This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #49 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senators.

Topics

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this debate on Bill C-29, which is in fact the amended version of Bill C-54 that was debated in the previous session. All parties agreed to pick up the debate where we left off before resuming this new session. As was the case in the previous session, we will support the bill even though, and I will come back to this, we think it is important that a number of the amendments we made to it—I am talking about the opposition parties, but the Bloc Québécois in particular—be maintained despite the government's desire to drop them for reasons that are completely unclear to me.

We were in favour of this bill and we still are. The purpose of the bill is to prevent individuals from bypassing campaign financing rules. The bill now includes a ceiling of $1,100 for individuals. Companies and corporations are no longer able to make donations to political associations. We agree with this principle that has existed in Quebec for 30 years now. This was one of the first accomplishments of the Parti Québécois under the leadership of René Lévesque.

As such, we agree with the idea that once a number of rules are in place governing political party fundraising and the amounts that individual voters can contribute, people should not have opportunities to get around the law by taking out loans, thereby sidestepping the will of Parliament, particularly the House of Commons, to ensure that the rules of the game are more or less the same for all political parties.

I have been watching what is going on with the primaries in the United States and the mind-boggling amounts of money the candidates are spending. This is not even the race for the presidency of the United States. These are just the Democratic and Republican nomination races. It is clear that that much money results in inequality that prevents some people from participating in the races from the very beginning.

Of course, in both Canada and Quebec, fundraising efforts do have to be significant. Everyone in this House knows that and participates in it. Still, the amount of money each of us can use for our election campaigns is within reach, even for individuals who do not have a personal fortune at their disposal or a network of acquaintances to secure the loans or donations they need to launch a campaign. For example, the value of some contributions made to both the Conservative and Liberal leadership races, which took place before Bill C-2 was passed, is still unknown.

It is clear to us that candidates should not be allowed to use loans to sidestep the caps that put an end to corporate backing and limit individual contributions.

The bill also solves another problem with the Federal Accountability Act, Bill C-2, about which I spoke earlier. When Bill C-2 was being studied—and this was denounced by all opposition parties—the Conservative government was much more interested in quickly passing the bill in order to inform citizens that it had fulfilled its first promise. Unfortunately, this haste resulted in a certain number of deficiencies. I am referring to loans to political entities. The bill fell somewhat short in terms of the ethics promised. We really did have to revisit the shortcomings of Bill C-2. I remind the House that, at the time, the opposition parties, the media, the political observers and organizations such as Democracy Watch pointed out the problem but the government refused to take action.

Once again, as is often the case in this Parliament, each party had to study the advantages and the disadvantages of the deficiencies resulting from the Conservatives' haste. We supported the bill because we were generally in favour of the underlying principle.

Bill C-29 also solves the problem of loans—it is at the heart of the bill—whereby the limits for personal political contributions could be circumvented. Several ethical difficulties were not addressed by Bill C-2. I am thinking, for instance, of poor protection for whistleblowers and the failure to reform the Access to Information Act.

Bill C-29 incorporates the only change proposed by the Bloc Québécois when Bill C-54 was studied in committee. This amendment ensured that the political party would not be responsible for the debts of candidates. The government wants to change that. We do not really understand the government's intentions. It wants to force a political party to guarantee, without prior knowledge, the debts of a candidate who, without making any effort to raise funds, decides to borrow from a bank the maximum amount allowed under the Canada Elections Act.

We therefore proposed an amendment, with which the government seemed to agree, or at least the opposition parties, the Liberals and the NDP, did. Now the government is questioning our amendment. Therefore, we will vote against this government motion.

It is rather irrational and illogical that a political party would be responsible for debts incurred by its candidates without the party knowing. We think the Bloc's amendment should be upheld so that the bill makes sense. I hope the two other opposition parties will still be in favour of it, as they were when Bill C-54 was being examined in committee.

The Bloc Québécois is almost entirely financed by individuals. An candidate could borrow $50,000 from the bank to run his election campaign. If he did not repay the loan, the bank could go after the political party. I think allowing this would be almost immoral. It means that every citizen who donates $5 to our party would also have to support this candidate who might have gotten into debt irresponsibly.

I think that even though we agree with the spirit of the bill and will vote in favour of it, the government should rethink its decision to remove the amendment proposed by the Bloc and adopted by the committee. It should go back to something that makes much more sense and that would be more respectful towards the thousands of small donors who are the financing backbone of the Bloc Québécois, and I imagine this is the case with the other parties.

I will not go on any longer. That was my basic message. We will have to hope that the government comes to its senses and accepts the bill with the amendment proposed by the Bloc and adopted in committee.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 5:39 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-220, An Act respecting a National Blood Donor Week, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

National Blood Donor Week ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There being no motions at report stage, the House will now proceed, without debate, to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage, and pursuant to order made earlier today.

National Blood Donor Week ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

moved that the bill be concurred in at report stage.

National Blood Donor Week ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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

National Blood Donor Week ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

National Blood Donor Week ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

National Blood Donor Week ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

When shall the bill be read a third time? By leave, now?

National Blood Donor Week ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

National Blood Donor Week ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to speak to Bill S-220. The bill supports the ongoing efforts of Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Quebec to recruit blood donors and volunteers to give the precious gift of life: blood.

I would first like to thank my colleague, the senator for Northend Halifax for his leadership in this matter. I would also like to acknowledge the leadership role played by the member of Parliament for Mississauga—Brampton South for all the good work he has done on the bill.

A majority of Canadians will need blood or blood products during their lifetime. Giving blood saves lives. In fact, every donation can directly save up to three lives. Blood is a bond that unites us all irrespective of our socio-economic status or our religious denomination.

Our blood supply is open to one and all. Any Canadian can use our blood in hospitals. There is no requirement. It is a representation of our Canadian values: equality for all.

We all share the blood. That blood is available because of the generous contribution made by hundreds of thousands of volunteers across Canada. These volunteers are not paid. Their giving is an act of genuine altruism. They are everyday heroes.

I can give an example from my local community. In Newton—North Delta, the Sikh nation has organized a donation drive in memory of the 1984 pogrom of Sikhs in New Delhi. They adopted the first week of November and they do these drives to raise blood. They have raised record amounts of blood in Surrey. From there, the movement is active across Canada and in other countries. Having a national blood donor week will encourage many Canadians to participate during that week and give blood.

When we look at the Sikh nation's example, countless more private companies, non-profit and government groups organize drives to give blood in our places of work and play. These initiatives show the importance of giving blood in an immediate and personal way.

People often do not appreciate how important the blood supply is. Less than 4% of eligible Canadians give blood. This hit home with me when my father went to the Surrey Memorial Hospital last month. Because of his condition, he needed blood, and because of countless donors, he was able to get it right away. Thanks to all those volunteers who have done a tremendous favour to Canadians who need blood. In mentioning Surrey Memorial Hospital, I would also like to thank all the nurses and the doctors who paid attention to my father and took the best care of him.

Many of my constituents, such as Duncan Robinson whom I ran into over the weekend, are passionate about this issue. Through his leadership and his innovative ideas, we will be able to further improve our blood supply.

It is very important for all Canadians to have the same access to blood as my father had to the blood he needed, access that is swift and that does not depend on who we are or who we know. To ensure this access and to ensure an adequate blood supply, we must encourage Canadians to give blood.

Passing the bill and establishing a national blood donor week is an important way to support this process and thus we will build awareness of the importance of giving blood, reinforce the fact that giving is completely safe, help build blood supplies during peak periods and celebrate the contribution of boundless volunteers and donors.

Each and every Canadian has the power to make a difference and the power to save a life. I believe that everyone has the will to do this act of good but this act must be encouraged. Bill S-220 would go a long way toward encouraging that behaviour. People need to be recognized and their contributions need to be celebrated. There is no better way to do this than through a national blood donor week.

I personally congratulate all the volunteers who have given blood in the past and encourage everyone to carry out that tradition.

I hope all my colleagues will support this measure to make history in this way so that whenever any Canadian needs blood it is available.

National Blood Donor Week ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for his excellent bill.

I see my card shows that I have given blood 28 times now, so I am a big supporter of the blood donation system in Canada.

I would like to ask the member if there is a precedent for his idea of having an emphasis on a week, either in a province in Canada, in a state in the United States or somewhere else in the world and if that has been effective in increasing blood donations.

National Blood Donor Week ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Yukon. In fact, he was in the Speaker's chair when I was referring to him as Mr. Speaker and that was my purpose in talking about the member giving blood. In fact, he is setting an example here in the House.

The member asked me about an example in another state. I mentioned local efforts made in my own riding of Newton—North Delta where the Sikh nation came together in the memory of the 1984 massacre that happened in Delhi. It started in 1999. If we look at the record now, they established the first week of November to remember those massacred and for two years in a row in B.C the Sikh nation has been the top donor of blood. That is an example from here at home and I am sure from this initiative there will be many more organizations and provinces that will come onboard to have an initiative like this that the Senator from the other place proposed in the bill.

National Blood Donor Week ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak in the House to Bill S-220, An Act respecting a National Blood Donor Week. It also is an honour to announce my support for designating the second week of June as national blood donor week.

It is easy to say that Canadians are lucky to have access to some of the safest blood in the world. Instead, I would like to acknowledge that it is not luck but the kindness and generosity of a network of dedicated blood donors and volunteers who help to make this possible.

A blood system is nothing without these generous individuals. It is the people whom we rely on when the times get really tough. As such, it is important to celebrate and honour all blood donors and other volunteers who make the system work by creating national blood donor week.

The second week in June is significant, not just because it marks the launch of summertime in Canada when blood donations traditionally decline, but because it also marks the World Health Organization's World Blood Donor Day on June 14. Canada can join other nations and millions of people and organizations around the world to celebrate blood donors, raise awareness of the need for a safe supply of blood and increase voluntary blood donations around the world by declaring the second week of June national blood donor week.

One significant reason Canada's blood supply is safe, and all the more reason to celebrate by creating national blood donor week is that it is 100% donor supplied. According to the World Health Organization, less than 50% of blood collected in developing countries comes from voluntary donations. Instead, the majority comes from paid donors or obligatory blood replacement from the family members of transfusion patients.

The Pan American Health Organization recognizes that voluntarily donated blood is significantly safer than blood donated for payment or replacement. According to this organization, blood for payment or replacement is 40 times more likely to be infected with hepatitis C and 175 times more likely to be infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The celebration of Canada's blood donors, coordinated with World Blood Donor Day, sets a positive example worldwide. Many countries in the Americas where just 30% of their blood is voluntarily donated, look in awe to Canada wondering how we can do it. The simple answer is the kindness and generosity of our volunteers. That is all the more reason why I support the designation of the second week in June as national blood donor week.

Acknowledging and thanking Canada's blood donors via a national blood donor week will serve as an example of best practices to nations around the world who want and need their own safe blood systems. However, it will also keep our system going. The Government of Canada serves its citizens, including those close to each of us whom we love and cherish dearly, by encouraging the existing donors to keep rolling up their sleeves and prospective donors to start.

Declaring a national blood donor week says to the people of Canada that this is important. The one small act of donating blood, the snippet of time, makes a huge difference in each of our lives.

As good as our system is, a national blood donor week would help it get even better. Although one unit of blood can potentially save three patients, the average patient needs 4.6 units for treatment. Existing rates of blood donations at less than 4% falls short of what Canadian patients need. At least 5% of Canadians need to donate in order to satisfy the existing demand.

Furthermore, in all likelihood our aging population and national commitment to improved access to surgeries will mean an increased need for blood. An increased need for blood means an increased need for blood donors. The creation of a national blood donor week will help to achieve that goal by telling Canadians that donating blood is a safe thing to do and the right thing to do.

I ask all my colleagues to show their appreciation for Canada's blood donors by voting in favour of Bill S-220.

National Blood Donor Week ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I too want to thank the member for the work and effort that has gone in to bringing forward Bill S-220, an act that proposes the designation of the week in which June 14 occurs be national blood donor week.

It is interesting that 192 other countries around the world, members of the World Health Organization, have already declared the week of June 14 as National Blood Donor Week. It makes sense that Canada, as a country that prides itself on our health care system and that and wants people to be treated quickly, efficiently and to the best of our ability, would follow the lead of those 192 WHO countries.

There is a need for greater awareness in the public in regard to the importance of blood donation and, of course, organ donation as well. The statistics in regard to blood donation in Canada are very telling. Fifty-two per cent of Canadians have required blood or blood products for themselves or a family member and yet the donation rate is still hovering at around only 4% of eligible donors.

More than 20,000 blood donor clinics are held every year, with a total of 1.1 million units of blood collected annually, but those clinics still see only 4% of eligible donors. Clearly, there is a need to raise awareness among Canadians because a plentiful supply of blood is an important factor in answering the health needs of Canadians.

Availability also plays a significant role in keeping wait times down, since blood is required for many treatments, including transplants. A liver transplant needs up to 100 units; other organs about 10 units; auto accidents up to 50 units; coronary bypass surgery, one to five units; and cancer, up to eight units every week. The number of these treatments has been increasing steadily and, therefore, the demand for blood is also increasing.

We need to have an effective response to that need. We are obliged to provide a reminder to people about the importance of donating blood and organs so it becomes part of the mindset of all those eligible donors. We often hear the news reports and ads on the radio about the need for blood. On long weekends during the nice weather, more blood is needed because more people are on the road and there are more accidents.

There is a small surge of people who donate blood because the ads on the radio have reminded them that they may be required to help. They go in and donate blood but they do not make it part of their annual routine, and that is what really needs to happen.

Another part of this bill deals with bone marrow donation. Bone marrow is considered part of blood donation. It is not that people actually give bone marrow but they do sign up. The truth is that we have major challenges around bone marrow transplants because the registry needs to be quite significant in order to support a very mixed Canadian population. Because of our diversity, people often have not been able to find a bone marrow match and these people die, which is a tragedy.

This legislation would allow a much bigger registry. It does not mean that all those people would donate bone marrow, because that is a very serious decision, but at least there would be more people to ask.

In addition to the encouragement for blood, bone marrow and organ donation is the need to ensure that transfusions and donations are safe. We must always think of the safety of the recipient of a blood or organ transplant, and must never risk either health or safety. Strict screening practices must be in place that secure the safety of the blood and tissue supply.

This, of course, brings me to what Canadians have a right to expect from their institutions when it comes to secure, responsive blood and tissue supplies and a secure, responsive health care system, a system for everyone. There must be more doctors and nurses and more training spaces for health care providers to expand the pool of skilled professionals able to provide those services.

In addition to a reliable blood supply, we need to control drug costs by phasing in a national prescription drug strategy to help families afford the medications they need and phase out the evergreening of patent drugs so that cheaper generics are available sooner, saving money for patients, hospitals and provinces. We need to stop privatization and forge a new deal with provinces that links reliable federal health transfers to commitments that such funding will not subsidize for profit health care.

A secure blood supply, like our efforts to promote real dignity for seniors, is part of a strong medicare system. Free dental care and drug coverage for everyone over 65, expansion of long term care options for the thousands of seniors and families waiting for such care, as well as shorter wait times, are part of what we want to put in place in Canada.

The policies I have referred to today are among the kinds of changes New Democrats wish to see, changes that get results for ordinary people, those needing donated blood and bone marrow, seniors, young families.

Declaring the week of June 14 as national blood donor week is incredibly important, but only if action around awareness comes with it. We have to get more of that information out to Canadians, at least to younger people. We need blood donation to become part of their routine activities to ensure long term supply.

I wish to extend my gratitude to the member who brought forward Bill S-220. I am pleased to stand and support all my colleagues in having the week of June 14 declared national blood donor week.

National Blood Donor Week ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Newton—North Delta would normally have the right to reply. Since he is not here to do that, I will put the question.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

National Blood Donor Week ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

National Blood Donor Week ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

National Blood Donor Week ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, is there unanimous consent to see the clock as 6:39 p.m.?

National Blood Donor Week ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is there unanimous consent to see the clock as 6:39 p.m.?

National Blood Donor Week ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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

6 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to talk again about a very important issue. It is a follow up to a question that I asked on December 4, 2007, in the House of Commons related to privacy and passports.

I had asked about the security breach at Passport Canada's offices. In fact, it almost wished it had a security breach. It allowed passport information to be provided to the public without being hacked into. A simple keystroke by an Ontario man led to the access of information of Canadians, information related to their social insurance numbers, their driver's licences, their addresses, people they knew and their information and their passport information, information important for the security and vetting of that passport. We know the United States, for example, will be requiring more Canadians to have passports and looking at the security of it.

What happened? I guess the government procured a computer program with a major flaw and that flaw has subsequently led to passport information being made available and not only in Canada. This was on the worldwide web. People had the opportunity to view the personal and private information of Canadians.

My question for the government was very straightforward. Had it ensured that the breach was stopped? Would it deal with the company that created the program? Would it apologize to Canadians for handling their personal information in such a manner? We can only assume that the information of all Canadians in the passport system at that time was vulnerable. Those are important steps.

We have seen personal information and privacy issues emerge in other countries. They have apologized and have been accountable.

Apparently the government, which is supposed to be tough on crime and security and all those different things, does not feel it has any onus or responsibility when it has the trust of people's sensitive information. The information on the web could have been used to take out a mortgage in somebody else's name. The government could have at least apologized. More important, it could have made sure that everybody affected by the problem was notified.

Instead, I received a response from the minister at that time, which was interesting. He talked about communicating with the department that morning, but the incident had taken place the week before. There was no apparent need, or it was a lack or interest or he was not informed. We do not know which it was, but the situation had festered over a period of time and the minister apparently indicated that in his response to me.

It is important to talk about some of the things that are happening with regard to privacy and passports. Mr. Jamie Laning of Huntsville tried a couple different keystrokes on his computer. He stated:

I'm just curious about these things so I tried it, and boom, there was somebody else's name and somebody else's data.

Another Canadian's information popped up on the screen, which included home and business numbers, federal ID card numbers and firearms licence numbers, which should interest the government.

It is important to note that the government, on November 21, 2007, introduced legislation to make it illegal to obtain this information, but it has not brought the bill forward. At the same time, it was making noise about having more protection for Canadians against identity theft. This is becoming a rampant problem in our country.

I would like to provide the government this opportunity to apologize to Canadians.

6:05 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am very grateful for the opportunity to set the record straight on this issue. I thank the member for Windsor West for bringing forward this issue.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, like Passport Canada's CEO Gerald Cossette, was very concerned to learn of the breach of the passport online system. This incident was investigated and Mr. Cossette assured the minister that Passport Canada took immediate steps to correct this very serious issue.

In fact, this incident had been reported to Passport Canada before the press covered it. Passport Canada immediately suspended access to the system, investigated this claim and took appropriate action.

Passport Canada recognizes that the protection of personal information is of critical importance. To this end, it dictates significant resources to ensure that the privacy of our fellow citizens is properly safeguarded. Passport Canada will continue to work to ensure that the passport online system operates securely, including constant monitoring and testing.

Rest assured that this incident received prompt and meticulous attention and that all issues were fixed before being made public. Passport online now is a highly secure application.

In short, the member for Windsor West would be pleased to know that this problem has been fixed.

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the parliamentary secretary's comments. However, in other countries, when there has been a security breach of an individual's personal information, they are required to let that person know. Canada does not have a law like that.

Other countries, including the United States, have due diligence in their laws. An individual should not have to learn that their personal information was stolen when a news story breaks. The custodian of that information, the government in this case, should tell the individual, offer an apology, and correct the situation.

The government has apologized for not letting those Canadians know that their information was at risk. They should not have learned about it through the mass media. It should have been done in a personal way.