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House of Commons Hansard #72 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was s-203.

Topics

Canadian International Trade Tribunal ActRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-533, An Act to amend the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act (appointment of permanent members).

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a private member's bill. It is an act to amend the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act. This bill would essentially allow a representative of working men and women from across the country, as selected through consultation with the Canadian Labour Congress, to have one member on the Canadian International Trade Tribunal who actually represents working families from coast to coast to coast.

Mr. Speaker, I am sure you will agree there have been trying times over the last 20 years since the free trade agenda started. Essentially two-thirds of Canadian working families have seen their real incomes decline. One way we could help to address that problem of a decline in real income would be to make sure working families are represented on the Canadian International Trade Tribunal. I hope that members of the House will support my private member's bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, if the House gives its consent, I move that the 16th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs presented to the House earlier this day be concurred in.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker Mr. Royal Galipeau

Is that agreed?

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Official Languages

(Motion agreed to)

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 4th, 2008 / 12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Hubbard Liberal Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I have two petitions from constituents in Miramichi.

All petitioners are very much concerned with assaults on pregnant women. They ask the House to give speedy passage to Bill C-484.

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present, yet again, another income trust broken promise petition on behalf of a number of residents from Calgary, Alberta.

The petitioners remind the Prime Minister that he boasted about his apparent commitment of accountability when he said “the greatest fraud is a promise not kept”. They remind him that he promised never to tax income trusts, but he 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 Conservative minority government: first, to admit that the decision to tax income trusts was based on flawed methodology and incorrect assumptions, as shown in the finance committee hearings; second, to apologize to those who were unfairly harmed by this broken promise; and finally, to repeal the punitive 31.5% tax on income trusts.

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured today to present yet another handful of signatures that are in support of Bill C-484, my private member's bill, which would provide for criminal sanctions against someone who would attack a pregnant woman and thereby injure or cause the death of her unborn child. This petition has a total of almost 2,500 signatures.

The petitioners urge that this bill be passed.

That brings a total number of names now presented to 17,547 in the House.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, if Question No. 204 could be made an order for return, this return would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 204Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

With regards to the First Nations Infrastructure Fund (FNIF): (a) how has the government advertised and solicited applications for First Nations infrastructure projects; (b) how many applications have been received; (c) how many applications were found to be eligible; (d) what type of infrastructure requests were in the applications; (e) what is the total amount of funds dispersed under the FNIF; and (f) which applications have been accepted?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

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

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, during question period, in response to a question from the member for Vaughan, I said that we had welcomed 430,000 Canadians last year. I would like to correct the record on that. We actually welcomed 430,000 newcomers.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-50, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 26, 2008 and to enact provisions to preserve the fiscal plan set out in that budget, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal Vaughan, ON

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to participating in this debate. It is a debate that is extremely important for many reasons.

I would like to give the debate a bit of context as it relates to the immigration component of Bill C-50.

As Canadians know quite well, Canada today has an aging population and a declining birth rate. We are also faced with a skills shortage, of which people on both sides of the House, I am sure, are quite aware. We also live in a world that is extremely competitive when it comes to globalization and competing for economic well-being and raising the standard of living and quality of life of the people we represent.

Given that context, we have to wonder why the Conservative government, during an era when Canada needs people from all over the world, would reduce the number of landed immigrants allowed to come to Canada. In the first two years the Conservatives have reduced the number by 36,000. From an economic, social and cultural perspective, that type of measure simply does not make any sense.

When I heard the government would introduce a section on immigration through Bill C-50, which is a budget implementation bill, I thought perhaps it would come up with something that would speak to great financial commitments to immigration.

I was really surprised to find out that the budget bill only has a 1% increase in overall departmental funding. What is really odd about this is the fact that we are faced with a backlog of 900,000 cases, yet there is such a meagre increase in departmental investment when it comes to immigration. That is of concern to me as an individual who appreciates the great contribution newcomers have made to Canada.

It is quite puzzling to see the government trying to sneak this through a budget implementation bill. It is also puzzling that it will be reducing the number of landed immigrants in Canada by 36,000 and is not seeing immigration as an important pillar to Canada's future success.

There is a history here. We can go back to Diefenbaker, who attempted something very similar to what the present Minister of Immigration has attempted to do to deal with the present backlog. This attempt by Diefenbaker's government was pushed back by communities and members of the House of Commons, who felt that it simply was not fair.

The government's response to the global challenges we face and all the issues we have to deal with is found basically in three things that I will highlight, and I draw this from the budget bill.

The first change to consider is that of clause 11. Currently, the act requires that an immigration officer shall issue a visa to any person who meets the requirements set out in the act. If passed, these amendments would grant the minister the power to arbitrarily decide that a person no longer meets the requirements they once did. That person's application may no longer be processed and a visa may no longer be granted.

Individuals who fulfill all the requirements and who have been waiting patiently for years to have their applications reviewed may all of a sudden be advised that their applications category is now being denied. That can be done in a very arbitrary way, just because. That is unfair.

It is simply not justice that, at any point in time, one individual's whose application category may have in fact been accepted is now not accepted any longer because the minister decides that is what she wants to do today. Tomorrow she can change her mind and change categories and requirements and do as she pleases without really debating the issue. Everything becomes effective immediately when she wants it to become effective. That is unfair. It is not following due process.

The claim is that all this is to deal with a backlog. When we do a bit of research, what happens? We discover that does not make sense either. When we go to the departmental website, we find this quote:

Once passed, the new measures will apply to applications received on or after February 27, 2008. Those who applied prior to February 27, 2008, will not be subject to the new measures and will be dealt with fairly under the existing rules.

If these rules are not applied to the backlog, then how will they help the backlog? Exactly what does “will be dealt with fairly under the existing rules” mean? Am I being told that the new rules are unfair? Is that what the minister is telling Canadians? Is she saying that anybody prior to February 27, 2008 will be dealt with fairly, but after that they will not be dealt with fairly?

These are quotes that concern me a great deal. I am sure these quotes concern the hon. member for Beaches—East York, with whom I am sharing my time, and she will also elaborate on all of these points.

This is unfair legislation. It speaks to a total disregard by the Conservative government to the immigration community, to immigrants who have helped build our country. It is time the Conservatives come clean with their agenda. They need to explain to Canadians why, in their first two years in government, they have reduced landed immigrant landings by 36,000. There have been 36,000 fewer immigrants allowed into Canada. Why is this happening? Why is the Conservative government shutting its doors on immigrants?

The Conservatives can fudge the numbers. The government can talk about over 400,000 people who have been allowed into Canada. They are not talking about landed immigrants. They are talking about student visas and other permits that are given.

Then we look at clause 87. There is a new concept called “Instructions” that does not exist in current legislation. This allows the minister to cap immigration applications, set categories of applications to be considered, deny the processing of certain application categories. The danger is that these instructions can be issued at any time and take effect immediately. They will not be required to be pre-published or debated. This process, if passed, would lack fundamental transparency and ensure accountability.

In this day and age, when Canada requires the help of immigrants from across the globe, the people who have helped build this country, we cannot stand still in the House of Commons and accept from the Conservative government an agenda that shuts the door on immigrants in a very arbitrary way simply because the government feels like it.

The government also tries to fool Canadians by saying that it is serious about reducing the backlog of 900,000 applicants. What did the government do? It increased the departmental budget by a mere 1%. The parliamentary secretary knows the job will not be done with $22 million.

When the minister says she is going to eliminate the backlog, she knows she is misleading Canadians. She knows she will be unable to deliver. She knows she will not get her job done.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a comment.

I think this member should, first, stand and apologize for what the Liberal Party did to the immigration system over 13 years. Six ministers and four terms in office, most of them majorities, and they did not do anything. Shamefully, they increased the backlog from 50,000 to 800,000. This member should stand and say, “I'm sorry. We're ashamed for what we've done to immigration.” That is what he should do. He should not fearmonger.

I will just quote what Susan Riley said in the Ottawa Citizen:

But while some concerns about the changes are valid, some amount to fear-mongering--which isn't limited to the Liberals.

Let me further quote from an article in the Winnipeg Free Press. It stated:

What the Conservatives propose is common sense...For the Liberals to exploit this, however, not only ignores the national need for the party's own political advantage, but also ignores the ugly truth that it was the Liberals who created this problem. In the years 1993-2006, the immigration backlog grew from 50,000 to 800,000.

The 429,000 newcomers admitted include those who were skilled workers and temporary foreign workers and those students who needed work to meet our economy and the demands of our economy. They are in those numbers. Those are true and correct. The trend is upward, more newcomers, more immigrants, faster and more efficiently. That is what we are proposing to do.

He should stand and apologize for the past record.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal Vaughan, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member must be kidding that I have to apologize. Come on.

The Conservative government stated that you would eliminate the backlog. Since you have been in office, the backlog has actually increased. Now, you can fudge your numbers. You can talk about 400,000--

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Vaughan is an experienced member of this House. He is a privy councillor. He knows not to address other members in the second person but in the third person.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal Vaughan, ON

Yes. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate that.

The reality is that, as the hon. member well knows, I know that he knows these facts because I speak to him regularly, the Conservative government, in its first two years, has actually reduced the number of landed immigrants coming into Canada by 36,000.

Now, the Conservatives claim of course that they understand the demographic pressures that Canada is facing. They claim that they understand that with emerging markets like China and India there is greater competition for skilled labour. They claim to understand all these, but their actions speak to a different reality.

When they shut the door on 36,000 people, when I look at their history leading back to the years of Diefenbaker, and when I look at their roots as the Reform Party when they actually called for the reduction of landed immigrants by 100,000, these are in documents that are part and parcel of your genetic makeup in understanding--

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Questions and comments. The hon. chief government whip.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill ConservativeSecretary of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, I could go on for quite some time about this, but I know time is short, so I will limit my comments.

I would ask the hon. member to think about a prospective immigrant, a person who would apply, and certainly I have met those people. I have had the great privilege of travelling quite extensively in my role as a parliamentarian over the past almost 15 years that I have been honoured to be the representative for Prince George—Peace River in this House.

When we are in foreign countries, we can see the enthusiasm of especially young people who want to immigrate to Canada. Let us put ourselves in the position of some young people, for example, say, in China. They are 19 or 20 years of age. They are finishing their university education and they apply to come to Canada. They want to immigrate to our great country. Then they are told, over a series of interviews, that the backlog is six to seven years. Imagine the disappointment of those young people and imagine how much could change.

I ask the member to reflect back on his life. Between the ages of 19 and, say, 25 or 26 a lot can happen. People meet future spouses, they fall in love, sometimes they start families, they start a career, and six or seven years later the Canadian authorities get a hold of these individuals after putting their applications for immigration through the process and they say, “Okay, we've accepted you”. Their whole situation has changed.

That is what we are trying to do. We are trying to change this backlog that was created by the previous government.

I ask the hon. member, in all sincerity, to reflect upon that and to say, is there not some way that we can bring forward change as we are trying to do, so that we do not have to disappoint thousands upon thousands of prospective immigrations whose situation changes dramatically?