House of Commons Hansard #38 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was human.


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

6:30 p.m.


Gurbax Malhi Liberal Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Madam Speaker, I think we can all remember where we were on September 11, 2001, when the United States was under attack. As a result of that tragic event, our government acted to ensure that Canadians did not fall victim to similar attacks.

As a result of people's fears, the air travel industry saw a dramatic drop in travel. The Liberal government of the day put in place immediate security measures to protect Canadians and all air travellers. The measures were extensive and were designed to create safer airports, thereby encouraging Canadians to fly again.

Not only did these measures create safer air travel, they also helped to get people flying again and prevented a total collapse of the airlines and businesses that rely on the major air carriers and airports.

The only downside to imposing new security measures was the associated costs that would be incurred by Canada's airports and air carriers. Recognizing this additional financial hardship, the Liberal government decided to offer a subsidy through the airport police assistance program. The subsidy amounted to approximately $33 million and was disbursed to Canada's major airports to assist in administering these security measures. This funding subsidy was for airports to provide overall security, including for drugs, smuggling and other crimes within the airport property.

Pearson International Airport is in my riding and receives approximately $3.2 million to offset the costs of the measures that keep Canadian and international travellers safer while passing through Canada's busiest airport.

The Conservatives will say that they are putting a whole lot more money into the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority but CATSA's only mandate is to screen passengers and check for terrorism.

APAP was for airports to provide overall security for drugs, smuggling and other crimes within the airport property. These are not within CATSA's mandate.

The Conservatives also announced $14 million in 2009-10 to support the implementation of a new security program for cargo that departs from Canadian airports. While this will help, it will not necessarily help with all of the other security needs.

Simply put, by cutting this money, the government is reducing funds for security and policing within airports. Airports will have to absorb the security costs and charge all airport users more. This will have a direct impact on the many businesses, tenants and other services that rely on the airport for their business.

Several weeks ago, I asked the Minister of Transport a question, to which I received a non-response. I will ask it again now.

The Minister of Transport made the decision to cut the $33 million security subsidy to airports. Why is the Minister of Transport purposely increasing the financial burden on Canadians in the middle of a recession?

6:35 p.m.

Oxford Ontario


Dave MacKenzie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the question posed by the member for Bramalea—Gore—Malton in February regarding airport funding in Canada. I thank the member for his question and for the opportunity to respond here again. It gives me a chance to remind the member opposite and his party that our government is committed to maintaining a safe and secure transportation system from coast to coast to coast in order to keep Canadians safe.

Yesterday, in her most recent report, the Auditor General highlighted some issues with regard to intelligence and information sharing in air travel. This government, our Prime Minister and Canada's transport minister support the Auditor General's recommendations and agree that we need better tools to help ensure safety and security of air travel. We are concerned that anything might undermine our efforts on that front and we are acting.

In December the Minister of Transport, together with the Minister of Public Safety, announced a five-point plan to give the RCMP the tools it needs to keep Canadian travellers safe.

It stated that we are, first, strengthening the information sharing agreement between Transport Canada and the RCMP; second, exploring legislative initiatives to enhance search and seizure methods; third, reviewing existing security clearances and examining new clearance levels; fourth, revoking any security clearance when the RCMP has provided evidence that a person may post a security risk; and finally, working toward strengthening legal provisions for organized crime, ensuring that serious offences are meet with serious penalties.

I am pleased to report that Transport Canada and the RCMP are working together to strengthen communications and information sharing between them.

The current discussions are very productive. We are very close to concluding a renewed agreement. We can expect an announcement very shortly. Canada's transport minister said yesterday, “If we don't have one within 10 days, I'm going to get our two teams together in my boardroom and am not going to allow them to go out until it is successfully concluded”.

Our government is clearly committed to maintaining and enhancing our already high safety and security standards. It is just another example of how this government is getting things done and keeping Canadians safe.

6:35 p.m.


Gurbax Malhi Liberal Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Madam Speaker, the government claims that the money withdrawn from the Airport Police Assistance Program has all been put into the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority. Clearly, it just does not understand. This money was for a different purpose altogether. The government cut $33 million from APAP and then announced $14 million for CATSA, saying it was for general security and policing. The fact is that CATSA does not have the mandate to perform the functions of APAP.

How does cutting $33 million from one security program and putting only $14 million into another help Canada's airports stay on top of security concerns? The government will be raising the costs to passengers and airlines, and weakening the funding for general airport security, ultimately putting either businesses or air travellers at risk.

6:35 p.m.


Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to remind the member opposite that this government has taken real action to keep Canadians safe. The action we have taken regarding the Auditor General's report and other key pieces of legislation demonstrates that unequivocally.

We will continue to work productively with all stakeholders and federal departments involved in order to keep our safety and security regimes at the high level they are today. We are working to ensure that they are even improved. We are working to ensure that we can respond to the ever-evolving security needs. We are working to keep Canadians safe

Canada's Ministers of Transport and Public Safety are facilitating productive discussions between their two respective departments and a decision is imminent. This government is getting the job done.

6:40 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, maternal consumption of alcohol during pregnancy is the leading known cause of mental retardation in Canada. For every 1,000 births in Canada, about 12 children are born with fetal alcohol syndrome or other alcohol related birth defects. Its primary symptoms include growth deficiency before and after birth, central nervous system dysfunction resulting in learning disabilities, and physical malformations in the face and cranial areas. Other alcohol related birth defects include central nervous damage, physical abnormalities and the like.

FAS is incurable. Most victims will usually require special care throughout their lives, depending on the severity. The estimated lifetime costs for the care of an FAS victim ranges from $3 million to $6 million.

There are some secondary symptoms that give one an idea of how serious this is. Ninety per cent of these victims have mental health problems. Sixty per cent will be expelled or suspended from school or will drop out. Sixty per cent will get in trouble with the law. Fifty per cent will go to jail or be confined to an institution. Fifty per cent will exhibit inappropriate sexual behaviour. Thirty per cent will abuse drugs or alcohol. Eighty per cent will not be capable of living independently. Eighty per cent will have employment problems.

Harm can occur at any time during the pregnancy, even during the first month when most women do not even know that they are pregnant. Research findings show that it is between days 15 and 22 of pregnancy that the facial and cranial features of a human being are formed. During days 15 to 22, a woman generally does not even know she is pregnant, so it may be too late even after she finds out.

Over 50% of pregnancies are not planned. Therefore, if a woman is sexually active and pregnancy is possible, the best recommendation is to abstain from alcohol. To choose not to abstain is to play Russian roulette with the lifelong health and well-being of the child. There is no recommended safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. The prudent choice is clear.

As a consequence, I rose to ask a question of the Minister of Health. An access to information request showed that over the last three years, one-third of the approved funding, some $3.3 million a year, lapsed. Over $1 million was not spent on programs that could have been available to help some of the NGOs and agencies deal with some of the problems associated with fetal alcohol syndrome and be part of the international community in seeking ways in which to remediate the incidence of brain damage in children due to alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

I was very disappointed that the minister simply did not seem to be aware. She sloughed off the question by saying that she would continue to work with our parties. I was hoping to hear her say that I was right. I was hoping to hear her admit that the government had allowed money to lapse in these years, but that she would commit that the government would make sure that the full funding approved by Parliament for her ministry would be dedicated to addressing fetal alcohol syndrome.

I hope that the minister has better information for Canadians now. They are concerned about the victims of fetal alcohol syndrome.

6:40 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario


Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, on Tuesday, March 24, my colleagues, the member for St. Paul's and the member for Mississauga South, expressed concerns with regard to the funding of the Public Health Agency of Canada's fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, FASD, initiative. I would like to express my thanks to my fellow members for their questions and commend them for their long-standing commitment to this very important issue.

I would like to reassure my colleagues that the Public Health Agency of Canada remains fully committed to the fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, FASD, initiative. Funding to the program has not been reduced. In fact, the program has already committed all of its 2009-10 funding and will continue to work with partners in the coming fiscal year.

Over 90% of the funds earmarked for FASD projects in communities were spent on the issue. The Treasury Board submission that was referred to in the independent evaluation report included operational funding based on initial forecasts. It cost less than anticipated to effectively manage the program.

The same report showed that overall, the FASD community has evolved in the last five years. PHAC funding and actions were determined to be key contributors to that change by independent consultants. As is the case for most evaluations, the report the members were referring to pointed to a few areas where there could be business improvements. These concerns are presently being addressed.

It should also be noted that the report concludes that the FASD initiative is affordable and provides many examples of projects that demonstrate value for money for Canadians. PHAC's FASD programming is effective and continues to serve the public interest.

PHAC will continue to work with partners to build the evidence base on FASD, develop practical tools and promote awareness of FASD.

In fact, all women are at risk of having a child affected by alcohol. Because of this, PHAC and its partners stress that messages from all sectors of society must be clear and consistent, whether they are from health care providers, friends, or family members. Put simply, there is no known safe threshold for drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

PHAC has led the federal activities on FASD since 1999 and has focused on developing and strengthening the leadership and co-ordinating functions. This ensures national access to knowledge and evidence, tools, expertise, and resources across this country.

In addition to the federal FASD initiative, the agency is working to prevent FASD through public education. The agency has a guide on healthy pregnancy and has done a social marketing campaign on healthy pregnancy. Both advise parents about the risks posed by consuming alcohol while pregnant.

PHAC's commitment to preventing and managing the health impacts of FASD is also evident through its support for new publications, websites, tools and resources, and shared awareness efforts spanning multiple jurisdictions.

The government recognizes that FASD is a major public health issue. The Public Health Agency of Canada will continue to work with stakeholders to prevent FASD and to improve the outcomes for those already affected.

I thank the member for Mississauga South for his question and his concern on this very important matter for Canadians.

6:45 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, fetal alcohol syndrome and other alcohol related birth defects are a reality in our society. The victims suffer a lifetime of tragic symptoms, which rob them of any reasonable quality of life. We have both a social and a moral responsibility to do the best we can to balance the individual's rights during pregnancy with society's responsibility to promote good public health.

The question was with regard to lapsed funding of about $1 million. That came from an access to information request. The member seemed to indicate that we have booked all the money for 2009. That happened in prior years, it is just that the money did not actually get out. It was booked but never was spent.

I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary if he would undertake to check the access to information request and the response given by Health Canada and if that response to the access to information request was in error, that he bring that to the attention of the House.

6:45 p.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to reiterate to the member for Mississauga South that the Public Health Agency of Canada's fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, FASD, initiative has not been cut. The evaluation of the FASD initiative was supportive of the government's funding in this very important area. Over 90% of the funds earmarked for projects with stakeholders was expended. As I said in my speech, it cost less than anticipated.

The Public Health Agency of Canada remains fully committed to the fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, FASD, initiative. The evaluation report suggested improvements and they are going to be addressed. The report concludes that the FASD initiative is affordable, effective and demonstrates value for money to Canadians.

PHAC funding and actions were determined as key contributors to the change in maturity of the issue by independent consultants. Since 1999, PHAC has ensured national access to knowledge and evidence, tools, expertise and resources across this country. Its partners stress that messages from--

6:45 p.m.


The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order. The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:49 p.m.)