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House of Commons Hansard #124 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.

Topics

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I have to ask the hon. member to withdraw the remarks. To say that a minister or any member would be misleading the House is not parliamentary.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I feel aggrieved. I was going to say he was being dishonest and he lied, and I chose the right parliamentary term, but now I have to withdraw that too.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I would appreciate it if hon. members did not get into that realm. I just heard some words that are definitely unparliamentary even though the member might have been trying to get them in in a way that he might be able to claim he was not directly saying them. Those are very dangerous waters and we do not need to have that in this part of the debate.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will speak about the facts as they are then and I will stay away from that unparliamentary language. I apologize if I have offended all of those who normally talk about only the proper language to be used.

When the minister took credit for a $22 billion in debt paydown, he was actually referring to $13.2 billion paid down by the former Liberal government in 2005-06. That is what the book says. But he says, no, they paid that down. I do not know how that happens. That is not what the book says.

The book also says that they paid down $9.2 billion last year and they are going to pay down $3 billion this year, but they are going to be $6.6 billion further in debt. This is voodoo economics.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Your nose is growing.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Read the book. Read the book.

I am looking at this and I am saying that maybe all these other people who have critiqued the budget are also like so many of us: unable to see a vision for this country from that government. It is not there.

We do not know how the government is going to improve the lot of Canadians with that additional $4 billion it is going to raise and the additional $10.6 billion it is going to spend. The Conservatives are going to put us in debt. How are they going to make the country better? Is it on infrastructure?

Take a look at infrastructure. Here we have train derailment after derailment and the Minister of Transport cannot convince the Minister of Finance to put in money for rail safety. He cannot convince the Minister of Finance to put money in the budget for air safety.

We had a witness before the transport committee. I see the chairman here with me; he is a good man. The chairman of that committee heard Judge Moshansky say that the bill would diminish air safety everywhere in the country unless the government puts money into an inspectorate. Where is the money? It is not in this budget.

We have a Minister of Finance who cannot give a hoot about air safety and rail safety, and we have a Minister of Transport who does not have the courage or the influence to get his cabinet colleagues to put money in this budget to make this a better and safer place for Canadians everywhere.

So, what are we doing when we are talking about asking the Canadian public and this party to support a budget that shows no vision, is absolutely down the road away from truth and honesty, and is leading the country back to the dismal position that it had before the Liberals came into government?

The Conservatives are going back down a road of deficits and increasing debt. This thing has to be put away.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence maybe, in his style, had to remind the House of a bit of history, going right back to the Mulroney years when a $42 billion deficit was left that we had to clean up. It took some time to clean up the mess that the Conservatives left. Then we took what the financial experts were saying were third world circumstances and we raised our financial game to the top of the G-8, in fact, in 10 consecutive budgets.

The Conservative government now is the beneficiary of the strongest fiscal position of any new government in the history of Canada and those benefits are going to continue to pay off time and time again.

This member was part of those governments in cabinet ensuring that Canada was able to withstand economic pressures. There was a recession in the U.S. We did not go into a recession. We just kept in mind: do not over promise, but overachieve.

I think the member is cautioning Canadians to watch carefully and I think he should maybe amplify that a bit. Suspiciously, this spend, spend attitude of the Conservatives in their first two budgets now seems to track a little of what Brian Mulroney did back when he was the prime minister. I wonder if the member would care to comment on the damage that it did to Canada for so many years.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will try to expand on that, of course. We look for transparency and honesty in the books, and we do not get them. It struck me that when the Liberal government replaced the Conservative government there was a mantra that developed around the country that Conservative economics were about as phony as a $3 bill along with their NDP allies. Because of that alliance we are again heading in this direction.

My hon. colleague from Mississauga South is absolutely right. Over the course of that 13 year period when the Liberals were in government, there was an increase in the number of jobs being created. There was a total of about 250,000 to 300,000 new jobs being created every single year, so much so that there was a labour shortage all across the country.

That came as a result of real hard facts, very good economic management and fiscal management of the books. We would not have seen this kind of nonsense in Liberal books, but it is back again in the Conservative books.

I am going to suggest to all members opposite that they take a real close look at the vision of the country they are putting forward. One thing that emerges is that the Conservative government wants to wash its hands of all nation building instruments and the financial resources that are associated with those nation building instruments that make this country whole, together and tight. It has decided it wants nothing to do with government, and will let the provinces and the marketplace handle itself on its own. If people are looking for government, they should change the present one.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is excellent because the member leads me right to a very simple example of the $2,000 child tax credit. The member will know that if families do not make enough money to pay taxes, a $2,000 tax credit is not worth a penny to them.

He also knows that in the budget pension income splitting is provided for seniors, but if one earner's income is less than $36,800 a year, splitting that amount of pension does not benefit the families at all because they are already paying the lowest marginal tax rate.

Maybe the member would care to comment on the tax elements. The gimmes and the giveaways are not for those most in need.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right on. As an accountant, he understands who is going to profit by some of the tax measures, some of which are just simply rhetorical. There is a lot of smoke and mirrors as my colleague says from Vancouver, and she is absolutely right. It is mostly smoke but there are some mirrors. Some of the things the government has announced, re-announced, repackaged and re-announced again.

The fact of the matter is that people can say they have been given a $2,000 tax credit, but if they are not earning the money that is required to turn that into revenue, it is not real money. It is a boondoggle yet again. It is an opportunity for the minister to say that the government is taking care of everybody, but there is actually no money flowing.

If the government is not going to give seniors an opportunity for income splitting that actually produces a real result, then it is nothing more than empty rhetoric, which is exactly what the government is doing.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is always great to follow a seasoned veteran like the member opposite.

As I sit here as part of Canada's new government, I find it quite interesting to hear how the Liberals opposite always want to talk about the past. This budget is about the future. It is about the future and how it is going to benefit Canadians.

It is about the future and how Canadian families are going to rise up beyond the shackles of the taxation that the Liberal Party foisted on them in years gone by. It is about how we are going to grow a country. It will be a nation of people working and thinking independently, where there is a freedom of thinking for people so that they can do things for themselves and do not need the government to do it for them.

I want to highlight a few points that impact my constituents, the people of Brandon--Souris, in this particular budget, and I think the members opposite will probably see themselves in some of the reflections that I am going to relate to them.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

An hon. member

Tax those income trusts.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Regarding agriculture, one of the largest portions of the economy in my community of Brandon--Souris, in 2006 this government committed to putting half a billion dollars into the agriculture program, and we have put $1.5 billion into it. We saw the need. We saw the hardship put on these farmers over the past several years by the empty promises of a Liberal government and we fulfilled our commitment. We have delivered three times what we promised and agriculture has finally started to see the light. The agriculture industry is looking forward to the opportunities.

Did we stop there? No. In this budget in 2007, we are increasing the amount by another $1 billion.

That is going to go to immediate relief from the suffering they have endured over the last three or four years. We are going to add $600 million to a savings account that is going to be shared with the producers to offset some of the hurt they have in the shortfalls, in those times when depressed markets sometimes impact their ability to earn money. We are going to put in an immediate $100 million to offset some of the costs, particularly the costs that have gone up in the past several months.

Not only that, we are shining a light on the agricultural community, and that has not happened for years in this country with the previous government. I have never seen the optimism that I am seeing now in the communities I represent. With the announcements we made yesterday on renewable fuel production, our producers are fired up. They are optimistic. They are talking about the opportunities they have to become independent, to become part of an ownership team that is going to build and produce ethanol, the fuel of the future. Not only that, they are going to provide the food that feeds the world. They are going to see tremendous opportunities.

We listened to the industry and what they asked us to do and this government has delivered it. I am looking forward to many new announcements in the constituency of Brandon--Souris and across Canada, where producers are stepping up to help themselves, to help their families and to help Canadians.

Shilo is one of our largest employers. We are very proud to have these troops in our community. They represent many of the troops who have served in Afghanistan and who will continue to serve around the world. I would suggest that the men and women I represent from that community are no different from those on any of the other bases across Canada. These are proud men and women. For the first time in many years, they are seeing a government that is actually responding to their needs. For far too long we have sent these people into dangerous situations under-equipped and under-prepared. Now they are saying thanks to the Canadian government and saying that it has delivered.

In this budget, we are delivering $60 million per year to bring the environmental allowances to soldiers. That basically means they are going to be equal to their comrades in the air force and the navy. They are going to get the pay they deserve for the dangerous positions that they put themselves in, not only in fighting for the rights and freedoms of Canadians but in fighting for the rights and freedoms of people around the world. I am very proud of them. I am very proud to be a part of a government that announces a budget that supports them, that hears what they have to say and that listens to their needs.

In dealing with our armed forces in this budget, we also are going to create five military operational stress injury units to deal with the impacts of what these young men and women go through when they have to go across the world to serve. We have to provide for them. This is going to deal with the stress injuries related to their service, but it will also provide support to their families.

We are also providing $19 million this year for the veterans ombudsman's office that is going to be established and $20 million per year after that to enforce and make sure that the veterans bill of rights serves the people that it was designed to serve.

I want to talk about infrastructure. The government has announced $16 billion more in this budget, bringing it to a total of $33 billion to help communities across Canada. The Liberals talked about it, but we delivered.

Communities across Canada are going to see their roads, highways, public transit, bridges, sewer and water systems and the green energy that we all want for Canadian communities and families. We are going to deliver it. This budget is getting it done for Canadians.

I know I have limited time, but I do want to talk a little about families. I think it is important to look at what has been done and what more can be done for families across Canada.

Budget 2007 provides $5.7 billion in relief to families and individuals. The budget will implement a $2,000 child tax credit. This will create $1.5 billion in new tax relief to families. The Liberals talked about it, but we delivered.

The budget announced $550 million for the WITB project, the working income tax benefit that the minister talked about. This project takes the people who are trying to push themselves over the welfare line to a working line without punishing them for doing it. This project helps them to make that step up. I support this.

In the last budget there was a decrease from 7% to 6% in the GST and we provided more than a billion dollars in tax relief to Canadian seniors and pensioners.

How does that impact Manitobans? Under restoring the fiscal balance, it will provide Manitoba with $3.1 billion of relief. I can tell the members opposite that even with a provincial NDP government Manitoba is thrilled with the government's announcement. The province is happy to work with us and happy to see what we are doing for the people of Manitoba. I am proud as well, because not only does it affect the people of Manitoba, but it also impacts the people of Brandon—Souris, whom I represent.

In this budget, we are talking about $1.8 billion in new equalization transfers. We are talking about $350 million in the Canadian social transfer, which includes additional funding for post-secondary education and child care.

We are talking about $83 million for infrastructure. Does anyone realize how much that builds in a province like Manitoba? This is tremendous news.

We are talking about $54 million from the Canada ecotrust for clean air and climate change.

Things are only getting better for the people of Manitoba, the people of Brandon--Souris and, indeed, people all across Canada.

We have committed $10.8 million over the next three fiscal years to the government of Manitoba to implement a human papillomavirus immunization program, which will combat cervical cancer. This is something that the province of Manitoba has asked this government to do and we are delivering.

The government will contribute $170.5 million to complete the expansion of the Red River Floodway. I want to get into that just briefly. Talk about empty promises from the members opposite: the money pledged was never on the books of the Liberal government. The money was never there. This government found it and delivered it to the people of Manitoba. I am proud to be a part of that. When the members opposite talk about all the false promises that they have made to Canadians, they were just that, false promises.

For Manitobans, the $2,000 child tax credit will save them $54.1 million. These are tremendous savings.

We have pledged $16 million in additional corporate income tax relief from the temporary two year writeoff for manufacturing equipment. That is what manufacturers across Canada asked for. We delivered it.

It only gets better for Canadians. It only gets better for Manitobans. It only gets better for the people of Brandon--Souris.

In closing, I know I have limited time but I do want to talk briefly about what was alluded to by some of the members in almost a joking manner. It is with regard to the share of meal expenses that long haul truck drivers can deduct. In 1995, the Liberal government, in an attempt to slash and cut spending, did so with social transfers in health, and not only there: it did so on the backs of truckers. That government reduced truckers' ability to claim a per diem for their meals.

Many of the largest trucking industries reside in the province of Manitoba. This is something that this industry asked us to do. The trucking industry asked us to look at it. The industry said that truckers had paid their share and had done their duty, done their time, and the industry asked the government to look at it. We did and we delivered on it. The people of Manitoba and the trucking industry across Canada will benefit from this.

If some members opposite think this is trivial, if they think it is a small amount, they should talk to the people involved who are going to receive this benefit. They are happy. Their families are happy. It puts more money in their pockets at the end of the day. That is what a budget is all about.

Everybody wants to talk about what budgets do for people. If we allow people to have the money to make their own financial decisions at the end of the day, that is the sign of a good budget.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Brandon—Souris will have 10 minutes left to conclude his remarks.

The House resumed from March 1 consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion--Aerospace IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 5:30 p.m., pursuant to order made on Thursday, March 1, 2007, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion of the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup relating to the business of supply.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #129

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion lost.

It being 6:04 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Kelowna Accord Implementation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Martin Liberal LaSalle—Émard, QC

moved that Bill C-292, An Act to implement the Kelowna Accord, be read the third time and passed.

Kelowna Accord Implementation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Merasty Liberal Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is with honour and pride that I speak today to Bill C-292, An Act to implement the Kelowna Accord, introduced by the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard who I am very honoured to have worked with in the past on this issue.

To begin, it is important to understand the context of the Kelowna accord. The Meadow Lake Progress, in its July 23, 2006 editorial, stated it best, “There is no underestimating the importance of the agreement”.

The Kelowna accord represents an historic consensus brought about by the commitment of the previous Liberal government to meaningfully engage and collaborate with first nations, Métis and Inuit leadership, along with the provincial and territorial governments, to address the challenges faced by aboriginal Canadians and by extension, Canada itself.

This effort, initiated by the member for LaSalle—Émard, was unprecedented. It signified a high-water mark in aboriginal state relations. Never before had the political leadership of our country committed to moving together, setting meaningful benchmarks and stable funding relationships.

This historic consensus remains intact. All first nations, Métis and Inuit leadership as well as the premiers remain steadfastly committed to the Kelowna accord. Only the Conservative government lacks the commitment needed to meet its goals.

The support for the Kelowna accord is also unanimous with the provincial political leadership in Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan Party, the NDP and the Saskatchewan Liberals are all resolutely in support of the Kelowna accord. In fact, the NDP government and the Saskatchewan Party opposition joined together in March 2006 to pass a unanimous motion in the Saskatchewan legislature, urging the federal Conservative government to fully implement the Kelowna accord. Saskatchewan has committed to the accord because it knows the potential of its aboriginal population and the opportunities it presents.

The first nation and Métis population is the fastest growing segment of the Saskatchewan population. By 2045, the aboriginal population is set to be a majority in the province of Saskatchewan. This emerging population is well poised to become the leaders of a prosperous new Saskatchewan, particularly with baby boomers retiring and the economy in Saskatchewan and the west heating up. However, investments and strategies are needed to be put in place for education, housing, health and economic development.

The Kelowna accord made those investments and allowed communities to design strategies to respond to their own unique challenges, something that is absolutely critical in giving and empowering the communities to come up with the solutions because this is from where the best solutions come. This is exactly what the Kelowna accord was designed to do. Moreover and more important, it set the stage for greater collaboration in the future, setting a road map for moving beyond the goals of Kelowna with a relationship based on mutual respect and recognition.

It is a disappointment that the Conservative government does not seem to understand the full opportunity to strengthen the economy in western Canada and engage first nations, Métis and Inuit people to their fullest capabilities.

The July 23 Meadow Lake Progress editorial also captured the risks of abandoning the accord stating:

The accord should have been honoured by [the Prime Minister's Conservative] government after its January election....If the Kelowna Accord is gone for good, it will be this nation’s aboriginals who will suffer the brunt of that decision.

There’s a lot riding on the Kelowna Accord, including the relationships between aboriginals and nonaboriginals—which will deteriorate if the agreement is not honoured...

To allow that relationship to deteriorate now, after it has been slowly evolving and improving over the last 50 years, would be a terrible betrayal of the progress that been made by the first nations, the Métis and the Inuit of our country who at the table with the prime minister and the premiers of our country.

This relationship has moved from first nations, Métis and Inuit being completely ignored by governments in the past to where they stood tall and demanded recognition, to a phase where mutual respect and collaboration became the norm. The Kelowna accord marked the culmination of this relationship building.

The Conservatives' refusal to implement the Kelowna accord and their inability to form any sort of replacement plan is a huge disappointment, particularly because they promised to honour the goals of it.

Unfortunately, the abandonment of the Kelowna accord is only one aspect of a general larger backward trend of Conservatives choosing to become increasingly confrontational, ignoring their fiduciary duty to first nations, Métis and Inuit people. With respect to being confrontational, the Conservatives have adopted a much more adversarial attitude in treaty negotiations and the recognition of aboriginal rights.

The Prime Minister and the Indian affairs minister made repeated attacks on aboriginal rights during treaty negotiations in British Columbia. These attacks began in July with the Prime Minister's letter to the Calgary Herald, in which he used inflammatory language in opposing so-called “race based” fisheries, which are actually “rights based” fisheries, and refused to acknowledge the Supreme Court's affirmation of aboriginal fishing rights.

This is not a race issue; it is a rights issue. I ask the Prime Minister not to focus on the colour of the skin of my people, but to focus on the rights that they have fought so hard their entire lives to advance in our country. Instead, his focus should be on his government's constitutional and fiduciary responsibility to the first nation, Inuit and Métis people of our country.

The Indian affairs minister has also been very insulting and inflammatory in his comments regarding aboriginal Canadians, showing incredible disrespect and refusing to honour his fiduciary duty to work for first nations, Métis and Inuit Canadians. The Indian affairs minister has been vocally attacking aboriginal funding levels and has been very misleading about the amount of money the federal government spends on aboriginal Canadians.

The finance minister has readily backed up him up, stating that $9.1 billion is the amount spent directly on aboriginal Canadians, but has failed to admit that a large part of that money is being spent on the administration across several departments. In INAC alone, the Treasury Board estimates that $600 million is spent on administrative costs, and INAC admits only 82% of the grants and contributions actually make it out.

The minister is also mixing up the entire amount going to Métis and Inuit as well as first nations and ignores the cuts that have occurred without consultation or notice. For instance, budget 2006 dedicated only $150 million in new money for “aboriginal investments” as $600 million for housing was already dedicated through Bill C-48 and passed by the previous Liberal government. However, spending cuts, totalling at least $220 million directly, were imposed on aboriginal programs, including health and languages funding. This means that first nations, Métis and Inuit actually lost $70 million in funding last year, not even including the terrible loss that the Kelowna accord represents.

Even more disappointing, the Indian affairs minister has made a bad situation worse by neglecting his fiduciary responsibilities. The Calgary Sun reported that a child and family welfare service executive in Calgary confirmed that INAC had been forced to redirect “non-core funding” such as those budgeted for child welfare to deal with the water crisis on reserves. Yet many communities are still under a boil water advisory and the minister has admitted he has failed in achieving his targets.

These meagre amounts in new spending for this year are an even bigger insult. They do not address population growth or inflation rates. They ignore the scope of housing, water, child welfare and health funding concerns evident in the first nations, Métis and Inuit communities. They do not make up for literacy and youth employment program cuts that had been made.

This budget is from a finance minister who is on record saying too much health money was being spent on aboriginal Canadians, who are not real people, and from an Indian affairs minister who is on record for saying that they already receive an awful lot of money. This is gutter politics. This time of confrontation has served no one and threatens to have terrible effects on the communities of our country.

The opportunities are still there, though. We encourage the government to respect and implement the Kelowna accord as it passes the House tomorrow night, as I am confident it will. However, regardless of the Conservatives' commitment to the Kelowna accord, the agreement still lives on as a goal and achievement. More than the funding, more than the benchmarks, the Kelowna accord represents a historic time when first nations, Métis and Inuit were respected and empowered to take leadership on behalf of their communities.

Doug Cuthand, a respected columnist for The StarPhoenix, wrote:

The great failure of Indian policy in Canada has been that other people have been making all of the decisions and deciding what is best for us. Politicians, Indian agents, pundits, missionaries and other various do-gooders have all done their share of thinking for us.

Over 30 years ago our leaders stood tall and fought for their rights in various court arenas throughout the country. They fight again today, using the best skills they have at their disposal, to move forward and respect what the Kelowna accord represented.

Kelowna Accord Implementation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Conservative Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak at third reading of Bill C-292, the Kelowna accord implementation act.

The so-called Kelowna accord is the product of a meeting held more than a year ago of the former prime minister, the provincial and territorial premiers and several national aboriginal leaders.

The actual document that is represented as the accord, what the right hon. member for LaSalle—Émard purports to be a binding commitment of the Government of Canada, is in fact a news release presented by the government of the day at the close of the meeting. The release lists several proposed investments that total more than $5 billion over a period of five years.

Although the former government says that it meant this to be a statement of the amount of money it wished to spend, there was no consensus among participants regarding how the money was to be disbursed. There was no detailed plan on how the government would allocate this new funding and how it would ensure that these resources would be spent wisely and produce measurable results.

Indeed, the provincial and territorial premiers and national aboriginal leaders who attended the Kelowna meeting clearly indicated in subsequent statements that considerably more work was needed to develop specific policies, programs and implementation plans.

The challenges that face aboriginal peoples in our country are simply too daunting to be overcome through unfocused, unaccountable spending. A more considered approach is required if we hope to improve socio-economic conditions and to ensure that aboriginal peoples have a standard of living comparable to that of other Canadians.

Canada's new government has developed and begun to implement precisely this type of approach. It is based on practical solutions, targeted expenditures, clear roles and responsibilities, measurable results and accountability, all fundamental elements of prudent, effective administration.

In the short time this government has been in office, our pragmatic, results based approach has generated tangible results for aboriginal peoples. In fact, the number of achievements is too vast for me to recount in the time that is available to me this evening.

Instead, to illustrate the success of our approach, let me use the last time that the House debated Bill C-292, on October 18, 2006, as a reference point. Let me share with the House just a few examples since that date of how this government has taken concrete steps to begin to improve the quality of life of aboriginal peoples in Canada.

On October 20, Bearspaw First Nation in Alberta opened a state of the art water treatment plant. This achievement stems directly from the plan of action to ensure safe water supplies for first nation communities announced by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development last March.

As the House is no doubt aware, soon after this government came into office we learned that more than 200 first nations communities had drinking water systems that were classified as high risk or worse. To address this crisis, Canada's new government devoted some $450 million to address issues affecting quality of life, including safe drinking water.

In addition to this vital budgetary measure, the minister and the Assembly of First Nations appointed a three member expert panel to provide legislative options for safe drinking water in first nations communities.

On December 7, the minister tabled in the House the expert panel's findings and recommendations, along with a report that outlined progress made on all aspects of the government's plan of action. This includes the removal of several drinking water advisories, improvements to a number of water treatment plants, and increased assistance and training for plant operators. The minister is now considering the panel's recommendations and I expect we will be hearing more on the government's initiative.

Along with helping first nations communities to overcome such crises, this government is working to ensure a brighter long term future for these communities. Indeed, when it comes to land claim settlements, we are living through an extraordinary period of Canadian history, particularly in British Columbia.

In recent months, negotiating teams have achieved a series of unprecedented agreements.

On October 29, federal, provincial and first nations negotiators initialled the Lheidli T'enneh final agreement, the first settlement reached through the British Columbia treaty process.

On December 8, the minister was in Delta, B.C. to attend the initialling of the Tsawwassen First Nation final agreement, the first final agreement for a B.C. first nation whose traditional lands are situated in an urban area.

On December 9, the minister witnessed the initialling of the Maa-nulth First Nations final agreement, the first final agreement in British Columbia that involves more than one first nation community.

I am happy to report that the successful resolution of land claims is not restricted to British Columbia. On December 1, the government signed a land claims agreement with the Inuit of Nunavik resolving a claim over offshore areas in northern Quebec and Labrador that had dragged on for more than 13 years.

Canada's new government has also partnered with first nation groups in Quebec to improve school performance among students from first nations communities in the province.

A landmark memorandum of understanding signed on October 26 will lead to incentives for first nation schools to create stimulating learning environments, enhance teaching quality and improve accountability to parents and students.

Education is also the focus of a historic bill that received royal assent on December 12 of last year. The First Nations Jurisdiction over Education in British Columbia Act will enable first nations communities in B.C. to assume increasingly greater control over on reserve education. It is an important step in ensuring first nation students receive a high quality education that respects their languages, cultures and traditions.

On December 13, our new government introduced in the House another significant piece of legislation: Bill C-44. By repealing section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the bill would ensure that all members of first nations communities will have the legal authority to defend their human rights, a power that all Canadians should be entitled to enjoy.

Despite these and other significant achievements, I readily concede that much work remains to be done to ensure that aboriginal peoples have living standards comparable to those of other Canadians. Both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development recognize this fact but action to help aboriginal peoples achieve this objective does not come from legislation based on a news release presented at the close of a meeting.

Genuine progress is difficult. It requires clear thinking, diligent effort, patience and collaboration. Canada's new government will continue to work in concert with our aboriginal, provincial and territorial partners to achieve this progress. Together, we will create practical solutions. We will allocate appropriate funds. We will establish clear roles and responsibilities. We will set goals and we will achieve them.

Accordingly, I will be voting against Bill C-292 and I urge my colleagues to do the same.

Kelowna Accord Implementation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure and the honour of speaking in this final debate on the Kelowna accord, or Bill C-292, tabled by the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard.

I do not agree with what the hon. member, who is also the Chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, just said.

First of all, I would say that the Kelowna accord was and still is a nation-to-nation agreement. That is what the current government does not and is not willing to acknowledge. It is making a mistake by not acknowledging that it is a nation-to-nation agreement between the first nations of Canada and the Government of Canada.

I would like to quickly read a statement made by the former Prime Minister of Canada on November 24, 2005, following the signing of the Kelowna accord. He is now the member for LaSalle—Émard and will surely not deny what he said, and I quote:

I share this only to illustrate what we all know to be true not only in the remote communities of the north, but on too many reserves and in too many cities — that there is an unacceptable gap between the hopeful promise of youth and the experience of Aboriginal adulthood.

The member for LaSalle—Émard said it over and over:

[This] gap [is] made even more unacceptable by the fact that aboriginal youth represent the largest segment of Canadian youth and the fastest growing. We face a moral imperative: In a country as wealthy as ours, a country that is the envy of the world, good health care and good education should be taken for granted; they are the tools leading to equality of opportunities—the foundation on which our society is built.

That is what the honourable member for LaSalle—Émard said and that is what was supposed to be in the Kelowna accord, which this government is not honouring.

The previous speaker thinks that there were no numbers to back up the Kelowna accord. How quickly he forgets what the people who were the driving force behind this accord told the committee.

This is how the $5.098 billion in the accord was to be spent: $1.8 billion for education over the next five years. That is what first nations would have received for early childhood, primary, secondary and post-secondary education. There was $500 million for scholarships for post-secondary studies and training; $1.05 billion to promote innovation in on-reserve education; $150 million for off-reserve initiatives in the public school system; $50 million to improve education in the north; and $100 million to prepare children for school. That is what the accord included for education.

For housing, the Government of Canada would have invested $1.6 billion in improving housing conditions over the five years following the Kelowna accord.

Of that $1.6 billion, an amount of $600 million was planned for the transformation of social housing on-reserve; $300 million to support new federal-provincial-territorial partnership agreements for aboriginal housing off-reserve; and $300 million for housing partnerships.

As well, $400 million was planned for water supply and other infrastructure, as well as an acceleration of the first nations water management strategy. In addition, $1.3 billion was to be allocated for health programs over the next five years, including $870 million to stabilize the first nation and Inuit health system; and $445 million to promote transformation and to build capacity.

Our neighbours across the way will say that no numbers were given, but that is false.

Furthermore, there is also the matter of economic development. The federal government was to invest $200 million over the next five years to promote the economic development of aboriginal people, including $12 million toward accelerating the regulatory regime under the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act for commercial and industrial activities; and, $188 million for economic development framework initiatives.

When I hear the present government tell us that no numbers were given, that it was put together haphazardly and that there is no obligation to respect it, I find that shameful. I hope that the first nations who are listening to us tonight heard clearly all the amounts that I have just quoted. I was not there when the Kelowna accord was signed but our research and the witnesses who testified in committee have enabled us to know exactly what amounts were involved.

If that was not enough, the member for LaSalle—Émard—who was the Prime Minister of Canada when the Kelowna accord was signed—was asked whether, in addition to the $6 billion annual budget for the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, he had included in his budget funding needed to implement this accord. His answer was “Yes”; he had allocated $1.2 billion per year for the next five years.

What do the first nations need? They need $1.2 billion per year. Although the present government wants to make us believe otherwise, it has not invested an additional $1 billion in native peoples and nations.

What are we doing? Not only are we creating a huge fiscal imbalance with regard to the first nations, but we are also creating a huge social imbalance. That is what the current government will have to address.

We are told that investments are being made. When I look at the budget tabled by the new Minister of Finance, I notice that there is nothing for this year—nothing. There is an additional $150 million for the first nations. That is it. That is nowhere near the $1.2 billion per year. Given that the Kelowna accord was signed in November 2005, there should have been $1.2 billion in 2006, $1.2 billion in 2007, and we should have seen an additional $1.2 billion in the budget just tabled. We are not even close to the $3.6 billion that the first nations should have received.

This evening, I am telling the first nations that a great deal of pressure will have to be exerted because the development of the first nations is not a priority for this government.

It is true—

Kelowna Accord Implementation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I am sorry to interrupt the honourable member, but his time is up.

The honourable member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.

Kelowna Accord Implementation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this private members' bill. I unequivocally state that the New Democrats will be supporting this private members' bill.

It is important to put some things in context. There are some fundamental differences in the understanding of what happened at that historic moment in Kelowna. I want to quote from Justice Thomas Berger's book A Long and Terrible Shadow. This is in the context of the Nisga'a agreement, but I think his analysis captures the challenges that are facing us. Justice Berger, in talking about Chief Justice Davey's inability to comprehend the true nature of native culture and native claims, said:

It results in an attitude toward Native people that exasperates them when it does not infuriate them. This attitude is sometimes manifested in an attempt to preserve Native culture and sometimes in an attempt to eradicate it, but it is always manifested in a patronizing way. It assumes that Native culture cannot be viable in a contemporary context. This is the crux of the matter. Native people insist that their culture is still a vital force in their own lives, that it informs their own view of themselves, of the world about them, and of the dominant society.

That particular quote applies to the fact that there are Conservative members of the House who deny the reality of the important work that led up to Kelowna. They deny the reality of 18 months of work, when provinces, the federal government and native leaders from a number of organizations from coast to coast to coast met to talk about the elements that were important for people to come together and agree upon, to talk about the important elements around budgetary requirements.

The Conservative government denies that oral tradition. It denies the validity of the handshake. It denies the validity of a consultation process. Instead, it quibbles about whether or not there was a signed document.

What I know is that in the province of British Columbia where I live the premier of British Columbia, the former prime minister and the leadership council of British Columbia actually signed an agreement based on their understanding of what happened in Kelowna. They signed a tripartite agreement that transformed the discussions in Kelowna into tangible benchmarks. They had a plan. There were results that they were hoping to achieve through the efforts that happened in Kelowna.

What we are facing here is a fundamental difference in a cultural approach. The Conservative government out of hand dismisses that cultural approach to negotiating a deal. I urge the Conservative members to take a second look at what is culturally appropriate for first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples across this country and accept the fact that there is a consultation process that can end up in tangible results that work for all parties.

There is much material and numerous reports on the state of affairs in first nations, Métis and Inuit communities across the country. I could use up my entire time in talking about the desperate poverty, but I will only highlight a couple of points.

The Assembly of First Nations issued a report, “Royal Commission on Aboriginal People at 10 Years: A Report Card”. Overall the government response over 10 years has been a dismal failure. Overall the report card was an F, a complete failure. I will talk about a couple of points here. It was a bit of a reality check.

Under the heading “The Reality”, there is the statement:

No sustained investment in meeting the basic needs of First Nations communities, or in addressing key determinants of health/well-being.

Under the heading “Canada's Failure to Act”, there is the statement:

No structural change in the relationship between First Nations and the Canadian government, as recommended by RCAP.

It also says that there has been inadequate funding growth for health programs, capped at 3% for 10 years.

In case people want to think that these are only numbers, I am going to talk about a couple of communities across the country. In a news article in the Toronto Star on November 18, 2006, entitled “Where tragedy falls off Canada's map”, it is stated:

The United Nations Human Development Index equates the Aboriginal standard of living in this country with that of Brazil, well below the Canadian norm.

She talked to many people in her travels across the country and talked about two people she met in her travels. She says:

This year, I met Phyllis and Andy Chelsea, a Shuswap couple in B.C. whose house is rotting with mould. Statistics Canada says 50 per cent of reserve housing is like this.

In my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan, many houses are rotting with mould and yet we do not have any concrete programs to look at mould remediation. We do not even have a handle on the number of houses that need to be fixed due to mould.

She goes on in the same article to say:

After spending a year going in and out of Aboriginal communities, after reading dozens of books and countless reports, I've come to believe we have driven the original inhabitants of this country into a place where their survival is at risk.

Those are very hard words. Surely, in this day and age and in one of the richest countries in the world we should not have citizens living in third world conditions. Save the Children visited two reserves in northern Ontario and now we have more international attention on the desperate conditions on these reserves which have mouldy houses, contaminated drinking water and no running water. It goes on and on.

The Kelowna accord is an opportunity to at least look at some of the program dollars. The Kelowna accord fell short in talking about specific land claims, comprehensive land claims, treaty settlements and self-governance but it was a step in the right direction.

This is a budget that has failed to deliver. A number of the native leaders have spoken up quite strongly. Because their words are far more powerful than mine could ever be, I want to quote from some of these leaders. National Chief Phil Fontaine stated:

We don't see any reason to believe that the government cares about the shameful conditions of First Nations. We have tried dialogue and tabled a rational plan to address it.

There are so many frustrated people in our communities—especially our young people. And it's becoming increasingly clear that there's very little tolerance left in our communities for the kind of poverty that's been imposed on our people.

Further in the same article from The Guardian of March 20, he states:

It is clear that First Nations have been left out of the “stronger, safer, better Canada” painted by the finance minister.

In the same article, Beverley Jacobs, the head of the Native Women's Association of Canada, blamed a Conservative government approach to aboriginal issues that she says is essentially a “racist one”.

She goes on to say:

Racism is ignorance. It's not being aware of the history of our people, and the history of the impacts of Canada's assimilation policies—that's the reason why we're dealing with poverty and the impacts of (Indian) residential schools.

We know that Indian residential schools have a generational impact and that many first nation communities are suffering because of a lack of attention. Yes, there has been money for the residential school agreements but there is much more that could be done around healing and reconciliation. In fact, I would argue that the very first agenda item should be an apology from the Conservatives and the Prime Minister of the day for what happened at residential schools.

In a release from the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, entitled “The $9 Billion Myth Exposed: Why First Nations Poverty Endures”, they talk about the fact that once all the departmental and administration costs are factored in, each status Indian receives only $7,505.25 in programs and services, not the $15,100 as stated by the government.

A number of other organizations have spoken up about the fact that Kelowna was a step in the right direction and that there was an opportunity in this budget to acknowledge the work that had been done. They are dismayed at the failure of the Conservative government to move forward on some of the issues around housing, education, water, sewage treatment, infrastructure in the communities and more economic development.

I would urge members of this House to support this private member's bill and at least signify an intent to move forward to address the desperate poverty in many first nations, Métis and Inuit communities in this country.

Kelowna Accord Implementation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate. The mover of the motion will now have a five minute right of reply. The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard.