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House of Commons Hansard #80 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provisions.

Topics

Jordan's PrinciplePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Liberal Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present this petition on behalf of a number of Canadians from Winnipeg and Edmonton, who recognize that the right to health care for Canadian children should be universal.

The petitioners recognize that first nations children residing on reserve do not have the same access to health care services as all other Canadian children. They acknowledge that as a result of interdepartmental and interjurisdictional conflicts, critical health care services continue to delay and deny health services to first nations children.

The petitioners therefore call upon the Government of Canada to address this ongoing tragedy and adopt Jordan's principle, which would ensure that health services are provided to first nations children.

Organ DonationsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to table a petition signed by over 1,600 Canadians, many from London, Ontario and the University of Western Ontario.

The petitioners are very concerned about flawed public policy on organ donations. They point out that the policy, which bans gay men as organ donors, is discriminatory and is based on outdated and incorrect assumptions about sexuality, sexual expression and disease, the acute need for organ donors and the fact that missed opportunities for transplants can cost lives.

They call for the immediate repeal of the regulations banning men who have sex with men as organ donors.

BangladeshPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to table today for my constituents in my riding with respect to Cyclone Sidr, which hit Bangladesh on November 15, 2007. The reconstruction from that major disaster will be $2.2 billion.

The community asks that the government increase the amount of financial aid to the devastated area in Bangladesh, that it work with international partners and NGOs to ensure the aid is given to the regions that need it the most in the area and to expedite the family class applications from Bangladesh to reunite family members from Bangladesh with their families in Canada.

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yet again present an income trust broken promise petition on behalf of a number of constituents from my riding of Mississauga South.

The petitioners want to remind the Prime Minister that he promised never to tax income trusts, but he recklessly broke that promise by imposing a 31.5% punitive tax, which permanently wiped out over $25 billion of the hard-earned retirement savings of over two million Canadians, particularly seniors.

The petitioners therefore call upon the government to: first, admit that the decision to tax income trusts was based on flawed methodology and incorrect assumptions as demonstrated in the finance committee; second, apologize to those who were unfairly harmed by this broken promise; and finally, repeal the punitive 31.5% tax on income trusts.

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

More, more.

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, in response to a request by the government whip and other members across, they have asked if I would please read the names into the record. I ask for the unanimous consent of the House to read the names of the petitioners on this petition to the House.

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is there unanimous consent?

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

April 16th, 2008 / 3:20 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska on a point of order.

Royal Recommendation — Bill C-445Point of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to correct an injustice or perhaps an error on the government's part. In response to the statements made by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform when he rose on a point of order on Tuesday, April 8, 2008, I would suggest to the Chair that Bill C-445 does not require a royal recommendation.

It is important to understand that this bill amends the Income Tax Act to provide a tax credit to a taxpayer in respect of whom an employer and the employees failed to make the contributions required to be made to a registered pension plan. This bill seeks to help retirees who have lost retirement income.

According to a ruling by the Chair on October 16, 1995 about Bill S-9, a tax reduction would not contravene Standing Orders 79 and 80. The Chair at the time said this:

The bill will also have the effect of granting some tax relief retroactively and there may be some reimbursements payable for taxes paid under the law as it now reads, should Bill S-9 be passed by the House and receive royal assent.

The bill does not appropriate tax revenue, but rather exempts or reduces taxes otherwise payable, in some cases retroactively.

...

In conclusion, Standing Orders 79 and 80 have not been contravened, as Bill S-9 neither imposes a tax nor appropriates money for any purpose. Since the bill relinquishes funds it might otherwise have gained, it is not appropriating money but forfeiting revenue it would have raised without such changes.

It seems to us that this is the same, because it would reduce the tax revenues, as permitted by the Standing Orders. The Speaker will have to consider the fact that this measure seeks not to create a specific program to help workers who have lost their pension funds, but to enable citizens who have paid taxes their whole lives to benefit via tax credits.

This fiscal measure will result in a reduced tax burden on individuals whose retirement income was downsized because their retirement plan was in a deficit situation when the company that employed them ceased operations.

Take, for example, the 1,200 Jeffrey mine retirees in Asbestos, in my riding. Since February 2003, these retirees have lost no less than $55 million from their pension fund and $30 million in benefits. As a result, a retired worker who was supposed to collect $30,000 can now collect only $22,000. When my Bill C-445 comes into force, retirees will receive 22% of the $8,000 lost, a $1,760 tax credit.

I could also have talked about the workers at Atlas Steel in Sorel, who are struggling with the same problem.

If this bill is passed, all retirees who have been victims of this kind of situation will be able to get back some of the money lost as tax credits—that is important to mention. This will amount to reduced revenues for the state, not a new social program.

In conclusion, I am sure that this explanation will enable the Speaker to reconsider the need for a royal recommendation on Bill C-445.

Mr. Speaker, I have faith in your good judgment. I believe that you will come to an enlightened decision in favour of workers, justice and democracy.

Royal Recommendation — Bill C-445Point of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for his comments on this matter. I will certainly consider everything he said and everything the other hon. members said about this. I will come back to the House soon with a ruling.

The House resumed from April 15 consideration of the motion that Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-26, which deals with minimum mandatory sentences for drug crimes.

I would like to acknowledge the work of the member for Vancouver East who has been tireless on this issue on behalf of her constituents.

Bill C-26 is flawed and ineffective. Mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes do not work. The approach outlined in Bill C-26 is unbalanced. The bill oversimplifies the issue and irresponsibly seeks only to placate Conservative voters.

There are better solutions to tackling the drug problem than mandatory minimum sentences, solutions that actually work.

Bill C-26 would move Canada toward a more expensive, failed U.S.-style war on drugs that spends tens of billions of dollars a year on enforcement and incarceration while drug use soars.

At the end of last year, an editorial on Bill C-26 in the Ottawa Citizen read:

More than half the people incarcerated in American federal prisons are there on drug charges, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, and about one-fifth of those in state prisons. This doesn't count people whose crimes were indirectly related to drugs, but it includes people jailed for life for possessing one marijuana joint. Nevertheless, the war on drugs rages on.

Canada's Conservative government is choosing to copy this strategy, which has been failing non-stop since prohibition. The reason Canada has drug addicts on its streets is supposedly because dealers are not going to prison for long enough, which is why the justice minister has a bill to make the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act harsher.

Judges have had the discretion to sentence drug criminals according to the evidence presented in their cases but now the justice minister wants to change that by imposing mandatory minimum sentences.

For instance, anyone dealing in marijuana would go to jail for at least a year if he or she did so in support of organized crime, that is, in a money-making enterprise involving three or more people. That covers just about all marijuana dealers who are, by definition, organized if they have one supplier and one customer. Most of the charges are like this.

Some drug users might be exempted from the minimums if they are diverted into special drug courts that focus on treating addicts. What about addicts who deal to support their habit and who cannot break the addiction despite treatment. Why? What they needs is more prison time, right? Actually, that is wrong. This is bad law in pursuit of bad politics based on non-existent science. Parliament should not go along with it.

As the editorial points out, the bill would do absolutely nothing to reduce drug consumption in our society. All we need to do is look to our neighbours to the south and its experience over the last 35 years. It is uninterrupted. Over that period of time, the United States has actively engaged in its so-called war on drugs but what do we have today? The production of drugs in the United States and around the globe has increased. The consumption of illegal drugs in the United States has also increased. Prison populations have more than doubled and, in some cases, tripled, in terms of the number of people incarcerated on drug charges. The cost of that war on drugs is up in the range of 10 to 20 times higher than previously, depending on which state in the United States we examine.

In the last few years, the United States finally recognized that its war on drugs was not working. Last year in Detroit, Michigan, the state legislature, which controls criminal law in the area of illegal drugs, began reducing the charges in cases where if people are convicted on drug charges they would have a mandatory minimum.

The state legislature did it for two reasons. I could be somewhat cynical and say that it was only because of how much it was costing and the rate of incarceration that was occurring in that state, but it also did it because it finally recognized that it was not working. We can go through at least half a dozen to a dozen states just in the last few years that have begun to drop mandatory minimums with regard to drug offences. There is no evidence that any form of a mandatory sentencing policy for drug offences works.

Former U.S. supreme court justice, William Rehnquist, noted:

These mandatory minimum sentences are perhaps a good example of the law of unintended consequences. There is a respectable body of opinion which believes that these mandatory minimums impose unduly harsh punishment for first-time offenders-- particularly for “mules” who played only a minor role in a drug distribution scheme...

Mandatory minimums ...are frequently the result of [legislative] amendments to demonstrate emphatically that legislators want to “get tough on crime.” Just as frequently they do not involve any careful consideration of the effect they might have...they frustrate the careful calibration of sentences, from one end of the spectrum to the other....

In spite of those experiences in the United States and in spite of the Conservative government knowing about those experiences, it intends to copy that failed experiment.

Bill C-26 proposes an unbalanced approach to preventing drug offences.

In my riding, there is a different approach. London's community addictions response strategy cites that the cities around the world, which are making progress on this issue, are doing so by planning within the context of the four pillars model: prevention, harm reduction, treatment and enforcement.

Currently, the federal government spends 73% of its drug policy budget on enforcement and only 14% on treatment, 7% on research, 2.6% on prevention and 2.6% on harm reduction.

London's community addictions response strategy states:

Substance abuse is affecting London’s health and well-being

How serious is the problem? Most people in Canada use substances, such as alcohol or drugs. For example, in the past year, about 1 out of every 7 Londoners exceeded low-risk drinking guidelines, 1 in 8 used cannabis, and 1 in 33 used an illicit drug, such as cocaine, ecstasy or methamphetamine. And these figures probably underestimate actual substance use. Not everyone who drinks alcohol or tries an illegal drug develops a substance abuse problem, but some do, including individuals from all groups within society.

Substance abuse is not a “downtown” problem, nor is it limited to the poor and homeless. It is, however, becoming an increasingly critical issue among London’s poor and homeless populations. Health and social service agencies in London report relatively high rates of substance abuse among their clients. For example:

Ontario Works estimates that substance abuse is a barrier to employment for between 820 and 984 of its clients (10 to 12% of the caseload).

The city‘s shelter operators estimate that 40 to 60% of residents - or 350 to 525 people - have substance use or abuse issues.

About 40% of visits to the London Intercommunity Health Centre are substance related.

My Sister's Place provides services to 50 to 70 women, many of whom deal with addictions and/or mental health problems.

Between January and June 2000, London Counter Point Needle Exchange Program served 730 clients and distributed over 230,000 needles.

Addiction Services of Thames Valley serves between 1500 and 1700 clients each year.

Clinic 528 which operates a methadone maintenance program sees 900 clients per month.

London's homeless population is growing. In addition to local residents who [struggle with] life on the streets, we are a regional centre for mental health, justice and social services. Issues associated with release from provincial mental health facilities to "no fixed address"; criminal discharges to local emergency shelters; and the lack of appropriate social service and emergency shelter services in many southwestern Ontario communities result in an inward migration of the homeless to London.

Complicating this situation is the deteriorating health of the homeless. A growing number are presenting with multiple health challenges as a result of poverty, mental health and addiction, particularly [addiction] to alcohol and prescription painkillers. Local social service agencies are struggling to cope with this changing population. Faith based agencies are being forced to reconsider...core values about abstinence, in order to meet their mission of serving the most vulnerable in society.

Not surprisingly, drug trafficking to these vulnerable populations is a key contributor to the declining health of these individuals. In turn, those with addictions are forced to enter into illegal activities to support their habits.

Treatment programs are desperately inadequate. The waiting time in Ontario for a treatment bed is four months. My constituents deserve better.

The NDP thinks the bill sidesteps the real problems and ignores the real solutions. Bill C-26 would not solve the problems associated with illicit drugs. It is more about creating the illusion of action rather than a genuine effort to take positive steps.

If the government really cared about the vulnerable in our society, children in schools and those who are susceptible to the temptations of drugs and alcohol, it would bring back an affordable national housing program so the homeless and low income families would no longer face a lack of decent housing. A home goes a long way to providing the stability that makes drugs less attractive.

If the government cared about children, there would be a real, safe, affordable, regulated child care program, instead of the sham perpetrated against young families.

If the government cared about the welfare of our communities, it would ensure that those who lost a job or needed training were able to benefit from the employment insurance to which they have contributed, instead of stealing $55 billion from that fund.

The Conservatives can cry crocodile tears for those in need but then give $14.5 billion to profitable corporations and big polluters.

If the government truly cared, it would fund programs like the London community addictions response strategy. That is genuine action and it is time this country had something genuine from its government.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for London—Fanshawe has outlined so well the situation in her own community of London. She has demonstrated something very important, which is that the response to drug issues and substance use in our communities comes most effectively from the local communities.

It is the organizations on the ground that are dealing with harm reduction, treatment, education and prevention. Those are the organizations that are actually doing the most valuable work in dealing with this crisis we are facing in many communities.

She has demonstrated very well that this kind of top heavy approach from the government of imposing minimum mandatory sentences has nothing to do with effecting a legitimate, rational, intelligent response to what we are facing.

I think that in her community, as in my community, these organizations that are doing such a valiant job are facing difficult times because they have inadequate resources.

We know the Conservative government completely eliminated harm reduction from its so-called anti-drug strategy. The harm reduction movement in Canada is actually very strong. It has done amazing work across the country but, unfortunately, the federal government is no longer part of that program.

Is that an issue in the member's local community in London? I know some of the organizations she has referred to, whether it is the needle exchange or the addiction response service, are organizations that would like to see greater resources come from the federal government, as well as from the provincial governments, no doubt, which would allow them to do their work.

It would be interesting to hear how this is playing out in her community for those organizations.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's question is quite timely. About two weeks ago, the council for the city of London had its quarterly meeting with London area MPs. The program, London CaReS, the proposal with the four pillars approach, was presented to the MPs. One of the government MPs present was asked if he would ensure this important program was funded because, despite the fact that London has done a great deal of work, there has been no response.

In addition to that lack of response, is the reality of what happened to Londoners in budget 2006, 2007 and 2008 in regard to housing money.

Members have no doubt heard me speak about places in London, like My Sister's Place, At^lohsa, Youth Unlimited, Street Connections and the needle exchange, that do the good work to try to help people in our community. Some of them have closed down because the government reduced the funding available to those organizations that provided support, housing and interventions. They are gone. As a result, there are more vulnerable people without help.

My Sister's Place is in a situation where it needs to fundraise privately in order to manage because the government cut the funding that it needed. It deals with the most vulnerable of people: women who have mental illness and abuse issues.

There is a lot that can be done but not much of it is done.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, this debate is very troubling. It appears to me that on the face of it what we have coming from the government today is more of a blame the victim mentality. People who are addicted to drugs are victims. They are not people who are out there socially playing games.

Also, the government seems to be ignoring evidence that can be found with a modest amount of research. For example, the head of the Ontario Criminal Lawyers' Association noted that justice department research shows that mandatory minimums do not deter offenders more than tailored proportional sentences and often result in a lower conviction rate because judges are reluctant to convict somebody for a minor transgression if they know the penalty is overly harsh.

Another part of just a minimal amount of research is that in 2000 California repealed mandatory minimums for minor drug offences. In 2004 Michigan repealed mandatory minimums for most drug offences, including repealing the harshest drug law in the U.S., life without parole, for dealing more than 650 grams of cocaine.

Does the member for London—Fanshawe have any explanation of why this government is headed in the wrong direction?

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me the answer is that this is a government hell bent on punishment. It has a punitive mentality that has nothing to do with the reality within communities. It is a punitive mentality with some kind of strange need, that seeks some strange revenge, to further brutalize those who have been victims.

I want to point to something that I think the members here might be interested in. Last June, a first nations worker in London, who heads up At^lohsa, organized a march to the women's monument in Victoria Park and talked about the problems that first nations women, children and men face in regard to drug addictions. This has also been corroborated by Beverley Jacobs of the Native Women's Association of Canada.

They both ask the question: what would happen to your community? Would there be drug abuse and would there be people living in despair if they had to cope with the kinds of things that first nations have had to cope with over the past few years?

Beverley Jacobs was very pointed. She has asked this government about this. If we were beaten for speaking our own language, if we were sent away from our families so that we would lose our culture, if we were raped in those schools, would we not seek the solace of drugs? Could we not see ourselves declining into a situation where we needed help and support instead of this kind of punitive attitude? I think that is a very good question to ask everyone in this chamber.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am between a point of order and a question on this bill. During question period, the Minister of Justice, in answering a question about drugs from the Bloc, suggested that he had not heard anything from the Bloc on this, yet yesterday the Bloc talked about this bill at least three times. The member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant stood up twice, the member for Hochelaga once, and the member for Berthier—Maskinongé at least four times. I think it was totally out of order and the Minister of Justice should apologize for making those false accusations about the Bloc--

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order. Is the member making a point of order or is he smuggling in a quasi-point of order on a question and comment?