Department of Social Development Act

An Act to establish the Department of Social Development and to amend and repeal certain related Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.


Ken Dryden  Liberal


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment establishes the Department of Social Development over which presides the Minister of Social Development. This enactment also sets out the Minister’s powers, duties and functions, as well as the rules applicable to the protection and the making available of personal information obtained under departmental programs, other than those governed by similar codes found in the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Department of Human Resources and Skills Development ActGovernment Orders

March 23rd, 2005 / 5:10 p.m.
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Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is even better since I can make the correction myself. I think that my hon. colleague is seriously mistaken when he says that the other opposition parties also agree to divide the department into two.

I want to remind my colleague that the work done previously was conducted within a framework totally different from the one to which this bill refers. The bill makes reference to concepts with which the Bloc Québécois completely disagrees, in particular the Employment Insurance Commission and infringements in areas of jurisdiction relating to on-the-job training and so forth. I have already talked about this, as has my colleague for Québec.

Contrary to what the member opposite said, we disagree for very specific reasons. This bill ignores the consensus reached during the previous session of Parliament.

The Bloc Québécois will vote against the bill for many reasons. The first of which, as I mentioned, is that it infringes in areas under provincial jurisdiction. For Quebec, this is serious, particularly with regard to labour management.

And there is the EI fund also. The Prime Minister used the proposed division of the former Department of Human Resources Development into two departments to establish the Department of Social Development and maintain the EI fund in its present form, in spite of the opposition from all stakeholders in the Canadian society, and the Quebec society in particular. I will come back to that. This does not reflect the consensuses at all. In this regard, the Prime Minister is on the wrong track, as I will show.

The Prime Minister split the department the very day he was sworn in. He did so in a hurry,because of the recent election. It was obvious that the matter had been thought over for quite some time. I will come back later to the intention behind this decision, because it is clearly different from the one set out by our distinguished colleague from Peterborough.

This bill adds to existing bureaucracy. It does not introduce anything new or additional in terms of the services to be delivered through this Department of Human Resources and Skills Development, which will be duplicated, naturally, with the Department of Social Development.

One objective pursued by the government with this Department of Human Resources and Skills Development is to mobilize the private sector, non-governmental organizations and communities on community development, the social economy and social development. There are also plans for an adequate income security system for seniors, persons with disabilities, families and children and for integrated policy development and program delivery.

This adds nothing to the services currently provided. It only adds a second head, grafted on to the existing body, namely the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development, and chops off arms. Nothing is added to the existing structure, but the unstated purpose is the one in the latest budget.

I remind the House that because this is about splitting a department in two, we cannot limit our discussion to Bill C-23, which concerns the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development. We must also, logically, discuss Bill C-22, which proposes the creation of the Department of Social Development.

I remind the House that there are currently 14,000 public servants in this department, which has a budget of $20 billion. The Department of Social Development will absorb 12,000 of these public servants, and have a budget of $53 billion. Up to that point, all is well. The same employees will be assigned to the same places, but spread out in service points across the country. These service points will include management of 105 employment insurance processing centres and 11 income security programs processing centres .

It is said that the Department of Social Development will use exactly the same channels to provide exactly the same services as before. What has changed, then? A minister has been added to a institution providing services under the social safety net, namely employment insurance, income security for the aged, job-related training, for a category of sectors, and more than I can mention.

Let us move on and look closer at what they want to do with that. The answer is found in the budget.

All stakeholders in our society are crying out for the creation of an independent employment insurance fund, with improvements. That fund would be managed by the two groups that contribute to it, namely employees and employers. We want contributions to cover employment insurance program requirement, on the order of $12 billion to $15 billion annually.

The surpluses accumulated in the employment insurance fund over the past eight years total close to $47 billion. What happened to these surpluses? They were used for other purposes. How were they generated? They were generated with the employment insurance benefits that were not paid to individuals who were entitled to these benefits and who had paid for them.

A claim is being made in this regard. I will get back to it later on, in the context of the bill and the standing committee.

My distinguished colleague often makes reference to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. On February 15, the committee tabled in this House a unanimous report recommending the establishment of an employment insurance fund administered by those who contribute to it, namely employers and employees. This committee, to which my distinguished colleague is referring, unanimously asked the government to put back in the employment insurance fund the $46 billion or $47 billion that have been diverted over the past several years.

Not only is this measure not provided in the budget or in this bill, the contrary that is confirmed. This bill provides for an employment insurance commission consisting of four commissioners. Just think: there will be one representative for employers, one for the some 18 or 19 million workers across the country who contribute to employment insurance, and two government representatives. This does not change anything in the current situation.

Needless to say the government will continue to divert the funds intended for employment insurance.

There are two stances. First we are told in this House that the issue of EI is a priority and the government will take care of it. Timid measures were presented suggesting that the best was yet to come. Nothing specific happens. When we look at the bill before us we realize they want to keep something that is unacceptable.

Let us move along. I come now to the budget. That is why I say we need to know exactly what this government is trying to achieve. Not only does it not want to put back into the EI fund what it took out, and not only does it not want to improve EI benefits, even though it has the means to do so, but it is giving the expenditure review committee the mandate to use various cuts to save $2 billion or $3 billion in the EI program. Where will this money be taken? It will be taken from the EI contributions.

In other words, the government is doing indirectly what the House will not allow it to do directly. Before the holidays, this House voted on a resolution as follows:

From now on, the employment insurance fund is to be used only for employment insurance purposes and the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, is given the mandate to recommend to the House the measures to take to ensure that this fund is indeed used only for employment insurance.

Instead of complying with the wishes of the House, the government is in the process of doing indirectly what the House told it not to do directly. This is totally unacceptable.

Where will this money be taken from? They say it will come from programs or structures. They say contributions might be reduced. Yet, that is not what those who are contributing to EI are saying. Maintain the contributions at the current rate and improve the program. What is happening now is totally unacceptable.

When we look at the unstated intention of this bill, to truly understand its meaning, we have to look at other documents. I have here a highly important document in which most of the recommendations were made unanimously. It is quite recent and concerns current factual data bases, not different data form the last Parliament. It is the report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

The first eight recommendations are unanimous. They recommend an independent fund so the government will no longer be able to dip into it for other purposes. It will be administered by the contributors and used to improve the benefits of those who pay into it. This has to mean something more solid than what the parliamentary secretary, the hon. member for Peterborough, is referring to.

In recent weeks in this House, we have also heard the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development delighting in the measures she had presented here relating to Employment Insurance. The Quebec lieutenant, the transport minister, added that any reasonable unemployed person would find the budget and the government's position excellent. They were about the only two to say so.

In connection with this, the minister referred to a New Brunswick worker who claimed to be delighted with it. If anyone wants to consult them, I have some letters here that are addressed to the minister.

They come from the Canadian Labour Congress. The president sent me a copy, along with a letter. The CLC represents 3 million workers. The Quebec component alone represents over 1 million. Many are going short everywhere in the country, in Quebec in particular: the jobless, youth centres, women's shelters, municipalities. Just about every group of society is represented among those millions of workers and people working with those who are suffering because of the government's inadequate, restrictive and inhumane measures.

It is unacceptable, and at the same time ironic. It is a clear illustration of what goes on in this place and the mess things are in. As we have seen, while the government has the ability to make people poor, it is, in a muddled sort of manner, proposing measures to the members of this House that will make them rich.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

March 22nd, 2005 / 6 p.m.
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The Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion for concurrence at report stage of Bill C-22.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

March 10th, 2005 / 3 p.m.
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Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario


Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am sure you and all Canadians know the reason the Conservative Party of Canada abstained from voting for the budget is that the budget was very popular with Canadians. In fact the Conservatives did not want to go knocking on doors given the fact that the budget was there. I say that just so we are clear with respect to the preamble.

This afternoon we will continue to debate the supply day motion. On Friday we will consider report stage and third reading of Bill C-3, the Coast Guard bill; Bill S-17, which ratifies a number of tax treaties; Bill C-23, the human resources bill; and Bill C-22, the social development bill.

When we return on March 21 we will resume debate on Bill C-38, the civil marriage bill. Tuesday, March 22 shall be an allotted day. On Wednesday, March 23 we will consider report stage and third reading of Bill C-30, the compensation bill. If we complete that, we will resume business from Friday. We will then return to the marriage bill on March 24.

With respect to the budget implementation bill, I expect to be introducing that bill in the House in the very short term. At that time the hon. member will see its exact contents.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 22nd, 2005 / 10 a.m.
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Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities on Bill C-22, an act to establish the Department of Social Development and to amend and repeal certain related acts.

Bill C-22 as well as Bill C-23 represents a recommendation to the standing committee in June 2000 when Parliament had an opportunity to review the report. This is a concrete example of the work of the committee in dealing with legislation.

It is also an indication of the commitment of our government in terms of the Prime Minister's priorities in strengthening Canada's social foundations. We now have a focal point with these two pieces of legislation in our social development.

Patent ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2005 / 6:10 p.m.
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Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

moved that Bill C-274, an act to amend the Patent Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker,it is a pleasure today to rise and speak about the very important private member's bill that I first introduced in the House in November 2004. The bill is quite simple. The beginning of the bill provides certain definitional changes that are necessary for purposes of clarification, but the real essence of the bill is a small paragraph in bold at the very end, which states:

The Patented Medicines (Notice of Compliance) Regulations are repealed.

I hope that the spirit of cooperation on moving bills forward to committee will be extended to this very important initiative. I think Canadians deserve to know that the politicians they elect take issues seriously, especially when those issues hit them right in the pocketbook.

The cost of pharmaceutical products has been on the rise in recent years. The current regulatory regime puts an upward push on prices, which results in average Canadians not only paying more through their benefit plans or at the pharmacy counter, but also through their tax dollars that support our public, universal health care system.

Before going too far, I want to talk about what this bill is not about. The bill is not about reducing patent protection for innovative pharmaceutical companies. The bill is also not about taking sides in the ongoing war of words and actions between brand name and generic pharmaceutical industries and producers in this country.

This bill is about making sure that the pharmaceutical industry is treated like all other industries before the law. That is what will benefit Canadians most. Currently there are loopholes, which means that both industries can use a variety of tactics which keep lower cost generic drugs off the market longer than the patent period and encourage litigation and waste of money and time.

The amount of legal machinations that are employed as a result of these regulations is sickening because of the money that is wasted, money that could be better spent on development and innovation, on getting generic versions to the market, and lastly, on getting people the medications they need to treat their illnesses.

Ensuring fair competition is an important public policy of this country. However, our drug regulation regime fosters anti-competitive behaviour. The end result is that Canadians suffer en masse.

Drugs are the fastest rising cost component in our health care system. I believe that we all have a duty in this Parliament to try to address this in the larger context of improving the affordability of our public medicare system. In fact, I believe it is part of saving it in order to ensure that we pass on this national treasure and heritage to our children and our children's children.

Consumers pay more for their drugs than they should have to, particularly for some of the drugs most needed by Canadians. When drug monopolies are extended past the 20 year patent period, consumers, patients, governments and our health care system pay more for drugs, because generic drugs are priced on average 40% to 55% lower for the same brand version of a drug. It has been estimated that the various legal techniques used have cost close to $1.5 billion since the regulations came into effect just over 10 years ago.

No other Canadian industry has similar regulations. This is isolated and alone and exceptional, so how does this happen? Why has the Liberal government allowed $1.5 billion of Canadians' money to go into the pockets of the mostly multinational pharmaceutical companies?

It happens because the regulations, known as the patented medicine notice of compliance regulations, or PM(NOC) regulations, allow it. Even though they legally are abusive and generally damaging, these regulations have been in place in their existing form for over seven years. To date the government has not changed those regulations.

The purpose of the regulations was and continues to be to develop a balance between the competing interests of the brand and generic industries. Unfortunately, they have the ability to do the exact opposite. Successive Liberal and Conservative governments have chosen to sweep this important public policy issue under the carpet and also keep Parliament in the dark.

Let me give members a little bit of history. The regulations we are talking about now are relatively new in a Canadian context. They took their first form in 1993 with Bill C-91 and have been the subject of several regulatory changes since that time.

In the past, the Canadian government saw a key role for itself in limiting market monopolies in pharmaceutical products. Compulsory licensing was used, which meant that a generic could compete with the lower priced versions. In 1985, a federal commission of inquiry known as the Eastman commission, set up by Trudeau's government, concluded that: the use of compulsory licensing had saved hundreds of millions of dollars, no adverse impact on the research of the pharmaceutical industry happened, and nor were the decisions of multinational drug companies regarding investment in research and development affected by this regime.

But with pressure from the U.S. around the 1988 and the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and NAFTA in 1994, Bill C-22 and Bill C-91 radically altered the way Canada deals with pharmaceutical patents. The 17 year patent protection became 20 years. Products, not just processes, could be patented, and compulsory licensing was completely removed with Bill C-91.

A federal commission of inquiry today would likely find the opposite of the 1985 findings to be true. The radical shift in government policy, largely the result of pressure from the United States in negotiating free trade deals, has undermined the possibility for our government to retain some element of real control over pharmaceutical prices to ensure Canadians have access to affordable pharmaceuticals at the pharmacy counter and in our public health care system.

What do the regulations do? The easiest way to describe the regulations from a consumer's perspective is that through a variety of legal techniques which even the government itself has tried to stop but has failed in the courts, brand companies are able, if they choose, to delay generic drugs entering the market. How does this happen?

The Liberals would like us to believe it is a very complicated system that is best left to the bureaucrats. I would say it is only complicated if we believe that the bureaucrats are the best people situated to make decisions on behalf of the country. The truth of the matter is that the industry that regularly ranks first among all Canadian industries in terms of profitability, whose main operation is to repackage drugs that are actually researched, developed and manufactured in other countries, continues to get its cake and eat it too.

The regulations got off to a very bad start in the dying days of the Mulroney government when Bill C-91 was rammed through Parliament when the PM(NOC) regulations were instituted without any public consultation through the normal gazetting period. All of the changes since have been regulatory. This means that the representatives of the people in the House had no opportunity to debate them in a binding way. As a result, generic manufacturers have been kept off the market in a couple of different ways through what is known as evergreening and automatic injunctions.

Automatic injunctions allow brand companies to allege patent infringement when a generic applies for a notice of allegation. This process in and of itself would be relatively harmless if the real problem of determining what kinds of patents are allowed to be listed on the patent register were clear, but they are not.

A brand name can list many different patents for the same product by claiming different uses, patenting different forms, such as capsules or tablets, changing the name of the drug, or in the past, the name of the drug company. There sometimes are numerous patents that can hold up a generic from entering the market. In addition, the courts have interpreted that the regulations allow brands to list all of these multiple patents even though in one case the judge reported that it was “opposite to logic”.

Although the generics eventually win in 75% of these cases, they are on average kept off the markets between 15 and 21 months when the automatic stay is applied for. However, when we look at a few blockbuster drugs, we can see that when it is more profitable, brands have been able to maintain their monopoly for up to four years on average by applying for automatic injunctions on patents that it is fairly obvious have been strategically registered to maintain their monopoly and maximize profits, at the expense of consumers and our drug industry.

Is rewarding an innovative manufacturer with strong patent protection such a bad thing? No it is not, but that is not what we have with the PM(NOC) regulations. Instead we have a system that continues to add virtual patent extensions without accompanying results in research and development or domestic manufacturing.

It is important to note that not all brand companies employ such abusive tactics and are not actually in keeping with good business principles and the spirit of the regulations. The problem, however, is that it does not stop all those and a certain amount of patent infringements or claims have delayed generic versions in some of the worst situations costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

In 2003 the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, the primary independent policy tool available to Canadians to examine how brand companies operate, reported that of 103 patents added to the patent register, only 16 were new active substances. Patents are being registered for uses not approved by Health Canada, for new coatings, and changes to active ingredients. This is not innovation; this is just delay.

The brand companies promised us innovation when the PM(NOC) regulations were first introduced. They continue to maintain that they are the only way to allow them to do innovative R and D in this country. Even with the favourable regulations today, which the brands actually do support, they have been failing to meet the commitment they made to Canadians of a ratio of 10% R and D to sales for the last three years.

In 2003 brand spending on research and development fell to its lowest level since 1989. Spending on basic research continues to be the smallest portion of R and D. In 2003 it actually fell by over 9%. Over half of the R and D spending was on clinical trials. Meanwhile they spend tons of money and an exorbitant amount of resources on marketing and advertising to people.

In a 2003 study by Research Infosource a generic company placed high, ranking at number 13 of Canada's top 100 corporate R and D spenders. This is the first time a generic company has ranked higher than a brand company. This clearly indicates it is not just the brand companies that can make exclusive claims to R and D expenditures as a justification for the system.

The president and COO of that highly ranked generic company made a presentation at the June 2003 industry committee hearings. That person in favour of a review, in favour of eliminating the automatic injunctions and the need for stronger regulations to prevent evergreening and argued that more R and D would happen on the generic side if the situation resolved.

Why should automatic injunctions and evergreening concern us here?

Drug prices are the fastest rising component of our health care system. The average price of a drug produced by a brand company increased by 75% in the decade between 1993 and 2003. In the same time period generic drug prices only increased by 42%. Generic drugs are part of the solution to keeping drug prices under control.

The system and the regime needs to change. Recently there have been many calls from a variety of sources not only for a review of the regulations but also to make sure that regulations allow for accelerated access to non-patented drugs.

We must make a real effort to improve this situation. Those who can least afford it are suffering the most because of the abusive strategies that are legally used under the PM(NOC) regulations.

Canadians, benefit plan workers, benefit plans themselves, employers and all levels of government that purchase pharmaceutical products for delivering public health care are hurt the most under the current regulatory regime. In fact, it often leads to labour disputes because benefit packages are one of the most contentious issues among organized workforces and their employers. Generic companies which may be prevented from entering markets and thus are losing potential revenue at least have an opportunity to sue for damages when they are put off in the market, but the Canadian public does not.

Brand drug companies can be investigated by the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board and if they are found to be selling at excessive prices, they are asked if they will voluntarily pay back the money. This is called a voluntary compliance undertaking, known as VCU. There is, however, no mechanism for this money to be reimbursed to consumers, drug benefit plans, or even provincial governments. All the money simply goes back into the Liberals' general coffers. There is not even a guarantee that the money will be spent on health care.

The consumers at the most vulnerable state overpay for drugs; the companies pay that money back and it goes to the government, not back to them. That is unconscionable and it should be corrected.

The PM(NOC) regulations are above and beyond what we is required in terms of patent protection for the pharmaceutical industry.

Public policy objectives must be more important than pressure from multinational companies. Any changes to the regulations must address the most important public policy objective when it comes to pharmaceuticals: making sure that Canadians and our publicly funded health care system have access to affordable drugs.

Just last September the Liberals promised to work with the provinces. The first ministers task force on developing a pharmaceutical strategy has as one of its nine key components to accelerate access to non-patented drugs. In order for that to happen the PM(NOC) regulations in their current form have to be eliminated.

Some independent sources have reviewed this issue over the last several years. One of the more interesting ones came from stock analyst Hemant Shah from the Wall Street Journal :

The anti-generic strategy by pharmaceutical companies has probably the highest rate of return of any business activity they do right now.

That shows the demonstrated awareness of Wall Street on what the practices of the industry have been through these regulations to maximize their profits at the expense of people.

I will conclude with the following quote from Dr. Marcia Angell, who is former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine :

Nothing drug companies do is as profitable as stretching out monopoly rights on their blockbusters. Extending that privileged time by a variety of stratagems is the most innovative activity of big pharma. For blockbuster drugs, it is certainly the most lucrative.

The health and welfare of Canadian citizens, and with an aging population, the requirement of access to drugs and medicines to treat their illnesses is a paramount issue not only for our generation but also for the future of Canada and saving its medicare system. Let us stop the abuse and make sure that we innovate and do not litigate.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2004 / 3:40 p.m.
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The Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-22.

Animal RightsStatements By Members

December 7th, 2004 / 2 p.m.
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Lui Temelkovski Liberal Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Madam Speaker, the debate over animal cruelty legislation has persisted since 1999. I agree that Bill C-22, introduced in the 3rd session of the 37th Parliament, effectively addressed the concerns of stakeholders on both sides of the debate.

Bill C-22 was the culmination of extensive negotiations and concessions on all sides. It would be a mistake to complicate matters by introducing substantially different legislation after this consensus has already been achieved.

The bill now has support from most major groups reflecting both animal welfare and animal industry perspectives. I hope to see the reintroduction of this legislation in the House at the earliest possible opportunity.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2004 / 11:35 a.m.
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Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today to Bill C-22, the Department of Social Development Act.

This is the creation of a special department that we are interested in pursuing as New Democrats. We wish to see whether or not we can fulfill a strong mandate of Canadians to have social development as part of our economic strategy.

I was pleased to participate in my past life with a number of different movements and not for profit organizations that had some access to government programs, which successfully led to changing people's lives. I would like to reference a few of them because I think Bill C-22 might provide that opportunity. I use the word might because I do have some hesitation.

The only concern I have in moving to the next stage is that this particular department could at the end of the day become a leftovers department. If the government does not truly believe in the mandate of the department and the effect that it could have on people and the social economy, it might not get the budgetary support that is required to make sure things could be fulfilled.

I want to define specifically the department's responsibility. Social Development Canada will have responsibility for children and families, persons with disabilities, seniors, caregivers, the voluntary sector and the social economy.

Those elements are very important, not only in terms of how they can affect individuals and their lives in either turning things around or improving them significantly through services that then lead to greater steps, but they are also very much a part of our economy.

Our voluntary sector, which is a huge sector that does wonderful work, has a lot of great professionals who often go with less pay. They actually need higher accountability in some respects than in other jurisdictions because they do not have the resources to make mistakes. I, fortunately, participated in my employment field at the Association for Persons with Physical Disabilities--

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2004 / 6:30 p.m.
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The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but he will have 15 minutes left when we resume debate on Bill C-22.

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

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2004 / 6:25 p.m.
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Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, and to think I was about to be ignored. It would have broken my heart. I thank you for this opportunity to speak. It is a pleasure for me to speak on Bill C-22, which creates the Department of Social Development.

We in the Bloc Québécois cannot approach this subject without a mention of our party critic, the hon. member for Québec, who has once again focussed her talents of generosity and her unifying ability on social development.

I was here in this House when the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell indicated that he was somewhat taken aback by the Bloc Québécois's inability to support the social development bill. His reasoning was a bit thin, since there is no correlation between opposing the creation of a Department of Social Development and the vision of generous social programs we have for a sovereign Quebec.

Throughout the history of the Bloc Québécois, particularly its history here in Parliament, there have always been members who have been extremely concerned about the architecture or interface of social programs, and the best way to assist our fellow citizens who run into hard times for one reason or another.

The problem with the creation of the Department of Social Development is threefold.

It is hard to imagine a jurisdiction more sacred than social development when it comes to the development of Quebec. When we talk about social development, we mean everything that has to do with the health care system, social services, early childhood assistance, seniors, the homeless, and so forth. It is hard to imagine how the federal government could be in a better position to take care of these matters than the provinces, which are the main representatives.

It is even more frustrating because the former minister responsible for the homeless, whom I consider a kind-hearted person, had done me the honour of coming to Chic Resto Pop in the riding of Hochelaga—Maisonneuve. I am sure she has very fond memories of that visit unlike her colleague from Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, who was hit in the face with a pie, but I swear my office had nothing to do with it.

That said, the gist of our argument is this: how is the federal government better equipped to create and deliver social programs than the provincial government is? It is all the more difficult to understand why the federal government is creating this department when there are other areas it could be working on and is not.

I will give my two colleagues from Quebec an example. Since 1999, we have been waiting for the federal government to overhaul the Canadian Human Rights Act. This means that we do recognize that it has a valid constitutional jurisdiction in this matter. There is only one jurisdiction in Canada whose human rights code does not prohibit discrimination based on social condition, and that is the federal government. Social condition is important.

Quebec, for instance, has had provisions banning discrimination based on social condition since 1977. These were used to file complaints when single parents were denied rental apartment accommodation, among others. Jurisprudence was established. Recognition for this reality increases as you go up the hierarchy in the judicial system.

Former Justice La Forest, who chaired a task force which tabled its report at the turn of the century, in 2000, urged the federal government to amend legislation which, in many regards, was archaic. One of the main recommendations made at the time was, of course, to include social condition in the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination.

Would it not have been wiser if, instead of dividing in two the Department of Human Resources Development, the federal government had amended, had updated the Canadian Human Rights Act, over which we recognize the federal government has a valid jurisdiction?

I could tell the House about—

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

December 2nd, 2004 / 3:05 p.m.
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Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario


Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, we will continue this afternoon with the opposition motion.

Tomorrow we will commence with the third reading debate of Bill C-5, the learning bonds legislation. When that is completed, we will return to the second reading debate of Bill C-22, the social development bill. We will then return to the second reading debate of Bill C-9, the Quebec development bill; followed by second reading of Bill C-25, respecting RADARSAT; reference to committee before second reading of Bill C-27, the food inspection bill; and second reading of Bill C-26, the border services bill.

On Monday and Tuesday we will start with report stage and third reading of Bill C-14, the Tlicho bill, before going back to unfinished business.

Pursuant to Standing Order 53(1) a take note debate on credit cards will take place on Tuesday evening, December 7.

The business on Wednesday will be second reading of a bill to be introduced tomorrow respecting parliamentary compensation.

Next Thursday shall be an allotted day.

Finally, the government made a commitment to Canadians to treat compensation of parliamentarians separately and apart from that of judges. It is quite logical to take that step in an independent bill that deals only with the compensation of parliamentarians and to deal with the question of judges in a subsequent bill.

The hon. member seems to suggest that parliamentarians and judges should be treated exactly the same. We think that Canadians recognize that their respective duties, tenure and roles are quite different and that in fact they should be dealt with differently and separately. That is why we will be introducing the bill on MP compensation and dealing with it next week.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2004 / 5:10 p.m.
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Susan Kadis Liberal Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, our children are Canada's greatest resource. That is why, even as it fought the deficit, the Government of Canada continued to meet the needs of children a priority. In this fiscal year, for example, the Government of Canada will invest more than $13 billion in programs that support children and their families, but I agree that we must do more.

I would like to reflect on the government's commitment to our children, our achievements to date, what remains to be done, and how, with the passage of Bill C-22, the new Department of Social Development will become the catalyst for even greater action on behalf of our children.

No single government or jurisdiction can meet the needs of children on its own. We know that. That is why it is so important for the Government of Canada to collaborate effectively with provincial and territorial governments. I deplore these clawbacks. We have worked hard at this partnership and results are starting to bear fruit.

In 1998 federal, provincial and territorial governments reached a historic agreement to establish a national child benefit that has been called the most important social program introduced in this country since medicare.

Through this program, we work together to prevent and reduce child poverty, to ensure that it always makes economic sense for a parent to work rather than to receive social assistance where possible, and finally, to reduce overlap and duplication, and streamline all of our efforts collectively.

While the provinces, territories and first nations provide the services and the programs, the Government of Canada provides income support through monthly wages to families with children. In 2002-03, for example, the Canada child tax benefit provided $5.3 billion in benefits to more than 80% of Canadian families with children. An additional supplement for low income families added another $2.4 billion to this total and reached 40% of Canadian families with children.

Our most recent progress report showed that the program is working. In 2000 the national child benefit reduced the number of low income families by about 5%. In other words, 55,000 children living in about 23,000 families were no longer living in low income families. It is beginning to work.

To put this into even more practical terms, the national child benefit put, on average, approximately $1,800 worth of disposable income into the pockets of these low income families. This is a significant step to reduce the depth of child poverty in this country, but we must do more, and we will do more.

That is why the Government of Canada announced last year that it would increase the national child benefit supplement by $965 million per year by 2007-08. One child in poverty is one child too many.

The spirit of partnership that underlined the creation of the national child benefit was based on a collaborative approach in this country to meet the needs of children and their families. A year after the national child benefit was established, the Government of Canada and its provincial and territorial counterparts launched the national children's agenda. This agenda sets out a shared vision for children through four broad goals: health, safety and security, success at learning, and social engagement and responsibility. We know that if we do not help our children at the early stage, we often lose them and we lose the tremendous potential they have to offer. This is a great disservice to our children and to our country.

Let me touch on three separate initiatives that demonstrate how this partnership is allowing us to focus on our children. In 2000 the federal, provincial and territorial governments launched the early childhood development agreement to help children reach their full potential. Each year the Government of Canada transfers $500 million to support four key areas ranging from prenatal programs and family resource centres to child care and community based services.

This agreement has already brought positive results. In Manitoba, for example, 6,000 vulnerable women have received support to help them have healthy pregnancies. This is very important.

All these efforts are not enough to support the critical need for early childhood development supports and services. That is why last year the federal, provincial and territorial governments scaled up their commitment through a new multilateral agreement for early learning and child care. To that end, the Government of Canada committed to transfer more than $1 billion over five years to provincial and territorial governments to support new investment in early learning and child care programs and services across Canada.

Everyone, children, adults and communities, need to continue learning to make the most of their opportunities. That is why the Government of Canada established a pilot project known as the understanding the early years initiative. It is allowing 12 communities to understand the multitude of factors that influence a child's development. Armed with this information, they can make sound decisions about the right policies and investments that will work for them. Building on the early successes of this initiative, budget 2004 provided funds to expand the program to up to 100 communities across Canada over the next seven years.

All of these programs are laying a strong and needed foundation for our children's future, but there is still one gap. I am speaking of course about early learning and child care.

Canadians told us that child care needs to be a priority, and we agree. They told us that child care should foster children's emotional, intellectual, social and physical development. They told us that child care must be affordable and available to all families who want their children to participate. The time has come for a truly national system of early learning and child care. The Speech from the Throne committed the Government of Canada to move forward on this agenda and to do so expeditiously, which it has.

In November federal, provincial and territorial governments agreed on the shared principles that would guide this new national system of early learning and child care. These four principles of quality, universally inclusive, accessibility and development are the same ones that were recommended unilaterally by both parents and experts.

Much more work needs to be done and we are determined to lay the foundations for the system as quickly as possible. Ministers agreed to meet early in 2005 to finalize an agreement, and this is very hopeful and exciting for our whole country and for our children.

For its part, the Government of Canada will commit an additional $5 billion over five years to make this new national system a reality soon. This rapidly expanding agenda for children demands special attention from the Government of Canada. It demands a department devoted to the social well-being of children, their families and all Canadians. It demands a department with the expertise and experience to understand that early childhood education, quality early learning and child care go hand in hand with economic performance, health, social spending, urban planning and social equity. That is why it is so important to enshrine in law, which we will do, hopefully, from this day forward, the departmental structure for Social Development Canada announced last December.

By splitting Social Development and Human Resources Development into two separate portfolios, the government is giving more weight, legitimacy and value to each one. That means that the government will be better able to give the children's agenda all the attention it so richly deserves.

The Government of Canada has worked effectively with its provincial and territorial counterparts to address the needs of our children. It is time now to take the next step in this ongoing process by creating Social Development Canada.

I urge all members of the House to support the proposed legislation. Our children deserve no less than all the attention that we can afford to give them. I can tell members that as a new MP I will make it a high priority for myself, as well as our government, to put the needs of children first, and this is a first step.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2004 / 4:45 p.m.
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David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Absolutely, Mr. Speaker, and I very much appreciate your say in it, because as I said from the beginning and all the way through, it is directed to Bill C-22, very much so.

The speeches from the government side of the House have talked about what a wonderful benefit this is going to be to Canadians. I am making the argument that one can restructure departments all one wants, but if programs and money are not actually being put in place that are going to help people on the ground, in their homes and communities where it matters, then Bill C-22 is not worth the paper it is printed on.

That is my point and that is why I make the point that it is germane to this argument, very germane. It is not surprising that it is a government member who wants to stop me, because the government is trying to make out that this is a big deal. It is not a big deal. Children going to sleep hungry in Canada, that is a big deal. That is a huge deal.

We will probably hear somebody from the government talk about the national child care program. That is wonderful. I am glad it is happening. The government promised it often enough. It looks like it is actually going to happen. I would make the submission that it is only happening because we are in a minority government situation. That is the only reason this is on the agenda in the way that it is.

This minority House can work for Canadians. This is just another example. I believe that if we had a majority government Bill C-22 would be framed as the be-all and end-all of what this government is going to do to deal with social service issues, which means dealing with people in Canada who live in poverty and need help. But because it is a minority government, that is not going to be good enough.

It is just like bringing in the pension plan was, which by the way happened because the CCF, the predecessor to the NDP, held a minority Liberal government to account. That is how we got the Canada pension plan. That is how we got universal health care. Tommy Douglas started in Saskatchewan. It was a minority government situation where the Liberals were forced to introduce it. If we look at the history, we can see that historically the Liberals for decades have made wondrous promises many times over. This is another one.

I do not remember the Prime Minister talking about creating a new Department of Social Development as the be-all and end-all, and it is not. In fact, I am not sure it is going to make much difference at all. We are going to support it. I will be clear about that. We are not against it. There is not a lot to be for or against. It is a restructuring of a department. I would be much happier if I did not have to use parliamentary gymnastics to tie in arguments about child poverty in the bill that is in front of us. I wish we were dealing strictly and substantively with the issue of child poverty rather than clouding it with this, but this is the only opportunity we have and we are going to grab every one we can.

I am hoping that somebody from the government will help me understand during the 10 minutes of questions and comments where exactly the government thinks it is in terms of honouring the pledge of eradicating child poverty when the current national statistics are showing us going in the opposite direction. For those colleagues on the government benches who are going to speak after me and no doubt praise Bill C-22 to high heaven, I hope they will move from their prepared texts and explain to Canadians why their government failed them.

It is not just the Liberals; they have to take the primary responsibility as they are the government, but they are not the only ones who have an obligation in this. It is all of us. That was a unanimous decision of the House. That should mean something. So when the government members stand and brag about Bill C-22, I want to hear them tell us where they think we are in terms of dealing with child poverty, because I do not see it.

I do not see it. I do not see a lot of real passion on this issue. I am not here every minute of every day. I have not heard it a lot. I can name a couple of colleagues who have addressed it, but not nearly as many as I have heard talk about debt reduction or interest rates or free trade. Those are all very important, but I would like to think that in the Canadian House of Commons we at least equate with that the eradication of child poverty, if not make it a higher priority.

That is not the only area where we have serious problems as a society. It all fits together, because Bill C-22 talks about the structure of one particular department. That structure of that department within the overall context of the obligations of this government, the national Parliament, to all Canadians extends beyond just the niceties of how the department is structured.

The cutbacks to provinces by the current Prime Minister when he was the finance minister have a lot to do with this. That even has a lot to do with the statistics I read out about what is going on in Hamilton and the challenges we face, because someone like former Premier Mike Harris used the cuts of the federal government as an excuse to cut transfer payments to municipalities, to cut money for programs to support the very people this department is supposed to help.

Does the House remember that in 1995, upon receiving a majority government, the then newly elected premier, Mike Harris, cut the income of the poorest of the poor by 21.6%? They were people who were already in poverty, the majority of whom were children. They were already in poverty, the poorest of the poor. He cut their incomes by 21.6%.

Can we imagine what would happen in the House if the government House leader stood up and said that government would introduce a bill that would roll back MPs' wages by 21.6%? It would take weeks to peel the members of Parliament off the ceiling, yet I do not recall the national government or the House having too much to say at all when that was going on in the most populous province of this country.

I understand the constitutional responsibilities here, but my point is that this national House has an obligation. Where were the voices? Where were the new departments? I see my Liberal friend getting a little edgy over there. Where were the Bill C-22s of the day to stop that sort of thing? Where were they?

For that matter, I have to say that a whole lot of people have to take responsibility, because the reality is that due to the dynamics at that time there was hardly any outcry at all. There was hardly a peep because the politics of the day and the dynamics were such that the poor were to blame for their own circumstances. It was their fault. Since it was their fault, it was perfectly okay for the government to cut back their income; that will teach them. That was the feeling at the time.

I point it out not just as a historical civics lesson, but to show the climate in this nation, this very wealthy nation of such privilege, to show that something like that could happen in the most populous province with hardly a peep from anyone. Where were the grandiose speeches then, the speeches condemning a government that would do that? Where were new laws, the Bill C-22s of the day, to step in and ensure that a government could not do that or it would offset it in some way but it would for goodness' sake do something? To just stand back and let the poorest of the poor have their incomes cut by 21.6% is unfathomable but true. It happened.

That is what I thought the resolution of the House 15 years ago was about, about making sure that did not happen and that where we discovered challenges we would do something about them.

I would be a lot happier if we had a bill in front of us that would actually do something concrete for individuals and children who are in poverty. We have not even begun to talk about those who have physical disabilities, psychiatric disabilities and all kinds of other problems where programs and supports that once existed are now gone due to cuts. Boy, that is a whole debate for the House too.

I apologize to members for being as loud as I am, but it is just so frustrating when we know that we can do better. I believe that every member here cares; I really do. It is just a matter of taking that caring and making sure that it translates at least as strongly as some people feel about debt reduction and free trade into thoughts about children in poverty and families in poverty, especially as we are heading into the Christmas season.

We should think about that and recognize that we have an obligation. We have not collectively met that obligation. We have a chance now in a minority government for all of us to pull together. A little bit more than Bill C-22 is what will be needed.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2004 / 4:35 p.m.
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David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join in the debate. As previous government speakers have mentioned, Bill C-22 is pretty much housekeeping. We do not claim to try to characterize it as anything less than that, but it is certainly nothing more.

I spend time on the reality of the work that should be done at the national level to ensure we do not have the kinds of poverty we see in Canada. The bill is about the government's suggestion for a structure to deal with this issue.

I would be far more interested in having the House review the comments of my colleague from Sault Ste. Marie, our social services critic. He gave an outstanding speech, from his heart and from his own experience with his riding. He talked about his experience with food banks. He talked about what he did in the Ontario legislature, when he and I were there together. He fought to ensure that the issue of poverty was on the agenda. He relentlessly made sure no one would forget that children were going hungry. He has carried that passion and commitment over to this place. I am not the least bit surprised that his first formal maiden speech was on that very issue. I urge members to take a moment to review his speech. Then I think members will understand why I make these comments.

I will begin my remarks by acknowledging that in the NDP, and in our predecessor, the CCF, we like to believe our raison d'être is to deal with the issue of inequalities in society. While I will say some things that are similar to colleagues in the Bloc, there may be some parts with which they may some difficulty. We will have questions and answers at which time we can deal with those.

I want to talk about the fact that Tommy Douglas was recently chosen as the Greatest Canadian . He was known as one of the leading voices beyond his lifetime. He spoke up for the average citizen. Unfortunately, for far too many average Canadians, barely existing is far too often the reality for them, particularly children.

I know some people like to stereotype folks who are on social assistance, and we can play all the games we want. They are games and they are untrue. However, we cannot begin to put any kind of an acceptable face on child poverty.

Before I became a member and after, I watched the passions that were aroused around the issue of child pornography, and rightly so. What I and the rest of us in the NDP would like to see is that same kind of passion aroused over the issue of child poverty. Make no mistake, they are both violence against children.

Our country is one of the richest in the world. Parliament has failed in the commitment it made to its own people 15 years ago, almost to the month. The current member for Ottawa Centre, then the member for Oshawa, introduced a motion, which was passed unanimously by the House, to set a national goal of eliminating child poverty. Where are we today? A report by the National Council of Welfare states that the poverty rates among children are going up.

The House, and any member who was there at the time that motion was passed, has a responsibility to eliminate child poverty. This has not happened. Who is accountable? Who is responsible? Who cares?

I hear the Prime Minister of the day talk about his big commitment to goals around the Holy Grail, debt reduction. Fair enough, debt reduction is important. Would someone tell me why debt reduction is a bigger priority than child poverty. The House spoke unanimously to this 15 years ago. It was not just one party or the governing party, the entire House unanimously said that child poverty was a priority. It seems that right after the motion was passed it was filed away.

It seems that right after the motion was passed it was filed away. Members forget about it. They did their nice little motherhood stuff for the day. They all said wonderful things about children. However, the children have been forgotten. What really matters is business. Do not get me wrong. Business is important. Business is the generator of wealth, obviously critical to the future of the country, but it is not the only thing that matters.

I am not proud to raise this, but child poverty is increasing in Hamilton, my home town. Again, in the context of the world, Hamilton is one of the wealthiest entities. Other countries would love to have the economic dynamics of Hamilton. As an example, in Ontario lone female parents between the age of 25 and 49, with young sons age 10 to 12, receive $1,106. The monthly cost of a food basket is $212. I cannot imagine a mother and a son surviving on $212. The average rent is $737. They are left with $157 after they pay for food, assuming that covers food and rent. We wonder why food banks are on the increase and why we have more and more people living on the streets.

How does that fit the national scene? This is where I may get into some problems with my Bloc colleagues. I accept that and I am prepared to deal with it. I have a real problem with the fact that the government provides money to provincial governments for a child benefit and then allows provinces like Ontario, although I do not know about others, to claw it back. That is disgraceful. It was Harris at the time. I do not care whether it is the Tories, Liberals or NDP. The national government has identified the need to support children in poverty through this benefit. It funnels it through the provincial government which has the ability to claw that money back, rendering the positive impact on that family moot.

That is not good enough. The House is the national voice of the country. When something as important as eradicating child poverty over 15 years is unanimously adopted by the House and the government of the day, regardless of political stripe, ponies up some money that is meant to go to those children, no provincial government should have the ability to negate that in any way, shape or form. That is an obligation of the House and of the national government. I am ashamed of the fact that I live in one of the provinces where the government--

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2004 / 4:25 p.m.
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Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to rise and speak in favour of Bill C-22.

The basic purpose of the bill is to formally establish the new Social Development Department, the one that was created last December when the former Department of Human Resources Development was divided into two parts. This division was part of the government's move to strengthen Canada's social foundations.

Bill C-22 is more than a simple piece of housekeeping. By enabling the Social Development Department to obtain legal status, the bill complements the many other ways the government is moving to strengthen Canada's social foundations and to improve the way that government does business with Canadians.

In other words, supporting Bill C-22 means we would be doing more than just giving legal status to a government department. It means that we support the fact that the Government of Canada is committed to serving Canadians in a fair, inclusive and efficient way. It means that by giving this new department a mandate to focus on social development policies and programs, members of the House recognize the importance of social development as one of the key defining features of our country and of the government's concern for individual Canadians.

With this legislation, we are both providing Social Development Canada with an appropriate legal status and we are confirming that we are in accord with the department's mandate.

What is the mandate we are confirming for Social Development Canada? The mandate is straightforward. It is to strengthen Canada's social foundations by promoting social well-being and income security for all Canadians. While the mandate is straightforward, the department's activities in support of this mandate are both many and wide-ranging.

Social development has become the point of convergence for all social policies and programs for children, families and caregivers, persons with disabilities and seniors. The department is also responsible for the voluntary sector. In concrete terms, this new department represents $53 billion at work for Canadians. Most of this money goes out as income support to Canadians themselves, such as seniors, people with disabilities and children.

The new department was also created to provide a centre of expertise on social policy and programs for the benefit of all Canadians. As such, it provides a focal point for social policy development within the Government of Canada.

The objective is to ensure a holistic approach to social policy through this department's relationship with other government departments and agencies, such as, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Health Canada, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Finance Canada, Heritage Canada, Justice Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and the Canada Revenue Agency.

Many of the programs and policies of these other federal government departments can have an impact on the social policy interests of Canadians. The role of Social Development Canada is to work cooperatively with each of them to ensure that common objectives are identified and met.

This new department is also working in areas of shared responsibility with the provinces and territories. In a federal system like ours, where jurisdiction for social development is often shared with our colleagues in the provinces and territories, this particular federal-provincial-territorial liaison function is extremely important. For example, the department will be working with its provincial and territorial counterparts on a plan to establish a new national early learning and child care system. That is just one of the many areas of federal-provincial-territorial cooperation in which the Minister of Social Development and his department are engaged.

They are also working closely with representatives of stakeholder communities. These include child care experts, representatives of persons with disabilities, representatives of seniors and seniors organizations, and many other groups who from time to time need our attention and support.

All this activity can be rolled up into one statement which defines the goal of Social Development Canada. That goal is to ensure the social expectations of Canadians are understood and can be translated into policies, programs, and agreements that meet individual needs while respecting national objectives.

To put it in concrete terms, the new department is working in a number of ways to ensure key social objectives are met. Among these objectives are: continuing income security for seniors; helping people with disabilities to participate fully in Canadian society; re-enforcing the need for children to have the best possible start in life; and supporting the roles and activities of the voluntary and not for profit sectors in our society.

The bill would ensure that we could accomplish these objectives under an organizational structure that would provide integrated policy development and program delivery in a cost effective way. Indeed the two departments, that is Social Development Canada and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, have been designed in a way that minimize disruption and ensures that Canadians continue to receive a seamless, single window service.

There are some specific ways the new Department of Social Development is already hard at work to meet its mandate. By bringing together income security and other social programs for seniors, families and children and persons with disabilities under one roof, the department is providing a focal point for social policy at the federal level. By supporting the work of the Minister of Social Development and the Minister of State for Families and Caregivers and their work with stakeholders, the department is addressing major social issues affecting Canadians, including child care, early childhood development and approaches to ensure the active participation and dignity of seniors and Canadians with disabilities.

Social Development Canada is working to deliver the programs and services that Canadians have come to expect from their federal government. The bill would ensure that the department and its 12,000 employees across the country could continue to deliver all these needed programs and services.

I am proud to stand here in support of the bill, and I encourage all members of the House to join me in supporting it.