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House of Commons Hansard #31 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was loans.

Topics

Motions in AmendmentCanada Elections ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Before moving on to further debate, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Verchères—Les Patriotes, Agriculture and Agri-food; the hon. member for Davenport, Justice; the hon. member for Egmont, Human Resources and Social Development.

Motions in AmendmentCanada Elections ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-29 deals with the Canada Elections Act and accountability.

I will do a bit of history and talk about public accountability. Unfortunately what has happened for decades is the confusion with respect to what public accountability is or is not and the confusion between public accountability, conduct and responsibility. To the casual observer it seems they would be very much the same thing, but they are not and the implications of that are quite significant.

I owe much of this to Mr. Henry McCandless, from Victoria, who is a retired senior member of the Auditor General's office. He has waged a battle for many years to introduce true public accountability into the public service and into Parliament for the reason of affecting conduct. If we get public accountability right, in effect what we will be able to do is affect conduct and have a transparent means upon which the public can know what we, as elected officials, do and therefore be judged by that. In fact, if we get public accountability correct it is a liberating exercise for those of us who serve and for the public itself.

Let me for a moment give a true definition of public accountability. Public accountability is the obligation of authorities to explain publicly, fully and fairly, before and after the fact, how they carry out their responsibilities that affect the public in important ways. It is an obligation to report publicly to explain the intentions and reasons, including performance standards, what those performance standards are and, after the fact, whether they have been met.

In other words, the outcome of performance and the learning game can also be applied and in doing so, it is the liberating experience. Said another way, we as elected officials and senior members of the public service have an obligation to Canadians to tell them what we will do, why we will do it and what the public performance standards are upon which we will be judged. Then the outcomes can be judged and measured. We not only can go hand on heart and tell the public, in a transparent way, what we will do, but we know what we will be judged on. We know what the goals are, the public knows what the goals are. In doing this, we can measure very clearly how effectively we have executed our duties in the interests of the public good.

That should have been in the public accountability bill, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with public accountability and had everything to do with conduct. It has put on layers upon layers of administrative oversight, which are utterly unnecessary, upon the shoulders of the public service. This has created an expensive mechanism that will add absolutely nothing to public accountability and, in fact, will diminish the effectiveness of the public service to carry out its duties.

I cannot overemphasize the fact that the public accountability bill has been one of the most damaging public initiatives by the current government, or any government, in allowing the public service to execute its duty and for the public to be served well by an effective public service and an effective Parliament. Because this happened on the back of Gomery inquiry, it was a political initiative on the part of the government to try to make it look like it was cleaner than the previous government. It was all a bunch of nonsense. It was purely a political exercise.

The tragedy of the political exercise, the public accountability bill, is it has diminished the effectiveness of the public service and Parliament. Maybe the government wanted to do that. The Prime Minister is a follower of the U.S. political philosopher, Leo Strauss, who believed that a small number of people were predestined and preordained to lead. The Prime Minister is exhibiting that in Parliament and in the execution of his duties and that of the government.

Through what he has done, we do not now have a Parliament by the people, for the people or for the public through their elected officials. We have a government that is run by the Prime Minister's office, by a small group of unelected, invisible people who govern. These people do not listen to the public service. They exclude civil society and NGOs. They certainly diminish the effectiveness of the House by not listening to their members, their backbenchers and their ministers, their executive for the most part. They certainly do not give a care what anybody else thinks in the House. They also do not care what the public thinks.

If they are so sure in their ideology, that they believed they were preordained to govern and that their ideas are the only ideas that count and they have a tin ear to anybody else's ideas, then they will only move forward what they want and they will not listen to anybody else. However, by that, the public and our country is not served well. If they do not listen to Parliament, if they do not listen to other ideas from across the House, if they do not listen to their members, if they do not work with members from different sides, if they do not listen to NGOs and civil society and experts in our country, even the provinces, which are largely and often being excluded from decisions that affect them, what we have is a government that is less than what it could be, that is open to umpteen mistakes and that makes our country less than what it could be.

Is it not a government's responsibility to tap into the best and brightest ideas in our nation? Is it not a government's responsibility to tap into those great minds and those great ideas from coast to coast? Is it not a government's opportunity to tap into those solutions and implement them in the interest of the public good? I submit they are.

If the government were to truly introduce a public accountability act, it would put the responsibility on the shoulders of elected officials and unelected public servants, which includes people in the PMO and the PCO, to tell the public what they will do, who will benefit, why they will benefit and identify the public reporting standards upon which its activities are going to be judged. This would liberating for a government. The government could go to the public, tell it what it had done and how effective it had been. In those areas where a government had fallen short, there would be lessons to learned, and the public would fully understand that.

If a government were to do that, it would affect conduct. The conduct of an individual or a party would be measured by that which it told the public it would do. The government ought to be transparent, effective, wise and accountable.

There is a misnomer that public moneys or private moneys can somehow affect decision making. I wonder how many folks out there know that the limits for what people can donate legally to our elections, and to anybody who is running federally for a public office, is very modest. I believe it is between $1,000 and $5,000, $5,000 being the maximum. Banks, organizations and such, could only donate $5,000.

That is very different from the situation south of the border, where there are no spending limits. Thankfully our country has spending limits and they are governed by law. Therefore, if somebody is going to provide big money to somehow affect the public voting or influence an elected official: (a) the amount of those moneys would have to be large; (b) the person would have to be unscrupulous; and (c) if the person accepted it, he or she would be committing an illegal act. For many years it has been illegal for elected officials to accept large sums of money that would influence our decision making.

The government's notion of public accountability is dead wrong. It needs to review what it is and implement true public accountability. It would be something that no other government has done before and it would be a remarkable legacy if it were to do that.

Motions in AmendmentCanada Elections ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be here in the House to discuss Bill C-29, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (accountability with respect to loans).

We of course as Liberals certainly support the spirit of this bill, but as with most of the government bills this session there are a number of problems. We can see this simply by the fact that there are a number of amendments that have been made to the bill.

The Liberal Party has always supported carefully identified limits and in fact, as many have said in the House already, the Liberal Party of Canada brought in the largest reduction of allowable political contributions in Canadian history and included a huge decrease in what corporations could donate.

As members from different parties have mentioned, I too believe that members of Congress are in an unfortunate situation. They can only sit for two years before the next election and in that time they have to raise millions and sometimes tens of millions of dollars. Some of the members had other problems with that. I do not enjoy fundraising as it is, but the problem I have is when are we going to do our work if we are trying to raise tens of millions of dollars within a two year period.

A lot of our efforts, as all members of Parliament know, are so overburdened with things to do to help our constituents to improve laws, to attend committees, to meet with organizations that want to influence us on a national level in Ottawa, and then we go back on the weekends and hear all the same things from organizations in our ridings.

If we are going to give a fair hearing to all of these people, look at legislation carefully, prepare for our committee work, prepare for our caucus meetings, and then in a two year period have to raise tens of millions of dollars on top of that, something will be lacking.

Therefore, I certainly think the system we have is very good in that respect which is one of the reasons we limited contributions so much in our system. We support that direction in electoral reform.

Along those lines we want to eliminate any undue abuse of loans that could pervert that system. The problem is that the Conservatives are suggesting that the current legislation allows loans to be written off without consequence. This is absolutely false. Loans cannot be used to avoid donation limits and they cannot be written off without consequence.

There is also another similar point about where the proponents of the bill are misleading Canadians about the current state of the law concerning political financing. The Conservatives are suggesting that the current law allows loans to be made in secret and that Canadians are kept in the dark.

The truth is that under the law that is currently in place the details of all loans including the amount of every loan, in the name of every lender and every guarantor, must already be publicly disclosed.

Therefore, we have to be careful that we are not just writing redundant legislation that is already covering elements that are already in place, elements of course of transparency and accountability that I am sure every member of the House would like to see.

Another element that has been raised during the debate is the philosophical question as to whether it would give financial institutions the final say in who runs as opposed to Canadians. This has been raised by several members in the House and some of my colleagues. I think each member of Parliament will have to think philosophically about that situation where loans only come from those particular institutions.

Of course we all want to ensure transparency and that there is no undue access by any particular groups of people or organizations, and we want to be absolutely sure about that. However, we also do not want to restrict the rights of Canadians to access the democratic process, to take part in it, to show that they are serious, and to contribute toward what they believe in. We certainly need to get a balance in those areas.

I want to talk about the two amendments. In a bill related to accountability and the democratic process, the committee democratically approved these amendments but now the government is trying to withdraw them.

The first amendment I want to speak about would have the Conservatives changing the contribution for a leadership campaign. It is presently $1,100, a very tiny amount. We can well imagine the costs for leaders as these campaigns sometimes take several years.

However, the costs for a candidate are very high. We want to be fair to Canadians from all parts of the country and we do not want to discriminate against rural Canadians. We want to allow candidates to get across the country, but the costs and expenses of their travel, their team and the preparation of policy and promotional material, and all that is involved in preparing for debates, all of that is very expensive. So a contribution of $1,100 is not going to go very far.

The present proposal and existing law allows $1,100 per year of a campaign. Usually that would be two years or three years until the contribution has been paid off and it is not an excessive amount of money.

The Conservatives are trying to withdraw what the committee has done and only allow a contribution of $1,100 for the entire lifetime of the campaign and of the process no matter how long it is. Of course, we disagree with that as do some others.

We also have a problem with the second amendment and speakers from other parties have spoken about problems with this amendment as well. The Conservatives are trying to suggest that if a candidate runs up some debt then his or her party or the local association, if there is one, would have to pay that debt.

Really, I cannot imagine many people seeing the sense in allowing other people to run up debt. If I were to run up a debt and then tell the Conservatives they would have to pay for it when they had nothing to do with incurring that debt, that is not the way the system should work.

There could be candidates who go out and incur debt that no one knows about and that puts the onus on people who did not even know the debt was incurred to repay that debt. Or, an organization that is thousands of miles away and would not have any idea that the debt was being incurred would ask the candidates to repay such a debt.

I am not sure that would withstand any type of court challenge related to fairness. We cannot go along making loans that people do not know about and then asking them to pay for it. That is why there has been so much objection to that amendment.

In my last 30 seconds I want to emphasize a point regarding accountability. When the government is putting a whole bunch of conditions on people and government programs, then the clients who really need that money do not have a bureaucracy to make all these overzealous rules and meet these conditions are really being harmed by that mismanagement of government.

Motions in AmendmentCanada Elections ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on this particular issue. I have to indicate that there are concerns out there with regard to issues of transparency and accountability, and certainly our party is all for that.

We also have to be careful that we are not coming up with a cure which is worse than the supposed problem here, particularly for women candidates and the issue of accessing money. We want to ensure that all candidates have the ability to run, to be able to finance a political campaign, and to do it in a manner which of course demonstrates both transparency and accountability.

Currently, it says all donations over $100 must be on the website. Now we will have to declare any contribution over $20 under the new legislation. People will know who has given. I think my colleague from Yukon was very clear with regard to what was happening in the United States with members of Congress. In a two year period they must raise millions of dollars in order to finance a campaign. There are no limits. They go out and raise money. Half of their two year term is simply going on the banquet circuit and dealing with lobbyists.

We do not have those problems. In fact, in this country we have very strict limits in terms of the amount of money that can be spent in any particular riding. I think that is what makes Canada unique.

When we talk with American congressmen and tell them that our limit is $75,000, they say to us, “That's not too bad for one day”. We tell them that is over a 35-day or 40-day period for a campaign and they are absolutely shocked. They ask us what we do with $75,000.

The problem with this bill is that it is a bit of overkill. What we are trying to say is that we want to make sure that moneys are available if candidates need it. In particular, we have seen cases where this particular amendment in this bill would cause a problem for women candidates borrowing money.

I think the issue is that everyone in the House believes in the accountability aspect. The question is that we also want to make it available for people who wish to run. Not everyone is wealthy and that again is another very good thing. Sometimes people do not have all the money in the bank when they decide to run. I think any kind of a restriction which would reduce that could be a problem.

At the moment, we know that Elections Canada is very clear about the reporting of loans for campaigns. We know that a riding association may loan money to the candidate in that riding. Again, this is all declared. It is all very clear. I think that is important.

The Liberal Party of Canada, during the leadership race, went beyond what was required in terms of the candidates being able to declare information.

If the goal of the bill is to achieve more accountability, then it fails in that regard. It builds new roadblocks in terms of people wanting to access the political arena, those people who want to run in an election. We want to encourage people, regardless of their financial background, to be able to run for election in this country. I think it is important that we do not have a House of Commons that only attracts those with money.

On both sides of the House we know, from time to time, how difficult it is when we are running a campaign and initial up front costs. They may be up front for signs, brochures, a campaign office, et cetera.

Obviously, some candidates do not have all that money at the beginning and they have to borrow. Then they have to wait for money to come in during the campaign. Again, I think that we have to try to have a balance in terms of what we are looking for in terms of this situation. Loans are an important part of this as is the declaration of those loans under Elections Canada and this legislation.

It is also important to keep in mind that there is a challenge now to try and secure money. Securing a loan from banks and financial institutions is important. Under these rules it would make it almost virtually impossible for candidates to go to a financial institution to secure the loan that they may need. If that were the case, then we are saying that they would be better off not running for office because they cannot get access to money.

We already have an open and transparent system in this country compared to that of the United States and others. Even under the old rules, before Bill C-24, we had to declare over $100 and it had to be accounted for. I think that shows how wonderful our system was. We had to declare it, there were limits on how much could be spent in a riding, the candidate's chief financial officer had to account for every penny, and statements were audited to make sure.

As members of Parliament, we know that if we do not declare donations, or if we are not able to account for every penny, we cannot take our seat in the House. That is important. We simply do not want that situation to occur. Obviously, financial institutions look at a person's ability to borrow money. This again would be a problem.

I think it is a bit misleading to suggest that the current state of the law regarding financial contributions to campaigns is a problem. In fact, I think it is probably tighter now than it has ever been. It is a bit misleading to suggest that loans are somehow made in secret. I do not see how they could be made in secret, because under the legislation, the Elections Act, if someone borrows money, that money has to be declared. The source has to be declared and the dates have to be declared.

I am sure there are members in the House who have borrowed money or had a line of credit from a bank. That has to be declared, as does the interest on it, et cetera, and that must all be paid. Again, I am not sure what the problem is. Every dollar and the lender have to be declared. We have to say whether the lender was an individual or an institution. That is already in the current legislation. All of it has to be declared. I am not sure what the problem is.

It is important that we have rules in place, but the suggestion in this legislation would restrict this even further. This would in turn disenfranchise people in regard to the ability to run. That is not what our system is about. Our system is about making sure that all candidates have equal access, and one of the sources of money they currently use is loans.

If a loan is not declared, there are consequences. There are stiff penalties. However, this legislation would make it even more restrictive, which I do not think Canadians want to see. They want to see transparency and accountability, but they do not want to see this becoming a rich person's game or, in other words, that in order to get into the House of Commons one has to be independently wealthy. I do not support that. I know our party does not support the change in this amendment.

I think it is important that we continue to say that we are different from other countries where raising money is certainly a preoccupation. As members of Parliament, my colleagues and I have more than enough to do in terms of dealing with the real issues of the day. If we have to go on the circuit of raising money and if we say that we are going to restrict loans to such a degree, I do not think it would be very productive. I am hopeful that members will keep this in mind when considering this amendment.

Again, I think we all want to see people from all backgrounds and all walks of life participating in the political process. We cannot tell them that if they do not have the dollars on hand then they cannot participate. That would not be good. It would be a roadblock to their participation. It would be a stumbling block. In fact, I think it would be a regressive move in terms of legislation.

Motions in AmendmentCanada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Rota Liberal Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the hon. member's very interesting speech. One of the things that I find very disturbing is the fact that any smaller party or anyone who does not have the cash cannot run for office, and this will make it a lot more difficult for individuals to run for office.

When people are starting off, as the hon. member mentioned, they borrow money. As the money starts coming in, they start paying off the loans. With a wealthy party or a wealthy area, the candidate will get all kinds of cash. However, what happens is that certain areas will end up not being represented and parties will start to get eliminated.

Could the hon. member comment on how this is going to limit accessibility for lower income Canadians and lower income areas of the country when it comes to the electoral system?

Motions in AmendmentCanada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt this will have a severe impact, first in terms of people who would like to run. Not everyone has the ability to simply put the money up front. Depending on people's backgrounds or professions, they would be very much hindered in wanting to run. For many right now, it is a daunting task in terms of running for political office, and then they have to worry about being a full time fundraiser. They worry about where they get the money and about not being able to get a line of credit or borrow money. In some parts of the country, it is more difficult to raise money due to certain socio-economic conditions. Obviously, given that situation, it would be very restrictive.

In regard to education, we talk about how we want to provide a hand up to allow students from disadvantaged areas or who are economically disadvantaged to go to university. Money should not be an impediment to getting a post-secondary education, and I would suggest that money should not be an impediment in terms of being able to run for public office.

If in fact someone wants to run for public office, I note that already the Liberal Party put restrictions on and reduced the influence of associations, unions and businesses. Again, everything was transparent. I think that what we are trying to do here is deal with an issue that really is not an issue.

What we are saying is that we want accessibility for people who run for any political party. My colleague is quite right. If someone from a smaller, less established party wants to run, again, this would be an impediment. The political process should not be just for the rich. It should be for everyone. We should all be able to participate in the political process. It is critical that we do so.

Again, I think that in this situation the government is trying to use overkill for a problem that really is not there. It is not something that I have seen. Certainly, after talking to many colleagues on all sides of the House, I note that they all use loans from financial institutions. They need them. Again, it is unfortunate that we are trying to deal with a problem that I do not think really exists.

Motions in AmendmentCanada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I have a question and a comment.

As for the question, it has been an interesting week. We have debated a number of bills and there seem to be hardly any Conservative members speaking on them. I would not have mentioned it except that on an accountability bill it seems the most ironic of all. Are they accountable to their constituents? I wonder if the member would know why that might be. I cannot imagine that they have no ideas. They seem very friendly and I am sure their constituents talk to them and provide input on bills. I am wondering what the member thinks as to why that might be.

My comment, before he answers the question, is related to the important point that the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca brought up, which is the fact that in regard to the last couple of years with all the accountability innovations, many of which the Liberals contributed, sometimes we have to be careful not to go overboard. There are struggling organizations out there helping people and we put in so many rules that they cannot do their jobs.

Motions in AmendmentCanada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Richmond Hill has eight seconds to respond.

Motions in AmendmentCanada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

I have no idea, Mr. Speaker, why the Conservatives are not standing up, but I can say that on this side we are standing up for Canadians and for the political process in this country.

Motions in AmendmentCanada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-29.The Bloc Québécois supports this bill, which seeks to prevent individuals from bypassing campaign financing rules. We support the bill for the simple reason that we think it is necessary to regulate loans in order to prevent people from getting around the financing ceilings. The problem with certain bills is that the wording may be clear, but sometimes the spirit of the letter can be abused. Sometimes a bill can be convoluted and ambiguous. This can result in misinterpretation or misapplication of the legislation. This bill establishes more rules for political financing.

I want to remind hon. members that financing ceilings were established in response to one of the Bloc Québécois' traditional demands. We demanded an end to corporate financing and limits on individual contributions, as has been the case in Quebec for 30 years.

I remember it as though it were yesterday. I can still see Prime Minister Chrétien, who was paying tribute to René Lévesque for introducing clear financing rules, or should I say, pure financing rules, in Quebec. Mr. Chrétien did not use those words, but he said that the new rules, which prohibited corporate financing, were largely inspired by what was happening in Quebec. Imagine. It was not easy for former Prime Minister Chrétien to pay tribute to René Lévesque. Mr. Chrétien probably had to dig deep for that. He probably had a hard time getting it out, but fortunately, for the benefit of everyone, Mr. Chrétien implicitly recognized that the Bloc Québécois had a reason to be persistent and to call for better financing rules at the federal level.

This bill includes the only modification proposed by the Bloc Québécois when the old Bill C-54 was at committee stage. After the throne speech, some bills had to be re-introduced, including the one before us, Bill C-29. The Bloc Québécois was strongly against political parties being held responsible for debts incurred by their candidates, particularly when the political party is not named on the contract between the candidate and the bank.

The members of the Bloc Québécois choose its candidates democratically. We sell membership cards for $5, and by purchasing a card, any person who subscribes to our values, principles and policies is showing that they support the Bloc Québécois in its defence of the interests of Quebec here on the federal scene. The membership card also gives the individual the opportunity to choose who will represent the Bloc Québécois and the Bloc Québécois platform in a byelection or general election. This is one of the benefits of being a member. There are others, such as the right to attend the annual general meeting, the right to receive party literature, and many other rights associated with being a member of a political party.

The Bloc Québécois is different from some other parties where the leader, on his or her own authority, can literally name certain people as candidates for the party. In our case, the members choose the candidates democratically. This democratic approach also means that anyone who is a member and shares the party's views can stand for nomination. This can cost candidates money. However, the bylaws of the Bloc Quebecois place a limit on what a candidate for nomination can spend. I believe it is $1 per member in good standing, but I could be wrong. At this late hour, my party's bylaws are not uppermost in my mind. Regardless, there is a limit on what candidates can spend. A person therefore could not decide to spend $350,000 to become a candidate at a Bloc nomination meeting.

During the last session, we found there was a problem with this bill, which was then known as Bill C-54. Candidates could spend up to the maximum stipulated in our party's bylaws, but if they were unable to pay their debts, if they had taken out a loan from a financial institution, the party was held responsible. We considered that totally unacceptable, and we still do. The party should not be held responsible for the debts of a candidate for nomination.

That is why, on behalf of my party, I introduced an amendment to Bill C-54, and I succeeded in convincing my opposition colleagues to bring the government into line. Unfortunately, as hon. members can read in the Order Paper and Notice Paper, the government House leader has introduced three amendments to this bill. One of those amendments would nullify the effects of the amendment my NDP and Liberal colleagues on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs agreed to after I convinced them. The government is proposing a motion to reverse this democratic decision of the committee.

With respect, I want to tell the government House leader that he will likely be disappointed, because I believe that my Liberal and NDP colleagues support the Bloc Québécois' interpretation, and we intend to reject this government amendment, which is designed to reverse what we won in committee. We do not want the government to do indirectly what it was incapable of doing directly.

Because I do not have much time, that concludes my remarks. The Bloc Québécois supports the bill, because it clarifies some rules on political party financing.

Motions in AmendmentCanada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I would like the member to clarify. I did not understand what he said the Liberals and the NDP did not agree with. I think he was talking about the amendment related to parties and associations being responsible for the debt of a candidate over whom they may have no control and had no idea they were incurring debts.

It seems patently un-Canadian, unfair and perhaps unconstitutional. I spoke strongly against that. I think that is what the member spoke against as well, and I want to make sure we are on the same side on opposing that concept in the legislation.

Motions in AmendmentCanada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, indeed, we believe that the recognized party—that is, the political party under whose name we sit here in this House—should not be held responsible for debts incurred by a candidate for nomination. That is the principle we would like to defend. I hope my hon. colleagues in the House will vote with me. I received the support of their representatives on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

An individual candidate for a nomination must be responsible for the debts he or she incurs with a bank, credit union or other financial institution. That has nothing to do with the party. In any case, it is, first and foremost, a financial contract entered into between an individual and a financial institution. Thus, it has nothing to do with the party.

Should we also start taking on the unpaid car loans and unpaid mortgages, because the person is a candidate for a party's nomination? That would be ridiculous. Similarly, political parties are not responsible for the debts incurred by a candidate for nomination.

I would remind the House that a candidate for nomination is not considered an official candidate until the nomination meeting is held. He or she is a candidate for nomination to become the official standard bearer of the party during a byelection or general election.

Motions in AmendmentCanada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I note, from the comments of my Bloc colleague, that there seems to be a consensus growing, among the opposition parties at least, that we do not accept this idea that the default position should be to the federal party if in fact candidates default or fail to pay back their loans in the accepted period of time.

We all come from the same premise that a loan that is not paid back is deemed a donation and this was a loophole that should have been plugged.

The point I want to make is that sometimes in a riding where candidates have very little opportunity, they may see in their mind that they have a possibility of winning and spend far too much money in that campaign. In a campaign that may have warranted a $10,000 token amount, some candidates may borrow the full $80,000 and run a full campaign even though they have no hope of winning and in fact fail.

I am wondering if a change could be made to the amendment proposed where if the federal parties were to have the right to veto situations like this, would it then be acceptable for the party to be the co-signer or the guarantor of the loan for candidates. Or, does the member's party feel that it is a complete non-starter as an issue?

Motions in AmendmentCanada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Winnipeg Centre raises a very interesting question. A distinction must be made between, on the one hand, the legislative rules that would be brought in under Bill C-29 and, on the other hand, the constitutions of each of our parties. The NDP constitution is different from ours; the Liberal constitution is different from that of the Conservatives. It is therefore very difficult, but it is absolutely necessary—

Motions in AmendmentCanada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Halton.

Motions in AmendmentCanada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Garth Turner Liberal Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill in the few minutes left in debate here today.

Mostly, I would like to talk about the law of unintended consequences. I think it is a law that somewhat bedevils the government. For example, when it brought in legislation to fix what it perceived was a problem with income trusts, we ended up actually making the situation a lot worse with Canadians, investors and the economy. I am kind of concerned that the law of unintended consequences might click in with Bill C-29.

The bill seeks to add clarity and transparency to the way that we politicians finance our political activities, mainly election campaigns. It would disallow us the ability to go and borrow money from friends, relatives, places of employment or supporters. It would disallow us the ability, as I understand it, to finance our own campaigns with money borrowed in our own name. In other words, money now has to be borrowed only from a financial institution.

On the surface of it, that does not sound so bad because it makes somewhat of a level playing field among all of us, but when the law of unintended consequences clicks in, all of a sudden we see this. People who are without the means to convince a commercial lending institution to actually give them money for something as dubious and uncertain as running for public office end up out of luck, and, because this is now their sole ability to get borrowed funds to run, we might end up having a lot of people, who would be very worthwhile to have in this place, who would never get here.

I am worried about the consequences, for example, of people with bad credit and people who are not wealthy and who cannot put up a lot of resources to guarantee a loan. Perhaps there are people who are from various groups, female candidates or aboriginal candidates, people who richly deserve to be in this House, who will never make it because of this legislation.

I do not think that is what the government intended. I doubt it is even what the Minister for Democratic Reform intended when this legislation was brought forward. I think it was intended more to catch people, such as the member for Mississauga—Streetsville who crossed from the Liberals to the Conservatives not long ago and now sits as an Independent. I believe it was put into place to catch situations such as that, but the laws of unintended consequences here are very serious.

Effectively, because the only source of borrowed money for a political campaign would now be from a financial institution, which has the power to grant or not to grant that, financial institutions would be given the power of life and death over a political campaign. If they do not finance the campaign, the candidate does not get a campaign. I do not think that is the role of our banks in this country to do that.

I am very concerned that the bill would do nothing to encourage accountability. The system has a lot of accountability now. If people borrow money for a political campaign, they must divulge that. Our guarantor must be public. The terms of the loan must be public. Right now there is every reason to believe that we have adequate accountability in the system.

The Conservatives suggest that the law, as it now stands, somehow leads to secret financing of political campaigns. That is absolutely false. If this legislation does go forward, this place might remain the purview of guys like me: old, white, wealthy, middle class individuals, and, God knows, looking around this chamber right now, I think we have enough of them.

This legislation is actually anti-democratic and I am not about to surrender the ability of good people to run this place to the presidents of banks, and particularly the loan officers of those institutions.

Therefore, I must say that I do not agree with this legislation at all. I think it is draconian and I would call upon the Minister for Democratic Reform to withdraw it.

Motions in AmendmentCanada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It being 5:30, the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

When we next return to the study of Bill C-29, there will be five minutes left for the hon. member for Halton.

The House resumed from October 31 consideration of the motion.

Aboriginal AffairsPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to have the opportunity this afternoon to speak to the motion presented by the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan. I had the pleasure of sitting with her on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. I would also like to congratulate her for bringing this important issue, Jordan's principle, to the attention of the House.

As we saw during the previous debate, the government must immediately adopt a child first principle for resolving jurisdictional disputes involving the care of first nations children. This approach, known as Jordan's principle, forces those involved to set aside any disagreements between two governments, two departments or organizations with respect to payment for services provided to first nations children.

In other words, when a problem arises in a community regarding a child, we must ensure that the necessary services are provided and only afterwards should we worry about who will foot the bill. Thus, the first government or department to receive a bill for services is responsible for paying, without disruption or delay. That government or department can then submit the matter for review to an independent organization, once the appropriate care has been given, in order to have the bill paid.

I support this motion, as does the government. I am pleased to report that the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and officials in his department are working diligently with their partners in other federal departments, provincial and territorial governments, and first nations organizations on child and family services initiatives that will transform the commitment we make here today into a fact of daily life for first nations parents and their children.

That is not all. In addition to implementing immediate, concrete measures to apply Jordan's principle in aboriginal communities, I would like to inform the House and my colleague that the government is also implementing other measures to improve the well-being of first nations children.

I would like to discuss some of our government's significant achievements in three areas that affect the lives and future of first nations children: poverty, family violence and education. At the end of my presentation, I will invite my colleague to support our government's initiative to promote the rights and freedoms of aboriginal people.

I would like to assure the House that the government is determined to eliminate poverty, particularly among first nations children. For too long now, governments of all stripes have wrongly believed that the best way—perhaps the only way—to eliminate poverty was to give people public funds. That is a seductive approach, but it is the wrong one because it exacerbates poverty in communities.

Our government has chosen another way. We know that the best and only way to eliminate poverty is to increase opportunities for education and to foster prosperous and stable communities. Studies have shown, conclusively, that education improves the standard of living.

To achieve this goal, the government is working on a number of fronts. We are collaborating with provincial and territorial governments and a variety of first nations organizations to boost economic development in and around first nations communities. We are working with our partners to support first nations business people and entrepreneurs, and we are helping foster conditions that will create good jobs at good wages for those who live in first nations communities.

I am convinced that this approach is the most practical and enduring way to reduce and eventually eliminate poverty among first nations children.

We are also concerned about family violence. Several recent reports indicate that there is still a lot of family violence against first nations women and children—more than ever before, in fact.

It is important to support women and give them the tools they need to interrupt this cycle. That is why our government is taking concrete steps to protect women and children against family and sexual violence. We have allocated additional funds to pay for 35 emergency shelters and to ensure that the trained staff providing support services in these shelters have access to the resources they need.

Together with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the CMHC, and other key stakeholders, we are working to create five new shelters under the CMHC's shelter enhancement program. We have also renewed our support for the family violence prevention program for first nations. The goal of this indispensable initiative is to support the operation of shelters that provide women and children with culturally appropriate services and to ensure the provision of basic programs. The program serves 2,500 women and 2,700 children in 265 communities every year. We are eliminating poverty and we are also working to eliminate family violence so that we can improve the quality of life of first nations women and children.

It is also important to emphasize education, the best means of ensuring a bright future for these people, particularly through high-quality schools that respect cultural values. In this regard, our government, particularly in Quebec, supported the first nations pavilion initiative in Abitibi at the aboriginal forum in Masteuiash.

Our government has made several key investments to ensure that a greater number of first nations children and youth attend safe schools that provide high-quality education with standards comparable to those elsewhere in the country.

On April 5, we announced that we were earmarking more than $50 million for school infrastructure projects in aboriginal communities throughout Canada to help improve the learning environment for students.

In addition to making these vital investments in the future of first nations youth, the federal government has forged an agreement with the Government of British Columbia and with first nations in the province to provide greater first nations control over on reserve education. What is more, the government sponsored and Parliament approved legislation to give this agreement the force of law.

Our government has made every effort to support first nations education because we recognize its practical intrinsic value: it enables first nations youth to gain the knowledge and develop the skills necessary to take advantage of exciting new employment opportunities.

The programs and investments I have briefly described demonstrate the importance of the government's commitment to eliminating poverty, helping youth, reducing violence within aboriginal communities and also emphasizing education.

The motion of my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan is worth supporting and that is what I intend to do.

I would also like to take the opportunity to urge my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan and all opposition members to abandon partisan rhetoric and to support wholeheartedly this government's efforts to repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. That way, we can ensure that the first nations will be protected by Canadian Human Rights Act, like all other Canadians.

By supporting motion M-296, I am acting in accordance with my conscience and I urge my opposition colleagues to do the same and to support the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Aboriginal AffairsPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak about Jordan's principle.

For members of the public who are watching, the motion we are debating is as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should immediately adopt a child first principle, based on Jordan's Principle, to resolve jurisdictional disputes involving the care of First Nations children.

I congratulate the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan and the member for Churchill for all the work they have done on this motion that is very important to aboriginal children.

I also pay tribute to Jordan Anderson, a Canadian child, and his family for what they had to go through. As a legislator I feel a sense of responsibility and almost shame that a situation of governance could cause such a human tragedy and harm. Although this is about Jordan's principle, there are many such cases ongoing in Canada.

I would also like to commend Cindy Blackstock, the executive director of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, the Norway House Cree Nation and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. They made the important points that simply by cleaning this up first nations children would have access to the same programs and services as other children have.

I would like to make it clear for the people watching what the issue is. Unfortunately in our complicated system of government in Canada, certain programs and services often related to the health and social services fields for aboriginal people are handled differently than they are for other people. Sometimes the federal government is responsible for delivery of the services and sometimes it is the provincial or territorial governments. In fact, even within the federal government certain services fall under INAC, whereas other services fall under Health Canada. Unfortunately this has created for a number of children a very tragic situation of not being able to get the services that other children can get.

An individual bureaucrat may think he is doing the right thing by following the laws and provisions that we have set up, and we may think we have done the right thing in that it would save money or be more efficient, but if a child is forced into a foster home or to stay in a hospital just to have access to services, it is a human tragedy. That by far is the worst element of it, but it is even far more costly.

Jordan Anderson is a member of the Norway House Cree Nation. He was nominated by KidsRights for the International Children's Peace Prize in 2007. I want people at home to know some of the background on this. I will refer to some of the elements from his nomination on how the situation developed:

Jordan was a First Nations child born with complex medical needs. As his family did not have access to the supports needed to care for him at their home on a First Nations reserve they made a difficult decision to place Jordan in child welfare care shortly after birth.

Imagine any of us having to do that with our child.

Jordan remained in hospital for the first two years of his life to stabilize his medical condition. During this time the Kinosao Sipi Minisowin Agency...Norway House Cree Nation and Jordan's family worked together to locate a medically trained foster home and to raise money to refit a van for Jordan's safe transportation to medical appointments and family visits. Shortly after Jordan's second birthday, doctors said he could go to a family home. This decision should have been a time of celebration but for federal and provincial governments it was a time to begin arguing over which level of government should pay for Jordan's at home care....he jurisdictional dispute would last over two years during which time Jordan remained unnecessarily in hospital.

Imagine a child not being able to go home from the hospital because of a jurisdictional dispute between the federal and provincial governments, or between departments within one government. We have to remember that there is only one taxpayer and therefore, it does not really matter in the end who ultimately pays, certainly not at the sacrifice of a child.

Jordan's history continues:

Hospital social workers warned the government bureaucrats that Jordan's well being was suffering because he was growing up in an institution instead of a family home but even these warnings did not compel the governments to resolve the dispute and pay for Jordan's at home care....

Norway House Cree Nation and Kinosao Sipi Minosowin Agency initially tried to mediate a solution between the governments but when this failed they turned to legal action. Shortly after Jordan's fourth birthday in hospital, the jurisdictional dispute was settled but not in time for Jordan who slipped into a coma and sadly passed away before he could ever live in a family home.

One might think this is an isolated instance, but it is not.

A recent research report indicates that jurisdictional disputes involving the costs of caring for First Nations children are very prevalent with 393 of these disputes occurring in 12 of the 105 First Nations child and family service agencies sampled in the study during 2004/2005 alone. The vast majority of these disputes were between two federal government departments or between the federal government and the provincial/territorial government....

People can find some information on this at a website, if they want more details, www.fncaringsociety.com.

The story continues:

Jordan's family and community wanted to ensure that the governments put the needs of children first and that no other child is denied or delayed receipt of government services because they are an Aboriginal child. With their support, a child first principle to resolving jurisdictional disputes was created and named Jordan's Principle in honour of the child who inspired it....

Jordan's principle is consistent with the spirit and intent of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which prohibits discrimination. It is also consistent with what we, as moral people of the world, know to be the right thing to do.

Jordan's Principle has received broad based support in Canada and around the world.... ...one of the first supporters of Jordan's Principle was the National Youth in Care Network.... ...many other groups of children, youth and child advocates have voiced their support for Jordan's Principle including the Assembly of First Nations...the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the Canadian Paediatric Society and UNICEF Canada.

Jordan's story has resonated around the world and has been supported by groups in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. His story has been included in over 70 newspapers across Canada and featured in print articles and numerous radio and television programs in Canada, the USA, and New Zealand.

Jordan could not talk and yet people around the world hear his message. Jordan could not breathe on his own and yet he has given the breath of life to other children.

In conclusion, we in Parliament must unanimously support this so that first nations children have access to the same life-saving, life-enhancing and life-building programs and services as other children. Let us not ever again have a situation where a child lives his life and dies in a hospital because of bureaucratic squabbles between governments or departments.

Aboriginal AffairsPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of my party, the Bloc Québécois, about motion No. 296 from the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, which reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should immediately adopt a child first principle, based on Jordan's Principle, to resolve jurisdictional disputes involving the care of First Nations children.

The Bloc Québécois supports the motion in principle. However, it is important to remember that Quebec and some provinces have already put in place legislation and assistance procedures. The federal government must therefore do its part by helping to fund services for first nations children. We must understand that the principle of this motion is based on shared jurisdiction between the provinces and the federal government.

Jordan's principle is the name given to the child first principle, which puts the interest of the child before constitutional conflicts when it comes to access to services. The Canadian Constitution does not specify which level of government is responsible for providing services to first nations children.

There are multiple jurisdictional disputes involving child protection. Who has the constitutional, fiscal and moral responsibility for first nations children? The answer to that question has repercussions on the availability of programs and services for aboriginal families and children.

It is important to mention that the average Canadian gets almost two and a half times more services from federal, provincial and municipal governments than first nations citizens, according to the review by the McDonald-Ladd commission in 2000.

According to a number of stakeholders, the best way to manage jurisdictional conflicts is to prevent them. Jordan's principle is more of a provisional measure, while waiting for the federal and provincial governments to reach an agreement on jurisdictions. If Quebec were a country, this problem would have been resolved a long time ago.

As far as jurisdictions are concerned and who is responsible, I will try to provide a brief overview of the jurisdiction problem that Motion M-296 addresses. The motion seeks not to resolve the problem, but to place first nations children and families on an equal footing with Canadian children and families when it comes to receiving social and health services.

As stated in the report of the Joint National Policy Review on First Nations Child and Family Services, the different levels of government are passing the buck with respect to jurisdiction.

The federal government has said that the provinces are responsible for providing child services to first nations, in accordance with section 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867. Participation by the federal government in the provision of programs and services, in its view, is quite simply discretionary.

I will read section 92:

92. In each Province the Legislature may exclusively make Laws in relation to Matters coming within the Classes of Subjects next hereinafter enumerated; that is to say,

13. Property and Civil Rights in the Province.

16. Generally all Matters of a merely local or private Nature in the Province.

As for the provinces, they believe that the federal government is responsible for native people and reserves, pursuant to section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867:

91. —the exclusive Legislative Authority of the Parliament of Canada extends to all Matters coming within the Classes of Subjects next hereinafter enumerated; that is to say,

24. Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians.

That is the text the Government of Canada used.

The provincial and territorial governments are worried that the federal government is offloading its responsibilities with respect to aboriginal peoples onto them and they argue that “the federal government has the constitutional, historical, and fiduciary responsibility arising from the treaties with aboriginals who live on and off reserves”.

According to a report published in 2005 by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, the first nations have adopted the same position as the provinces.The first nations therefore support what the provinces and territories are saying.

The first nations are the only peoples to suffer from the lack of responsibility and accountability of the federal government and are asking that it maintain “its tutelage and its fiduciary duties towards the first nations, including its children, families and community services”. Moreover:

The federal government funds first nations child and family support agencies pursuant to Directive 20-1—hence a matter of administration—and not, in its view, because of its fiduciary responsibility. The federal government refuses to change its position and has stated that the delivery of programs and services to first nations is discretionary.

That is always the big problem: the federal government does not want to recognize that it has responsibility for the services provided for first nations.

I would like to give some background on Directive 20-1. The current funding formula was developed in 1989 in an effort to standardize funding levels for first nations child and family service agencies in Canada. The directive was issued and requires that agencies operate under provincial legislation when it comes to child protection, but does not include any funding to help agencies adjust. It includes a guiding principle whereby services must be comparable to those provided for children living in similar circumstances off-reserve, but it does not contain any mechanism to ensure that this can happen. Once again, the federal government issued the directive, but did not provide any money to go along with it.

In Quebec, the Youth Protection Act contains provisions that apply specifically to aboriginal youth. In fact, Quebec has always been in the forefront in this area. The fifth paragraph of section 2.4 stipulates that the socio-cultural characteristics of the community in which the young person lives must be taken into consideration:

5) of opting for measures, in respect of the child and the child's parents, which allow action to be taken diligently to ensure the child's protection, considering that a child's perception of time differs from that of adults, and which take into consideration the following factors:

a) the proximity of the chosen resource;

b) the characteristics of cultural communities;

c) the characteristics of native communities.

Quebec's Youth Protection Act therefore ensures protection for aboriginal communities. Furthermore, agreements between the Government of Quebec and aboriginal communities can be reached in order to promote the protection of young people in those communities, by adapting the legislation to their reality.

Of course, we feel it is important to consult first nations. The Bloc Québécois believes that the future does not lie in pointless opposition, but rather in constructive partnerships that respect the legitimate interests of all parties. On the federal scene, the Bloc Québécois makes aboriginal issues one of its priorities. With regard to future relations between the government and aboriginal peoples, we recommend a more comprehensive approach, one that recognizes the aspirations of aboriginal peoples and favours negotiating agreements nation to nation. The Bloc Québécois believes that Quebec is a nation, and that we must negotiate, nation to nation, with aboriginal peoples.

In 1996, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples submitted a comprehensive report that proposed far-reaching changes over a period of 20 years leading to self-government for aboriginal peoples by respecting their customs, cultures, languages and ancestral institutions.

Our party, the Bloc Québécois, believes that in order to develop harmonious relations with Quebec's aboriginal peoples, we must first listen to them and understand them by taking an interest in their reality, their differences and the challenges they face. The Bloc Québécois maintains an ongoing dialogue with the first nations. Our party is suggesting that the government should follow our lead when considering future bills. It has not done so with Kelowna, Bill C-44 and all the others.

In closing, the main issue in this debate is determining who will assume the cost of protecting children. Quebec's Youth Protection Act already contains provisions whereby first nations communities can play an active role in youth protection. Motion No. 296 allows for the protection of children, based on the child first principle, while waiting for the federal and provincial governments to reach an official agreement on various terms and conditions for services, and the payment of services, provided to children in first nations communities.

We support the principle behind the motion. However, we must remember that Quebec and some provinces already have legislation and assistance procedures in place; the federal government must assume its share of the responsibility by providing some of the funding for services provided to first nations children.

Aboriginal AffairsPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege to speak to this motion presented by the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.

It is also a time for all of us to hang our heads in shame. A child among us was prevented from having the care he needed because he was caught up in a jurisdictional dispute between governments.

We have heard a lot of talk throughout this debate. I implore members today to think about putting some action behind their words, as my colleague from Nanaimo--Cowichan has done.

It is one thing to stand up here and talk about the shame of a child who fell through the cracks because two levels of government were fighting over who should pay for his care, but it is another thing to decide to act on that atrocious, appalling chapter in our history.

It has been at least three years, maybe more, since Jordan died. It has been three or four years since we all recognized the fact that Jordan should have received the care he needed instead of becoming a football between different levels of government.

Why has no government chosen to act before this moment? Why did the Liberals, who were in government up until two years ago, refuse to act? And why now are we getting nothing but rhetoric from the Conservatives?

Where is the specific plan? Where is the plan of action to ensure that this situation will never be repeated? Why did my colleague, the NDP critic for aboriginal affairs, have to bring this motion to the House when this matter could have been resolved with a little care, compassion and concern from the government of the day?

I commend my colleague for having the courage to bring this issue forward and for pursuing it every step of the way. As she has told us in the debate, no issue has touched her more than the case of Jordan, who died without having the care he needed and deserved.

Jordan was a young lad who was born with a very serious disability. He was born in Norway House, Manitoba, which is part of the Cree nation. Because his family could not care for him on reserve, he was sent off reserve for care, and there began this horrifying chapter in Canadian history, a chapter of disgrace and shame on all of us, on all political parties and on all levels of government.

I want to single out and commend not only my colleague who has persevered on this matter, but also Jordan's family, who had the courage to speak out, and all those groups, organizations and individuals who have chosen to stand up for what is right and for a principle that has to be respected or we have nothing and we are not a civil society.

That principle is that a child is a child is a child, whether that child is an aboriginal person on reserve, or a child like my own who was born with a rare brain disorder but has been lucky enough to have had all the care he needs and to be treated as a productive member of our society. Why should someone in my son's situation be treated differently just because he was born on a reserve and had to seek treatment off reserve? Why did Jordan have to spend two years in a hospital setting when he could have been placed in a foster home had he not been tossed about between levels of government in bickering and haggling over who should pay?

How is that possible in this day and age, in the year 2007, in one of the wealthiest countries in the world? How is it possible for us to reduce human life to a dollar figure? Have we learned nothing from his death? Are we not now prepared to do something about it?

There are more Jordans out there. We just have to look at the number of aboriginal people with disabilities and the number of children with disabilities who are not getting the care they need because the government has refused to take seriously the need for care for children on reserve and off reserve. The government has refused to work with our first nations communities to put in place the best possible range of services for children with disabilities.

I want to go over some of the information that government members should be aware of. I will go back to the year 2004 and a document produced by the Saskatchewan Institute of Public Policy, which is part of the University of Regina. It states:

Aboriginal people with disabilities are caught in a public policy vacuum with little hope for amelioration. Aboriginal persons are individuals who identify themselves as having Indigenous or North American Indian ancestry and may or may not have status under the federal Indian Act.

The article goes on to say that in this whole area, aboriginal people, first nations citizens on or off reserve, who are living with disabilities or who have children with disabilities, are at the bottom of our hierarchy in Canada today. They are at the bottom of our society. They are neglected and forgotten because this government and governments before it have chosen to ignore the problem, to walk away, to turn a blind eye, to not heed the cries of Jordan and Jordan's family.

This is what Cindy Blackstock, the executive director of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, asked back in the spring of 2007, “Two years after Jordan's death, why isn't the Canadian government implementing Jordan's Principle to make sure” this never happens to another child in Canada?

She said:

With all our hearts and minds we do not understand.

All we can see is that Jordan's principle is about providing First Nations children with the same government services already enjoyed by other children in Canada.

And what we know is that the federal government could save money by providing First Nations children with the equal services they need to live safely at home instead of paying higher costs to put them in foster care or hospitals.

All we can see is that Jordan died waiting for governments to do the right thing.

Do members of the government see it today? Are they prepared to act? Do they understand what this means?

I want to tell them from a personal point of view what it means to have a child with a disability and to want the very best for that child, and what it means to be able to live in a society like I do in Manitoba, where governments are responsive and where the full range of services is available, whether it was respite care services when my son, Nick, was at home with us, or whether it was finding the best home possible for him where he could live for the rest of his life.

I was lucky. My son was lucky. But it was not just luck. It was government planning and government compassion and a society that cared and cares about everyone among us.

Today we are talking about the most vulnerable people in our society. Our responsibility is to be the lookout for those individuals and to do the very best we can. This means ensuring that we not only support this motion, Jordan's principle, but that we act on it immediately.

Aboriginal AffairsPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by acknowledging my colleagues from all four corners of the House who have spoken in support of this very important motion. I want to thank them for their spoken commitment in the House to Jordan and his family and to all the other children who are in Jordan's situation across the country from coast to coast to coast.

I want to acknowledge Jordan and his family. They have demonstrated incredible courage by allowing us to bring Jordan's story to the House of Commons. The words put forward in the application for the nominee for the International Children's Peace Prize speak about the legacy that Jordan's family hopes to leave. They are as follows:

Jordan could not talk and yet people around the world hear his message. Jordan could not breathe on his own and yet he has given the breath of life to other children. Jordan could not walk but he has taken steps that governments are now just learning to follow. He is an honoured ancestor of First Nations peoples in Canada and an inspiration to all the peoples of the world on how one toddler can change the world....

He is a child who really did change the world by ensuring the rights of children come before the conveniences of governments--all this and he was only five years old.

There will be shame on each and every one of us in this House who stood, supported and spoke in favour of this motion, and eventually will vote on this motion, if we do not actually put some substance behind the words we have spoken here.

One of the things that I know has made a number of us in the New Democratic Party nervous is the fact that in 1989 Ed Broadbent was instrumental in bringing forward a motion before this House on ending child and family poverty in this country, but here we are in 2007 continuing to talk about the number of children and their families who live in poverty. All these years later and still we have not had the meaningful kind of action that is required to end child poverty in this country.

I am urging each and every member of the House, in their support of this very important motion, to move beyond the talk and put into place meaningful plans and substantial actions which would see that never again does a child like Jordan end up not getting the care he or she needs simply because he or she is a first nations child in this country.

We have enough wealth and enough knowledge to say that there should be no jurisdictional disputes that end up with children dying in hospital simply because governments could not agree on the kind of care that was needed.

One would hope that there is a legacy left from the courage of Jordan and his family in bringing this story forward. One would hope there is a legacy left which says that children truly will come first in this country. In 2007, with all of our wealth, we should be prepared to put children first.

I call on each and every member of this House to not only support this motion but to go back and work within their respective caucuses to ensure that the action that is required to take this motion from principle into reality will happen.

Aboriginal AffairsPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The time provided for debate on Motion No. 296 has expired. Accordingly, the question is on the motion.

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

Aboriginal AffairsPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.