Department of Human Resources and Skills Development Act

An Act to establish the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development and to amend and repeal certain related Acts

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

Sponsor

Joe Volpe  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

This enactment establishes the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development over which presides the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development. It defines the powers, duties and functions of the Minister as well as those of the Minister of Labour and of the Canada Employment Insurance Commission. This enactment also sets out rules for the protection and the making available of personal information obtained under departmental programs.

Elsewhere

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

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2005 / 6:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Madam Speaker, I think it is a small step toward protecting whistleblowers. However, I understand that some of the flaws still in the legislation will probably have some effect; it will certainly not be protecting Ms. Gualtieri to the point that she would have observed. There were many flaws not addressed in Bill C-23. Then, when it came to Bill C-11, she still had some concerns about the protection. She believes that the brown envelope will probably still be the way for many public servants to disclose wrongdoing. I think she will still have some concerns about protection as far as this legislation is concerned.

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

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 7:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Judi Longfield Liberal Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to those members' debates and I appreciated them. This is an opportunity to put on the record how we feel. I am prepared to stand and vote my conscience. I am prepared to stand and vote the wishes of my constituents and I do not have to apologize for that. I do not think I need to be heckled or abused in standing up for what I believe. I think it is critically important. Someone called me a neanderthal because I would not support same sex legislation. It was not anyone from my caucus.

I point out that it was not too long ago that we passed Bill C-23, the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act. That legislation actually provided rights and benefits to same sex couples, common law couples of opposite sex. It brought into line the rights, obligations and benefits, married and common law, either same sex or opposite sex. I believe that benefits have been extended and extended appropriately. I do not see the need to go on to Bill C-38, because I think everyone who is living in a loving, compassionate, caring relationship has been afforded the rights and benefits and the obligations. That is important; there are obligations as well. I do not see the need to move to the next step, because while I support equality in terms of rights and benefits, I do not support it at the expense of changing the definition of marriage. I have always believed that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

I guess what upsets me is that after all of this debate, after everything we have been through, we are really ending where we began in a situation where this will continue to be a very, very divisive issue. We have all been elected to stand and to cast our vote. I can tell the House, and I can tell the constituents that I represent, that I am proud and honoured to stand in my place and to vote in opposition to Bill C-38 and to support, with all of my fibre and being, the traditional definition of marriage as being the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 28th, 2005 / 10:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am pleased to stand in this House today and state my unequivocal opposition to Bill C-38.

I am in agreement with many of my colleagues on this issue, in that I support the traditional definition of marriage which is the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. I believe that all rights can be granted to same sex couples without the need to change this common law definition that stretches back to before Confederation and has helped define this great country for almost 138 years.

The definition of marriage which has been consistently applied in Canada comes from an 1866 British case which holds that marriage is the union of one woman and one man to the exclusion of all others. I believe what the Conservative Party of Canada offers on this issue is a reasonable compromise.

My arguments will not concentrate on these issues. I merely wish to put it into perspective, so that we can compare it to the situation in which we currently find ourselves in this debate.

My discussions will centre on the process by which the government has been attempting to ram this legislation down the throats of Canadians by cloaking its arguments in the mantra of human rights. I want to speak today about the flaws in the process and the lack of accountability to the Canadian people and the method by which we stand here today when we should have been in our ridings having dialogue with our constituents.

There has not been a proper debate on this issue involving the people of Canada and there has not been a proper process followed to allow full debate by parliamentarians.

The government introduced this bill after insufficient public debate and rushed it through the House, and sent it to a committee that I happened to have sat on that in my view did not allow proper examination of witnesses. It was not the proper process. This was a committee that the government knew would discuss the bill quickly. It was designed to get this issue out of the way with little opportunity for debate, permitting no changes. We now find ourselves in extended sittings as we fully expected we would, and we fully expected the government to invoke closure, as it has. The government is shutting down debate. We are going to pass this piece of legislation that flies in the face of the history of our country.

Late in his mandate, the former Prime Minister sent a proposed piece of legislation to the Supreme Court of Canada for a ruling on human rights issues. The current Prime Minister added a clause to that proposed piece of legislation in an effort to hog-tie the court and Parliament. Of course, and thankfully, the court saw through that feeble attempt and made no ruling.

I have several problems with the actions of these two prime ministers. First, this is not a debate about human rights. It is a debate about politics and social policy. Therefore, it should be treated in a much different way from how it has been handled by the current and previous governments.

I and my colleagues, and indeed every person in this place, have been elected by Canadians to debate and decide issues of concern to this country and its people. Whether it is the civil marriage bill, budget bills, assistance for foreign countries, missile defence, assistance for our farmers or any number of other issues, we the elected members of Parliament have been chosen by the people of Canada to debate and ultimately decide the direction of this country.

If the party opposite believed that, it would have followed the accepted process for such issues as Bill C-38. That process would have involved some sort of public dialogue and arguments for and against. The government would have brought the issue before the House and it would never have gone to the Supreme Court of Canada first.

A proper process would have taken into consideration the decisions and wishes of a previous Parliament, a Parliament that included some of our current members, which determined that the only definition of marriage that is acceptable to Canadians is the traditional definition of marriage.

A proper process would have included statements by members of Parliament that they would do everything in their power to defend the traditional definition of marriage. It would have included statements by judges on the Supreme Court that defined and defended the traditional definition of marriage.

Let me offer some examples. In 1995 Supreme Court Justice Gérard La Forest, speaking on behalf of four judges in the majority in the Egan decision, wrote:

Marriage has from time immemorial been firmly grounded in our legal tradition, one that is itself a reflection of long-standing philosophical and religious traditions. But its ultimate raison d'être transcends all of these and is firmly anchored in the biological and social realities that heterosexual couples have the unique ability to procreate, that most children are the product of these relationships, and that they are generally cared for and nurtured by those who live in that relationship. In this sense, marriage is by nature heterosexual.

This statement remains the only commentary on the basic meaning of marriage in any Supreme Court decision and would have been included in any proper debate.

I will offer another example. This House, which at the time included the current Prime Minister, voted to uphold the traditional definition of marriage in 1999 and the amendments to Bill C-23 in 2000, with the Deputy Prime Minister, who was the then justice minister, leading the cause of the defence of marriage.

The following is what the Deputy Prime Minister said in 1999 in her eloquent defence of the traditional definition of marriage. She said:

We on this side agree that the institution of marriage is a central and important institution in the lives of many Canadians. It plays an important part in all societies worldwide, second only to the fundamental importance of family to all of us.... The definition of marriage, which has been consistently applied in Canada, comes from an 1866 British case which holds that marriage is “the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others”. That case and that definition are considered clear law by ordinary Canadians, by academics and by the courts. The courts have upheld the constitutionality of that definition.

We have also heard comments from our Minister of Immigration that are consistent with that.

If the bill had followed proper process, these parliamentary statements and the court decisions would have had to be factored into the formulation of any bill that upholds the rights of same sex couples.

There may have been, and rightly so, a referendum. After this type of proper debate, the government would then have presented a bill for first reading, second reading and a proper committee hearing. The proper committee for the bill would have been the justice committee, but instead of carrying out the correct process, the Liberals formed a special committee and then loaded it in their favour. They charged through committee hearings at a blistering pace that did not allow ordinary parliamentarians the time for proper research and questioning of witnesses.

The Liberal chair of the committee ruled suggested modifications by the Conservatives to be out of order and the committee swiftly sent this piece of legislation back to the House for debate and third reading.

As we witnessed last week, the government will stop at nothing and use any trick in the book to avoid proper debate and reach its own predetermined end.

As I prepared this speech I wondered if I would in fact be granted the time to present it here in this place. I wondered that because of what we witnessed last week. I and most Canadians expected the coalition government to barricade proper debate on the bill once again, as it has, and close the doors on this sad chapter in the history of this place.

We all know that if a free vote were allowed by all parties, where MPs could represent the wishes of their ridings, the legislation would fail. It is this lack of proper process and the lack of real democracy more than anything, that I am truly concerned with today. I also have a great deal of concern about the lack of protection of religious freedom and the strengthening of that protection against discrimination for religious beliefs.

At this time I would like to move an amendment. I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following therefore:

Bill C-38, an act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes, be not now read a third time, but be referred back to the legislative committee for the purpose of reconsidering all of its clauses with the view to strengthen protection against discrimination for religious beliefs and that the legislative committee on Bill C-38 be reconstituted for the purpose of this reconsideration.

Department of Human Resources and Skills Development ActGovernment Orders

June 1st, 2005 / 6:10 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 third reading stage of Bill C-23.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

June 1st, 2005 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

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 Human Resources and Skills Development ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2005 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague and I know from her passion that she is interested in most of the areas with which this new department will be dealing.

Bill C-23 is about setting up the new Department of Human Resources and Skills Development. It essentially is a department of lifelong learning and lifelong training. It is my sincere hope that it will more effectively deliver what the federal government generally is delivering already.

My colleague mentioned students. This is the department that deals with the Canada student loans which students all across the country benefit from. It is the department that provides annual grants to disabled students for every undergraduate year. It provides first year grants for low income students. It is the department that will deliver the Canada student bond, which is the way in which low income families can accumulate money toward the education of their children. I know my colleague knows this department, when it is reorganized and redesigned, will be dealing with students.

She also mentioned seniors and this is the department that will be dealing with seniors. For example, the National Literacy Secretariat, which is in HRSD, deals with literacy problems from childhood through to seniors. Although it is not a large federal organization, it is a remarkable organization that deals very effectively with the provinces, the territories, the not for profit organizations and aboriginal organizations on literacy all across the country. I know she is interested in these things. She also mentioned EI and training. My thought is that this new department will deliver those programs more effectively.

The bill does not come from the government. It is not a surprise to the House of Commons. It comes from a unanimous committee report, which the Bloc supported, recommending that the old department be divided in two. This is one-half. The House of Commons, with Bloc support, unanimously endorsed the division of the old department and the setting up of this new one. I really would like to ask her to explain how it is that the Bloc has changed its position on this improvement in the delivery of federal government services.

Department of Human Resources and Skills Development ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2005 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do indeed have 13 minutes left to speak to Bill C-23. At the risk of repeating myself, I will say that the Bloc Québécois is against this bill since it proposes an Employment Insurance Commission without any real power and with the opposite makeup to that outlined in our Bill C-280. My colleague from Chambly—Borduas introduced a bill for an independent employment insurance fund that would have only 17 members. Bill C-23 does not help our Bill C-280 whatsoever.

Furthermore, this bill institutionalizes blatant constitutional interference in the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces, particularly with respect to the National Literacy Secretariat, Learning Initiatives Program and the Office of Learning Technologies. All these matters come under provincial jurisdiction. As my colleague already said during consideration of another bill, the federal government interferes in anything to do with provincial jurisdictions. In Quebec and in the other provinces, we have appointed people to deal with this. Visibility is one thing, but we need the money.

No measure will prevent the use of replacement workers. Also, in connection with Bill C-23, we are talking about POWA, the program for older worker adjustment. It worked very well in the 1990s, but was eliminated by the current Liberal government. At present we face problems arising from globalization. Many jobs are being lost because of industry closures, for example in the textile sector. Furniture manufacturers are closing, such as Shermag in my riding. This is happening in Victoriaville too.

These employees have training in working with wood, but have never had any retraining. POWA would help these people aged 55 and older—we want the threshold dropped to age 50—to be retrained in another area and thus continue to work. At age 50, people still have a career. These people really need financial help to get retraining in another area, rather than stay home and wait for EI benefits, which never come. Indeed, the government had fun borrowing money from the EI fund without any intention of repaying it. That is $46 billion gone.

Furthermore, the Bloc feels that Bill C-280 better responds to the demands of contributors to the EI fund. This is another matter, which considerably frustrates the people of Quebec, and, I have no doubt, the rest of Canada. Many workers contribute to EI, but are not entitled to receive it. They include women, young people and even students who have summer jobs and pay into EI. This is just a little strange. It is another hidden mini tax. We are proposing that EI be improved to help people who are really suffering.

Then there is the exodus of young people. Many of them go to work in the city, because their is nothing in their municipality. When young people leave the countryside to move to the city, they do not come back. They find work, meet people, start another life and do not come back. It is extremely hard on the farming sector, succession and replacement work. So this is why it is vital C-23 not be passed.

In terms of workforce development, the government must respect's Quebec's authority. The current government must stop meddling in areas of jurisdiction not its own and must unconditionally transfer the money to Quebec.

In Quebec, our post-secondary program was developed based on our culture and needs. However, the federal government is constantly interfering. We are simply asking this government to mind its own business.

The federal government should also negotiate an agreement with Quebec to transfer four groups that were not included in the 1997 accord, namely young people, disabled persons, immigrants and older workers. Earlier, I talked about older workers when I mentioned POWA.

As regards young people, the summer career placement program ended up surprising everyone in that, in my opinion, it was a total failure.

There are many immigrants in downtown Sherbrooke who would love to work, but there is a language barrier preventing them from doing so. Because the government made cuts to French language courses, these people have to wait, often for long periods of time, for months and even years, before being given the opportunity to learn French and thus be integrated into Quebec society.

The Bloc Québécois supports the Quebec government, which feels that Ottawa should give these people the maximum amount provided by the Employment Insurance Act for training. There is an annual shortfall of some $200 million. This amount would allow us to invest in education and literacy. Quebec is also deprived of $100 million in the area of manpower, for those four groups. As I just mentioned, when it comes to development for young people and disabled persons, Quebec is ending up with an annual shortfall of over $400 million, which is a significant amount.

Many young people are discouraged because they are not finding any work in their field. So they are leaving for the cities. They would like to have access to courses in agriculture, another area that is really threatened with extinction. I wonder how we are going to feed our people in future.

The government does not acknowledge fiscal imbalance. This is another area that is costing Quebec $50 million a week. A careful calculation will make that a total of $2,500 million a year. That amount is not going to health, post-secondary education or young people. With $50 million a week, we could do things in Quebec to help the coming generation and especially the seniors. Seniors are often neglected. They have a wealth of life experience. Unfortunately, they are shunted aside as unimportant, to the detriment of Quebec society.

Among examples of the federal government's mismanagement and incompetency I note that it also enjoys taking away programs that are working well, such as POWA. I would add that section 78 of the Employment Insurance Act allows the federal government to invest 0.8% of total insurable earnings in support measures. At the present time, its investment is 0.57%. That is why it is making a profit while the provinces are in the hole.

As I have said, the deficits primarily affect women, who earn 70¢ for every dollar that men earn. So there is a 30% shortfall. We must not forget that children living in poverty have poor parents. Then there are the single mothers who count on EI when they are between jobs. They are penalized or disqualified because they have returned to work and have to accumulate 910 hours rather than the 360 the Bloc Québécois is calling for.

So, the cycle continues. These women cannot receive EI benefits in order to make ends meet or feed their children. So, they have to apply for social assistance, a temporary free pass, which is not something Quebeckers want to rely on.

So, it is extremely important for the Government of Canada to consider the provinces by transferring this money in order to help the four categories of applicants we are proposing.

Quebec will also be able to take care of itself, redistribution and its own areas of jurisdiction. We hope that, if the fiscal imbalance were resolved, the problems in hospitals would be fixed too. This would also correct the problem in post-secondary education, where young people are discouraged due to the lack of follow up. Furthermore, teachers lack support and the school boards need more teachers. As a result, burnout is a frequent problem. You have to work in the public sector to know what burnout is. In Quebec, many nurses have cancer, because they work non-stop and drive themselves into the ground. However, at a certain point, the human body needs to rest.

I repeat that, with regard to Bill C-280, the Bloc Québécois is proposing 17 commissioners instead of 14,000 public servants. These 17 commissioners could administer the EI fund, without anyone being tempted to take money that does not belong to them. We must weigh our words carefully here in the House of Commons, because some parties do not like to hear themselves described as they really are.

This $46 billion was taken from funds belonging to employees and employers. This money, that does not belong to them, is like a small hidden tax to pay the mortgage when the house burned down. It is all well and good to pay down the debt, but never at the expense of individuals, families and children. As I was saying earlier, children are poor, but some people forget that the parents of those children are poor as well.

As for manpower development—I am going from one thing to the next because I have so much to say—there is interference there too. Does the government intend to create hidden education? Is it going to want to develop a department simply to manage other departments that manage departments? This is very costly for no gain.

The government also has to negotiate with Quebec on the 1997 agreement. We have four categories that do not belong to Quebec: young people, persons with disabilities, immigrants and seniors. We must protect, develop and help these four treasures. The youth of today will become the adults of tomorrow.

I already touched on the $412 million shortfall. In October, Labour Canada said it was open to discussion. However, it did nothing. That is why we have to continue to drive home the fact that it is a provincial jurisdiction and that provincial jurisdictions absolutely must be respected.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

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

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

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 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, I absolutely believe that this new department provides better services to Canadians. Canadians want departments that are nimble enough and strong enough to address specific needs. We all recognized that the old department was very large, and the government decided to divide it up to focus on specific areas that were important to Canadians.

The Liberal government has made great strides in the social development of Canadians, in skills and post-secondary education, and in dealing with Canadians with disabilities and seniors. Dividing up the department provides better transparency, which Canadians are looking for. It also provides better accountability. Above all, it provides a focus so that people who have specific needs know where to go and the government can provide the assistance they need. Bill C-23 helps an awful lot in that regard.

Department of Human Resources and Skills Development ActGovernment Orders

May 9th, 2005 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour and I want to thank him for a very thoughtful and personal speech. I know of his commitment to this area. I know he is the chair of the government caucus on post-secondary education and research. I could tell from his remarks about lifelong learning that he understands there is no way we can take one part of training, for example, apprenticeships or medical training or early childhood development training, out of the system. Somehow we have to build the entire pyramid. It has to go from the best quality of early childhood development to, for example, literacy programs for seniors which the government offers.

The purpose of Bill C-23 is to set up a lifelong learning department which will, first of all, deliver more effectively existing programs. It will develop new programs and integrate programs better. It will work, as my colleague said, with our partners in the provinces and territories, and in the not for profit areas and in the first nations communities and so on, across Canada.

It is really interesting that we do not hear the expression “brain drain” very much in Canada. I can remember only a few years ago when there was an enormous concern in the country about brain drain. My colleague quoted some of the figures now about the level of qualifications of immigrants coming into the country. In the colleges and universities we discover that bright young Canadians who have gone overseas are coming back and bright young people from other jurisdictions are being attracted into Canada to the point where we more often hear criticism of how long it is taking to re-adapt highly qualified immigrants into the system than the fact that we are losing people in a net fashion overseas.

I believe the federal government and its roles in post-secondary education has played a very important part in that. We are now attracting people into Canada, retaining talent that we would otherwise have been losing, and we are trying to build the pyramid from early childhood, or even prenatal programs, through to seniors programs which we need in true lifelong learning.

My colleague mentioned the pan-Canadian approach. He knows better than I that we are in an area of shared jurisdiction and I accept that. I certainly do not want, as one earlier speaker indicated, the federal government, for example, dictating tuition fees in colleges and universities. We cannot do that, but I would like to influence tuition fees. I would like to help students who are faced with tuition fees which are too high. That is what the federal government has been trying to do for many years.

I wonder if my colleague would give us some of his thoughts on how best we can deliver the transfer of money to the provinces for higher education and training, and the programs that we deliver at the present time.

Department of Human Resources and Skills Development ActGovernment Orders

May 9th, 2005 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, let me begin by thanking by fellow parliamentarians for their support and discussion as this legislation has worked its way through the House.

Bill C-23 has benefited from the input of all parties during its review by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

The fact that we even have this act and the new Department of Human Resources and Skills Development is, in part, a response to a recommendation made by the committee in June 2000.

At that time the standing committee advised us to divide HRDC, the department's predecessor, “into several more homogeneous and focused structures”.

That was sound advice, given the need for greater national attention to human resources development, a priority for all Canadians and especially a priority for countries coping with the pressures of our knowledge and information driven world in the 21st century.

In response, we narrowed the new department's focus to the development of labour markets, skills and creating a culture of lifetime learning.

This is one of the most important things that government can do to enable Canadians to thrive and prosper in the workplace and in the community, and to help Canadian businesses compete in an aggressive global economy.

To understand the value of HRSD's work, we have to appreciate that the labour market is ever changing. While we tend to talk about things such as technological innovations and the advent of globalization, the real story is the impact of these transformative trends on the lives of Canadians.

Roughly 75% of new jobs require some form of post-secondary education, a quarter of them demand a university degree. For Canada to remain competitive in the global marketplace, we need to develop a highly skilled labour force.

Our economy will only continue to grow to the extent that we have well educated and creative workers capable of producing innovative products and services.

The corollary of all this is that people today need to be constantly acquiring new skills to do their jobs and remain employable. The days when a high school diploma was enough to secure employment and jobs for life are long gone. Learning must now be life long. That means laying the foundation in early childhood, ensuring adequate access to post-secondary studies, and enabling workers to continue to learn and develop new skills while they are on the job.

The changing composition of our families and communities also has implications for the workforce. On account of our aging population, people leaving the workforce outnumber those who are coming in. Consequently, we need to maximize participation of all Canadians, including those who have traditionally been marginalized, for example, aboriginal people and Canadians with disabilities.

We also need to make better use of the skills already in the labour market, such as those of recent immigrants and the skills that they bring with them when they enter our country.

In 2000, 58% of working age immigrants had a post-secondary degree at landing, compared with 43% of the existing Canadian population. Yet all too often these highly skilled and educated people are unable to put their skills to work in Canada because we do not recognize their foreign credentials.

Consider that immigrants are expected to account for all net labour force growth by 2011 and all net population growth by 2031. Then we begin to see how critical it is that we had better integrate new Canadians into our communities and fully capitalize on their skills.

Nothing remains static. Just as life is changing for Canadians, government policies and programs must also respond to the complexity of the world around us and reflect the diversity of the citizens that we serve. Given the relentless rate of change and challenges confronting our country, we need a more nimble, more responsive organization, and that is what this legislation is designed to do.

As a result of the division of responsibilities between HRSDC and Social Development Canada, we can now concentrate more effectively in promoting a highly skilled and mobile workforce and an efficient and inclusive labour market.

That work starts at the earliest stages of life when we provide opportunities for parents to stay home to nurture their young children and through federal investments like the Canada learning bond and the Canada education savings grant program that help them save for their children's future education.

It continues through the teen years and early adulthood, through the broad range of initiatives under our youth employment strategy that help young Canadians gain the knowledge, skills and experience they need to make their mark in the job market, and through the $1.3 billion made available annually under the Canada student loans program, the loans and special grants, to ensure a post-secondary education is within the reach of all Canadians regardless of family income.

It carries on into the labour market by helping workers develop their skills in line with job opportunities. These include active employment measures under the employment insurance program, assistance for apprenticeships and a workplace skills strategy that will include a pan-Canadian approach to assessing and recognizing the foreign credentials of immigrants.

All these efforts will help to build the highly skilled workforce that Canada needs to retain our status as one of the world's most successful societies.

Doing things differently also means that we cannot be all things to all people, any more than we can develop a one-size-fits-all policy that meets Canadians' needs and expectations. We need to draw on the skills, the resources, the ideas and supports of people in all walks of life in all corners of our country, and to work more productively with other governments, the private and voluntary sectors and educators to ensure that every Canadian has a chance to achieve and contribute to his or her full potential.

This collaborative approach recognizes the shared responsibility in this domain and the need to work with all partners to set goals, focus resources and take collective action. Each order of government has an important role to play on issues close to HRSD's mandate. Let me also be clear that this legislation is subordinate to the Constitution Act and we will respect the division of powers.

Bill C-23 also deals with the sharing of services with Social Development Canada. Streamlining our processes and sharing our resources with SDC represents good value for taxpayers. An integrated service delivery network can effectively deliver the services Canadians need.

This act deals, as well, with the sensitive issue of sharing personal information, an important responsibility our government fully respects and is committed to uphold.

The act includes a code of personal information to govern disclosure and ensure due diligence for the management of all personal information. We are confident this code achieves an appropriate balance between the need to protect personal information and the use of such information through administrative programs and services.

I can assure my hon. colleagues that we have been very prudent in preparing this legislation, ensuring every reasonable precaution will be taken to protect individuals' privacy rights and the security of their personal information, which is so important to Canadians.

This legislation would formalize the legal structure and provide the tolls and resources necessary to make the department operational, confirming in law the arrangements set in place in 2003.

What the employees who make up HRSD need are the powers and the authorities contained in Bill C-23 that would let them fulfil the department's mandate. That mandate is to improve the standard of living and quality of life of all Canadians by promoting a highly skilled and mobile workforce and an efficient and inclusive labour market. They know that skills and learning stimulate the economy, and give value and a sense of worth to every member of our community, helping to create a Canada that makes us both competitive and proud. They just want to get on with the job.

Canadians expect Parliament will ensure the speedy passage of this legislation and advance this very important agenda. Like them, I am counting on my fellow colleagues to join me to do just that.

Department of Human Resources and Skills Development ActGovernment Orders

May 9th, 2005 / 1 p.m.
See context

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-23. It has been a long time in the pipe and we still do not have any clearer understanding now than we did when we started as to exactly what this ministry is about or how it will operate.

On the surface, it may be a housekeeping bill to give legislative framework for the new ministry that has been operating since December of last year. I believe we are putting the cart before the horse by creating a ministry and allowing it to operate for more than a year before getting parliamentary approval.

The mandate of this ministry touches on important issues for Canadians, including workplace strategy, apprenticeship programs, employment insurance, student assistance initiatives and the shameful record of the government on social housing, the homeless and persons with disabilities.

When we look at policy relating to what makes our economy healthy and strong, we have some fundamental questions to answer. We have to get it right, whether we operate out of a mindset that says the economy exists to serve human beings or whether we think human beings were created to serve the economy. All social and fiscal policy flows from the primary understanding of the right relationship between people and the economy. Until we build an economy that honours human beings, that permits each and every Canadian to contribute fully and enjoy all the justice and wealth that flows now only to some, I believe we have failed in our work here.

I want to speak for a second about skills development and training. Regrettably, there has been a dismantling of the cooperative approach to training. We need to seriously examine how to improve apprenticeship programs. Canada has a shortage of tradespeople and it will worsen in the next few years. The Conference Board of Canada believes Canada is not prepared to deal with this issue under current apprenticeship programming.

There is a real disconnect in Canada between the need for a trained, skilled workforce and the opportunities available for workers to meet that need. We have systematically dismantled a cooperative approach to training which saw government, industry and labour organizations working together. Funding has been reduced, shifting the burden and the cost of training to the individual in the context of the market. Anywhere we look in the world today, particularly where economies are doing well, education and training are seen as a social investment that benefits everyone, including business and industry.

One of the first and most important decisions by the Irish government, for example, when it moved to kickstart the Celtic tiger, was to invest heavily in education for everyone. Finland sees the availability of skilled, trained workers as essential to any future growth in its economy.

One of the major competitive advantages in the new world economy is a country's workforce. This is why European jurisdictions are changing their laws to allow for dual citizenship to attract immigrants back with their education, training and experience.

In my own community of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, young people are trying to enter the workforce, displaced older workers are looking for retraining and middle age retirees are looking to make a further contribution. No central facility is available and resourced to take these very willing and valuable workers from where they are to where they want to be. There is a patchwork of short term, mostly dead end programs that simply move people from one situation of frustration or poverty to another.

We used to have a network of properly funded community colleges offering programs that were easily accessible, affordable and connected to real work through partnerships with communities and industry. Apprenticeship programs were often a shared cost agreement between a workplace and a college.

Canada, like most western countries, is beginning to experience major demographic changes that will result in fewer workers. Meanwhile, the demand for high level skills will continue to increase in all sectors. Given these trends, competition for highly skilled workers will intensify within Canada and between Canada and other countries.

Recent surveys suggest that Canadian industry is set to lose approximately one-third of its skilled workforce in the next five to ten years and this in many economic growth sectors.

To address these forecasted shortfalls, a great deal of effort on developing efficient and effective training strategies in the trade skills and on replacing its current workforce is required.

One very successful approach has been developed and tested by CSTEC, the Canadian Steel Trade and Employment Congress, in partnership with Mohawk College, Dofasco, Lake Erie Steel and the United Steelworkers of America.

Department of Human Resources and Skills Development ActGovernment Orders

May 9th, 2005 / 12:35 p.m.
See context

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

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.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

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.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2005 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I, like most of my colleagues on this side of the House and many on the other side of the House as well, believe in the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. Many or most Canadians feel the same way. The number of petitions presented in the House and the number of letters and e-mails we have all received show this to be true.

There is no doubt that there are sincere and deeply held feelings on both sides of this issue. There is also no doubt that the majority of Canadians are looking for a middle ground compromise that would recognize the valid concerns of the partisans on either side. This is the type of country Canada is and the type of goodwill the people of Canada do usually show.

In the course of this debate those of us who support marriage have been told that to amend this legislation to reflect the traditional definition of marriage would be a violation of human rights and an unconstitutional violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I believe that this is an attempt by the government to shift the grounds of this debate. It does not want to debate the question of the traditional definition of marriage versus same sex marriage so it would rather focus on attacking its opponents as opposing human rights and the charter. This is not the middle ground. This is partisan divisive politics.

However this debate is not about human rights. It is a political, social policy decision and should be treated in that light.

The citizens of Elgin--Middlesex--London during the last election chose me to come to this place and help make the laws of the land. Many during the election talked openly about not allowing unelected court judges to become the lawmakers. That duty is ours and we should endeavour to do it to the best of our ability.

Let me present several reasons why the issue of same sex marriage is not a human rights issue and why defining the traditional definition of marriage would not violate the charter or require the use of the notwithstanding clause.

First, as has been said in the House, no internationally recognized human rights document has ever suggested that there is a right to same sex marriage. For example, almost all the rights listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the foundation of the United Nations human rights charter, are worded as purely individual rights, rights which everyone shall have or no one shall be denied. However, when it comes to marriage, the declaration says:

Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family.

The use of the term “men and women” rather than “everyone” suggests that only traditional opposite sex marriage is contemplated. The subsequent international covenant on civil and political rights contains similar language.

Many attempts to pursue same sex marriage as an international human rights issue have failed. In fact, to this date no international human rights body nor national supreme court has ever found that there is a human right to same sex marriage.

Therefore, if same sex marriage is not a basic human right in the sense of internationally recognized human rights law, is it a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

We still have not heard from the highest court in this land. In the same sex reference case, the Supreme Court declined to rule on the constitutionality of the traditional definition of marriage despite a clear request from the government to answer this question.

This leads me back to our purpose here. It is with us, 308 free thinking and free voting members of the House, that the definition of marriage awaits defining. Even the Supreme Court sent it back here to be done. There is good reason to believe that the Supreme Court, if it were eventually asked to rule on a new statutory definition of marriage combined with a full and equal recognition of legal rights and benefits for same sex couples, might well accept it.

The Conservative position that the use of the notwithstanding clause is not required to legislate a traditional definition of marriage is supported by law professor Alan Brudner of the University of Toronto, who recently wrote in the Globe and Mail that:

--the judicially declared unconstitutionality of the common law definition of marriage does not entail the unconstitutionality of parliamentary legislation affirming the same definition.

The professor also argues against those who have argued that a pre-emptive use of the notwithstanding clause is the only way to uphold the traditional definition of marriage. He stated:

These arguments misconceive the role of a notwithstanding clause in a constitutional democracy. Certainly, that role cannot be to protect laws suspected of being unconstitutional against judicial scrutiny...Rather, the legitimate role of a notwithstanding clause...is to provide a democratic veto over a judicial declaration of invalidity, where the court's reasoning discloses a failure to defer to the parliamentary body on a question of political discretion....

In other words, let this body make the decision and the court will deal with it.

The notwithstanding clause should be invoked by Parliament only after the Supreme Court has ruled on the constitutionality of a law. As yet there has been no such law for the Supreme Court to consider, so there is no need to use the notwithstanding clause.

There is every reason to believe that if this House moved to bring in a reasonable, democratic compromise solution, one which defined in statute that marriage remains the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, while extending equal rights and benefits to couples living in other forms of unions, and which fully protected the freedom of religion to the extent possible under federal law, that the Supreme Court of Canada would honour such a decision by Parliament.

This leads us back to where most Canadians want us: at a compromise solution to this question, to a place we can all arrive at in agreement, not in an uncompromising, uncompassionate line in the sand that has no room for discussion.

This House, including the current Prime Minister, voted to uphold the definition of marriage in 1999 and in the amendments to Bill C-23 in 2000, with the Deputy Prime Minister, who was then the justice minister, leading the defence of marriage from the government side.

In 1999 the Deputy Prime Minister said:

We on this side agree that the institution of marriage is a central and important institution in the lives of many Canadians. It plays an important part in all societies worldwide, second only to the fundamental importance of family to all of us.

She also said:

The definition of marriage, which has been consistently applied in Canada, comes from an 1866 British case which holds that marriage is “the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others”. That case and that definition are considered clear law by ordinary Canadians, by academics and by the courts. The courts have upheld the constitutionality of that definition.

She also said:

Let me state again for the record that the government has no intention of changing the definition of marriage or of legislating same sex marriages.

Marriage has fundamental value and importance to Canadians and we do not believe on this side of the House that importance and value is in any way threatened or undermined by others seeking to have their long term relationships recognized. I support the motion for maintaining the clear legal definition of marriage in Canada as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

That was the Deputy Prime Minister, speaking as justice minister, less than six years ago. Nothing that she said then is out of date today.

The Supreme Court itself has still not addressed this issue despite a clear request to do so by the government.

We do not believe on the basis of provincial court decisions, which the government refused to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, that a fundamental, centuries' old institution should be abolished or radically changed.

We believe that marriage should continue to be what it has always been, what the courts and the government accepted it to be until a very few years ago: an institution which, by its nature, is heterosexual and has as one of its main purposes the procreation and nurturing of children in the care of a mother and a father.

In conclusion, I will not be supporting Bill C-38.