House of Commons Hansard #74 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

It being Wednesday, we will now have the singing of the national anthem, led by the hon. member for Yukon.

[Members sang the national anthem]

Butter Tart TrailStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to highlight the Butter Tart Trail in the township of Wellington North. Located at the north end of Wellington County, Wellington North is anchored by the town of Mount Forest and the village of Arthur.

The Butter Tart Trail highlights 13 points of interest, including bakeries, flea markets, antique shops, produce markets, goat and sheep dairies, and a pottery studio. The trail was developed to encourage tourists to stop as they pass through on Highway 6.

The idea for the trail comes from a basic principle of community economic development: work with what you have. This strategy is working, as CBC Radio and Report on Business magazine recently discovered.

I want to commend the council and staff of Wellington North, the tourism committee and local businesses for finding a unique way to promote economic development.

Student Exchange ProgramStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with considerable sadness that I acknowledge the government's termination of the summer work student exchange program. For the last 11 years, this program has provided opportunities for 1,200 students each year to gain valuable work experience in another part of the country.

The program, unique to Canada, allows students from every socio-economic group to participate. For many people in Scarborough—Guildwood, the program represents a once in a lifetime opportunity to live and work in Quebec or New Brunswick. For six weeks students explore other Canadian cultures and hone their second language skills.

What is next on the neo-con chopping block? The summer student work program? Over 40 students from my riding participate in that program.

The government's callous, meanspirited attitude toward students across this country is perverse. What do these neo-cons have against students and education?

Agriculture and Agri-FoodStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning the members of the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean Union des producteurs agricoles demonstrated in Jonquière—Alma, the riding of the Minister of Labour, to try to wake up the government to the crisis that is causing particular suffering for grain producers.

With regard to income support, the current federal government contribution to program costs has decreased from 40% to 20%, according to the UPA. Quebec only receives, on average, 6.8% of the budget even though it represents 18% of the agricultural sector.

The producers' situation has been deteriorating since 2002. The latter have seen their average annual income drop from $20,000 to a loss of $6,000. The federal government is abandoning the 6,000 farmers of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean.

If the Quebec Conservative members are unable to remind the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food that agriculture exists in Quebec, the Bloc Québécois will see to it.

Child Tax BenefitStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government's disastrous administration of the child tax benefit has left single parents, and yes, they still are mostly women, on the losing side in a game of he said, she said.

The child tax benefit is supposed to provide a financial benefit for low income parents who are the caregivers for their children, but Revenue Canada will not give that money to single parents if a former spouse or common law partner has failed to inform Revenue Canada of his new address. The CCRA's assumption is that he is still contributing to the household income.

Simply because the ex has failed to file his taxes or is fraudulently still using the mother's mailing address or is incommunicado, the burden of proof falls on the single mom to prove that he has moved out. Having to prove that someone is not living with a person is a bizarre and onerous requirement that takes the notion of jumping through bureaucratic hoops to new extremes.

The time to change the rules is now. Single moms might not be on this government's list of five priorities, but I say, do it for their children.

Military ValourStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, Her Excellency the Governor General will soon decorate four Canadian soldiers for incredible acts of heroism in Afghanistan. They will be the first recipients of Canada's honours for military valour, which were created 14 years ago.

Sergeant Patrick Tower, of Victoria, B.C., will receive the Star of Military Valour for crossing open terrain under heavy fire to lead a besieged platoon to safety.

Three others will receive the Medal of Military Valour.

Sergeant Michael Denine, of Edmonton, Alberta, exited the hatch of his armoured vehicle under heavy fire to man a machine gun, forcing an enemy withdrawal.

Corporal Jason Lamont, of Greenwood, Nova Scotia, sprinted through open terrain under intense fire to give first aid to a wounded comrade.

Master Corporal Collin Ryan Fitzgerald, from Morrisburg, Ontario, in my riding, exposed himself to enemy fire to enter a burning vehicle and remove it from the roadway, allowing his comrades to escape an ambush.

I ask all my colleagues to join me in saluting these remarkable heroes.

Court Challenges ProgramStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, on October 25 the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne made an application to the Federal Court of Canada to have the government's decision to cancel the court challenges program declared null and void.

In the past, the court challenges program has enabled Acadians to obtain services in their own language and to have French language schools in their own communities. These are essential services. Not only are the cuts unacceptable, they jeopardize the ability of Acadian society to live, develop and prosper in their own language.

This is why I support the FCFA court action and further invite the minority government to come to its senses and reinstate funding to the court challenges program immediately.

Domestic ViolenceStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, I express my condolences, sympathy and prayers to the families of the three women murdered or attacked in Surrey.

Mrs. Manjit Panghali, a mother of a three year old and a mother to be, had earlier disappeared and her burnt body has been found.

Mrs. Gurjeet Ghuman, who is in critical condition, was shot in the face, allegedly by her husband, apparently in a family dispute.

Mrs. Navreet Waraich, mother of a four month old son, was stabbed to death, allegedly by her husband, in a family dispute.

The role of violence in these situations is undeniable and tragic.

Newcomers to Canada face many challenges, but domestic violence and fearing for one's own safety should not be among them. There is no place for domestic violence in Canada.

Before more lives are lost, all that needs to be done must be done. Members of the official opposition should stop digging in their heels and allow the new Conservative government to make tougher and effective laws. It is already 13 years too late. Perhaps some lives could have been saved.

Community Support for Young AdultsStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Vivian Barbot Bloc Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the exceptional work of Héberjeune, a community organization in my riding. I wish to congratulate the members of that organization for the honourable mention they received from Quebec's health and social services network in the 2005-06 “support for vulnerable groups and individuals” category.

Héberjeune de Parc Extension, in Montreal, provides temporary accommodation to young adults between 18 and 25 who are in need of help.

It also sponsors a social support program for young people trying to put an end to their isolation by becoming involved in their community, whether by finishing their studies or finding a job, in short, by assuming responsibility for themselves.

Day in and day out, Héberjeune helps young people take control of and change their lives, thus helping change the world in a lasting way.

Firearms RegistryStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, this week a report by the public accounts committee delivered a scathing indictment of former Liberal public safety minister Anne McLellan and the billion dollar Liberal gun registry boondoggle.

The committee confirms that the former Liberal minister knew her department was using unscrupulous accounting methods to avoid seeking parliamentary approval for increased funding for their gun registry. The all party report reads:

--the principal public servants in this matter, all indicated that the minister was aware of this problem. Regardless, evidence suggests that the minister knew, and she did nothing to ensure that Parliament was fully informed and for that she must accept responsibility.

For years Liberals denied any wrongdoing for the gross mismanagement of their gun registry. They instead chose to vilify public servants.

Now we know what happened. Liberals kept Parliament and Canadians in the dark about the increasing costs of their gun registry. The Liberal Party owes Canadians an apology.

Citizenship and ImmigrationStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi Liberal Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada has a backlog of 800,000 immigrants trying to get into our country. The immigration minister has admitted that a backlog of 800,000 is too much, but he has no plan to fix the system.

These are skilled and educated workers who are trying to enter Canada to provide better lives for themselves and their families. The minister has done nothing to shorten processing times, extend visas to families or increase the sponsorship of families. We need to speed up the sponsorship of families and we need to reunite families faster.

Families are separated for four or five years while trying to get into Canada. The reunification of families takes too long. Waiting up to five years for parents to reunite with their families is a hardship. People are suffering under the current system.

HealthStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Conservative Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, rising obesity rates and decreasing physical activity, particularly in children, represent major public health challenges our country will have to face in the coming decades. Parents, health organizations, schools and governments all have a part to play in this matter.

This is why our government is determined to show leadership and take decisive action to solve this problem.

The children's fitness tax credit will promote greater participation in sports programs and physical activities, and will help parents with the ever-increasing costs associated with such activities.

I would like to thank the members of the expert panel, Doctor Kellie Leitch, Michael Weil and David Basset, who took the time to consult Canadians and put together some recommendations on programs that should be eligible for the tax credit.

I am delighted to be working, not with a team that is perpetually doomed to ask questions, but rather with a team that is able to announce concrete measures that will benefit Canadians.

Paper Mill ClosuresStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, northern Ontario communities are being devastated by mill closures, with no help from federal and provincial governments.

The latest mill in danger is St. Marys Paper in Sault Ste. Marie, which has filed for bankruptcy protection. Unless governments act, 400 employees of St. Marys will join what the Forestry Coalition says is 25,000 other northerners who have already lost their jobs.

Provincially, it is the Liberals' disastrous hydro policies harming the mills. The federal government, formerly under the Liberals and currently under the Conservatives, does not have a plan to respond to the over 200,000 manufacturing jobs lost in Ontario and Quebec.

We need a jobs first economic strategy. We need stronger sector councils and a partnership approach. And when restructuring happens, we must ensure that hard-earned pensions are not on the bargaining table. Retirees depend on their pensions. They are deferred wages of hard-working employees.

Stop killing an--

Paper Mill ClosuresStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Cardigan.

Al-Anon Family GroupsStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise today to congratulate Al-Anon Family Groups on their 55th anniversary and to acknowledge their important contribution to Canadian communities.

For over half a century, Al-Anon and Alateen have been a key source of support and hope for families and friends of alcoholics all over the world, with over 25,000 groups in 131 different countries and 1,400 local meetings across Canada.

We owe this wonderful organization and all its members our continued support and gratitude for 55 years of dedicated service.

This special occasion is being marked by a luncheon celebration here in Ottawa tomorrow in partnership with the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.

Roy DupuisStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Bloc

Maka Kotto Bloc Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the 19th Tokyo international film festival recently rolled out the red carpet for Maurice Richard. Art and style won over the jury, which awarded the best actor prize to Roy Dupuis for his portrayal of the Rocket.

Although he shuns the spotlight, Roy Dupuis is a mythic and popular Quebec actor with animal charisma, combining pure talent with subtlety in performances in such films as Nikita, Séraphin: Heart of Stone and Mémoires affectives, also known as Looking for Alexander.

I know the accomplished work, the professionalism and the humility of this committed artist who has put his all into every production he has been involved in. I am delighted to join with my Bloc Québécois colleagues in applauding him and thanking him for so brilliantly representing the creative genius of the Quebec film industry we are defending here, against the Conservative government, which has chosen to jeopardize its continued success.

Captain Nichola Goddard ScholarshipStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, this week the Canadian Islamic Congress awarded its first ever Captain Nichola Goddard Scholarship in Peace and Conflict Studies. This honour was awarded to Ahmad Syed, a graduate student at the University of Ottawa, who is concentrating his studies on conflict resolution and conflict avoidance.

On May 17, 2006, Captain Nichola Goddard died in combat during fighting in the Panjwai district of Khandahar province while serving as a forward observation officer with the 1st Regiment of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery.

Captain Goddard was the 17th Canadian to be killed in Afghanistan since 2002 and the first woman to be killed in combat in Canadian military history.

The Captain's father, Dr. Tim Goddard, said:

I believe that this work will help further the hopes and dreams held by Nichola, that peaceful resolution of conflict can be achieved and thus prepare the way for the reconstruction of civil society and the establishment of stable nation states.

Federal Accountability ActStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, the Federal Accountability Act has for 133 days been in the hands of the Liberal senators, who are unduly delaying its adoption. Today is also the first anniversary of the Gomery report, which revealed that the Liberal Party had stolen millions of dollars from Canadian taxpayers.

Despite the 441 questions the Bloc Québécois asked, that party was unable to put an end to the Liberal culture of entitlement. Only the new Conservative government could react quickly to the Gomery report by introducing the toughest anti-corruption legislation in Canadian history: the federal accountability act.

The Liberals have chosen to delay passing the bill in order to again protect their own interests and those of their party. We wonder who is working behind the scenes to unduly delay passage of the Federal Accountability Act.

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Toronto Centre Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, in his election platform, the Prime Minister stated, “A Conservative government will preserve income trusts by not imposing any new taxes”.

Canadians who voted for the Prime Minister did so based on a deception. What is equally concerning, they invested their life savings based on a false promise. Today, thanks to his misrepresentation, Canadians are about $25 billion poorer.

Everything the Prime Minister will tell the House today about the impact of income trusts on government revenues he knew when he made that promise. Why did he engage in a deception of such monumental and costly proportions to all Canadians?

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, let us be absolutely clear. The commitment of this party was not that we would have no taxes for Telus. It was not that we would have no taxes for BCE. It was not that we would have no taxes for foreign investors, or no taxes for major corporations. It was a commitment to protect the income of seniors.

The Minister of Finance has brought in an age credit. He has brought in pension splitting. He is imposing fair taxes on the corporate community. I challenge the Liberal Party to support those things.

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Toronto Centre Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, that is not what he said in the election. He assured them that income trusts were essential for those who had spent their lives raising families, saving for their retirement and building our country.

Innocent Canadians are suffering an economic bloodbath today because they believed the Prime Minister. He gave his word. Canadians acted on his word. He then broke his word. He knew then what he knows now and he has no excuse.

How can he explain to Canadians the colossal misrepresentation he made in the last election? How can he justify to Canadian citizens his $25 billion breach of faith to Canadians?

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, contrary to what the Leader of the Opposition says, lots has changed with income trusts in the past year, including tax holidays for major corporations, which this government does not and will not support.

The Minister of Finance has acted decisively and he has acted with integrity, unlike, I should mention, the previous government. Let me quote a prominent Liberal, Warren Kinsella, who says--

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please. The Prime Minister is giving his answer. We have to be able to hear his answer and the quotations. The right hon. Prime Minister has the floor. We will have a little order.

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Harper Conservative Calgary Southwest, AB

The quote, Mr. Speaker, is, “Now, if [the member for Wascana] had still been in charge, we might have heard about this from our brokers on the weekend, just like in the good old days”.

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Toronto Centre Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, driving people to despair is no way to make friends. The Prime Minister said that income trusts were here for good. He said over and over again that he would preserve income trusts and that he would never impose new taxes on them.

People believed him. They invested their savings based on the Prime Minister's word.

How can he justify his disdain toward those who believed him?

How can he justify the losses caused by his false promises?

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition and his party have a choice. They should support income splitting for pensioners, they should support higher income for seniors and they should support fair taxes for large corporations.

It is up to them. We have made our choice and we do not have to explain it to the RCMP.

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, during the last election, the Conservative Party lied to retired Canadians, to widows and to grandmothers and the consequences are enormous.

Canadians invested in good faith in income trusts in order to make their savings grow, so that, when they retire, they can spoil their grandchildren, pay for drugs and even pay the rent.

How dare the Prime Minister allow his Minister of Finance to do the exact opposite of what was written in black and white in his campaign platform?

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, in response to the member's comments, I am pleased to inform her that there is substantial provincial support for this initiative, including by the minister of finance of the province of Quebec with whom I spoke last evening.

This is an issue of national importance, not only with respect to the Government of Canada but also with respect to the provinces. It is a question of tax fairness. Should corporations pay their fair share of taxes in Canada or should we shift the balance more and more onto individual taxpayers?

It is an issue--

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie.

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance was like a bull in a china shop with his announcement yesterday of radical tax changes for income trusts. Today, people are watching their savings melt like snow on a sunny day as the stock market plummets.

Does the Prime Minister realize that many Canadians now have to think about working a few extra years to compensate for their losses on the stock market, for which he is responsible?

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it has been said:

The fact of the matter is this is an important public policy question. It has to do with revenue to all governments, including the provinces. It has to do with fairness in the business system of this country, and it has to do with productivity and growth for the future. We would like to get the policy right for the long term....

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

An hon. member

Who said that?

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Conservative Whitby—Oshawa, ON

I did not say that. It was the member for Wascana in this House on September 27, 2005.

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please. The hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie has the floor and we need order.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, earlier this week, a former World Bank economist stated that climate change will have disastrous consequences and will cost the world $7 trillion. By signing the Kyoto protocol, 164 nations recognized that we must act now. Meanwhile, the government has done its best to renege on its commitments and introduce a bill designed to please its friends, the oil companies.

How can the Prime Minister have the nerve to send his environment minister to co-chair an international climate change conference with the goal of destroying the Kyoto protocol?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc leader has changed his mind. First he insisted on our participation in the Kyoto protocol, and now, he does not want us to be there. It is the responsibility of this government and the minister to be in Nairobi, and we will be there. I would add that our plan includes mandatory targets for all industries, including the oil industry.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with Greenpeace, the David Suzuki Foundation, astrophysicist Hubert Reeves, and the Canadian Auto Workers, who have all criticized the lack of a real plan to fight climate change.

Given that the United Kingdom and Germany have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 14% and 17% respectively, what credibility will the Minister of the Environment have as co-chair of an international climate change conference?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, it would be irresponsible not to attend the conference. That is why the minister will be there.

I should note that last weekend, Mr. Boisclair said that he wanted a mandatory clean air strategy for Quebec. The federal government is providing that strategy. He should talk to the leader of the Parti Québécois.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, while the Minister of the Environment was counselling Alberta, the fiefdom of oil companies, Quebec for its part was rolling up its sleeves and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

How can the minister oppose the Quebec plan when, to date, Quebec has the best record in Canada for greenhouse gas emission reductions?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Edmonton—Spruce Grove Alberta

Conservative

Rona Ambrose ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, we have always supported Quebec's green plan, but we must do more than just propose incentives and voluntary measures. We believe that corrective measures and penalties are needed in order to obtain tangible results from industries. For that reason we have adopted a strict national regulatory framework for all major industries.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is rather ironic that the Montreal Exchange has reminded the government—formed by a party that says it is in favour of the free market—that the absence of specific targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases makes it impossible to set the price per tonne of CO2 and is compromising the launch of the Montreal Climate Exchange.

Does the minister realize that her approach is detrimental not only to the natural environment but also to the economic environment?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Edmonton—Spruce Grove Alberta

Conservative

Rona Ambrose ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, we met with the promoters of the Montreal carbon exchange. In order for this market to be truly effective and flexible, it requires the support of the House for the clean air act. This legislation will establish the responsibilities and the review required to obtain real reductions.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, the threat of climate change is the number one challenge facing everyday Canadians and we as parliamentarians have a responsibility to act on the matter and to act immediately.

Will the Prime Minister confirm today, for this House and all Canadians, that the standoff has come to an end and that the clean air act will be sent to a special legislative committee prior to second reading so that Parliament can get on with the job of reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and get some results for Canadians?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure I would characterize anything here as a standoff. The leader of the NDP asked me in my office yesterday if the government would put this bill to a committee before second reading and I told him that was under consideration. I called him 20 minutes later after consulting my colleagues to confirm that we were willing to do that. The House leader will consult with the House leaders of the other parties on the best way to proceed.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is very important that we reach an agreement on this issue as soon as possible and that the legislative committee be put in place. I am asking the Prime Minister to state that he will take these considerations seriously and implement a constructive approach.

I am asking the Prime Minister, whether he is serious or not, to change direction and take a positive approach in order to achieve concrete results in the fight against climate change.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the NDP leader has again asked me to refer Bill C-30 to a committee before second reading. We are prepared to do so, and I hope that the opposition will contribute positive and constructive ideas to such a process.

The NDP leader has tried to do that with a private member's bill, and I am waiting for members of the other opposition parties to do the same. When criticizing a plan, it is important to have a plan of one's own.

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, today Canadian seniors and other investors, as a consequence of the government's broken promise, saw $25 billion of their hard-earned savings go up in smoke in two hours of trading. In comparison, the government's pathetically small tax relief is $1 billion over a whole year.

With the loss in two hours of trading 25 times bigger than the tax relief that the government is providing, how can the government claim that this day of infamy, this black Wednesday, is anything other than a total disaster for those who--

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please. The hon. Minister of Finance.

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite would never go over the top. I know--

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please. The hon. Minister of Finance has the floor to respond to the question asked by the hon. member for Markham—Unionville. We will have a little order.

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Conservative Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, after 13 years in government and some time in opposition, as of October 18 this year, the member for Markham—Unionville said the following about his party's position on this important subject for all Canadians, “We don't have a definitive position on this”.

The former Liberal government offered confusion while we have provided clarity. It offered more confusion for independent families and their tax responsibilities. We offer balance in terms of corporations paying their fair share of taxes going forward in Canada.

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me explain to the House what the Minister of Finance offers. He offers a gross failure to manage the economy, a betrayal of investors who mistakenly took the minister and the government at their word, the single biggest blow to the wealth of Canadians ever dealt by a finance minister and a banana republic process, bringing disrepute to Canadian capital markets.

It is obvious that the minister has been a disaster on this file. When will the Prime Minister fire him?

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the RCMP is not investigating my Department of Finance but it is investigating the member's department of finance.

There were no leaks, no emails and no deals with friends on Bay Street. There was confidentiality, deliberation and the provision of certainty for capital markets in Canada.

Finally, there was an effort to create fairness for individual taxpayers and their families, while the member protects the big--

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please. The hon. member for Outremont.

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Lapierre Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the government broke its promise and went back on its word.

The government should look back at its election platform, which indicated in black and white on January 13:

A Conservative government will...preserve income trusts by not imposing any new taxes on them.

It was set down in black and white on January 13.

Why did the Prime Minister break his promise? Why did the Prime Minister lie to Canadians?

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I must say that I have a problem with the words used in the question. Nevertheless, if the Minister of Finance wants to answer the question, he may do so.

The hon. Minister of Finance.

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, there was a substantial commitment to provide security for seniors in this country. Yesterday we made a very important announcement with respect to an issue that has been outstanding in this country for more than 40 years, and that is the question of income splitting for pensioners.

I know the Liberals opposite do not think it matters much for pensioners. However, if we look at a pensioner now receiving a pension of $40,000 for one spouse and the other spouse not receiving any pension, the tax savings will be $2,500 for that couple.

I know Liberals do not think that is much money but it is a lot of money for a lot of Canadian pensioners.

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Lapierre Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, one has to be shameless to think that those minor measures announced yesterday will make up for the $25 billion in retirees' and small investors' savings that have just gone up in smoke.

Does the minister realize that he did not keep his word, did not honour his commitments, did not keep the promise made by the finance critic? He lied right down the line about his election promises.

Income TrustsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Outremont knows very well that such words regarding another member in this House are not permitted. The question is unacceptable and we will discuss this matter following question period.

JusticeOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government is in the process of trying to pass a bill that would grant members of the judiciary a very generous salary increase, specifically, 7.25%, plus full indexation, which would mean an increase this year between $14,000 and $21,000.

How can a government grant such generous increases to judges, while refusing to help older workers who have been the victims of mass layoffs and do not have enough money to live at home while awaiting their retirement?

JusticeOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that it is this Parliament's responsibility, under our Constitution, to establish judicial salaries and benefits. It is ultimately up to Parliament to consider and improve any proposed amendments. The committee has considered Bill C-17 and it will be up to Parliament to approve it.

JusticeOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if the government realizes that one of its primary constitutional responsibilities is to look after people who are destitute.

Indeed, it is the government's responsibility to look after 60-year-old workers who have worked in the same factory for 40 years, only to be let go due to a mass layoff.

However, these workers have been abandoned by the government, which refuses to assume its responsibilities.

JusticeOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, we heard from the Minister of Finance about the important steps that are being taken to address seniors, pensioners and older workers. It is ultimately Parliament's responsibility, on the issue of judicial compensation, to approve this judicial compensation.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, the U.S. government is against having employees with certain dual citizenships working on military contracts awarded to the Montreal company CAE. This discriminatory policy goes against the charters of rights of Quebec and Canada.

Does the government intend to formally protest this violation of the Charter of Rights to the U.S. authorities or will it tolerate it by keeping quiet?

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for her question.

We have in fact raised this issue already with the highest levels of the American government.

My colleagues, the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Industry, and I have already engaged in an effort to deal specifically with the unfairness mentioned by the hon. member.

We have established a working group in the Department of Foreign Affairs, complete with American officials, to find a suitable solution to this issue.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, both charters specifically prohibit discrimination based on nationality and on racial profiling, which the U.S. government requires under the guise of security. We expect the federal government to oppose this measure by Washington.

Does the government intend to do so?

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, I have already outlined what we are doing about this. We raised it immediately after consulting with industry. We have had a number of occasions to speak directly to the American ambassador. Mr. Negroponte was here about two weeks ago and we raised it with him.

I spoke directly to Secretary of State Rice about this. We put together a working group specifically aimed at finding a solution. We will continue to do so. I would appreciate the cooperation of the House and the members opposite.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, by slamming the door on his counterpart from Ontario, the Minister of Indian Affairs has shown how indifferent he is to resolving the crisis at Caledonia. His actions are not befitting those of a minister of the Crown. In fact, they are reminiscent of a petulant child.

My question is for the Prime Minister. Will he remove this file from the minister's responsibility and instead assign it to a minister who understands the importance of immediately resolving the situation at Caledonia?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I cancelled the meeting because I felt that the political grandstanding of the Premier of Ontario was irresponsible. I see today that the officials are comparing their conduct to “full contact sport”, so I rest my case.

I intend to take this matter seriously, and to discharge my abilities and my responsibilities with the seriousness that they deserve. I know the difference between a hockey game and public governance. If the premier and his colleagues in Ontario have forgotten that difference, it is between them and their voters.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is not game time. A provincial minister travels to Ottawa to meet with his federal counterpart. He takes time from his busy schedule and spends taxpayer money to travel. When arriving at the minister's office, he is greeted with stomping feet, slamming doors, and the cancellation of a pre-arranged meeting. Was this a Conservative caucus meeting? No, that is how the Minister of Indian Affairs treats a colleague.

When will the minister show true leadership, accept the federal government's responsibility, and personally meet with the many stakeholders?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I have indicated I am prepared to meet with the Ontario minister and his officials when they are prepared to approach this in a serious manner. This dispute is one that has taken place in the province of Ontario. It began with an Ontario company building on Ontario land with the approvals of the Ontario Municipal Board, all under Ontario law. It then became an Ontario policing issue. There is no doubt that policing is an Ontario responsibility, so Ontario will need to face up to its jurisdiction and its responsibility.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada's Constitution makes it perfectly clear that land claims issues are the sole responsibility of the federal government. For the last eight months, the Minister of Indian Affairs has been missing in action on the Caledonia dispute. The situation remains very tense in Caledonia. It is costly. It has been going on for far too long.

The minister committed to speeding up the land claims issue if the blockades came down. The blockades came down months ago. Why is the minister not living up to his commitment?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I can inform the House, and I think my colleague knows this, that over the course of the last five weeks I have met with Ontario's representative, Jane Stewart, a former privy councillor. I have met as well with the federal government's representative. I have sat down personally and met with Chief David General, the elected chief. I have met with their hereditary chief.

We continue to work on this issue. We are making progress at the negotiating table and part of the message that Ontario needs to receive is the seriousness of this issue. Dealing with it at the table is what has to happen, not political grandstanding.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, local residents are demanding action from the federal government and from their own member of Parliament. Despite calls from the area and the fact that the Minister of Indian Affairs hired Barbara McDougall, a former Conservative cabinet minister with no land claims experience, to handle the issue, the Conservatives pretend they should not deal with the issue.

Why does Caledonia's own member of Parliament, the member for Haldimand—Norfolk, refuse to take any action to help in the situation, despite the fact that she is the region's representative at the cabinet table?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Haldimand—Norfolk is involved in this issue. She meets with me regularly. We have complete discussions about the conduct of the file. Her thoughts on this matter guide me in the instructions that I provide to Ms. McDougall and to Mr. Doering. We will continue to work together at the negotiating table with the elected chief and the hereditary chief.

I would point out, for the assistance of my friend, that this government, myself as the minister, is the first government in Canadian history to recognize the Haudenosaunee Council and to sit down and talk to them.

TaxationOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Conservative Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Minister of Finance announced that Canada's new government would increase the age credit for seniors and allow pension income splitting. These major decisive measures will help seniors, especially those in the low and middle income tax brackets.

Can the Minister of Industry explain the details of this announcement and how it will benefit all Canadians?

TaxationOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Beauce Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier ConservativeMinister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating my hon. colleague, the Minister of Finance, who announced his tax fairness plan for Canadians today. This plan confirms that we have kept our Budget 2006 promise and that we have increased the basic personal exemption for seniors by $1,000 as of fiscal year 2006. Furthermore, beginning in fiscal year 2007, we will allow income splitting for seniors.

After 13 years of the Liberal Party's inaction and laissez-faire attitude, our government is recognizing its responsibilities and acting, which is something the Liberals did not do for 13 years—

TaxationOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Winnipeg North.

TaxationOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, despite the fact that the income trust announcement yesterday is a flip-flop that could only make a Liberal proud, it is an important direction for everyday working families. The finance minister has set an important precedent by closing this tax loophole. As he said yesterday, income trusts are a growing trend to corporate tax avoidance.

Considering the minister's statement, will he today commit to shutting down all loopholes in Canada's tax laws including the Barbados tax haven?

TaxationOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, certainly, we are interested in tax fairness as a fundamental principle and expanding the tax base. We believe, unlike the former government, that all Canadians, including corporations, should share in the tax burden fairly. That includes, legitimately I think, review of treaties with respect to taxation as well to ensure that all Canadians are accepting their fair share of the tax burden.

TaxationOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I remind the minister and all members that tax havens cost Canadian taxpayers billions in revenues every year.

If we look at just Barbados alone, it is hiding an estimated $23 billion annually from Canadian tax collectors. This is all at a time when we have a homelessness crisis, child and senior poverty is on the rise, aboriginal Canadians live in third world conditions, and millions of average Canadians cannot get the health care they need.

Will the government commit today to building on the income trust announcement by closing other loopholes and cracking down on tax fraud and unlawful tax avoidance?

TaxationOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it is an important issue in terms of having fairness in the tax system. I am happy to review those issues.

Government ProgramsOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, this meanspirited minority government has turned its back on vulnerable Canadians. It slashed programs that would teach people to read and write and would have provided day care spaces for our kids. Destroying their dreams was not good enough; it had to insult them too.

Yesterday, the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development said the hurt imposed by the cuts to her budget was the equivalent of having to do without a cup of coffee.

Will she apologize for her spiteful statement that demeaned the most vulnerable in our society?

Government ProgramsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, the government cares about the vulnerable in our society. That is why we are spending so much money on them. However, we also have the responsibility to all Canadians to ensure that all of their dollars are well spent.

Yes, there are cuts to our programs. We are cutting programs that are not delivering results for Canadians. On a scale though, it is very small. It is two-tenths of 1%. We are going to deliver results for Canadians. We will fund programs that are good for Canadians.

Government ProgramsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Saskatchewan Literacy Network is closing its doors. Yukon is losing its literacy coalition. The Canadian Labour and Business Centre is already closed. Employment equity offices in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are closing. The 25,000 summer jobs for students are gone. Some cup of coffee.

Is the minister unaware of how hurtful her cuts are because she did not bother to consult any of these groups?

Government ProgramsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, on a day when Liberal Party members are standing up defending zero taxes for big corporations and opposing income splitting and tax breaks for seniors, they should be ashamed of themselves to ask that kind of grandstanding question.

Government ProgramsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development was repeatedly asked for details about $152 million in cuts to her department. Though the cuts were announced a month ago, she was unable to identify where the cuts are to take place.

The minister has had five weeks to disclose to Canadians what programs will be cut and how Canadian lives will be affected. Does she not know what is going on in her own department, or what is she trying to hide?

Government ProgramsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to tell Canadians just what we are cutting.

We are cutting programs that were approved by the Liberals. We are cutting programs that paid $71,000 to upgrade a website. We are cutting programs where one little group paid $66,000 for travel. We are cutting programs that the Liberals brought in where an executive director made $150,000 a year. That is even more than a Liberal senator.

Government ProgramsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, at committee yesterday the minister proved that she was very good at hiding from literacy groups. When asked to list the groups with whom she widely consulted, the minister was unable to name a single literacy group.

This must come as a surprise to those in her own riding who submitted an 800-signature petition against the cuts. And what about the petition signed by a coalition of literacy groups in Quebec? Were they consulted?

Will the minister now specifically name which literacy groups she met with prior to announcing these cuts?

Government ProgramsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, the government consults widely with Canadians, but I want to list, on this first anniversary of the Gomery report, some of the people we do not consult with.

We do not consult with people by the name of Ouellet, of Dingwall, of Corriveau, or of Brault. We do not consult with people named Gagliano. We do not consult with people who put $7,000 of cash in envelopes on restaurant tables.

We hear the quieter voices of hard-working middle class taxpayers, and that is whom we will always listen to.

AgricultureOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, the president of the Union des producteurs agricoles du Québec said he is very worried about the attitude of the government, which, along with the Europeans and the Americans, is questioning the very existence of the Canadian Wheat Board. He said he is dismayed that farmers are having their collective marketing tools taken away from them.

Will the minister admit that this attack on the Canadian Wheat Board leaves the door wide open to another similar attack on supply management?

AgricultureOral Questions

3 p.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl ConservativeMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, what we are doing, of course, is moving ahead with our campaign promise to a allow marketing choice for western Canadian farmers who want to have a chance to market their own products in a marketing choice world. That was a campaign promise, as was our support for the supply management system. We supported it during the campaign; we supported it at Geneva and international conferences. It receives the full support of this government.

AgricultureOral Questions

3 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I invite the minister to read the latest editorial in La Terre de chez nous to get some idea of our concerns in Quebec.

The Canadian Wheat Board and supply management are based on the same principle. They are both collective marketing strategies.

I would like the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food to explain to me how he can say he does not question supply management, while he does question the existence of the Canadian Wheat Board.

AgricultureOral Questions

3 p.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl ConservativeMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, what we will be asking western Canadian farmers in this plebiscite is whether they want the same freedom of choice that Quebec farmers have to market their grain. It is no different. We are not going to ask them to do something we would not ask of or is not already available for farmers in Quebec. It will be a clear question on barley. We think farmers want to have that question put to them. There was certainly a demand by the opposition. We will have a plebiscite on that. I hope that farmers will decide to move forward on marketing choice on barley.

We said during the election that we would give them choice. We said that we would move on behalf of them. We are moving on behalf of farm families in Canada.

Firearms RegistryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, Hayder Kadhim, a victim of the Dawson College shooting, said that when he awoke from his coma he was devastated to learn three things: one, his friend Anastasia was dead; two, he would have to live with bullets in his head; and three, his own Prime Minister was going to eliminate the gun registry. Hayder's question to the Prime Minister is, “I want him to explain to me why he wants to dismantle a gun registry proven to have saved many lives and which now costs next to nothing to maintain”.

Firearms RegistryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I certainly share in the grief of what happened at Dawson College. We tried to get in touch with Mr. Kadhim today. His press secretary informed us that he would try to get back to us; they were quite busy. I have offered to meet with him in Montreal on Monday. He may have some insights.

I will also share with him that our view is to have more effective gun control and that those who apply to have guns of any kind would face a more rigorous process. We agree with him. We want to see effective gun control.

Crime PreventionOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, in Montreal and elsewhere in Quebec, there is a disturbing increase in serious crimes committed by street gangs and young delinquents.

Can the minister tell the House what the government intends to do to prevent these crimes?

Crime PreventionOral Questions

3 p.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, in the last budget we allocated almost $20 million to prevention programs for troubled youth.

However, let me be clear on this point, we have never had and do not have the slightest intention of amending the law with respect to the age of criminal responsibility. Those with claims to the contrary, such as Father Gravel, the Bloc Québécois candidate in the Repentigny riding, quite simply are not telling the truth. Father Gravel is surely familiar with the eighth commandment.

HealthOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, last night a disturbing report by CTV News uncovered voluntary plastic surgeries were taking up valuable time in hospital operating rooms from coast to coast to coast. The Minister of Health complimented the journalist on her excellent piece and told her that he would be hearing from provincial ministers on the issue.

Could he now report to the House how many provincial health ministers he has encouraged to end this practice? When does he plan to register formally his concern with the provinces about this tactic?

HealthOral Questions

3 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement ConservativeMinister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, I have not heard from my colleagues yet; operators are standing by, however.

In the meantime, I can report to this chamber that as a result of the excellent budget 2006, we have an extra $1.2 billion of health transfers going to the provinces to focus on the important medical conditions and the important procedures that every single Canadian has a right to ask for from a government that is delivering.

We are delivering. The Minister of Finance has delivered. I am very proud of the Minister of Finance.

HealthOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, over two years ago this House of Commons passed an NDP motion to ban trans fats in Canada. The entire city of New York will soon be trans fat free. Even the worst of the worst fast food has changed its ways, but the health minister is nowhere to be found on this issue. Trans fats have been scientifically proven to drastically increase the risk of heart attacks. They are totally unnecessary.

Will the minister announce today that Canada will officially be the second country in the world to ban trans fats in our food?

HealthOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement ConservativeMinister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member is well aware, a report is under consideration by the Canadian public as well as by the Government of Canada regarding this very issue. We are certainly studying it very closely. The hon. member neglected to mention that food companies in this country have voluntarily gone trans fat free, or are radically reducing their trans fat. We would encourage that trend to continue.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order. I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the galleries today of young people who are participating in the Take Our Kids to Work Program.

The Take Our Kids to Work program gives participants an opportunity to experience the demands and the reality of the work world.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Bravo!

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

In oral question period, the hon. member for Outremont used unparliamentary language when asking two questions. I am now requesting that he withdraw his remarks immediately. Thank you.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Lapierre Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, out of respect for you, I withdraw the word that has offended your delicate ears.

Remarks Made by Minister of National RevenuePrivilegeOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joe McGuire Liberal Egmont, PE

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege concerning remarks made by the Minister of National Revenue in yesterday's question period.

Yesterday during question period the minister responded to a set-up question from the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley that “since 1999, the Liberals cut 459 CRA positions in Summerside alone”. It is my belief that these comments raise a prime facie question of privilege as they are an inaccurate representation of the facts and a blatant attempt to impede my ability to effectively represent my constituents.

My first concern is the minister's assertion that past Liberal governments have cut 459 jobs at the Summerside tax centre. This is an absolute misrepresentation of the facts. There was no significant decrease in permanent jobs at the Summerside tax centre under the Liberal government. The centre was established in 1993 with a core 400 to 500 permanent jobs. The minister knows that there are considerably more than that presently employed at the Summerside tax centre. In fact a combination of permanent, contract and term positions can fluctuate up to 1,100 jobs at certain times of the year.

The minister's statements were a false representation. In fact, if the minister's statements were true that 459 jobs had been eliminated, the centre would be closed.

Second, I spoke with the minister before her meeting with the mayor of Summerside. I asked her before this visit about the situation at the tax centre. At that time she assured me that he, the mayor, would be travelling back to Summerside, and I quote what she said, “a happy man”. I took from that that she had solved the problem on her own and that she had convinced the Minister of Finance to rescind the cuts and the jobs had been reinstated. Obviously that did not happen.

To continue on this point, I have taken this issue to the Commons standing committee, this is true. My colleagues on my behalf took it to the Standing Committee on Finance. Following confusing media reports on the effects changing government policy would have on the tax centre and to ensure that all stakeholders were aware of the full implications of the decision, my colleagues moved a motion at the Standing Committee on Finance that requires the committee to fully investigate the local and national implications of the elimination of the GST visitor rebate program.

Again, I find it incomprehensible that the minister would not think that a parliamentary motion by Liberal MPs at a standing committee of this very House did not constitute bringing this issue to the fore. As a former member of the finance committee, one would think that the Minister of National Revenue would have more respect for the committee process and would recognize this as a legitimate function of my parliamentary duties.

I am just halfway through, Mr. Speaker.

Remarks Made by Minister of National RevenuePrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

In that case the hon. member for Egmont will want to get to the point. It sounds to me like a major disagreement on facts, but on a question of privilege, he has to indicate to the House what privilege it is that has been breached. He said something at the beginning, but we seem to have gone astray since. I hope the hon. member will get to the point of the question of privilege because this sounds like debate.

Remarks Made by Minister of National RevenuePrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joe McGuire Liberal Egmont, PE

Mr. Speaker, I want to call your attention to the ruling of Speaker Lamoureux referred to in Marleau and Montpetit at page 84.

--that parliamentary privilege includes the right of a member to discharge his responsibilities as a member of the House free from threats or attempts at intimidation.

I am trying to perform my duties as a parliamentarian described on page 186 of Marleau and Montpetit as representing constituents and getting action out of government, and yet find myself subjected to false accusations.

The elimination of the visitor rebate program has very grave circumstances for the constituents I represent. It means real job losses in the city of Summerside. It was announced as a complete surprise after no consultation with me, other parliamentarians, affected individuals in Summerside, or indeed the tourism industry across this country. I am attempting to find answers for my constituents and represent their interests here in Ottawa through legitimate parliamentary channels.

To conclude, Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to examine the merits of this question of privilege with respect to the remarks of the Minister of National Revenue on the grounds I have outlined above. The minister has given an inaccurate representation of the facts in a blatant attempt to impede my ability to effectively represent my constituents.

Mr. Speaker, should you decide that there is a prima facie case of privilege, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Remarks Made by Minister of National RevenuePrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I am actually quite surprised that the hon. member, who has considerable experience in this chamber, would rise on this matter. This is not even close to a question of privilege.

The hon. member does not like the facts being told to him by the Minister of National Revenue. If he does not want to hear the facts from various ministers of the Crown, then he should take it up in debate.

If he wants to talk about how the previous government so poorly treated the maritime provinces, it would not be a question of privilege. It was something that might take up the rest of the session, if we were going to fully explore that, but clearly this is not a question of privilege.

Remarks Made by Minister of National RevenuePrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I support my colleague in terms of his facts as challenged by the hon. House leader. As a former minister of revenue who travelled to this location many times, his numbers certainly ring true and so does the logic of his statement.

Remarks Made by Minister of National RevenuePrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am very supportive. We have to keep in mind that this was a set-up question by the governing party on the other side, a soft lob, of which it tried to put misinformation in the House, which affected the privileges of the member for Egmont.

Remarks Made by Minister of National RevenuePrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar Saskatchewan

Conservative

Carol Skelton ConservativeMinister of National Revenue and Minister of Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, the numbers I received from my officials in Revenue Canada were the numbers that were given. The member opposite never spoke to me until after the mayor of Summerside visited me.

Remarks Made by Minister of National RevenuePrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

An hon. member

Shame on you.

Remarks Made by Minister of National RevenuePrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Carol Skelton Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

No, it was after because he said something to me about Mayor Basil Stewart, and what he had told him after he met with me.

It is false. The numbers were given to me by Revenue Canada officials.

Remarks Made by Minister of National RevenuePrivilegeOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

As is quite clear from the discussion, this looks to me, as I suggested, that it was a matter of debate. There is disagreement as to facts. It is not for the Chair to determine how many employees were here or there, or anywhere, at any given time.

I will review the remarks made by all hon. members on this question of privilege and if necessary, I will get back to the House in due course.

Canada's Clean Air Act--Speaker's RulingPrivilegeOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member forMississauga South on October 19, 2006, concerning the premature disclosure of Bill C-30, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, the Energy Efficiency Act and the Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption Standards Act (Canada's Clean Air Act).

I would like to thank the hon. member for Mississauga South for having raised this important matter as well as the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform for his comments on October 23, 2006.

In raising this question of privilege, the hon. member for Mississauga South claimed that a breach of the privileges of the House had occurred as a result of the premature disclosure of Bill C-30, Canada's clean air act. He stated that copies of the bill had been distributed at a press conference held on October 13, 2006 by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups. The bill itself was not introduced in the House until October 19, 2006.

In response to this question of privilege, the hon. government House leader contended by Bill C-30 had a much broader scope than the document tabled by the hon. member for Mississauga South. He noted that the bill proposed amendments to three statutes rather than only to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. He went on to indicate that, even with respect to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, Bill C-30 proposed amendments not identical to those in the document referred to by the hon. member for Mississauga South.

In response to this intervention, the member for Mississauga South stated that the basis of his complaint was not that the two texts were identical, but that they contained, “substantively, the same critical provisions”.

This is not the first time a question of privilege has been raised about the premature disclosure of a government bill. In cases where prima facie cases of privilege have been found, there has been divulgation of the actual bill prior to members having been made privy to its contents. Members may wish to consult the ruling delivered by Mr. Speaker Parent on February 21, 2000, at pages 3766 and 3767, of the Debates where such an issue is discussed.

When looking carefully at the document provided by the hon. member for Mississauga South, it is evident to me that it is not a copy of the bill which the government placed on notice. In addition to the differences pointed out by the hon. government House leader, an examination of the two documents shows numerous other differences. These include not only differences in the organization and numbering of its parts, but more extensive textual differences as well, since there are various provisions in the bill not found in the document provided by the hon. member for Mississauga South.

I have also looked at the press release issued by the Sierra Club in conjunction with the October 13 press conference. The press release clearly indicates that the Sierra Club's comments relate to, “...an August version of the proposed amendments...”. The Sierra Club further notes in the press release that its comments on the legislative proposal will remain valid, and again I quote, “...(a)ssuming that this draft is what is introduced into Parliament...”.

The fact that the document distributed by the Sierra Club contains blacked-out passages also indicates that the document as circulated by the government was a consultation document and not an advance copy of Bill C-30.

As has been noted in previous Speaker's rulings, the government is free to consult whomever it wishes in preparing legislation for submission to the House. It is not for the Chair to determine what form these consultations may take or what documents the government may circulate for comment.

The key procedural point, as I indicated in a ruling delivered on March 19, 2001, at pages 1839 and 1840 of the Debates and to which the government House leader made reference, is that once a bill has been placed on notice, it must remain confidential until introduced in the House. In the present case, I can find no evidence that there has been any premature disclosure of a confidential document to which the House has priority. I, therefore, must rule that no breach of privilege has occurred.

I would again like to thank the hon. member for Mississauga South for his vigilance in drawing this matter to the attention of the House.

Canada's Clean Air Act--Speaker's RulingPrivilegeOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. Speaker for his ruling. I accept it totally. As it turns out, it is really somewhat inconsequential, since Bill C-30 was dead on arrival in Parliament.

Bill C-253--Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please. I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the hon. government House leader on June 21, 2006, in relation to the procedural issues relating to Bill C-253, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (deductibility of RESP contributions), standing in the name of the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East.

In his arguments, the hon. government House leader explained that clause 2 of the bill contained provisions which would effectively increase how taxable income was calculated and thus result in potentially more taxes being collected. Specifically, subclause 2(5) would make any refund of payments regarding contributions to RESPs considered as taxable income. Subclause 2(6) necessarily repealed a section of the Income Tax Act, which would have made such refunds excluded as taxable income.

Therefore, the hon. government House leaderargued that if Bill C-253 was creating a new tax burden, then it should not have been given first reading without the adoption of a ways and means motion, and the Speaker should discharge the order for second reading and remove the bill from the order paper.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice provides some information on the operation of taxation bills on pages 758 and 759:

The House must first adopt a Ways and Means motion before a bill which imposes a tax or other charge on the taxpayer can be introduced. Charges on the people, in this context, refer to new taxes, the continuation of an expiring tax, an increase in the rate of an existing tax, or an extension of a tax to a new class of taxpayers…Legislative proposals which are not intended to raise money but rather reduce taxation need not to be preceded by a Ways and Means motion before being introduced in the House.

Furthermore, on page 898 it states:

With respect to the raising of revenue, a private member cannot introduce bills which impose taxes. The power to initiate taxation rests solely with the government and any legislation which seeks an increase in taxation must be preceded by a Ways and Means motion.

As I understand it, the current RESP regime requires the person contributing to the plan to make such contributions out of after tax income. If, subsequently, the amount in the plan is not to be used for funding post-secondary education as intended, the contributor may have the contributions refunded. This refund is not taxed as the original contribution was made from income on which tax had already been paid. Similarly, a student withdrawing money from an RESP is not required to report the contribution amount as income, but only the interest earned while the funds were invested in the plan.

Let us now turn to the proposal before the House. The summary of Bill C-253 states that the bill provides “that contributions to a Registered Education Savings Plan are deductible from a taxpayer's taxable income”.

The bill also provides that if, at a later time, contributions are taken out of the plan by the contributor, they are to included as taxable for that year. Not having been taxed initially, the contributions would cease to enjoy tax-exempt status at the time of withdrawal from the plan.

This proposal amounts to a tax deferral. Rather than making contributions out of after tax income, the contributor would be provided with a tax deduction at the time that the contribution is made. If, subsequently, the money is not used for educational purposes but is withdrawn from the plan, the funds would be reported as taxable income at that time.

I do not regard such a tax deferral as imposing any increased tax burden on the contributor. It is permissible for a private member's bill to introduce a tax exemption, or to propose a delay in the reporting of income. Therefore, I find that Bill C-253 is properly before the House.

Accordingly, in my view, debate may continue on the bill in its current form.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to lay upon the table the report of the Canadian Parliamentary Delegation to the Republic of South Africa, from August 27 to September 3.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8)(b) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 14 petitions.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian Delegation of the Canada-United States Interparliamentary Group, respecting its participation at three events.

The first event was the 46th annual meeting of the Regional Policy Forum--Council of State Governments--Eastern Regional Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 30 to August 2.

The second event was the 2006 annual meeting of the Council of State Governments--West: Alliance With an Attitude, Breckenridge, Colorado, August 10 through 13.

The third event was the meeting of the Canadian American Border Trade Alliance, the U.S./Canadian Border: A Unified Focus, Washington, D.C., September 10 through 12.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have two reports to table from the Standing Committee on International Trade.

The first report I have the honour to present, in both official languages, is the second report of the Standing Committee on International Trade.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the committee has considered the Canada-Central America Free Trade Agreement negotiations and agreed to present it to the House.

The second report I have the honour to present, in both official languages, is the third report of the Standing Committee on International Trade.

In accordance with the reference of April 25, the committee has considered the main estimates and agreed on June 5 to present them to the House.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Art Hanger Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

In accordance with the order of reference on Monday, June 20, your committee has considered Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Judges Act and certain other Acts in relation to courts and agreed on Monday, October 3 to report it with amendments.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations and I think you would find the unanimous consent of the House for the following motion. I move:

That, during today's debate and the debate on November 7 on the business of supply, pursuant to Standing Order 81(4), no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be received by the Chair; and within each 15 minute period, each party may allocate time to one or more of its members for speeches or for questions and answers, provided that, in the case of questions and answers, the minister's answer approximately reflects the time taken by the question, and provided that, in the cases of speeches, members of the party to which the period is allocated may speak one after the other.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

(Bill C-19. On the Order: Government Orders)

November 1, 2006--Report Stage of Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (street racing) and to make a consequential amendment to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act--the Minister of Justice.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I also believe you would find the unanimous consent of the House for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of this House, Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (street racing) and to make a consequential amendment to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, be deemed reported back from committee without amendment, deemed concurred in at the report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is it agreed?

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

(Motion agreed to, bill considered in committee, reported, concurred in, read the third time and passed)

Bill C-9Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I also move:

That the time allocated for the report stage of Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conditional sentence of imprisonment), shall not exceed one hour and the time allocated for the third reading of Bill C-9 shall not exceed two hours.

Bill C-9Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, what the government House leader has just put on the table in terms of this proposed motion reflects the discussions among House leaders over the course of the last number of days and represents progress on the proposal that the official opposition had made for expediting the justice plan.

With respect to Bill C-9, however, I wonder if the government House leader could provide just a bit more information to the House. We have no problem with the motion the way it is proposed and for which the House leader is seeking unanimous consent, but in the discussion about Bill C-9 and about this motion, there was a certain understanding among House leaders about the type of amendment that the government would bring to the floor of the House during the report stage proceedings.

It is our understanding, according to the order paper, that the nature of that motion has changed to a certain extent, and because the agreement that is embodied in this motion was predicated on a certain understanding of the proposed amendment, I wonder if the government House leader or perhaps, failing that, the Minister of Justice, could simply put on the record the nature of the change that the government has in mind between what was discussed originally and what is now embodied in the motion on the order paper.

Bill C-9Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, the official opposition House leader makes a very good point with respect to the discussions that took place between he and I and all other House leaders.

It is my understanding that it was not possible to have the exact amendment restored. Apparently, we had to put a little bit less than what was in the section that was defeated at the committee stage. In order to get it on the floor and make it accessible it had to be changed slightly, which is what it is.

However, I can confirm that the opposition House leader had it right as to the discussions between us. I again thank him for his cooperation on this particular motion.

Bill C-9Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion to the House?

Bill C-9Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Bill C-9Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Bill C-9Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Bill C-9Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

National DefenceCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions between all of the parties and I think you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, in relation to its study of Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, 10 members of the Standing Committee on National Defence be authorized to travel to Edmonton, Alberta on November 9, 2006 and that the necessary staff do accompany the committee.

(Motion agreed to)

MarriagePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table two petitions this afternoon. The first petition was sent to me by the St. Roch's Catholic Women's League and its first vice-president, Mrs. Barbara Cornack.

The petition contains names from residents in my riding of York West. The petitioners are calling upon the government to reopen the issue of marriage in this Parliament and to repeal or amend the Marriage for Civil Purposes Act in order to promote and defend marriage as the lawful union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Age of ConsentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition was sent to me by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. This petition contains names from residents in Ontario. The petitioners are calling upon the government to raise the age of consent from 14 years to 16 years of age.

MarriagePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present, in both French and English, brought forward by the Catholic Women's League in Manitoba on the issue of marriage.

They are asking Parliament to repeal or amend the current Marriage for Civil Purposes Act in order to promote and defend marriage as the lawful union between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

HomelessnessPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a petition today. I would like to thank the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, who gave me this petition from the Chicoutimi homeless shelter. The petition includes 428 signatures.

In this petition, the Chicoutimi homeless shelter is asking the government to renew the national homelessness initiative immediately—including the SCIPI and the RHF—and to make it permanent and increase its funding. The petitioners say that these programs help underprivileged people and respond to real needs. They help many people in various organizations and create a number of jobs in the community. The petitioners say that the programs have created 25 jobs. The money really helps the homeless and I am pleased to table this 428 signature petition.

Automobile IndustryPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to present petitions on behalf of the hard-working men and women of the Canadian Auto Workers who call upon the government to cancel negotiations for a free trade agreement with Korea and to instead develop a new automotive trade policy that would require Korea and other offshore markets to purchase equivalent volumes of finished vehicles and parts as a condition of continued access to our markets.

I respectfully submit these petitions.

Age of ConsentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to present a petition from about 350 constituents of mine from Prince George, Mackenzie, Fort St. John, Dawson Creek, Pouce Coupé, Cecil Lake, Charlie Lake, Rose Prairie, Baldonnel, all from my riding, and from Valemount, B.C.

These citizens call upon Parliament to immediately take all necessary steps to raise the age of consent from 14 to 16 years of age. Hopefully they will note that the government has moved in this regard and has introduced Bill C-22. It is my hope that the bill will pass forthwith.

MarriagePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition from a number of my constituents of Dartmouth--Cole Harbour who have called upon Parliament to recognize that the marriage is the permanent union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others and they are calling upon Parliament to reopen the issue of marriage in this Parliament and to repeal or amend the Marriage for Civil Purposes Act to promote and defend marriage as the lawful union of one man and one woman.

I am pleased to present the petition on their behalf.

Canada PostPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to table this petition from approximately 350 residents of Verdun who are asking this House to reverse Canada Post's decision to close Verdun's only post office. Among others, several elderly people want access to a post office that is near their homes and to postal professionals who have been doing their job for years.

Furthermore, these people are asking for continued access to post office boxes in the location provided for that purpose so they can keep the same addresses and postal codes. As we know, keeping the same address is the main reason an association, for example, gets a post office box. The consequences for associations are serious.

Automobile IndustryPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to present a petition on behalf of the CAW members and also other citizens to the Government of Canada for a new automotive trade policy.

This is part of a larger petition containing 47,000 signatures which calls upon Canada to abandon the free trade talks with Korea and to halt the unfair importation of many of its vehicles flooding our market at this time when we are not allowed to access its market. The petitioners want a trade policy that will be fair and responsible, especially during these difficult times where Ontario and Quebec are losing many manufacturing jobs.

Age of ConsentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present two petitions.

The first is another petition asking that the Government of Canada take all necessary measures to immediately raise the age of consent from 14 to 16 years of age. This petition is from a number of constituents in my riding of Langley, including residents of Abbotsford and Surrey.

The second petition that I present today is from my constituents in Langley and it is also on the age of consent.

Citizenship and ImmigrationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition that has been signed by many citizens which calls upon Parliament and the government to immediately halt the deportation of undocumented workers and to find a humane and logical solution to this situation.

As all members in the House are aware, I have presented this petition on many occasions in this House and I was very surprised to hear that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration said that it was my new-found interest. I guess he has not been paying attention to the petitions that I have been putting forward on many occasions in this House.

The EnvironmentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to present a petition that has been signed by many residents of Nanaimo—Cowichan, plus other people who live in British Columbia. The petition asks us to honour our legal commitments to the Kyoto treaty and to further pledge to reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below the 1990 levels.

Automobile IndustryPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to deposit today in the House.

The first one petitions the Government of Canada for a new automotive trade policy. It is not from my constituents but it does call upon the Government of Canada to cancel negotiations for a free trade agreement with Korea, which will worsen the one-way flood of automotive products into our market and, secondly, develop a new automotive trade policy that would require Korea and other offshore markets to purchase equivalent volumes of finished vehicles and auto parts from North America as a condition of their continued access to our market.

MarriagePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

The second petition concerns civil marriage. It contains a number of requests. Most of the petitioners are people from my riding. I will not read all the requests, but here is one:

Therefore, your petitioners are calling for Parliament to reopen the marriage debate in Parliament and to repeal or amend the Civil Marriage Act so as to promote and defend marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, if Question No. 107 could be made an order for return, this return would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 107Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

With regard to the Canadian presence in Afghanistan: (a) what is the number of Canadian Forces (CF) members wounded since the first deployment to Afghanistan in 2002; (b) what is the number of CF members permanently wounded; (c) when was the decision made to not bring the flag to half mast after the death of a soldier; (d) what is the process for making next of kin aware of casualties in the CF; and (e) what operational reasons would there be for any delay in making next of kin aware of casualties?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Alleged Similarity of Private Members' BillsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The Chair has notice of a point of order from the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River and we will hear him now.

Alleged Similarity of Private Members' BillsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, this point of order concerns the presence of Bill C-257 and Bill C-295 on our order paper. Both of these bills are private members' bills and they provide for prohibitions on the use by employers in federal jurisdictions of replacement workers during a strike. Bill C-257 was passed at second reading by this House on October 25, last week.

Both of these bills are substantially the same and I proceed on the assumption that the Speaker will agree that they are substantially the same, one minor difference between them being that the quantum of a fine or penalty for an infraction is slightly different.

The passage or adoption of both of these bills would create a legal impossibility or confusion here for our Parliament and for the public. The House is now faced with this issue. Fortunately, we do have some wisdom of a previous House to rely on.

The question is, what should happen to the second bill, which the House has not voted on yet? I refer to the ruling of the Speaker in this chamber on October 29, 1957, almost exactly 49 years ago, when a bill introduced by a member to provide for vacation pay for employees in federal jurisdictions was substantially the same as a government bill then introduced. From the journal, the Speaker quotes from Erskine May, 15th Edition, page 499:

There is no rule or custom which restrains the presentation of two or more bills relating to the same subject, and containing similar provisions. But if a decision of the House has already been taken on one such bill, for example, if the bill has been given or refused a second reading, the other is not proceeded with if it contains substantially the same provisions, and such a bill could not have been introduced on a motion for leave. But if a bill is withdrawn, after having made progress, another bill with the same objects may be proceeded with.

Here I refer the Speaker also to Beauchesne's sixth edition, at page 198, note 653.

If the Chair agrees that because of the adoption of Bill C-257 last week some step must be taken to deal with Bill C-295, the question is, then, what is to be done?

Bill C-295 is currently on the order of precedence and could ordinarily move to a second hour of debate and a vote as early as next week, I think next Tuesday. I think it is clear that this bill should not be further debated and should not be voted on at second reading. The bill should be removed from the order of precedence because that listing is specifically designed to provide for debate and disposition by the House.

I would submit that it is not necessary to have the bill totally withdrawn because it is possible that Bill C-257, which was passed, could be defeated or negatively dealt with by this House or a committee in the future.The way would then be clear for the mover of Bill C-295 to proceed with that bill.

However, we should also note that the member introducing Bill C-295, which has not been dealt with at second reading by the House, has already been selected by our rules to move a bill that he has selected, and he has chosen this one. It would be arguably unfair to prejudice his position by placing him and his bill back in the initial order paper, at the back of the line behind all of the members who have private members' business.

What I am suggesting is that the Speaker place the bill aside in a type of procedural holding place, a procedural position not yet provided for in our rules but adverted to in the 1957 Speaker's ruling, so that the bill could be placed on the order of precedence again in this session, or even in a subsequent session, if that is consistent with the procedures for private members bills'. As for Bill C-257, if it is defeated or otherwise removed from the order paper, this issue could also be reviewed, of course, by the procedure and House affairs Committee.

I hope my comments are helpful to the Chair and will enable the Speaker to take the most appropriate action on this matter.

Alleged Similarity of Private Members' BillsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on the same point of order. I did not hear the beginning of the comments of the member who has raised the question about Bill C-257 and Bill C-295, but I have the general gist of it. There are a number of issues here as well as concerns that we would want to put forward, because it is our member who has introduced Bill C-295.

The first point I would make is that when these bills were introduced they were approved by the Table. They both came forward in good faith, so certainly to suggest now that through some other arbitrary measure or ruling by the Speaker or that you somehow make a decision that one bill would be removed, I think that would very much place this member in limbo.

The fact is that these two bills, although they deal with the same subject matter, that is, replacement workers, are different bills. There are differences between the two bills, for example, in the question of penalties. I do not have the two bills before me so I cannot go through them clause by clause, but there are differences in these bills. That is why they were permitted in the first place.

If you made such a ruling as requested by the member from the Liberal Party, what would happen to that member who has the second bill? She has proceeded in good faith. She is about to go to a second hour of debate. If she chooses to make some other arrangement with a member in terms of the order in which things come up, that is her prerogative, but to have that decided by a third party, whether it is you or somebody else, I think would be very unusual. I do not know on what basis that would be done. I would be very concerned that she would lose the position she has. I think that would actually set a precedent, because then where else would it happen in private members' business?

I understand the concerns of the member, but I think to take such an action through the Speaker and to remove that member's place would be highly unusual and very problematic. The bill is now here and it is in effect the property of the House. I really question whether or not what the member is suggesting is a wise thing to do in the long run and so I would ask you to take that under advisement if you are going to consider this question.

Alleged Similarity of Private Members' BillsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, let me say first that I thank the hon. member opposite for his point of order. Clearly it is a complex issue. We would like some time to consider this issue. We will come back in the near future, I should say, with our submissions and response.

Alleged Similarity of Private Members' BillsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I was going to take the matter under advisement in any event and review the facts set out in the argument put forward by the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River. I will look forward to remarks coming from the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, or one of his colleagues, on this issue.

In light of the statements made that this bill may be up for debate on Tuesday next, it might be prudent to put the arguments forward on Monday at the latest so we can deal with the matter in a timely way. With that caveat, I will certainly take the matter under advisement and we will deal with it soon.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conditional sentence of imprisonment), as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Speaker's RulingCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

There is one motion in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-9. Motion No. 1 will be debated and voted upon.

I shall now propose Motion No. 1 to the House.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved:

That Bill C-9, in Clause 1, be amended

(a) by replacing lines 6 to 13 on page 1 with the following: “742.1 (1) If a person is convicted of an offence and the court imposes a sentence” (b) by adding after line 25 on page 1 the following: “(2) Despite subsection (1), the court shall not order that an offender serve the sentence in the community if the offender is convicted of any of the following offences: (a) an offence punishable by a minimum term of imprisonment; (b) an offence prosecuted by way of indictment for which the maximum term of imprisonment is fourteen years or more; and (c) any of the following offences, if prosecuted by way of indictment and punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of ten years: (i) a terrorism offence, (ii) a criminal organization offence, (iii) an offence under any of the following provisions: (A) section 83.231 (hoax — terrorist activity), (B) subsection 88(1) (possession of weapon for dangerous purpose), (C) section 144 (prison breach) (D) section 160 (bestiality, compelling, in presence of or by child), (E) subsection 212(1) (procuring), (F) section 221 (causing bodily harm by criminal negligence), G) subsection 249(3) (dangerous operation causing bodily harm), (H) subsection 252(1.2) (offence involving bodily harm), (I) subsection 255(2) (impaired driving causing bodily harm), (J) section 264 (criminal harassment), (K) section 267 (assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm), (L) section 271 (sexual assault), (M) section 279 (kidnapping, forcible confinement), (N) section 279.02 (trafficking in persons — material benefit), (O) section 281 (abduction of person under 14), (P) section 282 (abduction in contravention of custody order), (Q) section 283 (abduction), (R) paragraph 334(a) (theft), (S) subsections 342(1) and (3) (theft, forgery of credit card, unauthorized use of credit card data), (T) paragraph 348(1)(e) (breaking and entering with intent, committing offence or breaking out), (U) section 349 (being unlawfully in dwelling-house), (V) section 354 (possession of property obtained by crime), (W) section 382 (fraudulent manipulation of stock exchange transactions), (X) subsection 382.1(1) (prohibited insider trading), (Y) section 396 (offences in relation to mines), (Z) section 400 (false prospectus), (Z.1) section 403 (personation with intent), (Z.2) section 424.1 (threat against United Nations or associated personnel), (Z.3) section 435 (arson for fraudulent purpose), and (Z.4) section 465 (conspiracy), (iv) an offence under any of the following provisions of the Criminal Code, chapter C-34 of the Revised Statutes of Canada, 1970, as they read immediately before January 4, 1983: (A) section 145 (attempt to commit rape), and (B) section 156 (indecent assault on male), (v) an offence under any of the following provisions of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act: (A) section 5 (trafficking), (B) section 6 (importing and exporting), and (C) section 7 (production), (vi) an offence under any of the following provisions of the Food and Drugs Act, as they read immediately before the coming into force of section 64 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act: (A) section 39 (trafficking in controlled drugs), (B) section 44.2 (possession of property obtained by trafficking in controlled drugs), (C) section 44.3 (laundering proceeds of trafficking in controlled drugs), (D) section 48 (trafficking in restricted drugs), (E) section 50.2 (possession of property obtained by trafficking in restricted drugs), and (F) section 50.3 (laundering proceeds of trafficking in restricted drugs), and (vii) an offence under any of the following provisions of the Narcotic Control Act, as they read immediately before the coming into force of section 64 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act: (A) section 19.1 (possession of property obtained by certain offences), and (B) section 19.2 (laundering proceeds of certain offences).”

He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-9, an act to amend the Criminal Code dealing with conditional sentences of imprisonment, essentially house arrest, and Motion No. 1.

When the government introduced this bill, it required that those who committed serious crimes would be required to serve their sentences in prison. The bill followed through on a clear commitment that this government made during the last election campaign to tackle crime and make our streets safer.

Unfortunately, the bill that has been reported back from the justice committee is a far different bill from the one that this government initially tabled. Amendments proposed by the Liberals and supported by the New Democrats and the Bloc have effectively gutted the bill. I am not prone to hyperbole, but that is essentially what has happened to this bill. Canadians should know that.

The bill now requires the Crown to prove that the offence is a serious personal injury offence in order to ensure that criminals who have committed serious offences serve their sentences in jail rather than in the ease of their homes. No one should underestimate the burden that the opposition Liberals have placed on the crown attorneys who are trying to prosecute these cases.

The concept of the serious personal injury offence has previously related to a very limited number of offences and is used to determine whether an offender is a dangerous offender. It has been applied in only the most exceptional circumstances.

Let us consider the following case from the Alberta Court of Appeal. In its decision R. v. Neve, 1999, the court found that a robbery where the victim was attacked with a knife and abandoned naked in an open field in 5° weather was a not a serious personal injury offence for the purposes of the application.

The Crown had argued that any degree of violence was sufficient to make an offence a serious personal injury offence. The court specifically rejected that argument and said that the Crown would have to be required to prove “severe physical or psychological injuries”.

That is the same standard the Liberals are imposing on the Crown before it can dispel a conditional sentence. The effect of the amendment proposed by the Liberals and supported by the New Democrats and the Bloc is that criminals who commit arson, break and enter into residences or robbery or who cause bodily harm while driving impaired will all be eligible to receive conditional sentences.

Lest Canadians make any mistake about what that means, it means house arrest. They get to go home, lie on the couch and serve their sentences there. That is what the Liberals have done to our Criminal Code. If the trends of the past 10 years continue, these criminals, as a result of this Liberal amendment, will receive house arrest for these serious offences.

The opposition amendments to this bill have also made offenders who commit serious drug offences eligible for a sentence of house arrest. The opposition has ignored the plague of violence and hardship, the grow ops and the methamphetamine labs of those who engage in serious drug operations in our society in this country. Contrary to what the opposition Liberals think, trafficking in large amounts of narcotics is not a victimless crime and deserves a sentence of serious prison time.

By adding this extra step into sentencing proceedings, the opposition has placed an additional burden on the crown attorneys, a burden that will make trials longer, more complex and more expensive. In some cases, it will mean that victims will have to testify a second time.

Can anyone imagine that? Victims have been through a trial already, but because the Liberals want the Crown to prove that it is a serious personal injury offence, victims would have to go back to court and go through the same process again. That is what the Liberals want. That is the only way to avoid the whole issue of house arrest.

That is what the Liberals want to do to crown attorneys. More importantly, that is what the Liberals want to do to victims.

It will also mean that the category of serious personal injury offences, which was previously only used for dangerous offender applications and which are about 12 applications a year in Canada, will be diluted and thereby possibly bring into question the constitutionality of that very important tool.

The question I ask the opposition Liberals, are they prepared to be responsible for these negative effects on our justice system? What the Liberals and the New Democrats have done has made it clear that they are prepared to talk about being tough on crime during an election campaign. At least we know where the Bloc stood on that issue. They have never been tough on crime, but the Liberals and the New Democrats, during the election, said they would move on crime. They broke their word.

When it comes to delivering to Canadians, the victims of crime, they do not deliver. This amendment is a clear example that their shoddy rhetoric in the last election campaign over public safety support for mandatory minimum penalties for gun crimes and even a reverse onus when it came to bail applications for gun crimes was a shameless ruse to lure voters.

I am proposing an amendment that would restore certainty to Bill C-9 and ensure that those who commit serious crimes will actually serve their time in jail. I have heard from Canadians, victims and police that this certainty is absolutely necessary to ensure the safety of Canadians.

During my travels over the past few months it has been made clear to me by Canadians that those who break and enter into homes, those who rob us on the street at knife point, and those who commit arson and cause bodily harm should serve their time in prison. These offences are serious crimes. They are unacceptable to Canadians. Unfortunately, they are not unacceptable to the Liberal opposition. The perpetrators of these offences should not serve their sentences in the ease of their homes under house arrest.

I have heard the concerns that were expressed in committee that Bill C-9 applies to a number of what the opposition says are relatively minor offences. My amendment follows through on the original principle of Bill C-9 by providing certainty with respect to eligibility for house arrest. The amendment that makes it clear that certain offences should receive prison sentences while lesser offences like the unauthorized use of a computer will be eligible for conditional sentences unless they are related to an organized crime or terrorism offence.

My provincial colleagues have raised concerns about this bill relating to implementation and the cost. My colleague, the Minister of Public Safety, is addressing those issues and we will continue to work with the provinces. However, when I have discussed this matter with my provincial colleagues, they have been clear in their support for the type of measures that we proposed in Bill C-9 and indeed in the amendment that I am proposing here today.

Let us be clear here. Anyone who votes against this amendment is saying yes to house arrest for those who commit crimes like robbery, break and enter into a dwelling house, arson, committing bodily harm while driving impaired, and for serious drug trafficking and production offences. Anyone who votes against this amendment is saying yes to house arrest for those who commit serious commercial crimes like fraudulent manipulation of stock markets, and misleading investors in a prospectus and serious theft.

During the last election the voters made it clear about their expectations from Parliament. They wanted us to tackle crime and make our streets and communities safer. Now it is time for the opposition parties to live up to the commitments they made during the last campaign. Were their election platform covenants with Canadians on crime merely whimsy? The answer to that question will be revealed over the next weeks and months as they vote on the amendments to this bill and government bills on mandatory minimum prison sentences for gun crimes.

The amendment that I have proposed is a reasonable one and responsive to the concerns. It is clear that those who commit serious crimes should serve their sentence in jail and that those who commit minor crimes will be eligible for a conditional sentence. This fulfills our commitment. Will the opposition Liberals fulfill theirs?

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I heard the minister say that, during the latest federal-provincial meeting of ministers responsible for justice, all justice ministers supported the previous wording of Bill C-9.

In my opinion, the minister's comments were not very clear, and I wish to give him the opportunity to correct the facts.

Can he confirm to this House that he has the support of the government of Quebec and its justice minister, Mr. Marcoux, regarding all the offences initially listed in Bill C-9, which the minister wants to bring back?

In my discussions with the minister's office, I was personally told that they were in agreement concerning certain offences involving assault against the person, but not at all concerning property-related offences.

I therefore invite the minister to clarify his statements and tell us what really happened at the federal-provincial meeting to which he referred.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, in fact, what I said is that my provincial colleagues had been clear in their support for the sorts of measures that I am proposing in my amendment today. By and large, they were all supportive of Bill C-9, other than Quebec which expressed certain concerns on property offences. Generally speaking, in respect of the amendment that I am proposing today, there would be support.

When looking at issues like robbery, break and enter into dwelling houses, arson, committing bodily harm while driving impaired and serious drug offences, the question is not what the provincial ministers are saying. What is the member saying? Where does he stand on this issue? I know that he does not think that those are serious crimes.

If somebody burns a house down and someone does not have a place to live, he does not think that is a serious property crime and that people should get house arrest. That is what he thinks. Well I can tell members that is not what Canadians think. Arson, break and enter and robbery are not offences that should be eligible for house arrest.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Minister of Justice for expressing his view to the House and to Canadians.

I think that some members of this place, including myself, would like to have a little more information with regard to the offences that the minister just articulated. I wonder if he could advise the House what percentage of those offences, that he is referring to, would have had sentences, under the existing laws, of less than two years in prison.

Second, if the law were changed as the minister would like, could he advise the House approximately how many additional people would be going to jail who are not going to jail now, and what it would cost if it is necessary to build more jails in Canada?

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, those are issues in fact that my colleague, the Minister of Public Safety, and the provincial ministers are dealing with. It will have an impact on the provinces. We believe it will have a beneficial impact in that people will actually be deterred from crime. Those who commit robbery, those who commit break and enters will not be out on the street committing more when they are in prison. For those who commit serious crimes in our country, it is demonstrated statistically that anywhere from 12 to 21 other crimes are not being committed for every year that they are in prison.

I would suggest that the member, who I know has supported us on prior bills on issues like this, should think very carefully about where his support lies on this. I think he would agree with me that when somebody is robbed at knife point, abandoned and left in a field in five degree weather in Alberta, that is a serious personal injury according to the law. In the amendment that his colleague made to the bill, the individual who perpetrated that kind of crime would still be eligible for house arrest.

I know what Canadians are saying about that kind of an issue. They say that if it costs us a little more money to put that individual in prison who does that to another human being, they are prepared to pay it.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wish to point out that the Minister of Justice did not answer the question and that tells volumes.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

That was not a point of order, but a point of argument.

Resuming debate, the hon. member London West.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that because I would like to be able to get some time at my committee this afternoon to listen to the Law Commission of Canada. However, every day we are here at the same time that we are supposed to be at committee.

In any event, last spring in my original speech in the House on Bill C-9, conditional sentencing, I spoke about the need to have some change and some narrowing in the conditional sentencing regime. Many of those people who were in the House before the House was brought down for the last election recall that Bill C-70 was a bill from the former Liberal government that used these three areas that we have, in committee, amended the bill on: serious personal injury as in section 752, the area of organized crime and terrorism offences. Each of these categories would incorporate broad numbers of areas in the Criminal Code in respect of the availability of the conditional sentence in those areas.

The only difference with this amendment, other than the one clause that was not admissible because it talked about denunciation and introduced another thought that was also inadmissible, was the fact that we still allowed the judge discretion. The opposition members in the House think it is important that the judge in the courtroom hearing the facts of the individual case and seeing the individual person before the court has the discretion to choose amongst a large tool kit of available options of sentencing, anywhere from suspended sentence to incarceration, to probation, or to conditional sentencing.

Conditional sentence, under the Supreme Court of Canada, is said to be a real sentence. Members think house arrest, as they tend to call it, is some joke, that it is a comfortable zone. Try telling that to one's kids if one is under house arrest on Halloween and cannot go out and distribute candy, or cannot go to a family reunion. The person is told he or she can go to work with very restricted conditions or perhaps for treatment for an addiction. That is when a judge will tailor the offence.

Let us take the offence of robbery. In the Criminal Code robbery has a wide range. It can have a maximum term of imprisonment, but a robbery by definition is charged under the same section of the Criminal Code, whether it is a kid stealing a bicycle worth $100 or a person robbing a bank. There is a different and wide range of possibilities. It is the judge hearing the case who will determine how serious it is.

The law on conditional sentencing and the sentencing principles currently part of the Criminal Code say it has to be proportional. It says judges have to pay attention to who is before them and the facts in the individual case. It says they should do the least amount of restraint of the individual as is necessary. However, they cannot even use a conditional sentence unless the punishment is in a provincial situation of less than two years. They cannot even use it further unless the judge has determined that the protection of the public will be there. In other words, judges have to ensure that putting them into the public domain is safe for the community. That is what conditional sentencing is about. Judges can put in many things as conditions to go along with those sentencing principles.

What has happened in this bill? I remind everyone that the minority Conservative government dealt with the bill not by sending it to committee after first reading, so that there would be a wide scope for amendment and we could work collaboratively together, which I put on the record in my first speech last spring, but it sent it after second reading. It was a one paragraph bill that had many offences in the Criminal Code covered.

There were days in the House when all parties asked the government, especially on the property offences, why are they there, why does the government have this long list of offences that are property offences and not personal injury offences or not violence offences?

It is incumbent on the government, when it wants to restrict liberty, to justify and explain to Canadians its reasons for including so many offences that would not qualify in its opinion for a conditional release.

It is true that opinions differ among the parties in the House. We see the justice system differently than the Conservative government does. We want a judge to be able to deal with the situation of a sentence of less than two years and be satisfied that an offender serving a sentence in the community would not endanger the safety of the community and would be consistent with the fundamental purposes and principles of sentencing set out in section 718 and section 718.2 of the Criminal Code of Canada.

On September 19, 2006 I asked the Minister of Justice when he appeared before the justice committee if the government would amend its own bill. I was told no. Throughout the committee process the government did not take one thing out of its bill until today, a couple of hours ago. It offered no amendments. The opposition, on the other hand, amended the bill at committee based on good evidence presented by a number of witnesses to include the terrorism, organized crime and serious personal injury offences that we discussed.

Bill C-9 was amended by the majority of committee members who listened to the evidence of Gladue courts. Gladue courts allow people on a conditional sentence, the aboriginal people in downtown Toronto who have addictions and are involved in criminal activity to support their addiction, to get treatment under a conditional sentence. We heard that evidence. Some of those people are addicted to serious drugs but they are not there because of trafficking in drugs. Trafficking is not by an individual; the organized crime section of the bill talks about three or more people being involved. They will pick those things up so that is the part not being heard.

Bill C-9 was amended by a majority of members on the committee after listening to the evidence of those people who operate diversion and treatment programs. We listened to Julian Roberts who gave the best empirical evidence on data collected. He came in from his current post in England to tell us the work he had done inside the justice department to fix this area where it needed amending, but not to the width and breadth that was there. What happened then?

We even kept in the notion that if there was a conditional sentence, it would not be available if there was a mandatory minimum. Therefore, for some of the driving charges, in the case of second and third offences, there are mandatory minimums. Conditional sentencing will not be there.

Just in case anybody thinks that the courts are running wild on some of these things, I have some numbers from Juristat.To hear the other side, one would get a conditional sentence as though it were mandatory. What happens? Let us just take a look at the total cases sentenced in 2003-04. Under impaired driving, operation causing death, there were 9,477 cases, terrible situations, and 98% did not get a conditional sentence. Under impaired operation causing bodily harm, there were 9,763 cases. Again, 98% of them did not get a conditional sentence. In other words, judges are still using their discretion.

There was a last minute change today. If the bill had been tabled last spring in the form that it is being presented here today, maybe we could have worked with it. When I ask the justice minister why he does not meet with the critics, there is no reason. It is not their way or the highway. We do have some expertise in this chamber, members who actually want to work to get things done.

The list presented today is an amalgam. It seems to have been hastily put together over the last couple of days. It has some of the sex offences, terrorism offences and organized crime offences that are already in our amendment. Some property offences have been kept and drug offences have been added. There is no available treatment for the few people in this country who might be willing to get treatment if they were given the opportunity. Granted, there are not that many of them, but the ones who do, do not have to spend time in prison, and maybe if they are fixed, they will be more productive members of society.

The Conservatives did not think of the provincial partners. We asked for the cost of their program, but they did not give it to us. They said they were working on it. Guess what? That is downloading to the provinces and that is not responsible.

We have a responsibility here. We have heard about some of the costs of the government's justice bills. We have it from the provincial ministers. We know that the government is looking at about $1.5 billion in infrastructure costs and about $300 million annual cost. We do not need to do this and we are going to reject--

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Nanaimo—Alberni.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I can hardly believe what I am hearing. I just heard the member defend judges having the discretion for suspended, conditional, or some other form of sentencing. I know how she feels about mandatory sentences because I have heard her speak to that before. She does not believe they work.

We were elected on a platform to bring in mandatory sentences for repeat and violent offenders. This bill would take away conditional sentences for very serious crimes. We are talking about arson or break and enter.

The member talked about the hardship that some people with conditional sentences have to face. I thought I heard her say that parents would have to explain to their children why they could not take them out on Halloween.

There was a break and enter in my riding recently at the home of a 92-year-old man and his wife. Thank God the woman was able to call 911 before the criminal broke in. He was threatening to cut off her finger to take her rings. The 92-year-old man was beaten so badly he died a few months later. A 37-year-old man is being sentenced. Does the member think that individual should be considered for a conditional sentence so he can take somebody out on Halloween? Is that what the member is trying to defend? Is she serious? Does she recognize that Canadians are outraged because of the problems the Liberals, her party, caused when they were government with their leniency on crime and on criminals that make our society unsafe for our citizens? Is that what she is trying to defend?

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are trying to be smart with our justice policy. We have offered to fast track seven of the minority Conservative government's 11 justice bills. No one can tell me that we are not trying to cooperate. We have and will cooperate wherever we can. One justice bill went through today.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Batters Conservative Palliser, SK

Name one.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

If the member needs to be told, Mr. Speaker, the government's street racing bill went through less than an hour ago on a fast track that we initiated.

The Halloween example was probably not the best example I could have given. I will say publicly that I did not mean to demean anybody. I apologize to any Canadian who took offence by my giving the Halloween example. I really do apologize because I did not mean to cause any offence.

I was trying to impart that when people are given conditional sentences, it does not mean that they have the freedom to leave their homes. They can only go where the court dictates. They are allowed to go to their place of employment or to a church, but really very little else. I was trying to get the fact across that there are consequences to the children and other family members in the home. I was not trying to be disrespectful to anybody. There was a B and E at my house and I know how it feels.

I do want to make the serious point that this is just one of the tools and I do not think in every case we have to take it away. If the government had come forward last year with a bill that looked more like the amendment that we received a couple of hours ago, we probably could have worked through that, but it just stonewalled and would not consult with the opposition. It would not accept any amendments, even when we told the government upfront what we were talking about. The way the government chose to take the bill to committee made it very difficult to work through amendment procedures. I even have questions of how the government managed to get the list in, but I will take that up with the people who legally advised us at a later date.

It is important that the House realize that the sentencing principles in the Criminal Code have to be lived up to. If the government had removed the sentencing principles about the various areas of section 718, it would be a different matter, but it did not do that even in its bill. Proportionality has to be respected. The person who measures that proportionality is the judge at the sentencing.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have some stats here from Statistics Canada, the Canadian Centre for Justice. It says that those who serve conditional sentences are less likely to return to corrections than those who serve a prison sentence. These stats are from Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.

I wonder if the member could comment on that.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think the stats that the member has given are accurate. I regret that so much of what we are getting as justice legislation is based not on the evidentiary research that we know is there, but on anecdote and the ideology--

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Hochelaga.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to say that it seems to me that we have a responsibility to be somewhat serious and make decisions based on probative and conclusive data when we have the good fortune to be representing people in public life.

I would like the people listening to us to understand that there is no one in this House who is not concerned about the safety of our neighbourhoods, our communities. There is also no one who wants dangerous criminals or people who do not deserve to be at large being allowed to be. I find the speech that the minister made in this House to be rather insulting, as if the Conservatives were the only ones who are concerned about these issues.

This arrogance, which manifests itself in a very unhealthy certainty, is surely the reason why Quebeckers and Canadians, in their great wisdom, did not give this government a majority mandate.

When we are talking about criminal law or criminal justice policy, we cannot think of things as being black or white. Obviously there are people who will never deserve to be released with a conditional sentence.

There are people who make youthful mistakes or just plain mistakes for whom there should be oversight and supervision and for whom it should therefore be possible to recommend that they serve their sentence in their community. What I find sad is this kind of black and white thinking.

Bill C-9 started from a principle. It took all the offences in the Criminal Code for which a term of imprisonment of ten years or more may be imposed. We realized that there were 120 of these offences, but they are as disparate as making counterfeit money, copying a computer program and sexual assault. Those three offences are certainly deserving of punishment, but the fact is that they do not all have to be interpreted in the same way in terms of the seriousness of their consequences.

The problem with the Conservatives is that they cannot see grey areas. That is not the case for all Conservatives, but it is the case for a large number of them. The result is that they propose criminal justice policies that are absolutely dangerous because they do not allow for grey areas.

I will give a few examples of what I am talking about.

The John Howard Society presented a brief to the parliamentary committee. I think it gave a convincing demonstration of the fact that the ten-year sentence criterion is entirely unsound.

First, I would remind the House of two facts. Conditional sentences are a marginal phenomenon in sentencing practices. According to the most recent statistics available, there were 257,127 cases leading to conviction in 2003. Of them, 13,267 resulted in a decision by a judge at one level or another to impose a conditional sentence of imprisonment. That is a rate of 5.16%.

Conditional sentencing must not be spoken of as though it were widespread.

Second, people must realize that, when section 742 respecting conditional sentencing was introduced into the Criminal Code in 1996, everything was clearly marked out. This was not done arbitrarily. There were, and still are, four conditions to be met.

First of all, a judge cannot impose a conditional sentence if there are minimum prison terms. So right away there are some 70 offences for which conditional sentencing is not an option. Also, conditional sentencing is not possible if the judge imposes a prison sentence of more than two years. Nor is it possible to impose a conditional sentence if the judge is not satisfied that the person does not pose a threat to the community. And it is not possible if the judge is not satisfied that it is compatible with the objectives of sections 718.1, 718.2 and 718.3 of the Criminal Code, which deal with the objectives of sentencing.

There are already certain conditions to be met for conditional sentencing. This is understandable, since naturally a sentence to be served in the community is different from an institutional sentence, even though in 2000 the Supreme Court—in R. v. Proulx—said that it remained punitive.

Obviously it is not the same thing to serve one’s sentence in the community as it is to serve it in prison. Serving one’s sentence in the community is not a constitutional right, but rather a privilege which relates back to certain values and enables individuals to follow a program.

An individual who receives a conditional sentence—with a supervisor—is supervised throughout their conditional sentence. As some witnesses have mentioned, this type of sentence is safer than others because an individual is eligible for conditional release after serving one sixth of their sentence. This individual is no longer supervised afterwards. These facts must be placed in context.

I repeat: the Bloc Québécois is not saying that conditional sentencing is the answer in all cases. Obviously this is not so. This is why judges must know the offender’s profile, the context in which the offence was committed and the risk of reoffending. They must also be satisfied as to eligibility in the light of the four criteria that I mentioned.

The problem with Bill C-9 is that some offences are not punishable by 10 years in prison, yet are far more serious than some offences that carry a 10-year prison term.

One example would be failure to provide necessaries of life for a child under 16, which carries a two-year prison term. In theory, this should raise questions. Neglecting a child seems to me to be more concerning than copying computer hardware or software. Infanticide is punishable by five years in prison. I think that this is a situation where no one would want a conditional sentence. Yet it does not meet the criteria, which specify a 10-year prison term.

Every time the government proposes criminal policies that are so broad that they lack nuances, which we are entitled to expect, this creates problems.

In closing, the Bloc Québécois agrees that some individuals cannot be eligible for a conditional sentence because of the seriousness of their crime or their low potential for rehabilitation or because what they did was so reprehensible that people feel they have no right to a conditional sentence. We need to trust our courts of law to assess these situations. There is no evidence to suggest that the judiciary has improperly used section 742 of the Criminal Code.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have listened this afternoon to members from the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP. They all have something in common, something that separates them from the Conservatives.

When those parties are looking at criminal justice issues, they focus almost entirely on protecting the rights of the criminals. They forget there are victims in these crimes, and we are talking about some very serious crimes.

I suggest the members of these parties be more concerned with rebalancing the scales of justice so the rights of victims are put higher on their list of priorities. The rights of criminals are considered, but they are not the highest priority. I think that would be more in line with the thinking of Canadians.

Another thing I have noticed is that most of the members of the opposition do not see crimes, such as breaking and entering, as a serious crime. This is breaking into a sanctuary, supposedly a safe sanctuary for people, their homes. That differentiates the Conservative government from members of the opposition as well.

Until the thinking of the members opposite changes, they will never be on the same page as we are and as Canadians are. Would the member respond to that?

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect for our Conservative colleague, many things differentiate us, but let us say that this is what separates us.

We are convinced that break and enter is a serious crime. I challenge the member to provide an example of when we stated that it is not. Why is it serious? Not only because the Supreme Court said so but also because we realize that our home is our castle and that when our privacy has been violated it is clearly a serious matter.

What is the penalty for break and enter? Life imprisonment. Is that not proof enough that the Criminal Code requires more than just a literal reading?

I repeat, we do not believe that conditional sentencing is a right and that it can be applied without any context. The difference between the Conservatives and ourselves is that we believe in the individualization of sentencing, we have faith in the judges and we refute the Conservatives' soapbox proposals. These solutions often follow an automatic process and so are not nuanced and are devoid of analysis.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Langley B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to ask a question of a member, with whom I was on the justice committee in the last Parliament. I greatly respect him. He is a very bright and articulate person, but I have great difficulties with his very lenient approaches to the justice system.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

An hon. member

Soft on crime.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

He is soft on crime and has a hug a thug philosophy.

He said something that is not correct. He said that under conditional sentencing, the offender is under supervision. That sounds good, but in reality we need to ask the member what his definition is of supervision.

Supervision could be that the offender, who is supposed to be at home, could be seen once a week or once a month. However, that is not what Canadians understand as supervision. Full time supervision, having somebody watch the person all the time, is what they are assuming.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Batters Conservative Palliser, SK

Jail.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

How do we get supervision? We have just heard it, incarceration.

Canadians want to give offenders a chance, if they are first-time offenders and it is a minor offence. However, we are talking about people breaking into people's homes and auto crime, serious, high risk offenders. We are talking about very dangerous people. They will reoffend. Permitting them to serve their sentences at home, puts communities at risk.

Could the member define what he means by under supervision?

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Hochelaga has 20 seconds to reply.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I agree more with what the member said in the first part of his remarks and less with his comments in the second part.

It is obvious that in cases of serious crime—and I repeat, break and enter can be a serious crime—conditional sentencing may not be appropriate.

We do not claim that it is indicated in all circumstances, we do not claim that it is a constitutional right, but we are stating that it may be appropriate in certain cases.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will not cover the ground already covered by the members from the Liberal Party and the Bloc. I will focus on a particular aspect of the amendments introduced in the House today.

The work the committee did and the amendments the committee proposed dealt with the most serious offences. It is unfortunate that the minister chose to introduce the amendments to this bill today when they could have gone to committee for full and open debate. The committee could have had some witnesses come forward to address some of the issues that have been raised in the House today.

I will focus on one particular group that would be adversely impacted by the proposed amendments in the House; that is the first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.

We have had briefing notes from the Assembly of First Nations, in which they comment on the overrepresentation of first nations people in the criminal justice system. It is important that I highlight a couple of statistics the Assembly of First Nations has raised of the very serious concerns about the overrepresentation of first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.

The assembly says that 2.7% of the population in Canada, as of March 31, are first nations, but they represent 18.5% of all federally incarcerated prisoners in Canada. In 2000 approximately 1,792, or 41.3% all federally incarcerated aboriginal offenders were 25 years or younger. That is a shocking number. The number of incarcerated aboriginal women has also steadily increased from 1996-97. In the year 2003-04, they represented an increase of 74.2% over seven years.

Those are numbers that we must deal with as a Parliament and as a nation.

In addition, the Assembly of First Nations also identified the fact that aboriginal offenders represented 12% of the overall number of conditional sentences. That is an important fact, and that is the item that is before this House today, in connection with sentences.

There a number of recommendations that the Assembly of First Nations had specifically made. One of them is that we continue with the aboriginal justice agreement, which had been in development. However, it also emphasizes the fact that restorative justice has played a role in harnessing the rate of overrepresentation of first nations people in the criminal justice system and it is more consistent with the values of first nations than the prison system and can result in restoring harmony in the communities.

Those are all very important factors that this House needs to consider.

I want to quote from a letter from the Teslin Tlingit Council. They wrote a letter, dated October 20, which included a briefing it sent to the justice committee. I want to quote from the letter because I think this is a very important element. It states:

Notably we are concerned with the Prime Minister's refusal to endorse the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights which speak to the right of self-determination, as well as [the Minister for Public Safety's] response to the Federal Correction Report findings that First Nation inmates face discrimination within the Canadian justice system, followed by the recent federal bills tabled by [the Minister of Justice], which in our world view contribute to the already high rate of incarceration of First Nations people.

This is in context of the Teslin Tlingit's attempts to have a justice system as part of their agreed terms in their treaty.

In the briefing it provided to the committee, it indicated that:

Within the Yukon, conditional sentences had proven to be an effective instrument utilized by the Territorial Courts working with First Nation community processes, such as the Teslin Tlingit Peacemaker Sentencing Panel. Conditional sentences have contributed towards the promotion and exercise of community accountability and support of offenders to achieve the successful completion of their conditions, while also acknowledging and responding to the interest of those who have been victimized by a crime. The result is that families are kept together with a focus on balancing retribution and rehabilitation of the individual, which provides for the benefit of the overall community.

This element is important. A member of the government just talked about the fact that opposition parties have no concern for the victim. However, the Teslin Tlingit peoples specifically talk about the fact that conditional sentencing is an important element in not only considering the victim, but considering the overall health and well-being of the community. This element has been left out of the discussion.

In addition, the Teslin Tlingit have made a specific recommendation around what is perhaps a potential solution here. They say:

Consultation with First Nations would inform parliamentarians that the majority of offenders require social support to address root issues of self-destructive and offensive behaviour. Resources directed towards enforcement and institutions create a false sense of security for a short period of time. Institutional programing is often ineffective as the work is done in isolation of the realities of a community with little of the required changes to assist in the offender's reintegration to their family or community.

It is this overall comprehensive approach that all of us in this House would agree is very important. It is very important that there are enforcement regulations that do fit the crime, but we also feel that there need to be adequate resources in prevention and in support and rehabilitation.

In the recent annual report of the correctional investigator, we again have a report that talks about the disproportionate numbers of aboriginal peoples, first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples who are in prison. The investigator highlighted a couple of key elements. He said:

Over the past decade, our Annual Reports have made specific recommendations...addressing the systemic and discriminatory barriers that prevent Aboriginal offenders from full benefit of their statutory and constitutional rights and that significantly limit their timely and safe reintegration into the community.

He goes on to say that first nations, Métis and Inuit represent “18 per cent of the federal prison population though they amount to just 3 per cent of the general Canadian population”. He states that the correctional service does not control admissions to penitentiaries, but it does have the constitutional and statutory obligation to manage sentences in a culturally responsive and non-discriminatory manner.

Given the fact that we have this report from the correctional investigator which talks about systemic and discriminatory barriers, it would seem incumbent upon us to use other tools such as conditional sentences to make sure that first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples are receiving justice measures that are more culturally appropriate and to also deal with their overrepresentation in the current federal prison system.

He notes in his report that aboriginal women are overrepresented. I pointed to this earlier in the Assembly of First Nations statistics. He talks about the fact that aboriginal offenders, once in prison, are less likely to be granted temporary absences and parole or are granted parole later in their sentences, are more likely to have their parole suspended or revoked and are more likely to be classified at higher security levels. He says that is just as true today as it was 20 years ago, so clearly nothing much has changed in 20 years. It is a sad comment on the way the justice system has these systemic and discriminatory barriers.

In wrapping up, I want to re-emphasize the position that has been put forward by the Teslin Tlingit,which is that there should be consultation and the cultural perspective of first nations, Métis and Inuit communities needs to be taken into account.

I want to close by mentioning the importance of investing in community resources. There is a youth detox and youth stabilization program under way in my riding, run by a program manager and called ADAPT. This program is aimed at helping youth deal with addictions and substance abuse. The local RCMP officers in our community are actively involved in this program because it is a critical element in helping youth stay out of the prison system and also in working closely with the community to make sure that rehabilitation is there to help potential young offenders, their families and the community at large deal with some very serious issues.

I would urge members of the House to reject the amendments proposed by the government and get back to looking at the original bill, which actually deals with some very serious crime issues but also encourages us to look at conditional sentences as a tool before the courts to deal with some of the cultural issues facing first nations, Métis and Inuit communities.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, while I thank the hon. member for her comments and thoughts, particularly on how this bill applies to our first nations people, my concern is that this particular bill is for all Canadians. While I do understand her concerns and I thank her for having voiced them here in the House, this particular bill is to get tough on crime for all Canadians.

I am a father of five children. I was reading through some of the offences that were gutted from the bill in committee. Quite frankly, it is shocking. I will read some of them now in the House for members.

For example, there is impaired driving causing bodily harm. What if I am walking down the street and someone has decided to drive while impaired and they hit my child? It is house arrest for that person.

Next is assault with a weapon. We are talking about a weapon and assaulting a fellow Canadian. Again it is house arrest.

Kidnapping and forcible confinement are next. Once again, I am concerned for my family and my children. I do not think I stand here alone. I believe I am speaking for Canadians who are worried about crime.

Next is abduction of persons under the age of 14. Four of my children are under the age of 14. This concerns me greatly.

Next is breaking and entering with intent. Here I would ask people to imagine themselves in their home when someone breaks in and enters their home. They have invaded our privacy. They have invaded our sanctuary. They may have assaulted us with a weapon at the same time. They are going to get house arrest.

Putting party politics aside, how do Canadians feel about these crimes? How do my colleagues feel about these crimes and this idea of house arrest for serious crimes such as these?

I have a question for my colleague. I understand my colleague's concerns, but how does she respond when the bill applies to all Canadians and to their concerns about family safety and their own personal safety within Canada?

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I only have to point to the statistics in the United States, where there are 700-plus people incarcerated per 100,000 of population and where supposedly there is this tough on crime approach. It clearly is not working.

Again, I think all members of the House would agree that for those very serious offences we should have a system that takes a look at appropriate incarceration, but I also think we need to ensure that our judiciary has a toolbox and a range of approaches that will allow them to make the most appropriate determination.

Certainly where there have been mistakes in the past, I think we have mechanisms to deal with those issues. I think we do need to also look at a comprehensive package, again, one that looks at incarceration and enforcement as one aspect of it, but we also need to look at the rehabilitation and the prevention. We have to make sure that our communities are addressing some of the poverty issues, for example, which we know drive people to some of those crimes.

We really do need to look at a broader picture so that we have a comprehensive package that makes sure Canadians are safe in their homes.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Merasty Liberal Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, there have been about three dozen aboriginal justice reports and inquiries over the last number of years, each pointing to the utilization of the strategies that the member talks about.

Would the member tell the House how she thinks Bill C-9 will continue to contribute to that negative stereotyping and those systemic barriers that are in the system today?

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think that is one of the big challenges with the bill. It does not look at the systemic and discriminatory barriers that are already in place in the criminal justice system. It does nothing to address the poverty issues in first nations, Métis and Inuit communities that contribute to the kinds of challenges we have.

If as a society we want to say that we respect human rights, I think we really do need to look at a justice system that is also culturally appropriate. Bill C-9 fails to do that.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It being 4:52 p.m., pursuant to order adopted earlier today it is my duty to interrupt the deliberations and to put the question on Motion No. 1.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

All those opposed will please say nay.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the vote be deferred until the end of government orders.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

So ordered.

The House resumed from October 16 consideration of the motion that Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Québec.

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Bill S-2 originated in the Senate. It is the old Bill S-40 from the Senate before the last elections. It was discussed in the Senate. Now it is being debated in the House of Commons. We need to debate this bill on reviewing hazardous materials information.

I am the second Bloc member to speak on this. My colleague, the hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie, was a health and workplace safety engineer at Hydro Quebec and made his career in the health field. He spoke about this bill, guided us in our understanding of it, and enlightened us on its purposes.

The Bloc Québécois supports this bill for several reasons which I will explain over the next few minutes. Its purpose is to reduce the amount of information required to claim an exemption. The current process for claiming an exemption is very long. The form is complex and can delay the adoption of an exemption, even when the company agrees to do so. In the past, this was refused. Now, when there is a claim for an exemption, the process will be much shorter.

The second purpose is to speed up the process for providing workplace health and safety information about using these products. This bill enables the commission to reply to requests for further information on matters submitted by the appeal board. At present, this is not permitted. When companies want to submit rectifications without going through a long process, they are refused.

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, could my hon. colleagues in the NDP be a little quieter? They are very excited and I can hardly hear myself speak.

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Order, please. The hon. member for Québec is asking for the cooperation of all hon. members of the House.

I would hope that members of all parties will allow the hon. member for Québec to be heard.

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, perhaps I was confused. That happens sometimes; it is very human. We are here in the House and often we have information to give to colleagues. That sometimes disturbs the concentration that we require to speak on a subject.

I will continue my remarks. The Hazardous Materials Information Review Act governs the activities of the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission. That is an agency independent of the government with a quasi-judicial role. The commission plays a role in workplace health and safety and in the protection of industrial secrets.

The Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission is also a component of the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS). This system was developed by unions, industries and the federal, provincial and territorial governments. It provides information to workers who are in contact with hazardous materials and who need information for their own safety at work.

Why does such a system exist? As I have said, it serves to communicate all the information workers need concerning hazardous materials. All those workers who come into contact with hazardous products need to be protected. That is why the Bloc Québécois supports this bill, along with all the other stakeholders on this subject, including the workers, the industry, the unions and the manufacturers of these products.

WHMIS provides information in the form of data sheets and on labels. For example, if the information is contained on labels that are damaged and the information can not be properly read, a person who must work with that hazardous product can refuse to handle it. He or she can call for the manufacturer to provide information on the dangers of handling certain products. This provides a degree of safety for all workers, and especially for new employees, who also need the data sheet. That data sheet should be available at all times and should be placed in a location that is easily accessed. If it were under lock and key, workers would not have easy access to the data sheet, and that would be contrary to the objectives of the act.

The data sheet provides a list of all dangerous and toxic ingredients, as well as the precautions to be taken in handling the product. The data sheet also describes how to provide help to someone who is exposed to the product, or whose body or eyes have been in contact with the product. There are first aid procedures for anyone who has been in contact with a hazardous product. WHMIS is very important. It is very useful to have an established protocol that all companies must follow for the health and safety of employees in the workplace.

So, there is the establishment of WHMIS, the disclosure of information on the loss of competitive advantage and the disclosure of ingredients. Companies are uneasy about having to provide all the information about the manufacture of a dangerous product. I was going to say, “ a drug.” Since I am our health critic, I almost made a mistake. Really, this is a product that contains hazardous materials. This information must be disclosed; but some company information must remain secret when a product is marketed. The company asks for an exemption from disclosing certain information about certain products to their competitors.

There is a process to claim exemption from disclosure of this information. The bill sets out to ensure that this exemption claim, which is processed by the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission, is much easier to make than it is now.

Application for exemption from WHMIS documentation on how to use hazardous products safely will be much easier and will require much less red tape. It will cut to the chase.

Then we will see how a claimant can be exempt from having their information reviewed, while still providing information on the health and safety risks associated with their product's ingredients and their effects. Some information could also be provided that the companies do not want to disclose in order to protect their trade secrets. This process will be much easier and less restrictive.

Those who do not have trade secrets have no problem since there will be no documentation to provide on health and safety.

The companies will be subject to a review by a federal, provincial or territorial agency and not by the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission.

Others, who want to withdraw from this exemption, will continue their efforts with the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission.

The significance of the trade secrets will be carefully looked at. Not everyone will be exempt. Furthermore, the compliance of the company's material safety data sheet will be determined based on federal, provincial and territorial requirements. If the documents submitted are not satisfactory, then a new material safety data sheet may be required.

Bill S-2would make a number of changes. It would change the procedure by which a hazardous materials manufacturer can obtain an exemption from disclosing the confidential composition of its products.

As I said earlier, the organization that grants exemptions is the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission. This organization works with industry, associations and workers, who are the primary stakeholders.

I think this bill strikes a balance between the challenge of keeping workers safe while handling hazardous materials and industry’s right to protect trade secrets from the competition. The Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission will follow up and make the procedures more efficient. In fact, the commission's council of governors asked that the hazardous materials bill be amended in this way.

The commission was established in 1988. The data sheets were reviewed and 95% were found to be non-compliant. This bill makes it possible to determine whether the data sheets are providing accurate information not only on toxic substances but also on hazardous materials. How could we do a better job of training the people who work with these hazardous materials?

Over the past few years, eight or nine corrections have been required on each data sheet. Better protection for workers' health has also been implemented. There were hazards to their health. Monitoring was inadequate. This bill corrects that situation.

Workers must be given all available information to better protect their safety. The commission plays two roles: one in approving exemptions and the other in health protection with respect to exemptions.

The council of governors is the consultative body that sets policy for the commission. It was the council of governors that submitted the three amendments before us today. Only four out of more than 1,400 claims for exemption have been denied in the past. In addition, the documentation was too detailed, and the goal is to expedite this process because of the administrative burden it places on claimants and the commission.

I would now like to come back to the material safety data sheet. It must be available at all times, even for new workers. Quebec has a welcome protocol that provides new workers with information about a company's traditions and practices. But when it comes to hazardous materials, companies have to go beyond traditions and practices and support workers properly in handling these hazardous materials.

I think that this is the reason why the Bloc Québécois supports this bill. It is a question of facilitating the process to speed things up.

As well, many companies wanted to update their material safety data sheet and the information they gave their workers. The new bill can facilitate that. A company will now be allowed to act voluntarily instead of waiting to be notified to make a claim for exemption.

I think that this is a good idea, because if the company shows that it is willing to support its workers better in handling hazardous materials, it will not have to make a claim for exemption. It will be allowed to proceed voluntarily. That is why the Bloc Québécois supports this bill.

The Bloc is very proactive when it comes to the health and safety of workers. We have submitted a number of bills that were very proactive in this area. Take, for example, the bill introduced by my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert on preventive withdrawal for pregnant workers who have to handle hazardous materials. Considerable caution is required.

And then there are replacement workers. It could be dangerous for them to work in places where they have to handle hazardous materials. We are already talking about the workers who are used to their job, but there are all the other workers, including replacement workers. My colleague's objective, or at least her concern, was to introduce a bill on replacement workers during a strike, should a company decide to use such workers. Taking that another step, if a replacement worker should have to work with hazardous materials it would be dangerous for him or her to do so. We have to think about workers who are in daily contact with hazardous materials.

I think I have covered the issue with respect to the body charged with implementing the new procedure. This is an improved procedure that is more functional and less restrictive, but also makes companies accountable. I think that when workers, the company and the people concerned agree with a bill and its amendments, then the Bloc Québécois—which has closely followed this issue and has the workers' interests at heart, as several bills confirm—also agrees. We will therefore also vote in favour of this Senate bill.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been consultations and I think you will find the unanimous consent of the House for the following motion. I move:

That statements by ministers be taken up after oral questions tomorrow.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. minister have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate my colleague for her excellent presentation on Bill S-2 regarding hazardous materials.

My question is simple. The hon. member represents a very beautiful riding, Quebec City—one of the oldest cities of our nation of Quebec—which has developed and evolved considerably, and has been extensively renovated. Many products containing hazardous materials were used to make these magnificent improvements to Quebec City.

I would like the hon. member to give the House a brief overview of the work that has been done in Quebec City and to tell us about the workers who worked there, who are currently working there in construction and who may receive assistance thanks to this bill.

Quebec City has undertaken some magnificent improvements and renovations because it will soon be celebrating its 400th anniversary. Can the member tell us how the city is getting gussied up for this event?

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

The city is certainly gussying itself up. We hope, though, that this bill will provide more assurances to the workers who come into contact with hazardous materials. The city is fixing itself up for its 400th anniversary and a number of projects are underway. We have been talking about the health and safety of workers in contact with hazardous materials. In my view, though, we need to go further in workplace health and safety and take a broader view of these materials.

My hon. colleague was speaking about construction workers. When I was a college student, I did some papers on workplace health and safety. In the old days in pulp and paper plants, for example, they did not have safety railings. Workers walked along in front of machines that could shred a human body in five seconds. One of my uncles passed out and fell into a machine. We need to be sensitive to this kind of thing when we think about our working people.

I could list all the things being done at construction sites in beautiful Quebec City, as my colleague requested. However, I will have to keep that for another speech because I would not have time to list all the major projects in the city in just a few seconds. We hope that the federal government will support one of the major projects that can also be dangerous for construction workers: the improvements to the Quebec bridge, which have not been made yet.

There will certainly be some fine work done. However, one thing will not get done, despite the federal government's promise: removing the rust from the Quebec bridge. It is too late for 2008. The bridge will remain rusty and all our fine visitors will see it like that. It is too late because the necessary decisions were not made on time. I have high hopes, though, that the Bloc Québécois will finally force the government to move because this will be an important election issue in the next campaign.

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her speech on Bill S-2.

As we know in the House the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission is part of WHMIS which is the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System. This is a communications system which provides workers with information on the safe handling of hazardous materials used in the workplace.

I noted that since 1988 the commission has registered a total of just over 5,200 claims and that presently there are 1,450 active claims. To help rectify this matter the council of governors has put forward some legislative proposals such as, first, allowing claimants to declare that the information for which an exemption is sought is confidential business information and that full justification is available and will be provided on request; second, allowing claimants to enter into undertakings with the commission to voluntarily correct health and safety information when it is found non-compliant with applicable legislation; and third, allowing the commission to provide factual information to independent appeal boards.

I would like to put a question to my colleague. In her dealings with business and industry, and in her dealings with workers, what sort of feedback has she received from those two different groups with respect to Bill S-2 and these amendments that we would like to bring forward on WHMIS?

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was not at the committee to hear the witnesses’ presentation. However, I can say that this decision was made by the council of governors of the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission. As well, the industry as a whole, labour, and the federal government are involved in this review commission. All of the stakeholders who were entitled to speak to express their desire for change were in favour of Bill S-2. You know very well that if there had been a risk to workers, or if labour had not agreed with this bill, we would have studied it further and we would have gone into much greater depth in our consideration of it.

I think that it would be a step in the right direction to provide better monitoring of safety in the workplace and in terms of the information that has to be provided. We know that labelling and material safety data sheets are very important. The council of governors, which has chosen this arrangement, was in contact with the entire industry, and especially with labour. We know that the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission is made up of 18 people, nonetheless. Some of them represent the provinces and territories and the federal government, others represent labour unions and businesses. It is somewhat rare to see so many people around a table supporting a bill. There was ultimately consensus on this question.

This is why the Bloc Québécois wants to see it pass.

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is the House ready for the question?

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Health.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed from May 5 consideration of the motion that Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I started this speech last June I believe and I do not intend to speak very long. I am not sure whether there will be other speakers. I would like to compliment the former minister of transport who brought in Bill C-62 over a year ago and which has now been reintroduced.

After years of consultations with stakeholders it was noted that we would do the following: first, we would implement new strategies to regulate aviation safety; second, we would increase penalties for violations under the act; and third, modernize the act to meet the needs of the aviation community.

A press release from the Minister of Transport stated:

The proposed amendments to the Aeronautics Act reflect new strategies being implemented to regulate aviation safety, including an increase in penalties that may be imposed under the act. Key amendments would also allow individuals and operators to confidentially report, on a voluntary basis, less safety-critical regulatory violations.

If we look back at the record of this Parliament, we would find that a number of the bills that are being tabled in the House are in fact the reintroduction of bills that were introduced by the previous Liberal government. That bodes well. Parliament is working and will continue the important legislation that is in the best interests of all Canadians.

There are two proposed amendments to this bill. The first amendment would allow individuals and operators to confidentially report on a voluntary basis what is described as a “less safety critical regulatory violation”. I am not sure that we have the assurance of the minister as to what constitutes a less safety critical regulatory violation. I am going to be interested to hear more on this subject. If they are not serious violations, why do they have to be confidential? There are some questions here. We want to know if there will be an opportunity for members of Parliament to be briefed on a number of such reports and their nature.

The second amendment would allow the Canadian government to obtain information through any air accidents that happen outside of Canada through new and expanded powers being allotted to the military and to the Minister of National Defence. In the interests of transparency, I am wondering what checks and balances will be on these new powers?

We are paving the way to ensuring that all the information is available to authorities, especially in tragic accidents. There is a balance to be struck. We on this side of the House would like the Minister of Transport and the Minister of National Defence to take some time to assure us that measures are in place to ensure that these powers will be strictly adhered to. We also expect that there will be a report to parliamentarians in any case where this amendment comes into play and has to be exercised.

As a result of all the hard work of the former minister of transport in creating this legislation, we will be supporting it. We hope the government will uphold the spirit of this legislation.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the question I will ask my colleague is a simple one.

The effect of this bill will be to institute what the government and Transport Canada call a new monitoring system, a management system that will assign responsibility for ensuring safety to the airlines, which will have to regulate themselves.

I would like my colleague to explain how this will be safer than it is now. As we speak, inspectors and pilot inspectors are doing inspections, without warning, to ascertain whether airlines are complying with the rules.

Now, a management system is being created that will have the industry regulating itself. Ultimately, the industry is to discipline itself when it comes to monitoring and ensuring the safety of the industry.

I would like my colleague to explain how this will be better than what is done today. As we speak, inspectors and pilot inspectors are carrying out completely unscheduled inspections. They arrive without notice to check the condition of the aircraft, the quality of the piloting, etc. This is to be replaced by a system managed by the industry itself. I would like my colleague to explain how this will be better than what is done at present.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has asked a very good question.

Very simply, we can state that the new powers and duties will be comparable to those exercised by the Transportation Safety Board investigators examining civilian accidents. If he is interested in how this bill brings that closer in terms of the level and the quality of the work done, the bill includes: the status of the Airworthiness Investigative Authority making available any on-board recording obtained in the course of an investigation of a military-civilian occurrence; a coroner who requests access to it for the purpose of the investigation that the coroner is conducting; and to any person carrying out the coordinated investigation under section 18 of the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act; or, finally, to a board of inquiry convened under section 45 of the National Defence Act by the minister, if he or she requests a recording be made available, the occurrence did not take place in or over Canada and it involved an aircraft operated by the Canadian Forces.

The bottom line is that it basically harmonizes the provisions that we see under the investigations of civilian accidents with those now being referred to in this bill.

The House resumed from October 31 consideration of the motion.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion to concur in the second report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food in the name of the hon. member for Malpeque.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #52

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conditional sentence of imprisonment), as reported (without amendment) from the committee, and of Motion No. 1.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at report stage of Bill C-9.

The question is on Motion No. 1.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #53

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the amendment lost.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Justice

moved that the bill be concurred in.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think if you were to seek it, you would find unanimous consent to pass report stage of Bill C-9 on division.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is it agreed?

The hon. whip for the Bloc Québécois.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to understand. In light of the prior discussions among the whips, I had understood that all the parties supported the bill now before us.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Shall the motion carry?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave now?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

The House resumed from October 25 consideration of the motion that Bill C-299, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Competition Act (personal information obtained by fraud), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-299 under private member's business.

The question is on the motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #54

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed from October 26 consideration of the motion that Bill C-298, An Act to add perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) to the Virtual Elimination List under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the second reading stage of Bill C-298 under private member's business.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thought we might have unanimous consent to pass the motion before the House but I see the sponsor would like a standing vote.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do believe the sponsor is amenable and, if it is unanimous, I would ask that you seek consent to unanimously support this wonderful private member's bill by the member for Beaches—East York.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. member for Beaches—East York give her consent for unanimous consent?

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Maria Minna

Agreed.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Does the House give its unanimous consent to the motion?

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I would ask all hon. members, as we do every week, if they need to carry on conversations with other hon. members or with various ministers, that they take advantage of the lobbies on either side of the House so the House can get down to private members' business.

It being 6:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private member's business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from June 21 consideration of the motion that Bill C-253, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (deductibility of RESP contributions), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to engage in debate today with my fellow colleagues on Bill C-253, sponsored by the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East.

The bill proposes two major changes to registered education savings plans, or RESPs, that would affect contributions made in 2006 and future tax years.

We all agree that post-secondary education is important for the future of our children and for the future of this country. A well-educated workforce is a critical factor to improving Canada's productivity and raising our standard of living. In a knowledge based economy, our young people must have the skills to compete successfully in an increasingly sophisticated labour market.

More than half of the new jobs created today require post-secondary education. We can only expect education requirements to increase over time. We want our children to have access to post-secondary education and we want that education to be second to none.

The bill before the House today proposes an increase in support for post-secondary education by providing additional tax preferences for RESP savings. However, I believe this bill is not the best way to promote post-secondary education.

First, I will give a brief overview of the considerable support the Government of Canada provides for post-secondary education; second, I will explain the significant support that is already provided for education saving; and third, I will explain why measures proposed in the bill presented by the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East would not be cost effective ways to support post-secondary education.

The Government of Canada provides significant support for post-secondary education. In addition to transfers to the provinces, the Government of Canada provides over $5 billion annually in direct support to post-secondary education. Of this amount, $1.7 billion is provided to educational institutions for research to help ensure our brightest researchers stay in Canada and contribute to maintaining Canada's edge in innovation. Also, $1.8 billion is provided in grants, scholarships and loans to improve access to post-secondary education for low income students and rewarding those who attain academic excellence. We also provide $1.7 billion in tax relief to students and their families in recognition of the cost of post-secondary education through measures such as the tuition tax credit and the education tax credit.

This government's commitment to post-secondary education was evidenced in the 2006 budget presented in the House on May 2, 2006. The budget follows through on our platform commitments by proposing to create a textbook tax credit. The credit will be provided of $65 per month for full time study or $20 per month for part time study.

This government also recognizes that post-secondary students need to be supported in their hard work in the pursuit of academic excellence.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Dan McTeague

It is a pittance. It is one textbook.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

I am glad to hear that the member opposite agrees with me.

Budget 2006 discards the previous $3,000 partial exemption and proposes to make all scholarships and bursaries received by students enrolled in post-secondary studies completely exempt from tax.

Budget 2006 also proposes to improve access to student loans by reducing the parental contribution required for students from middle income families for the purpose of student loans. It is estimated that this change will enable 30,000 students to gain access to assistance and 25,000 to have access to increased loans.

The government will also provide a one-time payment of $1 billion into the post-secondary education infrastructure trust, providing that the 2005-06 surplus is in excess of $2 billion. The trust will support critical and urgent infrastructure and equipment in colleges and universities.

Budget 2006 also included funding for research and development and measures in support of apprenticeships and trades.

Let me turn to the assistance that is already provided for education saving. RESPs are given preferential tax treatment to help parents save for their children's post-secondary education. Up to $4,000 can be contributed to an RESP in a year for each beneficiary to a lifetime maximum of $42,000 per beneficiary. Funds invested in the plan grow tax free until they are withdrawn. Contributions are not deductible, but can be withdrawn tax free. Investment income earned in the plan is taxed in the hands of the students when withdrawn for post-secondary education. In short, the tax benefits in an RESP come from two sources: the deferral of the tax would be investment income and the fact that this income is taxed at a low rate because students generally pay little or no tax.

In addition to the tax preferences I just described, RESP savings qualify for the Canada education savings grant, or CESG, which makes saving in an RESP even more attractive. Under this program, which is aimed at encouraging saving for post-secondary education, the government provides a 20% grant on the first $2,000 in RESP savings for each beneficiary in a year.

To illustrate how this works, assume a parent contributes $2,000 to an RESP for his or her child, the contribution would earn $400 in CESG and the income on both the contribution and the CESG would grow tax free until the funds were withdrawn to cover the cost of the child attending college or university.

Further, because it is more difficult for low and middle income families to save for a child's post-secondary education, the Canada education savings grant provides a higher grant rate on the first $500 in contributions by these families. Depending on family income, the grant rate could be as high as 40%.

In addition, since 2004, the Canada learning bond kick-starts education savings for children born after 2003 and who are in families entitled to the national child benefit supplement. Up to $2,000 in total Canada learning bond grants could be paid in a child's RESP by age 16. These measures were adopted with our support.

In fact, the current RESP limit, saving $2,000 annually into a child's RESP, means that almost $75,000 could be available for that child's post-secondary education by age 18, and about $95,000 would be available if the parent contributed $4,000 annually until the $42,000 lifetime limit was reached.

The combination of the generous tax treatment of the RESP and the CESG that tops up private savings has provided powerful incentives for parents to save for their children's post-secondary education. At the of 2005, these plans held almost $18 billion in savings for future post-secondary education, seven times their value nine years ago.

Since 1998, $2.7 billion in Canada's education saving grants have provided for over 2.2 million children. Over $440 million in grants was paid into RESPs under the program in 2005. In addition, the tax deferral provided by RESPs represents about $130 million per year in forgone revenue for the Government of Canada and about half that amount to the provinces.

In total, the Government of Canada devotes over $570 million annually to tax relief and grants to help parents save for their children's post-secondary education. I believe nobody would dispute that the current RESP regime has been extremely successful at promoting savings for post-secondary education.

Let us consider the impact of the measures under Bill C-253.

First, the bill proposes to provide a deduction for contributions to RESPs made in 2006 and future tax years, with contributions withdrawn being taxed in the contributors hands rather than tax free as is currently the case.

Second, contribution limits would be raised to be the same as those applying for registered retirement savings plans, or RRSPs, that is 18% of the earned income up to $18,000 for 2006.

The bill is supposed to encourage parents to save more for their children's post-secondary education, but I suggest that the measure proposed in the bill would be ineffective and would be expensive.

For these reasons and many others, I am unable to support the bill and invite my colleagues to do the same.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak to a subject of ever-increasing concern here in Ottawa and in the eyes of the population. Post-secondary education, and particularly its accessibility, is a very topical issue.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of the principle of this bill because it is an improvement over the current provisions of the Income Tax Act, which governs the registered education savings plan—RESP—program.

To summarize the bill briefly, a registered education savings plan is created from contributions out of after-tax income. Such contributions do not entitle contributors to a tax deduction, as is the case for contributions to a registered retirement savings plan or RRSP, but the investment income that is earned on the contributions accumulates in the RESP and is tax-free. The investment income is taxed only when it is withdrawn from the RESP. If the savings are withdrawn to finance the beneficiary’s post-secondary education, the investment income will end up in the hands of this beneficiary.

The problem is that not everyone can afford to make contributions to a registered education savings plan, since a substantial income is necessary in order to do so. People prefer to contribute to an RRSP rather than an RESP.

This bill, if passed, will make it possible for parents and families to benefit from a tax deduction, as they do with an RRSP.

Putting such a measure in place would come with a cost, of course, but it would foster the growth of our society and have an undeniably positive impact on its development.

Bill C-253 has numerous shortcomings. It nevertheless remains that it is an improvement as far as the RESP program is concerned.

During the first reading of this bill, my colleague from Jeanne-Le Ber identified the bill’s chief shortcomings in his speech. I would like to do a quick review of the RESP program and the advantages for society of passing such a bill.

Although the registered education savings plan program has been around for 30 years, the federal government has given it special attention of late. In 1998, the federal government created the Canada Education Savings Grant, the CESG. This is a grant of a maximum of 20% of the contribution made, which provides the beneficiary with an extra $400. This means that, when a parent or grandparent contributes $2000, $400 will be added to the RESP of a child under the age of 18.

Bill C-253 is a continuation of the improvements that began a few years ago. According to the statistics for 2002, the participation rate for the registered education savings plan was only 6% in Quebec; that is right, I said 6%, while it was about 10% in Ontario and in British Columbia.

At present, a large number of parents and grandparents do not contribute to a registered education savings plan because it does not constitute a deduction from an individual’s taxable income. In addition, some people do not have the financial resources to do so.

Therefore, people prefer to put their money into registered retirement savings plans. However, it is a good bet that more people would like to benefit from a RESP if there were an income tax deduction similar to the deduction for RRSPs.

What the bill seeks to do is to target an often-neglected group of taxpayers, who are already asked to make more than their share of sacrifices in our society. I am talking about the middle class; the class that includes the largest number of Canadian citizens. What this bill offers is greater accessibility to post-secondary education.

The education of our children and our grandchildren is often a cause for worry and concern not only for parents, but also for the expanded family, the grandparents, aunts and uncles. Many of them fear that they will not be able to pay the increasingly higher costs of post-secondary education. The introduction of an incentive for the contributor and the beneficiary represents an investment by the government in today’s young people and gives hope to a great many young parents, young families and grandparents.

On the other hand, if the beneficiary does not pursue post-secondary studies and no other beneficiary is designated, the contributor can receive the income from the investment under certain conditions. The funds could be transferred to a registered retirement savings plan without penalty, up to a maximum of $50,000 if the individual’s RRSP contribution ceiling allows. Otherwise, a 20% income tax deduction would be made on the withdrawal and the amount that could not be transferred to an RRSP would have to be added to the individual’s income for the year. We are talking here about only the accumulated investment income within a registered education savings plan because the capital is not subject to income tax.

It is certain that the adoption of such a bill could be very costly for taxpayers because, at present, those who contribute to a registered education savings plan are not able to deduct that contribution from their income. Therefore, those households with higher incomes will benefit even more from such a measure and low-income families will see little or no advantage. However, no program is perfect and Bill C-253 represents an excellent incentive to parents and families.

In summary, I would say that this bill would enable an individual making a contribution to an RESP to deduct that contribution from income, which is almost identical to the practice for an RRSP. In closing, I want to congratulate the member for his bill and thank him for his interest in the education of our children and our grandchildren.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to join in this debate on Bill C-253, a private member's bill put forward by the member for Pickering—Scarborough East to adapt and change the RESP contribution program.

Unlike my colleagues from the Bloc and my colleague from the Conservative Party who has spoken, I am going to put on the record remarks of deep concern about this particular private member's bill. I am sure it will come as no surprise to the member for Pickering—Scarborough East that while we appreciate his work in this area, we feel that his efforts are misplaced and the focus of the bill is misplaced. Through this bill we will not necessarily accomplish what I believe he wants and what we all want, which is greater access to post-secondary education for our young people. That is clearly a burning desire from all of us.

We hear daily from constituents and from young people across this land how much they want to go to university or college to pursue their educational dreams and aspirations only to learn that the obstacles sometimes are so great as to prevent them from fulfilling those dreams. Here are the questions we have to ask today. Does this bill advance the public agenda in that regard? Does it make it easier for our young people to access post-secondary education? Do the costs outweigh the benefits or not?

That is why I rise today with deep concerns about this particular bill. We have just finished a whole series of pre-budget consultations. We heard from numerous groups involved in education, students, teachers, researchers and administrators. In each and every case the demand from the education community, and from families who are concerned about opportunities for their children, was for increased responsibility and roles on the part of the federal government in the post-secondary education system.

Each and every one of those representatives called upon the government to redress the serious problems that befell our system when the Liberals cut the heck out of education back in 1995 with their infamous federal budget. They basically set us back an entire decade with their regressive and extreme views in terms of dealing with the fiscal challenges of the day. We are still trying to recover from that period. It is not helpful to have another patchwork approach to a very serious systemic issue.

All we have had over the last decade is one band-aid after another. That has been the Liberal approach to education in this country. First the Liberals cut the heck out of the system, then they promised when they had a surplus, they would deal with it and put the money back. What did they do instead? They gave huge tax breaks to corporations and put all the surplus available against the debt. Nothing was done in terms of dealing with the systemic problems facing access to post-secondary education.

This bill is another band-aid on top of a band-aid. This is like trying to fix up a patch that is already on a system that is bleeding and hurting. This is not serving the country.

I do not need to tell the House how difficult it is these days for students to access university given the rising costs of tuition. The evidence is all around us.

Mr. Speaker, it would certainly help if you could bring some order to this chamber. It is very hard to hear oneself think when there is that kind of nattering going on in the Liberal benches.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I think the member for Winnipeg North makes a good point. It is often difficult to hear members, especially those who sit down at that end of the chamber. It is difficult for the Chair to hear her comments when so many people are carrying on side conversations. If anybody needs to converse, please take advantage of the lobbies on either side of the chamber.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Thank you Mr. Speaker, I was having trouble hearing myself think. I know I was saying a few things that are agitating the Liberals, but I hope they might appreciate that there are different views on this issue. We are not speaking against the RESP per se, except that it is a time of limited resources and I will concede that point.

We heard from the Liberal finance critic many times about limited choices and limited resources. Therefore, there are choices that we have to make and I will concede that we have to make some hard choices.

I want to ensure that the dollars we spend go the furthest. I want to ensure that whatever we do is opening the doors wider for students from all backgrounds. I know from this proposal that we are going to see a huge loss of public revenue that could be spent elsewhere.

In fact, right now we spend about $135 million as a result of foregone revenue with the RESPs. With this proposal, we will lose much more than that, at least $460 million in the first year. That is a lot of money that serves a very small group of people and is confined to not middle income earners, as my colleague from the Bloc has suggested, but is restricted to benefiting largely those at the high end of the income scale.

It would probably be useful for the House to know what a couple of the organizations told us during our pre-budget consultations with respect to the general matter of education tax measures.

I would like to quote from a reputable organization, the Canadian Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. These are people who deal daily with the problems students are facing. They deal daily with trying to find ways to ensure that access is there for students of all backgrounds for post-secondary education. They concur with all of us when we say that probably the most important thing we can do as parliamentarians in a competitive world is develop a skilled and educated workforce and a post-secondary education is the primary means of achieving this objective. This organization tells us:

Since 1998 the federal government has spent increasingly on student assistance through fiscal measures introduced to the tax system...scholarship and bursary exemptions, credits for tuition fees and an allowance for each month of full time enrolment, as well as contributions to Registered Education Savings Plans.

--these tax credits are distributed almost entirely without reference to need. Several studies suggest that families from higher income ranges benefit disproportionately...they do little to assist high need students and underrepresented groups, for example, students from low income families, students with disabilities, aboriginal students, adult learners to enter our post-secondary education system.

This organization goes on to say:

We believe that means tested student financial assistance that is accessible through a simplified application process, that delivers funds at the time that expenses are to be incurred represents the most effective use of taxpayers dollars.

I think that is a point that has to be considered in this debate. I would further point to a brief presented to our finance committee by the Canadian Federation of Students which also exemplifies the problems we have in pursuing a tax credit approach to education as opposed to an investment in our post-secondary institutions to ensure greater access. The Canadian Federation of Students brief states:

Since the mid-1990s, the federal government has increasingly looked to tax expenditures as a substitute for directly allocated student financial assistance. In total, federal tax expenditures for post-secondary students have grown from $566 million in 1996 to more than $1.46 billion in 2005. This represents a 213% increase in real dollars and more than the total amount the federal government will spend on upfront grants this year.

It goes on to say that, in fact, this approach has virtually benefited those at the high end of the income scale and contributed to the growing barriers that low income people face in trying to access post-secondary education. The problem is about choices. It is about where do people put their money, how do they get the best bang for their buck.

While this RESP is something that could be part of an overall package, if one has to make choices in the context of a time when we are still recovering from the gutting of our post-secondary education transfer system and down to a federal share of a single digit, we have to do something much more significant and meaningful than tinkering with this band-aid approach.

I would suggest that we put this on hold and get down to the real issue at hand which is access for all students to post-secondary education.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill tonight and congratulate my colleague from Pickering—Scarborough East for this initiative. I think it is very important. As a former educator I can say how important this is to students across the country.

I heard earlier about the gutting of transfers to the provinces with regard to post-secondary education. I might point out to members in the House that in 1993 the Liberals inherited a $42.5 billion deficit, of which 33% of the money was borrowed. When we were transferring money, we were transferring borrowed money. It was not real money.

So, to suggest that we gutted the system, we in fact got our fiscal house in order, so that we could now do the kind of program that the hon. member who just spoke would like to see. What is the proposal this evening? It is basically to help young people and their families better save for an education.

We know that two out of every three jobs require more than a high school education. Tuition fees have continued to double. Tuition is the responsibility of the provinces not the Government of Canada. We know that it has gone from around $2,000 six years ago and by 2012 we are looking at about $12,000, and never mind the books and residence costs, et cetera. Then we are talking tens of thousands of dollars.

The hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East has proposed to build on a Liberal initiative, which of course is the issue of the registered education savings plan. At the moment it is not deductible. I am assuming that all members in the House have constituents who pay taxes. When we pay taxes, we would like to see some benefits.

Unlike an RRSP, a registered retirement savings plan, currently under the registered education savings plan, we cannot deduct, there is no tax benefit. Imagine a family that saves $100 to put into a program that the hon. member has put before the House. If one does that 12 times in a year, there would be $1,200 which would be tax deductible. Individuals would get a break and that would be an incentive for the family, whether it is the parents, grandparents or whatever, or the student.

Having worked with students over the years, they do not earn a lot of money at summer jobs. They do their best, but it is not going to cover all of the bills. How do we fix that problem? The hon. member is proposing that we have a tax deduction.

We are not going to solve all the ills or all the problems of a post-secondary education, but we want to be on the leading edge of technology. If we want to be a knowledge based economy, we must have the people in universities and colleges to learn. They cannot learn unless they obviously have the money to go. This is really important.

We hear educators talk about the proposal as an important step in advancing educational opportunity. We hear unions talking about the importance of advancing this for educational opportunities for young people. We are investing in young people and if I have an opportunity to put $100 a month or a $1,000 or whatever it is, and I am going to get a tax break, that is an incentive.

However, it also builds and it does not mean that it is going to be the be-all and end-all. There are going to be other ways that people are obviously going to deal with it, whether they have a summer job or whatever it happens to be, but the important part is that this is going to stimulate people in that regard.

The prosperity of the country is based on knowledge and on higher education. We are very fortunate that we have an excellent post-secondary system across the country. In fact, our college system in the province of Ontario was modelled in Vietnam. The Vietnamese modelled the college system in the province of Ontario because they saw that it was an important level that they did not have. We have a great system here. We need to motivate people.

If we are going to deal with skill shortages, which we do have in this country, one of the things we must do is invest in young people. Again, this program will do that and I think it is very important when we are talking about our competitiveness with other countries around the world. We need a highly skilled, motivated workforce. We want to ensure that we have continued economic prosperity and this bill will assist in efforts to obtain those funds.

I do not think the member for Pickering—Scarborough East said that this would cure all the ills around post-secondary education, but I believe his bill should be before a committee for review in order to have a good discussion about the points that all members have raised. There have been good points from all sides but the bill needs to be studied and to move forward.

At the moment only 27% of Canadians actually have RESPs, only 27%, so 73% of Canadians do not have them. This again is an incentive for people, which is extremely important. Twenty-seven per cent is a very low figure. Making contributions tax deductible, as this bill proposes, would give that initiative to families. It would be another opportunity to move this agenda forward. I know we in the House all believe that the betterment of young people is important and we want to make sure they have the kinds of opportunities and education that the generations before them did not necessarily have.

It is a way of addressing some of the educational costs. Yes, there are other issues in terms of transfer payments to the provinces which I am sure the government looked at, as the Liberal government did. Again we have to make sure when we transfer money to the provinces that the funds are earmarked for the purpose for which they are being sent. If they are sent simply in bulk form to deal with health, post-secondary education, social programs, et cetera, and it is administered by the provinces, there is no guarantee the money will get to where it should have gone.

When this bill comes to a vote, I think all members in the House will look at the situation in their own ridings. I know that other members have been visited in their offices by young people who have talked about the massive debt that often occurs after they leave university. There are some students who cannot even go to university because their families cannot afford it and they wish they had some kind of vehicle to help them. This is what this bill addresses.

Employers are demanding post-secondary graduates. It is not enough to have a bachelor of arts degree these days. Employers are demanding masters of arts degrees and MBAs. If students cannot afford to get a bachelor of arts degree, where are we going to be against the emerging economies in the world? Where are we going to be against Japan? Where are we going to be against the European Union and the Chinas of the world in devoting that kind of energy? We need to make sure.

For me it is a motherhood and apple pie issue. How could people not want to support something which may advance education in this country? At least send the bill to a committee to look at. The hon. member has put a lot of thought and effort into this bill. He sees the same problem that I see, that even though people have the ability, they cannot go to university.

It was the previous Liberal government that brought in the millennium scholarships, which made a huge difference to students in my riding. Unfortunately, certain provinces clawed back. The hon. member knows about the clawback that occurred, including in the province of Ontario, under the previous Conservative government.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

An hon. member

And the NDP voted against it.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

And the NDP voted against it my friend reminds me.

This is not a cure-all but it is a very important tool in assisting students and we need to look at that. I am sure the government will be looking at other issues with regard to transfers, but at the end of the day I would not want a student to come into my office and say that we had an opportunity to help but we did not do it because of some issue about not solving all the problems of the world. Let us look at it.

When I was on the finance committee as parliamentary secretary these were the kinds of initiatives that were important to look at because they advanced a big agenda. The most important agenda that I think members in the House support is the knowledge agenda.

I again want to thank the member for Pickering—Scarborough East. I urge colleagues to look at this issue very carefully when it comes up for a vote.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-253, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act sponsored by my colleague, the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East. I am also pleased by the Speaker's announcement today that the bill can proceed in its present form in spite of previous concerns that it might have exceeded the jurisdiction of private members' business. The purpose of the bill is to allow contributions to registered education savings plans, RESPs, to be tax deductible similar to the way Canadians already deduct contributions to registered retirement savings plans, RRSPs.

I need to digress a little. Today has been a rather difficult day for Canadian investors. Contrary to what Conservatives told Canadians prior to the last election, the finance minister announced that he has decided to flip-flop on the income trust issue and slap a tax on the distribution. Within two hours of trading today Canadian investors lost $25 billion in retirement savings affecting virtually all sectors of the economy and unfortunately creating a sudden and bleak future for hundreds of thousands of pensioners.

That being said, I wish to return to the proposal brought forth in Bill C-253. I believe this proposed legislation warrants further consideration. I believe it is important to support this bill at second reading so that it can be referred to committee for an in-depth analysis. The reason is simple. We acknowledge that the cost of post-secondary education is becoming extremely expensive for average Canadian families, especially those with more than one child to educate.

Students are graduating with an excessive amount of debt and many say they simply cannot afford an education. This is a troubling situation especially since our future productivity is dependent on the next generation of students. Currently Canada has the highest participation rate in post-secondary education among the OECD countries, but that ranking is in severe jeopardy if the federal government does nothing to change the situation.

Bill C-253 would encourage more parents to participate in the registered education savings plan because they would see the fruits of this program at the end of every tax year. As we heard from my hon. colleague, only 27% of parents participate, so the bill would encourage more participation. This would be beneficial to Canada because we would have a more educated population and hence a more productive population.

In addition, the savings that are incurred from this tax deduction could be reinvested into an RESP in order to assist families with the goal of maximizing their annual RESP contribution. At present the maximum annual contribution is $4,000 a year with a lifetime limit of $42,000 per beneficiary. These investments grow tax free until a child needs money for tuition. While it is true that Bill C-253 would shift the tax burden from the parents to the child beneficiary, the annual income of a full time student is quite low and any tax liability would be offset by other tax credits while students are still in school.

Currently students emerge from universities with a huge debt. This bill would ensure that students emerged from their education with a much lower student debt. Consider that by 2010 a four year degree program could cost in excess of $100,000. It becomes quite clear that long term planning is required on the part of the students and parents, but also the federal government. This would ensure that post-secondary education does not become a luxury only those families with money can afford.

It is also quite clear that an RESP worth $42,000 would offset a significant portion of the cost of a proper education.

I note with interest that the author, the MP for Pickering—Scarborough East, has considered measures to prevent RESPs from abuse. Bill C-253 proposes severe tax penalties for those who would attempt to take advantage of an RESP's simple tax shelter without any serious regard for the potential beneficiary. In the event that a beneficiary has no intention of going to school, the accumulated income would be subject to a 20% tax on top of the regular tax normally payable on such investments. That I call accountability.

Roughly 50% of college and university graduates graduate with a debt. The average debt amounts to $20,000, making it very difficult for young people to get a headstart in life.

I ask for the support of all members in this House so that serious thought can be given to helping all Canadians access post-secondary education regardless of their economic circumstances.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The last speaker will be the mover of the motion, a five minute rebuttal.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all colleagues for participating in this debate. I know there are many issues that cannot be resolved in the few minutes that are given to me, but let me provide a very brief outline.

Let me decipher the position of the House leader over the past couple of months. First, thank you for your ruling earlier today, Mr. Speaker, in which you made it abundantly clear that this bill in no way violates or requires a ways and means motion in order to give rise to the vote which will take place, I presume, at some point next week. What is most important is that the roadblock of the ways and means position seems to be the legitimate reason the government opposed this bill. Mr. Speaker, since that roadblock has been clearly taken away by you in your infinite wisdom, I would offer to the government that it incorporate this bill as its own and begin the process to meet the challenge of students who so clearly need the help of this Parliament and to come up with innovative ways to ensure that young people have access to higher education.

It is very clear to all Canadians, any Canadian who pays taxes, any Canadian who is concerned about the future, that the prosperity of this nation very much depends on a skilled and adaptable workforce.

Right now, as opposed to reaching out and giving everybody who wants an education an opportunity to get that education, we hear naysaying from some corners. We heard the member for Winnipeg North who chastised the bill because it is an attempt to try to cover more people who desperately need an opportunity to get that access to higher education. Whether it be a skill in the workforce, whether it be a craft, whether it be taking up a trade, or whether it be to move on to post-secondary education, we know that this cycle of education will continue in years to come. For people to have the opportunity to access education and thereby maintain the health, wealth and prosperity of this nation depends on our ability to provide instruments that are at our hand without denying the government the cash it needs to continue working on the nation's priorities.

To look at the issue of post-secondary education in the abstract, there are a number of programs out there, but we need to do more. When only 27% of students are being provided an education through an RESP, it clearly demonstrates that almost three-quarters of Canadians are not.

I do not think any of us in this House want to take a position here that suggests that today, in the year 2006, education only becomes the purview of the rich.

Students are talking to each one of us as members of Parliament and our provincial colleagues as to the amount of debt they are incurring. Students talk to us about the need to ensure that we rebuild the system, about the need for a piece of legislation that would provide an opportunity for them to continuously access education in a world in which there is increasing competition, not just in terms of trade, but in terms of resources.

It is extremely important. Given all these factors, but above all when we see in my province of Ontario the tuition freeze that has just been lifted, we now have a situation that is unacceptable to all Canadians. We need to look at the rapid rise in the cost of education.

Universities want to compete on an international level. They can only do so with higher tuition fees. The government can move to cap these things, but these are band-aid solutions. We in this chamber have to find the creativity to provide people an opportunity to access education.

In my riding, and I am sure the riding of Winnipeg North and ridings right across this country, every one of us as members of Parliament has an obligation to look deeper so that when someone is paying a tax, they may actually be put in a position where they are able to benefit from it.

This legislation is really calling for Parliament to think bigger. This legislation is asking the finance committee and parliamentarians not to navel gaze about what has happened in the past but to understand what the OECD has said with respect to rising tuition costs for students and to listen to what students are saying. However we decide to make it possible for students to get access to higher education, Parliament has a higher obligation to respond to the need.

This is not by any means the only solution, but it is an important step forward to recognize that the federal government plays an important role in the lives of students in ensuring the viability and the safeguarding of our education system. We must ensure that young people, and all people, have access to education. The instruments are there. The income tax system is probably the easiest way to do this. Most Canadians pay income taxes and they would have a great opportunity to help their children in the future.

As my final words on this, I would encourage the government and all members of Parliament to look beyond the rhetoric and to look to what their constituents need. Clearly, on RESPs, tax deductible is the way to go.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The motion is adopted. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think you may have gotten ahead of yourself. We were waiting for you to ask for the yeas and nays. You did not get to that stage. You just declared it carried. We were saying no.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I appreciate the good advice from the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park. However, the Speaker did not hear any nos. I did not hear any nos, and then I heard a suggestion, on division.

Let us turn back the clock and read this again.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

All those opposed will please say nay.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, November 8, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wonder by what authority do you go back on a decision already made by the house?

In accordance with the Standing Orders, the House made a decision. Now you have cast doubt on this decision.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Is the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East rising on the same point of order?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Yes, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the need to, as it were, return to the issue at hand and to recall the position that you had taken. I say so respectfully, but you clearly enunciated that the bill would in fact proceed on division. Whether or not people said yes or no, it remains that the Speaker did not hear the nos. In fact, the Speaker ruled that he had heard only yes and accepted this on division.

To have then had another vote on this, Mr. Speaker, to reverse your position, is in my view, I humbly submit, an error as far as the regulations and the longstanding procedures of this House. I would therefore recommend, Mr. Speaker, that the original decision stand and that we proceed to your original decision without it being reversed. I understand that members of Parliament may have decided afterward that they wanted to speak a little louder or whatever the case may be, but this is why members of Parliament should be in the House at the time, to make those declarations.

Clearly, this went on division and should be now referred, in accordance with your initial decision, to the Standing Committee on Finance.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I can only recognize members who are sitting at their seats. I have already recognized the hon. member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park Park. I will now recognize the hon. member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am not an expert in procedure but I clearly said no. The member, whose riding I am not sure about, was clearly heckling me for saying no, so he definitely heard me say no. I am sorry if you did not hear it, but I clearly said no loud enough for people to hear me on both sides of the House.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I have heard the representations of all members. I want to apologize to the House for not hearing properly. This chair occupant has worked in good faith. And in good faith, I called the question in a manner so as to make very sure of the intentions of the House. I was not sure the first time.

I seek the forgiveness of the House if some members believe that I should have heard properly the first time. I will be more attentive on another occasion. I would like now to move to the next item and leave this chair to proceed into committee of the whole.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh!

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Is this about the same point of order or another?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

An hon. member

The same point of order.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Unfortunately, I have already rendered my decision. I did not see you at the time.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

An hon. member

I am here, Mr. Chair.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I know you are there, but I have already rendered my decision. I ask for your indulgence. Thank you.

Pursuant to Standing Order 81(4), the House will now resolve itself into committee of the whole to study all votes under Human Resources and Skills Development in the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2007.

I do now leave the chair for the House to go into committee of the whole.

(House in committee of the whole for consideration of all Votes under Human Resources and Skills Development in the Main Estimates, Mr. Royal Galipeau in the chair)

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Conservative Royal Galipeau

I would like to open this committee of the whole session by making a short statement on this evening's proceedings. Tonight's debate is being held under Standing Order 81(4)(a) which provides for each of two sets of estimates selected by the Leader of the Opposition to be considered in committee of the whole for up to four hours. The debate is also held under the motion adopted by unanimous consent earlier today.

Tonight's debate is a general one on all of the votes under Human Resources and Skills Development. Each member will be allocated 15 minutes. The first round will begin with the official opposition, followed by the government, the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party. After that, we will follow the usual proportional rotation.

As provided in the motion adopted earlier today, parties may use each 15 minute slot for speeches or for questions and answers by one or more of their members. In the case of speeches, members of the party to which the period is allotted may speak one after the other. The Chair would appreciate it if the first member speaking in each slot would indicate how the time will be used, particularly if it is to be shared.

When the time is to be used for questions and answers, the Chair will expect that the minister's response will reflect approximately the time taken by the question, since this time will be counted in the time originally allotted to the party.

Though members may speak more than once, the Chair will generally try to ensure that all members wishing to speak are heard before inviting members to speak again, while respecting the proportional party rotations for speakers.

Members need not be in their own seats to be recognized. I would remind hon. members that, according to today's motion, during this evening's debate, no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be entertained.

As your Chair, I will be guided by the rules of the committee of the whole and by the motion adopted earlier today. However, in the interests of a full exchange, I am prepared to exercise discretion and flexibility in the application of these rules.

It is very important that the traditions of the House in relation to decorum be respected and that members make their remarks and pose their questions in a judicious fashion. The Chair will expect all hon. members to focus on the subject matter of the debate, the main estimates of the Department of Human Resources and Social Development.

I also wish to indicate that in the committee of the whole ministers and members should be referred to by their title or riding name, and of course all remarks should be addressed through the Chair.

I ask for everyone's cooperation in upholding all established standards of decorum, parliamentary language and behaviour.

At the conclusion of tonight's debate, the committee will rise, the estimates under Human Resources and Skills Development will be deemed reported and the House will adjourn immediately until tomorrow.

We may now begin tonight's session. The House in committee of the whole, pursuant to Standing Order 81(4)(a), the first appointed day, consideration in committee of the whole of all votes under Human Resources and Skills Development in the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2007.

The hon. member for Halifax West.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Chair, I thank everyone, including the ministers, for gathering here this evening.

All the cuts the government has announced reflect choice, not necessity. The government inherited a remarkably strong financial situation.

Mr. Chair, I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague from Oakville, and until further notice, unless we advise otherwise, the members will all be asking questions this evening, thus using their time to ask questions.

The government chose to cut literacy programs, child care, student employment, seniors, volunteers and homeless people, among others. Does the size of the cuts reflect the weakness of the minister or does she simply put no value on protecting the vulnerable in society?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, I should correct the record. Our new government is trying to effect responsible spending for Canadians. That is what they asked us to do. The hon. member across has made some inaccurate statements already this evening, which I would like to set straight for the record. We have continued with our investment in the homeless. In fact, we have increased it by $37 million because we recognize the importance of this program.

As well, we have maintained our programs for seniors such as new horizons for seniors. My colleagues, particularly the Minister of Finance, have enhanced benefits for the financial security of seniors. Just yesterday he announced two new programs for seniors that will significantly help them. One is the option for pension splitting going forward, and also an increase in the age credit of $1,000. That is a significant step forward in helping the financial security of some of the most vulnerable in our society.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Chair, first, the hon. minister should know that she said yesterday in committee that she was unable to tell us where the cuts were. Also, we had the point in relation to homeless people yesterday in committee. She would not tell us if one of the most important programs for the homeless, which is the SCPI program, the strategic communities partnership initiative, would continue beyond March 31, 2007.

I will give her the opportunity again. Will that program go on beyond March 31, 2007?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, we have continued with the SCPI program, which is part of the national homeless initiative, because we believe it is important that we try to help the homeless.

That program has been in existence for almost ten years. We think it is only fair to Canadians and to the homeless that we examine it to ensure that it is providing the best value possible. While we are providing the service, we are examining how effective it is.

We are also taking the opportunity to look for alternatives. We will be continuing with the program for the homeless. It may be SCPI. It may be something even better, and I do not understand why the hon. members opposite would not want us to try to find even better ways.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Chair, yesterday in the House the minister claimed the cuts were $100 million. They are actually $152.8 million. Does the minister even know how much was cut from her department?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, the grand total, I believe, was $152 million. That includes approximately $45 million from Canada Mortgage and Housing. Those were not cuts to Canada Mortgage and Housing programs, however, but savings that we will be realizing through lower than anticipated interest rates and inflation.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Chair, have any of her Conservative colleagues complained to her about these cuts, and can she name them?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Chair, I rise on a point of order. My understanding of the procedures tonight is the hon. members opposite would be able to ask questions about the spending estimates of the minister's budget, not whether individual members of the government are questioning about particular cuts. I do not see the relevance that question has to the estimates of the department, and I would ask for a ruling in that regard.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. the Parliamentary Secretary to the government House leader is raising really a point of debate rather than a point of order. I would like us to continue with the debate.

The hon. member for Halifax West.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Chair, I did ask my question, and I am waiting for an answer. Could she tell us if any of her Conservative colleagues complained about these cuts? This is part of her accountability to the House. Could she tell us what their ridings are, if they did?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, I have had numerous discussions with many of my colleagues. In fact, as we discussed these savings for Canadians, the vast majority of my colleagues were in favour, particularly once they understood what we were trying to do.

Not only that, but many of my Conservative colleagues came to me with examples of areas where the previous Liberal government had invested in programs, which fall within my department, where there was significant waste and where we should look for even more savings as responsible government.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Chair, yesterday in committee, the minister agreed to instruct her officials to provide, in writing, details of all adult literacy program funding for her department for the fiscal year 2006-07. Where are they and why were they not provided before now?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, my recollection is that I did not commit, however, to do that within 24 hours. I know the hon. member asked for it. I do not recall agreeing to do that, but I would be happy to check the record and correct it if I did.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Chair, just to be clear, is she saying she will not provide it, or will she provide it, and when?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, I thought I made it clear that I did not recall making that commitment. I do recall being asked for it. I would like to check the record, and if I am mistaken, then I will comply.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Will you do it?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Chair, her time is up.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Halifax West does not rule whose time is up. The Chair does. The Chair will try to ensure that everyone gets a fair chance. I do not mind if there is back and forth, but interruptions within back and forth prevents the sharing of information.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Chair, you will understand my frustration. I asked her a very clear question. Will she commit to provide the information? She did not answer. She talked about what she had already talked about before.

Will she please tell if she will provide the information that I asked for yesterday? I do not care whether she agreed to it or not at the time, but will she agree now to commit to provide the information?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, I was trying to answer except that I am afraid the hon. member did not hear me over the sound of his colleagues. I would be happy to provide that information just as quickly as we can get it ready.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Chair, in an OECD study of 14 member countries released in September, Canada now ranks dead last in spending on early childhood education. In light of this dismal state of affairs, could the minister explain how the monthly payoff of $100 constitutes the most effective program to develop the best and the brightest to compete in the global marketplace of the 21st century?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, the OECD study was done prior to this government taking office. It based its analysis on the previous Liberal government's investments in child care. Despite their best promises, we have doubled those promises for child care and early development. We are very pleased that Canadians are receiving the money now in the form of $1,200 a year for each child under the age of six.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Chair, the money they are spending is far less than the money the Liberals were spending. The fact that we are dead last, as of September 2006, suggests that we have stalled on this file.

The same study revealed that access to early childhood education in Canada was measured as negligible, ranking us with Greece and Mexico.

The Conservative government has been in power for eight months, plenty of time to improve access for our children. How many new child care spaces has the Conservative child care spaces initiative created to date?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, after 13 years we are still waiting to see the ones the Liberals promised.

I made it very clear to Canadians that our child care spaces initiative would take effect April 1, 2007. That is when the spaces will start to be created. We made that very clear from the start. That is why we provided transition funding to the provinces in the meantime.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Chair, the minister's first strategy was based on a $10,000 tax credit to entice businesses to create spaces. When it received no response from business and failed, she went to plan B and created a ministerial advisory council on child care spaces initiative.

Of the nine members on this council, how many are recognized as child care experts? How many run for profit day care operations or represent those who do? How many are from Quebec?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, I do not have the detailed bios of each of the members of the advisory committee at my fingertips I am afraid, or at top of mind. However, we were trying to find people who could advise us on what would best motivate businesses and community groups to create spaces.

Who better to ask than the groups we are trying to motivate? That is why we are consulting with them. They have a wide range of backgrounds, including the head of the YMCA, which is one of Canada's largest child care providers.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Chair, the government boasted that recent cuts to the department were made in an effort to trim the fat and provide taxpayers with value for money.

How much money does the government spend each year in mailing out the $100 cheques, cheques that are taxable, which the minister forgot to mention during the campaign and even afterward?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, we made it clear from the very beginning that the choice in child care allowance would be taxed in the hands of the lower income spouse. We have been upfront about that all along.

We have begun sending out the cheques, and I am pleased to report that the CRA has advised us that the vast majority of parents are moving rapidly to direct deposit so we will achieve even further economies on the administration of this program.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Conservative Royal Galipeau

There is no time left but because of the interruptions I will allow one more question.

The hon. member for Halifax West.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Chair, could the minister name each of the literacy groups she consulted with before she gutted this program? To be specific, which groups did she sit down with and ask how cuts would affect what they do?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, we make it a practice, my officials and I, to consult with a wide range of people on a wide range of subjects. Many of those consultations are private in nature and, out of respect for the privacy of those individuals consulted, I would prefer not to provide that list at this point in time.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Conservative Royal Galipeau

The time for the official opposition definitely has ended now. Most members who are in the committee of the whole at this time were in the House a little earlier when the Acting Speaker did not hear certain things that should have happened.

Let us make sure that the Chair of this committee at this time hears everything that he must hear. That can best happen with less heckling. It is most important to the work of this committee that the Chair does a good job and the Chair can do a better job if he hears all the relevant information on both sides. Please, I ask you, less heckling.

The Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Chair, I am sure we all appreciate your efforts to keep decorum in the House.

I rise in my place today to speak to the 2006-07 main estimates. Canada's new government brought together many of the key levers for Canada's economic and social future. It combined the former Department of Human Resources and Skills Development with the former Department of Social Development and also gave me responsibilities for CMHC.

I am very pleased to head a department that has a broad impact on Canadians, an impact on our economy and on our society. We have a vision for Canada based upon the values of Canadians: protecting the vulnerable; emphasizing the family as the key building block of a strong society; championing hard work to get ahead and the importance of learning and skills in the workplace; encouraging individuals to make choices for their own future; and, carefully managing hard-earned money.

It is an honour to have been entrusted by the Prime Minister to oversee this ambitious and large ministry, which employs over 24,000 Canadians across the country and has planned spending of nearly $80 billion. As its mandate centres on helping Canadians, nearly 95% of this spending goes directly to Canadians through statutory benefits such as employment insurance and old age security.

The remaining funds support programs that help Canada and Canadians succeed, help children get the best possible start, help develop skills for the 21st century and , help seniors and Canadians with disabilities take an active role in their communities. In pursuit of these objectives, Canada's new government is taking bold steps to strengthen our programming in concrete, meaningful ways.

For families, some 1.4 million families are receiving a universal child care benefit for every child under six. We are working with partners across the country to find ways to create real, flexible child care spaces.

For students, we are expanding eligibility for Canada student loans. We are eliminating federal income tax on scholarships and bursaries. We have created a new textbook tax credit. This is a total investment of an additional $390 million over two years.

For post-secondary education, we have transferred $1 billion in the post-secondary education infrastructure trust that the provinces and territories will spend in modernizing libraries, laboratories, classrooms and other infrastructure projects.

For Canadians in need of housing, we have provided a one time strategic investment of $1.4 billion for the establishment of three housing trusts with the provinces and territories for affordable housing, northern housing and for aboriginals living off reserve.

For the homeless, we extended the national homelessness initiative to the end of March 2007 and invested an additional $37 million from funds unspent by the previous government. Now we are looking at ways in which we can support the homeless in the future.

For skilled workers, we provided an apprenticeship incentive grant and a tools tax credit for those who want to pursue careers in skilled trades. For older workers, we have a targeted initiative to help the unemployed older workers in vulnerable communities get new jobs.

For seniors, we have increased the pension income credit to $2,000. Over the next two years this will put 900 million additional dollars into their hands.

For all Canadians, the Service Canada delivery network now reaches more communities. The number of service points has increased by 157, for a total of 477. In its first year of operation, Service Canada paid about $70 billion in benefits to nearly eight million Canadians.

In delivering these programs, Canada's new government is committed to respecting the hard-earned dollars of Canadian taxpayers. We are committed to reflecting the true priorities of Canadians and we are committed to providing value for money and to delivering real results.

On January 23, Canadians voted for the end of an era of waste and mismanagement. Canadians voted for the end of a tired and corrupt government that had so many priorities that it actually had none.

Canadians voted for a new government that is about respecting Canadians, achieving results and strengthening accountability. Canadians expect their hard-earned tax dollars to be invested in effective programs that meet their needs. We are committed to making our spending transparent, disciplined and accountable. We are consulting with provinces, municipalities and stakeholders to ensure we are moving in the right direction and building effective partnerships to ensure success.

For instance, on the recognition of foreign credentials, we are working with provinces, business, academia and interested organizations.

As we move forward with our child care spaces initiative, we are getting ideas and advice from business, communities and the real child care experts, Canadian parents.

We are consulting the provinces on national objectives, roles, responsibilities, accountability and results for post-secondary education and training.

This brings me to another key area in which our spending priorities are different from those of the previous government. Canada's new government respects provincial jurisdiction. We are committed to ensuring that federal programs do not encroach upon areas that are rightfully provincial matters. Our goal is to work with the provinces and territories to provide the most effective use of taxpayer money.

Canada's new government recognizes that there is only one taxpayer. We recognize that it is the same taxpayer that pays to the federal, provincial and municipal governments. We owe it to that taxpayer not to compete with one another for jurisdiction.

However, the bottom line for my department is that within our mandate and jurisdiction we invest in people.

Our investments are aimed at ensuring that our labour force can meet the challenges of the 21st century. We will make investments so that individuals will have the opportunity to make choices that will equip them with the skills to have productive and rewarding lives, while participating in our economy and society.

This includes helping the most vulnerable in our society. For example, we are working with partners to find the most effective ways to enhance the inclusion and participation of Canadians with disabilities.

We are examining the most effective ways to address the needs of the homeless, while recognizing the importance of addressing the root causes of homelessness.

Investing in people also includes ensuring that Canada has a skilled and capable workforce for the 21st century.

We are in an enviable position. This became clear over the past month as I had occasion to compare Canada's performance with my OECD counterparts in Toronto and my G-8 colleagues in Moscow. In my consultations, I was able to point out that the state of Canada's labour market is strong. We are in the midst of our best labour market outlook in decades. Our overall participation rate for workers of nearly 80% is one of the highest in the G-8 and our unemployment rate is at a 30-year low.

In spite of this, Canada's new government recognizes that we cannot be complacent. We have an aging workforce. Global competition places new demands on knowledge and skills and skilled labour is in short supply.

While Canada has a highly flexible and adaptable workforce, not every community or every individual can adapt to this environment. We will work to remove barriers to work and ensure appropriate support for underrepresented groups, such as aboriginal people, recent immigrants and people with disabilities. By doing so, we will have a sufficient quantity of workers to meet the needs of our economy.

We are also providing significant support for skills training and post-secondary education to ensure that Canada has a quality workforce to compete globally. We will promote an efficient national labour market so that employers can find the skilled workers they need and so that workers can pursue opportunities throughout Canada.

Our vision is of a strong, vibrant and diverse Canada, a Canada where individuals have the skills and opportunities to participate in the economy and society and to live productive and rewarding lives.

We are taking real steps to achieve that vision. All the while, we are committed to remaining accountable to Canadians by listening to their concerns and spending their tax dollars wisely.

This is the foundation we are building on and that is the legacy we wish to leave for generations to come.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Chair, I listened to the minister with great interest. She used words such as “invest in people”, “most vulnerable”, “recent immigrants”, “foreign credentials” and “working with provinces”.

My question is very simple. I wonder if the minister could give us an update as to the work that her department has done in recognition of foreign credentials, not pretty words, but specific.

I would refer the minister and some of her officials who are here to a symposium on December 9 of last year that was going to take in all the provinces and all the stakeholders in order to work toward the recognition of foreign credentials. I wonder if the minister could bring us up to speed on what her department has been doing since then, if anything, in moving toward the recognition of foreign credentials.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Conservative Royal Galipeau

I will recognize the hon. the minister to reply to that question, but I would like to remind members of the official opposition that they had their turn and this is the time slot for the government. So whatever time was used for this question will be added to the government's time.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:05 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, we recognize how important it is to get people who arrive in this country to work using the skills they bring. Since I took on this department, I and my deputy have spoken with all the provinces and territories because a lot of this is under provincial and territorial jurisdiction. Over 440 regulatory bodies are under provincial jurisdiction and over 200 educational institutions that present credentials and recognize credentials for newcomers. We are working with them very closely to expedite this process.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:05 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Chair, I want to make a couple of comments and ask the minister a specific question because I find it odd that we have members opposite saying that with the billion dollar expenditure reduction that this government implemented it affected Canada's most vulnerable.

Could the minister comment on the fact $47 million of that billion dollar expenditure reduction came from reducing the size of cabinet? I suppose only Liberal members could think that federal cabinet ministers are among Canada's most vulnerable. I would suspect that they think that way because, as all Liberals, the taxpayers' money is really not important, it is what use the money is to the Liberals.

I would suspect that the minister might have some comments on why a $47 million reduction in the size of cabinet would result in good value for Canadian taxpayers.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:05 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, it is true that we have been much more efficient than the previous government. We take a broader view of things. Combining, for example, human resources and skills development along with social development has allowed us to break down the silence that existed when developing new programs.

Much of our work on the economy and the labour market will require various programs to work together, not in competition but that they complement each other so that going forward we have a comprehensive, cohesive, integrated plan to address the needs of the market and the economy, something that did not exist with the previous government.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:05 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Chair, could the minister tell the House why she thinks our universal child care is in fact is in fact the best and most equitable way to address parents and families today?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:05 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Our government recognizes, Mr. Chair, that a one size fits all day care plan just does not work for Canadians.

Canadian families have a wide range of needs. Some need nine to five, Monday to Friday. That is fine. Some need weekends. Some need evenings. Some work night shifts. Some have seasonal demands if they work in agriculture. Some need part time. Some children have special needs.

Our universal child care benefit provides $100 a month directly to the parents of each child under the age of six regardless of the circumstances, but that money will help each parent access the choice in child care that meets their family's unique needs.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:10 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Chair, is it time for questions or for debate?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Conservative Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate.

This round belongs to the Bloc Québécois.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:10 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Chair, I would like to use my time as follows: I will speak for three or four minutes, then I will ask some questions.

I plan to use my first three or four minutes to bring another perspective to the debate. The minister painted a rosy and sentimental picture of what is actually a dramatic situation. It is deplorable that a person in her position, with enormous responsibilities—as she stated earlier—takes those responsibilities so lightly.

I would remind the members that in the matter of employment insurance, fewer than 40% of people who lose their jobs are eligible for employment insurance benefits.

I would remind the members that older workers find themselves in a terrible predicament as the job losses add up, especially in the softwood lumber and textile industries, to name just two. The minister has not yet responded to this situation by providing income support to older workers.

Poverty has escalated dramatically. The Canadian Association of Food Banks says that over the past year, child poverty has increased and in Canada, 880,000 people—including 314,000 children—regularly rely on food banks.

If so many of the poor go to food banks for their food, it is not because they have decided to change restaurants. It is because poverty is a reality and one of its causes is that the social safety net for individuals who have the misfortune of losing their jobs, among other things, is falling apart. The last two parties in power played a major role in this.

Even more serious is the fact that the money to support these individuals was available. The employment insurance account, funded by employee and employer contributions, generates surpluses year after year. This year they will total more than $2.15 billion. Over the past 12 years, more than $50 billion has been diverted from the employment insurance account and used for other purposes. It is a reality that the minister is ignoring and which she does not wish to address here.

I will appeal to the compassion and a certain sensitivity of the minister so that she gives the real answers to our questions.

One of the ways to solve this problem is to give back control over their money—money that belongs to them, the employment insurance account—to workers and employers.

I am getting to my questions.

The rules of the House state that the answer must be no longer than the question. My questions will be brief and explicit and I hope that the minister's answers will be brief, explicit and clear. And now for my questions

Last year, the Conservative Party voted in favour of the Bloc Québécois' Bill C-280, to establish an independent employment insurance fund. The minister voted for the bill last year. This year, does she approve of the bill that we tabled in order to establish an independent fund?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:10 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, this is one of those cases where I admit that I reserve the right to be smarter today than I was yesterday. I have learned from experience, particularly in this job, that my understanding of the need for a separate EI account was based on erroneous information. At the time I thought it was a cash account. It is not. It is a notional account. What I did not understand before I got into this job was that that EI surplus had actually been spent as part of the consolidated revenue fund to the benefit of all Canadians, so no, I do not support that position any longer.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:15 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Chair, I would like to ask the minister when she had this flash of insight. Does the minister feel that the Prime Minister lacks judgment?

On May 1, in response to a question about the separate fund from the leader of the Bloc Québécois in this House, the Prime Minister said, “We share the Bloc leader's philosophy on this”.

Does this mean that the minister is now smarter than the Prime Minister, who recognizes the need for a separate fund?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:15 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, to be perfectly candid, the Prime Minister and I have not discussed this particular subject recently, but part of the reason for my recent decision that this might not be the best option to pursue is that we are now in the first year of a new rate-setting process, whereby an arm's length, independent EI Commission, based on actuarial evidence, reviews the rates and sets the new rates. This was not done before.

We are in the first year of this new process. I would like to give it a chance and see how it works. Maybe it will be a much more efficient, much more effective system. Since we are trying it, and since we have almost a year's experience behind us, I would like to give that a chance.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:15 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Chair, this is a major about-face in the space of a month and a half. As recently as September, in response to another question from the leader of the Bloc Québécois, the Prime Minister said, “As the leader of the Bloc knows, our party supported the idea in the past. I am on the verge of proposing to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development—that is you—that she formulate alternate measures for this government”.

What alternate measures, Minister?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:15 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, we are looking at a number of different alternatives regarding the EI account and the EI program in general because it is so broad and because so many Canadians depend upon it.

One of the issues is that of looking at the best rate-setting mechanism, the best way to ensure an effective and efficient use of funds. We are also trying out several new programs. We have just launched a targeted initiative for older workers. We also launched the five week pilot project to help seasonal workers who are experiencing a gap. We are trying to get going with trying out new programs to make sure that we can get the best EI system possible.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:15 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Chair, this still runs counter to the minister's thinking. When the minister voted last year on Bill C-280, which sought to create a separate fund, she said—and it was the resolution that said this—“Employment insurance funds should be used strictly for the employment insurance plan”.

Recently, when the government declared a $13 billion surplus, that $13 billion included $2.118 billion belonging to the employment insurance fund. Her government used that money to pay down the debt.

Is the minister telling us that she has changed her mind and now agrees with the diversions that are still going on today?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:15 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, this is a new process that we are going through with the new rate setting. The target is to break even so that we do not have to even address the situation of surpluses in the EI account.

Quite frankly, if the hon. member, who has devoted a lot of time and energy to this particular issue, and I congratulate him on that, would really like to discuss the previous enormous surplus in the EI account, I would suggest that he direct his questions to the previous government. That government is the one that created it.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:20 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Chair, I believe the minister is the only one who does not know that there is a surplus in the EI fund. This year, the total is $2.118 billion. Over the past 12 years, year in and year out, there has been an annual surplus of between $2 billion and $7 billion.

I urge the minister to familiarize herself with the situation. I understand that she does not want to promise here today to create a separate employment insurance fund. That would involve reneging on some campaign promises.

Since the minister does not know if there is a surplus and does not know what approach to take regarding the EI fund, I would like to talk about improvements to employment insurance.

The Bloc Québécois introduced Bill C-269, which would improve the EI system. Among other things, the Bloc proposed a minimum of 360 hours worked to be eligible for employment insurance. Do you agree with this number of hours?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:20 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, I have several concerns with this bill, in particular the number of hours. My understanding is that the proposal would allow for someone to work for a short period of time to collect long term benefits. That is not what we need in this country at this point in time. We have, across this country, a shortage of skilled labour and unskilled labour, in many parts of the country. It behooves all of us to make sure that as many people who are capable are engaged in that workforce and contributing to the growth of our economy. That is why we have to provide incentives to work, not incentives not to work.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:20 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Chair, I hope the minister knows that, sometimes, people want to work, but there is no work for them.

Does the minister agree that such people should be eligible for employment insurance after accumulating 360 hours of work? That is my question.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:20 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, with our targeted initiative for older workers, we are helping people get re-skilled to get back into the workplace and be productive. We do not want to pension off those workers in the 55 year old to 64 year old age bracket. We do not think they should be treated the way the Bloc has suggested, by being put out to pasture. We think they have a lot to contribute. That is why there is funding there, including income supports, to get them re-skilled, to get them work experience, and to give them the tools they need to even apply for another job.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:20 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Chair, unfortunately, a question has been raised on a certain matter and the minister talks about something else.

I am not talking about older workers at all. There are also younger people who are unemployed. It seems the minister must verify that, as well.

Does the minister agree with the notion of increasing EI benefits, which are currently 55% of income earned, to 60%? Does she agree with this proposal in Bill C-269? Does she understand what I am talking about?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:20 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, as I said before, rather than increasing benefits to pay people not to work, we need to focus on getting people to work, on getting them the skills they need to be gainfully employed and on getting the opportunities and the economic development going so the jobs are there.

Quite frankly, we already face a shortage. It does not make sense to pay people not to work. Most people I know have the option of learning. That is why we are investing so much in skills, skills development and workplace skills, whether it is our apprenticeship programs, our workplace skills development or our entrepreneurial programs.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:20 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Chair, does the minister realize that there is a shortage of manpower in some regions of Canada, while there is unemployment in other parts of the country?

Let us take the workers in the Abitibi region. They were laid off because sawmills closed their doors. Does the minister wish to send these workers to Alberta? Is that what she wants to do?

We have to be realistic. I want the minister to answer my question. Does she realize that when people are unemployed, it is not by choice, it is because there are no jobs in their region? Is the minister aware of that? If so, will she improve their employment insurance benefits?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Conservative Royal Galipeau

I would like to advise the minister that the time has run out but I will allow the answer to this question.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, quite simply I come from an area that is facing the same kind of problem where for a variety of reasons we have a lot of unemployment. What we are looking at is economic development. That is what we need to focus on. Our targeted older workers initiative is designed to work with economic development to create the jobs.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:25 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Chair, I plan to ask a series of questions and then make a statement close to the end of the 15 minutes.

I notice that $27 million has been spent to design and promote the universal child care benefit. How much of that is being spent on putting ads in newspapers and on radio stations, and from which department does the money come?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, according to my records, our advertising campaign to raise awareness of the universal child care benefit to make sure that all of the eligible parents applied which wrapped up in September and which included Internet, newspaper and radio advertising, cost approximately $2.9 million.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:25 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Chair, I hope the minister will respect the time.

I assume then that the funds come from the HRSD department. Yes or no?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Yes.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:25 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Chair, $25 million has also been cut from the first nations children on reserve funds that are supposed to be used to hire teachers, develop specialized programs and other early learning education programs.

Why was that money cut?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, I would ask the hon. member if she could provide a little more detail. We do have a number of programs and I am not quite sure to which one she is referring.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:25 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Chair, in the 2005 budget there was supposed to be $700 million for child care; $650 million has been sent to the provinces and another $25 million was supposed to be for first nations children on reserve. I am just wondering whether that money is being spent or not.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

I do apologize, Mr. Chair, but at the moment based on the information the member has provided, I cannot identify that particular program. I would be happy, however, to meet individually with the member to discuss it further and to answer her questions.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:25 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Chair, I thank the minister very much for that answer. I think the answer to my the next question will be the same, which is regarding the $25 million also on child care which is for research and accountability on the whole child care program. I do not believe that money is there either. If the minister does not have the answer we could investigate that further.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, I would be happy to pursue that with the member.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Chair, I notice there will be at least $240 million that would be collected from taxes from the universal child care benefit by April; that is the prediction from the department. What intention does the minister have on spending this money? Would this money be going back into child care or would it go to general revenues?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, the rules of the government dictate that the money go directly into consolidated revenue.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Chair, that is really too unfortunate, because that is the money from working families and the children.

I want the minister to name one other department that has sustained more cuts than her own. My reading is that the Department of Human Resources and Social Development sustained the largest percentage cut in the entire operation of the government. I have a list here and it looks like the Human Resources and Social Development cut is $152.8 million. Is there any other department that received this dollar amount cut or any that received a larger percentage cut?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, I think we need to place it in context. This is probably the largest department. I am not exactly sure whether financially it is. I know it is almost $80 billion. The savings that we are realizing for Canadians, including CMHC, amount to $152 million. That is a very, very, very small percentage.

The key here is that we are saving on programs that just have not been delivering results for Canadians. The opportunity is there to realize savings while improving quality by just letting us do it better. There is tremendous opportunity there. I would not be able to comment on savings realized in other departments.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Chair, speaking about good programs, I note that $55.4 million has been cut from the youth employment programs through the summer career placement program. That is a cut of more than 50% to this very precious program. It is a program that leads to 55,000 jobs a year. It really helps students offset their huge student debt. It helps them get on the job training. It helps non-profit organizations and rural businesses compete with larger corporations for summer student help.

Can the minister tell us how many fewer jobs will be offered next summer? How did she arrive at the conclusion that 50% of the jobs will be cut?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, when we looked at the summer career placement program, which has a very noble purpose to help students earn money to go back to school and also to increase their work experience, we quickly realized that it was oversubscribed. In other words when we checked, fully a third of employers actually admitted that they would have provided these jobs even if they had not received the funding provided through this program. Now if only a third admitted it, imagine how many actually believed it.

When Tim Hortons cannot hire people to work in Calgary, we do not believe that we should be subsidizing $20 an hour summer jobs there. We will be focusing on where students need help, whether it is rural communities, whether it is new Canadians, wherever the barriers are to employment. We will help students where they actually need it.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Chair, the minister talked about Tim Hortons, which is of course a company. I am wondering whether the minister would commit that the remaining amount of the funds will go only to non-profit organizations that are in desperate shape and need the funds to create the jobs rather than companies that probably have other means of finding employees.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

What we want to do, Mr. Chair, is make sure that we are providing opportunities for students wherever those opportunities exist.

I should point out that the subsidy to private business for these jobs is only 50%, not 100% as for the not for profit sector. I would caution the hon. member that it will be the small businesses that take advantage of this program in many communities where students have a tough time finding a job. That is where the jobs will be created, the very ones the member is so eager to create, as am I.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Chair, the minister said that almost one-third of employers who participated in the program last summer said they would have created some of those jobs. However, that is one-third. How does she come to the conclusion that more than 50% of the program would be cut? If she is using that as a reason, then surely it should not be 50%; it should be less than a third.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:35 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, we took a look at where the demand was, where we saw people getting jobs that would have existed anyway. We do not need to spend Canadian taxpayers' money to create jobs for students in Calgary. I am sorry, but we do not need to do that. We need to do it elsewhere. We need to get the focus of this program back on students and on creating meaningful jobs that will help them gain valuable experience and money to help them continue with their education.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Conservative Royal Galipeau

At the beginning of this time slot, the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina mentioned that at the end of the time slot she would be making closing remarks. How much time does she want so that I can give her notice?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:35 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Chair, thank you for helping out. I noticed that I have five more minutes because I had 15 minutes.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Conservative Royal Galipeau

You have four and a half minutes.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:35 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Chair, I will time it in order to make the end statement accordingly, as long as I do not run out of time. I just have a few more questions, if that is okay. I thank the Chair for his assistance.

My question is on the summer student employment program. Perhaps the minister can say that in Calgary there are lots of jobs around, but certainly there are other areas, for example, in Toronto, with quite a few vulnerable communities where young people are desperately in need of summer employment programs.

Would the minister consider starting a new program? Would she consider reinvesting some of the funds that have been put aside or cut or whatever in some of the vulnerable communities where a large number of young people are unemployed and alienated, some of whom are turning to criminal activities?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:35 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, in fact one of the areas that we are going to be focusing on is helping youth at risk and students in communities with high crime. Those are barriers to the workforce and we want to help them overcome those barriers.

As we are currently in the process of reviewing this program, I would certainly invite the member to share her ideas for a new program so that as we go through with this and make changes to it, we can look at including some of her ideas. That would be just great.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:35 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Chair, on foreign credentials I understand that $18 million has been put aside to establish an agency to assist new immigrants. I am wondering what the work plan is. From what I saw a few weeks ago, the ministry is still doing consultations and it is not really going very far.

When does the minister believe that the first dollar will actually be received by either an agency or an actual program, such as a mentorship program, a co-op program or bridging programs? A lot of organizations, like the Maytree Foundation, are saying that they desperately need these funds to help new immigrants so that they can have productive jobs, gain Canadian experience, et cetera.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:35 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, the previous government spent a lot of years dabbling at this effort. We are going forward seriously with a new agency. I am pleased to inform the House that the dollars are already flowing. The dollars are flowing to groups that will help with this initiative. It is building on the consultations that we have been doing with the Public Policy Forum. We had an FPT meeting of the deputy ministers and myself and other stakeholders.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:35 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Chair, I have two questions. I would ask the minister to give more information as to how the funds have been flowing and whether any programs have been funded.

The other question is on the social development and partnership program, the $13 million in cuts. Who is being cut and by how much?

I notice there is no call for proposal for even the remaining amount of money. Is there going to be a call for proposal and when? Who is being cut and by how much out of this social development partnership program?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, first I am a little surprised that the hon. member is raising cuts to social development because it was her party yesterday that was tabling further reductions in social development spending. I am a little confused as to where she is coming from on that one.

On foreign credentials, we are working with the regulated professions, trying to target places where we can have the biggest impact the soonest. We are working with the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers, the Medical Council of Canada, the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada, the Canadian Nurses Association and others. That is just a very short list from a long one.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:40 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn ConservativeMinister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Chair, first, I would like to salute my colleague, the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, and the hon. members who are here this evening for this debate.

I am also pleased to inform the House of our latest achievements through my department's work program. I want to tell the House about Canada's workplaces, their importance, and the measures that our government is taking to ensure that they remain competitive and continue to meet the needs of workers and employers.

Canada's wealth is generated in the workplace, whether it is in an office or in a plant. The workplace is also where most of us spend the better part of our lives. This is why creating ideal conditions in workplaces has major repercussions on our economy, our lives and our society.

As Minister of Labour, workplaces remain my main objective, and my responsibilities involve labour-management relations and also working conditions in businesses that are under federal jurisdiction.

My responsibilities are as follows: first, mediation and conciliation relating to collective agreements and industry disputes; second, implementing a regulation and enforcement program to support the primary provisions of the Canada Labour Code, especially with respect to health and safety; third, monitoring and providing advice about new labour developments at the federal, provincial and territorial levels, as well as representing Canada abroad in issues related to labour policies; and fourth, conducting research and analysis on the evolution of the workplace, including contributing information to discussions about industrial relations.

When the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development listed her department's priorities, she mentioned the importance of being decisive and making good choices. I share this approach. Allow me to discuss five areas in which we have been particularly active recently.

First, we have worked to promote and guarantee safe and healthy workplaces. Canada's health and safety officers continue to do excellent work ensuring that businesses respect the Canada Labour Code, particularly the health and safety provisions.

Second, I am taking concrete steps with respect to the Joint Statement on Healthy Workplaces, a statement I signed recently along with my provincial and territorial counterparts.

Nearly 40% more members of these groups are now in workplaces covered under the legislation. Our efforts seem to be bearing fruit, but we know we will have to keep working to eliminate disparities, particularly for aboriginals and the disabled.

The Strategy for a Racism-Free Workplace is our third sphere of activity. By promoting equality and eliminating discrimination in the labour market, Canada can provide the world with a very competitive labour force trained to respect diversity and inclusiveness.

Let us be clear. This is a shared responsibility. This is why we are offering educational tools, recommending best practices for employees and employers, establishing creative partnerships and launching programs to fight discrimination.

In addition, I recently visited five cities to promote racism-free workplaces and the elimination of barriers to the employment of visible minorities and aboriginals.

On the subject of racism in the workplace, I would like to remind the House that 1.8 million Canadians say they have experienced racism in their lives, and for most of them, it occurred for the first time in their workplace. I would also like to remind the House that, within seven years, half the population of large cities such as Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal will be made up of visible minorities. This is an important statistic, which is why we must put an end to racism in the workplace in Canada. My recent tour to promote had just that goal.

Next, I would like to report on the work that has been done with respect to pay equity.

I recently announced new measures to ensure that our partners in the workplace are well informed of their obligations and responsibilities regarding pay equity. We are also establishing additional measures to guarantee compliance with these obligations.

Working women deserve immediate and significant results in this regard, and I am proud to say that we have taken decisive measures based on relevant comments we have received over the years.

I would also like to address another area of activity, that is, our role on the international stage. Indeed, we are very active in the promotion and protection of workers' rights around the globe. For example, our exemplary practices serve as a model for other countries.

In this context, I would like to mention that my counterparts from China, Mr. Tian Chengping, and from Chile, Mr. Osvaldo Andrade, recently came to Canada to become acquainted with the government's policies on work environments. The labour program offers training in mediation and conciliation to Chilean officials and both the training they receive in Canada and our expertise carry over to neighbouring countries. I think we are showing leadership and that this work is very much appreciated by our colleagues from China and from Chile.

Since I have spoken about the measures taken so far to support the Canadian work environment, I will now turn my attention to the work we have ahead of us.

First we have the report of the Federal Labour Standards Review Commission, which is the first review of this kind in 40 years.

For over two years, the Arthurs commission conducted extensive research and public consultations on work environments. It closely examined the point of view of individuals and addressed certain problems such as new employment relationships, the balance between work and family and the impact of labour standards on productivity.

I received Professor Arthurs's report recently, on Monday in fact, and as minister, I am currently reviewing his findings and recommendations. We are seeking the points of view of employers, unions and employees on overtime hours, hours of work, vacation and recovery of wages, and on many more recommendations, since Professor Arthurs made 172 of them in his report.

I would also like to mention the Wage Earner Protection Program. I know that the hon. members of this House voted unanimously, under the previous government, for wage earner protection legislation when a company goes bankrupt. The purpose of this important program, as I was just saying, is to protect those who are most vulnerable in a bankruptcy situation. We anticipate being in a position very shortly to table a bill in this House to protect workers.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:45 p.m.

An hon. member

When?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Conservative Jonquière—Alma, QC

My colleague opposite just asked me when that will happen. It will truly be very soon.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Tomorrow?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Conservative Jonquière—Alma, QC

It will be very soon—in a matter of weeks.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:45 p.m.

An hon. member

This evening?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Conservative Jonquière—Alma, QC

Also, as part of the reform of insolvency legislation, the Wage Earner Protection Program Act was adopted earlier, as I mentioned, although it has yet to be promulgated. As with any new law, a great deal remains to be done before it is implemented. This is the context for stating that we should be ready in the very near future.

Finally, I would like to discuss the upcoming parliamentary review of the Employment Equity Act. This year will mark the 20th anniversary of the original legislation. We can be proud of this milestone and remarkable progress has been made.

Four months ago, I tabled in the House the annual report on employment equity and the results are rather encouraging. They show how the law has helped improve employment of members of the designated groups—women, visible minorities, the disabled and aboriginals.

As required by the legislation, this was the second five-year review of this act. It was favourably received and we are prepared for the task at hand.

As I mentioned in my introduction, we continue to focus on Canada's workplaces. These workplaces are only the best they can be when their partners—management and workers—work together like true partners, to solve their problems.

As minister, my main task is to bring them together, to act as an honest broker and to do my best to settle their differences. At the same time, I want to ensure that workers have the best—

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Assistant Deputy Chair Conservative Andrew Scheer

I apologize to the minister, but the time for his speech has expired.

Questions and comments, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:50 p.m.

Beauport—Limoilou Québec

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Minister for la Francophonie and Official Languages

Mr. Chair, I would like to ask the Minister of Labour to tell us about the practical measures our government plans to take to apply existing pay equity regulations to employers.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Conservative Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Chair, hon. members know that our government is really on the side of women on this issue, and we hope to move forward on pay equity. Our government decided that it was not necessary to introduce a new bill and needlessly delay acting on this issue by engaging in potentially endless debate. We therefore decided to use section 8 of the Canadian Human Rights Commission legislation to move forward on this issue.

We currently have 90 inspectors in the labour department who go into companies. Previously, when these inspectors went into companies, they did not look at pay equity. These inspectors will receive special training and, when they go into companies, will ask employers whether they apply the principles of pay equity. That is how we will move forward in the coming months.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

I have another question for the Minister of Labour. I would like him to explain in more detail the disadvantages of applying possible rules regarding replacement workers at the federal level.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Conservative Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Chair, I would like to verify something with you. When a member puts a question to us, can we take longer to answer than the time it took the member to ask his question?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Assistant Deputy Chair Conservative Andrew Scheer

According to the order made earlier today, the answers are supposed to be roughly equal in time. So, if a member asks a very short question, the answer should be similarly brief.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:50 p.m.

Conservative