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House of Commons Hansard #107 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was workers.

Topics

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Hamilton Centre.

I want to start by referencing the terms of what we are talking about in the motion. What we are looking at is a very modest change to the Employment Insurance Act, so that those workers who are at their most vulnerable in key strategic areas receive some type of assistance and stability.

That is important to acknowledge, because we are not talking about doing this across the country. We are talking about doing it in areas that geographically or systemically have greater than 10% unemployment. It is very important to recognize that point, because it limits the scope of where we are going to be addressing the issue to start with.

We are going to acknowledge those areas that have a significant bump of unemployment, where there seems to be something happening in those regions that is causing a greater impact in those communities. Those regions would be able to access a fund that is a little more flexible for the families of the workers who are in trouble because there is something happening in those regions.

Those significant unemployment bumps could be caused by anything. In Atlantic Canada and British Columbia, they could be in the fishing industry. Or in my area of Windsor, Ontario, for example, we are concerned about an automotive downturn, which could peak things up at certain periods of time.

We know that certain sectors and certain parts of our country have some very unique challenges. That is what we are talking about: a very focused first step to address this. It is very important to acknowledge that the member for Acadie—Bathurst who has brought this forward has done it so he can be inclusive of the House. That is the intent here. It is not to try to take such a position on a very divided issue. We have taken some criticism that I think is very unfair, because we have taken a position whereby we can at least reach out to all members of the House to provide a simple change in our system that will cost only approximately $20 million.

That cost is going to go back to workers and their families. It is going to go back to them to make sure their mortgages and car payments get paid. It will make sure that they can put food on the table. It will make sure that they are able to get retraining and get back on their feet much more quickly.

We are not talking about $20 million in terms of a corporate tax cut or something which might have the money squirreled away somewhere outside this country. By the way, we still have not fixed that.

We are talking about $20 million that gets injected back into the hands of people who have already paid this out. They have paid for it through their benefit contributions on a daily basis, matched by their employer. That is what the whole insurance issue is about: we will have that coming back and we are looking at moving it from 14 weeks to 12 weeks.

Quite frankly, I am disappointed about the attacks saying that we have not included all these other things. We know that there is no consensus on this issue, so what can we do as a logical first step to make a difference, especially with the twilight of Parliament and this session and the threat of a looming election at any time? What can we do to allow those people and those geographic regions to have better benefits, for their own stability? At the end of the day, it will help those communities. It will change things. That is why the member for Acadie—Bathurst brought this forward.

There are a number of different issues on employment insurance that we can really relate to what is happening here. I want to touch on a couple of issues and one in particular that I have seen. It relates to going from 14 to 12 weeks. Some people in different occupations cannot deal with the way this is now. The member for Winnipeg Centre talked about carpenters and skilled trades. They work so much to get a job done and often are under a lot of pressure to get that job done quickly. Sometimes they actually have to work overtime and pay higher premiums and greater taxation, but at the same time, they are closing their working weeks down.

I can relate to that in regard to the persons with disabilities I used to support prior to coming to the House. Many of them, for their long term health and well-being, could not work at a job for 35 or 40 hours a week. That became problematic. Generally speaking, in Windsor West, even if someone had a good stable job the threshold to collect any type of employment insurance was often far too high.

When some of my clients, who were in occupations for years, diligently paying their taxes and watching it come off their paycheques, found themselves unemployed due to circumstances beyond their control, for example the employer had to lay them off or the company closed, they found nothing there for them. People were immediately removed from that system and put into the welfare system.

In Ontario, under the Harris regime, it was brutal. I remember supporting clients at that time who had to sell their cars or their life insurance policies. It was unbelievable. One client in particular had to sell the policy and dispose of it before going on social assistance. However if a person passes away, the state has to pick up that cost anyway, so there is actually a double cost on it. Those are the types of things people are made to do before they can actually receive some type of assistance. What happened was people would go into turmoil and it undermined their being able to get back on their feet and be successful again.

What is important about the motion is that we are asking that the qualifying weeks go from 14 weeks down to 12 weeks in areas with 10% unemployment or higher and that we have a specific strategy to address this so people can get back on their feet a lot quicker.

I think due diligence is required from the government. We have areas that for economic reasons have higher unemployment or have sectorial problems. We had a good debate the other day on the textile industries, where we know that beyond the control of the workers in this country, and their quality and ethics in terms of producing good products and services, there are other factors, which are beyond anything they can do individually, that are causing their unemployment. We had lots of different horror stories of what happened in that sector either because of things that the government has done in terms of the trade policy or has not done in terms of some of the massive overseas subsidization of other industries that have allowed unfair competitive practices and have thrown those workers out of work. The government has a duty to come up with a strategy to deal with that. We will be voting on that and I would encourage all members to support that effort.

We need to have specific government strategies for areas that are going to be influenced beyond their control in their area of expertise until we can make sure that there is going to be some stability.

I do want to address, in my final two minutes here, the notion that going from 14 weeks to 12 weeks to collect benefits would create an influx of people who cheat the system. Why do we not go after the people in the corporate world, white collar crime, those this country never goes after, those who cheat people out of their pensions, their savings and their earnings, with the same type of vigour? Why is it always on the backs of the workers as being victims first?

It is unacceptable. Nobody wants those cheaters and we should go after them if they are going to do that, but the government cannot get away with not doing anything about white collar crime and the looting of pensions and at the same time not do a little bit for workers and have an excuse--

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the member but we are moving to statements by members.

Mélanie BérubéStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate Mélanie Bérubé, a clinical nurse specialist, who won the Florence 2005-Relève award. This is the highest award of the Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec.

Ms. Bérubé, who lives in Sainte-Dorothée, in the riding of Laval—Les Îles, has made an outstanding contribution to the development and implementation of continuous quality improvement initiatives. She has worked in the intensive care unit at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal for the past five years and also teaches at the Université de Montréal, specializing in intensive care.

Ms. Bérubé is devoted to people and advocates greater recognition for nurses.

Without a doubt, Ms. Bérubé sets an example and is a role model for the next generation.

Once again, congratulations to Mélanie Bérubé.

Conservative Party of CanadaStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative Party works for Canadian unity. Conservatives believe our nation's strength is in our diversity.

Conservatives celebrate and work side by side with atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Buddhists, Protestant and Catholic Christians, Mormons, Hindus and those who practise native religions. Canada's might is found in new Canadians and established families who centre their lives on eternal values.

We recognize that government involves moral and ethical challenges. Canadians do not expect MPs to check their religious beliefs at the caucus door because governing is not done in a vacuum of values. We welcome MPs who bring their world view to the table when we discuss economics, a city agenda or world trade.

Liberals consistently conjure fear of Canadians who hold religious values but Canadians are becoming tired of the Liberals' fearmongering and are looking to a party that celebrates strength. I am proud to be a Conservative because the Conservative Party works for Canadian unity.

Aboriginal AffairsStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, May 31 was a historic day for relations between the Government of Canada and Canada's first nations, Inuit and Métis.

Cabinet ministers and the leaders of five national organizations participated in a policy retreat which marked a new way of doing business, a new partnership based on respect and coexistence.

The signing of a joint accord with each of these organizations underlines the commitment of all parties to move forward together on policy priorities that have been jointly set from the ground up.

I believe this partnership is an achievement that is in the interest of all Canadians. It helps ensure an inclusive approach where real progress can be made in closing the socio-economic gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians.

The policy retreat has resulted in strengthened relations and has put us well on our way to achieving concrete results.

Société Alzheimer de LanaudièreStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Sunday, June 5, I will have the privilege of being the honorary chair of the Société Alzheimer de Lanaudière's memory walk.

A memory walk is held each year in various communities to raise money to help people suffering from this terrible disease and support programs, services and research.

I invite everyone to come out and walk with us on Sunday, June 5, in Joliette. I also want to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers of this organization, and I thank them on behalf of everyone suffering from this disease and their families.

Congratulations to Ms. Claudine Goulet, chair of the Société Alzheimer de Lanaudière board, and the organization's coordinator, Ms. Andrée Brousseau. Happy walking to all.

UJA FederationStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Susan Kadis Liberal Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, last Sunday marked the 35th anniversary of the UJA Federation walk with Israel. This year more than 15,000 people from across the greater Toronto area came out to celebrate Israel.

The event was highly successful. As we walked through downtown Toronto, we were greeted with Israeli food, songs and dancing. Fun was had by all. The walk raised approximately $350,000 which will go toward the annual UJA Federation campaign which last year raised over $55 million worldwide.

The UJA Federation is a very important organization that strives to ensure the survival and growth of the Jewish community through fundraising, planning and providing programs and services. The Federation's credo is compassion, commitment and generosity. Its tremendous work exemplifies the concept of tzedakah or charity.

The UJA Federation is committed to the community. In partnership with other groups, it supports our most vulnerable, welcomes newcomers and strengthens a sense of cultural pride through its numerous projects.

I want to commend all those who participated and put in countless hours of work for the UJA Federation and everyone who came out to have a wonderful walk for Israel.

Liberal Party of CanadaStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gurmant Grewal Conservative Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, do you remember the 1993 election? The Liberals won because they promised to eliminate GST and do away with free trade, but they reneged.

Instead, they raised taxes and increased spending. In the process, their misplaced priorities damaged our health care, defence and agriculture. They bought votes with taxpayer money.

Then came the scandals: Somalia, tainted blood, the HRDC $1 billion boondoggle, the gun registry fiasco, the list goes on, and damaging Auditor General's reports, one after another. Meanwhile, western alienation has gone from bad to worse.

The Gomery inquiry brought the corruption in the Liberal government to light. The Liberals put tax dollars into the party's coffers.

They made deals with the NDP on the budget to prop themselves up.

Then came the new low: the Prime Minister's office buying MPs' votes to save non-confidence votes.

It is little wonder Canadians are losing confidence in the Liberals.

Arts and CultureStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to commend photographer, Michael Semak, a native of Welland, Ontario, for his contributions to Canadian photography and culture.

Mr. Semak is a self-taught photographer whose world renowned photographs have been exhibited in over 300 solo and group exhibitions. Michael Semak's work has been recognized by numerous grants and awards and presented in publications like National Geographic and Time magazines. His photographs can be found in many private and public collections, among them the National Gallery of Canada, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Public Archives of Canada.

Michael Semak's work is currently being exhibited until November 13, 2005 here in Ottawa at the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography.

Mr. Semak has travelled the world capturing intense images. His work presents a tension between beauty and social commitment but does not suggest any type of social change. His photographs simply capture the raw moments of life.

Many anticipate Michael Semak's next project, which will portray the wine-making industry in Niagara. I congratulate Mr. Semak for his many accomplishments. Welland is justly proud of its native son.

Status of WomenStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois supports the recommendations in the third report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, which was tabled in the House of Commons on May 20.

The committee recommends that the federal government increase funding to the women’s program at Status of Women Canada by at least 25% for investments in women’s groups and equality seeking organizations. The present amount is far from sufficient, as it represents less than 60¢ per woman per year.

The committee recommends that the government heed the unanimous call from equality seeking organizations for core funding to allow them some financial stability. In addition, there will have to be some project funding to meet new challenges.

The organizations in Quebec are in desperate need. This is why the Liberal government must act promptly and transfer this funding to Quebec to enable it to continue promoting equality for women.

Brant Waterways FoundationStatements by Members

June 2nd, 2005 / 2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to acknowledge the Brant Waterways Foundation. This non-profit, charitable foundation was established in 1988 to provide funding assistance to projects that preserve, protect, restore and improve the Grand River and its related bodies of water and adjacent lands.

The foundation has contributed $3 million in assistance toward projects that have been of tremendous benefit to the citizens of Brant.

I would like to congratulate, in particular, Mary Welsh, a citizen of Brant who has been the driving force behind the foundation. She has been tireless in her devotion to this and other causes in the riding of Brant and the result of her efforts has been outstanding. The walking and biking trails which are maintained by the foundation have been enjoyed by thousands, both by residents of Brant and visitors alike.

To Mary Welsh and to all who support the Brant Waterways Foundation, I send my sincere congratulations.

Border SecurityStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canadians have relied too long on luck to avoid a terrorist attack. Canada's security net is full of holes.

Most of Canada's 160 border crossings are staffed by one person and there are 225 unguarded cross-border roads. Airport security is so lax that missing security badges and uniforms turn up on eBay. Computer checks on incoming travellers at the border are flawed or non-existent. Sixteen hundred cars were reported speeding past the border without stopping in 2004. Unarmed guards must rely on police officers to respond to border incidents. An airport accepts international passengers without on-site immigration checks. Finally, a marine border unit does not even have a boat.

Securing our border is vital. If the government cares about the safety of Canadians and customs officers and in stopping smuggling, it would staff ports properly and provide the proper tools for law enforcement.

JusticeStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Don Bell Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to speak out against a hate crime that took place in my province last week.

A 17-year-old Canadian Sikh boy was walking through an elementary school field when he was cowardly and callously attacked by five young men. They approached the boy and made several racial slurs before they assaulted him several times. One of the suspects apparently even went so far as to remove the victim's turban and proceeded to cut his hair off with an exacto knife. Cutting his hair with a knife was not only a serious physical assault, but also a very serious insult to and attack on the cultural and religious beliefs of the victim.

This attack has all the ingredients of a hate crime. This type of action does not represent the type of Canada we are trying to build. Canada is an open and tolerant society that celebrates differences and does not accept hatred.

I hope that community representatives everywhere will speak out against such acts.

Aboriginal AffairsStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals once again announced a new day for the victims of abuse in residential schools. Sixty years of abuse, several royal commissions to study the problem, a dispute resolution system that paid billions to lawyers and almost nothing to victims, and what now? Another delay, another adviser who will report back by next March.

The Liberals refuse to acknowledge that the residential school system was a government attempt over three generations to extinguish native culture. It allowed the physical, sexual and mental abuse of aboriginal children.

The Liberals have made a tradition of delaying compensation for residential school survivors. Lawyers and public officials have made millions while the survivors grow old and die fighting to prove their case. Survivors in my riding do not accept another promise. They have heard Liberal promises for years and they have seen them broken.

The Prime Minister should show true leadership now. He should authorize immediate lump sum payments to sick and elderly survivors so they receive compensation now. There is no reason to delay unless the Prime Minister is playing more games. He needs to show some integrity and--

Aboriginal AffairsStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for British Columbia Southern Interior.

MarriageStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Gouk Conservative Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, the question on redefining marriage is extremely divisive, but Canadians are fair minded and reasonable. Most do not oppose a recognized union between same sex couples. They simply object to those couples using the same name for their union that traditional families around the world have used throughout history.

Recognition of the union of same sex couples is a new consideration and as such should have a new name to better describe this newly recognized relationship.

If the Prime Minister is not sure whether Canadians support his proposal to expand the traditional definition of marriage, I suggest he put his trust in the good judgment of the Canadian people and hold a referendum on the issue of definition of marriage. I have done this on a number of issues in my riding and, on occasion, I have voted contrary to the position of my party and even my own personally held beliefs when directed by those I represent.

Collectively, we are sent here to represent all Canadians and they should all have a say when considering such a major change to a defining aspect of Canadian life.

ChildrenStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, June 4 will be the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression. This day was created by the United Nations in 1982.

There is nothing more precious in our societies than our children. Their well-being is of primary concern to all humanity. They are the leaders of tomorrow. Every effort must be made to protect them from potential aggression and to help them when they fall victim to it.

These innocent victims include not only the child victims of war. They also include the victims of sex crimes, of extortion by bullies, of physical violence, of marginalization.

Let us hope that by sharing her story with the public Nathalie Simard will have helped the rest of us to break the silence and made us more watchful over defenceless children.

JusticeStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, Canadians travel overseas for many different reasons, some for business, some for vacation, but alarmingly some travel for the sole purpose of engaging in sexual activity with children.

Yesterday the first Canadian to be charged with sex tourism crimes pleaded guilty to sadistic sex acts involving Cambodian girls as young as the age of seven.

Sex tourism exploits children worldwide and it is something that absolutely no child should ever have to endure.

Experts estimate that more than a million children are lured or sold into the sex trade each year. Federal law now allows for the prosecution of sex offences committed by a Canadian in a foreign country. It is expected that pedophile Don Bakker will likely serve a mere 10 years in prison. Innocent children will live a life sentence that is unimaginable.

I hope our justice system continues to prosecute these sex tourists and at the same time ensures that pedophiles and violent offenders are never given access to the pornographic material known to be circulated throughout our federal prisons and counterproductive to successful rehabilitation.

SeniorsStatements by Members

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government is committed to giving families a helping hand at all stages of life. I stand today in the House to urge all members to support budget 2005 which contains important initiatives for Canada's seniors.

Whether it is health care, income security, retirement savings or help for caregivers, the 2005 budget includes financial provisions for seniors. Our goal is to improve the quality of life of all our seniors, particularly those who are the least well-off.

Tax cuts are planned, which will take 240,000 seniors off the tax rolls.

Budget 2005 also increases support for low income seniors and provides additional resources for the highly successful new horizons program to keep seniors active. In addition, the budget will provide $13 million over five years to establish a new national seniors' secretariat.

Please support Canadian seniors by supporting budget 2005.

Global Workplace Health and SafetyStatements by Members

2:15 p.m.

NDP

Ed Broadbent NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, today in a British Columbia court a historic judgment will take place. For the first time a Canadian citizen will be sentenced under the provisions of the Criminal Code for predatory sexual behaviour with children outside of Canada.

Yesterday, before a committee of the House, we heard three credible witnesses refer to the fact that a number of Canadian mining companies had been involved in the violation of human rights and health provisions of workers in Africa, Asia and South America.

The NDP believes that just as we should protect children in foreign lands from sexual predators, so too should we protect their parents from predatory companies.

As a first step, we call upon the government to amend to so-called Westray law and extend its protective provisions to apply to workers of Canadian companies anywhere in the world.

Member for Newton—North DeltaOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, in response to allegations of vote buying, the Prime Minister initially said, “ I made it very clear that no offers were to be made, and no offers were made”. Yet yesterday he admitted knowledge of the negotiations.

The attempts to distance himself from this deal are failing. The tapes show the health minister saying, “Cabinet can be arranged right away”. The health minister and the Prime Minister's chief of staff set up the deal and the Prime Minister, the big boss, seals it or formally okays it.

Does the Prime Minister still deny that his health minister and chief of staff were making a deal on his behalf?

Member for Newton—North DeltaOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I think the Prime Minister has been very clear about this, but let me clarify it again. When the Prime Minister was informed that the member for Newton—North Delta was interested in joining our caucus, the Prime Minister was absolutely clear in relation to what he told Mr. Murphy. He told Mr. Murphy, “do not make an offer” and no offer was made.

Member for Newton—North DeltaOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Clear as mud, dirt actually, Mr. Speaker. The RCMP have the tape so we will see.

The Prime Minister said that he would never meet with the member for Newton—North Delta, yet the tapes say otherwise. His chief of staff said that the Prime Minister would only meet once a deal was in place. He said that he would formally okay it. That was the way previous defections were handled.

We only have to take a look around the benches to see how that works. A deal was offered. The chief of staff said that the Prime Minister would be “prepared to talk to you directly both by phone and subsequently in person as we see fit”.

There is a blatant contradiction between the Minister of Health, the chief of staff and the Prime Minister's version of events. Which Liberal is telling the truth?

Member for Newton—North DeltaOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, there is no contradiction. The Prime Minister was clear. The Prime Minister told Mr. Murphy that there was no offer to be made. There was no offer made.

Member for Newton—North DeltaOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

What we know, Mr. Speaker, is that the Prime Minister has made a career out of playing a clever game of plausible deniability and attempts to hide some of his sordid vote buying activities.

This well orchestrated plan goes like this. A third party, usually a Liberal confidant, makes the initial offer. The chief of staff claims that this allows the government to say, “The independent party played the role, like we didn't approach, you didn't approach”. Then the chief of staff works out the details and the Prime Minister closes the deal at 24 Sussex.

Why does the Prime Minister not just stand up and admit what Canadians have come to know, that in his desperation to cling to power, the Prime Minister will do anything?