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House of Commons Hansard #75 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was amendment.

Topics

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 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

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Bill C-505—Canadian Multiculturalism ActPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a point of order I wish to make in relation to a private member's bill currently before the House in which it appears could be debated tomorrow. It is Bill C-505. My point of order concerns the constitutionality of the bill. Either the bill is totally unconstitutional or it is in the wrong form, and I will point out where I am coming from on that in my remarks.

It is my view that the bill should either not be debated and/or should be ordered discharged and dropped from the order paper for these reasons. I will read clause 2 of the bill. It says:

The Government of Canada’s multiculturalism policy does not apply in Quebec.

It is as simple as that.

I will also read section 27 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, part of our constitution under the Constitution Act, 1982. Section 27 reads:

This Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.

I want to point out, Mr. Speaker, as you know and most members know, private members' business in the House does not receive the scrutiny or check of the Department of Justice that all government bills must do under the Department of Justice Act. Since private members' business is not subject to Department of Justice scrutiny, it is entirely possible that some of the business that does come through might be constitutionally offside. In this case I believe it certainly is offside.

I want to read as well subsection 52(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982. We are dealing with constitutional law here and this is bedrock law.

The Constitution of Canada is the supreme law of Canada, and any law that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution is, to the extent of the inconsistency, of no force or effect.

I want to submit also that the federal government's multiculturalism policy and section 27 of the charter, which I just read, are now in law and in practice, flip sides of the same constitutional coin. In fact, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act recites the Canadian constitutional provision, section 27, right in the preamble, they are that connected.

In the House, by section 9 of the same Multiculturalism Act, the House is charged with permanently reviewing the operation of the act and that policy. The constitution is explicitly the foundation for that statute and the statute is the explicit manifestation of that constitutional provision.

A very real example of the constitutional application of multicultural policy beyond the framework of the statute itself is found in the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Keegstra, [1990] 3 R.C.S. 697, wherein the Criminal Code hate crimes are ruled by the court to be a function of the application of section 27 of the charter, that is the multiculturalism section of the charter.

We have the Criminal Code application in Canada, that particular provision, being justified and being related to that provision of our constitution. The bill with which we are dealing purports to say that the multiculturalism policy does not apply in the province of Quebec.

I submit that clause 2 of the bill, which I read, is so inconsistent with section 27 of the constitutional charter that it cannot be sustained. It is unconstitutional and should not be considered for further debate or process. Either clause 2 of the bill should be struck or the entire bill should be struck.

A second possible response to the member's legislative initiative is that the bill is really a constitutional amendment providing for some kind of provincial exemption from the constitution. It is possible that is what the member has intended and he has submitted a bill to do that.

Members can propose amendments to our Constitution, but in this case a bill is not the proper form. Constitutional amendments are, by section 38 of the Constitution, accomplished by way of a resolution of both Houses, et cetera, not by a bill. Resolutions are described in Marleau and Montpetit, at page 794, footnote 184, if the Speaker needs a reference.

My conclusion is that Bill C-505, using the words I quoted, “purports to obstruct, to displace, or to undermine” section 27 of our charter based in the Constitution and must utterly fail, for those reasons, both in law and as to form. Either the bill or clause 2 on its own should be struck and an order discharging the House from further consideration should be made.

Bill C-505—Canadian Multiculturalism ActPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to what my colleague from Scarborough—Rouge River had to say. Considering that we just learned that he was raising this issue, we are reserving our comments for later.

I simple want to mention that, despite the fine constitutional references our colleague made in his point of order, as the watchdog of procedure, Mr. Speaker, you know that the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business rules on the constitutionality of a bill and decides whether private members' bills are votable or not.

Through you, Mr. Speaker, I wish to remind my colleague—and I am sure he is a democrat—that obviously his argument did not hold up because the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business has ruled on the votability of this bill.

With all due respect and, as I was saying earlier, subject to comments we may make later, you do not have the authority, Mr. Speaker, to deal with this point of order since the rules are clear and the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business has ruled on the constitutionality of this bill.

Bill C-505—Canadian Multiculturalism ActPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I appreciate the interventions by both hon. members who offered their expertise to the Chair on this matter.

I will take the matter under advisement.

My initial reaction to the hon. member's point of order is that constitutional questions are not for the Chair to decide. The fact that this may amend the Constitution of Canada is not a matter of procedure in the House, in my view, and therefore, on the face of it, the bill would be in order even if it did purport to amend the Constitution.

The question I have, and I will come to back to the House concerning it, is whether a constitutional amendment has to be done by resolution or whether it can be done by a bill. I am not an expert in this area, unlearned as I am, like the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River.

In the old days it was done by resolution because it was only the British House of Commons that could amend the Constitution. However, since the repatriation of the Constitution, this can be amended now by the Parliament of Canada in certain circumstances. I am afraid I am unfamiliar with the procedure for that, but I will check into it.

In any event, the argument as to whether this constitutes a constitutional amendment remains another issue and I am not sure it is one for the Chair to decide. I will look into the matter and get back to the House shortly with a decision on this point.

I want to thank all hon. members who contributed to this discussion. Thank you very much.

The House resumed from April 7 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

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

When this matter was last before the House the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas had the floor. There are two minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks.

The hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I had best get going if I have only two minutes. What we are debating is the amendment from the New Democratic Party to separate out the immigration provisions of this legislation because there are very serious changes to Canada's immigration law. We do not believe they should be buried in a budget implementation bill and we do not believe they can best be scrutinized there.

The Conservatives are right in that there is a problem with the backlog. The Liberals did not address the problem with the backlog and in fact created the backlog over many years in office. They stimulated it by not providing the appropriate funding to the department to do the processing and by not providing appropriate immigration targets for the country despite the fact that year after year they promised to increase that target. At one point, I added up all the years in which they missed their proposed target for immigration. If we added them all up, it probably would have eliminated the backlog on hand at that time.

Yes, there were problems. However, what the Conservatives are proposing is not going to fix the problems. In fact, it is only going to make them worse. The kind of discretion that the Conservatives propose to give the minister is just plain wrong. We need clarity in our immigration proposals. This is wrong.

In their immigration policy, the Conservatives are also giving far too great an emphasis to temporary foreign workers. We know that these workers are too easily exploited. They provide cheap labour.

Fortunately, we in Canada have never relied on this kind of labour to drive our economy. Unlike European countries that have had strong guest worker policies, we have never gone that route. We prefer instead to bring people in because of economic need as permanent residents and put them on the track to becoming full citizens of Canada. Unfortunately, the Conservatives are reversing that policy as well. It is one of the serious problems with their immigration policy.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am wondering about the NDP's position on this, quite frankly, and I am hoping that perhaps their members will address this, because this is not an immigration bill. There is no such thing on the table. This is a budget bill. If they want to address the budget, I would dearly love to support them.

However, I have some difficulties with their position on immigration because of what happened when there was an immigration plan on the table. There was $1.4 billion for integration and settlement. There was $700 million for fixing the system by accelerating processing and eliminating the backlog over a five year period. There was $88 million established for foreign credentials recognition. There was $10 million for expanding a student visa program to encourage more students to come into the country.

The NDP members voted against that and precipitated an election as a result. Today they are objecting to a plan they say is there, but I have not seen one. Would they please elaborate for the members on this side, who would like to support them, what specifics of a plan they are objecting to might actually emerge from a bill that is not in the House?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, if the member had heard the beginning of my speech he clearly would have heard what problems we have with this legislation.

The fact is that this legislation, which is buried in a budget bill, would fundamentally change the powers of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, so much so that we could in fact drive a Mack truck right through the immigration act and the immigration provisions. They are very significant proposals. They should not be buried in a budget bill. They should stand on their own. They should be debated on their own. They should go to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, whose members have the particular expertise and experience to deal with those kinds of recommendations, not to the finance committee, whose members' expertise lies in other areas.

What would we do instead? We would make sure there is transparency. We would make sure that we meet a target of 1% of population for immigration every year. We would make sure that we preserve the track from permanent residence to full citizenship in Canada. We would make sure that temporary foreign workers do not become guest workers and get exploited in Canada. We would make sure that family reunification, the most successful piece of our immigration program, retains a central place in our immigration program.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hear the member talking about the backlog as if it is some kind of disease. I suggest to him that the backlog of 800,000 people is actually a huge asset in regard to immigrants wanting and waiting to come here. It is a two and a half year wait if we look at the average wait time for those 800,000 people. We take more immigrants per capita than any other country in the world. I am not so sure the member should be calling it a backlog. If we had no backlog, would the member not agree that we would be pulling our hair out and saying that our immigration program is an absolute failure?

Why do the member and his party not simply focus on the committee process? We cannot materially alter this bill here. We can defeat it in the House, but this is a budget implementation bill containing dozens and dozens of provisions and all kinds of financial provisions. We should try to fix this bill at the committee where the clause in question can actually be excised and not adopted. Is that not a better solution than the NDP proposal in this case?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, the backlog is actually 900,000 people. I would ask the member to talk to people in his constituency who are waiting for a relative stuck in that backlog and ask them if they do not think it is a problem. It is a huge problem for families looking to be reunited in Canada to have to wait year after year to be reunited with that relative, especially when they were promised when they emigrated to Canada that their family members would be able to join them. We broke a promise to immigrants who came to Canada when we told them that our immigration policy was such that their family would be reunified in Canada.

There are two possibilities. If we did not have a backlog, it could mean that we were in desperate need of immigrants, but it might also mean that the processing in our immigration program was working appropriately and that people were not having to wait unacceptable lengths of time to have their applications processed and to join their family members in Canada. It would mean that employers would not have to wait for employees that they need to do important work in Canada.

We could have an efficient immigration system if we put those resources into place.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, obviously I plan to talk about the whole issue of the amendment, but I will also take this opportunity to speak on Bill C-50, the budget implementation bill, and share some more general but, I believe, nonetheless very important thoughts.

Coming on the heels of a budget that is timid, to say the least, Bill C-50, Budget Implementation Act, 2008, confirms this government's vision and essentially incorporates a bill on immigration that is totally unacceptable in terms of both its content and the way it is being introduced.

On reading budget 2008, I felt that seniors and the poor were the big losers. I voted against this budget largely for this reason. Now, by adding immigration clauses, the government has done something totally unacceptable, in my opinion. These clauses give the minister absolutely extraordinary discretionary powers. There will be other big losers if we accept this. If this goes through, all newcomers to Canada, especially people who want to sponsor family members, will have a hard time living with the new reality of arbitrary decisions.

I want to talk about more general issues, as I said previously. In this Budget Implementation Act, 2008, regional economies—an issue I feel strongly about and one that will always be close to my heart—and environmental concerns are really given short shrift. The measures in the bill are too timid to give clear, targeted help to the thousands of people across Canada with urgent, pressing needs. It is shameful that, once again, the government has not chosen to act for the common good and redistribute wealth when it can.

The government has chosen to use $10 billion to pay down the debt instead of looking after the people for whom it is responsible and redistributing wealth. Because it has decided to pay down the debt, the government is using smoke and mirrors and more often than not presenting us with budget measures spread over two years—measures it is not giving much attention to. Sometimes, the figures look quite promising, but when they are cut in half, they are much less attractive.

Very few people are fooled by this scheme. As I said last fall in criticizing the economic statement, it is precisely because, quite frankly, there was not much to it and nothing substantial for seniors and businesses in our region that I obviously decided to vote against the statement, as I did against this budget and as I will continue to do against this budget implementation bill, which I find unacceptable. It is only logical.

Today, the government is implementing some of the claims regarding provincial jurisdictions. We had questions about the elimination of the millennium scholarship and the creation of an independent employment insurance commission. All these steps taken by the government are baby steps and their significance should not be exaggerated, as it is quite limited. The people in our regions want to see real, detailed changes, which they do not often see from this government.

The people who need help from this government, people in my riding and throughout Quebec, are truly being left out in the cold by this budget and this budget implementation bill. I am talking about seniors and forestry workers in particular.

As far as seniors are concerned, this government recently had the opportunity, as many in this House will recall, to take a look at our least fortunate seniors and study the entire issue through the motion I presented, which, I am happy to report, was adopted by a majority vote. The only members who voted against the motion were the Conservative members.

The government thus had an opportunity to address the issue, to do things differently, to try to eliminate poverty among our seniors, those who built our regions, our country, our nation of Quebec and the rest of Canada. It had an opportunity to lift these people above the poverty line.

My motion did not ask for much. In it I asked that our seniors be lifted above the poverty line and be allowed to work 15 hours a week at the minimum wage established by their province of residence without being penalized with respect to the guaranteed income supplement. It was not much, but it was well-meaning. We know what this government decided to do.

The Conservatives have taken some measures. No one can be against the good things or against virtue. They announced $13 million to fight violence against seniors; that in itself is important. Furthermore, they announced the creation of a TFSA, that special account. This is good, if the seniors have any money. My main focus was help for poor seniors. If seniors can save a maximum of $5,000 per year in a special savings account, good for them.

But before helping those who have resources and pensions, the government's responsibility and obligation is to take care of the people who need it most. In this case, I will continue to hammer home my demands, the demands of the people, of seniors and of those who fight for seniors' rights and needs, because they need more than what the government offered in its budget.

I will not have a chance to discuss all the sectors of the Quebec economy, but there is one in particular that affects everyone, at least on this side of the House: the manufacturing and forestry sector.

It is completely unacceptable that despite the creation of a special fund intended to help these regions and sectors where many manufacturing and forestry companies are experiencing a crisis, there are still huge job losses. The government had the opportunity to help these foresters and to give them a boost.

In my region and in Quebec in particular, I am thinking about private woodlots and the foresters who own them, who cultivate our forests, who look after them competently, successfully taking environmental concerns into consideration. The Conservative government completely forgot about them. It completely ignored the reality in the forestry sector, and particularly the private forestry sector, in Quebec and elsewhere.

For all the reasons I mentioned—and I am sorry I must stop, because I could have talked for 20 minutes—it is clear that I cannot support this budget implementation bill, and will vote against it.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's remarks on the budget implementation act, and I share a lot of her concerns. In fact, I am going to be speaking in a short time about those concerns.

I wonder if the member could expand on some of the things that the government should have done when we had billions of dollars in surplus. Where could some of that money have been directed? What kind of programs might she envision that would really help some of the lowest income people in our country? Some people are at risk of losing their homes. There are people who need child care, people who need a lot of supports in our society. Those are the kinds of people that we in this House should be supporting.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague.

I have often noticed that when our colleagues from the New Democratic Party speak, one of their recurring themes is reducing poverty throughout the country. On behalf of the people, I applaud that.

As an independent member, I am always hesitant to tell the government what to do. To me, the most important thing is to remind it that it has the means. The first thing the government must do if it wishes to fight or reduce poverty, for everyone from children to seniors, is invest the necessary funds in existing programs.

In answer to my colleague's question, in my opinion, the second thing the government must do—while respecting the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces, of course—is hand over significant sums of money—within the framework of the existing system—so that those who are closest to the people can take provincial and territorial realities into account.

As everyone knows, sovereignty is dear to my heart, so I am sure my answer will not surprise the hon. member.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago I spoke in opposition to the government's budget for 2008-09 because of its tax cuts that favour big corporations, big banks and big polluters. I am very glad to have another opportunity to speak to the budget implementation bill. Of course, I support the amendment that my colleague from Trinity—Spadina put forward.

I oppose this budget once again because there is precious little in it for everyday Canadians struggling to make ends meet right across this country, including in my riding of Vancouver Island North.

As others have done, I will not talk about how the Liberals supported the Conservatives' budget that gives away Canada's fiscal capacity with billions of dollars in tax cuts, taking our country in the wrong direction. Instead, I would like to talk about the real effects of not investing in the supports needed by ordinary people living day to day in all of our communities.

I want to tell all Canadians that the Conservative government made a choice in its budget but it is who it did not choose when giving out those billions of dollars that speaks to the kinds of priorities it has and the kind of Canada that the Conservatives want. Sadly, this is not what most Canadians want.

I received a letter from one of my constituents, Jennifer McPhee. When I read her letter, I was moved by her sense of frustration. Her letter tells the story of how members of one family are trying so hard to make ends meet, to live their lives with respect for the environment and to improve their lot in life, only to feel that they are being ignored and thwarted by the actions and lack of support from the government.

I would like to read some excerpts from Jennifer's letter, with her permission, of course. She writes:

I am a...mother, a wife, a LPN at the ...hospital and a contributor to our communities.... I am fully aware of how hard it seems for the average person to get by. The warning signs are all over, showing every person on this earth that we need to collectively work together to save our earth as we know it.... I personally am learning every day about ways to help reduce, reuse, recycle, become more energy efficient, and some of that information comes from what my 8 and 10 year olds are learning in school. If school children are aware, how can our Canadian government turn a blind eye to the crisis we are in? How can they not see it at as an opportunity to lead the way into a new way of thinking and pioneering a system that we can be proud of? ...I started to become thrifty and thoughtful as a means of self-preservation initially, and it has evolved for me as a necessary way of life.... I work at the hospital giving it my all...then provide a foot care service for the elderly in our community that cannot afford to go to town to see a podiatrist or cannot get around well. I spend as much time as I can providing extracurricular activities for my kids as schools cannot afford the time or money to assist [them].... I have volunteered at our school to do hot lunches. I have been on the board of directors for our children's centre, a non-profit society that has been near closing for years due to a lack of financial help to rural communities, fundraising and fighting for the right of quality child care for our community's children.... I try so hard to be a good role model for my children. I try so hard to find a balance between the work that I have to do to stay afloat and my family and friends. It feels more and more every year like the government is trying to make sure that the young adults of this world don't ever succeed. I don't get raises that coincide with the increases in the cost of living.... If we weren't thrifty and creative making my foot care business and growing our own garden...we would have lost our home shortly after we purchased it.... I am over the allowable threshold for a child care subsidy and my children were born before the date that would give me access to that extra $100 a month.

She goes on to state:

I get called continuously from work at the hospital begging me to work more as the staff members there are always overtaxed with patient load. Yet when I have looked into furthering my education so that I can help out with our nursing shortage by becoming an RN, there is no access to funding. There is no incentive to lose [my] job security...to miss time with my family, to go into debt with student loans. It feels like an unreachable goal, unless I want to jeopardize my family in the process.... I feel desperate for help and change. I don't know how to achieve it and I'm so tired already from trying so hard. I know that this letter will be one of the masses and it will go nowhere. That seems to be what happens with the average voice and the average fight for the greater good. That's how I feel, anyway.

This is just one person among millions in this country who feel that their voices are not being heard. I want the Jennifers of this country to know that there are people out there listening and taking action on the issues she raised: the environment, support for seniors, child care, education and training, affordable housing and the cost of living for ordinary people.

The NDP is the only party consistently opposing this wrong-headed Conservative agenda. We are listening to everyday Canadians and ensuring their voices and their choices are part of the national debate about the kind of Canada we want.

I would also like to talk about a growing crisis in this country, that of poverty and homelessness. We just heard again this morning that homelessness is on the rise in this country. While there are people in all our communities living on the streets, living in substandard housing or at risk of becoming homeless, the Conservatives ignored their needs in the budget.

I congratulate my colleague from Sault Ste. Marie for the work he is doing on the issues of poverty and homelessness. I look forward, as do poverty and housing advocates in my riding, to the upcoming hearings to discuss this issue and to, hopefully, help the government to understand that Canada can do better.

There are solutions that need to be acted upon. We can do it. We are a rich country. We can afford to take care of one another, especially the most vulnerable in our society.

Sadly, the government does not just forget or ignore people struggling to make ends meet. It also takes from them. Do members remember the EnerGuide program for low income households that the government scrapped in its first budget? That program was helping cut energy costs for low income households. Now, with the increase in energy costs, the inability to pay those bills is putting more families at risk of losing their homes. In fact, it is the second leading cause of evictions in Canada.

Why do the energy producers get huge tax breaks but the energy users get gouged?

One more segment of our society has been left out of this budget when it comes to housing. I do not know if anyone from the government side has been on a first nation reserve recently and seen the deplorable conditions of their homes but I have. In Ehattesaht and Kyuquot, at Gwa'Sala-'Nakwaxda'xw or Fort Rupert, in Tsaxana and Homalco reserves, and in Campbell River, I have been invited into people's homes to see their living conditions. Most of the homes on reserves are falling apart and mouldy. This is creating unhealthy living conditions for everyone but especially for children and elders.

While this is a deplorable situation in and of itself, to subject anyone to live in these conditions, there is also overcrowding because there are not enough homes to go around. I have been in homes in which there are several families living. Sometimes up to 24 people are living in one home meant for a family of four.

Every time I visit a first nation community in my riding, and I have been to at least 12 of them, I get angry. I get angry at a government that is not listening to the first people of this country. I get angry at a government that perpetuates the systemic discrimination of our forefathers by turning a blind eye to the reality of life on reserve.

However, my anger does not stop me. My anger fuels my drive to raise this injustice in this House. It might be hard for some people in this place to hear that we are responsible for allowing the third world conditions in which first nations people live in this country but we better pay attention.

Funding from the federal government does not meet the needs of first nations communities. With the money they receive, they must provide all the services to their people that three levels of government provide to others in Canada: education, social services, infrastructure, housing, health care, child care, elder care, all this at the same time as they are dealing with the legacy of the residential schools system.

I have the privilege of travelling around one of the most beautiful parts of the country, my riding of Vancouver Island North, and every time I do, it reminds me of what I have a responsibility to protect and the people I have to represent. I made a promise to bring their voices and their issues to Ottawa. I hope I have done them justice, but more important, I hope this government and the other opposition parties listen and vote against the implementation of this budget.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate and thank the member for Vancouver Island North for the overview that she has given, which is indicative not only of her riding but also of circumstances in which Canadians and new Canadians, indeed, first nations Canadians, find themselves.

My riding is one of the very needy ridings in Ontario. According to the package of indicators, it is second in terms of the kinds of supports that are necessary. We have a large number of new immigrants and a large number of them are not working because they cannot meet the certification that is required.

The member talked about Jennifer McPhee. I think Jennifer is one of those among the working poor who are searching for dignity in life. However, she has dignity because the member has taken up her cause.

I did not hear the member actually speak to the immigration act, the portion of this omnibus bill with which we are trying to come to grips.

Could the member indicate what she would like to see with respect to those supports that new immigrants require? We talk about settlement services and so on. Could she just give us a quick overview on how deficient the bill is and why, in those particular areas, we should seek out resolutions because of the kinds of circumstances that she and I and many members are facing in their ridings, and that the government's approach is not coming to grips with those needs?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his understanding of some of the severe lack of supports for ordinary Canadians who are trying to make ends meet. Day to day Canadians, just ordinary people, are out there struggling to make a living and doing the best they can.

When it comes to the issue of immigration, my colleague from Trinity—Spadina moved an amendment to the bill to take the immigration piece out of the budget implementation act because it ought not to be in there. Immigration should be in a separate bill that would be debated in committee but, unfortunately, that will not happen.

The inclusion of immigration within the budget implementation bill would give the minister sweeping powers to have the final say and have the discretion over all immigrants, which will not help the process.

As my hon. colleague knows, significant problems have created a backlog. My office deals with many immigration cases, even in Vancouver Island North. We are not a big centre but we still get many cases.

The problems that are precipitated because of this implementation bill with immigration in it, will not do anything to help immigration, to speed up the process and allow more people to come into this country.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the member will want to ask the minister, once this bill goes to committee, why it is that the numbers keep changing on the question of the backlog. It was 690,000 two years and, by today's estimate, it has gone to 925,000, but she has no measures to eliminate that backlog. That is an increase of over 100,000 per year. She cannot blame that on this side of the House. She can only take responsibility.

Will the member allow herself to ask those questions of the minister in committee and ask her why her government has allowed a 100,000-plus addition to the backlog--

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Vancouver Island North has about 30 seconds left.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

I do not think I will even take that long, Mr. Speaker.

Why did my hon. colleague not support the once in a lifetime bill introduced by my colleague from Parkdale—High Park? That bill could have alleviated some of the backlog. I know many of the people who have applied are people waiting to be reunited with their families.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Kitchener Centre, Automotive Industry; the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East, Foreign Affairs.