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House of Commons Hansard #29 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nation.

Topics

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

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to be in the House to follow up on a question that I asked the minister on Wednesday, March 17.

Members will recall that I asked about the government's action plan as it related to the Status of Women. We had been told many times over the years that the former minister of state for Status of Women had been developing an action plan for Canadian women. She told us several times that it would be finished soon and it would be forthcoming.

In March we learned, in fact, that the action plan was what she called her three pillars: increasing women's economic security and prosperity, ending violence against women and enhancing women's leadership in democratic participation. I really question the validity and the viability of a plan that was done without consultation.

I particularly question the viability of the plan. In her last appearance before the Standing Committee on Status of Women, I asked the minister how she determined the funding for the various groups in the community that receive funding under either the community program or the partnership program. She told me that the staff of the Status of Women reviewed applications and made recommendations, but that she ultimately had the final say, yea or nay, as to whether a group received funding. To me, that does not speak of an action plan when one can make decisions based on ideological preconceptions in order to determine whether an organization gets funding.

We know that when she talked about violence against women, one of her colleagues said that the answer to this was to put more people in jail. I do not know how that constitutes an action plan.

I do not know how it constitutes an action plan when she recommends we do away with the long gun registry when the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police say that the gun registry has 11,000 hits a day. We know that a disproportionate number of them deal with domestic violence issues.

The restructuring of the Status of Women ended the funding for advocacy and research. We know long-standing grant recipients are no longer funded, such as the Womanspace Resource Centre in Lethbridge, which helped women who needed help with tax returns, securing housing and becoming independent. It lost its funding after 25 years. The phones were disconnected and the doors closed.

We know the YWCA in Montreal did not get funding. We know organizations in Quebec and the Equal Pay Coalition had their funding denied because they chose to speak out against pay equity. We know there has been no advocacy by the previous minister or anyone on that side on behalf of women.

We know there has been no research. We know the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, which gave money to support women who had been abused, had its money withdrawn. The minister cited the economic action plan as a plan for women. We know there were very few benefits to women under the economic action plan.

It is incumbent upon the government to file a real action plan for women.

6:30 p.m.

Beauport—Limoilou Québec

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her interest and participation in this issue. As the member knows, women and girls represent more than half of our population in Canada. Women play an important role in Canada; not only do they drive the Canadian economy, but they also significantly contribute to our society.

However, they still face barriers and obstacles every day. Aboriginal women are the most vulnerable women in our society, and are victimized more than any other group. Like all Canadians, aboriginal women want to feel safe in their homes and their communities. That is why our government has demonstrated unprecedented support and respect for aboriginal women.

In the most recent budget, we allocated $10 million to protect women by cracking down on crime and addressing unresolved cases of murdered and missing aboriginal women.

We have implemented and continue to introduce new criminal bills to ensure that women are protected from rapists and murderers.

We are protecting children against sexual predators, and we are protecting vulnerable women against sexual slavery.

We will continue to work so that all women can feel safe in their homes and in their communities.

We have also made progress toward ensuring equal treatment for women in the workplace.

Under our government, more women than ever are working in the federal public service.

Women make up more than half of the public service, and 43% of the deputy ministers running the public service are women.

Women are making progress. In the past, they were denied access to executive positions in companies across Canada.

We can be proud of these achievements. As a woman and a Conservative Party member, I am proud of this, and I am very happy to have the opportunity to champion these issues. But we still have a lot to do.

Our government is determined to work with women to continue moving forward.

I would ask my honourable colleague to work with us, to transcend party lines, because women's issues should not be exploited or used for political gain. Together, we can keep moving forward on women's issues.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do not know whether the hon. member opposite she feels the embarrassment I think we feel over here, that she had to stand and read that kind of speech.

She has sat in the committee. She has heard the many issues and challenges that women face. She knows women cannot go to work or go to school because there is no early learning and child care. There is no literacy program. There is no court challenges program, and the list goes on.

We on this side have been calling for a national investigation into the murdered and missing aboriginal women for about nine months now. We have had a tepid response from the government, promises and no action. We are more than willing and happy to work co-operatively with the government if it shows a real commitment to the issues of women and not use women for simply political purposes and political gain.

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, no, I am not embarrassed to be standing up for women, I am not embarrassed about what we have done for women, and I am not embarrassed to be taking action for women.

We see things differently, that is for sure, but nobody in this House, particularly not the women, can say that we have not made progress.

Who introduced changes to employment insurance benefits for self-employed workers, most of whom are women? Our government came up with that.

I do not need to read my female colleagues' little pink book, which is full of empty Liberal promises. Over the past four years, Status of Women Canada's budget has been between $30 million and $35 million. That is more than Status of Women Canada ever had in the past.

The Liberals are not in a position to teach me anything.

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to follow up on a question that I earlier put on March 2, which happened to be the United Nations World Water Day. That question was put to the government at large for a specific reason. Many of the ministers in the government share responsibility for the protection of our water resources.

In his wisdom, the Minister of the Environment responded, and I look forward to hearing the response to my question today.

Perhaps it is appropriate that the matter is again being raised just two days before the 40th Earth Day. Therefore, there is a two day notice to the ministers that they can still yet table the long awaited federal initiatives on water, which they have been promising for quite some time.

One of those is the aboriginal safe drinking water law, which was promised in the 2009 throne speech, yet to be presented to the House as far as I am aware.

The second would be a law to ban bulk water exports, a matter of great concern. For a number of years now, Canadians across the country have expressed this concern.

The third one is for the federal government to finally assert its federal powers to address serious climate impacts and pollution threats to Canadian waters.

I will address most of my comments today to the matter of aboriginal safe drinking water. The Minister of the Environment, for example, may wonder why he would speak to that, he is not the Minister of Indian Affairs. Hear me out and I will explain why it is a matter of concern, not only to the Minister of the Environment, but also to the Minister of Natural Resources, in addition to the Minister of Indian Affairs.

The need for a law to protect aboriginal safe drinking water has been identified not once, not twice, but at least three times by federal authorities. In 2005 the audit by the Commissioner for Environment and Sustainable Development issued a strong recommendation for the federal government to take action on aboriginal safe drinking water. She stated in that report:

When it comes to the safety of drinking water, residents of First Nation communities do not benefit from a level of protection comparable to that of people who live off reserves. This is partly because there are no laws and regulations governing the provision of drinking water to First Nation communities, unlike other Canadian communities. INAC and Health Canada attempt to ensure safe drinking water in First Nation communities...This approach does not cover all the elements that would be found in a regulatory regime for drinking water, and it is not implemented consistently.

The Commissioner for Environment and Sustainable Development went on to recommend five areas where action should be taken by the federal government. One specifically was that laws and regulation should be enacted to govern the provision of drinking water for these communities and that technical assistance be provided to first nations.

The second report was by the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. I will quote from the recommendation from that committee. It states:

Ironically, a number of the issues surrounding drinking water quality on-reserve have been the result of economic development and other activities that have polluted the source water surrounding First Nations communities.

That gives a hint to the government as to why I would say that both the Minister of the Environment and Minister of Natural Resources have a responsibility as well to move in to take action to protect aboriginal safe drinking water. The very reasons why first nations are leery of moving expeditiously on a federal law is because the intent would be to hand over liability to them. They are saying that they need the resources and the capacity.

What action is the government taking in all of these to protect Canadian water?

6:40 p.m.

Langley B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that we have a comprehensive action plan for clean water. It includes investments in science and in monitoring our water resources. It provides resources to clean up the contaminated lakes and rivers. It is working with the provinces and territories to develop new regulations on waste water. It invests in clean water for aboriginal communities.

Through the infrastructure stimulus fund, we announced $740 million for 1,100 waste water projects across Canada. We have also made the gas tax permanent and doubled it to $2 billion per year. In total, the Government of Canada, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, has spent or committed $3.25 billion for waste water and water infrastructure.

We are taking the lead in proposing new regulations for municipal, community, federal and other waste water systems. This includes standards for national waste water effluent quality and provides regulatory clarity for rules on reporting for more than 3,700 Canadian facilities. On March 19, the Minister of the Environment announced publication of the proposed waste water systems effluent regulations in the Canada Gazette, beginning the formal 60-day comment period. Hopefully, the member will comment.

The government is also working with the United States to protect the Great Lakes through the binational Great Lakes water quality agreement. Over the next year, representatives from the Canadian and United States governments are meeting to amend this important environmental agreement. Much has changed since the agreement was last updated in 1987 and we must keep up with the times.

Furthermore, budget 2010 continues funding for the Great Lakes action plan, cleaning up the most severely contaminated and degraded areas of the Great Lakes. We are spending $50 million per year on the Great Lakes and almost $15 million per year to clean up the St. Lawrence River.

Under the action plan for clean water, the Lake Winnipeg basin initiative has received funding for $18 million over two years to promote the long-term sustainability of the lake. The initiative provides a new model for how the Government of Canada can support integrated basin-wise watershed management elsewhere in Canada. In addition to the millions of dollars to support stewardship projects, we are investing millions more to implement a comprehensive science program for Lake Winnipeg using Canada's federal scientific expertise.

As well, the Government of Canada is taking action to address water pollution issues in Lake Simcoe. We are investing $30 million over five years to help reduce the amount of phosphorous getting into streams and rivers feeding the lake, and to help restore fish and wildlife populations.

The government is committed to improving the health and quality of life for people in first nations communities, providing better water and waste water services for their residents. Budget 2010 extends the first nations water and watershed action plan for another two years, bringing the four-year total to $660 million over four years. The member needs to do more than speak on action. She needs to support the good environmental action of this government.

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have done more than just talk. I have actually published a book on aboriginal safe drinking water and I look forward to providing a copy to as many of the government members as I can. However, my first priority is to the first nations who are actually trying to take action on having safe drinking water laws.

I listened with great interest to what the government is doing, but it is still not moving on what it promised to do a year ago in the throne speech, which is to actually table an aboriginal safe drinking water law. When can this law be expected to be forthcoming?

I would also appreciate a response from the member, not to put him on the spot. Our parliamentary committee has heard a lot of testimony about the need to step up federal action on the monitoring and enforcement for the protection of, particularly, the watershed of the Peace-Athabasca basin. Of course, that deals directly with access to aboriginal safe drinking water. I think that this law could also help clarify the rights of those people to safe drinking water.

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, as the member well knows, this government is committed to clean drinking water for all Canadians. It is time that we as Canadians live up to the image that we have of ourselves, of Canada as a land of pristine waters. We need to protect those for this generation and future generations.

The NDP needs to do more than ask questions in the House and provide press releases. The NDP members need to vote in favour of money going to first nations. Their legacy is the party of no: no against the environment and no against cleaning up the mess left by the previous Liberal government.

This is the government that is taking action on the environment and cleaning up the environment. The member needs to do more than ask questions in the House. She needs to support good environmental legislation, as presented by this government.

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:47 p.m.)