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House of Commons Hansard #7 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crime.

Topics

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the Hon. Mark Wartman, Minister of Agriculture and Food for Saskatchewan.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

SikhismOral Questions

April 11th, 2006 / 3 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among all parties in the House, and I would like to specifically thank the hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage, the member for Mississauga—Brampton South and the member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges for their support and contribution to the wording of this motion, which was originally proposed by the member for Elmwood—Transcona, and which acknowledges that the member for Bramalea—Gore—Malton is the longest serving Sikh member in the House presently. I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That the House recognize the important contribution that Canadian Sikhs have made to Canada and formally acknowledge the significance of the festival of Vaisakhi which celebrates the five Ks of Sikhism and the values of cooperation, justice, equality and freedom as central to human dignity.

SikhismOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member for Winnipeg North have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

SikhismOral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

SikhismOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

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

SikhismOral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

SikhismOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion as amended, for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Before question period, the hon. Minister of Health had the floor. There remain 10 minutes for questions and comments consequent on his speech.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased that the minister took the time to outline some of the key priorities, particularly with regard to the importance of research and development in terms of our health models and dealing with some of the important challenges. Since I have been a member of Parliament, health care has been the number one priority of all Canadians. I certainly look forward to hearing from the minister on other initiatives to improve the health and well-being of all Canadians.

One of the key areas of discussion had to do with the important issue of wait time guarantees. The minister will know that in the last Parliament there were substantive discussions with all stakeholders, with the provinces, to come up with the necessary benchmarks to move us forward on this important area. Now that he has the benefit of where we have come so far, what exactly should Canadians reasonably expect from the government, from the Parliament of Canada, in terms of expanding this concept of wait time guarantees, keeping in mind that the Canada Health Act mandate is not to provide all things that Canadians want, but more important, what all Canadians need?

I wonder if the hon. health minister would like to comment on that important issue.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think it is safe to say that the discussions on wait time guarantees have been initiated since the election of this government. They are ongoing.

What I can report to this House is that considerable work has been done on benchmarking in the months gone by. I see wait time guarantees as the logical next step. Once a benchmark has been put in place, that is to say, that a certain procedure should take place within a certain period of time, it is the next logical step for governments to guarantee to the people of Canada that they will in fact get that procedure done or that malady looked after by the health system within that acceptable period of time. To me this is a logical next step. It certainly has its promoters within provincial and territorial governments.

As I mentioned in my remarks, the Government of Quebec recently announced its first set of wait time guarantees on hip, knee and cataract replacements. These are the first wait time guarantees in Canada. I expect they will not be the last.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health will know that first nations, Métis and Inuit people rank dead last on whatever measurement of health one chooses to look at.

The Indian residential schools were an absolute social tragedy for aboriginal people. His government is not going to roll out the agreed upon settlement for sick or elderly survivors of the residential schools even though a lump sum settlement was negotiated and should be rolled out soon. For those who are passing away and are sick and elderly now, there was an $8,000 lump sum, one time payment. His government is not going to roll that out.

As the Minister of Health, can he do something to urge his cabinet to show some humanitarian compassion and get that money into the hands of the victims now before they pass away?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, as has been outlined by the Minister of Indian Affairs, there is no agreement in place that has been endorsed by a court, so we find ourselves struggling with this issue. It has the full attention of the Minister of Indian Affairs. We all want a settlement as soon as practicable, but it would be inopportune for me to comment any further on what I am sure are very sensitive negotiations.

I can tell the member that native health is obviously a direct responsibility of my department in some manner. Some commitment has been made in the past to improve and augment native health. I think the hon. member would agree with me that it is difficult to fix native health without fixing some other aspects of native life. That requires a comprehensive solution. This government has endorsed the principles that were arrived at in Kelowna. We are certainly grappling to take it beyond principle and into reality.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the wait times guarantee, it is all very well to have a guarantee, but at the end of the day, the resources, whether financial or human, have to be available to provide care.

The provinces are the managers of health care. How exactly are they going to pay for individuals to get care with these guarantees? Who is going to pay for it? What is the mechanism? Where is the money going to come from? How is it going to be implemented? How do we expect to ensure that people are going to get this care when we have a national human resources deficit within the context of medical health care professionals? Is the minister willing to work with professional groups to develop a national medical manpower strategy for Canada which our health care workers desperately need?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has touched on the various elements of my speech to the House on this very issue. As he may recall, earlier today I mentioned four cornerstones for a wait times guarantee to become a reality. They are research, technology, jurisdictional cooperation and health human resources. All those four oars need to be in the water at the same time in order to guide the boat to the required destination.

That is our challenge. We are starting to see some great innovation among the provinces, the province of Quebec being a prime example. It is looking at not only ways to deliver health care better but it is looking at ways to deliver the health care guarantee to make sure the health human resources are in place. This will require federal and provincial collaboration and cooperation as well. We intend to work not only with the province of Quebec but with each and every province on this very important issue.

It would not be my place to pre-empt those discussions with the provinces and territories, but I can assure the House that this is my signal responsibility as Minister of Health and something which I take very seriously.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I am looking for the minister's direction in terms of the need for the northern territories to receive better than per capita funding for health care. When it comes to wait times and making health care more available to people, then of course there are also higher costs with that.

How is the minister going to approach this issue with the northern territories?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is one of those areas where a bit of investment at the beginning can make a huge difference in terms of overall accessibility to cost. I will give the hon. member an example that is absolutely fitting for northern Canada.

When we invest in information and communications technologies, for instance, telehealth services, it has a huge positive disproportionate impact for northern Canada. The difference is allowing and having individual practitioners, who are able to practise in the north, using telehealth services to diagnose and treat so the patient does not have to travel to Yellowknife, Edmonton or Vancouver.

There is a huge savings in cost with a little investment in some information and communications technologies. That is the kind of thing I would like to see more of, and I certainly will be directing my government to pursue these initiatives.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will share my 20 minutes with the eloquent member for Hochelaga.

I am very pleased to take the floor for the first time in this 39th Parliament. Tradition dictates that, during their first speech in this House, members pay tribute to the people in their riding who made it possible for them to be here to talk about the throne speech and other issues and to pass legislation.

I would therefore be remiss if I did not thank the people of Repentigny. For the fifth time since 1993, they have entrusted me with the responsibility of representing them in this House. I thank the people of Repentigny and my whole campaign team.

I will now come back to the throne speech. I will comment on certain points, ranging from the promises the Conservatives made during the election campaign to the throne speech that was read last week. I will also talk a bit about the accountability act that was introduced this morning. There is a connection between these promises, the throne speech and the Conservatives' first order of business, which was to introduce Bill C-2 on accountability this morning.

This bill represents a few victories for the Bloc Québécois in certain files that we have been working on for a long time. First of all, I will talk about the appointment of returning officers. Further to many discussions, proposals, recommendations and motions by the Bloc Québecois, we are finally being heard and understood. Returning officers will be appointed by the Chief Electoral Officer, following a competition. This is a very good thing for the electoral process.

To the Liberals, who were very worried, I used to like to say in committee that I was sure there were some competent Liberals and that therefore some of them could aspire to the position of returning officer. So they do not have to worry. Maybe 10% of their returning officers will make it through the steps of the process supervised by the Chief Electoral Officer.

Tightening control over political party funding is another fine victory for Quebec and for the Bloc Québécois. Until quite recently, it was, as we say at home, “the one with the deepest pockets” who ruled, that is, certain banks or companies could donate $100,000, $200,000 or $300,000 to the federal parties. We struggled very hard to make the funding of political parties more democratic by drawing on the Quebec model. A first step has been taken. Today, we are eliminating donations from both unions and companies, and we are accepting donations of up to $1,000 from taxpayers only. This is another fine victory for the Bloc Québécois and for the Quebec model on which the new plan is patterned.

This morning, I had the privilege of attending the lock-up on this bill. In the margin was written, “according to the Quebec model”. That really pleased me.

Lots of things, however, were left out of the bill introduced this morning. In our opinion, and we heard this during question period, the fact that adoption of a true reform of the Access to Information Act has been postponed, using one delaying tactic after another, is a major oversight.

This morning, it was indicated in quotation marks in the consultation and information documents that this bill was very complex and that that was the reason why discussions, study papers and other documents were being postponed.

The proposed Accountability Act comprises 317 clauses and it is very complex. Because they had the will, the Conservatives were able, within a very short period of time, to present this first draft. If they had wanted, if they had really exercised their will, this Accountability Act would have included a new version of the Access to Information Act.

Rather than table a complete bill, they are saying, “Here are the documents, a committee could discuss the matter and one day there might be reforms made to the Access to Information Act”. For the Bloc Québécois this is absolutely not enough.

The rest of the Accountability Act is interesting, but I will talk about that after the Easter break. It is a step in the right direction.

I want to point out that there is a lot of rehashing of existing bills, existing policies and existing guidelines. It will be important to go over the bill to look at what is new and what is reheated. This will be important and interesting.

Further in the Speech from the Throne is the subject of child care, or services for young children who attend day care.

There is another rather worrisome matter. I will read an excerpt from the House of Commons Debates of Monday, April 10, 2006, page 230. I am pleased to see that the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke is present in this House, since she is the one I am quoting. She said:

Canadians had been saddled with an interventionist government—

She was talking about the Liberals.

—that without a doubt has been anti-family.

I have no objection so far. She continues by saying:

The worldwide trend away from Soviet style institutionalized day care has been very pronounced in those countries that were formerly part of the old Soviet empire and are now democracies. Our plan to provide benefits directly to families is in tune with the experience of other democratic countries.

I asked the hon. member a question, but she refused to answer. I said that her comments were a direct attack on the Quebec model. We have an institutionalized style of day care. We have a model that is the envy of the rest of Canada, even North America. People come to study what Quebec has done in terms of child care over the past number of years. There is a true choice because there are spaces. Everyone agrees that there is a lack of spaces, but there is a child care system. The hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke said she wanted to offer a choice by providing $1,200 a year to families, which is roughly $3 a day before taxes. I asked her to confirm whether her comments referred to the Quebec model. I am quite worried about the Speech from the Throne, which suggests there is a will to promote new child care spaces. I will read an excerpt from the Speech from the Throne, page 7:

The Conservative government will also encourage the creation of new child care spaces.

She said that these new places in institutionalized day care made her think of the style of the former Soviet Union. I asked her to repeat her comments and also if that was the position of the Conservative government. Twenty-four hours later, there is still no answer. I hope she was wrong and will correct what she said and there will be a proper discussion on a style of day care, whether it be Quebec's or what the rest of Canada wants, because we are having a real problem interpreting the distribution of powers.

During the election campaign and in the throne speech, a Conservative trend could be seen. During the campaign, they said about Quebec's place in the world and, primarily, at UNESCO, that they wanted a place for it similar to the one it has at the summit of the Francophonie. This was in a speech by the Prime Minister in Quebec City on December 19, if I am not mistaken.

I was the spokesperson for the international Francophonie for many years. I also participated in a number of conferences of the Francophonie. I sat with the Canadian delegation, because I was a federal member. I could share the table with people from Quebec and New Brunswick, because they have a place at the summit of the Francophonie.

When it came time for the Quebec delegation to speak, there was no need to ask the Canadian delegation if it agreed with what Quebec had to say. Quebec had independent status at the summit.

I have no doubt that the Prime Minister, erudite as he is, knew what he was saying when he said in Quebec City he wanted to give Quebec a place at UNESCO similar to the one it had at the summit of the Francophonie. At least, I hope his speech writer knew what he was writing. One wrote and the other knew what he was saying.

In conclusion, the Conservatives made some fine promises during the election campaign. They disavowed a number of them in the throne speech, and their first piece of legislation proves that we need to keep a very close eye on them because they are going to disillusion those who believed in them during the last election campaign.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your re-election as Speaker of this House and also to congratulate my hon. colleague on his brilliant presentation.

I have one question for him. I return to the issue of child care.

Since the Speech from the Throne, a number of government members have spoken in this House. In what way are the proposals in the Speech from the Throne and the speeches of these government members disturbing insofar as the day care system in Quebec is concerned?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his question. Allow me the privilege of quoting another passage from the throne speech, before I return to the subject of child care.

On page 8 of the throne speech, it says:

[The government] will work with the government and legislature of Quebec in a spirit of mutual respect and collaboration to advance the aspirations of Quebecers.

They write one thing and do the opposite. That is what is disturbing in the Speech from the Throne, with regard to child care, among other things.

They wrote a short speech, which supposedly said what it wanted to say. The Conservative government said in its throne speech that it would work with the legislature of Quebec in a spirit of mutual respect. If it is sincere, at the very least, it should show some respect for motions passed unanimously in that legislature. When the National Assembly asked for a transfer of funds—the day care system being a provincial jurisdiction—it expected to see some of this mutual respect. Consequently, instead of $1,200 for each family, this money should be sent to the government, which is better able to create institutions and produce more new day care spaces.

If the Conservative government really wants to work in a spirit of mutual respect with the Government of Quebec, it should show some of this respect by transferring to Quebec the amounts that were promised.

Why is this important? I return to the question asked by my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue and his concern about child care. The previous government already promised $800 million for Quebec, an amount that Quebec started to invest. When money is promised, people start to build and create new day care spaces, and that is what happened. Then the next government arrives and says that it is going to eliminate this money and make a lesser, indirect transfer.

It is extremely important to abide by the words that I quoted from page 8 of the throne speech, concerning mutual respect for provincial legislation. This is the government’s first opportunity to show its good will.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, may I too congratulate you on your re-election as Speaker. There have certainly been more suspenseful moments in the House, but nevertheless you were elected and you have our confidence.

I would like to thank the constituents of Hochelaga who put their trust in me for the fifth time, as the constituents of the member for Repentigny did for him.

I would also like to highlight two positive outcomes of the general election. In Montreal, the Bloc Québécois increased its seats from three to seven. The House of Commons can expect vigorous and committed participation on behalf of the people of Montreal—the metropolis and the heart of Quebec.

We are equally pleased with the results in the Outaouais, in Gatineau. We had a lot of catching up to do. The Bloc Québécois is very pleased to welcome a new colleague from the region who will also work very hard, not just because he is a historian and a professor, but because he is determined to make Quebec's voice heard.

I do not wish to show disrespect for my friends, the Liberals--that is not my style--but it must nevertheless be recognized that their 13 members in Quebec represents an all-time low for them. The people have spoken and, in a democracy, our citizens are always right. We must weigh the significance of this vote.

The government before us is nonetheless an odd one. Indeed, they give the impression that, if left to themselves and their own political instincts, they would like to stamp made in U.S.A on the word “Canada”. As justice critic, I am very concerned about the rhetoric from the Conservatives. It almost seems as though they decided to open a branch of the White House right here in the House of Commons. I therefore believe that we must be extremely vigilant and urge them to show much more moderation and relevance in their remarks about justice.

I would be happy to enter into a dialogue on this matter with my Conservative colleagues. However, upon closer review of the Conservative platform, it would seem that we live in a society that is much more violent than it was 20 or 30 years ago.

This very morning, I attended an information session at the Library of Parliament. I reviewed the statistics with an exceptionally bright individual by the name of Lyne Casavant—to respect her anonymity—a criminologist educated at the University of Montreal. We had a look at the major statistics, compiled by Juristat, that entice us to take stock of the real situation.

Between 1991 and 2004, the crime rate declined by about 22%. Statistics on crime in Canada have been kept since 1962, the year I was born. In the 1960s, 70s and 80s, property crime and offences against the person increased significantly; however, in the 80s and 90s the rate of growth was much slower.

I repeat, between 1991 and 2004 the crime rate in Canada decreased by 22%. I fear that the Conservatives, if left to themselves, will be a decade behind in terms of public policy. Parliamentarians are expected to enact legislation on the basis of probing and conclusive data, and when we hear the Conservatives talk about crime in Canada there is cause for concern.

I say this with complete respect for my Conservative friends. In fact, I would like to believe that I have friends in all political parties—the Liberals, the neo-Bolsheviks, and the Conservatives.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:30 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh!

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

I am not asking anyone for a straw vote on this. In any event, I have friends in every party.

Let us look a little more closely at the statistics, including the crime index. Property offences account for 50% of crimes, according to the figures reported by Canada's police services, while violent crimes account for 12%. Certainly there are still too many violent crimes. But it is important to keep things in proportion.

On the question of homicides, for example, I repeat that from 1991 to 2004, the homicide rate fell constantly, except in 2003. In 2003, there was in fact a slight resurgence in homicides. That might suggest that there is a trend. However, I think that it would be very wrong to try to take one year in isolation and call it a trend.

There is another matter of concern. That is the firearms registry. We have to be grateful to all parliamentarians who voted for that registry. This is not a matter of partisanship.

I have examined the statistics for Canadian and American society. First, the United States is the society with the highest rates of incarceration. For every 100,000 people, 723 are imprisoned in the United States. What is the incarceration rate in Canada? It is between 114 and 116 people per 100,000. And yet, even though the United States incarcerates more people than Canada, three times fewer homicides are committed in Canada than in the United States.

Why is this? When we look at serious studies of the issue, we see that it is not so much sentences that deter people from committing offences, but rather the possibility of getting caught and being taken to court.

For that reason, we have to agree with the Conservatives who want a greater police presence in communities and more prevention and programs for young people. That is a kind of discourse we can support. On the other hand, we cannot support the discourse typical of the Republicans, who advocate mandatory minimum sentences in all circumstances, without distinction. That makes no sense. We cannot follow the Conservatives down that road.

As well, if we want to fight crime, we cannot forget that there is a correlation between crime and the poverty rate. In fact, it is significant that the present Prime Minister never once mentioned social housing during the election campaign. The only time he did, it was to announce, like the good Conservative he is, that he intended to offer tax credits for builders. Do we not think that our communities need to have socially affordable housing built?

Three announcements were made in the past on this subject. The former minister, Mr. Gagliano, had announced $800 million, to which a further $320 million was added. While that was not enough, nonetheless it was over $1 billion that made it possible to build some social housing .

I am very worried that the Conservatives want to reduce crime without taking the question of poverty into consideration. In our opinion, Parliament must not join the chorus calling for minimum sentences, but rather must call for generous crime prevention programs and programs to fight crime, while putting heavy emphasis on social housing.

My time is up. I would have had so much more to say, but I do not want to abuse the House’s time. I hope that my colleagues, and in particular the member for Outremont, will have questions for me.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his interesting presentation, but I have a few questions.

First, I heard him brag about la ville de Montréal et la représentation du Bloc à Montréal. It is a beautiful city and we all love it. What about the la ville de Québec? I did not hear him mention the city of Quebec, the oldest city in North America, and boast about Bloc representation for that city.

Furthermore, he made a comment about the white house north. For the information of members, my hon. colleague and I sat together in health committee. I have a lot of respect for the member. However, we already have a white house north. I live in it on Vancouver Island. It is a nice big white summer place. Please come and visit me some time.

I want to comment on the remarks made about statistics on crime. The hon. member said that crime had gone down in Canada. I wonder where he has been. We just had eight people murdered in Ontario. Just a short time ago articles appeared in the newspapers about the biker wars in Montreal. I believe 130 were people murdered in this war between Hell's Angels and the Rock Machine. It was in Montreal. Where were you? Did you forget that, my friend?

What about what is going on--