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House of Commons Hansard #111 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aboriginal.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to outline what the Conservative government has done to our country because we have never seen anything like this before.

A large social engineering project is occurring, masterminded by the Conservative government, and it is below the radar screen of many Canadians. The implications of this are quite enormous. Although much of the package sounds good, it goes against common good public policy.

It is not only retail politics trumping fact based public policy, it is much more than that. It is seeding a rigorous social Conservative view in politics, education and the bureaucracy. It is a marriage between social Conservative religious groups and one political party, the Conservative Party.

All people have an absolute right to believe in whatever they want. Indeed, any religious group can lobby any political party or government as hard as it wants. However, we draw the line at responsibility. A government is responsible to ensure that religion and politics are separate. This is an unsaid but widely accepted viewpoint of most Canadians. Out of respect for people's religious views, we do not marry or mix religion and politics. However, that is not what has occurred.

I will speak about the implications of this in a moment. The fact is it will affect and has affected everything from Parliament to the courts, to the media, to education and to the bureaucracy. Parliament has largely become, at least within the government, a dictatorship where power has been centralized within the Prime Minister's office, ignoring good advice from bureaucracies, his own MPs and cabinet.

It must be an unsatisfying and soul destroying experience to be members of the government now and to be seen as little more than potted plants, not listened to or respected by the Prime Minister. This is a very dangerous situation for all who voted for individuals and expected their members of Parliament to advocate for them in a constructive way in the House.

The courts have also been changed, as we saw recently. The current grouping, in terms of deciding who will be judges, has changed quite significantly and has been stacked with individuals who reflect the social conservative values of the Prime Minister.

The media is in the hands of a small number of people. I know this is not a very satisfying situation for many journalists. That does not have anything to do with the government, but having media centralization in a small number of hands stultifies different viewpoints and does not allow the Canadian public to see the breadth of views out there. It is not a healthy situation for strong public discourse.

The implications are quite serious, and I will go through some of them.

The first is the loss of democracy. We have a situation where the power is controlled by and large within the Prime Minister's office and the hands of a very few. We know that party would have supported Canada joining the U.S. in the war in Iraq. Imagine if the U.S. invades Iran. If the U.S. were to ask the government to join in that fight, what would it do? Would it support it? If it did, It would be a devastating.

On cuts to the poor, the government does not even pretend to advocate for the poor. It raised the income tax rate on the poor and dropped the basic personal exemption. As a result that, the poorest in our society have been hammered and have less money in their pockets now than ever before. The discrepancy between the haves and the have nots are widening.

On child care, as colleagues have mentioned before, $3.5 billion have been cut. In my province of British Columbia as well as in all other provinces it has had a profound impact on child care workers, spaces, parents and families. They do not have the choice that the party across the way professes to give Canadians.

Furthermore, the $1,200 child care benefit is taxed. Because of that what ends up in people's pockets is a fraction of that $1,200. In fact, it amounts to about $2 a day. That is not child care, those are not spaces and that is not a choice. The 25,000 spaces that were promised by the government so far amount to zero.

On the issue of human reproductive technologies, another board has been stacked by the government, filled with people who are anti-choice. The implications of this in terms of embryonic stem cell research are devastating for our researchers. As a result, Canadian research into embryonic stem cell activities will be crushed and the ability of our researchers to engage in the lifesaving research required to deal with diseases, such as cancers, will be snuffed.

On the issue of productivity, the government has been silent, riding on the wave of the Liberals, who created a healthy economy for Canada.

On health care, we fought hard to keep the needle exchange program in Vancouver. Did the government extend it for three years as had been requested? No. It extended for one year in a sudden death decision. This is a research program that saves lives and money and reduces crime. However, because of an ideological approach, the government has not extended the program past the one year, a program that has proven to save lives. In fact, the government has ignored the facts in The Lancet and other world renowned medical magazines.

The Prime Minister's foreign affairs platform can basically be described as improving Canada-U.S. relations. What happened to the rest of the world? Clearly, Canada-U.S. relations are exceedingly important, but the world is a lot bigger than this continent.

Where is the government on the Sudan? It is missing in action. Where is the government on the Middle East? Quite rightly, it supports Israel and its peace and security, as we all do. However, where is the government on the crisis in Gaza? It rightly removed funding from Hamas, but it is nowhere in being able to alleviate the catastrophic situation taking place on the ground in the Gaza Strip. People dying of preventable causes right now.

Afghanistan is one of the most egregious situations that has taken place while the government has been in power. The public, and unfortunately members of our beloved military, believe the government is doing things in their favour. What they do not know is the government has used our troops as a political pawn for its own political benefit.

The government gave the House 48 hours to make a decision, which was the most important decision that any of us had to make, on whether to put the lives of our troops on the line for our country. Yet, the public does not know that.

The government got it wrong. It did not have the development package correct. It did not have the political package correct. As a result and as we see from Senlis Council briefings and other people on the ground, we are losing the war in Afghanistan. Why? The government does not have a plan for dealing with the poppy crop. It does not have a plan for training the Afghan national police. It does not have a plan for dealing with the insurgency coming from outside. As a result, our troops, which are bleeding for our interests and those of Afghanistan, do not have the backup they require to do the job.

Political solutions are required to deal with Afghanistan and the government is missing in action. It did not get it right when it rammed this through Parliament and it does not have it right now. It is leaving our troops bereft and on the side to do the hard work without giving them the backup on the ground. That is reprehensible.

The government needs to listen to the solutions that are being offered. They would make that mission a success and would allow our troops to be safe and get out by 2009, with respect to the combat aspects.

I might add that the poppy crop eradication process taking place right now is going to dramatically increase insecurity for our troops. Therefore, I demand that the government speak to the United States and the United Kingdom and stop this plan. The farmers have said that if we take away their poppy crops, we will destroy their ability to provide for our families and because of that they will join the Taliban.

Why does the Prime Minister not pick up the phone and speak to President Bush and tell him to stop? Why does he not do the same for Mr. Blair? If it that does not happen, the attacks against our troops will increase. I demand that the government do this, and do it now.

I know government members do not have the power because the Prime Minister controls everything, but I encourage them, within their caucus and publicly, to speak out on the good public policies they would like to have their government adopt in the interest of their constituents and in the interest of our country.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont.

I appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight. Unlike the motion by the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore, I will be brief and I will stick to the point.

The omnibus motion before the House today is reminiscent of the Liberal Party of the past. It is an indication of what would come should the Liberals ever have the opportunity to form government again. It should remind us that all that party is is a party in disarray, a party that cannot pick priorities and a party that is obviously facing division within its own ranks. The motion touches on Kyoto, day care, agriculture, justice, linguistic duality, the Wheat Board and the Status of Women Canada. It is the latter that I will discuss this afternoon.

For months now, the opposition has been attempting to mislead Canadian women about what has been happening since we formed government. There has been a great deal of discussion around the renewed terms and conditions of the women's program and the new criteria for funding. We believe advocacy has a role to play. Canada's new government believes that now is the time to act and we want to focus taxpayers' dollars towards action. We have the studies; we know there are problems. Instead of wasting time discussing the issues, our government is looking at tangible ways in which we can make a difference now.

For example, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs is dealing with matrimonial property rights for aboriginal women. Our government increased funding to on reserve family violence shelters by $6 million. As well, the minister announced $450 million for improving water supply and housing on reserve, education outcomes and socio-economic conditions for aboriginal women, children and families, real money in the hands of organizations that are on the ground working to make a difference.

In terms of human trafficking, the former minister of citizenship and immigration developed a program to offer victims temporary visas. Human trafficking is on the rise and the majority of those trafficked are women. They are brought to this country and are forced into a life of prostitution. Instead of being treated as criminals, our government will issue temporary resident permits for up to 120 days and will provide the necessary health care required free of charge.

Women's issues are issues that all Conservative MPs and cabinet ministers are concerned about, not just one minister, all cabinet ministers. The Minister of Human Resources and Social Development announced $4.48 million to help retrain women on social assistance in New Brunswick. This three year pilot project called Partners Building Futures will help women on social assistance get the training necessary to find jobs.

As well, the minister has introduced legislation, Bill C-36, that will make it easier for Canadians to access the guaranteed income supplement. The guaranteed income supplement pays out $6.2 billion a year and goes to 1.5 million low income seniors who are mostly women. This is real change that will affect people right where they live in our communities across our nation.

In one short year we have introduced the universal child care benefit to help women and their families in their homes. We have implemented patient wait time guarantees for prenatal aboriginal women. We have expanded eligibility for compassionate caregivers, most of whom are women. We have introduced pension splitting for senior citizens. We have targeted tax cuts like the GST, the textbook credit and the credit for families with children involved in physical activity to ensure that families are supported. This is real change, ideas and policies that are making a difference in real Canadian women's lives.

This government is committed to action in terms of women and justice issues. There are stories in the paper every day about repeat offenders, men who have abused their wives, children or girlfriends, who are back on the streets putting lives in danger because law enforcement does not have the necessary tools. Domestic violence is an issue that this government takes seriously.

The Minister of Justice has brought forward tougher legislation. We need effective sentencing where dealing with sexual predators and repeat offenders is addressed. We need to end conditional sentencing and raise the age of protection. This is critical.

Canada's new government believes in supporting programs that have a direct impact on women. We believe in putting money into the hands of groups that will help women in their communities.

In October 2005 Canada was cited by the United Nations committee on human rights as failing to adequately address the high rate of violence against aboriginal women. These women and their children deserve safe communities. This is why Canada's new government has committed to the multi-year funding of $1 million a year until the year 2011 to the Native Women's Association of Canada. The Sisters in Spirit initiative addresses the high rates of racialized, sexualized violence against aboriginal women. This project will have a direct benefit on the lives of aboriginal women in their communities.

There is no simple answer. The economic security of women can be traced back as a root cause of the problems women face on a daily basis. We need to ask how we can work together to alleviate these problems, and how we can work with the provinces to better provide services for women. That is one issue which the status of women committee is addressing as we speak. The committee is taking a look at the economic security of women all across our nation.

When a woman faces domestic violence, what can we do to help her get herself out of that cycle of abuse? How can we help women to get out of these situations, to find jobs, build homes, be self-sustaining? We need to let women know that there are other options enabling them the opportunity to change their lives.

The idea that this government is trying to silence women or their advocacy groups is completely ludicrous. I would like to put our partisan political differences aside and work with all members of this House to ensure that we are making a difference in the lives of women all across Canada.

It is imperative that action replace words. It is imperative that problems are solved so women in their daily lives, in their homes and communities all across this nation can get the assurance and support that they need.

It is a pleasure to be here today working with our government in terms of putting words into action.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague opposite for her comments, but I have a bit of difficulty on the whole concept of action and words.

We know there have been no additional child care spaces created under the Conservative government. We know that 45% of the female prison population is aboriginal women. We know that violence against aboriginal women is preponderant in society.

We also know that change comes about because research is done, advocacy is undertaken and government policies change. We know that under the Conservative government, the tools for advocacy, the tools to move forward on equality-seeking matters have simply been eliminated for equality-seeking groups.

I also want to indicate that the member opposite cited all that was being done for aboriginal women, such as matrimonial real property, but I am wondering if she is aware of a statement issued yesterday by first nations women which said:

First Nations Women Chiefs and Councillors are mad as hell with Crown government interference in our lives and we're not going to take it anymore.

What real change is happening? To my mind, moneys have been taken away and misinformation is being put out in terms of opportunities to access money. Offices are being closed. We heard yesterday that women cannot access staff in order to put in applications for money. We hear about all of the programs that are being eliminated. I have a real difficulty in hearing about change taking place.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have to note that members opposite had 13 years to solve the problems. We hear every day in the House of Commons how things are not being done. In reality that is not true. In reality this government has provided $100 to parents who have children under six years of age. The parents can use that $100 for what they need in their homes. The government has provided tax credits for people whose children are enrolled in sports initiatives. We have put millions of dollars into shelters. We have done many things. In one short year, we have done more than what the former Liberal government did over a period of 13 years.

It is embarrassing to the Status of Women to hear of all the studies that have been done with no action or problem solving following those studies.

This government is taking action. We are getting the job done.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Louise Thibault Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's speech. She spoke of many studies and cuts made to women's programs.

I would like her to comment on another study, the one pertaining to the very dramatic cuts the Conservative government announced to the summer career placements program. This program's usefulness has been clearly demonstrated; it has been a great help to our young people in preparing them for a future in non-profit, municipal and other organizations. We are talking about the future of our young people. I would like her to comment on why the Conservative government wants to practically abolish this program that is working so well.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, the $5 million is not a cost cut at all. It is a cost savings. That money is put directly into programs for women. There have been many studies.

What we are saying is we know what the problems are and we have to take action and make things happen.

When we got into government we found out that only 31¢ of every dollar was actually being given to women on the ground in communities. Yes, that number is being increased. We are making sure that the full dollar of every dollar works for women across Canada.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the motion of the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore, particularly with respect to plans for child care. It gives Canadians who are following this debate a chance to see whether the new member brings a new and fresh perspective to the tired old policy that Canadians rejected a year ago last month.

The Liberals first promised in their 1993 red book to deliver a child care plan. Canadians waited. And they waited. I do not know where the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore was for the past 13 years, but Canadians like us waited 13 years for Liberals like him to tell us what their plan was. When the Liberals finally got around to telling us the plan, they got it wrong in the eyes of Canadian parents.

Before the last election, Canadian parents said they were looking for choice in child care. What did the Liberals offer? A cookie-cutter approach to child care.

Canadian families are diverse. The Liberals ignored our diversity. Some families are looking for spaces like the Liberals promised, and we will begin delivering in the upcoming fiscal year. Many others only need access to part time child care. Others are looking for flexibility of care to meet their rotating shifts. Still others want to stay at home or have a trusted family member or neighbour care for their children.

The former Liberal government's child care plan offered these families nothing. Under the Liberals, only a select group would benefit. Anyone looking for something other than a regulated, nine to five, child care space got nothing. Regular Canadian families got nothing from the Liberals.

That was the old Liberals' plan. Since then, we have had an election where that plan was up against our plan for choice in child care, and it lost. Since then, the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore came back to Canada. Since then, the member had a chance to listen to families in his riding, families who do shift work and families from China and India who have more than one generation under the same roof and prefer having grandparents help raise the kids.

The member has had time to listen to Canadians who looked at the child care options they were presented last election, Canadians such as Kate Tennier of Advocates for Child Care Choice, who was quoted in the December 5, 2005 National Post as saying, “You might have a perfectly good grandmother or neighbour to look after your children, but you are forced into regulated day care” under the Liberals' plan.

What new plan does this new member bring us? The same old tired Liberal child care plan that Canadians said they did not want. Rather than rejuvenating the Liberals with fresh ideas, it looks like the old Liberals were able to get to him and make him sound just like them. Too bad it does not sound anything like what Canadians sound like.

In fact, the most recent statement of what Canadians want in child care comes from Today's Parent magazine. Today's Parent polled Canadian parents. Results were published in this month's edition and they show a mere 16% of parents looking for child care spaces and the Liberal plan. They show that 38% prefer to have a parent stay at home and 17% use relatives. These families want support too.

Conservatives are listening to Canadians. Only the Conservatives offered Canadians support for their choice in child care. The good news for Canadian families is that we did not take 13 years to do it, like the Liberals did.

The new government's choice in child care plan will see an investment of over $12 billion over five years. The Liberals promised less than half that. The new government delivers support directly to families for their choice in child care. The Liberals transferred less funding to provincial bureaucracies, with no accountability measures for what the money should deliver.

In fact, the shortcomings of the Liberal plan were so stark that they led no less than former Liberal deputy leader Sheila Copps to comment, “The last agreement actually saw some provinces rake in millions in cash without creating a single new day-care space”. That is from the Calgary Sun during the election campaign, in its issue of December 7, 2005.

The new government's plan has two parts: the universal child care benefit, which delivers $100 a month to every child under the age of six for the child care of choice, and the child care spaces initiative that is set to begin delivering spaces in the upcoming fiscal year, as promised.

We have delivered on the UCCB. Over $1.4 billion has gone out to 1.4 million families on behalf of 1.9 million children. That is more benefits to Canadian families in half a year than the Liberals would spend for an entire year.

Just as we have met our commitment on the universal child care benefit, we will deliver on our child care space initiative, but Conservatives recognize that a plan for child care spaces has to be better at meeting the needs of Canadian parents than what the Liberals had planned. The Liberals wanted to fund day care providers. We want to fund children.

Conservatives recognize that Canadian parents with young children are involved in all kinds of work environments and situations, not just nine to five, five days a week, with evenings and weekends off. Our plan looks for options for Canadian parents who are working shifts and on weekends. We want spaces that are flexible for the needs of farm families and parents who work in fisheries. The standard nine to five child care that the Liberals had planned is not suitable for them.

Last year's budget set aside $250 million a year beginning in fiscal year 2007-08 to support the creation of new child care spaces in communities across Canada. We want these spaces to answer the real needs of Canadians. We have taken the time to hear their concerns and get their ideas.

In the meantime, we have provided the provinces and territories with $650 million to help in the transition to our new child care policy. We have consulted with the provinces and territories on our plans for child care spaces. Together we will find a child care solution so that Canadian families can balance work and family life as they see fit, no matter where they live.

These are the initiatives we promised Canadians in the last election. They are initiatives we promised in the Speech from the Throne last year. They were included in last year's budget. We are delivering on these promises.

I urge hon. members to join me in voting down this motion.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my Conservative colleague on getting a jump on his election speech. It is clear that he is planning to criticize the Liberals and play up what his party has done. But I believe that a responsible government should stop talking about other parties and talk about what it wants to do.

In his speech, he referred to 37% or 38% of Canadians. Those figures certainly do not include Quebec. He could never say that in Quebec, because we have a very good child care system.

What is more, the $1,200 parents receive annually is not a complete gift. Much of it comes back to the government in taxes. The member spoke of choice, but this amount does not give parents the choice of child care in the evening, on weekends or when they want it. Child care centres do not exist simply because the government is giving people money for child care. That is the big problem.

Quebec already has child care centres. The government is giving us $258 million. That hurts the province, because the money is being given to the people, who are not necessarily paying for child care.

Since Quebec already has a child care system, how is it that he did not support it earlier, when the other provinces considered it a model system?

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to point out that I did not door-knock in Quebec. I door-knocked in my riding of Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont and talked to the families there. What I heard over and over again was that they were concerned about a fundamental unfairness in the Liberal plan, which would basically send all of the money to fund one option, to fund what I would say is perhaps an ideologically based option, to use terminology that the Liberals seem to favour using right now.

What I heard at the doorsteps is that people want something that is fair for all parents, whether they send their kids to a nine to five day care system or choose to raise their kids at home or have a neighbour or grandparent watch them.

I will focus on and reiterate what we have accomplished. As I said in my speech, there are 1.9 million children, through money being received by 1.5 million families, receiving $100 per child under the age of six. Those families now are able to make the decision that they feel is best for their own families.

That is what my constituents asked for. I cannot speak to what the constituents in the hon. member's riding asked for, but I am responsible for representing the wishes of my constituents, and they asked me over and over again for fairness in the child care system.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very interested in this debate today, especially with regard to women. I did not get an opportunity to ask a question of the previous presenter from the government side, but she talked about options for women to change their lives if they were in violent or abusive situations.

I know that her colleague who just spoke would want to tell us about what the government is doing and what those options are, because from my perspective what I have seen in my community is cuts to services for women. The $100 a month for child care really is not a child care program. It is a nice family bonus, but it does not do anything to create child care spaces. I also just heard that the unanimous voices of the First Nations Women Leaders Forum in British Columbia are calling on the government for systemic change to stop the cycle of abuse and poverty.

Would my hon. colleague comment on what the government is doing with options for change for women?

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member mentioned child care spaces. As I mentioned in my speech, last year's budget set aside $250 million a year, beginning in fiscal year 2007-08, to create child care spaces through the child care spaces initiative.

One of the things that Canadians have seen with the government in our first year of running things is a consistent approach to following through on our promises, to fulfilling our promises and doing what we said we would do.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe.

Today I rise to speak about the last year, one long year in which we are beginning to see the impacts of the decisions of the new Conservative government. We now can see the Conservatives importing their narrow minded and ultra-conservative agenda for the people of Canada.

This is not something that we see only with the government's actions in the House of Commons. We are actually witnessing the impact of these decisions on the day to day lives of hard-working Canadians. I see this every day in my own riding of Newton—North Delta.

Eliminating child care spaces, summer job programs for students, national literacy programs, programs designed to improve the advancement of women in our society, and legal help for those trying to defend their charter rights: these are only a few examples of the government's disconnect with the values and dreams of the majority of Canadians.

The Conservative government looks at the federal budget like a ledger, as simply numbers on a page that can be crossed off if the title does not fit the narrow vision of the Conservative Party. Of course, if this is reflected in the polls they will change their strategy until a majority is in hand, but they will never change their minds when it comes to Canadians. The Conservatives will re-announce the previous Liberal plan with a new blue banner and a catchy phrase. It is very simple for them, really, as if it is some sort of a game.

This is not a game. These numbers are not just abstract accounting notes. They reflect the efforts of this country to make the lives of ordinary Canadians better. They reflect the Canadians who try to find early learning and child care spaces for our children. They reflect the efforts of teachers to help Canadians read and write. They reflect the advocacy efforts of women trying to break glass ceilings. They reflect the work of committed Canadians trying to exercise their rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They reflect the efforts of this country to make itself a better place for its citizens.

I am afraid that the impacts of what the Conservatives are abandoning will only get worse. This country has achieved landmark child care agreements with every province and territory, but what does the Conservative $5 billion cut across this country really mean?

Let me tell members that Child Care Options, in my riding of Newton—North Delta, is having its entire funding slashed. This is a direct result of the government's heartless treatment of our children. Who is going to answer the more than 30,000 inquiries that the Child Care Options agency receives every year? It will no longer be there to help parents in my riding find child care spaces and early learning opportunities.

Furthermore, Surrey's teen parent program that supported young parents who want to complete their high school education has no idea how it will survive these cuts.

It gets worse. The Conservative government also cut $18 million in literacy funding that is badly needed in my riding of Newton—North Delta. I will never understand how this program does not fit even the narrowest of conservative beliefs, but apparently it does not.

These programs not only help those individuals who are learning to read and write, they strengthen the social and economic fabric of entire communities, the small communities in British Columbia that need this help very badly. The Conservative government obviously believes that this is pointless.

The Conservative government has continued this social policy rampage by turning back the clock on women's equality. It has shut down the Status of Women Canada offices across the country. It has removed the word “equality” from the mandate of its women's program and it has cut $5 million from Status of Women Canada. This important avenue for the achievement of women is being destroyed, and I would say that it is shameful.

The Conservative government is cutting $55 million from the youth employment services. It will save $10 million with the elimination of the international youth internship program and another $10 million with the elimination of the Canadian volunteerism initiative.

Those cuts will have a devastating impact on students and young people in my riding of Newton—North Delta.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the Conservative government's agenda is its cancellation of $6 million for the court challenges program. The Prime Minister's chief of staff is on record questioning whether this program should exist. His opinion obviously won out in the backrooms of the Prime Minister's Office.

I guess some organizations should be viewed with more suspicion, at least from the Conservative Party's perspective. The government needs to stop groups that may use the court challenges program to advance equality and language rights under the charter. Those suspicious on the Conservative list include but are not limited to: Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, The B.C. Human Rights Coalition, the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities, the Canadian Association of the Deaf, the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Women's Health Network, The Canadian Hearing Society and even the Brain Injury Association network are on the Conservative Party's hit list.

The court challenges program was responsible for allowing deaf people to fully participate in Canadian society by mandating translation services in sign language so they could interact with the government. This success alone is enough to justify the continuation of the program. Those are only a few examples.

This will be a country where a young mother will not be able to find a child care space or even afford one if found. It will be a country where this mother will have vastly reduced access to literacy and adult education programs. It will be a country where job opportunities through youth employment programs will not exist for this mother. It will be a country where, if this mother's rights are violated, she will have no access to the court challenges program.

I suppose the Conservatives believe that ignorance is bliss and that the ignorant will vote Conservative. However, I, along with the Liberal Party, will work to stop this from happening, even if the NDP continues to support this ultra-conservative agenda.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Louise Thibault Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like my colleague from Newton—North Delta to elaborate on the truly drastic, draconian cuts the Conservative government has announced in the summer career placements program. He alluded to them.

I would like to know whether my colleague shares my opinion and that of my Bloc Québécois colleagues on the devastating impact the cuts will have on our young people and their future. This program enables young people to embark on a career path, and these dramatic cuts will make it much more difficult for them to find jobs in the future.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, when I went to the University of Calgary I remember how important the summer program was to obtain the necessary experience to be successful in the workplace. By cutting these programs, we will be affecting the most vulnerable in our society. It is probably because the Conservative government thinks that these students do not work.

I will keep on working hard for all the students in my riding. Many of the students at Kwantlen University College are affected by this program, which I personally think is a shame.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Newton—North Delta talked a lot about child care. I somewhat agree with him that the Conservatives have not done anything to create child care spaces. All we have heard so far is their promise that in the coming year they will create some spaces. They seem to be following along the same lines as the Liberal Party in that respect.

I have been an advocate for child care for over 20 years. I have done a lot of lobbying and did call on the previous Liberal government to deliver on the national child care program that it promised in 1993 under Jean Chrétien's leadership. However, even after the Liberals won majority after majority and had a surplus of billions of dollars, no national child care program was delivered.

Why, in the face of all that, did the Liberals wait until the last minority Parliament to introduce a national child care program?

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am certain that the hon. member is well aware that the previous government made a landmark agreement with all the provinces so children across this country could take part in the early learning and child care program. I will elaborate on this a bit.

This is not just about child care. It is also about early learning. My son will be turning three this coming Monday. When it comes to child care, I am fortunate to have my parents at home. Every medical study has shown that early childhood learning is what counts for children between the ages of three and six. The $100 benefit really becomes $70 in my case even though I have not applied for it. The $100 is taxable.

I would request the hon. member to keep on working for the future. It was the Liberal Party that brought in the landmark agreements. We should keep on working to ensure that every child, irrespective of where they live, will be able to take part in early childhood learning.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the motion before the House. I will concentrate on the egregious cut and elimination on human rights and justice issues.

In particular, I would like to start with the elimination of the court challenges program.

I am from Moncton, New Brunswick. It is the cradle of Acadia and its capital. We have many Acadians who speak French. It is very important to emphasize that Acadians know what it is like to be a minority.

Of all the obligations of members of parliament, the most important and vital is to protect human rights, civil rights, the rights of individuals across the country. Throughout Canada we have minorities with religious and language rights.

Moncton, New Brunswick has a long history of fighting for the minority rights of Acadians.

The story really starts in the 1700s when the Acadian people settled most of the parts of what is now New Brunswick and what was then Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia was split into two parts, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, with New Brunswick being the better part, seeing no members from Nova Scotia near me.

What happened is that the Acadian population in 1755 was put to an egregious deportation in the time of colonial wars, which we will not get into, but essentially they were from that time forward treated as second class citizens in the region.

It was a long time from 1755 to 1960 but in 1960 the first French Acadian premier of a province that is 33.5% bilingual, or French and Acadian in population, was elected. His name was Louis J. Robichaud and he instituted a program of equal opportunity.

I will paint a picture of New Brunswick in the 1960s. French, a language spoken by one-third of the population, 40% in the city of Moncton, was not spoken at municipal hall meetings nor spoken in the provincial government. This was long before Pierre Trudeau's visionary Official Languages Act and, I might add, in a brief moment of non-partisanship, long before the vision of Progressive Conservative Premier Richard Hatfield of New Brunswick who brought forward the official languages act at the provincial level in the 1980s. It also was long before 2002 when the city of Moncton, where the largest number of Acadians live in the province in one place, became officially bilingual. This is a continuum from 1755 to today.

What is important to remember is in New Brunswick in the time that I grew up, notwithstanding the great numbers of population who were French speaking Acadians, they had very few schools. They were fighting to keep their own hospitals. I will keep it at schools and hospitals because the other pillar I believe of social justice requires that we look at the judicial system.

The judicial system, because it was more federally regulated than the other two pillars that I wish to delve into, was very much ahead of its time with respect to according linguistic rights to the French speaking minority.

In the realm of schools let me paint the picture that many French speaking Acadians in New Brunswick were told. They were told that they would not go to school but that they would learn a trade. The schools in the area of Moncton, in southeastern New Brunswick and in other parts of New Brunswick did not have sufficient spaces for francophones until equal opportunity and Louis J. Robichaud.

Hospital care was not what it should have been either. It was primarily religious in nature. It eschewed public funding and did not get the public funding it deserved. With time and, I will say, with the progressive measures of people like Richard Hatfield, following on Frank McKenna as well, measures were adopted to certainly visit égalité dans ce secteur.

This drives me to the main point of how the cuts with respect to linguistic minorities in this country are absolutely shameful. The Conservative government should be ashamed of turning the clock back on the advances that have been made over time, particularly with respect to minority rights. With that I am speaking about the wholesale elimination of the court challenges program.

It can be asked, “Isn't that just a fund”, as the Conservative hyperbole would lead us to believe, “that funds lawyers to fight cases and otherwise increase their income?” No, it is not. I will give two good examples of what the fund is about.

First, it helped to ensure the survival of Montfort hospital in an area where the minority population required health care. This program provided funding for the new school L'Odyssée, which will open its doors in Moncton, New Brunswick.

These are but two examples that I hope bring home to the Conservatives the importance of the court challenges program.

The Montfort Hospital we do not have to speak about in great detail. It was a very well publicized case with the Mike Harris government. There are vestiges of the Mike Harris legacy in this House and in the government. We see it with the discussions and in the cuts that are made with respect to how government operates today. It is very much like Mike Harris in Ontario.

I will not go into a complete brief of that. There is not the time, but there is time to explain that the Mike Harris government and many of the people who represent the Ottawa region in this House for the other side were all in favour of closing a hospital that served the needs of a French-speaking minority in this region. That was unacceptable.

The challenge was put under the court challenges program and it was won, legally and then politically. That is an important process to remember. Often the political battle is won after the legal battle is won. This may be another non-partisan moment where I say all governments are going to comply with the law, which is why we are so confident on this side that Kyoto will be implemented by the government because it will obey the law. The law told the provincial government of Ontario at the time that it must keep the Montfort Hospital open and it did.

Let me explain the other case that is real and has a connection to the elimination of the court challenges program.

A group of people in Moncton, New Brunswick decided, because of their growing numbers, that they deserved a school for their school-aged children, grades one to nine, in Moncton. They filed the brief against the provincial government. They started the action. The action was never pursued because when it was publicized and a copy was sent to the provincial government of the day, it agreed to build the school.

This program does not challenge the federal government, as the former minister of justice suggests. It challenges other levels of government that have less open laws toward minorities, and it should have been kept. It is there to protect people who cannot protect themselves. It is there to encourage municipalities, boards, agencies and commissions, and even provincial governments, to do the right thing.

These are two cases that exemplify the reason why the elimination of the court challenges program is an unacceptable measure. It shows the meanness, the narrowness, and the unconstitutional posture of the government. It shows that it is just Mike Harris writ large, on the blanket of this country, and right-thinking Canadians will not stand for it.

It is why I am very proud that our leader and other members of this chamber have risen today and said this is enough. There is no vision that includes everyone in Canada on that side. We will take the time it takes in this House to show to Canadians that the vision from that government is not a vision that will sustain a country. It may sustain pockets of people who think like it does, but it does not sustain a patchwork of Canadians who deserve equality rights for minorities and a better country in the future.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe for his words here today.

The hon. member was talking about minority rights. When it comes to the francophone community, I totally understand where he is coming from because his province has a bilingual culture. However, I was also listening to the Bloc members and these days there are other minority languages as well. How is it going to impact those programs? Could the member elaborate on this?

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I did focus on official languages. It is where I come from. It is what I have lived as a municipal politician for some time. However, I do understand the growth of minority communities, in general, in Canada, and I do understand that there are language needs that surpass the Official Languages Act, but are nevertheless met with the Canada Health Act.

We were quite gratified to meet officials in western Canada who provide, in British Columbia, for instance, at the provincial level, services in health and education in many languages. If those were to be denied, the court challenges program would be in place to guarantee that a member of a British Columbia Sikh community, for example, who was denied health care in his language so that he could understand what the doctor was saying to him and the doctor could understand what he was saying, could use it if it was egregious.

I compliment the Government of British Columbia but I do not think that is the case. But if it were, if it were flatly denied by policy, by a government agency, board, commission, then the court challenges program would have been there to respond to the needs of all minority populations in this country.

What a shame that the Conservative government does not care about the Acadians in Moncton, New Brunswick, and it does not seemingly care about the Sikh community in British Columbia. What a shame that it just does not care.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to challenge him on that, and for the member who asked the question before, when he full well knows that there is a lot of support for the Conservative Party by Sikh members in the province of British Columbia. That was evidenced by the fact that prior to his election there was a member who had a great deal of support from the Sikh community, and I expect after the next election that will be the case again with a Conservative member from this side of the House for that particular riding.

Certainly, minority communities all across our country, and increasing numbers in these days, support the government. They come from parts of the world where they understand what it means to have solid values. Often they line up more with small “c” conservative values. They are hard-working, industrious and entrepreneurial people. They come into this country and they have a value base. They have a work ethic that is very much in sync with the goals and the aspirations of all Canadians that this party clearly supports.

I would ask if the member might be more accurate on the record, a little more charitable actually in his remarks, and acknowledge the fact that this party does in fact have the support of a lot of immigrant people and ethnic communities across our country instead of putting the misinformation as he did in the manner before? I would appreciate that correction, please.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am always wanting to be charitable to another member of the House of Commons, but in this case I must disagree with my friend and perhaps underline to him that there is a word called “minority” and there is a word called “majority”.

His argument seems to be that if they get the most votes, they can make the laws they want. That decries the whole aspect of minority rights. Even though I was elected by a majority of people, I still have a duty, an obligation, and a moral responsibility to take care of the minority who did not vote for me.

It is the same with respect to relations in the multicultural community. That he has some supporters from the multicultural community is not the point. Do the multicultural communities he represents support his government's decision to eliminate the court challenges program?

I can tell him that in the fall I was in Saskatchewan and Alberta, which to my knowledge has no Liberal seats now. The francophone communities in Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba, it was part of our official languages trip, were unanimously against the government decision to eliminate the court challenges program. So, I am not sure where he gets his information.

I do wish to be charitable to him. I could suggest a list of reading material which would perhaps illuminate for him the concept of minority rights. That is the charity.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this interesting debate on this Liberal Party opposition day.

In the past few hours I have been re-reading the Liberal Party opposition motion. This is nothing short of a motion of defiance. I would say we are on the brink of having an election, judging by this motion. There is so much to criticize about this government that has been in power for a year and a few weeks.

I want to start with the opposite of what my colleague from Moncton said. In other words, I will start by talking about court challenges. I sat on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and we heard from representatives of Canada's linguistic minorities. They explained to us the importance of this right to bring a challenge in the courts and what a small portion of the federal budget this right represented, compared to the impact it will have on the stakeholders.

It is devastating. I hope that someone from the other side of the House will listen. What this government did by cutting this program, that barely cost anything but gave rights to the communities, is devastating. I am talking about francophone communities outside Quebec and, of course, anglophone communities in Quebec. With respect to francophones outside Quebec, just one example will suffice to show this House the importance of the court challenges program. I am talking about the Montfort Hospital.

We heard from people representing the hospital. They explained that the few thousands of dollars they received allowed them to appeal to the Supreme Court. The minister, who was President of the Treasury Board, but has since changed portfolios and is now the Minister of the Environment, said that he was proud to announce to the representatives of the Montfort Hospital that they had won. I find this outrageous and hypocritical. I could use other words that are unparliamentary, but I will let you use your imagination. These people had to fight the government, but they managed to win their case before the Supreme Court. If the government, represented then by the now Minister of the Environment, had truly been in agreement, then it should have just reimbursed all the legal costs.

I think that the court challenges program must be brought back in as soon as possible because it is critical to the survival of cultural minorities in this country. Over the next five or six years, several francophone communities could disappear if they do not get the rights they have a right to—pardon the redundancy—to file appeals with the courts.

Let me go a little farther with that and talk about this government's hypocrisy—yes, hypocrisy—with respect to the summer career placement program. I live in a region called Abitibi—Témiscamingue that I am proud to have represented for nearly two and a half years now. We never thought that the summer career placement program was a social assistance program for students. We still do not think so. We fought for it and we asked for a program that would bring students to our regions, keep them there, and enable them to pursue their studies in areas that interest them.

Last year, I saw students in pharmacy, accounting, administration, tourism and more come back to Abitibi—Témiscamingue to spend the summer there rounding out their studies.

I just do not understand. Nobody, not even the minister, has been able to explain to us why they are cutting such an important program. Even if they tried, they could not find a better way to score a direct hit on Quebec than to cut the summer career placement program.

Why? Because unfortunately for young people from Abitibi—Témiscamingue, there is no pharmacy school in Abitibi—Témiscamingue. Unfortunately for us, forestry engineers are still being trained at Université Laval. Same thing goes for mining engineers and everything that has to do with tourism development. They get their training somewhere other than Abitibi—Témiscamingue. Young people from our region who want to further their education in those sectors have to go to university or even CEGEPs or vocational schools outside of our region. For example, the closest veterinary school is in Saint-Hyacinthe.

The summer career placement program provided an opportunity to bring first-, second- and third-year students back to the regions, where they could find a job in their field of interest, such as with farmers or veterinarians, or even in accounting firms in the regions. Thus, students were able maintain a link to our region. By cutting this program, the government is forcing our students to stay in Montreal, Quebec City, Saint-Hyacinthe, Jonquière, or elsewhere in Quebec, rather than returning to our region for the summer to develop their skills.

We are preparing ourselves for the worst in our regions. We will fight this. I also hope that someone on the other side of the House will become enlightened, whether by the Holy Spirit, Mohammed or Buddha, and understand how important it is for the regions to preserve the summer career placement program. It is essential for our regions. If the Conservatives fail to understand, they will be reminded once again during the next election, certainly in Quebec and likely in other areas across Canada.

If that were the only issue, we could probably accept it once again, but there is something else. I would like to talk about the judiciary. Let me just mention what the Prime Minister said yesterday in the House. It was rather strange. Yesterday, in response to a question asked in this House, the Prime Minister said that they want to make sure that they are bringing forward laws to make sure to crack down on crime and make our streets and communities safer. So far, I think everyone can agree on that. Where he went wrong is when he said that they want to make sure that their selection of judges is in correspondence with those objectives.

I call that profiling. That is what the government is doing. This is condemned by the Barreau du Québec and the Canadian Bar Association. The government is telling us, quite openly, that there will be profiling. This is unacceptable, completely unacceptable.

I know, because I have sat on judicial selection committees. What we want to know about future judges is whether they can hand down a judgment and whether they can do so independently of political and public opinion. This is an essential quality that we look for in judges.

With the announcement the Prime Minister made yesterday, we think that this will no longer be the case. The risk is that candidates for judgeships in the highest courts—the Federal Court, the Federal Court of Appeal, the Superior Court of Québec and the Court of Appeal—will be asked whether they are willing to be harsher, lean more to the right and enforce more strictly the legislation we could adopt. This legislation has not yet been adopted.

Given what Canada is going through at present, it is a good thing that this government does not have a majority. It is a good thing. I hope that Canadians and Quebeckers will understand that if an election is held, this government must not be given a majority.

If you look closely at this government, it is easy to see that it is a right-wing government modelled on George Bush's government in the United States. That is very dangerous for us. We have only to look at the role right-wing ideology is playing in judicial appointments.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights was told that the government wanted to have police officers on selection committees and was asked why appeal court judges were on the committees. We believe, we hope and we know, because we have frequently pleaded before them: judges are independent and want to stay that way. Judicial independence should be a priority when judges are appointed in this country.

That is not all. The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard, who just a few months ago was the Prime Minister of this country, the member for Wascana, who was the Minister of Finance in the former government, and the member for Fredericton, who was the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs until the election, came to testify before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, on which I sit as the Bloc Québécois critic. They came to testify. We asked these three guests specific questions about the Kelowna accord.

I will repeat the question I asked the three guests.

As far as the $5.2 billion is concerned, for implementing the Kelowna accord and allowing the aboriginals of this country to take just a small step toward catching up with the rest of Canadians, we had asked whether this money was in addition to the money the Department of Indian Affairs already had. The response from the three guests, the hon. members for LaSalle—Émard, Wascana and Fredericton, was “yes”.

This government has not respected an agreement signed between nations. The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard was then Prime Minister and he did not sign the Kelowna accord as the member for LaSalle—Émard, but as the Prime Minister of this country. As for Phil Fontaine, he signed as Chief of the Assembly of the First Nations of Canada. It was nation to nation and when we look at the documents, this is precisely what was set out.

There is therefore a $5.2 billion shortfall. This money was earmarked in the budget and was withdrawn and transferred elsewhere by this government. The residences in the aboriginal communities of this country are currently still in the 19th century. We all know how cold it is outside. This evening, when I go back to my riding, I will go by an aboriginal community in the La Vérendrye wildlife sanctuary. In this community, which is called Kitcisakik, people still get water with a pail. In Winneway, an aboriginal community in Témiscamingue, there is so much mould on the walls of a number of the homes that they have to be destroyed.

There is a shortfall of $5.2 billion, which was allocated and which will not be there to help the aboriginal communities make up for lost time.

One thousand homes were to be built for the Inuit and the aboriginal peoples of this country, and that will not be done. Knowing that the birth rate among aboriginal women of this country is 3.4 per woman, we realize that there is currently a population explosion. If nothing is done, there will be major health problems.

How is it that today, in 2007, aboriginal communities have the highest rate of tuberculosis in Canada? That is unacceptable. That does not make sense. This government must absolutely listen to reason and realize that it is headed down a dead-end street. It must get back to reality and realize that the first nations need additional monies to survive.

To conclude, I will say that we will be voting in favour of the Liberal motion because the one thing we want is for this government to understand that it can no longer continue down the path it has taken. This has to stop. It must rethink its decision and understand. There is no way we are going to allow right-wing judges, with a conservative ideology, to be appointed in this country. There is no way. There is no way we are going to axe programs such as the summer career placement program. That is unacceptable.

I think it is totally unacceptable for the $5.2 billion earmarked for aboriginal peoples to be reallocated. This government must be made to understand that we can no longer tolerate this situation.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank the member for his support for the motion and his participation in this debate.

I would like to know whether he is aware of any reason other than pure far right Conservative ideology to explain how, on the same day that a budget surplus of $12 or $13 billion is announced, a $6 million program is cancelled that makes it possible for disadvantaged people in our society to enforce their rights and go to court to have the court decide whether, under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, they are entitled to services? We are talking about education for francophones outside Quebec, for example, in the Maritimes, in Nova Scotia, where I live.

In my day, we had English-language schools. They were called French, but they were English. The teachers were francophone, but all the books we had to read were in English. The administration was francophone, but the classes were taught in English. After grade 12, when I went to a French-language university, I was at a disadvantage, in terms of language, and that was very difficult.

Statistics in Canada tell us that in the Atlantic provinces, particularly for minority language groups, the literacy rate is very low. On that same day, not only was $6 million for the court challenges program taken away, but funding for literacy was also cut.

In addition, jobs are also being cut for young students who are now in universities and schools and preparing for their future. They are losing their funding, as are women who want to enforce their rights. At the same time, this government says that it supports the Charter of Rights, but it supports it by taking away the oxygen it needs to survive.

I would therefore ask the member whether he knows of a reason to explain this other than far right Conservative ideology.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

I find it hard to imagine that this government can have gone this far. I can understand that we have to pay down the debt because we must not leave it to our children and grandchildren. I completely agree with that. We are told that budget surpluses are expected and that the plan is to apply $8 billion to the debt. But when we have $13 billion, I find it hard to understand that we would not take a little of it to help the people who need it most.

Not only do I agree with the member, but I would add that we must not let the Conservatives get away with this. We must absolutely ensure that they understand that the rest of Canada does not agree with them.

They say that they want to abide by the Charter of Rights, and I agree with them entirely. Why then have they abolished the Law Commission of Canada, a commission that provided the government with very thoughtful legal opinions about a whole range of situations and issues? That has been cut too. This is unacceptable. The member is perfectly correct. This right-wing ideology has to stop. They have to understand that this cannot continue.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his comments, his support and his party's support for our motion today.

I was interested in his comments about the aboriginal issue. During the election campaign, the Conservatives promised to honour the Kelowna accord. Budget 2006 gave the Conservative government its first opportunity to clearly demonstrate to aboriginal peoples that they were a priority. However, the Conservative government reneged on its electoral promise by cancelling $5.1 billion in funds allocated to health care, education, water and economic development.

I believe most Canadians would agree that the Kelowna accord is very important to the future of aboriginal people and Canada.

Does my hon. colleague agree that the government should honour this accord and do more for aboriginals in Canada?