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House of Commons Hansard #3 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was opposition.

Topics

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me where the environment is concerned in the speech from the member for Don Valley West, there is a credibility gap that is causing us all some problems.

One is the 13 years, or 12 point something years as was pointed out this morning, that the Liberals had in office and were expected to do something about climate change and Kyoto. The member being a very credible champion on the environment, how did that happen under his watch?

The other problem is that the Conservatives in their Speech from the Throne have really nothing more to offer except a criticism of the inaction of the previous government. That is causing us all some real concerns and problems. Maybe the member for Don Valley West could explain to us how this could have happened under his watch.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The clock has run out. I will not recognize the hon. member for Don Valley West, but the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis for a short response.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, climate change is the issue of the millennium. It is a complex issue and it requires laying a foundation. It requires building public commitment to get behind government initiatives to combat climate change, which are controversial because they challenge consumers and they challenge businesses.

How easily can we do that when every day in the House of Commons sitting opposite us is the Prime Minister who says that climate change does not exist and that Kyoto is some kind of socialist plot.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate, the hon. Minister of Public Safety.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:05 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to address issues related to the Speech from the Throne.

I would like to start by thanking my constituents in the Okanagan and Nicola valleys, some of the most beautiful territory in all of Canada, I might add. Some of the ideas for the very elements that are in the Speech from the Throne germinated from constituents around the Okanagan and Nicola valleys in the constituency of Okanagan—Coquihalla who, over the past number of years, have brought to me concerns related to some of the elements I want to address today in the Speech from the Throne, notably areas related to safety and security.

It is a priority for each level of government to have a country and communities with safe and secure roads, countryside and schools. That is very important. It is a priority.

It should be the priority of every government that the safety and security of its citizens is paramount. I want to touch on some of the ways in which we have demonstrated that in the last year and half or so. I would then like to reflect on what we heard in the Speech from the Throne yesterday that is specifically related to some of the initiatives on criminal justice reform which will enhance not just safety and security in the country but the sense of safety and security that we have in our country or that we need to have.

We can look at statistics and we can also look at this in an anecdotal way. Today I want to do both. I have an uncle who lives in the Okanagan Valley. Obviously he is a senior citizen, being my uncle, and not that long ago in the middle of the afternoon as he was walking in his residential area to the grocery store he was approached by two males. They did not appear to be armed, but they told him, and he is a frail gentleman, that they wanted his wallet or they were going to beat him senseless right on the sidewalk.

This is a not uncommon occurrence across our country. There are people who do not have a fear of repercussions or an understanding of the consequences of their actions. I can apply that anecdote statistically. Across the country from Vancouver to Halifax and from our southern borders to our northern borders, this adds up to a sense of apprehension Canadians have that communities are not as safe as they could be.

I believe that if we were to ask Canadians if they feel that streets are safer now than they were two years ago with regard to some of the things we have been doing, most Canadians would say yes, but in fact there is more to do. We have committed to 1,000 more RCMP officers on our streets from coast to coast. We know that the visibility of peace officers, just their presence, has the effect of lowering crime in any particular area in which their presence is obvious.

We have committed to that. That is fully and federally funded. Also, the $37 million required to expand the training facilities at depot is already in play. Not long ago I was out at depot in Regina, the training facility for the RCMP, and I saw that some of the new facilities are already online. I met with many of the young cadets and spoke to a graduating class. I can tell members that I am very encouraged. I have a real sense of security and a sense of pride at the type of people the RCMP continues to attract and to graduate to serve us in our communities around the country.

Further to the 1,000 officers at the RCMP level, we have also made a commitment to work with provinces and municipalities so that we will have 2,500 more municipal officers across the country. I have been in discussions with my counterparts at the provincial and territorial level, the solicitors general and attorneys general, to discuss the funding formula. This is not 100% funded by the federal government. It is going to be cost shared.

At our borders we have begun the process of hiring 400 additional border officers to put an end to what we call work alone situations, in which border officers often are required to work in remote locations and to work there alone, which really is not conducive to a sense of safety or security, either for the people living along the border or for the border officers themselves.

We also have followed through on our commitment that our border officers, after decades of asking for this, finally will be trained and equipped to have side arms so they can handle dangerous situations when they get alerted that dangerous and armed individuals are approaching the border. As we know, that has not been in place for decades, the result of which has been that border officers have felt they actually have to vacate their posts because they receive an indication that armed and dangerous individuals are approaching them. They have to close down the border at that point, alert the police of the jurisdiction, be it the RCMP or municipal police, and wait for them to arrive.

All of the incumbent difficulties with this, not the least of which are long lineups that result, especially at busy border points, have been counterproductive, both on business and trade and certainly for travellers back and forth across the border. We have moved in a number of areas on this. I made an announcement last January for a commitment of $430 million strictly on the technological side to improve our borders and our capability of moving people efficiently across the border, but also to make it very difficult for dangerous individuals or in fact dangerous cargo to be moving across the border.

It is a challenge to keep our borders open to travellers who are not a threat but to close the borders to those who represent a threat to our country.

We need to have that balance at our borders.

Therefore, on the resource side we have been there and we continue to be there. We have increased resources for the RCMP, resources that were eroded over a number of years by the previous regime, something that did not result in beneficial headway being made in terms of providing safety and security. When we take away the resources of the very people who are providing that safety and security, it does not lead to a positive conclusion.

We have increased the resources for our DNA centres and for the National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre. I would like to acknowledge today those individuals for the breakthroughs they have been involved in internationally in working with Interpol and other agencies in terms of bringing child predators to justice, including very recently a case that has been in the media whereby an individual allegedly involved in the exploitation of children is still being looked for. Once again, we and exploitation coordination centre experts are at the front and centre of this type of pursuit. We have also increased our resources in a number of other investigative areas.

Up to now I have been talking about enforcement. I have been talking about what I refer to as the long arm of the law. We also have to recognize that there are the open arms of the community. This is not all about enforcement. We have funded in a very significant way the groups at the local level who have the expertise, the know-how and the sense of what is happening on their own streets to have the types of programs that would prevent young people from even getting into a life of crime.

Many young people today are being attracted to gang activity, to illegal activities such as drug activities and others, which leads to the most tragic incidents we have seen in some time, with shootings on our streets and some of the most violent things that are taking place. Therefore, we fund with federal funds at a local level those groups and agencies that have proven they have a program that works. Those are the two words I use as criteria.

There are other more detailed criteria that flow from it, but we want to know what works in Canadians' communities. That is what we are saying to Canadians. We are asking them to show us what works in terms of identifying youth at risk, vulnerable families, progress toward reducing recidivism and programs projected to our aboriginal community. We are asking them to show us those programs, to show us what works, and we will fund it.

Along with that on the prevention side is the $64 million the Prime Minister announced about three weeks ago for our anti-drug strategy, in which two-thirds of the resources are dedicated to awareness, prevention and actual treatment centres, which means literally more beds for treatment across the country, especially in dealing with drug and substance abuse and the addictions that go with it. We are very keen about and very focused on the prevention side.

Going back to the other side of that ledger, the enforcement side, our Minister of Justice announced today, and the Prime Minister announced yesterday in his comments responding to the Speech from the Throne, that there are some areas where we have to get tougher, if I can use those words, when it comes to the enforcement side and serious, repeat violent crime. That is what we are talking about.

Our police officers across the country and our various security agencies have told us for some time, for instance, that we need legislation to more capably and more effectively designate people as dangerous offenders. There are individuals out there who, it would appear, are impervious to attempts at rehabilitation, not that we would ever give up on an individual. I believe in rehabilitation and I believe a person's heart can change, but there are individuals whose actions are so violent and repetitive that these individuals literally should not be allowed on our streets. It would be extremely helpful to be able to designate people as dangerous offenders in a more effective way.

Opposition parties have resisted our ability to do that. We are not talking about thousands of people here. We are talking about a relatively small handful of people and about designating them as dangerous offenders and taking them off our streets. That is part of what we are proposing. It is part of what my colleague, the Minister of Justice, has proposed.

We are also proposing that when it comes to gun crime and people who commit crimes with firearms, especially in a repeated way, there should be mandatory jail terms. I am astonished that opposition members have resisted this. I am astonished that when the bill in its previous form went to committee, they watered it down. I am astonished that the majority of Liberals, when it came to a vote, voted against mandatory jail terms for the use of firearms in the commission of a crime. Why would the Liberals vote against that? Why would they not support it? It defies imagination. I have no idea, but our police officers tell us that we and they need that type of legislative tool to get some of the worst criminals off the street.

We have seen many situations whereby serious repeat violent offenders are arrested and it always falls upon the Crown to prove why they should be held in jail for their court times and not have bail. This is what we are talking about when it comes to repeat serious offenders. I have just read a docket on an individual with over 100 offences, almost two dozen of those being violent assaults, who is out on the streets again, with the impetus and the responsibility on the Crown to try to prove he should not be getting bail. That person should prove why he should have the right to be out on bail.

That is why we have this term: the reverse onus on bail. It is requiring these individuals, and again, we are talking about serious repeat offenders, to prove why they should have the right to be out there threatening our citizens on the street.

When it comes to protecting our children, I can remember sitting as an opposition member, a memory which I hope I will never have to relive as a member of Parliament. I hope the good people of Canada will continue to support what we are doing and I will not have to go through the situation of being in opposition, but there we were as an opposition caucus about four years ago getting a presentation from the Toronto police related to this very serious area of the exploitation of children, especially on the Internet. The officer who was presenting this talked about the fact that in Toronto alone in one year they seized over two million exhibits of children being exploited on the Internet and through other means.

The police begged. They said, “Please, continue to put pressure on the government of the day to raise the age of consent between a minor and an adult to at least 16 years”. We are not talking about between teenagers here.

We asked the government of the day to do that. For years we asked the government to do that and the Liberals never did it. They never stood up to protect our kids in that way. I remember saying in those days that any government of the land that does not stand up to protect the children of the land really forfeits the right to govern the land. That Liberal government is not governing any longer and yet the Liberals continue to resist, now in a Liberal-dominated Senate, this simple request to raise the age of protection for children from 14 to 16.

My constituents ask me what would motivate a group of individuals in the Senate to not want to protect children by raising the age of consent from 14 to 16. I do not know. I cannot explain it. I cannot explain why for years the Liberals opposite, right here in this assembly, resisted doing that, but they did. I do not understand it. I know most of my Liberal colleagues. I think they are decent people, but somewhere their thinking is wired in the wrong direction on this.

On Bill C-2, we are talking about a bill that addresses the area of serious, repeat violent crime. That is what we are asking for. It has been debated. It has been watered down by the opposition members. It has been out there for too long. The people of Canada deserve better. The people of Canada deserve to have a sense that the people who say they represent them are indeed doing that.

I believe this bill is going to accomplish something else. Often when opposition members leave this place at the end of the week, they go home and talk tough on these issues at home. But when they get back here, where they think they are in the safety of this chamber, they vote against the very measures they told their constituents they were going to be tough about.

Those days are over. The opposition is going to vote against dealing with serious repeat criminals. It will be obvious. The opposition will have to stand here and have to vote, and their constituents are going to see where they really stand. It is time to stand up for safety and security in our country.

We want a country that is more safe and secure. Naturally, we now have a safe country, but we must focus our attention on this matter particularly with Bill C-2.

I will close with a comment on national security. Canada is not immune to threats of terror. About four years ago Canada was listed with several other countries on a list by Osama bin Laden. Canada was on that list as a target country. Canada is the only one that was on that particular list and has not been hit. We want to keep it that way. It is our intention to keep it that way.

Our police officers need certain legislative provisions to help them in their job. To protect the national security of our country there are some provisions in the Anti-terrorism Act and a provision in our security certificate process. People from coast to coast have commented on this, from Vancouver to Halifax, from the north to the south and all points in between, that one thing that we have resolved is these provisions that will help us in dealing with the risk of terror incidents here in Canada.

Many of these provisions were put in place by the Liberals. They had a sunset clause on them, which is a good thing to have. It meant that after five years we evaluate those provisions to see if they have been abused in any way.

The provisions in the Anti-terrorism Act and the provisions of the security certificates were seen not to have been abused. That will be coming back.

I am asking the Leader of the Opposition to listen to the many Liberals and former Liberals, including the former deputy prime minister, the former public safety minister, my predecessor, and others. They are saying to the leader of the Liberal opposition, “please allow these protections to go through. Please allow our agencies to be equipped with the legislative tools they need to effectively protect us from acts of terror and people who are planning acts of terror”.

Strangely and shockingly, the Leader of the Opposition has flip-flopped on that issue. At least his last intention was not to support it. I believe that time here in this Chamber has allowed him to reconsider, just as it allowed him to reconsider not voting against the Speech from the Throne. He had some thought. He thought about the ramifications of that and he decided to support us in a meagre way.

I am asking that when it comes to safety and security, I am appealing to all colleagues in this House, that we would set aside partisan differences and vote together for a country that will be safe and a country that will be secure.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's thoughtful speech. I have two questions. My first is related to the border. I appreciate the attempts that the minister is making to improve security on our border. I think that is very important.

I met with representatives from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce yesterday. One of the things they said the federal government could do to help in relation to the border was speeding up border crossings. I know this is not in the minister's department, but he sits in cabinet. Is he aware of any initiatives that the government is doing to help improve the flow, while also increasing security? I think that would be helpful.

My second question is related to the statement on national security and strengthening the Anti-terrorism Act. I have no problem with improvements in those areas.

As I am sure the minister remembers, when these items came up in the past, there was a passionate debate on the balance of individual rights in relation to how much was necessary to actually ensure the security of Canadians. I am hoping that the minister is taking due consideration of that. Are there any particular steps that he is taking to make sure that individual rights are protected, but still increasing security as is required for Canadians?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to border security, it does fall under areas of my jurisdiction and I could ask the member for Yukon to reassure the members of the chamber, with whom I meet also, that we are following up on a number of their particular suggestions related to this balance of having borders that are secure but borders that allow low-risk travel to move quickly across.

I would encourage all Canadians to think of applying for what is known as the NEXUS card. One can go online to apply for that at getnexus.com or at the public safety website. A NEXUS card would allow a person far more rapid access across the border.

We have been very vigorous pursuing the area of the western hemisphere travel initiative which is a U.S. law requiring all Canadians, and Americans as a matter of fact, to have a passport when they travel to the United States. We have been successful in negotiating some alternative documents for that, but I can tell members that the Americans intend to apply that particular law at the land borders sometime next year; they are saying as early as January.

We are asking that they give consideration to delaying that, but we are working with the provinces and territories in a number of areas to allow for what is called an enhanced driver's licence that would have criteria that would allow a person to use their driver's licence to actually get into the United States. So, we are using a number of these provisions.

I can assure the member opposite that we are listening closely to the all-party committees that have given advice into this area of balancing security with safety and our civil rights to make sure that when we are trying to keep terrorists from harming Canadians, we will make sure our civil rights are protected at the same time. It is a fine balance and we will work closely with members like the member for Yukon to get that balance right.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister knows that we share his objective of reducing crime rates. However, although we agree with some of the solutions he would like to propose, we do not agree with all of them. Like the minister, we believe that offenders who repeatedly commit serious crimes deserve harsher sentences. I noted that the proposed minimums are less harsh than what the courts normally impose.

I would like to know if the minister does indeed have a study on appeal court decisions concerning offenders who repeatedly commit serious crimes and on the sentences upheld by the appeal courts. We know that, every day across Canada, thousands of judges hand down thousands of decisions. It is quite possible that some of these decisions are very poorly reported in the media, which gives the public a false impression of our judges' decisions. In any case, even if some judges make mistakes, we have appeal courts to reverse those decisions.

Does the minister have a study that proves that appeal courts are not imposing the minimum sentences they would like to impose on offenders who repeatedly commit serious crimes? We oppose minimum sentences because, for several reasons, minimum sentences have never successfully reduced crime rates nor have they prevented crime. What they do is force judges, in exceptional circumstances, after they have examined all the relevant factors, to hand down decisions that go against their conscience.

Thus, before we force judges to impose such sentences, it would be worthwhile to determine, with certainty, if the appeal courts are upholding sentences that are not harsh enough. If trial judges are not imposing these sentences, the next step, in my opinion, should not be Parliament; it should be the appeal process.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I can say sincerely that we agree with our colleagues on many aspects of the anti-crime bill. But there are other issues on which we do not agree with them.

I have met a few times with my counterpart from Quebec, the minister whose portfolio is similar to mine, on the provincial side. We want to develop agreements whereby we can continue to recognize the areas of jurisdiction of the provinces, especially Quebec, that have developed their own specific programs. We will continue to work respectfully with the Government of Quebec and the people of Quebec.

Regarding mandatory minimum sentences, my colleague said that there are no studies proving that mandatory minimum sentences can prevent crime. I do not agree with him.

We know one thing for sure: people who are in prison cannot commit crimes against our citizens. For each individual case, there would be no crime committed against our citizens.

In response to his question about the appeal courts, it is true that there are documents that show the severity of appeal court sentences and can be used to determine whether judges hand down stiffer sentences to repeat offenders. Three weeks ago, I produced a list of judgments in courts in western Canada. The list shows that people who have committed 50, 60, 70, 80 and sometimes more than 100 crimes continue to receive very light sentences.

I understand that judges have reasons for the decisions they hand down. I am not arguing with that. But if offenders receive stiffer sentences, of more than two years, they are sent to a federal rather than a provincial prison, and they can benefit from addiction treatment programs that can prevent them from reoffending.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by saying that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park.

As well, since this is my first formal speech in the House since winning the byelection last September 17, I would like to thank the voters in the riding of Outremont for the trust they placed in me. I shall prove myself worthy of that trust by working with the same resolve and determination I have always shown in carrying out my duties, whether as a member of the National Assembly or in other capacities throughout my career.

This byelection may well have heralded a shift that will prove very important on the political scene in Quebec and Canada. The Speech from the Throne this week provided a few examples of this change. Take two issues in particular that were mentioned in the Speech from the Throne: Afghanistan and the environment, especially the Kyoto protocol, which people very often mentioned and had questions about during my election campaign.

When deciding last April to lend my experience and voice to the NDP, at the request of our leader, I realized that my personal priorities—those that have always motivated me in my political life—were in fact the priorities of the NDP. Genuine, ongoing, credible concerns about the environment and sustainable development, a strong voice for peace and the role that Canada has always played in the world, and an honest desire to ensure that the prosperity we enjoy in our society is equitably distributed: that is the kind of message that we brought forward in a campaign lasting several months in our case.

I joined the NDP in April but the byelection was not called until July 28. Nevertheless, we had already been working away in Outremont for months. We knew what a challenge it would be. More than one commentator remarked that Outremont was an impregnable Liberal stronghold. Well, the impregnable stronghold has fallen. I am very proud to be one of the first NDP members to represent a Quebec riding.

As I went door to door, the two major issues people wanted to talk about were first, the environment, and second, Afghanistan. I would like to discuss both of these issues as part of the debate on this week's Speech from the Throne so that we all understand the major change taking place in Canada and Quebec.

I would say that over the past forty years, the dividing line in Quebec politics—which has had an enormous influence on federal politics in Canada—has been between positions on constitutional issues, not on economic or social issues. Members of Quebec's National Assembly fell either to the right or the left of that dividing line. Those on one side were united by their vision of an independent Quebec, and those on the other by their belief that Canada was much better off with Quebec, that Quebec was better off with Canada, and that it was entirely possible to be both a Quebecker and a Canadian.

Others see things differently and are truly trying to make Quebec an independent country. I have always made it clear that I do not support that vision. However, I have spent my whole working life in Quebec, and I can tell you that the vision of an independent Quebec is shared by people who understand that when one speaks of the Quebec nation, it has to be more than lip service; it has to mean something real.

As for the environment, let us look at how we differ from the current Conservative government and the previous Liberal government.

It is an interesting week for this comparison. This week, the former prime minister, Mr. Chrétien, published his memoirs. It is interesting to note that in his memoirs, he blames his successor, who is still a member here. He himself says that it was his successor's fault that Canada was not able to meet its Kyoto objectives. Interestingly, the current leader of the Liberal Party was the environment minister when this successor was prime minister.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:40 p.m.

An hon. member

This is unbelievable.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

In other words, a former Liberal prime minister who was in power for more than 10 years is now saying that we did not meet our Kyoto objectives because of the current leader of the Liberal Party. What is very true is that for 13 years, instead of reducing greenhouse gases in Canada, the Liberals ended up with an increase unparalleled anywhere else in the world. No Kyoto signatory experienced such large increases in its greenhouse gases.

The current Conservative government is trying to use this negligence, this incompetence, as a pretext for its continued inaction. That is precisely what is proposed in the throne speech.

During my door-to-door visits in Outremont, people asked us to get over the two splits that have divided us for too long. They asked us to get over the old division that makes us look only at our constitutional position and to disregard what we were going to do for future generations regarding the economy or social justice. They asked us to bring the vision and the priorities of the NDP to this House, to represent this riding in Quebec. This is why I am so proud to be the NDP member for Outremont.

The other file that was most often addressed after the environment was, of course, the current combat mission in southern Afghanistan. I would like to state very clearly that our troops, the Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan, all deserve our utmost respect and admiration for their dedication. However, it is our job to say that we certainly do not share the government's vision regarding this military intervention, following the lead of the Americans at this time. In our view, as several experts have indicated, this mission is doomed to failure. To put it very clearly, we believe that there is less security in Afghanistan today, not more. Although people may convince themselves that this is noble mission, we must look at the facts.

The facts are that dozens of young Canadians have come home in coffins and leading experts are telling us that we must pursue a comprehensive peace process. That is precisely the message of the NDP and this is also why I am so proud to work for future generations and the environment, for peace and a more equitable vision of society for all Canadians.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would take this opportunity to welcome the new member for Outremont to the House. I know he worked very hard to win that riding, as many of us do during elections to win our respective ridings. I congratulate him for that.

However, there is an incomplete vision, I believe, on the part of the NDP with respect to Afghanistan. The NDP members say that they do not support the current mission but they have not provided any vision of the type of mission they would support. Although they often say that they would like to provide aid, they do not say aid to whom, which is the big question. Without security, there can be no aid and no development. We cannot help the women and six million children who are going to school.

I ask the hon. member to please think about the long term effects for the six million children who are currently in school and what a profound difference that will make in Afghanistan over the next 20 years.

Could the member share some of that vision? Does he understand that the six million children currently in school will make a significant difference on the future of Afghanistan? I would like to hear the answers.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Peterborough for his comments. I want to assure him that in my view, we have worked on this issue long enough to offer a valid opinion.

From our point of view, there is less security in this poor country—and I use that word on purpose. Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world that has been at war almost without pause since the former Soviet Union's invasion in December 1979.

Afghans have the right to benefit from all of Canada's peacekeeping experience and credibility. Since Operation Enduring Freedom, the creation of the international security assistance force and the exclusion of certain parties from the Bonn process, we have become more or less stuck in a U.S. led war. We feel this is a serious mistake.

Let us use our credibility and our peacekeeping experience. Let us go back to being peace builders. The women and children the hon. member so eloquently spoke of would truly be able to live a better life in the future.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I join my voice with those of all my colleagues in welcoming the hon. member to the House of Commons. I congratulate him on his election and I wish him much success in his career in Parliament.

I have the following question for him. I would like to know his thoughts on the issue of limiting or even eliminating federal spending power in provincial jurisdictions.

I am sure that, like me, he prefers solid social programs and federal government intervention in concert with the provincial governments, in order to improve the quality of life of Canadians, especially those who have fewer resources than others who do not have as much need for social programs. Often, whether in health care, employment insurance, child care or early education, these social programs require the federal government to intervene in provincial jurisdictions.

I would like to know his opinion on what might be in the bill the Conservative government will introduce.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from West Nova for his question, and I will take the liberty of recommending that he carefully read the record of what his own leader said yesterday. He may realize that his position is rather at odds with that of his leader on this very important question, which has often led to heated discussions here in Canada.

If the member would like to know the NDP position on this issue, he need only read the important bill on child care. It contains a very clear provision which exempts Quebec from the application of this legislation, since Quebec already has a position. That is what the NDP leader clearly stated yesterday.

I can also say to the member that what is being proposed here does not create any difficulties for us, quite the contrary. If he were to examine NDP history, he would see that for the past 30 years we have always clearly understood that Quebec is a nation. It is not just a nation in a vague and vacuous sense. There must be meaning to this expression.

That is an indication that this position will restrict federal intervention in areas of exclusive jurisdiction, bearing in mind the different definitions that have been proposed. We are all waiting to see—

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Parkdale—High Park.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to take part in the debate. It is a privilege for me to speak in the House on behalf of my constituents in Parkdale--High Park in Toronto.

The riding that I represent in the west end of Toronto is bordering on Lake Ontario and it is home to many newcomers to Canada who make their home in Canada's largest city. It is also home to many young families who are squeezed by the high cost of housing, the lack of child care and the erosion of community spending.

Many seniors in our area, who have worked hard all their lives to build our country, now believe our country is leaving them behind. We have many artists and people who work in the cultural sector who are very concerned about the government's lack of vision and support for the arts.

Our community is also concerned about climate change, food safety and clean water. Many of our young people are facing a difficult future because our city has lost over 125,000 industrial-sector jobs in the past five years. Moreover, tuition fees and student debt are skyrocketing.

I am proud that our caucus is guided by its principles and knows what it believes. Like most hard-working Canadians, we believe that the government is taking this country in the wrong direction and the agenda laid out in the throne speech continues to take Canada down the wrong path.

It is breathtaking that the government has massive financial surpluses and yet does not even mention the needs of cities in the throne speech, even as our cities are cash-strapped, our services squeezed and our infrastructure crumbling.

Toronto is our largest city. We pay a lot of money in taxes and yet our city gets to keep only 6¢ out of every tax dollar as the province and the federal government get the lion's share.

In spite of calls from our citizens, the big city mayors, the boards of trade and many others, the government refuses to recognize that Canada is the world's second most urban country with 80% of our population living in cities.

With an estimated infrastructure deficit of over $100 billion, our cities are in dire straits. Our federal government is rolling in cash but it would prefer to use our tax dollars to fund a combat mission in Afghanistan than to invest in our communities.

Rather than cut the GST by 1% at a cost of $5 billion, the government could have used that money to help as many citizens as possible by investing in our cities.

It is astounding that the throne speech does not mention the arts or culture when so many Canadians believe in the need for us to tell each other our stories. Living next door to the largest cultural exporter in the world, surely the government needs to lay out its vision for supporting our artists and our culture.

Artists will continue to produce art. They will do this anyway, even though most of them are living in poverty, but fewer and fewer of us will have access to these stories if our government does nothing to encourage Canadian stories and Canadian voices.

A handful of members of the elite are benefiting from the current economy, but nobody else is. CEOs are banking stupendous salaries and incredible bonuses, but paycheques for everyone else have not changed, and, for many families, they are getting smaller. The government's agenda has made it harder and harder for middle-class Canadians to make ends meet.

Yes, there are more than a million people in Toronto who live below the poverty line. Many of these people go to work every day but they are working for poverty wages, often in multiple jobs, and they simply cannot make ends meet. I see them and their children at community kitchens and food banks. I see them leaving very early heading out for jobs as caregivers and in hotels and restaurants. Many are newcomers with excellent credentials being ground down in low wage jobs in the bitter deception that they would be welcomed for the education and skills that they bring to this country.

Even for families who are doing better, parents ask me why we cannot build a community centre in a neighbourhood full of kids. Why should a swimming pool close down and our kids and seniors be denied a chance for healthy exercise and life-saving classes? Why are we threatened with less transit service rather than promised more? Why is traffic gridlock a blight in our city and more kids are developing asthma?

The average Canadian is working 200 more hours each year than he or she did just nine years ago. The income gap is growing and it is at a 30 year high. Something is fundamentally wrong with this picture and Canadians know it.

The direction we are taking is absolutely the wrong direction. The prosperity gap is growing and putting middle class families further and further behind.

The government could have chosen to reduce the gap between the rich and the rest of us. Reducing the gap should have been a priority for the present session. Instead, the Conservatives chose to do nothing.

They have not acted to alleviate the manufacturing crisis. On the contrary, they are continuing the Liberal plan of negotiating a free trade agreement with Korea, which would make the disastrous manufacturing trade deficit within this country even worse and destroy more Canadians jobs.

What we need is real leadership in key economic sectors, but the Conservative agenda offers no hope to families and communities that have experienced massive job losses because of the government's destructive policies.

Canadians are also concerned about the crisis of climate change and what it will mean for the future. They are angry that the current government and the preceding government failed to get Canada on the right track for tackling the crisis of climate change. The air we breathe is getting dirtier, not cleaner. We are facing an unprecedented global crisis and inaction is simply inexcusable. We must act.

We need to work harder to honour our national obligations to stop climate change and blaming the previous government is simply not good enough. It is time to act.

Canadians want to be proud of Canada on the international stage.

Lots of people have told me that they are against Canada's combat mission in Afghanistan. They do not think that this is the role Canadians want their country to play on the world stage.

Canada has been a consistent voice for peace, reconstruction and aid. We speak on behalf of millions of everyday Canadians who want the government to change direction in Afghanistan and bring about real peace and security and a peace that is lasting. Only the NDP has been clear and consistent on this issue, which is that it is the wrong mission for Canada. We are the only party calling for an immediate troop withdrawal.

I have a mandate to support the goals of my community and, therefore, I must oppose the direction of the government and the agenda laid out in the throne speech. It takes Canadians in the wrong direction and we should not support it.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the hon. member and, as in the past, it appeared that the member did not do her research very well. I would like to point out to her that the throne speech specifically mentions a phenomenal infrastructure program with an historic amount of money for our cities.

Now that the member knows that the throne speech does address that, is she willing to phone her riding and the city of Toronto and explain why she intends to vote against the program she is criticizing?

I have heard the hon. member criticize the government before on affordable housing for aboriginal communities, for the homeless and those who are in need. I want her to agree to phone her constituents and admit to this House that she intends to vote against these positive initiatives so that we can remind her of that when she criticizes the government the next time.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am a little astounded by the member's comments given that the throne speech does not mention cities once. Would the hon. member show me where in the throne speech cities are mentioned? Where is the urban agenda? It is breathtaking that the government has no vision for the cities of our country where the vast majority of Canadians live and work.

Our transit systems are not growing with the needs of our communities. Our cities are in gridlock. We have a crisis with respect to homelessness. The Conservative government is turning its back on the needs of the vast majority of Canadians.

I not only will vote against this throne speech but I will stand with pride with my NDP caucus to vote against it. I am proud to defend our principles and to show the constituents of my riding that the government is moving in the wrong direction for Canadians.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree with one thing the member for Parkdale—High Park said and that is that the direction the government is taking is fundamentally wrong.

My colleague talked about housing, child care, seniors, climate change, student tuition, cities, urban transit, student summer work programs, et cetera. The NDP made some recommendations with respect to all of these issues for the 2005 budget, which the Liberal government accepted at that time, so why did she betray her constituents and vote against the government at that time? The reason the Conservatives are in power today is because of the NDP. Why did she betray her constituents?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am little confused by the hon. member's question since I was not elected in 2005 and, therefore, was not in the House to vote one way or the other. I am a little baffled by the arrogance of the hon. member who would presume to undermine the democratic process and the will of Canadians who exercise their democratic right to elect some members and not elect other--

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

We will now have statements by members according to Standing Order 31.

I recognize the hon. member for Kitchener--Conestoga.

Waterloo Regional Police ChiefStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I want to pay respect to one of the most honourable men I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

For the past 15 years, the residents of Waterloo region have enjoyed safe streets and a safe community, thanks in large part to the leadership of Waterloo Regional Police Chief, Larry Gravill.

Chief Gravill is Canada's longest serving police chief and he has served as the president of both the Ontario and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

Having met Larry as a fellow student at Waterloo Oxford District Secondary School many years ago, I have always known him as a man of exceptional character. Larry has served his community as a leader, as a public servant, as a man of character, integrity and honesty. Sadly, for all of us, he has announced his retirement from the Waterloo Regional Police force effective December 12 of this year.

It has been an honour to know Larry and to work with him. I thank him for his dedication and public service. As the sun sets on this chapter of his life, I am confident that it will rise and shine brightly on what lies ahead for Larry, Debbie and their family.

Status of WomenStatements By Members

October 18th, 2007 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like all members of the House to join me in congratulating the hon. member for Mississauga—Brampton South on the birth of his daughter at 3 a.m. this morning.

On this day in history, the British Privy Council decided in 1929 that women were persons under the law. Persons Day should be something to celebrate but, unfortunately, after this week's Speech from the Throne, Canadian women do not have much to celebrate these days.

Women were not even mentioned in the speech in spite of the fact that women constitute 52% of the population. Today, women still earn 77¢ for every dollar a man earns in Canada and 41.5% of single, divorced or widowed women over the age of 65 live in poverty.

According to the throne speech, the serious problem of theft ranks as a high priority for the Conservatives rather than the economic--