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House of Commons Hansard #76 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was restitution.

Topics

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on this bill today, Bill C-21. I should have thought more clearly this morning when I got up. It seems that every speaker who has risen on this topic is wearing a white collar. I wish I had the good sense of the member for Yukon, who is sporting a lovely burgundy shirt.

I speak as a lawyer, as a member of Parliament, as a Canadian citizen, as a person who has known victims, organizations, and individuals who have been robbed by white collar criminals. White collar crime costs the Canadian economy dearly, and it costs the good, hard-working citizens who fall prey to fraudsters much more than members may know. They are common, everyday occurrences.

Bill C-21 sends the right message. There is no debate here in the House about this : to crack down on white collar crime is the right thing to do, and it sends the right message. This House and we parliamentarians within it are serious about keeping Canadians safe from fraud. That is perhaps where the non-partisan enjoyment and harmony ends. For fraud is not harmless. Nor is it victimless. It disproportionately preys upon the weak in our society and Canadians will not stand for it.

Bill C-21 recognizes the harm that fraud causes to innocent victims. This bill adds aggravating factors to the list of the judge's considerations during sentencing. In addition to the provisions regarding planning crimes and destroying documents, the provisions in this bill allow a judge to consider the personal circumstances of the victims, namely their age, health and financial situation. The bill includes a measure enabling communities to provide victim impact statements that can then be taken into consideration by judges. It is important to leave this to the consideration and discretion of the judges. Impact statements can include a description of how the fraud has devastated the entire community. For example, a church that has had its savings stolen or an after-school program that was defrauded can make its situation known to parishioners or students in the community. These are some of the good things in this bill.

The bill makes mandatory the consideration of an order for restitution, a chance for victims of fraud to recover some of their lost savings, a chance for reparations to be made. It permits a judge to prohibit offenders from taking any employment or volunteering services in any way that provides them access to, or authority over, the property, money, or financial security of others. In that world, there is no re-victimization by the same perpetrator. These are all good measures.

It is why the bill will go to committee for study. We hope that the committee will improve the bill, for these are good measures that will strengthen the Criminal Code and provide some comfort for the cheated and maligned. But, like many bills in the House, we would not want to leave the Canadian public, or those who have been victimized before by fraudsters, with the impressio that the bill will cure all the evils of the past, the present, and the future. It is woefully inadequate in that regard, and it raises some hopes that may not come to fruition.

I have a couple of categories that came up during some of the question and answer sessions. One of these has to do with restitution. It seems like a good step to provide for restitution. There are provisions in the Criminal Code that allow for victim impact statements. There are provisions in various parts of the country being enmeshed in the Criminal Code that give the authority to take over the assets of someone who has performed an economic crime. These things happen. But the provisions in this act do not, as the member for Scarborough—Rouge River mentioned, make it clear whose role it is, who will be driving the prosecution, and whether the prosecution's goal will be getting the wrongdoer to repay the money. It is unclear. We will hear testimony on this; perhaps it is something that can be worked on.

As has also been brought up, there is the continuing and lurking question of tax havens. We live in an Internet age, a digital age, an age where we cannot find addresses. We used to know what an address was. If they did not have an emergency response number on their box, at least we knew it was farmer Joe, next to farmer Bill, next to the fish market, in our case in eastern Canada. But addresses now may be static Internet addresses. They may be people in ether, people who do not really have a place where we can go and knock on their virtual or other door and get the money they have taken from other people. So tax havens follow that digital reality where fraudsters can hide money away, hard-earned money from Canadian citizens that now rests in foreign jurisdictions.

The bill is a step forward. But there is a question that is very much out there: in almost five years, what has the government done, what has this country done, about tax havens, about people who defraud other Canadians of money, packing it away in other jurisdictions from which it cannot be accessed and returned to its rightful owners?

What the bill lacks is a mechanism for prevention. As a country, as a Parliament, as a government, we are all in the same boat with respect to aims. How common is it that we all have the same aim? We want to prevent white-collar crime, prevent fraud perpetrated on the weakest in our society. The churches, the after-school kindergartens, the minor hockey associations, the women's institute groups, the Catholic Women's League, seniors, handicapped people: these groups are defrauded of millions of dollars every year. How can we as a Parliament strike together to prevent this?

There is the penalty phase. But let us be clear: the bill is mostly about the penalty phase. I don't want to strain the analogy, but if we want to stop violence in hockey we might start with the young, the minor groups. We might talk about how it is not the right thing to do. Things are not always effected in the penalty phase. In the criminal justice world, it is the same.

This bill speaks only about the penalty phase of fraud being perpetrated. Are we going to prevent fraud from happening by a shell game of penalties for people who have already socked the money away? In other words, we are going to penalize people from whom we are not likely to get the money.

In this society of ours, we have a hierarchy of offences. It is recognized in the Criminal Code, which sets out crimes against the person, crimes against property, and even crimes against the state. We consider, and rightly so, that crimes against a person are of a higher magnitude than crimes against property. Crimes against property came from the old west days, when stealing a horse meant stealing someone's livelihood, and if they were stealing someone's livelihood, they were hurting a family. Horse thievery was a very important offence. It is right there in the modern Criminal Code. It came down to us from 1892. It is a very high-ranking offence.

However, people do not go around stealing horses as much anymore. Instead, they go around stealing nest eggs, people's lifelong hard-earned savings, through fraudulent means. How are we to give this offence more importance?

We should look at the whole Criminal Code and consider prevention, as we would with any other crime. How do we stop violent crime? We look at early childhood intervention, the social causes of crime, and the socio-economic milieu in which recidivism is rampant.

How do we get at the prevention of economic crimes? It seems to me that people who commit sophisticated economic crimes through fraud are people who are using electronic and social media as well as means of communication controlled by the Government of Canada through agencies.

Why does the government not come forward with modern methods to prevent the use of regulated tools of fraud? This would go a long way towards stopping fraud from happening in the first place.

The fourth general point in my remarks has to do with something I heard a lot about from this side of the House and in the communities across this country. At one time, I was a mayor, and I know what it is like to have a police force doing important work in a community. Police forces across this country are asking for more resources.

What has the government actually done to help the police? I don't mean on paper, in a speech, or on the five o'clock news. What are the police chiefs saying? What is the Canadian Police Association saying about actual boots on the street? They are saying they do not have enough resources. If we prioritize, however, they will take crimes against the person more seriously than economic crimes against the household income.

With more resources, the police who serve our communities will do more than they can now. The blame for failing to confront the growing elements of fraud lies with the government. After five years of talking about making Canada safe, they have done very little about it. Ask any policeperson who has not been bullied into saying nothing by the threat of withdrawing funds from the local force, city, community, region, or MP.

We are here as opposition members to stand up for good, hard-working policemen across this country who tell us they need more resources to combat fraud. That is what we would like to see.

As to Bill C-21, it has been said many times in this House, and by many members of every party, that there is no greater fraud than a promise not kept. This may sound like just another pithy phrase, but it rings true in the hearts of Canadians, and it has been said many times outside this House.

This bill is an example of a promise not kept. The promise was not kept because it had a different number, and we were prorogued and sent home. We could not do our work. The bill that was just the same as this one did not see the light of day, because the Conservatives prorogued Parliament and sent us home.

That is a fraud because it is a promise not kept. The Conservatives said that they would do something about fraud and white collar crime and then they pulled the plug on the bathtub of Parliament and we went home. This bill is not law because the House was prorogued and it died on the order paper. That was last year. We are talking about the bill as if it is something new.

Canadians who have fallen victim to fraud since prorogation should look across the way and ask this question. If the bill was not contentious and if the guys on the other side were going to let it go through, why did the government prorogue? Then maybe their aunt or daughter's hockey team would not have been defrauded of all that money because the bill would have been perfected, approved in committee and passed. It would be law now. That is the biggest fraud so far in the speech today. The Conservatives did not keep their promise. They did not do anything about white collar crime.

There are other aspects of the bill that hopefully will be tightened up in committee. However, there is an overriding element to the bill that surely we have debated this long enough and the government must see that it must question the insertion of mandatory minimums in the bill as well. The bill provides nothing for the prevention of crime, as I said, only punishments after the fact.

No jail sentence or restitution can make up for the sense of betrayal and hurt that follows a fraud perpetrated. No jail sentence or restitution can restore the confidence or livelihood of a Canadian cleaned out by someone the victim has grown to trust, a new parent without a nest egg, a dying grandparent without a bequest. Prevention keeps Canadians safe. Nothing is more important to the livelihoods of Canadians and nothing in the bill even gives a hint about it.

On the question of mandatory minimums, it is an experiment that has failed in the United States and will not have an effect on white collar crime in our country. The bill provides for a mandatory minimum sentence for a commission of a fraud over $1 million.

One of the early criticisms of Bill C-52, the predecessor, and this bill was that it did not hit the financial institutions hard enough. It seemed to be cherry picking over the smaller crimes that were committed on a smaller basis. We all know in our country already, dare I mention Earl Jones in the province of Quebec, that there are large-scale crimes occurring that take people for more than $1 million either individually or cumulatively. It is not clear to us on this side, and we will see in committee, whether this is cumulative, large enough or why the Department of Justice came up with this amount, but we shall see. We do not want to exclude the larger frauds from a bill that is purported to stop white collar crime.

We will do our best on this side to ensure the bill is wider in scope, more effective and pushes the government to key in on aspects of prevention and tax havens. We on this side, by doing so responsibly, will keep a promise that the people on the other side, known now as the government, failed to keep, which has been the biggest fraud committed in the area of white collar crime in the last five years.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The member's questions and comments will resume when the House returns to this matter.

Statements by members, the hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt.

John George DiefenbakerStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, early last month my constituency had the privilege of hosting the Prime Minister when he announced the rejuvenation of the Diefenbaker Centre at the University of Saskatchewan.

The Diefenbaker Centre is a unique institution which celebrates the life and contributions of our 13th prime minister. It is particularly fitting that the rejuvenation be during the 50th anniversary of one of Diefenbaker's proudest achievements, the Bill of Rights. Along with the Bill of Rights, he is well remembered for his other achievements: granting the right to vote to first nations; enacting the Agriculture Rehabilitation and Development Act; and recognizing that Canadian citizenship is unhyphenated by ethnic ancestry.

It is important that we as Canadians remember our history. It is important that we remember our leaders who changed our nation. John George Diefenbaker was a great Canadian and a great parliamentarian. It is a wise investment to carry on his memory and his legacy. It is a legacy that has been forgotten for too many for too long.

Norm AtkinsStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, parliamentarians were saddened last week to hear of the passing of the Hon. Norm Atkins. Norm was a great friend and mentor to many of us.

As a student at Acadia University, he excelled at football, which prepared him well for a lifetime of politics and a string of political successes across Canada. He was guided in his life by a respect for politics and a moderate vision of progressive conservatism. He believed in building Canada with less partisanship and more compromise. He was a passionate advocate for post-secondary education. For this passion and his devotion to Acadia University, he was awarded an honorary degree by the university in 2000. He was also co-founder of Diabetes Canada and donations in his memory can be made to the Diabetes Hope Foundation.

To his partner, Mary, his three sons, Peter, Geoff, and Mark, and to his extended family, I extend sincere condolences on behalf of all my colleagues.

Sisters in SpiritStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, very special vigils are being held today throughout Quebec and Canada. Sisters in Spirit are coming together for the fifth consecutive year to honour the lives of hundreds of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. No matter where they are from, they all share a similar past marred by violence, both physical and psychological. It is not only the women themselves who suffer, but also their children and those around them.

They are subjected to violence first of all because they are women, and second because they are aboriginal, no matter where they live in Quebec or Canada. For some women and their children, violence is part of their daily lives.

Dozens of vigils are planned today in dozens of cities and towns. Candles will be lit to honour the lives of all our sisters in spirit who have disappeared. On behalf of my Bloc Québécois colleagues, I would like to say this: enough is enough!

InfrastructureStatements by Members

2 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise with concern over the government's arbitrary March 2011 deadline for project completion under the infrastructure stimulus fund. It is the government's position that consideration will be given to extending municipal projects on a case by case basis in a fair and reasonable way.

That is anything but fair and reasonable. Why do municipalities have to come here on bended knee when they are equal partners? Why the assumption that municipalities are doing something wrong or have made mistakes? The policy ought to be a blanket extension and then look at those projects that there are problems with on a case by case basis.

In my hometown of Hamilton there are 6 of 15 projects, for a total of $28 million, that are now at risk. It is unacceptable for a federal program to be brought in that is supposed to help municipalities and that program could leave them millions of dollars in debt. It is unacceptable, unfair and unreasonable.

Mental Illness Awareness WeekStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to draw attention to Mental Illness Awareness Week. This week provides us all an opportunity to better understand mental illness and that recovery is possible.

Nearly one in five Canadians is affected by mental illness, yet a continued stigma prevents millions from receiving the assistance they need. The continuing theme of Mental Illness Awareness Week, face mental illness, is designed to change that. Today people suffering from mental illness should not be burdened by negative stigmas from the general population and health care professionals.

We know that the earlier people get help, the better the outcome. That is why our government has made mental health awareness a priority and has worked hard to shed light on such an important issue that impacts our families, our colleagues, our neighbours and our country.

Tonight I have the honour of speaking at the eighth annual Champions of Mental Health Awards, where individuals are recognized for their tireless efforts to provide hope and relief to those who suffer from mental illnesses.

We congratulate and thank all the champions of mental health awareness.

Mental Illness Awareness WeekStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, this week is Mental Illness Awareness Week. Millions of Canadians suffer with mental health issues. On top of that, they must also deal with the stigma associated with mental health. Nearly six million Canadians are likely to experience some mental illness in their lifetime.

About 4,000 Canadians commit suicide each year and it is the most common cause of death for youth aged 15 to 24. Some communities in rural and remote areas of Canada have rates of suicide and addiction that are among the highest worldwide; many of these are aboriginal and Inuit communities.

There are significant gaps in service. Two-thirds of homeless people using urban shelters suffer from some form of mental illness. By 2020, it is estimated that depressive illnesses will become the second leading cause of disease burden worldwide and the leading cause in developed countries like Canada.

The economic and human costs of mental illness are mounting, yet less than 4% of medical research funding goes to mental illness research. We need to do more and we need to do it sooner.

Brantford Red SoxStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, Brantford celebrates and baseball reigns supreme after the hometown Red Sox captured their third consecutive Intercounty Baseball League Championship.

Red Sox owner and president, Paul Aucoin, has built a powerhouse team and first-class organization: on the field, “The Boys of Summer”, Forman, Cho, McCurdy, Delfino, Meyers and their teammates; off the field, Hannam, Tolhurst, Munro and an army of dedicated volunteers; and in the stands, loyal, cheering fans, including Mary Lowes, hanging on every pitch, every hit and every stolen base. This is the portrait of a wonderful summer night under the lights at Arnold Anderson Stadium.

Today, we salute Paul, the Red Sox and the rich tradition of baseball in Brantford. Go Sox go.

Forestry IndustryStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, the forestry crisis continues to hit hard in my region. With the closure of the paper mill in Dolbeau-Mistassini, a number of sawmills, including those in Saint-Fulgence and Petit-Saguenay, may have to close their doors for good.

Unfortunately, the workers and the forestry communities are the ones who have to pay the price for the Conservative government's inaction. Despite our repeated calls for help, the Conservatives have unfairly refused to implement adequate measures to help the forestry industry, preferring instead to gladly subsidize Ontario's automobile industry and its workers. The minister from Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean got elected on a promise to resolve the forestry crisis and his inaction is having disastrous consequences in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean.

Enough with the rhetoric. This government must try, once and for all, to help the forestry industry and its workers.

Sisters in SpiritStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Sisters in Spirit vigils commemorate missing and murdered aboriginal women, women from all walks of life and from all across Canada.

The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that all women in Canada, including aboriginal women, are safe and secure, regardless of the community in which they live. Ending this type of violence and bringing to justice those who have committed crimes is a shared responsibility of all levels of government.

This is a serious matter, which affects a far greater number than the women who have gone missing and their families. We must all take steps to ensure that aboriginal women, and indeed all women, are better protected from violence in its many forms.

Our government will continue to work in partnership with provincial and territorial governments, aboriginal people and other stakeholders to develop more effective and appropriate solutions to this pressing matter.

Sisters in SpiritStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, today Canadians are gathering across the country, including on Parliament Hill, to mark the annual Sisters in Spirit vigil. Violence against women is a tragedy and all Canadians must unite and vigilantly combat it in all its forms.

Today, we honour the hundreds of aboriginal women who have been murdered or who have gone missing. We will take up the torch in committing ourselves to combatting the violence that they were forced to face alone.

Together we are united as Canadians with our aboriginal sisters in saying that their struggles are ours. Their right to live free from violence is a responsibility we all must work to guarantee.

I salute the Native Women's Association of Canada and all of its partner organizations today for ensuring, through these vigils, that these women and their struggle are never forgotten.

Aerospace IndustryStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning, the Minister of Industry was at the Montreal-Mirabel international airport to announce the opening of Pratt & Whitney Canada's new flight test facilities. We are not surprised that Pratt & Whitney chose to invest in Quebec.

These flight test facilities will solidify Quebec's role as an international crossroads in the aerospace sector in terms of innovation and excellence. Quebec has the necessary talent and know-how to make its aerospace sector a world class leader.

This centre will make Mirabel a true platform for future activities within the aerospace industry. Our government is contributing to the development of this technological cluster in Quebec by setting the stage for long-term prosperity for Canadian aerospace companies within the global economy. This will benefit our aerospace industry, Quebec workers and their families, and all Canadians.

Mental Illness Awareness WeekStatements by Members

October 4th, 2010 / 2:10 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in support of Mental Illness Awareness Week happening right now across Canada.

Established almost 20 years ago, this week is an opportunity to draw attention to the struggles and achievements of those living with mental illness, a group that includes more than one out of every five Canadians. It is also an opportunity to join the growing call for the government to show real leadership in tackling an issue whose mismanagement has cost the Canadian economy more than $14 billion a year.

In 2003, health organizations across Canada signed onto a call for a national action plan on mental health. That was almost eight years ago and we still have woefully little to show for it.

So. during this Mental Illness Awareness Week, I would call on the government to demonstrate the commitment and dedication that Canadians with mental illness, their doctors and their families deserve, and craft a comprehensive and effective mental illness action plan.

The EconomyStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, today. the Minister of Industry and the Minister of Natural Resources joined with Quebec to celebrate the opening of Pratt & Whitney's new global flight test facility at Mirabel. This announcement was made possible because this government has implemented the policies necessary to attract investment and create jobs right across this great country.

As a result of this government's efforts, Canada has the strongest fiscal position in the G7, is on track to having the lowest corporate income tax rate in the G7 by 2012, and the fastest economic growth in the G7 in 2010.

The benefits of our economic plan are being realized right now, today, in Mirabel, Quebec where this new plant will employ 250 people at peak production.

Our government remains committed to creating jobs right across Canada. Pratt & Whitney's new facility is just one more example of how we are getting the job done for Canadians.

Firearms RegistryStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, the House recently voted 153 to 151 to maintain the firearms registry. What can we learn from this apparently close vote?

Of that majority of 153 members of Parliament, 63 represent ridings in Quebec, which translates to 84% of all seats in Quebec. Of the 151 members of Parliament on the losing side, 139 represent ridings in the rest of Canada. That is, 61% of members from the rest of Canada voted against maintaining the registry.

Instead of grasping at straws and coming up with convoluted arguments pitting people from the regions against city dwellers, let us just admit that Quebec and Canada are two different nations, even when it comes to their core values, that Quebec and Canada are two countries, two neighbours and two friends who respect their differing majorities.

Last week's vote was not close, or tight or controversial. It was another illustration of our need for independence—

Firearms RegistryStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Vancouver Quadra.

Commonwealth GamesStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to congratulate the impressive performance of Canada's great athletes. On day one of competition at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, Canadians took three medals in swimming.

Ryan Cochrane, a swimmer from Victoria, dominated the 400 metre freestyle event, and won the gold medal for Canada.

Julia Wilkinson and Stefan Hirniak both won bronze in the women's 200 metre individual medley and in the men's 200 metre butterfly respectively.

I must also mention the performance of Geneviève Saumur, who took fourth place in the 200 metre freestyle event.

In the coming days, Canadians will cheer on diver Alexandre Despatie and synchronized swimmer Marie-Pier Boudreau-Gagnon.

We will be cheering for cyclist, Michael Barry; track and field athlete; Jessica Zelinka; and in shooting, Susan Nattrass.

The Liberal Party is proud to encourage our athletes participating in the Commonwealth Games.

Leader of the Liberal Party of CanadaStatements by Members

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, while Canadians are concerned about the economy, it is clear that the Liberal leader has a different set of priorities.

On Wednesday, when Parliament was debating employment insurance, the Liberal leader pronounced that the issue was the census, not EI.

Last Monday, when the Prime Minister and senior ministers met to work on the economic action plan, the Liberal leader and his spokesperson laid out other key Liberal priorities: making it easier to possess and use marijuana and extending illegal drug injection sites into local communities.

The census, marijuana and illegal drug injection; it seems that everything is a priority for the Liberal leader except the economy.

It is little wonder the Liberal leader avoids talking about the economy. His economic agenda includes hiking taxes on job creators, lowering the EI qualifying period to only 45 days, increasing the GST back to 7% and billions of dollars in reckless spending.

Government PrioritiesOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Etobicoke—Lakeshore Ontario

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, this summer in Montreal, I met a woman who takes care of her two sick parents all by herself, at home, without any help aside from her father's pension as a veteran. There are three million Canadians in similar situations.

How can the government explain to this woman why it spent $6 billion on corporate tax cuts instead of helping struggling families, like hers, who are trying to take care of their parents?

Government PrioritiesOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I can say to the woman with whom the opposition leader met that our government has made an unprecedented commitment to our veterans, our men and women in uniform, to ensure they get the care they need after they so bravely served our country.

The recent announcement by the Minister of Veterans Affairs underlines and demonstrates the huge priority we have given them, once again going further than any government ever has in Canadian history.

At the same time, we recognize that people who need health care and the important public health care system that we enjoy need the federal government to be there as a financial partner, which is why the Minister of Finance, again in this year's budget, increased the transfers to the provinces by 6%, to support important health care services operated by the provinces.

Government PrioritiesOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Etobicoke—Lakeshore Ontario

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the woman I met in Montreal this summer looks out at a world in which her government spends $1.3 billion on the G8 and G20 summits, $16 billion on planes without a competitive bid, triples the publicity budget of the government and is about to give big corporations a $6 billion tax break.

The question she wants answered by the government is: “What about my priorities? When am I going to matter?”

Government PrioritiesOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, our government remains focused on the big priorities that matter to Canadians. The biggest single priority across this country is the economy. It is job creation so that Canadians from right across the country from coast to coast to coast can have the dignity of a job and be able to provide for themselves and their families.

Also, Canadians depend on publicly funded health care, which is why this government, when faced with tough economic times, resisted following the Liberal tradition of cutting health care by $25 billion. In this respect, we have increased the transfers to the provinces by some 30% in just a few short years.

That is why we believe in supporting those who most need help.

Government PrioritiesOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Etobicoke—Lakeshore Ontario

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the record speaks for itself: $6 billion in corporate tax breaks for large corporations, a wasted $1.3 billion on the G8 and G20 summits and tripling the publicity budget of the government. The woman I was talking to can barely manage to look after her aging parents at home.

When will the government pay some attention to the growing needs of Canadian families for home care assistance? When will it get its priorities right?

Government PrioritiesOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, for the woman in Montreal, her priorities are our government's priorities. We are focused on growing the economy so that everyone can have the dignity of a job , and the pride that comes from being independent and being able to provide for themselves and their families.

We are focused on ensuring Canadians have those important services they depend on, particularly health care which many people desperately need. That is why our government has avoided the temptation to cut and slash transfers to the provinces, which we saw in another recession and another period when the Liberals were in power.

We are working with the provinces, respecting provincial jurisdiction and providing the provinces with the finances they need to deliver quality health care to Canadians.