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House of Commons Hansard #66 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was young.

Topics

Business of the HousePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Does the hon. Government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Business of the HousePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HousePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HousePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HousePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-307, An Act to amend the Official Languages Act (Charter of the French Language) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, in a few hours the House of Commons will make its decision on Bill C-307, which I introduced. If it passes, it will ensure that Bill 101 is respected in Quebec, even in federally regulated companies covered by the Canada Labour Code. We are referring here to banks, airports, telecommunications companies and Canada Post. We are not referring by any means to federal government departments or services.

The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard did not read my bill at all and did not understand it. Because of her Trudeau- and Chrétien-like ideology, she distorted what the bill was about. She said the Bloc claims the bill does not talk about federally regulated companies but rather federal institutions, which means the Charter of the French Language would apply to federal undertakings. She implied that government departments would be affected. What we are talking about though are banks—like the Bank of Montreal and the Bank of Nova Scotia—Montreal airport or the CBC, federally regulated undertakings.

At the present time, some 250,000 workers are not covered by the Charter of the French Language, that is to say, they do not have the right to work in French and are often forced to work in English simply because their superiors force it on them, even though there is absolutely no need for it in serving customers. The Official Languages Commissioner recently criticized this state of affairs in airports all across Canada. It is the case in Quebec too.

It is totally unacceptable that these workers do not have the same rights as all other workers in Quebec and are deprived of the perfectly legitimate right to work in their own language, the language of the Quebec nation, a nation that the House has recognized. The House should have no problem at all, therefore, passing this bill so that not only the Quebec nation is recognized but also the fact that this nation has only one official language: French.

We know where the Conservatives stand; the speech we just heard made that all too clear. Right after the motion was passed in November 2006, the Minister of Foreign Affairs said that it had no legal implications. We know where the Prime Minister stands. We know that he tried to dismantle Bill 101 and the Charter of the French Language before he became the Conservative Party leader. Quebeckers know what to expect. The party's recognition of the Quebec nation was driven by political opportunism.

Now we are wondering about the Liberal Party of Canada and its new leader. Will the party demonstrate the openness that the Leader of the Opposition referred to when he said that he was the first federalist politician in Ottawa to recognize the Quebec nation? We know that that is why the delegates at the Liberal convention chose the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville instead of him. Tomorrow afternoon we will know for sure whether he was sincere. He will have a choice to make.

Either his recognition of the Quebec nation is exactly the same as that of the Conservatives, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, or we are really witnessing a break with the Liberal Party of Canada's tradition of strong-arm tactics. We will never forget the unilateral patriation of the Constitution, the repeated attacks on Bill 101 and the sponsorship scandal. Tomorrow, the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, the Leader of the Opposition, will show his true colours. If he votes against this bill, Quebeckers will know that he is cut from the same cloth as the other federalists who never really wanted to recognize the Quebec nation—not just the Conservatives, but Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Jean Chrétien too.

This is extremely important. I would urge all Quebeckers to pay close attention to the vote. He must not try to slip away. He has to be here, and he has to vote. His true colours will finally show.

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Is the House ready for the question?

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

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

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

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

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 3, 2009, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Message from the SenatePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following public bill to which the concurrence of the House is desired: Bill S-217, An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day.

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

6:20 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am here because I asked a question on March 9, 2009 and did not receive a satisfactory answer.

A colleague is telling me that it is nothing new. There is usually someone who tells me that I will not be given anything more this evening. I am basically an optimist and I believe in democracy. I believe that the Conservative government is capable of giving satisfactory answers.

I have asked several questions in the House. I often come back to the issue of exports related to the arts and artists, particularly performing arts. I often get the same answers.

The parliamentary secretary even complains that it is like being in the movie Groundhog Day. I would like to say to him once again, because they repeat the same things over and over in that movie, that the main character had to answer the questions properly, behave appropriately and do things differently in order to move forward. This also applies to this evening.

I am going to put my questions again, somewhat differently. I will put forward a new argument and hope that he will answer me properly. I will even slip him the answer. His answer has to be that his government will reinstate funding for the cultural and artistic programs cut in August. That is the response I want to hear and, until I get that answer, I will keep on asking questions.

In March, the parliamentary secretary told me in this House that $13 million had been given out by his government to the Canada Council for investment in international promotion. The $13 million he was talking about was not the same $13 million.

I refer to a letter from CINARS, the international exchange for the performing arts. Alain Paré wrote this to the minister on April 30.

As discussed at our meeting, the amounts invested directly in the agencies (in 2007-08: $4.8 million in the PromArt program and $2 million in the program Trade Routes)—

That amounts to $7 million. I want to underscore the intellectual honesty of Alain Paré, who signed the letter and referred to the sum of $2 million for Trade Routes. This program represented $7.2 million.

However, $5 million was intended for the officials the department sent throughout the world. It is really $2 million that the artists need.

He wrote as well that these sums should be reinvested immediately in the budget of the Canada Council for programs meeting similar objectives.

What I am about to say is very important. As concerns the performing arts, the funds currently available at the Canada Council are for international touring grant programs: dance touring grants; international touring assistance in music; theatre international program—component 4: touring export; integrated arts program, touring grants; and international development grants.

That makes a total of $2.163 million. That is a long way from the $7 million cut.

Clearly, these programs do not currently have enough funds to respond to the hundreds of applications now submitted to them.

6:25 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, it is once again a pleasure to be here for the adjournment proceedings, for a question that deals with issues that the member has in fact received the answer to a great many times.

The member talked about programs and she likes to talk about cuts, but she never talks about investments that the Bloc voted against, substantial investments like the increase to the Canada Council for the Arts, like the new investment under the economic action plan that put hundreds of millions of new dollars into the arts in this country, and that member voted against it.

What is more, when the Bloc came forward with ideas for a stimulus package, it actually never mentioned anything about artists at all, but every day here we are. I said last week that it is like Groundhog Day here. Every day I wake up and I feel like the alarm clock is playing the same song and I get the same question. I provide the same answer which is a truthful answer.

The member heard the same from the deputy minister of the department who is not an employee of the government. She actually works in the department and serves all Canadians in a position representing Canadians, not in a position reporting as a member of the government. The deputy minister had no reason to mislead the member nor the House.

The deputy minister was very clear when she reported to the standing committee, of which the member is a part, specifically she mentioned trade routes. It was a $7 million program, but only $2 million went to artists and $5 million was waste. The member keeps coming back and says, “We want you to waste money. If you don't reinstitute a program that wastes money, we're just going to keep asking the question until you as a government wastes money”.

I do not really want to waste money. That is terrible that the member would come in and talk every day and suggest that we would waste money.

What really bothers me is that artists have become wedge politics for the Bloc Québécois. It really bothers me because they are not wedge politics. They are people. They are passionate people. They care about their work. They care about what they do. They feel it in their heart and their soul, and they should not be wedge politics. They should not be a political football that gets kicked around the House two or three nights a week because we have been pretty clear on this.

What I can say is that no government in history has ever put more money into supporting Canadian arts and culture in this country. That is clear. The member knows that, but she comes back every week and she kicks that football and she plays with the hearts, souls and minds of artists from across the country. She makes them a political wedge issue. That is awful.

It is Groundhog Day here again and the funny thing is that this morning I was in my car and I saw a groundhog. This morning the director of parliamentary affairs for the department called me and said, “I see a groundhog, so that probably means you will be back”.

It is Groundhog Day again. Here we are: same question, same answer. A truthful answer that no government in history has ever put more money behind the arts. No government in history has ever given more money to the Canada Council for the Arts than this government. The party that voted against those record funds is the Bloc Québécois which is playing wedge politics with artists.

6:30 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, most of what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage says makes no sense. That is why I have to keep bringing up the same issues.

For example, he said that his government has invested more than ever in arts and culture. He may have invested more than ever in Canadian Heritage, but he also invested $25 million in the Canada Prizes in Toronto, prizes that nobody wants, except for a couple of guys in Toronto. Nobody wants that $25 million investment. It is a bad investment. This government is making bad investment choices because it does not understand how things work.

It transferred $24 million that was supposed to be for artists to the Olympic torch relay. That is what his minister said right here in the House. This government's priorities do not make sense.

Then there is the Bloc Québécois' economic stimulus plan. It was in the Bloc Québécois' first economic stimulus plan. We asked for funding to be restored to programs that were cut. That was in November 2008. He should take a look. When he looks at plan number two, he will see that what was proposed were short-term measures, not the kind of long-term measures we need for culture.

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is interesting. The hon. member says we are putting money into the wrong places. Certainly in Quebec and Montreal there are ridings that receive the most money and that is where we are putting money. She should mention that to the leader of the Bloc Québécois because his riding received over $20 million in support from this department. That is where the money is going. I am really surprised to hear the member say that we should not be putting money into the riding of the leader of the Bloc Québécois because I think he would be really disappointed to hear that.

We have put an awful lot of money into the arts. We have expanded the Canada Council for the Arts and, for example, the endowment incentive program. The member mentioned how artists are struggling. We put more money behind that so Les Grands Ballets of Montreal now receives three times as much money from the endowment incentive program as it received under the Liberal Party in 2004-05. That is getting it done.

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to raise a question again in follow-up to a question that I put to the Minister of Health on April 2. That question related to what action Health Canada had taken to address the incidents of cancer in a northern aboriginal community in Alberta, Fort Chipewyan. The reply was very unsatisfactory, generally along the lines that a lot of money had been spent on aboriginals and health in Canada, so what was my complaint.

I hope I might get a more satisfactory reply today. Why am I doing this? As a member of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, our committee travelled to Alberta several weeks ago. We travelled directly to the community of Fort Chipewyan, where we heard directly from the persons about whom Dr. John O'Connor raised concerns. That community repeated its concerns to our committee with regard to the incidents of cancer and the pollutants that came from the tar sands and other facilities.

We also held hearings in Edmonton, where we heard testimony from scientists who revealed their recent study showing that the air emissions from the tar sands facilities were likely contaminating the rivers. They were concerned that the ponds were already leaching into the river and that there was evidence that there was already a problem.

My concern is that Health Canada appears to have disappeared from the scene. The only role to date that Health Canada appears to have played in its responsibility in watching out for and speaking up for the health concerns of the first nation peoples in northern Alberta, which is its constitutional responsibility, is to simply file complaints against the very doctor who simply revealed that he had concerns.

Therefore, my question in the House was this. Was Health Canada willing to finally withdraw the final charge that it had filed with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta? The other four charges had already been investigated and dropped for no evidence.

I am also looking forward to hearing, given the evidence that we have heard in the parliamentary committee, if Health Canada is now going to step up to the plate. Is it willing to invest dollars in looking into whether there are potential relationships between these health incidents of the first nations peoples of northern Alberta and industrial activities that the federal government regulate? Is it going to go to DFO and to Environment Canada and ask them to do more intensive monitoring to discover if there is a connection to the pollution?

I look forward to a more detailed reply by Health Canada as to whether it is going to investigate the matter further.

6:35 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I rise to answer this question further and to let the member know that we are fully aware of the mandate of Health Canada and of the Minister of Health.

The issue she raises is very complex and goes far beyond the mandate of any one government department. Going forward from here will involve a close partnership between Health Canada, Environment Canada, Alberta Health Services, the Government of Alberta and the town of Fort Chipewyan itself.

Health Canada's concern is for the health and well-being of the people of Fort Chipewyan. That is why when concerns about cancer rates were brought to the attention of Health Canada's medical officer of health in Alberta, Health Canada immediately contacted Alberta Health and Wellness to request that a field epidemiologist investigate these concerns.

Health Canada worked with the Alberta Cancer Board and the Northern Lights Regional Health Authority to investigate the community's concerns. It was as a result of this intervention that the Alberta Cancer Board undertook a study of cancer rates in this community between the years 1995 and 2006.

In early 2009 the Alberta Cancer Board released its peer reviewed comprehensive cancer incidence report. The report concludes in brief: the observed cases of cholangiocarcinoma and colon cancer during the period of investigation between 1995 and 2006 are within the expected range of cancer occurrence; the number of cancer cases overall was higher than expected; these increases were based on a small number of cases and could be due to chance or increased detection; the increased number of cases of cancers warrants closer monitoring of cancer occurrences in Fort Chipewyan in the coming years; further investigation is required to evaluate if there is a risk posed by living in Fort Chipewyan.

Health Canada accepts these conclusions. Our department has supported and will continue to support a range of investigations related to concerns in the community of Fort Chipewyan and the recommendations of the Alberta Cancer Board report.

Health Canada's commitment to the people of Fort Chipewyan goes back nearly five decades. In that time Health Canada has provided significant human and financial resources to the community. We continue to work with them and with the province of Alberta to improve and protect the health of the population.

Health Canada's concern is for the health and well-being of the people of Fort Chipewyan. We should not and we will not be distracted from the essential work we need to do with this community.

This is Health Canada's mandate. This is the only focus of our efforts in Fort Chipewyan.

Just four weeks ago, Health Canada joined Alberta Health and Wellness and Alberta Aboriginal Relations in Fort Chipewyan for a meeting with the Nunee Health Board Society and community leaders. This was a very positive and productive meeting. All parties agreed to move forward together to better understand and meet the needs of this community, with the commitment to continue face to face meetings on a regular basis.

This is where we can best serve the community, on the ground in the community in close collaboration with the people who live there.

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the more fulsome reply. It is gratifying that the second time around we get a better reply on what has gone on.

Regrettably, the action taken by Health Canada was only expedited by the interventions of private doctors and first nations peoples themselves.

Now that the issue has come out in the open, now that it is before the parliamentary committee, now that we have heard testimony, and we will hear testimony from Dr. O'Connor in the next couple of weeks, I am hopeful that Health Canada will step up to the plate and actually come forward with a fulsome budget to support independent epidemiological work in the area in an expeditious manner before any more unfortunate impacts occur.