, zap, overnight, and new rookie MPs coming with no experience. Except in the other House, we have a lot of valuable parliamentarians with a lot of experience and with more diversity than in this House. When prime ministers are clever and responsible, they will appoint more women, more aboriginals, more francophones from the other provinces and Anglo-Quebeckers. They will do that. It is what they have done, especially the great former prime minister, Jean Chrétien. He ensured that we would have a Senate that would be a complement to the House through its experience in the choices he made.

To conclude, this bill is unconstitutional, unfair for Alberta and British Columbia and dangerous for the whole of Canada. The proposition of the NDP is complete nonsense.

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Main Estimates 2012-13
Government Orders

7:50 p.m.

Edmonton—Sherwood Park
Alberta

Conservative

Tim Uppal Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of things in my colleague's comments I wish I had time right now to address, and at some point I am sure we will. I would like to thank him for articulating and very clearly explaining why the NDP procedure with the motion this evening is complete nonsense, in his words. I fully agree with him and I appreciate him explaining that so well.

He does not agree with the Senate reform act, which would allow a process for having elected senators and to set term limits on senators and to achieve this within Parliament's authority. He has a plan that would require full, drawn-out constitutional change. At the same time he said that provinces do not want long, drawn-out constitutional battles. He gave the formula that we need seven provinces with 50% of the population to agree. He even said we might need unanimous consent in some cases.

Is his proposal, the Liberal Party's proposal, not really to just talk about Senate reform, like the Liberals did throughout their whole tenure, and not take any action at all, talk about it and at the end of the day achieve nothing except to leave the Senate as it is today? Why does his party support the status quo in the Senate?

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
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7:50 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, if the minister has a plan to solve the problems I mentioned, he should table these plans and then we could discuss them. Maybe we would have an agreement between our two parties about what would be an acceptable Senate, then we could speak to the provinces, himself to the Conservative premiers and us to the Liberal premiers and see if we might reach an agreement. We cannot ignore the provinces. It is a terrible problem for his province to have only 6 out of 105 senators in an elected Senate. It would be completely wrong to do that for Albertans. As a Canadian, I care for Alberta. I care for Calgary as much as I care for Montreal, and I care for Moncton as much as I care for Quebec City.

The other problem is that we need to figure out how the Senate and the House would solve their disagreements. If he has ideas, I have ideas. We should share our ideas and see if we can come up with something that makes sense.

However, his deal ignores these two problems. Because of that, his deal is a recipe for a stalemate in Canada.

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Main Estimates 2012-13
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7:50 p.m.

NDP

Marc-André Morin Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, sometimes things are pretty easy to understand here, but I have to admit that this evening I am a bit confused. My Liberal colleague, who is a brilliant constitutional expert, demonstrated that the government's plan to reform the Senate makes no sense and will not work.

However, he seems to have a pathological attachment to that institution. I have to wonder why he is so bent on defending an institution where you can find the loser of a failed boxing match and some former political adversaries who fell into a job.

That is what I would like him to explain. What is there to save?

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Main Estimates 2012-13
Government Orders

7:50 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, the voters choose better boxers than prime ministers do, apparently.

I would tell my colleague that, in all of the federations that have parliaments, there are two chambers, except in very small federations such as St. Kitts and Nevis, or in a federation that has all kinds of problems, such as Venezuela. The federations that function have two chambers. The Fathers of Confederation insisted that there be an unelected Senate chamber because they did not want the Senate to block the House of Commons. They wanted the Senate to inform the House of Commons and fix its mistakes. And I believe that Senators do that often. In many cases, there is a lot of experience and talent in the Senate.

I understand that, in the 21st century, people want two elected chambers. As I said to the minister, we cannot improvise on this without ensuring that the chambers are elected based on a fair distribution of the number of senators by province and that powers are shared between the Senate and the House of Commons to enable these two chambers to function and work through disagreements, which is not the case at this time.

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Main Estimates 2012-13
Government Orders

7:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, in my experience as the past chairman of the Forum of Federations, an organization which my dear friend spoke so effectively about tonight, the notion that we simply abolish the Senate, that somehow the House can perform this with some magic formula without understanding that it is fundamentally a constitutional institution, a federal institution, is, as he said very well, pure and simple nonsense. It does not respond to the fact that we have a Constitution and that we have institutions in that Constitution.

Reforming the Senate is not easy. We have tried to do it at different times. We on this side are willing to discuss with anybody what kind of process one would go through to improve the Senate or to make it better.

The member has spoken effectively on behalf of the entire Liberal Party in saying to the minister that he cannot improvise a constitutional change without the full participation of the provinces, without the approval of the Supreme Court of Canada and without understanding what the political consequences of such a change would be.

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Main Estimates 2012-13
Government Orders

7:55 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I fully agree with my leader. He spoke very well about all of this.

If we decide to become a unicameral federation, there are some risks about that. In the history of Canada, the Senate once in a while has said no to the House, but most of the time the Senate will not do that. It has made some improvements in the way this federation works. Senators also amend bills. A tenth of the bills are amended by senators, that is before the Prime Minister decided to mute his own senators in a way that is not respectful of the spirit of the Constitution. Many times senators give wise advice to their colleagues in the House before bills go to the Senate and that advice prevents us from making some mistakes.

For all of these reasons, the Senate of today may be improved, but among all of the difficulties this country has, all the priorities we need to choose in order to have a stronger economy and better well-being for Canadians, I would not list the Senate as a priority. I am sure most Canadians would not as well.

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Main Estimates 2012-13
Government Orders

7:55 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is very familiar with the Constitution. I know that he has fought hard for environmental causes, including the Kyoto protocol.

What is his opinion about the fact that a bill to address climate change was defeated in the Senate? What does he think about that?

Concurrence in Vote 1—The Senate
Main Estimates 2012-13
Government Orders

7:55 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is absolutely outrageous. That bill should never have been defeated. Canada made an appalling choice, but my colleague will recall that the choice was made by the Senate at the time. Now it is also being made by the House. That is what happens in a democracy. I think that, at the time, the Prime Minister should never have used the Senate to do something like that. Most of the premiers did not want to do it.

In the history of this federation, the Senate has rarely vetoed a House bill or repealed legislation that originated in the House. That has happened very rarely. Senators have not wanted to use that power because they are not elected. They have chosen instead to send back amendments to help us improve our work, but they have not wanted to supplant the House. In that, they have respected the Canadian Constitution and the intent of the Fathers of Confederation.

If we want to change that today, if we want to abolish the Senate or if we want to elect Senators, we must also respect the Constitution. I find it very unfortunate that, today, the members of the NDP are suggesting that we do something that will starve the Senate and prevent it from doing its work. It violates the Constitution.

The premier of the province my colleague and I come from is in court to ensure that the provinces' prerogatives are respected in this regard and that no party in this House will ever be able to trample on the provinces' constitutional responsibilities pertaining to how the Senate operates.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

8 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It being 8 p.m., pursuant to the order made earlier today, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the supply proceedings.

Call in the members.

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

Vote #259

Business of Supply
Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion defeated.

The House resumed from June 5 consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science Expertise
Business of Supply
Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to an order made on Tuesday, June 5 the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion.

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

Vote #260

Business of Supply
Government Orders

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion defeated.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Concurrence in Vote 1—Senate
Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The next question is on opposed vote 1. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Concurrence in Vote 1—Senate
Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

8:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Concurrence in Vote 1—Senate
Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

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

Concurrence in Vote 1—Senate
Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

8:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Concurrence in Vote 1—Senate
Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Concurrence in Vote 1—Senate
Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

8:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Concurrence in Vote 1—Senate
Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

8:50 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 #261

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

The next question is on the motion to adopt the main estimates.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

moved:

That the Main Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013, except any Vote disposed of earlier today and less the amounts voted in Interim Supply, be concurred in.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

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

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

moved that Bill C-40, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2013, be now read a first time.

(Motions deemed adopted and bill read the first time)

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

moved that the bill be read the second time and referred to committee of the whole.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you seek it, I believe you would find agreement to apply the votes from the previous motion to the current motion with the Conservatives voting yes.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is it agreed to proceed in this fashion?

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Chair, we agree to apply the vote and we will be voting against the motion.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

We agree and we will be voting against.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Chair, the Bloc will be voting against the motion.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am voting no.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

The Green Party votes no.

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

Vote #262

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly the bill stands referred to a committee of the whole.

(Bill read the second time and the House went into committee of the whole thereon, Ms. Denise Savoie in the chair)

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette Louis-Hébert, QC

(On clause 2)

Madam Chair, can the President of the Treasury Board confirm to members of the House that the bill is in its usual form?

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Madam Chair, the presentation of this bill is essentially identical to that used during the previous supply period.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

Shall clause 2 carry?

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

(Clause 2 agreed to)

Shall clause 3 carry?

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

(Clause 3 agreed to)

Shall clause 4 carry?

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

(Clause 4 agreed to)

Shall clause 5 carry?

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

(Clause 5 agreed to)

Shall clause 6 carry?

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

(Clause 6 agreed to)

Shall schedule 1 carry?

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

(Schedule 1 agreed to)

Shall schedule 2 carry?

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

(Schedule 2 agreed to)

Shall clause 1 carry?

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

(Clause 1 agreed to)

Shall the preamble carry?

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

(Preamble agreed to)

Shall the title carry?

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

(Title agreed to)

Shall the bill carry?

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

(Bill agreed to)

Shall I rise and report the bill?

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

(Bill reported)

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

moved that the bill be concurred in.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you seek it, I believe you would find agreement to apply the results of the previous motion to the current motion, with the Conservatives voting yes.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this fashion?

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, the NDP will be voting against.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, Liberal members will be voting no.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, we will be voting against.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, no.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Green Party is voting against.

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

Vote #263

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

When shall the bill be read a third time? By leave, now?

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you seek it, I believe you would find agreement to apply the results from the previous motion to the current motion, with the Conservatives voting yes.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this fashion?

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, we agree to apply the votes, and we will be voting against.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals will be voting no.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois will be voting against.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, no.

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, no.

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

Vote #264

Main Estimates, 2012-13
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement President of the Treasury Board

moved:

That the supplementary estimates (A) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013, be concurred in.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those in favour will please say yea.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:10 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 #265

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:10 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

moved that Bill C-41, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2013, be read the first time.

(Motion deemed adopted and bill read the first time)

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

moved that bill be read the second time and referred to a committee of the whole.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:10 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you seek it, I believe you would find agreement to apply the results from the previous motion to the current motion, with the Conservatives voting yes.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this fashion?

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:10 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, the NDP votes no.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals we will be voting no.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois will vote no.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, no.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Green Party votes no.

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

Vote #266

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly the bill stands referred to committee of the whole.

(Bill read the second time and the House went into committee of the whole thereon, Ms. Denise Savoie in the chair)

(On Clause 2)

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette Louis-Hébert, QC

Madam Chair, can the President of the Treasury Board confirm to members of the House that the bill is in its usual form?

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Madam Chair, the presentation of this bill is identical to the one used for the previous supply period.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

Shall clause 2 carry?

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

(Clause 2 agreed to)

Shall clause 3 carry?

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

(Clause 3 agreed to)

Shall clause 4 carry?

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

(Clause 4 agreed to)

Shall clause 5 carry?

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

(Clause 5 agreed to)

Shall clause 6 carry?

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

(Clause 6 agreed to)

Shall clause 7 carry?

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

(Clause 7 agreed to)

Shall schedule 1 carry?

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

(Schedule 1 agreed to)

Shall schedule 2 carry?

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

(Schedule 2 agreed to)

Shall clause 1 carry?

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

(Clause 1 agreed to)

Shall the preamble carry?

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

(Preamble agreed to)

Shall the title carry?

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

(Title agreed to)

Shall the bill carry?

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

(Bill agreed to)

(Bill reported)

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

moved that the bill be concurred in.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you were to seek it, I believe you would find agreement to apply the results from the previous motion to the current motion, with the Conservatives voting yes.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, the NDP members will be voting no.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals will be voting no.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois will be voting against this motion.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am voting no.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Green Party is voting no.

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

Vote #267

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried. When shall the bill be read a third time? By leave, now?

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

moved that the bill be read a third time and passed.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you were to seek it, I believe you would find agreement to apply the results from the previous motion to the current motion, with the Conservatives voting yes.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:20 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, we agree to apply the vote. We will be voting against the motion.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:20 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals will be voting no.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:20 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois is voting against the motion.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:20 p.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, Thunder Bay—Superior North is voting no.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:20 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Green Party is voting against the motion.

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

Vote #268

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2012-13
Government Orders

9:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

The House resumed from May 30 consideration of the motion that Bill C-304, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (protecting freedom), be read the third time and passed.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

9:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to an order made on Wednesday, May 30, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the third reading stage of Bill C-304 under private members' business.

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

Vote #269

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

9:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

The House resumed from May 31 consideration of the motion that Bill C-311, An Act to amend the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (interprovincial importation of wine for personal use), be read the third time and passed.

Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act
Private Members' Business

9:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-311 under private members' business.

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

Vote #270

Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act
Private Members' Business

9:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

The House resumed from June 1 consideration of the motion that Bill C-279, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity and gender expression), be read the third time and passed.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

9:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading of Bill C-279 under private members' business.

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

Vote #271

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

9:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights)

The House resumed from June 5 consideration of the motion that Bill C-273, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cyberbullying), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

9:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the deferred recorded division of the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-273.

Before the Clerk announced the results of the vote:

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

9:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The House will have noticed that I voted twice on the last motion. I apologize for my bipolar voting condition. I would like to have myself recorded as voting against this particular motion.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member voted twice. It has been the practice that when a member votes twice, he then indicates which way he meant to vote. In this case he has indicated that he meant to vote against. That is how it has been when a member gets up on both the yeas and the nays.

(The House divided on the amendment:)

Vote #272

And the result of the vote having been announced: Yeas: 144; Nays: 144

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Since there is an equality of voices, it has been the tradition that at second reading the Speaker votes in favour of a motion at second reading, so I will declare the motion carried.

Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed from June 5 consideration of the motion.

Governor General
Private Members' Business

10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on Motion No. 313 under private members' business.

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

Vote #273

Governor General
Private Members' Business

10:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

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

Fisheries and Oceans
Adjournment Proceedings

10:10 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, these adjournment proceedings are normally called the late show, but I think we are into the late, late show tonight. However, I do want to put a question to the minister's representative here tonight on what are known in the industry as “fleet separation” and “owner-operator” policies.

I have a very simple definition for anybody unfamiliar with the terms. The fleet separation policy prevents a company from both catching and processing seafood. In others words, a company could do one or the other, but not both. The owner-operator policy requires that the fishing licence holder catch the fish.

It is not that complicated if one understands the industry. However, they are immensely important policies to the practitioners of the fishing industry, meaning the fishermen in the boats, the owners of fishing licences, and the men and women who engage in the fishery.

These policies of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are not written into law or even regulation, which is a detriment. They apply to the east coast fisheries, but not to the west coast.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans engaged in what he called a “consultation process” recently, suggesting that there should be some discussion about these policies. This was taken immediately as a threat, and I think rightly so, by the fishing industry and participants in the owner-operator policy, because the minister released a document in February called “Preserving the Independence of the Inshore Fleet in Canada's Atlantic Fisheries”.

It was called a “discussion document”, but it opened up the floodgates and suspicions, because there is a group in the Atlantic, the industry companies, that want to see that change.

The minister's thoughts are on “modernizing the fishery”. This is code in the Atlantic for turning over the fishing licences, catches and quotas to individual transferable quotas, which would be the end of the independence of the fishers in Atlantic Canada. This is what the fishers themselves say.

The industry participants brought together some 30 to 35 organizations and groups throughout Atlantic Canada and Quebec to respond to that document.

Their response, dated March 20, makes it very clear that they are unhappy with the government in bringing this forward. It is contrary to the agreed-upon participation in any review of policy, and they condemn it. They said that the approach taken by the minister was a perfect example of the top-down, centrally controlled, non-transparent and manipulative policy process that the department said it would move away from.

After significant analysis, the first recommendation they made was that legal entrenchment of the owner-operator and fleet separation policies should take place.

I want to know whether the minister is prepared to follow what the legislatures of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the opposition parties have said. Will the minister commit to keeping these fleet separation and owner-operator policies?

Fisheries and Oceans
Adjournment Proceedings

10:15 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, indeed, we have heard a lot of opinions on these two policies, and on a number of others as well. I am not here to say whether I agree or disagree, or the minister agrees or disagrees, with what he is saying. However, I am saying we need to be able to have a discussion on these issues. I am not alone in this position. In the words of the host of The Fisheries Broadcast in Newfoundland, John Furlong, it is time to have a discussion without fear of recrimination. I hope he agrees with that.

In fact, we have heard a broad spectrum of views and many people have impressed the importance of reviewing the origins of policies.

My colleague has defined the terms “owner-operator” and “fleet separation”. However, let me provide a bit more and perhaps a bit of history on it, as well.

The fleet separation policy was introduced in the Atlantic fishery in the 1970s. It states that corporations and processing companies may not be issued new fishing licences. Originally, the purpose was to separate the harvesting sector from the processing sector to help prevent any one group from controlling the supply chain.

The owner-operator policy was introduced in the 1980s to address an imbalance that actually emerged from the fleet separation policy. This policy requires licence holders to be on board the vessel to personally fish the licence. It was designed to support the individually operated inshore fleet, as my colleague has said.

These policies have evolved over time in response to specific requests. Many rules have been adopted over time to allow for exemptions. This has led to regional variances that complicate the administrative process and may create unfair advantages. For example, in Newfoundland and Labrador, a fisherman can get a 120-day exemption from the owner-operator policy, allowing someone else to operate his vessel. In the Maritimes region, the initial exemption only permits 30 days.

Another example is, in some cases, processors were providing capital to harvesters in order to secure a supply of fish. In some cases, trust agreements did indeed put control and decisions in the hands of the processors.

As a result, another policy was introduced in 2007 to preserve the independence of inshore harvesters and strengthen the owner-operator and fleet separation policies. Last year, the fleet separation policy was further amended to allow wholly owned corporations to hold fishing licences. There has been some evolution of these two policies.

Typically, with every rule and policy that has been adopted over time, exceptions or exemptions have had to be adopted to provide the flexibility that harvesters need to properly manage their business.

To be clear, our consultations were not focused solely on the owner-operator and fleet separation policies, though we recognize their importance to harvesters in the Atlantic.

These policies, and others, are complex, often with inconsistencies between fisheries and regions. They need to be considered in today's context to see if they remain effective in the face of fluctuating resources and changing market conditions.

We continue to believe that the fisheries can, and should, contribute more to the Canadian economy and generate more wealth for those who work in it. We are always looking for ways to give industry the tools it needs to operate in an environment that is more sustainable, stable, and economically prosperous.

The purpose of the work that we are doing in the consultations and continued review is not to arbitrarily remove policies, but to see where unnecessary complexities and inefficiencies exist and question barriers for improved economic prosperity for fishers.

It is for these reasons that the minister and his officials went out to speak with Canadians with an open mind to hear their views on what works and what does not. Now we are considering the feedback we have received through in-depth and objective analysis. This will allow us to better understand the issues and know the best way forward.

Fisheries and Oceans
Adjournment Proceedings

10:20 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I agree that there will be a need for some flexibility and some change.

The main concern has been the failure, and we see it here again today, of the minister and the political leadership of the department to affirm these policies and to guarantee the independence of the core fishing enterprises--fleet separation and owner-operator policies are designed to maintain that--and not to have what happened in British Columbia with the individual transferable quotas. That is what is being feared.

The minister and the department must say, “We will maintain these policies. We will give them legislative status or regulatory status.” Then we can talk about the details that might need to be adjusted.

However, what has happened here is that the whole shebang has been put on the table, without any sense that the protection of this $400 million industry in the hands of independent fishing enterprises is going to be maintained. That is the fear. That is why these legislatures have supported these policies and want the Government of Canada to maintain those policies to protect those fishermen and their communities.

Fisheries and Oceans
Adjournment Proceedings

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me if one takes the approach that the member is suggesting, then the consultation is a farce.

The minister said the fishermen agreed with us that this should be a prosperous, sustainable, stable industry. He asked if there were any polices that they had difficulty with that should be changed to allow a more prosperous future where they can survive and thrive.

If the member thinks that every fisherman in Atlantic Canada who contributed to this particular issue wants to maintain these two policies, then he is mistaken. There are two views on this and the minister is considering them both and then we will move forward.

Division on Private Member's Motion No. 313
Adjournment Proceedings

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Before we proceed further with adjournment proceedings I would like to bring to the attention of the House that there was an error in the announcement of the vote result of the last recorded division on Motion No. 313 in respect of the Governor General. The correct result in fact is 141 for and 147 against. Therefore, I declare the motion negatived. On behalf of the Table, I apologize for this error.

The hon. member for Dartmouth--Cole Harbour.

Fisheries and Oceans
Adjournment Proceedings

10:20 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise tonight and talk a bit more about the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' policy on owner-operator fleet separation.

My colleague, the member for St. John's East, was on his feet a moment ago raising some of the concerns that we have about where the government is going. He referred to the report that the minister put out which talked about modernizing the fishery and asking for people to provide input.

Part of the concern that folks in the industry where I come from had with this is that there was no mention whatsoever in the report about the owner-operator fleet separation policy. The report was silent in fact. Some people were taken aback by this. It was only after some of the sectors began talking with one another that they recognized what seemed to be going on. They forced the government to extend its consultation period by at least another week so that they would have the opportunity to provide some comments. People in the industry have said to me that they want the government to back off making any decision on the owner-operator fleet separation policy until there has been some clear consultation on the policy itself before it moves forward.

I want to say a couple of things about why I believe this policy is so important.

The inshore fishery, dominated by the owner-operator fleet separation policy, is the largest and most productive sector in the fish harvesting industry in this country. As it has moved over the past 20 years from a predominantly groundfish base to a more shellfish base and higher landing values, the inshore fishery has become by far the most valuable and the most successful fishery in this country.

The fishery supports over 1,000 communities throughout Atlantic Canada and Quebec. Many of us on this side of the House and people throughout that region are concerned that this move to get rid of the policy will result, as it did on the west coast, in greater concentration not only in ownership but also in control of the fishery and the people who work on those vessels. We are concerned that it will be concentrated in larger centres and in the hands of people who have absolutely no connection with the fishery in terms of harvesting methods, in terms of conservation and in terms of how the industry moves forward from here on in. That is the issue.

Would the parliamentary secretary not agree that the department has to back off and engage in an open and transparent dialogue with the industry before it moves further in this direction to change the owner-operator fleet separation policy?

Fisheries and Oceans
Adjournment Proceedings

10:25 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, my colleague began with something of a conspiracy theory and that is not the case here. He ended by saying that the Atlantic fishery is doing so well. In some cases it is and in some cases it is not. I believe he can think of some fisheries where fishermen are not making a living.

Our commitment as a government is to improving Canada's fishing industry. We think that the industry can do better in terms of providing a livelihood for Canadians and contributing to the Canadian economy. It was for those reasons that we went out to speak with Canadians with an open mind to hear their views on what works and what does not, because we certainly heard about some things that do not work. We wanted to hear directly from those who make a living in this business, about what they need not only to survive, as I said earlier, but also to thrive in an increasingly competitive and global marketplace. The process that was followed in this national engagement was threefold.

We wanted first of all to inform stakeholders of recently announced improvements to the fisheries management regime. Of these changes, such as longer term management plans and multi-year science advice, it is important that fishermen know that this is a transition we are making and we think it will provide the industry greater stability and better enable fishermen to make long-term business decisions.

Second, part of the consultation included getting feedback and input on new draft policies and tools that aim to improve the sustainability of the resource. The government recognizes that sustainability of the resource is critical to the economic prosperity of the industry. If we do not have any fish, it does not matter if we have the right policies. Sometimes it is easy to forget that. For example, a modern fisheries management approach needs to address issues around bycatch and there were some discussions about that. Implementing policies like these is not only good for the resource, but it is also good for the industry in that it helps prove to retailers and consumers that the product was harvested in a sustainable way.

Third, we wanted to hear people's thoughts on how the complex web of rules currently governing fisheries could be streamlined. In short, we asked the question, “What do you need to be able to compete on a global scale?” Again, there were no pre-conditions on what could be suggested. We wanted to hear all views. When someone suggested that we change a specific policy, our reaction was “Why?”, not “Sorry, we can't consider that”. In examining an issue as complex as Canada's fisheries management regime, we cannot arbitrarily exclude key elements in our analysis. We have to look at the whole system and all of its rules, policies, practices, management measures and regulations, and we have to look at how each of those parts interacts with the others. Then we have to ask whether this system is achieving the goals that we think it should and if the system is providing Canadians with a sustainable resource and improving economic prosperity. Those are the questions we have been asking to which we have been receiving responses.

In general, the response to this process was encouraging. It yielded thousands of responses from people, including independent harvesters, processors, aboriginal groups, NGOs, academics and the broader public, some even from outside the country. All of these views and opinions need to be considered if we are to examine fisheries as a whole. As I have said, we are now in the process of reviewing and analyzing all of the submissions we received. This input will help guide the minister and his officials as we move forward to work to continually improve fisheries management in Canada.

Fisheries and Oceans
Adjournment Proceedings

10:30 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary mentioned the fact that not everybody in this sector is making a living. I will recognize the fact that there have been extraordinary stresses and strains on individual fishers in this sector. However, it is important to recognize that the owner-operator sector is the most productive and successful sector within the fish harvesting industry in this country. The problem that some of the fishers have had is directly as a result of the management practices and policies of the minister's department. The answer to that is not to get rid of all these small owner-operator fishers who ensure communities are going to survive throughout our region and to concentrate the value in the hands of fewer people. That is not the answer. Let us have a responsible and reasonable discussion about this and try to deal with some of the problems, not give up on it.

Fisheries and Oceans
Adjournment Proceedings

10:30 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, in fact there are some prosperous, well-managed fisheries on the west coast as well that operate by a different set of policies.

The minister, as I said, went to the east coast to see what works and what does not work. Both speakers so far have indicated that many fishermen and fishermen's groups have given us input that the owner-operator policies and fleet separation are important. We are certainly aware of their feelings on that and we are taking that into consideration.

We try to keep our eye on the goal, which is productive fisheries, sustainable fisheries that provide a living for people, that provide prosperity for communities and that will be there for future generations as well.

Fisheries and Oceans
Adjournment Proceedings

10:30 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rose in the House to ask the following question:

Fleet separation and owner-operator policies protect jobs and prevent the concentration of power in the hands of a few companies. These policies enable coastal fishers and communities to make a living from fishing. It is not an easy livelihood, but coastal fishers are proud of it.

The minister is conducting consultations, but fishers do not want the law to change.

Will the minister respect the will of independent fishers and coastal communities rather than putting the interests of big corporations first?

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans responded:

Mr. Speaker, consultation is seeking advice. That is exactly what we are doing.

The fishing industry is made up of thousands of very capable entrepreneurs who were held back by rules and regulations that disallowed them from making an honest buck because of government policies. The fishermen I know are happiest when they are pulling their nets and not dealing with bureaucracy.

I am looking at the situation, and what people want is for coastal fishermen to be able to sell their licences to companies. That is how they put it. It is as simple as that. Yes, that can be shared; there is no use hiding it. Some might want to get as much as possible for their licence, and if they can sell it to a company, they might get a good price, and then they can wash their hands of it and move on. But what does that mean for the community, for the region?

I will say one thing that I am sure people will agree with. Usually, someone who owns a company wants to make money. That is the goal. If the company is not making money, what does it do? It closes temporarily.

However, I would like to remind the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans of something. Whether he makes money or not, a fisherman goes out to sea and fishes. I have never seen fishers anchor their boats and say that they are not going to fish. They go out, whether they are making money or not. Times may be tough, but that is the reality of the fishery. These people have fishing in their blood. That is what they want to do.

These people are asking us to protect them, because when they sell their licences to large corporations or industries, it does not stop there. It is no wonder that people from other countries have commented on this, as the parliamentary secretary just stated. Well, sure, that is because they would perhaps like to have these licences and then control the fishery.

The government would be making a huge mistake if it were to put this in the hands of corporations rather than in the hands of fishers. They need to continue to learn to live together for the well-being of the communities. Even the premier of Prince Edward Island has said that if the federal government sells licences to corporations, that will kill rural areas. That is all we have left in the Maritimes, in Atlantic Canada.

Here is hoping that the government does not get involved in this and start listening only to the companies. When companies from other provinces came to buy the fish processing plants back home, what happened? They closed those plants and left because the plants were no longer competitive. The companies did not create jobs. They cost us jobs.

We are again asking the government to ensure that these licences will not be sold to corporations.

Fisheries and Oceans
Adjournment Proceedings

10:35 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 thank the member opposite for his views on this. He presents them very passionately. Would it not be better if people could go out fishing and also make a living? That is really what we are all about.

There is really no doubt, I hope the member agrees, that Canada's fisheries management regime has become very complex. We are not arbitrarily excluding any part of it as we review it. We are looking at the whole system, all of its rules, policies, practices, management measures and regulations, and looking at how all the parts interact. We are looking to the future, as I have said already.

We are listening to Canadians with an open mind to hear directly from those who make a living in this business about what they need not only to survive but to thrive. In listening to Canadians, and I know they do not believe this, we heard diverse views from all three coasts about how fisheries management needs to change. There is an appetite for change out there, maybe not on this policy, I do not know, but Canadians want a system that delivers strong sustainability outcomes and maximizes the economic value of the resource.

Looking at an issue objectively requires more than just listening to the loudest speaker in the room. It requires careful analysis of the facts. Therefore, along with the input we have collected, we have to look at the context in which these policies were created, the scientific data and study our international competitors so we can improve upon known best practices. It is now up to us to review and analyze all of the information we have, and that is what we are doing.

As I have said a few times tonight, no decisions have been made concerning how any fisheries policies may change.

Many harvesters told us that fisheries management needs to better reflect their business needs. They point to inefficiencies in the current fisheries management system characterized by a complex web of rules and policies. With its rules, DFO dictates whether or not someone may fish, what may be caught and by whom, where and when they fish, how much they may catch, the boats and equipment they may use, where to land their fish and what may be done to fish before it is landed. All these rules differ from one fishery to the other.

Undoubtedly, it was not the intention to end up with such a complex regime. While there may be conflicting opinions about certain policies, I think we should all be able to agree that improvements can be made. We have heard voices advocating for the preservation of owner-operator and fleet separation policies. Clearly, that is the case. However, we must also recognize that others have asked for greater flexibility, however we produce that.

Fishermen are resourceful entrepreneurs. Like other businesses, those with the ability to employ ingenuity, creativity and respond quickly enjoy the greatest success. Like any other enterprise, they want the flexibility to adapt their business in response to fluctuating resources and changing markets and position themselves as competitors on a global scale.

Many of the policies we have in place today were first put there in the 1970s, as I said earlier. However, we should think about the changes that have occurred since that time. China was just taking its first tentative steps toward capitalism. Consumers in those days were not particularly concerned about the sustainability of their food sources. Large-scale aquaculture operations were still years away. The policies that were put in place were developed to work in an environment before the global economy really existed in the way that it is today.

It is prudent to take a look of these things objectively and learn how we can enable our fishing industry to prosper. It is our duty to continuously search for improvement. That is what we are doing.

Fisheries and Oceans
Adjournment Proceedings

10:40 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the issue is not whether they are able to take an interest in fisheries policies and try to improve them. That is not the question. What they want to do is take the licences of inshore fishermen and sell them to corporations. They want to take vessels under 65 feet and sell them to the industry. This will hurt communities.

The premier of Prince Edward Island openly said as much. The premier of Newfoundland also passed legislation to that effect, as did the premier of Nova Scotia. Is the Conservative Government of Canada willing to listen to these three Atlantic provinces and the Quebec National Assembly, which have passed legislation to that effect?

Does it mean nothing to the Conservative Government of Canada that four provinces in Canada—five with New Brunswick—are publicly saying that they do not want these licences to be sold to big corporations?

What about consulting the Atlantic provinces? Will British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario make decisions about the fisheries in the Atlantic provinces and Quebec? Come on.

During consultations, they have to open their eyes and their ears in order to understand what is happening in Canada and what people in Atlantic Canada want.

Fisheries and Oceans
Adjournment Proceedings

10:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The time that was allowed is finished.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

Fisheries and Oceans
Adjournment Proceedings

10:40 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, perhaps I can wrap this up by making sure that we understand together what the role of the Government of Canada is in fisheries management.

At its core, I think we can boil it down to this. It is responsible for ensuring the conservation and protection of fish. In other words, that there is something out there to fish, and then ensuring the orderly management of the fishery. That is what the Government of Canada does in this fisheries world.

Therefore, when the government reviews its policies, which we think we should do from time to time, we have to look at the whole system and all of the management measures to identify what does and does not work in today's context. We need to remove barriers to the entrepreneurship that defines this industry because we continue to believe that fisheries can contribute to the Canadian economy. It is about continuously improving how we do business and providing industries with the tools they need to operate in this environment that is more sustainable, stable and economically prosperous.

Fisheries and Oceans
Adjournment Proceedings

10:45 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 10:45 p.m.)