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House of Commons Hansard #34 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was afghan.

Topics

Canadian Broadcasting CorporationOral Questions

March 26th, 2009 / 2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, CBC Cape Breton employs 25 people and it is the only outlet that really services the entire island. We got news today that half the jobs there will be cut.

We know the responsibility of the federal government is to allow CBC to deliver on its truly national mandate. These cuts will be devastating to the service. They will be devastating to my community.

I call upon the minister to please provide bridge funding so we do not lose these jobs and we do not lose this service.

Canadian Broadcasting CorporationOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, we recognize the importance of regional media in our country, certainly for the CBC. That is why we have increased funding for the CBC.

However, I would ask my good friend from Cape Breton to read the speech presented today by the president of CBC. He said that even if a bridge loan were provided to CBC, it would still be cutting these jobs. This is a business decision by the CBC.

Our responsibility as a government is to follow through on our campaign commitment. We have done that. We have delivered to the CBC record funding this year.

Canadian Broadcasting CorporationOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday was a dark day for public radio and television in Canada. Did the Conservatives have a score to settle with CBC? The answer is self-evident.

The Outaouais region will not escape the cuts unscathed; the excellent noon news broadcast in French with Nathalie Tremblay will be eliminated. This will not only deprive journalists of an outlet, it will also affect technicians and other workers in Canadian culture.

How can this government justify doing away with part of these services to the francophone audience?

Canadian Broadcasting CorporationOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, it always saddens us when jobs are lost. Clearly, everyone in this House shares the same reaction.

But where was this hon. member, the member for Hull—Aylmer, when his Liberal government cut 4,000 jobs at CBC?

This was the Liberal Party's approach, its programming, its policies. It cut 4,000 positions at the CBC, as well as over $400 million from its budget. We have raised its budget. It was the Liberals who cut it.

AgricultureOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, we had strange facts from the Minister of Agriculture yesterday. The facts are these: one, we had the spectacle of the government announcing a new listeria policy without being able to implement it; two, the appointment of an investigator who was required by her own guidelines to provide those she interviewed with the right to edit her report before she tabled it; and three, the unbelievable farce of the government blocking a parliamentary committee from investigating the listeriosis crisis.

Will the Prime Minister accept his responsibility and allow Canadians an open and transparent hearing on the listeriosis crisis?

AgricultureOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Battlefords—Lloydminster Saskatchewan

Conservative

Gerry Ritz ConservativeMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, we want to get to the bottom of all of this. We have put forward a schedule. The opposition parties agreed to it. At the eleventh hour, the member for Malpeque came in and wanted to change things completely. He wanted to double the meetings and double the time, and we are fine with that.

In the midst of this grandiose statement that he wanted more time and more witnesses, he had another appointment and had to leave. How seriously does he take it?

AgricultureOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister does not seem to understand timeliness. Yesterday the government allowed, or more likely coached, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture to filibuster his way through the whole of the first subcommittee meeting on food safety. This subcommittee was struck because of the tragedy of last summer's listeriosis crisis, which warranted a transparent study on food safety.

Could the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food assure Canadians that for once he will put people ahead of politics and let the committee do its work?

AgricultureOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Battlefords—Lloydminster Saskatchewan

Conservative

Gerry Ritz ConservativeMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, we would love everyone to come there and actually go to work. However, when they come there to play silly partisan games, we will react.

The member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands rightly pointed out the legitimacy of the role of that committee. We want to get to the bottom of this. I welcome the interviews that the opposition parties will do. We have a great working relationship with the Bloc and the NDP to get to the bottom of this. If the Liberals want to play silly games and continue doing these goofy things, then they will face the wrath of the people out there.

Government ContractsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, in 2008, the federal government granted $3 billion worth of contracts to suppliers in the federal capital region. Only $38 million worth, or 1.4%, were granted to businesses in Gatineau, while 98.6% was granted to businesses in Ottawa. This situation is unacceptable and scandalous.

How can the Minister of Public Works and Government Services explain this preference for Ottawa businesses, at the expense of businesses in Gatineau?

Government ContractsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, the goal of our government and our department is to do business with small and medium sized businesses from all areas of the country. At first glance, I was surprised by those numbers and I had to ask some questions. It must be understood that those figures do not tell the whole truth. For instance, certain companies may have their head office in Ottawa, but still create jobs elsewhere. Also, many Quebeckers work on the Ottawa side, and vice versa. Thus, all the facts must be taken as a whole.

Government ContractsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, rather than justifying his failure to act and promising to look into the matter, will the Minister of Public Works and Government Services recognize that this injustice, as in so many other files, results from the fact that the federal government prefers to defend the interests of Canada at the expense of those of Quebec?

Government ContractsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, that is why we asked the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises to continue promoting opportunities for contracts with the federal government across the country. In fact, a service kiosk was recently opened in Gatineau to better serve businesses in that region.

Loan guaranteesOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, in response to a question on the restructuring of AbitibiBowater, the Minister of International Trade stated that the company had possible options with Export Development Canada. Given AbitibiBowater's financial set-up, the options that the minister mentions clearly can only be loans and loan guarantees.

Can the minister be clear and confirm that for us?

Loan guaranteesOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, we take the negotiations with AbitibiBowater very seriously. The loss of jobs in the forestry sector is from coast to coast. It is not about forestry jobs in Quebec, or forestry jobs in B.C., or any other independent or individual area. This is something we will work to work against. It is our hope to maintain as many jobs in the forestry sector as possible.

Loan guaranteesOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, the options available to AbitibiBowater are clearly loan guarantees, but the Minister of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec) is hiding behind the United States' lawsuit in order to say nothing. Instead, he should be listening to elected representatives from his region, people such as the mayor of La Doré who is demanding loan guarantees and who maintains that that kind of assistance does not contravene the Softwood Lumber Agreement.

Instead of slavishly taking the United States' position, will the minister stand up, listen to elected representatives from his region and give them the loan guarantees they are calling for?

Loan guaranteesOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois continues to misinform Canadians on this subject. Our government is very concerned with the forestry sector in Quebec and the challenges faced by the forestry workers there. That is why we took action to support the forest industry. Budget 2009 provides $170 million toward a more sustainable and competitive forestry sector. Budget 2009 also provides EDC with more money and more flexibility to support business during this economic downturn.

Our government will continue to look out for the forestry interests in the province of Quebec.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, if there were just a few examples of people waiting beyond the stated 28-day timeframe to get an EI claim dealt with, it would be understandable. However, in my riding, Roger from Harbour Breton waited over 70 days to get a response to his claim. Seventy days is inexcusable, no matter where one lives in the country.

How does the minister respond to her constituents when they tell her that they do not have money to buy medication, pay their bills or put food on the table for their children?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that a lot of people are going through some really tough times right now. We have hired several hundred extra EI specialists and will continue to hire several hundred more to ensure people get the benefits they need in a timely way.

Unfortunately, there are occasions when the process does take a little longer, often because we do not have complete information either from the applicant or the employer. We are automating our system more to help ensure we do get that data in a timely manner and we continue to work on that.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, the government has such outdated guidelines that most people are not qualifying for EI, while others are forced to appeal decisions.

A constituent from my riding who applied for benefits on October 28 and was denied, appealed the decision. The initial decision was eventually overturned. Unfortunately, Donald had to wait 16 weeks to get a cheque. Most of these people find themselves in dire straits.

What do the Conservatives say to people like Donald when they are forced by the government to suffer through this ordeal?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, let us face it. It was back in 1995 that the Liberals gutted the EI program. However, our economic action plan is enhancing it. We are building it. We are extending training benefits. We are extending EI by adding five weeks on top of regular benefits and extending that pilot program right across the country to help people when they need it most.

We are also providing training opportunities like they have never been provided before to help people get the skills that will get them jobs for the future so that they can look after their families over the long term.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Liberal Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the Toronto area alone, 207,000 unemployed Canadians are not receiving EI benefits. One of those many Canadians is my constituent, Dan Trotta, a 41-year-old disabled Canadian with spinal stenosis. He has three young children, a mortgage and numerous financial obligations. He and his family are very afraid. EI approved him only for re-education funding, not benefits.

On behalf of Mr. Trotta and all unemployed Canadians, why will the Conservatives not provide the help that is needed now? Mr. Trotta is watching right now--

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, we know these are very trying times for too many people and, unfortunately, it will continue for a while longer.

We are investing in additional programs, even programs for people like Mr. Trotta. We want them to get the skills and training they need to get the jobs that will help them take care of their families in the future so that they do not need to rely on the EI system and will be able to take care of themselves.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, people in the city of Toronto and across the country are struggling in the worst economic situation in over 50 years and when they need help, they expect programs like EI to be there.

However, in my riding, a woman in her early forties has just been laid off. When she applied for EI, she was told that she was 80 hours short of getting benefits. Now she and her husband are both jobless and cannot receive EI.

When will the government put its money where its mouth is and help those Canadians most in need?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, our economic action plan has three main thrusts to it.

The first one is to create jobs through our $12 billion investment in stimulus infrastructure so people will have jobs.

Second, we are preserving jobs through the expansion of the work sharing program, where people can stay on the job, take a day off, not work one day a week but get EI benefits, so their jobs are preserved.

Then there are those who are unfortunate enough to lose work and we have provided not just expanded EI benefits but training for those who are not eligible for EI so they can get the jobs of the future.