House of Commons Hansard #138 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was firefighters.


Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Thank you. I will take my time. I will ask my hon. colleagues to pay attention because we are talking about a very serious matter.

These constituents of mine lost $140,000. The province of B.C. gave back the PST they had paid. If we do the math, that is 7% of $140,000, which is about $10,000. That is a lot of money. They got back the PST from the province of British Columbia and they asked the federal government to give back the GST.

Unfortunately, the government is refusing to give back the GST to this wonderful couple in the latter years of their life. The province did the right thing, but the federal government loves to overtax Canadians.

My constituents are victims of auto theft. It is a huge problem. Vehicles are broken up for parts or sent overseas or the VIN will be changed deliberately.

As I said, there is an obvious VIN. It is usually on the front left-hand corner of a vehicle, right where the windshield meets. It is out of the way. It cannot be seen from inside. A person must look at it from the outside. There is also a hidden VIN on each vehicle. Sometimes there are a number of them, but primarily there is one on each vehicle. The police can find out from the VIN on a suspicious vehicle if it has been changed.

It is very important to check. It is very important to me. In my former life as a city councillor and working for ICBC as a loss prevention officer, I had to tackle problems, whether they were crashes or crime. We always looked at the three Es: education, engineering and enforcement.

For education, we would tell people that auto crime is a problem in the Vancouver area. We would teach them how to protect themselves from being victims of auto crime. Vehicle owners should not leave their registration in their vehicles. They should leave it at home or keep it on their person, because if somebody breaks into their vehicle and steals their registration, they can actually sell that vehicle without the vehicle owner even knowing it because they have the VIN. They can make a fake VIN and put it on another stolen vehicle. The vehicle owners would not realize that their vehicle has been stolen. It is still in their possession, but thieves have stolen their VIN.

We told people to use a steering lock on their steering wheel. We told people that if they did not have an immobilizer, they should get one. We told them that if they did have one, they should make sure it was a good one that was approved and that worked. A lot of new vehicles have an immobilizer that does not work. People must have a good one.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada and the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia have information pages to educate people on what works and what does not work in protecting their vehicle. We told people not to leave valuables in their vehicle because that can attract thieves. We did everything we could through education. In engineering, we had those steering locks and immobilizers. We also had the bait car program through engineering, to try to go after auto thieves.

The very frustrating part was enforcement. The police would try to catch these people, but the courts kept letting them go. I asked the parliamentary secretary what the sentencing was and he said this legislation will be used to combat auto crime.

What is the track record? This is going to be added to other forms of legislation. Bill C-64 is supposed to help combat auto crime. What is the typical sentence?

Right now if someone steals a car and gets caught that person typically says he did not realize the vehicle was stolen. People will claim it was given to them by a friend. That is the excuse they have. In court it is tough to prove that they knew the vehicle was stolen and it is tough to prove that they stole it.

If they are convicted, they get the typical sentence, which is probation. If they get caught again, they receive probation for breaching their probation. These people are repeat offenders. It is a small group of people who are stealing these vehicles. These are high risk people. The typical person stealing vehicles is addicted to drugs and is a high risk individual. Yet these people keep on getting probation for breaching their probation.

There is a sense of frustration within our communities across Canada with the fact that sentencing is not being done appropriately, that the courts are not taking this problem seriously. We are asking for mandatory minimum sentences.

My private member's bill asked for mandatory minimum sentences. I did research. I consulted with my colleagues. I found that the average cost in terms of damage to a stolen vehicle is $4,600. There should be a minimum fine of at least $1,000 if the average cost is $4,600. That seems very conservative to me. The other option was to have the individual serve three months in jail, or both, but of course the Liberals do not support sentencing with consequences. They would prefer to have these people released back into the community with probation.

Chuck wanted to see some consequences. He wanted to see some good legislation and he provided good legislation. His bill would have made it an offence for anyone “who, wholly or partially, alters, removes or obliterates a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse”. That would be a good piece of legislation. Right now it is not illegal to do that. It should be. Chuck knew that. As Conservatives we know that and we would support that.

What did the Liberals do? They added this clause: “and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle”. That puts the onus on the Crown to prove the intent of the offender. Why did the person do it? Did the person do it to conceal the identity of the vehicle?

I believe that taking the VIN off a vehicle should be an offence unless there is a lawful excuse. A lawful excuse would be if the vehicle had been damaged severely or was totalled, and if, for example, the front half was going to be taken off another vehicle and those two vehicles put together. That would be a lawful excuse to change the VIN to match the hidden VIN. That can be done.

However, thieves also now have the technology to create a false VIN. If the VIN is taken off because the car is stolen, that is not a lawful excuse. That should be an offence. It seems too obvious. I am not certain why the Liberals do not agree with that. Taking the VIN off without a lawful excuse should be an offence. If someone changes those numbers, or if those numbers are removed or obliterated, that is an offence unless there is a lawful excuse.

I support Chuck's intent. To add that extra watered down onus on the Crown to prove that the offender had the intent to conceal makes it very difficult. I ask the House to support Chuck Cadman's bill, not this one.

This is a watered down version of Chuck's bill. Dona Cadman and Dane Minor are both asking the House not to support this bill because it is using Chuck's name and we should not do that.

We should honour Chuck. If we are going to pass Chuck's bill, let us pass Chuck's bill as written, not a Liberal bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Randy Kamp Conservative Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Langley for his very informative speech. I learned a lot. We do not always learn a lot from some of the speeches we hear, especially those from the other side.

Quite apart from the details of the bill, I think we all agree that there is a problem with auto theft and particularly with organized rings of auto thieves, which this bill is going to try to address. I think that was Chuck's intent in all of this.

There is something that I am curious about. We looked at Bill C-65 earlier today and now we are looking at Bill C-64. Both were intended to be tributes to the legacy of a great parliamentarian and we are going to miss him around here. What puzzles me, and perhaps the member could comment on this, is that both of these initiatives were pretty significantly opposed by the Liberals. The government was not going to allow these things to get through committee or to even be amended or anything like that.

I am curious about why there has been the change of heart. Not that long ago, just a couple of years ago, the government did not like these things. Now it brings this legislation here. I wonder why.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, I was at Chuck's funeral. I believe these bills were brought forth to honour him. I know that promise was made. That is why we have these bills before us.

A month ago for the first time I experienced having a private member's bill voted on. Everybody on this side in the Conservative Party supported my bill to have auto crime dealt with as it is a serious problem. My bill would give a sentencing guideline to the courts so that there would be increased penalties for repeat offenders, so that there would be consequences. Each time a person steals a car, the sentence would become a little more severe. It is a concept that we believe in. We believe in accountability, honesty and truth in sentencing.

Unfortunately, the justice minister gave direction to the Liberal caucus that it was not to support my bill. Chuck experienced that. I had a taste of what it felt like. Now we are presented with bills from the government to honour Chuck, yet his family and his campaign manager are saying that these watered down versions dishonour Chuck, they do not represent what Chuck wanted, and his family and his campaign manager do not support them.

I would ask the government to do the right thing: to amend and reintroduce these bills in the House the way Chuck wrote them. That was the promise that was made. In presenting Bill C-64 and Bill C-65 as the government has, it has watered down Chuck's bills. Actually, Dona Cadman said it best when she said they protect the criminals. That is not what we are here for. We want to see justice. Let us honour Chuck Cadman and allow his bills to be here, not these Liberal bills.

Message from the SenateGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed certain bills, to which the concurrence of this House is desired.

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Intergenerational Transfer of FarmsPrivate Members' Business

October 20th, 2005 / 5:30 p.m.


Denise Poirier-Rivard Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC


That, in the opinion of the House, the government should take action to promote the intergenerational transfer of farms by implementing the following measures: (a) increasing the allowable capital gains deduction for agricultural property from $500,000 to $1 million, exclusively for transactions as a result of which a farm remains in operation; (b) extending application of the rules governing rollovers to all members of the immediate family under 40 years of age; (c) setting up a farm transfer savings plan that would enable farmers to accumulate a tax-sheltered retirement fund; (d) make the rules governing property ownership more flexible so that young farmers can obtain a larger share of a residence held by a company and use their registered retirement savings plan to acquire an agricultural enterprise; and (e) transfer a recurring envelope to the government of Quebec and the other provinces for encouraging young people to go into farming

Mr. Speaker, as hon. members are no doubt aware, the population of Quebec, like that of Canada and the rest of the western world, is rapidly aging. The generation that built modern Quebec, from the Quiet Revolution until the present day, is fast approaching retirement age. It is therefore our collective duty, and I am sure we agree on this, to pass the torch to those come after us, so that Quebec may continue to develop its potential at least as much as it has over the past 40 years, if not more.

If that philosophy of passing the torch to future generations is valid for all spheres of economic, social, cultural and intellectual activity in modern Quebec, it is all the more so for agriculture.

In 2005 do we still need to prove how important agriculture and feeding the country's people are to all of the countries of the world? There is a close connection between the regions of Quebec and its major urban centres; while the latter represent industrial, commercial and cultural productivity, the former represent food self-sufficiency and the source of life. Most human beings today lead materialistic and urban lives, but they still need to eat three times a day, and always will.

It is in that perspective of continuity of working the land that we must look today at the question of the future of agriculture in Quebec and Canada.

I myself am a farmer. I have worked in this field for the last 25 years, apart from the last two which I have had the privilege of spending in the company of my colleagues here. It is primarily as a person involved in the field of agriculture that I decided to actively enter politics under the banner of the Bloc Québécois. Our 2004 election platform was and still is relevant to the major challenges that Quebec will have to face in agriculture. It is this important challenge and this questioning concerning the next generation of farmers that I come to present in the House of Commons, in the hope that we can find some solutions and societal choices that demonstrate intergenerational solidarity, for the love of our farming community.

When the economy is bad, the first to be discouraged are the job seekers just starting their careers. They are what is commonly called “the next generation”. This phenomenon is even more pronounced in agriculture. Whereas the economic cycles of recession and expansion follow each other almost naturally, farming has had difficult times for too long. Market globalization has enabled farms on the other side of the planet to compete directly with our local producers. Of course, this globalization trend has had certain advantages. It must be acknowledged, however, that the world of agriculture is not as flexible as the electronics or automobile industries. You need land and heavy machinery to produce a harvest. Furthermore, there is no question that this is the only field of production that is dependent with such uncertainty on climatic conditions. With one thing affecting another, the next generation of farmers is not knocking down the door.

The key word has been uttered: “uncertainty”. Our ancestors saw farming as a safe investment marked by stability, but can the same be seriously said today?.Unfortunately, the vocation of agriculture is demanding more and more financial, physical and human resources in order to face growing uncertainty. It is our duty as elected representatives of the people to find solutions that will permit the farming industry of Quebec and Canada to continue to work for the years to come.

The next generation, these young people to whom we have handed down a love of agriculture, needs help. In order for their ambitions to become tangible reality, they need some clear proposals and real solutions to real problems. I shall start, therefore, by drawing as accurate a picture as possible of the agricultural realities.

First, a general comment: there are fewer and fewer farms in Quebec. Between 1996 and 2001, which was a time of economic growth, the number of farms in Quebec fell by 10% to 32,000. In some traditionally agricultural regions, such as the Lower St. Lawrence, the number of farms decreased by as much as 50%. At its annual convention in 2004, the Union des producteurs agricoles adopted the objective of not falling below this historic floor of 32,000 farms in Quebec.

In addition, farmers' incomes are far from increasing at the same rate as the size and value of their farms. According to some studies, the value of one acre of arable land rose from $606 in 1981 to $1,600 in 2001.

The average assets of Quebec farms rose from just under $700,000 in 1997 to $1.12 million in 2002. But net average income of farmers rose only from $34,000 to $39,000 in this same period. That is a considerable concern to the generation that will replace them over the next few years.

In view of the fact that the average age of Canadian farmers is 50, that 35% of Quebec farmers are over 55, and that about 12% of farmers intend to retire next year but 26% of those have no one to take over, there is an urgent need to take action in order to ensure the survival of the agricultural way of life in Quebec and Canada.

As we know, youth is not necessarily synonymous with wealth. One of the basic problems highlighted by the three facts I just outlined is that it is difficult if not impossible for our young people with agricultural ambitions to acquire the basic tools of the modern farmer unless substantial help is forthcoming. Government inaction, reinforced by market forces, will have no other effect than to concentrate agricultural wealth in just a few hands, that is to say, to create “mega-businesses” and “super-farms” that will only discourage small farmers and lock them into a vicious circle leading to the loss of their agricultural heritage and the inevitable end of any possibility of renewal.

That would be the end of a middle class of farmers, the end of family-owned farms on a human scale. That is what we have to avoid for the sake of the future of farming in Quebec and Canada. In order to increase the chances that farmers will be successful, we have to prevent extreme market forces from encouraging only the mammoth operations with their tendency to monoculture at the expense of small farmers and the healthy diversity of their crops.

The Government of Quebec understands the problem. La Financière agricole du Québec has a financial support program for aspiring farmers that provides several different kinds of assistance, including establishment capital grants between $30,000 and $40,000 for students with a degree in agriculture, secure rate establishment loans, in which La Financière caps the interest rates on the first $500,000 that a start-up farming operation borrows, and many advisory services.

For its part, the federal government provides preferential loans, advisory services and a few tax measures that can facilitate the transfer of the family farm from one generation to the next through Farm Credit Canada. But this is not enough. In contrast to the United States, Great Britain and even Quebec, the federal government does not provide any direct, unconditional grants, such as the establishment grants for example.

It is mainly in regard to the federal measures that my party and I wish to elaborate and further enrich the discussion today in order to analyze how we could contribute to the objective established by Quebec farmers, namely preserving 32,000 farms on all the agricultural land. The federal government must do its fair share.

In order for this ambitious objective to be achieved, an additional 400 young people will have to set themselves up in agriculture in order to create 900 to 1,100 new farms a year, according to figures provided by the UPA. In order to do this, there are three critical areas on which we will have to focus: taxation, savings and cooperation.

The tax problem is related to the problem of selling and buying a farm. When farmers are ready to retire, the financial problem is not as much that taxes are due on the sale of their property as the difficulty of finding a purchaser whose offer is close to the market value of the farm. Since the market value of farms has increased substantially—as we just pointed out—and there are not very many purchasers in the next generation because of a lack of resources and financial supports, farmers have to dismantle their farms, more often than not, which forces them to pay more taxes and does nothing to help transfer the farm to future generations.

In order to increase the benefit of transferring a farm as opposed to dismantling it, would it not be advisable—and this is the Bloc Québécois's first proposal regarding taxation—to increase the allowable capital gains deduction for agricultural property from $500,000 to $1 million for the sale of a farm operation to another farmer?

This would allow farmers who sell their property to avoid having to pay too much in taxes because of a lack of potential buyers, and it would also encourage hesitant young people to go into farming.

In other words, since taxes paid on transactions would decrease, this measure would allow the seller to dispose of his assets at a lower price while guaranteeing him the same amount of money and encouraging young people to go into farming. Basically, if we want to encourage, from a taxation point of view, the transferring rather than the dismantling of agricultural property, we have to increase the gap between the rates that apply to transfers and dismantling respectively. Some conditions could be set. For example, the proposal in the case of a farm that remains in operation could be set at 75%. This would have the effect of preventing speculators from taking advantage of the system.

Moreover, as we know, unlike other taxpayers, a person who operates a farm can, without paying taxes, transfer directly to his children and to the children of his children some of his agricultural property. In order to encourage a larger number of young people to go into farming, why not extend the application of the rules governing rollovers to other members of the immediate family under 40 years of age? If we did that, some brother, sister, niece, nephew or cousin would very likely be interested in taking over the family heritage.

Two simple measures that could provide a win-win situation for both the purchaser and the vendor.

The second problem, as we see it, after taxation, is savings for farmers. If we want to attract newcomers to farming, we have to be able to encourage them to plan for their retirement, despite the numerous investments and expenses they will run into for starting up and running their business. Since a farmer's income fluctuates and they are not all able to contribute to an RRSP, why not set up a farm transfer savings plan to allow farmers to build up a tax-sheltered retirement fund? The governments could make a contribution, like they do for registered education savings plans. Such contributions could be conditional on maintaining the farm.

In that same vein, we could also amend the rules of the Home Buyer's Plan so that a young farmer could use his existing RRSP to acquire the farm, which would usually come with a home. This fourth measure would be feasible only if the maximum HBP withdrawal were increased.

Finally, after the taxation and savings that will help young farmers socially and economically, we feel that it is important to set an objective right away in regard to cooperation between farm organizations and government stakeholders. The effect would be to channel their activities in a more coherent way toward the renewal of the farming generations.

Since Quebec and the provinces are the levels of government closest to the farming world in regard to funding and services that promote the renewal of agriculture, it seems reasonable to suggest that the federal government should transfer a recurring envelope to the Government of Quebec and the other provinces to help the next generation of farmers.

The Government of Quebec could use this envelope for a number of next-generation-related purposes: extending the availability of the start-up subsidy; improving interest rate protection and increasing eligibility ceilings; providing more generous grants for young people who are starting up a farm; and setting up some sort of structure such as a single window providing information on farms without a next generation and young farmers without a farm.

It is possible to have a voice, to ensure that there will a next generation of farmers. But to ensure a future for farming and our youth, it is imperative for government to take action. We cannot just let things slide. The people have given us not just a mandate to represent them but also the power. And the power means the opportunity to use the means at our disposal to take action and influence the course of events. It is up to us, as the political stakeholders, to do what is necessary to ensure that the path from the farm to the fork is not closed to future generations.

Intergenerational Transfer of FarmsPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for bringing this important issue before the House. Certainly, anyone who represents a community that has farming in it is finding it more and more difficult. Young people are reluctant to go into farming. The farmers who are there are indeed getting older and are not able to continue on with farming.

I have two questions for the member. The first deals with part (b) of her motion. She mentioned that it would include nephews and nieces. I would like to know exactly what she means by immediate family. How far does that go? I would like her to elaborate.

The second question is regarding part (e). I would like her to indicate how much should be earmarked for the provinces? This section may require an amendment to the agricultural policy framework and if that were the case, the amendments would require agreement of two-thirds of the provinces representing 50% of Canadian agricultural production. I support the philosophy in general as to what she is trying to do, but there are obviously some questions that need further elaboration.

Intergenerational Transfer of FarmsPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Denise Poirier-Rivard Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his very relevant question in the context of this debate on agriculture. For us Quebeckers, this is an asset and a legacy that we do not want to lose.

I will now answer the hon. member's question. I referred to nephews and nieces. Quite often, those who are around us are not necessarily the family's children, that is the children of the mother and father. Therefore, we could extend the application of the rule governing rollovers to include nephews, nieces and cousins, because they are not included right now. That is an option which could help young people who want to go into farming.

As we know, the issue of young people in agriculture is a very important one right now. I will not go back to the problems experienced by agricultural producers in recent years, including with the mad cow crisis and so forth. This situation has had somewhat of a deterring effect on our young people. For all these reasons, we could extend the application of the rule governing rollovers to include nephews and nieces, as I mentioned earlier.

Let us also not forget that our young people in the farming industry have extraordinary ideas. They have a love, a passion for agriculture that is similar to ours, but also different. Indeed, our future producers are involved in a different and diversified type of agriculture. They have added values. These values make their farms accessible for ordinary people to come and visit. This creates jobs and generates economic spinoffs.

In Quebec, we have an open house day organized by the UPA, the farmers' union organization. There is extraordinary interest. So, this is one example. There is room for young people who want to go into farming, but we must take action and we must provide money to help these passionate future farmers.

Intergenerational Transfer of FarmsPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Françoise Boivin Liberal Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I find that extremely interesting. I represent a very urban riding, so I am no specialist, but I am very interested in the farming issue. In urban centres, we are quite grateful to all those who put food on our table.

I find this motion interesting, even if my research shows that there are already many federal initiatives on this. When I debate this motion, I will have an opportunity to come back to this.

I have a question. When the Bloc moves motions, I often feel like the figures need to be exact. The intention may be good, but I would be curious to know how many farmers could benefit from an increased lifetime capital gains exemption, as proposed by the hon. member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant.

Intergenerational Transfer of FarmsPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Denise Poirier-Rivard Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question.

Earlier, we were talking about not decreasing by 32,000 the number of farms in Quebec. If there currently are 32,000 farms in Quebec, there could be enough people to take them over and continue operating them. We see the relevance of such a measure.

There is no need to think our farms will stop operations and be bought and turned into big businesses, like Wal-Mart style farms. It is truly very important to pay particular attention to the next generation of farmers.

To answer the hon. member's question, again, there are 32,000 farms in Quebec and they all could be taken over by the next generation.

Intergenerational Transfer of FarmsPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Scarborough—Guildwood Ontario


John McKay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this debate. I would assume that all members would agree with the objective underlying the motion which is to support young Canadians who decide to work on the family farm and to take on that generational challenge.

In fact, I too come from a line of farmers. I am the first generation that has not gone into farming. To his dying day, my father thought I was a failure for going to law school instead of the family farm. Fortunately, he died before I entered politics because that would have confirmed his opinion that I was in fact the family failure.

The motion as it is worded is just simply not supportable. To put the motion in context, I would like to outline first of all what the Government of Canada is already doing and then talk about why we think that there are individual problems with the motion itself.

Currently, the Government of Canada provides considerable support for intergenerational transfers of family farms through both existing agricultural programs as well as through income tax measures. Intergenerational transfers of family farms are facilitated through the comprehensive agricultural policy framework. My friend across the way raised the issue that it would be difficult to negotiate that if we were to pursue the latter part of the motion.

These transfers are delivered by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in partnership with the provinces and territories. One would have to presume we would have to get the cooperation of all of the other provinces and territories or the formula that my friend referred to in order to accommodate the particular wording in the motion. There is also Farm Credit Canada which provides access to affordable financing options for farmers to buy farms and equipment that they need to make a living.

However, today I would like to focus on the tax measures that support farmers with particular reference to tax matters that facilitate intergenerational transfer of farms.

In the area of income tax, the current rules already allow family farms to be transferred on a tax deferred basis to members of the immediate family and that is, a farmer's spouse, children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren. That is the wording of the legislation. By deferring the taxation of capital gains on the farm until such time as the farm is actually transferred out of the family, this measure greatly facilitates the intergenerational transfer of farms. This is the major concern of the mover of this motion, that it is difficult to move the farm from one generation to the next.

I would submit however, that paragraph (b) of her motion is more restrictive than what is currently in the Income Tax Act of Canada insofar as there is no restriction with respect to age. I would reference members to paragraph (b) which says: “extending application of the rules governing rollovers to all members of the immediate family under 40 years of age”. Under 40 years of age is not a restriction that is put into the Income Tax Act of Canada as it currently reads. On one interpretation of her motion, she would actually restrict the intergenerational transfer of farms. I am not sure that she intended to do that.

I would add that the current tax deferral mechanism applies regardless of the value of the farm being gifted and the number of children benefiting from the gift. As all members may appreciate, that is an extremely generous measure not available to any other sector, not to fishermen, not available to people in the forestry sector, not available to construction, and not available to people in manufacturing. We have as a point of public policy tried to facilitate the intergenerational transfer of family farms because of their unique value to our society.

In addition to tax rules that accommodate farms that are given to children or are left to them in their wills, tax rules exist to address the needs of farmers who may be unable, for financial or other reasons, to give a farm outright to their children. In these situations, selling the farm to his or her children could provide needed funds for a farmer's retirement. In cases such as these, the farmer already has a $500,000 lifetime capital gains exemption applicable to the sale or other disposition of the farm property.

However, because most farms, certainly if it is a family farm, are owned by more than one person, usually a husband and a wife, the $500,000 lifetime capital exemption is in fact more like $1 million capital gains exemption. In any situation where a farm is jointly owned, whether by a farming couple or two siblings, each owner has, individually and uniquely unto that owner, a $500,000 lifetime capital gains exemption.

So, for example, if a farming couple purchased a farm jointly in 1975 for $300,000, the proceeds on a sale of up to $1.3 million would be exempt from tax if both the husband and wife apply their lifetime capital gains exemption to the sale proceeds. In fact, by the time we adjusted cost base, the gross up on expenses and things of that nature, $1.3 million would probably work up to $1.5 million without a great deal of work on the part of the accountant. That, by any standard, is a very generous tax relief measure.

This motion proposes to raise the $500,000 per person limit to $1 million. However it is important to note that increasing the limit from $500,000 to $1 million would mean increasing the exemption to $2 million for jointly owned farms and would benefit only about 5% of farm sales in each and every year. Effectively, although I am not sure that is the intention on the part of the mover, the bill would benefit the upper 5% of farm sales while effectively having no impact on the other 95%, probably the more vulnerable farms. That is, the existing limits already accommodate 95% of the farmers who already sell their farms. I am not quite sure what would be accomplished by supporting this motion.

I would ask hon. members to consider whether a new tax measure that provides additional preferences to the richest 5% of farmers in Canada is really warranted, considering that such a measure would represent a cost to the average Canadian taxpayer. There is no free lunch in the tax business.

I would like to highlight another tax rule that relates to the taxation of capital gains that may benefit children who cannot afford to pay their parents the entire sale price agreed to for the family right away. In such circumstances, each parent is entitled to defer taxation in respect of the capital gain when the amount is not payable until after the end of the year. The effect of the measure is to allow for the payment of any tax on the capital gain on the farm over a period of 10 taxation years, if that is how long it takes for the child to pay for the farm. This is twice as long as the period of deferral allowed to any other taxpayer. So, again, we are preferencing farmers over all others.

This motion also proposes that the government set up a farm transfer tax savings plan that would enable farmers to accumulate a tax sheltered retirement fund. The lifetime capital gains exemption that I discussed earlier already facilitates retirement planning for farmers, as does the existing registered retirement savings plan system. In this regard, RRSP limits have been increased substantially.

We have the lifetime capital gains exemption, we have a tax deferral arrangement, which pushes it off for 10 years, and they can shelter their money into RRSPs, up to $22,000 a year, by the year 2010. Farmers can take advantage of RRSP arrangements just like any other taxpayer and defer their tax on their capital gains.

Providing farmers and not other Canadians with additional retirement savings opportunities would be unfair, considering that virtually all workers face the challenges of planning for their retirement.

I have outlined the major tax measures that relate most directly to the motion put forward by the hon. member. However there are many tax measures and others that assist with managing their cashflow, including cash based accounting, deferral of income, full deductibility of costs for land, as well as flexibility inventory accounting. All these measures favour farms.

I submit to the House that this motion cannot be supported and that it is, in some respects, a regressive motion rather than a progressive motion. While there are certain attractive elements to the motion I would submit that the preferences that are already enjoyed by the farmers by virtue of the public policy of the government are quite considerable and I urge hon. members not to support the motion.

Intergenerational Transfer of FarmsPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Brian Pallister Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant for the thoughtful resolution that he has brought forward today.

I cannot help but refer of course, as members tend to do in this chamber, to my own family's background, which is, with my brother now in place on the farm, a fifth generation farm family. I have some very strong feelings emotionally about this resolution and believe at its heart it is good. It certainly has some technical aspects, which the minister's back-up over there has alluded to, but despite that fact I think there is more good in it than bad.

I would like to begin with my own personal experience on the issue of transferring farm assets. As the oldest in our family, when I graduated from high school my parents gave me a watch as a gift. When my sister graduated she was given a car. When my brother graduated he was given the farm. That is farm estate planning. That is how some families divide farm assets.

It works if the farm can be kept in the family and if there can be balance for other farm heirs and keep children loving one another and provide for the parents or the family members who are retiring. If a family can do those three things it has a good farm estate plan. If the family cannot, it does not.

Unfortunately, for many farm families cash is a big issue. As is the way of Liberal members who are in their ivory towers, most of them, unfortunately, are out of touch with rural situations. As the member alluded to in his comments, if farmers want a proper retirement income they should just buy RRSPs like everyone else. He does not understand the nature of farming or of farmers very well.

The principal investment that farmers make of course is back into their farms. It has been that way for years and, unfortunately, it has been increasingly necessary for it to be that way as the return on investment in the farming community over recent years has lessened. I could quote the statistics but I will not.

However there is less cash available. Many farmers are land rich, implement rich, seed rich or whatever but they are cash poor. Before I came to this place I was a chartered financial consultant by profession and I worked with farm families on establishing plans for the transference of their assets. I can speak with a little authority on the fact that this is a motion which will assist. It is not perfect and it does not pretend to be perfect, I am sure, but it does address a number of important issues. I think it is important that we appreciate that and support the resolution for that reason.

A 1994 study by StatsCan revealed that farmers invest a higher proportion of their savings back into farm assets than they do into RRSPs. That is no surprise to any of us who come from rural backgrounds. Therefore for many farm families their farm capital represents the bulk of their retirement funds.

There are a couple of aspects to this proposal that I would like to address. The first is the issue of capital gains.

The Liberal member, as is the tendency, unfortunately, defended the status quo rather firmly. However the status quo when it comes to the issue of the $500,000 capital gains exemption is not a status quo that deserves to be defended. That level has not changed for over a quarter of a century but farm assets have and farm values in terms of fixed assets, such as land, not uniformly but in general across the country, have appreciated in value so that now with regard to the capital gains exemption what once was exempt is not.

Therefore we need to address that change. The way to do that is to increase the capital gains exemption. I think that is an excellent idea and one that deserves support.

In doing a little research I always concern myself with what these proposals cost as does the Conservative Party. We want to make sure these are achievable measures that will work. However we also want to make sure that they fit into the context of our overall finances. I should mention the actual cost that this motion would incur if this measure were adopted.

We know that the Department of Finance estimates say the fiscal cost currently of the $500,000 lifetime capital gains exemption for farm property is about $220 million for 2004. It follows then that if we increase the exemption to $1 million, the maximum fiscal cost would be approximately that same amount of $220 million.

The member opposite said in his comments that this would only impact on a very few and used the class warfare thing, the rich farmers out there. The reality is quite clear to us from rural communities. We understand that farmland values have increased significantly in many areas across the last quarter century and that this is really catch-up is it not? This is really restoring the original measure and restoring the intent of the original measure.

I know this because the member very often speaks more for the Department of Finance than he does for the people of Canada. He certainly does not speak for the farm people of Canada. I know that he has raised the issue of preferential treatment for farmers. I know that the finance department would dearly love to do away with the $500,000 capital gains exemption entirely. I know, as a member of the finance committee, that we have been privy to some indications that is the attitude of members of the finance department and, I am afraid, given the increasingly urban nature of the diminishing number of Liberal members in this chamber, quite appreciably increasing in their ranks as well, the attitude that farmers should just pay like everyone else.

I will tell them this in a straightforward manner. I think they need to realize that the number of farms is diminishing and it is increasingly so across the country. It is in no one's best interest to have no one living in the communities between Montreal and Quebec City. It is in no one's best interests to have a half a dozen farmers living along the highway between Portage la Prairie, Manitoba and Regina, Saskatchewan. It is in no one's best interests to depopulate the rural parts of our country. It is in everyone's best interests to keep family farms in the hands of people who love the land, have an attachment to it and have a sincere desire and an appreciation for the quality of life and rural communities and a rural environment. That is in everyone's best interest.

Unfortunately, with the government we see too often a disrespect and a disregard for that reality. I think that is a shame.

I say by way of illustration that right now in this country there are fewer farmers under the age of 35 than there have ever been. Right now most farmers are over 50 years of age. In the next 15 years that number will appreciate considerably and over a third of farmers will be beyond retirement age in just a very short time.

How are they going to retire? Because they depend on the land and the farm assets that they manage, they are going to retire by selling those assets. Unfortunately, what that means is a further consolidation of farms and a further depopulation of the rural communities.

If we can take some steps today in supporting this resolution to support families staying in a place they love, that they appreciate and where they will invest and provide the prudent stewardship we need, I think that is a wonderful thing to do. I think it is a good and healthy thing for us to do for this country.

I want to share a couple of anecdotes because I think these are illustrative of the challenges that farm families face. I knew a family in a small community called Rathwell, which is in my riding. It is about a half an hour south of Portage la Prairie, which is my hometown where our farm is. When I came across this circumstance it was touching. What happened here was that a farmer in his late sixties suffered a heart attack and passed away. The family went together to read the will and the will read that everything was to be divided equally among three. His wife had predeceased him and so his three children shared that estate equally.

What was the estate? It was what he had spent his life doing, his farm. It went three ways: to his daughter who was married to a dentist in Victoria; to his son who lived in Toronto and is a computer executive; and the other third, I think members have guessed it, to his son the farmer. His son was a farmer. When his dad passed away this man, a friend of mine, lost not only his part, his best friend, his mentor but he lost his farm.

Today, we can take steps to ensure that this does not happen again. Rollover provisions and retirement savings programs that are available to farmers who do not have the income to qualify, in many cases to contribute to RRSPs, are a positive step.

I congratulate the Bloc member. Although the Bloc's separatism is abhorrent to me, I congratulate it on this positive step. This is a worthwhile motion to support and I thank him for bringing it forward.

Intergenerational Transfer of FarmsPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I consider it a privilege to speak in favour of the motion.

I would like to thank the Bloc member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant for her work on this motion. It is a very important motion.

It is very important for the people here who do not come from a farming background to know this. We must keep our farms for our family members.

I come from the village of Stoney Point in Ontario. I look at my family, the Comartins. They are trying very hard to keep the farm in the family. But every year, it gets harder. There are problems with other people, especially syndicates that want to buy up these farms and have more money to do that.

In addition, there has been constant incursion by urban and suburban pressures to sell the farms. I have heard several speakers talk about the love that people have for the land and the importance of that attachment. That is personal. One might ask if we as legislators have to be concerned about that. For the cynical, we may say no.

There is a much more important reason why we have to protect the family farm. We simply cannot allow the production of our food supply to be more concentrated in fewer hands. That is the pattern in Canada and across the globe. We have to fight against this pattern. The government needs policies to prevent this from happening.

It was interesting to listen to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance arguing that the capital gains provisions protected family farms. We had those same capital gains provisions back when I started practising law in 1973. Those provisions have been around unaltered for over 30 years. Land values have increased. The cost of living has increased dramatically in that period of time, but those capital gains provisions have not been changed at all for more than 30 years.

I acknowledge the work that has been done by the member for Châteauguay--Saint-Constant in drawing this to our attention. It is one of the reasons why I believe all members should support the motion, a motion that the government should look very closely at implementing.

Similarly, with regard to extending the provisions beyond the limited number of people who can benefit from inter-family and intergenerational exchanges of the property, it is important that be broadened.

I come back to my family. I look at those members of the family who are committed to the farm and are willing to stay around. They are not always children, but oftentimes they are nephews and nieces, sometimes grandnephews and grandnieces who are committed to the family farm. They want to farm, but they need financial assistance and policies to make that possible. The pressure of the competition is quite phenomenal. That is true not just in my home area but right across the country.

Another point on the capital gains issue is this. The parliamentary secretary made the point that it was not $500,000 but $1 million because both spouses were entitled to the farm. This shows a real lack of knowledge on his part. In the vast majority of cases intergenerational transfer occurs after one of the parents has passed away. Therefore, we are only talking about one capital gain, not two. In most cases the first parent who dies is the male. The spouse may stay on the farm for a few years after his death. The double capital gains provision is of no help in protecting the surviving spouse from those implications.

I know there are only a few words in the motion with regard to this, but the provisions that would expand the ability of owners to use the land provisions to protect themselves, which would not affect their RRSPs but it would their transfers, is a good idea. It is creative and it is one that the government could easily follow.

The parliamentary secretary made the comment that nothing is free. The government is quite prepared to make substantial tax benefits flow to oftentimes major corporations and multinational corporations. Many times that tax benefit does not even stay in Canada. That money flows out of the country, mostly to the United States but also to Europe and the far east.

If we are looking at having to pay something for this, we will have to give something up. If we look across the whole spectrum, the family farm should be at the top of the list, not as we saw from the government and its willingness to give a billion to two billion dollars in tax breaks to the multinational corporations and the large profitable corporations in the country. It is not needed there. It is needed in the family farm. The provision that the member suggested is a very positive one.

I have some reservations with regard to a transfer of money to the provinces. I always worry when that is not quantified. The need for further assistance to the family farm for the transfer of ownership from this generation to the next and the one after that is so obvious. Even though I have some reservations about it the transfers to the province, it will not limit the support that I have expressed for the motion overall.

I want to finish with a couple of experiences I had as a member.

A about a year or two years ago, a delegation of farmers, mostly from the western provinces, met with our caucus. It was intergenerational. They made the point that has been made this evening about the age of the average farmer in Canada being in the mid to late 50s. It is probably approaching 60 now. Their fear was being unable to put in place the proper economic circumstances that would allow the next generation to acquire the family farm. There were probably 15 or 20 different families around the table. Every one of them had children and in some cases even grandchildren who were old enough to take on the farming responsibilities. Every one of them said that it would not happen. The economic circumstances were such that they were unable to do that. It was really sad.

The other one happened this summer. Our leader was in the riding and we met with farm groups. We heard exactly the same story from the county of Essex. About 10 different families were represented. It was a small meeting of some of the leadership. In every case there were serious reservations and outright expressions of impossibility of being able to transfer. For that reason, every member in the House should support the motion.

Intergenerational Transfer of FarmsPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Réal Lapierre Bloc Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate this opportunity to speak on the subject of this Bloc Québécois motion on the next generation of farmers.

Is there an area that affects the daily lives of people more than agriculture? Not only is it necessary for human survival, but it is one of most important sectors in our modern economies. How many of us realize that ultimately we are talking here about our food security, which is certainly the envy of many other countries.

The Bloc Québécois motion proposing measures to facilitate the transfer of farms within families is crucial at this time when we see a steep decrease in the number of farms, especially in Quebec. As representatives of the people of Quebec in this Parliament, we are anxious to defend the interests of our farmers. I am concerned first and foremost because I am the member for a major agricultural area, the riding of Lévis—Bellechasse. The motion that we are moving today is therefore all the more important to me.

For the last 15 years, the agricultural heritage of Quebec has been slipping away. There are only 32,000 farms left in Quebec, or 10% fewer than in 1996. It is a disaster. The Matapédia Valley and the Témiscouata, Rivière-du-Loup and Trois-Pistoles areas have lost around 50% of their farmers, while one dairy farm a week disappears from the Lower St. Lawrence. If this is not a catastrophe, there is no word for such a disturbing situation.

According to Statistics Canada, the average assets of Quebec farms rose from $700,000 to $1.1 billion between 1997 and 2002. We might think that this is quite a respectable performance. But we also learn that the net cash income of farmers has remained the same. Knowing that it generally takes $5 in assets to generate $1 of income, we can see that farms have become less profitable.

And yet, there has been a respectable increase in the value of farmland. Indeed, it has more than doubled, from $606 an acre in 1981 to $1,598 in 2001. On the surface that looks fine. But, on the other hand, one also needs twice the money to buy back the farm, something which is not automatic. As a result, purchase offers based on the market value of the farm are few and far between. Add to this the fact that today 35% of farmers are over age 55 and 26% of those who want to retire still have no successors. Closing down the farm looms inexorably on the horizon.

This is a major problem. That is why the first two elements of the motion tabled in the House are more than appropriate.

Indeed, is it not time to increase the capital gains deduction on farm property in order to restore the balance with the increase in land values? We suggest that this deduction be doubled, bringing it to $1 million. It should be noted that we accompany this proposal with an obligation to maintain the farm.

I have many more arguments to raise. What I am saying, then, is that one simple motion contains a set of incentives and facilitating measures that can encourage young people and families to become more involved in the keeping family farms alive, in Quebec and in Canada. At stake is not only the survival of an important sector of our economy, but the maintenance of an essential service to the public, a service that guarantees its daily food supply and long-term security.

Given the importance of the issue and the precariousness of the situation, I implore all my colleagues here present to vote in favour of the motion, in a concerted effort to resolve a major problem in our society, and so put an end to the undesirable fluctuations in the future of the Quebec and Canadian agricultural sector.

All of us know, in spite of our political differences, that this is of the highest importance.

Intergenerational Transfer of FarmsPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

The House will now proceed to consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from June 10 consideration of the motion.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Randy Kamp Conservative Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand today to speak to Motion No. 153 that reads in part:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should: (a) recognize all firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty in Canada; (b) support the proposed Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation mandate for the construction of a monument in the Parliamentary precinct containing the names of all Canadian firefighters who have died in the line of duty,—

The Conservative Party recognizes the significant contribution that firefighters make to our country and our communities. They are often the first responders, first on the scene of a motor vehicle accident, a chemical fire or a burning home or business. They are also called upon to assist in search and rescue operations. Firefighters, along with our police and corrections officers, put themselves at risk every day, perhaps like no other profession in Canada.

Recently, my community recognized fire safety week. Community newspapers and local fire halls promoted a number of initiatives and procedures that all Canadians should plan for in the case of an emergency involving a fire. We were told to check our smoke detectors. That would be my advice if anyone has not done that yet. We were told to ensure they are working properly. We were encouraged to have an escape route and meeting place planned in the case of a fire in our homes. We were told to be careful in the way that we dealt with hazardous materials and we were reminded of the age old phrase “stop, drop and roll”. All of this was good advice.

I remember reading a pamphlet about what we should do when encountering a fire in our home or perhaps what we should not do. It said to do the following: tell everyone in the house or building; get out, do not try to grab the things that matter to people; do not investigate the fire; call 911; and do not go back in for anything.

If we were to sum up all this good advice, it would be that if there is a fire or the potential for a major disaster like a fire, people are to get out, escape and run away from it. In other words, we should put as much distance as possible between ourselves and the danger. We do not need to be taught this. I think it is human nature.

What do firefighters do when they encounter a fire? They do exactly the opposite. Instead of running away from the danger, they run toward it. They fight it head on. They save lives and property through their daily heroism.

I remember seeing a photo after 9/11. Maybe other members saw it too. It was of hundreds of office workers with fear in their eyes, making their way down the stairs after the hijacked airliners hit the World Trade Center towers. In that same photo, if people remember, there is a firefighter looking resolute, packing a fire hose and making his way up those same stairs. He knew the danger. He knew he could lose his life, but he knew that others needed his help and that it was his job to help them. In spite of the clear and present danger, he went up.

We all know that Canada's firefighters are highly trained men and women who each day protect our lives and property, saving us and our families from the tragedy of fire. In fact, in British Columbia many firefighters are trained at the Justice Institute of BC's Maple Ridge campus located in my riding of Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission.

I have toured this facility and met with some of the firefighting recruits who train there. If people look at my website, they will see a not so flattering picture of me in the big hat and jacket. It is an internationally renowned centre that provides expert, hands-on training. I can say that only the finest and bravest recruits will meet the requirements to receive their firefighting designation.

In spite of their expert training and fierce dedication, there are times when our firefighters pay the ultimate price to protect Canadians. All too often, firefighters are killed in the line of duty. This motion would go a long way toward recognizing their sacrifice and that is why I support it.

Recently, I received a letter from a constituent, Mechthild von Hardenberg. Her son Ben was a helicopter pilot who crashed and died while fighting fires near Bonaparte Lake in B.C. in the summer of 2003. As I read her letter, I could sense the pain that she was still feeling at losing her son. I do not know if anyone ever gets over that. However, I could also feel her pride in her son who had given his life in service for others. She wanted to personally convey her wishes to me and the House that Motion No. 153 be passed in order to provide recognition to her son and others like him who have died while putting their lives on the line for us. I would urge all members to support it.

Firefighters are some of our greatest citizens. I know in every community in my riding and probably in every riding in Canada they are at community events, raising funds for local charities, serving at pancake breakfasts or serving hamburgers at barbecues. The fire hall youth centres and youth activities enrich the lives of our teens and young people. They are Canadians who have a strong commitment to working for their neighbours, communities and country. In my experience they are men and women who take very seriously their positions as role models for our youth. They are to be thanked and respected for their professionalism and their dedication to others.

In 1998 the federal government officially proclaimed the last Sunday of each September as Police and Peace Officers' National Memorial Day. A few weeks ago I attended the ceremonies on Parliament Hill which recognized the contribution that Canada's police and peace officers make to our country and honoured those nine who had lost their lives in the line of duty during the last year. Their names were added to the memorial honour roll, which includes the names of 715 fallen officers. More than once I heard, “They are our heroes. We shall not forget them”.

The dedication and sacrifice of our firefighters must also be recognized at a national level. The Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation has asked this House and this Parliament, through their support of Motion No. 153, to recognize all Canadian firefighters and those who have lost their lives. A Canadian firefighters memorial in the capital region would be a tribute honouring all firefighters of Canada. It would be a national memorial to fallen firefighters from every community large and small.

I want to conclude by reading the firefighters creed for all of us, because I know of no better way to ask this House to support Motion No. 153:

When I'm called to duty godwherever flames may ragegive me strength to save a lifewhatever be its age

Help me to embrace a little childbefore it is too lateor save an older person fromthe horror of that fate

Enable me to be alertto hear the weakest shoutand quickly and efficientlyto put the fire out

I want to fill my calling andto give the best in meto guard my neighbour and protect his property

And if according to your willI have to lose my lifebless with your protecting handmy children and my wife

Let us do our part to honour those who serve to protect Canadians. Let us honour those who have paid the ultimate price. Let us support Motion No. 153.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Guy Côté Bloc Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, when I first read the motion, two very specific memories came back to me. The first is from my childhood.

Quebec City has erected a floral memorial in the Saint-Pascal neighbourhood, to honour Quebec City's firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty. I remember as a child walking by this memorial. I was both filled with wonder at the flowers and moved by the fact that some people would knowingly agree to put their lives in danger to go into a burning building to save another person's life. At the time, I was moved very much by this.

I also had another memory, not as happy, unfortunately, but where everything ended well. A number of years ago, a building next to my home caught fire. Around 3 a.m. the Quebec City fire department knocked on our door and told us to get out, or we would burn.

I am not sure that I had the opportunity at that time to really thank the fire department and the Red Cross, which provided us with a place to stay for the rest of the night. Today I want to recognize the work that they did.

Thank God, no doubt on account of their excellent work, the next day I was able to go back home, where there was nothing more than a smell of smoke. All ended well. But had it not been for the work of those people, I could have lost everything that day. They did an excellent job.

To return specifically to the motion, at the moment there are close to 200,000 firefighters in Canada, if we include the volunteer firefighters. The work that they do is colossal.

Of course, when we think of firefighters, we think of the most extreme situations, when there are major fires. It should not be forgotten that in many places firefighters also respond to numerous calls and frequently intervene in the event of road accidents. Their expertise is sought when the jaws of life are needed, for example. Firefighters also participate in rescue operations. They assist police officers and ambulance personnel in their work on accident sites.

To be a firefighter is not only to sometimes risk your life, but also to lend a hand to other aid organizations when necessary. Also I have yet to speak of all the charitable activities they can organize. I am sure that everyone here is aware that once a year they organize the firefighters’ Christmas. Thanks to fundraising, they deliver toys to children whose parents are living in poverty. For this too they are owed our congratulations.

It has been said many times: this profession they have, this vocation of theirs, is not without danger. Unfortunately, some of them fall in the line of duty.

According to the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation, since 1848 nearly 800 firefighters have died while on duty. Of that number, 225 have died in Quebec. Over the last decade, 91 firefighters met their deaths on the job, 9 of them in Quebec.

Earlier, my colleague was recalling some sad events. It will be remembered, for example, that in 2005 James Ratcliffe, a volunteer firefighter only 20 years of age, died while participating in rescue manoeuvres on Lac des Deux Montagnes. He had his whole life ahead of him, and he died to protect his fellow citizens. Truly, the least that we can do is to honour the memory of persons like him.

I talked earlier about Quebec City, where there is a permanent fire department.

However, as we know, in most towns and villages of Quebec and Canada, we use voluntary firefighters. They are even more deserving. Of course, for some people, voluntary firefighters may not have the same prestige as what I will call regular firefighters. Nevertheless, they always have to be ready, even though they are voluntary firefighters who work part time. They must be available 24 hours a day, because, unfortunately, there is no warning before a disaster. We never know when it will happen.

Quebec, among other provinces, has a national school for firefighters to ensure that their training is up to par.

In 2000, Quebec established a national firefighter school. Its mandate is to increase and harmonize personnel skills, working across Quebec to ensure safety during fires. Specifically, the school devises training programs, oversees theory and practical examinations and delivers certificates of qualification.

This initiative was taken to avoid, to the extent possible, the dramatic situations in which firefighters can find themselves when carrying out their duties. Unfortunately, it is not possible to eliminate all the risks. Still, better training for everyone remains the best solution.

Earlier, I talked about the various activities organized by fire departments. Last Saturday, in Pont-Rouge—where I live—the fire department held an open door session to promote prevention and to encourage my fellow citizens to take proactive measures, including having an evacuation plan in their homes, so as to avoid unfortunate accidents.

This is something simple. Yet, we do not think about it. We would probably rather not think about it. We tell ourselves that if there is a fire in our home, we simply have to get out. However, it is not that simple. In an emergency, if we do not know exactly what we are going to do, Heaven only knows how we will react.

Of course, children were welcome. Various activities of a more recreational nature were organized. It was an extraordinary day. This event helped bring the public and the Pont-Rouge fire department closer. It also gave firefighters an opportunity to explain the nature of their work and to provide my fellow citizens with prevention ideas and tricks to avoid the worst.

So, it is important that the government recognize all firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty in Canada. This is the least we can do. These people put their lives on the line time and again for their fellow citizens and some have paid the ultimate price.

As I mentioned earlier, some municipalities have already recognized, in one way or another, those who have died in the line of duty. The Parliament of Canada should do the same.

I also referred to Quebec City's floral arrangement. Why not build a monument dedicated to all these firefighters? It seems to me that this would be an excellent idea.

In conclusion, I hope this motion is passed by the House.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Ed Broadbent NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise with a great deal of pleasure to support the motion. I want to indicate at the outset that at the end of my brief comments I will be moving an amendment. The amendment is strongly supported by the MP for Burnaby—New Westminster who moved the original motion.

The motion and the proposed amendment would help to ensure recognition and financial security for the families of firefighters when their loved one is killed or disabled in the line of duty.

The motion and the proposed amendment would also establish a national public safety officer benefit for the families of fallen or disabled firefighters and would mandate the construction of a monument in Ottawa, the nation's capital, to recognize fallen or disabled firefighters. We think that is the appropriate location.

The motion and the amendment are supported by the International Association of Firefighters, the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation and I am sure every one of the 180,000 full time, part time and volunteer firefighters in the country. I am sure if most Canadians followed this debate they too would be strongly supporting not only the motion, but the amendment that I will come to in just a moment.

In the past century and a half approximately 800 Canadian firefighters have lost their lives in the line of duty. That is approximately 10 every year who die on the job while protecting our lives and our property.

As everyone knows, there are today risks for firefighters that did not exist not that long ago. There are new risks, including chemical, biological, radiological and/or nuclear exposure which have the potential result of serious illness or death.

The purpose of the public safety officer benefit amendment that I will move is to address the financial security of the families of disabled or fallen firefighters. These families are often saddled with major financial burdens when their loved one dies or is disabled in the line of duty. The amendment would also ensure that the monument to firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty would be placed in a prominent place, as I said a minute ago, here in the national capital.

I note that the American government already has created a similar benefit which is available to the families of all fallen or disabled firefighters, regardless of whether they were employed municipally or federally. I add, and not for the first time, that we in Canada, notwithstanding a certain mythology about ourselves in this regard, will be playing catch-up to the United States.

I want to emphasize that the national jurisdiction is important to a public safety officer benefit for firefighters. A national benefit, as opposed to the existing patchwork of municipal or provincial survivor benefit provisions, would ensure a consistent national standard for recognizing the sacrifice of all firefighters.

I therefore move:

That Motion No. 153 be amended:

1) by adding the following after the word “Canada”:

by establishing a benefit that would be awarded to the families of the fallen or permanently disabled firefighters;

2) by replacing the words “in the Parliamentary precinct” in paragraph (b), with the words “in a prominent position in the National Capital”.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick


Dominic LeBlanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I regret to interrupt the debate, but I rise on a point of order with respect to the amendment.

I rise on a point of order. In my opinion, the amendment put forward by the member for Ottawa Centre to Motion M-153 is out of order.

I have a lot of respect for the work of firefighters and for the sacrifices that their families must make. It is important that my colleagues and Canadians understand that my point of order deals strictly with a procedural matter.

I believe that the part of the amendment calling for the payment of a benefit is out of order.

First, it is clearly not acceptable for an amendment to a substantive motion--such as motions presented by private members--to expand the scope of the motion to deal with a new question or proposition.

Erskine May states at page 343 in the 22nd edition that:

The effect of moving an amendment is to restrict the field of debate which would otherwise be open on a question.

Marleau and Montpetit states at page 453 that:

An amendment is out of order procedurally if:

it is not relevant to the main motion (i.e. it deals with a matter foreign to the main motion or exceeds the scope of the motion, or introduces a new proposition which should properly be the subject of a substantive motion with notice).

Beauchesne's at paragraph 579 further clarifies:

(1) An amendment setting forth a proposition dealing with a matter which is foreign to the proposition involved in the main motion is not relevant and cannot be moved.

(2) An amendment may not raise a new question which can only be considered as a distinct motion after proper notice.

Private members' motions are substantive motions and the precedents on substantive motions are clear. Speaker Fraser ruled on December 17, 1987 that an amendment to an opposition day motion, which put a new proposition to the House, should have been put forward as an independent motion on notice.

Similarly, on March 26, 1992, the Speaker ruled out of order an amendment to another opposition day motion on health care since the intention of the amendment was clearly to expand the scope of the debate. Mr. Speaker, you ruled that an amendment which introduces a new proposition could not be in order.

There is nothing in the original motion before the House regarding compensation. It deals solely with the issues of appropriately recognizing and providing a memorial for firefighters. What is proposed here is to add a new clause to the motion to the effect that the government should establish a national public safety officer compensation benefit. This is clearly a new proposition and a new question. As such, I believe it is out of order.

The other reason why this proposition should be found to be out of order is that it violates one of the basic principles of financial procedure. Marleau and Montpetit at page 709 states:

Under the Canadian system of government, the Crown alone initiates all public expenditure and Parliament may only authorize spending which has been recommended by the Governor General. This prerogative, referred to as the “financial initiative of the Crown”, is the basis essential to the system of responsible government...

I acknowledge that while motions are not the same as legislation, Marleau and Montpetit are equally clear about how to handle private members' motions with financial considerations and they do so at pages 900 and 901. It states:

No motion sponsored by a Member who is not a Minister can contain provisions for either raising revenue or spending funds, unless it is worded in terms which only suggest that course of action to the government. As an alternative to a bill which might require a royal recommendation obtained only by a Minister, a private Member may choose to move a motion proposing the expenditure of public funds, provided that the terms of the motion only suggest this course of action to the government without ordering or requiring it to do so. Such a motion is normally phrased so as to ask the government to “consider the advisability of...”.

Beauchesne's provides further clarity at page 186 on the subject of such motions which should be “abstract motions”. Citation 616 states:

Motions purporting to give the Government a direct order to do a thing which requires the expenditure of money are out of order.

Citation 617 states:

(1) Abstract motions should use the words, “that the Government consider the advisability of...”

The wording of this amendment, if it were adopted by the House, would result in a motion that does not follow these rules, but which would purport to give the government an order requiring the expenditure of public money. The motion would then require the government to establish a national public safety officer compensation benefit which would compensate the families of fallen or permanently disabled firefighters.

The authorities on this matter are clear and unfortunately it is not permissible in procedural terms. Since the proposal is for compensation and the amendment expands the scope of the motion and does not follow the rules of financial procedure, I believe it should be found to be out of order.

Let me clarify that the government has no objection whatsoever to amending the motion with respect to the location of the monument being in a prominent position in the National Capital and such an amendment would clearly be supported.

To conclude, I think it is important because this is a very difficult issue and in terms of substance I have an enormous amount of sympathy personally for what the member for Ottawa Centre is doing, what the mover of the motion is seeking to do, and what other members have addressed in their comments.

My comments are strictly with respect to the procedure, not the substance of the matter, and I hope that all understand the importance of respecting certain procedures. If at a later time a new motion could be brought forward to cover some of the issues raised in the amendment, we would see that as a positive development.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on the same point of order. If I may, I will briefly address the two points that my colleague, the parliamentary secretary, raised in regard to the amendment, but I would like to do so in reverse order.

First of all, on the matter of the royal recommendation or whether this in fact constitutes a money matter, I think my colleague almost made the argument for us in pointing out in his early remarks that this motion is not a bill. In fact, if it is passed it has no statutory effect. It actually causes no money to be spent and it does not infringe, therefore, on the spending authority of the Crown.

The House has passed motions from a private member which call for spending on a regular basis. One of the most notable was put forward by my colleague from Ottawa Centre, who moved an amendment in 1989 when the House unanimously voted in favour of a very costly measure, by a motion, in fact, which was to eradicate child poverty by the year 2000. That motion, by its tone and content, clearly called for spending to eradicate child poverty.

In this case, again some of the references my colleague made are useful to our argument at the same time, because we should point out that Marleau and Montpetit, on page 900, when read in view of the light that we are viewing it in, states:

Motions attempting to make a declaration of opinion or purpose, without ordering or requiring a particular course of action, are considered resolutions. Hence, such motions which simply suggest that the government initiate a certain measure are generally phrased as follows: “That, in the opinion of this House, the government should...”.

This motion in fact reads: “That, in the opinion of this House, the government should: (a) recognize all firefighters...”, et cetera. So in actual fact the reference that my colleague made to page 900 is useful to the arguments that we are making as well.

Also, the reference in Marleau and Montpetit goes on to state:

No motion sponsored by a Member who is not a Minister can contain provisions for either raising revenue or spending funds, unless it is worded in terms which only suggest that course of action to the government.

We would point out as well that our motion only suggests a certain course of action.

On the second point my colleague made, in the argument that this amendment is outside the purview of the original motion, I would like to point out, Mr. Speaker, for your consideration, that the proposed amendments are only minor modifications to the principles of the main motion. The principle of the main motion is to recognize all firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty. Ultimately, that is what the main point is, of course.

If I may, Mr. Speaker, I ask you to consider page 453 of Marleau and Montpetit on the main principles of an amendment to a privileged motion. I should point out that this is a privileged motion, not a subsidiary motion.

The main principles of an amendment to a privileged motion are listed on page 453. It is stated, “An amendment must be relevant to the main motion”. I do not think anyone is arguing that it is not relative to the main motion. “It must not stray from the main motion but aim to further refine its meaning...”. That is exactly what my colleague from Ottawa Centre was hoping to do by his amendment. “An amendment should take the form of a motion to: leave out certain words in order to add other words...”. That is one possibility. Or it can “leave out certain words; or insert or add other words to the main motion”.

Marleau and Montpetit then goes on to state, “An amendment should be framed so that, if agreed to, it will leave the main motion...consistent with itself”.

If we could look at what the main motion says and how the amendment changes the motion, I would ask you to consider that the main component of the motion is that the motion is a reflection of the opinion of the House of Commons, and second, that the government is not directed to but requested to recognize all firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty, support the firefighters' foundation to construct a monument, that the monument should be in the Parliamentary precinct, and that we then inform the Senate of what we chose to do.

The amendment modifies the form of the recognition which the House is requesting from the government for fallen firefighters by including a benefit for the families of the firefighters. Therefore, it is modifying a key provision already in the motion. It is not introducing a new component. I submit that the recognition is what is being changed in the amendment and that a benefit is relevant to that recognition.

A second part of the amendment modifies the location of the monument to include the national capital, not simply the precinct of Parliament. This change allows for more flexibility in what the main motion already asks for, which is a monument. There is no new idea. It is simply a modification of where the monument should be.

The final part of the amendment simply clarifies the placement of the monument—that it be prominent—and is therefore just another relevant clarification of the motion.

I therefore submit that the amendment is relevant. It does not stray from the purpose of the motion and therefore it is in proper form.

If you check with the Table, Mr. Speaker, you will also find that there is no similar subject before the House, which is one of the necessary prerequisites. You will also find that the amendment does not anticipate a notice of motion; therefore, it is not in any conflict. Also, you will find that it is internally coherent, with all parts in order, therefore meeting the requirements set out under the amendment section of the privileged motions reference in chapter 12 of the

House of Commons Procedure and Practice.

I submit that if my hon. friend does not like the amendment, he should have the opportunity to stand and debate it, but I hope that no one hides under procedural cover on this important matter.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster rising on the same point of order?

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to state unequivocally that as the mover of the main motion I support the amendment. This amendment was drafted in consultation with the Table.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Exactly. We have heard the arguments with regard to the point of order from your colleague. The hon. member for Ottawa Centre told us that you were in agreement with the amendment. That is fine.

First, considering that we are getting close to the end of the second hour of debate, I will make the decision that the time we have just spent listening to the representations on this point of order will not be included in the second hour of debate. Second, I will take this under advisement for now, but as we are in the second hour I will come back with a decision prior to the end of this second hour.

Therefore, we will now resume debate.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for the Status of Women.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Sarmite Bulte LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to give support in principle to the motion proposed by the hon. member for Burnaby--New Westminster to recognize all firefighters who have died in the line of duty in Canada.

To all of us, firefighters are indeed a symbol of noble self-sacrifice, courage and service to the community. Thousands of Canadians owe their lives, their limbs, their families, their homes, their businesses and livelihoods to the efforts of firefighters who have stepped in to save them.

I know that my family and I are personally greatly indebted to the Toronto firefighters who stepped in to save our home when it was set afire in May of this year.

Whenever and wherever there is a call for help, firefighters respond. They run toward situations most of us instinctively run away from. In their efforts to help, sometimes firefighters are injured and sometimes they make the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.

It is time for this country to recognize these great individuals who gave their lives. There should be no objection to formalizing this recognition in terms of reserving space in a prominent location in the national capital for a memorial to fallen firefighters.

In fact, I am happy to note that this step has already taken place. The National Capital Commission has already reserved a location at LeBreton Flats, close to the new Canadian War Museum, for the placement of this important new memorial.

This brings me to the one point in the motion on which the government must convey its reservations: the specified location of the memorial. The motion presently notes a location in the parliamentary precinct.

Public Works and Government Services Canada has developed a policy to carefully restrict commemorations on Parliament Hill to “groups and individuals of significance to our constitutional and parliamentary institutions”, in other words, nation builders and heads of state.

The area covered by this policy extends north of Wellington, from the Rideau Canal to Kent Street. These boundaries are defined in the Parliament of Canada Act of 1985 and subsequent amendments.

We need to recognize the sacrifice of firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty. At the same time, for all the generations of Canadians to come, we need to leave some of the small precious space left in the parliamentary precinct to those groups and individuals, past, present and future, who must be recognized for their contributions to shaping the democratic foundations of our nation.

The National Capital Commission and the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation have agreed on a much more appropriate location outside the parliamentary precinct. LeBreton Flats, near the new Canadian War Museum, is indeed a high profile location which will be highly visible to and easily visited by all Canadians and other visitors.

Furthermore, in the LeBreton Flats location, there will be fewer restrictions on the size of the monument, what type of materials can be used and what style the monument must reflect than there would be if it were located on Parliament Hill.

The website of the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation itself advocates the LeBreton Flats location, stating:

The space is large enough and will have an infrastructure which can accommodate large groups for both the annual memorial ceremony as well as any major event which could draw many thousands of firefighters and citizens.

The foundation states further:

The site is historic in that it lies on the ground involved in the great Hull-Ottawa fire of 1900.

The website goes on to extol some of the other advantages of the LeBreton Flats site with regard to space, future development and security restrictions other than Parliament Hill, but erroneously states that the LeBreton Flats site lies within the parliamentary precinct.

The confusion over whether or not LeBreton Flats lies in the parliamentary precinct aside, there should be no disagreement over the appropriateness of a monument to fallen firefighters being placed in the national capital.

Across this country every day, firefighters are called upon to teach fire safety and fire prevention, to check out false alarms, to pull accident victims out of their vehicles, and to put out fires, big and small, in homes and businesses, fields and forests. Every day they show up for work knowing that they may be called upon to put themselves in situations where, in spite of their training and in spite of their protective equipment, they are at risk. Most of them, most of the time, go home to their families at the end of their shifts.

As the stories of the fallen show, however, sometimes these quiet heroes do not get to return to their families. Volunteer firefighter William Thornton was killed by a piece of falling stonework at a fire in Toronto in 1848. Vancouver's Captain Richard Frost, Lieutenant Colin McKenzie and firefighters Otis Fulton and Donald Anderson were killed when a streetcar struck their fire truck as they responded to an alarm in 1918. Alex Davidson and Paddy Moore of Flying Fireman Ltd. were killed when their water bomber crashed on Mount Finlayson north of Victoria in 1967. Firefighter Kevin Brent Olson and Lieutenant Cyril R. Fyfe were killed when a roof collapsed during a fire in Yellowknife, just three months ago. The Canadian firefighters memorial will honour all those who have paid the ultimate price in serving their communities.

It is wonderful to know that in spite of the danger, there are thousands of Canadian men and women who remain committed to serving their communities as firefighters. It is terrible to contemplate that as long as there is a need for firefighters, there will continue to be dangers and the list of the fallen will likely grow.

Let us not compound these tragedies by forgetting them. The proposed memorial for Canadian firefighters will honour these brave souls. It will help all Canadians to remember the vital work of all firefighters, past, present and future.

I hope that the House will give unanimous consent to support in principle the creation of a monument to Canadian firefighters in the national capital region.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.


Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to have the unexpected opportunity to speak to Motion No. 153 which states:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should: (a) recognize all firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty in Canada; (b) support the proposed Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation mandate for the construction of a monument in the Parliamentary precinct containing the names of all Canadian firefighters who have died in the line of duty; and (c) send a message to the Senate acquainting the Upper House of the decision of this House.

I am very proud of the member for Burnaby—New Westminster for moving this important motion. It makes a significant contribution and fills a gap in the way that we recognize people who serve our communities.

We heard today that there are 180,000 full time, part time and volunteer firefighters in Canada from coast to coast to coast. All of those men and women provide a crucial service to all of our communities.

This evening we have heard from other members about their personal experiences. They told stories of the heroic service of so many firefighters. We have also heard of the important role of firefighters in training and teaching others about the importance of fire safety in our communities. I think we all know of the important work of Canadian firefighters in that area.

The sad truth is that 800 firefighters in Canada have died on the job. They died running back into buildings when the rest of us were running out to save our necks. Those firefighters made the ultimate sacrifice. It is high time that here in Ottawa, in our national capital, we recognized their service and their deaths in the line of duty.

A high school friend of mine had a summer job working as a forest firefighter. Unfortunately and tragically she lost her life in a fire in northern Ontario in the mid-1970s. Her name was Jane Spurgeon. Like many others, she rose to the challenge of protecting our forests from fire and succumbed to the dangers of that position. I want to remember her contribution to our community and hope that she would be one of the people remembered by such a monument.

Earlier the parliamentary secretary mentioned the guidelines for monuments in the parliamentary precinct on Parliament Hill. He mentioned that there are some specific categories, but there are exceptions. One of my favourites is the Sir Galahad monument on Wellington Street just between Parliament Hill and the Prime Minister's Office. It also is an award for bravery and marks the death of someone while performing a heroic act. Back at the turn of the last century a young man sought to rescue a woman who had fallen through the ice while skating on the Ottawa River and he lost his life rescuing her.

We have already established a precedent of recognizing that kind of heroic activity with a monument on Parliament Hill. I think a monument would be only fitting. The amendment on which we are awaiting the Speaker's ruling suggests that the monument could be located anywhere in the national capital region, but there is a precedent for recognizing heroic activity with a monument even here in the parliamentary precinct. I think that the monument to that man in the form of Sir Galahad is an important and instructive one for us here in the House as we consider this motion.

I also want to pay tribute to the Burnaby firefighters and the Burnaby Professional Fire Fighters Association. The people of Burnaby—Douglas know the important contribution they make to our community and the security they offer to people knowing that they are there, on the job and ready to be of assistance whenever necessary, day or night, any time of the year.

We place an incredible responsibility on the shoulders of firefighters. We know that in any kind of trouble the firefighter is someone we can go to for assistance, who will have specific training and be able to help out no matter what the situation is. We see them act in all kinds of situations and not just fires.

Recently I was honoured to participate in the presentation of the long service awards to Burnaby firefighters who had served our community for 25 years, 30 years and I believe even 35 years. They have remarkable records of service to our community. I know there are hundreds, if not thousands of firefighters across the country who have also made that kind of commitment both to their profession and their communities.

The men and women of the Burnaby Fire Department participate in probably hundreds of community events where they perform voluntary services. I attended two of them recently. One was the Burnaby library summer reading club where the firefighters held one of their locally famous pancake breakfasts. People often see folks from the fire department helping out at community events.

I remember being at the platform when the opening ceremonies began and the firefighters were asked to do the honour of drawing some of the prizes out of one of their large rubber boots. As they were doing that, a call came in and they all had to depart in a big hurry to go to a fire. We were all reminded of the importance of the fast response of our firefighters, even at that kind of an occasion.

Recently, firefighters were present at the Burnaby Heights on the Run, a long distance run that is held in the neighbourhood around the area of my constituency office. I know all of the merchants from the Heights Merchants Association and the neighbourhood activists very much appreciated the firefighters' participation in that specific event. We almost take them for granted. We know when there is a big community event that Burnaby firefighters are going to be there to assist and make it a fabulous occasion for everyone who comes out. Firefighters in communities all across the country have a high understanding of public service.

I think that Canadians can afford to be generous when it comes to the pension and training needs of firefighters. Often firefighters have had to fight for the best kind of training when it comes to dealing with hazardous materials, hazardous situations, or specialized kinds of fires. They have often had to work extra hard to have the training made available to them consistently across the country.

I do not believe there is any excuse for withholding that kind of training for the men and women who put themselves on the line and in danger to assist communities when those sorts of risks arise. I would urge us to always take that kind of request for professional development very seriously. There is no excuse for not offering that kind of assistance and training.

We also need to recognize the special pension needs of firefighters because of the risks they put themselves in on the job and the special dangers and hazards in the kind of work they do. We need to recognize that firefighters are often subject to specific health conditions because of their work. We need to go out of our way to recognize their service to the community by ensuring that they have the best possible pensions and disability arrangements.

In this regard, the amendment is also very important because certainly the people of Burnaby—Douglas and I think all Canadians want to ensure that the families of firefighters who die or are disabled on the job are taken care of. That is why the other part of the amendment is very important. It would establish a benefit that would be awarded to the families of fallen or permanently disabled firefighters. That puts real meaning into our commitment to recognize firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty in Canada. It is an important contribution to the debate this evening.

I want to conclude with another tribute to the men and women of the Burnaby Fire Department for the incredible work and service they offer to our community. I look forward to seeing them in the near future at yet another community event.