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House of Commons Hansard #99 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Taiwan Affairs ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Wajid Khan Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague mentioned the United States policy toward Taiwan in 1979 and so on. Why would he want Canada to follow a 26 year old foreign policy of the United States? A lot of the policies of the U.S. do not necessarily reflect Canadian interests. Could my colleague comment on that, please?

Taiwan Affairs ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, this gives me an excellent opportunity to further expand on what I was trying to say earlier.

Canada does not currently have any formal relationship with Taiwan as an entity of any type. As a consequence, we cannot have any normal relationships in terms of legal relationships for trade, for criminal matters or even for security issues. That is the problem.

In contrast, the U.S. has the Taiwan relations act, which permits it to do so. Therefore, Canadian individuals and Canadian businesses are put at the disadvantage of not being able to have the same relationship with their Taiwanese counterparts as their U.S. competitors. We are at a disadvantage.

Although the U.S. does not recognize Taiwan as a country or a separate entity and goes with the same policy as Canada says it goes with, which is a one China policy, it has still managed to get into a position where, whether with respect to security issues or criminal matters or legal matters, it can have a relationship with Taiwan. We are lacking that relationship. We are falling behind. Quite frankly, we are putting ourselves at a significant disadvantage to our most significant trading partner.

Taiwan Affairs ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pose a supplementary question on what the member just said in his response.

It is my understanding that the 1979 United States Taiwan relations act was enacted by America really to establish a diplomatic relationship with China. Canada had already established one decades ago. I wonder if my colleague could explain how that difference helps.

I also have a question with respect to clause 5 of his bill, which talks about claims that Taiwan can make on assets. I have a concern about that. In the Taiwanese constitution, Taiwan calls itself the Republic of China, Taiwan's official name, and it claims that it owns Mongolia as well. Canada is currently the largest single investor in Mongolia. How will this affect our interests in Mongolia?

Taiwan Affairs ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, in the case of the U.S., the information that the member has I believe is incorrect. The Taiwan relations act was established fully six months after the recognition by the U.S. of the PRC as the entity that is legitimate government of China. The Taiwan relations act was constructed, and under much protest by the PRC, fully six months after that actually took place. I think the member and I have a significant difference of opinion on that particular question.

The question raised about clause 5 is a good one, which is why I am hoping to get it to committee so that we could sort it out and put in the necessary stopgap. The point of clause 5 is that it is reciprocal. In other words, right now individuals or corporations do not have in commercial law any way of suing and being sued back and forth between the two entities. There is nothing we can do to enforce the commercial arrangements that we make one on one with Taiwanese interests or vice versa.

This is different from the relationships we have with every other entity that would be called a nation. We are not out to call Taiwan a nation. We are simply out to establish standard commercial relationships to protect the interests of Canadians and Taiwanese people.

Taiwan Affairs ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

David Anderson Liberal Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to debate the bill put forward by my hon. friend from the Kootenays.

I would like to preface my remarks by saying, as the hon. member has indicated, that I am sure everyone in the House regards the development of democracy in Taiwan as extremely important. My first visit was in 1967 and enormous strides have been made since that time. That said, it is a part of the world where democracy has been achieved and where an essentially Leninist dictatorship has disappeared.

In that same timeframe, Canada and Taiwan's relationship has been transformed dramatically. It began with trade and immigration, but it now takes into account many areas. As indicated by the hon. member, health, education, science, technology and the environment are many of the areas of relationship between our two peoples. In fact, one of our largest trade missions in the world is located in Taipei.

That is where we are today and as we can expect in any bilateral relationship, there will be occasional times of stress, but we do not expect to always have all issues settled all the time with all countries. However, we should bear in mind the contrasts where those areas of Canadian and Taiwanese priorities differ and consider also the big picture, dealing essentially with the subject which is paramount, and should be paramount in the interests of all parliamentarians, and that is the interests of the Canadian people. Our job is to serve our Canadian constituents in a manner that contributes to their overall well-being and prosperity. I am looking at the proposed legislation from that point of view, from that Canadian perspective.

Back in the 1970s, when we switched our recognition from Taipei to Beijing, we did so in a way which provided for flexibility to remain substantially engaged with Taiwan and, at the same time, leaving the door open for a growing and important relationship with mainland China. In short, we created a deal whereby we did not need to choose entirely between one and the other as the choice had been presented at that time. We chose to engage with both and the results of this balanced approach speak for themselves.

Since then our relations with Taiwan have expanded dramatically, as I indicated. We now have a variety of memoranda of understanding between the Canadian government departments and agencies and their Taiwanese counterparts. We have had a large number of high level trips to China by Canadian ministers, one of whom was myself.

I believe I was the first western minister to go to Taipei after the missile rattling event of some seven or eight years ago. We have had frequent interaction between officials and between 2002 and 2004, Canada received 18 visits by cabinet level Taiwanese officials, including the vice-minister of economic affairs, the minister of justice, who came twice, the chairman of the council of aboriginal affairs and the minister of transport and communications.

Economically, Taiwan is one of Canada's top ten trading partners and is our 14th largest export market worldwide. We have a large number of Canadian corporations operating in Taiwan which have had significant success. Of course, the same is true that Taiwanese companies have entered Canada and we have good relationships and transportation links through aircraft companies that link our two areas.

Our involvement with Taiwan has been successful and our policy has produced win-win outcomes for both Canada and Taiwan, but now we have a bill which indicates, as some members believe, that the best way to preserve this situation is to revise it in a manner which does away with the flexibility that we have benefited from in the past.

Bill C-357, the bill we are discussing at this time, would put us in that very situation by providing Taiwan with the benefits of a state under Canadian law, and therefore de jure recognition of Taiwan as a sovereign entity in Canada. That is clear.

The fact is that there is no country in the world which officially recognizes both Taiwan and China and we, therefore, as a result of this legislation would be forced to choose and reverse the successful policies of the last 35 years. With this bill, we cannot have our cake and eat it. I believe that we, therefore, have a very clear choice before us at the present time.

As had been indicated by indeed the proposer of the legislation when he referred to his conversations with the embassy of China here in Ottawa, support for this legislation would seriously damage our longstanding and growing relationship with China. When we are considering that fact, I think it would be useful to highlight the inadequacy of the legislation because it spells out clearly what Canada is obliged to do for Taiwan and not what Taiwan's obligation to Canada might be.

To give an example to the hon. member, there is the issue of beef exports where the Taiwanese have opened their market to the American beef but not to Canadian beef. They have rejected the science information we have put forward. That is an example of a trade dispute to which the Taiwanese have not responded as we would have liked and where a change, as indicated by this legislation, would make no difference at all.

We know on both sides of the House that there are other issues, other motivations, and other factors which underline this legislation.

We know full well that the issues on which Taipei and Beijing differ are real and important. In fact, they have created the risk of war on many occasions over the last few decades. Those differences between Taipei and Beijing will not be resolved by legislative efforts in other countries such as Canada.

Canadian foreign policy is formulated not in Beijing or in Taipei, but here in Ottawa. It is in the interests of the Canadian people. That is paramount when we are considering such legislation.

There is an old Chinese proverb which says that even the wisest official cannot judge a family dispute. The dispute between Taipei and Beijing is essentially a family dispute. It is not one where we should be intervening with legislation such as this which so clearly takes sides in that family dispute.

Canada has been supporting Taiwan's democracy and should continue to do so. That does not mean that the Canadian government must support unconditionally any particularly policy of any particular political party in Taiwan. This legislation would appear to support those who would favour a permanent separation of Taiwan from China, which we all know will likely result in instability in east Asia and possibly even war.

It is incumbent upon those who propose this change in our policy to indicate why the warnings from Beijing should be ignored on this particular piece of legislation. It is after all an issue which is of supreme importance to the security of the Asia-Pacific region.

Recently, the leaders of the opposition parties in Taiwan which represent, as in this House, approximately 50% of the population, visited Beijing only in the last few weeks. The leaders had a very different message, which is a message of reconciliation between the two parts of China, mainland China and the province of Taiwan.

It is particularly important to recognize that since 1949, at the end of the outbreak of hostilities, the first meeting of the Kuomintang officials and officials of the Chinese communist party recently took place. This was the first meeting at that level of the top representatives of the two governments. At the time of rapprochement, which we have at the present time, why would any parliamentarian in Canada who values peace and prosperity be seen as supporting anything except that reconciliation process?

The legislation that we have before us today will not aid that reconciliation process. In fact, given Canada's importance in trade with both countries and our importance as an Asia-Pacific power, it would very seriously destabilize the reconciliation process that is taking place.

Let me repeat that only Beijing and Taipei can resolve their complicated and longstanding issues that go right back to the twenties. We will not be playing a helpful role by enacting this bill in the process of reconciliation and rapprochement, which we all hope will continue successfully. Our willingness to facilitate rapprochement is well known by both sides, but involvement in this piece of legislation would be a serious mistake in those efforts.

While we trust the two sides are working together, we should continue, in the meantime, our utmost efforts to develop good relations with both Beijing and Taipei which is in the best interests of Canadians and the Government of Canada.

Taiwan Affairs ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Roger Clavet Bloc Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the colleagues who have just spoken on Bill C-357, both the hon. member for Victoria and the hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia, the bill's sponsor. This is the first hour of debate at second reading. It is a pleasure for me, as the Bloc's critic for the Asia-Pacific region, to speak on this bill.

Bill C-357 provides an improved framework for economic, trade and cultural initiatives between Canada and Taiwan. Before indicating whether the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of this bill and whether it can be referred to committee, just to keep everyone guessing, I want to provide some context essential to understanding this issue.

In this regard, the Bloc Québécois wants to acknowledge Taiwan's obvious economic and political progress. No one will deny that, not even the People's Republic of China. Undeniably, Taiwan is now a free, democratic and, above all, prosperous country. It is clearly a model for the entire Asia-Pacific region.

It is interesting to note that Quebec maintains close and friendly cultural and economic ties with Taiwan. Between 2001 and 2002 alone, Quebec exports to Taiwan increased by 17%, to a noteworthy $134 million. Quebeckers are happy to have access to Taiwanese products, such as computers and semi-conductors. In exchange, the Taiwanese benefit from imports of reliable Quebec products, such as wood pulp, telecommunications equipment and iron ore, to name just a few.

I would also add that university and cultural exchanges between Quebec and Taiwan have been extremely successful. In the riding of Louis-Hébert, which I have the pleasure of representing in the House, Université Laval has extremely close ties with Taiwan. These exchanges will continue. Even some colleges maintain similar relations, with both Taiwan and China.

I would, moreover, emphasize that Quebec's relationship with Taiwan cannot in any way have a negative impact on the deep friendship and attachment Quebec feels for the People's Republic of China. I had the pleasure of working there for two years. Contacts between Quebec and the People's Republic of China have been constantly increasing for over 30 years now. There have been visits by senior officials, agreements have been signed and major trade exchanges have taken place, all of which are evidence of our ongoing good faith and good will.

As for Quebec's exports to Chine, these have increased by leaps and bounds in recent years. I have some interesting figures here also. From its level of $318 million in the year 2000, the value of Quebec's exports to China increased by 117% to some $700 million in 2002. There is nothing to indicate a decrease. Among the Quebec products of most interest to the People's Republic of China are aircraft and aircraft parts, pulp and paper and inorganic chemicals. I list these as evidence that there can continue to be very good trade relations Quebec and the People's Republic of China, and between Quebec and Taiwan. Quebec's importation of Chinese products in 2002 was not negligible either, at about $3.4 billion.

Let us not lose sight of the fact that educational exchanges between Quebec and China are also very important. Universities and colleges, Quebec's in particular, have very active relationships with China. Close to a thousand Chinese students come to Quebec every year to study.

Now back to Taiwan, since this bill deals primarily with Quebec's and Canada's relations with Taiwan.

The Bloc Québécois feels the need to support the principle of this bill because of the friendship and ties that exist between Quebec and Taiwan. In particularly, we unreservedly support its underlying principles: peace and security in the Asia Pacific region.

We in the Bloc Québécois believe that the resolution of the dispute between China and Taiwan should be peaceful and negotiated by the two parties. Nothing in this bill would lead us to think such a resolution might not be possible.

This bill should not be seen as meddling or trying to disturb a situation in sometimes precarious equilibrium—no point in beating around the bush—but rather as a means to strengthening economic, trade and cultural ties between Taiwan and Canada. Who could dispute that?

We in the Bloc have, of course, found a few shortcomings after analyzing the bill. We will thus mention a few reservations we have with respect to the bill in due course, when the bill is being considered in committee. However, at this stage of debate, two things about the bill should be mentioned, which will, in our opinion, help improve bilateral relations between Canada and Taiwan and international relations generally between Canada and other Asian countries.

First, the Bloc Québécois supports Taiwan's participation as an observer at certain international organizations. Currently, it is excluded—and we heard this again this morning— from participation in international organizations such as the World Health Organization. These organizations are technical rather than political in nature, even though their political scope is somewhat limited. We need only consider how the SARS epidemic could have been different had Taiwan had observer status with WHO. Things would have been simpler for everyone, because Taiwan could then have taken part in the organization's deliberations.

We in the Bloc Québécois also note the pacifist tone of Bill C-357. We would point out that the dispute between Taiwan and mainland China will not be resolved with prayers. It will take a disarmament agreement in the case of geographic areas of potential confrontation. No one is fooled and no one forgets the constant threat. We belive that relations between the People's Republic of China and Taiwan can improve only through dialogue and diplomacy.

We in the Bloc Québécois reiterate our affection for and great friendship with both the People's Republic of China and Taiwan. We think that a peaceful settlement of the disputes will lead to a valuable solution.

In summary, the Bloc Québécois supports this bill in principle for the following reasons. First, it will strengthen economic, trade and cultural relations between Quebec, Canada and Taiwan. The Bloc also supports Taiwan's participation in certain international organizations. The conditions for its participation can be discussed and decisions made on a case-by-case basis. Regarding the International Civil Aviation Organization for instance, major legal tangles could ensue if Taiwan's participation in that organization were not recognized de facto. Allowing Taiwan to act as an observer in major international forums will facilitate communication.

I want to refer again to the bill's pacifist tone; it does speak of disarmament and dialogue. We all agree with that. Besides, and this may be the bill's greatest strength, there is hardly any diplomatic risk involved since this bill is modelled after a 1979 U.S. bill maintaining the status quo to preserve friendly relations with both Taiwan and China.

Thus, we want to restate our feelings of friendship not only for the Chinese people, with whom we will continue to do business, of course, but also for the Taiwanese people. We believe that we must continue in this direction.

In conclusion, for all the reasons I just stated, the Bloc Québécois supports referring Bill C-357 to committee for further study, and we support the principle of this bill.

Taiwan Affairs ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to participate in the debate on Bill C-357, an act to provide for an improved framework for economic, trade, cultural and other initiatives between the people of Canada and the people of Taiwan, the short title being the Taiwan affairs act, as introduced by the member for Kootenay—Columbia.

At the outset, the NDP supports the bill in principle. We want to see it go to committee where there can be a full and careful discussion and maybe see some possible improvements that we would bring forward at that time. New Democrats believe that greater clarity on these issues needs to be encouraged and that the bill will help us be clearer about our relationships with Taiwan. That would be a good thing.

This past weekend Taiwan held elections for its national assembly. It was again another demonstration of the healthy and vigorous democracy that has grown in Taiwan. I think everyone in Canada celebrates that achievement. I know many people in my riding of Burnaby—Douglas have been assisting in the development of democracy in Taiwan and it is very important to them.

A key principle of Bill C-357 is excellent relations between Canada and the People's Republic of China and Canada and the people of Taiwan. I want to quote from clause 3(a) of the bill which outlines this principle. It states:

It is hereby declared to be the policy of Canada to

(a) preserve and promote extensive, close and friendly commercial, cultural and other relations between the people of Canada and the people of Taiwan, as well as those of the People’s Republic of China...

It begins with ensuring that we maintain our relationships with both the People's Republic of China and the people of Taiwan. This principle is crucial to people in my riding originally from Taiwan and from the People's Republic of China. This principle, as well as ensuring peace and security in the region, is crucial to folks in Burnaby—Douglas. They want to ensure that our relations in this area build on these foundations.

I want to discuss a key recommendation of the bill which is found in clause 9. It deals with Taiwan's participation in the World Health Organization. Three times now the House or one of its committees has called for Taiwan to have observer status at the World Health Organization. Despite support on those three occasions for that observer status, Canada opposed it last year at the World Health Assembly, the international body that discusses World Health Organization policy. Unfortunately, Canada did not act on the recommendations of the House or its committees.

The World Health Assembly is currently meeting. Hopefully Canada will support Taiwan's participation in the World Health Organization at this year's meeting. We heard the member for Kootenay—Columbia say this morning that it sounds like the whole discussion of Taiwan's participation did not make it on the agenda. We hope the Government of Canada is taking steps to see that makes the agenda at that important meeting.

New Democrats strongly support Taiwan's participation in the World Health Organization. Our foreign affairs critic, the member for Halifax, has a motion on the order paper which states:

That...the government should support the granting of observer status for Taiwan in the World Health Organization (WHO) and should support the establishment of a UN working group to facilitate Taiwan's effective participation in the WHO, reaping benefits for both the international community and the Taiwanese through shared knowledge and equality of access to health care information

That is a pretty straightforward statement of our hope around Taiwan's participation.

As well, my predecessor Svend Robinson last year before the election wrote to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He pointed out some of the important reasons why Taiwan should participate as an observer at the World Health Organization. He pointed out an incident that happened in 1998. In the letter he stated:

--in 1998, an outbreak of the Enterovirus infection in Taiwan took the lives of 78 children. In the midst of the outbreak, as panicked parents turned to their government for help, Taiwan turned to the WHO. The request for information was ignored because Taiwan is not a member of the WHO, and the children continued to die.

That is a pretty dramatic example of why it is important for Taiwan to have a connection to the World Health Organization and why it is important for Canada to advocate for that.

Back on April 30, I was pleased to participate in a press conference with over 20 Taiwanese community organizations on the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, along with some members of Parliament, including my colleague from Burnaby--New Westminster. We called for the inclusion of Taiwan at the World Health Organization through observer status. We were very clear at that meeting about the importance of that.

The World Health Organization's mandate is to provide assistance, service and protection in health related matters to all human beings, regardless of their political affiliations. This is very important to all of us, especially given the close connections that now exist across this planet, the easy connections and travel now possible between countries. Certainly there is ease of travel between Taiwan and Canada with many direct airline links.

The world is a much smaller place than it was in years gone by. That seems to change almost day by day. We know diseases such as SARS and the avian flu do not respect international or political boundaries. That is why it is crucial for organizations like the World Health Organization to be representative of all people of the planet.

All neighbours should participate in important decisions. It would be crazy, in any of our neighbourhoods, cities or towns in Canada, to say that certain neighbours do not have something to say about important community decisions. Essentially that is happening with Taiwan being unable to participate in the World Health Organization.

At the press conference I said that because of the importance of health considerations and because of the smallness of our planet, it was really a no-brainer that Taiwan should be an observer at the World Health Organization, and I stand by that comment. It is a no-brainer that on key issues of health, a group of 23 million people on the planet should have access to the discussions and resources of that organization. Other groups do. It would not be an unusual step, given that the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Knights of Malta, the Vatican and the International Committee of the Red Cross already are observers at the World Health Organization.

This is an important component of the bill. We need to ensure that this aspect of it, along with all other issues that it raises, is given a thorough discussion. I know the members of the Taiwanese community in my constituency would like me to highlight as well that the bill calls for the possibility of private visits by the president and other senior officials of Taiwan. This has been very important to the Taiwanese community and merits our serious consideration. We are glad this is part of the bill before us today.

We in the NDP strongly support the discussion of the bill. We support it in principle and want to see it get to the committee. We want to encourage clarity in our relationships in Asia and in our relationship with Taiwan. We think the bill is a good start to getting that on the agenda.

We look forward to participating in the discussion. We want to ensure that the people of Canada and the people of Taiwan enjoy a happy, productive and healthy relationship in the future. That is why we want to see the bill go to committee for discussion.

Taiwan Affairs ActPrivate Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak to Bill C-357 today. I really appreciated the comments of the member for Kootenay--Columbia and those of members of the Bloc and the NDP.

I would like to address the question about Mongolia that was put by the Liberal member to the bill's sponsor. This bill emphasizes Taiwan, which has now become a member of the World Trade Organization. In that capacity Taiwan was closely defined and the definition excluded Mongolia or any place like that. All of the voting for democracy and presidential elections clearly includes people in Taiwan. That is the intent of governance.

The member for Victoria spoke to this legislation. He talked about Canadian foreign policy not being made in Beijing. I will place some doubt in that member's mind with something I want to present today. I think we should be taking sides and the side we should be taking is that of human rights.

Bill C-357 was tabled by my colleague from Kootenay--Columbia. He is taking some flak from status quo interests who are putting trade before principle. I have no doubt there will be members of the House of Commons who will be ducking for cover. I specifically want to offer to the member for Kootenay--Columbia my respect and appreciation for his pursuing this bill as private members' business.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of International Trade as well as the last two Prime Ministers have been very cute in their public statements and responses in the House of Commons on Taiwan. While they have expressed appreciation for Taiwan's achievements in human rights, freedom and democracy and respect for the rule of law, they have not stretched their necks one centimetre to reward Taiwan for its great advances. Rather, they have continued to not support World Health Assembly status for Taiwan, despite three express wishes of members of Parliament.

They have refused to sign agreements of mutual assistance between Taiwan and Canada because “they are not allowed under Canadian law”. Exactly. That is self-fulfilling. That is what Bill C-357 is all about. They have also refused travel visas for senior government officials from Taiwan, such as the president, the vice-president, the defence minister, and the foreign affairs minister. This is a blanket no.

There are now 150,000 Taiwanese immigrants settled in Canada. We know that in this population of 150,000 there are a few criminal elements who have escaped justice in Taiwan by moving to Canada. By the Canadian government's statements there is no Canadian law to authorize an agreement on mutual legal assistance to apprehend cross-border criminals. Bill C-357 would pre-empt this state of affairs.

Canada's image in the international community has certainly suffered over the last 12 years. Prior to this we punched above our weight in the international arena militarily and on human rights, freedom and democracy issues. This legacy, which was hard earned and too easily spent, is essential to recover once again. It is generally the deep-seated conviction of Canadians that we should operate from principle. Canada's posture toward Taiwan has been atrocious. Bill C-357 would rectify some of the imbalance.

We all know that Canada's treatment of Taiwan can be directly attributed to objections from the People's Republic of China. I will demonstrate how far the Canadian government will go to curry favour with the government of the People's Republic of China.

I have a letter which the government wishes I did not have. I want to read this letter into the record. It was written on June 14, 2002 by Allan Rock, who was the minister of industry at the time, to Esta Resnick, who was the barrister and solicitor for the Department of Justice in Vancouver. It states:

Dear Ms. Resnick,

In reference to our telephone conversation, May 30, 2002 regarding Lai Cheong-sing et al, I would like to take this opportunity to compliment you on your continued efforts to have these undesirable fugitives removed from Canada.

This case has significant political repercussions and potential effects on all facets of Canada's relationship with The People's Republic of China. In recent conversations with Mr. Joseph Caron, Canada's Ambassador to The People's Republic of China, the Ambassador stressed the importance of a successful deportation and extradition of these undesirables. As well, he noted this case could have direct implications to Canada's future diplomatic and trade relations with the PRC government.

Please keep me apprised of any future developments in this case and I wish you every success in your worthy pursuit.

Yours sincerely,

Alan Rock, P.C., M.P.

This letter implicates the industry minister at the time, our justice department and our ambassador to China as all being primarily concerned with keeping good future diplomatic and trade relations with the PRC government with a blind eye to human rights.

These individuals collectively passed judgment on Mr. Lai in Vancouver at a time when he was under refugee application and who to this day has never been charged with anything by Canada. This letter was requested by the legal counsel for Mr. Lai through ATI but the government could find no record of it.

The Canadian government should be looking at human rights, not economic advantage. When the former minister of industry, now the Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations, Allan Rock, who has recently spoken out on human rights abuses in Africa, contrary to his behaviour in this letter, writes to the counsel of the Department of Justice and confirms a conversation with the Canadian Ambassador to the People's Republic of China, then we know that all government departments and cabinet are tilted and that when it comes to catering to China, trade trumps human rights.

As a matter of fact, the minister sounds like a good lapdog for the Chinese government. This letter makes it clear that the overriding issue for the Government of Canada is the appeasing of the Beijing regime for purely economic reasons.

The legal counsel for Citizenship and Immigration Canada was being instructed to ensure deportation despite a preponderance of evidence that the refugee claimant could not possibly get a fair trial in China and would be subject to torture. It is clear that Ms. Resnick did all of this. One has to wonder why the Minister of Industry at the time was even involved since the client for Ms. Resnick was Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

I want to go one step further. I want to talk about the actions of the counsel for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the same Ms. Resnick to whom the June 14, 2002 letter I read into the record was addressed. Ms. Resnick breached her undertaking in a Canadian court before a Canadian Federal Court judge that witnesses in China, specifically in Shanghai, whose testimony was tabled by affidavit would be protected and remain confidential.

I have brought the case of Tao Mi up in the House of Commons on two earlier occasions with no satisfactory response as to why the Government of Canada broke this promise. Tao Mi was sold out by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Contrary to its undertakings in a Canadian court she was betrayed to the Chinese police in Shanghai and has not been heard of since. There are very likely others who were betrayed in the very same case. We have no way to know for sure.

This is all quite appalling. If Canadians knew the details, they would be shocked. The role the Canadian government has continued to play in this is to try to cover it up. It is a long and sordid story.

The bill will go some way to redress what is an unbalanced situation. We should operate from principle. Canadians should be proud of this bill.

Taiwan Affairs ActPrivate Members' Business

12:10 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 resumed from May 13 consideration of the motion that Bill C-48, an act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

May 16th, 2005 / 12:10 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to discuss Bill C-48. At the same time, I am also sad with what has gone on. Through my presentation I will allude to that simply because we are given the opportunity once a week to go home to our ridings and gauge with our constituents, hear their views and comments, given the unusual circumstances that are unfolding here in this honourable chamber, and come back and work with our colleagues to see how we can positively move forward initiatives, efforts that the government brings forward for the betterment of our country, our people, our youth, our seniors and every other generation in between, so we can continue staying at the pinnacle where our country has been for many years.

As I said in the past, it is no coincidence that our country is recognized as one of the best countries in the world in which to live.

Today I will be speaking to Bill C-48 which proposes investments from unplanned surpluses. What this means primarily is that, as the Liberal government traditionally has done in the past, it looks to making the right kind of key investments within our Canadian society basically because Canada as a whole has been recognized and noted as a very different country, a compassionate, caring and giving country, a country that always comes to the calling and always stands up, whether it be domestically or internationally.

In past budgets the government has made significant investments in priority programs such as social programs. At the same time, this bill is simply an extension of what we traditionally have done in the past.

I will make two or three brief points of what this bill would do.

This bill, first, invests in, as I have put it in the past, the future of our country, which is our youth. In essence, it supports post-secondary education, post-secondary programs. What better investment can we make? We talk about staying competitive as a nation. We talk about creating a smart society. We talk about creating a society that is productive, peaceful, safe and secure. That is where this investment, I believe, would bear fruit.

Beyond that, what would it also do? It supports areas such as transportation, for which the cities, for example, have continuously asked us for support. We know very well that a strong city makes for a strong province and, as a result, makes for a strong country. We have that obligation.

Housing, which is important, is another element of Bill C-48. What best can families or individuals have, as we have often said, than a roof over their heads, which is the foundation of any safe society. This government, in its wisdom and in consultation with other parties, said that we must move forward on this issue and we are doing so.

Another area is our environment. If we do not look after the environment today, 10, 20, 30 years down the road we will be saying, “God, what mistakes. What did we do?” We hear how our health system is being impeded. We have an aging population. Any initiative toward protecting our environment is a great investment, and that is part of what Bill C-48 would do.

A nation is not only noted for what it does within its borders. A nation also gains respect by what it does outside its borders.

In Canada, historically speaking, Prime Minister Pearson did not receive the Nobel Peace Prize just because he was the prime minister of Canada. He received it because he stood above the rest. His initiatives then make us proud today as a nation.

We cannot just take one step forward and then take ten steps back. As difficult as it is sometimes, if we want to be international players, if I might use that word, we need to participate and there are different ways of participating. We can provide physical presence, which our proud military has done and performed so well over the years, but just being there is one aspect of it. There has to be financial support at the same time.

Bill C-48 in essence would do that as well. Our military has repeatedly said that if they are being asked to do a job and to put their lives at stake they need support and Bill C-48 would do that.

Our foreign aid contribution is toward our military. We have heard that over 300,000 people have lost their lives in Darfur. We cannot sit back and say that we do not care. We do care. Aside from caring, we talk about creating security for our nation. If we have nations that are hurting, rest assured that the hurt will be expressed in different ways, and generally it is not in a good way.

If we help these nations find peace, security, stability and economic development where their people can seek work that will give them the opportunity to provide food and shelter for their families, they then will have no need to go out and react in adverse ways which does harm to nations such as ours.

If we create a stable and secure environment in Darfur for example, or other hot spots, we would in essence create security for Canada. Those obligations are part of Bill C-48 as well.

As Bill C-48 unfolded we know the New Democratic Party was very supportive, and I believe it still is. Some very good proposals came from the New Democratic Party. It is said that in order to be a good healer one must be a good listener. The Prime Minister and this Liberal government has been listening. Maybe not all the proposes are good but surely some good can come out of listening and in this case a lot of good has come out of it, good that has been applauded by Canadians. I know because I hear about it in my riding.

Once a week, as I have said, we have the opportunity to go back to our ridings to be with our families and talk to our constituents. We receive calls, emails and letters. People in a free and democratic society, like the one we have in Canada, have the right to express their views, whether we agree or disagree is beside the point. Through Bill C-48, the message is very simple. We have listened and we have responded in the way the vast majority of Canadians want.

Another element I omitted, which is very important, is that Bill C-48 would enhance small and medium sized enterprises. When we first assumed government after the election of October 1993, we said that the engine that drives the economy is the small and medium sized enterprises. The bill contains tax reforms with respect to small and medium sized enterprises.

Larger corporations have benefits coming down the road, I believe slotted for 2008. It is not like it has just disappeared and we are only looking at one segment. Let us not forget that the vast majority of jobs have been created through the small and medium sized enterprises, and the government in Bill C-48 does that as well.

Now that I have talked a little bit about Bill C-48, I want to get into what is happening here. We have a moral obligation, if I may put it that way, to bring to this honourable chamber the views, frustrations, call it whatever, from our constituents.

In the past several weeks I have heard comments like, “God, it's like kindergarten all over again in that chamber. They are a bunch of rowdies, a bunch of grown up kids”. It makes me so sad and it hurts me to hear these comments. However I have to accept them because that is what is happening here in this honourable chamber.

One example is what happened last week when a motion was put in the House. The Leader of the Opposition, for some odd reason, did not get his way and he just got up and walked out. This reminds me of the bully on the street who comes out to play hockey and when he does not get his way he takes his ball, his net and he leaves.

That is not how we build a nation nor is it how we find compromise. When the going gets tough, the tough get going and they sit in this chamber and debate. Members stand up in the House and express their views if they want their constituents to know exactly what is going on.

Over the past several weeks people have said that Parliament is not functioning. People want Bill C-43 and Bill C-48 to move forward. There are great ideas in these bills. Bill C-43, which I will not get into, what a budget. It has been continuously applauded throughout the country. There was not one area that was not covered. Even in a small way tax relief was covered.

The reason tax relief was not covered, if I may remind my hon. colleague, is that in the 2000 budget the largest tax relief in the history of our country was put forward; a five year program of $100 billion. Today, in 2005, we are into the fifth year of that five year program. I say that it does not make sense to add another tax relief budget when this country is in the fifth year of that five year program.

This government has produced not only balanced budgets and eliminated the deficit way in advance, but we have provided seven consecutive balanced budgets. This is unheard of in the history of our country. This government has provided surpluses never heard of before. These surpluses have given us the opportunity to reinvest in the country. For example, the Romanow report, a very good report, not only did we meet that report and its request, but we exceeded that report and the expectations.

We have the cities agenda, need I say more. Supposedly $400 million was allocated in the last budget and that amount has been jacked up to $600 million. Why? It is because more money was there.

What did we do with it? We have no deficit and the debt has been reduced faster than anyone ever expected. I believe in 1993 the debt to GDP ratio was at 71% or 72% and today we are below 50%. It is projected that in the next four or five years it will be at 25% or 26%. No country out there can say that. In the G-7 we are the most advanced country in terms of job growth, surpluses and balanced budgets and we have the fastest growing economy. We have invested wisely in the new economy. We have invested in research chairs as no other country has done before.

We have these so-called clusters of excellence situated throughout the country. Universities have benefited tremendously. We have been able not only to retain the best and the brightest, but we have been able to attract the best and the brightest.

I remember visiting the Hospital for Sick Children a couple of years ago when I was the parliamentary secretary to the minister of industry in relation to an investment that we made in cancer research for youth. A highly regarded specialist from England was there and I asked him why he came to Canada. He said that it was because the best was here. He said that the government had invested, that we were on the right track and that as a professional it was here that he could do better work.

We often do not talk about these stories but the time has come to talk about these stories and really call a spade a spade.

Today we find ourselves in the very unusual situation where we come with great interest in this House to debate. Yes, we will argue with the opposition. Yes, we will debate. Yes, the temperature gets a little bit high. The nature of this environment is that we yell and scream sometimes in frustration.

I apologize for that to Canadians and to my constituents, but we only experience what we do because we are in this chamber. When we have so-called immunity, we are protected in the House and we say what we want to say and get away with it. Who are we really hurting? We are hurting the average Canadian and that is the sad part about it.

Let me give one example, if I may. The other day I was watching a news program on CBC. The member for Calgary Centre-North was on the tube and he had the audacity again to say that his constituents wanted an election. He was being intellectually dishonest by saying that because he was on the tube a week before that when the House was in recess. He went home, supposedly, to gauge his constituents and to determine if they wanted an election. The first thing that was shown on television was the hon. member unpacking and setting up his campaign office. The reporter asked him what he was doing because he was supposedly there to gauge his constituents and to get a sense of what they wanted him to do.

We have often been told by members of the opposition, the new Conservative Party, that they will represent their constituents, and say and do what their constituents want them to do. The hon. member went home and opened up a campaign office. What did he do then? He went out on the street to canvass his constituents about the election and 9 out of 10 constituents told him, on television, that they did not want an election. They did not want another $350 million wasted for an election that is not necessary. The 10th constituent did not really care because he or she was probably turned off. The hon. member then came back to the chamber and said that his constituents wanted us to have an election. That is malarkey. I dare the Conservative Party to go back and look at exactly what happened that day.

I have to get back to the bill because there is important stuff here. The transport critic made a comment. He is a good friend of mine who worked very well on committee. Look what we have done on reducing rents at airports. We see that things are different and times have changed. We are trying to accommodate, we are trying to help out, and we are trying to make things work. That is the problem.

We have been trying to get to the bill for a long time. I have been trying to get on my feet to talk about the bill for a long time. What do opposition members do? They interrupt proceedings and shut the House down.

This reminds me of a saying that the future is always affected by the past. Let us go back in history for a moment on a bill like this and what happened? We had an unholy alliance before this one. We had Mr. Mulroney, who was in cahoots with the separatists to form government. What happened? We had the birth of the Reform Party to break up the country. We have now gone full cycle and the Reform came together and kicked out the Conservatives. It is now in bed with the Bloc Québécois and all of a sudden, the country simply is not working. We have been asking for weeks to put forth Bill C-48 and we cannot do it.

The bill wants to work. The budget has so many good things in it. I have talked to students who told me they want a good education because they deserve a good education.

I ask the opposition and all members in the House to do the right thing for the good of our youth, the environment, housing, cities, and for the good of the country. These investments make sense, especially when members agreed to support the budget bill, Bill C-43.

If they support Bill C-43, there is no reason why they cannot support Bill C-48, simply because Bill C-48 has what I alluded to a couple of minutes ago. If they come back and say they do not want to support Bill C-48, they are saying they are not supporting our youth, transportation and the environment. That is what they are saying.

Therefore, I move:

That this question be now put.

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12:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The motion is in order.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Medicine Hat.

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12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the chance to address Bill C-48. It pains me to see how bitter and angry my friend across the way is over all of this. I do not think that flatters him. These are important issues, but they should not cause people to be so poisoned that they lash out the way my friend has across the way.

I want to go to the substance of what he has said in his remarks, correct some of the things that he said, and ask if he will acknowledge that perhaps he has erred in telling the House some of the things he has said.

He said a minute ago that there is going to be money in Bill C-48 going to the military. That is not true, of course. That is absolutely incorrect. In fact, Bill C-48 will ensure that money cannot go to the military because it jacks up spending so much. Not only does this bill hurt the military, families, homemakers, small business people, children, it hurts people who care about this country and that is what bothers me. My friend is selling Canadians a bill of goods and I must correct a few of the other things he has said.

He said that this is about democracy. He made a case about why we need to deal with this right away and why we need to pass it. I must point out that the government took away the supply days of the opposition in an attempt to subvert democracy. We have not had a supply day since April 7 in this place. That is something that democracy in this country hinges upon. If people care about democracy, they cannot accept what my friend has just said.

My friend talked about Darfur and the need to get money to Darfur, but we find out that the government of Sudan has said no to the government's plan to send money and troops to Darfur. In fact, this is one of those cases where the government tried very hard to buy the vote of a single member with this big spending announcement. It was so anxious to do so that it forgot to check with the actual country that this money and these troops were supposed to go to, which I think does not really flatter the government. In fact, it sort of speaks to a hidden agenda--

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. member for Mississauga South on a point of order.

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12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think that if you check with the Table, the allegation or the indictment that someone has bought off a member is clearly either a violation of parliamentary rules or at least the Canada Elections Act. This imputation of criminal activity is inappropriate and the member should withdraw that reference.

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12:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

My understanding is that the hon. member for Medicine Hat was not pointing at a member in particular, but I would certainly recommend to be very prudent with such remarks.

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12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, let me be more explicit so that people understand. Let us just put it this way. The member from Edmonton wanted money for Darfur. The next day there was an announcement that a whole bunch of money would go to Darfur. It just happens that this is on the eve of a very important vote that could be decided by a single member, so people can draw their own conclusions.

Will the member admit that Bill C-48 actually contradicts everything that the finance minister said up to the point that Bill C-48 was announced?

The finance minister said that he could not change the budget. It could not be cherry-picked. It could not be stripped away piece by piece. He said that we had to have corporate tax cuts because corporate tax cuts were a tax on large employers. They would create 340,000 jobs for Canadians. Will he admit that Bill C-48 completely contradicts and undermines his own finance minister?

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12:40 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is wrong. Let me say that name calling is the last resort of fools. We will let Canadians judge who the fools are out there.

The member talked about democracy. Solon was the founder of democracy and I know what democracy is all about. We have been trying to deliver a report on emerging markets in committee and the Conservatives deliberately, in a premeditated way, stymied that activity, therefore hurting the nation.

In answer to his question, he is wrong because this budget continues to complement what Bill C-43 did. For example, it will continue to pay down the debt. It will continue to invest in the right areas. It will continue to do the right things. It simply adds on.

It does not take away from any of the commitments that the Minister of Finance has brought forward in Bill C-43. We have simply taken it a step further by saying that we will support post-secondary education, transportation and enhance housing initiatives.

When it comes to the military, he is wrong again because it does not take away from the military. I do not think he was listening when I said that it is one thing to send troops over there and not be able to help them. These moneys have been designated under military. I believe that any individual going over to do an assignment, whether it is policing, education or peacekeeping, is part of our military, unless he wants to start dissecting and saying this military person strictly does administrative work and another military person drives a tank. No, it is all military.

I do not see where he is coming from in saying the military loses money. How can it lose money when money is being put in? That is the Conservatives' math, which Canadians have finally understood.

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12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, when I listen to the speeches from Liberal members with regard to either the NDP bill or Liberal Bill C-43, it does not matter which one we are talking about.

I have yet to hear one single word about agriculture and the destitute farmers who are standing in front of the parliamentary buildings today in the hundreds, if not thousands. There will be thousands by the weekend. These are destitute people, who have had nothing from this government or any budget except broad announcements and no cheques.

I want the member to listen to this. Just yesterday I received a photocopy of a cheque that was received by a farmer in my riding. He and his wife have been working the farm since 2003, trying to put food on the table to feed their three children, working many hours trying to maintain a farm and live off of it. They applied for the money that was announced in 2003. Yesterday, in a little brown envelope, the cheque arrived from the government. They opened it expecting thousands. It cost them a lot to even prepare this document. The sum of the cheque was $140.06.

I wonder if the member could explain to me, after all these billions of dollars in announcements, how a destitute family, which is only a small example, and if he does not believe me he can go out in front of the building today and talk to the thousands of people out there who are not--

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. member for Scarborough Centre.

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12:45 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, of the members I respect over there, it is that member who always speaks from the heart, but we on this side do care as well.

Let us not forget that in 2004-05, $1 billion was put into the fiscal framework. That money was put in. I do not know the specific case he has referred to and cannot comment because I am not the administrator. The one thing I know is that the government was called to the floor and responded with $1 billion.

If the provinces chose not to participate and do their share or carry out their obligations, that is their problem not ours. The government was called upon and $1 billion was put in to support farmers. That is a fact.

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12:45 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Acadie--Bathurst.

I rise to speak in favour of Bill C-48, which will provide Canadians with some much needed money for important areas of social spending. It is important to note that when Canadians talked about things that were really important to them and their lives, the New Democratic Party listened and worked hard to get their issues on the government's agenda. This is an example of how we can work closely with groups and our communities to bring important things forward.

We heard from groups across Canada who told us that this is a good deal for Canadians. I would like to quote from a policy paper from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, entitled “Can We Afford It? The Case for the New 2005 Federal Budget”. It states:

In a context in which many forms of social spending have been neglected for so many years, the revised budget addresses a number of glaring priorities. Its provisions for affordable housing construction and support to provinces to reduce the costs of post-secondary tuition help to fill significant holes in the February budget.

Additional funds for international development, energy retrofits and public transit are also welcome supplements to the original budget. These funding commitments not only provide important social investments, but also address some of the election commitments made by the Liberals in the 2004 election campaign. And since the Liberal Party did not include corporate tax relief in their election platform, we are pleased to see the removal of these costly tax cuts.

The agreement negotiated with the NDP builds on some of the other positive developments in the original February budget bill. For example, the commitment of $5 billion over five years is an important step toward establishing a pan-Canadian child care program. The transfer of gas taxes to municipalities will help to renew Canada's deteriorating municipal infrastructure and to create jobs.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is a voice that has done a great deal of good work over the years in analyzing budgets. It has some very credible economists who are able to bring a more balanced blend to the kind of government spending we are talking about.

I would like to focus on the first area: affordable housing. This agreement will provide $1.6 billion for housing, with a focus on aboriginal housing agreements. In my riding of Nanaimo--Cowichan, we have one of the largest concentrations of on reserve first nations in Canada. It is a growing and vital community with many young families needing their own homes.

This agreement sets aside some of that $1.6 billion specifically for a dedicated fund for aboriginal housing construction to improve the appalling living conditions many aboriginal people face. This money is not contingent upon provincial matching funds, since this requirement has been proven to fail in the delivery of affordable housing construction. This money is not to supplant any money already promised to aboriginal communities.

I need to talk specifically about some of the conditions on some of the reserves in Nanaimo--Cowichan. They are shameful. We would expect some of these conditions to be seen in developing countries, not in a very rich country like Canada. Some of the housing on first nations reserves in British Columbia is shocking. In my riding, raw sewage is running through front yards. Water has to be boiled before drinking. Dumps are leaching into the water table. First nations have mould in their homes and face substandard housing construction.

It is outrageous that we have these kinds of conditions in this day and age in Canada. I applaud the fact that the New Democratic Party was able to work toward having funds committed to aboriginal housing.

The February 2001 report by the B.C. Ministry of Social Development, entitled “Homelessness--Causes & Effects”, a lovely title, talked about an insufficient supply of affordable housing. The report stated:

An insufficient supply of affordable housing is the key factor contributing to homelessness in British Columbia. While existing housing policies and programs are exemplary compared to some other provinces, the supply [of housing] remains insufficient. The existing stock of affordable housing is a valuable resource. However, this stock...continues to be vulnerable to demolition and conversion despite some positive provincial and local government actions to preserve it.

BC Housing's waiting list for social housing consists of approximately 10,500 individuals--

Let me repeat: the waiting list consists of 10,500 individuals. The statement continued:

--an increase of 50 per cent since the federal withdrawal from new housing supply. (This does not include those on non-profit and co-op housing waiting lists).

HOMES BC unit allocations, while a step in the right direction, are insufficient to fill the gap left by the federal government. New stock continues to be essential, particularly with a focus on those who are homeless and at risk of homelessness. Rent subsidies do not address the issues of supply.

The most frequently used method of counting and describing the homeless is through the use of emergency shelter records. This approach does not capture the full extent of homelessness. It excludes those who do not use shelters but sleep 'rough' and specific sub-groups such as women, youth and Aboriginal people for whom there are few suitable shelters.

Women and children are said to be the 'invisible homeless.' They avoid living on the street or using emergency shelters by doubling up with other families or living in inadequate accommodation. However, shelter data often tends to be the best information available.

I want to add a couple of other facts. We know that affordable housing has wide-ranging impacts on people's lives. We have an affordable housing unit in Nanaimo that has demonstrated how this can save us health care dollars. This affordable housing unit is for people who are emotionally or mentally disadvantaged. Studies on this housing unit have shown that having adequate quality housing improves people's quality of life. A pre- and post-study was done on this housing shelter. Before people had access to this very high quality housing unit, the number of hospital stays and also the length of time in a hospital were substantially different than they were after they had access.

The study done on people after they had access to the unit showed that both the number of times people were admitted to hospital and the length of time they spent in hospital were substantially decreased. This was directly attributable to having safe, secure, affordable housing in their neighbourhood, with access to all the services that they needed. We need to see more of this.

This budget agreement also includes $1.5 billion to reduce the cost of post-secondary education for students and their families. Again I have to talk about my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan. The average amount of student debt among British Columbia university graduates was $20,100, which exceeds the national average of $18,900. For college students, the average amount of student debt among British Columbia graduates was $11,400, which was slightly less than the national average debt of $12,700, but it is still a very high amount.

Everything we look at points to the need to have quality, affordable, accessible education in order for Canada to remain a competitive economic unit in the world. Our students must be able to attend college and university and come out without crushing debt loads, which means that they cannot actively participate in their communities. Students with high debt loads cannot do things such as get a mortgage for a house or buy an automobile. We must be able to provide quality, affordable, accessible education for our students and we must move on that quickly.

We just need to point to the example in Ireland, where post-secondary education was made broadly available to students. Now people are talking about the economic success of Ireland, of which education was a key factor.

The final point I would like to discuss is the $900 million for environmental initiatives such as the energy retrofit program, which helps homeowners reduce energy bills and pollution through efficiency, and a 1% increase in the gas tax transfer to municipalities for public transit, recognizing our cities' central role in building a strong economy.

I was previously a municipal councillor. Our community has struggled with providing adequate public transit. Many parts of our community do not have access to public transit. This kind of environmental initiative is absolutely critical in maintaining the efficiency and accessibility of our communities.

In conclusion, I would urge all members of the House to support Bill C-48. This bill is an important step forward in making Canadians' lives more livable. We talk about quality of life and we talk about things such as social determinants of health, but let me say that people need to have access to housing and they need to have access to affordable education. And we certainly want to make sure that our children and our children's children have access to clean air and clean water.

I urge all members of the House to support Bill C-48. Let us demonstrate to Canadians that we can actually work together and get something done.

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12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to ask a question of the member across. I believe that the budget bill, Bill C-48, does not deal with the concerns of Canadians. I think it misses opportunities. It is a lot of misdirected talk but no action.

For example, we have heard about the Liberals' desire to focus on clean air and clean water, but it is only the Conservatives who, in action, have been fighting for clean air, clean water and a clean environment. Let me give an example. In the Fraser Valley we have an issue of air pollution. Just 500 metres from our border is the Sumas Energy 2 project, which wants to pump tonnes of pollutants into the air. It was the Conservatives, and not the NDP or the Liberals, who fought against it.

As well, the Liberals and the NDP have had years to stop the dumping of raw sewage into our oceans. Have they done anything? They had the opportunity. They were in government, they have done nothing and now we are talking about them dumping in more money and making more empty promises to Canadians.

I will give another example. I would like to have the hon. member across the way tell me about the compassionate care program to keep loved ones together in the last days of their lives. This is something that we have been fighting for; I have a resident in my riding of Langley that I am fighting for. It is the Conservatives who have been putting pressure on this government to come up with a solution to this problem. Unfortunately, the NDP has been doing nothing and what the government has proposed is to reduce the funding from $191 million to $11 million. People are dying. They need loved ones to take care of them. Why are we not seeing that in Bill C-48?

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12:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, there are a couple of things I would like to address.

Although there are some grave problems with the current implementation of the EI bill around compassionate care, it is actually the NDP member for Sackville—Eastern Shore who has worked hard to have that included in the EI legislation right from the beginning.

I would urge all members of this House to look at what is happening with the compassionate care bill and make sure that the rules are changed in order to accommodate the people who are currently left out of that bill. The NDP has worked hard on making sure that the social safety net is there. The member for Acadie—Bathurst has been a tireless champion of reforms to EI. We will continue to work hard to protect those people who have so little voice.

When it comes to talking about Kyoto, let me say that the NDP Kyoto plan has been touted by environmental groups all over the country as having vision and leadership for Kyoto. I could be mistaken, but I believe I have heard many people from across the House talking about the fact that they do not believe we should sign on to the Kyoto protocol.

I would urge all members to get behind the Kyoto protocol and to work hard to make sure that the Kyoto protocol is implemented as of yesterday, not wait for another several years so that we cannot possibly meet our targets. I think the Kyoto protocol is an example of how we can work with business and other organizations in order to make Canada a leader in things like alternative energy sources. We could be leaders in manufacturing this kind of equipment instead of being foot-draggers like we have been and are currently.

I urge us to step forward and demonstrate to the rest of the world that Canada can meet its commitments and can be proactive. It would include things like making sure students have access to quality education so they can take the environmental and technology programs that will help them become those leaders.

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1 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-48, an act to amend Bill C-43, the Budget Implementation Act, 2005.

After two days of negotiation, the leader of the NDP managed to convince this minority government to allocate $4.6 billion to ordinary citizens. The Conservative Party across the way says this agreement should not have been made. I hope Canadians, social housing organizations and students in Canada will remember that the Conservatives said there should be no changes made to the budget, or Bill C-43.

Do not forget that before the end of the reading of the budget in the House of Commons, the leader of the Conservatives left the House and announced that his party could never vote against this budget because it was good. However, he was singing a different tune when it came time for the leader of the NDP to negotiate with the minority Liberal government to make changes to the budget that would help ordinary citizens.

Since 1992, and even before then, since the days of Brian Mulroney, Parliament has introduced cuts in budgets, which have left Canada in a human deficit. The leader of the Conservatives said he could vote in favour of the Liberal budget, Bill C-43, but he describes Bill C-48 as abysmal. He even said the Prime Minister had made a deal with the devil and that we needed another election to put him out of his misery.

That was in the middle of a week when he was supposed to be finding out whether Canadians wanted an election. He is ignoring what Canadians want since 61% of Canadians have said no to holding a general election at this time.

They want the budget to pass. Most of them want the proposed changes to be made to the budget, especially changes that impact affordable housing. How can anyone say no to affordable housing? This issue involves people in the street who need housing here, in Canada, one of the most beautiful countries in the world. We have reached a point where we have a human deficit.

In the past, when I used to go to Toronto, I never saw anyone sleeping in front of city hall on cardboard boxes or on hotel heating vents in the middle of the street or on the sidewalk. No one ever saw that. Now, this is happening in Montreal, where we see people on the street. We have to provide them with homeless shelters, in the absence of real homes.

How can there be opposition to Bill C-48? It might give people the chance to have a home. Some $1.6 billion would be invested in affordable housing. How can the Conservatives oppose such changes, today? It is disgraceful. They should be ashamed of opposing a $1.6 billion investment in the construction of affordable housing. They should be ashamed of saying no to $1.5 billion to reduce the cost of post-secondary education of our dear students, who are our children. They should be ashamed to say that they are unable to support such a budget.

I hope that, today, Canadians understand this and know who the Conservatives will be representing. They will be representing the major corporations. They were angry when they realized that the income tax reduction from 21% to 19% would apply not to major corporations, but solely to ordinary Canadians. I hope that ordinary Canadians will remember this when it comes time to vote. Company presidents are not the only ones voting, individuals are too. I hope that the latter will consider what the Conservative Party has in mind and what the NDP is proposing.

In terms of labour force training, we must remember that, although people may have worked for many years, as a result of new technologies, they will need to take training so as not to lose their jobs.

The NDP leader negotiated amendments to this budget with the minority government. Our desire is not just to complain and have an election. We were after something for ordinary people, money for training in order to remain employable. Our youth also need training, as do others needing jobs the most.

People find it hard to get another job if they are 48 or 50 years old and need to change industries, unless they can get training.

As for the environment, $900 million is being injected into the program in order to improve energy efficiency. I get a number of calls to my riding office in Acadie—Bathurst about the high cost of electricity. People need to insulate their houses better and replace windows to keep the cold out.

I am certain that this problem is not restricted to Acadie—Bathurst. It is the same all over Canada. Canadians need help on this.

How can the member for Medicine Hat do an about-face and say that the government cannot do this? SInce 1986, governments have been making cuts that affect ordinary Canadians. People have ended up in the street. Workers have been affected by the cuts in EI, despite the $46 billion surplus in the fund. People lose jobs and are not eligible for employment insurance. The Conservatives have always been opposed to any changes to EI.

It is regrettable that the Liberals have laid hands on that money. It is to be hoped that, between now and Thursday evening, the minister will announce the change to best twelve weeks for workers and do away with this dividing factor. It is to be hoped that they will go still further as far as Bill C-48 is concerned, because it would be regrettable if they did nothing for the workers whose contributions have created our employment insurance fund.

As for infrastructure, five cents a litre needs to be transferred to the cities, towns and municipalities. The NDP has negotiated one additional cent to help the municipalities within the next two days.

The City of Toronto is asking that we support the budget because it needs it. As for the mayor of Shippagan, he stated over the weekend that he wanted the budget to be voted on because the cities need money for their streets. The streets are in such bad shape that they have to be repaired. Be it in Bathurst, New Brunswick, or anywhere in the Gaspé I am sure, there are municipalities that need money. The City of Montreal needs money.

This is a budget that was improved in the context of a minority government. It would be interesting to see Parliament vote on this budget. Finally, we have a budget not only for major employers and large corporations, whose CEOs are pulling salaries of $6 million or $10 million, but one that also provides for individuals who are really in need: ordinary people, students with debts, young people, our children who are studying and getting out of school $40,000 in debt.

It is shameful what the Conservative Party did after supporting the Liberals' budget. Before the budget speech was even over, the Conservative leader stepped out of the House of Commons. He announced that he had no choice but to vote in favour of the budget, and that it had to be supported, because it was a good budget. We managed to get $4.6 billion for students and ordinary people, for the environment and continuous learning, all this to help ordinary people. But when the time comes to vote, the Conservatives will figure they cannot do that and they will not vote in favour of the budget.

Let us hope that the people of Canada are following the proceedings of the House of Commons and hearing the kind of speeches the Conservatives make when there are changes. Their leader declared that the Liberal leader had made a deal with the devil. But he would have liked to have the devil on his side to make the government fall. That is the problem for the Conservative leader.

I support Bill C-48. We need it for ordinary people, for the people of Canada. I would also like the people of Quebec to ask their representatives to support this bill, so that, like us in Acadia, cities like Montreal, Quebec City or municipalities in the Gaspé and across Quebec can finally benefit from the change made to the budget.