Department of Social Development Act

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

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


Ken Dryden  Liberal


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


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

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


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 21st, 2005 / 5:55 p.m.
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Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

It is not sloppy legislation. If the hon. member across says that it is sloppy legislation, then he had better go to all these groups, including the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, and tell them that all of them are wrong, if that is what he thinks. The hon. member across is entitled to say that all of the agricultural groups are wrong and maybe he can go tell them that they are wrong.

I understand tomorrow will be a big lobby day on the Hill for some of the agricultural industries, particularly in supply management. The reason I know this is that I am sponsoring the event, which will be a large social event. Perhaps the member could tell them how they are all wrong in supporting this bill. They will be pleased to know how the hon. member thinks he is so much smarter than all of them. They might have a different opinion of the hon. member after he has told them that but he is perfectly entitled to do so.

I will be at the lobby event tomorrow shaking hands with the hon. member when he enters the room to explain all this to my constituents, agricultural constituents and all the others across Canada who support the bill.

Just in case the hon. member and others did not get it, I will repeat what I said. The industry organizations wrote, as in paper, to the Minister of Justice before this legislation was introduced and requested it. All these agricultural organizations and everyone else who asked for the bill, who the hon. member says are wrong, wrote and requested this. With no disrespect, these people know a little bit more about agriculture than some of us and they are in favour of the bill.

These same groups wrote again to the minister in February 2005, three months before Bill C-50 was introduced, and again requested its introduction. I just happen to have the text of that letter here and it says, “We once again ask you to move forward with the reintroduction of Bill C-22”. Bill C-22 was the original bill as I indicated a while ago. People in the agricultural sector asked, not only once for the bill but they wrote a second letter asking for it again.

The moral of this story is that no matter whether one lives in urban Canada or rural Canada the issues are not that different. There will be people on the margins here and there, on the extreme side one way or the other, but no one can tell me that my constituents who work in agriculture are less conscious of proper animal husbandry and less conscious of issues involving cruelty to animals than people living in the urban parts of my constituency who may never have been inside a slaughter house or anything close to it. One might know more about how it is done than the other, and as someone who was raised on a farm I believe that, but that does not mean that one group is less concerned about animal welfare than the other.

When it is time for a cow to give birth, how many of us know that a farmer will be up all night attending to it? They take a lot of care in feeding their animals. Sometimes they are more careful with feeding their animals than they are with their own diet, but that is another matter.

All of that is to say that this is good legislation for either rural or urban Canada and it is supported by rural Canada.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 6:10 p.m.
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Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Madam Speaker, I would have a comment. This is a good bill to the extent that the minister has put his foot down and will finally be legislating against animal cruelty. There is a problem, however. The hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke illustrated it perfectly. We are mixing apples and oranges, mixing the gun issue with the hunters, pets, poultry farmers and auctions. Everything is all mixed together.

The committee will have to go back to the drawing board and develop categories within the bill. That is what matters. When Bill C-10 was discussed, this was already a problem. The same happened when we discussed Bill C-22, and it is happening again with Bill C-50. Everybody mixes everything up. How can we ever arrive at safeguards for everyone—aboriginal people, farmers, hunters, fishermen—as well as the industry? This can never be achieved because it is such broad legislation.

I hope the minister will listen to what animal welfare groups are asking for to fight animal cruelty.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 5:05 p.m.
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Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, I refer again to the main point I was making in my speech. Bill S-24 would be much preferable to the present bill. I would like to read a bit more of this legal brief rather than give my opinion and the question the member has asked will be answered.

These concerns are met by the provisions of Bill S-24 in s. 445.1(1)(a), namely, “Everyone commits an offence who wilfully causes or, being the owner, wilfully permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or a bird”. This offence extends to activities which do not result in the death of an animal, and to those which do.

The second point made in the Lang Michener letter is:

The phrase “regardless of whether the animal dies immediately” in s. 182.2(1)(b) prevents any participant in recreational hunting or fishing charged under this section from making the argument that because the death of an animal is immediate the death should not be considered to be brutal or vicious. Depending on the circumstances of the case before the court, such an argument may or may not succeed but it is not reasonable to prevent an accused from making this argument. Immediate death is a widely accepted definition of humane killing and this section attempts to change this standard. It is a commonly held view that it is more humane to kill an animal promptly and exactly than to allow an animal to suffer for a long period of time. In R. v. Jones, the judge found that it was more humane to kill an animal quickly and cleanly than to allow it to suffer a prolonged death.

I want to get to point three, which goes beyond what the member has asked. This is a very important part of this legal brief. It reads:

If Bill C-50 becomes law, animal rights groups will harass and prosecute anglers and hunters. Liz White, a director of the Animal Alliance of Canada, one of Canada's major animal rights organizations, stated:

“The onus is on humane societies and other groups on the front lines to push this legislation to the limit, to test the parameters of this law and have the courage and conviction to lay charges. That's what this is all about. Make no mistake about it”.

In the second reading of Bill S-24, Senator Bryden quotes Dr. Bessie Borwein, Special Advisor to the Vice-President of Research at the University of Western Ontario:

“There are animal rights groups in Canada that have specifically and publicly stated their intention to use Bill C-10 [previous versions of Bill C-22 and Bill C-50] to further their agenda. They say they will use the law to press charges and to test it to the utmost. They will use peace officers or authorized organizations like the SPCA or humane societies sympathetic to their cause in order to press this...”.

That is where I rest my case and that is why we oppose the legislation. Unless amendments are made to protect these traditional hunting and fishing activities I cannot accept what the members opposite are telling me.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 4:50 p.m.
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Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I as well am very pleased to participate in the debate of Bill C-50. Over the summer I received many complaints about Bill C-50. I am glad I have a chance to share these concerns with my fellow MPs before the bill goes to committee for further work.

The government has been at this since December 1999. We have had this bill around in one form or another for the last six years. We have seen Bills C-17, C-15, C-15B, C-10, C-10B and C-22. Now it is called Bill C-50 and the Liberals still do not have it right.

I am going to be giving members some legal opinions rather than just discussing some of my own opinions. I am going to read into the record a brief from a lawyer. Before I do that, I want to make a couple of personal observations about the bill based on my own experience on this issue.

Our young people really need to experience our natural created environment. Fishing is a wholesome sport that makes our young men and women appreciate the world around them. This is not something only for our aboriginal people. Getting close to nature is a very healthy, therapeutic experience that has no substitute. It is a wholesome alternative to some of the activities our youth can get involved in and that lead to serious problems for them and society. We should be encouraging more outdoor activities that bring us closer to the created world. As it stands, Bill C-50 would discourage some of the activities that our young people could engage in to appreciate the world around us, activities such as hunting and fishing.

I would like to see hunting and fishing promoted. That would do more to preserve the environment than any big government program or course of study at some educational institution. Participating in activities like hunting and fishing provides an incentive to maintain a healthy, natural environment. That is why we need to make an amendment to proposed paragraph 182.2(1)(b). Without an amendment, we will discourage many of youth from getting out into the great outdoors. We will also discourage people who normally would want to preserve the environment from doing so.

Those are the two personal notes I wanted to add for members before I get into the legal critique of the bill.

I am going to read into the record a letter written by Mr. Peter R. Hayden, Q.C., of the Lang Michener law firm. This legal opinion was prepared on behalf of the following organizations: the British Columbia Wildlife Federation. the Alberta Fish and Game Association, the Manitoba Wildlife Federation, the Ontario Federation of Anglers & Hunters, the Fédération québécoise de la faune, the New Brunswick Wildlife Federation, the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers & Hunters, the Canadian sport fishing industry and the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association.

This letter from the Lang Michener firm was written to our Minister of Justice, the Attorney General of Canada, here in Ottawa. It states:

We wish to register our strong support for the swift passage of Bill S-24 introduced by Liberal Senator John Bryden and to state our opposition to the passage of Bill C-50.

Bill S-24 accomplishes the Government's primary objective in the reform of animal cruelty provisions, namely increasing the maximum penalties for existing offences of animal cruelty, as is done in Bill C-50. We object to the balance of Bill C-50 because, as Senator Bryden says of Bill C-22 and Bill C-50, they would substantively change the law of animal cruelty, and negatively impact “Canadians who hunt and fish lawfully”.

Specifically, we object to s. 182.2(1)(b), which, for the first time in Canadian history, makes it an offence to kill an animal brutally or viciously without defining those terms and does not exempt from this offence normal hunting and fishing. This new offence will be used by animal rights activists who will employ provisions of the Criminal Code to bring private prosecutions to harass lawful anglers and hunters.

For the reasons cited below, the oft-cited defences of legal justification, excuse, and colour of right in the Criminal Code would not be of much assistance to an angler or hunter charged under Bill C-50.

While you and your Department have said that the offence of cruelty to animals is not intended to forbid conduct that is socially acceptable or authorized by law, such as hunting and fishing, Bill C-50 will have the ultimate effect of intimidating anglers and hunters who will be discouraged from participating in the outdoor heritage activities of hunting and fishing for the fear of prosecution.

This legal brief continues under the title “Support of Bill S-24”. It states:

According to the Department of Justice, the primary objective in revising the Criminal Code's animal cruelty sections is to enable the courts to impose longer sentences commensurate with the severity of the animal cruelty offences. Bill S-24 achieves the goal of increasing penalties that may be imposed in cases of animal cruelty and allows the Crown to proceed either summarily or by indictment to achieve a result suitable to the crime committed. Bill S-24 also retains many current sections and offences under the Criminal Code, which has the additional advantage of leading to certainty of interpretation of these sections owing to the well established body of decided cases on the current animal cruelty provisions of the Criminal Code.

The next subtitle is “Anglers and Hunters Do Not Support Bill C-50”, under which it is stated:

The Associations on whose behalf we are writing to you do not support Bill C-50. We understand that you received a letter dated November 22, 2004 (the “Coalition letter”) purporting to be from all of Canada's animal-based sectors, which outlines the group's position of support for the “swift passage” of certain amendments to the Criminal Code “as rapidly as possible”, namely the proposed animal cruelty provisions as contained in Bill C-22 which are the same as Bill C-50, with the exception of the provision for the protection of existing aboriginal or treaty rights in s. 182.6.

The Coalition letter did not in any way represent the interests of Canadian anglers and hunters. We note that these Coalition members have since sent a letter to Senator Bryden joining the Associations in registering their full support of Bill S-24 and their support of the rationale presented by Senator Bryden in moving second reading of Bill S-24.

The next subtitle is “Problems with Bill C-50”, under which it is stated:

We have serious concerns about Bill C-50 and we have set out below what these concerns are.

The Department of Justice has clarified that beyond increasing penalties for existing animal cruelty offences, the objective of Bill C-22, and accordingly Bill C-50, is to “simplify, modernize and fill gaps in the offence structure of the animal cruelty regime”. As Senator Bryden says, the changes to animal cruelty law in Bill C-22 and Bill C-50, other than the increasing of penalties, amount to significant changes to the law which should require very careful and open debate.

Let me emphasize that phrase: “significant changes to the law”. I would also like to read for members a quote from a footnote in this letter, referring to Liberal Senator John Bryden speaking in the Senate:

[T]hese housekeeping amendments went further than modernizing language and simplifying the law. Arguably, they would be substantively changing the law....If there is a consensus that the law on cruelty to animals needs reforming, then let us have that debate, but let us do so honestly, openly and in a transparent manner, engaging the Canadian public and parliamentarians as these important issues require.

Let me continue with the Lang Michener letter to the justice minister:

To that end, we would like to set out our serious objections to Bill C-50, other than the increasing of penalties, on behalf of the Associations.

  1. S. 182.2(1)(b) makes it an offence to kill animals brutally and viciously, regardless of whether the animal dies immediately.

Hunting and fishing necessarily involve the killing of animals. Animal rights groups consistently attempt to portray these traditional Canadian heritage activities as inherently brutal and vicious. Under Bill C-50, a hunter or angler may be prosecuted and convicted of the offence of killing an animal brutally or viciously for engaging in normal hunting and fishing practices.

The killing of animals simpliciter has never been the activity the legislature intended to prevent. The killing of animals is a necessary result of most animal use industries and of hunting and fishing. Canadians' concerns regarding animal cruelty do not relate to the act of killing animals--

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 4:35 p.m.
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Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-50, amendments to the Criminal Code in relation to cruelty to animals.

Members who have been in the House longer than I will remember from the last Parliament when the bill was Bill C-22. This legislation has been before this House consistently since 1999 when it was first introduced in an omnibus criminal law bill, Bill C-17.

Canadians from all walks of life have expressed and continue to express support for stronger animal cruelty laws. I know the minister continues to receive countless letters in support of these amendments. I have certainly received letters and heard concerns from my constituents. As MPs we hear from a lot of people. I heard from someone this morning in relation to the puppy mill in Quebec which my NDP colleague spoke about previously. This issue is very much on the minds of Canadians.

For various reasons the bill has never passed both this House and the other place in the same form. It is true that when it was first introduced, a degree of discomfort was felt by a number of industry stakeholders, farmers and animal researchers, about the potential negative impact of the legislation on their activities. These are legitimate concerns and they have been addressed.

Over the past five years, significant work has gone on in Parliament, in the chamber and in committee, as well as in meetings and discussions with concerned parties to bring a greater consensus in support of this legislation.

In the summer of 2003 when a final set of amendments were made to the legislation, a broad based coalition of industry groups came to feel more comfortable with the legislation and in fact supported these amendments, alongside animal welfare groups and veterinary associations. These groups even wrote to urge the minister to re-table this very legislation.

Since that set of changes, not just those people who advocate for the interests of animals, but also many of those whose livelihoods actually depend upon the use of animals are now eager to see these amendments become law. Those groups include organizations representing the agricultural sector, trappers, fur farming industries, and the animal research community. This indicates that we have addressed a wide range of concerns.

One of the objectives of the reforms is the enhancement of existing maximum penalties for animal cruelty. Today even the most heinous mutilation or torture of animals can result in only six months' imprisonment or a $2,000 fine. There is widespread consensus that these maximum penalties are too low to deter or denounce behaviour that we know happens across this country. Our views toward animals have changed a lot in this country and in this world over the past number of years.

Part of the penalty enhancement reform involves making these offences dual procedure and giving the Crown the ability to proceed by indictment in the more serious cases. In those cases, the maximum penalty goes up from six months in prison to five years, and the ceiling of $2,000 is removed, in keeping with the sentencing for all indictable offences in the code.

There are more specific sentencing measures in addition to these general standard ones. Currently there is a two year maximum on orders preventing the offender from owning or possessing animals. This two year maximum ceiling will also be removed so the courts will have the power to make an order for any length of time the court considers appropriate.

In addition, Bill C-50 will introduce a new power for the court to order, in addition to any other sentence, that a convicted offender repay the costs of taking care of the animal in question. If a person or organization took in the animal after the cruelty incident, the person who committed the offence would be responsible.

In every province there are statutorily created societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals. We all know those. These agencies are under a legal obligation to protect animals from cruelty by seizing and caring for them when they are in distress, for example a puppy mill, yet these statutory bodies receive very little in the way of public funding. When they take in an animal that has been abused, care for it and provide veterinary services, food, shelter and comfort, they generally do so with money obtained from public donations.

We all know people in our communities who do this kind of work. In my community of Dartmouth--Cole Harbour, I think of people like Judith Gass, a former Progressive Conservative candidate in the 1993 federal election, who does great work. I also think of the many vets in my riding who talk to me about the concerns they have when they see animals in distress.

Bill C-50 will make it clear that the offender may be found responsible for repaying the costs associated with his or her criminal act. That is good sentencing policy. By holding the offender accountable for the costs, we do a better job at educating the offender about the consequences of his or her crime and hopefully this contributes to his or her rehabilitation.

Law reform is about more than adjusting numbers. It is also about making sure the substance of the law prohibits all forms of misconduct and does so in the clearest possible language and provides the most coherent structure of offences. Bill C-50 also contains a number of elements that accomplish this important set of objectives.

The amendments will create a new offence that directly targets the wilful killing of an animal with brutal intention, such as by strapping an explosive on the animal--we have heard of that--or fastening the animal to a railway line. These types of acts, which most people consider impossible to imagine, are perhaps the most despicable form of cruelty we can imagine and may not be caught by our existing law if the person had or could prove a legitimate excuse for killing the animal. We are closing this loophole so that even when the law allows a person to kill an animal, he or she cannot do it with the intention of being brutal.

Euthanasia, slaughter, hunting practices could be humane. The hallmarks of humane euthanasia are that the methods are tried and true. They involve a minimization of pain and suffering. They are reproducible and reliable and do not pose any risk of failure or risk of harm to others.

Sometimes a person who kills an animal has another set of intentions reflected in acts that are not reliable methods of killing, which pose risks to that person or to others and which have uncertain and non-reproducible effects. Exploding an animal in a microwave, which we have heard of, or dropping it from a tall building are examples. If someone kills an animal with that state of mind, there is a good chance he or she is being deliberately brutal. The law must clearly prohibit and sternly punish this type of behaviour.

Another set of changes will clear up some of the language that is currently confusing. The code now has a set of offences in relation to cattle, a set of offences in relation to animals that are kept for a lawful purpose, and another set of offences for all animals. This produces duplication and some overlap. There are also omissions. For instance, there are special provisions on cockfighting and the keeping of cockpits. We know, sadly, that dog fighting also happens in our country. Why should our law not also prohibit that? There is no reason.

Bill C-50, a comprehensive law reform package in this area will rectify that deficiency. It will also remove current language, such as “dogs, birds and other animals”, which is a phrase that can do nothing except confuse. It will also remove the nonsensical notion of wilful neglect, which does not exist anywhere else in criminal law because it conflates two entirely different concepts. Wilful means deliberate and intentional, whereas neglect means inadvertence. Combining these two into one concept is bad criminal law. Bill C-50 will rectify that.

The bill will also provide a definition of animal when none currently exists. That definitely will be a “non-humane vertebrate”, for example. Today, there is no definition. This means that a worm or a snail or any possible living creature would probably be included. Since many industry groups have expressed concern over such an interpretation, Bill C-50 brings desirable clarity to the question. Without Bill C-50, the question of the scope of the law remains open and it leads to uncertainty.

Finally, Bill C-50 will create a new part of the Criminal Code with the title “Cruelty to Animals” as a chapter devoted just to these offences. This will permit the offences to be taken out of part XI, “Wilful and Forbidden Acts in Respect of Certain Property”.

I am aware that this change has been the subject of debate and discussion, but let us be clear about it in the bill. This change will not and cannot have the effect of altering the legal status of animals as property. The fact that animals are property is a result of property law, which is within the constitutional authority of provinces, not of this Parliament. The common law of this country and that of our Commonwealth cousins bears out centuries of jurisprudence that firmly establishes that animals are the property of the people or of the Crown. There are some people who would disagree with that. There are people who were referred to earlier as radical in this cause. This is a mainstream bill. This is not an extreme bill. It is legally impossible for the relocation of offences from one chapter of the Criminal Code to another to have any effect whatsoever on the legal status of animals as property.

The bill reflects the mainstream and widely held view of Canadians that the people with whom we share this planet are worthy of more respect than maybe we accorded them years ago. The bill is a meaningful and reasonable solution that addresses the needs of many stakeholders, people who work with animals, people who own animals, as well as people who just like to be with animals. The bill provides a sensible solution for all Canadians. I urge the adoption of Bill C-50.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 3:45 p.m.
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Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-50, an act to amend the Criminal Code in respect of cruelty to animals.

It has been a great source of frustration for many Canadians that the government has been attempting to legislate changes to animal cruelty offences since 1999 without success. Several versions of this bill have wound their way through the House and Senate only to die on the order paper. The parliamentary secretary did go through those previous versions. There were concerns that the proposed amendments could have criminalized some common and lawful activities such as catch and release fishing, trapping, hunting, and even some farming practices.

We are not just talking about our friends the animals, which is how urban people might view animals, and we have lots of animal friends. I have a dog who is a friend. Animals are also used in the context of agriculture, and those animals are not necessarily our friends. We have to recognize that animals play a dual role in our society. I recall the 2% strychnine solution being argued here regarding our friends the gophers. Gophers destroy thousands of acres of land every year and kill or hurt other animals that fall into gopher holes. We have to remember that all animals are not our friends.

Throughout the debates on these bills, Conservative MPs and senators strongly expressed their desire to prevent abuse of animals, but sought legal protection for those who use animals for legitimate, lawful and justified practices. The Senate was ultimately successful in amending Bill C-10B to narrow the definition of animal and to ensure that current legal defences for legitimate practices would be maintained.

Bill C-10B was reprinted in the House of Commons as Bill C-22, and was supported by the Conservative Party in light of the Senate amendments. However, the bill died at committee in the Senate in May 2004 before the last general election.

As the parliamentary secretary has explained, this enactment would amend the Criminal Code by consolidating animal cruelty offences and increasing the maximum penalties.

One of the things we have to realize is that these changes to the Criminal Code will not make it easier to prosecute animal offences. It is very difficult to prosecute animal offences. We hear about all kinds of horrendous examples such as skinning a cat, or putting cats into microwaves, those kinds of things. The point is that these changes will not make it any easier to prosecute those types of offences. The injustice that is often done is a result of inadequate evidence to prosecute the offence.

I am not necessarily opposing these amendments. We have voted on them many times already. I am suggesting that when there is a conviction, meaningful sentences should be put in place. There have been philosophical debates about whether an animal is property or whether it is not quite a human being, as some animal rights activists would have us believe, but the point is that appropriate penalties need to be in place so that when these difficult cases are successfully prosecuted, meaningful sentences are imposed.

One of the concerns that many animal groups involved in agriculture, fishing and hunting have mentioned to me about the current bill is that it would make it illegal to brutally and viciously kill an animal regardless of whether or not the animal dies immediately. I have a lot of concerns about that particular provision because it really takes an urban person's point of view about the killing of an animal. Many urban people look at the practice of killing a particular animal as being brutal and vicious and therefore that practice should be stopped. The real point we need to consider is not simply whether it looks brutal or vicious, but whether the animal in fact dies immediately. We want to minimize the animal's pain. I think all of us are agreed on that.

I am concerned that what we are doing here is taking a key relevant factor in determining whether or not something is brutal or vicious and making it irrelevant. We need to take a look at that particular issue. That more than any other issue has raised concerns for the groups who depend on animals for their livelihood.

I have no concern about raising the penalties. If there is genuine cruelty to animals and a prosecution is successful, we need to prosecute those cases vigorously and impose appropriate penalties.

There is one thing I find remarkable about Liberals. I wish Liberals would speak as passionately about human victims as they sometimes do about animal victims. I am very concerned about human victims. This is perhaps an appropriate segue into that entire issue.

I raised in question period the issue that under Bill C-70 a judge will be able to impose house arrest on someone who rapes a woman. The minister said that there would be exceptional circumstances where that would happen. I asked him in question period today under what exceptional circumstances should people who rape women serve their time at home. I am concerned about that kind of thing.

I am concerned about brutality toward animals, but I am also very concerned about the brutality that we demonstrate to other human beings. When we catch those animals who commit crimes against their fellow human beings, we say we should leave the door open for exceptional circumstances so that the poor rapist can serve his time at home. I am concerned about that kind of thing and I dare say most Canadians are.

I am concerned about drug dealers who are peddling poisons that kill our children. I am concerned about that. Yet under the Liberals' Bill C-70, drug dealers who are repeat offenders can get house arrest. I wish Liberals would talk as passionately about keeping those kinds of animals behind bars, those who would do that kind of thing to our children and fellow citizens.

I have pointed out a very practical problem with this bill. I hope the parliamentary secretary looks at that particular issue. At the same time I would encourage the parliamentary secretary to ask the Minister of Justice what he is doing in Bill C-70 to allow vicious, brutal rapists and drug dealers who are destroying our youth and communities to get house arrest in exceptional circumstances. We were assured by past justice ministers, Allan Rock and others, that it would never happen that conditional sentences or house arrest would be used for violent offences.

I want to see some amendments to this bill. I think it is moving in the right direction. We have had this debate over and over. I remind the parliamentary secretary that he should show the same concern for human victims as he does for animal victims.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 3:25 p.m.
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Northumberland—Quinte West Ontario


Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the provisions of Bill C-50, an act to amend the Criminal Code relating to the cruelty to animals.

The legislation has a long and notorious history in Parliament. Members will no doubt remember that the legislation has been before the House on a number of occasions over the past five years. These animal cruelty amendments were first introduced in Parliament in 1999 as part of an omnibus criminal reform bill called Bill C-17 but died on the order paper. They were later reintroduced as another omnibus bill, Bill C-15, in a subsequent Parliament. That bill was split into two portions and the portion which contained the animal cruelty amendments again died on the order paper. The amendments were next re-tabled as Bill C-10 which were again split and again the portion with animal cruelty died on the order paper. In the last Parliament, these amendments were known as Bill C-22. Today we are discussing the same amendments in Bill C-50.

The history of the bill is a long and winding road, which includes two highly unusual incidents of bill-splitting and several messages being sent between this and the other chamber. Given the occurrences of rare parliamentary procedures and ping-ponging of the legislation, a person unfamiliar with this history might come away with the impression that the legislation is still controversial and lacks broad base support.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind the members that in actual fact this House has passed this legislation several times in the last two years with support from members on both sides of the House. In addition, hon. members should recall that the legislation has a history of accommodation and compromise that has brought together groups that advocate for animal welfare, as well as groups that advocate for people whose livelihoods depend upon the use of animals. Let me explain.

Over the past five years there has been spirited and comprehensive debate about the impact of the legislation in both this House and the other place, in committees in both places, in the public domain and in the media, not to mention the innumerable meetings between stakeholders and various government officials. As a result, specific amendments have been made on a number of occasions to this bill. These were not legally necessary changes, I would submit, but were adopted by the government with a view to providing greater clarity about the issues of concern.

These accommodations did not compromise protections against animal cruelty. The end result was that a large number of industry stakeholders came to support the legislation. The ministers received the written support of a broad based coalition of industry groups, including a letter from earlier this year urging the government to re-table these very amendments just months before this bill was tabled.

This coalition of stakeholders includes representatives from the agricultural sector, animal research and the trapping industry. The legislation is not meant to and will not negatively impact on the lawful and humane animal related industries and these industries have now acknowledged that. Of course, animal welfare organizations, as well as veterinary associations, police associations and provincial attorneys general, continue to support the legislation wholeheartedly.

The only difference between this legislation and that which was last passed by this House as Bill C-22 is the inclusion now of a non-derogation clause that reaffirms the applicability of existing constitutional protection for traditional aboriginal practices. This was included after discussions between the minister and concerned senators over the potential impact of the legislation on aboriginal persons.

In every other respect, the legislation we have before us today mirrors exactly that legislation which was passed by this House many times already and which stakeholder groups on all sides of the issue urged the government to re-table.

With that brief history, let me make a few basic points about the legislation.

The first point to note is that Bill C-50 is not about new law. It is about better law. The criminal law already contains a range of offences that prohibit cruelty to animals and has since 1893, but the law is a messy jumble of archaic terminology and piecemeal amendments made on a few occasions since 1893.

The first goal of the bill therefore is to modernize, simplify and rationalize the law as well as to fill in certain gaps in legal protection. This objective is accomplished by a variety of measures, including: removing the distinctions in the law that originate from another century; removing overlapping offences; improving the coherence and functionality of the law by removing problematic language, such as “dogs, birds and other animals”; eliminating the illogical notion of “wilful neglect” that is not found anywhere else in our criminal law; and filling in gaps by creating new offences of killing an animal with a brutal or vicious intent and training an animal for the purpose of fighting another animal.

One other change that bears mentioning is the creation of a new chapter of the Criminal Code devoted specifically to animal cruelty. The new chapter would not change the legal substance of offences but would allow us to stop categorizing animal cruelty as property crime and to symbolically reflect that animal cruelty is most appropriately characterized as a gross violation of public standards of acceptable behaviour, as oftentimes it is a serious offence of violence. In fact, there is increasingly scientific evidence of a link between animal cruelty and subsequent violent offending against humans, particularly in the context of domestic violence. The women and children who are forced to witness animal cruelty know that it is not about property damage and it is time our Criminal Code recognized this reality.

The second goal of the amendments is to increase and enhance the penalty regime for animal cruelty offences. The way that society traditionally recognizes the seriousness of a particular conduct is through the penalty that it prescribes for that conduct.

Bill C-50 would make the law more coherent by clearly distinguishing criminally negligent conduct from wilful cruelty for the purposes of providing different sentencing ranges. The person who keeps too many cats and is unable to care for them all commits a different kind of criminal offence than one who skins a cat alive, and Bill C-50 would ensure that penalty ranges reflect this.

The current maximum penalty for animal cruelty, six months in prison or a $2,000 fine or both, would be increased accordingly for both kinds of crime. For intentional cruelty, which would be made a hybrid offence, the maximum penalty on indictment would be increased to five years and on summary conviction to eighteen months. For criminally negligent offences, the maximum sentence would be increased to two years.

Another change is the removal of the current two year cap on orders prohibiting a convicted offender from owning or living with animals. The length of a prohibition order would be in the discretion of the judge and he or she would make the final determination. The courts would also be given a clear power to order a convicted offender to repay to a person or to an organization, which most likely would be the animal welfare society, the costs associated with the caring for the animal the offender was convicted of abusing.

These penalty enhancements, coupled with the other set of reforms that bring greater simplicity, coherence and rationality to the laws, will work together to signal to judges, prosecutors, police and the general public that the abuse of animals is about violence and that cruelty is a matter of serious criminal law.

To be effective, good criminal law must not only provide adequate penalty ranges, it must also be clear, coherent, complete and must reflect the true nature of the misconduct and the societal values at stake. The full range of legal reforms is necessary to bring our 19th century criminal laws in this area into the 21st century.

Over the course of many years that animal cruelty amendments have been before Parliament, Canadians have consistently voiced their strong support for legislative change in this area and their expectation that the legislation will be passed without delay. I urge all members in the House to ensure that occurs as soon as possible.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2005 / 6 p.m.
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The Deputy Speaker

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

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

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2005 / 4:45 p.m.
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Christian Simard Bloc Beauport, QC

Madam Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to talk about Bill C-22, to establish the Department of Social Development. With all the questions and odd things heard recently, I believe it is very important to put certain elements back in their proper context.

When we say we are interested in obtaining the money we pay in taxes in order to develop the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces, we are not begging or asking for something that does not belong to us. It is about delivering services to the people policies are designed for, and not about duplication, encroachment, petty politics or the development of very complex, piecemeal programs within huge departments that duplicate public services. That does not help anybody.

I understand the NDP is having considerable difficulty with these data, because it thinks Ottawa knows best. It is not surprising that often, despite its sometimes noble objectives, it is so far removed from the heart of Canadians and so misunderstood by the public.

The New Democratic Party has the sort of vision that whatever comes from Parliament Hill and flows toward the provinces is a good thing. Rather than debate things where they have to be debated, they think that in the case of whatever is called local development, whatever comes out of the communities or whatever is done in the provinces, a short cut, a national standard, a national program, the great department will replace an integrated approach, proximity of services and provincial accountability. However, they are mistaken, and this is not the way to get support from people.

Maybe it is the way it is done in certain ridings on the west island, I do not know, but I have a hard time imagining someone in my riding saying: “I am suffering from my missing pan-Canadian program. It is hurting me. I have a big problem. You know, I never got my pan-Canadian cheque. I do not have my pan-Canadian day care. I have a fine Quebec day care. The people are nice, but it is not pan-Canadian. It does not have a Canadian flag, and my children are suffering. Public services are suffering too”.

I do not think so and I cannot imagine people asking me for a pan-Canadian system, duplication or Canadian day care over Quebec day care. I do not know how they do that. Do they want a Tim Hortons beside a Dunkin' Donuts? What are they trying to do?

If they are trying to help people in need, to undertake real social development, really increase resource efficiency, do they need to create department after department? Do they need to create little program after little program? Do they have to create things that already exist? Do they need to negotiate 10 years each time over financial compensation for day care and parental leave? Is that serving the public? I do not think so. Really, it is doing the public no service.

And what about the creation of the Department of Social Development? With respect to programs for people with a disability, yes, everyone supports virtue and opposes vice. We all like apple pie. However, we do not agree with having a number of cooks making different apple pies in different ways for the same person. In the end, it does not work. It produces bad results. It is expensive and cumbersome. So, the government wants to create Canadian departments, especially to promote its importance and not with a view to efficiency in areas of respective jurisdiction.

So, there is a fundamental problem because the federal government has spent more—the Comité Léonard proved this—in areas under the jurisdiction of the provinces and of Quebec then in its own areas of jurisdiction.

Given what happened with the HMCS Chicoutimi , the Halifax class frigates or the HMCS Toronto , would it not have been better to what it has to do instead of trying to do what others do very well? Why not apply this to post-secondary education?

I had hoped that this would be clear to the NDP as well in terms of Bill C-48. There is no need to duplicate departments responsible for education and standards. Why duplicate, why redo what is being done well? For the pleasure of saying, “I am in education too; I am in social development too” or for the pleasure of seeing the Canadian flag everywhere?

There was the sponsorship scandal; will there be a social sponsorship scandal? More money will be spent, less and less effectively, on regional development simply to show that it too can spend, even if it makes no sense, even if it has nothing to do with integrated management policies, even if it is removed from the public, and even if it causes both systems to fail. There is a will to centralize.

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June 8th, 2005 / 4:20 p.m.
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Marc Boulianne Bloc Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-22, concerning the creation of the Department of Social Development.

First of all, there is always a need to establish a premise when dealing with legislation coming from the federal government. At the same time, one has to lay out the Bloc's stance, which is very clear and always inspired—as my colleague mentioned a while ago—by the defence of the interests of Quebec and that always involves the areas of jurisdiction.

Currently, of all federal parties, the Bloc Québécois is the only one that always defends its jurisdictions and guards them jealously. It always defends the regions and the economy of each riding.

The Bloc definitely, categorically and unequivocally condemns the systematic interference by the Liberal government. It is indeed a bad habit that has been going on for a long time. Suffice it to look at the context. It is a constant habit in regard to new legislation. The previous few bills are still getting one foot in the door and trying to pry it open, in terms of Quebec's jurisdictions.

This department, just like the others, has a mandate to interfere in the jurisdictions of Quebec and of provinces in general. There is an absolute need to denounce the creation of such a department, as much for the reasons of operations and effectiveness we outlined earlier, as for reasons having to do with interference.

A structure like the one being proposed, no matter how it is defined, does not achieve the desired effectiveness if there is not the political will to resolve the problems. That is what is lacking in the government.

Earlier my colleague spoke of poverty among women, seniors and children. It exists in Canada. The statistics are quite clear. In fact, the government is criticized for not having the will to do anything about it. So, it does not matter what structure is implemented, if there is no will to resolve the problems and defend the interests of the people, it will not work.

If the Canadian government put as much effort into defending Quebec's interests as it does into interfering in its jurisdictions, things would be much better and many problems would be resolved.

This government has a reputation that precedes it when it comes to interference. My colleague gave a number of examples earlier. Even though the government would have us believe that it wants to respect federal jurisdictions, as well as those of Quebec and the provinces, we in the Bloc are quite skeptical. We do not believe this government in the least, quite simply because it wants to cross the line, yet again, and grab powers that belong to Quebec.

There is no shortage of examples of encroachment. It happens regularly. Just look at labour force training—I will come back to this later—health, municipalities, or the millennium scholarships that caused so many problems. There is also child care, which my colleague mentioned, the environment, the community sector, volunteerism, social housing, education. The list goes on. The fact is that these problems have not been solved and the solutions provided do not necessarily correspond to the interests of Quebeckers.

Take health for example, for which the vision is quite centralist. The government talks about plans. It is going to make the governments of Quebec and the provinces accountable. It will require certain indicators and evidence-based benchmarks pretty much everywhere. All that to implement a pan-Canadian system, which is what it has done in other sectors.

It is unfortunate, but the pan-Canadian system, whether for health or other areas, does not always correspond to the interests and desires of Quebeckers. That is true for health. These problems are practically insurmountable because the real needs are not being met.

It is the same thing with the labour force. The federal government talks about an agreement with Quebec and the other provinces, but what kind of agreement is it?

If they say that it covers duplications, what about opting out? This is always done unilaterally. They do not know what they want to do with regard to the kinds of customers and the labour force. Indeed, once again, this is a Canada-wide idea, which is not necessarily relevant to Quebec's reality.

And so, from one bill to the next, the encroachment is systematic. We learn something new every day. Again, not too long ago, the Prime Minister announced that the municipalities would have other responsibilities. There was a vote on a bill designed to add cities to provinces. There is always this bad habit of systematically encroaching on Quebec's plans.

The same thing goes for the environment. The Kyoto Protocol is not a success. It is a failure for the minister. None of the efforts made by Quebec were acknowledged. The government gives the large polluters the freedom to pollute or to expand. It is very easy. None of the efforts made by Quebec were taken into account in that context. What they are doing for the environment is setting up some sort of environmental assessment process which, once again, does not meet the needs.

By nibbling away at Quebec's authority and jurisdiction, the government is drifting further and further away from Quebec's interests and the cure for its problems.

There are other examples. However, I will stick to municipalities. My colleague provided answers earlier. That is important. The proposed new agreement on transferring the gasoline tax is one more systematic intrusion. In my opinion, it is bad for Quebec, Canada and democracy. When a minority government arrogantly meddles in the powers of Quebec and the provinces, a dead end is reached at some point. The price must be paid.

Let us come back specifically to Bill C-22. Here again, the government talks of social development, which is not the federal government's prerogative. It is in fact under Quebec's exclusive jurisdiction. Quebec developed social development. The federal government cannot, just like that, give itself powers and jurisdictions over health and education.

The Bloc cannot support this bill, because this would support the fact that the federal government has always played a role in social development. That is mistaken. We cannot ratify a bill that is erroneous.

If, for example, the Bloc agreed to the creation of this department—my colleague from Lévis—Bellechasse mentioned it earlier—it would open the way to consolidation of federal intrusions in social development in the future. This is a field that it has, however, ignored.

Over time, this would also mean accepting the waste that will occur. This was mentioned several times. In fact, my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel has mentioned this in his question earlier. How will we be able to control this waste of money?

I said at the beginning of my speech that this is not about explaining a structure and putting public servants into it; the government must have the political will to solve the problems. Otherwise, this is totally useless.

We cannot approve this. It is unfortunate because, in the beginning, we had come to some agreements and the federal government had made commitments. Indeed, the government and the Prime Minister had said that they would respect Quebec's jurisdictions. They did exactly the opposite.

For example, they had accepted the Bloc Québécois subamendment that required the government to fully respect the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces, while promising more money for social programs. This was not followed through. We cannot rely on this government in any level of intervention, whether it is political, social or economic. It does the opposite of what it must do, or it does not respond. It avoids the problems.

We were also supposed to sign agreements on parental leave. We are constantly asking questions to know where we are on this. We have seen judgments. In this regard, Quebec's jurisdiction is extremely important.

We talked about exclusivity. This is very significant.

The Bloc Québécois has always defended, and still defends, the interests of Quebeckers and, as I mentioned earlier, the interests of the regions. The jurisdictions must be respected. We, Bloc Québécois members, are not the only ones defending them. There is consensus at the National Assembly, where this principle is well recognized. We are very protective of our jurisdictions.

It is important to point out that these areas come under the jurisdiction of the Quebec government, which is often close to the public, which knows the structures well, which monitors the institutions effectively, and which maintains a very close relation with the organizations. This means the Quebec government has the expertise and the tools necessary to develop relevant policies and to provide, based on needs and following consultations, the funds required to implement these policies.

The federal government must recognize once and for all that Quebec—and the provinces—although its leeway has been considerably reduced by the fiscal imbalance—and we could talk about this at length—has nevertheless managed to implement internationally renowned quality programs. It has succeeded in establishing ties with international stakeholders, and in creating valuable models. We set an example. I will not talk about child care, because it was mentioned earlier. But it is not just child care. We are also a world model, we have an influence at the international level as regards business operations. Quebec manages to do that by fully exercising its authority in its own jurisdictions.

The Bloc Québécois will never agree to the creation of a department that has the mandate to duplicate and copy Quebec's avant-garde policies, to use them and to fiddle with them for its own purposes. Moreover, this also prevents Quebec from fully developing its own potential. Agreeing to the creation of such a department would be going against the interests of Quebec and against its development. This is not about visibility, but about respect for the integrity, security and health of all individuals.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2005 / 3:35 p.m.
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Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have the opportunity to address members of the House in regard to this important legislation. By virtue of the legislation the department will have subscribed to its legal status. The bill exemplifies the ways in which the government is working to strengthen Canada's social foundations and in so doing ensure that the best possible level of service is provided to all Canadians.

I support the bill because it means Canadians will benefit from a stronger social foundation. By introducing the bill in the House of Commons, it will demonstrate its commitment to serving Canadians in a fair, inclusive and efficient manner.

I am proud to stand here in support of Bill C-22 and I encourage all members of the House to join me in supporting the bill which represents so much for Canadians.

For seniors, the bill clearly states the Government of Canada's commitment to the provision of necessary support for seniors. this will help to ensure that they live with dignity. Budget 2005 provides $13 million over five years to establish a national seniors secretariat. The secretariat would work with several federal departments that have seniors' related policies and programs as well as other levels of government and key partners to address the challenges of an aging population.

The federal government must prepare for a growing and diverse seniors population while continuing to address the issues facing current seniors in Canada. At present, several departments are involved in seniors' issues. As the lead department for seniors, Social Development Canada will be home to the secretariat and will coordinate efforts in partnership with provincial and territorial governments as well as other stakeholders. They will develop approaches to respond to the needs of seniors.

Fundamentally, the department will enhance the knowledge of seniors' needs and issues and it will establish partnerships with governments, academics, seniors' organizations and individuals. This will ensure that there are future initiatives to address the challenges and needs of all ages for current and future seniors.

Voting in favour of Bill C-22 is a vote in favour of our nation's children. Investing in children and families is one of the best ways we can enhance the social and economic fabric of the country, now and into the future. To this end, the Government of Canada has put in place a comprehensive set of initiatives that reflect and support the range of families, choices and circumstances, from tax measures to joint initiatives with the provinces and territories to improve programs and support services.

While these initiatives have been put forward, more work needs to be done. The majority of the families do not have access to the kind of quality early learning and child care programs that can help set their young children on the path of success. Indeed, even children who are cared for primarily by parents at home can benefit from taking part in nursery school program for a few hours each week.

With the introduction of Bill C-22, the Government of Canada believes that the time has come to develop early learning and child care in Canada. In the 2005 federal budget the government announced $5 billion over five years to fund an early learning and child care initiative in collaboration with the provinces and territories. These initiatives will be guided by what is known as the quad principles: quality, universal inclusiveness, accessibility and development.

This new initiative builds on the success of the 2003 multilateral framework of early learning and child care and the 2000 early childhood agreement. Recently the government has been working with each province and territory to develop and announce bilateral agreements in principle. In the past few weeks the Government of Canada has signed agreements in principle with the governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia that will support the development of quality early learning child care in these provinces.

The agreements in principle are based on a national vision which would build in the best practice and ensure reports on progress to Canadians. Canadians will be kept informed of the differences these new investments are making in the lives of children and families.

This will not be a one size fits all approach. We recognize that early learning and child care within each province and territory is at different stages of development and that the needs and circumstances vary. This is why provincial and territorial governments will have the flexibility to enhance early learning and child care support in the way that best meets the needs of their communities.

The mandate of Social Development Canada is straightforward. Its objective is to strengthen Canada's social foundation by supporting the well-being of individuals, families and communities through citizen focused policies, programs and services. Social Development Canada is the point of convergence for social policies and programs for children, families and caregivers, persons with disabilities and seniors. This department will also play a leading role in driving the social economy through programs such as voluntary sector initiative.

Essentially, Social Development Canada represents $53 billion at work for Canadians. Most of the money represents income support for Canadians themselves, especially seniors and people with disabilities as well as children.

The new department is working in a number of ways to ensure key social goals are met. Some of these goals are set up to ensure that an effective income security system is in place for seniors, that we help people with disabilities to participate fully in Canadian society, that we focus on the needs and interests of families and children in a cohesive way and that the role and activities of the non-profit and community-based sector in our society are identified, recognized and supported.

Ultimately, by bringing together these social programs for seniors, families and children and persons with disabilities under one roof, the department is providing a focal point for social policy at the federal level. This is our commitment to delivering the programs and services that Canadians have come to expect from the Government of Canada. It is what they need and it is what they deserve. I encourage all members to support the bill.

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June 6th, 2005 / 12:25 p.m.
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Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, when the Prime Minister created the new Department of Social Development, he affirmed the Government of Canada's commitment to support Canadians at every stage of their lives.

A growing number of Canadians are entering, or are already in, the so-called golden age, reaping the rewards of a life of hard work to build a country we so proudly share today.

We only need to look around this chamber to realize how great the impact of our aging population is in our nation. Many of us, like many Canadians, are baby boomers, soon to join the swelling ranks of seniors who are transforming our country in myriad ways. The repercussions of this trend will require innovative responses from all levels of government to meet seniors' needs and take advantage of their skills and experience to better our society.

Our government's decision to create Social Development Canada signalled our understanding that we have to take a fresh approach to social policy development in the 21st century to reflect the changing face of our people and society.

Canada today is a dramatically different country than the one many of us grew up in. Just a generation or two ago, seniors represented a small proportion of the population, but many were among the poorest people in the country. Years ago we set out to rectify that situation by introducing public pensions and old age security for our most vulnerable citizens.

Here are the most significant statistics: In 2003 there were 4.6 million Canadians 65 years or older. Those numbers are expected to climb to 6.7 million by 2021. That is double what the seniors population was as recently as 2000. Even more striking, there will be 9.2 million seniors in 2041, nearly one in four Canadians.

The reverberations of these trends are being felt in all quarters, from the health system to public and private pension plans, to the voluntary sector. We need a better understanding of how we can best meet the needs and expectations of this growing segment of our population.

Canadians want the assurance they can live their later years in comfort and dignity. We firmly believe that Canada's seniors have earned that right and deserve to be treated with the utmost compassion and respect.

I personally was very involved in the work of the government's women's caucus. I was chair of the subcommittee that pushed for a task force on seniors, that worked very hard and got a commitment to increase the guaranteed income supplement. I organized a full day consultation in the greater Toronto area for all of the organizations and individuals who wanted to make presentations on what programs and assistance for seniors would look like in the future. I was very proud to be involved because the government in this last budget has put forward a plan, and we need to now look forward to a much longer plan.

The 17 recommendations that were made by the task force were driven by two imperatives: first, moving forward now to address the needs of today's vulnerable seniors; and second, taking the steps needed to prepare for the growing number of seniors as our population ages.

Following a key recommendation in the task force report, the budget announced that the guaranteed income supplement will be increased, as I mentioned before. These benefits will rise by 7%, representing the biggest income hike in a generation for seniors who need it most. This is the first increase to the GIS since 1984, other than inflation indexing, and totals $2.7 billion over the next five years. Perhaps most important, this much needed increase will be there for this and future generations of low income seniors, to help those most in need to make ends meet.

These additional funds will be phased in over two years, starting in January 2006. By 2007 the increase will add up to $432 a year for a single senior and $700 a year for couples. These are amounts that will make a real difference in their lives and will also make up to 50,000 more seniors eligible for partial guaranteed income supplement benefits.

We must recognize that this is only the beginning. Our ability to move forward depends on how well we work together. Many federal departments and all levels of government have important pieces of the seniors puzzle. What we need to do is focus on aligning these efforts to achieve our collective goal of ensuring that seniors enjoy the quality of life they deserve.

That is why budget 2005 announced the creation of a national seniors secretariat within the Department of Social Development. The secretariat will work with partners in and out of government to find ways to meet the needs of current and future generations of seniors. It will also look for opportunities to mobilize the energies and efforts of seniors who have already spent a lifetime contributing to Canadian society.

Budget 2005 also announced an increase in funding for the successful new horizons for seniors program. New horizons for seniors was launched in October 2004 with an investment of $8 million with ongoing funding of $10 million annually.

The program encourages seniors active living and social participation, enabling older Canadians to continue contributing to their communities. It has proven to be very popular, generating over 1,400 applications since its inception.

In response to an overwhelming interest in the program, the Government of Canada announced an increase in funding to the new horizons for seniors program in the 2005 budget. The overall budget will be increased to $15 million in 2005-06 and will reach $25 million by 2007-08. That is fantastic news.

As a result of these increased investments, at least twice as many projects will receive funding in the first year to expand support for community based projects led by seniors. This means tens of thousands more Canadians will be able to take part in projects that build vibrant communities by including and empowering seniors.

These projects may range from harnessing seniors' experience through mentorship to expanding volunteer activities for seniors and other vulnerable groups, to strengthening relationships across generations. Any society that fails to recognize its most accomplished citizens and that misses the opportunity to put their skills to good use does a disservice to those individuals. It does an even greater disservice to itself.

For all these reasons we need this legislation, Bill C-22, to create Social Development Canada, a powerful new vehicle to advance the interests of Canada's seniors. Budget 2005 has now provided a foundation for the department to further its mandate and role to help enable seniors live their elderly years in dignity. In so doing we will create a stronger society that benefits us all.

I urge my hon. colleagues to give their stamp of approval to this legislation so Social Development Canada can carry on this vitally important work and become the voice of social development in Canada.

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June 6th, 2005 / 12:10 p.m.
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Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to take part in this important debate. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Beaches—East York.

There are many convincing arguments for the creation of Social Development Canada, which is what the legislation before us today makes possible. Surely none is more compelling than the new department's increased capacity to address the needs of caregivers, society's unsung heroes, who give so generously of themselves and their time to care for aged relatives or relatives with disabilities. Here I would like to mention Caregivers Nova Scotia from my own province, one of the most impressive caregiving organizations in Canada and a leading proponent of volunteer caregiving.

A key reason for creating SDC, Social Development Canada, is to provide a centre of expertise on social policy and programs so that Canada can maintain and surpass its international reputation as a caring society.

Nothing better reflects that commitment than the decision to appoint a Minister of State for Families and Caregivers, dedicated to identifying and implementing measures to better support these Canadians. The minister of state's new role signals the importance the Government of Canada attaches to family issues and recognizes the valuable role caregivers play in our society. The minister's sensitivity and his understanding of caregivers makes him well suited to this role.

Most unpaid caregivers are middle-aged and employed full time while caring for elderly relatives and persons with disabilities. Despite the challenges of juggling work and family life, on average these Canadians provide 23 hours of unpaid caregiving per month.

Like millions of Canadians, I have been a caregiver myself, in my case to my parents, who were dying of cancer but who were able to die at home where they lived, where they raised their family, where they were comfortable and where they were loved.

Our country would be very different and much poorer if it were not for the selfless efforts of so many Canadians who care for their loved ones, and as impressive as the numbers are, they are merely a harbinger of things to come. Today's baby boomers are fast becoming seniors. Because seniors now tend to live longer and because families are becoming smaller and more dispersed, the growing demand for caregiving has grown stronger, yet the capacity for caregiving is diminishing.

The role of the caregiver is already proving to be very difficult for many families. We understand the challenges these Canadians may face in balancing their professional life, their personal health needs, and family and caregiving responsibilities. We also know that many Canadians are faced with the dual role of raising their children while providing care to an aging parent, hence the so-called sandwich generation. In 2002, 27% of people aged 45 to 64 with children at home also cared for seniors.

I have met a large number of caregivers of varying circumstances. Each has a very compelling story. At this year's Caregivers Nova Scotia annual dinner, which the minister attended, we heard of a family, for example, whose father was diagnosed with cancer and shortly after that whose child was diagnosed as autistic. These stories are becoming far too common.

Not surprisingly, Canadians have told us that providing support to family caregivers must be a priority of the Government of Canada. There is no question that it is.

Our government currently provides a range of initiatives to assist family caregivers, including: tax credits for caregivers, infirm dependants and medical expenses, the last of which was recently enriched; transfers to support provincial and territorial programs, which include child care, respite care, and home care; the employment insurance compassionate care benefit, which offers up to six weeks of income replacement to family members who must leave work temporarily to care for a dying family member; the Canada pension plan general dropout provision, which exempts up to 15% of years of little or no earnings from a person's pension calculation and could be used to cover years spent in caregiving; labour legislation supporting flexibility in federally regulated workplaces; first nations health programming such as home, community care and adult care programs; and the veterans' independence program and respite care.

As proud as we are of these programs and services, there is a lot more to be done. That is exactly what Social Development Canada has been designed to do and intends to do.

The 2004 Speech from the Throne committed the department to consult with Canadians to find ways to improve support for unpaid caregivers. Key to this process will be working with provinces and territories and engaging parliamentarians, stakeholder groups and Canadian individuals in developing a comprehensive strategy to better meet the needs of caregivers.

Considerable progress has been made. At the November 2004 meeting, federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for social development discussed working together on a comprehensive strategy.

Both the Minister of Social Development and the Minister of State for Families and Caregivers have made it a personal priority to advance this agenda. For instance, the minister of state is currently in extensive discussions with the real experts on these challenges: Canadian caregivers themselves. He is crossing the country to consult with unpaid caregivers with first-hand experience, as well as experts and stakeholders involved in this field.

Since launching a series of round tables in January, the minister of state has heard how caregiving responsibilities often affect the caregivers' employment opportunities and income, their out of pocket expenses and their social, emotional and physical well-being. I was pleased to join the minister on the Atlantic leg of his round tables in my riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.

In response to what he has heard, the minister of state has pledged to make sure that SDC develops citizen-focused policies and programs that better meet the needs of unpaid caregivers and those they care for: seniors, people with disabilities, and children, among the most vulnerable in our society.

That is the real strength of Social Development Canada. SDC was created to find more effective ways to meet the changing circumstances and expectations of families, children, Canadians with disabilities, seniors and caregivers.

By narrowing the department's focus to these key areas of social development, we can concentrate on issues that fall outside the labour market, issues that sometimes tend to be overlooked when the focus is primarily on the economy. Because of the division of responsibilities between Social Development Canada and HRSD Canada, we can better identify solutions to existing and emerging social problems, such as the pressures and stress that are faced by family caregivers, and engage a broad range of partners to support community development.

In creating Social Development Canada, Bill C-22 provides a focal point for social policy within the Government of Canada, enabling the department to become the real voice of social development. SDC's new structure helps us take a holistic approach to policy and program development. It creates new avenues for working with other federal departments, other levels of government, the private sector, the key voluntary sector and individual Canadians, and for improving the lives of children and families, seniors, and people with disabilities, as well as their caregivers.

The powers and authorities contained in this act will allow us to coordinate and develop better integrated strategies such as the one we are developing for Canada's caregivers, which will strengthen our country's social foundations and produce better results for Canadians. The example of caregiving underscores just how critical this work is to our nation. I call on my colleagues' support to carry on this vital activity by assuring this legislation passes quickly.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2005 / noon
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Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, our country has many resources but none is more precious than our children. They represent the hopes and the dreams of families, communities and the entire nation. They are the future that will only be realized when Canadians elect a government that cares about supporting our most vulnerable members of society.

If anything represents the callous disregard for children and families of the government, it has to be its record when it comes to child poverty. I have listened very intently to the speeches from the government's side regarding the legislation we have before us today, Bill C-22.

While Canadians might hear all the usual statements from a party that is campaigning for re-election, let us look at the actual record of the Prime Minister when it comes to children.

Poverty among children in Canada is rising. The government says that billions are being spent. When questioned directly about the plight of children, the same inability to provide a public accounting for how dollars are actually being spent, which created the sponsorship fraud, applies to the funds that the government says are earmarked for children. The money really ends up being siphoned off for other Liberal priorities.

As finance minister, the Prime Minister oversaw a deal in 1997 that resulted in a clawback of the national child benefit supplement from the pockets of some of our neediest children. This new program in 1997 to assist Canadian families with children replaced what many Canadians called the baby bonus. It was introduced as the Canada child tax benefit, the CCTB. It included a basic benefit and a supplement, the national child benefit supplement, the NCBS.

The NCBS program was supposed to be designed to reduce poverty among low income families with children. Negotiations between federal and provincial governments around the implementation of the NCBS resulted in most provinces, Ontario included, deducting the NCBS amount from the benefits received by families on social assistance. This is what is commonly known as the NCBS clawback. This offset was a design feature of the NCBS, although provinces were not compelled to do it. Most provinces do offset but in different ways. Only Manitoba and New Brunswick do not offset in any way.

Considering the fact that the money was being doled out by Ottawa, and we know that money is power, why would Ottawa agree to allow money, which it publicly bragged was meant for our poorest children, to go somewhere else? The Prime Minister agreed to this because it created the fiscal imbalance. Of the approximately $250 million a year that the Ontario government claws back, 80% is directed to the fiscal imbalance in that province with the remaining 20% going to municipalities for programs that the gas tax, which has been spent and re-spent, promised and re-promised, should be funding instead.

The Liberal Party was prepared to see the money intended for our children be misdirected because in Ottawa the Prime Minister could stand in front of cameras and say, “Look what Ottawa is spending on our children”. In fact the Prime Minister knew that once the dollars went to the provinces, they had to cope with the federal cutbacks in the shared delivery program.

In Ontario the average monthly number of children affected by the clawback in 2003-04 was about 164,000. One of the ironies of this has to be the clawback from needy children in the greater Toronto area, the GTA. That municipality then directs some of the clawed back funds into food banks. It has been suggested by the Income Security Advocacy Centre that 13,500 children in the GTA would no longer need to use a food bank if the national child benefit supplement was restored to families on social assistance.

By the end of 2003, municipalities were sitting on a pool of $20 million in unspent national child benefit funds. Municipalities reported spending over $800,000 on reinvestment program administration costs in 2003. The money has been going to administration costs instead of to the children, money that has been clawed back from the pockets of some of our neediest children, those on social assistance.

I mention these figures in the program because I hear spending figures tossed around by the government. The minister of the new department, which Bill C-22 would legitimize, seems perplexed that the government is spending all this money, yet child poverty continues to rise in Canada. This government cannot understand why. Perhaps if the government were not so consumed with scandal, it would take the time to look at some of these programs to see if they work.

The municipalities are getting wise to the fiscal imbalance practised by the federal government when it comes to our children. In my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, the council of the township of South Algonquin passed a resolution requesting restoration of the national child benefit to Ontario Works recipients.

Similar motions have been passed by councils in Mattawa, Papineau, Cameron, Hamilton, Kapuskasing, Kingston, Windsor, Ottawa and Sudbury, to name only a few municipalities.

This past weekend we heard a lot of rhetoric from the Prime Minister about a new deal for cities. Obviously he did not take the time to consult the mayors of those municipalities I just mentioned when he set up the clawback of the benefit to children.

Canadians have learned to be skeptical of a minority PM who promises anything to cling to power. I challenge the NDP finance minister to rewrite the $4.6 billion deal. Unlike other spending promises, eliminating the clawback will not cost taxpayers any more than what was promised in 1997 when the program was announced.

Ontario families who receive social assistance have an average of $115 taken away each month per child as a result of the clawback.

Most do not benefit in the reinvestment programs where some of this clawback money is supposed to be directed, which are generally not designed with them in mind. In Ontario, 80% of the money clawed back goes toward child care supplements for working families for which social assistance recipients generally do not qualify.

I know that $115 is not a lot of money to a government that is used to paying a million dollar commission for non-existent work. However, $115 is a lot of money for someone living below the poverty line. The sum of $115 per month represents a lot of money when a person is trying to adequately provide food, clothing and shelter for your children. Canadians have to ask, why is Parliament even debating the creation of this new department and the legislation we have before us today?

In another example of the democratic deficit that created the corruption associated with the sponsorship scandal, Parliament is being asked to retroactively approve a department that already exists. Now some Canadians have recognized that in order to entice particular types of people to be a member of the Liberal Party, certain inducements have to be offered.

With the former member for York Centre safely seated with his rich patronage reward in the other place, the current member for York Centre could run in a safe Liberal seat for, as they say in the hockey business, “future considerations”.

Future considerations, so it turned out, was creating a new job for the Minister of Social Development. Parliament is now being asked to retroactively approve the deal. That sure sounds familiar to me. I look forward to hearing from my colleague from Vancouver South, the health minister, and his recollections of the negotiation process.

As an old hockey player, the Minister of Social Development has some experience with trades and backroom deals. As the new goalie for children, a role I encourage the minister to assume, the time has come to make children a priority and block the shots from the PM.

The Prime Minister, as the previous finance minister, scored one goal, with an assists from Liberal MPs, that needs to be disallowed and this involves children. The Minister of Social Development should stand up to the Prime Minister and undo the deal that was made in 1997 and make national child benefit funding conditional on provinces and territories not clawing back the benefit from families receiving social assistance.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

June 2nd, 2005 / 3 p.m.
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Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario


Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, before I get to the weekly business statement, I said at that time that I would begin to schedule opposition days before the end of May and that is exactly what I have done. There are a number more to schedule.

Today and tomorrow, of course, are allotted days. I also wish to designate next Tuesday and next Thursday as allotted days.

When the budget bills, Bill C-43 and Bill C-48 are reported from committee, they will certainly become our highest priority.

In the meantime, we will proceed with third reading of Bill C-22, the social development bill; report stage and third reading of Bill C-26, the border services legislation; second reading of Bill S-18, respecting the census; and Bill C-52, the Fisheries Act amendment.

We will then turn to report stage and third reading of bills that have been or are soon to be reported from committee. These include Bill C-25 respecting RADARSAT; Bill C-37, the do not call bill; Bill C-28, the food and drug legislation; and Bill C-38, the civil marriage bill. If there is time during the next three weeks, we will also start to debate the legislation that has been introduced during the last few weeks.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

June 1st, 2005 / 5:10 p.m.
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Ahuntsic Québec


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

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to once more speak to Bill C-22. I would like to remind the hon. members, especially the member for Sault Ste. Marie who was supportive of the bill. that this recommendation came from a committee of the House. That committee did an exhaustive study and recommended to the House that the department should be split. We tend to forget that, and it was a unanimous report of that committee at that time.

I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak to you today about Bill C-22, an act to establish the Department of Social Development and to amend and repeal certain related Acts. This is a department devoted essentially to social development, which demonstrates the Government of Canada's desire to renew its commitment to social development policies.

Social Development Canada centralizes social policy at the federal level, along with all social programs aimed at strengthening the social infrastructure of Canada.

At Social Development Canada, there is a mission. That mission, in short, is to support the well-being of individuals and families and their full participation in the life of our country.

I would like to also remind members who already have spoken that last night we had four hours to question the minister on the mission of the department and what it does.

I think it is rather disappointing that the NDP, through its critic, has now decided not to be supportive of a measure that came straight from the committee's recommendation and which the government accepted. The opposition always talks about how committees have no relevance in the House, but they do have a relevance when it suits its purposes.

Whether it is a senior, a person with a disability, a family, a child or whether it is the needs of the voluntary sector, Social Development Canada exists to help Canadians live full, complex and rewarding lives. I always say that the department takes us from zero up to the death, from the birth of a Canadian citizen up to the death of the Canadian citizen. We touch their lives through the whole sphere of their lives on this earth.

It does this through income security benefits, through programs that promote inclusion and participation, through funding support to organizations that contribute to Canada's social development and through investments in children and families.

However, we want to go further and move faster in enhancing the quality of life of Canadians by fostering even greater participation in society by alleviating poverty, by ensuring every child can get a good start in life, as is the early learning and child care initiative, and by widening the choices available to Canadians as they go through life's transitions.

Many social issues transcend jurisdictional responsibilities and it is the responsibility of the government to have a national vision. It is certainly not one that is shared by the hon. members from the Bloc. I can understand that. After having done politics in Quebec for 30 years, I do not expect them to be supportive of a national vision when they have a vision that only pertains to Quebec. That is obvious.

However, I am a little disappointed that my colleague from the NDP and my colleagues from the Conservative Party do not transcend jurisdictional situations in which the Bloc, because of its mandate, would not be supportive.

No one level of government or segment of the community on its own can address them in their entirety. An effective response means many different players must work together each using the levers and interventions appropriate to their resources, expertise and jurisdictional responsibilities.

I want to reiterate that we have a collaborative relationship with our colleagues from the provincial and territorial governments. That is what a national government does. It collaborates. It shares its resources. It sits at the table and tries to find solutions for Canadian citizens from the age of zero up to their death.

In this way, the departmental vision fits into the partnership framework, a framework that is itself based on consultation, cooperation and commitment and involves the provincial and territorial governments, community organizations and other stakeholders, as well as the people of Canada.

Now for the role of our department. The very core of the responsibilities of Social Development Canada must be a holistic vision of life on which we can base our reflection and strategic orientation, starting at the beginning: our children.

The department shows the way and administers the income support for early childhood education and child care, as well as for low-income families with children, in conjunction with the provinces and territories and other departments, along with experts from the various communities throughout the country. As well, it administers certain programs such as the national child benefit and the national child benefit supplement.

Yesterday we had the opportunity to hold discussions with our colleagues. One of the parties in this House said there was nothing in the budget for families. This is a pro-family initiative, with $10 billion in funding annually, and it comes from the members on this side of the House. The department also administers the federal-provincial-territorial early childhood development agreement and the multilateral framework on early learning and child care.

Studies have demonstrated all the advantages of quality early childhood learning. Child care, nowadays, is a daily reality for most Canadian families, which is why they must have access to top-notch child care services with the potential of getting our children off to the best possible start in life.

The Government of Canada and Social Development Canada is therefore committed to working in partnership with provincial and territorial governments to build early learning and child care.

The essence of our system is collaboration with the provinces and territories. It is respecting the provinces that are willing to sign bilateral agreements at the moment, agreements that will allow access to the funds that we have already committed in order to respond to the needs of their citizens, the families who live in the riding and the children who need early learning and child care.

I want to stress something that came up in yesterday's debate. We are talking about early learning. We are not talking about babysitting, a term used by members of the opposition. We are talking about a national early learning and child care system, not just babysitting. That is a very important point to underline.

Last fall, governments agreed on core principles for early learning and child care that is of high quality, universally inclusive, accessible and developmental. All provinces were at the table and every one of them agreed on these core principles. As everyone knows, we have signed five agreements and we will continue to negotiate with all the provinces to come to some agreement. It is not a “one model fits all” deal. They each have different needs. They each have other pressures in terms of the families who live within their territories and it is up to them. We are providing the resources and the national policy framework.

The Government of Canada's commitment of $5 billion over five years was confirmed in the recent budget. This includes $4.8 billion for provinces and territories, $100 million for first nations children on reserve and $100 million for activities such as research that will support accountability.

We understand with our provincial and territorial partners that federal support will need to be ongoing beyond these initial years. In February the hon. Minister of Social Development met with the provincial and territorial social services ministers on a new policy framework for early learning and child care. These negotiations are ongoing.

Since April 29, we have reached five federal-provincial agreements in principle on the establishment of a quality early learning and child care program, with Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia.

Given these recent federal-provincial agreements in principle, we are confident that we will soon be able to finalize a national initiative in which the provinces and territories will have the flexibility to address their own particular needs and circumstances and to be accountable to their own citizens for their investments, a national initiative which will support the development of quality early learning and child care for young children and their families across Canada.

We know that people with disabilities have contributions to make to society and are looking for greater opportunities to make independent choices and to become more self-reliant.

This is why Social Development Canada is working to eliminate the obstacles that prevent people with disabilities from actively contributing at work, at school and within the community. SDC also notes that, while there is a greater awareness of issues relating to people with disabilities, the number of these people is on the increase, because the population is ageing.

Twenty years ago, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms allowed people with disabilities to make significant gains. We must now ensure that we have the appropriate tools and programs available, while also developing harmonious intergovernmental relations to continue to forge ahead.

The federal government recently earmarked additional money for the labour market development agreements, as they relate to people with disabilities. It will share the costs of these agreements with the provinces to support the employment programs designed for these people.

The Government of Canada also announced some major tax changes in its first budget, to make the tax system more fair and just in relation to people with disabilities and their families. These changes are in the order of $107 million for 2005-06. They will amount to $122 million by 2009-2010, and will take the form of credits to promote the integration and participation of people with disabilities.

Social Development Canada also looks at the lives of seniors. As the lead department responsible for seniors, Social Development Canada wants to ensure that Canada's seniors live in dignity and live with purpose.

Twenty years from now, one in five Canadians will be a senior wanting to play an active role in Canadian society, participating in the community and benefiting from a retirement income system that sustains a good quality of life.

Social Development Canada ensures that those in need, as well as their survivors and children, get a basic income through public pensions, benefits, and supports. The recent budget announced increases of 7% to the guaranteed income supplement, the allowance and the allowance for the survivor that will put more money into the hands of thousands of seniors. New funding over the next five years will total $2.7 billion.

I, as other members of Parliament, need to constantly assure ourselves that every senior who is eligible in terms of the supplement should have access to that supplement. I check this constantly whenever I meet with my seniors' clubs. This important point was raised by our colleague from the Bloc. This is our responsibility as well as the responsibility of Social Development Canada. We have to continue to make sure that no seniors go without access to this funding.

We also want to ensure that the skills of seniors are tapped, that their potential to give to their communities as they have always done is realized.

Last fall the department launched the new horizons for seniors program to support a range of community based projects to enable seniors to pursue active, useful lives. As it has proven in a short period of time to be very popular, we are gradually increasing its annual funding to $25 million. I had the privilege of having the Minister of Social Development make that announcement in my riding.

There are two projects in my riding of Ahuntsic. One project is a very innovative and interesting one in which an interactive website has been set up between seniors and children who need some help with their school work. It goes all the way to Argentina, Brazil. That is the beauty of Internet. That is the beauty of the new age. Technology is a tool that can be used to reach children not only in Canada, but across borders, even internationally. The demand for that website is growing. Hopefully that organization, which happens to have its roots in my riding of Ahuntsic, will expand and become something other seniors can use across Canada.

The budget announcements also included the creation of a new national seniors secretariat within Social Development Canada.

I would like to mention that the initiative came from this side of the House, from my caucus colleagues. Two task forces made recommendations along the lines of what I said earlier and also in terms of the secretariat. I want to say thanks. This is another example of ideas on how we can help Canadians come straight from either a committee of the House or a task force set up by this side of the House.

The problems that seniors have to face are a concern for many federal departments and for all levels of government. The time has come to develop a coordinated approach for seniors, to ensure that all the efforts being made will help meet seniors' current and future needs. The national seniors secretariat must, in cooperation with its partners from the public and private sectors, ensure that this coordination and harmonization exercise does indeed take place.

Social Development Canada is also looking at the role of caregivers in our society, more specifically those families with young children that also look after aging spouses and grandparents. As mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, the government is determined to improve current tax assistance and to hold consultations across the country on other initiatives. For example, the Government of Canada is increasing its support to caregivers by doubling the amount that these people will now be allowed to deduct for medical and disability costs for a dependent parent, raising it to $10,000.

Social Development Canada also looks at Canada's volunteer sector, which is 19 million strong. We support the capacity needs of the non-profit and volunteer organizations across Canada that make such a difference in the lives of Canadians and their communities.

Recognizing this immense contribution, we plan to further increase the sector's capacity, enabling it to meet the challenges of the future. Social Development Canada will be working in partnership with other federal departments to foster the country's social economy.

Before I continue, I want to pay homage to all those volunteers, especially those in the riding of Ahuntsic. I am sure all members of this House will agree that these volunteers are the unsung heroes of this country: people who give of their time and their talent only so other citizens can benefit by those talents and that time. I want to express my thanks to them. I think we should all be thanking them, as I do every year during National Volunteer Week when I hold a breakfast and thank every single one of those members of the riding of Ahuntsic who contribute to making my riding better because of their contribution.

I am running out of time, Madam Speaker, but I have so much to say on the social economy, although I did say something yesterday. Allow me to point out the beauty of the social economy, because there are unsung heroes out there who are doing wonderful things to take people out of dependency on the state and into the economy. Yesterday I had occasion during our four-hour debate to speak about the social economy and to congratulate all the stakeholders who have been working with me on the national round table.

I will wrap up by saying that I hope all hon. members will support this legislation. I hope they will take into account the fact that this came from a committee report. It was a recommendation from the previous Parliament and the committee on human resources and skills development, made in order to divide social development from human resources. We are always talking in this House about the fact that whenever there are reports and recommendations there is no follow-up. Here is a perfect example: this initiative came from that committee and I believe we should all support it.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

June 1st, 2005 / 5 p.m.
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Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, Bill C-22 is an act to establish the Department of Social Development and to amend and repeal certain other acts. The member has given a good speech, quite frankly, on the whole subject matter of early learning and child care which we spoke about and debated last night. He was here for some four hours and we spoke about some of the nuances.

There are obviously negotiations that must be held with every province. There is only so much that we can do and we cannot have one model that fits all because every province has a different base to work with. I am a little concerned and I am hopeful that the member would maybe want to reconsider hist position on the bill to create the department and not have his position affected by a measure which is included in the budget bill, Bill C-43, which his party supported.

I do not want to get into a debate about child care because that is not the bill we are debating, but I would say to the member that this is a first step. It is $5 billion over five years with $700 million in the first year. The premise is that putting the interests of children first is very important and that to deal with one aspect, being quality child care, is important regardless of how it might be delivered. We know that it really costs much more to set up a true, effective, quality national program, but we should work together to build on a starting point because there is only so much we can do with $5 billion over five years.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

June 1st, 2005 / 4:35 p.m.
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Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the bill this afternoon because I have some important things to say. I hope, ultimately, to engage the Liberals in some conversation on this and the Bloc.

What we have in front of us is an opportunity and if we are not careful we will miss it. We have an opportunity to establish a couple of new departments that could deliver some services and programs to the people of Canada if it is done properly and effectively.

Earlier today we debated Bill C-23 which we will be voting on soon. Now we are speaking to Bill C-22. The two bills came forward to divide a department that was in deep trouble a few years ago through its spending habits, lack of accountability and some significant irresponsibility on the part of government and the people within the organization who did not act in a way that reflected the values that this place should represent.

We are here debating the wisdom of dividing a huge department, Human Resources Development Canada, into two departments. On first blush, it may be a good thing to do because perhaps a big department should be broken down into smaller, more manageable bits.

However the way the government is going about this is troubling. The two departments are already there and I think one of the departments has had three different ministers so far. Nevertheless, we must work with this and at committee try to bring forward some suggestions as to amendments that could be made but it is the same old attitude coming from the government.

Where initially we were in support of dividing up Human Resources Development Canada into two new departments because we thought it was a good thing to do in terms of being more manageable and the possibility of a new approach, we then moved to a position where we could not.

I want to talk for a few minutes this afternoon about why we now find ourselves in a position of having to oppose the two bills and the establishment of these two departments.

I also want to say that we are always open to discussion, particularly in the new arrangement that has evolved over the last couple of weeks in terms of the Liberals and the New Democrats trying to find ways to work together on behalf of the people of Canada and on behalf of communities and to do some things that would actually be helpful in the delivery of programs and services.

We are not opposed to the bills from an ideological perspective nor are we opposed strictly on principle. We are opposed for some very practical reasons. For myself, personally, it flows out of some of my experiences in committee as we tried to bring froward some amendments to the bills that we thought would situate them better to actually do the job that we know, and the government knows and the people of Canada know, needs to be done out there under the heading of Human Resources and Skills Development and Social Development.

A lot of work needs to be done in the area of training. Changes to the EI system are needed, on which I know the Bloc members, as well as my colleague from New Brunswick, have worked very hard. However this will not get done simply by creating a new department if we do not include a framework, a commitment and some legal requirements to actually do something different on behalf of the people of the different provinces and of the country.

If the ministers and government members are listening, some of whom have been actively engaged in the debate, I want to say that we are willing to come to the table, sit down and work out ways to make these bills more palatable, more attractive to us in terms of support, but it will require some substantial give on the part of the government on some fronts, which I will talk about in a few minutes.

I do not think one cannot talk about Bill C-23 without talking about Bill C-22. For example, when Bill C-23 came forward we voted on it and it went to committee. In committee, I found, after initiating an investigation into how the new Department of Human Resources and Skills Development was changing the way it called for and ultimately decided on requests for proposals to deliver some of the services, that the same old attitude of “Do as we say. Do not ask any questions. This is the way it will be done. Do not mess with us or we will take action that will not make it too comfortable for you”, still existed.

We heard from people who are in the trenches delivering programs on our behalf. When they told us about their experiences of intimidation and harassment when they actually asked questions about the new proposal that was put forward, we began to have some serious concerns.

The Conservatives, the Bloc and some of the Liberals worked very hard on a report that we tabled in the House. The New Democrats and the Bloc appended a minority report to add some of our own concerns that we felt were not captured in the report.

The report now sits with the minister and we want to know what she is going to do with the report. Is she going to respond to some of the issues raised in it? How quickly will she respond? What will be done, in particular from our perspective, to protect those organizations and agencies that were caught up in this flawed process? The department itself referred to it as a process that was flawed.

Several organizations in this country, particularly in Ontario, lost contracts because of this flawed process. So far there has been no indication that any action will be taken to fix the process to ensure organizations can continue to do the good work for which they have developed an expertise and a track record.

If the New Democrats are going to support Bill C-23, which goes along with Bill C-22, we want to hear specifically what the minister is going to do with the report. We want to know what changes she is going to make. We want to know what concrete things we can expect to flow out of the department to indicate it is really serious about taking some action. We do not want what happened in the old HRDC a few years with the billion dollar boondoggle to happen in the new department. We want to sit down and talk with somebody about that before we can support the bills and the government to get them through the House.

Bill C-22, which we are talking about tonight, like Bill C-23, is a bill that the New Democrats once supported and that my party cannot support any longer. At first we recognized it as a housekeeping bill. We saw merit in splitting social policy and social development from HRDC with its scandals. HRDC was too large a department with conflicting responsibilities. We welcomed the new approach and new opportunity for a new department. We saw opportunities to give some prominence to the profoundly important subject of social development.

A few moments ago I heard the member from Quebec express her concern that the government was talking about a type of federalism that does not work for Quebec. I think the government should be engaging the Bloc and the New Democrats in a conversation about what kind of federalism would work for Quebec, particularly where the delivery of social programs and social development in this country is concerned.

Anyone who has spent any time in Quebec or with the Bloc or who has looked at the wonderful programs rolling out in Quebec knows why Quebec and the Bloc are concerned about the government's approach to the delivery of social programs.

The Bloc does not want its programs watered down. It wants to grow them, improve them and make them better. After listening to some of the Bloc members, I have a feeling that what is coming forward from the federal government will water down some of the excellent work that is going on in that province. What the New Democratic Party wants to do is build on that history and make it the reality for all of Canada so that those very good programs that are enshrined in legislation that happen in Quebec, happen for all Canadians.

I hope that in order to get the bill through the House and to finally sanction his department, the Minister of Social Development, who I know is a man of good will, is willing to sit down with us and the Bloc to ask what needs to be done, what needs to be put in the bill and what amendments Bloc members want to bring forward to make this work for them so they can support it.

This will be an exceptional opportunity to finally address some really substantive issues around Canadian social policy, for example its disassembly over the past 10 to 20 years, the Canada assistance plan and the social transfer arrangements with the provinces and territories that is near devoid of understanding, of purpose or of accountability and that fails to protect social program funding against erosion into provincial health care priorities. Those kinds of concerns are of critical importance to us.

I want to take some time to explain why we are no longer supporting the bill and what needs to happen in the department for it to put some real substance into delivering social policy in a holistic community driven fashion.

We saw from the outset a weakness in the bill. It was not defining social development nor was it adequately laying out the mission of the Department of Social Development. There were only vague references to social development and social well-being for Canadians.

I proposed amendments to lay out a definition on social development but did not receive the support of the government. I acknowledge that the department has a decent and well-intentioned minister but, regrettably, there is also a bureaucracy and a Liberal Party that does not know the meaning of collaboration or working together on a progressive agenda for our country.

I guess this is where I stand today after a couple of weeks of some very important, challenging and difficult negotiations back and forth between ourselves and the Liberals on some programs that both of us are now committed to if we can get the budget through the House, a budget that will be good for the people of Canada and for communities, for investments in education, in the environment, in training, in housing and the list goes on, all under the rubric of social development, things for which we as New Democrats came here to fight.

We now see some openness from the Liberal Party to actually entertain and commit itself to doing some of those things, It is dropping the corporate tax break that would have robbed us of the resources we needed to actually do those kinds of things. I am hoping that in that same spirit the minister will be willing to speak with us and the Bloc to see if there is anything that we could do together to give the department the teeth it needs to actually do the job that we know needs to be done.

We have not seen in either Human Resources and Skills Development Canada or Social Development Canada the kind of partnership that is so important in a minority Parliament and we are asking for that to happen now. Even with the new deal on the budget there still, in my experience, and I have a couple of ministries that I am responsible for in terms of being a critic, any real substantial coming together and dialogue around what it is that we can do together to better some of the things that we are working on.

The budget deal for Bill C-48 demonstrates what a minority Parliament can accomplish for the good of Canadians, such as affordable housing, education and more gas tax for municipal infrastructure. Some are saying that it is the minority parliament that has failed when we know better.

It is not the minority Parliament that has failed. It is the Liberal government that too often fails a minority Parliament. Here is a chance for it to prove differently and to show us differently. Minority Parliaments work and can work. They have worked in the past.

We know what the New Democrats were able to achieve for medicare and pensions while working with other parties in other Parliaments. We think we can achieve some things that we will all be proud of here with these bills as well. Contained within these bills is the potential to do some really fabulous things, such as the new national child care program.

Speaking of child care, this is the ministry responsible for child care. This has been another source of great disappointment for our party. We wanted to work with the government on truly creating and enshrining in legislation a high quality, accessible child care and early learning system.

While the first two agreements with NDP governments in Manitoba and Saskatchewan held out promise, last week the quality of the system began to be diluted with an openness to funding for profit subsidies.

We wanted a national child care act. None is forthcoming. If the minister wanted to come and talk to me about that, we could talk about that and it would be helpful in terms of our position on this bill. The government fails to see the potential of working together and finding those on all sides who would support such a bill.

We wanted funding only for not for profit. We are aware of the research. Last night during the debate I asked the minister what research he used to substantiate his decision to leave the funding open to both not for profit and for profit. I did not hear of any that was of any note.

We want studies that quality and accountability are best served in the not for profit sector. We know. We have the research. We have the studies. The practical experience is out there to say that we get better quality.

I know that the minister is sincerely and seriously committed to achieving quality in the new child care system. However, he will not do it, I suggest to him, unless he restricts the funding and frames that in a way that makes it happen for the not for profit sector.

We keep hearing about the big box corporations. I keep raising the subject of big box corporations. We wanted to ensure that big box corporations were prevented from doing their business in Canada with their lower wages and higher child-staff ratios, buying out non-profit and smaller mom and pop operations, and closing centres in rural, northern or isolated areas.

I know the minister shares some of my concerns about big box child care. I know that some of the provincial ministers do as well. We have a profound disagreement on how to deal with those concerns. The minister tells me that his bottom line is a quality standard that can be delivered in either the not for profit or the profit sector.

This is not the experience by and large in Australia or the United States. This is not what the research is telling us about quality care being delivered far more consistently in the not for profit sector, and even in Quebec, that is the case.

Big box child care is waiting to come to Canada. A U.S. corporation has already registered itself to do business in Canada. Three of the five provinces that now have child care agreements do not rule out funding for profit operation. They are Ontario, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. Only the Manitoba and Saskatchewan NDP governments have made that commitment.

Our party cannot support this bill at this time on many fronts. One is the refusal to accept amendments to this bill for its policy on child care.

I wonder why there could not be a real definition of social development to move our social economy forward? I fear, in the absence of a clear and thoughtful mission, that the department's efforts will be as notable for the important work it is not doing as the responsibilities it is carrying out.

The concept of social development is an idea with critical content and with numerous descriptors. For instance, many of us have advocated for years that the term, as does the concept of social policy, has to contain things often in the past considered economic, as well as things regarded as social.

As no doubt members are aware, failure to develop social policy that recognized this more holistic reality weakened the usefulness of the policy, to say nothing of doing a disservice to principal stakeholders of social policy.

We must do something on this front with this opportunity that we have with this ministry to actually live up to some of the responsibilities that we have out there on the international stage. The United Nations has time and time again, with support from Canada, put in place regulations that call for very basic, fundamental supports for human beings, including housing, food, clothing and shelter.

We have no vehicle anymore in Canada, since the demise of the Canada assistance plan, that gives any legal framework or teeth to the government to demand that provinces, in delivering social services, ensure that all citizens gets what they need to live a quality of life that is up to the kind of standards that we have in this country.

We at this point are opposed to both Bill C-22 and Bill C-23, but we are open, in the spirit of the new cooperation between the government and our party, to discussions to find ways to bring us on board, to make us supportive, and to work with the Bloc on this.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

June 1st, 2005 / 4:25 p.m.
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Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the member covered a lot of issues and I would like to make a few comments and ask her some questions.

My first comment may be in a generic sense. The member had the words right, and one of the words she used was accountability. Any government that receives taxation revenue or revenue from other sources from taxpayers needs to be responsible and accountable and ensure that those moneys are used wisely. If those moneys are not used wisely or are not necessary for the services that are to be provided, then taxes should be lowered.

Does the member agree that if the Government of Canada raises money, regardless of how that money is used or transferred, there is still an accountability and that accountability may reflect itself in terms of standards or conditions under which the moneys would be transferred to a province?

She also mentioned intrusion into provincial jurisdiction. Roads, bridges and sewers are traditionally associated with provincial, regional and municipal governments. In fact, they have their own tax bases to raise the revenues to deal with those. Why then would the Government of Canada take an interest in transferring infrastructure moneys, gas tax reductions, GST reductions for the general purpose of provinces, regions and municipalities, if it did not somehow reflect in terms of supporting the economic performance of all regions to the benefit of all Canadians? It is a good outcome. There is no question the jurisdiction is there.

If the member feels that this intrusion into provincial jurisdiction has to be dealt with, is she suggesting that Quebec should not get infrastructure money, or day care money or money for tax rebates because they are related to provincial jurisdiction? She cannot have it both ways. I would be interested to hear the member's position on that.

With regard to Bill C-22 specifically, I sensed some concern that the department is still too large notwithstanding that it has been partitioned somewhat. There are now two new ministers in related areas. Is her concern that the dollar value is still very high which may reflect the volume of activity? In terms of the scope of responsibilities, I would have thought they would have been reduced because of the additional ministerial responsibilities.

Could the member clarify whether her concern is that the areas of responsibility are too large or is she concerned about the dollars?

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

June 1st, 2005 / 3:45 p.m.
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Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today on Bill C-22. I wish to advise the House that the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar provided me with some of the information, as she sits on that committee.

Many Canadians may know, or they may not, that these programs fall under the old Human Resources and Development Canada department, or HRDC. Anyone who has followed the history of this department will certainly bear witness to the fact that institutional changes needed to be made. They were required to fix the many problems within the department as it existed. Canadians were tired of Liberal boondoggles and were demanding that business not continue as usual. The Liberals were wasting billions through the department and spending dirty money elsewhere at the time. Changes were clearly needed.

Changes were required, and while the case was never really made that a full division, split and overhaul of the department was needed, there was no question that Canadians could not afford a repeat of the boondoggles of the past. That said, I am still not sure if this legislation prevents either of those things from happening.

Normally departments are merged to save money, so one can only assume, and I think Canadians can only assume, that splitting this department will cost taxpayers unnecessarily. During a briefing on this legislation, the question was asked but never answered. Perhaps now the government has an answer. How much will these changes cost in addition to what we have had before?

Unfortunately, the Liberal government started the split long before it brought the bill to Parliament. In effect, the Liberals put the cart before the horse. As we have seen with other departments that the Liberals have split without consulting, I guess they believe it is probably better to ask for forgiveness than get permission.

I have to say that their attitude and way of doing business does not surprise me. The current government has made a habit of circumventing Parliament and has developed a reactionary approach to everything it does. Instead of being leaders and taking a proactive approach to the leadership of the nation, the Liberals continue to run around trying to put out fires by throwing money at them. While it has been proven to be an unsuccessful approach, they blindly continue.

If we were to oppose the legislation, the cost of reversing the changes already made would likely cost more than it would just to complete the split. In effect, the Liberal government has failed to consult with Parliament on the change to HRDC and the creation of social development. To that, we say shame.

Again the Prime Minister has failed to provide Parliament with an opportunity to become more involved and more relevant in the spending of government. Rather than consult us before the fact, we are simply treated as rubber stamps. So much for decreasing the democratic deficit, but then again, even if the committee had recommended alternative action, the Prime Minister has also shown he considers our work irrelevant.

I am thinking of the environment committee and its recommendation not to allow a patronage appointment of a former Winnipeg Liberal candidate to go ahead. The Prime Minister is going ahead anyway. So much for committee work.

This is unacceptable, not just because it silences the members of the House, but because it makes the people we represent irrelevant.

I have to tell Canadians that either the Prime Minister does not consult the House or, when he does, he ignores what members have to say. This was stated earlier: who said the former prime minister was the dictator?

As word spreads of the Liberal government's autocratic ways, more and more Canadians are demanding a return to the democracy for which our veterans fought. Canadians want a Parliament that can and will make binding decisions on important issues. They want their representatives to have more than just a say. They want their representatives to be involved in the decisions and have the power to influence those decisions. I could not agree more with Canadians.

If the Liberals want to improve both the way MPs work and the quality of our work, they need to come to us first, before making changes, not after.

As I said earlier, this department already exists. The minister is at the cabinet table and announcements were in the budget. Exactly what is it that we are being asked to approve in this legislation? From my side of the House, it looks like a done deal.

Before my time runs out, I want to pass along some important information that Canadians should know about. There is a website that can assist them in accessing any benefits they may be entitled to. This website lists almost every federal and provincial program there is.

To make it easier to determine what applies to an individual, there is a user friendly feature. All one has to do is answer a few questions. It will then short-list the programs that may apply. I am asking the people watching today to grab a pen because I plan to give them that website address shortly.

Before I do, I want to stress that this website address is the subject of one of the most common complaints that most MPs get from those in need. The complaint is that it is too difficult to find, apply for and access programs that already exist.

As I said, this website can be found at I would encourage all MPs to add it as a link to their websites to give people within their constituencies easier access. The government has a record of taxing the poor but not making it easy or accessible for the poor to get back their hard-earned money when in need. I hope, and I am sure members hope, that this website will help change that.

Social Development 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 will have an impact on us and on those close to us. Even if we do not need to turn to the government for assistance today, our pension plans will likely be administered by this department.

As always, we have some serious concerns that a department this large could quickly balloon out of control for this management challenged government, and we are concerned that such a large ministry will be sidetracked by new, large social initiatives. We have already seen social wings fighting over the proposed child care program.

It will take the efforts of MPs, Canadians and especially the people who work at the social development department to ensure that these radical structural changes do not fall off the rails and cost us billions again. Every dollar this government wastes on a new program is a dollar lost to a program that is already in place and quite often underfunded. As I have said before, I hope the government stays on top of the costs associated with this change to ensure they do not get out of hand.

As was pointed out earlier, this new department was born from the split of HRDC into Social Development and HRSDC, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. The government has highlighted the strong coordination, cooperation and co-working arrangements between the two split departments, and it certainly appears to be duplication and overlap to me.

We look forward to the minister perhaps clarifying some of the reasons why the old department could not do what the new ones can or are asked to do and also how much it will save Canadians. This has been asked before, but it has yet to be answered.

I suspect the savings will not prevail. I cannot see how new letterhead, computer systems, websites and the like save anyone any money. In fact, the departments already carry a lot of overlap and duplication. Information is available on both the SD and the HRSDC websites. Yet again it begs the question of why a single department does not make sense over two. I will ask--and I will hope--the government to come up with that creative answer.

Some of my colleagues will speak to this bill also and I believe that they share the same concerns as I do for Canadians in need. The government needs to ensure timely, properly supported services to those under duress. Canadians do not want hassles, delays and excuses. They want access and they want help.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

June 1st, 2005 / 3:40 p.m.
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Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Madam Speaker, last August, at the Olympic Games in Athens, Chantal Petitclerc of Montreal won the gold medal in the women's 800 metre wheelchair demonstration event.

It was a proud moment for all Canadians but it was a particularly sweet victory for Canadians living with disabilities, for not only did Ms. Petitclerc's stunning win demonstrate the potential of the sport for the Olympics, it also demonstrated to Canadians once again how people with disabilities can live rich, fulfilling and rewarding lives.

More than ever before, Canadians living with disabilities are taking their rightful place in our society, whether it is on the track, in the workplace or in their communities, but much work needs to be done to ensure that people with disabilities reach their full potential.

The Government of Canada plays an important role in making sure that happens. It is for that very reason that the government created Social Development Canada. This new department has a mandate to secure and strengthen Canada's social foundations in their many dimensions. These social foundations cannot be solid until people with disabilities fully participate in all the aspects of Canadian life to which they aspire.

That is why it is vital for Bill C-22 to pass into law. The proposed legislation would create the legal foundations for the new department. It would effectively become the building block for the government to strengthen the social foundations of our country. I urge all hon. members to support it so we can move forward on our agenda to promote the rights of Canadians with disabilities.

Before I speak further about the department's role in this challenge, let me say a few words about the nature of disability and how it affects our country. Disabilities are part of human experiences. Some of us are born with disabilities while others experience them later on in life through illness, accident or diseases. Disabilities can affect all of us any time without warning. Today, one in eight Canadians has a disability of some kind, a total of 3.6 million people.

Most commonly, Canadians live with disabilities related to mobility, agility and pain. While disability can affect anyone, it is true that women and aboriginal populations are more likely than others to live with a disability. Since women generally live longer than men, they are also more likely to develop a chronic condition that leads to disability.

In addition to affecting people directly, disabilities also touch an estimated 2.8 million Canadians who provide support to a family member or a friend with a long term health condition or disability.

We must never lose sight of the need for full inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of Canadian society, not just because it is right but because it is just and because people with disabilities have a vast amount of knowledge, talent and expertise that can enrich the quality of Canadian life.

Our country's future prosperity depends on the full and active participation of all Canadians to the best of their ability in our society and economy.

The Government of Canada is committed to achieving the goal of full inclusion. Every year the government provides almost $7 billion to help meet the needs of Canadians with disabilities. These investments are made in such areas as skills development, learning and employment to disability support, income benefits and tax measures.

Indeed, in Budget 2005 the government is acting on the recommendation of the technical advisory committee on tax measures for persons with disabilities to make the tax system fairer.

Budget 2005 introduces tax measures for persons with disabilities. In 2005-06 these improvements to the tax system will result in $107 million in investment for Canadians with disabilities and their families, which will grow to $122 million by 2009-10.

Social Development Canada recently implemented changes to the Canada pension plan disability benefit. Under the new provision, people with disabilities can try going back to work without putting their benefits at risk. If their disability forces them to leave their job again within two years, their benefits will be automatically reinstated.

In addition, budget 2005 improves tax assistance to caregivers and updates the list of medical and disability related expenses that are eligible for the medical expense tax credit.

There has been action in the policy area as well. In 1982, when Canada included physical and mental disability in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we became a role model for the world. For the first time in a national Constitution, disabilities were framed as an issue of citizenship and human rights. Since then, the charter has become a key tool to advance the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of Canadian society.

As the Government of Canada advances the disability agenda, Social Development Canada plays a leadership role. On December 3, to mark the International Day of Disabled Persons, the department released several reports, including a comprehensive study called “Advancing the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 2004”. Not only did this study report on the government's progress in advancing disability issues, it also helped Canadians better understand the challenges that still lie ahead.

Since many disability issues fall outside federal jurisdiction, it is vital for the Government of Canada to work in partnership with other levels of government. To that end, last April, federal, provincial and territorial ministries launched new labour market agreements for people with disabilities. I am pleased to note that in 2004 we increased funding for these new agreements, bringing the total federal contribution to $223 million annually. These funds will go a long way toward enabling Canadians with disabilities to participate more fully in the labour market.

No government, either on its own or working with other jurisdictions, can effect change single-handedly. That is why the Government of Canada is proud to work in partnership with the voluntary sector and in particular the disability community to build its capacity for policy, research and analysis. It is critical for national disability organizations to represent the voices of Canadians with disabilities and their family caregivers and to communicate their needs and priorities to government.

Social Development Canada is tailor made for these challenges. The legislation before us will provide the legal foundations for the department to carry out its vital work. I urge all hon. members to join me in supporting Bill C-22 so that we can move forward on our agenda for a truly inclusive society.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

June 1st, 2005 / 3:30 p.m.
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Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I said, this country has many resources, but everyone agrees that none is more precious and more important than our children. They represent the hopes and dreams of families, communities and the entire nation. The vitality of our country, Canada, depends on these, the adults of tomorrow.

This is what lies behind our government's desire to assume the huge responsibility of providing our children with the skills, values and beliefs they will need to keep our Canada strong and dynamic.

With these thoughts in mind, the Government of Canada has made children a priority. Even as it wrestled the deficit to the ground during the 1990s, the government continued to invest in children, both for their own sake and for the future of the country.

At the same time, we must not lose sight of the fact that our children deserve the opportunity to develop at their own speed and in their own way. They have a great deal to learn from us, but we also can learn a great deal from them if we keep an open mind.

A financial commitment has continued on the part of the Government of Canada into the 21st century. In this fiscal year alone the government will invest more than $13 billion in programs that support children and families, all yet all this is not enough. The Government of Canada knows that it must do more to support our children.

To that end, I believe the creation of the Department of Social Development will become an important catalyst for action. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the House to support Bill C-22, the legislation before us today that would provide the legal foundation for the new department.

To know what direction to take to support our children, we need to know where we have been. As such, I would like to put the creation of the new department into the context of the government's recent work on behalf of Canada's children.

It is often said that it takes a whole village to raise a child. Indeed, even though the parents hold the main responsibility for their child's well-being, the rest of the community, the workplace and public institutions can all have a direct or indirect impact on the way a child develops.

We must adopt an investment formula that will support parents and ensure that these other entities work to support families with children.

For more than a decade, the Government of Canada has made it a priority to invest wisely on behalf of children and to do so in partnership with other levels of government. In 1998, for example, the federal, provincial and territorial governments established the national child benefit, an initiative that helped many children.

While this was a huge step, we must go further. To that end, I am pleased to remind members that the Government of Canada announced that it would increase the national child benefit by $965 million per year until 2007-08.

The spirit of cooperation between the federal, provincial and territorial governments was again evident in 1999 with the creation of a national children's agenda. This agenda, with its four key objectives: good health, safety and security, success at learning and social engagement and responsibility, paves the way for a diversity of innovative programs.

Early childhood is the time when the foundations for acquiring skills and the ability to adapt are laid, and these have a life-long impact on learning, behaviour and health. The first few months and years shape an individual's entire life.

Hence the importance of the 2000 early child development agreement.

By virtue of that agreement, the Government of Canada started making annual payments of $500 million to the provinces and territories with a view to supporting a broad range of initiatives, from community services to prenatal programs. All of these are aimed at getting our children off to the best start possible.

In that regard, there is a pilot project called “understanding the early years initiative”. The idea is for 12 communities across the country to gain greater insight into what influences a child's development from the impact of family background to community factors such as the safety and security in a neighbourhood. With better information, communities can make better decisions about which programs will most benefit their children.

This pilot project has been so successful that the Government of Canada has decided to expand it over the next seven years. Ultimately, up to 100 communities will look at the numerous factors influencing early learning and adopt best practices.

Research has shown that all young children can benefit from quality early learning programs. In past generations, a child's mother provided much of this emotional and intellectual stimulation but today close to 7 out of 10 mothers with children under the age of 6 are in the workforce. It is not surprising then that 85% of Canadians believe the federal government should help provinces and territories provide affordable, accessible and high quality child care. The Government of Canada is taking action.

In 2003, the federal, provincial and territorial governments concluded a new multilateral agreement on early learning and child care. The Government of Canada has committed to allocating over $1 billion annually for five years to its provincial and territorial counterparts in order to encourage the creation of new early learning and child care programs.

But this is only the beginning. On the strength of this success, the Government of Canada has committed to partnering with the provincial and territorial governments to establish a national system of early learning and child care.

Last fall, governments agreed on core national principles to guide the development of early learning and child care that is university inclusive, accessible, developmental and of high quality. In the recent budget, the Government of Canada confirmed its commitment of $5 billion over five years to enhance and expand high quality developmental early learning and child care in collaboration with provinces and territories.

Just recently, the Minister of Social Development Canada signed agreements in principle with his counterparts in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia to support the development of quality early learning and child care in these provinces.

These agreements clearly illustrate the commitment of both levels of government to creating an important initiative: a system of early learning and child care in each province that benefits children and parents. We will use these agreements as models. We are confident that we will be able to conclude agreements with all the provinces and territories in the coming days and weeks.

We should not underestimate what these announcements and the ones that will come soon will mean for Canadians. Our children are the future. They deserve positive early learning experiences that will plant the seeds.

That is why we must play a leadership role for children throughout the country. We need a department whose only mission is the social well-being of children, their families and all Canadians. We need a department that can harness existing expertise and generate the added value we need to improve our knowledge and experience and move on to the next level.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

June 1st, 2005 / 3:30 p.m.
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Wascana Saskatchewan


Ralph Goodale 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 third time and passed.

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2005 / 7:25 p.m.
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Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Chair, it is an honour and indeed a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak to the minister from this seat belonging to the Leader of the Opposition. I usually sit in the corner so I do not get the chance to go face to face with the minister when I ask him questions in the House on some of these really important issues.

I am pleased to be here tonight with my colleague from Winnipeg Centre who is very passionate, as are all New Democrats, about some of the programs for which the Minister for Social Development and his colleagues now have responsibility. These are program that support and help people live life to its fullest capacity. They help those in difficulty and those who want opportunity. They support people in their health care needs and support families and children in their education needs. The minister and his colleagues all have a great responsibility on their shoulders and we are here as New Democrats to work with them to achieve some goals on that score.

We are willing to stay this evening because we are concerned, interested and actually excited about the possibilities since the new NDP budget was passed at second reading in the House. I know from being in my own riding, as does my colleague from Winnipeg Centre who was in his riding last week, that people are very excited about this new budget, the new commitment to spending on programs that will support people and communities and make life better for everybody.

Just off the bat I want to suggest to the minister that he not, for even a nanosecond, think about replicating what Mike Harris did in Ontario from 1995 to 2003 because that was a devastating, damaging, destructive, heart ripping experience for the people in that province. I know because I was there. I served for eight years in opposition to that program. We could not do anything because it was a majority government and it kept changing the rules to make it easier for it to drive that agenda.

The story is now well-known across the country. All one has to do is mention the name Walkerton to understand that the Ministry of the Environment lacked the resources to put environmental inspectors in the field to ensure that kind of thing did not happen.

Everyone knows what happened in Ipperwash and how all of a sudden the attitude toward our first nations, in a very short period of time, changed dramatically from day to night.

Today the Ontario Liberal government is struggling big time to make ends meet and to find the resources to live up to the promises it made when it ran in the election of 2003. When it was elected it found out how difficult it was, as we knew it would because we were the government from 1990 to 1995 in some very difficult economic and challenging times. From 1995 to 2003 we had some of the best economic times in the country. However the government of the day under Mike Harris gave that money away. It gave tax break after tax break to corporations to the point where now there is no money left in the coffers of the Ontario government to support people and communities and for education and health care.

Health care in every community across Ontario is in dire crisis. It is a crisis everywhere. We cannot get enough doctors. Hospitals are struggling to keep beds open. Emergency rooms are shutting down over the weekends. All kinds of things are happening, things that we never thought were possible in a jurisdiction as rich as the province of Ontario.

It happened because we had a government that made a choice to make a priority of corporate tax breaks, which we talked the Liberal government out of in this federal budget. We told it not to spend $4.6 billion on yet another corporate tax break at the expense of investing in child care, in education, in the environment, of spending money in third world countries to take our role in the world as leaders and to do our part and at the expense of people who lose their jobs.

If this budget passes, we will have a fund to help workers who end up on the street because their companies went bankrupt and they did not have wage protection and therefore did not get paid. It will help seniors and retirees make ends meet.

Those are all the things that are now in the federal budget that the minister will have responsibility for putting in place. He will have that money. He will give leadership and as long as he continues to be the minister in the government he must make good on those promises.

Canadians are waiting in great expectation for the government to work to get the budget passed so we can make those investments in child care, in education, in the environment and in housing actually happen and we can see the results of that work.

I want to talk a bit tonight about child care. This is not something new. We have had these conversations before. I also want to talk about the clawback of the child tax benefits supplement. I have been appalled ever since it started, even as a member in the provincial legislature, that provinces would actually claw back money from the most at risk and vulnerable of our families, money that was given to them in the first place by the federal government to deal with the shamefully high child poverty that exists in this country.

I also want to talk a bit about a conversation we had at committee concerning social transfers. The reason we are having difficulty supporting the passage of Bill C-22 is that we would like to see the minister's department commit to a framework wrapped around that social transfer that speaks to some of the values the minister spoke to in his wonderful speech a few minutes ago and what he thought Canada should be about and how it should support its people and its communities.

We want to work with the minister to ensure there is a framework of accountability and transparency with that money so that when it flows to the provinces we will know and the provinces will know what it is for. In that way the federal and provincial governments can be held accountable for the expenditure of that money.

I also would love to talk about an issue that was raised by the Conservatives, a Canadians with disability act. That is a wonderful idea and certainly the government would get 100% support from our caucus on anything it might do on that front.

I also want to talk about housing. I just had a meeting this past week in my riding on some of the wonderful programs that were put in place to deal with the tragic circumstance of homelessness, particularly in some of our bigger cities. Some programs that have been put in place are now starting to work but they need to be firmed up. There needs to be core funding and there needs to be some stability put into the system to help those people who are working so hard on our behalf to ensure that people who are without homes have some place to sleep at night and a place they can call home. They need to feel supported and need to feel that they do not have to spend 50% to 75% of their time fundraising. They should be able to put in the energy, excitement, enthusiasm and effort that they have for this agenda into looking after people who are living on our streets without a home.

All of these issues are very important. All of these issues have been addressed to some degree in the new budget that we passed at second reading two weeks ago and that we need to get through the House in short order.

I think everyone knows where we stand as New Democrats. We want a national child care program and are convinced that the only way to give parents choice in this country is to have a national child care program. If parents are going to have the choice to either stay home or go out to work, they need to know in either case that their children will be looked after in a safe place and with quality programs of a developmental nature that will support them in their growth and development. If we do not have a national child care program in every community in Canada, parents will not have choice. The only choice they will have is to stay home. I am not saying there is anything wrong with that choice. As a matter of fact, my wife and I made that as a family choice because we could afford it and we had no other choice at that point.

As the minister said earlier today, more parents are making that choice today. With the economy we have and the education and training that women in particular are now taking advantage of and knowing what they have to offer society, I think we need to ensure there is choice.

The argument I would make is that if parents in every community across the country are to have the choice of either staying home or going to work, we need an affordable, quality national child care program operating and funded. We believe in a national child care program that is based on the QUAD principles. I will list the things we do not agree on. We think it should be delivered through a not for profit delivery mechanism, and we need to talk about that. Actually, that is going to be my question, if the minister wants to think about it for a bit. What research does the minister have to back up his claim that we will have the same quality whether it is for profit or not for profit? If he focuses on quality, he will get quality.

The research we have is from people working in the child care community who have strongly suggested that if child care is not delivered through the not for profit system we will not get the quality. It has been proven, not just in research but in practical experience around the world, that if we get into the for profit system, invariably the big box child care system starts raising its head and becomes the dominant player.

What happens is that those institutions begin to find savings for the bottom line by cutting wages, cutting back on the food budget or by making child care workers the janitors at night after they finish teaching. By not investing in the kind of equipment, toys and facilities that we need, that results in a poor quality child care setting.

We believe child care should be a not for profit system. We also believe the minister should be working with us on legislation at the federal level to ensure that the provinces will deliver a quality national child care program and that the money that flows will be spent. Ontario is another example. The federal government did flow child care money to Ontario over the last three or four years under agreements that were signed by first ministers on child care and not a penny of that money was ever spent.

The same thing occurred in B.C. As a matter of fact, B.C. pulled its own money out and said that it was replacing it with federal money. In fact, the federal money was less than the money that was taken out of B.C.

We think we need some mechanism at the federal level to ensure that the money that flows, which is a significant amount of money, particularly if we move toward 1% of GDP, will actually be used for child care and that the federal government will be there at the end of the five years still contributing and helping to grow that system so the provinces are not left holding the bag, so to speak, which has actually happened in previous experience, and the provinces are worried about that.

We need some legislation that would speak to that, speak to the not for profit, speak to quality and speak to the QUAD principles. I would like to work with the minister on that.

I am running out of time so I will pose my question. What research do you have to back up your decision to allow for profit or not for profit? In doing that, why are you so confident that you will get the quality that you think is possible?

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

May 19th, 2005 / 3 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario


Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. member was attempting to show some civility. He has great difficulty in doing that.

After completing the debate on the budget bills, Bill C-43 and Bill C-48, the House will take up third reading of Bill C-9, the Quebec development bill; Bill C-23, the human resources legislation; Bill C-22, the social development bill; and Bill C-26, the border services legislation.

We would also like to deal with the census bill, Bill S-18 and the RADARSAT bill, Bill C-25. If there is time, we would start Bill C-46, the corrections and conditional release bill; Bill C-47, the Air Canada bill; and Bill C-28, the food and drugs bill.

This list of legislation will carry the House well into the week of May 30, the week in which we return from the break.

In addition, three days that week shall be allotted days, namely May 31, June 2 and June 3. On May 31 the House will go into committee of the whole to consider the estimates of the Minister of Social Development.

I look forward to working with all of my colleagues in the House because I know, and all members know, it is in the interests of Canadians to get this Parliament working on the issues that are important to them.

Department of Human Resources and Skills Development ActGovernment Orders

May 9th, 2005 / 12:35 p.m.
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Peterborough Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to what my colleague had to say and perhaps I should remind people watching this on television or perhaps some of the people in the gallery what the topic is. Bill C-23 would officially establish the new Department of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. It is one of two departments that would replace the old, huge federal department of HRDC. The other side of this legislation is Bill C-22 which would set up the new Department of Social Development Canada.

The idea is to make the federal system more effective by delivering, for example, employment insurance and training programs by one designated department, HRSD. Other programs, some of which were mentioned by my colleague, would be delivered by Social Development Canada. For example, the Canada pension plan and the child care program would be delivered by Social Development Canada. The purpose is to make the federal government more effective and more efficient.

I can well understand that my colleague, who addressed this very little, has no real interest in the federal government. He talked about the waste of money. One of the purposes of the bill is to take a large, rambling department and make it more effective. In the old department there were five different privacy codes. If a person applied for something in one part of the department, it required different privacy information than in other parts. That has been changed now to one privacy code, which the Privacy Commissioner has commended.

My colleague mentioned the delivery of services to the elderly. Instead of the Canada pension plan being all mixed in with employment insurance, it would be on its own delivering pensions, along with the associated programs, such as the disability programs. As well, the new seniors' secretariat will be there and it will be more effective.

I know my colleague may not be interested in this, but the purpose of the bill is to make the federal government more effective and less expensive, not the other way around.

The other thing about this which puzzles me when I hear my colleague talk is that this is not something that the government has developed and brought out of thin air. This was unanimously recommended by a standing committee of this House and was unanimously approved by this House, including the Bloc, recommending that the old Department of HRDC be divided in some appropriate fashion. That is what, for the past many months, we have been debating here.

The Bloc members were onside. Like us, they felt that it would be better. Not just thinking now of nationalism but thinking of the clients, the people of Canada with whom we deal, it would be more effective for the people of Canada, people in need, people on employment insurance and people with disabilities, to set up this new department so that it would be more effective. I am puzzled. Why has the Bloc changed its mind on this having supported the original suggestion that the former department be divided? When did they change their minds?

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

May 5th, 2005 / 3 p.m.
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Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario


Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, for the rest of today, tomorrow and early next week the order of business will be the consideration of the Senate amendments to Bill C-12, the quarantine legislation; followed by third readings of Bill C-9 respecting economic development in Quebec; Bill C-23, the human resources bill; Bill C-22, the social development bill; and Bill C-26, the border services bill.

We would then consider second reading of Bill C-45, the veterans bill; and then Bill S-18, the census bill.

Tomorrow the government will introduce a companion bill to the budget implementation bill. We hope to debate second reading of this bill by Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

We will then also resume consideration of Bill C-43 which is the budget implementation bill.

To assist members in their planning as well, I wish to inform the House that on the evening of May 18 the House will go into a committee of the whole on the citizenship and immigration estimates, and on the evening of May 31 on the social development estimates.

My hon. colleague across the way asked about opposition days. As the rules provide and call for, six opposition days are required before the end of June. Certainly our focus will be on moving the budget implementation bill forward. I would expect that we would do that.

As far as courage, I am not sure I see very much along the way certainly across the floor when in fact we have people on this side of the House who are prepared on behalf of Canadians to ensure that this Parliament works, but I see no evidence of that from my hon. colleagues across the way.

Presence in GalleryBusiness of the House

April 21st, 2005 / 3 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario


Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, we will continue this afternoon with second reading of Bill C-38, the civil marriage bill. This will be followed by consideration of Senate amendments of Bill C-29, the patent bill, and Bill C-12, the quarantine bill.

We will then return to second reading of Bill C-43, the budget bill, and eventually the third readings of: Bill C-23, the HRDC bill; Bill C-22, the social development bill; Bill C-26, the border services bill; and Bill C-9, the Quebec development bill.

Tomorrow we will begin with Bill C-43. If this is completed, we will then return to the list just given.

Next week is a break week. Since it happens to coincide this year with Passover, I would like to take this opportunity to extend to Canadians of the Jewish faith best wishes on this holiday.

After today there are 35 sitting days for the House before its scheduled adjournment on June 23. The government hopes that the House will be able to complete all stages of Bill C-38 and Bill C-43 by that date, which means that the bills will have to go to and be reported from committees in time for report stage and third reading in that limited time. That is why we have given priority to these bills in order to arrive at the supply votes.

The government is obliged to designate by that date 6 of those 35 days as allotted days or opposition days. Since we do not face the logistical and timing difficulties that I have just described vis-à-vis these two major bills, it seems logical and sensible to ask the House to deal with those second readings before proceeding with business such as opposition days, which are not followed by subsequent legislative stages.

If the members opposite would not be so sneaky in trying to change the Standing Orders, in fact, we could perhaps have the kind of dialogue that the hon. member is suggesting we have.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

April 14th, 2005 / 3 p.m.
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Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario


Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

On Friday, we will return to Bill C-43, the budget bill. If it is completed, we will proceed with Bill C-40, respecting the WTO.

The first item of business on Monday will be Bill C-40. If necessary, we would then return to the budget bill, which contains all the initiatives that I know Canadians support from coast to coast to coast, like the Atlantic accord, the new deal for cities, and the increase in payments to seniors through OAS.

We will then return to the second reading debate of Bill C-38, the marriage bill, which will be the first item on Tuesday. When that business is completed, we will return to departmental bills: Bill C-23, Bill C-22, Bill C-26 and Bill C-9.

Next Wednesday shall be an allotted day.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

April 7th, 2005 / 3 p.m.
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Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario


Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon we will continue debate on the opposition day motion. As members know, there will be no sitting tomorrow.

On Monday the House will hold the debate on our procedures required by Standing Order 51. Mr. Speaker, I ask you to appoint the order of the day to permit that debate. If it is completed, we will return to Bill C-23 and Bill C-22, the human resources and social development legislation.

On Tuesday and Wednesday we shall consider Bill C-43, the budget bill.

Thursday will be an allotted day. At the end of the day on Thursday we shall return to consideration of the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Health.

On Tuesday evening there will be a take note debate. Therefore, I move:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 53.1, on April 12, 2005 a take note debate shall take place on the subject of the RCMP and law enforcement in Canada.

Department of Human Resources and Skills Development ActGovernment Orders

March 23rd, 2005 / 5:10 p.m.
See context


Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

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

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

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

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


Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

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

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

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

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

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

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

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

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

Patent ActPrivate Members' Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why should automatic injunctions and evergreening concern us here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

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

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

Animal RightsStatements By Members

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

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

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

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

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

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

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

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

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I could tell the House about—

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

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


Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

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

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

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

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

Next Thursday shall be an allotted day.

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

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

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

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

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario


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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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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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 or it can be accessed directly at

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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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.
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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.
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Ahuntsic Québec


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.
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Vancouver Quadra B.C.


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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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


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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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.
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Peterborough Ontario


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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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.
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Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario


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.

Department of Social Development ActRoutine Proceedings

November 16th, 2004 / 10:05 a.m.
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Avalon Newfoundland & Labrador


R. John Efford Liberalfor the Minister of Social Development

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-22, an act to establish the Department of Social Development and to amend and repeal certain related acts.

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