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House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

Topics

Canada Border Services Agency ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, as we can tell from the comments of the member that just spoke, he is quite passionate about the subject, a passion which I share, because of the impact that the border has on our economy in the Windsor-Essex county area and on the livelihood of so many of our people. A good deal of that livelihood is being threatened at this point to a great degree because of inaction on the part of the government.

Specifically, the bill is part of an overall strategy by the government to consolidate services into one super ministry under the Minister for Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. This is just one component of it. With this particular bill, which all parties agreed was an appropriate step for the government to take, we are consolidating the customs program, the customs investigations and appeal functions, and the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. We are taking part of that agency, bringing in the intelligence interdiction and enforcement program, including ports of entry from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, and finally the inspection of ports of entry and the Canada Food Inspection Agency.

The NDP has been willing to support this because we believe it is important to focus attention on our border crossings and our ports of entry. All too often in the past, because these programs have been somewhat isolated within their respective departments, there has not been enough attention paid to the issues with regard to ports of entry. With regard to the security at ports of entry, and at the rest of the border crossings, a secure but efficient methodology must ensure that cargo and passengers are able to move back and forth without undue hindrance. This development, in terms of bringing this together, makes good practical sense.

When the bill came before the justice subcommittee, all parliamentarians sitting on that committee felt reasonably comfortable with it, but there were some amendments. I want to touch on those briefly.

One of them affected the reporting function. Although there was a modest reporting function, by the amendment that we introduced and passed in the subcommittee, we strengthened the responsibility of the minister to report. As we will see in a few minutes, when I conclude my speech, that is an important factor, and the need to strengthen it was equally important.

The other point that raised some concern with the employees at the border was that they were defined under the Criminal Code as peace officers. As a result of a decision that I believe came out of my region of the country, the charges that the employees at the border might lay under various pieces of legislation on a number of occasions had been challenged as to their capacity to lay those charges. In a couple of cases the charges were actually dismissed on what was seen as a technical problem.

The employees had been asking the government for the last five to seven years to amend the section of the Criminal Code, so it would be clear they had the responsibility and the jurisdiction to lay the charges. The government had not done that when the bill was introduced originally. The public service employees came forward with a very clear, concise and obviously persuasive argument as to the need for this amendment. It was taken up by all members of the committee, including, finally, the government members, and the amendments were moved, supported unanimously and passed. It is now in the bill which, with support from all parties, will pass and their job will become a little easier.

As an aside on this point, there has been an ongoing debate between the public service employees at the border, arguing that in a number of cases they need to have greater security for themselves.

We have heard of many incidents at border crossings where individual members were positioned there by themselves. There have been several incidents where people have suffered ill health and had no one to assist them. There have been other occasions where there were very clear security threats to them and they had no meaningful backup at all.

There is an ongoing debate as well as to whether border crossing guards should be armed. At this point they are not allowed to carry firearms in spite of some clear cases where that would have been of some benefit to them.

To be clear on this point I must say that this debate has been raised by employees themselves. A number of them have not been trained or properly prepared to carry firearms whereas others have. This is going to be an ongoing debate. A case just came down from the federal court with respect to wardens in our national parks and it may have some impact on this issue. We may be moving to that at some stage in the near future.

By consolidating the departments and more specifically these programs, we are going to have clearer information because we will get annual reports from the minister. We will be able to focus our attention on the actual issues confronting us at our border crossings and ports of entry. I hope and expect that an inevitable result of this consolidation will be greater security and more efficient use of our border crossings to move both cargo and passengers.

With regard to arming border guards and the security issue, major work still needs to be done. We hear reports that some containers coming in at our ports of entry on both the east and west coasts are not being inspected. A very small percentage are in fact inspected. This is worrisome from a terrorist standpoint because inspections are minimal. This issue must be addressed. Once this consolidation is fully in place and functioning, the government will see the need to provide additional services of a security nature at our ports of entry.

As we heard from the member for Windsor West, the border crossing between Windsor and Detroit is the busiest one in the country. It could be argued that it may be the busiest crossing of any place in the world as far as cargo is concerned. In spite of that fact, we cannot get the government to address a number of issues that confront our community.

There is a major issue concerning whether we need an additional crossing, and there seems to be overwhelming evidence that we do. However, the government has been extremely slow in responding to that need. That is having a major impact particularly on the auto industry, but generally on the manufacturing industry.

This is not just an issue with regard to the Windsor-Essex county area. We have heard substantive evidence about problems with regard to moving manufactured goods across our border and the backlogs this is creating. There are backlogs throughout all of southern Ontario, right into Quebec and all the way back to Montreal.

We expect these issues to be addressed in a much more efficient and responsible manner than they have in the past. We expect that the additional resources that are required to meet our security needs at our ports of entry and border crossings will be forthcoming in geographic areas like the Windsor-Detroit area. We expect that an additional crossing, when needed, will be addressed much more rapidly than it has been historically.

The NDP will be supporting Bill C-26. However, we will be watching the outcome once it is in place to see how these programs are functioning and we will be pressing very hard for them to be expanded.

Canada Border Services Agency ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to hear that the New Democratic Party will be supporting the bill.

Those who have been following the debate will know that there is an inextricable link between the movement of economic goods and services as well as security issues. It would seem to me that as we move into more stringent security provisions, this must necessarily involve some additional work or scrutiny, or possible delays on the economic side.

We have a situation where it is not just enough to complain about a problem. Rather we must look for that appropriate balance between the security needs which must be in place for us to deal with the challenges we are facing these days and the steps that can be taken to improve the flow of goods and services.

I know the member is very knowledgeable about the area as it is his home area and the initiatives that have been talked about from time to time, such as having secure yards where trucks could get pre-cleared, to help with the delays that are caused simply by the enormous amount of truck traffic, not only from Ontario but substantively from Quebec. This causes some concern because to disrupt the economy of Canada is also a form of terrorism.

I would be very interested to hear whether the member is satisfied that proper discussion has gone on with regard to those reasonable steps that can be taken to ensure a smooth flow of economic goods and services.

Canada Border Services Agency ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, overall we are not satisfied with the response.

The cabinet member who is now the Minister of Foreign Affairs was in Windsor. We were having a meeting with representatives for both sides of the border. I remember raising with them that the big issue right then was the need for the U.S. side to expand the number of gates into the U.S. side. The American side was way behind what Canada was doing at that point in terms of providing the proper services at the border crossings to allow the free flow of goods at the same time as providing security.

I agree with my friend from Mississauga South that there is a need for balance. There have certainly been times that we in the Windsor area in particular have felt that the security demands from the U.S. side were unreasonable. On a number of occasions we have been able to convince them to take a step back so that goods and passengers would flow freely.

On the basic question about whether the government's response has been as fulsome as it should have been, I said in my opening comment that I did not think so. I am going to use as an example the provision of a ferry service that we have in the Windsor area. There is litigation going on about this right now which may be close to being settled finally, but even before 9/11 we had set up a system that allowed the bridge company, which is a private company, to receive customs services for free. It is not charged anything.

On the other hand, the ferry service is being charged a per vehicle cost in order to have customs and border security people at the crossing. It is a small company in comparison with the bridge, which is a huge corporation, but the government has refused a simple change in the regulations that would make it possible for customs people to be there, to move vehicles across in an efficient way without costing the service that amount of money. That service would be a good alternative to deal with some of the backlog at the bridge and the tunnel in the Windsor area. The government has refused to follow through on that.

With regard to the member's other question as to marshalling guards, that has been considered. It was proposed by the former mayor of Windsor. It has never been taken up by the government and it still has not responded to that request.

Canada Border Services Agency ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Welland, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise before the House to promote this very important piece of legislation, a bill to create an innovative border management organization that will strengthen our capacity to respond swiftly and effectively to risks and threats to our country.

Security is the cornerstone of our society. When this country was formed, our descendants made a conscious decision to establish a nation that would be founded on peace, order and good government for Canadians. Successive governments and generations of Canadians have upheld that ideal with the result that Canada has become one of the most successful countries on the earth.

However, the repeated and unprecedented challenges we have faced since the millennium began have identified weaknesses that could endanger our way of life.

The events of 9/11 drove home that point in a tragic but tangible way. The shocking reality is that terror knows no boundaries and respects no life. No one is immune to the damaging effects of these forces in our increasingly interconnected world. This was an especially hard lesson learned by Canadian businesses which depend on a free and open border for $2 billion daily in cross-border trade and millions of travellers who once took border crossings for granted.

To protect our citizens, economy and society, we have to better anticipate and be prepared to address any and all hazards arriving on our doorstep. Terrorism, illegal migration, organized crime and other threats must be combated. That is why the public safety and emergency preparedness portfolio was created, to bring together key national agencies dedicated to public safety, including the Canada Border Services Agency, Correctional Service of Canada, the RCMP, CSIS, the Canadian Firearms Centre and the National Parole Board.

The CBSA has been set up to build on progress already achieved since we signed the Canada-U.S. smart border declaration with our American neighbours in the aftermath of September 11. A smart border is one that makes a distinction between low risk and high risk travellers and cargo arriving at the border, letting the former move through quickly, while taking the necessary time to take a closer look at those who pose a threat.

The CBSA will accelerate this work by aligning complementary security activities previously spread among three government organizations into a single, streamlined unit. The new structure allows the agency to take a more integrated and multifaceted approach to border management to improve the quality, effectiveness and affordability of border services.

Proposed Bill C-26 will allow us to move forward with an integrated and multifaceted approach to border management, which is a key component of our national security policy. Members of the House will recall that this policy focuses on three core national security interests: protecting Canada and Canadians at home and abroad; ensuring Canada is not a base for threats to our allies; and contributing to international security.

Thanks to the integration of the main activities of border security and intelligence, the Canada Border Services Agency is already in a position to better protect Canadians, while facilitating the free flow of admissible persons and goods.

In less than a year since its launch, the agency has accelerated a number of progressive measures undertaken by its predecessors. For example, it has made every effort to improve border flow and to expand the NEXUS and FAST programs for pre-approved low risk travellers and commercial traffic.

FAST, the fast and secure trade program, NEXUS, and many other smart initiatives put in place in recent months and years depend on pre-screening people and cargo to separate those who pose a threat from those who do not. While the vast majority of clients comply with law and regulations, we have put in place risk management strategies to identify, detect and interdict high risk people and goods.

Pre-approval makes it possible for CBSA officers to speed up the processing of legitimate travellers and businesses with good track records, particularly those that have been pre-cleared. However, the CBSA denies the use of Canadian territory to anyone involved in terrorism or serious criminality and prevents the entry of goods, including animals, plants or food products, that threaten the safety of Canadians.

Knowing how effective this approach to border management is, the CBSA has expanded FAST to expedite the movement of low risk cargo and truck drivers. It is now in effect at 19 of the largest and highest volume land border crossings.

The NEXUS program fills the same need by simplifying land crossings for pre-approved low risk frequent travellers. It also continues to expand. By last November we had over 70,000 people registered in the program using NEXUS sites at 11 locations across the country.

The launch of the NEXUS air pilot program at the Vancouver International Airport this past November allows pre-approved travellers to clear customs and immigration in Canada or in U.S. pre-clearance by simply looking into a camera that recognizes the irises of their eyes as proof of identity.

Of concern to all constituents, we have also ensured that Canadians are exempt from the U.S. visit program. An entry and exit system has been established in the United States to record the identity of people entering or leaving the country. Canadian and American citizens are not subject to this new policy.

As well, we have established Canada's National Risk Assessment Centre, which became operational on a 24/7 basis in January 2004. We can now share automated lookouts with the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. The centre will also serve as the focal point for managing and coordinating national and international watch lists, including lists of lost and stolen passports and other travel documents, to stop high risk travellers upon their arrival in Canada.

Our countries have also agreed to share advance passenger information and passenger name records on high risk travellers destined for either country.

The recent budget tabled by this government provides additional funding for the container security initiative that would allow CBSA to enhance Canada's marine security program. The primary goal of the container security initiative is to protect the global trading system and to keep the trade lanes open between foreign ports and Canada by targeting and interdicting potential terrorism threats before they reach our shores.

The government has invested in the marine security initiative to ensure that Canada is meeting international standards and can harmonize our regulations with those of our global trading partners. The agency takes a multi-layered, risk based approach to security at marine ports, which includes the advance targeting of high risk vessels and goods, the use of new technology and increased cooperation with our partners.

There is much more the CBSA will do in the months ahead with the passage of this bill. In partnership with other federal departments and agencies, it will develop a new partnership of smart border initiatives involving the U.S. and Mexico and expand smart border principles around the globe.

Few issues matter more to the welfare of our nation than making sure we are ready and able to detect and respond to new and emerging threats to our society, threats that endanger the competitiveness of Canadian business as well as the health and safety of the public.

I am confident that the CBSA will be an effective first point of contact as it manages the movement of people and goods into and out of Canada. All members of this House should give this legislation speedy passage.

Canada Border Services Agency ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The member will have 10 minutes remaining at the next debate since there was no indication of the splitting of time.

Public ServiceStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I am about to make an announcement that everyone in the House of Commons will be very proud of. Today, Cecil Oliver and Natural Resources Canada are celebrating a milestone unequalled in the history of the Government of Canada.

This year, Cecil Oliver, an employee of the department, marks his 60th year of continuous public service with the government. Mr. Oliver began his career with the Canadian Forces in 1945. In 1968 he moved to civilian work with aeronautical and technical services in the mapping services branch of what is now Natural Resources Canada.

Today, at 79 years of age, he continues his career as a senior technologist. His colleagues agree that he is an invaluable resource. In honour of long and dedicated service to Canada, Cecil received the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal.

I ask hon. members to join me in congratulating Mr. Oliver on his outstanding record of 60 years of service to the people of Canada.

JusticeStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, citizens of Nanaimo were traumatized by the May 31 assault on an 89-year-old woman in her own home. Charged with break and enter and sexual assault is Franklin Shane Dorfer.

Dorfer was a repeat offender, convicted in 1994 after two break and enters involving elderly women, including a 71-year-old who was raped. Residents would like to know why this man was on the streets, having served only part of a seven and a half year sentence. He was released only to commit further B and Es, the latest in 2004.

Although he was not considered a good candidate for parole, Dorfer was released again. He violated his parole and a warrant had been issued for his arrest at the time of the Nanaimo attack.

Prisoners need to earn parole. Automatic statutory release needs to be scrapped. We need mandatory minimum sentences for repeat and violent offenders. We need truth in sentencing. These offenders should serve their full term.

Violent crimes against the elderly should be an aggravating factor for sentencing. More needs to be done to protect our elderly citizens and restore safety to our streets.

Canadian Diabetes AssociationStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, I attended a juvenile diabetes fundraiser this weekend. During the winter I met with the Peterborough chapter of the Canadian Diabetes Association and toured its office. It does wonderful work in our community and country.

More than two million Canadians live with diabetes and that number will double by 2020. Escalating obesity, sedentary lifestyles and an aging population all feed the national epidemic of diabetes. Diabetes leads to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, limb amputation and blindness. It costs over $13 billion each year. However early diagnosis, aggressive treatment and lifestyle change can stem the tide, delaying onset and even preventing the disease.

I support the Canadian Diabetes Association in all its efforts to develop a national diabetes strategy. We have supported the association in the past. Let us continue to do so. We should help those living with diabetes in every possible way. We should work to prevent and cure this disease.

National Public Service WeekStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me today to draw the hon. members' attention to National Public Service Week and the generous contribution of public servants to society.

Members of the public service face many challenges. For example, it is estimated that nearly 25% of public servants are victims of psychological harassment in the workplace.

Today I want to stress the importance of passing a bill that will prevent and address psychological harassment in the workplace. Such a bill would go beyond simple policies that are based on good intentions and would provide true protection to public servants, thereby enhancing their performance.

The Bloc Québécois is anxious to see Bill C-360 passed and it wishes all public servants an excellent week.

UN Framework Convention on Climate ChangeStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam Speaker, I wish to inform the hon. members of this House of the appointment of Jacques Bilodeau as Canada's ambassador to the Eleventh Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which will be held in Montreal from November 28 to December 9, 2005.

Mr. Bilodeau will be working with the key stakeholders at the Montreal conference on climate change as the representative of the Minister of the Environment. He will facilitate consultation with the interested parties in order to advance discussions on the development of a new plan for the post-2012 period.

Throughout his 30-plus years in the Public Service of Canada, Mr. Bilodeau has held various positions in the Department of Foreign Affairs, including that of the Prime Minister's representative during the Francophonie summit in Burkina Faso in the fall of 2004. Mr. Bilodeau's extensive background in diplomacy should help him in the successful performance of his duties.

Mr. Bilodeau has a Master's degree from the École nationale d'administration publique and a Bachelor of Arts and Science from Université Laval.

Bridgewater FloodStatements By Members

June 13th, 2005 / 2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this time to call attention to all the committed and dedicated men and women from my riding of South Shore--St. Margaret's who worked tirelessly during the recent state of emergency in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia.

From May 22 to 27, heavy rain fell throughout Nova Scotia with 225 millimetres of rain falling in the Bridgewater area alone. Heavy flooding resulted, roughly 100 people were evacuated from their homes and 17 roads and 12 bridges in Lunenburg county had to be closed by the department of transportation.

I commend the volunteer fire departments and other emergency workers for their role in protecting the residents of our communities.

Emergency Measures co-ordinator, Brian Kaiser, along with dozens of professionals and volunteers, performed yeoman service in coordinating the municipal and provincial response.

To everyone involved in the response team and to all the neighbours who assisted neighbours, I extend a sincere and heartfelt bravo, good work and thank you.

PolandStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, this past Friday, I attended a photo exhibit dedicated to educating the public about a terrible human tragedy in Polish history.

Sixty-five years ago the Soviet army took 21,000 Polish army reserve officers prisoner after occupying eastern Poland under terms of a secret deal between Hitler and Stalin.

After rounding up these reservists, lawyers, doctors, businessmen, teachers and other professionals, the intellectual elite of Poland, the Soviets took them to various locations where they were gagged, bound, executed and buried in mass graves. The largest known mass grave of these execution sites was the Katyn forest near Smolensk, Russia.

For decades the Soviets denied they had committed this atrocity. Finally, in 1992 the Russian government handed over documents to the Polish president, Lech Walesa, showing that Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin did indeed order the massacres. Notwithstanding this evidence, Russian President Putin refuses to acknowledge the Katyn massacre.

I hope that some day all Canadians will be afforded the opportunity to learn more about this terrible crime through displays and interactive media at a prominent national museum in Canada.

150th Anniversary of the Town of Saint-SauveurStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity recently to take part in an evening launching the festivities marking the 150th anniversary of Saint-Sauveur, a town known for its exceptional quality of life and joie de vivre.

At this event, the organizing committee paid tribute to six women who have made a remarkable contribution to their community in recent years. As architects of economic and social development, these six women make Saint-Sauveur the dynamic town it is.

These committed women are Annick Cazin, Huguette Chartier, Lise Foisy, Micheline Barbe, Johanne Martel and Annie Dagenais. They have the well-being of the community of Saint-Sauveur at heart.

The Bloc Québécois pays tribute to these six women. I am convinced that their efforts will produce results. More committed women can only be good for our society. I congratulate and thank them.

Seniors MonthStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Beth Phinney Liberal Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, June is Seniors Month. I want to recognize the contribution of seniors, particularly those in my riding of Hamilton Mountain.

With advances in technology and medicine, seniors are living longer, healthier lives while continuing to contribute to both the social fabric and the economic prosperity of Canada.

Sackville Senior Centre in my riding has approximately 1,400 active members participating in a variety of mentally and physically challenging activities.

The percentage of seniors in Canada is growing rapidly, which requires that we remain diligent in protecting health and pension supports.

The government has shown its commitment to seniors in the present budget by increasing the guaranteed income supplement, by increasing support to the new horizons program and by increasing support to caregivers. In fact, most of the features in the present budget will help seniors.

I thank all seniors for their support, enrichment and inspiration.

Aerospace IndustryStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, Quebec's industry minister stated on the weekend that Quebec could create its own policy for the aerospace industry in the absence of any federal policy.

For months now, since October to be precise, the federal government has been promising such a policy but nothing is forthcoming.

Given the importance of this issue and this sector for Canada and especially Quebec, it is high time the federal government showed transparency and tabled a real draft policy on the aerospace industry.

Awards

Valigia D'oroStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Susan Kadis Liberal Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, I had the distinct pleasure of attending the seventh annual Valigia D'oro Awards. Eight constituents of mine, Mr. and Mrs. Bo-ke-keo, Mr. and Mrs. Catapano, Mr. and Mrs. DiMarco, Mr. and Mrs. Martini, and Mr. and Mrs. Dalimonte received awards honouring their years of dedication to building a strong Canada.

The Valigia d'Oro or Golden Suitcase was established by Vaughan regional councillor, Mario Ferri, for the purpose of recognizing the sacrifices and contributions made by Italian Canadians who have immigrated to Canada. Their determination to succeed has been a true demonstration of courage and vision.

I want to thank the Italian Canadian community who together with many other communities have made such a significant difference to the lives of many Canadians.

It is now up to our generation to maintain and promote these values of hard work and dedication to ensure future generations enjoy the legacy of those who have given so much.

HealthStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, public medicare is one of past minority government's proudest achievements and now forms a cornerstone of Canadian identity. We need a government to protect and improve it, reasserting a federal role to stop privatization and pursue the solutions that can control costs, improve care and keep medicare public.

Public health care attracts billions of dollars in investment. Public health care provides Canada with a competitive advantage vis-à-vis our neighbours to the south.

In the U.S., General Motors' health care bill runs about $1,500 per car produced. In Canada that figure is only a few hundred dollars. In the U.S., GM's health bill for current and retired workers is expected to reach $5.6 billion and it expects to slash 25,000 jobs in the next four years.

CAW estimates that it costs $4 or $5 more an hour per employee to build a car in the U.S. than in Canada, a 10% labour cost advantage for the Canadian auto industry. Public health care is a good part of the reason.

This year Canadians selected Tommy Douglas as the greatest Canadian. Keep our public health care for the prosperity and wellness of all Canadians in our economy.

Child CareStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, in an interview published in today's edition of the Globe and Mail , the social development minister has made a number of interesting revelations regarding the government's two tier child care plan.

In the interview the minister began by saying that he had no idea how much the government's proposed child care program will cost Canadian taxpayers. Then, despite months of telling parents his child care plan would be universally and widely accessible, the social development minister acknowledged that the Liberal plan would “never be truly universal in scope”.

With the minister now acknowledging the Liberals' child care plan is restrictive and will not address the needs of Canadian families, particularly those living in rural areas of the country, like many families in my riding of Selkirk—Interlake, I call on the government to support the Conservative Party's plan for a truly universal program, a plan that puts money directly into the hands of parents so all Canadian families can make their own child care choices.

Rock BanvilleStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, we were greatly saddened to hear of the passing of Dr. Rock Banville in Terrebonne at the age of 74. Dr. Banville was a staunch defender of workers' rights.

Dr. Banville was a native of Saint-Octave-de-Métis, and was extremely active in the labour movement, particularly as the co-founder, with well-known union leader Michel Chartrand, of the Fondation d'aide aux travailleurs accidentés du Québec.

His 1999 book La peau des autres spoke out against dangerous working conditions in the construction industry and on construction sites.

In the 1970s, he played a hand in the founding of the Front des travailleurs unis de Sept-Îles.

Dr. Banville remains a source of inspiration to us all and will live on in our memories.

The members of the Bloc Québécois join with me in extending our most sincere condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Rock Banville.

John Lynch-StauntonStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to honour a fellow colleague who I have had the great pleasure of getting to know. On June 19, Senator John Lynch-Staunton will be turning 75 and thus retiring from his seat in the Senate.

Senator Lynch-Staunton is a member of the Conservative Party of Canada for the province of Quebec in the Grandville senatorial division. He was first appointed to the Senate on September 23, 1990 by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. From September 1991 to November 1993, he was Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate. In addition, he was elected leader of the opposition in the Senate in December 1993.

In 2004, Senator Lynch-Staunton served as the first leader for the new Conservative Party of Canada on an interim basis.

Today I am honoured to stand and speak of such an esteemed senator and Canadian. I thank Senator Lynch-Staunton for his hard work, dedication and service to Canada. I wish him all the best for a very happy retirement.

Fight against CancerStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, on June 4, Edmunston held its third annual Relay for Life. This is an activity held Canada wide by the Canadian Cancer Society to raise funds for the fight against cancer.

I would like to recognize all the volunteers on the relay organizing committee for their contribution to this event. Cancer is a disease of such concern to us all and I am sure that activities like the Relay for Life help raise public awareness of the need for cancer research.

The Edmunston Relay for Life collected more than $140,000, which will be used for funding promising research projects, information and support programs, defending the public interest as far as cancer prevention policies are concerned, and improving the quality of life of people living with cancer.

Finally, I wish to acknowledge the efforts of all the Relay for Life participants in Edmunston and elsewhere.

HealthOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I have reviewed last week's health care decision by the Supreme Court of Canada. It did not question the public health care system in our country. However, it did question how the government has managed that system. In particular, it has pointed out that the health care wait times are at an all-time high under the Liberal government.

Could the Prime Minister tell us why, after 12 years in office, there are no national benchmarks for wait times in the country?

HealthOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, this is a realization which the government expressed to the Canadian people during the election campaign. It is a realization which the hon. member opposite did not seem to understand at the time.

This is why we convened the federal-provincial conference in September. This is why we set out an accelerated plan to deal with the issue of wait times, along with the provinces.

I am delighted that the Leader of the Opposition has finally come to the understanding of what the situation is. This is the issue. How do we reduce wait times? That is why we set out the plan. That is why we are working with the provinces.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, Canadians will wonder why there were no wait times standards all those years the government claimed it was defending the system.

On May 31 and June 1, the government categorically denied in the House that it had concluded a secret agreement with Mr. Chrétien. However, the day before, the government had in fact signed a written, official and secret arrangement with Mr. Chrétien's lawyers.

Why did the Prime Minister allow his government to mislead this House?

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Kings—Hants Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, let me be clear. There was no offer, no arrangement and no deal made between Mr. Chrétien and the Government of Canada.

There was a letter from lawyer to lawyer that simply restated the law and described how the law applied in this case. The letter reaffirms Mr. Chrétien's right as an individual to bring action forward based on perceived bias if he chooses.

Let us be clear. The Government of Canada has consistently supported the work of Justice Gomery and will continue to support the work of Justice Gomery.