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House of Commons Hansard #159 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was fishery.

Topics

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

Vote #191

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

(Bill C-415. On the Order: Private Members' Business:)

March 22, 2007--Second reading of Bill C--415, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers)--the hon. member for Davenport.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2007 / 6:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Pursuant to Standing Order 92, a private member's item may only be considered by the House after a final decision on the votable status of the item has been made.

Although the House was to consider Bill C-415, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers), today, no report on the votability of the bill has been submitted or passed, as required before a bill can become the subject of debate.

I am therefore directing the table officers to drop this item of business to the bottom of the order of precedence and accordingly private members' hour is suspended today.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please. Is there unanimous consent to see the clock at 6:30 p.m., given that private members' business has been cancelled, so we can proceed to the adjournment debate?

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the question we are debating in the adjournment debate tonight was asked of the minister on February 28 and it stemmed from the minister and his government's deliberate effort to undermine and malign the reputation of not only the Canadian Wheat Board, but of the minister's own hand-picked president and CEO of the Canadian Wheat Board.

The issue was and remains the minister's complete refusal to acknowledge that an Algerian news story, which implied that the CWB had undersold grain into the Algerian market, was factually incorrect and that it perpetuated what in effect was a misleading and false story.

However, that is not unusual for the government opposite in its drive to the ideological agenda that it is on which is that its members take the position to not let the facts get in the way of a good story.

It is a government that has demonstrated a willingness to use tactics to undermine the CWB, which violates the very democratic principles that any government worthy of respect should adhere to. Not only has the government intentionally assaulted the character of the president and CEO, it has engaged in the use of intimidation, it has fired Wheat Board directors and it has tampered with voters' lists and directors' elections. It used marked ballots in the recent barley plebiscite and has absolutely refused to respect the will of Parliament, not once but twice.

Since that time, we now have regulations, which the government has brought forward to undermine the Canadian Wheat Board by removing barley from the board, which are of questionable legality. The Canadian Wheat Board, in its response to the minister's backdoor effort to undermine the Wheat Board, stated:

The CWB's legal liability as it relates to broken contracts is by no means distinct from farmers' liability.

It is a government that has no interest in the harm it inflicts on western grain farmers or on farmers generally or in terms of the international reputation of the Canadian Wheat Board. When a Canadian marketing agency is respected to the extent that the Canadian Wheat Board is around the world and it violates its contracts as a result of government orders, that hurts the reputation of every Canadian institution and agency.

The government made this move by basically acting retroactively and injuring those contracts and that reputation. All of this is part of the same ideological thinking of the Conservative regime. It has demonstrated a complete contempt for western grain farmers by not allowing for a free, open and honest plebiscite based on questions drafted by farmers and farm organizations themselves. It has demonstrated a contempt for Parliament by ignoring the will of the majority of this House.

However, the question really relates to the fact that the government continues to perpetuate false information that it alleges was in an Algerian news story.

6:15 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, we are here again tonight because of the member's unhealthy obsession with the Canadian Wheat Board. It is all we hear from him. His rhetoric gets wilder and wilder. I guess we are getting more and more used to that.

I want to respond to his question that he asked some months ago. The Canadian Wheat Board has provided the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board with the price of each of its durum wheat sales to Algeria for the last 10 years. While the Wheat Board says that this is commercially confidential information that cannot be released publicly, the minister stands by his comments that he is willing to release those numbers so that farmers can see what they really are. He has made that clear in the past and he is waiting for their permission and their cooperation to do that and we would look forward to that.

During his recent testimony before the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food the interim president and CEO of the Canadian Wheat Board said that farmers should just trust the Canadian Wheat Board when it says it has obtained fair value in relation to the values available to its international competitors, particularly in the Algerian market.

The Canadian Wheat Board has told farmers for far too long that they should just trust the CWB. The minister's interpretation of the information provided to him by the Canadian Wheat Board on the price of each of its durum sales to Algeria for the last 10 years is vastly different from what the Canadian Wheat Board claims.

While the Canadian Wheat Board dismisses the allegation that the Wheat Board has been underselling the market for durum wheat in Algeria and says the allegation appears to have originated from material circulated by the U.S. Wheat Associates, the government finds it ironic that the Wheat Board has asked the minister not to publicly release the information provided to him.

In fact, the government is not convinced that Algeria is not getting a special deal from the Canadian Wheat Board because the news report came from an Algerian official who had publicly stated that Algeria saves tens of dollars per tonne purchasing durum from the Canadian Wheat Board. If it is three tens of dollars per tonne, that is a dollar a bushel that western Canadian farmers are not getting on their durum sales that they should be getting. It is only natural that western Canadian farmers are asking questions about what is going on with the pricing of this grain.

The Canadian Wheat Board has tried to box the minister in on this issue by once again asking farmers and the public to just trust its interpretation of information which it is unwilling to share with the very farmers on whose behalf it says that it is maximizing returns. The government expects the Wheat Board to work hard to get the best value for Canadian farmers and feels that farmers have the right to see evidence if that is indeed happening.

I would like to remind hon. members that this debate underscores the importance of the inclusion of the Canadian Wheat Board under the Access to Information Act which happened effective April 1, 2007. This was something that was long in coming and farmers had waited for for many years.

By extending application of the Access to Information Act to the Canadian Wheat Board, the government is making the organization more open. It is making it more transparent. It is providing all Canadians and especially the wheat and barley farmers of western Canada who are forced to deal with it with broader access to information about and from this organization.

Members can be assured that the government is committed to providing marketing choice to western Canadian farmers with the Wheat Board as one of those options in their choice.

The government is moving forward with amendments to Canadian Wheat Board regulations to provide marketing choice, in particular, for the western Canadian barley producers, as of August 1, 2007. Our producers look forward with great expectation to the opportunities that will come from that.

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely amazed that the parliamentary secretary continues to perpetuate misinformation. The minister who has really taken an oath to uphold the agencies that he is responsible for also continues to perpetuate that myth.

It is absolutely wrong for the minister to hide behind the cloak of confidentiality. We are not asking him to table the figures in the House in terms of those confidential agreements. We understand that. That is commercial confidentiality, but the minister has a responsibility to look at those figures and tell Canadians the truth. He can look at them and we would respect what he said in the House if he would give us the information on the facts that the Canadian Wheat Board actually sold at a premium into those markets.

When the CEO was before the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, he made it very clear that the Canadian Wheat Board is yes, a respected seller, but it sold at a premium into those markets, returning back to Canadian farmers--

6:20 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

It is unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, that there is absolutely no evidence of that. We understand the overheated rhetoric that comes from the member opposite in his desperate attempt to try to maintain a system that is 70 years old and is not serving western Canadian farmers well.

This government believes that western grain farmers should have the freedom to choose how they market their grain allowing them to maximize their returns while preserving a viable and voluntary Canadian Wheat Board.

The key phrase is “freedom to choose”. Canadians live in a democracy and the freedom to operate a business by choosing where and whom to sell their products to is something that most business people in this country take for granted. However, for the last seven decades that has been a freedom that western Canadian grain farmers have been denied. That is a freedom that the member for Malpeque would like to continue to deny constituents in my riding.

The government is moving forward to make freedom a reality for western Canadian barley producers effective August 1, 2007.

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to talk about the issue of lost Canadians about whom we have heard so much.

Today was another heart-rending day. Members of the citizenship and immigration committee heard compelling stories of children of war brides and how their citizenship was unjustly taken away from them.

We had the case of a couple of sisters who were children of a war bride. They came to this country in 1946. One was a baby, just months old, and the other one was three years old. They recently have found out that they are not citizens. The question comes into play whether they are entitled to old age security, the guaranteed annual supplement and whatnot.

Another tragic case is about a mother who came here to be with her daughter's family. Her daughter, who is a member of the Canadian armed forces, is slated to serve in Afghanistan, but she has found out she is not a Canadian. She does not have any proof of ID so she can get a driver's licence that she can use to help the four kids she will be looking after.

We have continually heard stories like this where offspring of war brides and war brides themselves do not have their citizenship recognized. At the other end, they have children that serve in the armed forces. This is so very wrong. The Prime Minister of the country has said that we should be honouring Canadian veterans, the people who have fought for our country, the people fighting for our country now in Afghanistan and the people who fought for our country in the second world war. It is incredibly shameful that we have not addressed this issue.

To its credit, the government came in with a limited proposal today, but this limited proposal would not apply to the people about whom I just talked. It would not apply to people who came here before 1947. Most of the war brides and their children came to Canada in 1946. This is really a shame.

This is another thing that is really a shame. When we look at the composition of the committee from the Conservative side, we really only have one person with any previous experience on the committee. The ministers do not have any experience, and this is the second minister the government has had in less than a year. Also, they come from ridings that do not have much of an immigrant population.

Clearly, if we believe that immigration has been the lifeblood of our country, that immigration is the lifeblood of our country and that immigration will continue to be the lifeblood of our country, clearly, we need a citizenship act that recognizes the modernity of our times and does not discriminate against people born out of wedlock.

Part of the problem now is we have religious marriages that were performed in Mexico, and this relates to offspring of Mennonites who have derivative citizenship rights. If those people had religious marriages but failed to have civil marriages, then their offspring are considered to be born out of wedlock and have no rights. Now—

6:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

6:25 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, certainly there is no question that when it comes to honouring our Canadian veterans no one stands behind them more than we do. If there is anything that we would not be proud of it is playing politics with a situation that is very personal to many individuals and to those who are affected with respect to their citizenship.

I can say that this government is taking action to address this important issue. A number of cases have been raised before the committee and a number of cases have been resolved. In certain cases the minister has used her discretionary authority to grant citizenship. She has waived the application fees in almost all of the cases. She has considered the cases on a case by case basis and has used her discretion wherever possible to ensure that a solution was found.

The minister has been practical and proactive. She has made this issue a priority. She and her department have dealt one by one with the cases that have come forward, giving them individual attention. I applaud the minister for those efforts.

On an ongoing basis, the clearest and most permanent way to address a situation such as this is through legislation, through regulation, and through the work of this House and the committee.

The minister announced today that she intends to table legislation in the fall that will resolve the issue of citizenship for most of those people whose status is currently in question while still maintaining the opportunity to resolve others on a case by case basis through the use of a discretionary grant of citizenship.

The minister has suggested that her proposed legislative approach will be based on four major elements. She has indicated that she will take input from the committee and is open to improvements.

First, nothing in the proposals will take away citizenship from anyone who is now a citizen of Canada.

Second, anyone born in Canada on or after January 1, 1947, the date of the first Citizenship Act, will have their citizenship confirmed even if they lost it under a provision of the 1947 legislation. The only exceptions would be those born in Canada to an accredited foreign diplomat or who have personally renounced their citizenship as adults.

Third, anyone naturalized in Canada on or after January 1, 1947, will have their citizenship confirmed even if they lost it under a provision of the 1947 act. The only exceptions would be those, as above, who renounced their citizenship, or, as adults, whose citizenship was revoked by the government because it was obtained by fraud.

Fourth, anyone born to a Canadian citizen abroad, mother or father, in or out of wedlock, on or after January 1, 1947, is a Canadian citizen and will have their citizenship confirmed if they are the first generation born abroad. The legacy of Canadian citizenship should not continue or be passed on through endless generations living abroad, so there will be that qualifier.

This a practical approach. Our government did not create the problem, but we are addressing it. We are addressing it in a practical way for the benefit of all Canadians.

Not only has the minister proceeded with the specific proposals that will be put forward, but she also has suggested that she is still open to further input, and she has indicated that she will use her discretion whenever it is necessary to ensure that individual cases that require attention and need a remedy will have that remedy.

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think the parliamentary secretary mentioned cases after 1947, but the reality is that we had about 60,000 people come into this country as war brides or children of war brides. Those people do not qualify and it does not make any sense why they do not.

We had children of war brides in front of us who are now in their mid-sixties and they get no relief with this legislation. This is clearly wrong.

It also is clearly wrong for the Conservative government to be discriminating against Mennonite marriages. For the sheer fact that they did not have civil weddings, their offspring are considered to be born out of wedlock. Clearly this is wrong.

The previous government had committed to change the Citizenship Act and had $20 million in the budget to do it. We had three reports from committee that we all agreed on, but this Conservative government came in and cancelled the money for a new Citizenship Act. It is time to correct that injustice.

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the hon. member did not hear me speak, but I indicated that one of the proposed pieces of legislation, and it is not legislation yet, will not differentiate between those born in or out of wedlock. If they fall into those categories they would be treated similarly, not discriminated against.

Certainly we also can say in regard to the member's reference to what the previous government may or may not have done that we know it had been in office for two terms, and it did not address this problem in any single particular way, although it had ample opportunity.

This government has allocated significant funds in many areas, including an overall increase in the budget for citizenship and immigration to deal with problems. Specifically, the minister has indicated that this problem will be addressed. It will be dealt with. There will be practical solutions that will resolve what has existed for a significant number of years without any attention whatsoever being paid to it.

We will get the job done. It will take some effort. We understand that. We will address all of the cases that fall into this anomalous situation and that require attention by this government.

6:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:35 p.m.)