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House of Commons Hansard #93 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was producers.

Topics

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague certainly has a valid point when it comes to the issue of bonding. There is no doubt about it. There are many mid-level and smaller producers in that particular situation. In my case, they are mostly harvesters in the fishing industry. Many of them become exposed to all of the losses at the upper levels. That is an unfortunate part about it.

In his speech, my hon. colleague for Malpeque said that it changes the mandate from being in the interests of producers to being in the interests of the industry. He talked about one other thing and this will add some credence to what my hon. colleague from the NDP is talking about. He did mention that the hoist amendment came in several months ago. In that period of time, the message was that we needed some fundamental changes, more so than what the government was considering. Nothing was done. It is a pattern that has been going on for three years now.

The reason why the opposition is taking such a strong stand against the bill is the government's failure when it comes to primary producers. Nowhere is that evidence of failure more clear than this particular bill, which is a rehash of the last one, going from Bill C-13 to Bill C-39.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I really enjoyed my hon. friend's remarks. I had forgotten about this quotation from the minister. He was quoted in The Western Producer, saying, “We're not going to leave you hanging with nothing”.

As the NDP member has said, it has now been six months. We still see no proposals from the minister on what the government would replace bonding with. If the bill takes away bonding, all kinds of companies will go broke. There is only one person who bears the burden of a company going broke and that is the producer who shipped the grain. Without bonding, it is an absolute disaster.

We do know that there are all kinds of other cases where the minister has left producers with nothing. In fact, they were left with less than nothing. As I mentioned earlier, the hog plan leaves producers with no security and more debt. The CAIS program it replaced with AgriStability leaves them with even less returns than CAIS provided. Now, on its exit program for hogs, farmers have to bid against each other for who will sell the lowest to get out of the business. That is really a race to the bottom by producers so that the government can get the lowest cost possible.

When the minister said, “We're not going to leave you hanging with nothing”, there are all kinds of examples out there where this minister has left producers with less than nothing.

I would ask the member this question. He mentioned the fact that in the bill, deleted from the original Canada Grain Act, is “in the interests of producers”. He has worked with the fisheries. Who would ever believe that a minister would introduce a bill for an area that he is responsible for and drop the producer interest from that bill? Is that not crazy?

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I believe that there is probably an expression that ties along with that. Upon making any move to downgrade the ability and function of, and in the fisheries case it would be a harvester, the minister would certainly be thrown in among the harbour upon visiting the wharf.

In this particular situation, he is certainly correct in his remarks. I just want to put back on the record what the minister stated. In The Western Producer on March 12, 2009, he was answering a direct question as to whether farmers would be protected in relation to the bonding issue that we have just discussed. He said:

Absolutely. We're not going to leave you hanging with nothing. We'll keep the program that's existing in place until something new comes along.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture acknowledged the flawed nature of the legislation. He said:

We understand and we know that there are concerns across the country with regard to these proposals, and we are certainly more than willing to work with the opposition at committee--

Apparently, the hoist amendment is one way of doing it. Let us all support it. I think it will be unanimous, according to the remarks made here by the parliamentary secretary.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Canada Grain Act.

However, it is a sad day, in fact, a very sad day when the opposition plays games once again with the livelihood of western grain farmers with this motion to hoist this very important bill.

The facts are simple, Canadian farm families deserve to be treated equally across the country, but the current legislation forces western Canadian producers to pay costs that are not imposed in other regions. It sounds kind of like the Wheat Board, which also applies only to western Canadian farmers, but yet the opposition seems so intent on forcing it on western Canadian farmers.

Bill C-13 would contribute to building a lower cost, more effective and innovative grain sector. This legislation is based on the agriculture committee report the opposition parties helped to write.

Conservative MPs on the agriculture committee, including myself, are ready and willing to get down to work, to roll up our sleeves, and work on Bill C-13 at the agriculture committee. It is just too bad the opposition parties are not willing to do that work and treat all regions equally. It is what our farmers would expect.

In committee there will be ample opportunities to work on this bill, but the opposition has decided to collude to hoist this bill which will essentially kill the bill to the detriment of our western grain farmers.

The amendments the government is proposing to the Canada Grain Act and the Canadian Grain Commission are evidence of our commitment to grain producers. Canada's quality assurance system for grain provides a key competitive advantage for our farmers. The amendments we are proposing would build on that competitive advantage.

When our global customers choose Canadian grain for processing, they count on consistent quality and cleanliness with every delivery. This world-class reputation that our Canadian grains enjoy around the globe has been earned. First and foremost it has been earned through the hard work of our farmers, but grain handling companies, research scientists and the Canadian Grain Commission have also played a role in building that golden reputation.

Our edge in the marketplace is all about quality. Much of the responsibility for the quality of Canadian grain resides with the Canadian Grain Commission and the quality assurance system it administers under the Canada Grain Act.

The grain industry is changing, and the legislative tools required to keep the industry competitive need to change along with that. The Canada Grain Act has not changed substantially in almost 40 years, but the marketplace has certainly evolved.

We have a major new customer for grains in the form of the biofuels industry, supported by initiatives put in place by this Conservative government. We have quality management systems to allow parcels of grain with specific qualities wanted by buyers to be kept separate through the handling system. We have niche marketing and processing of grains in Canada, and we now have a broader range, in fact, a much broader range of crops in western Canada.

In the mid-1990s, the reform of the Western Grain Transportation Act triggered a wholesale diversification as some producers opted to switch to other crops, such as oilseeds, pulse crops and horticultural crops. Today, wheat accounts for only one-third of our crop land. In the 1950s, three-quarters of our land was in wheat.

Some of the changes being proposed include: inward inspection and weighing of grains will no longer be mandatory. There is no reason to require something that is not necessary, particularly when the cost comes out of the bottom line of farmers in the grain industry.

Currently, the Grain Commission is required to inspect and weigh each railcar or truck lot of western grain that is received by licensed terminal elevators. The industry has been calling for change in this area for some years now because the mandatory inspections impose costs and they are not essential to ensure grain quality.

Inward inspection and weighing will no longer be mandatory. Instead, shippers of grain will be able to request an inspection at their discretion, letting them choose when they feel the benefit justifies the cost.

Elevators would also be required to allow access to private inspectors when an inspection is requested, and the Canadian Grain Commission would be authorized to provide grade arbitration if the parties to a transaction request it. This means that if there is a dispute about the grade, the Canadian Grain Commission would be available to impartially determine the grade.

Let us be clear. This does not mean grain would go through the system without inspection. Outward inspection would still be required when grain is loaded into vessels for overseas export. Export vessel shipments would continue to require certification by the Canadian Grain Commission based on inspection and weighing by Canadian Grain Commission personnel.

With the bill in place, our customers will be assured that they can continue to have confidence in Canada's grain quality assurance system. The Canadian Grain Commission would continue to regulate the grain handling system for the benefit of our producers. It would continue to license grain handlers and dealers. It would continue to require them to have proper grading and weighing equipment and to properly document purchases, and continue to ensure that producers have access to grade arbitration by the Canadian Grain Commission.

The bill would actually enhance farmer protection by extending Canadian Grain Commission grade and dockage arbitration to farmers delivering to process elevators and grain dealers. Currently, if a producer disagrees with the grade or dockage for a grain delivery at a licensed primary elevator, the producer can ask the Canadian Grain Commission to determine the grade and dockage and make a binding decision. The grain producer is paid according to this decision. The bill before us proposes to extend this service to deliveries to all licensed grain handlers, including process elevators and grain dealers.

Farmers have never had this protection before and with these amendments we have put farmers first, which I would call the opposition parties to do as well. It is simply shameful that the three opposition parties will not consider the interests of farmers first. They have shown time and time again that they just do not care about the concerns, wants or needs of western farmers.

Let me delve into a few other examples. The opposition members had the opportunity to stand up for farmers but, once again, failed to do so. I want to talk about a vote we had just this week on Bill C-51 and an element contained in that bill. It has been a brutal year for producers in parts of Saskatchewan and Alberta particularly. Producers in west central Saskatchewan got off to a very poor start due to a dry fall and very low snow coverage. This was compounded by a cool, dry spring, resulting in low water supplies and poor pasture and hay growth. Things were certainly no better in my part of the world, in central Alberta, where producers faced seeding without any significant rainfall since the summer of 2008.

There is no denying that the risks and unpredictability of farming will always be there. The last thing a producer who is battling drought needs is a bill from the taxman. That is why the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the Minister of Finance worked together on provisions to allow those producers, forced to sell off their breeding animals due to the drought, to defer the tax on that income for one year. In 2009, we proposed to expand the program to include areas hard hit by excess moisture.

For 2009, the ministers have already announced tax deferrals for producers and some of the municipalities hardest hit by the drought in Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and areas where excess moisture is a big problem in Manitoba. This will help producers in these areas replenish breeding stock in the following year. However, yet again, the opposition Liberals voted against the best interests of western Canadian farmers.

Let me talk about one other area where this is the case, and that is the Wheat Board. Again, this only applies to western farmers and yet we have members from other parts of the country who seem to have decided that they know better and they know what is best for western Canadian grain farmers. They think they know better than the farmers what they should do with their products and the choices that they should be able to make for the market, and they want to limit those choices.

Our government wants to see farmers choose how they market their products, whether they choose to use the Wheat Board to market their products or whether they choose to sell those products on their own. That is a fundamental right that everybody in this country should enjoy and yet opposition parties tell us that western farmers just cannot decide for themselves.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

No, no. Producers voted. Be honest.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, no amount of braying and shouting and hollering by the member for Malpeque will change that.

Western Canadian farmers deserve the right to market their own wheat and barley.

This is yet again another example of the opposition parties colluding and working together against the best interests of our western Canadian farmers. It is a real shame.

Let me give the House an example of how far opposition members will go in trying to ensure western farmers do not have the right to make these choices for themselves and do not even have the information they need.

I think it was back in May when Canadian Wheat Board officials appeared at the agriculture committee, on which I am a member. We were simply requesting that the Wheat Board share a report outlining the significant losses that it had incurred in the last crop year. Opposition members did everything they could procedurally to ensure that the motion could not be voted on so that western Canadian farmers could actually have the information that would allow them to open up those books and see what actually happened to their money, to see the money that the Wheat Board had lost, which was farmers' money.

I cannot imagine for the life of me why anyone would oppose such a democratic thing as allowing farmers the opportunity to see what has happened to their money. However, yet again the opposition parties colluded to ensure that western farmers' interests were put on the back burner. That is a terrible shame.

I will come back to the bill before us now and share some quotes from several different affected parties, stakeholders and others about this particular bill and showing their support for the need for these changes. I will start with a few quotes directly from the Canadian Grain Commission itself.

The first quote is from a spokesman at the Canadian Grain Commission back in February 2008, which reads:

Eliminating mandatory weighing and inspection would not impact grain quality. In the past, about 30 or 40 years ago, you had a lot more players in western Canada handling grain and there was a higher risk of co-mingling between different classes of grain. But now, because there have been significant consolidations within the grain industry, and there are only a few players...that service is no longer required.

I have another quote from the chief commissioner of the Canadian Grain Commission back in March of this year which reads:

The transition away from on-site inspection will not affect producers negatively. He says it's more of a service for the elevators and buyers, than the producers. It will result in a more effective allocation of the commission's resources.

Let me also quote from the Manitoba Co-operator back in March 2008 as well. It reads:

The CGC estimates security now costs grain companies and the CGC around $5 million a year, which is ultimately passed back to farmers.

Imagine that. I did not hear any opposition complaints about that.

I will now quote from the people who this legislation is most important for and that is producers. I will quote from several producer groups, some very glowing comments on the legislation. I will start first with Richard Phillips, who is the executive director of the Canadian Grain Growers, who said, “We agree with the federal government that the legislation needs an upgrade...”. That sounds pretty clear to me. I do not know what part of that the opposition cannot seem to understand.

I will also quote from a news release of April 7, 2009, put out by the Grain Growers of Canada. It reads:

The Grain Growers were hoping the bill would proceed to the standing committee on agriculture where all stakeholders, including the government members, could have analyzed the alternatives to the current mandatory bonding system.

In April, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association said:

We are disappointed with a delay in reforms to the Canada Grain Act and the Canadian Grain Commission. Last week, the federal Liberals vowed to kill the proposals, saying they favoured grain companies and the railways over farmers. Association president Kevin Bender says the regulatory system needs to fit the marketplace and reduce farm costs. The wheat growers advocate the implementation of an optional inspection and grading system on prairie grain shipments.

Again, those are very clear comments and I cannot understand why the opposition members just cannot seem to get it through their heads that this is what western Canadian farmers want.

The Western Barley Growers Association has been particularly condemning in its comments on this amendment and the political opportunism that is behind it. I will read a few quotes from the president, Brian Otto, who states:

This delaying tactic is not acceptable. The Act is thirty years old and in critical need of updating. In today's fragile economic conditions, producers cannot continue to be encumbered by an archaic Act that increases our costs and affects our ability to compete in the world marketplace. The WBGA, along with other producers organizations, were looking forward to offering our grassroots input to the discussions concerning the proposed changes to modernize this Act.

Brian Otto also had this to say:

We encourage all parties to defeat this hoist motion and allow the bill to proceed to Committee so that producer groups and the grain industry can contribute to the debate. This will allow all of us to work towards a Bill that best benefits farmers and the industry. If we don't do it now, it will just have to be done all over again with a new Bill later and meantime farmers will continue to pay the costs of waiting for change.

Finally, he says:

If the bill is hoisted, the opportunity for debate and discussion will be lost. The WBGA has to ask the opposition parties why they are unwilling to allow this discussion to proceed. This appears to be political opportunism and an attempt to embarrass the Conservatives and promote their own party images, all at the expense of Western Canadian Producers.

That is very condemning of the opposition and its terrible tactics in this regard.

I believe that the amendments proposed in the bill would build a more competitive and innovative grain sector by reducing costs, improving competitiveness, improving regulation and providing choice for our producers in the grain sector. We are delivering real action for farmers so that they can continue to fuel our economy and remain competitive both at home and abroad.

However, given the spirit of debate that we have had here and that we had when this legislation was proposed and introduced a year ago, I also recognize that there are certainly some issues that the opposition does have and which we may want to discuss at the standing committee. We are more than open to that. I welcome that discussion and I welcome the standing committee's input into helping to make this legislation the best that it can be.

However, this bill will never make it to the standing committee with the current hoist amendment, so I would urge all members to vote for western Canadian grain farmers, defeat this hoist amendment and support the bill going forward to committee where we can have some good, solid discussion.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please. The hon. member for Wild Rose.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if the member is confused, but I certainly appreciate the kind words and his encouragement for my comments. He was so confused he believed I may be the minister. I certainly appreciate that. He recognizes and understands that a lot of stuff is being done on this side of the House, which is very important for our farmers, and that the minister should be on the Conservative side.

No matter how much the member chooses to raise his voice, nothing will change in the fact that I have shared several quotes from our western producers, who tell us that they want to see these changes, that they feel it is in their best interests. I am here to stand up for farmers, particularly my western Canadian farmers. Unfortunately, it is too bad the opposition parties, including the member for Malpeque especially, do not want to see those interests of farmers protected. However, I am here to do just that. I want to see the bill go forward to committee where we can have some good, solid discussions, where we can bring in our producers, hear from them and allow them to contribute to this debate too.

Our farmers are demanding that and are asking for that. This Conservative government wants to deliver that for our farmers. It is really too bad and a shame that the opposition parties refuse to allow that opportunity for our producers. I am here to stand up for farmers. I wish they would too.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, we are looking at the difference between two visions of agriculture, one vision that supports the big corporations, the big agribusiness and the other one that wants to support farmers. There is a saying in the English language, if something works, why fix it? The Grain Commission is not an outmoded institution. It plays a role as relevant as it did a century ago. It has tough regulations in force that gives it good competition with foreign purchasers. The bill would benefit the powerful private interests that control the grain industry and a minority of farmers opposed to government regulation who wish to sell privately into the current high priced commodity markets.

I will ask one specific question. If the inward inspection were eliminated, would it mean that Canada would have difficulty in meeting its obligation under the international planned protection convention? For example, the government must certify health status of grain prior to shipment, in other words so there are no pests. This is done with inward inspection. The samples go to the CFIA and then there is certification. If there were no samples, would it be very possible that this contamination would take place? Has anyone in government talked to the CFIA about who will be providing the samples if there is no certification?

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the question. I appreciate the way he tries to work together with members on the agriculture committee. I find the hon. member to be a very reasonable and fair person. Unfortunately, when it comes to his ideology, he is dead wrong.

I look forward to the opportunity, at the agriculture committee, to debate and discuss this and to bring in producers and hear from them as well. If the member were to withdraw this motion, we could have that debate at the agriculture committee. I would welcome that opportunity. I know farmers would welcome that opportunity as well.

It is very unfortunate that he has chosen to bring this motion forward. I would love to have that opportunity to debate this with him at the agriculture committee and to have our producers come in and share their thoughts as well. I would encourage that.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member for Wild Rose drew attention to the work that the government has been doing in tax deferrals for farmers who have been dealing with drought and, in my area, flooding. He mentioned the Manitoba areas that would get the tax deferral because of the excess of moisture and how helpful that would be for farmers in my area.

Unfortunately, when this came before the House, the Liberals, who stood today and said that they were fighting for farmers, voted against that measure, which I think is deplorable. It reeks of the double-talk that happens in the House, unfortunately.

Would the member talk a bit more about this whole issue of bonding? It has come up a few times, that bonding is the only way to protect producers. Having gone through this a number of times when I worked for the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association and watching bonds fail to provide adequate protection to farmers, there is a better way.

In Alberta they are using a clearing house to ensure dollars are in bank accounts to cover cheques being written by companies. I know in other areas of the country they use assurance funds to build up a surety to cover producers in case there is a default by a corporation or a company buying their goods.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Wild Rose has maybe 30 seconds, unfortunately, to respond to a much longer question.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Madam Speaker, I do not know how I could possibly begin to even address that in 30 seconds.

I thank the hon. member for his good work on behalf of farmers. I know many of my colleagues on this side have the best interests of farmers in mind.

He gave one example of the opposition parties choosing to not have the best interests of farmers in mind. I wish they would follow the example of this Conservative government, show what is in the best interests of farmers and do what is right for them.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Search and Rescue HelicopterPrivate Members' Business

October 8th, 2009 / 5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, it is imperative the government move expeditiously to allocate the necessary resources to put in place a full-time dedicated helicopter fully equipped to search and rescue standards at the airport nearest to offshore oil activity and that it be available on a 24-hour basis with a crew trained in all aspects of search and rescue.

Madam Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to speak to the need for additional search and rescue services in Newfoundland and Labrador. I thank the member for Brossard—La Prairie for seconding the motion.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are no strangers to tragedies at sea. In fact, our history is such that in small fishing communities there were so many men lost at sea that it was common that numerous women were left to raise large families without the support of a spouse.

I grew up in a historic fishing community where there were many homes that had at the very top something called a widow's walk. When boats went to sea, they were gone for extended periods of time and no one really knew when they would be returning because it was usually when there was no more room to put the fish they had caught.

More often than not, wives would go up to the widow's walk and look out to the ocean to see if there were any boats returning. When a boat was spotted, the women would watch in fear that a flag would be flying at half-mast, indicating someone had died while at sea, and hoping it was not their husband, son or brother because members of families often fished together. A boat returning was a good sign because many boats had been lost at sea with all hands, as the local papers would say.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have a hate/love relationship with the sea, hate because of how dangerous it can be and love because it has provided a livelihood for thousands of years to the fishery. Now, in addition to the fishery, many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are earning a living from the most recent industry we associate with the sea, and that is the oil industry.

Contrary to Alberta, where the oil is located on land, the oil resources that Newfoundland and Labrador is known for are located as far away as 350 kilometres offshore. This means that the method of travel for those who work offshore in the oil industry is usually by helicopter. To fly from St. John's, where the helicopter company is located, to the offshore oil platform takes approximately three hours.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are no strangers to work. In fact, they are proud, productive people who want nothing more than to earn a living and provide for their families. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have travelled in search of work for many years. Many went to work building high rises in New York, more went to Boston and of course we all know about the out migration of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to provinces like Alberta and Ontario.

Always in search of work, is it any wonder that when oil was discovered offshore Newfoundland and Labrador, it was considered a godsend. Not only did it mean employment, but it meant being able to live and work at home, to spend time with their families. It was not long before the comfort and satisfaction turned to worry and fear.

Prior to the use of floating production platforms offshore Newfoundland and Labrador, there was a fixed production platform called the Ocean Ranger, which was drilling in the Hibernia oil field. The Ocean Ranger commenced drilling on November 26, 1981 and on February 14, 1982 the it sank, claiming 84 lives.

I do not have to say how devastating that was, not just for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, where the majority of those who worked on the Ocean Ranger were from, but for others throughout the country, North America and Europe, where some of the workers lived and were experienced in the oil industry. They were from Alberta, Texas, Norway and Scotland.

Following the loss of the Ocean Ranger, with everyone on board, a royal commission was put in place to look into the tragedy and to make recommendations to ensure, to the extent humanly possible, that such a tragedy would never occur again.

One of the recommendations was that a full-time search and rescue-dedicated helicopter be stationed at the airport nearest to ongoing offshore drilling operations and that it be readily available, with a trained crew able to perform all aspects of the rescue.

Does that sound familiar?

My motion is almost word for word that recommended 24 years ago, following the sinking of the Ocean Ranger which claimed 84 lives, twenty-four years ago, and we are still waiting to have the recommendation enacted.

The fact that the recommendation has not been acted upon was particularly upsetting when, on March 12, a helicopter carrying workers to the Hibernia offshore oil platform and the SeaRose floating production storage and offloading vessel crashed into the sea, taking all but one life. Of the 18 people on-board the helicopter, two survived the crash; however, only one survived the ordeal. Of the two who survived the crash, one, a young woman, drowned.

Needless to say, in the wake of yet another tragedy associated with the offshore oil industry, many questions have been raised about the adequacy of military search and rescue services in Newfoundland and Labrador.

At the time of the tragedy, search and rescue helicopters located in Newfoundland and Labrador were involved in training exercises in Nova Scotia. As a result, nearly two hours passed before they were able to get to the crash site.

While we will never know if any of the victims would have survived the crash if search and rescue had arrived at the site earlier, loved ones who lost family and friends in the tragedy will always have questions. I know because two of the men who lost their lives were from my riding of Random—Burin—St. George's.

While I do not know the father of the young woman who drowned, I have heard him speak and wonder if his daughter could have been saved. He has said the question will remain with him forever.

Those who work in the industry refer to the “golden hour”. It is that first hour after an accident or a sinking at sea. They say if people are not spotted or rescued in that first hour, their situation will begin to deteriorate very quickly.

I have complete confidence in the capabilities, knowledge and commitment of the people who serve at the 103 Search and Rescue Squadron, in Gander, Newfoundland.

Let me be clear. The purpose of my motion is to expand search and rescue services in Newfoundland and Labrador, not to reallocate or relocate existing equipment and personnel. The intent of my motion is as it says, to establish a fully-equipped, long-range helicopter service that is closer to the offshore oil activity.

It would also be prudent of the government to upgrade the present search and rescue service in Gander to a 24/7 operation, in light of the tragedy that occurred just six short months ago.

What is required is an infusion of money to make the level of search and rescue services adequate to meet the needs that exist, not just in the fishing, export and tourism industries in Newfoundland and Labrador, but in the oil industry as well.

Response time to tragedies at sea must be improved if we are to avoid, as much as it is possible to do so, more loss of life in what can be a very dangerous working environment.

Safety, not money, must be the issue in responding to this motion.

The federal government has an 8.5% stake in Hibernia alone. So, think of the revenue that accrues to the government. It is more than enough to enhance the search and rescue services in Newfoundland and Labrador if the government does indeed consider money to be an issue.

I am hoping that is not the case. I am hoping that the government will indeed see the common sense approach of doing what is right, under the circumstances. When I think of the families who lost loved ones, the tragedies I mentioned and, probably more important today, those who work offshore in whatever industry, I had no choice but to bring forward this motion and try once again after 24 years to get a helicopter station closer to the offshore.

We do not know, had the recommendation of the Royal Commission on the Ocean Ranger marine disaster been acted on 24 years ago, whether more recent tragedies would have had different outcomes. I prefer to not have to wonder about that should future tragedies occur. I am sure that those who work offshore feel the same way.

I am told that fear is not uncommon among those who work offshore and certainly not among their families. They are living with the fear of losing a loved one whenever they leave to board a helicopter to take them offshore. They are living with fear whenever they hear of a circumstance that could mean the loss of a life. They are living with fear when they hear and remember what has happened in other circumstances.

Unfortunately, our history has taught them to be fearful. We have an opportunity to do what is right. I would say that now is the time, but really, it is long past the right time. It must be done and it must be done now. It is imperative that the government respond to this motion in the affirmative.

Twenty-four years is a long time to wait to have search and rescue services enhanced as a result of a tragedy that took 84 lives at that time. Just six short months ago, we saw the loss of another 17 lives. How many lives must we lose? How many lives must we lose to the sea? While it is our history, it is not something that we should have to continue to experience.

The very dangerous environment of the offshore, whether one works on a fishing vessel, on a tourism boat, on a freighter importing or exporting product to or from the province, or in the oil industry offshore, is not a good environment to work in when someone is on a sea that becomes so volatile that they fear for their life. It is not a good environment when the winds are so high that one really does fear for their life.

It is important that all of these circumstances are taken into account. It is important that the government consider each and every one of them. More important, it is important that the government consider every individual who works offshore in an environment that is dangerous.

We have to respond in the affirmative. We have to recognize that this is important. We have to recognize that it is not about money. It is about safety and saving lives. Who would want to risk the loss of more life? We have an opportunity with this motion to make sure, to the extent it is humanly possible, that we never again face the tragedies that we have faced in the past number of years and, in particular, the past six months.

Search and Rescue HelicopterPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the comments of my hon. colleague and the obvious sincerity behind them. She said that cost is not an object, but the reality is that costs need to be factored in. I am wondering if she has costed out the bill for equipment and people that it would take to do that.

Is she aware of the service provided by Cougar Helicopters in St. John's? Is she aware of the assessment of the investigation boards that said that the crash of that helicopter was non-survivable in the first place and that it would not have mattered even if there had been aircraft overhead?

Search and Rescue HelicopterPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his questions and I thank him for recognizing the sincerity of the request.

Gander is not a 24/7 operation. That is one of the issues that we face. It requires ramp-up time, and it is not a 24/7 operation. If a call goes into Gander, into 103 SAR squadron, and they are not on call or on duty, then of course they have to ramp up, so it takes time. It takes a couple of hours to get to where they need to go.

This is not a fault of the 103 SAR squadron in Gander. The problem is that it needs to be a 24/7 operation.

In terms of costing the service, my objective and my goal are to ensure that lives are not at risk. That is what this motion is about.

I want to make sure that the service is there for everyone who works offshore in whatever industry.

It is really important that we recognize that we need the service because of the tragedies that have occurred.

Search and Rescue HelicopterPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for an excellent speech.

I think it is about time that we took preventive action. Why do we always wait until there is a death and an accident before we do things? It seems to me that we should not be worrying about cost. We should just move ahead and get this job done.

Search and Rescue HelicopterPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his insight into what the situation is. He is absolutely right.

When we talk about cost, let me go back to the fact that the government has an 8.5% stake in Hibernia. If we are going to talk about money, let us look to the revenues that accrue to the province as a result of that particular benefit.

Search and Rescue HelicopterPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Madam Speaker, I will make this a short question indeed. I would like to thank my hon. colleague for a wonderful speech. I know she has spoken to the Mayor of Gander, as I am the member for Gander. The 103 search and rescue outfit is the greatest that this world can ever offer.

I would like for her to share her comments with the mayor of Gander as Gander has some concerns, whenever we talk about this in the House, that they will indeed lose some resources, in spite of the fact that the 103 search and rescue squadron is the busiest operation in the country.

I would like for her to share some of the comments she had with Mayor Claude Elliott.

Search and Rescue HelicopterPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Madam Speaker, certainly my colleague and I have had discussions on this particular issue, and we all recognize that what we need is to enhance the search and rescue services in Newfoundland and Labrador.

It is always an issue for a community, if there is any suggestion at any time of losing something from that community. It is important, I think, for the community to recognize, as I assured the mayor in my discussion with him last night, that this is not about reallocating or relocating. This is about additional services in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Search and Rescue HelicopterPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Madam Speaker, the member would be familiar with the fact that there are often agreements in place by the service provider, in this case Cougar, to in fact provide search and rescue capacity.

Would her proposal not be in fact replicating what is already on the ground in St. John's?

Search and Rescue HelicopterPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Madam Speaker, I am well aware of the service with Cougar.

My understanding is that it is not fully equipped to search and rescue standards. What we need is a helicopter that is equipped just as we would find within any search and rescue operation.

Search and Rescue HelicopterPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this very serious matter, and I do appreciate the member's sincerity and emotion, but I cannot support the motion.

Search and Rescue HelicopterPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!