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House of Commons Hansard #155 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

Official LanguagesOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Etobicoke--Lakeshore.

Official LanguagesOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, the official languages commissioner makes it very clear that the government is undermining bilingualism. Government employees cannot work in the language of their choice. Citizens cannot get bilingual services. Contractors do not respect language requirements on federal jobs. The commissioner puts the blame squarely on the shoulders of the government's appalling lack of political will.

When is the Prime Minister going to demonstrate leadership, respect the linguistic duality of this country and start enforcing Canada's bilingualism laws?

Official LanguagesOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the commissioner's report, as it does every year, overviews all the activities of the government, where the government is failing, where it is succeeding and where there is work to be done. We will examine this and we will instruct the federal administration to improve performance in those areas.

Once again, the Leader of the Opposition talked about vindictiveness. I have to tell the deputy leader of the opposition that I do not have to have the executive director of my party defend the chair of the language committee against his own members.

Official LanguagesOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, there will have to be considerable improvement. This government has shown a flagrant lack of leadership by cutting more than $100 million in funding for the action plan for official languages, a plan created by my colleague.

Will this government commit today to adopting all the commissioner's recommendations, starting with restoring the $100 million cut by this government?

Official LanguagesOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Louis-Saint-Laurent Québec

Conservative

Josée Verner ConservativeMinister of International Cooperation and Minister for la Francophonie and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, between 1993 and 1999, the Liberals cut close to $100 million from the budgets of official language communities, which led the commissioner to say in her 2004-05 report, “Past experience often helps to forecast the future.” The changes that the government made when the official language programs were adopted during the 1990s were disastrous.

Official LanguagesOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, in his report tabled yesterday, the Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, severely criticized the government for its failure to act in the official languages file. Yet, the same day, the Prime Minister decided to halt the activities of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, the very committee that should be examining Commissioner Fraser's report.

Since the Prime Minister surely must have read the commissioners' report, why does he refuse to reinstate the Standing Committee on Official Languages, so that parliamentarians can do their job and hear Commissioner Fraser's recommendations?

Official LanguagesOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, as I just said, the Conservative members of that committee are ready to get to work as quickly as possible, including the committee chair. I hope the Bloc members will do the same.

Official LanguagesOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, that member no longer has the confidence of the committee, because he did not want to hear certain witnesses. That is a fact.

Yet, one of the mandates of the Standing Committee on Official Languages is, in fact, to hear witnesses. It would have been interesting to invite people from the Montfort Hospital to come and talk about the importance of the court challenges program. Commissioner Fraser also harshly criticized the elimination of that program. Perhaps the Prime Minister does not want to hear any groups that appear before the committee to condemn certain things he has done.

Is this not why he refuses to reinstate the committee?

Official LanguagesOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the committee and its chair are ready to meet at any time. However, it is strange to see the Bloc present itself as a staunch defender of Canadian bilingualism. The fundamental objective of the Bloc Québécois is to divide this country into two unilingual countries. We support a strong, bilingual country.

Official LanguagesOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Commissioner of Official Languages criticized the elimination of the court challenges program. The Montfort Hospital and Alberta's French schools have both benefited from this program.

Is the government aware that in order to save 18¢ per year per person, it is taking away the right of women, homosexuals, aboriginals and immigrants, indeed, of all minorities, to equality? Why take away one of the only tools they have to ensure their rights are respected?

Official LanguagesOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Louis-Saint-Laurent Québec

Conservative

Josée Verner ConservativeMinister of International Cooperation and Minister for la Francophonie and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, naturally, we are always surprised to hear the Bloc member portray himself as the great defender of minority communities outside Quebec. After all, during one of my appearances before the Standing Committee on Official Languages, he said that he had chosen his country and that that country was Quebec. I too have chosen my country. It is a country in which we promote linguistic duality. It is a country in which we have announced another $30 million dollars for minority communities in the latest budget.

Official LanguagesOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, if this government really cares about the fate of minorities and francophones, it should explain why it eliminated mandatory bilingualism for senior military officers, why a unilingual anglophone was appointed the ombudsman for victims of crime and why the committee cannot discuss Mr. Fraser's report. It should explain its disdainful and indifferent attitude, which undermines democracy.

Official LanguagesOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Louis-Saint-Laurent Québec

Conservative

Josée Verner ConservativeMinister of International Cooperation and Minister for la Francophonie and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, for years, the Bloc was indifferent to official language minority communities outside of Quebec.

In the fall of 2005, the Bloc voted against Bill S-3. We, however, have made a strong commitment to promoting linguistic duality, and we will continue to strive toward achieving that goal.

Official LanguagesOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, this government's lack of respect for the elected Parliament, for us, is becoming increasingly obvious.

It is hindering the work of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs by not allowing it to vote. It is cancelling important work of the Standing Committee on Official Languages by refusing to appoint a competent chair. Furthermore, it is muzzling the opposition on the motion put forward by NDP on climate change.

Why this lack of respect toward us, the elected members? Why this lack of respect toward Canadians?

Official LanguagesOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the chair of the Standing Committee on Official Languages is a proud franco-Ontarian who is devoted to this country. He does good work according to our members on the committee. It is unfortunate that he is being treated in such a partisan way.

Official LanguagesOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, the gulf between how the Prime Minister says he wants to run government and how he actually is doing it is getting wider all the time.

His members are shutting down committees. They are refusing to allow votes. They are filibustering. We have ministers misleading the House and they are not following the disclosure rules.

The latest move is to cut down the debate on climate change and the NDP's motion to get something done on the issue, cut it down from a day when there would have been eight hours of debate to a day when there would be only two.

Why? For retribution. Why the lack of respect? Is this what he meant by good government?

Official LanguagesOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I reject every single thing the leader of the NDP has said. What I particularly reject are the personal attacks on the member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry. This is a strong franco-Ontarian who has done hard work on that committee under very difficult circumstances.

Our members on the committee have indicated to me that they have no desire to remove him. I wish the members of the other parties would simply get back to work at the committee because the Conservative members want to do that work.

Court Challenges ProgramOral Questions

May 16th, 2007 / 2:30 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the court challenges program defended minority community rights in Canada. One of the most renowned cases was of course the Montfort Hospital.

We remember how the environment minister kept silent when he was minister responsible for official languages in Ontario. In fact, he tried to shut it down and a whole community had to fight to save the only francophone hospital in the province. The community could not count on its minister but at least it had the court challenges program.

Will the Prime Minister now admit that without the court challenges program the three Mike Harris retreads on his front bench would have succeeded in shutting down the Montfort?

Court Challenges ProgramOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I was proud to be minister of francophone affairs when the Government of Ontario made an important decision to ensure that the Montfort Hospital not only stayed open but that it was expanded considerably by putting in more long term care beds.

I can tell the House that in making that decision I had the solid support of both the current finance minister and the current health minister as well.

Court Challenges ProgramOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, back when the members for Ottawa—Orléans and Glengarry—Prescott—Russell cared about the franco-Ontarian community, they supported the battle to save Montfort Hospital. Since the government decided to eliminate the court challenges program, they have remained silent. This clearly indicates that official language minorities are really not important to this government.

Will the Prime Minister immediately reinstate the court challenges program before another crisis shakes the Franco-Ontarian community?

Court Challenges ProgramOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal member wanted to support the Liberal lawyers. On this side of the House, we will support francophones outside Quebec and anglophones in Quebec. Our objective is to provide good service throughout the country.

He slashed the budget for francophone affairs. Our government is taking action to strengthen the best of the official languages programs.

Government PoliciesOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, the cuts made by the Conservatives last September had a direct impact on many communities across the country. Not only did official language minorities suffer, but also literacy organizations, volunteers, women, the homeless, children and a large number of other groups. They all suffered because of the Conservatives' terrible policies.

Why is the Prime Minister so determined to go after minority communities?

Government PoliciesOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Medicine Hat Alberta

Conservative

Monte Solberg ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, the member simply has her facts wrong. In fact, under the new Canada summer jobs, being a minority community means that people get extra attention. Under Canada summer jobs today we are seeing hundreds of thousands of dollars flow to minority communities around this country. We are completely getting the job done for minority communities in this country.

Government PoliciesOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, when this meanspirited government cut $1 billion from its budget, the court challenges program suffered, Canadian women suffered, and adult literacy programs suffered. To make matters worse, the government failed to determine the impacts its massive cuts would have on these groups.

Even the Commissioner of Official Languages said that the government failed to do its homework. It is on page 6 of his report if anyone wants to read it.

Why is the only minority that the Prime Minister cares about his own Conservative minority?

Government PoliciesOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Durham Ontario

Conservative

Bev Oda ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, this government will not take any lessons from the Liberals. This is a government that does not just talk, this is a government that does.

We have done more for women. We have increased the funding for Status of Women to $29.9 million which is more than it has ever had since its inception. We are making a difference right in the communities and in the lives of women. We stand up for the rights of every Canadian.