House of Commons Hansard #2 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was opposition.


Aung San Suu KyiRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta


Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House today to speak to this motion.

Our nation is built on our founding values: freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Throughout our history, Canadians have fought and died defending these values and we believe they should be the birthright of all human beings.

We stand with those who protect our values, and especially with those who are denied those values. Unfortunately, there are many countries in which citizens are denied these fundamental rights and freedoms.

However, few have faced such brutal repression as the long-suffering people of Burma. For nearly two decades, they have endured the unrelenting tyranny of an unelected military dictatorship.

Over the past few weeks, the latest peaceful demonstrations have been violently put down by the despots who now control Burma.

Tens of thousands of Burmese took their noble cause to the streets. Thousands were arrested and imprisoned and there have been countless reports of beatings, torture and summary executions.

Canadians were horrified and scandalized by these events.

There have been public protests in support of the Burmese people in cities across our country, including on Parliament Hill last week. All Canadians know that what is happening in Burma is an attack on the values we hold dear, indeed an attack on the values of civilization itself. They want us to act and we must.

Earlier this month, we demanded a special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on the situation in Burma. Together with the international community, we condemned the regime's brutality.

The protesters in Burma, here in Canada and around the world are rallying behind Aung San Suu Kyi. A Nobel Peace Prize winner, she is the living embodiment of the long struggle for freedom and democracy in her country.

Her National League for Democracy won a landslide election but was not allowed to form a government. In fact, she has been a political prisoner for most of the last 18 years. More than anyone else, she has focused international attention on the plight of her people.

That is why, today, we are conferring honorary Canadian citizenship on Aung San Suu Kyi.

To acknowledge and support her long, courageous battle for freedom and democracy in Burma, I urge and thank all parliamentarians for supporting this motion. I hope it will be adopted unanimously in both chambers of this Parliament so that it can be clear as always that Canada stands for universal values that are under siege today in Burma, and once again, to also send to Aung San Suu Kyi the important message that Canadians and indeed all civilized people of the world stand behind her in her quest for democracy and freedom in that country.

Aung San Suu KyiRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Aung San Suu KyiRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, as chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Burma that has over 35 members of Parliament and senators from all parties and the people of Burma, we are very happy and thank the government for picking up our agenda item from last May to make Daw Aung San Suu Kyi an honorary Canadian citizen.

We are especially pleased that this occurs at this particular time of crisis and great need for the people of Burma. The Liberal opposition has long supported the bestowing of the title “Honorary Canadian Citizen” on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, so that the people of Canada may demonstrate their friendship and solidarity through her to the people of Burma.

It is our sincerest honour and privilege to see that this symbol of unity of our two peoples has finally come to pass. We hope it will be followed by many more actions of support for the Burmese people.

Aung San Suu Kyi's courage is the courage to sacrifice her life in order to give life to an entire nation. She continues to inspire people throughout the world and to strive to attain democracy, human rights and ethnic unity through peaceful means and for this she won the Nobel Peace Prize.

There are unspeakable human rights abuses by totalitarian governments in many countries of today's world. For the freedom fighters in these struggles, Aung San Suu Kyi is an international symbol of heroic and peaceful resistance in the face of oppression.

To quote the chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize committee, “She is an outstanding example of the power of the powerless”.

Think of the incredible personal sacrifices Aung San Suu Kyi has made to lead the peaceful struggle of her people. She lived through the assassination of Burma's martyred independence leader, General Aung San, her father. She escaped an assassination attempt on May 30, 2003 by thugs of the USDA supported by the regime who beat 100 of her supporters to death in the failed assassination attempt.

Imagine what government in the world would arrest a Nobel Peace Prize winner. She has now spent over 4,000 days under house arrest. She is isolated and allowed no visitors. Her phone line has been cut and her mail is intercepted.

However, Aung San Suu Kyi herself says “The only real prison is fear”. When her husband was dying of cancer, the military junta dictatorship would not let him pay one last visit to his wife, even after a request by the Pope and the Secretary General of the UN.

In 1988, the brutal military dictatorship murdered 3,000 peaceful students and human rights protestors. Imagine soldiers going into Burmese houses, forcing the young children into labour, raping wives and torturing and murdering Burmese citizens who disagreed or objected, except for the hundreds of thousands who have fled to refugee camps across the border.

What kind of government anywhere in the world would murder and torture peaceful monks? It is this outrageous regime that the peaceful human rights protestors and the rest of the world under UN responsibility to protect are up against.

For this, the Burmese people need a leader to lead them to freedom. They have one, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who will soon be a Canadian citizen.

Aung San Suu KyiRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is our duty to make Aung San Suu Kyi an honorary citizen of Canada and at the same to recognize her unfailing dedication to her country and her people. As the head of the National League for Democracy, she led Burma to its first democratic election. Elected President, she was removed by the military junta, which quashed the election results and placed her under house arrest. In 1991, Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Burma lives under the rule of dictatorship and military terror. Rights and freedoms are repressed. The recent peaceful protest by monks shows how entrenched the military junta is in its refusal to accept change. Repression continues and the international community is protesting.

I would remind the House that this Parliament supported a report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development which forcefully denounced the systematic and repeated violations of human rights by the junta, especially with regard to minorities. This report urged the authorities of Burma to immediately free all political prisoners, particularly Aung San Suu Kyi . It called on this government to provide tangible support for the legitimate authorities, the government in exile in particular. The report recommended that a number of economic sanctions be placed on Burma. It asked Canada to exert pressure on the UN Secretary General to establish a framework for finally getting the military junta to negotiate a peaceful transition to democracy in cooperation with the National League for Democracy and representatives of ethnic minorities, as proclaimed since 1994 in all UN resolutions in respect of Burma.

The Bloc Québécois fully supports the decision by the Parliament of Canada to bestow honorary Canadian citizenship on Aung San Suu Kyi . Having appeased our conscience, however, we would not want to stop there. Efforts to liberate Burma must continue. The manifest desire of its citizens to achieve democracy must be supported. The Parliament of Canada must stand by their side.

Aung San Suu KyiRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.


Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the NDP is pleased to enthusiastically support the motion.

The NDP will be pleased to support this motion.

None of us are indifferent to the images we have seen the past few weeks from Burma. In one of the world's most brutal dictatorships, Burmese monks had the courage to defy the authorities. They led the ordinary people of Burma, in peaceful demonstrations, to demand that generals step aside and allow the democratically elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, to take her rightful place. The brutal military junta responded by arresting and killing those brave, heroic monks and their followers.

Throughout almost two decades, Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy have been denied their election victory. This outright affront to democracy should have been dealt with long ago. The world has been too silent on the flagrant violations of human rights suffered by the Burmese people. We have shied away from tough action that can make the difference in a country like Burma. Forced labour, torture, arbitrary arrests and imprisonment, denial of freedom of expression and association are a daily reality for the people of Burma.

Aung San Suu Kyi is the rightful leader of the democratically led government of Burma, a democratically led government yet to be recognized by the military junta. She has often called on the international community to “use your liberty to promote ours”.

Today we have a chance to do just that. To truly honour Aung San Suu Kyi we must support her efforts in bringing democracy to Burma. She called upon the international community to put pressure on the junta by withdrawing western investment from her country. She has argued that the presence of western investment in Burma provides both financial and moral support for the junta. As she said, “Western companies give the regime a chance to say: “Look: even companies from Western democracies support us”.

At a press conference on October 3, I declared that Canadian companies and public pension funds investing in Burma had been complicit in propping up the military regime and that the Canadian government must do more to stop this complicity.

New Democrats fully expect Canadian companies operating throughout the world to hold themselves to the highest standards of corporate social responsibility. The Canadian government cannot speak out for human rights in places like Burma and then allow Canadian companies to undermine these efforts by cooperating and legitimizing the regimes responsible for violating human rights in the first place. That is why we have heeded the call from Aung San Suu Kyi and demanded a carefully targeted divestment campaign to increase the pressure on the junta.

I remind the House of another person who had the honour of Canadian citizenship bestowed upon him, Nelson Mandela. When Mr. Mandela was in prison, Canada took leadership by ensuring all Canadian companies divested from the brutal apartheid regime of South Africa. That was the beginning of the end of apartheid. To truly honour Aung San Suu Kyi's fight for democracy and human rights we need the same leadership today.

Once again, the NDP caucus supports this motion. Her words echo in this chamber today, “use your liberty to promote ours”. Let us heed her call.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.


Luc Harvey Conservative Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the reports of the Canadian delegations of the Canadian Branch of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie, respecting their participation at the meeting of the Co-operation and Development Committee of the APF, held in Hanoi, Vietnam, from March 6 to 8, 2007. These reports also deal with their participation at the APF Network of Women Parliamentarians Seminar on the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, held in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, from May 3 to 4, 2007. Finally, these reports deal with the meeting of the Parliamentary Affairs Committee of the APF, held in Sofia, Bulgaria, from May 22 to 24, 2007.

Income Tax ActRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.


Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-462, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (refundable tax credit for low-income earners).

Mr. Speaker, one of the greatest responsibilities any government has is its duty to help those who are most underprivileged in our society. Homelessness, lower education levels and poor health outcomes saps hope and destroys futures. Within Canada there is a group of the poor that has to labour underneath that. Within that group are nearly one million children who labour under poverty.

It is for this reason that it is my honour to introduce in the House a private member's bill that would introduce the Canadian low income supplement. This supplement would put $2,000 in the hands of every family that earns under $20,000 a year, declining to zero for those families that earn less than $40,000. It puts real money in the hands of those who are most underprivileged in our society.

The government is enjoying a $14 billion surplus. Conservatives failed to introduce any credible poverty reduction plan in the Speech from the Throne and, quite frankly, have increased taxes on the poor. This is remarkable and unconscionable.

Therefore, I ask the government to support and quickly pass this private member's bill, pass the Canadian low income supplement, put real money in the hands of those Canadians who are underprivileged and ensure that they have the hope and the future to which all Canadians aspire.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario


Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I move the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, if a member of a political party in the House has not made his or her speech during the first round, at the conclusion of government orders, today, regarding the address in reply to the Speech from the Throne, the period will be extended to allow members to complete their speeches.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the government House leader have the unanimous consent of this House to move this motion?

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members


Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.


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

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members


Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

Human TraffickingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, today I present to the House three pages of petitions from people around Burlington, Ontario and Hamilton, Ontario. The petitioners ask that the government continue its work on stopping the human trafficking issue in Canada.

AfghanistanPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.


Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, I would like to table a petition presented by constituents from my riding, asking the federal government to immediately announce the withdrawal of Canadian troops from combat zones in Afghanistan at the end of the mission, in 2009, and also an immediate rebalancing of this mission, to put more emphasis on the humanitarian component and less emphasis on the military one.

There is significant support in every region of Quebec for the Bloc Québécois' reasonable position. It is my hope that the government will act quickly.

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am pleased to present a petition on the income trust broken promise, on behalf of Mrs. Gina Palmer of Calgary, Alberta, who remembers the Prime Minister boasting about his apparent commitment to accountability when he said “the greatest fraud is a promise not kept”.

The petitioners remind the Prime Minister that he had promised never to tax income trusts, but he recklessly broke that promise by imposing a 31.5% punitive tax, which permanently wiped out $25 billion from hard-earned retirement savings from over two million Canadians, particularly seniors.

The petitioners therefore call upon the Conservative minority government to: first, admit that the decision to tax income trusts was based on flawed methodology and incorrect assumptions; second, to apologize to those who were unfairly harmed by this broken promise; and finally, to repeal the 31.5% punitive tax.

LiteracyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.


Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present my first petition in this second sitting of the 39th Parliament that calls on Parliament to reinstate the funding of literacy programs cut by the Conservative government.

The petitioners, who are from St. John's East, note the importance of literacy for social and economic development and the impact it has on our society. They recognize the need for Canada to help the 38% of Canadians who have trouble reading and writing. They also recognize the $17.7 million cut from the funding of literacy programs, which contributed $10 billion annually in literacy costs to Canada.

I stand with the petitioners from St. John's East in calling for a reinstatement of literacy funding and to undertake a national literacy strategy to ensure that all Canadians have an opportunity to achieve vital skills.

The House resumed from October 16 consideration of the motion 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

3:40 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec


Stéphane Dion LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured, as leader of Her Majesty's official opposition, to rise today and lead the Liberal Party of Canada in responding to the Speech from the Throne to open the second session of the 39th Parliament of Canada.

I would like to begin by congratulating the Governor General for the elegance with which she delivered the Speech from the Throne. Unfortunately, my congratulations will almost have to stop there. The meagre Speech from the Throne delivered yesterday is so vague, so full of holes and raises so many concerns that it warrants little praise.

Yet, somehow, in thinking about this a lot, I may find something relatively positive to say about the speech. It is not as bad as the one we would have heard from the Conservative Party if it had been a majority government.

As the Prime Minister's most trusted political adviser, Professor Tom Flanagan, recently described, if the Conservatives form a majority government, rural economies would be threatened by a fatal assault on supply management and the Canadian Wheat Board. Health care would be subject to an agenda of Conservative “radical reform”. One may imagine what that means.

The work of our police officers and the safety of our citizens would be threatened by the absolute dismantling of the gun registry and our environment would be neglected by those who believe that, to quote Mr. Flanagan's incredibly irresponsible statement, “global warming may threaten the planet, but it actually improves the weather in Canada”.

Canadians can count on the Liberal Party. The Conservative Party will never form a majority.

The throne speech we heard yesterday, with all of its weaknesses, has to be assessed in light of the fact that Canadians do not want another election right now. They want Parliament to do its job.

Three general elections in three and a half years, not to mention the provincial elections held recently or to be held shortly, would be too much in the eyes of Canadians.

The Prime Minister and his government may be increasingly frustrated by an opposition that prevents them from implementing their ultra-Conservative program; but we, the official opposition, are determined to make Parliament work. That is what Canadians want.

Let us look at the more positive aspects of the Speech from the Throne. It is encouraging to see that the government intends to expand the scope of the Action Plan for Official Languages, which linguistic minorities are in the bad habit of calling the Dion plan. We hope the government will keep this promise and table a robust plan that it will not have to call the Dion plan II.

But why stop there? Why not revive the court challenges program that has done so much to protect minority rights? And why not reinstate the bilingual requirement for officers of the Canadian Forces?

We are pleased to see that the government has finally decided to offer an official apology to the victims of the Indian residential schools. This does not in any way discharge the government of its obligation to right the terrible wrongs caused by its rejection of the Kelowna Accord, which delayed urgently needed measures in education, health and infrastructure, and by its refusal to sign the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

We are also pleased with the government's interest in Canada's North and we support its intention to set up a world-class research station there. However, we would like to know the location of the site, the budget and the deadlines for achieving this plan.

It was high time for the government to keep its promise of mapping the Arctic seabed. It made that promise 18 months ago. We would like to know how the government intends to respect the crucial 2013 deadline to show that the continental shelf falls within Canadian territory, which our country is required to do since it ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The government also talked about expanding aerial surveillance in the North, but then why not deploy fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft, as the previous Liberal government planned to do?

One may also ask why the government makes no mention of the building of small craft harbours in the Arctic, when such a measure could create jobs and increase trade and tourism in northern Canada.

And why not take a collaborative diplomatic approach to assert our interests with the Arctic Council, the only international organization of circumpolar countries, which can deal with major Arctic issues, and within which Canada must still play a leadership role?

Finally, to conclude on the North, how can one talk about the North without talking about enhancing the quality of life of its inhabitants, the quality of life of the Inuit people and services that are provided to them, particularly at a time when global warming has such a profound effect on their way of life?

In another positive point in the Speech from the Throne, we were pleased to learn that the government was committed to supporting our veterans. However, the throne speech does not contain any provision to enhance the quality of life of active members of our armed forces and their families, particularly to help them overcome the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder that often follow their deployment overseas.

We take note of the government's intention to modernize the Canadian armed forces. However, we have some concerns about the way that it wants to do so. Will the government continue with its troubling reliance on contracting without tender? Contracts of $30 billion have already been awarded in this manner.

It is good to learn that the government has decided to make a commitment toward Haiti, but it remains vague on the exact nature of this commitment. Is it financial aid for basic health care? Is it funds for reforestation? We still do not know.

Of course we applaud the decision to grant Burmese dissident Aung San Suu Kyi honorary Canadian citizenship. This is an idea that we fully support and that our colleague from the Yukon has been promoting for months.

Let me now turn my attention to the more problematic sections of the speech, starting with the absurd expression that the Prime Minister keeps repeating. Let me tell the Prime Minister that when he argues that “Canada is back” he diminishes the fine tradition of Canadian peacekeeping and international leadership that long preceded the Conservative government's election to office.

And for that, Canadians must wonder where the Prime Minister was back when Canada obtained an international treaty banning landmines; when Canada was a main architect of the International Criminal Court; when Canadian armed forces airplanes were the only ones operating an airlift in and out of Kigali during the Rwanda genocide; when our soldiers fought to protect Bosnia's civilian population; or when Canada hosted the world in Montreal and rallied it around the Kyoto protocol.

The government's continued ambiguity on the mission in Afghanistan is also disconcerting. The government is being deliberately ambiguous about the length of the mission in Kandahar. In fact, it does not want to mention the word Kandahar. Nor does it mention the words “combat mission”. It refuses to call the Canadian mission in Kandahar what it is: a counter-insurgency combat mission in which our troops are required to proactively seek out and engage the Taliban.

The Prime Minister now wants Canadians to believe that this combat mission is a training mission. It is not. If the government wants to transform it into a training mission after February 2009, that could be an acceptable option, one that we have advocated for since last February and one that the blue ribbon panel on Afghanistan has been instructed to consider.

Still, the government should immediately notify NATO and the government of Afghanistan that our combat mission in Kandahar will end in February 2009. By refusing to do so, the government makes it more difficult to replace our troops and to prepare a new Canadian mission.

There is another question on Afghanistan. Why has the government asked the Manley panel to look at four options while the throne speech already chooses one of the four options: accelerated training of the Afghan army and police? Perhaps the Prime Minister should inform the panel that its work is done.

The mission in Afghanistan is an important one, but we cannot remain silent, as the throne speech does, on our other responsibilities around the world. Why has the Prime Minister turned his back on Africa? And what does the government intend to do in Darfur?

Beyond these international issues, we also have important domestic challenges to address. I would like to discuss the important issue of our federation, which has recently been affected by the Prime Minister's breach of trust with so many provinces.

The throne speech states that “the constitutional jurisdiction of each order of government should be respected”, but the Prime Minister should start by respecting premiers. It is inconceivable that after 19 months in office the Prime Minister of Canada has refused to call a first ministers meeting with the premiers. This is not open federalism. It is simply “my door is closed” federalism.

Hence, the Prime Minister wants to go ahead with his unilateral reform of the Senate despite the fact that many provinces have expressed serious disagreement with his proposals.

Now he is announcing that he will introduce legislation to formally limit the federal spending power. The Prime Minister should understand, however, that he must convene the premiers to discuss this most important issue. Otherwise, he would simply be guilty of more closed-door federalism.

Could I humbly suggest that the Prime Minister consult me on the issue of the federal spending power just as he consulted me before introducing the motion on the Quebec nation within Canada?

When he does, I will tell him that the federal spending power as he described it in the throne speech falls short of the present limits to that power that I myself, under the leadership of former Prime Minister Chrétien, introduced in the throne speech of 1996. More importantly, the proposed limits fall short of the social union agreement of which I was the architect.

To continue with my exercise in humility, I will add that no federal politician placed greater limits on the federal spending power than I did, but I did so without reducing its usefulness.

Let us hope that the Prime Minister's objective conforms with the spirit of the social union framework agreement; that is, to use the federal spending power as a tool both for social progress and for partnership between the governments of our great federation.

In Canada federal spending power has been instrumental in building the Canada-wide social programs that all Canadians value, such as medicare. It has been essential in promoting equality of opportunity for all Canadians, helping to ensure access to social programs and services to Canadians wherever they are in Canada.

The social union framework agreement, SUFA, recently helped to successfully negotiate the early learning and child care agreements with the provinces and territories. These agreements have, sadly, been cancelled by the Conservatives, depriving millions of children and families of billions of dollars in funding to improve their early childhood development opportunities.

We Liberals will make sure that the initiatives of the Conservative government do not in any way diminish the value of the federal spending power as a tool to promote social progress for Canadians and good partnerships between governments. We will not allow the Prime Minister to build a federalism of firewalls.

Let me also remind the government that today in Canada more than half a million of our senior citizens live in poverty. The men and women who built this country deserve better.

Today in Canada, more than one million children live in poverty. We cannot waste a generation. All of our children deserve to share in the bounty of our nation.

A plan to fight poverty is urgent and, let me tell everyone, it will be at the heart of our Liberal agenda.

Earlier, I mentioned our health care plan, which is the result of a wise use of the federal spending power. In the throne speech, the government congratulates itself—not really honestly, I might add—for the progress it made in shortening wait times. Unfortunately, we do not see any such progress. In fact, according to a recent report by the Fraser Institute, the average wait time for surgery in Canada now stands at 18.3 weeks, the longest it has ever been.

Now, I come to the economy. The Conservative government inherited an unprecedented economic dynamism thanks to the efforts of Canadians and to a decade of sound financial management by the previous Liberal government. The economy has not been in such good shape since Confederation. This is the longest growth period in decades. We have the highest growth rate of all G-8 countries with major job creation, balanced budgets, a trade surplus and a reduction of our national debt. Our country is the only one to have succeeded in putting its pension plan on a solid footing for the long term.

Over the past 19 months, the Conservative government has been content with just riding on this strong economy without having any plans or convincing scheme to enhance our economy's potential. That is what I call being near-sighted. Let us not delude ourselves into thinking that there will be no end to the current growth. The fact is that this government has done more harm than good in terms of Canada's international competitiveness. It is about to allocate $12 billion per year to cut the GST by two points, a measure that will not allow Canadians to bring more money home, does nothing to combat poverty and does not make our economy more competitive in any way.

The Conservatives' interest deductibility proposal is a frontal attack on the competitiveness of Canadian companies and has been denounced as the worst tax policy in 35 years. It will cost Canadian companies billions and will serve mainly to enrich foreign governments. The Prime Minister has not listened to common sense, but it is not too late for him to do so.

It is not the time to make such mistakes. The parity of our currency with the U.S. dollar, the uncertainty of the U.S. market, the high cost of energy, and the new powerhouses of India and China are all putting pressure on our economy and on the exporters and manufacturers that generate the jobs upon which we depend to maintain our high standard of living. Nearly 80,000 workers have lost their jobs in the manufacturing sector this year alone.

To maintain these jobs, and to enhance this standard of living well into the future, we must find ways to improve the innovation, competiveness and productivity of our businesses and workers.

The throne speech mentions infrastructure. It mentions post-secondary education. It mentions science and technology. It mentions the manufacturing, forestry, fisheries, mining, resources, tourism and agriculture sectors. But a mention is no substitute for a plan. We hope that the fall economic and fiscal update will provide clarity on how the government will improve Canada's competitiveness.

The throne speech promises tax cuts, but the government actually raised income tax rates in the lowest bracket from 15% to 15.5%. This decision costs Canadians over a billion dollars every year.

On international trade, the government did not explain why it closed consulates in key markets such as St. Petersburg, Osaka and Milan.

The government went to lengths to hide the flawed softwood lumber agreement, an agreement that cost the Canadian industry at least $1 billion, which is being put in the hands of those now using the money to sue our companies.

On the matter of criminal justice and security for Canadians, the government laments that much of its legislation did not pass. What the government always fails to mention is that for months it systematically refused Liberal offers to fast track the majority of its legislation. Of the six bills the government wants to reintroduce as part of the tackling violent crime bill, we already support five.

It is the government that obstructed the passage of these bills, causing them to die on the order paper at prorogation, and it did so to the detriment of the security of Canadians. Hopefully the government will be more cooperative in the coming session. We urge the government to stop playing politics with the Criminal Code and to stop putting partisan politics ahead of the safety of Canadians.

Further, with respect to the tackling violent crime bill, we obviously want to see exactly what the legislation will say. We could support it if includes measures that would make Canadians safer. We Liberals are tough on crime and we are tough on the causes of crime.

As for the Anti-terrorism Act, the government has not indicated what changes we can expect. We hope that this time it will be informed by the 100 recommendations made by the House and the Senate in their recent reports and that it will not renew its attempts to play politics with such an important issue.

This brings me to the most disappointing aspect of the Speech from the Throne: extremely weak environmental protection measures.

Once again, the government missed an opportunity to meet the challenge of fighting global warming, the most serious environmental threat facing humanity today.

In this Speech from the Throne, the government said that Canada's greenhouse gas emissions could not be reduced to the level required under the Kyoto protocol for the first phase of implementation, that is between 2008 and 2012. One thing is sure, with this government's so-called plan, greenhouse gas emissions are bound to continue increasing in Canada.

Let me outline the damages the Prime Minister and his government have caused to Canada.

All I need to do is sum up the Sierra Club of Canada's Kyoto report card for 2007. It explains that last year the Conservatives cut over $5 billion worth of investment in environment and climate change programs. The Sierra Club said:

Federal programs were slashed, and the importance of addressing global warming was downplayed.

An entire year was lost.

The Sierra Club goes on to say:

--Canada had a plan for reaching its Kyoto targets. This plan, Project Green...had provided a foundation for action upon which new Conservative initiatives could have been built.... Instead of improving Project Green, the new government shredded it along with its programs and its institutions, in March 2006.

This is what the government has been doing to Canada. It has spent all of 2007 trying to reannounce the programs it scrapped in 2006, changing their names and their logos with less money, less commitment, no coherence and incompetence in implementation.

This is what the Conservatives have done to Canada. Now look at what they have done to the world.

Let me again quote the Sierra Club:

The current government also inherited the presidency of the International Climate negotiations, which had been led by former environment minister [the Leader of the Opposition]. The Canadian government’s efforts at the international climate change conference in Montreal won Canada international praise.

Under the new Conservative government, Canada quickly went from hero to zero. At an international conference in Bonn, Canada attempted to sabotage the Kyoto Protocol.

It is what the Prime Minister means when he says that Canada is back.

In contrast, in 2007, the official opposition proposed an enhanced climate change plan to conquer our industrial emissions, the carbon budget. When we launched this carbon budget in March 2007, the Pembina Institute said:

This is the strongest proposal for regulating industrial greenhouse gas pollution made by any political party in Canada.

--it sets the right targets and the right timelines....

The Climate Action Network said:

This is great. It's hard to ask for much more

It is important to recognize that the other two opposition parties agreed to include this regulatory plan in Bill C-30 on air quality and climate change.

On August 23, I wrote to the Prime Minister to ask him not to scrap Bill C-30 after proroguing the House. The Prime Minister did not even deign to reply. On reading the throne speech, we can see why.

The Conservatives will only bring forward the minor parts of the clean air and climate change act, the ones they allow their members to support. As a result, the regulatory framework to cut and bring down gas emissions is gone. The regulatory framework to improve air quality is gone. The autonomous emissions standards are gone. This is a step backwards in the face of a major global challenge.

What are we left with? We are left with a government plan that has been panned by all credible experts in Canada and abroad, a climate change plan that has been panned by all the experts, like the new Nobel Prize winner, Al Gore, who called the Prime Minister's plan “a complete and total fraud, designed to mislead the Canadian people”.

The Pembina Institute, that once rated Project Green, the Liberal plan killed by the Conservatives, would have delivered almost seven times more reduction than the government's current approach.

The Deutsche Bank said, “We think that the Canadian government has materially overstated the cost of complying with Kyoto. Under current policies, we would expect Canada's industrial gas emissions to continue rising over 2006-2020".

According to the C.D. Howe Institute, with the government plan, “overall emissions in Canada are unlikely to fall below current levels” until 2050 and beyond.

The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research said:

--targets set by your government are so easy to meet that oil companies could end up with a windfall of $400 million worth of easy credits.

Under the Conservative plan polluters do not pay; polluters get paid.

I could also quote the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, which also harshly criticized the government's plan.

The throne speech states that national regulations to reduce emissions will be implemented this year. We do not know what the government is talking about, since its own regulations will not see the light before 2010 at the earliest. Does this mean that the government has changed its mind and will assign a monetary value to carbon in 2008?

Let us hope that the government understands that it must significantly strengthen all its initiatives to protect the environment and fight climate change.

Canadians can count on the official opposition to press the government to take action and be accountable. The government must understand that any deadline set for meeting our targets for the first phase of implementation of the Kyoto protocol, which ends in 2012, can be corrected during the second phase, after 2012. But to do that, we have to start today. That is why the government has to significantly toughen its measures to fight climate change.

The official opposition will cooperate fully with the government to help it reach real targets. Canada must remain a party to the Kyoto protocol, the only international accord to fight what is a global threat.

The official opposition certainly remains very critical of the throne speech but never before has a federal government fallen on the basis of a throne speech.

Canadians can count on the official opposition to do everything it can to make this Parliament work. To that end, we will propose amendments and we will not make the government fall on its throne speech, which would cause a third general election in four years, something Canadians have clearly shown they do not want.

The amendments we are putting forward would enable us to support the throne speech. If they are rejected, we will do as the NDP when it decided on October 16, 2006 to abstain on the vote on the softwood lumber agreement in order to avoid causing an election.

As another leader of the official opposition said some years ago, “I believe it's not in the national interest to have an election now. What has become apparent is that the Bloc Québécois and the NDP will grandstand on these things but it is up to us, our caucus, to decide whether the time has come to have an election. In our judgment and I think in Canadians' judgment it is not that time”.

Everybody will have guessed that this leader of the opposition, quoted on March 10, 2005, is our current Prime Minister when he was explaining his party's dissension to the 2005 budget.

I will now move an amendment that could even allow the official opposition to support the throne speech if it met with the approval of the House. I move:

That the motion be amended by adding the following:

and this House calls upon the government to recognize that any shortfall in meeting our 2012 Kyoto commitments would be a result of their decision to kill the previous government's innovative Project Green plan, followed by 18 months of inaction, and the government must replace its weak approach with real action to create the momentum required for Canada to catch-up in the second phase of Kyoto;

to announce now that the Canadian combat mission in Kandahar will end in February 2009 in order to facilitate a replacement, and begin discussions with NATO and the Government of Afghanistan on what non-combat role Canada can play afterwards to aid in the reconstruction of Afghanistan;

to end 18 months of inaction in the fight against poverty in Canada by building on the good work of the previous Liberal government that funded such initiatives as the Canada Child Tax Benefit, affordable housing, literacy, the Supporting Communities Partnership Initiative (SCPI) and the Working Income Tax Benefit; and

to stop taking for granted the unprecedented strong economy and fiscal success inherited by this government from its predecessor and bring forward proposals to reduce corporate taxes and other measures that will improve the economy of Canada, especially in sectors such as manufacturing and agriculture, and lessen the impact of the government's egregious mistakes on income trusts and interest deductibility.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:20 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The leader of the opposition has moved that the address be amended by adding thereto the following:

--and this House calls upon the government--

May I dispense?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:20 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

[Chair read text of amendment to house]

The Speaker:

The question is on the amendment.

Questions and comments. The hon. Minister of Transport.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:25 p.m.

Pontiac Québec


Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition treated us to quite a lecture this afternoon.

Over the past 40 years, this country has seen a number of attempts to limit federal spending power. These discussions have usually ended in failure. For example, in the 1960s, there was the debate over the Victoria charter. There were constitutional talks between 1968 and 1971, and in 1978 and 1979. There was the Meech Lake accord, in which the opposition party played a major role. There was the Charlottetown accord, and there was social union.

This brings me to my main point: the Leader of the Opposition is telling everyone to pay attention to him because he is Mr. Canada and he managed to—

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:25 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please.

The hon. Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.