House of Commons Hansard #71 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was immigrants.


Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

1:25 p.m.


Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Yukon, not only for his question but also for being one of four members of Parliament who actually showed up to a technical briefing to discuss Bill C-50. I applaud that. The member is obviously concerned for his constituents and wants to know the impact and benefits that will come from the budget implementation bill that we are presenting today.

It is actually a delight to get a technical question and if the hon. member will please forgive me, I will make sure that I am very concise on this.

It is because of the turbulence in our financial markets and in the markets of the United States that the Bank of Canada Act, we realized, needed some improvement, some flexibility. We have made sound improvements that would provide more liquidity and flexibility to the Bank of Canada to react in what may be continuing turbulent times.

We are very confident. These changes came from discussions with the Bank of Canada. They are positive and are well supported by the industry. I thank the member for raising that question.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

1:30 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I take exception to a number of comments the member made with regard to New Democrats. In particular, one of the responsibilities of each member of Parliament is to consider any piece of legislation that is before the House and to weigh both the pros and cons of that piece of legislation.

The member cherry-picked, as I will, from the budget implementation bill and a proposed amendment by the member for Trinity—Spadina around the impact on our constituents and other Canadians.

Over the last several months, my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan has reeled from the number of closures in the forestry sector, whether it is logging or supporting companies. We recently had another company that manufactures equipment for logging companies go into receivership. As a result, we are seeing rising poverty in my riding.

I want to talk about housing. The member talked about the investment with the Mental Health Commission in pilot projects. Pilot projects simply will not house all the people who are without adequate, affordable or safe housing.

Recently, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities specifically called for a national program that would look at ending chronic homelessness, rehabilitating and preserving existing social housing stocks, building new affordable housing and reducing the backlog of people needing affordable housing. I know that other organizations have called for a national housing strategy.

I wonder if the member could comment on the inadequacies of the budget implementation bill in addressing what has been called a national housing crisis in this country.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

1:30 p.m.


Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I gave a speech earlier today about the connection that this budget brings to the issue that has never been addressed in this House before. The studies have shown us a direct link between mental illness and homelessness. This budget is the first time that this government has addressed that direct link.

We have pilot projects in place to further that work, to find if in fact there is a connection, and how to address that connection. That is groundbreaking work in this House and I applaud our finance minister for recognizing that.

Now that I have the floor and we are talking about NDP support or lack of, I might remind the House, if I can bring it back to the amendment, that we have tried on many occasions to improve the immigration system without opening the act.

We found that the NDP voted against cutting the $975 immigrant head tax. When we tried to increase the number of foreign credential referral offices, the NDP voted against that. It also voted against the $1.3 billion in new settlement funding for newcomers to Canada. It then brings forward an amendment to tell its supporters, in reduced numbers, of course, that it actually does care about immigration shortfalls in this country and that it does care about a backlog.

I find the NDP's arguments ring rather hollow when we see its voting record on immigration.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

1:30 p.m.


Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a few questions for the hon. member, whom I worked with in the past on international trade. I am familiar with his economic policies and liberal economic values.

Three points particularly drew my attention and go against the values held by Quebeckers. He talked about the tax-free savings account. He praised the government for lowering the GST and lowering taxes. He also talked about older people who work and who are effectively entitled to receive more money from the guaranteed income supplement.

Let us begin with the first point, the tax-free savings account. Can the member tell me what the real intention is behind this new tax tool? After the budget was presented, most economists and analysts really questioned its relevance. It was even noted that the budget does nothing to encourage people to save over the long term. He referred to vehicle purchases, that is, short term purchases and the like.

First of all, can he tell me if the government's intention was not actually to create a diversion? He says it is the most important invention since the RRSP. It is simply to create a diversion. There are countless unused RRSPs, which people could start using at any time, and which would plunge the government into an enormous deficit. Thus, is it not rather to create a diversion?

Second, how is it that older people have to go to work in order to be entitled to a supplement—

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

1:35 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There is one minute left for the hon. parliamentary secretary.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

1:35 p.m.


Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am sure I cannot qualify all of the answers in one minute. I might just very quickly point out that our budget did provide $90 million to extend the targeted initiative to older workers. I would remind my hon. colleague that mine are not Liberal values. Mine are Conservative values and I do value the time spent on committee with the hon. member.

If I could deviate a little bit, there was one false statement made today by the mover of this amendment, the member for Trinity—Spadina. She said that the funds would not be reimbursed to the applicants whose applications were not accepted. That is absolutely false and that needs to be put on the record. All applicants who are not accepted will be completely reimbursed, just to get that factually correct on the record.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

1:35 p.m.


Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am going to pick up on what I was saying the day after the budget was brought down, when we heard a number of Conservative MPs say that this budget was extraordinary and good for Canadians. Again, it may be good for Canadians, but it is not good for Quebeckers. We came to that conclusion after a rather careful analysis. There is practically nothing in the budget that corresponds to what the Bloc Québécois asked for before it was tabled by the Conservative government.

This Conservative government is showing us through its right-wing ideology that it is truly quite far removed from the interests and values of Quebec. With this budget we truly feel that the government did not meet the expectations expressed by the Bloc Québécois' with respect to its interests and values. Hon. members will recall that the day after the budget was tabled, the vast majority of the daily newspapers and media in Quebec gave their impression on this budget, and it was clearly unfavourable.

Mr. Dubuc's column in La Presse read:

This lack of vision can be explained by the conservative philosophy of the prime minister's government, which does not believe in the role of the state and avoids economic intervention like the plague. It is an outdated, dogmatic conservatism that is not found anywhere else in the west.

The Bloc Québécois made its requests a long time in advance and on many occasions. These requests focused on the manufacturing and forestry industries, which are currently dealing with an unprecedented crisis in Quebec. These requests have been completely swept aside and forgotten in this budget, as though they were not important.

This budget lacks vision. The Bloc Québécois will most certainly vote against the budget implementation bill we are currently discussing.

I come from a riding, Saint-Maurice—Champlain, where the problem in the forestry industry I was just talking about is extremely serious. Pulp and paper companies are closing one after the other. There is some doubt as to whether the ones that are still around will get through this crisis. The many sawmills in the north of the riding, in the La Tuque area, are closing one after the other, some temporarily, others permanently.

We had hoped that the Conservative government would truly hear and acknowledge the Bloc Québécois demands. It should provide much greater support to the manufacturing and forestry sectors to help them through the current crisis. But the only assistance to the manufacturing sector went to Ontario. That is truly deplorable. Quebec was quite obviously forgotten in this budget.

Earlier, I was speaking about the media. The members will recall that, the day after the budget was tabled, the Quebec Minister of Finance also said that the budget did not meet Quebec's expectations. She said:

I am disappointed because there was a $20 billion margin in the context of an economic slowdown. We were hoping the government would do more for older workers and for the manufacturing and forestry industries in Quebec.

Ms. Jérôme-Forget's comments were made the day after the budget was tabled. There was a surplus of $10.5 billion available. The government could have allocated a sizeable amount, as the Bloc Québécois has been recommending since last fall, to support businesses, plants and workers. It could have allocated $3 billion to debt repayment, which would have been reasonable in any case. But it has acted according to the Conservative ideology. The Conservatives did as they pleased and applied $10.5 billion to paying down the debt, which, in light of what is going on in Quebec, is unacceptable.

As I said earlier, considering these obvious facts and the positions taken in the budget that go against the interests of Quebec, the Bloc Québécois will certainly not vote in favour of implementing this budget. The 2008 budget does not meet any of the conditions set out by the Bloc Québécois. We stated our conditions for supporting the budget, but hardly any of them were met.

As I was saying before, this budget does not provide any direct and immediate assistance to the manufacturing and forestry industries, which are experiencing a major crisis, or to the workers and communities affected by this crisis. The biggest problem of the crisis is that individuals, the people in the cities, municipalities and regions, are the ones hardest hit by the crisis, in terms of their family, personal and community lives. They are the ones who have trouble making ends meet at the end of the month or who cannot pay back the bank drafts and loans they took out, often to purchase equipment in order to work. I am talking about self-employed forestry workers, for example, who must take on the cost of the required machinery themselves. The government has done nothing to help these people.

There is no assistance for workers and communities, except the $1 billion trust over three years, of which Quebec will see only a small part. We are talking about approximately 24%, which is not even representative of the size of the manufacturing and forestry industry relative to Canada. Quebec will have access to only a small amount, while the sectors that are not even affected by the manufacturing and forestry crisis—or barely—will receive a share of the $1 billion on a per capita basis. This is assistance they do not need because they already have an industrial structure to help them through such crises. This is not the case in Quebec.

There is another reason why the Bloc Québécois will not support this bill. It has to do with the whole issue of seniors. During the election campaign, the Conservative Party promised to give full retroactivity to people who had not received the guaranteed income supplement, which the Liberals clearly and deliberately kept quiet about. Thousands of seniors in Quebec do not receive the guaranteed income supplement. They were receiving their old age pension, but they did not know they were entitled to a supplement.

The Liberals did not tell them. The Conservatives, on the other hand, promised them full retroactivity. However, once in power, as soon as they formed the government, their memories failed them and now they forget. This situation once again penalizes our most vulnerable citizens, seniors. How could the Bloc Québécois support such a Conservative budget? We find it completely unacceptable.

There is another factor to consider and another reason why we will not support this budget: the environment. This budget continues to favour polluters in the regions that pollute the most. They are implementing systems that allow industries and businesses, particularly oil companies, to benefit from tax credits and continue to pollute even more. As we all know, since 1990, many communities and businesses in Quebec have taken steps to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Instead of being rewarded, these efforts by Quebec businesses are being penalized and more is being given to those who pollute the most.

This is absolutely unacceptable. Once again, it is part of what we call this right-wing ideology, which favours certain areas, such as natural resources, including the oil sector.

Another important element for the Bloc Québécois is culture. This budget does not contain any measures to promote cultural development in Quebec. The film industry is penalized, and funding has been cut once again. Yet the whole cultural, literary and artistic realm in Quebec is a flourishing industry. It needs substantial support from the federal government, which would give meaning to the whole question of the Quebec nation. Developing Quebec's culture would develop its distinctiveness, but the government is not interested.

Once again, a parallel can be drawn between a budget proposal such as this one and the recognition of the Quebec nation, which the government likes to boast about. Yet when the time comes to walk the talk, the government forgets all about it and does not take any real action. It just pays lip service to the idea.

There is another especially important element. I am talking about the government's will, as expressed in this budget. The Minister of Finance has announced that he intends to create a single securities commission, even though the whole financial community in Quebec is against this idea. This is absolutely unacceptable. Moreover, this issue has already been dealt with. This is one budget measure that is a huge stumbling block for us. It is a real source of conflict for us.

I could go back to all the elements in the budget. I was talking earlier about the manufacturing and forestry industries. Even after the vote on the budget had taken place, the Conservative members on the Standing Committee on Finance agreed to hear a series of people to really understand the extent of the crisis in the manufacturing and forestry industries.

What is happening in the manufacturing sector in Quebec and elsewhere, but particularly in Ontario and Quebec? The budget does not provide anything more for this sector, but right after the budget passed, the Conservatives and the other members on the Standing Committee on Finance approved a motion introduced by my Bloc Québécois colleague, the vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Finance.

The committee agreed to hear witnesses. The motion read as follows:

That the Committee, in view of the serious challenges faced by the forestry and manufacturing sectors, engage in a study on direct assistance measures and fiscal environment consisting of no more than four consecutive meetings—

For four meetings, we heard from people who came to tell us what they thought the manufacturing and forestry sectors in Quebec, and Ontario too, needed to get through the crisis. There was consensus.

We heard from Jayson Myers, president of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters; Claudette Carbonneau, president of the CSN; Pierre Laliberté, political advisor to the FTQ for the manufacturing sector; Avrim Lazar, president and CEO, Forest Products Association of Canada; Phil Vinet, mayor of Red Lake; Jean Laneville, an economist with the Quebec federation of chambers of commerce; Ms. Peterson, mayor of Thunder Bay; and Guy Chevrette, of the Forest Industry Council.

These people were nearly unanimous—nearly because they did not use the same words, but they all meant the same thing—in their assertion that the forestry and manufacturing sectors are going through such a serious crisis that the government must change its policy and its budget accordingly.

They also said that the government had to use part of its $10.5 billion surplus to help a dying sector. The witnesses all told us that the Conservative government is clearly taking the wrong approach with its budget and its plan, which offer no direct assistance to the industries in these sectors, and that it must change its approach.

Until now, we have not heard anything to suggest that it plans to change anything. We think that the Conservative government put forward a budget that favours oil companies because it offers corporate tax cuts. As we have said before, tax cuts for companies that are not making a profit are not really tax cuts. But when companies are making profits in the millions or billions, they do benefit from tax cuts. This brand of economic liberalism is hurting Quebec businesses that, as we know, for the most part, did not make a profit in the past year.

What to do? We could try to further analyze this budget and find some justification for it, but there is none. There is nothing in the budget, whether it is for the status of women—which garners just one paragraph, six lines, to improve the status of women—or for employment insurance, where the demands of the Bloc Québécois have been completely ignored.

With regard to aboriginal peoples, they have significant needs in terms of social housing in particular. But there is nothing for them.

That can be said about any area. However, the government has envelopes for defence. When you are in favour of increasing military action and you join forces with the American government to continue the war in Afghanistan, you will definitely put more money in those envelopes. However, what is important to Quebec citizens right now is the injection of additional dollars. More money could have been allocated to regional development so that the Government of Quebec, which is familiar with the needs of each region, could have taken much more targeted action to foster greater investment in regional development.

The budget has an impact on many areas. Unfortunately, it does not contain what the Bloc Québécois wanted, that is major investments in the manufacturing sector, as I mentioned earlier. For these reasons, it is quite understandable that the Bloc Québécois will not support the implementation of this budget.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

1:55 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals had three important programs. One had to do with retrofitting houses for those who could not afford to do so. Another was the SCPI program with respect to homelessness. The other was a program to make houses more efficient in order to cut down on greenhouse gases. These were all popular programs but the Conservative government cut all of them. A couple were put back in a smaller way but they are harder to access. Unfortunately, some of these programs are expiring next year. People need these programs.

I hope the member will support us in our call to have the government increase the figures at least to where they were for retrofitting houses, for homelessness, and for more efficient housing. It is hoped that the government will extend these programs beyond 2009 so that people most in need in our country are not kept in limbo again.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

1:55 p.m.


Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for the question. He asked me if he would have our support on certain measures that have been cancelled by the Conservatives.

I remind him that each time bills are put forward—bills about reinstating programs—we evaluate each one thoroughly, and we will continue to do so.

However, I remind him that we will continue to do so if we can see that there is something in it for Quebeckers. If we believe that these measures will allow Quebeckers to continue to access good services and that they can benefit from the measures he is talking to me about, eventually and with the right to change our mind, there is a strong possibility that we will support him. We have presented very important demands about social housing, the environment—greenhouse gas emissions—and about the justification for providing the homeless with better services.

In my opinion, that is what I believe to be the party line.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

1:55 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There will be seven and a half minutes at the end of question period for any further questions and comments at that point.

Oil HeritageStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to inform the House about a historical Canadian event that is taking place in my riding this year.

Lambton County is the birthplace of the oil industry in Canada and the world. The village of Oil Springs is home to the site of the first commercial oil well in North America which was dug in 1858. This area is also home to Canada's first oil gusher, first oil exchange and first oil company. Today oil is still being produced using the same techniques used by early oil producers.

To commemorate this 150th anniversary many events are occurring from February to December. I invite everyone to visit us and listen to the music of the working jerker lines, operate a spring-pole drilling rig, let one's nostrils tingle with the sweet smell of black gold, and discover the stories of Lambton's foreign drillers who helped drill many of the great oil fields around the world.

To uncover a truly fascinating oil history and heritage that changed our lives as Canadians, come and celebrate Canada's oil history in Sarnia--Lambton.

Davenport Community Builders AwardsStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to six outstanding community builders who are all recipients of the annual Davenport Community Builders Awards.

The Dovercourt Boys and Girls Club is an organization that provides a safe and healthy environment for the children across the Davenport community.

Jack Fava, a dedicated community activist, has worked hard to make our community safer.

Reverend Kate Merriman is a member of the board of directors St. Clair West Affordable Housing Development Group and is very active in the community.

Virginia Novak is a strong advocate and community leader committed to making Toronto a safer place for residents, families and businesses.

Nick Saul is executive director of The Stop Community Food Centre, an outstanding community organization.

Margaret Smith is committed to making the St. Clair Avenue West area of Davenport a better place to live and work.

On behalf of the residents of Davenport, please join me in congratulating these exceptional community leaders. Their work is appreciated by all residents of our community, the city of Toronto and the people of Canada.

Canadian Cancer SocietyStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, from Thursday, April 3 to Sunday, April 6, the Canadian Cancer Society will once again bring a touch of sunshine and happiness to all corners of Quebec with Daffodil Days, which kick off the society's annual fundraising campaign. Thousands of daffodils will spring up everywhere. More than two million daffodils will be sold by 12,000 volunteers in some 2,600 points of sale throughout the province.

Daffodil Days, which have been held for more than 50 years, have made the daffodil the official emblem of the Canadian Cancer Society and a symbol of hope and courage. In 2008 in Quebec, 41,000 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed and 19,500 people will die from this disease. But there is a ray of hope, because at least 50% of all cancers can be prevented through healthy lifestyles.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, with the arrival of April, our thoughts finally turn away from an exceptionally snowy winter and we start to look forward to summer. Canadians are famous for talking about the weather, but never before have our weather chats carried with them such concern for the future of our planet.

Most of us know that it is human activity that is responsible for putting too much strain on our earth. While the Conservatives may still be in denial, most ordinary Canadians are exploring ways to take action on climate change. I am looking forward to joining them at this year's Earth Day celebrations in Hamilton.

On April 26 I will be at the 12th annual Earth Day tree planting at Princess Point where the Earth Day 5 kilometre walk and fun run will also conclude. Other Earth week events include the eco-festival, the Go Green Challenge and the film festival.

It is only fair that if Canadian families are willing to do their share, so too should the big polluters and the government. Unfortunately, after 20 years of promises to get the job done, we are still waiting. The Liberals did not do it and the Conservatives will not do it. Only the NDP's climate change accountability act will do it.

I urge all MPs to join ordinary Canadians by focusing on environmental solutions and passing Bill C-377 today.

Ontario Corporate Income TaxStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to announce that this Conservative government is helping every Ontario business.

Starting today the Canada Revenue Agency will assume most of the Ontario Ministry of Revenue's corporate tax administration functions, such as audits, appeals, objections and rulings.

This government will reduce the burden on Ontario businesses by streamlining the administration of Ontario's corporate income tax. This means that Ontario businesses will now have a single tax return and a single set of tax rules which will save millions of dollars and hours of time.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce said, “This streamlining will save Ontario businesses $100 million to $150 million each and every year in time and money creating room for more investment in the things that will make our economy grow, like human capital, new equipment, and research and development”.

Unlike the previous Liberal government, this government has taken action to ensure that Ontario businesses are even more competitive in the global economy. Once again, this government is getting the job done.

Bobby OrrStatements By Members

April 3rd, 2008 / 2 p.m.


Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, a great Canadian and one of my personal heroes recently turned 60 years young the other day.

But Bobby Orr does not look a day over 40. The brush cut is gone and so are the knees, but he has had them replaced. Otherwise, he is still that crazy defenceman from Parry Sound, who should have been a power forward.

Bobby Orr was probably the greatest natural hockey player of all time. Trained on backyard ice and tempered by long, cold Canadian winters, he knew the game like an Arctic wolf knows its prey. Fearless, fast and deft, he was a relentless hunter, puck in net no matter what.

Life after hockey has shown him to be a great Canadian in other ways. In 2005 he supported the Royal Oaks Golf and Country Club's tournament to raise money for breast cancer research in my own riding of Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe. That event generated $100,000. His support of cancer research at L’Hôpital régional Dr-Georges-L.-Dumont in greater Moncton has been generous and ongoing.

Bobby Orr earns the gratitude of all Canadians for his work both on and off the ice. He is truly a great Canadian.

Gerard KennedyStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to bring up a fella who seems to have fallen off the face of the earth. This person is Mr. Gerard Kennedy.

Mr. Kennedy is now the Liberal intergovernmental affairs critic and the critic is absolutely correct. When Mr. Kennedy was minister of education in the province of Ontario, he was very critical of the former Liberal federal government.

He said to the Liberal government and to the member for Markham—Unionville:

I think what's dangerous for Canada is a country that doesn't show the capacity to solve problems.

He also said:

There's a billion dollars missing in transfers on health and post-secondary education from the federal government.

You know what, Mr. Speaker? Mr. Kennedy was right, but the former Liberal government did nothing to solve this problem. Do you know who solved it, Mr. Speaker? This Prime Minister and this finance minister.

So now that Mr. Kennedy is the Liberal intergovernmental affairs critic, I ask the Leader of the Opposition to stand in his place and apologize to Ontarians and poor Mr. Kennedy for never listening and never addressing Ontario's financial needs.

Kyoto ProtocolStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Marcel Lussier Bloc Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in Parliament, the three leaders of the opposition signed a pledge requiring Canada to make a firm commitment during negotiations for a post-Kyoto agreement.

By participating in the KYOTOplus campaign, the Bloc Québécois shows Quebec's unwavering support for the fight against climate change at a time when the Conservative government is trying, by any means possible, to kill the international community's only instrument to fight this scourge.

While 163 countries meet in Thailand to discuss the post-Kyoto agenda, the Canadian government is busy digging a grave for the Kyoto protocol. It must stop digging and start acting on behalf of the environment.

The Kyoto protocol represents hope for future generations. I invite all of my colleagues to sign this petition immediately, as the Bloc Québécois members have done.

Bloc QuébécoisStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Daniel Petit Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government's open federalism policy regarding Quebec is making life difficult for the Bloc, who admit that it is very difficult to sit in the opposition without any aspirations for power. Will the Bloc finally recognize the value in a member of Parliament being a member of the government?

For the past 25 months, the Conservative government has been getting things done and doing tangible work in the interest of Quebeckers and Canadians. Issues that had been dragging on for decades have been resolved.

What justifies the Bloc's presence in Ottawa except allowing Bloc MPs to continue to contribute to their pension plans, to enjoy their salaries and benefits and ask questions without ever being able to implement anything?

The Bloc MPs do not seem to be able to agree on the Bloc's role in Ottawa: is it to make federalism work or is it a farm team for the Parti Québécois?

The Desjardins GroupStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to highlight today the achievements of Alban D'Amours, a great manager in the field of cooperative finance. Mr. D'Amours has just completed a second four-year term at the head of the Desjardins cooperative movement.

Under his leadership, Desjardins Group has experienced eight years of sustained growth. Not only has business volume increased, but the member dividends have also increased. In addition, the movement has formed a new partnership with the Fédération des caisses populaires de l'Ontario and has signed service agreements with the Alliance des caisses populaires de l’Ontario and with numerous credit unions in other parts of the country. I could also pay great tribute to Développement international Desjardins.

Finally, I would like to congratulate the Desjardins Group for having chosen Monique Leroux as the new president and chief executive officer at its annual meeting. Ms. Leroux is the first woman president of the Desjardins Group and the first woman to lead a major financial institution in Canada.

Congratulations to Mr. D'Amours and much success to Ms. Leroux!

AfghanistanStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Rick Casson Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, over the past number of months, our Prime Minister, Minister of National Defence and Minister of Foreign Affairs have been working hard to communicate to our allies the importance and necessity of more NATO troops in southern Afghanistan.

Earlier today, our Prime Minister announced good news for the Afghanistan mission. Our NATO allies have met key conditions for keeping Canadian troops in Afghanistan. The French have committed to send more troops to eastern Afghanistan and the Americans have agreed to bolster NATO troops in the southern part of the country.

Our NATO allies heard Canada's message that more troops are needed and they responded. This signifies much needed help for our brave men and women who risk their lives daily in order to help make Afghanistan a better country. I for one am grateful for their sacrifices. Today the Prime Minister said Canada's engagement and sacrifice in Afghanistan has been widely appreciated and respected by all our NATO allies.

This is just one more example of strong leadership and real results from this Prime Minister and this Conservative government.

Mark RoseStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with great sadness that I rise today to have the House take note of the death of a friend and distinguished former colleague, the hon. Mark Rose, who died on March 8 at the age of 84.

Mark Rose sat in this House from 1968-74 and again from 1979-83, after which he served in the B.C. legislature until 1991. My first memory of him was as chairman of the NDP caucus from 1979-83, during a time when very important decisions to be made, combined with many rookies like myself and the member for Toronto Centre, made for impassioned internal debate.

His experience and perspective were greatly valued at that critical time, but Mark's greatest gift to us all down through the years was his great sense of humour and sharp wit, which he combined with a good-natured personality to be an outstanding example of the kind of parliamentary civility that we so often mourn the lack of in contemporary politics.

He was partisan but not mean. Perhaps the talented musician and music professor in him, which we also remember with great admiration, just could not contemplate playing a sour note.

To his wife, Isabel, his three daughters and extended family, we express our sincere condolences and gratitude for a life well lived in the service of the common good.

Jane and Finch CommunityStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I met recently with members of an important community group in my riding of York West.

Jane and Finch on the Move is a grassroots group of community members whose mission is to promote community solidarity and harmony as they strive toward removing barriers that many in our community face.

I applaud Jane and Finch on the Move's ongoing dedication to improving the quality of life in our riding in York West. Their initiatives can strengthen our neighbourhood and I would like to thank them for taking the time to inform me of their positive activities.

I look forward to working with Jane and Finch on the Move in the future as we continue to build a strong, healthy and successful riding of York West.

The Quebec NationStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week the government had another opportunity to demonstrate its support for the Quebec nation but it refused to endorse the Bloc Québécois motion on French as the language of work in Quebec.

The Bloc Québécois regularly extends its hand to allow this government to make recognition of the Quebec nation more than an empty gesture. The Conservative government rejects it all, every time, and comes back with increasingly preposterous suggestions. Their latest is a big one: to link recognition of the Quebec nation to achieving a majority in the coming election. Not long ago, the adoption of a rescue plan for the manufacturing and forestry sectors was tied to approval of the budget. This atmosphere of déjà vu leaves a bad taste.

The Bloc Québécois remains open to any action that will lead to making the Quebec nation a reality but it should not be subject to shameless blackmail.

Federal-Provincial RelationsStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Omar Alghabra Liberal Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, Ontario is facing real economic challenges, challenges like the struggling manufacturing sector, the weak forestry industry and the rising infrastructure deficit, to name a few. Instead of offering meaningful solutions to those challenges, the Minister of Finance decided to pursue his vindictive impulses.

Ontarians are familiar with that minister's bizarre and frequent outbursts. He recently has set a new low. His vindictive pursuit is petty and void of substance. The Minister of Finance needs to realize that his old and archaic policies have failed Ontarians in the past and are failing Canadians right now.

While the minister is determined to embarrass himself, where are his Ontario colleagues? Why are they not standing up for Ontario?

This is a minister who promised to end bickering with the provinces. Instead, he is initiating it. I cannot help but be reminded of what my colleague for Markham—Unionville has always said, that the Minister of Finance is out of his depth.