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House of Commons Hansard #66 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was general.

Topics

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague across the way talks about some of the things that the Auditor General has brought out. It is often said that we only change things that can be measured. As a member of the government I welcome the Auditor General's accounting of what we are doing right as a government. Indeed, she has pointed out some things we are doing right and some things that need improvement.

We only need to look back to the actions of the Minister of Human Resources Development to recognize that the government does take this information seriously. I would also look at the report that was made by the Auditor General regarding the environment commissioner.

Would my hon. colleague not at least acknowledge the fact that the government does take these reports seriously and does indeed take action?

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the government has responded in part to some of the recommendations of the Auditor General, in particular, the issue around accrual accounting which is something the Auditor General raised and the government addressed.

However, the government continues to operate in a secretive way on a range of issues without full disclosure to Parliament and without giving Canadians the full choices available to them. On the basic issues that are of concern to Canadians the government ought to ensure that parliamentarians have the ability to scrutinize estimates in an indepth way, that Auditor General reports automatically go to the respective committee, that the recommendations around foundations be dealt with in a serious way, and that we--

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member but there is no more time left. Resuming debate.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I would be only too delighted to let the member continue because, as I said before, usually her speech is well worth listening to, which is more than I can say for a lot of my other colleagues and perhaps myself occasionally.

Earlier this morning, when the first government speaker rose on the motion, she asked why would something like this be brought in for debate. As the day unfolds the answer is becoming quite clear. It gives a number of people in the House the chance to point out to government that it is not doing what it prides itself in saying it does and wants to do; that is, to be accountable and transparent.

There is no way that government could be more transparent and accountable than to defend in this chamber the dollars that are spent by government. That is not being done.

The motion today is broad enough to interest various members in different perspectives of the Auditor General's report. The Auditor General did not just come out and say that government does not report to the House as it should. She went through department after department, agency after agency, and in practically all of them found just cause to raise extremely important concerns.

It comes back to what I said in the beginning. The Auditor General points out clearly that the government is not accountable to Parliament. If the government is not accountable to Parliament it is not accountable to the people of Canada. The members of this august chamber represent, from coast to coast to coast, the people of this great country who sent us here to represent them. It is through us that government accounts for the dollars which it takes out of all our pockets.

It is not money printed at the Canadian mint just down the road that government spends; it is not its money which it does not have to tell anybody about. That is not the way it operates, as we well know. The money that the government spends is the money that the people of Canada gave it to spend properly on the things that they need and that the country needs to become, as we should be, the greatest country in the world.

However, the government, through mismanagement, by being uncaring, by not being prudent, by looking after its friends, and I could go on, is not spending in accordance to the rules and regulations which govern the accountability of the government.

The government should be accountable to this House. That is why, as different members stand to speak, they make it quite clear that the various ministers who administer large budgets should defend their expenditures in this chamber. If it is impossible to cover all departments and all aspects of expenditure, then certainly the expenditures could be closely scrutinized in committee.

If we do not have the opportunity to scrutinize and to question, then the minister, and government generally, does not have to worry about responding, and that is what has happened over the last number of years.

We can go back a couple of years to the horrendous waste that we saw in the public works department. We saw contract after contract being issued to friends of the ministers involved. We saw contracts being issued which were never worked upon and reports that were supposed to be done that were never completed, yet agencies got paid. The biggest ripoff was through the different aspects of advertising that the government was involved in.

If we look at the billion dollar cost of the gun registry and if the expenditure in relation to that agency was scrutinized closely, how much of it was spent on advertising the registry and trying to sell it or perhaps I should say ram it down the throats of the people of Canada? I think we would find that again a lot of the money was spent on giving friends of government the opportunity to try to convince the people of Canada that this was good for them.

This is extremely serious. Would this type of thing happen, if the minister involved and government generally had to defend these contracts and procedures in front of the House and then through the House and through the press, defend how they spent the money to the people of Canada?The answer is no, it would not happen. It happened and continues to happen because government and ministers therein, behind the backs of parliamentarians and the people of Canada who give them the money in trust to spend, go off and do what they like without being accountable to anybody.

This basically is what the Auditor General is saying, that the government cannot and should not keep such expenditures from Parliament. Parliament should not be kept in the dark in relation to government expenditures.

I will come back a little later to the gun registry but there are other departments. We see attention being drawn to the surplus in the EI fund. The Auditor General questions whether we need a surplus of $40 million. The answer is no we do not. We need some surplus. With a downturn in the economy, if a lot of working people end up being laid off at any one time, then undoubtedly we need a cushion. However it does not need to be one of that magnitude.

Could that money be used or should it be used elsewhere? The answer is, certainly. People contribute to the fund. It is not like it goes into the general consolidated revenue fund. This is a specific fund paid into by employers and employees for the benefit of the people involved within these various employment agencies. If we could have enough money to operate the fund and if we could have a reasonable surplus with smaller premiums, would that not be the way to go?

Government will come back now and say that it reduced premiums in the budget last week. It did by 10¢ or whatever the case may be. At least it is going in the right direction. As we all know, the premiums could have been reduced much more. This would have been of some benefit to the employee, particularly the small business person who pays heavy EI premiums when it is not necessary. However because the fund is there and because it is really owned by a certain segment of society rather than by society generally, maybe we should look at spending some of that within the spectrum of the contributors.

We have in the workforce today a tremendous number of people who could do better than they are. I do not mean in relation to the hours of work or the effort. I am talking about the fact that many people in our workforce have not had the chance, through education and training, to reach their potential.

It is amazing to see how difficult it is for some people, who want to get ahead by becoming better educated or trained so they can move up the ladder, to get funding for training through government assistance programs. There is such a bureaucracy set up within Human Resources Development Canada that everyone, even the workers on the frontlines, are completely and utterly frustrated. Let me provide a couple of examples of things that are happening in rural Canada.

It is probably worse in the larger urban centres because I find everything is very impersonal in those centres. A person picks a number, gets in a line up and somewhere along the line that individual gets some attention. In the smaller rural areas through outreach offices, et cetera, quite often the people involved know those who come in looking for assistance. They bend over backward where they can, depending on the regulations under which they operate, to help these people.

I have a couple of examples. First, I will refer to when the HRDC outreach offices were set up in Newfoundland, and undoubtedly offices were set up throughout the country. However I will only speak of Newfoundland. When the moratorium was imposed on the fishery, many parts of rural Newfoundland were hurting. Thousands and thousands of people were put out of work, work that they had participated in for a lifetime. Their parents, grandparents and great grandparents had also participated in this type of work as far back as the 1500s and 1600s.

Many of these people grew up in small communities knowing that employment was there for them whenever they wanted to start. Some started at a very early age. Older people will say, “When I was nine years of age, I went to work on a boat”. Others will say, “When I was 15 years of age, I went to work in the fish plant”. In recent years it depended perhaps on when a person could leave school because the regulations changed and one had to be a certain age before leaving school. I think it was around 15 years of age.

Some people at 15 did not want to go somewhere else to work and did not want to earn a degree. A lot of people asked themselves why they would want to spend four years obtaining a degree to find out that they could not find work. They could leave school not only four years earlier, perhaps even six years earlier, before they finished high school. They could work in the fish plant next door. It was unionized, provided work for 52 weeks a year and paid better wages than what any of their graduating friends received. People made that choice and stayed in Newfoundland, went to work, raised their families, built houses on their land and paid very little taxes. It was a pretty good life. However when the resource disappeared, their jobs disappeared.

They had two choices. One was to go somewhere else to work with the qualifications they had. Many of them had little experience, except for direct work in the fishery. They lacked the education upon which to build. Some still made that choice and went away to work in the meat packing plants or in the car factories. However many others decided to re-educate themselves, and many of them have done very well. There are some tremendous success stories not just on how they improved their own standing in life and how they obtained better jobs or whatever, but the self-worth that came with that and the assistance to their families. I could go on and on.

These people were assisted by workers in outreach offices set up by HRDC, which did a great job. What is HRDC doing now since it has a $40 million surplus? Is it expanding upon this great move it once made? Is it helping more people? Is it encouraging more people to retrain and get into the workforce to make life better for themselves, families, communities and consequently the country because they become contributors to the system rather than take from it? No, it is cutting back. It is reducing the hours. It is shaking its fingers at some of the outreach officers because they go above and beyond their counselling practices. They are not supposed to help people fill out applications or look for funding projects and so on. That is not their job. They are only there to counsel.

In the rural areas these outreach officers did a tremendous job. They provided a great services to the communities which surrounded the offices. They helped a number of people by going above and beyond perhaps what the direct guidelines requested. The bureaucrats stepped in and told them they could not do that, they could not help people. Their hours were cut. If they were working 40 hours a week, the department figured for 10 or 12 hours during that week the officers were doing things they should not be doing. They were not supposed to help people that way. Therefore their hours were cut. They now work four days a week instead of five. That is one thing that was done to recognize that $40 billion surplus.

What else did the government do? Perhaps we should look at the people who wanted to become further educated. They could go to their outreach office, sit down with a counsellor, discuss their situation with somebody who recognized their strengths and weaknesses and who probably knew the family background and the challenges they faced. This person would be somebody with which people felt at ease.

Many people are shy and they do not want to go to the big city, sit down with strangers and discuss their plans. In fact, they will not do it. However they will go to the local office, sit down and discuss their plans. The local counsellors had the power to assess the potential of individuals and approve funding for training programs or upgrading programs at whichever institution was practical, viable and within a certain price range. Things went very well. In fact it was going so well that the department again sent in its bureaucrats.

The big question here is from where does all this originate? Giving credit where credit is due, I do not think the minister sits up all night trying to complicate things at the local offices. I am sure people who work at the local offices and who do such a good job do not stay up all night trying to complicate things for themselves. Because they are dedicated individuals, they will not complicate things for their clients, so where is this happening?

I would suggest it is probably happening in related fields in other departments. Somewhere in between we have a bunch of middle management bureaucrats who want to protect their own positions. They tell the minister that there is a lot administrative work to be done, speaking of the gun registry, that it is a complicated system and that they need more people and more money. The bottom line is fewer results.

What these people decided to do, rather than let the simple process of the local office dealing with its clients, was to tell clients that they could go in and talk to counsellors in their local offices but then they would have to go to the central office in the city to get their funding. That delayed and complicated things. No longer did the local official, who had done such a great job and had so many success stories, call the shots. The client had to go on to the city. Then it was made even more complicated. Individuals had to get appointments first with their local offices in order to see the people in the city to talk about money. Then they would be referred back to the local offices where the deals would finalized.

That should not happen. The Auditor General talks about that. It would not be happen, if the government were more accountable in the House.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Oxford.

I wanted to thank the Conservative Party for bringing forward this resolution, but let me say at the outset that this is about one thing and one thing only. It is about gun control and the issues that arise out of gun control.

It is curious that the finance minister tabled a budget for $180 billion, but that is not the subject of the party's discussion. We potentially are facing a pretty significant decision with respect to going to Iraq and that is also not part of the resolution. It is a curious set of priorities on the part of the fifth party.

The Auditor General has done us quite a service by being quite candid about the costs that are associated with the registry. However she has been quite candid as well in saying that the benefits of the registry are not in. She certainly is able to articulate the costs, as are other members, because the numbers are there. It is a somewhat more difficult task to talk about the benefits but I would like to take my time to see whether I can articulate some of the social safety benefits that derive from this system of registration.

In my view the program enhances public safety by controlling access to firearms and ammunition. The underlying philosophy is one frankly that enjoys wide support in the House, namely that the idea is to prevent people who are a danger to themselves and to others from getting access to firearms. I would state at the outset that this is not about “jailing law-abiding citizens”.

With extensive and continuous background checks on applicants and licence holders, about 9,000 firearms licences already have been refused or revoked by public safety officials. That is over 70 times greater than the revocations from potentially dangerous individuals before December 1, 1998, compared to the previous five years under the old regime. That is a pretty significant benefit, I would submit.

Licences have been refused and revoked based upon a history of violent behaviour, domestic violence, mental illness and criminal activities. The program has received something in the order of 26,000 calls on its notification lines from people expressing public safety concerns. Again, I would submit that is a fairly significant benefit.

There are now more than 1.9 million licensed individuals in the firearms database which is a compliance rate of something in the order of 90%. As for the registration, it provides a link between a firearm and the rightful owner. Registration works to enhance accountability for one's firearms, for example, encouraging safe storage, reduced gun thefts, accidents, et cetera, which again is a benefit to public safety.

The vice president of the Canadian Police Association says that illegal guns start out as legal guns. During the 1980s, on average every year Canada lost about 1,400 citizens to gun related deaths. In the late 1990s that declined to about 1,000 per year on a larger population base. That is a happy benefit. I would be hesitant, if I were on the other side, to dismiss that as just a mere coincidence.

Information about firearms and other owners also facilitates an enforcement of prohibition and allows police officers to take preventive action, such as removing firearms from situations where they know there is a chance of domestic violence.

When we do a cost benefit analysis, how do we do it in a meaningful way? When Quebec spent $125 million this summer on a meningitis scare, over 85 cases of meningitis, what was the cost benefit on that? When New Brunswick proposes twinning the highway and spending $400 million on approximately 43 deaths between 1996 and the year 2000, how do we do a cost benefit analysis on that? It is said that the average homicide costs something in the order of $500,000 per investigation. How do we do a cost benefit analysis on that? This is a very difficult area. It does not quite line up in a nice clear silo, where we can say that this is the money spent and these are the benefits derived from it.

There are about six million firearms currently registered and accounted for. The majority of these are rifles and shotguns, which were difficult for authorities to trace under the old program. Police agencies across Canada now have access to information on firearms and their owners throughout the Canadian firearms registry online system, CFRO. This information helps police evaluate potential threats to public safety and remove firearms from a location as a preventative measure, which is again, I submit, a benefit.

Already law enforcement agencies are making use of this very valuable tool in responding to incidents such as domestic violence situations. The police access this system 2,000 times per day. Clearly if it were a useless system the police would not make use of it. I submit that access 2,000 times a day by police agencies across the country is again a benefit.

While it may take some time to see the full effects of this investment in public policy, and I am perfectly candid in admitting that, there are already some encouraging trends in crime statistics. Overall, Canada's homicide rate is at its lowest since 1967, and homicide committed with rifles and shotguns is steadily decreasing. The rate of robberies committed with a firearm has also declined by 62% since 1991 after consistently dropping over the past decade. I submit again: a benefit. I cannot make the direct correlation between the imposition of this kind of legislation and these results, but these are the results.

The number of lost or missing firearms has declined by 68% from 1998 to 2001, and the number of stolen firearms has also decreased by 35%, which is again, I would submit, a benefit.

The rate of suicide deaths involving firearms has steadily been decreasing. In 1999 the percentage of suicides involving a firearm was down by 19% from a high of 43.7% in 1970, again, I would submit, a benefit.

Let us compare that to our colleagues in the United States: rate of accidental deaths from firearms, 2.6 times higher in the United States; rate of suicides with firearms, 2.7 times higher; rate of total firearm deaths, something in the order of 3.2 times higher in the United States; rate of murders with firearms, 6.5 times higher; rate of murders with handguns, 8 times higher than it is in Canada; and the rates of murders without guns are almost equal, at 1.6 times higher in the United States. There is an interesting correlation there: that in all instances numbers of deaths from firearms are much higher in the United States than in Canada. Yet when we eliminate a gun from the equation, the figure for murder without guns is almost even. That is a curious sort of figure when we try to argue this point.

Provisions in the Criminal Code and Firearms Act establish increased controls over firearms imports and exports and impose penalties for smuggling and trafficking. The national weapons police enforcement support team, NWEST, was also created as part of the firearms program. It is a unit of highly trained and experienced individuals who work in a support role with local law enforcement to assist with anti-trafficking and anti-smuggling efforts. The team also helps the police community in dealing with issues of violence and firearms. Again I would submit, a benefit, and again I would say how do we correlate that cost with that benefit. Over the past year the support team has provided over 2,000 police files dealing with weapons, playing a key role in improving public safety in Canada and proving highly successful in helping police fight firearms related crime.

I submit that all of the foregoing is a benefit and that the legislation in fact enjoys wide support among the Canadian public and particularly among law enforcement agencies such as the chiefs of police and the police association.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I hate to accuse the member, but I have to, as I think he made very many tacit assumptions in his speech. He assumed that safety would be enhanced by these measures. If we ask in detail about these questions the answer is no.

In the Elk Island riding not very long ago, we had the abduction by two armed men of a fairly well known radio personality. He lives in my riding and took the occasion the next time he was on radio to talk about his experience and how these guys held their gun to his head and forced him to open his cabinet, on threat of losing his life. So then they had his guns. The registration did not prevent them from getting his guns. It was ludicrous. In fact, even his attempt to store his guns safely was foiled by these guys. He went on and on and was asked if registration would have helped his situation. With absolute certitude, he said absolutely no, it would not have made a single difference in his case.

I think that the member probably should recheck what he has just said, read the statements and assertions he has made, and admit that he is simply making an assumption of what he wishes were true when in fact it is not.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a bit of a shame that the hon. member did not listen a little bit more carefully, because I made no such correlation. I tried to set out the fact that this is a collection of statistics and social facts that are happening in Canada, and it is not just merely a coincidence that the firearms legislation is in place at the same time. I would submit to him that he should read it a little bit more carefully.

Then he tried to set up a false analogy between an individual who was robbed and whether the gun control measures would have helped the individual. On that argument maybe we should throw out CPIC, the crime registration system, because obviously CPIC does not prevent all crime, and maybe we should throw out the sex registry system because obviously rapes and sexual assaults still occur. Maybe we should throw these out too. This is a false argument and one that I think the hon. member needs to rethink.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my friend's remarks. I know that he is a long time participant on the justice committee and I have a great deal of respect for him. He spoke at the beginning of his remarks about the priorities and why this particular motion was before the House.

I need not remind him that even his government's own budget was certainly off base in terms of many of its priorities when it came to the military and fixing the ongoing problems of health care, so we will not delve into that trap.

However, I want to ask him seriously about the facts, figures and statistics he quotes that seem to support this gun registration, and let us be very clear that this is what we are talking about here. It is not this ongoing attempt by the Liberal government to blur the issue of gun control versus gun registration. Everyone is for gun control. Previous legislation was in fact what put in place these checks and balances that allowed for research and background information checks on individuals who were participating in terms of getting firearms acquisition certificates. That is a completely separate issue.

What the government has so disingenuously done in blurring the issue is confuse gun control and gun registration. I want to know not about the billion dollar waste that went into it knowing it does not work, but does he think that Hell's Angels and other individuals with criminal backgrounds will ever participate? Does he think that will happen?

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, of course it is not going to happen, but as I said in the quote in my speech, all illegal guns at one time started out as legal guns. Does the member want to have any system of tracing where those guns came from and any usefulness that would be derived from an investigative tool? I know the hon. member is quite supportive of the chiefs of police and the police associations generally, and I am absolutely astounded that the hon. member would not be very supportive of their perception that this is an extremely useful tool in the investigation of gun related crime.

Arts and CultureStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Beth Phinney Liberal Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, last week the Art Gallery of Hamilton made an important leap forward in its collection of 19th century European art. Joey Tanenbaum, art collector and philanthropist, and his wife Toby, gave the art gallery 211 works, which they have spent decades collecting. This gift to the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Canada's third largest gallery, is worth between $75 million and $90 million.

Mr. Tanenbaum remembers the generosity of the first city his family called home. His father, a Polish immigrant, received his first line of credit in 1917 from Dofasco in Hamilton. This led to his family's successful scrap metal empire, Runnymede Iron & Steel.

I am sure all members of the House will join me in congratulating the Art Gallery of Hamilton and thanking Mr. Joey Tanenbaum for his generous donation to the cultural depth of the City of Hamilton.

Heroism in Medicine HatStatements By Members

February 24th, 2003 / 1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, thanks to the quick and courageous action of the emergency response team and the Medicine Hat Fire Department, about 400 employees of Goodyear Canada are safe and back at work.

Last Thursday, a fire broke out on the roof of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber plant in Medicine Hat. The plant's emergency response team was on the scene within moments, controlling a 130 foot high blaze with extinguishers.

Employees, including Chris Storeshaw, Tyson Robinson, Bruce Volk and Scott Kelly, kept the flames at bay until the Medicine Hat Fire Department arrived. Within about 40 minutes the fire was out, and by the next day the plant was back up and running.

Goodyear is one of the largest single employers in my riding, and safety is always the first priority at the plant. When accidents happen, it is a relief to know that dedicated employees are there to make sure that nobody is hurt.

I wish to extend my thanks and congratulations to the plant's emergency response team and to the Medicine Hat Fire Department for their brave work.

Olympic Winter GamesStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, on Saturday, February 22, residents of Vancouver, British Columbia showed their overwhelming support for Vancouver's bid to host the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

My constituents in Yukon and I, who would like to attend, would like to thank everyone in Vancouver who cast their ballots. Forty-six per cent of the eligible voters turned out, 134,791 citizens in all. Over 86,000 said yes to the 2010 games and yes to the Olympic ideals of peace and friendship through sport.

There are real benefits in supporting this bid. It will raise Canada's international profile and contribute to increased foreign tourism and investment to boost the economy and create jobs. Most exciting of all are the rich opportunities that our athletes and coaches will enjoy as a result of training and competing on home ice.

The Government of Canada is a strong supporter of Vancouver 2010. It has given $9.1 million to the bid corporation and has recently announced another $10 million to go toward training for high performance athletes.

I wish to ask members to please join the citizens of my riding in thanking the residents of Vancouver and congratulating the 2010 bid corporation for its success to date.

Arts and CultureStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Walt Lastewka Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this occasion to congratulate all the Canadian singers, musicians and composers who were nominated at the 45th annual Grammy Awards held last night in New York City.

It was an exciting night for Canadians, whose combined 22 nominations proved that Canadian music talent is among the very best in the world. Napanee's Avril Lavigne earned nominations in five major categories, and her live performance on the telecast was viewed by a worldwide audience.

Walter Ostanek, from my riding of St. Catharines, was nominated for the 15th time for best polka album of the year. Although he did not win, he said he was thrilled to be nominated and to be celebrating his 47th wedding anniversary with his wife Irene.

Canadians did bring home several Grammys. Diana Krall won best jazz vocal album for Live in Paris , and Toronto born composer Howard Shore won best score soundtrack album for a motion picture for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring .

I ask members to please join me in congratulating all our Canadian talent for their nominations and their success at the Grammy Awards.

Canadian ForcesStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, today I had the honour on behalf of the Minister of National Defence to bid farewell to the crew of HMCS Iroquois and her attached air deployment, who are now on their way to Operation Apollo.

These brave men and women are joining several hundred of their colleagues as well as soldiers and sailors from other coalition nations. They are continuing in the excellent work already done by Canadian Forces members in and around Afghanistan.

For some of these sailors and airmen, this is their second tour in the Arabian Sea. Their dedication and professionalism never cease to amaze me. When we call, they deliver.

To repeat my words to them this morning, “I know you will bring honour to Canada, and uphold the excellent reputation of the Canadian Forces and the Canadian Navy”.

To Iroquois and her brave crew, we say good luck and Godspeed.

Foreign AffairsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt the events of September 11, 2001, have necessitated the need for greater security vigilance. However, a year and a half later, the mayhem ensuing from implementing new security measures along with keeping up with the increased demand for a Canadian passport is unconscionable.

Although the backlog of passport applications is slowly subsiding, it is evident the Liberal government lacked the foresight to have an adequate plan in place to deal with these eventualities. With a three month passport processing time, Canadian travellers have paid the price for the government's lack of preparedness through increased stress and trip cancellation costs. In the years to come, Canada will need even more stringent security features on passports, such as fingerprint, iris identification and facial feature recognition.

Has the government learned from its past mistakes and is it working today on an action plan to implement these new measures so Canadians do not have to pay the price yet again?

National DefenceStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me today to have this opportunity to congratulate the Government of Canada and the Minister of Finance on the 2003 budget.

Our government has responded to the urgent needs of our Canadian Forces, particularly by eliminating the DND budget shortfall in one fell swoop. Our troops now have all the support they require to manage their operations properly.

In all, the 2003 budget has allocated $395 million to the Department of National Defence between now and the end of the fiscal year. For 2003-04, our government has allocated another $1 billion, with another $800 million added to the base budget.

These new funds will provide our armed forces with all the support they require between now and the end of the foreign and defence policy review process.

PeaceStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Ghislain Fournier Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, recently the Musée régional de la Côte-Nord hosted artist Magali Filosa and the exhibit “Je porte l'art de ma liberté”. This “paint freedom” exhibit included work by nearly 1,900 children of all nationalities on behalf of peace.

In an outpouring of solidarity with the youth of the world and the children of war, these artists have worked together to build a wall of peace. Their work has been sent to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, in hopes of influencing world decision makers.

Magali Filosa says, “All of us carry the world's freedom within us”. In this critical time for humanity, I wish to add the peace within me to the wall of peace built by these young people and this inspired artist in order, as the children themselves say:

—for the children of the world to have the right to live, to grow in peace and fraternity, the right to play, to be loved, to be heeded.

Let us preserve peace for our children.

Canadian AllianceStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning I was totally shocked and appalled to learn that the former so-called Alliance spy is still on that party's payroll.

According to the bankruptcy filings of James Leigh, the man that the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla met or did not meet, depending on the day asked, Mr. Leigh's sole source of income is the member for Okanagan—Shuswap. The hon. member opposite is paying $3,200 a month to the consulting firm belonging to, guess who, Mr. Leigh's mother-in-law.

Is that not convenient? After the controversy surrounding the hiring of this particular private investigator to dig up dirt on other members of the House, this same individual should now happen to find work in the constituency office of the member for Okanagan—Shuswap.

Will that party never learn? Was it not bad enough that the former leader of the opposition was not candid with Canadians regarding his dealings with this agent. Now we discover that on the sly that party hired him anyway.

We in the House have a responsibility to uphold basic decency and values--

Canadian AllianceStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Calgary West.

Goods and Services TaxStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, let me tell the House a story of fraud and waste. Let me tell the House about scams, lack of accountability and hypocrisy.

The GST is highly vulnerable to fraud. From low level scams where cheaters collect and pool their receipts with friends and relatives returning overseas, to high level operations such as those uncovered recently involving tens of millions of dollars. Bogus companies declare huge sales but without any product or service ever being delivered. The GST claim is made and the crooks get a 7% rebate on money that was never spent. It is estimated that such fraud could amount to more than $1 billion annually. There was a plan to track down fraudulent GST claims. However, in 1995 the fraud investigations unit was disbanded. The CCRA began reporting GST fraud on an ad hoc basis.

What kind of shady deal did the tax haven loving Bermuda registered former finance minister make? To make matters worse, he was warned by the Treasury Board but did nothing about it.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, laboratory tests funded by the Globe and Mail and CTV have detected trace amounts of prescription drugs in the drinking water of four Canadian communities including Montreal and Hamilton.

Some of the drugs detected include anticonvulsants given for epileptic seizures and medication used to reduce cholesterol levels. Drugs are entering the environment because they are not fully metabolized in the bodies of those using them. It is not known what health risk is posed by drinking or bathing in water containing trace amounts of drugs. Currently there is no requirement to test drinking water for drug residues and no regulatory limits on these contaminants.

At present, Health Canada and Environment Canada are surveying 24 communities to check if drug residues have entered the water. Once studies are completed, I would urge the Minister of Health to write regulations in order to protect water, human health and the environment.

ImmigrationStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government seems absolutely determined to change the face of Canada from that of a welcoming nation built on a tradition of support for immigrants and refugees to an unfriendly, even hostile, nation obsessed with feeding the U.S. government's insatiable appetite for security.

On the one hand there is the U.S. racial profiling of Canadian citizens that now includes more than 20 countries--profiling procedures that humiliate and harass Canadians without a peep from the government. Similarly, the Liberals have abandoned permanent residents to the extent that to enter the United States from Winnipeg or anywhere across the west, permanent residents must go to Calgary first to apply in person at the U.S. consulate simply to get a visa.

Record numbers of refugees entering Canada are being turned back at the border, some directly to detention, simply to wait because the government does not have adequate staff to process their claims. Many will ask, is this really Canada?

These practices are discriminatory and unacceptable and will carve divisions that will scar Canadian society and Canada's image in the world.

Jutra AwardsStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, the 5th Jutra awards gala paid tribute to the members of the Quebec film industry. The Jutra-Hommage was awarded to director Roch Demers for promoting Quebec's films around the world for more than 40 years.

Most of the awards went to two movies: Séraphin, un homme et son péché , by Charles Binamé, won seven Jutras, with those for best actress and best actor going to Karine Vanasse and Pierre Lebeau. The other favorite, Québec-Montréal , by Ricardo Trogi, won four Jutras, including best picture of the year, best production, best screenplay, and best supporting actress for Isabelle Blais.

Luc Picard won the award for best supporting actor for his role in Jean Beaudin's Le collectionneur . The movie Le Nèg' , by Robert Morin, won the statuette for best editing by Lorraine Dufour, while La Turbulence des fluides , by Manon Briand, won the award for best success outside Quebec.

The Bloc Quebecois says bravo to all award recipients.

Jutra AwardsStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Liberal Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate all the artists and artisans of the Quebec film industry who were honoured last evening at the Jutra awards gala.

The feature films nominated this year once again confirmed the talent, energy and vitality of the Quebec film industry. 2002 was a banner year for French language Canadian cinema, which appeals to a growing number of Canadians.

I would like to mention last night's two big winners: Québec-Montréal , with four Jutras, including best picture of the year, and Séraphin, un homme et son péché , with six Jutras, including those for best actor and best actress, in addition to the golden ticket award for breaking the record of entries.

Yesterday evening, special tribute was paid to Roch Demers, who left us many works that are now part of the great classics of our audiovisual heritage.

The Government of Canada is proud to support the production and the expansion of Canadian cinema.

HealthStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, two-thirds of all Canadians have experienced depression and anxiety personally or have a relationship with someone who has. One in three feel others would think less of them if it were known they suffered from these conditions. The prevalence of depression, anxiety and mental illness, and the continuing stigma attached to those conditions are just some of the key findings in a new survey conducted by the Canadian Mental Health Association.

In Ontario, the Progressive Conservative government set up a task force across the province to investigate the issue of mental health and make recommendations as to how government can better serve the public in this regard. I am proud to highlight Nova Scotia PC Health Minister Jane Purves' announcement last Thursday that Nova Scotia will be the first province in Canada with mental health standards.

Naturally, we must do more to remove the sense of shame and misunderstanding that seems to follow mental health issues. Very often early diagnosis and treatment of these disorders can lead to a vast improvement in quality of life and social interaction. Far too often the criminal justice system becomes the default solution.

In Parliament, we must be vigilant to move mental health issues out of the shadows. Through education and awareness we can make a difference.