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.

Sponsor

Ken Dryden  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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.

Elsewhere

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 Social Development ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2004 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity, on behalf of the New Democratic Party, to speak to Bill C-22, regarding the new social development bureaucracy and the new ministry of social development. I note with interest that our critic for this area recommends that we support the bill at this stage because we support the idea of restructuring HRDC into two separate entities.

We were always critical that HRDC was too much. It was a mega portfolio, a massive undertaking, that was clearly too big for any one minister to manage. The issues and subject matter being dealt with were overwhelmingly difficult to manage, especially when we looked at the type of issues with which it had to deal.

I note the new Minister of Social Development deals with issues such as the Canada pension plan, the old age security program and the guaranteed income supplement. I hope, in a broader context, the new Minister of Social Development would not simply administer programs, but would help guide the government in a new national objective, a new set of priorities, regarding social development so we could think outside the box and dare to dream of elevating the standards of living conditions for all Canadians in measurable ways and then put in place a yardstick to measure that progress.

I take no pleasure in pointing out that the campaign 2000 was recently on Parliament Hill reminding us that over one million Canadian children live in poverty, in what one could argue is the wealthiest and most successful democracy in the free world.

Clearly, our priorities have been skewed or our interests have been diverted and we have not paid enough attention to the area of social development. We should be measuring the progress of the country not by the monuments and structures in our cities and not by our GDP, but by the quality of life of Canadians. Maybe the Minister of Social Development could be seized with that issue as a national priority.

My riding of Winnipeg Centre is the third poorest riding in Canada. Some people do not realize that, and I take no pleasure in pointing that out either. Of all the families in my riding, 47% of them live below the poverty line and 52% of all the children. I raise this with a matter of great urgency, especially in this era of cutbacks. The cutbacks have come from social programs. Granted we have paid off the deficit, but we have left an enormous social deficit in its wake. I can testify to that on a day to day basis. I deal with this reality every day.

We went through an era of the 1990s, which was a record profit era for Bay Street, Wall Street, the banks and corporations and record era of cutbacks in social spending. The predictable consequences are record numbers of poor kids in my riding and all the predictable outfall of that. Somehow we have been derailed.

I am a socialist, granted, so maybe I am jaded and biased in this regard. I have a theory that the big money has controlled things in Ottawa for so long that all of our bills, laws and legislation are geared to look after the interests of big money, and everyone else has been forgotten. I can point to the social conditions in my riding as evidence of that.

I do not think it is by neglect or innocent oversight that we have allowed these circumstances to overwhelm certain regions. I point to the guaranteed income supplement as an example. My colleague from the Bloc Québécois pointed this out, quite rightly. I do not care how busy the Minister of HRDC has been in recent years. What the Liberals did in the administration of the guaranteed income supplement was nothing short of cruel. They knew full well that hundreds of thousands of Canadian seniors were eligible for the supplement, but they did not get it.

They knew this because of the income tax records of those Canadians. They knew full well that these Canadians, by virtue of the amount of money they earned from other sources, were eligible for this payment, but they took no steps to advise them of that. We had seniors living in abject poverty when they could have been receiving another $500 a month. There is a natural justice issue here. These people had a right to know. Then when we called attention to this, they used the guise of the Privacy Act. They said that it would be a violation of a senior citizen's privacy, if Revenue Canada told HRDC that the person was eligible for this benefit

I do not think seniors would complain if somebody advised them that they were eligible for another $300 to $500 a month when their income has to be lower than $12,000 a year to be eligible. These are poorest of the poor, yet the government hid behind the guise of the Privacy Act so it did not have to give these seniors the benefits they were due. That did not happen because the Minister of HRDC was too busy and seized with other issues. That happened as a conscious choice of the government trying to pay down the deficit on the backs of the most vulnerable people in society. It is reprehensible, and I condemn the government in the strongest possible terms for that.

An added irony to this is the Privacy Act does not seem to apply if a person who is collecting EI benefit crosses the border for a day. Let us say from my home town of Winnipeg, a person on EI crosses the border to buy some jeans in Fargo, North Dakota and comes back through the border. The border customs agent turns him or her in to employment insurance officers saying that the individual is on EI and is supposed to look for work all day, every day, not driving across the border to shop.

Somehow it is not a violation of people's privacy to rat them out because they took an afternoon drive, but it is an invasion of privacy to advise senior citizens that they are eligible for a $500 a month guaranteed income supplement premium. What kind of pretzel logic is that? That is what I mean when I said that some of these policies bordered on cruelty. They certainly were not designed in the best interests of Canadians. I do not know in whose interests they were designed, but it was not to benefit us to the maximum.

I would point out another thing. The government has paid down the deficit on the EI surplus. There is no secret there. The Auditor General reminds us of it all the time. We went through riding by riding across country. When I say “we”, we hired professional pollsters to do this. They analyzed the impact, riding for riding. In my riding of Winnipeg Centre, the third poorest riding in the country, the cutbacks to EI alone cost $20.8 million a year. For people who were already at the margin, if not poor, this pushed a lot of people from the edge of being working poor to unemployed to abject poverty.

Imagine what we would do if we could attract an industry into our ridings that had a $20.8 million payroll. We would pave the streets with gold to attract businesses like that to our ridings. Those guys in the government cut that payroll out of my riding with one stroke of the pen, when they changed the EI provisions to where nobody qualified any more. No wonder there is a surplus in EI. Nobody qualifies any more. We have to pay in, but we cannot pull out. The government paid down the debt on the back of that surplus.

The other thing on which the government paid down the debt was the $30 billion cut from the Canada health and social transfers. Where did it get the remaining $30 billion? At the time I did this math, there was a $30 billion surplus in the EI fund and the government announced a $100 billion tax cut. A further $30 billion came from the public sector pension plan. People forget there was a huge surplus in that pension plan. It was built up largely because the government let go or fired a third of the Canada public service during those cutback years.

Rather than negotiate some sharing mechanism with the beneficiaries of the plan or simply admit that this was the employees' money, part of their wages and therefore their benefits should go up, the government took it all. The last act of Marcel Masse, when he was president of the Treasury Board, was to force, through closure, a bill through the House which gave the government the right to grab all $30 billion out of the public service pension plan surplus, call it the property of the Government of Canada and put it into the general revenue.

It is no secret that it did not take any good money management skills to pay down the debt and deficit. The government took it out of EI from unemployed workers, the most vulnerable people in the economic force. It took it out of guaranteed income supplement payments to low income seniors. It took it out of the public service employees pension plan.

That is the paucity of social development standards that we see in the previous government.

When I rose today to say I support Bill C-22, I support having a minister perhaps responsible for social development. However, I can serve notice right now that we will be holding the government to a standard. We will have our own yardstick by which we will measure progress and that measurement will be this. Will there be less poor kids in my riding? Will anything we do in the House ever elevate the standards of poverty and living conditions of the people in my riding?

The last thing I would point out is the face of poverty in my riding is by and large native. I can say without any hesitation and without any fear of contradiction, the overwhelming majority of the people living in poverty, and true abject poverty by anyone's definition, are off reserve aboriginal people who flock to the city in the hope of finding some measure of opportunity. In many cases they go from the days drudgery in their reserve to the inner city of Winnipeg. Desperation is what they find when they arrive. There is no social services network really left. There is a mere shadow of what it used to be when we used to talk about the just society. We used to say that the number one priority of Parliament and of government was to elevate the standards of living conditions of its people. That seems to have been lost in the shuffle.

Therefore, we had a decade of record profits in businesses and corporations and a decade of cutting, hacking and slashing. What happened to the post-war labour compact? Perhaps our new Minister of Social Development would like to talk about that when the department gets up and running.

In the post-war years, there was a deal, a tacit agreement with labour that when productivity went up and when profits went up, workers' wages were supposed to go up, thereby creating a burgeoning middle class, thereby having a healthy economy. That was thrown by the wayside. Somehow the Liberals decided they did not need to live up to their end of the bargain anymore. Now record profits do not justify any sharing with employees. In fact, it justifies in their mind a screwing down of standards and labour laws and a reduction in the rate of unionization, the only effective tool for elevating the living conditions of most working people, with free collective bargaining.

I am anxious to speak to our new Minister of Social Development when the new bureaucracy is fully engaged and up and running. These are glaring shortcomings and oversights that we take note of on this side of the House.

I have already said that in my riding, 47% of all the families live below the poverty line. Overwhelmingly the face of poverty is native. The National Association of Friendship Centres is struggling to try to cope with servicing the needs of aboriginal people in the communities in Quebec and in other provinces in Canada.

We have been visited by the National Association of Friendship Centres. It has said that it exists as a national chain of institutions. It is already up and running. It is a structure that could deliver some of these services to non-status, off reserve and Métis people who are floundering in the inner cities, needing assistance to get into the mainstream economy, whether it is life skills training of access to adequate housing, et cetera. Many of these services could be delivered through the Association of Friendship Centres were there the political will to do so.

Rather than set up any new bureaucracy and try to invent new institutions to deliver services to low income aboriginal people in the inner city of all of our major cities, I urge the new minister to forge a relationship with the National Association of Friendship Centres. It might form some kind of a service delivery contract, single window operation to reach out to people.

In closing, we expect the new Department of Social Development and the new Minister of Social Development to set targets for social indications of progress in the same way that the government set targets to eliminate the deficit and tackle the debt. We want to see new targets and a new yardstick to measure progress which results in less kids living in poverty and a better standard of living in our inner cities. That is something that we could be proud of as members of Parliament if we use that as our indication of progress as Canadians.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2004 / 10:50 a.m.
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Liberal

Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, this legislation is important because it reflects some of our most deeply held values: the belief, for instance, that all Canadians deserve a chance to live rich and rewarding lives, and the genuine concern that our communities express for our most vulnerable members, including children, seniors and people with disabilities.

Bill C-22, which would create the Department of Social Development Canada, is a vehicle through which we can achieve a most worthy goal: to help Canadians translate their ideals into meaningful and effective actions on behalf of the society we all share.

The bill would give legal effect to a transformation that began last December when the former Human Resources Development Canada department was split into two departments, including this new Department of Social Development Canada. Building on the many highly successful programs and services long delivered by HRDC, Social Development Canada intends to become a centre of expertise in social policy and programs which will ensure that Canada maintains and indeed surpasses our global reputation as a caring nation.

The mandate of the new SDC is to secure and strengthen Canada's social foundations while respecting the jurisdictions of all levels of government. Its vision is to create a country where everyone plays an active role.

To strengthen Canada's social foundations, SDC will work with its partners to promote the social well-being of and income security for Canadians. In concrete terms, Social Development Canada will focus on the social needs of Canadians, whether that be through income security or other types of programs and services. While all Canadians stand to benefit equally, the department will have a particular focus on children, people with disabilities, seniors, families and caregivers, and the voluntary and not for profit sector.

Let me emphasize that Social Development Canada is hardly alone in this. Indeed, in pursuit of its mission, it is working closely with other federal departments and other levels of government and is actively engaged with non-governmental organizations and communities.

I would also underscore that the legislation before us casts nothing in stone. As proposed, the department would be a living, breathing entity ready to respond to our needs and evolve along with them. In the next few minutes, permit me to outline some of the new department's key priorities.

Let us begin with children, our most vulnerable resource. As you know, Mr. Speaker, my government is committed to ensuring that every child has an opportunity to attain his or her own potential. With our partners, the Government of Canada is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to support families with children. Since 1998 a cornerstone of this strategy has been the successful national child benefit, a flexible tax relief program that helped lift 55,000 children out of poverty in the first two years alone.

All children, no matter what their circumstances, deserve an opportunity to learn and develop even before they reach school age. That is why the Speech from the Throne observed that the time has come for a truly national system of early learning and child care, a system based on the four key principles of quality, universality, accessibility and development.

I also believe that it should be a publicly administered and not for profit system and that these objectives need to be entrenched in a legislative framework. That way, each province and territory will be able to address its own particular needs within the national framework. There is broad consensus that affordable and accessible child care is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity for Canadian working families, whether headed by one parent or two. We therefore want to work with our partners to respond to this reality. My government will also be investing $5 billion toward the reality of this program over the next five years.

Persons with disabilities are another priority for SDC. We are working to level the playing field for people with disabilities to ensure that Canadians with disabilities have the same chances others do to achieve and succeed in our country. We recognize that they have abilities that differ from others and we want to support them in achieving their full potential.

Social Development Canada delivers Canada pension plan benefits for people with disabilities, along with programs such as the opportunities fund. Under the new labour market agreements for persons with disabilities, the Government of Canada contributes funding to provinces for programs and services to promote the full participation of Canadians with disabilities in the labour market.

With respect to seniors, our focus is on active living. We provide seniors with the support they need to be active participants in their communities. Again, Social Development Canada has programs to achieve that purpose. Nearly five million Canadians receive benefits through the Canada pension plan and the old age security program. Many more are helped out of poverty through the guaranteed income supplement, which my government has already promised to increase by up to $400 for a single person and up to $700 for a couple.

I am particularly enthusiastic about another program spearheaded by Social Development Canada. Known as New Horizons for Seniors, it will work with partners to develop activities that keep seniors fully engaged in their communities.

Canadians have also told us that providing support to families and family caregivers needs to be a priority of the Government of Canada. Indeed, family caregiving is a growing issue as more and more Canadians enter the “sandwich generation”, those with the dual role of raising their children while being an informal caregiver to an aging parent or a person with a disability.

The Government of Canada recognizes the vital role of Canadians who care for aged or infirm relatives or those with severe disabilities and is committed to helping people better balance work and family responsibilities, and it recognizes the important contribution of caregivers in Canadian society. That is why the government will be investing $1 billion in the family caregiver program.

The social economy is a venerable tradition in Canadian communities. We think of co-operatives, credit unions, community economic development associations and a lot of non-profit groups. Canada's not for profit organizations, community groups and volunteers are major partners in building strong and resilient communities. They fill a growing and very real need in Canadian society.

That is why SDC is an enthusiastic supporter of the social development partnerships program and the voluntary sector initiative, measures that reach out to the more than 161,000 not for profit organizations and six million volunteers who work so selflessly to strengthen the social fabric of Canada.

In all of its programs, SDC believes it is crucial to work with partners: the provinces and territories, of course, the municipalities, not for profit groups and agencies, and the voluntary and not for profit sector. This collaborative approach recognizes that many social programs are shared jurisdictions. It also increases capacity throughout the community in both the private and the voluntary and not for profit sector

I am pleased to support the bill.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

November 25th, 2004 / 3 p.m.
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Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon we will continue with the opposition motion. Tomorrow we hope to complete third reading of Bill C-7, respecting parks second reading of Bill C-22, the social development legislation, and second reading of Bill C-9, the Quebec economic development bill.

Next week we will give priority to second reading of Bill C-24, the equalization legislation. We also will try to complete any business left over from this week.

When bills come back from the Senate or committee, as the case may be, we will add them to the list. Hopefully this will include Bill S-17 respecting tax treaties and Bill C-5, the learning bonds bill. By the end of the week, we hope to be able to proceed with Bills C-25, the radarsat bill, and Bill C-26, the border services bill.

Next Thursday shall be an allotted day.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2004 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Paul Forseth Conservative New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government is proposing Bill C-22, an act to establish the Department of Social Development and to amend and repeal certain related acts.

The bill establishes the Department of Social Development, over which presides the Minister of Social Development. This new law also sets out the minister's powers, duties and functions. It deals with rules for the protection and for the providing of personal information obtained under departmental programs, other than those governed by similar codes found in the Canada pension plan and in the Old Age Security Act.

We have a new department, Social Development Canada, with hopefully a clear focus. The government went ahead and split the old HRDC ministry into two parts through orders in council. Now it expects Parliament to approve such a reorganization. The bureaucrats and their weak follower Liberal ministers seem to forget that government may propose, but it is Parliament as a separate entity that must finally vote the appropriations and approve the legislation.

We are now doing this bill after the fact. In a way, it is like institutional blackmail. Much effort, money and human capital has already been expended in advance of implementation and that puts unreasonable pressure on parliamentarians just to go along. It is a fait accompli. It is a done deal.

The point is, we must never forget that Parliament is not the government, but it is where the government must come to obtain permission to tax and spend the people's money and to get its legislation approved and passed. The government should be more careful about spending money for which it has no parliamentary approval. It should also be more respectful of Parliament as it attempts to administer in ways that Parliament has not yet approved. Although it is not an absolute model in every case, the record of the Liberals is, in general, they have shown this kind of disregard for the House in the past. They have done it in the past. The present situation with this bill is just one more example.

The ministry has taken on the role, under its name Social Development Canada, to attempt to reflect the understandings of Canadians about a caring society. Some of the responsibility of the new ministry is for people with disabilities. It also has children, seniors and the voluntary sector, all of which have direct links to the disability community. Canadians want people to have a chance to live a full and challenging life. It is up to us as Canadians to see how we are doing against our own ideals and to work with both formal and informal entities to bring us closer to meeting our own idealism.

Historically, the federal government has done better in the area of employment. These joint labour market agreements, which it has signed with the provinces and territories, have acted as a springboard to success in other areas. However, I still think we need to achieve consensus on the best mix of programs and supports and the right balance among employment, income, disability supports, areas that we will need to continue to work on together in the years ahead.

In this regard, I do not think the Liberals have any great new ideas. They just seem to be floundering. They know they have to be doing something. Canadians want it, but they are not quite sure what it should be, so they pick on departmental reorganization. At least there will be some impression of progress and movement.

There is work, however, internationally which Canada has done, such as in New York at the United Nations where officials from Canadian social development negotiated a new UN convention to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. These are efforts to set standards, generate expectations and encourage action. Let us hope that the national pride will cause other nations to try and better the other about their social safety net, so there is a gentle competition internationally, which sets the bar higher for everyone, and then we can all be better off.

Back within Canada, we need to work on provincial and territorial governments to determine the next steps in advancing the disability agenda. Some good things have happened in the past, but there has been much missed opportunity. Many resources have been wasted that could have done so much good if it had not been misspent by the Liberals.

We have to look to the future. Where can we be? How can we get there? What are our real priorities? We need to think about that and then envision it, see it in our minds. If we cannot imagine and ask why not, we will never move ahead. We need to work to develop a comprehensive disabilities agenda for Canadians.

I do not think anything can ever go far enough or fast enough for someone who has a serious need. Disability issues are a public priority. They also must become a government priority. The challenge is then for governments at all levels, for the charitable and non-profit groups, to create the chances and openings for those who need help and develop and learn so all can be players in life, where no one is left behind.

Now the Department of Social Development, this new entity, is now mandated with helping to secure and strengthen Canada's social foundation. It is to do this by helping families with children, supporting people with disabilities and ensuring that seniors can fully participate in their communities.

The federal level provides the policies, services and programs for Canadians who need assistance in overcoming the challenges they encounter in their lives and their communities. This includes income security programs, such as the basic Canada pension plan. I also hope social development will always be client-centred in its organization, and that is the point I tried to make earlier to the parliamentary secretary, committed to continually improving service delivery to Canadians.

Its vision statement says, “A Canada for all, where everyone participates and plays an active role”. The mission is said to be to strengthen Canada's social foundations by supporting the well-being of individuals, families and communities, and their participation through citizen-focused policies, programs and service. I believe that can be achieved by reducing barriers and facilitating access to opportunities, investing in people and strengthening communities, delivering seamless, innovative and responsive service, both internally and externally, working with federal partners and other governments and communities, supporting our employees and serving Canadians with integrity and commitment. Those are lofty goals for a government not known for either great efficiency or practical compassion.

The Minister of Social Development, the member for York Centre, and the Minister of State for Families and Caregivers, the member for Trinity--Spadina, both have a great task, but also an opportunity to do good things for the country. The deputy minister, Nicole Jauvin, seems capable and we wish her well. She was formerly the deputy solicitor general of Canada. Also the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Social Development, the member for Ahuntsik, should be a great help to keep things on track.

Their program responsibilities are really valued by the average Canadian. They count on it. They include income security programs, such as the Canada pension plan, old age security, guaranteed income supplement, international benefits, help for person with disabilities, the Canada pension plan disability program and the social development partnerships program, as well as voluntary initiatives. The list goes on. They are really valuable. They are very important.

It has been said that while the regulatory system we currently have in Canada has served us well at times, it was largely developed for an industrial economy, a different age. Canada now needs a 21st century regulatory approach that reflects the values of Canadians, the realities of the knowledge economy and changing market imperatives. At the beginning of the 21st century, countries are examining the effectiveness of their social architectures. They need to respond to the new social risks related to changes in family structure, aging population and the changing labour market.

Canada's social architecture was designed to respond to social risks facing the population as a whole. Unfortunately, we will always have people in need, although the context may change. Today, new social risks intersect an increasingly diverse Canadian population and a political environment in which the roles of different levels of government are shifting. They raise challenges for designing a new social architecture for Canada, challenges that arise in a country defined by diversity.

Some of the questions we need to look at include these. What varied risks do Canadians face in today's labour market and how do they shape the choices that Canadians make? Are new family structures creating challenges for Canadian families? What are the current risks of social exclusion in Canada? Are we by accident developing new elites in unforeseen and undesirable social stratification because of the limits upon education training? The world is changing and so are Canadians. Will our political and social institutions be adequate for the emerging social architecture?

We do get some help from various organizations, such as the Canadian Policy Research Networks and the Canadian Council on Social Development. We need to engage Canadians from all sectors of society to have an exchange of views where everyone is respected and not discounted in advance by the traditional insiders and the power holders. Of course we need the opinions of social science researchers and policy-maker, social policy stakeholders, members of the voluntary sector and every concerned citizen. Change begins with the recognition that a problem exists.

The government claims that it recognizes the challenges and the responsibility to serve Canadians. I wish it well, as it ensures and delivers measurable improvements for those at the extremities of services. May it never forget whom it does all this for and why we strive to do what we do.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2004 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Carol Skelton Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today to Bill C-22, otherwise known as an act to establish the Department of Social Development.

Many of my constituents know the programs that fell under the old Human Resources Development Canada, or the HRDC department.

While it is tempting to speak to the mismanagement and boondoggles of the old department, I will spend my time today looking to the future.

At the time I was heavily involved with the human resources parliamentary committee and was witness to the fact that institutional changes would be required to fix many problems within the department. While the case was never really made to me that a full division, split and overhaul of the department was needed, there was no question that we could not afford a repeat of the boondoggles of the past. However, that being said, I am not sure this legislation prevents that either.

Normally departments are merged to save money, so one can only assume that splitting this department will cost taxpayers unnecessarily. During our briefing on this legislation this question was asked but not answered. Perhaps the government has an answer now. How much will these changes cost in addition to what we had before?

Unfortunately the Liberal government started the split long before it brought the bill to Parliament. In effect, it put the cart before the horse.

If I were to oppose the legislation, the cost of reversing the changes already made would likely cost more than the costs just to finish what it started. In effect, the Liberal government has failed to consult with Parliament on the change to HRDC and the creation of the Department of Social Development due to the fact that it is already too late to change course.

The Prime Minister has failed again to provide Parliament with an opportunity to become more involved and more relevant to the democratic process. Rather than consult us before, we are simply treated as a rubber stamp. This is unacceptable, not just because it silences members of the House, but it makes the people we represent irrelevant.

Luckily, not everything about the legislation is flawed or unnecessary. I am pleased to see that there is a significant amount of attention being paid to the protection and security of personal information. Identity theft is a growing problem in Canada and the developed world. Those least able to serve themselves or fund the legal hassles of identity theft are often the clients of this new department. They are counting on us to protect their information for them.

As an MP from Saskatchewan, I remember quite well the fear and uncertainty surrounding the accidental release of personal banking and financial information on an old computer. People watched their accounts like hawks, fearful of seeing their life savings disappear. As far as I know, there were no major problems as a result of the oversight, but it could have been disastrous for many families.

I do support the increased privacy protections in the bill. I only ask that the government monitor the situation to ensure that tougher standards are implemented as soon as the need arises. Our disabled, our challenged and low income Canadians are counting on us to protect them.

This brings me to my next point. I am also in support of the one stop shop concept for service delivery. The average Canadian is too busy to follow the jurisdictional complexities of the federal government. All they want is a single point of service to which they can go for programs that they need.

I would like to take a moment to let Canadians know of an important website that will assist them in assessing any benefits to which they may be entitled. The website lists almost every federal and provincial program there is. To make it easier to determine what applies to someone, there is a user-friendly feature. All someone has to do is answer about a dozen questions and then the computer will short list the programs. Everyone should get a pen because I will give the address in a second.

Before I do that, I want to stress that the website overcomes one of the most common complaints I get from those in need. They complain that it is too difficult to find, apply for, and access programs that already exist. The website can be found through a link on my website at carolskelton.ca or it can be accessed directly at canadabenefits.ca.

The government has a record of taxing the poor but not making it easy for them to get back that hard-earned money. Hopefully this website and the single service point delivery system will change this.

This new department has a massive mandate that is guaranteed to touch every single Canadian at some point in their lives.

Whether it is seniors, children, families, the disabled, volunteers or participants in the social economy, the new Department of Social Development will have an impact on them and most likely us. Even if we do not need to turn to the government for assistance, our pension plans will be administered by that department.

As always, I do have some serious concerns that a department this large could quickly balloon out of control for the government. I am concerned that such a large ministry will be sidetracked by a new, large social initiative. It will take the efforts of MPs, Canadians and especially Social Development employees to ensure that these radical structural changes do not fall off the rails and cost us billions.

Every dollar the government wastes on a new program is a dollar lost to a program that is already in place and often underfunded. As I said before, I hope the government stays on top of the costs associated with this change to ensure that they do not get out of hand.

The bill also contains many legal and housekeeping amendments to ensure that it complies with existing legislation. This is good but it also highlights and brings me back to one of my earlier concerns. The new department was born from the split of HRDC into Social Development and HRSDC. The minister and his staff have taken great steps to point out to me the cooperation and interconnecting relationship between the two new departments. Where I come from, that sounds like duplication and overlap.

As I said before, single points of service delivery are good but I am still not sure these changes are the most appropriate.

I look forward to the minister perhaps clarifying some of the reasons that the old department could not do what the new ones can and also how much it will save Canadians. I suspect the savings do not exist. I cannot see how a new letterhead, computer systems, websites and the like save money. In fact, the departments already carry lots of overlap and duplication of information on both the SD and the HRSDC websites. Yet again, it begs a simple question of why a single department does not make sense.

I will let the government come up with a creative answer for that.

My colleagues will speak about these issues too. They share the same concerns as I for Canadians in need. The government needs to ensure timely and properly supported services to those under duress. When someone walks into our MP offices asking for help, they often do so as the last resort. They do not want hassles, delays and excuses. They want help.

I just hope all this bureaucratic reorganization actually changes the problems experienced at this level at reasonable cost. The Liberal government's experience has indicated otherwise.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2004 / 3:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos Liberal Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I ask what relevance the hon. member's question has to what we were discussing today, Bill C-22.

On the question of autism, it is health in fact that is responsible for that program and not social development, just to give the minister a heads up. Also in terms of the credentials, it is citizenship and immigration that is responsible and human resources and skills development.

To go back to Bill C-22, I think if the hon. member took the time to read about the quality of the programs that are available, as I said, in terms of age zero until death, that is what social development is all about. It is about helping Canadians from birth to death in terms of meeting some of their income support and also ensuring there is some system in place for them to be able to work in the workplace and at the same time raise their children and have facilities available for them.

Those are the types of issues that Social Development Canada in fact is responsible for.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2004 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, what we are really discussing here is people. That is why I want to address a number of important questions that affect real people in my riding as they relate to this sort of legislation

For example, I would like to hear what the hon. member thinks about the way in which people with dystonia are treated in this country. It is a debilitating disease and it is one about which there is not a lot of public knowledge. We learned this week that people will not be covered through public health insurance when seeking treatment for their children who are suffering with autism, an equally debilitating condition.

We have heard from the immigrant communities in our country that they are suffering with the reality that their foreign credentials are not being recognized by the government.

While the government has put its members forward today to defend its record and promote its legislation, Bill C-22, I wonder if the government could expound upon its commitment to these sorts of issues that affect real people, people who are suffering from diseases like dystonia, children who are not covered for their autism treatment, or in another area not related to health so much, immigrants whose very hard-earned foreign credentials are not recognized here in Canada. Perhaps the hon. member would like to comment.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2004 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Ahuntsic Québec

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Social Development (Social Economy)

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are blessed to be citizens of this extraordinary country, a nation that is considered the envy of the world. Few countries compare in offering their citizens such a high standard of living and quality of life.

Canadians are justifiably proud of our social programs, which are an enduring source of our pride and identity.

You may look at almost all the indicators, whether they are economic or social, and it will be obvious that we are world leaders. Most surprisingly, Canada is achieving such powerful social results with relatively modest, although effective, spending in our social programs.

Despite this pleasing picture, everyone in the House knows that not all of our constituents see themselves reflected in it. Not everyone shares equally in our country's bounty and that is unacceptable, both to people whose lives fall short of their potential and for Canadians as a whole.

A new partnership for Canada is what we are proposing in Bill C-22. Canada must be grounded in what Canada and Canadians stand for: shared community, equality and justice, respect for diversity, and mutual responsibility.

Canadians want governments to accommodate their needs and priorities, not the other way around. Canadians want to be part of decisions that affect them. We need to shed the straightjacket of traditional policy responses and stop pigeon-holing people into categories: families, seniors, aboriginal peoples, Canadians with disabilities, students and so on.

We all belong to different groups. The challenge for policy-makers is to look behind the labels to the real lives of real people and at how our policies help individuals and how they can provide even more support in the future.

We face significant challenges to our quality of life. Many of these are not new. Poverty persists in Canada. Over 11% of Canadian children and 25% of Canadians with disabilities are poor. No one on either side of this House is proud of that record.

Exclusion from the economic and social mainstream is a daily reality for too many Canadians, especially people with disabilities, lone parents, recent immigrants, aboriginal Canadians, and middle-aged, unattached individuals. Our aging society presents another set of challenges.

Communities are increasingly called upon to resolve complex social problems but often lack the tools that they need.

We need to work hard to restore Canadians' faith in our government. They are frustrated by uncoordinated, incoherent programs. Canadians want to know that the programs they value will be secure and will adapt to their evolving personal circumstances.

Our government recognizes that we need to start doing social policy differently in Canada.

Young parents wanted to have more choice in deciding what their needs were concerning the education and care of young children. Baby boomers caught in the sandwich generation, as we say, want more options when it comes to their responsibilities as caregivers. All working parents need flexibility and better support to achieve the balance between work and personal life that is essential to the health and welfare of children. This is a challenge that I had to face when I was elected and I had two young children.

This is why we have introduced, among other things, a parental leave program to give this chance to parents who were choosing to stay longer with their young children.

Canadians expect that seniors have more opportunities to continue to contribute to the economy and the community. For many of them, this means benefiting from income security, so that even the most vulnerable are able to lead their life in comfort and dignity.

A growing number of people believe that this may also mean that we give people the option of working longer. My father has decided to work for a long time; he is 75 years old and he continues to work part time.

Some people like to take time away from the workforce in the middle of life to attend to family issues, such as caregivers, for instance, or pursue lifelong learning or whatever life choices they make. Still other Canadians are seeking access to inclusive work places that make room for the skills and talents of all kinds of Canadians who are frequently excluded. As I said earlier, they are aboriginal people, recent immigrants and people with disabilities. They need more than income support to make that happen.

The many Canadians doing their part to address society's challenges, the millions of volunteers, for example, and community organizations providing services at the grassroots level, want more recognition for their contributions and the chance to do even more.

One of the most promising new vehicles is the social economy, for which I have been given responsibility by the Prime Minister. I am very pleased about having this responsibility although many people ask me what the social economy is. I have told people that it is one way of taking disadvantaged groups in society out of dependency on the state into the economy. That is the best definition I have heard.

Social entrepreneurs, who are all over Canada and are doing very creative and innovative things in terms of citizen engagement, take an alternative approach to achieving the same social goals as others in the sector. They provide goods and services that make a profit, but then they plow those profits back into addressing the needs of the most vulnerable in the community. They are our biggest partners, in my opinion. Their efforts are a complement to and not a replacement of the work of volunteer and non-profit groups.

A new social partnership will position us to implement bold new approaches, including establishing a national framework for the social economy, to address some of these concerns. Any new vision for addressing social development challenges cannot be defined by us alone. We must establish and maintain four essential partnerships based on consultation, collaboration and engagement: with Parliament and all parliamentarians, with the stakeholders, with other governments and with Canadians at large.

Why do we have Social Development Canada? Canadians want social policy that reflects the full complexity of this new reality that I just enunciated in my previous remarks. That is what Social Development Canada is all about. This new portfolio was created to be a more nimble organization that can respond more effectively to the needs and aspirations of Canadians. Its purpose is to help ensure that the benefits of Canadian citizenship are shared by all. Let us not forget that it was a committee of this House that first proposed the splitting up of the two departments into human resources and skills and social development.

What I have just described is the way we now define social development. Social well-being, citizenship and equality of opportunity exist only when citizens can take advantage of our education, health and judicial systems, community organizations, the job market and government programs they may require. We talk a lot about inclusion, but it only really happens when everyone enjoys that sense of belonging, when every Canadian has access to the necessary skills, goods and services, money and social supports that assure them a decent standard of living and good quality of life.

Our sense of social well-being reflects not only how we feel about ourselves but also how we feel about our families, our communities and our country. The creation of our new department is an acknowledgement of that. For all of our successes as a society, and they are many, we need to do more to reduce poverty, as I said earlier, tackle exclusion and enable Canadians to take greater control over their individual life choices and to build the stronger communities and the national systems in areas such as early learning and child care that are among the best in the world.

A strong and enabling society is not about a single sector. It is about all the factors that contribute to social growth coming together: a sound fiscal situation, good health and education systems, a strong economy, a labour market that works, quality social programs that meet the needs of Canadians, and the individual efforts of people across all sectors working together for the common good. It is about the individual decisions we make and the collective actions we take to prevent problems from arising.

It is about everything we do in every federal department, from investing in our children to the health care system, skills development and the tax system that redistributes income to meet the basic needs of individuals. Every other level of government is involved, not just ours. Federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments all do their best to improve the quality of life of Canadians. More than ever we must work together.

Creating a strong, enabling society also requires the input and support of academics and the research community, think tanks, industry, labour, the non-profit sector and everything that falls in between in the social economy.

Doing things differently in social policy means understanding our limitations. We simply cannot be all things to all people anymore than we can develop a one size fits all policy that meets Canadians' expectations in the 21st century.

That is the basis of Social Development Canada's approach to strengthening Canada's social foundations. At Social Development Canada, we are focusing on the areas where we can make the greatest contribution. We are also bringing together all the other parties with a role in social development. Working jointly on our shared social agenda, we can take a more cohesive, integrated approach to social development that is linked to the real lives and expectations of Canadians.

One of the most important things we do at Social Development Canada is provide the knowledge required to inform sound policy development to allow Canadians to judge whether Canadian society is meeting its social objectives.

Once we know what it takes to effectively support the well-being of individuals, families and communities, we develop more citizen focused policies, programs and services within our areas of responsibility that better respond to the requirements of Canadians in our fast changing world.

This takes us to our second area of activity, the most significant from a budgetary standpoint, that of reducing the risks of exclusion and isolation by providing income security for the populations we serve. We look at the levers at our disposal, such as the national child benefit, the Canada pension plan and all the other pension plans for those who are disabled and others, and then determine how we can leverage the policies and programs of other departments, both social and economic, as well as the work underway at the provincial, territorial and community levels, to enable people at risk to achieve their full potential.

We try to connect the dots by showing, for instance, that by addressing child poverty and providing families with quality daycare we give parents the opportunity to go back to school and acquire new skills to become employable. In many cases these families are headed by a single parent, a native parent, a member of a visible minority or a handicapped person, in short, people who are at a higher risk of exclusion.

By helping parents achieve their potential through various programs, we will also help to ensure their children get off to a good start. We are making linkages between ensuring people with disabilities get adequate financial and other assistive supports they need and their ability to move into the mainstream so they can help to address some of the skills and labour supply shortages being experienced by some employers.

By giving working age Canadians the option of taking time mid-career to care for elderly relatives may mean that they will choose to work longer than the current retirement age.

By resolving the work and life balance question, we can reduce income issues for seniors. We are trying to ensure that Canadians will not be penalized for whatever life choices they make.

In conclusion, I will say that we are at our most efficient when we play the role of facilitator, bringing together all the pieces and various players to see how what we do, or do not do, has an influence on the situation as a whole, how the social policy choices we make today will influence our collective quality of life and standard of living in the future.

Together we can look at empirical research, discuss it and debate new concepts and new ideas put forward by Canadians from all walks of life and from across the country.

Social Development Canada provides a new vehicle to mobilize governments and all the individuals and organizations doing their part to advance social development in the country. We know we all want to go in the same direction. We also know we have to avoid duplication and maximize our investments and activities to produce the best results for Canadians.

All of this progress will be made possible with the passage of Bill C-22. The bill provides the Minister of Social Development with the mandate to provide a focal point for social policy within the Government of Canada.

I would like to emphasize that it was the June 2000 report of the House Standing Committee on Human Resources that recommended this division of responsibilities.

Even though the department is expressly responsible for promoting social well-being and income security among Canadians, its new structure will enable it to collaborate with federal partners.

The bill's progressive nature will enable us to approach social policy on a number of fronts, establishing relationships with the other federal departments and agencies that are working to improve the lives of children and families, older persons and those with disabilities.

This collaborative approach recognizes the shared jurisdiction in most social fields. The bill gives the Minister of Social Development the express authority to cooperate with our provincial and territorial partners to set goals, focus resources as well as enter into agreements with provinces or other bodies to facilitate the implementation of policies or programs which support the mandate of Social Development Canada.

As my colleagues know well, we are already making major headway in this regard. I can proudly report that we have made enormous progress in moving the early learning and child care initiative forward. We agreed with our provincial and territorial colleagues to establish a long term vision for early learning and child care that would include measurable goals, shared principles, strong accountability, and provincial and territorial flexibility. Of course it will take some time and discussion to arrive at a detailed understanding of the shared principles but there is no question of the commitment of both levels of government to advance this agenda.

With the passage of this bill we will be able to carry on our work with international organizations that provide for us to learn from the experiences of others, and to share our knowledge and experiences to help contribute to better social policies and programs in other countries.

We collaborate, as the House knows, with the OECD. We can also provide a better return on taxpayers' investments by sharing resources with our colleagues at the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development. Simplifying, automating and offering integrated services will help ensure that we provide citizen centred quality services to Canadians where and when they need them.

Equally important, by consolidating our corporate service delivery functions, we can reduce operational costs and put more money into programming that meets Canadians' expectations.

The bill includes a code to protect personal information intended to govern the communication of personal information in a clear and coherent manner. This code is based on existing codes found in the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act. Together, these codes will form a detailed framework for all the department's current and future programs.

All three codes are consistent with and will operate in conjunction with the Privacy Act to strike a balance between disclosure and protection of personal information. Although the majority of the consequential and related amendments are housekeeping in nature, the bill also includes the repeal of the Vocational Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons Act, the VRDP.

The VRDP became obsolete in 1998 when supplemented by more modern federal-provincial agreements to support programs and services for persons with disabilities that were in fact developed in collaboration with provinces and territories.

In conclusion, I firmly believe that all Canadians share a feeling of collective responsibility toward the well-being of their fellow other citizens. The complex nature of the challenges confronting us today confirms the wisdom of creating a new and distinct entity to work exclusively on social policy.

I call on my hon. colleagues to give their support to Bill C-22 so that we can carry on the progress that already has been achieved in the brief 11 months since our organization's creation.

Canadians expect parliamentarians to work together, to advance this vitally important agenda that touches Canadians' lives from birth to death.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2004 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Vancouver Quadra B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Liberalfor the Minister of Social Development

moved that Bill C-22, an act to establish the Department of Social Development and to amend and repeal certain related Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

JusticeOral Question Period

November 23rd, 2004 / 2:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday a coalition of approximately 30 animal use industries wrote the justice minister and asked him to reintroduce former Bill C-22 to improve animal cruelty provisions within the Criminal Code. I understand that animal welfare groups and animal industry groups are now united in wanting to see this bill reintroduced and passed as soon as possible.

Will the Minister of Justice reintroduce the bill in the House without material alterations, other than to address traditional aboriginal hunting and fishing practices, at the earliest possible opportunity?

Department of Human Resources and Skills Development ActGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2004 / 1:35 p.m.
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Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague with great interest. I would like to ask him the question that I have asked one or two of his colleagues.

We are discussing legislation which would establish the new Department of Human Resources and Skills Development. Under Bill C-22, we will be discussing the establishment of the new Department of Social Development. The division of the old department of HRDC was recommended unanimously by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

We are discussing the unanimous will of the House of Commons, including the Bloc. The standing committee, that considered the legislation at the time, felt that the department, which had been set up by the Mulroney government and consisted of four or five old federal departments, was too large. Its budget was well over $60 billion. Much more importantly, it was much too diverse. The Canada pension plan, employment insurance, literacy, child care, and a whole variety of things were brought together in that department in such a way that it was difficult to manage them all. The House of Commons as a whole agreed that the old department should be split and we should establish two new departments.

We have been debating the establishment of one of these two new departments for two days. As I mentioned earlier, this division has not cost any money. It will not cost more money to run the two departments than it did to run the huge, previous single department.

I know my colleague is interested in these things. Given the fact that the Bloc supported the division of that department, why is it that he and his party are not going to support this legislation? This new department will deliver services to the unemployed in a much more effective way than before. It will deliver literacy programs to children, immigrants, seniors, and older workers, and deliver those services in a much more efficient way. Why is it that the Bloc, having supported the division of the department, is so adamant now that it will not support Bill C-23?

Department of Human Resources and Skills Development ActGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2004 / 12:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am also pleased to participate in the debate on the bill to create the human resources and skills development segment of the whole human resources movement, and the next bill to deal with Social Development Canada.

As a municipal member for a number of years in other places, I found how important it was to understand the very basics of how a community interacts and recognizes its issues and concerns, and how a community in a social development context comes to grips with those issues with other levels of government and the non-profit and non-governmental organizations and sectors. As a result of that, earlier on we had a bill that dealt with closing the accountability loop for the non-profit sector because it is so important as part of community development strategies.

I think members of the House should undergo sort of an apprenticeship with respect to being able to use the tools that will help them do the job with communities in their constituencies. It occurred to me that the apprenticeship would not be complete without serving and participating, to some extent, on the human resources and skills development committee. I had the opportunity to do that. Certainly it is indicative of the deep understanding of the parliamentary secretary who chaired that committee for a number of years on how knowledgeable, conversant and how intimately aware the parliamentary secretary is with respect to community development models.

I am very interested and I think all members of the House share the interest in how HRSD in this bill evolves such that its framework better serves the community.

I think a little history would be helpful. The House will be reminded that last December the Prime Minister announced that Human Resources Development Canada would be reorganized into two departments, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and Social Development Canada. Since that time we have been working together to ensure Canadians are well-served, while at the same time strengthening Canada's social foundations and building, through the decades of the 21st century, the capacity for communities to self-identify the issues that are important to them such that they become part of the strategy that makes the community strong, the cities and municipalities strong, the provinces strong and our country strong for engaging the global community in a competitive way.

The human resources and skills development act outlines the mandate, which is:

--to improving thestandard of living and quality of life of all Canadians by promoting a highly skilled andmobile workforce and an efficient and inclusivelabour market.

That is the mission statement. Any of us who have had experience with non-governmental or non-profit organizations, be it whatever organizations that serve the community, know how very important it is to have fundamental truth built in to that sense of mission and to promote in the global context a highly skilled and mobile workforce.

An efficient and inclusive labour market means that there is not one Canadian, either today or in the future, who should fall through the cracks of our system. Each and every Canadian has to fulfill his or her capabilities and potentialities to become a constructive, involved and committed part of our Canadian mosaic. Nothing is more important to that end than having the skills and tools to do the job and to be able to compete in a fulfilling way in our job markets.

Besides providing a foundation and rationale for the department's programs, the legislation includes a proposed harmonized code governing the disclosure of personal information. It also outlines joint responsibility for shared delivery of services with Social Development Canada. It ensures that the department has all the legal powers and tools it needs to fulfill this new mandate and responsibility.

It is not the intent to start to spill over into the edges of the discussion in Bill C-22, which is dealing with Social Development Canada. In my humble estimation, there has always been, I believe, a shortage of applicable research that is then brought to bear in terms of best practices on the development of the new tools, the skills development programs. As a sidebar comment, it is my hope when we are going to be discussing Bill C-22 that in the continuity or the bridging or the linking between Skills Development Canada, there is that very important component, which is the absolute requirement to link the best available research in terms of models and best practices that work best and then are implemented through the skills development and human resources component.

Let me take a few minutes also to speak about these additional responsibilities and what HRSDC is striving to achieve. First and foremost, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada is an organization that values and cultivates partnerships to accomplish its goals.

I cannot emphasize how important that is, because every member in the chamber can reflect on the best practices that work and work best with high value-added in their communities. They are the initiatives that find partnerships, be it with the unions and the labour components within our constituencies or be it through sector agreements that bring the critical mass of activities together in an integrated way. It is these partnerships with education, community colleges, post-secondary education and institutions that really are the strength of community development models, and the reorganization of the department will recognize that these need to be cultivated within a more strategic framework.

The new department is working with the provincial and territorial governments, the private sector, unions, educational institutions, communities and local organizations to achieve objectives that matter to each and every Canadian, regardless of where they live and whatever their age or their aim, dream or ambition for their lives and families.

HRDC's primary goal, working with a broad range of committed partners, is to help Canadians acquire the skills and learning they need to find productive, meaningful work. The new name sums up the new department's mandate precisely. The term “human resources” acknowledges that the strength of our economy and our quality of life depends on the strength of all Canadians. We are in fact more than just the sum of our parts. We need, as I have said before, to cultivate, enrich, vitalize and nurture every bit of capacity we have within individuals across this country. Our economy depends absolutely on Canadians' learning and skills and the opportunities they create for themselves and, in doing that, opportunities for others.

This is why the skills development component of the department's name is so crucial to the well-being of Canadians. It behooves us just for a moment to think about skills development, because the term recognizes the most pressing fact of our 21st century economy. Our economy is knowledge based. It is intensely competitive. It is ever-changing with respect to the demands for new and enhanced skills and learning.

In the past, Canadians could rely on 12 years of publicly funded education and then live off that educational investment for the rest of their lives. We can all reflect with respect to our families and our neighbours and their families that Canadians today must continue to learn continuously throughout their lives to keep pace with the evolving technologies and the challenges of labour market demands.

When we refer to the new technologies we are not talking just about the people in skyscrapers moving billions of dollars around the globe in nanoseconds. We are actually talking about the day to day working environments of all Canadians, whether they are employed in fish processing plants, libraries, mines, hospitals or cabinet making shops, the full spectrum of economic activity, of employment and labouring activity that takes place across our country.

Today, every sector of every economy is becoming computerized. There is a vastly different set of skills at play here and a different scope, if we will, to the concept of literacy. If we want a strong, healthy economy and a strong and vibrant nation, we have to stay adaptable and develop these new skills. To say that is to understate the nature of change in our global society with respect to not only those skills that are needed by young people who are entering the workforce, but the skills of people who become redundant to one part or one phase in their working career and need to be retrained to re-enter the workforce.

The government and I believe, and I am sure all members of the House believe, that it is crucial for Canadians to start thinking about skills development and learning as a wonderful attribute that can contribute immeasurably to their jobs, their personal lives and their communities. Skills and learning stimulate the economy, obviously, but give value and a sense of worth to every single individual within the community. This is why it is so important to emphasize in our human resources strategies that the aim is to cultivate the individual and the individual's worth, to give that individual a sense of identity, role, capacity and capability within our various employee sectors.

We have talked about the term lifelong learning. Within the context, then, of what I have described as the challenges facing our citizens in a global community, lifelong learning surely therefore is the key to good jobs and Canadians' personal security. Their sense of fulfillment has a better chance of actualizing, of actually happening, if we are strategic in terms of developing skills in a community development model with these kinds of partnerships. This is the goal the government is striving for, working in partnership with provincial, territorial and municipal governments, labour, industry, the academic community and the many local associations and organizations dedicated to helping our citizens realize their full potential.

Within five years, 70% of jobs in Canada will require post-secondary education, yet currently too many Canadians drop out of school too early. As a result, today only 41% of our population has post-secondary qualifications.

We have seen various sectors where that is an even a larger anomaly, as it were, with respect to our statistics. We have long been aware that our first nations and aboriginal communities are so important to tapping into the true potential which in turn will contribute to their own self-actualization and in fact to the kind of success we want for our country.

We are facing an enormous challenge as a nation. That is why the Government of Canada has devoted about a quarter of all new federal spending to education and innovation initiatives since first balancing the books in 1997-98. That adds up to more than $36 billion in spending. These dollars have helped, I would suggest, but we will and we must continue to do more. I would like to highlight some of the department's priorities which support Canadian skills development and lifelong learning.

As hon. members are aware, budget 2004 improved the Canada student loans program; others have spoken about this. We know that this includes a grant of up to $3,000 for students from low income families to cover a portion of tuition for first year students.

The government is also working on the development of a workplace skills strategy to help Canadians improve their skills in the workplace.

Under the active measures of the employment insurance program, in 2003-04 we helped almost 700,000 Canadians under the employment benefits and support measures of part II of the Employment Insurance Act. That is accomplished in partnership with communities and organizations across the country. I know constituents and I know that all members of the House have met with constituents who are using these opportunities to get back on their feet and achieve personal security for themselves and their families and the sense of well-being that a good job can provide.

Millions of Canadians are helped each year by programs under EI and through our youth employment strategy, YES. YES is a strategy that helps young people aged 15 to 30 get valuable work experience and the skills they need to succeed. It also assists young people who have had particular difficulties in entering the labour market to forge a productive future for themselves. Talking about YES and my experience, there is a group within my constituency and bordering constituencies which, under the labour sector council, has established in partnership with the unions specific apprenticeship programs that are helping young people.

As the House is aware, literacy also is one of the key foundation skills we need for sustainable employment and for a fulfilling personal community life. Literacy and other essential foundation skills are absolutely important, to be bridged with computer skills, as part of our workplace skills strategy.

To conclude, I know that we all share a common objective as a government, as members of this House and as citizens of this vast country, that is, to help Canadians fulfill their potential so that we can ensure our nation's well-being for generations to come.

For all these reasons, I am pleased to support this legislation. I hope the House will support it. It focuses the mandate of the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development on, among other things, the absolute needs of Canadian workers in the labour market.

Department of Human Resources and Skills Development ActGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2004 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, I have a general question for my colleague and, if there is time, perhaps a much more specific one.

As I understand it, we are debating Bill C-23 which would set up legally, if that is the right word, the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development. Bill C-22 is the other side of the coin. Its purpose is to set up the Department of Social Development.

The bill we are discussing today came about as a result of an inquiry by the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. That standing committee unanimously, including members of the Bloc, recommended that the old Department of Human Resources Development Canada be divided.

The committee did not recommend that because it disagreed with what the department was doing but because it felt the department was too large. Its budget was $60 billion or $70 billion. Much more significantly, it was too diverse. When the Mulroney government set up HRDC many decades ago, it simply lumped together four or five, maybe even six, federal departments but never brought them together or caused them to focus on the main topics which the old department was intended to do.

Bill C-23 is the unanimous will of the House of Commons. It would set up the new Department of Human Resources and Skills Development which, in my view, would be able to focus better on the issues that are important to my colleague.

The new department would be, in my mind, the department of lifelong learning and training. For example, if a senior citizen needs literacy training, he or she will get it. If a worker needs retraining, the worker will receive that retraining through this much more streamlined department.

My colleague focused on the Minister of Labour. Part of the legislation would establish the ministry of labour which deals with the matters that he is discussing.

I would suggest to my colleague that EI was lost in that great big department, which would be divided now and be much more streamlined. EI was in a department along with Canada pension, caregiver legislation, child care legislation, things like that. EI was simply a part of this great big whole. I would suggest that his Bloc colleagues who recommended that the department be divided were right. Such things will be better handled in this new, much more streamlined department.

It has become clear in the debates on the estimates, which have been going on in committee, that this division has not cost any more money. It is not as though we are adding some great big new department or anything like that. If anything, it will cost less money than the previous and, I would argue, very inefficient department cost.

With better delivery of service and better attention to some of the issues my colleague raised, why is his party opposing the legislation to divide the old federal department when it initially supported it along with the rest of the members of the House of Commons?

Human Resources and Skills Development ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2004 / 12:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Paul Forseth Conservative New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am addressing the presentation of the government's proposed Bill C-23, specifically known as an act to establish to the Department of Social Development and to amend and repeal certain related acts.

The bill establishes the department of social development, over which presides the Minister of Social Development. The bill sets out the minister's powers, duties and functions. It also describes the rules for the protection and the making available of personal information obtained under departmental programs, other than those covered by similar codes found in the Canada pension plan and the Old Age Security Act.

The bill proposes to legalize in statute what the government has already done by order in council. The Government of Canada is asking Parliament to approve this human resources and skills development act, but we must never forget the order of things. The governments may propose, but Parliament must ultimately vote the appropriation. Parliament is not the government.

I observe that there have been many within the Liberal orb who have been on the inside and in power positions so long that they think Parliament is just another hurdle in a process, and often just an inconvenience to them for the senior bureaucrats to have their way. Too often it looks like they have their way with these, what I would describe, rather weak Liberal politicians. It seems they are quite comfortable that they can manoeuvre these less than visionary politicians around to have what they want.

It is an approach that says Canada will get what the Liberals deem is good for the country, what they know is best for the rest of us. That whole superior attitude is what I smell in this bill and also with sister Bill C-22. The two bills take care of each part of the old department which was divided into two, and this being the so-called social development side.

Now the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence was made Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development upon appointment to cabinet. One wonders if he has looked more like a deer caught in the headlights about all the manoeuvring around the creation of these two departments out of the former one large department known as HRDC. It certainly was not this minister's decision to do so.

Human Resources Development Canada was reorganized into two new departments: Social Development Canada, SDC, and Human Resources Skills Development Canada, HRSDC. Both departments are presently still governed by the existing Department of Human Resources Development Act.

The Prime Minister, somewhere with his unelected advisers, agreed to what had been put to them by the bureaucracy about this plan. The Commons standing committee from the previous Parliament had also been led along to believe that this was the way to go. However, it remains to be seen just how wise this move is. Any such disturbing change is disruptive to lower level staff. There is always a lot of internal energy wasted with office changes, clarifying mission statements, shuffling of staff and their physical offices, creating new positions and then staffing them with all the subsequent union appeals and the hurt feelings that go along with it. New reporting relationships with new materials in hand with unspecified and unclear budget authorities also come at quite a cost. There is also a huge loss in productivity when there is such so-called reorganization.

I have observed that the Liberals have not been very good managers in the past, so why should this scheme go any better than the others? The best ideas on paper often do not deliver meaningful and productive outcomes for the consumer of the service. The effort to get from point A to destination B and C at the same time, with different parts of an old team, can be quite inefficient.

The Government of Canada has tabled the human resources and skills development act, which contains the mandate of the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and the Minister of Labour and Housing. The mandate is included in the act to provide a foundation and a rationale for the department's programs. For the first time, the legislation includes a proposed harmonized code governing the disclosure of personal information of Canadians. This new code is supposed to provide more consistency in administering personal information than is currently the case, given the various statutory and regulatory provisions governing the disclosure of personal information. The Liberals claim the bill provides a greater degree of transparency for Canadians. We will see about that. If anything, the government has been anything but transparent in the past.

We go back to December 12, 2003, when the government had to do something to look like it was a little different from the previous regime, so it picked on this one. By means of a series of orders in council, made pursuant to the Public Service Rearrangement and Transfer of Duties Act, various portions of the Department of Human Resources Development and related powers, duties and functions of the Minister of Human Resources Development were transferred to the new Department of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, HRSDC, to a new Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development.

Therefore, the arrangement on the ground is a done deal, and the shuffling has been going on, money is being spent and lives are being affected, but Parliament has not yet granted its approval. This is the way Liberals do things. They now admit that department legislation is required to address these new mandates and responsibilities of Social Development Canada, SDC, and the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

Maybe Parliament should not be blackmailed in this way. Maybe we should say no. Then what? Maybe we should raise the low hurdle around here and make the government really make its case for why this move is wise at this time and why the changes will substantially raise the quality and the value for dollar to the taxpayer. There is absolutely nothing that I have heard about case examples of how this change will help one single individual in his or her specific life situation.

The government says that the drafting of the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development legislation provides the opportunity to ensure that the minister and the department have the legal powers and tools needed to fulfill the minister's mandate. When has that ever stopped a Liberal? They Liberals claim that the HRDC is working closely with officials from SDC on legislative issues of mutual interest. I certainly hope so.

The minister then goes on to say that the proposed legislation includes a harmonized code of governing the disclosure of personal information. Liberals say that there are some enhancements here that other statutes of privacy laws do not sufficiently cover. If this is so and more legislation is really needed, that fact poorly reflects on the core law of privacy in Canada. I suppose more will be revealed about this whole mess in due course. They claim that this new code will replace the current five statutory and regulatory regimes that govern the disclosure of personal information. If this is needed, then where is the agenda to fix the whole thing? In a way, it is an admission of legal weakness for privacy law, but they will never admit that now will they?

Liberals assert that the additional new code will provide more consistency in administering personal information than is currently the case, given the various statutory and regulatory provisions governing the disclosure of personal information. They say that it provides a greater degree of transparency for Canadians resulting from this harmonization, and codifies the current administrative practices to protect personal information used for research purposes. It also includes an offence provision for knowingly disclosing personal information violating privacy laws. The code also describes departmental commitments, these nice sounding phrases of reassurance to protect the privacy of Canadians, including both the use of personal information for internal research and the conditions for disclosure of personal information outside the department.

The Liberals say that they are committed to improving the social and economic well-being of all Canadians, including the most disadvantaged, and will deliver accountable and efficient policies and programs. They have not done it yet, so I do not see any evidence that this rearrangement of the deck chairs on the ship will do much in that regard.They have not made its central case.

They put it this way. Liberals say, in the promotional literature, that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada plays a key role in meeting the commitments through its efforts to help Canadians acquire skills to get productive and meaningful jobs. They go on and say that it will enhance the access to a post-secondary education, promote skills development and promote a cultural of lifelong learning. They boast that these efforts will result in a better quality of life for all Canadians. That is quite a mouthful. One can ask those who do not have a job or who cannot afford to upgrade training how they feel about what is out there now for those who want to improve themselves, and one will find quite a different story.

That group has been in power for over 10 years. The situation on the ground is their responsibility.

Then Liberals claim labour and housing programs will continue to promote safe, healthy, stable and cooperative workplaces and will continue efforts to help communities reduce homelessness. Such promises do not make the grade. Any average Canadian knows that homelessness is much worse now than it was, say during the period of 1984 to 1993. Just try to walk to Parliament Hill. One has to be blind not to see the situation. The last Liberal leader actually claimed that he talked to a homeless person. At least our Governor General tried in east side Vancouver this year to do it. When was the last time our Prime Minister ever stopped his limo cavalcade to talk to and tune into what it is like for those sleeping on the sidewalk by which he zooms?

For the bill, there is also the assertion that the legislation will provide the framework to ensure that the Government of Canada continues to make Canadians the best trained and most highly skilled workers in the world. We have never been there internationally as a whole and despite this kind of overblown rhetoric, I am skeptical that the department reorganization will deliver the kind of sensitive and comprehensive help that is really needed to meet those kinds of inflated objectives.

I want to hear the government really make its case for these two bills, Bill C-22 and Bill C-23. I am prepared to compliment the government when it goes in the right direction, but so far what we have seen and heard is a lot of bureaucratese and not much reality selling of substance to Parliament, where the ultimate approval must be made. I wish them well.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

November 18th, 2004 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I want to inform the House that the Hamilton Tiger Cats are certainly looking forward to next year at the Grey Cup. We actually have a great contingent up here for the Sunday game.

This afternoon we will continue with the opposition motion.

Tomorrow the House will proceed with report stage and, if possible, third reading of Bill C-7 respecting parks. When this is complete, we will consider a motion to refer to committee before second reading Bill C-20, the first nations fiscal legislation. Should there be time left after that, we will return to Bill C-9, the Quebec economic development legislation.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we will start with Bill C-7 and Bill C-20, if they are not already complete. We will then proceed to consider reference before second reading of Bill C-21, the not for profit legislation. This will be followed by second reading of Bill C-23 respecting human resources, and Bill C-22 respecting social development. We will then return to any bills not yet completed.

On Tuesday evening, as all members know, the committee of the whole will consider the estimates of the Minister of Health.

Next Thursday shall be an allotted day.