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House of Commons Hansard #66 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was troops.

Topics

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, the reason Canada is in Afghanistan is to ensure that a government friendly to an organization like al-Qaeda does not return to power. The al-Qaeda networks, as the member points out, are largely absent from Afghanistan in terms of being able to plan, train and launch their attacks, precisely because NATO is engaged in Afghanistan. If NATO were to leave, I have no doubt that a power vacuum would arise and that we would quite quickly see the rise of terrorist inspired networks.

The other thing I would add with respect to other conflicts around the world, like the conflict in Darfur, and issues around the government of Zimbabwe, is that Canada's resources are stretched. We cannot possibly be in all places at once at this juncture in our history.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to participate in this historic debate, a debate about something as fundamental as whether or not Canada should be involved on a combat basis in Afghanistan. I am glad we are having a debate. I may not agree with the Conservatives' position or the Liberals' position, but I am cognizant of the fact that this is a historic moment, something we had sought to achieve for many years with respect to the Liberal government when it was in power.

When the Liberal government first made its decision to send troops to Afghanistan, did we have a vote in this place? No. When it made decisions to send more troops into Kandahar, did we have a vote in this place? No. It took constant pressure before we even had a take note debate.

I thank the Conservatives, on behalf of Canadians, for allowing the views of Canadians to be heard through their representatives on something as fundamental as Canada's involvement in a war.

This issue goes to the heart of who we are as Canadians. It shows that in fact there are many different views that have to be respected. There is not one voice in this country demanding that we simply salute the government, send off our troops and say everything is fine. We are a critical nation. We are a nation that gets to the root of problems and we look for alternative solutions. We are also a nation that has a long historic tradition of peace building, peacemaking and peacekeeping.

Canadians are really concerned about what is at stake today. What is the government up to with respect to this motion before the House? Why are we extending the mission to 2011? Why are we not looking at alternatives that would in fact bring true peace to the region and would deal with some of the root causes of conflict, discontent and deprivation in the region?

I want to mention at the very outset that just because we are in opposition to the position taken by the Conservatives and the Liberals, it does not mean that we do not support our troops.

I want to make it very clear first of all that I regret the kind of heckling we have heard through some of this debate. I am glad that no one is heckling me right now and I hope no one does for the next 10 minutes. I was disturbed to hear the kind of heckling and the suggestion that New Democrats do not support our troops and somehow that we were less than Canadian and had less than strong Canadian values.

We bring our critical analysis to this issue and we have very good reasons for our position, but that does not mean we do not support our troops. We do.

In fact we stood in Manitoba as some 800 troops based in Shilo, Manitoba got ready to go into the battlefields of Kandahar. Just one month ago we saw 70 soldiers, mainly from Manitoba, leave Shilo and head for Kandahar. There are another 650 or 700 troops ready to leave Manitoba who have prepared for this day and who are off to Kandahar.

We worry about their future. We worry about the kind of risks they are putting their own lives through. We worry about the families who are left behind and the anxiety and fears they go through every single day. We support our troops and recognize that they have made a decision to take on this career and to be faithful to their country as their oath implies.

Let it not be said that we have any less commitment to our troops. In fact, all of us in the New Democratic Party and everywhere in the House have gone to events to support our troops. We have signed the yellow ribbons, have sent messages of support, have prayed with the families, and have mourned the loss of loved ones. We are there every step of the way, just as we are there for our veterans and the members of our legions right across the country.

This does not mean we support our veterans any less than anyone else in this place. This does not mean we are not there remembering our past and the valour of the soldiers who came before.

In fact I want the House to know that if it were not for my father entering World War II and putting his own life on the line, I would not be here today. I have a very valiant father. He took part in World War II, as a member of the Governor General's Horse Guards. He came up through Italy into Holland and there he met my mother during the liberation of Holland. As a result, I am here and so are five other kids. We are very grateful for the valour of my father and others like him.

That does not mean that my father, a veteran today, and other veterans like him and members in legions everywhere are not questioning the role of Canada in Kandahar, the role of Canada in Afghanistan. Everybody everywhere is questioning the policy and wondering whether or not it makes sense.

There are people on all sides of the issue. There is not a one-dimensional, homogeneous response to the situation. This is about people actually using their wisdom and experience and questioning what makes sense. They are saying that given what we know about Afghanistan and Kandahar, it does not make sense for Canada to be in Afghanistan, and it makes absolutely no sense for Canada to be there until 2011.

My goodness, we know of the dangers every day. We are now up to 80 deaths of Canadian soldiers from this conflict in Afghanistan. That is an incredibly high toll. How many more will die? How many more will suffer injuries or face disabilities? Hundreds and hundreds of soldiers are coming back to this country with very significant disabilities, suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, physical disabilities, mental disabilities.

We are creating a huge problem. I know the government says that it is trying hard to respond to those needs, but we are not able to address the full range of needs of soldiers who are coming back with disabilities, injuries and problems from their participation in Afghanistan.

Of course there are veterans and legion members are asking questions about the government's positions. The government tries to rationalize its position on the war, but it will not even care for the veterans and veterans' wives in this country. We dealt with this in the House recently. We heard that in the budget the government was going to supposedly fix the veterans independence program. What did it do? It opened the door just a crack so a few more widows could get coverage, but it left a whole range of widows without access to the veterans independence program.

Joyce Carter will not mince words when it comes to the promise of the government and how it could not even keep the promise it made in the last election to ensure that all veterans and veterans' widows would be able to access the VIP. A meagre little step was taken in the budget to try to camouflage the issue and pretend that the government is doing something. People expected some genuine response.

Every single day we are dealing with the outcome of the war in Afghanistan and problems which are not being addressed by the government. Look at what we dealt with yesterday on the whole question of transparency around the costs to Canadians. The government cannot even be forthcoming to Canadians about how much the war is actually costing. It would not verify the information received through a freedom of information request that the cost overrun for our involvement in Afghanistan this year alone is close to $1 billion. We are approaching $10 billion as an overall budget for our participation in Afghanistan.

That is a lot of money, especially when we consider the priorities, needs and demands of people in this nation. There are people living in third world conditions on reserves. The Conservative government, like the Liberal government before it, could not even find a way to support children who are now turning to suicide and suffering severe mental health problems.

I am certainly saddened today that the Liberals have decided to cave in and to lose sight of what is at stake here. I am saddened that they are going along with this motion from the Conservatives. I wish the Liberals had been true to their principles and true to their stated beliefs from the past number of years, at least as I understood them, although there is some confusion and grey area around Liberal decision making these days.

What we need in this whole situation where we do not dismiss the problems in Afghanistan is, quite simply, a new approach. I ask members to look at the amendment we proposed. It is a constructive amendment. Members will be able to vote on it. People will see the vote tonight. It is an amendment that says let us look for a more responsible, reasonable approach to the situation in Afghanistan.

We say that there are two paths to choose from. We can choose going on with prolonging the war, or we can choose to build a path toward peace. For the NDP, it is a choice between war and peace.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Conservative Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech given by my hon. NDP colleague. I listened carefully, but I have a very hard time understanding the NDP's position. I do not know if this demagoguery is intentional or not.

We are talking about a combat mission. Very quickly, excluding those who were killed on the road, by stepping on or driving over a mine, whether improvised or not, how many Canadian soldiers have been killed in combat over the last year?

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my Conservative colleague for his question.

I must say that the NDP position is very clear and evident from the wording of the amendment now before this House. Here is an excerpt:

That the House call upon the government to begin preparations for the safe withdrawal of Canadian soldiers from the combat mission in Afghanistan with no further mission extensions;

that, in the opinion of the House, the government should engage in a robust diplomatic process to prepare the groundwork for a political solution, under explicit UN direction and authority, engaging both regional and local stakeholders and ensuring the full respect for international human rights and humanitarian law;

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know that my colleague has great knowledge, having been to Afghanistan and having studied very closely what is happening at the community level.

She may know that the minister of community development established the national solidarity program. During that program's implementation over five years, water purification, the funding of co-ops for agricultural transformation, local auxiliary police training, and revamping community medical clinics have transpired. That same minister is now the minister of education. He has set the goal to bring education and training to all of the very remote communities of Afghanistan.

Is that not a laudable goal at the community level, an approach that works? That same minister has said that the presence of troops is necessary to secure peace in order for that program to be successful. Does the member agree with that?

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have to tell my colleague that I have never been to Afghanistan. I wish I had so I could see firsthand what is happening, but I must rely on the good information of my colleagues, like the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam in British Columbia, who is our party's defence critic and has given us very accurate reports.

She and others will repeat over and over that, yes, aid and international development projects are important to the people of Afghanistan, but at the rate we are going, we are not going to be able to make a difference or stop the despair and destruction that is happening in that country. We are talking about a ratio of 10:1; for every $10 spent on military activities and countering the insurgents, we are spending $1 on aid.

If we could put some of that money toward international aid and development, we could multiply what the member is talking about. We could make a real difference if we could get some of this money and involve the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UNICEF, the UN Development Programme, the Peacebuilding Commission, all of these organizations that are determined to make a difference.

We could make such a difference, if we only had a new approach and a different set of priorities.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part today in this debate on Afghanistan. It is a debate that will have significant impact on future generations, the direction of future international relations, and determining the role that Canada should play in our relations with other states with respect to a process that requires that there first be peace.

Today, as the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, I have the pleasure of rising in this House on behalf of the approximately 105,000 citizens whom I represent and proudly opposing the extension of this mission which, we believe, should end in February 2009.

This is not the first time we have had such emotional debates in this House. I remember the debate about whether or not Canada should participate in the war in Iraq. The Bloc Québécois was the political party in this House that was vigorously opposed to Canadian participation in the Iraq conflict.

I also remember the vote of May 17, 2006, on whether or not to extend the mission in Afghanistan by two years. I remember that in the hours before the vote, I asked myself four questions. Although they were simple questions, they allowed me, as a parliamentarian, to take a decision on whether or not we should extend the mission.

The first question I asked myself on May 17, 2006, was: is Canada's intervention justified, realistic and useful? My second question before voting on May 17, 2006, was: what is the exact nature of Canada's commitment—military or humanitarian? The third question I asked myself on May 17, 2006, was: are the people who are going to risk their lives appropriately equipped to succeed at the mission we want to give them? And the fourth question was: is there a specific strategy for this mission?

Those were the questions I asked myself, as a parliamentarian, before voting in this House on the need to extend the mission in Afghanistan by two years. What was the answer from the Bloc Québécois and the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie? The answer was no to extending the mission.

In reading the questions we asked ourselves at the time of the vote, we find they are echoed in a certain number of reports—published today—on the progress of this mission. The Manley report is very critical of this government's military approach. It clearly says:

It is essential to adjust funding and staffing imbalances between the heavy Canadian military commitment in Afghanistan and the comparatively lighter civilian commitment to reconstruction, development and governance.

Accordingly, our concerns of May 2006, have been validated by the Manley report, which recognizes that there is an imbalance between the military and humanitarian aspects.

In the meantime, should we do nothing? No. We should send a clear message in this House that this mission must end in February 2009. We must pressure this government to take some decisions. First, the government must advise its NATO allies of its intention to withdraw from Afghanistan in February 2009. The message to our allies must be clear. There is no room for compromise.

Canada will leave Afghanistan in February 2009, and our NATO allies need to be informed as quickly as possible.

Second, we need an exit plan. The government must develop a plan, because we cannot just pick up and leave Afghanistan, as though we are packing up our tent after a weekend at Mont Tremblant. That is not what we should do. A responsible government must immediately present a plan for the withdrawal of our troops in February 2009.

Third, in the meantime, we must rebalance the mission to put more emphasis on development assistance resources. According to DND reports, the operating costs for Canada's mission in Afghanistan are upwards of $7.718 million, from 2001 to 2008. We need to reallocate this money to humanitarian assistance. We need to develop capacities for the citizens and for civilian populations. We need to give them the means. In so doing, we will not only succeed in transferring and giving capacities to Afghanistan, but by transferring the money from the military sector to the humanitarian sector, we will also most certainly be able to meet the objective of 0.7% of the GDP for development assistance. This is yet another commitment that Canada is not currently fulfilling.

We must therefore inform our NATO allies that we want to and will withdraw from Afghanistan in February 2009; establish a plan for withdrawal and introduce a plan for immediate withdrawal; transfer and rebalance funding from the military sector to the humanitarian sector; place greater emphasis on diplomacy, because political discussion, dialogue and the exchange of ideas are most certainly where Canada should be focusing its efforts, not only regarding the problems in Afghanistan, but also regarding solutions that Canada should consider to resolve the conflicts.

We must be clear on this. The approach we favour would allow Canada to assume its responsibilities. However, we must bear in mind that there are limits to Canada's responsibilities. Canada's firm commitment, which involves withdrawing from Afghanistan by February 2009, is in our view non negotiable. I would remind the House that the Conservative motion extends the Canadian mission in Kandahar until 2011. In light of the debate here today, we see two forces at work. We see not only the Conservative force, which wants to keep our troops in Afghanistan, but also the Liberal force, which decided to side with the Canadian Conservative military approach in order to resolve this conflict.

I do not think this is the approach that Quebeckers want. We are a peaceful people who wish to see a speedy resolution to the conflicts through dialogue, diplomacy and political discussion.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie will have 10 minutes remaining following oral question period.

We will now move on to statements by members. The hon. member for Kelowna—Lake Country.

Global Citizen WeekStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have all heard so many times that people want to make a difference, feel like they are part of something and be connected personally to something they can support and care about.

Last week in my riding this was the key message during Global Citizen Week and it is one that the constituents of Kelowna—Lake Country have taken to heart.

A partnering relationship has been created between Kelowna and the village of Senanga, Zambia. All sectors of our community, from health and education to agriculture and transportation, are sharing their knowledge to help Senanga become a vibrant and economically viable community.

I express congratulations and thanks to all those who are making this global partnership happen, people such as Dr. Nelmes and the many tireless volunteers who are committed to this project.

As Sheila Olcen, chair of the community group, reminds us, it is so important to understand that we are one world and that what we do in our community has an impact on the lives of people thousands of miles away.

Rosalinda CantiverosStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to a distinguished citizen of Winnipeg and of Canada, the late Rosalinda Cantiveros, who died in Winnipeg on March 4.

Linda was a popular leader in the Winnipeg Filipino community and her influence in the city was far reaching.

Arriving in Canada 30 years ago, Linda worked with a host of government and community agencies to provide services to local communities. Linda emerged as one of the pre-eminent leaders of her community.

A teacher in the inner city of Winnipeg, she was the founder and editor-in-chief of the Filipino Journal, a founding member of the Filipino-Canada Business Council and president of the Philippine-Canadian Centre of Manitoba. Many acknowledge that her greatest accomplishment was her role in the construction of this centre, now the hub of the community in Manitoba.

Linda was many things to many people: a wife, a mother, an activist, a political candidate, a teacher, and a journalist.

To her husband Rod, her sons Ron and John, and her many family members and friends, we offer our sincerest condolences. Her legacy will endure for decades.

Morin Heights TragedyStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, we wish to express our most sincere condolences to the family and friends of the three women who were killed yesterday at their workplace in Morin Heights, Quebec. The victims were Barbara Morrisson Elliott, Sharon Kirkpatrick and her daughter-in-law, Marlyn Osiaza.

In this day and age, it is essential to bring all of our knowledge to bear to ensure that people are safe in their workplaces. This winter's exceptional snowfall calls for increased vigilance. That is why we are asking those responsible for workplace safety to redouble their efforts. In addition, we are asking the Minister of Public Safety to work closely with all of his provincial counterparts to ensure adequate preparation for the possibility of flooding this spring.

Marouane AboudrazStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Lussier Bloc Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, Marouane Aboudraz, his wife and their two sons, aged 3 years and 13 months, left Montreal to visit family in the Gaza Strip in April 2007. The visit was supposed to last a few months, but it turned into a nightmare in June 2007 when Hamas seized control of Gaza, and Israel cut off access to the Palestinian territories, thereby preventing the Aboudraz family from returning home.

The father managed to escape when the border with Egypt opened at the end of January. He was able to return to Montreal, but without his wife and children. The children need asthma medication, but everything has become very scarce in Gaza.

My colleague from Papineau received assurances from the Department of Foreign Affairs that the family will be able to leave the Gaza Strip within the next few days. The Bloc Québécois is asking the minister to do everything in his power to make that happen.

Royden TaylorStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Carol Skelton Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, volunteer and professional firefighters serve a vital role in ensuring our public safety.

Ninety-one per cent of fire services are provided by volunteer fire departments. Their technical training demands are growing in complexity and range. Attracting and keeping trained volunteers is difficult for small communities due to family and job demands and lost wages, as well as personal risks.

In January, Caronport's mayor and volunteer fire chief, Royden Taylor, perished fighting a fire. He was instrumental in housing, equipping and boosting the ranks of firefighters serving an area that spans 1,300 square kilometres.

We will never forget Chief Taylor's tremendous service to his community and province.

Therefore, we must work together at all levels of government to find and implement solutions for the challenges facing firefighters, both volunteer and professional alike.

Kidney DiseaseStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Lui Temelkovski Liberal Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wear a green ribbon today to mark World Kidney Day. Kidney disease can hit at any age. Today and every day about 14 Canadians find out their kidneys have failed. If not treated, they may die within days or weeks.

It is imperative that we raise awareness about these vitally important organs. We need to bring attention to organ donation because kidney transplantation saves lives and it is not as expensive as dialysis. Yet there is a shortage of kidneys for donation in Canada.

We can all do our part by speaking frankly with our families about organ donation, by informing loved ones about detection and symptoms of kidney disease and, most important, by teaching ourselves about how to keep our kidneys healthy.

Multiple Sclerosis Society of CanadaStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Casson Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and its members to the Hill today. Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world. Between 55,000 and 75,000 Canadians are living with this disease, and one of those is my daughter. While rarely fatal, it is a lifelong sentence and has a profound impact on families, health care systems and communities.

In the past few decades Canada has made incredible advances in the understanding and treatment of MS. However, as leading researchers retire, progress towards discovery in the field of MS is at risk. This is why the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and the MS Scientific Research Foundation are undertaking the endMS campaign to attract and retain gifted physicians, scientists and researchers to make MS their lifelong cause. At the conclusion of this campaign, the MS Society will have increased the number of researchers and clinicians in the country, critical steps on the path to end MS.

I encourage all Canadians to stand with those who suffer from the disease and to continue to support MS research.

Canada PostStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, in accordance with the plan to privatize Canada Post's services, the post office in Pointe-Saint-Charles, in my riding, will close at the end of the month.

Workers, members of the public and elected officials in southwest Montreal joined together to make Canada Post see reason and convince the crown corporation to change its mind, but Canada Post is determined to close the Pointe-Saint-Charles post office.

Recently, Canada Post posted a job ad for a public relations officer to manage the reconversion or closure of postal outlets. In other words, there are going to be more closures.

Canada Post is privatizing services with the support of the Conservative government. Whose interests is this government defending? The Bloc Québécois, along with the public, elected officials and workers, is asking that the Pointe-Saint-Charles post office remain open.

Human RightsStatements By Members

March 13th, 2008 / 2:05 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, despite the fact that this House and the other place both gave unanimous consent to making the Dalai Lama an honorary Canadian citizen, former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien last week said, “I respect the Dalai Lama very much but I don't think that naming him as an honorary citizen was anything good for Canada”.

That may be the view of the leadership of the Liberal Party, but I can assure people that it is not the view of the Conservative Party, the government and a huge majority of Canadians. The Liberal Party is more concerned about pleasing Liberal connected firms with business interests in China than meeting the wishes of Canadian people.

The interesting fact is that while this government is promoting the Canadian values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law abroad, Canadian exports to China are increasing and tourism from China to Canada is dramatically on the rise. Under the previous Liberal governments, both these figures were steadily declining.

It is clear that Mr. Chrétien and the Liberal Party do not stand for human rights, they do not stand for Canadian exports and they do not stand for decisions made in Parliament. So what do they stand for?

Multiple Sclerosis Society of CanadaStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are pleased to have in the House today members of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. Since 1948, the society has been providing hope to people living with MS and their families.

Multiple sclerosis is an often disabling episodic illness that attacks the brain and spinal cord, causing extremely unpredictable symptoms that vary from one person to another. Canada has one of the highest incidences of multiple sclerosis in the world.

In its 60 years of existence, the Multiple Sclerosis Society has funded over $100 million in research grants to find the cause, prevention and cure for MS.

By virtue of this dedication, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada is continuing to make significant improvements in the quality of life of people across the country with multiple sclerosis. The society's mission is to be a leader in finding a cure for multiple sclerosis.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, after 13 long years without even a hint of greenhouse gas reductions, our government is finally taking the bull by the horns.

The turning the corner plan applies to all major industrial sectors and will result in greenhouse gas reductions of 20% by 2020 and 60% to 70% by 2050, an unprecedented accomplishment.

Oil sands operations must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 18% immediately and then by 2% annually. Effective 2012, it will be mandatory for new projects to use carbon capture and storage techniques and green technologies.

Our government is a firm believer in the polluter-pay principle and that is why we are establishing a Canadian carbon exchange.

The time for Liberal rhetoric and promises has passed. Conservative members are taking action now to ensure the sustainable development of Quebec within a green Canada.

Health CareStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, London area hospitals are facing a crisis that is placing the lives and health of my constituents of London—Fanshawe at risk. In emergency rooms, patients are waiting over 24 hours for a bed. Ambulances are idling outside hospitals for hours, waiting for patients to be admitted. Surgeries are being cancelled. It is a dire situation.

The federal government must step in immediately. The lives of Londoners are at stake. Government cutback after cutback has dismantled the community health supports that seniors and low income Canadians have relied on for preventative, home and long term care. Community supports, like the Women's Health Clinic in London, are essential because of the quality of care they provide and the reality of the doctor shortage. However, unfortunately, the Women's Health Clinic is another victim of government cutbacks.

When is the government going to start investing in long term care spaces, home care, preventative care and community health supports?

National Francophonie WeekStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, this week we are celebrating francophonie week in Canada. This year's theme is, “From past to future generations, my world is la ‘francophonie’”.

Unfortunately, the future does not augur well for la francophonie in Canada under the Conservative government. The government is showing very little interest in la francophonie and the official languages. In fact, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages refuses to appear before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages.

What is more, the Conservatives have cancelled the court challenges program, a program that produced the most significant gains in recent years for minority communities.

I am imploring the government to pay more attention to the official languages and la francophonie, so that francophones can truly celebrate this week that is so important to them.

Tragedy in Morin HeightsStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the community of Morin Heights, in the heart of the Laurentians, is going through a difficult time. Three workers at Gourmet du village died yesterday after the roof collapsed under the weight of the snow.

Barbara Morrisson Elliott, Sharon Kirkpatrick and Marlyn Osiaza were unfortunately unable to escape the collapse. After long hours of searching by the many rescuers on the scene, under the direction of fire chief Charles Bernard, the tragedy came to a sad end for the friends and relatives looking on. It was clear from his voice that Mayor Michel Plante was deeply affected.

On behalf of the Bloc Québécois and all members of the House of Commons, I would like to offer my sincerest condolences to the Morrisson Elliott, Kirkpatrick and Osiaza families, and to the entire community of Morin Heights. We share in the grief of this tragic loss of life.

French language MediaStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, with the International Day of La Francophonie just a few days away, and on behalf of my colleagues, I would like to express two wishes regarding French-language media.

First of all, regarding TV5 Québec Canada, the only channel to specialize in general interest programming that showcases the multicultural aspect of the francophonie in Canada and around the world, I would like the CRTC to acknowledge its mistake and grant it a mandatory distribution order on digital basic.

Second, I would like Canada to show some leadership by increasing both its contribution to TV5 Monde and its share of ownership in that channel. I would also like Canada to encourage other countries of the francophonie to do the same, in order to ensure that France does not gain disproportionate control over TV5 Monde.

Should these two wishes be granted, the francophonie in Canada and around the world could only benefit.

Liberal Party of CanadaStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, the previous Liberal government showed a complete lack of accountability and stewardship of Canadian taxpayer dollars. Therefore, it is refreshing that in just two years our Conservative government has delivered three straight responsible and balanced budgets, paid down the federal debt by $37 billion and set the course toward the lowest federal tax burden in half a century.

Contrast that with the Liberal Party, which has now promised more than $66 billion in scattered new spending priorities over the next four years, spending which will have to be financed by either raising taxes or driving the country back into deficit. Its most recent brainwave involves an ad hoc private member's bill which, according to TD Bank chief economist Don Drummond, would cost about $2 billion a year and favour the wealthy.

The Liberal leader is about to stand up. I hope he will use his time to explain to Canadians that his newly minted catchphrase “tax shift” is really just code for another Liberal taxpayer shaft.

Saint-LambertVacancyStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

It is my duty to inform the House that a vacancy has occurred in the representation, namely Maka Kotto, member for the electoral district of Saint-Lambert, by resignation effective today.

Pursuant to subsection 25(1)(b) of the Parliament of Canada Act, I have addressed earlier today my warrant to the Chief Electoral Officer for the issue of a writ for the election of a member to fill this vacancy.