House of Commons Hansard #11 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cabinet.


Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5 p.m.


Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague. He and I share some history.

Yes, we have sparred on many occasions but on this occasion we will not. We will agree. He is right, the debt load for many students, especially those in the professional faculties, is onerous at the very least and most difficult, and it is something we have to address.

I do not want to scoop the finance minister, but we have indicated in the Speech from the Throne that mechanisms will be put in place to allow for the inclusion of eligible expenses and we will include more eligible expenses for a larger swath of the middle class to be a part of this. We want to encourage more students to pursue higher learning. We will be able to give more details when the budget comes forward.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to make reference to and elaborate on one aspect of the throne speech. It has to do with our commitment under strengthening Canada's social foundations, that we will under our universal programs provide our seniors with income assistance and care when needed.

On December 10 I had a press conference. I announced a number of initiatives which I felt were important with regard to seniors. The motivation for the changes that I was proposing was that the seniors are the fastest growing and most vulnerable segment of our society. They are Canadians who have the least opportunities to address matters such as seniors poverty and the least tools available to them to correct a situation which may be of some difficulty to them.

I had an opportunity to host a town hall meeting on January 13 where 200 constituents came out to speak about seniors poverty and related issues. I will hold another forum on February 25. We expect that up to 400 people will come to talk about this issue because it received such an overwhelming, positive response when we first talked about it.

I would like to outline just for the information of members and Canadians some ideas that my constituents came up with. I will also briefly review the 17 motions which I tabled in the House on February 2.

We do not have a poverty line in Canada. Therefore I submitted a motion to establish provincial, territorial and regional poverty lines. This is important because we do not know the level of poverty that we are prepared to tolerate. The low income cut-off used by Statistics Canada is not an appropriate measure of poverty in Canada.

I also have a motion to implement a guaranteed annual income for seniors. It is important that we establish the level of poverty that we are prepared to tolerate and ensure that through instruments such as the guaranteed income supplement or other equivalent type programs, all seniors, regardless of how they got there, are at least raised to the level of poverty that we are prepared to tolerate.

I also proposed that we eliminate mandatory retirement at age 65. Mandatory retirement is an archaic concept. People are living much longer and quite frankly, what would we say to Canadians who for whatever reason may not have provided adequately for their own retirement, that they would have to leave a job when they in fact needed the job? We would put them out of a good paying job and all of a sudden they would be pumping gas or working at McDonald's. It would be a terrible waste of skills. We should work collaboratively with all jurisdictions to eliminate mandatory retirement.

I want to increase the caregiver tax credit to the equivalent value of the government subsidy per patient in nursing homes. Very slowly, the caring for our loved ones, whether they be the chronically ill, the aged, the disabled, et cetera, has been transferred to families. The caregivers have to withdraw from the paid labour force. We do not subsidize that activity enough. That tax benefit should have the same value as the government subsidy provided to nursing homes for chronic or continuous care for people who need it.

I want to extend employment insurance benefits to caregivers who withdraw from the paid labour force, much as we have done with regard to those who take maternity or parental leave under EI.

There is something in the Income Tax Act called the refundable medical expense supplement. It is a very modest amount. It is supposed to take care of those extraordinary medical expenses which Canadians sometimes incur. Certainly seniors are no exception. The amount is very, very low. I want to increase it, in fact double the current amount.

I want to amend the Canada pension plan so that those who withdraw from the labour force, who seek to care for a loved one, a senior, et cetera, would not lose the opportunity to continue to earn CPP benefits, even though they do not have earned income during that period. Not only are they giving up a pay cheque but they are also giving up the opportunity to improve their own pensions over a working career which is unfair. It is inequitable and it should be corrected.

There are three subsequent motions to do with home care, pharmacare and affordable housing. We could talk all day on those issues. To a great extent other jurisdictions are involved, but we have to ensure that our seniors have adequate and equitable access to pharmacare, to home care and to affordable housing.

We have heard a lot in the media recently about elder abuse. There were articles written in the Toronto Star some time ago. It was a beautiful series. There were documentary programs on elder abuse recently. They cry out for changes in the regulation of the nursing home industry. We have to start working collaboratively with other levels of government to ensure that the regulations of the nursing home industry fairly reflect the kind of quality care people expect to get when they pay upward of $2,200 to $2,500 a month for a loved one in a facility.

I also have proposed that we amend the Criminal Code for those who are convicted of either defrauding or abusing seniors. When someone takes advantage of a senior because of the senior's vulnerability, I consider that to be an aggravating factor warranting stiffer sentences under the Criminal Code.

I have also proposed the creation of a new officer of Parliament equivalent to the Auditor General and the Chief Electoral Officer, being the physician general of Canada. I am afraid that Health Canada has lost its closeness to the people. Too many issues have distracted Health Canada. It is on different sides of the fence. It has conflicting issues. We need an independent medical officer, a physician general of Canada to guide and advise seniors on appropriate care. It is very important.

I also want to establish the cabinet position of secretary of state for seniors. It is extremely important that we have a voice for seniors at the decision making table. It is time that seniors were represented at the decision making table.

Also, the second last motion was to develop a Canada-wide public education campaign to inform and educate Canadians about the issue of ageism. Ageism is discrimination on the basis of age. That kind of discrimination exists in many of our institutions already.

Finally, I want to propose to the House that under the whole umbrella of helping seniors, we should be establishing and adopting a bill of rights for seniors. It would not be a law that would conflict with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; rather it would be guidelines, a lens that we could look through, just as we do with gender analysis in some legislation.

The kind of thing that should be included would be that seniors should not be denied medical assistance. For instance, it has been reported that some doctors will not take on a patient if the person is over 60 years of age. That is a violation of the Canada Health Act, but it happens. Under the seniors bill of rights, no senior should be denied medical service from a medical doctor anywhere.

I have raised all these points for the information of members. I hope members will seek ways in which we can advance these issues. It is very clear that this involves all levels of government. It means that we as parliamentarians have to do whatever we can to collaboratively work with all levels of government to make sure that seniors are a top priority at all levels of government.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:10 p.m.


Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Madam Speaker, first, I would like to inform the House that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Joliette, who will convincingly point out, I am sure, the shortcomings of the Speech from the Throne recently delivered by the government.

One sentence in the throne speech struck me, because I do not quite get it. On page 14, the issue of regional development is raised. We are told the regions should be affected by economic development just like the rest of the country and that we should ensure they can reap the benefits of the 21st century economy.

The throne speech mentions our farms as well as our forest, miningand fishing industries. I am particularly interested in the fishing industry since I am the fishing critic for my party, so I will get back to this issue later on.

On page 14, the throne speech states:

This will be achieved primarily through the efforts of Canadians themselves.

And quite ironically, it adds:

But government has an essential enabling role.

If the government is content with its role as a stimulus, it is obvious that we will not get very far. As for us, in our region, I can tell you that we have been studied in many ways for many years. We have been stimulated in every way possible and today we still find ourselves in a very difficult economic situation.

We find ourselves in an extremely difficult economic situation, especially because we used to make a living from fishing. Ever since this government was elected, in 1993, we have faced a moratorium on groundfishing.

We have had a moratorium, in fact, and it has been a total economic catastrophe in the lower St. Lawrence and Gaspé, but not only in my riding. It has been an economic catastrophe in all the Atlantic provinces, especially Newfoundland, as well as the Gaspé.

Thus, in 1993, we found ourselves facing a moratorium. We were promised that all possible steps would be taken to re-establish the stocks. Unfortunately last year, after 10 years of governance by the current government, we found ourselves faced with a new moratorium on groundfishing, particularly for the cod fishery.

Ten years later, we have realized that not only have we made no progress, but we are still in the same situation. Once again, the same regions are affected. The East has been affected and struck hard by the fisheries and groundfishing crisis.

In 1993, the government proposed a program intended to boost our economies, intended to get our economies to develop, intended to create economic diversification so that people could live, and so that people in the rest of the country would have access to these services.

Unfortunately, since 1993, we have seen that, on the one hand, there was a program, but, on the other hand, the government began to slash all the other programs.

If we just think of the cuts in employment insurance that used to provide a great many seasonal workers with a decent income. Today, not even 35% of the women, for example, who worked in the business, in the fish plants, can receive employment insurance. We can see that it is a major factor in impoverishing regions like ours.

We can also talk about the forestry sector. It is the same thing. We can also talk about tourism. The changes to the employment insurance program and the criteria for young people once they leave school seem a bit ruthless.

One very concrete example comes to mind, particularly with regard to tourism. Young people are being trained in the tourism industry in our region. They work for one season, but since it is still seasonal work, naturally, they do not have access to employment insurance, because they have to accumulate at least 910 hours before they can access EI benefits.

The result of the government's attitude is that young people are encouraged to leave the regions for the major urban centres in order to earn a decent living. Obviously, these young people will not stay in the regions without a decent income. Unfortunately, we are the ones training them. They are our young people and we are unable to keep them, because we do not have the appropriate means or measures to do so.

There is another extremely important element. In the throne speech—and this affects my region in particular—the government said, “We will develop new and environmental technologies”.

What is the federal government doing currently to develop wind power? This program will receive $260 million over fifteen years. This is nothing compared to what went into the tar sands or Hibernia, for example. The government invested $60 billion over the years in oil and gas production.

A $260 million program over fifteen years is announced. I consider this pathetic. We hope to use this kind of program to develop wind power in regions like ours. The Bloc Quebecois had asked for more money. If much more substantial investments were made, up to 24,000 jobs could be created. There would be regional economic spinoffs, and benefits for manufacturing plants in Montreal and elsewhere, with a minimum of 24,000 jobs created.

Let us be conservative and say that if we simply double production incentives per kilowatt-hour, this would create 10,000 jobs, if the government bothered. When we say double, we simply mean doubling the $260 million invested over fifteen years. So, we should invest twice as much so to enable wind power to become an established industry.

This is a program that has been launched by Hydro Québec and the former Quebec government that could produce some interesting results. We know that in our region, and particularly in the Maritimes, winds are strong and could be used to produce that type of energy.

If we want to protect our environment and help our economy to diversify and draw on more than natural resources, we will have to invest more in new energies, particularly in wind energy, and that does not seem to be the way the government is going.

I could also mention the case of Bennett Environmental, which right now is a threat to all the resources in Chaleur Bay. But I will come back to that later.

I have talked about employment insurance and about the fact that the current government has abandoned the provinces. This is true both for air and for rail transportation. The current government has abandoned all transportation services. Regions like ours feel the effects of this every day. This is a major element that is totally absent from the throne speech.

There is another important element that affects us in a very specific way. We are talking about the softwood lumber crisis that has not yet been resolved and that is affecting us significantly. We could also talk about mad cow disease that, in my opinion, was very poorly managed by the current government. This government has launched a program to address a crisis that, at the outset, affected mainly western beef producers, while agriculture in Quebec and in the other provinces was extremely different.

In conclusion, I obviously cannot agree with what has been submitted in the throne speech. To me this is a lot of rhetoric. There does not seem to be a future for my region with the current government.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:20 p.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise after the hon. member for Matapédia—Matane, who put the debate in its proper context.

We are dealing with a government and a party whose vision of the regions is not compatible with the one that Quebeckers want to develop. The trademark of this throne speech is that it does not recognize that Quebeckers form a nation that is neither worse nor better than the Canadian nation, but that is different and that needs its own aspirations and challenges.

If this is not recognized, it follows that, by denying this reality, all the policies and proposals found in the throne speech become obstacles to Quebec's development.

As I just mentioned, the idea is not to say that Quebeckers form a nation that is more or less interesting than the Canadian nation. Ours is exactly the same situation as that of the Canadian nation in relation to the American or, rather, the US nation. Canadians truly value their differences; they feel that they have their own challenges and they do not think they are superior or inferior to Americans.

It is exactly the same thing for Quebeckers. However, since we are in the Canadian federation, we unfortunately have neither the political and fiscal tools, nor the authority to be part of the decision making process at the international level to express our concerns and propose our solutions.

The major thrust of the whole throne speech presented to us by the new Prime Minister is a negation of Quebec's distinctiveness. This speech perpetuates the Trudeau and Chrétien approach. It is a departure from the federalism as conceived, for example, by Robert Bourassa or by Claude Ryan, who left us a few days ago.

As we know, the hon. member for Papineau—Saint-Denis, who is the Minister of Health and the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, was once Mr. Ryan's chief of staff. When he was interviewed, he said that under the new Prime Minister Ottawa would adopt the middle ground position that Mr. Ryan epitomized. We keep searching and looking in the throne speech, but we cannot find anything that remotely looks like Claude Ryan's vision of Canadian federalism, that is a federalism respectful of the Quebec nation and of its distinctiveness. In this sense, we should not be duped.

Whether in Quebec or in Ottawa, the debate among federalists is over. Trudeau has won. Canadians have the legitimate right to build their nation as they want to. However, if in doing so they not only ignore the distinct character of Quebec but also hamper its development, the Bloc Quebecois, as a political party but also as the champion of Quebec's interest, will have no other choice but to rise and say it is unacceptable.

According to the hegemonic vision of federalists, Canada is made up of one nation, the Canadian nation, governed by one central government in Ottawa. Provinces are large regional boards that make a number of decisions based on the resources they are given, very little at a time. For instance, they get to choose the wall colours, but it is not up to them to decide if the building itself will be built or not. Such is the vision of the government, of the Liberal Party of Canada, which, as I mentioned earlier, seems to be shared by a lot of Canadians.

I have no trouble with Canada doing some nation building and promoting one central state run out of Ottawa. However, if, by doing so, they ignore the distinct character of Quebec and impede its development, as I said before, sovereignty will be the only option left to the Quebec people, the Quebec nation.

It is interesting to see how things have changed throughout the years. For example, in 1995, and even in 1980, in the last referendums in Quebec, there were three schools of thoughts. There was the sovereign movement of which the Bloc Quebec was part. There was a more nationalist movement, whose members thought federalism was a more interesting option that the sovereignty of Quebec. As I said earlier, Mr. Bourassa seemed to support that option, just like Mr. Allaire and Mario Dumont, who is now the leader of the ADQ.

There was also this third trend that was represented here, in Ottawa, by Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Chrétien. We must recognize that this trend has now prevailed among federalists. We see this when reading the Speech from the Throne presented by the new Prime Minister.

Consequently, the option open to Quebeckers is to agree to conform to the Canadian model, that is to refuse to meet our challenges in Quebec, or to choose the road to Quebec's sovereignty.

I believe it has been demonstrated once again through the Speech from the Throne that the only option open to the Quebec people and the Quebec nation is Quebec's sovereignty.

I will give a number of examples. One of the very important challenges for Quebec is its population challenge, that is the demographic challenge.

In Quebec, as in many Western countries, the population is aging and there is a demographic decline. In some regions, we can talk about this decline, even though, generally speaking, the population is growing in Quebec. This would lead us to have a population policy that would be integrated with mainly three aspects, that is a family policy that would encourage young families, an integration and immigration policy and also a policy for the elderly.

What is the government offering to in place of this integrated policy? It is offering a new choice of compassionate benefits. I find the principle quite interesting. Indeed, when natural caregivers have to help a family member who is experiencing health problems, it is a definite advantage for them to be able to withdraw from the labour market. However, the way the program has been devised by the Liberals is extremely bureaucratic and even inhumane. This person is required to present a medical certificate to confirm that the person he or she wants to take care of is likely to die in the next 26 weeks.

I am sure that we have all seen one of those cartoons depicting a doctor visiting a patient and saying “I have good news and bad news. The good news is your wife is entitled to compassionate benefits, and the bad news—” We get the drift.

This is not at all the way this program should have been introduced. This might not have been the first priority for Quebeckers, who would have preferred to see parental leave, currently financed through the EI fund. This is a bad parental leave program.

Quebec has long been asking, whether it is under the Parti Quebecois or the Quebec Liberal Party, to be given back the part of the employment insurance fund that is used for parental leave, so that we can have a true parental leave that is integrated to a family policy. But the federal government says no. Instead, it comes up with something called “compassionate benefit” that does not meet the needs of caregivers. In my opinion, this is a good example of the denial of Quebec's right to make its own choices.

Here is another example. We set up a daycare program at a cost of $5 per day for users, but that cost has now increased to $7, because of the fiscal imbalance, because the federal government is not transferring enough of our tax money to Quebec, thus penalizing Quebec families.

We devised a system that is recognized not only in the rest of Canada, but in the whole western world. Here is an example. Quebec families are losing between $200 million and $300 million in tax deductions because the federal government does not recognize them.

So, the federal government saved money on the backs of Quebec families. This example has to do with the family policy. I could provide others that relate to immigration.

There is the fact that 50% of the immigration flow is controlled by the federal government, which uses its own standards. Unfortunately, this morning again, we saw that immigration is used by the federal government and the Liberal Party as if it were an election issue. There is a headline in today's edition of the daily La Presse which reads “Access to citizenship: Expedited process a few months before a general election”.

And the government makes no bones about it. The Liberals want to deliver Canadian citizenship certificates to get potential voters. Why not do it on a year round basis and allow these people to participate in our social and political life at all times, and not just a few weeks or months before an election?

I could go on and also talk about the status of regions, but I will end on this note. The only thing that the government is proposing is to create conflicts in the regions by trying to fund municipalities, particularly large ones, directly, at the expense of the needs of all the regions.

Because of all this, the Bloc Quebecois will have no choice but to condemn this throne speech and continue to work even harder to promote Quebec's sovereignty.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:30 p.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale Ontario


Bill Graham LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, having listened to the words of the hon. member for Joliette, I am wondering what planet he is from. Has the hon. member not seen the Prime Minister meeting with his provincial counterparts and showing a new openness to working together? Has he not heard the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs say we are prepared to work more closely together?

I can assure the hon. member that the attitude he has described is not my attitude. I myself met with Ms. Gagnon-Tremblay in Sherbrooke a week ago. We discussed how we could work together in areas of interest to Quebec, such as the international arena or the Francophonie.

Would it not be better to stop these pointless quarrels of the past, which do no good for the people of Quebec or its opportunities for economic development ? Ought we not to return to a willingness to hold discussions with a view to working together in order to build a stronger Canada, a Canada from which all of its population will benefit?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:30 p.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, we have heard all that before. We are not fooled at all by the words of the new Prime Minister or the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. In fact, I really like them, just as I do the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

That being said, it is a matter of structures. Concerning the ability to correct the fiscal unbalance, there was nothing in the Speech from the Throne that would recognize that this is a problem and that the government was going to try to solve it. Instead, what does it announce? That the discussions on health care with the premiers will be held next July, probably after the election.

On the equalization issues, the government introduced Bill C-18. This bill would extend for a year the current equalization formula, which does Quebec out of $500 million this year. We expect losses of $1.5 billion next year.

We must base our judgment on facts and not on the speech. The facts show—as does the Speech from the Throne— that there is no change on the policy options level. The government will respond at a snail's pace to the demands of the provinces and of Quebec. This will be to the detriment of Quebec's public finances, to the detriment of the needs of the Quebec people and, above all, to the detriment of democracy. Indeed, Quebec's national assembly, which does not have the means to implement its political choices, will be unable to respond to the needs democratically expressed by the Quebec people.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:30 p.m.

Chatham-Kent—Essex Ontario


Jerry Pickard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (Border Transit)

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport.

It is a pleasure to speak today in response to the Speech from the Throne. I believe that, as my colleague has just said, our government is here to set a new vision to move together. Working together is extremely important. I am very proud to be part of the Prime Minister's team which is looking to work together with Canadians, with provinces and with municipalities to change the system.

Globalization, advanced technology and the changing geopolitical environment offers many opportunities for Canadians. However, with the ongoing threat of terrorism, along with increasingly sophisticated criminal activity, there is a need to strengthen our border management.

As mentioned in the throne speech, there is no role more fundamental for government than the protection of its citizens. That is why the government has established the new Canada Border Services Agency as part of the new Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Innovative approaches to border management are required to protect and support Canadians. We have to support our security systems, our health system, our social and economic well-being, and that is what the new Canada Border Services Agency is about.

The creation of the Canada Border Services Agency brings together all major players involved in the facilitation and control of movement of goods and people under one roof. The CBSA will build on smart border initiatives, and the important progress that has been made so far is good for Canadians.

The CBSA is comprised of the customs program from the former Canada Customs and Revenue Agency; the intelligence, enforcement and overseas interdiction functions from Citizenship and Immigration Canada; and the food, plant and animal inspection at the border functions from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The CBSA operates at over 1,300 service locations, including air, sea and land ports of entry to Canada, some 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at every entry point in Canada. Its role is multi-faceted, securing our borders against external threats while facilitating the flow of legitimate trade and travel that is vital to the Canadian economy. Its success depends on strong partnerships, both in Canada and abroad, to ensure that it has the information it needs to do the job that needs to be done.

What does the CBSA do? First and foremost, it protects the integrity of Canada's borders. The officers of CBSA play an important role in working with Citizenship and Immigration Canada to identify organized fraud and to conduct intelligence reporting related to illegal immigration, organized crimes, war crimes and security concerns.

These officers maintain a steady flow of key intelligence information which allows the agency to continually enhance the integrity of the immigration program, our borders and the security of our nation. They also work to respond to the ongoing threat of terrorism and increasingly sophisticated criminal activity.

The CBSA is working to push the borders out to identify threats to Canada overseas before people reach our borders. For example, there are immigration integrity officers who operate in key locations overseas to combat illegal immigration, people smuggling and trafficking.

Their hard work to intervene caused 6,000 individuals attempting to enter Canada illegally by air last year to be stopped before they reached Canada's borders.

The CBSA also prevents the entry of illegal and dangerous goods, such as drugs and weapons, as well as commodities, such as animals, plants and food products that introduce foreign diseases or exotic pests to Canadian agriculture and the public.

Last year over a half a billion dollars in narcotics and over 57,000 prohibited food, plant and animal products were kept off the streets of Canada by the agency.

What else are we doing to protect the border? We are investing in state of the art technology. One major example is the vehicle and cargo inspection system, or VACIS. These truck-mounted machines use a gamma ray scanning system, similar to an X-ray, to detect contraband, weapons and potentially dangerous goods inside containers. VACIS is in place at 11 locations across Canada to help officers intervene in security matters.

However, security is not the government's only priority. The CBSA also works to facilitate trade. Anyone in business knows that the way we manage our borders is critical to the success of our economy. Given that over 80% of our trade is with the United States, infrastructure and inspection facilities at border points must be modern and efficient to maximize the movement of legitimate travellers and trade.

Being from the riding of Chatham—Kent Essex, I am keenly aware of the volume of people and goods arriving at the border for I live very close to the busiest border in Canada. Every year more than 7 million travellers and 1.7 million commercial vehicles cross the Ambassador Bridge, making it the busiest crossing in Canada. In fact, the Ambassador Bridge alone accounts for 25% of the $400 billion trade between Canada and the United States.

There is no question that the border must be secure but it must also be efficient. One way of doing this is through initiatives such as Nexus and FAST. These binational programs allow us to pre-approve low risk individuals and goods. This in turn allows Canadian and American authorities to concentrate their efforts on potentially high risk people.

Nexus and FAST are currently offered at a dozen border crossings across Canada. As we reduce the risks of dangerous people or commodities entering Canada, we increase investors' confidence in the security of our borders.

We have the unprecedented ability to carry out this mission by bringing all key players involved into a single portfolio. Because we are better integrated than ever before, the CBSA will be able to work a smarter border.

Increased inter-operability will enable the government to capitalize on our respective strengths and abilities to move forward with various organizations.

Equally important to taxpayers, this synergy will reduce red tape and duplication. The resulting increased efficiencies will benefit government, business and individual Canadians.

The benefits extend beyond our own borders. Just as criminals and terrorists are globally connected, we are now also better connected so that we can communicate effectively with our domestic and international partners to respond to global threats of crime and terrorism.

In addition, we have improved liaisons with our major trading partners and their border related agencies, such as the U.S. department of homeland security.

As a result, the CBSA will be a much stronger presence on the world stage, speaking for Canada with a unified voice, whether addressing issues of food security, terrorism or trade.

Canada is positioned for greater progress and we are preparing to meet all of the challenges of the future.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:40 p.m.

Scarborough—Agincourt Ontario


Jim Karygiannis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, in the Speech from the Throne, the government sent a clear signal that it was according a high priority to safeguarding our natural environment. The speech highlighted a leading role for green technologies and energy efficient transportation and housing. Green technologies will play a significant role in meeting our environmental challenges.

Climate change is a case in point. The government has indicated that it will respect its commitment to the Kyoto protocol in a way that produces long term and enduring results while maintaining a strong and growing economy.

Green energy is clearly a part of the solution to the climate change, and our efforts in recent years have demonstrated our determination to introduce more efficient alternative sources of energy into our economy.

The transportation sector is a prime example. Transportation is a key enabler of the Canadian economy. In fact every year Canada's transportation system moves more than $1 trillion worth of goods. Unfortunately, the transportation sector is also a major contributor of greenhouse gases, accounting for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

In addressing climate change, the Government of Canada has introduced measures worth some $250 million to increase the production and use of alternative fuels, fuel cells, ethanol and biodiesel, to increase vehicle fuel efficiency, to improve passenger transportation and to increase the efficiency of freight transportation.

With respect to new vehicle fuel efficiency, we are aiming for a 25% improvement. This target is important. If adopted and implemented in a timely way, it could produce a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 5.2 megatonnes by the year 2010. This represents about a quarter of the emissions reductions from all the transport related measures that have been identified today in the government's climate change plan.

Any effort to effect change on a national level must be supported by all four pillars of Canadian society: government, industry, academia, and most important, community. That is why Transport Canada is calling upon transportation sector stakeholders from various backgrounds to develop the technology, processes and services that can help make Canada a world leader in transportation systems.

The department's approach to innovation and skills is rooted in the government's key objective to foster healthy communities, a clean environment and a strong economy for all Canadians.

Strong emphasis in outreach and partnerships, skill developments and research and development will be a key to success in this area. In the long term this approach will help us achieve results not only for Canadians but also for other states in our international community.

I believe that citizens working through each of the four pillars of Canadian society can help us meet our goals with respect to wise environmental stewardship and can make an important contribution to our collective global future.

For this reason, Transport Canada is actively pursuing partnerships with experts in universities and centres of transportation excellence, capitalizing on the unique strength of individuals and organizations across the country. Transport Canada is committed to acting as a catalyst to promote skills development, education and training in the transportation logistics operations and research and development.

This type of partnership is also important in achieving excellence in research and development. For instance, Transport Canada's Transportation Development Centre is cooperating with Overland Custom Coach, Battery Engineering and Test Services, Siemens Canada Limited and Natural Resources Canada in the development of a functioning prototype of an energy efficient, low-floor electric transit bus. This bus can be adapted to use one of the three electric and/or hybrid drive configurations, depending upon the needs of the potential clients.

The Government of Canada is also taking the approach of trying to negotiate a voluntary agreement with the automobile industry. The industry has been called upon the accelerate the introduction into the marketplace of many new technologies that can reduce emissions, technologies that affect vehicles and engine design and the use of different fuels. Many of these technologies are already available, but right now they are being used to improve vehicle performance rather than fuel economy.

Unfortunately, of course, it is the consumers who buy the vehicles and decide whether they will purchase a heavier, less fuel efficient model or a lighter, more fuel efficient one. Consumers have a responsibility to inform themselves about their choices.

The federal government is ready to help. Through the annual EnerGuide on vehicle fuel consumption, the government publishes the data collected by Transport Canada from vehicle manufacturers showing the fuel economy of every make and model. New programs are under development to increase information to consumers about vehicle emissions and a new national awareness campaign, called the “One Tonne Challenge”, will encourage every Canadian to reduce emissions. As well, Transport Canada is evaluating a fleet of fuel efficient advanced technology vehicles from around the world, some of which are now available in Canada.

Needless to say, last week we saw the Smart car at the Toronto car show. These vehicles are powered by fuel cells, batteries, low carbon fuels or advanced gasoline and diesel engines. They include gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles and vehicles using advanced power trains and lightweight materials. At the same time they provide the safety, emissions, reliability and performance consumers expect in today's automobiles.

Transport Canada is assessing how these advanced technology vehicles comply with existing regulatory requirements related to safety and emissions. Our goal is to encourage the development of advanced technology vehicles while maintaining the high standard of safety expected by Canadians.

The department also plans to assess the potential of advanced technology vehicles in the marketplace. We will identify barriers to the introduction and use of these vehicles and suggest remedies. We will raise awareness of the vehicles through events such as presentations, student competitions, public exhibitions, demonstrations, test rides and evaluations.

Transport Canada is exploring how it can help the transportation sector tap into the centres of excellence program and other federal sources of funding focused on innovation and skills development.

Through its urban transportation showcase program, Transport Canada is helping fund some innovative ideas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from urban transportation.

We need to work more closely with the automobile industry and other stakeholders, including environmental groups, to determine how to bring about a more sustainable transportation system for passengers. At the same time, I personally would like to see the Government of Canada provide some real incentives for people to buy environmentally friendly vehicles and get the gas guzzlers off the roads.

We need to answer questions like, how can we get someone to drive a smaller, more fuel efficient car? How do we tell someone who is driving a hybrid that it is the best thing there is? I keep asking people why they need six or eight cylinder vehicles or why they need SUVs. Why do we not promote smaller cars? If we are to achieve a major improvement in vehicle fuel economy, all of us may have to take additional action.

I have indicated that I would like to initiate a dialogue with those most involved in this issue to explore how we can move forward constructively. I want to hear people's views as to how we can better bring technology to bear, both to reduce fuel consumption and to enable the production of better models in Canada that will strengthen our auto industry. We need a process that brings views together and advances the goals of consensus and concerted action.

In this area I am very passionate and I am looking forward to working closely with stakeholders to improve the efficiency of vehicles on Canada's roads and to help meet Canada's Kyoto targets.

There is another area that I am very passionate about, and that is Canada. I have travelled to many other countries. I have seen how Canada has accepted people from all nations. I have seen the opportunities for Canadians to help other nations develop. This is the best country in the world, and I believe it is because of the diversity of our population. This diversity gives us natural ambassadors, people who can go back to their homelands and help us sell our technologies around the world.

Our multicultural tapestry gives us the tools to help the rest of the world achieve a better tomorrow and a healthier 21st century. Together all stakeholders can move forward to ensure that we meet our Kyoto targets and beyond.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:50 p.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale Ontario


Bill Graham LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the member a question concerning his last comment about Canadians being natural ambassadors. The member has been extraordinarily active in encouraging his constituents to return to the Horn of Africa to work with other governments and to try to help bring peace to troubled regions. Would he like to elaborate a little more on that?

I know he has had a great deal of experience with a very diverse multicultural constituency. I think this idea about how we can engage Canadians and how we can make Canada's presence felt more abroad is something to which we have to give more reflection. I know the member has been very active in that respect and it would be helpful if he could help the House understand a little more about some of the work he has done in that area.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:50 p.m.


Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Madam Speaker, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and I had conversations a few years ago when I was halfway around the world. I had an opportunity to call him from Lahore, Pakistan and relate to him the things I had seen at Khyber Pass in Afghanistan. I talked about providing Canadians with the opportunity to go back to their homelands, to go back to where they came from and provide sustainable development. It was about building nations, building democracies.

I am very proud that the Prime Minister a few days ago created the Canada corps. As we go through and examine what Canada corps is all about and under which ministry it should be, we will empower Canadians, the vast diversity of people who have come from every corner of the world. We are the only House that has a website which celebrates where we come from. At people can see the nations from all over the world that are represented in this House.

Why can we not also engage our communities? Why can we not reach out to the multicultural tapestry of this country and help people to go back to where they came from? Why can we not lend them for six months? Through HRDC, through external affairs, through CIDA why can we not support them in their programs?

Canadians are already doing good work abroad. Why can we not make it a government policy? Why can we not work with everyone concerned to provide the tools to Canadians who have been here for one or two generations to go back and help build their countries, develop their nations? Countries that are failing or that are about to fail can be helped in the Canadian way. We have something that is unique.

I look forward to working with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the minister for CIDA and members of all parties in the House, because in this there is no party line.

Some would say I am foolish to talk of this but look at Canada. Look at the face of Toronto where 57% of the people have come to Canada in the last 50 years and have made this country their home. They could have gone anywhere in the world but they chose Canada and it is time that we provided through them the means to build a better country and a sound world.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:55 p.m.


Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Earlier today in question period in providing an answer to the opposition, I made reference to three specific reports that were filed a number of years ago verbally with the Department of Finance.

I have had the opportunity this afternoon to review the record, to just check on that arithmetic. I have also re-examined the report of the Auditor General and in fact my reference should have been to five reports, not three.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

Technically, that is not a point of order, but we will just let it sit.

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5:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I must say you look great in the chair. You really fit it well.

My hon. colleague spoke eloquently about how great and diverse Canada is and I think everyone in the House would agree. There is one thing I would like him to focus on. The Speech from the Throne did not address the issue of immigration. The member talked specifically about the idea of supporting Canadians who are the backbone of this country no matter where they come from. One of the basic issues that we have been talking about across the floor is the idea of accreditation of many of the recent immigrants who have come here and actually giving them the chance to work in their professional designations.

Unfortunately we see too many people driving taxis and working as janitors and not in the areas where they should be working, such as engineering or medical doctors. This is a problem the government has been sitting on for 10 years and has done nothing about it. If he speaks so passionately about immigrants, why does the government not do more to support them?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:55 p.m.


Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Madam Speaker, when it comes to immigration I do not think there is a more passionate individual in the House than the member who just spoke. I want to thank my colleague across the way for bringing that to my attention.

For many years we have been struggling in order to move this file forward. However, I think my hon. colleague across the way also should reach out to the provincial governments and the governing bodies and say that they must recognize the credentials.

By training I am a professional engineer, and it is the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario that recognizes our credentials. It is something that the federal government has to work with. The immigration minister brought this to the table about a year and a half ago. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is working on it. We are moving forward passionately and positively.

I hope that my hon. colleague across the way will talk to our provincial counterparts so that they can come forward with us.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for St. John's East.

On behalf of the people of Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke, it is an honour and a privilege to stand here in my place and reply to the government's Speech from the Throne. I thank my constituents for the confidence they have placed in me and I am pleased to return their trust.

On behalf of those same trusting individuals, it is with sadness, disappointment and now disgust that I find it necessary to focus on just one aspect of the Speech from the Throne, that is, the lack of ethical behaviour on behalf of this government and, more important, the lack of ethical behaviour on the part of the Prime Minister, which is becoming the continuing legacy of the Liberal Party.

What is truly disappointing on behalf of thoughtful Canadians is how the Prime Minister has personally let each and every one of us down.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend a real Ottawa Valley get-together at St. Mary's Church in the hills of Wilno. In typical Ottawa Valley fashion, the community had come together to help a well known local personality, Barney McCaffrey, whose home burned down on New Year's Eve. Barney had no electricity, no phone and no insurance. The hall was packed as Barney's friends and neighbours helped to raise funds to rebuild his home.

Between the softwood lumber dispute and the crisis surrounding BSE, life has become very lean in rural Canada. People in my riding may not have all the trappings of rich Liberal ad men to be able to afford fancy lunches at expensive restaurants where the tab for one lunch is more than some people in my riding receive as income for an entire month. This is real Canada. These are the people who have been let down by this Prime Minister. I can see it in their faces. There were high expectations for this Prime Minister, but they are all gone now.

The Ottawa Valley knows the Martin family better than most Canadians. Paul Martin Senior lived in Pembroke. Two of the Prime Minister's aunts still reside in the community, and my condolences to the Prime Minister on the recent passing of his Aunt Lucille.

If the Prime Minister ever had a shred of compassion like what we have in the hearts of other Ottawa Valley folks, that is all gone. The Prime Minister is not his father's son. No amount of Liberal spin will change the fact for the people in my riding who knew Paul Martin Senior that this Prime Minister has never had the welfare of Canadians in mind. Actions speak louder than words. We have to walk the walk and talk the talk, but all Canadians have heard is idle talk.

Canadians have now started to realize what kind of person the Prime Minister is. He broke his promise to scrap the GST and it has been downhill ever since he broke that very first promise. The Prime Minister wants to take credit for eliminating the current account deficit, but Canada still has a huge debt. We are more in debt today than when the current crew took office. When it comes to taking responsibility for spending, he claims ignorance. The Prime Minister cannot have it both ways.

The Prime Minister deserves a Genie award for his acting. Canadians are insulted by his phony rants of concern. Canadians know that any outrage has more to do with the fact that greed allowed the Prime Minister's party to get caught than with the fact that skimming was actually going on. In fact, it was Chrétien, Mr. Integrity in the eyes of this Prime Minister, who publicly stated that if a few million got skimmed, so what. That was his signal. That fat signal was what the Liberal Party was waiting for: get out the expensive cigars and the champagne and book those fancy restaurants.

It was not until the official opposition drew attention to the fact that the Prime Minister's personal companies, like Canada Steamship Lines, were receiving tens of millions of dollars in taxpayers' money that the Prime Minister passed the company off to his boys, far enough to claim that he was out of it, but close enough to ensure that taxpayers' money flowed to increase the private wealth of family members.

If that was not bad enough, as finance minister the Prime Minister made sure that his international tax shelter remained in place. This was happening even as the Prime Minister bragged that other tax shelters were being closed. This was done so that Canada Steamship Lines, the personal company of the Prime Minister, could benefit to the tune of $100 million in tax avoidance, that we know of at this point, and this does not include the benefits that the Prime Minister's family realized by flying any flag but the flag of Canada in order to avoid our labour and environmental laws on his fleet of ships.

How blind is the so-called blind trust when the Liberal lap dog, better known as the unethics commissioner, met with the Prime Minister 13 times over expensive taxpayer funded lunches. To discuss what? Only the Prime Minister knows.

Where was the media in all of this scandal? The Liberals spent $793 million in taxpayers' funds in the last five years by buying media silence in the form of advertising contracts. That is a lot of money. Obviously it did buy a great deal of silence.

The silence in the Speech from the Throne about the ethics of this government is even more deafening. Remember our old friend, former CBC reporter Jason Moscowitz? Jason was starting to ask too many embarrassing questions about Grand-Mère and the Shawinigan scandal. Where is he now? Bought off as a spin flunky for the Business Development Bank at some obscene salary. It would be informative to tally up the numbers of all the ex-journalists who are now on the taxpayers' payroll.

Canadians are outraged at the sheer enormity of the greed on behalf of the Liberal Party. We can hear the seething anger in their voices as people think about the waste the government keeps on incurring.

First we had the actual incompetence of government ministers for such things as the HRDC billion dollar scandal, the billions spent on the gun registry, and the billions being poured into agencies like the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Under the guise of research, many of these institutes are just a front for anti-family Liberal propaganda. The Institute of Gender and Health is an example of how it wastes millions of dollars producing anti-family pamphlets, much of it intended for third world countries with no benefit to Canadians. That is not medical research. This is money that the government calls basic research and it is misleading; in fact, Canadian researchers are leaving the country because the dollars for research just are not here. They are being siphoned off into non-accountable foundations.

In the area of science and technology, the government claims to have spent $13 billion since 1997, but unfortunately we have no proof that this occurred. The use of foundations by the federal government to deliver public programs like research and development is this government's way of transferring public money beyond the reach of effective parliamentary scrutiny.

Fortunately for Canadians, the Auditor General has audited the government's practice of flowing money through foundations, with the audit finding, in the words of the Auditor General, and I quote: “significant gaps and weaknesses in the design of the delegated arrangements; limits on what the Auditor General can look at...; the 'parking' of billions of dollars of the public's money in foundations, years before it is [supposed] to flow;” and little recourse for taxpayers when things go wrong. So much for dealing with the democratic deficit.

Canada is like the Titanic and the iceberg we have hit is Liberal Party corruption. Canadians can only see a tip of the iceberg; it is what lies below the surface that really concerns people. It can be likened to democracy. As the Titanic was once considered unsinkable, democracy is felt to be a Canadian tradition. Each of the bulkheads in the Titanic can be likened to each Canadian institution. We had the bulkhead of the Senate fill up with water a long time ago, as they did with freedom of the press and an independent judiciary, and then there was the bulkhead called the RCMP with the APEC scandal.

The only bulkhead left standing to keep the ship afloat is the official opposition. Canadians deserve better and it is time to repair the good ship democracy before the government sinks our nation.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to say a few words in the debate.

Since coming to Parliament in 1997, I have endeavoured, as have all members, to raise issues on the floor of the House about my riding and my province, and to raise these issues in the media as well. We have made a little bit of progress, but there are a number of issues and a number of matters that I have to keep hammering away at in the hope that we might be able to make a little bit of progress on some of these issues.

The issue first and foremost in St. John's East, and indeed across the whole country, is health care. There was much ado about a recent meeting of the Prime Minister with the premiers, a meeting at which the new Prime Minister confirmed a $2 billion additional payment to the provinces for health care.

I want to point out that the money is really no indication of a new fit of generosity on the part of the government. The $2 billion in question is only a small part of the many billions of dollars cut out of health care transfers to the provinces over the last number of years.

I never cease to be amazed that health care is the primary concern of all Canadians but somehow Ottawa does not seem to get the message. Today I saw a news report out of Nova Scotia where a number of medical professionals were talking about the number of months one has to wait to see certain cancer doctors in the province of Nova Scotia. They were pointing out that it is about a 10 month waiting period.

These waiting periods are very much the same right across the country. The federal Liberals balanced the budget, but it came at a tremendous cost to the provinces. It is easy to fix the problem if all one does is pass the problem on to another level of government. This is what has been going on over the years.

Years ago Ottawa paid roughly about 50% of a province's total health care budget and today it is less than 20%. It is down to about 15% or 16%. That is one of the reasons that we have such a lineup for services and that is why it is impossible to recruit and retain nurses, doctors and other medical people in Canada. Health care in the country needs more money.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

It being 6:15 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the motion now before the House.

Is the House ready for the question?

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6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members