House of Commons Hansard #8 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was families.

Topics

The House resumed from April 11 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

11 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

When the matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Northumberland--Quinte West had five minutes remaining in the time allotted for questions and comments. Are there questions and comments? If not, we will resume debate with the hon. member for Etobicoke Centre.

RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLYSpeech From The Throne

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Etobicoke North.

I would like to congratulate you on your re-election, Mr. Speaker, and also take this opportunity to thank the people of Etobicoke Centre for the honour of being elected twice in the last year and a half to represent them in the House of Commons. Both times I have been elected by overwhelming electoral margins, which means that my obligations to the people of Etobicoke Centre are that much greater and that I will work on their behalf that much harder. What I bring to the House of Commons from Etobicoke Centre are my constituents' values of hard work, integrity and generosity of spirit.

This past weekend was Easter weekend for my family, as it was for most Ukrainian Canadians as well as those of the Orthodox faith. For this reason, I would like to begin my response to the Speech from the Throne with a quotation from the Bible and one of topics of discussion during this past Easter weekend: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God”.

This past weekend, four Canadian lives were extinguished half a world away. These Canadians volunteered and left the safety and warmth of their families' hearths to travel to the dangerous and desolate mountains of Afghanistan. They went there to bring peace to a part of the world where evil continues to breed in caves, where the men of hate, the Taliban, gather in order to sow the seeds of death, and where, in vast cultivated fields of poppies, the destruction of millions of lives grows.

There is no doubt that these four Canadian soldiers whose lives were extinguished believed that they were fighting a just war, that they were in fact peacemakers. For this ultimate of sacrifices, Corporals Matthew Dinning and Randy Payne, Lieutenant William Turner, and Bombardier Myles Mansell will be remembered as “the sons of God”.

The throne speech touched only briefly on Canada's international role, stating that “Canada's voice in the world must be supported by action”, that we will support our “core values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and human rights”, and finally, that our policies will be “infused with growing confidence that...[we] can make a difference”.

Unfortunately, the throne speech did not address either a vision or the “how” of our engagement with the world when it comes to supporting these, our core values. True leadership entails a vision and action within the framework of this vision. I will take this opportunity to speak to a vision and a framework on how we as a country can and should engage the world outside of our trade relationships.

Canada's international role has evolved over the last 139 years. For a good portion of our history, we were viewed as a junior partner in the international interventions of imperial powers with which we have been allied. Whether it was the United Kingdom or the United States, or the Boer or Korean wars, Canada could be counted on to send its men and women to wage war alongside our allies. We were also members of grand coalitions during the two world wars.

Finally, half a century ago, a Canadian diplomat, Lester B. Pearson, envisioned a new and groundbreaking role for Canada's soldiers. He envisioned that young Canadian men and women would travel to conflict zones throughout the world not to wage war, but to serve as peacekeepers. This novel approach was a major paradigm shift in how Canada saw itself engaging the world. It earned Lester B. Pearson the Nobel peace prize and established for Canada a tradition of peacekeeping.

Today, using soldiers for peace has evolved and expanded to include peacemaking, as we call our Afghani mission, peacekeeping, as we have done for decades in places such as Cyprus, and peace-building, as we are doing in Haiti.

However, today it is not just Canadian soldiers who are emissaries of peace. Today there are more Canadian civilians volunteering abroad, as humanitarians and civil society builders with non-governmental organizations, than there are Canadian soldiers.

Peacemaking, peacekeeping, peace-building, civil society architects and good governance: it is difficulty to understand exactly what these terms entail. When does a soldier become a peacemaker? Does he or she take on a constabulary role in Haiti or civil society building in Afghanistan? How do we guarantee that we do not again make the mistake of using as peacekeepers soldiers trained in the specialities of war, such as the airborne regiment in Somalia?

For Canadians to build on our half-century tradition of peacekeeping and to once again show international leadership, let us establish a clear framework for how we engage in countries where major conflicts or fundamental transitions are taking place.

Let us imagine our Ministry of Defence becoming a ministry of just wars with unambiguous obligations and regulations outlining under which circumstances we would engage in war. In the situation of territorial defence, the case is clear. In the case of war to counter threats to our peace, the threats must be clearly verified and acknowledged by international agencies. In the case of R2P, the responsibility to protect outside of situations of genocide, which require immediate action, it should also include a clear responsibility to rebuild.

Finally, let Canada become the first country in the world to establish a ministry of peace, a ministry which would include peacekeepers, humanitarians, democratic and civil society builders, a ministry with an organizational structure similar to our armed forces that would sign up volunteers for multi-year contracts with a choice of fields of specialization: peacekeeping, humanitarian aid and democratic civil society building.

In any given year there are at least a dozen countries in the world where major conflicts or fundamental transitions take place. Quite often in Canada we have large diaspora communities from several of these countries. Not only do our multicultural communities have linguistic and intimate cultural knowledge but they also have emotional ties to their ancestral homelands. This uniquely Canadian reservoir of human potential can be tapped into to help in the processes of conflict resolution and civil society building.

If properly executed, Canada can establish for itself, through our ministry of peace, an international role as an honest broker which will resolve conflicts and rebuild society without the countries affected fearing a loss of sovereignty or control of national resources.

Having played a positive role during historic transitions, Canada will have established goodwill and trust among the peoples of these countries and their political leadership. Let us give peace a chance.

Today, unfortunately, is an unofficial day of mourning. It comes just days after Easter when we meditated on the selfless sacrifice of oneself in the battle against evil; the concept that through death comes rebirth. Four young Canadians have offered up the ultimate sacrifice, their very lives, to bring hope into the lives of strangers and those not yet born in a country far from home.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God”. Let us envision and build a Canada that will be blessed, for it will be known as a nation of peacemakers, a nation of God.

RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLYSpeech From The Throne

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talked about peace, Canada's role in peace and the role that former Prime Minister Pearson had in establishing that peacekeeping role for Canada. I, however, remain concerned about Canada's commitment to peacekeeping. Certainly the situation in Afghanistan is of great concern to me and to many people in my constituency. We are concerned when we see that Canada's role in peacekeeping with the United Nations has dropped to 50 among the world's nations with the end of the mission on the Golan Heights. Before that we were 33, which really is not all that impressive a number either when it comes down to it.

I am also concerned about the militarization of our aid, especially when I hear from a Canadian soldier from my riding serving in Afghanistan who says that often the aid projects that the Canadian Forces build in Afghanistan are quickly destroyed once the forces leave the area where the project was built. When insurgents or the Taliban come back into that community they immediately target the aid that was delivered by military people.

Does the member think that our mission in Afghanistan lives up to those Pearsonian standards that he so eloquently described? Does he share my concern about the militarization of our aid in Afghanistan?

RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLYSpeech From The Throne

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will answer the member's question in two parts.

First, on the issue of commitment, unfortunately our commitment has slid. At the same time, there is a great deal of confusion. Some people talk about our Afghani mission as being a peacekeeping mission but quite clearly it is not.

Can it be justified? Is it a military mission, a just war? I believe that argument can be made but we need to establish clear parameters. What is peace-building? What is peacekeeping? In regard to peacekeeping, the rules were quite clear. Peace negotiations are taking place between the warring sides. A truce has been established. There is a physical buffer between the two warring sides and that buffer is filled by peacekeepers.

Regarding peace-building in Haiti, it seems that our soldiers have taken on the role of a constabulary. Then there is the danger of using soldiers, who were trained as warriors, as peacekeepers. We saw what happened in Somalia.

As the concept evolves and expands into different areas, peace-building and peacemaking, the peacekeeping role should be split off into a separate ministry, a ministry of peace. People trained as peacekeepers use very different equipment than soldiers use in war. I believe that by establishing this sort of ministry we will once again establish a leading role of being a vehicle for peace internationally.

The second question was regarding militarization of aid. We often find a lack of coordination between NGOs, and the tremendous work that they do, with peacekeepers, peacemakers or peace-builders, and not just in Afghanistan. Having had the opportunity to visit Darfur I believe it is incredibly important to have this ministry of peace that would coordinate with our ministry of defence. However we should establish what that ministry would do. Would it be a ministry of defence or just a war ministry? We need to have coordination between that particular role and the role of rebuilding and building democratic civil societies.

RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLYSpeech From The Throne

11:15 a.m.

Langley B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the wonderful people of my constituency of Langley, British Columbia. It is an honour to be re-elected and to be given this opportunity to represent them once again in Parliament. Langley is one of the most beautiful communities in Canada. It is the birthplace of British Columbia. The Hudson's Bay fort is still there. It is a great place to visit and even a better place to live.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to congratulate you on your responsibilities and appointment.

The Conservative government is already proving itself. Canadians believe that we can and we will introduce positive changes for the betterment of Canada. Canadians also want a government of action. They are tired of stalemates and they are tired of an old government just talking and doing nothing.

The government has five priorities which are based on the values of integrity, family, respect for hard work, achievement and commitment to a strong and free Canada. It is based on values that all Canadians share.

The first priority is to clean up government by passing the federal accountability act. The federal accountability act would toughen the Lobbyists Registration Act. It would ban secret donations to political candidates. It would make qualified government appointments. It would clean up government polling and advertising. It would clean up the procurement of government contracts. It would provide real protection for whistleblowers. It would ensure truth in budgeting with a parliamentary budget office. It would strengthen the power of the Auditor General. It would strengthen the role of the Ethics Commissioner. It would strengthen access to information legislation. It would strengthen auditing and accountability within departments. That is legislation that Canada needs.

It is a priority to provide real tax relief to all Canadians by cutting the GST. We will cut the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%. The GST is the only tax that all Canadians pay. Our plan delivers a tax cut to everyone, including the 32% of Canadians who do not pay any federal income tax.

It is a priority to help parents with the cost of raising their children. Our government will introduce a new $1,200 per year choice in child care allowance for children under six and a $250 million community child care investment program for capital assistance for the creation of 125,000 new child care spaces. The choice in child care allowance will apply to an estimated 2 million children of preschool age. Our plan provides money directly to parents. They can choose the child care option that best suits their family needs. That is a good plan.

It is a priority to work with the provinces to establish patient wait time guarantees. Canadians should receive essential medical treatment within clinically accepted wait times. We will work to ensure that Canadians can get urgent medical care when they need it. That is what they paid their taxes for and that is what they will receive. The guarantee will ensure that if people cannot get the medical care that they need where they live in the public system within the established benchmark times, they will be able to get that care either outside of the province or in a private clinic with the cost being covered by public insurance. That is what Canadians want.

Finally, it is a priority of the Conservative government to crack down on crime. As a former member of the House of Commons justice committee, I spent the last two years exploring at length various justice reforms that are desperately needed in Canada. Our Conservative government will make our streets and communities safer by cracking down on crime. Canadians have the right to feel safe in their communities. Our government will stand up for safe streets by tackling gun, gang and drug violence and by keeping criminals off the streets. The government believes that serious crime should have serious time.

We will provide more front line police officers. We will invest in effective gun control, not phony measures. We will get tough with sex offenders. We will strengthen the Youth Criminal Justice Act. We will establish a national victims' ombudsman office. We will enact a national drug strategy. We will secure our borders and we will ensure effective deportation laws.

My riding of Langley has the dubious distinction of having the highest rate of mail theft in Canada. Mail fraud and identity theft are huge problems in Canada and in my riding. It is one of the many issues that have inundated police forces that simply do not have the numbers to follow up on all the reported cases.

A Conservative government will reinvest savings from the cancellation of the ineffective long gun registry into hiring more front line enforcement personnel, including filling 1,000 RCMP positions. We will negotiate with the provinces to create a new cost shared program jointly with provincial and municipal governments to put at least 2,500 more police on the beat in our cities and communities.

Interstate 5 in Washington state is the west coast pipeline not only for trade, but also for illegal drugs. A huge flow of B.C. bud goes down and cocaine comes back up to B.C., along with laundered money, other drugs and guns.

People smuggling is not just an overseas problem. In my riding people smuggling is second only to drug smuggling. We all remember the Langley drug tunnel from last summer. Illegal immigrants are paying smugglers to bring them across the border. The bushes at the border are riddled with well-worn paths used by smugglers. Security cameras in place on the border are not solving the problem because there is still insufficient manpower in place to actually apprehend the illegal immigrants.

Our Conservative government will create a national security review committee to ensure effective oversight and a greater degree of accountability and transparency regarding Canada's national security efforts. We will ensure that agencies like CSIS, the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency have adequate resources and equipment. We will deploy face recognition and other biometric technology at border crossings and ports of entry. We will ensure that the men and women who keep our borders secure are also secure themselves.

Last spring explosive testimony came to the justice committee when it was studying Bill C-2 on child pornography. University of Toronto psychiatrist Dr. Ron Langevin provided shocking results from an intensive study on deviant sex offenders and recidivism rates in Canada.

According to the study, 88% of deviant sex offenders in a 25 year follow-up have reoffended. Dr. Langevin also revealed that 44% of deviant sex offenders who were caught, charged and convicted of crimes were never incarcerated. He told us that sex offenders who serve their sentence at home present a high risk to reoffend. A Conservative government will eliminate conditional sentences for violent and sex offenders. That is good.

In Langley a convicted sex offender, a pedophile who assaulted two young girls who were his neighbours, was given a conditional sentence of house arrest. His sentence included the opportunity to continue watching his victims from his home.

I am proud that this Conservative government will prohibit conditional sentences for sex offences committed against children. We will require the registration of all convicted sex offenders and dangerous offenders. The registry will include mandatory DNA sampling of all those convicted of, or currently in custody for, such offences. We will adopt a zero tolerance policy for child pornography, including raising the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16 years of age. This government is on the right track. We are listening to Canadians.

The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development recently announced funding of $2.5 million to address an environmental issue in my constituency.

This government listens. It is a government that wants to make Canada safer, better, productive and cleaner.

RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLYSpeech From The Throne

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the election campaign, taxation was an important issue and it is also in the throne speech. There is a discussion now about a reduction in the GST at the expense of rolling back a tax cut that was delivered in the last Parliament. Both have about a $5 billion price tag. What if the GST cut is not passed on by the providers of goods and services? For instance, a $20 theatre ticket will probably still cost $20 and the gas tax will probably still be kept by the producers. Since there is not a guaranteed flowthrough from the providers of the goods and services to Canadians, it would appear to be an increase in the tax burden of Canadians if the Conservative Party proceeds in the way it promised during the election campaign.

Why did the member's party mislead the Canadian public by saying that there was going to be a tax decrease when in fact the tax burden on Canadians will actually go up?

RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLYSpeech From The Throne

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member has been consistent regarding taxation. For 13 years the Liberal government overtaxed Canadians.

The promise that this government made is that we will lower taxes. We asked Canadians what the most efficient way would be to lower the taxes. We asked what tax reduction would affect every Canadian. It became very clear that this government does want to lower taxes. During the 13 years of Liberal rule the taxes went up and up. Canadians are overtaxed. That is one of the reasons that Canadians wanted a change in government. We listened. Canadians said to reduce the GST. I have heard so often that Canadians would like to see the GST gone. That was a promise made and a promise broken by the previous government.

We are going to lower the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%. The GST is a tax that everybody pays. Thirty-two per cent of Canadians do not pay any income tax, but everybody pays the GST. If we want to be fair, if we want to have the best tax reduction for every Canadian, then we should reduce the GST. That is what we are going to do. That is what Canadians want.

RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLYSpeech From The Throne

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, my question is regarding the debate on child care which is going on right across the country.

I am really disappointed with the Conservative platform. For the life of me I cannot understand what a payment of $1,200 has to do with child care.

In Canada we have the national child tax benefit. For the past 10 years it has paid money to lower income families. It has been very welcome. If the $1,200 was an increase in that, I certainly would welcome it myself. My only problem with it would be it would be money better spent by the government if it were means tested.

How could a payment of $1,200 possibly be classified as child care?

RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLYSpeech From The Throne

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, my wife and I were blessed with five children. We now have two and one-half grandchildren; one is in the cooker. We love children. My children are grown now and range from 21 to 31 years of age. They are trying to raise families of their own and buy a house. Things are incredibly expensive. It is not like it was when I bought my first house for $23,000 in 1973. Things are so expensive.

We have held round tables across the country to ask how we can help families. Parents have said that they want a choice in child care. Not everybody agrees with that, but the vast majority want a choice in child care. It may be providing child care through an organized child care service, it may be mom or dad wants to stay at home, or it may be a relative or a loved one of a friend, but parents need a choice in child care. It will not pay the total costs of child care, but it will substantially help parents who want a choice. This is what Canadians have asked for and this is what we have given them.

RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLYSpeech From The Throne

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to participate in this debate on the Speech from the Throne.

Before I begin my remarks, I would like first to thank the voters in Etobicoke North for expressing their confidence in me again in the election on January 23. It is a great honour and trust that they have bestowed upon me, for the fifth time I might add. I will respect that trust and work at my utmost to represent them well here in the House of Commons.

Let me take this opportunity as well to thank the many volunteers who worked with me on the election campaign. Their efforts are very greatly appreciated.

I would like also to express my grief and sorrow in relation to two recent and separate incidents, first to the friends and family of Bhupinder Singh Khroad and Ravinder Jit Kaur Khroad who were tragically involved in a fatal motor vehicle accident recently. I extend my thoughts and prayers to all of them as they mourn their loss.

To the friends and relatives of the four Canadian soldiers killed on Saturday in Afghanistan: Corporal Matthew Dinning, Lieutenant William Turner, Bombardier Myles Mansell and Corporal Randy Payne. We all share their grief and can assure them that these brave men did not die in vain. They gave unselfishly to their country for the cause of freedom and the struggle against terrorism.

Let me turn now to the Speech from the Throne. It is 12 pages in length and is not exactly a difficult read. It lays out five priorities of the Conservative government. I understand well the idea of focusing on a few issues, but this, it seems to me, to be taking it to new limits.

At any rate, the five priorities that the Conservative party touted during its election campaign—along with many other promises that did not appear in the Speech from the Throne—do not offer the Canadian public a very sound official policy.

Let me cite just three examples. One is to reduce the GST. It is well known that it is three times more beneficial to the economy to have income tax cuts of equivalent amounts. That was the Liberal plan and was tabled in the House. Now the Conservative government will reduce those income tax reductions to implement the cut in the GST. We know this is not good for Canadians. It may be politically popular, but it is not the best solution for Canadians.

The Conservative Party approach to child care is misguided, in my judgment. Its plan to provide the parents of each young child with $1,200 annually, while politically attractive to some, does not constitute a child care program. It is more like the old baby bonus scheme which was disbanded long ago. The Liberal government replaced it in the 1990s with the national child benefit. The national child benefit program is delivering about $10 billion annually to medium and modest income families. The $1,200 could be added to this and the child care agreements negotiated with the provinces and territories by the Liberal government should be respected. This would offer real child care support for working parents.

While I support tougher action against crime and criminals, and in fact the Liberal government tabled a series of responses to the plague of gun violence before the last Parliament was dissolved for the election, scrapping the gun registry would be a serious mistake. The gun registry, although certainly not a panacea to deal with gun violence, is supported by Canada's police chiefs and also by the Canadian Professional Police Association. These are the rank and file police officers. Law enforcement officers across the country are making 6,000 inquiries per day to the gun registry. Surely this is telling us that the police find the gun registry to be a useful tool.

The annual cost to operate the gun registry is now at a level of $20 million per year or less. While I acknowledge the high cost to develop this system, which has been exaggerated in the House and elsewhere, the system is now developed, in place and is costing less than $20 million a year.

Likewise, tougher sanctions against criminals in and of themselves will not be enough. We need to build on our investments in the community based national crime prevention program and programs like breaking the cycle, which operates in my riding of Etobicoke North. This program helps young people extricate themselves from gangs, and it is working.

Ministers in Prime Minister Harper's cabinet have been told to stay on message and stick to the five priorities laid out in the Speech from the Throne.

As the Liberal party critic for natural resources, I have to wonder how Mr. Harper's policy on staying on message will play out. Furthermore, the terms “natural resources” and “agriculture” appear only once in the Speech from the Throne, which includes no clear ideas on either of these subjects.

This is pretty unbelievable, given that natural resources and related industries represent 13% of Canada's GNP and provide jobs for nearly a million Canadians. Contrary to popular belief, these jobs are located in both rural and urban areas.

We can only hope that the budget about to be tabled will take into account the major impact of the natural resources sector on the entire Canadian population.

Coming back to the focussed messaging that Conservative ministers apparently are working under, what will this mean for the Minister of Natural Resources when he meets with Canada's mining industry? Will he describe the party's plan for child care or will he be permitted to dialogue on the severe labour shortages looming in Canada's mining industry and the need for incentives to encourage more exploration and development in Canada's mining industry?

When the Minister of Natural Resources meets with representatives from Canada's forest industry, will he describe to them the get tough on crime initiatives proposed by the Conservative government, or will he be permitted to dialogue with them about what his government will do to resolve the long-standing softwood lumber dispute with the United States and what action the Conservative government will take to ease the burden on the softwood lumber industry, its workers and the communities affected? Our Liberal government had announced a relief package of some $1.5 billion, as interim assistance, until the dispute was finally settled in Canada's favour. Now we have some ministers on the government side saying that we are not going to win this dispute. Shame on them.

When the Minister of Natural Resources meets with the energy dialogue group, will he describe to them the proposed reduction in the GST, or will the Prime Minister allow the minister to explore with them the need for an energy strategy or national energy framework for Canada? Will he be able to discuss how the government will address such critical issues as energy conservation and energy efficiency? Will the minister be provided enough slack to discuss the Mackenzie Valley and Alaska pipeline projects, or will he digress into one of the other five priorities of the government, being very careful of course not to stray off message?

When the Minister of National Resources meets with environmental groups, will he discuss the government's new accountability package? Will he be able to respond to their questions when they ask what Canada's plans are to deal with greenhouse gas emissions and how those objectives will mesh with the development of the oil sands in Alberta? Will this type of discussion be permitted, or will special clearance be required from the Prime Minister if he wants to proceed in that way?

For the sake of our country and for all Canadians I hope the Minister of Natural Resources will be allowed to stray into these very important areas which, although not a priority obviously for the Conservative government, need the attention of all of us.

I look forward to the upcoming budget and other initiatives of the government. What was contained in the throne speech was pretty thin gruel and not enough to go on.

RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLYSpeech From The Throne

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I would like to note that the hon. member is an experienced member of the House. I did not want to interrupt him in the volley of his oratory, but he did name a right hon. member in this House. I would like that member and all members not to test the Chair by doing this again . You might also want to advise your wordsmiths and legislative assistants about this ruling. Thank you very much.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Nanaimo—Alberni.

RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLYSpeech From The Throne

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am sure we will all want to take that admonition to heart.

With all due respect to my hon. colleague opposite, for whom I have a great deal of respect, I am a little disappointed at some of the rhetoric he has thrown into his response to the Speech from the Throne with regard to two particular issues: first, he called the Conservative child care approach misguided; and second, his comments on the gun registry.

First, with regard to the child care plan, I am surprised that the member continues to tout what Canadians themselves, parents of young children, have said when asked what type of child care they prefer for their children. He continues to endorse and promote what Canadians rate as the fifth choice. Canadian parents prefer to manage their children as much as possible by themselves, or with a close family relative, or a neighbourhood day care, or a workplace-oriented day care. I am surprised the member would continue to ignore what statistics show us, which is Canadians prefer to have control of their child care.

Second, with regard the gun registry, the member referred to the great number of hits that the police have on the gun registry and how useful it is to them. Frankly, that information is so misused. We know that to get hits, every time officers stop cars for speeding, or for going through a stop sign or a red light, or for any check at all, they punch in the licence place number and it automatically accesses the gun registry, which officers at the side of the road completely ignore. However, they get great numbers according to the hits on the registry. It is totally useless and misguided. How could they possibly have spent $159 million on computers for a registry that has produced so little value to actual policing or reducing crime or violent gun crime in the country?

We have elderly citizens who are concerned. I had a man In my community approach me just this week on this subject. He has guns he inherited from a family member. He does not hunt himself, but they are family heirlooms. He is being told that if he does not register so far ahead of his birthday, not only will he lose his registry, he will have to go through the whole application again, and it will cost him another $60 to register, if he can get the registry in on time.

Why would the member continue to endorse a program that everyone recognizes as a complete and utter failure?

RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLYSpeech From The Throne

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am surprised the member for Nanaimo--Alberni did not take the opportunity to speak up and join me in a chorus to argue that the government needs to respond to the forestry workers in Canada with some help. I am sure there are many sawmills in the member's riding that are in terrible shape and many forestry workers who are badly affected. In fact, I recall his colleague, the member from Vancouver Island, who is no longer in the House, argued very strenuously for a relief package. I know the member for Nanaimo--Alberni did as well, but I am saddened by his silence on this issue in the House.

However, let me come back to the points that he has raised. First, I am glad he acknowledged that the gun registry cost $159 million to develop and build. That is the figure the member quoted in the House. I know members on the other side have talked about a much bigger number to develop the gun registry. In fairness to the member, we know that is not right. It is higher than that, but it certainly is not as high as many of the members here purport.

The point is that in finance and economics, there is a concept called sunk cost. If we build a house and it costs too much to build, but now it is energy efficient and it is what we can afford, do we burn the house down because it cost us too much? Of course not. We look at what that house does for us today. What I am saying is that house, that gun registry, is costing less than $20 million a year. It is supported by every police association in Canada and they are making use of it day in and day out.

Regarding child care, if that is the way the member for Nanaimo--Alberni feels, that this is a test of the Canadian public to their child care proposal, I wonder if his government plans to put that particular proposal to the floor of the House. I not sure, based on what I heard from the leader of the Bloc Québécois, that they support the $1,200 a year baby bonus scheme. I am pretty sure that members on this side do not support it. I am quite sure the NDP does not support it. If he is saying that Canadians support it, does his government plan to table that in the House the way it stands now? I think they would be sadly disappointed with the result.

RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLYSpeech From The Throne

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Ahuntsic.

RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLYSpeech From The Throne

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, earlier I was listening to the hon. government member speak to us about crime. I heard about increasing the number of police officers, biometric cards and DNA. What the member was talking about was a police state. My question is for the hon. member who is not a member of the government—

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11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I am afraid the hon. member may not have understood that the question period for the previous member has now ended. We have resumed debate and I have recognized you as the next speaker. I invite you to resume the debate.

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11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I apologize. I did not realize that the period for questions for the hon. member was over. You have caught me by surprise but I will come at it from another direction.

I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue.

As all Quebeckers must realize, this is my first speech here in the House. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank the people of Ahuntsic for placing their trust in me. I would also like to thank my family for their love and support, especially my parents, my brothers and sisters, my husband Ibrahim and my son Christopher.

I would also like to thank all of the Bloc Québécois supporters in the riding of Ahuntsic. I am here today thanks to their hard work. I also send my regards to my team, currently holding the fort in our constituency office. I would also like to acknowledge my former colleagues at CSST, who made it possible for me to be with you here today. Finally, I would like to extend my warmest regards to the Lebanese and Arab communities in Quebec and Canada, and to the people of Lebanon, which I am proud to say is my country of birth, and to those from my home town of Akkar.

I chose Quebec because it offers a good environment in which to achieve the hope of peace and solidarity. I can now say that it also feels good to be chosen by the people there. I will therefore try to prove myself worthy of my fellow citizens' kindness and of the political ideals that I share with my party.

As the ancient Romans said, “scripta manent”, which means, “what is written endures”. Wise people have long known that what is written endures; it follows us and we are judged by what we write.

During the last election campaign, the Prime Minister send a letter to the Feminist Alliance for International Action. The letter stated, and I will quote in English:

Yes, I'm ready to support women's human rights and I agree that Canada has more to do to meet its international obligations to women's equality.

If elected, I will take concrete and immediate measures, as recommended by the United Nations, to ensure that Canada fully upholds its commitments to women in Canada.

He made a commitment to take concrete and immediate measures, as recommended by the UN, to support women's rights.

As we all know, the Prime Minister was elected. The women of Quebec and Canada are now waiting for him to take the concrete and immediate measures he referred to, as the UN recommended. The Speech from the Throne is silent on these measures, which the Prime Minister promised in writing. By signing the letter, what did the Prime Minister pledge to do?

In 1979, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which is also known as the treaty for women's rights.

In 1981, Canada ratified this convention. Twenty-five years later, women still suffer discrimination.

In 2003, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women released its report on Canada. It reads in part as follows:

While appreciating the federal Government's various anti-poverty measures, the Committee is concerned about the high percentage of women living in poverty, in particular elderly women living alone, female lone parents, aboriginal women...immigrant women and women with disabilities, for whom poverty persists or even deepens, aggravated by the budgetary adjustments made since 1995 and the resulting cuts in social services.

I will give a few examples of what the Prime Minister was committing to when he signed the letter. On the issue of violence against women, in paragraph 370, the UN committee asks Canada to “step up its efforts to combat violence against women and girls and increase its funding for women’s crisis centres and shelters.”

What, specifically, will the Prime Minister do about that? I wonder. As regards domestic help, the committee calls for, among other things, a quicker process to enable these household employees to obtain permanent residence. Another fine challenge for the Prime Minister.

In addition, as Ms. Asselin, the president of the Fédération des femmes du Québec, pointed out in an open letter that appeared in La Presse on December 23, the enshrinement of pay equity in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms some 30 years ago has not ensured that women working in businesses under federal jurisdiction enjoy pay equity.

For a number of years now, there has been consensus in Quebec on pay equity. Some 120,000 persons, primarily women, do not have pay equity, simply because they work for firms under federal jurisdiction. Therefore, in Quebec, 120,000 persons are paying the price because Quebec is not independent and master of its directions and its life choices. This lack of pay equity on the federal level leads me to make a comment for my fellow Quebeckers on the relevance of sovereignty. The reason for sovereignty is all the more understandable, despite all that is involved, as is the reason we want to be independent. So, what will the Prime Minister do to honour his signature?

In the debate on Canada's presence in Afghanistan, on April 10, a number of ministers of this government justified it by an altruistic desire to protect the rights of women and children. The Minister of International Cooperation and Minister for la Francophonie and Official Languages said, and I quote:

In addition thanks to Canada's help, more than 4 million children, one-third of them girls, are registered in primary school. Canada is helping to bring concrete, lasting change to the living conditions of women and children in Afghanistan.

The Minister of National Defence said:

For Afghan women to have access to such services was simply unimaginable under the harsh Taliban regime. ...more than 4 million children, one-third of them girls, are registered in primary school.

In my opinion this government seems very sensitive to the cause of Afghan women and children and that makes me very happy.

I presume the same will be true for the women of Quebec and Canada. I also presume that the Prime Minister is a man of his word and that he will keep the promise he made in writing to the women of Quebec and Canada on December 18, 2005.

I will therefore support the Speech from the Throne, since I am an optimist and I have confidence in the word of the Prime Minister, who will, I am sure, go beyond the Speech from the Throne.

Furthermore, I am quite pleased that this government has shown its openness to addressing the fiscal imbalance, which is something we did not see with the previous government. Indeed, the previous government did not even recognize that there was a fiscal imbalance.

This apparent willingness to find fiscal arrangements gives hope. I do not intend to kill that hope.

The current government's desire to address crime is another important aspect of this speech. Nonetheless, we must not forget that criminal behaviour does require repression alone, but also rehabilitation and prevention.

I will close by saying that I will give the Prime Minister a chance to keep his word. In time, the men and women of Quebec and Canada will take notice of what he does and does not do. For now, we will give him the benefit of the doubt, but we are keeping our eyes wide open.

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Noon

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on her first speech in this House. She has expressed herself very well and with great clarity. Her presence in this House does honour to the values she speaks for, the role of women in society. I salute her.

I also hope that she will be able to reconcile work and family in her life, this being a reality that we all have to deal with.

In her speech, the member talked about aspirations of peace and solidarity. Those are also Quebec and Canadian values, which our soldiers are currently defending in Afghanistan, where we deplore the loss of human lives, such as we saw this past weekend. It is indeed in our interest to promote the spread of Canadian values in the world.

Our Minister of Defence went to Afghanistan where he toured the Canadian military bases. I was with him in Valcartier. He again told the soldiers how proud he was to see Canadians engaging courageously not only in humanitarian missions, but also in dangerous and complex missions, to defend those values.

In her speech, the member also talked about values and combating the poverty that often affects many women. She also said that she wanted the federal government to exhibit leadership, particularly on the question of pay equity.

I would therefore like to know what concrete measure she is proposing, to contribute specifically to advancing the cause she defends, the legislative emancipation of women by the Government of Canada.

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Noon

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his words of encouragement. Indeed, the challenge facing every woman is to reconcile work and family. But I am fortunate to have women like Louise Harel and Pauline Marois, who have been examples of how to reconcile work and family, as my models.

In Quebec, we have a pay equity act; in Canada, we have the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter, in fact, gives women equity in terms of rights, but there is no Canadian pay equity law. For example, women who work in businesses governed by federal law do not have pay equity, while in Quebec we have made progress in this and we continue to fight for this right of women. Nonetheless, there is considerable room for improvement in everything. On the federal level, however, there is a kind of legal vacuum that means that women working in the broadcasting industry still do not have this equity.

Speeches saying that we are fighting for equity for women and that we have put rights into charters are all very well, but we are not seeing this in the facts, in those women’s everyday lives. In fact, I will tell you what those women say: they are not seeing it.

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12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member expressed some concern about poverty among seniors, particularly women. The member knows that the government has proposed to roll back a tax cut that was given to all Canadians in the last Parliament. Average Canadians would have benefited by about $400 a year. To make up for that, an average Canadian family will now have to spend about $40,000 simply to save $400. It appears that Canadians are actually going to have a tax increase, not a tax decrease. I wonder if the member would care to comment on whether or not she is supportive of taking more money out of the hands of Canadian seniors.

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April 24th, 2006 / 12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

I did not understand the question.

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12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I will allow a very short comment, because there is very little time left for this period of the day.

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12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, how can we fight poverty? For example, Quebec has a law to help fight poverty. Quebec has put several measures in place to fight poverty among women, the elderly and so on. It is important that we understand our responsibility toward the people who elected us to represent them in this House.

Beyond fancy speeches and concrete measures, fiscal or otherwise, can we try to look at each group's specific needs and ask ourselves how we can help? Everyone knows that fiscal measures benefit only some of the people. Can we offer financial or fiscal help to these groups of women? This would be very good, because these women are always just barely surviving.

I would like the government to allocate some money to these women, to these groups, in its next budget.

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12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, allow me first to congratulate my colleague from Ahuntsic. She just expected to ask a question but actually delivered her maiden speech in the House. Speaking personally and on behalf of my colleagues, I congratulate her because it was a fine speech. It did a good job of setting out the debate on the help and respect that women deserve in our society.

Allow me as well to thank my constituents in the riding of Abitibi—Témiscamingue. Again they expressed their confidence in me to represent them in the House and ensure that the ways in which Abitibi—Témiscamingue is different are recognized all across Canada and Quebec and that these differences are vigorously defended in the House, as they should be.

Getting down to the Speech from the Throne, allow me to point out that it was very predictable. We are glad, though, that it did not go on for more than 15 or 20 minutes because it was a redundant repetition of what we heard during the election campaign. This entirely predictable speech was based on the five great actions that the current government wishes to take.

We were glad to see two of the Bloc’s proposals mentioned in the throne speech: international treaties will be ratified by the House and the government will apologize to Chinese immigrants for the head tax they had to pay. This is very important. During the last session, after sitting on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, I sat as well on the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. We carried resolutions asking that apologies be made to the Chinese community, and they will be. The money reimbursed to them will not make them forget the mistakes of which they were the victims, but at least it will make them feel welcome in Canada.

Let us look now at the five priorities on which the government based its Speech from the Throne. It will probably base all its policies on them in this Parliament, and especially its budget speech, to be delivered in the next few days.

Insofar as accountability is concerned, the Bloc was already talking in 2001 about the crisis surrounding the sponsorship scandal, which cost the previous government a great many seats in Quebec. The last word still remains to be written, though, because the courts have yet to pass sentence on people who abused the system.

We obviously need an accountability act. However, this bill casts a very wide net, too wide perhaps. We will see. Our suggestion is that the government should work together with the opposition parties on consideration in committee of the bill and its implementation. The bill was just introduced in the last few days and will have to be studied in committee. It has more than 200 sections, and we will see how the committee manages. It is a huge bill, but it is hard to be against virtue itself.

Finally, there is day care. The Bloc’s first reaction is to tell the current government that it is good, it is a fine idea. It must be said, though, that we have had this in Quebec for quite a few years now.

Thanks to the Parti Québécois, Quebec endowed itself with the best day care system in Canada. In the words of the former Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Chrétien, it is probably one of the best in the world. So it must not be cut back.

We sincerely believe that, in the next budget speech and in the Speech from the Throne, the government must ensure that Quebec is compensated and deserves to be compensated. We calculate that the daycare centres of Quebec will lose $807 million if the government introduces the $1,200. Our leader has emphasized this, and I will repeat what he said. We have no objection to the $1,200, far from it. However, three things are important.

First, the government did not mention that this $1,200 would be taxable, and that will create all sorts of problems. Second, in Quebec in particular, this amount of $1,200 will be deductible from income security benefits, that is, welfare. That $1,200 will not be very good for people in need. Third, we suggest that the government revisit its idea of $1,200 and maybe offer it as a tax deduction or tax credit. We shall see how it is treated in the budget. What is certain is that the Bloc Québécois will fight to see that Quebec’s jurisdictions are respected, particularly in this matter. It will be very important for Quebec to receive its fair share.

Very quickly, I would also like to talk about wait times. The government has to be careful, because health is a field of provincial jurisdiction. It will have to respect provincial jurisdictions before implementing any program whatsoever, especially in the area of health and wait times.

Let us also talk about security and justice. I want to speak about this because, in the previous Parliament, I was a member of the Standing Committee on Justice. The party now in power, which was in opposition at that time, presented various ideas—which I will not venture to list—for draconian increases to sentences and for minimum prison sentences. To such ideas, we say no. No, because that would be using the Criminal Code to do the work of judges. Yes, there are ways of issuing directives, of inviting the courts to give serious consideration to possibly increasing sentences. Take for example the Coffin decision which was just rendered by the Quebec Court of Appeal. Mr. Coffin pleaded guilty to defrauding the government in the sponsorship scandal. The trial court had sentenced him to about two years less a day plus community service. The Court of Appeal has just revised this decision, in the wake of popular pressure and the notice of appeal filed by the Crown, and has imposed a prison term.

With all due respect, I would like to advise the party in power to be very careful before tabling bills of this nature. The right wing in Canada is not enjoying very good press at the moment. Criminals are not going to be deterred by minimum prison sentences. I know whereof I speak, for prior to June 28, 2004, I was a criminal litigator for 25 years. For the last 15 of those years, I worked in criminal law only. As I told the members of the standing committee, imposing long prison terms is not the solution; rehabilitation, on the other hand, is very important. It is true, however, that we should perhaps take another look at suspended sentences.

We could examine excessively hasty probation and releases.

In closing—