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Evidence of meeting #70 for Finance in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site.) The winning word was clauses.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Gordon Boissonneault  Senior Advisor, Economic Analysis and Forecasting Division, Demand and Labour Analysis, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Sue Foster  Acting Director General, Policy, Appeals and Quality, Service Canada
Margaret Strysio  Director, Strategic Planning and Reporting, Parks Canada Agency
Stephen Bolton  Director, Border Law Enforcement Strategies Division, Public Safety Canada
Michael Zigayer  Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
Garry Jay  Chief Superintendent, Acting Director General, HR Workforce Programs and Services, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Jeff Hutcheson  Director, HQ Programs and Financial Advisory Services, Coporate Management and Comptrollership, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Darryl Hirsch  Senior Policy Analyst, Intelligence Policy and Coordination, Department of Public Safety
Ian Wright  Executive Advisor, Financial Markets Division, Financial Sector Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Nigel Harrison  Manager, Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
David Lee  Director, Office of Legislative and Regulatory Modernization, Policy, Planning and International Affairs Directorate, Health Products and Food Branch, Department of Health
Anthony Giles  Director General, Strategic Policy, Analysis and Workplace Information Directorate, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development
Bruno Rodrigue  Chief, Income Security, Federal-Provincial Relations and Social Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Gerard Peets  Senior Director, Strategy and Planning Directorate, Department of Industry
Suzanne Brisebois  Director General, Policy and Operations, Parole Board of Canada, Public Safety Canada
Louise Laflamme  Chief, Marine Policy and Regulatory Affairs, Department of Transport
Judith Buchanan  Acting Senior Manager, Labour Standards Operations, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
Mark Hodgson  Senior Policy Analyst, Labour Markets, Employment and Learning, Department of Finance
Stephen Johnson  Director General, Evaluation Directorate, Strategic Policy and Research Branch, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development
James McNamee  Deputy Director, Horizontal Immigration Policy Division, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Graham Barr  Director General, Transition Planning and Coordination, Shared Services Canada

10:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Mr. Caron, do you want to add something to this?

10:10 p.m.

NDP

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

Besides the argument that this work can be done by department staff, besides everything we have seen, with the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, Rights and Democracy and others, there is a difference in this case. At the end of the day, those were arm's length organizations, what we could call, in French, “paragouvernemental”.

Those organizations had certain responsibilities and independence in terms of the research they conducted, and those elements would not necessarily be maintained if their work was done by the department, given the new procedure. I have absolutely no issue with the quality of the work done by department staff specifically, but the fact remains: first and foremost, they work for a minister. The people working at the National Council of Welfare or the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy maintained a healthy separation from government, and that gave them more credibility.

That is why we are so concerned by the elimination of the National Council of Welfare and other such organizations the government has decided to do away with, organizations whose only fault was having opinions that quite often conflicted with the government's.

10:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Mr. Caron, can I clarify something? I may have misheard. I thought you said that these two organizations were non-governmental organizations.

10:15 p.m.

NDP

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

They are at arm's length.

10:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

They are funded by the government?

10:15 p.m.

NDP

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

They are, but they are at arm's length in their functioning. They are funded by government, but they have a certain independence that government workers don't have.

10:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you.

(Clauses 685 to 696 inclusive agreed to on division)

Thank you, Mr. Johnson.

We will then go to division 52, clauses 697 and 698, the Wage Earner Protection Program Act.

(Clauses 697 and 698 agreed to)

We go to division 53, repeal of the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act. This is one clause only. I would ask if we could stick to a five-minute rule for this clause, since it's only one clause.

We'll hear from Mr. Mai.

10:15 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

As you pointed out, Mr. Chair, this is just one clause. And yet, it is an extremely significant clause with negative repercussions in many respects. The environment is one of the reasons I got involved in politics in the first place. It's clear that since the Kyoto Protocol was adopted, governments have done little. I think we can all agree on that. But the decision to just drop everything is rather serious.

This is a smear on Canada's international reputation. We have seen the reactions. Whenever China comes up, my Conservative friends smile or even laugh. The fact remains that China said this decision went against international efforts, calling it very unfortunate. The UN condemned Canada's withdrawal from Kyoto. The Executive Secretary of the fourth United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change reminded Canada that it had to tackle the problem and reduce its emissions. This does the exact opposite.

I would also point out that in Quebec, my province, the members of the National Assembly unanimously adopted the Kyoto Protocol and its implementation. Formerly a leader in the fight against climate change, Canada will have a blemish on its reputation. At the end of the day, that reputation was nothing more than an illusion, since the Liberals never accomplished much anyways. In this case, however, we're talking about a clear slap in the face, and that is very detrimental. I mentioned Quebec, which will indeed suffer some negative consequences. Quebec will have to work even harder on a strategy to be given distinct status in the post-Kyoto discussions.

Mr. Chair, you said this was a small clause, but its repercussions are serious, and that cannot be denied. In my riding, when you talk to young people or those concerned about the environment, you realize that people are truly appalled by this decision, they take it as a clear sign that the government has no intention of protecting the environment or even fulfilling its obligations. That is one of the reasons we are going to vote against this provision.

I could go on and on, Mr. Chair, but I will refrain.

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you.

I just want to clarify, Mr. Mai. I didn't say it was a small clause. I said that in this division, there was only one clause.

I have Mr. Jean and then Mr. Brison.

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

I, like Mr. Mai, got involved in politics in part because of this very thing. So we have something in common. I would like to speak very briefly on it.

I'm totally in support of this clause. I was on the environment committee for 18 months in 2004, when this was debated in part, and certainly I looked at the Kyoto Protocol in detail.

I can assure the member that transfer of wealth from developed economies to developing economies is not something that I think is helpful, especially when you consider that it's part of a protocol that represented somewhere between 40% and 50% of emitters, not even a true accounting of the major emitters—China, India, and the United States—which account, by themselves, for somewhere in the neighbourhood of 35% to 40% of emissions. They were not even in the Kyoto Protocol, nor were they going to be signatories in any way, shape, or form in the future because of what it was going to do.

I, like Mr. Mai, got involved to see the elimination of Kyoto. I'm very ecstatic to be part of this vote today, and I'm happy to see that Canada is withdrawing from it completely.

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you, Mr. Jean.

Mr. Brison, go ahead.

10:20 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

This sort of irresponsibility on the international level has in part resulted in our not being on the UN Security Council. The government has made a decision on this, but the reality is that strong environmental provisions and governance do not have to come at an expense to the economy. It's the government's decision to do this, and they won't listen to reason on it. The reality is that climate change today is as great a threat to the Canadian economy and environment as it was five or ten years ago. It hasn't changed. The government has made this decision, which I think has given us a black eye on the international stage.

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you, Mr. Brison.

Mr. Mai, you have two minutes.

10:20 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

I want to respond to Mr. Jean. He may have gotten involved in politics because of the environment, but with a different purpose I would say; he was more interested in standing up for the interests of the oil companies. I can appreciate his position; they are in his riding after all. The purpose I had in mind was really to protect the environment for generations to come.

When the environment minister says the Kyoto Protocol is going to cost Canadians $14 billion, he's missing some information. The environment minister, who is supposed to ensure that environmental protection measures are put in place, is making false statements. Government officials or anyone else will tell you that the exact cost is not known. His $14 billion was pulled out of a hat and has absolutely no basis. It is nothing more than a scare tactic. The cost of doing nothing, however, is much higher.

I agree wholeheartedly with my leader about the problems and the need to internalize the costs associated with the environment. At this stage in the game, we are doing the exact opposite. The Kyoto Protocol is one of the ways to determine the costs generated by greenhouse gas emissions. The government isn't even considering the negative impact of global warming on the economy. It is acting out of pure ideology. I just want to wrap up by saying how utterly irresponsible that is.

10:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you.

(Clause 699 agreed to on division)

Thank you, Mr. Hanson.

We will then move to division 54, clauses 700 to 710, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

We do have four amendments for clause 707. We'll ask colleagues to speak to it generally, and then we'll ask them to move the amendments when we get to clause 707.

Ms. Sims.

June 5th, 2012 / 10:25 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would like to say that it's a pleasure to be here, but really, when I look at the time, 10:25 of an evening, I'm sure we can all think of a million things we would rather be doing.

It's causing me a great deal of concern that here we are at this very late hour discussing something very fundamental and critical, and that is an immigration issue that, for some weird reason, is buried in a budget, a budget that is so large that it's hard to fathom everything in it.

What's of greater concern is that this issue has never been discussed by the immigration committee. It has not been before us. We did everything we could to sever it out of this report so that we could take it to that committee and have an informed discussion.

What we're talking about here, Mr. Chair, is not just numbers. We're not talking about the deletion of 300 people, not only them, but their families who waited very patiently in a lineup. We're actually talking about 300 families. I want you to imagine how many people this is impacting, and here we are at 10:25 at the end of a very long process, and I'm not sure how much justice we can give this.

These are the people who played by the rules we made. They didn't make the rules; we made the rules. I've often heard the minister saying—Jason Kenney, that is—there are so-called queue jumpers in our immigration system, but here we are punishing people who have been waiting in line and playing by the rules. That is just so un-Canadian.

This morning I had an e-mail from one of these applicants from Hong Kong, and he actually asked me what was happening to the compassionate Canada he had heard so much about. He actually applied to come to Canada rather than the United States, and now, after five years, he's being told, delete button, you're gone. He's thinking he could have applied five years earlier and been settled in the States and not been through the kind of pain he has been through.

It was brought home to me that here we have a black eye for Canada across the world, whether it's in Manilla, where there were demonstrations, whether it's in Hong Kong, whether it's in India, or whether it's in China. What these people are saying and what people in my riding and across Canada are saying is this is not the right way to go. This is just not fair.

By the way, Mr. Chair, there was a study done on the backlog point by the committee a few years ago, but let me assure you that not one person or one recommendation included hitting the delete button. As a matter of fact, the report is very, very clear. They put forward an array of ideas for eliminating the backlog, and there are three main options they did put forward, but not one of them was hitting the delete button. As a matter of fact, the report states that most witnesses recognized the government's legal obligation to process all applications.

Here we are in a budget discussion that is going to impact the lives of 300 families who waited patiently in a queue we put them in, and they were just waiting their turn to come to Canada. We're changing the rules on them.

I have to tell you that I've heard stories of families who make plans once they get in the queue, and they know they're going to come to Canada. I heard of a family who sold some of their assets in order to take English classes and put their son through a school in China because they felt he would be able to come here and assimilate a lot easier. There is a family in the Punjab who sold their land, and because of the cost of living they can't possibly buy back that land because it is now out of their reach.

I look at all of this, and I'm wondering what has happened to our sense of fairness. Even the committee that studied this issue earlier said that even when it came to ministerial instructions that are intended to alleviate the backlog, the perception of fairness prevails. The study actually goes on to say that terminating the applications of people who have been patiently waiting in the queue is a decision that cannot be made. That previous study accepted that this was not the way they could go, and here we are.

As a matter of fact, in that report the committee lauded the work done by the department to reduce the backlog to date, saying that the pre-February 2008 backlog for federal skilled worker applications had been reduced by half, two years ahead of schedule. That's on page 13, in case any of you are desperate for midnight reading tonight. It went on to say that the action plan for faster immigration marked a turning point in immigration application backlogs and progress toward backlog reduction. That's on page 23. Then why would the minister make such an unfair cut under these circumstances?

You look at what was in that report and the kinds of accolades that were given for the reduction, and then here we have a cleaver being taken and a very arbitrary date, 2008. Some of the other professionals and skilled workers who are waiting to come to Canada are saying things like “This year, it's 2008. We applied in 2010. Who's to say that a year down the road it won't be that anybody who applied before 2011 is gone?”

What are we doing to the pool of people we hope to attract to Canada in the future? What kind of an image of Canada are we projecting out there, that we would treat people in such a poor way?

We're a nation that is built by immigration. I'm a first-generation immigrant myself. I chose Canada to be my home. I applied for a teaching job. I came here. I thought it was going to be for a year or two, and I'm still here.

I love this country, but with the kinds of changes I'm seeing happening and the way we're starting to treat newcomers or potential newcomers with so little regard and so much disrespect, really, I would say we'll have many skilled workers out there wondering if Canada is really a place of fairness, of compassion, a place that is inclusive, where they want to come to raise their children, where they want to be part of nation-building.

I know it's very easy for those of us who live in Canada now. We think, “Well, they're not here yet. They're not Canadians. They have no rights.” Canada has never had that kind of an approach towards our international relationships or the way we treat people in other countries. Recently, with Bill C-31, and now with this buried in a budget and left to debate at the very last minute so we can spend very little time on it and really not do a proper analysis of impact, here we are at this late hour, thinking—or not thinking—about the impact we are going to have on families.

There's another case I want to share with you here. There's a family in China, where they have, as we all know, a one-child policy. Upon hearing that they were on the wait list and that they were going to get to come to Canada soon, this family actually sold their apartment. It wasn't a house, but it was their home. They sent their child over here to study because they thought that would really help in the assimilation and would help in the transition. Both the parents, professionals, have been taking English classes and learning as much about Canada as they can. I'm sure they know far more about Canada right now, from what they write, than I did the day I arrived.

For these people, it's not just that we're deleting their application. We're actually deleting their dreams and hopes and aspirations of a home in Canada. I want all of us to imagine what it would feel like if you were in those shoes, if that happened to you. How would you feel? What sense of betrayal would you feel?

As I look at this, I keep hearing about bogus this, bogus that, queue jumpers. In the last week or two the House and my committee have been filled with rhetoric about queue jumpers.

I keep thinking that here are people—normal folk—in other countries who wanted to come to Canada, as I did. They wanted to come here to make this their home. We looked at their applications and said, “Great. Well done. We're going to put you in the queue. We're only letting in so many a year.”

First of all, we didn't have to have that backlog; there was a way we could have been addressing it in a more aggressive manner. But then, out of the blue, we say to them, “You know what? We've changed our mind. If you applied before 2008, you're gone. We'll give you your money back.”

We can send them back a cheque for the processing fees, but how do we give them a cheque for their hopes and dreams? How do we do that? How do we address the absolute feeling of betrayal they're feeling right now from Canadians—all Canadians?

I know the opposition has been very vehemently opposed to these steps, and we will continue to oppose them. At the same time, as I sit here, I'm thinking of the conversation those families must be having and the kind of burden we have placed on their shoulders.

I sometimes wonder how some people—not on this side of the House, but definitely across the way—will be able to sleep at night, knowing they are absolutely impacting the hopes and aspirations of people to whom we gave hope. We gave them those aspirations. We took in their applications, and we had them wait.

It should also be noted that the backlog has actually grown, and I would say deliberately grown, since the Conservatives came to office in 2006. If there were a real intention to address that backlog, those ways would have been found. They were suggested by the committee. Instead, that backlog was allowed to grow, so now, in a piece of legislation that is buried in a 400-plus-page budget.... I don't see what the budget has to do with immigration in this case.

Anyway, here we are. It's buried in the budget, and we're going to hit the delete button. That is going to impact over 300,000 families, not individuals. I just want you to think about the impact that is going to have, not only on that immediate family, but on all the extended families. Many of those people have relatives over here, and they don't like the way Canada is going.

Thank you.

10:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you.

We'll go to Ms. McLeod, please.

10:35 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I think I need to address one of the comments my colleague across the way made, and then I'll get into some specifics.

The question keeps coming up why we needed to hive this piece--this should have been hived, that should have been hived, this should have been hived.

We have been in government for a year, and we've had to make sure that debate was given reasonable timeframes. There are approximately 17 pieces of legislation that have been passed. We are looking at a critical situation in Canada, with the global crisis in Europe. We look at what's happening in the United States. What we've done is to take the whole-of-government approach, and the whole-of-government approach is the plan for jobs, long-term growth, and prosperity.

If we moved on 70 separate pieces of legislation, we would be here ten years from now. That is even with our government making sure there was absolutely reasonable time for debate, but perhaps making sure that what was said was relevant and didn't keep getting repeated.

I also have to make a quick note. I'm getting a little bit confused about the NDP policy. Right now we're talking compassion. I absolutely agree. This was a very difficult decision. The minister said that quite frequently. But a little earlier your colleague was expressing concern about roving gangs of Lebanese temporary foreign workers stealing jobs from Canadians. We're getting mixed messages from the NDP, and to be quite frank, it's not coherent.

I do have to correct something. I believe, and perhaps the officials can say, that the backlog has gone down in recent years. Could we briefly address that?

10:40 p.m.

James McNamee Deputy Director, Horizontal Immigration Policy Division, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Yes, the federal skilled worker backlog, as was pointed out, was reduced by over 50%. This was the pre-February 27, 2008 backlog. The overall number of people awaiting a decision has reduced somewhat, but it's stayed relatively stable over the recent years.

10:40 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Thank you.

What our government is doing, then, is we're taking a compassionate approach. How compassionate is it to wait six years or eight years for answers? What we need is a system that matches....

How compassionate is it to have people who come here, who don't have opportunities...? They come with skills, under a skilled worker program, and they're not given opportunities for employment. We have communities waiting for physicians. We need to create the efficiencies in this program.

Certainly it was a very difficult decision in terms of the federal skilled workers, but hopefully many of those people have the skills, and they will match, and they have the opportunity to reapply.

In the red tape reduction commission, as we travelled across the country, we heard across the country some of the challenges with the temporary foreign workers program. We listened. We are trying to adapt. We are making some changes. These are important changes for our immigration system, absolutely vital to Canada's future, to our economy. We can't wait for six years before we actually move forward on making these important changes.

Thank you very much.

10:40 p.m.

A voice

Well said.

10:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you, Ms. McLeod.

I have Ms. Nash, and then Ms. Glover.

10:40 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Here tonight at the finance committee, after debating fish allocations, CSIS, and all kinds of other things, now we're debating the federal skilled workers program. I was very interested to hear my colleague say a few minutes ago that these specific changes have not been debated or brought to the immigration committee, yet here they are before the finance committee. I find that really quite strange for something that I would have thought for adequate debate would require the immigration critics from the various parties to have the opportunity to examine and debate this legislation, to make sure they hear the appropriate witnesses, and that there would be a thorough examination of this change.

She did say there had been some previous study about how to deal with the backlog, but absolutely no recommendation about simply hitting the delete button and eliminating close to 300,000 people by eliminating the backlog. What these changes propose is to delete all applications to the federal skilled worker program prior to February 27, 2008.

I have to say that if I'm in a lineup waiting for my turn, whether it's at the supermarket or getting on an airplane or a subway, to suddenly be told, after waiting as these people have, for four years, to forget it, you can't be considered, but someone who has come after you is going to be considered, is going to be accepted, I would find that unacceptable.

We do hear the minister talk about queue jumpers. Well, this seems to me to be queue jumping, because people who are applying later are going to be accepted earlier. It doesn't make sense. It seems to me like a real broken promise to the people who in good faith paid their money, invested time, energy, made plans, devoted their attention to trying to come to Canada because we were trying to recruit them.

Under the federal skilled workers program, we're trying to bring into Canada people who have the skills that we need in the Canadian economy. To keep these people waiting all this time and then to say retroactively that all of their applications are deleted seems like an incredible betrayal of them.

I've heard my colleagues say this is creating difficulties for us internationally, that our reputation is being affected because people feel that perhaps this is not a desirable country to come to if they cannot count on the process and clear rules being applied, that they can make an application and have a reasonable expectation—if they're in a queue—that ultimately they'll get to the front of that queue. It also seems like a dramatic shift in our policy, and it's difficult for people when the rules change in the middle of the game.

We talked earlier about the demographics in Canada showing that we have an aging population, not aging as rapidly as some countries, but we do have an aging population. Having an effective immigration program under which young skilled immigrants can come to Canada as part of our economic and social development is a positive for Canada. In fact, we're competing with countries around the world for skilled immigrants. Now, I know we have a big list of immigrants, but to change the rules in midstream and say that people who have been waiting all this time can never get here—there's no faint hope that they're going to get here—seems like a real betrayal and a confused policy.

In closing, I want to address my colleague's concern. She said there didn't seem to be coherence in the NDP approach to immigration policy.

Our immigration critic has joined our committee briefly, for these very few minutes we are discussing such an important change, and she has been very consistent on deleting the applications of 300,000 applicants to Canada under the federal skilled workers program. But I believe my colleague might have been referring to previous concerns expressed by a colleague about the elimination of the fair wage program and how that could combine with the temporary foreign worker program to create competitive issues because of the downward pressure on wages in Canada, if people brought in through the temporary foreign worker program undermine wages in the construction sector in Canada. I think that is where she has become confused. So I did want to just clarify that, because our immigration critic and our party have been very consistent and very clear on our position on the federal skilled workers program.

I just want to say that while the temporary foreign worker program has served a need, we think about people coming in under the temporary foreign worker program as working in the agricultural sector. Increasingly now, temporary foreign workers are in retail, in service, in manufacturing, and in all aspects of society, and there are people who have concerns that temporary foreign workers in Europe certainly have created balkanized communities and are not allowed to become integrated into broader society. There are people who feel that if people are good enough to come here to work in factories, on pipelines, in health care, and in the service sector, who come here without skills like my grandparents did, they should be able to find a way to become landed and bring their families and have more of a normal life.

The temporary foreign worker program is a whole other discussion. We've had some of that discussion here in the finance committee, but right now in the finance committee we're discussing the federal skilled workers program, and we have been consistent on both those elements of immigration policy.

Thank you.

10:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

I will go to Ms. Glover.

10:50 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I will remind my colleagues that actually this section does include temporary foreign workers too, and I reiterate that I was quite offended by the comments made by Pat Martin with regard to roving gangs of Lebanese temporary foreign workers who are stealing Canadians' jobs. It is utterly atrocious to hear a parliamentarian speak of immigrants in such a fashion.

Nevertheless, I do have some questions for our wonderful guests, our witnesses who have waited all night to have a chance to speak. Rather than parliamentarians bantering back and forth with perhaps some inflated and exaggerated comments, I'm going to ask you why we are eliminating the foreign skilled workers backlog. Why?