House of Commons Hansard #139 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was land.


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1:15 p.m.

Northumberland—Quinte West Ontario


Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to respond to some of the questions just raised by the hon. member who just spoke.

He was off on a bit of a rant about not having enough tough mandatory minimum sentences. I want to take this moment to give him an opportunity to reflect on those that are in the Criminal Code that deal with those who would use a firearm. It is very important to get on the record that there are some very serious consequences for those who use firearms and there are mandatory minimum penalties.

We all know there is a mandatory minimum penalty associated with murder. Criminal negligence causing death has a mandatory minimum sentence of four years. Manslaughter carries a mandatory minimum sentence of four years. Attempted murder carries a mandatory minimum sentence of four years. The mandatory minimum sentence for causing bodily harm with intent is four years. Sexual assault with a weapon and aggravated sexual assault both carry a mandatory minimum sentence of four years. Kidnapping and hostage taking both carry a mandatory minimum sentence of four years. Robbery and extortion both carry a mandatory minimum sentence of four years. There are many other mandatory minimums within the Criminal Code but those that I have recited have four year mandatory minimums.

There are strong tools within the Criminal Code and I have just outlined some of them. I would like the member's comments on that.

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1:15 p.m.


Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, that was unbelievable. I believe he is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice in this country so it is hard to believe that is the extent of his understanding of what is happening in the real world outside this chamber.

I never mentioned mandatory minimums. If he had actually listened to my remarks before he rushed into the chamber to stand on his feet he would have heard me talking about the use of conditional sentencing. He said that manslaughter carries a mandatory minimum of four years. We have had hundreds of cases in this country involving manslaughter or second degree murder and the people have not served one day in jail.

About a year or so ago there was what I consider an infamous case in my riding in a small community close to the city of Prince George. The sentence only came down in the last month or so. Norman Wicks of Vanderhoof was not a perfect fellow. He had a number of lovers, in addition to being married, but I do not know whether that was a reason to murder him. One of his lovers, Teresa Senner, found out about his affairs and became enraged. She stabbed him in the groin and he bled to death.

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October 21st, 2005 / 1:15 p.m.


Paul MacKlin Liberal Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

If this were with a gun.

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1:15 p.m.


Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

A gun? Oh, I see. If she had used a gun and shot him and he died it might have been different. Well, she was convicted of manslaughter but because she stabbed him and he died she was given house arrest. She did not serve one day in jail.

There have been thousands of cases like that over the last 9 years, and yet that member has the audacity to stand up and pretend that our justice system has any justice in it.

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1:20 p.m.


Bill Casey Conservative North Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River for allowing me to share his time.

He mentioned “out there in the real world”. It made me think of my case. I was first elected in 1988. I am the longest serving member of Parliament in my province, and I have seen a dramatic change in the last five or six years in the way law enforcement is handled.

When I first became a member of Parliament, there virtually were no law enforcement issues. Now it has become one of the major issues I deal with and one of the most complicated simply because the government shortchanges the RCMP. It does not have the tools, or the funds or the police officers to do the minimum level of law enforcement and it makes everybody's life very difficult. I think it reflects on everyone's attitude on law enforcement and the justice system, as does this bill.

We really area proud that at least Chuck Cadman's initiative is recognized. However, we are not happy with the way it has been recognized. Chuck's initiative was to establish a law that would make it illegal to remove, obliterate or change serial numbers of vehicles. It was a clear and simple law. It would be up to the person to explain why the VIN was obliterated.

However, the Liberals have take the onus off the owner. It is up to the police now to prove the owner did it for wrongful purposes. It takes away the whole purpose of the bill. That is why the Conservatives will not support it.

What is wrong with asking owners to explain why they are driving around in cars with VINs that have obviously been scratched out or changed? It is their responsibility. They should be charged and held responsible to prove that it was for legitimate reasons. Why the government would not do that? If it did, I would support the bill. However, it reflects its whole attitude on crime.

When the last speaker talked about the real world, I was in the real world a couple of weeks ago. I went to a meeting of scared citizens in Stewiacke, Nova Scotia. This is a community where people do not usually lock their doors. They leave their keys in their cars. It is a very safe community and it has been that way for decades. Now all of a sudden they are faced with property damage and thefts, a scary atmosphere for them to live in and raise their kids. What impressed me the most was that speaker after speaker got up and said that they were scared for the well-being and security.

There were two big issues. One is the RCMP is not available like it used to be. There was a detachment in Stewiacke, Nova Scotia. The building became unusable because of mould. The RCMP has not replaced it because it does not have the funds. Stewiacke has lost its RCMP presence, the only police presence in the community.

The other issue is the Youth Criminal Justice Act is simply not working for the people in Stewiacke. It is causing them a great deal of grief.

Last week a person from the community of Debert came to see me. This is another traditional small community in Nova Scotia where people did not lock their doors and they would leave their keys in their cars. They cannot do it any more because of inadequate police protection. People have had their cottages burned and windows smashed. They have had things stolen from their garages and yards. The RCMP has said that it has done the best it can, but it does not have enough manpower. It also does not have the proper equipment. If the RCMP had the equipment and the manpower, it could do it.

I have spoken to RCMP officers at every detachment. They have said that if someone is on maternity leave, or on sick leave or is seconded on a murder investigation somewhere else, there is no replacement. An RCMP detachment, which supposedly has six people on record on the job, may have as little as three or none. There is no allowance for replacement officers. We have to deal with that.

In February I raised the question with the minister of public security. It came up because there was a rumour that the northeast drug section would be disbanded, one of the most successful drug enforcement offices in eastern Canada. The reason was the RCMP did not have the resources and the manpower to run this important drug enforcement agency. A moratorium has been put on the closure, but still the drug section is not there the way it was. The RCMP says it is back again, but the officers have been seconded and, again, we do not have the people we need.

The most senior RCMP officers in the province have told me they simply do not have the money to hire the RCMP officers to provide a minimum level of law enforcement in Nova Scotia.

I asked the minister on February 3 to ensure that it had the resources. I brought up the business about filling the vacancies. She said:

However, let me reassure the hon. member that we have provided additional resources not only to the RCMP, but to other of our programming as it relates to a national drug strategy. The RCMP resources have been augmented nationally...

It certainly does not show. The RCMP tell me not only has it not been augmented, but it has been reduced, plus its workload has dramatically increased. With the advent of 911 and all the other cutbacks in government services, the front line for many people on whatever the issue is the RCMP, and it simply cannot handle it. The RCMP needs more resources.

As I did in February, I call upon the government to enhance the resources, to improve and increase them. The RCMP is trying to stretch its meagre resources now to cover our part of Nova Scotia. I read every day in the newspapers that there are other parts of the province suffering the same problems.

I have experienced them myself. In the case of Stewiacke, the RCMP has put a used mobile home in front of the former RCMP station, which is a temporary facility, and I am pleased it has done that. Since it is used, it will be converted. The Minister of Public Works has agreed to upgrade it as quickly as possible to ensure it is available. However, it is just a mobile home. It is not good enough for the long term, but at least we will have a police presence again.

I know this is not all due to the RCMP or to one single thing, but we have to address the RCMP. It needs the tools, the resources, the money and the manpower to do the job. We need a more aggressive approach to law enforcement and the justice system.

Bill C-64 is a good example. The bill came forth originally as Bill C-287, and it was a strong bill. The government watered it down and taken the onus off the criminals again and put it on the RCMP.

In my view it is an amazing development. When I first started in Parliament, I had no justice or policing issues. Now it is one of my biggest problems and it is difficult to solve because the Liberals will not provide the resources to supply a minimum level of law enforcement.

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1:25 p.m.


Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the comments of my colleague from Nova Scotia, particularly about priorities and police issues. I too have raised in the House issues of inadequate funding and support for our RCMP and other police and law enforcement agencies.

As I listened to his comments about the priorities of the government, I thought that is precisely what these priorities are about.

With the recent news about a $200 million contract for computers for the gun registry, what does the member think that says about the priorities of the government relative to other law enforcement priorities?

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1:30 p.m.


Bill Casey Conservative North Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is appropriate that the member raises that question. Today is the very distinguished member's from Yorkton—Melville's birthday and he has been advocate for wise government spending, away from the gun registry.

The gun registry money has been a total waste. This money should have gone to the RCMP and other justice procedures.

Some people in my riding are being required to pay a fee to be re-licensed. It is absolute chaos. The government could put another $200 billion or $300 billion into the gun registry and it will all go down the toilet. We need the money for real law enforcement. We need money for the RCMP so that its has the tools with which to work.

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1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from September 27 consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

On Tuesday, September 27 the hon. member for Lanark--Frontenac--Lennox and Addington moved an amendment to private member's business Motion No. 135. At the time the Chair took the amendment under advisement.

On Thursday, October 6 the Speaker concluded in a ruling presented to the House that the amendment was in order and that it could be put to the House.

This afternoon's debate will now be on the amendment.

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have the opportunity to speak to the amendment and its context once again. I continue to find it scandalous that the member for Nepean--Carleton and his provincial colleague, John Baird, persist in trying to score political points with health care in our community.

Let us look at John Baird's record on health care.

John Baird was a cabinet minister in the Mike Harris government, the senior minister for eastern Ontario, when 8,000 nurses were fired, a hospital in our community was closed and not one MRI machine came to Ottawa, despite $3 billion transferred from the federal government specifically for that purpose. When we transferred $250 million to the province, not one cent came for primary health care to the Nepean community--

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. We have a private member's bill and an amendment which we are trying to debate. This is totally irrelevant. If she wants to fight an election battle in her riding with someone who is not in this House, let her deal with that, but we need to stick to the issues here.

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

May I remind the hon. member that the hon. colleague has the floor. I am sure that she will bring the subject to a point where he will be interested in listening. The hon. member for Ottawa West--Nepean.

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think it is quite legitimate to speak to health care and to the credibility of those who are proposing this particular measure. Let me continue.

Despite a promise from the Mike Harris government, no money came for two years to the Queensway Carleton Hospital for its promised expansion until the federal government transferred additional money to the provincial government.

Let me also point out that our hospital board was fired while John Baird sat at the cabinet table. It is simply not credible to accept that this is about health care. This is a current publicity seeking stunt that has everything to do with Mr. Baird's political ambitions.

Let me now speak to the issue as I see it. The hospital is extremely important to our community, too important to be made into a political football.

It is also important to our community and to this country that the greenbelt be preserved in its integrity. This is something that was part of a plan developed after the second world war to honour our returning veterans. It contributes to making the capital a symbol of pride and unity for all Canadians, a capital that will be passed on as a legacy for future generations.

Whether we like it or not, the NCC is obligated under legislation and regulations to charge market value for any land it leases or sells, as is every federal government department and agency. This was a rule brought in by a Conservative government pursuant to the Nielsen task force report of the mid-1980s.

This is a policy that is also overseen by the Auditor General, who is scrupulous about ensuring that the taxpayers' interests, the people of Canada's interests, are looked after.

I want to put on the record some things that have been brought up in this debate.

There has been a claim that no other hospital pays rent for its property. That is simply not true. The simple fact is that another hospital in this community pays rent to the NCC for property. The simple fact is that a third hospital in this community pays substantial rent to the City of Ottawa which is now in fact increasing that rent for the land it uses. It is also true that the Queensway Carleton Hospital, like every other hospital, pays $75 per bed in taxes to the City of Ottawa. Surely the mover of the motion is not suggesting that the city should forgo its taxes on the hospital as well.

The member has also spoken publicly about this lease costing potentially 40 nurses at the Queensway Carleton Hospital. He knows that is simply not true. He is going on figures that he himself made up and that have nothing to do with the likely real rent that might be agreed to between the NCC and the hospital.

He has also referred to the lease with the Pine View golf course. This is a lease with the City of Ottawa for the land on which it operates the Pine View golf course. In fact the city paid up front for that lease over $200,000, has invested nearly half a billion dollars in assets which now belong to the people of Canada to be leased at market value whenever the current lease expires.

The NCC is being as flexible as it can be within the rules and the laws it is bound to abide by. The hospital and the NCC are in discussions about reaching a mutually agreeable lease. I encourage those discussions to continue. I encourage all members of the House to support those discussions.

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

1:35 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to take part in today's debate. Motion No. 135, tabled by the member for Nepean—Carleton, states:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should consider transferring the land currently leased by the Queensway Carleton Hospital from the National Capital Commission to the Hospital at a cost of one dollar.

Before I state our position on this, I want to go over a number of facts that need to be considered when it comes time to vote.

First, here are the facts. The Queensway-Carleton Hospital leases 50 acres of land from the National Capital Commission at an annual cost of approximately $23,000. The 40-year lease will expire in July 2013. The hospital authorities fear, as they have already stated publicly, that this rent will skyrocket in 2013. The government and the National Capital Commission are refusing to transfer the land in order to preserve the national capital greenbelt and national interest land mass.

On November 29, 2004, the sponsor of this motion condemned the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, saying she was steadfast in her refusal to transfer the land.

I will talk briefly about the motion, but I will indicate to the House the factors that should, in our opinion, guide the government's action on this matter. First, we believe that we must continue to negotiate in order to reach agreement on the terms of renewal. We are convinced that both parties will reach a suitable agreement by 2013. We are also convinced that the new lease payment will be reasonable, since it is established in accordance with Treasury Board guidelines. We must remember that the conditions of this lease must comply with Treasury Board guidelines. So, we must allow the negotiations to run their course. We are quite hopeful that the parties will reach an agreement by 2013.

Furthermore, we believe that any future selling price needs to correspond to the market value of the land, as the hon. member has just said.

It is a matter of determining how an exception can be made for this location when, in the past, land has not been sold for $1 in certain instances in Quebec. Take the case of the Wakefield hospital, which is located in part on NCC property. Since this property was not part of the national interest land mass, the National Capital Commission literally sold it to the hospital. The property in question, 3.5 acres of land, was sold for $5,000 an acre, a total of $43,500. So a hospital on the Quebec side bought land from the NCC, not for $1, but rather for $5,000 an acre.

Hon. members may recall the situation in Montreal, where some social and community groups wanted to build social housing on CBC land. Was that land handed over to them for $1 so they could do so? No. The parties negotiated and an agreement was reached.

Treasury Board guidelines are quite clear. There are, moreover, precedents in place, including the Wakefield hospital in Quebec, where negotiations took place and the land was sold properly, not handed over for $1. We therefore believe a new precedent must not be created.

We feel that negotiation must be the cornerstone of any agreement between the hospital in question and the NCC.

The Bloc Québécois will, as you will understand, vote against this motion. Laudable as the idea may seem, we continue to believe that negotiation is required. We also believe that an agreement will be signed in the next few weeks or months with respect to 2013.

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.


Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Lanark, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Motion No. 135 brought forward by my colleague and neighbour from the riding of Nepean—Carleton. The motion urges the government to continue leasing NCC land to the Queensway Carleton Hospital at a rent of $1 per year, starting at the end of the current lease in the year 2013.

My colleague has worked tirelessly for the past several months on this initiative, along with provincial member of parliament John Baird. He has successfully raised awareness of the hospital's situation in the greater Ottawa area and is putting a commendable full court press on the government to solve the problem. As we know, the solution lies in its hands.

I stand today on behalf of my constituents in Carleton—Mississippi Mills to support my colleague's motion.

When the Queensway Carleton opened its doors in 1967, it was designed to serve approximately 125,000 residents who called the west end of Ottawa home. Over the past 30 years western Ottawa has become one of the fastest growing areas in the country. The hospital is now dealing with an area population of 400,000 in western Ottawa and in the Ottawa Valley, stretching its capacity to the maximum.

My constituency includes three wards in the west end of the city of Ottawa, West Carleton, Goulbourn and Kanata, the latter of which alone has a population of approximately 65,000. My riding also includes the Lanark County township of Mississippi Mills, where even with its very fine hospital, the Almonte General, residents often find themselves using the services of the Queensway Carleton.

At least 100,000 of my constituents, including my family, are served by the Queensway Carleton Hospital. The hospital's catchment area, western Ottawa and the Ottawa Valley, is one of the fastest growing areas in Canada with a high proportion of seniors and young families. As one can imagine, the value of the hospital as the primary health provider to my constituents is absolutely immeasurable.

The Queensway Carleton Hospital is west Ottawa's only full service community hospital providing essential medical and surgical programs and services. Employing over 1,400 health care professionals, the 240 bed hospital is the secondary referral centre for the Ottawa Valley. In 2004 and 2005 the hospital took in over 59,000 emergency patients.

The hospital staff, along with over 400 committed volunteers, focus on maintaining and enhancing their cornerstone programs: emergencies, childbirth, geriatrics, mental health, rehabilitation, as well as medical and surgical services. The Queensway Carleton Hospital's health care team provides expert care and puts patients and families first, giving an unparalleled standard of care for our community.

As with much of the health sector, the Queensway Carleton is suffering a funding shortage and is in constant need of financial assistance and stability.

In the 1990s the Liberal government began attacking its budget deficits by reducing funding to the provinces. As a result hospitals were closed, physician fees were frozen or cut, nurses were laid off, and spaces for medical students and medical technicians at government funded universities and colleges were cut back. The cut by the Liberal government of $25 billion from health care precipitated the current nationwide medical crisis.

During the 12 years of Liberal rule, the health care system has continued to deteriorate. It should be noted that Canadians were not concerned about the health of their health care system in 1993 when the Liberals took power, but now the crisis in health care ranks as Canadians' number one concern. It is no coincidence. It is the handiwork of the Liberals.

As finance minister, the now Prime Minister unilaterally cut health transfers to the provinces as well as the federal Department of Health's budget. It was the cuts then by the then finance minister that created problems such as the extremely long waiting lists that we have today.

On Monday the health minister insisted that wait times have decreased across the country, yet a report released yesterday by the Fraser Institute indicates that in at least five provinces, wait times have actually increased. The Fraser Institute's annual report on wait times indicates increased waiting times in a variety of areas such as orthopedic surgery and joint replacements. The report's release comes only days before the federal and provincial health ministers' scheduled meeting this weekend to discuss medical service benchmarks that are expected to go unmet.

When I recently asked my constituents if they knew anyone who had trouble accessing medical care, 54% of the respondents said yes, they had. This simply should not be. Canadians should be able to have confidence in their health care system and Conservatives will bring positive change when we form government.

The Conservative Party of Canada supports the Canada Health Act. Canadians should have reasonable access to timely and quality health care services no matter where they live or their income level. We support a publicly funded health care system.

Canadians should never be called upon to use their own funds to receive the services covered by the Canada Health Act. This is absolutely unacceptable, but many Canadians, who cannot get timely service, are forced to pay for medical care in places such as the United States because of the Canadian health care crisis precipitated by the Liberals.

Conservatives respect provincial jurisdiction over health care and a Conservative government will work collaboratively with the provinces to ensure that Canadians have access to the quality health care they deserve. An important part of having a viable health care system is ensuring that our hospitals are on a sound financial footing. There could not be a more perfect example than the situation facing the Queensway Carleton Hospital.

The Queensway Carleton Hospital occupies 50 acres of federal land on the Ottawa Greenbelt which is owned and operated by the federal government's National Capital Commission, a crown corporation. The hospital entered into a 40 year lease arrangement in July 1973 with the National Capital Commission, requiring the hospital to make an annual lease payment of approximately $23,000. This assessment was based on the market value of land in 1973.

The current arrangement expires in 2013, at which time the hospital has the option to renew. The renewal clause stipulates an annual lease obligation of 6.5% of the current value of the land pursuant to the Treasury Board of Canada policy. This means that the hospital will need to divert substantial resources away from patient care to cover lease payments to the NCC that could reach a million dollars.

Most hospitals in Ontario do not pay rent since funds are derived from philanthropists or municipalities who have given the hospitals land. The Queensway Carleton is the only hospital paying rent of the six hospitals in Canada located on federal government land. Why is there one set of rules for the Queensway Carleton and a different set of rules for the other five?

Even if we eliminate a comparison between the Queensway Carleton and the other hospitals on federal land, the government, through the National Capital Commission, is allowing a golf course to rent federal land for $1 a year by merely making a down payment of $200,000. Compare this to the Queensway Carleton which had to pay rent for 32 years and still pays some $23,000 per year. If the National Capital Commission lease agreement is unchanged, the hospital stands to pay millions in the coming years. Where is the justice and sense of this?

Speaking of sense, and more specifically nonsense, just follow the money trail. The federal government transfers funds for medical services to the provinces which in turn provide hospitals with funds partially financed by the federal government to cover the cost of their operations. Then the federal government, through the National Capital Commission, charges the Queensway Carleton Hospital rent to, in effect, recover part of the medical funding to the provinces. The money has made a complete circle back to the originator, namely, the federal government. Why would the government want to maintain such a nonsensical arrangement and at the same time deplete the resources of the hospital? It just boggles the mind.

The National Capital Commission is under the control of the cabinet and the government. That side of the House can simply tell the National Capital Commission to maintain the precedent that has been set with the other five hospitals and treat the Queensway Carleton with the same set of rules.

Nearly everyone will agree that the health care system is in crisis throughout this country. It needs stable funding, better management and reform. The major building block of the health care system is the General Hospital, which backs up all the other health care providers and services.

If this level of government is serious about improving health care, one of the concrete measures it could take is to authorize the National Capital Commission to reduce the rent of the Queensway Carleton Hospital to one dollar per year.

Therefore, I support my colleague's motion.

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.


Marc Godbout Liberal Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have before us today an amendment to a motion recommending that the government should consider amending the lease between the Queensway-Carleton Hospital and the NCC, to make the hospital's rent $1 a year, instead of $22,909.

First, listening to the member for Nepean—Carleton, one would think that the lease is about to expire in a matter of hours or weeks. I would like to remind the House that this lease will not expire until 2013. There is therefore no cause for panic; there is no real rush, no emergency. We have time to examine this whole issue much more calmly and in more depth than the member for Nepean—Carleton might like.

As I told the hon. member in committee, I am not unsympathetic to the idea of looking at all that is involved when non profit organizations lease buildings or lands from the federal government. We may have to review the whole issue.

What we cannot do is take a case by case approach or put a motion before the House of Commons to deal with a contract between an establishment and a crown agency. It seems to me that, if we get into that and start reviewing the hundreds or thousands of lease agreements entered into by the federal government, not much else will get done in terms of legislation for this country.

Allow me to give an overview of the management framework of crown corporations, including the NCC, particularly where real estate transactions are concerned.

The National Capital Commission was assigned by the Government of Canada the mandate of managing federal real property. Subsection 15(1) of the National Capital Act states:

Except with the approval of the Governor in Council, the Commission shall not

(a) acquire any real property for a consideration in excess of a value of twenty-five thousand dollars; or

(b) enter into a lease enduring for a period in excess of five years [including amendments to existing leases of over five years] or grant an easement enduring for a period in excess of forty-nine years.

And subsection 15(2) states:

The Commission shall not dispose of real property for a consideration in excess of ten thousand dollars—

This same provision of the National Capital Act stipulates, among other things, that the transactions must be done in accordance with subsection 99(2) of the Financial Administration Act, whereby the National Capital Commission may sell or otherwise dispose of any property held by the corporation and may retain and use the proceeds of disposition thereof, but only in accordance with the regulations, or on the authorization of the Governor in Council. In similar cases, Crown Corporation General Regulations, 1995 applies.

The legislation and the regulations in place reinforce the need, when there is disposition of real property—including leases—to respect the principle of “market value”, which I will discuss in more detail in a few minutes. Applying this principle to crown corporations also complies with the framework of the Treasury Board policy that governs federal departments and agencies. I must say that, knowing the provincial government of Ontario as I do, this province is acting in an almost identical fashion.

The proposals made by the minister responsible, in this case, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, are governed by a regulatory framework that requires a series of approvals from the special committee of council, the Treasury Board and possibly from cabinet.

The motion before us today outlines a scenario in which the Government of Canada plans to change the lease signed between the Queensway-Carleton hospital and the NCC that would require the hospital to pay $1 a year rather than $22,909, as it currently does.

I must say that, as the former director of education for the French language Catholic school board in eastern and central Ontario, we had similar leases with the National Capital Commission, at the Sainte-Geneviève school, for instance, and we too would have liked to have paid $1. I do not think we can start having a double standard that depends on whether or not an issue becomes politicized by an MP.

Because of possible ramifications, decisions of this scope require high-level approval. As we examine this motion, it is important to clearly understand the underlying principle of market value, and to recognize that a decision concerning one single transaction in the National Capital Region would have repercussions Canada-wide, since this principle applies to all federal departments and agencies, including crown corporations, in keeping with Treasury Board policies.

In 1985, under another government, the Nielsen task force on program review released its report on the federal government property management program. It described property management as one of the most politically-charged functions of government. That was back in 1985.

The motion by the hon. member for Nepean—Carleton would make it even more politically charged. This is even the case already, since we are discussing it in the House of Commons.

The report went on to say that property management issues were behind the multiplication of government programs and were used both in pursuit of socio-economic objectives and in the distribution of governmental largesse.

The task force also found that property management decisions at the time were being made with higher socio-economic objectives in mind, rather than the economic considerations of the best possible use of real property or any consideration of acquisition and maintenance costs . The resulting system was a bloated system and politicized with no controls and no direction.

The current Treasury Board policies on property management were intended to remedy those shortcomings. If we do what the member for Nepean—Carleton is asking, we would end up back exactly where we were then, with purely political case-by-case decisions being made to the disadvantage of the community as a whole.

The fair market value system is a matter of impartiality, equity and above all uniformity. I would also like to draw the hon. members' attention to the fact that the land on which the Queensway-Carleton Hospital is located is part of the green belt and the national interest land mass. It is managed according to the green belt management plan, which sets out policies and principles to ensure the long term management and preservation of this land.

The greenbelt and other federal land that contributes to the capital experience have been designated NILM. They are indispensable to achieving the NCC mandate for the long term, which is to ensure that the capital region presents a physical coherence, works effectively and has a symbolic significance to Canadians.

Let us look at the whole picture. I believe there may be some merit to re-examining the entire issue of property or land that would be sold or leased to not-for-profit agencies. Of course, I have some sympathy for this cause, having directed a school board. Nonetheless, we cannot do this in a vacuum. We cannot do what we are doing right now, which is to target a specific issue and present it to the House of the Commons. If the government took this approach, as I was saying earlier, for each of the 200 building leases and sales, we would end up with 200 individual motions. This issue would become politicized. It is a slippery slope.

Furthermore, a transaction of this kind would lack transparency in terms of projected revenue, which would be hard cash, especially after 2013.

In closing, if the committee were to submit a recommendation, the Minister of Canadian Heritage should first present a brief to the Treasury Board. I respectfully propose that the Treasury Board Secretariat base the advice it will give the ministers and members of the Treasury Board on the strategic and regulatory framework that governs such transactions, by taking into full account the repercussions such a precedent would have.

I will close by encouraging the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the National Capital Commission to negotiate in good faith a lease for this hospital that is so dear to us all, but without the sword of Damocles the hon. member for Nepean—Carleton would like to see hanging over us.

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.


David Anderson Liberal Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I take part in this debate as someone who does not live in Ottawa and whose constituency is far from Ottawa, because of my concern about the clear unfairness this proposal presents to all of us in this country, to members from Ottawa as well as elsewhere.

The proposal is that in communities where there is a lot of federal land the federal government inevitably will be turning land over to the province for hospitals. That, we know, will be the result of allowing this particular area, the capital of Canada, to have this kind of benefit which will not be available to the rest of us who have constituencies that may not have federal land.

What will be the result of this? The result will be that the constituencies that have the federal land--and let us face it, Ottawa is likely to be the area of the country where there is the most for such purposes--will of course be able to get, as the member suggests, very, very low cost land. The 50 acres will come down to $1.

By contrast, other parts of a province and the rest of the country will not have that opportunity. They will have to go elsewhere to find the land for their hospitals.

What will be the response? First of all, provinces, which will be responsible for deciding where hospitals go, will say, “Hey, we will get a real benefit if we put hospitals in areas where there is federal land because there is no cost for the land”. The province can get the feds to put up the money, it can put in the hospital, it can take federal money to build it and therefore it will be cheaper there than elsewhere in the province.

That is a logical position for a province to take. I am not suggesting that it is not logical, but the result for the citizens of Canada will be that some communities get far more in the way of medical services than others. They will get it with federal dollars and that is not fair.

Whether we are from the Prairies or the Maritimes, the Pacific coast or central Canada, Quebec or the north, we should have systems that treat us with some basis of fairness. The result of the proposal put forward will inevitably be the precedent for making sure that hospitals are clustered in communities that now have federal lands.

Of course there are other hospitals that may have been on federal land. We all know about veterans hospitals. Most of us have at least some memory of the turning over of some of those hospitals to provincial or regional hospital boards. Of course there will be anomalies in the system, as no system is perfect, but we are being asked to create an anomaly which will have a major future impact to give less fair medical systems to the population at large.

I would just like that point to be clear to members here when they consider this bill, to members on all sides, opposition and government. Are they going to vote for something that is so much in the self-interest of people who have federal land in their ridings and so much to the disadvantage of the rest of us constituents who may not have such federal land available for hospital purposes? I ask members not to forget that if it is for hospital purposes, the same principle will be used for other facilities as well, for schools, for example, and other public facilities of that nature.

The other thing I would like to quickly comment on is the way the member proposes to do it. On the one hand, here we have the law, as was carefully explained by the member for Ottawa West—Nepean who sits behind me in the House. She explained the law that the National Capital Commission must follow. But the member's suggestion is that the government can tell a crown corporation to ignore the law and ignore the contract and just do what the government wants. I do not think a government should do that.

That may be the way the Tories think government should operate. That is the way they operated in Canada during the Mulroney period and that is the way they operated in the province of Ontario with Premier Harris, but that is not the way they should act. They should not direct crown corporations to ignore contractual obligations that ignore the law. That is wrong. I think that is another important point for voting against this particular bill.

The final point I would like to make is about the nature of the land itself. This land was purchased by all the citizens of Canada as greenbelt. Furthermore, there were many farmers and others in this area who had their land expropriated for the greenbelt and then were paid by the citizens of Canada according to the expropriation price. Those people had their land taken away from them for a specific purpose.

We can argue back and forth about whether it was the right purpose. That is long gone, decades and decades ago. There is a long history to that. Now, though, we can ask if it is right to have the purpose changed to something else entirely in the manner that is being proposed. Or whether, where there is the use of the land for the hospital under that contract signed in the 1970s, I believe, there should indeed be, in accordance with the contract, a commercial price paid.

That is another important question of fairness. It is the issue that the public of Canada paid for those lands. It is only fair that in this process they continue to be treated in a commercial way so that in fact the public of Canada and its dollars get treated fairly, not favouring a particular part of the country over any other.

I do not wish to go on about this, but I will say that when the vote on his motion comes to the House, we are going to be looking closely at those who vote for such a clearly preferential bill to aid just a few people in the nation's capital to the disadvantage of everybody else who lives elsewhere in this country. We are all Canadians, not just the people who live in the hon. member's riding.

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Will the hon. member for Nepean—Carleton be debating on the amendment or using his five minutes in right of reply?

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be debating on the amendment. Let me tell members very bluntly, I will never apologize for fighting for the interests of my constituents just because they happen to live in the national capital region.

That member should be ashamed of himself for suggesting that people who live in the national capital region should not have effective representation on the floor of the House of Commons.

He wants to talk about history, so let us talk about history. The land that he discusses, which is held by the federal government, by the National Capital Commission, was confiscated at a third of market value.

I can recommend to him a good book called The Spirit of Nepean by D. Aubrey Moodie, the founder of the community of Nepean, wherein he describes how this land was originally confiscated.

Now, as a result of that, we have a hospital that sits on federal government land, is paying rent, and has paid almost $1 million in rent thus far. It is the only hospital in Canada that is forced to pay rent to the federal government. It is the exception.

Excuse me, but the people of Nepean--Carleton are not asking for special treatment. The nurses who work on their feet 12 hours a day are not asking for special treatment. The patients who wait in line for treatment, for ankle fusions, for hip replacements or for cancer treatment, are not asking for special treatment. They are asking for fairness. They are asking for the same degree of treatment that every other hospital in this country gets.

I see here today that there is an unholy alliance forming between the Liberals and the separatist Bloc Québécois. We have seen the separatists rise and use some sort of historical injustice as an example of why they should continue to perpetuate a modern injustice in the House of Commons.

The separatists say they were mistreated in Quebec by the National Capital Commission, and perhaps they were, but they then use that as their justification for perpetuating another injustice on a hospital near my constituency. The Liberals have used this sense of historical indignation, this hysteria that has propelled the separatist Bloc to its current stature. They have used that as a method of building an alliance with the separatists to defeat my motion and to oppose the hospital.

As with any injustice, one can find a bureaucratic excuse, a rule or some regulation that is hidden deep and dark under the dusty books that the government would never otherwise open. The Liberals can find some excuse for mistreating the hospital so they point to a regulation that was passed, the Treasury Board guideline that was passed some years ago.

And do members know what? It turns out that it is a good regulation. Generally speaking, governments should charge market value when they rent to commercial enterprises or other organizations. But this is a hospital. The vast majority of hospitals across this country get dispensation from provincial or municipal governments. They get their land for $1 because those governments understand the need to support institutions that provide health care to the local citizenry.

Here in the national capital region we have a unique problem where our hospital sits on federal land and has paid nearly $1 million thus far. It is the only hospital to face such an injustice.

I am simply asking for the cabinet and the Prime Minister, who himself has been the number one obstacle to this hospital's advancement, to merely do what they can do this Tuesday at their cabinet meeting to render my motion irrelevant. He could decide this Tuesday to give the hospital its land for $1 a year. He could do it through order in council. He has the legal authority to do it.

If he does that, I say here and now that I will withdraw my motion from the House of Commons and I will applaud him for having done so. That is the kind of non-partisanship I am willing to engage in on behalf of my hospital.

It is funny to hear the Liberals talk about all these rules that get in the way of helping a small hospital. What rules have stopped them from intervening to give a half a million dollar severance to their close friend, David Dingwall?

The rules did not matter when it came to handing out illegal contracts to the ad companies in Quebec, did they? Those rules did not matter. They broke all the rules. When it comes to shovelling money into the pockets of Liberal cronies and Liberal friends, there are no rules.

But when it comes to helping a community hospital, a hospital that serves 400,000 people, many of them seniors, people who are ill, vulnerable and in need, then there are rules. Those rules can see no dispensation from that gang of Liberals.

What this debate has made very clear, especially because we have heard from two Ottawa area Liberals, one from Ottawa—Orléans and one from Ottawa West—Nepean, is that there are two Ottawas. There is the Ottawa of downtown Parliament Hill where the cronies and the lobbyists make all the decisions to pocket the dollars of Canadian taxpayers and help their friends, where we look out for the interests of well-connected Liberals, and then--

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.


Marc Godbout Liberal Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I call a point of order. I did not hear a single word during the member's remarks about the amendment to his motion. Mr. Speaker, could you remind him that he is here to talk about the amendment to his motion?

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I think that the hon. member for Nepean—Carleton will address the amendment without further delay. He now has the floor.

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is that Ottawa that seeks to use rules to obstruct honest debate. There is the Ottawa that helps Liberal cronies and Liberal friends. It is that Ottawa for which the Liberal member for Ottawa West--Nepean speaks. It is that Ottawa for which the member for Ottawa--Orléans speaks. But there is another Ottawa--

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

2:20 p.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, you may very well rule this to be a point of debate. I speak for my constituents and my conscience.

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

2:20 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, we must be striking a nerve here. We might be getting a little too close to the truth.

There is a second Ottawa as well. The Liberals do not want to hear about it, but there is a second Ottawa. It is where people work hard, play by the rules, pay their taxes and stand up for their community. That is the Ottawa that I want to speak up for as the member of Parliament for Nepean--Carleton.

I will remind the members in this House of a few of the facts in this matter.

The Queensway Carleton Hospital has paid $1 million in rent to the federal government. The rent increase that is expected at the termination of the current lease could result in the termination of 40 nurses, according to the former chairman of the Queensway Carleton Hospital, who speaks up honourably on behalf of his people, on behalf of his patients--