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House of Commons Hansard #112 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was office.

Topics

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #129

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed from November 16, consideration of the motion that Bill C-395, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (labour dispute), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #130

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

It being 6:10 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from October 21 consideration of the motion.

Huntingdon Port of EntryPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak on an issue affecting my province of British Columbia.

Motion No. 391 states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should direct the Canada Border Services Agency to change the name of the Huntingdon Port of Entry to “Abbotsford-Huntingdon Port of Entry”.

I am pleased to announce that the Liberal Party of Canada will be standing shoulder to shoulder with the Abbotsford council, with the Abbotsford tourism agency, and with the chamber of commerce to support this initiative. We understand, that although Huntingdon is a community within Abbotsford, there has been some confusion with respect to this because it really is not on any map.

This will improve the ability of the community to maximize its tourism capabilities and reduce confusion for those who wish to travel to beautiful Abbotsford.

However, this belies the situation of the government's lack of support for and ignorance of multiple issues affecting my province of British Columbia.

Let us take a look at the HST for example. This will benefit some, to be sure, but it is going to hurt many. Why is the government not saying to the province of British Columbia that the $1.6 billion incentive package that it proposed to give to the Government of British Columbia, that it just does not say to Premier Campbell, “You, sir, can have this until you can resolve this with the people of British Columbia to make sure that we minimize it for those people who are going to be hurt”.

Yes, people are going to be hurt. Who is going to be hurt? Those who have modest means. How is this going to happen? It is going to increase a selective tax burden on those who have modest means.

This tax is going to apply not only to that which the PST applied to but that which the PST did not apply to. We are going to have a huge tax burden that will be on the shoulders of everyone for basic things: some medications, some foodstuffs, heating and services. When people go to get a service, whether they are making $100,000 or they are making $30,000, they will pay the same amount.

That is why this is going to hurt many people of modest means. The government cannot simply blightfully walk along and suggest for a moment that it simply will be “all is well” and it will benefit everyone. It will benefit some groups, but it is going to hurt a lot. It is going to hurt those groups which have the most modest means.

It will hurt huge sectors that in my province are extremely important: tourism, home building, restaurant services, even schools. Imagine, my province has estimated that it is going to cost the school boards of British Columbia an extra $24 million a year in increased taxes. They do not have the money right now to pay for the basic needs of our students. They are scrimping and saving on programs that children need to be able to maximize their experience in schools.

Many critical programs, from music to the arts, have been cut because school boards do not have the money. We can imagine that this is going to be an extra $24 million for the school boards in British Columbia, which will be chiselled out of the programs for our students. At the end of the day it will be our students in British Columbia who are going to be hurt.

Imagine if we wanted to buy a house. In my area in Victoria the average house price exceeds $500,000--

Huntingdon Port of EntryPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. As you know, Mr. Speaker, one of the cardinal rules of the House is that when one of our members speaks to a bill that he actually speaks to the content of the bill and matters arising out of that bill.

All I am hearing from the member is a rant about the HST which has absolutely nothing to do with the border crossing in my city of Abbotsford. I would ask you to rule the member out of order.

Huntingdon Port of EntryPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I know the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca will want to address the main aspects of the motion before the House in his remarks, so I will turn the floor back to the member for Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca.

Huntingdon Port of EntryPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, this goes directly to the heart of the motion because the purpose of the motion is to improve economic development in Abbotsford.

Let us talk about Abbotsford and the fact that house prices there are also over half a million dollars. What will people do who want to buy a house in Abbotsford if the HST increases the cost of a house by 7%? In my area, the average cost of a home is more than half a million dollars. That is $35,000 extra a year.

With respect to the border issues in Abbotsford, the purpose of the motion is a wise move to improve tourism in the area. One of the reasons people would pass through there is to capitalize on our sports fishing opportunities within British Colombia.

The government has introduced an initiative to identify the collapse of the sports fishing industry by calling for a judicial inquiry. This is a good thing. The problem, though, is there have been four inquiries in the last 20 years with respect to the collapse of our salmon stocks. I wonder what the people of Abbotsford will say to the people coming through the new border crossing about why the government has failed to implement the solutions that already exist to deal with the collapse of our salmon stock.

I will give one example. DFO has allowed commercial fishermen to take fish stocks as they come to the mouth of river before they can escape up the river. Therefore, fish stocks do not have the minimum numbers to go up the river to spawn. Commercial fishermen are vacuuming up the fish before the fish have a chance to return, destroying the ability of the fish to spawn and the ability of a particular stream or river to have an adequate return downstream later on. This is a very serious problem.

The other thing is that DFO, in terms of water rights, is not actually exercising its rights—

Huntingdon Port of EntryPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am sure you have noticed that the member is insisting on dealing with issues that have absolutely nothing to do with Motion No. 391. The motion deals with the Huntingdon Port of Entry. Now the member is going on another divergence. He is talking about DFO. He is talking about fisheries. He is talking about the judicial inquiry. In fact, we do not even have a commercial or a sports fishing industry within Abbotsford itself. We have some sporting goods stores, but the sports fishery actually takes place further upstream, so he is way off base.

I would love to hear him address the specifics of this motion and talk about how important this border crossing is to the city of Abbotsford.

Huntingdon Port of EntryPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

For the benefit of the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, I will re-read the motion:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should direct the Canada Border Services Agency to change the name of the Huntingdon Port of Entry to “Abbotsford-Huntingdon Port of Entry”.

The hon. member has two minutes left. If he used the remainder of his time to address the substance of the motion, I think the House would appreciate it.

Huntingdon Port of EntryPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, some of the folks who come through the border crossing actually do avail themselves of the sports fishing opportunities. That is why I am bringing it up. I am sure the member who represents the community would not want to mislead, in any way, people who come through the border crossing who want to engage in sports fishing and want to have the truth of the matter.

Cross-border travel through this site and also across our country, amounted to something in the order of $75 billion. It is the lowest cross-border transfer that we have had in more than four decades. In fact, right now we have a huge tourism deficit and the government has done nothing to try to utilize our embassy and consulates in the U.S. to make an aggressive “Visit Canada” initiative to deal with this $13 billion tourism deficit.

We want people to go through the crossing in Abbotsford. We want people to come to Canada from the United States, spend their money and enjoy the benefits, but the government is blithely unaware or disinterested in using its power, through our high commissions and consulates, and engage in an aggressive “Visit Canada” program. It should be doing that.

The government should also be convincing the American people, only 30% of whom have a passport, to get passports. Due to the American rules and regulations that have come forward, they need one to visit our country.

These are positive initiatives that the government should be taking upon itself and demonstrating some leadership. The failure to do so hurts our tourism businesses, hurts our restaurant services and hurts employment within Canada.

I have given the government some solutions. I sure hope it takes them on. It is my province and the people of British Columbia want to see this action and they want it done quickly.

Huntingdon Port of EntryPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Motion No. 391 in the name of the member of Parliament for Abbotsford. You have reminded the House of the motion already, but I am will read it again. It says:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should direct the Canada Border Services Agency to change the name of the Huntingdon Port of Entry to “Abbotsford-Huntingdon Port of Entry”.

I am pleased to say New Democrats also support this. The members of the B.C. caucus of the NDP, of which I am chair, appreciate the importance of this change to the community of Abbotsford. We are strongly supportive of the motion.

Fin Donnelly, the member elect for New Westminster—Coquitlam, has not been sworn in yet, so I think I can still say his name in the House. I am sure he is also on board with this change, which we know is important to the people of the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley of British Columbia. We look forward to having him join us in the House so he can also be a strong spokesperson, like all new Democrats from British Columbia, for the interests of our province. I understand this will happen next week sometime, so we look forward to that.

The Huntingdon Port of Entry is one of four or five port-of-entry border crossings in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. Huntingdon is one of the 24 hour border crossings. There is also the Douglas or Peace Arch crossing, which is between Surrey and Blaine, the Pacific Highway crossing, also between Surrey and Blaine, the Aldergrove crossing, which connects with Lynden, Washington and the Huntingdon crossing, which connects Huntingdon or Abbotsford and Sumas, Washington. There is also the crossing at Boundary Bay, which connects Tsawwassen and Point Roberts.

These are all very important to British Columbians. They are major access routes to the United States. A huge amount of traffic crosses each of these border crossings. We know they are very important to the local economies and the overall economy of Canada.

Abbotsford is the fifth largest city in British Columbia. As such, it plays a very important role in our province and is a very crucial part of British Columbia. We want to ensure Abbotsford has the advantages that should be brought to a border city.

We know border cities and border crossings are important to the local economies of those communities. They need to function well. They need to be clearly identified with the communities where they are located and the communities they serve.

We know that the amount of trade that crosses the Canada-U.S. border is extremely significant to all of us in the country. We know about the goods that travel back and forth every day. It is a crucial lifeline of our economy and of the U.S. economy. We also know the tourist trade that goes back and forth across the border is essential to our communities and a major industry in our province of British Columbia.

We also know the friendly traffic back and forth to visit family, friends and relatives is very crucial to all the communities along the border. It is crucial to most Canadians who live within proximity of the border to be able to use one of the land crossings between Canada and the United States.

We need to ensure that people are clearly aware of where these border crossings are located. There probably was a time in British Columbia when people knew Huntingdon as a border community. I think that has changed as Abbotsford has grown as a city. As Huntingdon has become part of the city of Abbotsford, I think most people now probably do not know of the community of Huntingdon. That is probably a failure of ours to appreciate our history, but it is still an important neighbourhood and community within the city of Abbotsford.

Most British Columbians would know of Abbotsford. Therefore, it is important this border crossing be identified with that city so people know exactly where this port of entry between Canada and the United States is located and can plan accordingly when they seek to use it. Businesses also need to know, as easily as possible, where this border crossing is located.

It is very important that it be linked by name to the largest community of which it is a part. This would be very helpful in ensuring that this remains an important border crossing between Canada and the United States.

I am glad the member has chosen, in consultation with the city council and chamber of commerce and tourism officials in the city of Abbotsford, to keep the reference to Huntingdon in the title so it would become the Abbotsford-Huntingdon Port of Entry. That historical connection has some value and still has meaning to many people. It is a good idea to include it.

The member has been asked about the cost of making this kind of change. A cost will obviously be involved, but I do not think it should necessarily be the determining factor. There will be changes to stationary, signage, all those kinds of things.

I hope if this change goes forward, which I think it should, that attention is paid to the change in signage. I hope we do not fall into the same trap that the Conservative government has fallen into with the signage around Canada's economic action plan. A huge amount of money has been spent on signs announcing the locations of where the government is spending its money.

We have heard that these signs were made in the state of Washington. Taxpayer dollars have flowed to a company in Washington state to produce these signs. It is an outrageous situation. Canada is supporting a buy American program when that work and those jobs should have gone to Canadians. I hope when the changes are made to the name of the port of entry to Abbotsford-Huntingdon, the work involved to change those signs is done by Canadians, in Canada, even in British Columbia where that kind of job should go. Maybe it should even go to Abbotsford rather than south of the border to a community in Washington state.

I hope the member will follow that issue closely because all British Columbians are concerned about the decision to take government spending south of the border. I hope he insists that the work be done in British Columbia, certainly within Canada.

New Democrats from British Columbia and the New Democrat caucus as a whole will be supporting the motion. It is a little strange that we needed to have this debate in the House of Commons. It could have easily been done by the government. All it would have taken was the stroke of a pen by the minister. It does not require legislation. It does not require a motion in the House of Commons. It could have been very easily accomplished.

The member could have said to the Minister of Public Safety that he thought it was a good idea and he could have asked him to sign off on it. He could have shown the minister the community support he has received for the idea. That could have left this time open in the House of Commons to discuss other issues of importance to our communities.

I am not saying this is not an important issue to the community of Abbotsford, but this could have been done by now. It could have been signed, sealed and delivered and under way a long time ago. A government member should be able to have that kind of influence with a member of cabinet. We could have seen that change already for the Abbotsford-Huntingdon Port of Entry.

I hope the government will proceed without delay. I hope the Minister of Public Safety has his pen warmed up to get this done as soon as we have the vote on the motion. I would not even mind in this case if the minister pre-empted the House of Commons. The importance of the motion is pretty clear. He clearly has the power in the regulations under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to do that.

This is an important change for our border crossings in the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley of British Columbia. We appreciate the importance to the community of Abbotsford. We appreciate the importance of our border crossings. There is a lot more the government could do to ensure our border crossings worked effectively and efficiently. There are many issues relating to border crossing and the traffic that goes across it that need our attention. There are many issues relating to the security of that border, particularly the issue of the importation of handguns into Canada. It is a border issue for our communities and certainly on the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. We appreciate the need for increased measures to ensure that the flow of handguns in particular across the Canada-U.S. border is addressed.

As I said, the NDP supports this change and hope that it goes forward.

Huntingdon Port of EntryPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate. There being no members rising, I will go to the member for Abbotsford for his five minute right of reply.

Huntingdon Port of EntryPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to close debate on my private member's motion, Motion No. 391. The motion directs the Canada Border Services Agency to amend the name of the Huntingdon border crossing to Abbotsford-Huntingdon port of entry. I want to thank my colleagues across the floor for supporting it, the member for Burnaby—Douglas and the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. Despite some of the partisan jabs, they know this is the right thing to do.

Quite frankly, this is about community building and that is why the motion is so important to my community. As we have grown and as our economy has grown, the business leaders and key stakeholders in Abbotsford have identified the Huntingdon Port of Entry to be one of the key factors in our future prosperity.

Our neighbour to the south, the U.S., is still far and away Canada's largest trading partner representing between 75% and 80% of our total international trade. Failure to capitalize on such an opportunity would be a big mistake.

We have only one border crossing in our city but it is a very busy one. In fact, it is the 12th busiest in Canada in terms of value and 17th in terms of traffic volume according to the British Columbia Trucking Association. Approximately 180,000 trucks cross that border every year contributing millions to our local economy.

This border crossing is also a key point of entry for those visiting Abbotsford and, just as important, for those travelling through Abbotsford to other parts of our great province and our great country. Each one of those travellers represents an economic opportunity for our city and our region. That is why the visibility and profile of the Abbotsford port of entry needs to be enhanced.

Those wishing to travel and do business in the Pacific northwest need to know about the opportunities that our city has to offer and the ease with which many travellers can access other parts of our province. Having a border crossing that is more easily identified with its host community can only help in providing the improved profile that we seek.

The motion is simple. It simply instructs the Canada Border Services Agency to add the name Abbotsford to Huntingdon Port of Entry. I ask members to please note that we are not replacing the name Huntingdon but rather including Abbotsford in the name. By doing so, we would not only improve the profile and identity of Canada's 12th busiest border crossing, but we would also preserve the name of a community which, along with the national railroads, played an important role in the early settlement and development of the Fraser Valley.

Adding the name Abbotsford to the name of our border crossing would have one added benefit. For years the residents of this region of B.C. were confounded by the number of different municipalities that comprised the larger trading area. Whether it was the village of Sumas, the district of Abbotsford or the district of Matsqui, it was often difficult to identify in which municipality one was present at any given time. Compounding the confusion were the many vibrant neighbourhood communities thriving in our area: Clearbrook, Mount Lehman, Bradner, Peardonville, Clayburn Village, Matsqui Village, Sumas, Barrowtown and, yes, Huntingdon. Many of these smaller communities still exist and thrive today.

Much of this confusion, however, was resolved in 1995 when the residents of our area voted to amalgamate the districts of Abbotsford and Matsqui under one name, Abbotsford. Since then, our identity has become much stronger without in any way diminishing the vital role that the smaller communities within our city play in nourishing our social fabric.

The Huntingdon Port of Entry remains as perhaps the last outstanding challenge in consolidating Abbotsford's identity and branding. The motion before us would address that challenge. I look forward to receiving the support of my colleagues in the House for the motion.

Huntingdon Port of EntryPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Huntingdon Port of EntryPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Huntingdon Port of EntryPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

An hon. member

No.

Huntingdon Port of EntryPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Huntingdon Port of EntryPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Huntingdon Port of EntryPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

In my opinion the yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to denounce interference by the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in a municipal conflict.

On June 5, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities did not answer the question I asked: “Why does the minister refuse to listen to the public transit experts?”

On December 10, 2008, the OC Transpo union, the Amalgamated Transit Union, here in Ottawa, called a strike. Control of scheduling hours was at issue. Both parties wanted to manage the scheduling, which was being done by drivers. To make a long story short, the parties went to arbitration.

At the risk of derailing the arbitration process, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities did indirectly what he did not wish to do directly: he submitted an amendment to the Commercial Vehicle Driver Hours of Service Regulations. This amendment withdraws the exemption that applies to public transit systems of three cities—Gatineau, Windsor and Ottawa. All three systems carry passengers across borders and are under federal jurisdiction, whereas other public transit systems within the province fall under provincial jurisdiction.

The regulations govern the maximum driving and on-duty times and establish the minimum off-duty times of commercial truck and bus drivers. The regulatory impact analysis statement that the government was required to provide says a lot about its intentions.

On the one hand, the government admits that it does not possess any scheduling data for the Windsor and Ottawa transit services, but on the other hand, it is determined to regulate.

Here is what the Windsor transit service said when consulted:

—it does not believe that safety has been compromised under its existing structure for work-rest scheduling. Windsor believes that conforming to the...Regulations would require that it hire additional full-time staff to meet service needs and conform to the Regulations. Furthermore, the administrative requirements necessary for tracking hours of service would require additional staff as Windsor is currently operating at capacity.

And here is what the Ottawa transit authority had to say:

—while it does not plan to exceed the on-duty hours, doing so occasionally happens. The transit system advised that it needs flexibility in its scheduling to deal with special events.

Although the City of Ottawa did provide some information, it “could provide little information that directly links transit driver fatigue to collisions.”

It is obvious that the minister ordered quick action to satisfy his municipal pals.

Now, let us look at the regulations from the standpoint of benefits and costs. We can read that several comments were received which indicated that there would almost certainly be costs associated with adoption of these regulations, which is contrary to the millions of dollars in financial benefits cited by the City of Ottawa.

Even after receiving these comments, the minister still decided to go ahead with his regulations.

I call that determination. You consult but you keep your ears closed. You do not listen to the comments from the main cities involved. What good is consulting if a decision has already been made?

6:35 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity today to answer the member's question.

First, I would like to say that we will not interfere, of course, in provincial or municipal jurisdictions because we get along very well with our partners. We are, in fact, doing things for Canadians and listening to them. The minister is listening to Canadians, though the member suggested that is not the case.

I want to talk about some of the biggest investments we have made in some 60 years as a country and as a federal government. Canadians are interested in these particular investments because they deal with so many Canadians. In particular, there are $33 million for the extension of the Sheppard LRT. We are working with our provincial and municipal counterparts in the city of Toronto on that. It goes through three or four Liberal ridings, including Don Valley East, Scarborough—Agincourt, and Scarborough—Rouge River.

Let us look at some of the other investments that Canadians are really interested in. In particular, there are investments in GO Transit, some $250 million, which of course will benefit all the people within the GTA. Canadians are interested in that. Another investment made by this Conservative government in more Liberal ridings is to ensure that there is equity for all Canadians and all Canadians are treated fairly.

There are $622 million for the Toronto York-Spadina subway extension, which goes through the ridings of the members for York Centre and York West. There are some really good investments and I know Canadians are interested in this.

We are going through a global economic recession and some difficult times in this country, but with this Conservative government's lead, along with the Prime Minister's initiatives and those of the Minister of Finance, we are actually taking concrete steps to protect Canadian jobs and families. and ensuring they continue to have a high quality of life.

I do not think most Canadians recognize that within the first seven months of this year, and that is correct, Mr. Speaker, I see the astonishment on your face, we have invested more in Canada's infrastructure than the previous Liberal government did in seven years.

By working with our partners in the provinces, territories and municipalities, we are actually able to leverage two-thirds more funding. That is because we get along with our partners in the provinces, territories and municipalities. They are investing with us across Canada to protect Canadian families and jobs. This means we will be able to go three times as far with the money, obtain three times the results, and create three times the number of jobs. That is because we are taking the initiative as a Conservative government.

Since the introduction of our economic action plan, our government has actually committed over $7.5 billion, which, when leveraged with other levels of government, our partners with whom we have great working relationships, will amount to over $22 billion to more than 5,000 infrastructure projects nationwide.

That is great news for Canadians, Canadian jobs, and it is great news for our quality of life. We will continue to have the best in the world.