House of Commons Hansard #52 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

The EconomyPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Lee Richardson Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should:

(a) recognize that improved competitiveness will continue to stimulate economic growth and create jobs for Canadians; and

(b) continue to diversify and expand markets for Canadian goods and services by encouraging investment in Canada through lower corporate tax rates, maintaining a stable economy and the signing of free trade agreements.

Mr. Speaker, in support of this motion I would like to highlight a number of the government's initiatives to support a competitive, innovative economy as set out in “Advantage Canada” and as supported by Canada's economic action plan and budget 2010.

The government is committed to improving competitiveness, stimulating economic growth, creating jobs for Canadians, and diversifying and expanding markets for Canadian goods and services particularly in difficult times. It is the right thing to do. It is not enough to have the right idea or the right strategy, it is about implementation, getting it done, and in this regard Canada has made remarkable progress.

Even before the recession, the government laid the foundation for future prosperity through “Advantage Canada”, a strategic long-term economic plan designed to improve our economic prosperity. “Advantage Canada” focused on reducing taxes, paying down debt, fostering skills development, investing in roads, bridges, waterways and other vital infrastructure. The government also improved business conditions by implementing corporate tax reductions that are making Canada a more competitive country in which to do business.

In response to the global recession, the government acted quickly to support Canada's economy by introducing new measures under Canada's economic action plan; a comprehensive stimulus package to spur growth, create jobs and contribute to Canada's long-term competitiveness. Our opposition screamed “it's taking too long, you're not spending enough”. Now members are saying we spent too much.

It is important to find the right balance and it appear we have, better than other country because the long-term implication of too much state intervention is renewed inflation, rising interest rates, crowding out of investments, and prolonged sluggish economic performance. Our approach is working, demonstrated by the creation of 12,000 infrastructure programs begun or completed and nearly 285,000 jobs created in Canada in the last 10 months.

Budget 2010 follows through on the economic action plan and introduces new measures to create an environment that promotes investment and innovation, and contributes to enhanced competitiveness. Combined, the economic action plan and budget 2010 support measures to ensure that the conditions are in place for sustained growth. We will continue to deliver results for business. We have enhanced our access to finance through additional resources for the Export Development Corporation and the Business Development Bank of Canada. We have reduced the cost of doing business by eliminating all remaining tariffs on manufactured inputs, machinery and equipment by moving to cut red tape for businesses.

We are also on track to have the lowest statutory corporate income tax in the G7 by 2012. Through budget 2010 and previously introduced measures, we are also striving to improve Canada's appeal as a place for foreign investment. We are also conscious of the need to create the best educated, highest skilled, and most flexible workforce in the world. We are doing so by supporting skills development training and by helping to prepare our citizens for the labour market of today and for the future.

Our plan is the right plan and it is having the desired effect.

Our stimulus plan helped slow the decline in Canada's real GDP in the second quarter of 2009, after two consecutive quarters in recession. In the last quarter of 2009 we had 5% real GDP growth and today Statistics Canada announced that Canada's economy grew 6.1% in the first quarter of 2010. This represents the strongest quarterly rate of growth in a decade.

I am happy to report that our growth forecasts are better than many other countries. Since the worst days of the crisis, we have managed a turnaround.

That turnaround was aided in part by the strength of our financial sector. The World Economic Forum says that Canada has the soundest banking system in the world. In contrast to many other countries, none of Canada's banks required any bailout or any taxpayers' money. Even during the worst days of the credit crisis, the health of our financial institutions allowed them to continue to raise equity capital. Our top five banks are among the top 50 in the world. Using capitalization numbers, our three largest insurance companies are among the top 10 in the world. So we should not be glib about the importance of the strength of our financial sector in Canada which is increasingly recognized around the world.

A number of leaders, including President Obama, have praised the Canadian financial system for others to emulate. What is more, the OECD recently singled out our country for praise saying, “Canada looks good--it shines, actually” as did a major CIBC report stating that, “stronger long-term fundamentals of Canada's economy could see the second decade of the 21st century be this country's time to shine”.

Our government understands that a competitive Canadian economy depends on enhanced competitiveness, investing in skills and innovation, and getting the domestic framework right. But, it also requires reaching out to partners around the world, as we always have.

When it comes to creating the economy of tomorrow one thing is clear, we are not going to beat China, India or Brazil on wages. We are going to do it through raising productivity standards and through the development of higher-end products and services. In other words, through innovation and by opening new markets for Canadian companies. That is why the government has introduced new measures to diversify and expand markets for Canadian goods and services.

As outlined in the global commerce strategy and the recent Speech from the Throne, the government is pursuing an ambitious international trade agenda aimed at creating jobs and promoting investment for the economy of tomorrow by attracting foreign direct investment from key markets by focusing on priority sectors where Canada has competitive advantages.

When we talk about free trade and expanding markets, we do so because opening doors to trade is in the best interest of Canadians. It is also in the best interest because Canadian businesses, firms and investors are the engines that drive our economy. When businesses succeed, Canadians succeed through jobs, prosperity and a quality of life upon which we all depend.

In addition to improving the climate for business and investing in innovation, the government is expanding market opportunities to move Canada's economy forward. We are doing so by implementing free trade agreements with Peru, the European Free Trade Association, Colombia, Jordan, and Panama, despite some obstructionist opposition and delay tactics of the socialist parties. The isolationist policies of the Bloc and the NDP are the policies of failed economies. Growth in global trade has been largely responsible for the creation of wealth worldwide. Enhancing trade and resisting protectionism are both essential to the new world economy.

We are also doing so by continuing trade negotiations with the European Union, the Republic of Korea, the Caribbean community and other countries of the Americas, while also building our position in Canada's most important market, the United states; by launching free trade negotiations with the Ukraine; by launching a joint study with India to explore the parameters of a possible comprehensive economic partnership; by seeking to become a member of the trans-Pacific partnership negotiations; by pursuing additional air service agreements to achieve more competition, more choice for Canadians and more economic growth; by working to conclude foreign direct investment promotion and protection agreements with a number of countries beyond the existing 23 agreements; by building upon the recent agreement reached on regarding buy American that gives Canadian companies permanent access to state and government procurement in the United States and by tackling remaining impediments to trade such as border delays and regulatory differences; and by opening new offices and adding personnel abroad in key emerging markets, as well as domestically within our own borders.

To put it in straightforward terms, by bringing down barriers to trade and investment, the government will help Canadian businesses compete in an increasingly competitive world while also providing stimulus to the Canadian economy.

This will allow us to innovate and to compete globally. These measures will continue to fuel our economy from the global recession, forge a competitive advantage, support growth and prosperity, and help create the economy of tomorrow.

The next 30 days are going to be remarkable for our country. It is a great time to be a Canadian. The Olympics in Vancouver earlier this year were spectacular and noticed around the world. In June we will host the G8 summit in Muskoka and the G20 summit in Toronto. To quote the Prime Minister from March 2009:

Notwithstanding all the troubles around us, Canada has real advantages, real assets, and we should not hesitate to remind investors, partners and leaders around the world of the comparative strengths of our country.

In this regard, we have been and will continue to implement the strategies to ensure economic recovery and sustainable growth.

The EconomyPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his motion. Certainly, there are perspectives in there that I support. I think it would be great if the current government put more effort into improved competitiveness in the renewable and energy efficiency sector. If the government would stop playing favouritism for one narrow sector, we could move forward and join the rest of the world in ensuring a cleaner, more sustainable planet.

Would the member please respond to the recommendations also apparently made by the environmentminister to the finance minister on removing the perverse incentives for the oil and gas sector and shifting over toward encouraging a cleaner, more sustainable energy future?

The EconomyPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Lee Richardson Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member who is always supportive of industries in Alberta. I agree with her that we have improved competitiveness. The general strategy of the government is clearly working. I am delighted with her support. I wish she could convince other members of her caucus to support our free trade initiatives.

The EconomyPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have two questions for my colleague.

Does he not think that the current economic situation we are in right now is, in large part, due to the fact that bank mergers were not allowed to go ahead by the Liberal government and, second, that the Liberals gave the current Conservative government very good fiscal footing having surplus budgets?

On the issue of moving toward green technologies and modernizing our economy, does he agree with the flowthrough tariff system, that is occurring in Germany as well as in Ontario under Premier McGuinty, that will enable us to incentivize the private sector in moving toward adopting new innovative green technologies?

The EconomyPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Lee Richardson Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, absolutely, I agree that it has been a large part of Canada's success to have the foundation going into the recession, as I mentioned in my speech, not only the strength of the banks but Canadian regulation regarding banks, that unfortunately, many parts of the world did not have, including our largest trading partner. Canadian banks were, as I said, among the only ones in the world that did not need a bailout or taxpayers' money to get them through this.

There was that foundation but also the foundation of building infrastructure. The hon. member noted the balance in the budgets at the time. Unfortunately, due to the previous Liberal government they were draining the provinces of money for infrastructure, education and other policies that needed to be back-filled by this government when it was elected.

One of the good things about it was the tremendous infrastructure program that we had in a strong fiscal budget back in 2007. We led the recession in infrastructure programs, which set us up not only with the strength of the banks, as the hon. member mentioned, but with the infrastructure that we implemented to really fill in for the loss of infrastructure across the country that had been suffered under the previous Liberal administration.

It turned out to be fortunate for Canada. We brought in that program in order to have that kind of stimulus, $60 billion in the 2007 budget, to get us through the recession before it began. This was done in a fiscally responsible way.

All of those things combined, yes, I will agree with the member, set Canada up very well and will continue in the future.

The EconomyPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to the motion tabled by the member for Calgary Centre.

Much of this motion contains material with which the Liberal Party can agree. We agree with the nice pleasantries about the importance of free trade agreements. It also speaks to the need to diversify our markets, and we agree with that. I would go further to say that one of the markets into which we have the greatest need for diversification and growth is China. We would be a whole lot further ahead today had the government not taken every opportunity to poke China in the eye.

The problem is the part about the corporate tax cuts, calling for corporate tax cuts at a time of deep deficit. If the motion had read “lower corporate tax rates once Canada could afford them”, then I would be happen to vote for it, but that is not what it says.

Similarly, I could have supported this motion a few years ago when Canada was running surpluses and paying down its debt. In fact, a few years ago the Liberal Party was urging the Conservatives to cut the corporate tax rate.

However, as it stands today, the Conservatives are running one of the largest deficits in our country's history. When a situation changes that dramatically, going from surplus to the largest deficit in Canadian history, it is incumbent upon any legislator to re-evaluate what the federal government can afford to do.

Today, unlike four years ago, the Government of Canada will have to borrow more and more money in order to proceed with these corporate tax cuts. In that sense, the motion itself is a little bit contradictory. It calls for maintaining a stable economy while simultaneously calling for more and more government debt. As we have seen in Europe, governments that cannot get a handle on their debt quickly discover that the effects of that debt on the economy are quite real.

The smart move today would be to make the tough choices, balance the budget and then cut the corporate tax rate. That is how the Liberals have done it in the past. In the mid-1990s, as Jean Chrétien's Liberals were reducing the previous Conservative deficit, pressure began to mount for the government to cut taxes before the books were balanced. In fact, at that time the Reform Party was urging tax cuts first and balanced books later. It did not understand how important it was to balance the budget.

Liberals believed that priority number one was getting Canada's fiscal house in order. Once the books were balanced and some of the debt had been paid down, Liberals began cutting the general corporate income tax rate. In fact, between 2000 and 2005 we took the general corporate income tax rate from 28% down to 21%. More important, the Liberal government also provided Canadian taxpayers with the largest personal income tax cut in history, and we did it all without adding a penny to Canada's national debt. Indeed, as I just said, we were paying down that debt over that period of tax cuts.

While the Liberal road to balanced budgets followed by tax cuts has proved successful in Canada, there have been other paths tried in other parts of the world. The idea that tax cuts should come first, that has been tried elsewhere and yet most of these attempts have been tremendously unsuccessful.

I will give an example. Ronald Reagan, a hero on the Conservative side no doubt, used to tell Americans that he would eliminate the deficit by cutting taxes. Cut taxes, he did, but when his eight years in office came to a close, America's national debt was three times bigger than the day he took office.

Former U.S. treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, is said to have recounted how he tried to warn the George W. Bush administration of the dangers of rising debt levels in 2002. The response, he is reported to have gotten from Dick Cheney was “You know, Paul, Reagan proved deficits don't matter”.

That is the exact same economic mentality that now runs rampant in the Conservative Party of Canada. To a Conservative, deficits do not matter. That is why, just like Ronald Reagan, they want to cut the corporate tax rate while, at the same time, running the biggest deficit in our country's history.

It may just be arrogance. The Conservatives may feel that their base is so dedicated to the party that they can run never-ending deficits and not lose any support. It may be delusional. They might really believe, as Dick Cheney and Ronald Reagan did, that deficits do not matter. Maybe they do not see the effects of the sovereign debt crisis rippling through Europe today. Maybe they are just wilfully blind to it.

The rationale as to why Conservative MPs do not mind running up Canada's debt does not really matter that much for the purpose of this debate. What matters most is that their indifference to sovereign debt is dangerous and, if left unchecked for several years, will pose an economic threat to Canadian prosperity.

That indifference is why we did not hear a single Conservative member of Parliament raise his or her voice in concern about their government increasing the size of the federal government by 13% during its first years in office. It is because they were not worried about deficits.

That is why, in the third year of Conservative government, Canada's record string of uninterrupted balanced budgets came to an end, even well before the recession started. That is why it is currently running its third straight deficit and have no discernible plan to get out of it. That is why the Conservatives are insisting on borrowing even more money today to pay for corporate tax cuts.

Do members know who will have to pay back those billions of dollars in interest that will accumulate on the new debt? It will be Canadian families. Personal income taxes and the GST will account for 75% of all government tax revenues by 2014 and hard-working, middle-class Canadians will contribute the lion's share to that. They are the ones who will be called upon to pay back this new debt.

If only the government would balance the books first, it could cut those corporate taxes without having to ask Canadian families to give up more of their money down the road to pay servicing fees on this new debt. However, he Conservatives seem eager to foist these costs on to the middle-class.

There is another strange aspect to these tax cuts. The Conservatives only want to cut the corporate income tax rate for our largest companies. Small businesses, which are the backbone of our economy, will not get any tax break at all under the Conservative plan.

What small companies do get from the Conservatives is a tax hike in the form of higher employment insurance premiums. A small company of about 10 employees will have to pay over $9,000 more in tax over the next few years just for the privilege of keeping those people on its payroll. Business organizations are saying that this will kill more than 200,000 jobs across Canada. These job-killing Conservative EI premium hikes will kill more than 200,000 jobs.

Finally, I would like to touch on Canada's competitiveness in the world when it comes to taxation. Taxes are a moving target in almost every jurisdiction. We certainly never want to be caught up on the high end of the tax spectre. Let us look at some facts regarding Canada's tax competitiveness.

A few weeks ago, KPMG released a report showing that Canada had the lowest tax costs for business of all G7 countries and, out of all the countries studied by KPMG, only Mexico had a lower tax cost to operate a business.

My point is that, given we are already the most favourable tax environment, there is no need to go further into debt through a further cut in corporate taxes at a time when this country cannot afford it.

It is not as though we are in danger of becoming highly uncompetitive by delaying these tax cuts. Some of our competitor countries, such as Germany, have already come to the conclusion that they cannot cut their corporate tax rates at this time because of their high deficit.

In summary, I cannot support this motion because it calls for Canada to take on more debt to cut corporate taxes. I cannot ignore the results of this kind of recklessness achieved elsewhere, places like the United States where Ronald Reagan's premature tax cuts helped to triple the national debt in eight short years. This is not a good recipe for Canada.

The EconomyPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the motion moved by the member for Calgary Centre regarding competitiveness. We did exactly the same thing all members will have done before commenting on this issue: we weighed the pros and cons. Unfortunately for the member who moved motion M-518, there are considerably more cons than pros, and the Bloc will therefore be voting against this motion.

There are two parts to this motion. We have no problem with the first part, which talks about recognizing “that improved competitiveness will continue to stimulate economic growth and create jobs for Canadians”. No one can be against that. The part we have a hard time with is the part that talks about continuing “to diversify and expand markets for Canadian goods and services by encouraging investment in Canada through lower corporate tax rates...”. This is wishful thinking on the part of the Conservatives.

We are not against tax cuts for certain companies, but businesses in the forestry sector, for example, are not even earning a profit. Even though they are being told that the government will lower their taxes to help them be more competitive, they are already not paying any taxes, since they are not earning any money. For many businesses, this solution is completely ridiculous under the circumstances.

In his motion, the member also suggests maintaining a stable economy and signing free trade agreements. The Bloc Québécois has made its position on bilateral agreements clear: we do not support them. We support multilateral agreements and we think that the Conservative government should focus on that rather than on signing agreements like the one with Colombia, a country that does not respect workers' rights, the right to freedom of expression or the environment. That is the kind of agreement this government wants to sign, but we think it is a bad idea.

Everyone knows that the economic future of Quebec and Canada depends on making our industries more competitive. The Conservative government's strategy, which focuses almost exclusively on corporate tax cuts and signing more bilateral free trade agreements, is not the right one.

Many sectors are going through such a difficult financial period that tax cuts are of absolutely no use in helping them develop new business plans. At the beginning of my remarks, I mentioned forestry companies. In Quebec, these companies are in dire need of access to cash so they can refinance, invest in modernizing their production equipment and start making money again. Once again, companies that do not make a profit do not pay taxes.

To deal with future economic challenges and compete with foreign companies that often benefit from significant advantages with respect to the cost of labour and weak environmental regulations, we have to focus on cutting-edge economic sectors, such as aerospace, green energy and high value-added products.

To support the development of these sectors and make the economies of Quebec and Canada more competitive, we recommend major investment in research and development and adequate financial assistance for industry stakeholders to help them modernize their facilities and develop new products. Unfortunately, none of that appears in the motion from the member for Calgary Centre.

We also recognize the key role that small and medium-sized businesses play in Quebec's economic development. I come from a region, a city, where there has been a proliferation of small and medium-sized businesses over the years. We have done relatively well, touch wood. These small and medium-sized businesses have given us the economic diversity needed to weather economic crises. However, this does not mean that we can sit on our laurels. We believe it is imperative that the federal government invest enough money to promote development and innovation when it comes to small and medium-sized businesses.

We do not agree with the increasing number of bilateral trade agreements. We believe that the government should instead be making an effort to restart multilateral negotiations, which are really the only way to encourage truly fair globalization.

The Bloc Québécois calls this globalization with a human face. It respects workers' rights, environmental rights and the general public, which is so often affected by development. In some countries we could even talk about reckless development, which requires limits to be set before a free trade agreement can be signed. Then they will realize that we will not accept things being done any way they please.

If we dissect the member's motion, we see those infamous tax cuts. Lower corporate taxes make sense when the economy is strong and exporters are looking for a comparative advantage. But they are practically useless during a crisis, and economists agree on that.

While it gave no less than $10 billion to save Ontario's automotive industry, the Conservative government is promising a mere $100 million over four years in its 2010 budget to help the forestry industry get through the worst crisis in its history. I will not dwell on the inequity created by the last budget, which was supported by the Conservative members from Quebec. Many of them come from forestry regions and yet they accepted the last budget's serious bias in favour of the automotive industry over forestry.

This funding for the forestry industry, which is going through a cash crisis, is not nearly enough to allow it to invest in the tools and production equipment needed to boost its productivity and competitiveness and make it profitable again. The Conservatives think that this industry should be happy to pay less tax. For the third time: if a business is not making a profit, it is not paying taxes either. This is not good news. It is not news at all. It is not a solution for the forestry industry. It is utterly ridiculous.

What is more, the money the Conservatives are investing in innovation in SMEs is totally ridiculous. The March 2010 budget allocates a measly $40 million over two years to just 20 projects across Canada. Needless to say that this is nothing but smoke and mirrors. These measures will simply not cut it when the time comes to modernize SMEs to make them more competitive.

As far as investment in research and development is concerned, after ending Technology Partnerships Canada, the main federal support program for research and development, on December 31, 2006, the Conservatives only partially reinstated it in May 2007. They simply changed the name to the strategic aerospace and defence initiative.

This new program is less generous than the previous one and is geared only to aerospace and the defence industry. As for other leading-edge sectors, such as pharmaceuticals, production technologies, environmental technologies or new materials, there is nothing left for them in this program. We were led to believe that the government was reinstating a program to help during the economic crisis, but in fact, it made cuts to some of the technologies that could have benefited from this type of research and development program.

In his motion, the hon. member could very well have called for reinvestment in research and development, but he did not. In other words, in the government's economic policies on the crisis, it made Quebec pay the price.

Given the nature of Quebec's industrial base, it is Quebec that is suffering the most from the Conservative's laissez-faire attitude.

In order to get the Bloc Québécois' support, the hon. member should have thought about adding policies to help not just the forestry industry, as I was just mentioning, but also SMEs and manufacturing industries, which were completely left out of the last budget. Such a motion could have paved the way to improving this situation.

That is not the case, and the Bloc Québécois is therefore opposed to Motion M-518.

The EconomyPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Motion No. 518. The motion gives us an opportunity to debate competing visions for the economy, jobs and fair taxation systems in our country.

The New Democrat vision for the economy is very different from the government's. In the view of the New Democrats, we need to focus on job creation. We need to focus on creating and building a strong domestic economy. We need to develop an industrial strategy that will build a sustainable economy for the future, one that fuels economic growth by investing in green technology, green jobs and renewable energy and one that is built on a commitment to the principle of fair trade and a fair, just distribution of the wealth of our nation.

The New Democrats believe that the path to economic prosperity is built on creating a strong working class, a strong middle class. In that respect, we will create a truly strong economy. The bottom line is New Democrats believe the true measure of any functioning economy is to ask whether it benefits the majority of the people who take part in that economy. In this respect, New Democrats believe that any sound economic policy must benefit hard-working Canadian families.

We also believe in an economy where no one is left behind. That is why we always analyze every economic proposal, by looking at how it will affect the must vulnerable among us, our seniors, our children, our disabled. We know that the strongest chain is built on ensuring we take care of the weakest link.

The Conservative vision for the economy is very different. The Conservative government believes in shifting taxes from corporations to individuals and families. The Conservatives have continued the Liberal corporate tax cuts that began in the 1990s, which the Liberal speaker already highlighted. In the last budget, $6 billion were allocated for banks and oil companies in our country, and $6 billion has been given by the government to British Columbia and Ontario in incentives for those provinces to bring in the HST, which results in a huge tax shift from corporations to every family in those two provinces.

The Conservative government believes in more competition, but less co-operation, in more taxes like HST on families and less taxes on corporations and in more environmental degradation and less regulation in the environmental sector.

I want to talk for a minute on deregulation. The government in the budget before the House has move to exempt federal projects from environmental assessments. Right now we probably have the worst environmental disaster, perhaps in the world's history, going on in the Gulf of Mexico. Everybody knows that this is caused in large part by a failure to regulate the economic development of offshore drilling companies. What does the government want to do? At the very time that is going on, the government wants to take environmental assessments away from the Environmental Assessment Board and give it to whom? The National Energy Board. That is exactly the kind of misplaced, misguided policy that resulted in hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil being spewed into the Gulf every day of every week for the last three weeks.

The government has refused to support important measures to prevent another global meltdown in the financial services sector, touring the world to protect the banks of our country instead of touring the world to ensure there is not another financial disaster.

Before expanding further on these competing visions, I want to talk a bit about credibility. I was struck by the Liberal speaker who criticized the government for its corporate tax cuts. In the 2008 campaign and for the last two years the Liberal Party has been in favour of the corporate tax cuts proposed by the government. The ability of the Liberals to flip-flop, engage in crass opportunism and to say whatever they think is popular continues to shock all Canadians, I think.

I am glad to see the Liberals are finally supporting what the New Democrats have been saying for the last two years, which is in this economy, further corporate tax cuts are absolutely the wrong way to go.

Since the last election, every New Democrat member of Parliament has risen numerous times in the House to talk about building an economy that works for Canadians. We have talked about our plan to create jobs, to build an economy to emerge from the recession based on ensuring every Canadian who wants to contribute can have a well-paying, productive job. The economy is built on employment.

We have talked about our plan to build a green economy. The member for Edmonton—Strathcona has stood in the House time and time again and said that we do not have to choose between the economy and the environment. That is flawed thinking by members opposite that falsely tells Canadians there is a dichotomy between those two things. All thinking Canadians know that the environment is our economy. Without clean water, land or air, without raw natural capital, there is no economic activity. New Democrats understand that, but the government does not.

We have talked about our plan to foster an educated, skilled workforce to increase our competitiveness. I note the motion talks about improved competitiveness. I can tell everyone what we can do to be competitive in the decades ahead. We can ensure that every child, teenager and young adult has access to an affordable education so we build a country with skilled, educated people. That is how to built a modern economy in the world of today.

New Democrats have spoken about our plan to tackle poverty and help the unemployed.

I am looking at page 281 of the Conservative government's budget, where it estimates the stimulative effects of various ways to invest a government dollar. It says that for every $1 invested in housing, it returns $1.40 to the economy. Every dollar invested in low-income households and the unemployed returns $1.50 to the economy. Every $1 invested in reducing EI premiums adds a factor of 50¢. What has the government done? It has increased EI premiums.

Here is the kicker. For every $1 invested in corporate income tax cuts, it returns 20¢. The government spends $1 in corporate income tax cuts and gets back 20¢. That is from its budget document. What does this motion call for? Encouraging investment in Canada through lower corporate tax rates. That is what it wants to do. For every $1 it takes from hard-working Canadians, it wants to give it to corporations and turn that $1 paid by Canadians into 20¢. That is not sound economic management. That is foolishness.

We have risen to engage in a constructive and rational debate on the economy because Canadians want the government to engage in a respectful debate to fix our economy. Instead, the Conservatives respond with insulting and overblown rhetoric to dismiss any other idea or perspective on the economy.

I heard the hon. member for Calgary Centre call the New Democrats socialists. He called us isolationists. Invective is the lowest form of argument. It is name calling. Calling New Democrats isolationists is simply a straw man argument. Opposing free trade with countries like Colombia does not mean Canadians and the New Democrats do not believe we should engage in trade. Of course we do. It is nonsense for the government to suggest otherwise. What we do believe in is fair trade.

I want to point out that the government wants to sign free trade agreements, build an economic plan on free trade and have a trade agreement with Colombia, a narco state that has the dubious distinction of murdering the highest number of trade unionists in the world. The government wants to trade with that country. That is the best country it can find? That is the cornerstone of its economic trade policy? It should go back to the bargaining table.

New Democrats believe we can build country of fiscal prudence that has social justice. Tommy Douglas balanced his budget 10 years in a row. Allan Blakeney left a surplus when he left government in Saskatchewan. New Democrats have balanced their budgets the highest percentage of time for every year of government in the history of Canada. It was the Department of Finance that studied this. The highest deficits in Canadian history have been Conservative deficits, Brian Mulroney and the current finance minister.

In terms lecturing any party in the House about sound policy, the Conservatives should take a lesson from the New Democrats.

The EconomyPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, as a member of the international trade committee and part of this government, it is a privilege to rise in the House today to speak in favour of Motion No. 518 regarding expanding Canada's free trade agenda.

This government is committed to improving Canada's competitiveness and creating the economy of tomorrow as outlined in Canada's economic action plan and the Speech from the Throne. To do this Canada must open up as many foreign markets as possible for our producers, exporters and investors. I would like to take this opportunity to draw the attention of hon. members to some of the government's initiatives for expanding our network of trade agreements.

This government is committed to building on Canada's existing regional and bilateral free trade agreements. It is committed to increasing access to foreign markets for Canadian businesses, committed to helping Canadians compete with the best in the global economy and committed to an aggressive free trade agenda to support our goals.

Of course the World Trade Organization, otherwise known as the WTO, remains the foundation of our approach and Canada continues to be an active supporter of the Doha round of negotiations. A strong multilateral trading system has a critical role to play in the global economic recovery. We are working hard to achieve the best possible outcome from the round, and Canadian agricultural producers, manufacturers and service providers stand to benefit from the expanded access to global markets that an ambitious outcome would provide.

Canada is ready to do its part, but success in the round will depend upon the meaningful engagement and contributions of all members. With the uncertainty surrounding such a broad and ambitious process, we cannot rely exclusively on these negotiations to deliver the new opportunities that our traders need in order to grow and prosper. For that reason we also recognize the importance of bilateral and regional agreements.

Canada already has free trade agreements in force with the United States and Mexico through NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, 1994, as well as agreements with Israel in 1997, Chile in 1997 and Costa Rica in 2002. Last year we implemented a free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association with the countries of Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland on July 1, and with Peru on August 1.

The agreement with the European Free Trade Association is Canada's first free trade agreement with European countries. Thanks to this deal, Canadian companies are better positioned to expand commercial ties with the countries of the European Free Trade Association in particular and other European countries more broadly.

The Canada-European Free Trade Association Free Trade Agreement establishes a competitive advantage over exporters of our main competitors, such as the United States, that do not benefit from such an agreement. It places Canadian goods on an equal footing with goods from the European Union, Korea, Mexico and Chile, which already benefit from trade agreements with the European Free Trade Association.

The Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement, which came into force along with agreements on labour co-operation and the environment, contains considerable benefits for Canada. Canadian producers immediately benefited from the elimination of tariffs on 95% of current Canadian exports to Peru, with most remaining tariffs to be eliminated over a five to ten year period. Products that received immediate duty-free access to Peru include wheat, barley, lentils, peas and selected boneless beef cuts, a variety of paper products, and machinery and equipment. Canadian businesses also received improved market access in other sectors of the Peruvian economy, such as mining, energy and professional services, as well as banking, insurance and securities.

This government is continuing to pursue ambitious trade agreements with others as well. On November 21, 2008, Canada and Colombia signed a free trade agreement along with parallel agreements on labour co-operation and the environment. The implementing legislation, Bill C-2, passed second reading and is now being studied by the Standing Committee on International Trade.

The Canada-Colombia free trade agreement will help to expand bilateral trade and investment with Colombia. Having the opportunity to personally visit Colombia with the trade committee, I believe it is important to engage the Colombians rather than isolate them, like some of the opposition parties would like to do.

We also want to deliver concrete progress on Canada's commitment of engagement in the Americas. The free trade agreement will provide greater market access for Canadian exporters of products such as wheat, pulses, barley, paper products and heavy equipment. It will also help the increasing number of Canadian investors and exporters that are entering the Colombian market by providing unprecedented levels of stability, predictability and protection for Canadian investors.

Less than a week later, on March 24, this government tabled implementing legislation for the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement and the related agreements on labour co-operation and the environment. This agreement would give Canadian businesses improved access in Jordan and a platform for expanding commercial ties in the broader Middle East.

Once this agreement comes into force, tariffs on over 99% of recent Canadian exports to Jordan will be eliminated.

Key Canadian sectors that will benefit from the immediate duty-free access include forestry--which is a great benefit for British Columbia where I am from, Quebec and Ontario and our softwood lumber agreements are providing great support for that as well-- manufacturing, and agriculture and agrifood.

The government's free trade agenda does not stop there. On May 14 of this year the Minister of International Trade and his Panamanian counterpart signed the Canada-Panama free trade agreement here in Ottawa. Parallel agreements on labour co-operation and the environment were also signed at the same time. All three agreements have been tabled in the House for 21 sitting days for review and debate. The free trade agreement will improve market access for goods and services and will provide a stable and predictable environment for investments in Panama.

This government is also working on numerous other fronts to provide Canadian businesses with better access to foreign markets.

Negotiations toward a comprehensive economic and trade agreement with the European Union were launched in Prague at the May 2009 Canada-European summit. This is by far Canada's most significant trade negotiation since the NAFTA with possibly up to $12 billion of new economic opportunities.

The successful negotiation of a high quality ambitious agreement with the European Union is a key priority for the government. Canada and the European Union have held three successful rounds of negotiations with four more scheduled to take place by spring 2011. The parties will continue to work toward an ambitious comprehensive agreement that will open markets and resist protectionist pressures in these challenging economic times.

Most recently, on May 18 in Kiev, Canada and Ukraine launched free trade negotiations. Canada already has strong cultural ties with Ukraine and our commercial ties have grown stronger over the last decade. Canadian companies are steadily building a deep business presence in areas like aerospace, communication technologies and agriculture.

A free trade agreement with Ukraine could further open markets for Canadian exports ranging from agriculture and seafood products to machinery and pharmaceuticals, and improve market access for services and help to address non-tariff barriers.

Negotiations with the Caribbean community are also progressing, and the second round of negotiations between Canadian and Caribbean officials took place a few weeks ago. Canadian officials also held a negotiating round in March 2010 with their counterparts from Central America as part of the ongoing negotiations between Canada and the four Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

This government remains dedicated to advancing our ongoing free trade negotiations with other partners including South Korea and the Dominican Republic, as well as seeking ambitious opportunities elsewhere. We are also engaged in a joint study with India to explore the parameters of a possible comprehensive economic partnership. We are involved in technical discussions with Japan aimed at improving and deepening our economic relations, including the possibility of a free trade agreement, a key interest for Canadian stakeholders.

We also remain engaged with the members of the trans-Pacific partnership and are watching those negotiations with interest.

Finally, trade opportunities with China and our Asian partners continue to expand. Canada's Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway was in China last week and our Minister of International Trade is in China this week building new markets.

What does an active trade agenda really mean for Canada? To put it in straightforward terms, by bringing down barriers to trade and investment the government will help Canadian businesses compete in an increasingly competitive world while also stimulating the Canadian economy. This is where free trade plays an important role. It reduces tariffs for Canadian producers and expands opportunities for Canadian investors and service providers.

In these difficult economic times we cannot hide behind trade barriers. Protectionism is not the answer; partnerships are. We want to innovate, to move up the global value chain and to compete globally. These measures will continue to fuel our recovery from the global recession, forge a competitive advantage, support growth and prosperity and help create jobs in the economy of tomorrow.

Through this record of success we are making Canada's economy stronger, more vibrant, more innovative and more competitive. That is why Canadians can count on this government to lead efforts in securing access to foreign markets for Canadian businesses and to take every opportunity to oppose protectionism and defend free and open trade on the world stage.

The EconomyPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure to rise in the House today to speak in support of the motion by my colleague from Calgary Centre. It allows me to reiterate that our government fully agrees that international trade and investment are vital to Canada's long-term growth and prosperity. Canada is a trading nation and Canadians have long participated in global commerce as exporters, as importers, as investors, and as those looking for investors and partners to help them grow, innovate and prosper.

Foreign direct investment has traditionally played and continues to play a significant role in Canada's economy. From British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador, foreign investment brings many benefits that help our businesses and communities build competitive advantage in high-value industries of the future. Foreign businesses operating here are major contributors to our economy. In fact, the level of foreign direct investment in Canada is equivalent to over 30% of Canada's annual output, or gross domestic product.

These companies are responsible for 45% of the merchandise exports, 27% of corporate profits and about one-quarter of all business non-residential investment in Canada, contributing directly to our economic growth and long-term prosperity. Foreign investors in Canada include household names like Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung, and Honda, which has had operations in Canada for over 40 years. These and hundreds of other foreign investors in Canada are creating jobs and opportunity for Canadians across many different industries and sectors.

Even before Canada fell victim to the global recession, with advantage Canada and the global commerce strategy the government has been striving to make Canada a destination of choice for global business and investment. We have focused on reducing taxes, paying down debt, fostering skills development and investing in transportation, research and innovation infrastructure, all in the name of making Canada a more competitive place to succeed globally.

These measures are helping to ensure that Canada's businesses are better able to compete in the global economy and contribute to Canada's appeal as a place for foreign investors to invest, grow, innovate and create jobs. The government's efforts in this regard are already paying dividends for Canadians. As the global economy has navigated its most serious downturn in a generation, Canadians too have been affected.

However, our country has shown remarkable resilience and strength in the face of these troubles. Our banking system, for example, remained strong throughout the crisis. None of our banks failed and none required public bailouts. Many of our banks are growing at an aggressive rate. This certainly would not be possible without a strong, stable and well-regulated financial system, cited as the most stable in the world by the World Economic Forum for the past two years in a row.

Canada's strong fiscal record has also proven to be a key strength. Because our government paid down debt in good times, we have had the flexibility to introduce Canada's economic action plan package to spur growth, create jobs and position our country for a strong recovery. Today, as many of our counterparts around the world face enormous debt loads, Canada stands to reap the benefits of a G7-leading debt to GDP ratio. We are in a strong position to return to fiscal balance more quickly than many of our counterparts and we are optimistic that we can do so while maintaining the tax advantage we have been building over the past few years.

The fact is that Canada has navigated the global economic downturn better than anyone in the G7. The experts at the International Monetary Fund are predicting that we will lead the G7 in growth in the next few years. The OECD is saying that Canada's economic recovery grew 6.2% in the first quarter of 2010. That bears repeating. Canada's economy grew 6.2% in the first quarter of 2010.

I am sure that all members in this place, even the opposition members, take great interest in those numbers and lay the tribute at the feet of the government where it belongs, quite frankly. I am sure that all members in the House would share that feeling.

We are well ahead of the 1.9% overall growth of the other G7 countries. We are optimistic that such growth will translate into G7-leading job growth, as was the case in the years leading up to the global downturn.

The world is taking notice of Canada's first rate economic performance. In fact, the business experts at the Economist Intelligence Unit are saying that Canada will be the best place to do business in the next five years.

Indeed, Canada has lots of advantages to offer foreign investors. In financial and business services, we have one of the largest and soundest financial sectors in the world. In life sciences, we host some of the most influential clinical scientists in the world and we offer one of the most generous research and development tax incentives.

In the auto sector, we are one of the world's largest exporters of automobile products. We are also home to world leaders in plastics and chemicals, digital media, aerospace, renewable energy and agri-foods.

I have more to say—

The EconomyPrivate Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please. The hon. parliamentary secretary will have four minutes remaining when the House returns to this matter.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

The House resumed from May 27, consideration of Bill C-9, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 4, 2010 and other measures, as reported (without amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

Noon

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, as members know, the NDP, for a long period of time, has been calling upon the government to turn away from its agenda of tax breaks for the big corporations. In the throne speech, in the budget and now in Bill C-9, the government had choices to make and these choices should have been to favour the needs of Canadians. I believe the government had the option to stop the reckless de-funding of the government by way of corporate tax breaks that have taken away the fiscal capacity of the government.

On two occasions, the NDP has provided motions to the House concerning the needs of seniors and in Bill C-9 we do not see a response to either one of those bills. Our motions during the last Parliament set out the original seniors charter that recognized older Canadians are not only creative and active, but they are valued members of our society. The seniors charter would have enshrined the right of every senior in Canada to income security, accessible and affordable housing, wellness through health promotion and preventive care, health care through secure and publicly accessible health care, dental care, home care, palliative care, geriatric care and, of course, pharmacare. All of those things were laid out in the charter more than two years ago, again, a road map for the government as it moved forward and made plans for the future of seniors in this country.

In June of last year we set out another road map for the retirement security of seniors. It proposed an immediate increase of $700 million to GIS to help those seniors who live below the low income cutoff. They seem like nice words, “low income cutoff”, but those are seniors who live in poverty and there is no other word for it.

We also proposed a doubling of the CPP because today in Canada 63% of working Canadians have no pension and no savings and we must prepare them for the future. Doubling CPP over the next 40 years would ensure they have dignity in their retirement years. We also proposed in the same motion a national pension insurance plan paid for by the sponsors. Our motion was adopted unanimously by the House, so we were encouraged that perhaps the government was about to respond and give real consideration to the future of our seniors.

The government could have chosen to follow the will of Parliament on these two motions but what did it do? It chose the banks and the big oil and gas companies over the seniors of this country.

Throughout the winter of 2008-09, our party looked at the situation of pensions and we held round tables. As members have heard me report to the House before, as the critic for the NDP for seniors and pensions, I travelled to 31 communities asking seniors what they needed. They all took us back to the same discussion that we have been having about retirement income security.

Through the member for Outremont, we moved a motion to have the finance committee do studies on the pensions of Canadians and we have had people from all walks of life come before us.

My point is that, as a party, we have been out there for over a year on pensions and doing the due diligence that is important to this issue. However, as I said a moment ago, with Bill C-9, the government has confirmed its support for the tax breaks for the big corporations and the banks. It has taken $15 billion a year out of the fiscal capacity of the government to do those things that Canadians want done.

While the NDP has been saying that we should stop corporate tax breaks, I find it ironic that members of the Liberal Party rise in this House and talk about stopping these corporate tax breaks when they promoted them for years. This deathbed conversion happened following their conference in Montreal in February. Literally for years the leader of the NDP, the member for Toronto—Danforth, has been calling for the cessation of these particular tax breaks.

Many people in my riding of Hamilton East--Stoney Creek have raised concerns with me regarding Bill C-9 when they hear how broad, comprehensive and how large it is and the things contained in it. They wonder what it is all about, why it is such an omnibus bill and why it is necessary.

I know it sounds strange to some people to think that the NDP actually has conversations with the good folks in the financial services sector but we certainly do and they are really concerned about the sudden proposition that GST will be retroactive on commissions paid for their financial services. They are concerned about what it will do to the costs in their particular sector.

Hamilton is well known across this country as a working town with a lot of good, strong, healthy unions and a lot of working people who have contributed to the EI fund all of their working lives and have had the good fortune of never having had to use it. These people have heard the stories of how under the Liberal administration $57 billion went into the black hole of the budget and was paid down on the debt. They were counting on the Conservative government to do something about that. What happened in Bill C-9 just confirms the government's abuse of trust that took place under the Liberal government.

There is a grave sense in Hamilton East--Stoney Creek that the Conservative government is reckless when they hear about the astounding $1 billion for the G8 and G20 conferences. Our riding is a very diverse community and people are well aware of the number of new Canadians who are in this country. Good Muslims and good Sikhs are their neighbours and they do not fear these people. Is it fear that has driven the government to take hundreds of times the cost of other countries for this, and there is no other word for it, boondoggle? Security will amount to $1 billion. I note that there has been conversation about the Auditor General taking a look at these expenses. I would suggest that they be looked at before the money is spent.

The good citizens of Hamilton East--Stoney Creek lived through the Mike Harris years of government. They are starting to look upon the federal government as a Mike Harris-style government that is prepared to sell off anything and everything. Members may recall that the Mike Harris government in Ontario sold off the ETR Highway 407. We just need to look at the value that highway could have offered the government financially during this time.

Canadians are concerned about the potential sell-off of Atomic Energy of Canada, which the Conservatives seem prepared to sell-off for a quick buck.

I want to mention something significant, which I have said in this House before. Writer, Kris Kristofferson, said in one of his songs, The Law is for Protection of the People. Bill C-9 proposes to remove environmental assessments and proposes to give the scope of the assessments to the minister. Even if we are satisfied with the minister who is in the House today, we do not know who future ministers will be so we do not know what their competency will be in this area. The government is prepared to give up Canada Post's right on outgoing letters. What will be next within Canada Post or within the CBC? What else will come up for sale?

The Canadian people trust their government to protect their interests. I would suggest to all parties in this House that this is the time to take those items out of this bill that are problematic, items such as those that deal with the environment, AECL and others, and deal with them separately.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a couple of comments with regard to the EI fund.

It is concerning, but I think the member may have misspoken. In fact, it was during the Brian Mulroney years that the Auditor General told the government that since the EI program was operating at a deficit, that deficit had to be included in the consolidated revenue fund on an annual basis so that it was reflecting the program performance of the entire government. It used to be a separate bank account, and then it was rolled in.

That means that when the Liberals took over in 1993 and eliminated the $42 billion deficit that was passed over, 10 years of surpluses started.

The point is that the change was made was at a time when there were deficits. When there were surpluses, we had EI premiums going down each and every year.

However, this year, under Bill C-9, the government in fact is eliminating the liability to employers and employees that they are entitled to, either by premium reductions or by improvement in programs.

I just thought the member would be interested in knowing a bit of the factual history.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, the factual history is that there were three majority Liberal governments with five surplus budgets that did not address the fact that the premiums that belonged to Canadians, that were paid by Canadians for the protection of Canadians, had been abused.

At the end of the day, we had a Conservative government followed by a Liberal government followed by a Conservative government that did not address this.

Prior to this change made by the previous Liberal government, 85% of people who applied for unemployment insurance received it, and received it for up to a year.

Now, there are about 29% who apply and they receive it for a variety of times, some as short as less than 26 weeks.

So there have been significant abuses of the unemployment system, or the employment system, whichever we want to call it, by successive Conservative and Liberal governments. Standing by the people of my riding who have suffered through these changes, I have no problem standing in this House and talking about the abuses of EI by both Liberals and Conservatives.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, as everyone knows, this is an 880-page omnibus bill. It weighs several pounds. There are a lot of things in this bill that go far beyond budget implementation. For example, the post office remailers issue has nothing to do with the budget implementation. As a matter of fact, the government tried to introduce this through Bill C-14 and Bill C-44 twice over the last two or three years in this House. It is a sneaky approach to take bills that they cannot get through the House, put them into a huge omnibus bill such as this, call it a budget implement act, and then threaten an election if we do not pass this bill as is.

However, what I want to ask the member about is that while the current government is reducing taxes for corporations, trying to reduce taxes over the next three years to 15%, when the CEOs of banks are making $10 million, it has brought in an airline tax. The airline tax is going to increase now to about 50%, which is going to make Canada the highest taxed jurisdiction in the world, higher than Holland, and much higher than the United States.

Would the member like to comment about those points?

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, the thing that is really interesting is that prior to this change, at 22%, we were in the midst of the G8 and G20, halfway. We are in a very reasonable position, and the government has taken away fiscal capacity because of that and is now transferring more back onto the shoulders of Canadians.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be given an opportunity to rise today in the House to speak to the budget bill.

I want to speak about the budget, but also in connection with the previous four Conservative budgets, and comment generally on the direction in which the government is taking this country. I want to align myself with the majority of Canadians who think this country is going in the wrong direction.

I want to associate myself with those Canadians out there who are of the opinion that there is a positive role for the federal government, that it has been, and it can be again, a positive influence on the lives of Canadians. It can and ought to take further action on a whole host of issues that very much affect our society. I am talking about our rate of productivity, the major demographic transition that the country is presently undergoing, the major issue facing Canadians regarding post-retirement income security, the major issue of family poverty and specifically child poverty. It is my view that we can do more to make us more egalitarian, more prosperous, and more productive, and of course, we can do a lot more than we are presently doing in facing the environment issues that the country is presently facing.

Some may say that we are talking about an either/or situation. The Conservatives say they cannot do anything about poverty, because then they might have to reduce health care, but they fail to mention that there is a direct correlation between poverty and health. They cannot do anything about the environment, because that might in some way prohibit or compromise corporate tax cuts. What they fail to mention is that there is a very close connection, a correlation, between a very healthy environment and a healthy economy.

When we look at some of the challenges facing society, such as child poverty, productivity, the pension issues, the deficit, literacy, and the environment, apart from a few things such as the excellence in research project that was announced a couple of weeks ago, which is excellent, there is very little in the budget that would give any Canadian any optimism for the future.

What are the issues that we have to talk about as a society? We have to start here and talk about the major demographic change that is under way in Canada right now but will get worse and worse every day, every month and every year for at least the next 20 years.

Many of us in the House are part of that cohort, that generation referred to as the baby boomer generation, generally between the ages of 45 and 65, who will begin to retire in large numbers very shortly. It will actually reach the rate of approximately 1,200 people per day. Because of this, we will develop a situation where we will have people without jobs, but more importantly, or worse, more significantly, we will have jobs without people.

Much has been written about the baby boomers, but it is my premise that no generation in the history of mankind cared less about the generations that followed than the baby boomer generation. It does pain me somewhat to say that, because I am very much part of that generation.

We as a society have a fundamental obligation to leave the world a better place than we found it. That is from the view of the country's finances, and we have had much discussion here in the House about the very large, significant and growing deficits that this country is incurring, and from the point of view that every child have an equal opportunity. That starts at early childhood development and continues through education. It continues in post-secondary education, but it does not end there. It continues with lifelong learning.

From the point of view of poverty, literacy, skills-training issues, and most importantly, from the point of view of the horrendously important challenges facing Canada, the best country in the world, on the issue of climate change and other environmental issues. This fact becomes painfully obvious when we read the budget and the previous budgets of the government.

From a financial point of view, the government inherited a $13-billion surplus. It spent like a drunken sailor. There were tax decreases, some wise and some very foolish. As a result, this year and next year, we are left with the largest deficit in the history of this country.

Comparing the amount of the deficit, although large, to other countries, other countries' deficits are larger, but that does not reflect the fact that Canada is not a unitary government. If we add the federal deficit and all the deficits being incurred by the provincial governments, it is horrendous. The question that has to be asked every minute of each day is who is going to pay it back. The answer to that question is our children and generations to come.

Another issue that is not talked about at all in the House is our lagging productivity rate. We are behind the United States and have been for some years. Each and every year we are falling further and further behind. There are a number of reasons for this that are not being addressed by the government. We have to become more competitive.

Some of the root causes are our education system, lack of support for post-secondary education, lack of support for training and education, lack of research and development and innovation, but mainly the lack of innovation, and we see in our business sector some of the infrastructure deficits that were talked about last weekend by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, removing some of the disincentives to work, and of course, one of the most important issues is literacy. We do not hear those issues being talked about in the House.

These are very important issues that affect our productivity, which in turn affects our prosperity, which again affects the future financial health of each and every Canadian. One specific issue regarding productivity I want to mention is the Atlantic gateway project of 2007. It was announced that there would be $2.1 billion, to the government's great credit, over the next five or six years to improve main highways, ports and border crossings throughout all provinces in Atlantic Canada. It would make the region more competitive and it was very much a step in the right direction. The government did this with great fanfare. There were many press releases and press conferences; whatever one can name, the government did.

Specifically, there was $137 million allocated for 2007-08, $221 million for 2008-09, $283 million for 2009-10, and $335 million for 2010-11. Of the 2007-08 money that was actually appropriated, $137 million was untouched; and in the next three years, there was never any mention whatsoever of the $221 million, $283 million and $335 million. In other words, it died on the vine. We have no idea where that project is now. We have no idea where the initiative stands. This is very disappointing to me, as a member of Parliament who comes from Atlantic Canada.

I come back to the issue of child poverty. There is a correlation between child poverty and health, child poverty and education, child poverty and productivity, and child poverty and future interactions with the criminal law system. However, again, that issue will never be mentioned by the government.

Presently, 40% of Canadians do not have the literacy or numeracy skills to compete in today's knowledge economy. If they lose their job, it is with great difficulty that they find another one. Again, that is an issue that we will not hear mentioned in the House.

I would like to spend my last minute talking about the environment. I pulled out the platform of the 2006 government. The promise was that a Conservative government would:

Address the issue of greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), with a made-in-Canada plan, emphasizing new technologies, developed in concert with the provinces and in coordination with other major industrial countries.

There is no greater example of intergenerational inequity than that. The government has done absolutely nothing. It replaced that with the “Turning the Corner” regulation. It has done absolutely nothing. Now it is saying that it will be do whatever the United States does, which is basically transferring our sovereignty to our southern neighbour.

In closing, I made some of those points that I think are very important. These are issues that simply should not be left to future generations. Each of these issues should not have been included in this budget.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to point out that after this budgetary process, Canada will have the highest air security fee taxes in the world.

Every Canadian air passenger in this country will be paying the highest taxes in the world. The Americans are paying in the neighbourhood of a $5 fee, and Canadians will be paying triple or quadruple that. When the Canadian government talks about being competitive with its greatest trading partner, the United States, how can this be an issue of trying to be competitive with the United States when it has now raised our taxes to be the highest in the world?

At a time when the government claims it is reducing taxes for corporations, does the member see some inconsistencies in the government's approach to taxation?

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I certainly do see many inconsistencies in the government's approach to taxation. I believe I talked about them during my speech.

On the air traffic security charge, it is my position, and I have studied this issue extensively going back to when the $14 charge was initially implemented, that it ought to be a user fee based upon what the actual costs are. Those costs should be very transparent and should be shown to Canadians.

In actual fact, when it came in at $14 I knew it was not $14. I was actually the only MP who blew the whistle on this. I said, “No, this is wrong”. Successive governments admitted that they were wrong with the $14, and it was reduced to something like $6 or $7 per person.

It has come up briefly since then, but again it should be a transparent, user fee based on exactly what the costs are.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague for his excellent speech.

One of the most sensitive indicators of the health of a population is in childhood health. In our country, unfortunately, over the last three to four years or so we have seen something terrible happen. Our newborn mortality rate has actually increased significantly.

Canada has moved from being sixth in the world, in terms of our newborn mortality rate, and dropped to 22nd in the world. This is a very sensitive indicator of not only the health of our population but also the efficacy of our health care system.

I would like to ask my colleague, does he not think that the current Conservative government has actually been asleep at the switch on one of the most important issues affecting Canadians, and that is the issue of the health care system that we have today and also the health of our population?

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am aware of those statistics. I am not going to stand here in the House and pretend I know the complete answer. They are concerning and disappointing, but not knowing the exact causes, I am not going to speak specifically to that.

On the whole issue of health care, this is an issue that deserves a much overdue very public debate as to where we are going on the funding of health care in Canada. The Toronto-Dominion Bank issued what I consider to be an excellent report. I urge everyone to read it. The report was just issued on Friday, setting forth some of the realities of health care funding across Canada. There are 10 points and I agree with perhaps 9 of the 10.

I think this is something that has to be read by members and all Canadians. There has to be a very public and open debate as to the whole funding of our health care system. The report states that if we do not do anything, health care costs will consume 80% of all government funding. In other words, we are going to have to close down universities, schools, roads, ports, and airports to pay for our health care system, which I do not think would be very good for Canadians.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-9, the budget implementation bill.

This bill is not palatable because it seeks to introduce in an extraordinary way a number of measures that the government wishes to avoid submitting for debate in the House of Commons. Look at the number of measures included in Bill C-9. It touches on 42 different budget items. These measures truly seek to make significant changes in a large number of areas and should be debated.

The bill touches on relations with other countries, tax issues, relations with various organizations, seniors' issues, and so forth. It touches on everything, and in a way that I would say is undemocratic. This is probably the most undemocratic bill I have ever seen in the House, because it seeks to introduce measures that are unacceptable to the public and the groups targeted. I will focus on one of those groups: people who have the misfortune of losing their jobs.

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12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

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12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

I do not know whether it is as distracting to you, Mr. Speaker, but I am bothered by people talking in the House.

I will use the example of employment insurance. Since I arrived in the House six years ago, the name of the employment insurance fund has changed four times. When the name is changed so many times, it is because, like anyone who wants to misuse and take funds that do not belong to them, the government is trying to use subterfuge to justify taking this money. Over the last 14 years, a surplus of more than $57 billion has accumulated and been misappropriated from the employment insurance fund. Only employees and employers contribute to this fund, and the surplus that accumulated was misappropriated through cuts to employment insurance benefits. The precise amount taken was $57,170,000,356.

When the Conservative budget was passed in 2008, just two years ago, the name of the employment insurance fund was changed and the Employment Insurance Financing Board was created. That was the third time the name has been changed in order to give this power to the administrators and to be able to continue quietly dipping into the EI fund, to create a separate fund, we were told. A separate fund was not created and it continued accumulating surpluses to be used for other purposes. In this year's budget—and as Bill C-9 is now proposing—this separate fund will henceforth be called the employment insurance account and it will be a separate management account, we are told.

This is when we, as parliamentarians, must intervene. We cannot condone such a thing because, for one thing, that money is not the government's to use for anything other than EI benefits.

For another thing, this constitutes an economic crime that affects the people who need this money, which belongs to them, that is, workers and their employers.

This time, we would have expected the government to present measures to restore the employment insurance system. Not only did it fail to do that, but it is creating the new EI fund. It is thus making sure that it will continue accumulating surpluses so that between 2012 and 2015, another $19 billion will be plundered and used for other purposes.

How could this money be used? Obviously, it could be used to make sure that people who lose their jobs can receive benefits. Some 56% of people who lose their jobs cannot receive employment insurance benefits. The government has made the eligibility requirements so strict that most unemployed workers do not qualify.

We have introduced Bill C-308, standing in my name, which if passed would mean that people applying for employment insurance are presumed to be acting in good faith. Right now the government requires those applying for EI to prove their good faith, which is absolutely reprehensible. When a person loses their job it is an undeniable fact. We also know whether the person has accumulated enough hours. Nevertheless, all sorts of measures are used to prevent people from getting employment insurance.

We want the qualifying period to be 360 hours for everyone and the rate of weekly benefits to be increased to 60% from the current 55%, for an improvement of 5%. It is not a lot, but for people who are receiving very little, it is something.

The measure raising the number of weeks of benefits to 50 should be made permanent. Just a little over a year ago, the government set the number of weeks of benefits at 50 weeks instead of 45, but that measure comes to an end in the fall. It will have to become permanent.

The most appropriate measure would be to have a comprehensive plan to return the money removed. The $57 billion that was taken from the employment insurance fund should be put back. With that money and almost no increase in contributions we could improve employment insurance benefits for workers who have the misfortune of losing their job.

Not only is the government not planning to return the money it removed, but it is planning to continue misappropriating money from the fund. I am calling on my colleagues, whom I believe to be sincere when they make the same arguments we do, the opposition colleagues in particular, to be in the House, when the time comes to vote on Bill C-9, and put their money where their mouth is by voting against the bill.

Of course, there is one party that says we need not go to an election over this. But when should we go to an election? When measures do not help people then we should go to an election in order to have a debate over what is good for the people. They should quit hiding their heads in the sand.

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12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his comments on the employment insurance situation, which he has been a champion of in this place for many years.

I believe the new employment insurance agency called for seed money of some $2 billion. I understand, though, those funds will not be available for the payment of benefits. They are basically the administration capitalization.

With our current situation, the record levels of unemployment, the benefits being paid out now vastly exceed the premiums being collected. Therefore, in recent months we have been operating at a deficit. The separate fund has been operating at a deficit because it is supposed to be stand-alone.

I spoke with the Auditor General and she assured me that at the end of the next fiscal year, if it continues to be in deficit, that would be included in the consolidated recent fund and the government would have to transfer moneys out of the treasury into the separate fund to cover the funding of benefits.

Is the member aware of that?

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Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Liberal member for his question, which is a very relevant one.

He is right. The fund is currently operating at a deficit, but that is only for a short period of time. By early 2012, things should sort themselves out. Some temporary measures have been put in place and are currently covered by the fund, without an increase in premiums. These measures are expected to be dropped next fall, which means that the current deficit will quickly turn into a surplus. According to the minister's books, between 2012 and 2015, the fund will generate a $19 billion surplus. That will cover the $2 billion deficit, but there will still be a net surplus of over $17 billion by 2015.

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12:45 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member's speech. He has been a tireless advocate for employment insurance.

Could he comment on the fact that over this last recession we saw a significant number of workers who did not qualify for employment insurance?

Over the last 15 years, that the deficit has been managed by siphoning off the employment insurance funds. I know the member commented on that specifically in his speech.

However, despite the rhetoric about the numbers of job that have been created, a lot of those jobs are part time, seasonal, contract work and many of those workers are not eligible for employment insurance.

What would the member like to see changed to ensure those workers are included in the employment insurance system?

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, the NDP member is quite right to raise that question. Earlier, I mentioned the people who are not eligible for employment insurance. Of all these people who contribute to employment insurance, only 46% can hope to be eligible. Of that 46%, only 33% of women and 17% of young people will be eligible for benefits. So there is discrimination against people who have atypical, temporary, seasonable or part time jobs.

We are proposing that we make people who have accumulated 360 hours of employment eligible for EI. That way, people who have worked fewer hours will also qualify. I think that is the best measure, under the circumstances.

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12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this issue. It goes to the heart of the lives of Canadians from coast to coast. Right now we are dealing with the largest deficit we have seen in three decades. Our debt is going up. When the government came into power, it was lucky enough to have a balanced approach between debt reduction, spending and also tax reductions. That was the one-third, one-third, one-third policy when we were in government.

It left the current government in good stead. It gave it a surplus. It also gave it a very solid banking system. The Liberal government of the day refused to adopt a number of initiatives that would have changed banking in Canada and would have enabled us to be much more susceptible to the economic viruses that have destroyed so many banks, banking systems and economies across the globe. However, that did not happen, and we are thankful for it.

The government has to listen. Instead of adopting the ideology that was so destructive south of the border in the time of President Bush and President Reagan, it really has to look at what has worked for Canadians. It needs to ensure we follow a path that is good for our citizens and not adopt an ideological approach that has been proven to be very destructive.

The tax reductions and the absence of spending control south of the border has been incredibly destructive to the U.S. economy, to the degree that I am extremely worried about what will happen there. When the Americans catch a cold, we get pneumonia. Despite the good management and monitoring of our fiscal systems in Canada, we have a very high risk of running into serious problems because of what will happen in the states.

I think all of us in the House would plead with the government and strongly recommend that it not follow the course of action that we saw during the time of those two presidents. It has proven to be very destructive on so many levels. Most important, it hurts the citizens who we serve.

We also have other international storm clouds afoot, including increasing competition, particularly from China and India. China now has foreign reserves in excess of $1 trillion. This is a very powerful lever that the Chinese have on us. In fact, the Chinese are using their foreign and economic policies to secure major sectors of the world that have natural resources, particularly South America, Southeast Asia and Africa. Africa contains more than half of the world's natural resources.

The Conservative government has been missing in action in many of these areas. It has taken a much more narrow view in its foreign policy. This is a much larger game. To look at things in a very parochial fashion takes Canada out of the playing field and it will hurt our citizens. In this globalized world, unless we use all the tools we have, from foreign policy to trade to defence to economics and aid, we will not be in the game.

Not being in the global game will mean that our economy, our workers and our businesses will be at a disadvantage. Therefore, I ask the government to think of using all of those tools in how we enable our country to have a very prominent future. We have ensure that our citizens will have as good a future, if not a better future, than what we have had. One of the great challenges the government has is how to enable that to happen.

Let us look at some of those solutions. I know the leader of my party has been very strong, and wisely so, on investing in education. Although this is a provincial responsibility, nothing prevents the government from using its convening powers to work with the provinces to serve our citizens. The ability of our citizens to acquire the skills they need to garner a well-paying job is crucial for not only their economic future but also for their health.

I strongly recommend that the government work with a coalition of provinces that are willing to look at how we deal with people having access to skills training so it is not a financial burden to them. The movement of people across provincial boundaries is crucial. The recognition of skill sets and removing those boundaries for Canadians to move across provinces is essential. If we remove the barriers to trade and mobility, we will have a much more nimble and successful economy.

Investing in infrastructure and in research and development is crucial, not only in people and infrastructure but also operating costs. Researchers cannot do their job unless they have the tools to pay the operating costs for their research.

I also encourage the government to work with groups like the MaRS Centre in the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia and other universities to operationalize the our research. The phenomenal research taking place in Canada is exciting. One of the major challenges is to take those discoveries from bench to bedside, to take the research we know and operationalize it.

I attended the pediatric academic sciences conference in Vancouver three weeks ago, which is the largest collection of pediatric scientists in the world, 6,000 were there. When I listened to the great research that had been done, it struck me that there were things we know could save the lives a lot of people. We have all this knowledge, but that knowledge is not getting to the bedside. This was one of the laments that many of the researchers had.

I suggest there is a great opportunity for Canada to be a leader in translational research, and that is getting the research, getting it to bedside, getting what we know and getting it operational on the ground. This is the great challenge and a great opportunity in the future.

Another thing I suggest is we know our economic situation will never be solid unless we can get our health care spending under control. Health care costs are growing at 6.5% per year, revenues at 2.5% to 3% on average in good years. That means we have a delta, a separation between demand for health care and supply resources, so much so that in the next 20 years any province will have 80% of its entire budget consumed by health care. Right now in many provinces it is approaching 50%, which means there is less and less space for education, infrastructure, welfare and other social programs.

The provinces are being squeezed by this huge creature called the health care system, which is gobbling up more and more of their resources. We cannot get away from it. This is the single greatest challenge any government will have. As President Obama's budget officer has said, unless they get their health care costs under control in the U.S., nothing else will make any difference.

In my personal view, the only way to do that is to modernize the Canada Health Act to allow provinces to explore different options. I strongly recommend that the government look at what happened in Europe, where 17 of the top 20 health care systems are. Why do we not look at those mixed systems, the way they fund health care systems in terms of paying for results, for patient services, as opposed to block funding, and better use of IT technologies. There are a lot of things we can do, but, again, the government needs to use its convening powers to work with the provinces to make this happen.

On the prevention side of health care, the average child in Canada sits and watches television or a computer screen for 40 hours a week. That is staggering. As a result, this generation of children will be the first generation in history to have a shorter lifespan than their parents, which means we will have a much higher incidence of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems. This will put a huge pressure on our health care system. Therefore, we need to encourage children to be active, to get out and play, by having them turn off the television sets and video games one night a week. Getting them out is crucially important to enable children to have a better life.

I could talk about pension renewal and reform. The average age when pensions came in was 58. Now the average age is 80 for men and 82 for women in our country. Therefore, I encourage the government to look at pension renewal and reform and allow people to work beyond age 65. There are lots of things we can do with that.

These issues are too important to lie fallow. All of us in the House feel too many issues are being dealt with that are not germane and not important to the average person on the street. We have to tackle these issues of the economy, social programs and have a balanced, effective science-based approach to deal with these challenges. If we do not, people will get hurt and when that happens, we have violated our responsibility to our public.

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12:55 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, in 2008 the hon. member's party came out clearly in favour of the government's $50 billion of corporate tax cuts. Liberals kept that position in 2009 when only the New Democrats stood in the House and said that massive corporate tax cuts in this fiscal economic climate would be irresponsible. I noticed that recently the Liberal Party has seen the light and is now adopting the New Democrat position. I also note that members of his party voted for the last budgets and I anticipate his party will likely vote for the budget this time as well.

Could the hon. member tell Canadians why they should have any faith in the Liberal Party when it campaigned for corporate tax cuts and voted for budgets, yet claims it does not support the principles underlined in those budgets?

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12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, the interesting thing is that the hon. member forgot about the political realities in Canada today. He neglected to mention them.

I do not know if the member has the luxury of voting against the government, but the issue of whether or not there will be an election really falls on the Liberal Party. I would ask the gentleman whether or not he thinks the Canadian public would have liked another election only a few months after we had had an election. The Canadian public said very clearly to us that it did not want an election. The member knows full well that if we had defeated that budget, there would have been an election.

The Liberal Party wants to work with the government, indeed with all parties, with an effective, balanced approach in order to have a strong economy and stable social programs. In fact my seatmate, who happens to be our party's finance critic, has offered many intelligent and constructive solutions to the government, as have many members of my caucus.

I hope the government listens because if it does not, our country is going to get hurt. We will continue to try to work with the government for the betterment of our country.

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12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member knows that the current government inherited about a $13 billion surplus when it took office back in 2006 and it has squandered that. Now we have probably the largest deficit that Canada has ever had. It does not bode well for some of the matters the member rose, such as skills training and all the things related to doing better in the future.

The member has also been a strong advocate for health initiatives. We have an aging society and the costs with respect to our health care system are going to start gobbling up enormous amounts of the government budget. It does not seem to me that the government has even acknowledged these challenges that are hurtling toward us.

I wonder if the member has some thoughts about what responsible governments would do in these times.

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1 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is true that one of the untold stories of our times is that the current government was given a $13 billion surplus. When times were good, it actually had the largest spending increase that we had seen in many decades and it burned through that surplus rather than using it more responsibly. That was highly irresponsible. The Prime Minister took Canada to the brink, and then when we faced this economic downturn, it thrust Canada off the cliff. Today we are sustaining this $56 billion deficit, which would have been much less if the government had actually done the responsible thing when times were good and lived within its means. This is not well known in the public but it is the truth.

Although the management of health care is a provincial jurisdiction, unless the government is willing to tackle the issue of health care and health care expenditures, then no matter what it or a province does, the provinces are going to be in a completely unsustainable situation. Patients will suffer and provinces will delist or ration care because they will not be able to meet their budgets.

I remember when I worked in emergency, I had to treat patients in the hallway in the emergency department, which I thought was completely disrespectful to them. But what can I do as the physician when all of the beds are completely filled in the emergency department? I have to treat people in the hallway. That is the cold reality of what doctors and nurses are being faced with across our country today.

Commission of Inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber DealingsRoutine Proceedings

1 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I am tabling, in both official languages, the report of the Commission of Inquiry into Certain Allegations Respecting Business and Financial Dealings Between Karlheinz Schreiber and the Right Hon. Brian Mulroney.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-9, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 4, 2010 and other measures, as reported (without amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

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1 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened very intently to the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca as he referenced the economic prowess of his seatmate, the member for Markham—Unionville. No doubt the Liberal Party believes in his economic prowess. I am sure at one point in time that party was absolutely in lockstep with that member's economic prowess when he said we should deregulate the banks. Of course, if the Liberal Party had followed through on what that hon. member wanted to do, we would have been in the same situation as in the U.S. with Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs and all the rest of them that went down the great proverbial, and I will refrain from using the word. Needless to say, if that is their economic policy, then clearly the Liberals are still in lockstep with the government.

It is not about the luxury of opposing. It is about working for the people of this country in a democratic fashion. If we believe the government is headed in the wrong direction, then we oppose it. It is not about whether we will lose seats or our party will not be the government in the next election; it is about fundamentally understanding what the government is doing and if we should oppose it, then we do so.

That is what we have done and we suffer the slings and arrows of the government when it says we never vote for any of its budgets, and that is right. We do not vote for its budgets because we fundamentally disagree with its budgets, especially this one. This compendium of some 880 pages contains not only budget items, which of course it would because it is a budget bill, but it also contains numerous other pieces of legislation that should be before us individually in one form or another, especially when we are talking about things like the environment.

There was a national energy program that a previous government brought in which those in the west absolutely abhorred. I lived there at the time, as I went to the University of Alberta, and I understood why they did. But now the government is saying we will do it through the National Energy Board, or the NEB, so just change the last word and all will be well.

We went from something that was abhorred to something that we are supposed to love because we are going to include regulations that this body and this House has built up over time based on the expertise of people who have said that this is what is needed to protect the environment for everyone who lives on this planet, not just those of us who live in this country. We now have a group of folks who say that it is okay to drill another hole in the ground similar to the one in the Gulf of Mexico, but oops, it has sprung a leak and they wonder how they will plug it. They have tried golf balls, shredded tires, mud and cement. Now they are just going to take the cap off the top of it and try something else, but it will leak 20% more.

Is that what we want from the NEB? I would hope not. However, the government, by including it in this bill, has not allowed us to debate critical measures such as that so that we can engage Canadians about what really affects them beyond the budget. This really is not the budget.

In my previous life as a municipal councillor, I was the chair of corporate services and if I decided to put the planning act inside my budget, my constituents and the citizens of the municipality would have been justifiably outraged. Why would I including planning documents in a budget? It does not directly affect their taxes.

The measures the government has included in this bill that are outside of the budget do not directly affect the government's expenditure of moneys, per se. There is one item that involves money, and I will get to it because it is money that parties that are in government actually owe Canadians.

No thought should be spared and no stone should be left unturned when it comes to ensuring that the environment is safe and that we are doing all that we can to protect the environment. We should not simply give things away and allow folks to run with it in an unregulated fashion. That is what I fear will be the case when the NEB takes it over.

However, when we talk about money, one piece the government did put in the bill talks about putting the EI fund into the budget. It would have been nicer if it talked about putting back the money which the previous government and the current government pillaged, to the tune of $57 billion, from the fund. The government should be talking about giving it back to its rightful owners, the workers and their employers. They are the ones who paid it and they are the ones who are meant to use it when needed, but last year when the recession occurred, we found that a good chunk of it was already gone. It had been spent by the previous Liberal government, and the remainder had been spent by the Conservative government. When is either one of them going to give back the $57 billion?

We see in the budget that an account is going to be set up, but no one is going to get any money per se. The money that was taken away will not be given back.

Things could have been done for workers to get through last year and this year. The recession is not over for workers. Those who are unemployed are still unemployed for the most part. There is a great many unemployed workers in this land, especially in my riding where the unemployment rate is still the second highest in this country. The government will say that last month it created x number of jobs, yet we see the unemployment rate has moved only marginally.

The government never speaks to how many people fell off the system. The unemployment rate only counts those who are in the EI system. It does not count those outside the system. The government's own statistics group says it is too hard to count that group.

The U.S. makes that count. If we extrapolate the numbers in the U.S. based on what we do here especially when it suits the government's purpose, we can expect that the unemployment rate, which is 8% plus across the country, will increase another 3%. That becomes the true unemployment rate because we are including people who have either fallen off or have never gotten on the system in the first place. As we saw last year, a great many folks did not qualify for EI because the rules were changed.

It started with the Conservative government under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and I see that he is the subject of a report that was tabled today. It continued under the Chrétien Liberals who changed the system as well. Now we are at a point in the House, as I have witnessed over the last 18 months, where there is a hodgepodge of fixes.

We added on a piece by giving a 52-week extension to the members of the armed forces when it comes to parental leave. It is a good piece, but what happened to the RCMP and other police officers who went to Haiti? Oops, we forgot about those folks. It is a good private member's bill that is well worth supporting, but we forgot about another group.

That is what happens when changes are made to big legislation with band-aids. We do not get it right. We miss things. One of the biggest things that is missing in all of this is the $57 billion that is owed to the workers of this country and their employers, who have paid it. Not only are they owed money, but now the government has decided that at the end of this year it will remove the freeze on EI premiums, and will continue to do it. By the government's own calculations in the budget, it will charge Canadian workers and their employers $19 billion beyond what it needs to pay out.

I will give the Conservatives credit. They learned really well from the previous Liberal government. If it adds additional moneys to the EI premiums that have been collected, it could pay down the deficit. That is what the previous government did. The current government has learned the lesson and it is going to do the same thing. It is going to take a third of the $60 billion deficit from workers who have finally found jobs and are getting back on their feet. The government is about to take it off their paycheques. It may even be taking it off the paycheques of folks who were denied employment insurance last year. Talk about rubbing salt in the wounds of the unemployed.

Workers were denied EI last year because the government refused to amend EI so that people could get into the system who deserved to be there because they had paid into it. The government decided it would not change the system and it is about to take money from folks for the next year and the year after that beyond what is needed to run the system in order to pay down a deficit that the government created through its mismanagement. At the end of the day, workers who perhaps did not have the opportunity to collect EI are going to end up paying again.

It is reprehensible that the government will not fix the system. The government has heard time after time over the last 16 to 18 months from New Democrats at this end of the House in private members' bills on how to fix the system. We were imploring the government to fix the entire system, not just made hodgepodge changes to it. The first thing the government ought to do is write a cheque for $57 billion and put it into the employment insurance system.

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1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is quite right that there have been a large number of private members' initiatives. We know they require royal recommendations and we also know that the Conservative government would certainly not grant them. This reflects the mood of the House, which is extremely important, because the mood of the House reflects the mood of the people.

We have not had a recession since 1993, and no one predicted that, even when the U.S. went into recession. Under the rules of the game, the EI fund was to withhold two years of surplus to pay for a recession and the balance was to be returned by reduced premiums or improved programs, and I think everybody understands that. The real key now is that the obligation to do that will be eliminated by Bill C-9 because that liability will be summarily taken away. The cash will continue to flow whether there is a surplus or a deficit in EI operations, but that liability will be wiped off the books.

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1:10 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right. There is a spirit for a change in the system, especially among opposition parties in the House.

As I said today and as I have said in the past, the system is broken. When we try to fix one aspect of the system, we end up inevitably not fixing the system. There were some premium reductions, but $57 billion was in the EI account and it was spent. If we look at the actual new programs that were introduced, some that were called for but were never done, then we did not see either or. We did not see huge premium holidays. We did not see brand new programs that would really mean something. If we had, we would not still be stuck with 15 to 18 weeks of sick benefits.

If somebody has a catastrophic illness and does not have a short-term disability plan through their employer, the only place they can get sick benefits is through the EI system. What do they get? They get less than four months, but they may be sick for 12 months. What do they do for the other eight? They end up on welfare.

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1:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the member a question about the air security charges that all air passengers will have to pay. People are asking why these charges are so high compared to other countries. They want to know why the revenue collected far exceeds the amount spent on security and the justification for a 50% increase in this tax.

Canada was the second highest country in the world next to the Netherlands, and after the increase in February, we are now the highest in the world. The international fee alone has been increased 52% from $17 to $25.91, but in the United States that international security fee is only $5. That puts our airfares out of line with those in the United States. How are we supposed to be competitive with the American airline industry when the government is single-handedly making us uncompetitive?

I wonder if the member has any comments on that.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Elmwood—Transcona is absolutely correct about the additional fees. It is one thing to pay the true cost but another thing altogether to pay above and beyond. The government quite clearly has shown that it is over-charging when it comes to security fees.

I congratulate my seatmate, the member for Elmwood—Transcona, for talking about a passengers' bill of rights. When it comes time to protect passengers, where is the government then? The government votes against it.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

An hon. member

Hiding.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

The government is hiding from the consumer.

The government is quite happy to take money out of the pockets of consumers beyond what is needed to keep them safe, but to give them a bill of rights that would give them some sort of compensation for sitting in a plane on a tarmac for an extended period of time, the answer to that is no.

It seems to me that if we want passengers on airlines to be safe, then we should be able to pay the cost of that and no more than the cost of that. Consumers believe that is fair. To overcharge them to pay down a deficit created by the government is totally unfair and passengers do not want to put up with that.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-9. It is a budget implementation bill and it is a very extensive bill.

It has some interesting aspects to it that have created even more problems than simply the fact that the Conservatives are projecting, in the budget, in excess of a $50 billion surplus.

Bill C-9 is an omnibus bill. Canadians should know that an omnibus bill is one which does many things all in the same package. Normally we would see those in terms of justice legislation, where there are three or four proposed changes to the Criminal Code. They are all changes that have to do with one existing piece of legislation, but relate to different aspects of it.

In this particular case, we have an omnibus bill that does not deal with one other act of Parliament. It in fact deals with a number of acts. It is quite unusual. Theoretically, a government, after winning an election, could walk in here, table a budget which not only laid out the budgetary measures for the session, but it could also put into that budget implementation bill every other promise it had made in an election whether it related to the budget or not.

That is exactly what has happened here. We have a case now where inside the budget implementation bill, Bill C-9, and there is a big debate among parliamentarians and Canadians at large who follow this, there are initiatives which were never mentioned in the budget speech, were not in the budget itself, and which are substantive changes to existing legislation.

They include the privatization of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, AECL. My home backs onto their offices in the Sheridan research centre. A lot of my constituents are engineers and work there. This is causing great grief.

When I went to the briefing on Bill C-9 with the ministerial staff and had an opportunity to ask some questions about this, they were not very many answers, just “We are doing this, this and this”. The policy rationale was never there.

People are asking why we want to privatize AECL and get into public-private arrangements? They want to know if it is going to do something to the integrity of the R and D of AECL, whatever remains. They want to know what it is going to do to the whole model. This problem of AECL has been with us for a long time. This decision of the government to go forward with these discussions has caused great difficulty.

If we had a bill that came forward that called for the privatization of certain aspects and parts of a division of AECL, there would have been substantial debates in this House. There would have been substantial expert witnesses called to comment on the proposal in that bill. There would have been rigorous due diligence done with regard to virtually every aspect of the bill.

When we take a subject matter like that and put it into a budget implementation bill, it is that one big, large omnibus budget implementation bill that is being debated in the House, and reviewed and studied in committee.

It goes to the finance committee. I know the members on the committee. They are excellent colleagues. However, I do not think that they have the expertise in the area of atomic energy. I do not know how they could possibly discuss it. In fact, the people who were coming before committee to talk about it only had a couple of hours to make their case.

If it were a stand-alone bill, it would have had probably a dozen hours or so at second reading. It would have had substantive committee witnesses. It would have had third reading. It would have gone to the Senate. The rigour with which we handle legislation here is very significant, but that has been denied to that aspect.

That is not the only one. There are significant changes to the Environmental Protection Act. There are significant changes which would say that we will have a situation where we can waive the requirement for environmental assessments on major projects if there are certain circumstances in place, like time, where we have to have something done quickly. I remember asking questions of one of the hon. members about putting economic priorities ahead of environmental priorities, and the member quite correctly said we have to look at both. Good environmental policy is good economic policy. The reverse is also true.

We have a significant challenge before us in terms of greenhouse gases, climate change, and preparing ourselves to do our share to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our country, but when we start playing around with the Environmental Assessment Act, all of a sudden that seems to fly in the face of social and public responsibility. Canadians have already very clearly said how they feel about us doing our share, and after the government embarrassed Canadians at Copenhagen, it is no wonder they are concerned about things like this.

Members have also mentioned the airline tax. The EI fund also, when I was at the briefing with the officials, was just glossed over. I asked the question of the officials there about how it would operate. I did ascertain that there was to be some $2 billion put in as seed money for the administrative part, but that this new separate agency was to be responsible for the operations of employment insurance in Canada. All of the premiums collected from today's workers would go into the fund, and all of the benefits would come out.

Here we are in severe economic difficulty with record unemployment, and it will even rise. It will rise even greater than it is today. We have been operating at a deficit. There has been a deficit there. When I spoke to the Auditor General last, she assured me that the operations of this stand-alone agency will be accounted for in the determination of surplus or deficit of the Government of Canada in terms of its operations of the program, notwithstanding that it is a separate bank account again out there.

I think what annoys all of the opposition parties is the notional surplus, the $57 billion of premiums that were collected in excess of benefits required to be paid out, which were built up over a dozen years of surpluses because Canada's economy was booming, and the lowest unemployment in our history had been achieved. That $57 billion represents a liability to Canadians. It represents a matter of either return the premiums to those who paid them or improve programs that would then be affordable.

The government did neither of them, despite all of the interventions and all of the initiatives of members of Parliament. The Conservatives have summarily said it will disappear. It is basically another indication that the government has refused to be open, transparent, and accountable to Canadians on yet another area of significant public interest.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Mississauga South touched on a number of areas in Bill C-9 where the government is improperly bringing initiatives through the door of this omnibus bill.

I want to go back to the area of security charges. We know that in the United States the international air security charge is $5. In Canada, the international air security charge ranges as high as $25. That is a huge variation. I think Canadians could understand that if the tax money were being used for safety issues it may be justified. However, we know that the revenues collected far exceed the money spent on security.

What is the government using the money for and why did it increase this tax 50%? That is a huge increase at a time when the government says that it is reducing taxes on Canadians. It is doing the opposite.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has pointed out another example of where the government has not satisfactorily explained to Canadians the basis for its policy decisions. We see this time and time again.

I think Canadians want some assurances that when we are in difficult economic times the government is taking prudent steps to address the challenges that face us. However, it is taxing through the back door with the proposed increases in EI premiums. Now it will have to increase premiums to pay for the deficits that it is accumulating currently, money that it collected once before in the $57 billion.

All of a sudden it is going in circles. It is obfuscation on behalf of the government. It is quite unfortunate, particularly at a time when we have an aging society with so many demands on our health care and social services systems.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague on his speech and especially the spirit of his speech about how much is contained within this bill that it is almost like so much is being brought in under the cover of night. This stealth way of doing it is essentially irresponsible for any legislature to turn its back on this.

I would like to ask the member a question about some of the issues. He mentioned EI and talked about many other issues, but Canada Post will also be a major issue with remailers.

I commend the member for the comments he made that these bills standing alone would give it a fulsome debate in the House. Whether it is a minority or not, it does not matter. What matters is that each would receive a full hearing by all members of the House duly elected by their constituents.

In this particular situation, I will give one prime example that I feel is very important and that is the issue of telecoms. The bill would amend the Telecommunications Act to allow foreign satellite carriers to be considered a common carrier. That is an amazing policy shift that is contained within Bill C-9. It should be a stand alone bill.

I wonder if my hon. colleague has comments about that particular issue and others that he may have missed.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right. He is very active in the House and follows the legislation. He knows how rigorous the process is when we deal with any of the varied items in this budget implementation bill, whether it be the remailers, the telecoms, AECL or the EI fund.

Any one of those issues would have had dozens of hours of debate and expert witnesses to ensure that we did our due diligence, so that when we have to vote on bills we do it from knowledge rather than from ignorance. The government has shown contempt for Parliament by not allowing parliamentarians to exercise due diligence.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand and debate this particular set of amendments to Bill C-9, the budget bill proposed by the Government of Canada. Quite clearly, we have heard the debate about the nature of this bill being the large omnibus type that the government has favoured in order to put forward very radical changes to Canadian society without the proper input of the parliamentary process, the committees and all of the things that could make any of these things more justifiable, if they are justifiable, in the minds of Canadians.

That is exactly what is going on here today. We are trying to achieve some of the things that were set out here in Parliament to accomplish. As our leader of the New Democratic Party has stated in the challenge he has put down to the other opposition parties, this is not likely the time that the government will call the tune and go to a potential election over these issues.

This is a good time to stand up for Canadians to try to make Parliament work, just as we have tried to make Parliament work with the Afghan detainee issue and a number of those types of issues that focused on how the process should be accomplished and how we should work within the House.

Here we are with another one of those issues. How does Parliament work? How should Parliament work in a minority situation?

In a minority situation, major changes to legislation should be available to the opposition parties and the public to understand completely and not be put forward in this very subversive fashion. It subverts the purpose of Parliament and puts it on an incorrect course. That is why we are all standing up here today and that is what we are working on.

I want to spend a little time on my particular subject, which is the question of aviation security. I am the transport critic for our party and, within the transport committee, a major study on aviation security is going on right now which started back in the days of prorogation. In the depths of winter, I organized a forum on aviation security, which the Liberal Party promptly joined into, and it had a great deal of success. It then moved on to looking at the issue within the committee.

Quite clearly, aviation security should be addressed in all its details before any additional charges are put on our aviation industry and then through to the customer. The aviation industry world-wide is under stress. Within Canada, most of the major carriers have had great difficulty and have lost money consistently over many years. This industry is not healthy. It has had to face up to many severe challenges. This industry supports the economics of Canada and of the world to a great degree with the movement of passengers and freight at a rapid pace around the world. When this industry is under stress, the result is very apparent within the economy. We saw that quite clearly with the volcanic ash cloud descending over Europe and the result of that within the economy of Europe. It was very carefully measured.

We saw that as well at Christmastime with the tremendous overreaction to a security incident in the United States that affected hundreds of millions of people in terms of the reuniting of families and all the things that go along with that. When we look at doing things to the aviation industry, we need to be very careful, which is why we are doing a review right now on aviation security. Most of the experts agree that the knee-jerk reaction we have had to aviation security since 9/11 has to be reviewed. It has to be taken into account.

Transport Canada officials have stated that once they put in place aviation security requirements, they have a very difficult time when they are redundant. They cannot get rid of them and what we see are ever-escalating levels of security costs and no particular review.

I have a fine example of that. Since 9/11, we have very secure, locked cockpit doors, which has taken out some of the threats that we might have had before 9/11 without any requirement for aviation security. Therefore, the threat to aviation has changed and yet the security proceedings have not changed.

With this air travellers' security charge in the bill, it would increase the revenue the government is generating from aviation security without addressing the issues of aviation security and the costs. The charge would add a penalty on to Canadian flyers for something that is not appropriate within the system. It would be far more expensive than most other countries in the world and would leave our aviation industry at a disadvantage. This, of course, would take money out of the taxpayers' pockets and put it into the general revenues of the Government of Canada. In many cases this looks to be considerably more than the cost of aviation security in the country as a whole, even though our aviation security system desperately needs the renovation.

The government has talked about reviewing aviation security to get rid of some of the parts that do not work so well, while at the same time raising the air transport service security charge. This was done not to pay for the costs of this service. This was done to raise more revenue for the government. That is pretty clear when we look at this and that is why this needs further review. Just as the government wants to review aviation security and just as the transport committee is engaged in a study on aviation security right now, we need to do that work before we put extra charges on our already ailing aviation industry. This has been said over and over again.

What we have here is a crass attempt to hide a tax somewhere in the system to add more revenue to the government that does not want to stand up and admit that over the course of the next five years it will have to raise more revenue for government in order to deal with the massive deficit. This is hypocritical and, in real terms to our industry, is rather stupid. What we have is a stupid, hypocritical action here with the air travellers' security charge.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

What do you really think of it?

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I really do not want to say what I really think of it but that is as close as I will get right now.

We need to go back to square one. We need to examine the threat that now exists within the system. In reality, the threat is mostly about bad people, not about bad things. It is about improving intelligence. Most of the major incidents in aviation in the last 20 years has been because of the failure of intelligence, not the failure of security, and that is what we need to point out over and over again. Intelligence is not a mandate that is solely selective to aviation passengers. It should not be paying for the intelligence that this country collects on terrorists. We should all be paying for that. In some ways, the U.S. charge of $5 recognizes the fact that aviation security is not simply about the traveller but about the overall direction that a country has to take to prevent bad people from doing bad things.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, one of the comments from the government was that it does not seem to see the argument that containing all this within one bill is a bad thing and that it is more or less the normal operation of government.

In 2005, when the Atlantic accord was signed with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, it was implemented in the budget bill at the time. Conservatives fought vehemently to carve it out. They used every principle there was to say that this should not be included in the budget bill. It was considered sneaky. It was considered underhanded. All the negative vernacular that could be mustered in this House was used for that situation. Yet now we find ourselves with a lot more contained within the budget.

I would like the member to highlight some of the other issues he may have missed in his speech about some of the major issues that should receive a wholesome debate in the House before it proceeds.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, of course, coming from the Northwest Territories, with our concern about drilling in the Beaufort Sea, a concern that will have even less expression within our environmental legislation if the budget bill goes ahead, I have to agree with the member. There are many other things I could have focused on. I chose to focus on aviation security, because that is my critic area. But when it comes to the issue of environmental protection, this budget goes beyond hypocritical. It goes beyond stupid. It gets to the point of being an act against the people of this country. When environmental protection is taken away under the guise of a budget, it is almost inconceivable that this should take place.

For the Liberals not to support us right now in getting forward this legislation in a fashion that is different is also hypocritical and dangerous to this country. I urge the Liberal Party to get behind this amendment so that we can deal with that particular issue with greater care than what is going to happen with this budget bill.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member from the Northwest Territories does an incredible job of representing his constituents and representing the interests of all Canadians on the protection and sustainable development of the north. I wish to thank him for that. I am sure that his constituents are grateful for the good job he does in the House.

The member started his comments on the proposed amendments to the bill by talking generally about the demise of democracy in the House. From my standpoint, being a mover of the motion to divide the bill, that is the very essence of the problem we have with the way the government is conducting itself on its budget bill.

Conservatives ran on a platform of openness and transparency, on providing a new way of democracy in Canada, and on the involvement of the grassroots. Yet it takes major changes to an environmental statute, developed over more than three decades by industry, the public, first nations, and small communities in every corner of Canada, and throws them into a budget bill, therefore limiting the discourse on a statute, by law, that was supposed to come before the parliamentary committee on the environment within months.

I wonder if he can speak to the issue that the very department that received an F grade from the Information Commissioner surely should be providing for better consultation on the bills that are the responsibility of that agency.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, quite clearly, the Minister of the Environment has abrogated his responsibility here. The Minister of the Environment in that cabinet must have understood what was going down here. He must have supported what was going down here with these environmental legislation changes hidden within a budget bill. He is the one who is responsible for this action. That should be made very clear.

How could anyone who calls himself an environment minister in this country consider this kind of action without public debate and without the principles of environmental protection that we hold so closely in this country and have held in the past? For that to be taken away like this without a specific public debate is really quite astounding.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to voice my disappointment with the budget implementation bill.

In this time of economic uncertainty, the government has seen fit to ram through changes to legislation in the budget implementation bill rather than to follow an established democratic process. In our parliamentary democracy, it is customary for government to bring forward changes it wants to make here in the House and then to allow debate for hon. members, the representatives of the people, on their behalf.

The government chose to go another route. It chose to hide substantive policy changes in the implementation of this budget. As members know, this amounts to a kind of democratic blackmail. That is not only undemocratic, it is just plain wrong.

In what has become a disturbing pattern, the government has again, this year, incorporated into its budget implementation bill major changes to environmental safeguards.

Last year's budget bill took a slice out of the federal duty to assess the environmental impact of projects that could have potential impacts on the navigable waters of Canada. It moved to exempt all federal stimulus-funded projects from any assessment previously triggered by waterways impacts and those for which the federal contribution was under $10 million. The beautiful province of British Columbia, my province, has hundreds of rivers, and this change puts them in serious danger.

These are just the sorts of changes Canadians want to see their representatives in this House discuss. That debate is completely eliminated when the government pushes through legislation in the background of a budget implementation bill.

This year's budget bill, however, swings an axe at a crucial environmental law, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The axe cuts deeply. What is most disturbing about the process by which this law is being eviscerated is that Parliament has moved that a review of the law be undertaken this year and that recommendations for reform be made. The review is already slated to come before the parliamentary committee on environment and sustainable development within weeks.

The government has chosen to short-circuit this process. Instead of hearing and considering the views of interested stakeholders and other concerned parties, it has chosen to fast-track the changes through this budget bill.

Bill C-9 transfers reviews of major energy projects from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. The effect is the diminishment of public representation. Neither the NEB nor the CNSC are equipped to conduct community consultations, nor do either have previous experience with these sorts of projects.

It also removes from the public clear access to intervenor funds that would allow groups and individuals to make themselves heard, and it lessens the requirements to consider environmental factors when proceeding with a project.

Second, and this is most troubling, the Minister of the Environment will be empowered to narrow the scope of any environmental assessment, which sets a dangerous precedent. This means that at the discretion of the minister, a project can be approved based on an assessment of only part of its overall environmental impact.

In January of this year, the Supreme Court of Canada found that the government failed to follow federal laws by scoping the Red Chris mine in northern B.C. to exclude the mine and the mill in order to avoid a comprehensive assessment and public input. What Bill C-9 therefore means to do is remove from the public any recourse for requiring consultation.

In addition, Bill C-9 removes one of the key triggers for a federal assessment, and that is federal spending. The limit for federal spending that would require an assessment is all but completely removed. Almost all federal stimulus funding projects would be exempted.

The bill will exempt from environmental assessment all projects falling under the building Canada fund, the green infrastructure fund, the recreation infrastructure fund, the border infrastructure fund, the municipal rural infrastructure fund, and many more. Such projects range from transmission lines running thousands of kilometres to road extensions, new bridges, and interchanges.

The New Democrat motion to enable the finance committee to split the bill provides the opportunity to defer study and the vote on the environmental reform measures until the environment committee review has been completed, which is a matter of only a few short months. Regrettably, the government manoeuvred to prevent this constructive solution from proceeding. Addressing long-term environmental or health impacts should not be shunted aside for short-term political gain from fast-tracked project approvals.

Ultimately, it is Canadians who will pay the cost. With these changes, one has to wonder what the future holds for the Enbridge pipeline project. Having just presented the proposal last week, will it be subject to the scrutiny and public consultation that is so needed, or will the minister narrow the scope and allow 225 oil tankers to sail along our coast every year? The people of northern British Columbia want to be consulted, and Bill C-9 effectively silences them.

I know that my time runs short, so let me be brief by saying that the budget still has many shortcomings. It has yet to fund a national transit strategy. In my riding, the Evergreen Line is desperately in need of funds so that it can be completed. In fact, it has not even been built. This is a project that was promised over two decades ago, and we are still waiting for the funds to complete it.

The budget invests over $1 billion in a three-day event instead of putting much-needed police officers on the streets in every Canadian community. There is no money for a real, affordable housing strategy in this country. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans remains underfunded, under-resourced, and understaffed.

I hope that all hon. members will support the motion brought forward by my hon. colleague from Edmonton—Strathcona and will vote these measures out of Bill C-9.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, in his speech, the hon. member talked briefly about Fisheries and Oceans and how a lack of funding is certainly a problem that has existed for quite some time.

I was wondering if he could paint a picture of what was overlooked in this particular budget. We talked about eco-certification and an office therein, but I was wondering if he would also talk about what else should be in it. Since he is the fisheries critic for the New Democratic Party, I was wondering what else he would like to tell us was overlooked in this Bill C-9 budget.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, not only did the budget fail to address the real resources of the department, but in the throne speech there was absolutely no mention of salmon. We have an essential element of what makes the Canadian fabric what it is, and there is no mention of how we are going to protect our wild salmon.

For instance, I met with a group today, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, which is looking for funds. It is looking for ways to protect the wild salmon by investing in habitat, in stewardship, and in watershed management, which is badly needed on the west coast. The group is not able to do the job that is needed to protect this magnificent animal, the wild salmon.

A problem emerging on the west coast is sea lice from fish farms. That needs to be addressed.

There are so many issues under the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that could be addressed in the budget, yet the budget fails to address them. I hope we take a greater look at that.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member gave a fine speech. Ironically, today is the 20th anniversary of the Sparrow decision, when the Supreme Court of Canada handed down its decision on treaty negotiations.

With respect to what we see as the complete undermining of the environmental assessment regulations in this omnibus budget implementation bill, how does the member see this kind of regulation impacting on the duty to consult by the government? A number of first nations have spoken out quite strongly, raising concerns around this process and the bill. Could he comment on what he sees as possibly being a looming problem and perhaps future litigation in court cases?

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is a question of great concern to many first nation communities across the country. When these types of moves happen at the federal level to remove democracy or democratic processes that do not allow groups, organizations, governments like our first nations to be involved with decisions that will impact their very lives and communities, we are very concerned about those.

We do not see the accountability, openness and access that was promised. We see the reverse. We are seeing behind-closed-door decisions and legislation being rammed through at record speeds. We do not see an inclusion of communities like first nations to strengthen the way we do business and operate in our country.

This problem needs to be fixed by separating out these processes so they can be debated and discussed in a democratic way, including first nation communities and many others in our country.

JusticeStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canadians have demanded that the government crackdown on crime. For too many years, the Liberal politicians have weakened our laws and legal system. Our government is correcting that imbalance.

In the last month we have announced legislation to eliminate pardons for serious crimes, protect children from online exploitation, provide mandatory jail time for serious drug offences, tackle auto theft and trafficking in property obtain by crime and provide tougher sentences for white-collar crime.

Earlier we took action to crackdown on gun crime, increased the age of consent, eliminated house arrest for violent crime, strengthened penalties for street racing and much more.

We are now also taking steps to enhance the safety and security of the online marketplace with legislation to combat spam and amendments to protect the personal information of Canadians.

This government is delivering on our commitment to make our streets and our communities safer.

World No Tobacco DayStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today, on World No Tobacco Day, to speak about the damaging effects of cigarettes, especially for youth.

When I was first elected in 1997, smoking rates were 31%. By 2006, the Liberal government had reduced that number to 19%.

Since the Conservatives have come to power, there has been no further reduction in smoking rates and illegal tobacco sales have doubled nationally, to over 32%, in 2008. Contraband cigarette smuggling costs Canada an estimated $2 billion a year in lost revenues.

The government's announcement on Friday is too little, too late. A comprehensive approach must include enforcement, education, engagement of first nations, as well as interdepartmental and interjurisdictional co-operation.

We urge the government to re-evaluate the failed enforcement strategy that has seen the number of contraband cigarettes double and put our youth at increased risk—

World No Tobacco DayStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska.

“MP for a Day” CompetitionStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to welcome Frédéric Michel, a student from the Cégep de Victoriaville, who won the 2010 “MP for a Day” competition.

This competition is part of a course that studies political life and systems. Its main goal is to interest youth in politics and allow them to learn more about public life.

This year, students had to write about the challenges related to agricultural policy. This gave them the opportunity to explore many of the issues faced by the agricultural sector.

I would like to thank Jean-François Léonard, the political science and geography teacher, with whom I organized the competition. I would also like to thank the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste du Centre-du-Québec, the Sévégny-Baril duo from La Capitale as well as the UPA Centre-du-Quebec for their contributions to the scholarships awarded to Frédéric and the students who came in second and third, Maxime Labrie and Sarah L. Desrochers.

Oil SpillsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, as we watch the ongoing environmental devastation caused by the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, now is the time for Canada to take proactive measures to prevent similar disasters from damaging Canadian shores.

We know oil spills are ecological disasters that impact entire ecosystems. They spread damage over thousands of kilometres of ocean and shoreline. They have a catastrophic impact, as fisheries are wiped out and communities are devastated and their damage lasts for decades, if not centuries.

We also know they are inevitable. Wherever oil is drilled or transported in tankers, accidents will happen. The question is not if, but when. On British Columbia's pristine coastline, this is far too high a price to pay.

Last year I introduced a bill to ban oil tankers in sensitive waters. I hope all members of the House support this effort at disaster prevention.

The government must also permanently legislate a moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling in B.C. and the Arctic. The short-term economic benefit of offshore drilling is outweighed many times over by the economic impact of the inevitable spill and the permanent damage to our coastal ecosystem that would certainly result.

HockeyStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, Essex county is the hotbed for Canadian hockey talent. We might be the Florida of our country, but when it comes to hockey, no one does it better than our region.

For the second year in a row, the Windsor Spitfires have captured the Junior A Championship, the 92nd Memorial Cup. The Wheaties of Brandon were indeed the breakfast of Windsor champions Taylor Hall, the tournament's MVP, who, together with Spits defenceman Cam Fowler, are expected to be selected in the top five picks in the upcoming NHL entry draft, with 10 Spitfires expected to make NHL teams this year.

However, that is not all. The LaSalle Vipers captured the Junior B Championship, the Sutherland Cup. The Belle River Canadiens advanced to the finals of the Junior C Championship. The Canadian Hockey League named the town of Essex's Matt Puemple its rookie of the year.

It is true that Windsor-Essex is the automotive capital of Canada, but with this year's hockey successes, Windsor-Essex is centre ice for Canada's game.

Anniversary CongratulationsStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in commemoration and celebration of two historic anniversaries of landmark institutions in my riding and indeed in Quebec and the country as a whole.

The first is the centennial anniversary of Maimonides Geriatric Centre, affiliated with McGill University since 1979. The first psychogeriatric day hospital in both Canada and the United States, it is recognized for its high quality of care, its respect for the dignity of its clients and its incredible army of volunteers.

The second is the centennial anniversary of the Young Men's -- Young Women's Hebrew Association.

The institution popularly known as “the Y” was a second home for me on Mont-Royal Avenue when I was young. And now it has moved to my riding of Mount Royal.

It has evolved today into a state of the art fitness community and cultural centre that reaches out to all people regardless of race, religion, age and economic class.

I invite my colleagues to join me in paying tribute to these two incredible institutions, of which we are all their beneficiaries.

Étienne-Le Bel Clinical Research CentreStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the ongoing issues at Chalk River give us reason to worry about the future of the medical isotope supply, researchers at the Étienne-Le Bel Clinical Research Centre at CHUS and the Université de Sherbrooke's faculty of medicine have shown that technetium-99m can be produced using a cyclotron, which does not require highly enriched uranium and does not produce radioactive waste. Creating a decentralized cyclotron network would secure our supply of technetium. The Étienne-Le Bel Centre is already involved in building a new cyclotron, and the cost of setting up a pilot site in Sherbrooke will be just a fraction of that associated with nuclear reactors.

Not only are researchers at the Étienne-Le Bel Centre pioneers in this field, but they are also offering the government a solution on a silver platter. I support the Étienne-Le Bel Centre's proposal, and I hope that the government will be smart enough to do so too.

International Children's DayStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise and welcome four remarkable young girls from Kelowna, British Columbia who are here with us today to lead a children's march on Parliament Hill. The march will take place tomorrow at noon to commemorate International Children's Day and to highlight a child's right to education, protection, equality and health.

Cassandra Hinchliffe, Jenni Matheson, Amelia Leonard and founder Alaina Podmorow are members of Little Women for Little Women in Afghanistan. They are dedicated and committed to helping children around the world and are asking Canadians to do the same. In Alaina's own words, “Every single Canadian must take responsibility and take action....Each of us must make change”.

Each member and senator in Parliament has received an invitation to join the march. I thank everyone who has already confirmed their attendance and thank the young ladies for their leadership and for providing hope and opportunity to children around the world. Education equals peace.

AgricultureStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, ranchers in Alberta and Saskatchewan have fought through two tough years of drought. Today I am pleased to announce in the House that our government has committed over $114 million to help our ranchers buy feed while their damaged pastures recover.

Our farmers and ranchers are a hardy bunch and they take pride in their independence. Ranchers in my riding are in the heart of this area and this new funding will provide a much needed boost to them. This critical support is thanks to the hard work of our Minister of Agriculture as well as Alberta Minister Jack Hayden and his Saskatchewan counterpart. The Saskatchewan agriculture minister, Bob Bjornerud, said:

The drought had a major effect on livestock producers in the designated area and this initiative will help them address the resulting additional feed costs.

This is another example of how our government works together with its provincial counterparts to support our farm sector.

St. John's International AirportStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, the St. John's International Airport is a gateway to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. On occasion, however, adverse weather conditions hamper and delay air traffic. Not having the right airport landing equipment can cause diversions and delays, which are holding the airport back from reaching its full potential as an economic enabler.

For example, decisions regarding plant and office locations, the booking of large conferences and entertainment events are influenced by this frustrating problem. The airport authority seeks to enhance the landing equipment and infrastructure by the installation of a category 3 instrument landing system and related airfield infrastructure. This would increase availability to 98.91% and would place St. John's International Airport in the same usability range as other major Canadian airports.

In the first year of implementation, 700 arriving and departing flights would potentially be spared disruption due to adverse weather conditions. Clearly, these improvements at the airport would be a priority. I encourage the federal government to act quickly to enhance this vital transportation link.

Economic GrowthStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, Statistics Canada announced today that the Canadian economy grew by 6.1% in the first quarter of 2010. This is the strongest quarterly rate in a decade.

Today's report shows that Canada's economic action plan is making our economy stronger and stronger.

With the tax relief granted by our government to help Canadian families, consumer spending has risen. Business investment has also increased thanks to our government's strong support for job creation.

The OECD and the International Monetary Fund are predicting that our economic growth will be the strongest of all the G7 countries this year and next.

Canada's economy is on the right track, but the global recovery remains fragile. We must complete Canada's economic action plan, which has the support of the Conservative members from Quebec.

While the Liberals have plans to raise taxes, our government is working hard to save jobs and maintain our economic growth.

Freedom FlotillaStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, New Democrats are shocked and deeply saddened by the unacceptable loss of life and injuries sustained as a result of the raid by Israeli forces against the Freedom Flotilla of ships bringing aid to Gaza.

Our leader joins other international leaders in the call for an urgent and independent investigation into this terrible incident that jeopardizes the pursuit of peace in the region. He also calls on our Prime Minister to immediately lend Canada's voice to the rapidly growing call for this inquiry.

This violence further underlines the urgent need for a negotiated peace and resolution to the crisis in Gaza. New Democrats further call on the Canadian government to work with the international community to find an end to loss of life in this region.

Speaking personally, I hope that our Prime Minister took the opportunity he had today on the world stage to strongly express those concerns directly to the Prime Minister of Israel.

I extend my profound sympathy to the families of those who died and call on Israel to immediately release all those detained in this incident in international waters. Respect for those who seek peace must be fundamental to actions of all governments.

The EconomyStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Conservative Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, we heard that Canada has recorded its strongest quarterly rate of economic growth in a decade. Indeed, Canada posted the strongest first quarter growth in the entire G7. No wonder the OECD secretary-general singled out Canada for praise, saying:

I think Canada looks good—it shines, actually

Canada's economic action plan is having a major positive impact with its job-creating tax cuts, stimulus infrastructure projects, and much more. Our Conservative government's plan has helped create 285,000 jobs since last July.

The last thing our economy needs is a massive Liberal tax grab. While our plan is helping lead the way on jobs and growth, the Liberal plan to raise taxes would halt our recovery in its tracks, and according to experts, would kill almost 400,000 jobs. Canada's economy just cannot afford another Liberal tax grab.

Canada Elections ActStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, some current members of the Conservative cabinet may have to say goodbye to their seats in the next election. This should be the case for the members for Louis-Saint-Laurent, Pontiac and Mégantic—L'Érable, who are all ministers, as well as the member for Beauce.

In fact, they may not even have the right to run. Why? Because they violated the Canada Elections Act by exceeding the allowable campaign expenses in 2006, which allowed them to unfairly promote the Conservative campaign platform.

It is probably this same desire that motivated the government to plaster economic action plan signs from coast to coast to coast at an outrageous cost of $42 million. When it comes to spreading propaganda about Conservative Reform ideas, the government does not balk at spending astronomical amounts.

No one should ignore the law. That applies to all citizens and even more so to Conservative ministers.

Public SafetyStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government's incompetence has already run up a staggering $1.1 billion tab for the upcoming G8 and G20 summits.

Earlier this year the government budgeted security costs at $179 million. That figure has since been eclipsed by this Conservative boondoggle.

How could the Conservatives not anticipate that changing the location on the fly, to the heart of Canada's largest city, would lead to uncontrollable security costs and countless lost work hours for those closed businesses within the security perimeter?

Canadian taxpayers now have to fork out $1.1 billion, more than $100 per family, for just 72 hours of meetings. By comparison, the G20 summit in Britain cost only $30 million.

The Conservatives preach fiscal restraint to justify their crippling funding cuts to Canadian environmental programs, international aid and women's groups. They say they have no money for early learning, EI, pension reform and other real problems affecting Canadians.

The hypocrisy is both breathtaking and obscene.

Firearms RegistryStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, this week is an important one for those of us who have long opposed the long gun registry.

Tomorrow, the public safety committee will start clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-391, which would end this registry.

However, Liberal MPs such as the member for Ajax—Pickering, as well as the NDP justice critic, have hinted that they are ready to play political games by introducing amendments to Bill C-391 that would actually keep the long gun registry.

It has been well known for some time that the Liberal leader's plan is to force his rural MPs to support this boondoggle. What is not so well known is that the NDP leader and his justice critic have hinted that they too will move amendments to keep the long gun registry, a move that may surprise the 12 NDP MPs who supported Bill C-391.

It is time for NDP MPs who voted against keeping the long gun registry to speak up. Their voters deserve to be heard.

Public SafetyOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Etobicoke—Lakeshore Ontario

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are happy that we are sponsoring the G8 and G20 summits, but the government's planning of this has been a mess. It shifted the location, its agenda has antagonized world leaders, and now security costs have gone through the roof. Every time the government tries to explain this, its explanations get more and more farcical.

Will the Prime Minister accept responsibility for this fiasco, and will he give Canadians an honest accounting of how these security costs have spiralled out of control?

Public SafetyOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, let me say very directly to the Leader of the Opposition that, regrettably, security costs money. This is not money we want to spend; this is money that security experts tell us we must spend.

There are literally tens of thousands of people who will be convening in our biggest city, Toronto. We have an important responsibility to keep these people, who are coming from right around the world, safe. It is not just the 30 leaders, it is the tens of thousands of people who join them. We are committed to doing just that.

Public SafetyOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Etobicoke—Lakeshore Ontario

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, they should have known that before they changed the venue. There is no summit in the history of the world that has cost as much as this one, and it is not just the security costs, it is the agenda.

Two world leaders came to Ottawa to beg the Prime Minister personally to put the environment and climate change on the agenda: the UN Secretary-General and the President of Mexico. The Prime Minister turned them down, so now Canadians are asking why this summit is costing us a billion dollars and the Canadian agenda will not even allow leaders to talk about what matters. How come?

Public SafetyOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, on the child and maternal health issue, the Prime Minister has shown great leadership.

Let me tell the House what the G20 will be discussing. They will be discussing something that is foreign to the leader of the Liberal Party: the economy and the need to create jobs.

The coordinated effort of the G20 has played an absolutely instrumental role in preventing what could have been a worldwide economic depression. That is why today, this government was so thrilled to see the first quarter results out for the Canadian economy. The Canadian economy grew by 6.1% under the leadership of the Prime Minister.

Public SafetyOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Etobicoke—Lakeshore Ontario

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the economy grew because of the leadership of Canadians, not the Prime Minister.

No one is suggesting that the economy should not be discussed during the summit. It is possible to talk about both the environment and the economy. This is the only government that does not believe it is possible. And now it is spending $1 billion. Why not talk about both issues?

Will the Prime Minister at least put the environment on the agenda for the G20 and the G8?

Public SafetyOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has shown great leadership, as has the Minister of the Environment, on the important issues facing our planet. That is why Canada was an enthusiastic supporter of the Copenhagen accord, which is the next generation of environmental leadership that we are seeing.

However, with the G20 and the G8, one of their fundamental priorities is the economy and what we can do to instill more jobs, more hope and more opportunity. That is the kind of leadership the Prime Minister is providing to Canadians, and as host, when he welcomes the world, he will be able to sell the Canadian success story, something that even the leader of the Liberal Party should be proud of.

Public SafetyOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, conservative costs for the G20 have ballooned into a billion dollar boondoggle. Canadians understand the need for security. What they do not understand is why it is costing hard-working Canadian taxpayers over a billion bucks of their money when the Conservatives told them it would only cost $179 million.

Canadians have to live within their budgets. Why can the Conservatives not live within theirs? How can the Conservatives claim any credibility at a conference focused on fiscal restraint when they cannot even manage the budget for the conference?

Public SafetyOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, let me be very clear to the Liberal Party that all the costs have been fully budgeted for and the government is on target.

Let me also say this. This is an important opportunity for Canada to provide leadership on the world stage. These are not funds that we want to spend on security. These are funds that we have to spend. These are funds that our security experts tell us we must spend, and I can say very directly that at the Hokkaido summit held in Japan, the security costs were in excess of $1.5 billion. So, regrettably, the costs of security are not insubstantial.

Public SafetyOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives just do not get it. They are completely out of touch with Canadians. One billion dollars can buy 500 MRI machines or 340,000 hip or knee surgeries. It would pay for 17,000 public health nurses. These are the priorities for Canadians. Why are they not the priorities for the Conservative government?

Why did the Conservatives not plan properly for the G20 conference, and who over there is going to stand up and take responsibility for this waste and incompetence?

Public SafetyOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, this party and this government need no lectures from a Liberal when it comes to waste and incompetence. We saw in the years that the Liberal Party was in power more than enough of that.

Let me say this. None of us are pleased with the amount that security costs, but we are listening to the experts. These are not funds that we would like to spend. These are funds that we have to spend.

We will be hosting not just 30 world leaders but literally tens of thousands of leaders from around the world. We must do our part to ensure that they are kept safe.

Firearms RegistryOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government broke its own law by withholding a report from the Commissioner of Firearms showing that police forces are using the gun registry more than ever before. According to the law, the Conservative government had until last October 22 to table the report. It did not release the report until November 4, which was two days after the vote on Bill C-391 to eliminate the gun registry.

Why did the government wait so long to table the Commissioner of Firearms' report?

Firearms RegistryOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Oxford Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has his facts wrong. The RCMP has confirmed that the force submitted its firearms report on October 9, 2009, and that the report was, in fact, tabled according to the rules.

Firearms RegistryOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Suzanne Hurtubise, had to take her minister to task about the deadline for tabling the report.

Will the Prime Minister admit that he is willing to do anything, even break one of his own laws, to hide information that might interfere with his firearms registry agenda?

Firearms RegistryOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Oxford Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, as I said, the member has his facts wrong. The RCMP has confirmed that the force submitted its firearms report on October 9, 2009, and that the report was, in fact, tabled according to the rules.

Firearms RegistryOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, a broad coalition of Quebec stakeholders is urging the government to maintain the gun registry. The National Assembly, police forces, families of victims of crime, public health experts and many others want the government to keep long gun control in place.

Why does this government want to eliminate the gun registry despite the fact that it saves lives and that stakeholders in Quebec agree it is a good thing?

Firearms RegistryOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Oxford Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, let me be clear. While we support the licensing and registration of prohibited weapons, we do not support the wasteful long gun registry. It is time to end the criminalization of our hunters and outdoor enthusiasts once and for all. Police Chief Hanson from Calgary has called the long gun registry a placebo and said that it creates a false sense of security.

Firearms RegistryOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, this government is so short of arguments to justify its ideology that its spokesperson, Senator Boisvenu, has resorted to talking about the large number of deer that cause accidents and single mothers who do not teach their sons about hunting. He even bemoaned the fact that it does not occur to 14- to 18-year-olds to buy guns. That is appalling! The fact is that in 2009, over 7,000 long guns were confiscated for public safety reasons.

Why is the government bent on eliminating a registry that saves lives?

Firearms RegistryOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Oxford Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite does not trust us, maybe she would believe the Leader of the Opposition who said:

No sensible Canadian thinks the problem is the shotgun on the barn door. No sensible Canadian thinks the problem is the target shooter or the legitimate licensed gun owner. The problem is those handguns.

Public SafetyOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' $1 billion boondoggle on the G8 and the G20 is still upsetting Canadians and Torontonians, in particular. The rather weak defence from the Minister of Public Safety this weekend was that the government could have saved a lot of money if it had called in the army, but it was afraid, get this, of Liberal propaganda. It was afraid of Liberal propaganda, so it is spending all this money.

Why will the Prime Minister and the government not simply admit they have mismanaged this project?

Public SafetyOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, absolutely not. Let me say this very directly to the leader of the fourth party, regrettably security costs money. This is not money that we want to spend. This is money that security experts tell us we must spend.

There will be literally tens of thousands of people from around the world, in addition to the 30 world leaders who will be visiting Canada. We must ensure that they are kept safe. Some of these individuals have significant security risks and we want to ensure that they, the people of Muskoka and the people of Toronto, are kept safe.

Public SafetyOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is an easy way to get to the bottom of this and to test the claim of the minister, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has agreed to look into these costs.

The government needs to provide him with all of the documents and all of the figures so that he can do this. We are currently debating the very estimates that provide the funding for this whole project.

Will the government provide those documents and all of those figures to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, so that we can have the information and his analysis when it comes time to cast those votes?

Public SafetyOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, let me be very direct to the leader of the NDP. We certainly welcome the important work of the Auditor General. We welcome the review of the Parliamentary Budget Officer on the summits' security bill.

Maternal and Child HealthOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I guess we can expect those documents within a couple of days and we will look forward to that.

The Prime Minister said that he wanted to make improving women's health the main focus of his G8 presidency. With just four weeks to go before the summit, Canada has still not announced any funds. Rumour has it that the government is planning on spending only $1 billion over five years.

Can the Prime Minister explain why he is prepared to spend as much on a three-day conference as he is on five—

Maternal and Child HealthOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Maternal and Child HealthOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Durham Ontario

Conservative

Bev Oda ConservativeMinister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, the reason why we will be focusing on maternal and child health is because today 500,000 women are dying during pregnancy and delivery, and eight million children under the age of five are dying every year.

This demonstrates the kind of leadership that Canada will have going into the G8 and the G20. Because we are leaders, that is why we are also hosting all the great leaders of the world to discuss these important issues.

Offshore DrillingOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, although the Americans have instituted a moratorium in the same waters, the Conservatives are moving forward with issuing permits for oil exploration in the Beaufort Sea. And they have less stringent regulations than the ones that apply to companies exploring in the American section of that same sea.

Will the government suspend all oil activities in the Canadian Arctic, including Lancaster Sound and the Beaufort Sea, until a comprehensive review of the risks of offshore drilling in the far north has been completed?

Offshore DrillingOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis ConservativeMinister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, on May 11, the National Energy Board announced that it would review offshore drilling regulations. I remind my colleague once again that no drilling permits have been issued for the Arctic or the Beaufort Sea.

We are happy that the American authorities have also decided to suspend the drilling that was planned for this spring, because they have reached the same conclusion as us. The entire process must be reviewed.

Offshore DrillingOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government says there is no explanation in the Beaufort, but it is fast-tracking licences and allowing seismic testing on the sea floor.

The National Energy Board warned the government that it did not know whether a relief well could ever be drilled in the same season should there be an accident. That means a spill in the north could last up to a year or longer.

Shell Oil and Cairn Energy are already beginning to drill in those same waters. For the fifth time, will the government immediately table an emergency and safety contingency plan to deal with any oil spill off any of Canada's three coasts?

Offshore DrillingOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis ConservativeMinister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, no drilling authorization has been granted, period. No drilling is taking place at present in the Arctic or the Beaufort Sea. This is the case.

President Obama wants to examine what happened in the Gulf of Mexico to better understand and improve the regulations to ensure the future safety of workers and to protect the environment. The President has reached the same conclusion as we have here in Canada.

Let me be clear, the NEB announced that it will review the entire process, the public will be invited, and the process will be open and transparent.

Firearms RegistryOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Alexandra Mendes Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives hid a report on the effectiveness of the firearms registry for a number of weeks.

They wanted to mislead Parliament just as members were to vote on whether or not to maintain the registry.

The Conservative culture of deceit has soared to new heights when the Prime Minister wants to mislead Canadians and their Parliament on such an important issue.

What right did they have to hide this report from parliamentarians last October?

Firearms RegistryOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Oxford Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the member opposite did not hear because she was yelling when I answered this before, but the RCMP has confirmed that the force submitted its firearms report on October 9, 2009, and that the report was, in fact, tabled according to the rules.

Firearms RegistryOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Alexandra Mendes Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, they do not listen to police. They accuse them of being in a cult. Then, they bury a report that shows that police need a registry.

The icing on the cake is that Senator Boisvenu blamed the overpopulation of deer on the registry and single mothers. That is shameful. The registry saves 300 lives a year, and police want to keep it.

Do the Conservatives and the NDP really want to be responsible for 300 deaths a year just for the sake of the deer population?

Firearms RegistryOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Oxford Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, let me say what Al Koenig, former president of the Calgary Police Association, had to say:

--proposed mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes-- nd not the gun registry--will curb firearms offences. Wiping the slate clean and not making responsible gun owners into criminals is a good start.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Israeli army launched a bloody attack on a convoy of ships bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza. The convoy, led by a flagship carrying over 600 people who wanted to be involved in bringing aid, was sailing in international waters. It was loaded with 10,000 tonnes of building material, textiles and food. Between 10 and 19 people were killed.

Will the government officially demand that an international investigation be launched into the circumstances surrounding this tragic raid?

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, clearly, Canada deeply regrets this incident, which caused deaths and injuries. We are trying to obtain more information at this time in order to shed some light on this tragic incident.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, arms control is a vital part of the peace process in the Middle East. In the past, the Canadian government has been very active in controlling and limiting nuclear proliferation.

Did the Prime Minister take advantage of Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to ask the Israeli leader to sign the international nuclear non-proliferation treaty?

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I think it is important to note that the parties that have already signed the treaty, specifically Iran, must comply fully and completely with existing International Atomic Energy Agency treaties.

SecuritiesOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Quebec coalition continues to grow. Constitutional expert Henri Brun is adding his voice and denouncing the federal power grab in the area of securities.

He believes that voluntary membership is just a sham, a ploy, and even though the federal government is pretending that there is no requirement to join, Quebec will lose its ability to regulate financial markets.

Why is the Conservative government taking over this economic lever and showing contempt for the Constitution and the people of Quebec?

SecuritiesOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the lever that this government is trying to put in place is a lever that will protect and encourage investments coming into this country. It will protect the secure investments of Canadians. We are putting in place a voluntary Canadian securities regulator. Quebec and all the provinces are welcome to join whenever they wish.

SecuritiesOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary must be suffering from jet lag to say such things.

If the Conservative government succeeds in its power grab at the Supreme Court, Henri Brun believes that a very powerful undertow will negatively affect Quebec on the financial markets, and, I quote: “This will exert enormous pressure [on Quebec] that we will not be able to withstand.”

Why is the Conservative government pushing so hard to create an administrative nightmare? Is it to strip Quebec of its financial position for the benefit of Toronto perhaps?

SecuritiesOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. member was envious that he was not able to join us at the OECD last week. He stayed here to try to fight something that most Canadians are in favour of. In fact, if he had been with us at the OECD he would have heard this statement by the OECD:

The presence of multiple regulators has resulted in inadequate enforcement and inconsistent investor protection. It also makes it harder for the country to respond to changes in the global market place or to rapidly innovate.

We heard that at the OECD last week. And I am over my jet-lag, thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister of IndustryOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the industry minister cannot seem to help himself. It is one mess after another. The G20 $1 billion boondoggle is largely due to him vainly attempting to shoehorn it into his own riding, until a costly switch to Toronto.

As health minister, he used his title to act as pitchman in a video produced by one of his political supporters.

Does the minister not understand that favouring one company over all others violates Treasury Board rules?

Minister of IndustryOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement ConservativeMinister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. There is no conflict here. There is no pecuniary interest.

We did not hear the hon. members on the other side of the aisle when Jean Chrétien went around the world with team Canada: 100 business people, 200 business people. They were happy to applaud him when he did that but I cannot stick up for the people in my riding.

We are here to do a job. We are here to build businesses in this country. We are here to build the economy. We had a 6.1% growth in the last quarter. We are doing our job.

Minister of IndustryOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, this video is no trade mission. Even the National Post gets that message. It said that it was no trade mission. It said today:

If [he] doesn't understand the distinctions, maybe he's not qualified to be industry minister.

It added:

Picture Hillary Clinton... promoting Mars bars in Shanghai.

Government policy bars a minister from providing a marketing advantage to single entities. Will the Prime Minister act on this brazen violation of the rules?

Minister of IndustryOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement ConservativeMinister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House are proud in our role and responsibility as MPs and as cabinet ministers to promote business, promote Canadian business, promote jobs and promote opportunities. That is part of our job.

What do those members do on the other side? They think of ways to tax Canadians and tax businesses, which is why they are on that side. That is why we have 6.1% growth in quarter one. We are proud of our record.

EthicsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, today, Justice Oliphant found countless ethical violations involving Brian Mulroney.

Mr. Mulroney received a $2.1 million settlement from Canadians after he claimed, under oath, that he had no business relationship with Karlheinz Schreiber.

Justice Oliphant called Mr. Mulroney's excuses “patently absurd”.

In light of today's report, will the government immediately launch legal proceedings to recover the $2.1 million and launch a broader inquiry to finally get to the bottom of the Airbus affair?

EthicsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the government sends its appreciation to Justice Oliphant and all those who worked with him in producing that report.

The report was released about an hour and a half ago. It makes a number of recommendations and the government will be reviewing those recommendations.

EthicsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, it was the Conservatives who prevented Justice Oliphant from investigating the real issue.

Brian Mulroney stated under oath that he did not have a business relationship with Karlheinz Schreiber. This got him a $2.1 million payment from the government. We must immediately initiate legal proceedings to recover the $2.1 million and there should be a public inquiry into the Airbus affair.

Will they take these two steps or will they continue to protect their own?

EthicsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Again, Mr. Speaker, as usual, the hon. member has it wrong. The questions were drafted by an independent individual, a Dr. Johnston.

There have been a number of recommendations and the government will be reviewing those recommendations in due course.

Firearms RegistryOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, this week, the public safety committee will start clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-391 to scrap the wasteful long gun registry.

Front line police officers from across the country, as well as four key provincial attorneys general and justice ministers have all been clear. They oppose keeping the wasteful and inefficient long gun registry, and yet Liberal and NDP members continue to ignore these voices.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Public Safety tell the House why the Liberals and the NDP should avoid political games and support this bill?

Firearms RegistryOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Oxford Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his hard work and dedication to ending this wasteful and ineffective long gun registry.

At committee we have heard real police officers with real front line experience and they agree. The registry is not reliable and does not protect police officers.

I call upon the Liberals and NDP, especially those who voted for Bill C-391 at second reading, to listen to their constituents, not the Liberal leader, and keep Bill C-391 as is.

Offshore DrillingOral Questions

May 31st, 2010 / 2:45 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, last weekend, British Petroleum announced that its latest plan has failed. Thousands of gallons of oil continue to spew into the ocean unabated and the disaster in the gulf only gets worse.

The fact is that a similar or worse catastrophe could easily happen here. In this country, experts report that after years of deregulation, Canada actually has even weaker environmental laws than those governing the offshore in the U.S.

Will the minister finally take action to close this industry loophole, stop listening to his friends in the oil lobby and get on with the job of protecting Canadians?

Offshore DrillingOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, all Canadians are appalled and horrified by what they are seeing in the gulf but my friend overstates the case. He is fully aware that no licences have been issued for drilling in Canada's north, none whatsoever in terms of deep drilling.

He is also fully aware that the National Energy Board is undertaking a very serious review of the environmental standards and public safety standards that will apply to all such future wells.

Canadians can be confident in how this matter is being dealt with.

Offshore DrillingOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, soon after the spill, President Obama announced a six month freeze on new drilling and a massive investigation into what exactly what wrong.

Meanwhile, the Conservative government continues to pretend that it was just an isolated accident that cannot happen here. However, the government's own regulator testified that a spill could happen in Canadian waters with the only difference being that it would be worse under our conditions.

Will the minister pull his head out of the tar sands long enough to realize that his agenda of gutting environmental protection and letting industry self-regulate is leading us to catastrophe?

Offshore DrillingOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis ConservativeMinister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, listening to my colleague, one would almost think that he is hoping for a catastrophe so that he can make some political hay. That is not how it works. As we have said from the beginning, no authorization has been issued for offshore drilling in the Beaufort Sea or arctic waters and no project will begin unless the government is convinced that the environment and the health and safety of workers will be protected.

That being said, we are pleased that President Obama has announced a six-month freeze on assessments because it means that they have come to the same point as us: the National Energy Board will review the entire process and the public will be invited to participate.

FisheriesOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, during the visit by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to the Gaspé, the Quebec government called for emergency measures to mitigate the 63% decrease in the snow crab quota in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Quebec fisheries minister is calling for more flexibility in the EI system to support fishers, fishers' helpers and factory workers who have been affected by the crab crisis.

Will the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development take action?

FisheriesOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn ConservativeMinister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, it is always unfortunate to have to reduce the catch rates in the fisheries, but our priority must be to protect the resource. I think that we must take a cautious approach with an issue like this. We must also think about the future, and according to experts, by 2012, the stocks should be replenished. Also, we are in negotiations with the Government of Quebec to find ways to mitigate the impact this has had on everyone involved.

FisheriesOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, the federal government is responsible for the current crab crisis, because it mismanaged the resource. Now it must step up and help the 1,000 workers in eastern Quebec who have been affected by this crisis.

Does the government plan on guaranteeing these workers and their families a minimum income by providing financial assistance or by making adjustments to the number of hours required, so that they can qualify for employment insurance?

FisheriesOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn ConservativeMinister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, we obviously sympathize with the workers affected. I think my colleague is well aware that the higher the unemployment rate in a region, the fewer the hours of work required to be eligible for assistance.

I remind members that we have invested $1.5 billion in training for workers. We have made it much easier for the Government of Quebec to do what it needs to do to provide training so that workers who are experiencing difficulties can find another profession. Quebec also has ways of helping these people—

FisheriesOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard.

Medical IsotopesOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, since the Chalk River facility closed, the isotope shortage has been getting worse by the day, to the point where sick people are being deprived of essential care. One solution to this shortage would be to get isotopes from Israel though a Health Canada approved company called Lantheus.

Why does the Minister of Health refuse to try this very obvious solution, which would save lives?

Medical IsotopesOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Nunavut Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq ConservativeMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, as the member is well aware, this is a global issue. The supply of medical isotopes will never completely diminish but there is a global shortage.

In our commitment to the health and safety of Canadians, we are coping and will continue to work very closely with the provinces, the territories and the medical community to ensure that patients do receive the care they need.

Medical IsotopesOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, there was no answer there.

Last week, the supply of medical isotopes was at 10% of normal, which means that cancer patients must wait even longer for tests.

Despite this ongoing crisis, the government has rejected a plan to have additional isotopes supplied by Israel.

Why has the government turned its back on thousands of cancer patients and their families telling them to fend for themselves? Why, more than a year after this crisis started, has it failed to secure a stable supply of isotopes?

Medical IsotopesOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis ConservativeMinister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, Canadians can take comfort in the fact that their government decided to address the problem in order to strengthen the supply chain.

First of all, the top priority of the government and AECL is getting the NRU reactor up and running. That is our top priority. We must also look at the medium and long terms. We voted to invest $35 million in research to develop cyclotron accelerators. Some $10 million has been invested in clinical trials and $3 million to ensure the best possible coordination in the supply chain. That is action. That is what we have—

Medical IsotopesOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Hamilton Mountain.

Bill C-9Oral Questions

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government buried major policy changes in the budget hoping to ram them through unnoticed with the rest of its agenda.

This American-style approach is bad for democracy and goes against the transparency the government pretends is so important to it.

The Liberals are no better. They are all talk and no action when it comes to opposing Bill C-9.

We are calling upon both parties to do the right thing for Canadians by pulling these sections out of the budget. If the government really believes that these changes have public support, then it can reintroduce them as stand-alone bills if it must.

Bill C-9Oral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I believe it has been almost three months now that we have been debating this bill in the House of Commons and at committee. The all party House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance has studied it, heard from dozens of witnesses and there were no amendments. It passed in fact in the House.

There are some very critical and important components in this. We wish the opposition would recognize that Canadians want this moved forward and need it moved forward. The opposition should stop opposing everything good.

Bill C-9Oral Questions

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, the sweeping policy changes the Conservatives and Liberals are forcing through are ill-conceived and bad for Canada.

At a time when the entire southern coast of the U.S. is at risk from a major oil disaster, why would the government gut environmental protection for new energy projects in Canada? Why are the Conservatives so keen to have a fire sale of AECL, a valuable and internationally recognized nuclear research agency?

If the Liberals and Conservatives are so sure these policies would wash with Canadians, why are they hiding them in an 880 page budget bill?

Bill C-9Oral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I am surprised the hon. member and her party would be opposed to the changes that have been put forward relative to environmental assessments. They have been called upon by all of the premiers in this country every year for the past 10 years. The smart regulator has called for these changes. In fact, the Commissioner of Environmental Sustainability, who reports to this House, has called for precisely these changes. They would increase the authority of the Minister of the Environment and of CEAA to streamline the process to make it more effective and more responsive to Canadians.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, today marks the beginning of Environment Week, a week championed by our Conservative forefather Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, who was born in my riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound in Neustadt. Even back then, Conservative governments realized the importance of protecting the environment.

Would the Minister of the Environment please tell the House how this government is continuing the Conservative tradition of environmental stewardship?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, Canadians can be proud of the actions of this government relative to the environment.

In the last three years our Conservative government has negotiated the Copenhagen accord, harmonized our targets with the United States, introduced tailpipe emission standards for passenger cars, light trucks and now regulations for heavy duty trucks, established biofuel content regulations for diesel and gasoline, introduced historic national waste water standards for sewage and expanded our national parks by 30%. That is our Conservative legacy.

Mr. Diefenbaker and my colleague can be proud of our larger parks, cleaner water and lower emissions.

Status of WomenOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lise Zarac Liberal LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, by condemning African women to having illegal abortions, the Conservatives are isolating Canada on the international stage and going against the advice of the other G8 countries, the scientific community and CIDA, not to mention the wishes of the vast majority of Canadians.

Exactly whose interests will they represent at the G8 summit? Why are they trying to delegitimize women's right to choose?

Status of WomenOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Durham Ontario

Conservative

Bev Oda ConservativeMinister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I am proud this government recognizes that when we can do something, we do it and we act. That is why we are going to be addressing the health of mothers.

A limited number of interventions can prevent most maternal and newborn deaths and these are tools that we know. They are cost effective and they are evidence-based.

By increasing prenatal care, antenatal care, by having a skilled health assistant at the birthing process, by having more antibiotics, micronutrients, all of these things will decrease mortality and improve—

Status of WomenOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska.

AgricultureOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, the National Bank of Canada may not renew financing for Levinoff-Colbex tomorrow because details of the federal plan to help modernize slaughterhouse facilities, and especially to manage specified risk materials, are not known. Because of SRM regulations imposed by the Conservative government, the slaughterhouse has lost $4 million per year since 2007.

Will the minister finally inform beef producers of the program eligibility criteria and the amount of financial assistance, and tell us what form this assistance will take, if it ever arrives?

AgricultureOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn ConservativeMinister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, Levinoff-Colbex is one file that we have been working very hard on to ensure that this slaughterhouse receives the assistance it needs.

In the last while, we have provided Levinoff-Colbex with $10 million from Farm Credit Canada and $9.6 million from the slaughter improvement fund. There is also the $40 million investment to introduce new technologies to different companies, for which Levinoff-Colbex is also eligible. We have also provided $25 million for a transition plan.

The federal government has done its job and put money on the table, and now it is up to the government of—

AgricultureOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Outremont.

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Barlagne family, French citizens who moved to Quebec three years ago, are going through a stressful time.

The Federal Court has just ruled that their daughter Rachel, who has cerebral palsy, would place an excessive financial burden on Canada and that the family has to leave the country.

The decision is now a political one, not a legal one. The judge said that the only recourse is to seek a ministerial exemption on humanitarian grounds.

Will the minister make the only humane decision possible and allow the Barlagne family to stay in Canada?

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

I want to remind the hon. member and the House that the Privacy Act prohibits a minister from discussing the details of a case or anything personal. The opposition may want me to violate the act, but I have no intention of doing so.

In Canada, everyone has access to a very open and very fair legal system, and every individual can present their case to the courts of Canada.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, our government learned last Friday of vicious attacks on the Ahmadi Muslims in Lahore, Pakistan. Our government was deeply disturbed by this and we would like to offer our deepest condolences to those who lost their loved ones in these terrible attacks. These acts were clearly motivated by hatred. Victims were targeted based solely on their faith, which is completely unacceptable.

Would the Minister of Foreign Affairs please inform the House what our government is doing to address the issues facing the Ahmadi Muslims in Lahore and attacks on minorities around the world?

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, our government condemns last Friday's barbaric attacks on worshippers at two mosques in Lahore. We are urging Pakistani authorities to ensure equal rights for members of minority communities. We will continue to work with Pakistan and our allies to bring peace and stability to that country.

Additionally, my colleague from Edmonton—Sherwood Park will be putting forward a motion to the House officially condemning these acts. Our government actively works with countries around the world to promote freedom, democracy, the rule of law and particularly religious freedom.

Sydney HarbourOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are appalled with the billion dollar price tag of the G8 summit for an 18 hour meeting. However, they are not as upset as the people of Cape Breton with the government's lack of action for the funding of the Sydney Harbour dredging project. In response to my Friday's question, all I received were condescending comments from the regional minister about the people of Cape Breton.

Is there any chance the G8 security detail could maybe kick off 15 minutes early so the money the government saves could dredge the harbour in Sydney?

Sydney HarbourOral Questions

3 p.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick

Conservative

Keith Ashfield ConservativeMinister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned earlier in a response, the dredging of Sydney Harbour is a complex and costly undertaking that will require the involvement of all levels of government and the private sector.

While I am on my feet, I would like to mention the fact that we have made major investments in Cape Breton, ones of which I am very proud. We have invested some $28.7 million in 116 projects through CAF, RInC and ICF. The list goes on such as $14 million from the infrastructure stimulus program—

Sydney HarbourOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Halifax.

HealthOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Assisted Human Reproduction Agency of Canada is supposed to uphold ethical principles, carefully monitor scientific advances in this complex field and protect Canadian families. However, since being created, it has done very little licensing or regulatory work. Over the last month, three of the agency's directors have resigned. We do not know what is going on because it is being muzzled.

Will the government tell Canadians what its plan is to bring real accountability and transparency to this agency?

HealthOral Questions

3 p.m.

Nunavut Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq ConservativeMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the board continues to fulfill its mandate in respecting overall management at the agencies providing advice to the minister. I have a very good working relationship with it and it has been very transparent. There has been some turnover in the board of directors, but it was a result of individual choices to leave the organization. I will continue to work with it.

Provision of Information to Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in AfghanistanPoints of OrderOral Questions

3 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point further to my point of order of May 14. I would like to advise you and all hon. colleagues that with respect to the agreement in principle that was reached by all parties on May 14, we continue to make very good progress on the terms of the memorandum of understanding that is to flow from that agreement.

We had collectively agreed to have this memorandum of understanding finalized today. However, there are a few remaining issues that we would like to take a little more time to work on and therefore will take the coming days to finalize the document.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues for all the co-operation and work they have done on this at this point.

Provision of Information to Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in AfghanistanPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, on the same matter, the proposed agreement that is the subject of these discussions is a matter of great importance to the House and flows from an order of the House and a ruling by you.

On behalf of the official opposition, I would simply like to underscore the importance of all parties in the House pursuing this matter with great diligence to ensure that it is not punted into never-never land, but in fact is successfully completed within the next very short while.

Oral Questions—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please. I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on May 5, by the hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou regarding the use of the term “token Quebecker” or “Québécois de service” in reference to some members.

I want to thank the hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou for raising this issue, as well as the member for Crowfoot, the member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, the member for Joliette and the Parliamentary Secretary for Official Languages for their interventions.

Following question period on May 5, the member for Beauport—Limoilou rose to object to being referred to as a “token Quebecker” or “Québécois de service” by the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin. In doing so, she spoke of the need for all members to act respectfully toward one another, regardless of their opposing beliefs and ideas.

These very sentiments were echoed by the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, who characterized such a remark as insulting. The Parliamentary Secretary for Official Languages and the member for Crowfoot added that there were in fact no token members.

Together with the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, the member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord dismissed the claim, saying that only the French term “Québécois de service” had been used, rather than “token Quebecker” as was suggested and that previously the member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean had used the term intentionally when referring to himself.

Acknowledging that some members may indeed consider such language offensive, the member for Joliette contended that there are many occasions where members of his party are slighted during proceedings, without feeling the need to bring the insulting language in question to the Speaker’s attention every time.

The use of this same terminology has been brought to the attention of the Chair in the past. On March 31, 2009, at page 2221 of the Debates, the member for Bourassa raised a similar point of order and since then, the Chair has found that it has been used more than a dozen times, including a number of times in just the past few days.

While the term “token Quebecker” or “Québécois de service” may be acceptable to some, it appears to the Chair that it is being used in a provocative manner time and time again in the House. Members raising objections to language used in the House have, in the past, cited House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, at page 618, which states:

The proceedings of the House are based on a long-standing tradition of respect for the integrity of all Members. Thus, the use of offensive, provocative or threatening language in the House is strictly forbidden. Personal attacks, insults and obscenities are not in order.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at page 619 also states:

In dealing with unparliamentary language, the Speaker takes into account the tone, manner and intention of the Member speaking; the person to whom the words at issue were directed; the degree of provocation; and, most importantly, whether or not the remarks created disorder in the Chamber. Thus, language deemed unparliamentary one day may not necessarily be deemed unparliamentary the following day...Although an expression may be found to be acceptable, the Speaker has cautioned that any language which leads to disorder in the House should not be used.

In the current circumstances, the use of the term in question has clearly led to some disorder and considerable offence, and I would therefore urge hon. members to refrain from using it and any others that tend to lead to disorder.

As I suggested when this matter was first raised, members may bring questions about the use of this term, and perhaps even more broadly, questions related to unparliamentary language, to the attention of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

I would also like to take the opportunity to remind the House in the strongest terms possible that all members are legitimate and duly elected members of the House who have rightfully taken their seats. As rightfully noted by the member for Crowfoot, none of them are token in any sense of the word and to suggest otherwise would diminish the importance of our parliamentary system, our electoral system and the decisions of the very electors who sent them, indeed all of us, here.

I thank hon. members for their attention and for their co-operation.

Agreement concerning Annual Reports on Human Rights and Free Trade between Canada and the Republic of ColombiaRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, with leave of the House and pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I would like to table, in both official languages, the treaty entitled “Agreement concerning Annual Reports on Human Rights and Free Trade between Canada and the Republic of Colombia”, signed in Bogota on May 27, 2010.

The agreement is tabled pursuant to the government's policy on the tabling of treaties before Parliament and is therefore subject to a period of 21 sitting days for examination. However, if during that time the House proceeds to a vote on a bill that refers to the agreement, the vote will be deemed as having fulfilled and respected the requirements concerning the examination.

Canadian Forces Pension PlanRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, in accordance with Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a revised actuarial report on the pension plan for the Canadian Forces.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to five petitions.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-30, An Act to amend the Criminal Code.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canadian Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union concerning its participation at the parliamentary meeting on the occasion of the 54th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the role of parliamentarians in enforcing gender equality in women's rights 15 years after Beijing, which took place in New York, New York, United States of America, on March 2, 2010.

Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with DisabilitiesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in relation to Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act.

The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House without amendment. I wish to thank all the committee members and other members of Parliament for their hard work, commitment and collaboration in getting this bill through expeditiously.

Government Operations and EstimatesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates in relation to its study on the main estimates 2010-11.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

In accordance with its order of reference of Wednesday, March 3, 2010, the committee has considered the votes under Justice in the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2011, and reports the same.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

moved:

That the third report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, presented on Tuesday, April 20, 2010, be concurred in.

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to move that the third report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, presented on Tuesday, April 20, be concurred in.

This motion is really about updating the citizenship guide. As the House knows, there is a new citizenship guide. Tens of thousands of copies have been printed, but there is no reference to gay rights and gay history in it.

Why is it important that newcomers to this country understand the proud history of Canada? We receive immigrants from around the world and there are countries where gays, lesbians and bisexuals face death, torture, and penalties such as prison terms. For example, in Uganda gays face death threats. Homosexuality is a crime punishable by death in Iran. In Paraguay, in April of this year, a 20-year-old lesbian was abducted and dragged into a car, strangled, suffocated, and subjected to multiple blows which resulted in severe bruising to her body. In Turkey, on April 27, a founding member of the Black Pink Triangle was murdered. She did not survive the gunshot wounds to her back and head. On December 13, 2009, in Honduras, a 27-year-old gay activist, a member of the national resistance front against the discrimination against gays and lesbians, was also murdered.

There is violence and discrimination in many countries. Immigrants come to Canada from many of those countries, so it is very important that the citizenship guide clearly state the rights and responsibilities of new citizens. Under the section regarding the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, under equality rights it should be spelled out clearly that Canadians are protected against discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation or age. It should be mentioned in the section “Towards a Modern Canada” that homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969 and that more recently, civil marriage for same sex couples was legalized nationwide in 2005.

May 17 of every year is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. In 1985, as a new school trustee I heard of a murder in Toronto. Kenneth Zeller, a librarian who was very much loved by the elementary school students where he taught, was gay-bashed and murdered in High Park, a park that a lot of gays and lesbians go to in Toronto. He was killed by four high school students. It was tragic. It was unbelievable, in a way, that these were young people who had graduated from our high schools.

During that period, I went around to different high schools and spoke to a lot of gay and lesbian students. I encouraged them to talk about what was happening in their schools. With the help of a student worker, Tim McCaskell, we were able to invite gay and lesbian students to speak to the school board about their experiences. The Toronto Board of Education was the first school board in all of North America to adopt a curriculum that talks about sexual orientation. We also pledged to train all the teachers and adopt policies to protect students.

Many years later, a recent survey has indicated that three-quarters of LGBTQ students and 95% of transgender students feel unsafe at school. A quarter of LGBTQ students and almost half of the transgender students have skipped school because they feel unsafe.

Six out of ten gay and lesbian students reported being verbally harassed about their sexual orientation, and one in four LGB students has been physically harassed about his or her sexual orientation. Two in five transgender students and one in five gay and lesbian students have been physically harassed.

This kind of difficulty and violence happens in our schools, which is why recently there was the launch of the Gay-Straight Alliance. MyGSA.ca is a website that encourages teachers and students to come together to counteract homophobia. This is supported by Egale and is an excellent website that helps promote the curriculum and helps promotes students.

It is important to look at the history of pension rights in Canada. George Hislop was a gays rights pioneer who won the right to same-sex survivor's benefits from the Canada pension plan for gays and lesbians across Canada. In the early 1970s, when it was not easy to be out of the closet anywhere, George was on national television with his partner, Ron Shearer. His partner had contributed to the Canada pension plan for many years, but when he passed away and Mr. Hislop applied for a pension, he was turned down because he was the same sex as Mr. Shearer.

Same-sex couples were excluded under the Canada pension plan until August 2000 when the laws were finally amended to include them. Those amendments, however, continued to deny pensions to those whose partners had died prior to January 1, 1998, which was the case for Mr. Hislop's same-sex common law partner. Because of his same-sex class action lawsuit based on the charter right of equality, he was able to leave a lasting legacy of tolerance to our entire country.

A person like George Hislop should be celebrated in our citizenship guide, because he was a leader in the lesbian and gay community in fighting discrimination and demanding equal respect.

Luckily in July 2005, the federal government agreed to start paying pensions pending the appeal. While Mr. Hislop did receive his first cheque in August, he passed away soon after.

I talked earlier about equal marriage, and about the long struggle here on Parliament Hill and in the community. Brent Hawkes at the Metropolitan Community Church has been a leader in Canada in pushing for people to learn to love and support each other and not be judgmental. It is part of the universal fellowship of the Metropolitan Community Church. The MCC published banns for same-sex couples, Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell, and Elaine and Anne Vautour, in accordance with the age-old legal tradition.

The Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto married the couples in a double wedding ceremony on January 14, 2001. It was an extremely joyous occasion. I was fortunate to be there. I want to share what Reverend Brent Hawkes said. He said:

Love is the fundamental basis of all Christian teaching.

Because of their Christian heritage, their current faith and for many, their current loving relationships, access to marriage has always been desired by many in our congregation. In fact, blessing same sex unions was one of the first types of services provided by UFMCC [Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches] when it was founded over 30 years ago.

I believe that most Canadians either support our right to marry...or they believe that the state has no business in telling us that we may not do so....and that the majority of Canadians cherish freedom of religion as a fundamental right in our society. Most Canadians would agree that one group in society should not impose its religious beliefs on another group with a different view.

He continues that love and marriage is something that should be celebrated and not prohibited. I witnessed the marriage of Michael and Michael. They are from Halifax. They have been together for 20 years. In Michael Leshner's affidavit, he said:

It should not be necessary for me to justify my application for a marriage licence and requiring me to do so would be discriminatory, humiliating and upsetting. Being denied a marriage licence suggests that Mike and I do not love each other, and that our hopes, our dreams, our life together do not exist. Mike and I, while supposedly equal citizens of this great country, are deemed non-persons, because we are gay.

Subsequently, in 2005-06, there was a series of votes in the House of Commons, and gay marriage was finally approved. I want to repeat a short part of a speech by the member for Toronto—Danforth, the leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada. When the House debated the Civil Marriage Act, Bill C-38, he said:

Mr. Speaker, there are junctures in a country's path when it is an honour to be a member of Parliament because one is able to help make a fundamental choice, a choice that celebrates more of our rich diversity and extends that fundamental Canadian value of equality. Originally, the goal of extending marriage—civil marriage—rights came directly from the grassroots, part of the long struggle of gays and lesbians for a society in which their right to a just, equitable relationship was recognized, meaning the celebration of their union, but also, let us hope, our celebration of their union.

It is important that all of this history and the rights of the gay and lesbian community be recognized, celebrated, and documented in our citizenship guide. For us not to do so, especially for our new immigrants, is unfair and unjust. There is no excuse. The citizenship guide, as it is, is fairly substantial. It is hefty. There is all sorts of good information in the citizenship guide. There is absolutely no reason not to include this section.

Many people have done a great deal of work on equality. Not only should we include all of this in the citizenship guide, but I believe that the federal government has a role to play in helping to educate our young people and new immigrants to make sure that they understand that homophobia is not tolerated, that there is a hate crime in this country, and that gay bashing will be punished.

All those elements we celebrate should be included. We must make sure, whether people are young or old, new to Canada, or live in urban centres or rural Canada, that all citizens of Canada understand this priority.

I want to take the time to read something that passed through the House of Commons three times in three years in three Parliaments under three prime ministers. The House of Commons voted to affirm the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to affirm the inclusion of same-sex couples in civil marriage.

The first vote was in September 2003, following the historic Court of Appeal for Ontario ruling. The second vote was in 2005 on Bill C-38, which is the equal marriage bill. The final vote was 158 to 133.

The third vote was on December 7, 2006, and that vote was divisive, because even though Bill C-38 had passed, the Conservatives at that time wanted to bring forward that issue again. Thankfully, the vote passed again for the third time in three years.

Immediately after its passage on December 7, 2006, Canadians for Equal Marriage had this to say:

We are heartened that Canadian values of inclusion, equality and respect for difference have shown themselves to be stronger than ever.

A clear pattern has been established in the three votes that have been held in Parliament since the courts first ruled that excluding same-sex couples from civil marriage violates the charter. This is a pattern of growing acceptance of equal marriage, a pattern that reflects Canada's growing consensus on this issue.

Most MPs, like most Canadians, have come to understand that equal marriage doesn't harm anyone; it only makes life better for some. They have come to understand that a generous and inclusive definition of marriage actually strengthens the institution. They have come to understand that the only reason to exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage is discomfort, resistance to change and moral judgment. And they have learned that voting in favour of equality and inclusion feels really, really good.

We also want to salute all the Canadians who may have been uncomfortable with including same-sex couples in marriage, but who have come to accept and perhaps even embrace equal marriage. It's you who have truly demonstrated the wonder of Canada—that people with such diverse backgrounds and beliefs get along and live together in peace and harmony. That ability makes Canada the envy of the world.

That is why many of them want to come to Canada.

To continue with this statement from the Campaign for Equal Families:

Our common challenge now is to look at each other with eyes of understanding and compassion. To put aside our differences and focus on what we have in common. We all want to build a better Canada and a better world. And now that we have put this issue behind us, we can get on with that task.

In the not-too-distant future, we will look back and wonder how it was that this was even an issue. We will be proud that Canada chose to continue its long tradition of inclusion and respect for diversity, and refused to turn back the clock on equality. And hopefully, one day, the idea that someone would hide their sexual orientation or their gender identity will make no sense at all.

We look forward to that day.

We look forward to the day when all new immigrants understand that they do not have to hide their sexual orientation or their gender identity. That day, when every new immigrant becomes a citizen, he or she will be proud of Canada's long tradition of inclusion and respect for diversity. Now is not the time to turn back the clock on equality, which is why we must include gay rights and gay history in our citizenship guide.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina for raising a very relevant topic today, but with all due respect, I do not think we want to diminish the importance of this report.

We need to recognize that at hand is Bill C-9, which we were debating, the bill entitled leading the way on jobs and growth. That has seized all the members of the House and should, because there are a number of important issues in that bill that we need to get done immediately. I would suggest that all hon. members would be willing to continue with that hon. member's debate once we get the bill passed through the House.

Therefore, I move that the debate be now adjourned.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am afraid that the hon. parliamentary secretary is a little premature. We are on questions and comments at the moment. He can ask a question or make a comment, but I do not think he can move a motion at this point.

The hon. member for Trinity--Spadina may wish to respond to the comment of the hon. parliamentary secretary, although perhaps his comments are an indication of what he is going to do when he gets the floor a little later.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for that ruling. I thought that there should be at least an hour of discussion on this matter before a motion such as that was moved.

I will attempt to answer that question, rhetorical though it is.

It is important that we deal with this citizenship guide. Why? It is because the first batch of the citizenship guide has been printed. There probably will be a reprint of the guide quite soon.

It is such a basic issue of fundamental rights. Right now, in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, sexual orientation is included. How is it possible that it is not in our citizenship guide? I think it is a priority. It is important that the House have a comment and issue a position on whether it believes that gay rights should be in the citizenship guide. That is why I raised that as a motion.

To try to answer the question the member has raised, I have no idea why environmental assessment, for example, is in Bill C-9 and whether it pre-empts a review of the environmental review process. Bill C-9, the budget bill, has all sorts of things in it that are not connected with the budget, such as the sale of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. or Canada Post, and so on.

Therefore, we should continue the discussion on this very important issue.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, after that very crude, wrong-headed attempt by the Conservatives to shut down yet another debate, I welcome the opportunity to actually raise a question on the issue at hand.

We can hear the reaction from the Conservatives. This is what they do. They take blunt instruments and try to brutally beat people into submission.

On the issue of Bill C-9, it is completely inappropriate what they have done with the monster bill in 24 different areas.

We have the third report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration that the member for Trinity—Spadina has brought forward, thankfully. The issue, of course, is the issue of respecting diversity.

We have a government that does not respect diversity. It has cut and slashed all funding for organizations that support the rights of gay Canadians. In every single place, what it has done is slash funding. Now we see the citizenship guide that completely eliminates any reference to the many contributions of gay, lesbian, and transsexual Canadians.

We have people who come to Canada, and that presence, that history, and those immense contributions are simply erased by the government in a very mean-spirited way.

I want to ask the member for Trinity—Spadina if she sees this as a systematic attempt by the government to completely eradicate the contributions made by gay Canadians by eliminating references to gay rights, equal marriage, and the history of gay Canadians. Does the member see this as a strategy that the government employs to try to eliminate that respect for diversity on which Canada was founded?

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I could add to the elimination list, the elimination of the funding to Gay Pride Day. Gay Pride in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver are extremely successful events. Gay Pride Toronto, for example, brings in over one million visitors. The economic spinoff is phenomenal. It promotes tourism. It helps small businesses and hotels in Toronto. It is the same with the ones in Halifax, Ottawa, Montreal, and Vancouver. To deny the funding to Gay Pride Day in Toronto, for example, is totally unjustifiable. But I see a pattern. It is a shutdown, a silencing, a bullying effort. It is a moral statement in some ways that would include, for example, not funding organizations that provide information, counselling or referral services on abortion in developing countries. It is really a way to say that government is not for all people. Government is only for those who agree with a very narrow ideology.

This citizenship guide should be for all new citizens, not typecast to a certain group of people, because those who have homophobic thoughts are the ones especially who need to know that gay bashing is not acceptable, that it is a crime in Canada.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for putting this motion forward for discussion this afternoon.

I want to ask her why the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration was seized of this issue. I know it is a very important issue to members of the GLBTT community in Canada, of which I am proud member.

We were very concerned when we saw the new citizenship guide and saw that we were made virtually invisible in terms of the history of our community as part of our country's history. We believe that is an important history. It is one of the things that distinguishes us from almost every other country on the planet and Canada's progress on issues of GLBTT rights has been far greater than almost any other country, perhaps greater than any country on the planet.

I want to know why the committee felt so strongly as to look at this issue and pass this recommendation. Perhaps she could tell us something of the discussion that the standing committee had.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the reason that the citizenship and immigration committee decided to send forth a position on this matter is precisely because of what the member said. No one should be invisible. New immigrants need to see themselves reflected. There are gay, lesbian and bisexual immigrants coming to Canada. Some of them are refugee claimants. They came to Canada because they face the death sentence, torture, harassment and beatings in their home countries. They came to Canada wanting to be proud, wanting to celebrate who they are. There is no reason that they must hide their sexual orientation. That is why it is critically important that we have this history. Frankly, it is not just tolerance. It is a celebration that we should have—

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please.

Resuming debate. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I know I was so intent on getting back to the actual debate at hand, and I know that we have most Canadians supporting this legislation. In fact, the committee has dealt with it and brought it back here without amendments. I think it is important that we move on.

So, at this point, I move:

That the debate be now adjourned.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #51

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

The House will now resume with the remaining business under routine proceedings.

Public TransitPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to present a group of seven petitions signed by people from all across Halifax regional municipality.

These petitioners draw attention to an increase in violent assaults against public transit operators, school bus drivers, para-transit and intercity bus workers across Canada. They say almost 40% of Canadian bus operators have indicated they have been physically assaulted in their career.

These employees, of course, provide a valuable service to the Canadian population and as such deserve stronger protection.

The petitioners ask the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada to amend the Criminal Code to recognize the growing incidence of violence against these workers, affecting their safety and that of the travelling public.

Postal ServicePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am also pleased to present a petition from the residents of Halifax Regional Municipality.

This petition recognizes the need to improve and maintain the network of public post offices that play a key role in the social and economic life of Nova Scotian communities.

The petitioners point out that the government is allowing Canada Post to close post offices with as little as one month's warning to the public, which is an insufficient amount of time for communities to discuss solutions to the loss of such a necessary resource.

The Nova Scotians who have signed this petition urge the government to consult with the public, their elected representatives, postal unions and other major stakeholders to develop a uniform and democratic process for making changes to this vital network and to retain the integrity of that network for the benefit of all Canadians.

Animal WelfarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to present a petition signed by several constituents of my riding of Red Deer.

The petitioners urge the Government of Canada to support a universal declaration on animal welfare.

First Nations UniversityPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition in support of First Nations University of Canada. The petitioners call for the reinstatement of provincial funds and up to $3 million in federal funds to the proposed Indian students program will not ensure the long-term sustainable funding of the First Nations University.

They also indicate that the founding mission of the First Nations University includes a commitment to enhance the quality of life and to preserve, protect and interpret the history, language, culture and artistic heritage of first nations people, that we must not lose the valuable resources and indigenous knowledge that has been created in the First Nations University and that, above all, we must support students at First Nations University who have demonstrated their dedicated commitment and overwhelming desire for their continuation at the institution.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to work with students, staff and faculty to build a sustainable and viable future for the First Nations University of Canada by fully reinstating federal funding of at least $7.2 million.

Foreign AffairsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:25 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition to the Parliament of Canada calling for an immediate end to the Gaza blockade and expressing support for the recommendations of the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict.

Assisted SuicidePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition signed by over 700 people from all across Canada. The petitioners are reminding members that section 241 of the Criminal Code of Canada states that everyone who counsels a person to commit suicide is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years.

They are calling upon Parliament to retain section 241 of the Criminal Code without changes in order that Parliament not sanction or allow counselling, aiding or abetting suicide, whether by personal action or the Internet.

Mining IndustryPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting petitions on behalf of hundreds of people from northern Ontario who are very upset with the absolute failure of the government to stand up with any coherent vision for the base metal industry. Of course, I am speaking about the ham-fisted handling of the sale of Inco and Falconbridge, two internationally respected Canadian mining companies that were picked off by corporate raiders like Xstrata.

Now there are 1,000 jobs being lost in Timmins. All the copper refining capacity of Ontario is disappearing. We are 10 months into a Vale strike. This is all as result of a lack of vision from a government that treats mining as if it were doing ShamWow infomercials.

The petitioners are asking the government to open up section 36 of the Investment Canada Act and call upon the government to actually stand up for industry instead of just hocking cleaning products.

Canada PostPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition on behalf of the people of the rural municipality of Buchanan No. 304 requesting that Canada Post maintain and improve its network of public post offices and consult with the public should any changes be considered.

They make the point that the federal government is allowing Canada Post to close public post offices in spite of a moratorium on closures in rural and small towns and that a month is an inadequate amount of time for a whole community to discuss a closure and explore options.

Public post offices connect communities throughout this vast land, helping us to overcome differences and distances. These post offices play a key role in our social and economic life by providing the infrastructure that healthy communities need to thrive and businesses need to grow.

The petitioners call upon the government to maintain and improve its network of public post offices and to consult with the public.

International AidPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition today from petitioners from around the Halifax and Dartmouth areas who are calling upon the government to restore funding to KAIROS.

The petitioners state that whereas the programs delivered by KAIROS benefit hundreds of thousands of people in marginalized communities who are facing humanitarian crises, as well as political oppression, and who urgently need these funds and services, and whereas this decision cuts funding to many projects, including a legal clinic to assist women who are victims of the ongoing violence in the Congo, African youth organizations, a women's organization protecting against human rights abuses in Colombia, grassroots local support to peace and human rights work, women in Israel and Palestinian territories who work as partners for peace in the Middle East and various environmental initiatives, therefore, the petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to immediately restore its funding relationship with KAIROS and to fund KAIROS overseas programs for the period 2010-2013.

Both the petitioners and I look forward to the minister's response.

International AidPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the privilege and responsibility of presenting petitions is one that extends back centuries and is the oldest role that we members of Parliament have. However, the Speaker does not have the opportunity to present petitions on behalf of his constituents and, therefore, as the MP for the adjoining constituency, it is my honour to do so when they arrive at his office.

I have a petition signed by members of St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Kingston, also on the subject of KAIROS. They say much the same thing as was in the previous petition, so I will not go into details. However, I do present this on behalf of the Speaker for the citizens of Kingston.

Prison FarmsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my petition today is signed by dozens of Canadians and it calls upon the government to stop the closing of the six Canadian prison farms.

Dozens of Canadians, as I have indicated, are demanding that the government reconsider its decision. All six prison farms, including Rockwood Institution in Manitoba, have been functioning farms for many decades providing food to prisons in the community. The prison farm operations provide rehabilitation and training for prisoners through working with and caring for plants and animals. The work ethic, the rehabilitation and the benefit of waking up at 6 a.m. and working out of doors is a discipline that Canadians can appreciate.

On Sunday, June 6, 2010, Margaret Atwood will join citizens of all ages and political stripes on a march to the Correctional Service of Canada, Kingston headquarters, where they will be posting their demands for saving and revitalizing Canada's six prison farms. There are 16 months of public events, letters, petitions, delegations and parliamentary motions that have nearly unanimous support across the country and yet the federal government is plowing ahead with its ill-considered plan to shut down Canada's six prison farms.

Heritage dairy herds that provide milk for inmates in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick are slated for disposal. The first sale is scheduled for Kingston's Frontenac Institution the week of June 21. This will be the death of the farms.

Skin CancerPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present, the first one being on skin cancer. It says that one in seven Canadians will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer and one of the most rapidly increasing cancers in Canada and the second most common cancer in young adults.

As education, resources and treatment are extremely limited, the petitioners are calling upon the Government of Canada to support a national skin cancer melanoma initiative to provide much needed access to newer drug treatments and funding for research and educational programs.

As we know, there will be testing tomorrow on the Hill.

Firearms RegistryPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is regarding the long gun registry. It says that the long gun registry was originally budgeted to cost Canadians $2 million but that the price tag has spiralled out of control to an estimated $2 billion a decade later and that the registry has not saved one life since it was introduced.

The petitioners are calling upon the House of Commons to support and pass Bill C-391 and any other legislation that will cancel the long gun registry and streamline the Firearms Act.

G8 and G20 SummitsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from many residents who live on the waterfront of Toronto, whether they are 680 Queen's Quay, 10 Queen's Quay or 500 Richmond. Many of the condominiums' residents are extremely worried about the interruption of their lives when the G20 summit is held on June 26.

They originally were petitioning to have the venue at the CNE grounds but now they are pushing to ensure there is compensation for local residents and businesses for any loss of business and property damage caused by or because of the G20 summit.

They have noted that at previous G8 and G20 summits there has been significant property damage and loss of business in the surrounding areas and that the summer months are the peak period for businesses in the downtown core to make a profit. They are worried about their small businesses in the area. Many vendors cater to tourists and we are at the height of tourist season. They are concerned that the proposed security area will prevent potential customers from having easy access to their businesses. They are extremely concerned that if there are any broken windows or damage to the property of businesses or their own condominiums they will not be compensated. They wish to see a response from the government as quickly as possible.

Child CarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have another petition regarding high quality child care.

The petitioners are asking the Government of Canada to achieve multi-year funding to ensure that publicly operated child care programs are sustainable for the long term. They are supporting the New Democrats' bill that would protect child care by enshrining it in legislation under a national child care act to be a cornerstone of Canada, like the Canada Health Act.

The petitioners also want to help end child poverty by using the $1,200 allowance to enhance the child tax benefit without taxes and clawbacks because they want to ensure that all children's health and school readiness will be enhanced, that family poverty will be reduced and that such inclusion in workforce productivity would be promoted and enhanced.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 202 and 219.

Question No. 202Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

With regard to the $12 million grant awarded to the Wind Energy Institute of Canada under the Clean Energy Fund at Natural Resources Canada (NRC), did meetings take place between the Minister of NRC, the Minister’s exempt staff or NRC departmental officials and other Ministers of the Crown or their exempt staff, and, if so (i) when did the meetings take place, (ii) where were they held, (iii) who attended?

Question No. 202Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis ConservativeMinister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, the department has no record of any meetings having taken place between the Minister of Natural Resources, NRCan,, the minister’s exempt staff or NRCan departmental officials and other ministers of the Crown or their exempt staff regarding the clean energy fund project with Wind Energy Institute of Canada.

Question No. 219Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

With regard to Measurement Canada’s retail gasoline pump inspection program: (a) what is the number of government inspectors, by province; (b) what is the number of private corporations authorized to provide inspections; (c) are individual private inspectors accredited by the government to inspect pumps; and (d) is there any follow-up testing of private inspectors?

Question No. 219Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement ConservativeMinister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, with regard to Measurement Canada’s retail gasoline pump inspection program: in response to a) At present, the number of active Measurement Canada inspectors performing inspection activities pursuant to the Weights and Measures Act is listed by province and territory as follows:

These inspectors are tasked with performing inspections of gas pumps and also conducting inspections of measuring devices in the eight sectors that will be regulated as a result of Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Electricity and Gas Inspection Act and the Weights and Measures Act.

In response to b) Presently, 26 private organizations, incorporated legal entities, are authorized by Measurement Canada to perform gas pump inspections. The total number of active organizations; that is, including mass inspections is 102. These 102 organizations are authorized by Measurement Canada to perform inspections pursuant to the Weights and Measures Act.

In response to c) Individual technicians must be employed by an organization that is authorized by Measurement Canada. Not all technicians of an authorized organization are automatically recognized. Prior to being designated as inspectors who may perform inspections on behalf of the government, technicians must receive training from Measurement Canada and then pass theoretical and practical evaluations. Presently, 68 recognized technicians are employed by authorized organizations that can perform gas pump inspections in the field.

In response to d) Authorized organizations and their recognized technicians receive extensive follow-up and monitoring. These activities include annual audits and follow-up inspections. All of the work performed by recognized technicians is entered into a government database and is closely monitored by Measurement Canada.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, if Questions Nos. 198, 199, 200 and 203 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 198Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

With regard to government jobs in the National Capital Region between 2000 and 2010, how many federal public servants were located in the Outaouais region and how many were located in the Ottawa region?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 199Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

With regard to leases signed by the government in the National Capital Region, what is: (a) the number of such leases that expired in 2005 in the Ottawa region and in the Outaouais region; (b) the number of such leases that expired in 2006 in the Ottawa region and in the Outaouais region; (c) the number of such leases that expired in 2007 in the Ottawa region and in the Outaouais region; (d) the number of such leases that expired in 2008 in the Ottawa region and in the Outaouais region; (e) the number of such leases that expired in 2009 in the Ottawa region and in the Outaouais region; (f) the number of such leases that expire in 2010 in the Ottawa region and in the Outaouais region; and (g) the number of vacant premises in the Ottawa region and in the Outaouais region in 2010?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 200Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

With respect to government agency and Crown corporation positions in the National Capital Region, what is the number of employees with the following government agencies, Crown corporations and other government organizations from 2000 to 2010, broken down by those in the Outaouais region and those in the Ottawa region: (a) Atlantic Pilotage Authority; (b) Great Lakes Pilotage Authority; (c) Northern Pipeline Agency Canada; (d) Laurentian Pilotage Authority; (e) Pacific Pilotage Authority; (f) Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency; (g) National Literacy Secretariat; (h) Competition Bureau; (i) Office of the Correctional Investigator; (j) Transportation Safety Board of Canada; (k) Public Service Integrity Office; (l) Office of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner; (m) Office of the Commissioner of Review Tribunals for Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security appeals; (n) Office of the Prime Minister; (o) Cadets Canada; (p) Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety; (q) Canadian Police College; (r) Security Intelligence Review Committee; (s) Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development; (t) Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner; (u) Pension Appeals Board; (v) Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada; (w) National Battlefields Commission; (x) Status of Women Canada; (y) Employment Insurance Board of Referees; (z) Canadian Judicial Council; (aa) National Joint Council; (bb) Cape Breton Growth Fund Corporation; (cc) Tax Court of Canada; (dd) Federal Court of Appeal; (ee) Federal Court; (ff) Supreme Court of Canada; (gg) Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada; (hh) Elections Canada; (ii) Federal Labour Standards Review Commission; (jj) ExportSource.ca; (kk) Canadian Race Relations Foundation; (ll) Canadian Coast Guard; (mm) Governor General of Canada; (nn) Interagency Advisory Panel on Research Ethics; (oo) Infrastructure Canada; (pp) Royal Canadian Mint; (qq) Marine Atlantic; (rr) Currency Museum; (ss) Public Sector Pension Investment Board; (tt) Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation; (uu) Canadian Intellectual Property Office; (vv) Federal Healthcare Partnership; (ww) Technology Partnerships Canada; (xx) Policy Research Initiative; (yy) Receiver General for Canada; (zz) Defence Research and Development Canada; (aaa) Species at Risk Act Public Registry; (bbb) Leadership Network; (ccc) Canada Business Network; (ddd) Networks of Centres of Excellence; (eee) Environmental Protection Review Canada; (fff) National Search and Rescue Secretariat; (ggg) Service Canada; (hhh) Criminal Intelligence Service Canada; (iii) Public Prosecution Service of Canada; (jjj) Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation; (kkk) Federal Bridge Corporation Limited; (lll) Canada Lands Company Limited; (mmm) Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility; and (nnn) Veteran Review and Appeal Board?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 203Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

With respect to deputy minister, assistant deputy minister and associate deputy minister positions, as of December 31, 2009, what was the breakdown: (a) by first official language spoken; and (b) between Anglophones and Francophones who did or did not meet the linguistic requirements of their positions?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl, Taxation; the hon. member for Welland, Canadian Food Inspection Agency; the hon. member for Don Valley East, Ethics.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-9, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 4, 2010 and other measures, as reported (without amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to talk about this bill.

We call it a bill but it is a Trojan Horse. Buried inside this budget bill are a series of measures that the government could simply not have passed had it not put them in the budget bill.

We have a golden opportunity to open up this Trojan Horse and take out the nefarious legislation that is within it and to move ahead with the consideration of those important proposals but it will require the government to split out these pieces of legislation so we can deal with them separately. I would like to address why that is so important. I think the government should do exactly this.

I would like the leader of the official opposition to behave like a real opposition leader and use his power to prevent the Prime Minister from sneaking major legislative changes through by hiding them in this budget bill. Passing bills on the sly like this is a last-resort strategy for a government trying to make changes that do not have unanimous approval. Knowing that Canadians would not support each of these changes individually, the Conservatives tried to sneak them into its budget bill.

Some of the most disturbing changes in Bill C-9 are those to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act giving the Minister of the Environment the power to determine the scope of environmental assessments and to turn responsibility for reviewing power generation proposals over to the National Energy Board, which has close ties to the business sector. This bill includes a hodge-podge of unrelated elements and looks a lot like American budget bills, which tend to include hundreds of clauses added as a result of political manoeuvring.

Some of the most significant provisions buried in the Prime Minister's budget bill are: authorization to sell Atomic Energy of Canada Limited without any public debate or scrutiny; a measure to privatize Canada Post that takes away the crown corporation's exclusive international remailing privilege; and approval for having cleaned out the employment insurance fund, which had a surplus of $57 billion in contributions from employees and employers over the past 10 years. That was one of the largest thefts in this country's history.

We hope that the Leader of the Opposition will stand up for his convictions and vote against the measures in Bill C-9. It is important that he do so.

I want to speak a little further about some of the key elements that are buried in the budget bill. We can agree or disagree with some of these budget measures, but buried in this bill are projects and initiatives that the government could simply never pass through the House of Commons any other way.

The first that we want to discuss here today is the gutting of our environmental assessment process. The environmental assessment process for major projects including major energy projects is absolutely vital. We do not have to look any further than the crisis that is unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico right now to see why an environmental assessment is so important for major projects.

Yet, what is the government proposing to do? The government is proposing to give to the Minister of the Environment, without any accountability to Parliament, the power to simply waive any environmental assessment requirements and to ask the National Energy Board, for heaven's sake, to conduct the environmental assessment such as it might deem fit.

This is exactly the reverse of what our friends the Americans are doing as they realize when there is one agency responsible for getting approvals that ultimately generate revenue to government, that generate business for business, that are related to energy projects, that it has an exclusive focus and jurisdiction, that what is needed is a separate set of eyes and a separate process to deal with the environmental consequences, dangers and issues that can arise from an environmental project, particularly of a major magnitude.

Why empower the minister to limit environmental assessments at a time when Canadians and our neighbours to the south as well are asking governments to be more vigilant when it comes to environmental assessment, not less? This bill will open up greater risk for our Canadian environment and we could see the same kind of disaster unfolding in Canada on one of our coastlines or even in the Arctic as we are seeing unfold in the United States.

Mark my words, I do not want this to come true. I do not want this to be a prediction of something that is actually going to happen. I want us in this chamber to take responsibility to ensure that it does not happen, that it never happens, and that it could not happen here.

That is why I am calling on my colleagues in the other parties of the opposition to stand up and be counted. In fact, I would call on them to stand up and speak because I notice that even though this is a vitally important bill and even though there have been pronouncements on the part of both of the other opposition parties that they oppose some of these measures like the weakening of our environmental assessment process, we find that they are not willing to stand up and speak.

It is only New Democrats now, according to the list we have before us, who are prepared to keep fighting the bill. I call on my colleagues in the opposition, on the opposition leader, and the leader of Bloc Québécois to ensure that the members of Parliament from those parties are speaking to this issue and are standing up for Canadians when it comes to the environment. It is time for us to do our job.

Furthermore, I call upon them to bring their members to the House when the vote comes and to ensure there are sufficient numbers in the House to defeat this clause so that we can protect environmental assessment in Canada.

Some would say, “Oh, that would mean that it would take us into an election”. An election is not going to happen on top of the G8 and G20. Why not? Because the Prime Minister has already spent $1.2 billion to have these international guests come to ensure he can have his photo opportunity. There is no way that an election is going to happen on top of that.

It is time for the opposition parties to use the leverage and power that we have, and that Canadians sent us here to use in order to ensure that the government is kept under control. Conservatives think the opposition is weak. They think the opposition is unwilling to stand up to them.

Prove them wrong, that is what I say to my colleagues in the opposition. Let us stop the gutting of environmental laws here in Canada.

I could make exactly the same case when it comes to another element of the budget bill. This has to do with the sale of AECL.

AECL is a very important public enterprise. If it were to be debated here, I doubt very much there would be support of this chamber for it to be sold off, especially in tough economic times and without any sense of what would happen, in terms of environmental protection, not to mention the future of the jobs.

It is an obnoxious precedent being set here by the government. I call on the opposition parties to stand up and fight.

It also argues that we should privatize Canada Post. That is the wrong direction to go when we are talking about an essential public service. Taking profitable overseas mail distribution and turning it over to big companies that compete with Canada Post would undermine the ability of our public post service to do the job that Canadians expect it to do, and have expected it to do for many decades. It is a vital corporation.

In closing, I call on my colleagues from the opposition parties to understand that we have a key historic moment here to use the leverage given to us by 62% of Canadians who did not vote for the current government to put a stop to what it is trying to do in this budget bill.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I had an opportunity, in between some of the comments made by the hon. member, to hear him say something about privatization of Canada Post. I can tell members, as the parliamentary secretary to the minister responsible for this for over four years now, there has been no discussion of privatization of Canada Post. Quite frankly, it is ludicrous.

However, what does trouble me is that he spoke of one particular aspect in the bill, which is called remailers. There are at least 10,000 jobs across this country, in Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto, that rely on something that has been happening for 20 years; that is, remailers, small mom and pop organizations, print shops, across this country that have been operating for 20 to 30 years doing remailers. We have heard evidence about that remailing business going to other countries because Canada Post does not compete. So, it is going to other countries.

What does the member have against the small mom and pop shops and 10,000 employees in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal and Vancouver, who rely on these jobs now? Does he want to close down those small businesses that have been operating for 30 years under this particular aspect?

I want to hear from that member about those small mom and pop businesses that rely on this type of business.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question because it is a very timely question that he has asked.

Only a very few weeks ago, I held a meeting in my constituency with some of the small businesses which used to give postal service, under contract to Canada Post, that have been shut down because of the very policies of the current government. Some of the citizens from the area, very upset that they have lost their local postal service, were there at that community meeting, as well. It was quite well covered in the newspaper.

The fact is that business has been shunted over to Shoppers Drug Mart. The result is we literally had in front of us in a meeting of 75 people, four or five of these businesses, some of which had operated for years. People were in tears because they were losing their livelihood and their relationships with the community.

So, I do not apologize for a minute for trying to stop the current government from doing what it is doing to Canada Post because it is not doing the right thing.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Toronto—Danforth for that impassioned speech. I have a very specific question for him.

With the gutting of the environmental regulations, as proposed in this budget implementation bill, first nations across this country have raised some valid concerns about the fact that this process may mean that they are not consulted when large projects are going into their area.

Today is the 20th anniversary of the Sparrow decision, which was all about consultation with first nations, and here we have the current government presenting a proposal that cannot guarantee that appropriate consultation regarding environmental projects would happen.

I wonder whether the member would comment on that.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her championship of the concerns of first nations, Métis and Inuit people over quite a number of years. She raises a very valid point.

The whole concept of environmental assessment is designed to ensure there is thorough, indepth, informed consultation with citizens who will be affected by projects. That is what it is all about. That is why environmental assessment was invented. It was not invented just for a group of technicians, or special interest groups, or corporate representatives or lobbyists to go off and whitewash a project and say that it would not have any environmental impact or that we should not worry, that they have it handled.

I am sure the representatives of BP said to the American government and some of the officials who were dealing with its approvals that they should not worry, that they had it covered. Now there has been everything from the top hat to the top kill. BP does not have a clue what it is doing now that it has unleashed the power that resides thousands of metres below the earth's crust.

Because environmental assessment is so critical, we know we should apply the most careful and thorough tests on any major engineering project that could produce similar kinds of consequences in Canada. I would bet that if I went out on the streets of the country right now and asked people if they thought it would be a good idea for us to weaken our assessment of major projects from the standpoint of their environmental consequences, they would say no. We say no too.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, it has been over 40 days now since the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico started. Wildlife officials report that 491 birds, 227 turtles and 27 mammals, including dolphins, have been collected dead along the U.S. gulf coast. Have we not learned anything from this oil spill?

Those beautiful fish, turtles and dolphins are magnificent species. It is tragic they are now dying and many more will die. The top kill over the weekend did not work. The next thing BP is planning to do is to place a funnel on the leak, but this means that the leak could increase by 20% during this entire process.

How could we possibly not learn that deregulation of any projects, especially when it comes to oil or energy, is a bad idea? Look at what is happening here. This bill is anti-democratic, it is bad for the environment and it is bad for ordinary Canadians.

Why is it anti-democratic? This is supposed to be a budget bill. It is supposed to talk about spending. What does it have to do with deregulation? The bill would—

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am wondering the relevance of the member's speech. She may be lost in American jargon and American legislation, but we are in Canada. We are not responsible for what happened in the gulf. We have a different legislative system here. We have a different environmental process here. This government is taking care of that issue. What does that have to do with the budget bill? It has nothing to do with it whatsoever.

Let us talk about Canadian legislation. Let us talk about what Canada is doing. We are doing the job here and the member should pay attention to that.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

From the Speaker's hearing, I think the member for Trinity—Spadina was referencing part of the budget bill, which is before the House. I will take a look at the group of amendments before the House. I encourage all members, when they speak, to remain relevant to the amendments or the substance of the motion that is before the House.

The hon. member for Trinity—Spadina.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is precisely my point. Environmental assessment has nothing to do with the budget bill. Why is it in Bill C-9? I am glad the parliamentary secretary noticed that environmental assessment really should not have anything to do with the budget. While he—

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. It is going to be very difficult for the Speaker to make a judgment call on relevance if he cannot hear what the member is saying. I ask all hon. members to hold off on their questions and comments. There will be a period for questions and comments as soon as the member for Trinity—Spadina is done with her speech.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am quite amazed that my Conservative colleagues actually got my point, that wrecking the environment should not have anything to do with a budget bill, but that is precisely what they are doing. They are taking the environmental assessment on energy projects, oil and gas, from the environmental assessment agencies. They then give the responsibility over to the industry-friendly National Energy Board, or the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

Let me explain the connections between the National Energy Board, the oil industry and the government. The National Energy Board does not have the experience necessary to conduct proper public consultations and environmental assessments. In fact, about 90% of the board's total expenditure is recovered from the companies it regulates under the National Energy Board.

That is like asking someone like BP to decide on whether its oil drilling is safe or not. In fact, 90% of the National Energy Board's expenditures come from the companies it is supposed to regulate. How could that possibly be done? The companies cannot be asked to regulate themselves. The government is supposed to regulate the projects that come in front of it.

Not only are six of the board members longtime veterans of the private oil and gas industry, on top of that, the Conservatives have hand-picked 10 out of the 12 members on the board. Sometimes the board only takes written submissions. There are no public hearings or consultations. Who did the board choose to hear from on one of the projects, the same-season relief well policy? It heard mostly from the big oil companies. No wonder, they are funded by them.

Of the 300 staff at the National Energy Board, only a few dozen of them work on environmental issues. They do not have the expertise. They are not designed to do environmental assessment. It is not their job, yet they are now given the responsibility to look at all our energy projects. It will take away the environmental protection role that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is supposed to have. It is set up, under the environment minister, to conduct reviews of projects that may have serious consequences.

When there is an oil leak, whether it is diesel, oil or deep-sea drilling, oil has huge environmental consequences as do nuclear projects. This move is anti-democratic and bad for the environment.

Part of the budget bill has cancelled the eco-energy renewable power program, a project that was quite popular. Now it is gone. After increasing some money for Environment Canada, there will be a $53 million cut.

Also most unacceptable in the bill is the selling of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. That will have serious consequences. Last year's spending on AECL ended up being more than double what was budgeted, raising questions about what the final figure would be this year. Embedding the sale of AECL in the budget bill makes absolutely no sense.

The other element I want to talk about is the whole Canada Post situation. I have met with quite a few of the postal workers in my riding. My riding actually has four postal stations in its vicinity. The workers are extremely worried that their jobs are on the line. The bill would remove Canada Post's monopoly on outgoing international letters, which means that it would earn less, for example, when they needed to deliver mail to rural Canada. Canada Post runs itself like a business and if it loses this monopoly on international letters, it will earn less and other mail service across Canada will suffer.

This proposal is identical to what was proposed in Bill C-14 and Bill C-44. These two bills were defeated in the House. What the government has done is totally undemocratic. It brought back the bill that it was unable to pass and put it into this enormous Bill C-9, the budget implementation bill, in all types of areas that have nothing to do with the budget.

We ask all members of Parliament, who are not Conservative, to stand and vote against the bill.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, we are dealing with the first group of motions in the Group No. 1 list, the air travellers security charge. It has been noted that in the United States right now, on international flights, the security charge is $5. The government, until now, has had the second highest security charges in the world. Now with a 50% increase in the security charge fee, the tax on air travellers, we are now the highest in the world. For an international flight, we would be looking at a security charge up to $25.

The government is inadvertently driving customers to the American air carriers. It is making the Canadian air industry more uncompetitive vis-à-vis the American airlines. As of this spring, rather than pay $5, people will have to pay $25 in air taxes.

Would the member like to comment on why a government that prides itself on trying to be competitive with the United States is doing things that make the Canadian industry uncompetitive?

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was quite interesting this morning to see a private member's bill on competition, to ensure that Canadian companies get more advantages so there would be more business. This does the exact opposite.

The proposal is to charge Canadian airlines, such as Air Canada, $25 for international flights. It used to be about $15, which was already too high. This is after the Minister of Transport refused to pay for police patrols. The government is supposed to protect travellers and airport security, yet it would not pay the cost of police patrols.

The government is downloading it to the passengers and the airlines. As a result, a lot more air travellers will buy tickets from American companies and other companies rather than Canadian companies because they do not want to pay this extra amount. It is bad for the passengers and it is bad for the Canadian airline industry.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her intervention. However, she is completely off base.

The remailing industry in Canada employs some 10,000 workers. These are ordinary, hard-working Canadians who depend on the remailing business for their livelihoods. That is how they put bread on the table.

For years we have heard the NDP pay lip service to the fact that they claim to be the great defenders of the workers across Canada. However, when it comes to practice, actually getting things done, they do the exact opposite.

For over 20 years it was accepted in Canada that remailers were conducting their business legally in this country. Somewhere along the line, some smart lawyer at Canada Post found out that there was a discrepancy between the English and French versions of the Canada Post Corporation Act. It went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Supreme Court of Canada said it was going to prefer the French version and asserted the right of Canada Post to actually have control over the remailing industry.

Our government is correcting that and continuing the current practice in which remailers can continue to do business, in which 10,000 Canadians have their jobs. My question to the member is, how can she justify voting against hard-working Canadians?

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5:10 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud of the smart lawyers at Canada Post.

Canada Post belongs to the people of Canada. They run Canada Post like a business. Of course, they want to make sure that they, as a business, make as much money as possible. They understand that not every Canadian has email.

There is an art to writing letters. Handwritten letters are still very important, especially for a lot of seniors who would like to send get-well cards, birthday cards, and wedding cards. All of those elements are important for people to communicate with each other, especially in rural Canada.

We want Canada Post to be financially viable—

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5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh.

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5:10 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-9 is a travesty of the democratic process in the House. I know I am not supposed to use the term “hypocrisy” when I am speaking of individual members, but I think I am allowed to do that when I am speaking of the government as a whole. This bill really fits that category.

I have stood in the House repeatedly challenging the government to use omnibus crime bills as opposed to, as it is wont to do repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly, individual bills on crime, and of course, taking advantage of all the publicity that it gets, which I find quite repulsive, trotting out victims in each one of these areas just so it can have a photo opportunity.

When we look at the number of crime bills we have had and how many of those could have been incorporated into omnibus bills and then referred to the justice committee where they could have had thorough review, investigations and expert witnesses coming in, hearing from the general public on legislation of that kind, it could have done that in a very efficient way as opposed to what we have seen with regard to the numerous bills we have had. We just had another one today. Bill C-30 came through today. Again, it is a classic example where it could be easily combined with a half dozen other bills that are either outstanding or we know are coming from the government.

Instead of having to waste a great deal of time and debate in the House, we could have had reasonable debate and sent it over to the justice committee where it would have been properly investigated and then come back to the House for further debate and either passage or rejection.

We have seen that pattern by the government repeatedly since it first came to office. Then what we have seen, both in last year's budget and even more so in this year's budget, is an attempt on the government's part to justify that, for efficiency purposes, we should have an omnibus bill.

We have heard from any number of other members the number of provisions, and I am going to come back to this, in this bill that really at their essence have nothing to do with budgetary matters and have everything to do with other serious public policy issues that should be given their due attention as opposed to what has happened with the bill.

When we juxtapose those two positions, all of these crime bills coming through not in the form of omnibus bills, which they should be, and then throwing into a budget bill, which is what Bill C-9 should be, all sorts of other public policy issues that should not be there, it is inevitable to see the inconsistency in those two positions, and as I said in my opening remarks, the shameful way that democracy is being thwarted in this type of approach by the government.

Again, it is not the first time it has done it. It certainly did it quite extensively in last year's budget with the budget implementation bill, but it has gone even significantly further in this one.

We may say, if we have had a reasonable amount of debate on it, is it not justified? As we know, in fact it is not. Any number of those other issues that have been injected into Bill C-9, into this budget implementation bill, are not issues that would call for the government to fail should the provisions not go through the House, whereas the budget bill, as we all know, is a matter of confidence and the government does come down if the vote is against it.

We know that the official opposition is running scared from the government and is not prepared to bring the government down on major policy issues. The government is using that to its advantage with the fear that the Liberals have of having to face the electorate. So the Liberals are certainly guilty to a significant degree when we see these types of bills coming through, because they are being intimidated, they are being bullied, and they are succumbing to that intimidation and bullying by the Conservative government. That again is not a healthy democracy to be functioning within.

That process is bad for democracy and it is bad for good public policy, and let me go to that now. A number of these provisions that have been incorporated into Bill C-9 clearly should not be there, should be stand-alone bills.

Let me deal with the environmental assessment provisions that are in here. The provision in Bill C-9 should be a separate bill. It should be in front of the environment committee, where members of that committee are thoroughly knowledgeable of the necessities we have in this country for environmental assessments. Those committee members have thorough knowledge of what is required with regard to environmental assessments at the national level in this country. They have the ability to thoroughly review the legislation to determine whether in fact it is adequate.

As I think everyone in the House knows, we are opposed to the policy position the government has taken in this regard. Moving the assessments out of the environment department into natural resources, providing almost absolute discretion to the minister as to when assessments are to take place, is clearly not good public policy. It stands out in these circumstances with what has happened in the Gulf of Mexico, the concerns we have of the government being quite willing to be overly friendly with the oil and gas industry, willing to bend the rules. We have seen recently, and I am sure this would have gone through but for what happened in the Gulf of Mexico, a request by the oil and gas industry to further loosen the rules generally with regard to exploration, but specifically with regard to exploration and drilling offshore. That request had been made. But for the Gulf of Mexico, I am quite convinced the government would have been prepared to move on it.

If this bill goes through as is, what will happen is that provision will surface at some point in the future. The government again will be receptive to that kind of approach, claims of poverty by the oil and gas industry that they cannot afford to do full assessments, they cannot afford to meet higher standards, and the government will cave in and allow them to do whatever they want to do. That has certainly been the history, whether it is in Alberta in the oil sands or any number of other places across the country where the oil and gas industry has had its way and we have seen the consequences. That is the kind of abuse that this kind of legislation allows for.

With regard to the other provisions, the provision that is always of particular concern, given the community that I come from, is the stripping out of the $57 billion in the fund that was supposed to be there to take care of workers when they were faced with high levels of chronic unemployment. Stripping that out is something that always stands, in a community such as Windsor—Tecumseh where the labour community is very conscious of that having happened, first under the Liberals and now being finalized under the Conservatives. That bill should be a separate bill. That provision should be a separate provision and we should be voting on it separately so that it is very clear as to who is prepared to stand up in this country to protect workers when they are in that difficulty.

The final point I want to make is what is not in the bill, around pensions. Again, in the community I come from, we have taken some major hits on private pensions going down, on the Canada pension and the OAS not being sufficient to take care of people in their retirement. We owe them that obligation. We have set out in very clear form some of the alternatives that could be followed. None of that is in the bill and is another reason that we are adamantly opposed to it.

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5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask about management systems, because I admire the member's intellect in some of these areas. When he talked about management of the oil and gas industry, he brought up the important point that we have been making as well that recently there was a change in the management system so it became a goals-oriented process, so that some mandatory items were removed. The industry had to set goals and prove that they were going to meet those goals. Their arguments are that if we just required certain goals, if there was an accident and they had followed those goals, they could say they were blameless. Or the other one is that things are changing all the time and there are new technologies that the companies could use.

I would like the member to comment on the new management changes.

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5:20 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question and his kind comments. They were better than what I got from my colleagues back here.

He makes a very good point. With regard to that, some of the news that broke over the weekend was about what went on with the approach taken in the Gulf of Mexico by BP and by their own people, who had told them that the system, the technology, they were going to use was really, seriously questionable. It is the same kind of thing. Even if it was goal-oriented and they had those kinds of standards, they did not meet them.

The initial reports came out from their own staff saying that they had serious doubts about whether this would work, that there were serious problems of risk, and that they should be reconsidering it. A few months later, another report comes out, and all of a sudden, they can now meet them. There was no change in technology.

It is that kind of abuse.

What it is really about, and my friend from the Yukon is very right about this, is that we need government protection in this area. We cannot leave activity as risky as this to be determined by the industry, which is clearly in conflict when it comes to setting those standards. They have to be set by independent arbiters and experts in the field. Those standards then have to be met by the industry in question and have to be enforced.

That is true, certainly, in the oil and gas industry. It is also true in any number of other areas where government has to play the role of protecting their citizens.

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5:20 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I really enjoyed listening to the speech from the member for Windsor—Tecumseh.

Tomorrow is Hunger Awareness Day, which speaks to a whole range of issues, including, of course, issues of poverty, first and foremost.

Employment insurance, for many Canadians, is the last opportunity to stave off a life of poverty when people have been adversely affected because they have lost their jobs. Communities like the member's community of Windsor and my home town of Hamilton Mountain have been just devastated by the tsunami of job losses as a result of the recession we are still in but that we first felt the effects of in 2008.

One of the things in the budget bill, as the member correctly pointed out, is the final nail in the coffin of the $57 billion fund of EI moneys, which the government is now taking for itself and is putting into consolidated revenues. It is basically legalized theft.

I want to ask the member for Windsor—Tecumseh whether his community is facing the same reality as we are in Hamilton, where people now have to rely on social assistance, because EI is no longer there for them. All the costs are now going onto ratepayers, the very people who have lost their jobs in our community.

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5:25 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that Windsor and the county governments are faced with a significant increase in the number of people on the social service welfare rolls. There is no question. I have seen a growth in numbers of as much as 17% to 20% over the last two years. It appears to be levelling off at this point. However, the increases are at that level. The Ontario government has made it very clear that across the whole of the province there will be huge increases.

We have seen similar figures, interestingly, in Alberta and British Columbia, with a 20% to 25% growth in the number of people who are receiving welfare benefits. That is a direct result of all that money disappearing out of the EI fund. The federal government is not in a position to expand without taking money out of general revenue, which is what it should have done as opposed to dumping all that money into general revenue over the years.

The fund was there. At a time of crisis, such as we are going through at this period of time and have been going through over the last 18 months, those funds would have made a great difference in ending the poverty level in this country.

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5:25 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am really pleased to stand to speak to Bill C-9, the budget implementation act, because it gives me an opportunity to speak about what I think are two very critical issues in the public governance field. The first is the question of sound, appropriate public policy in government. The second issue, which I think is just as important, has to do with two different visions of an economic development model in this country, one from the government and one from the New Democrats. I would like to point out that I think Bill C-9 highlights this very critical difference for Canadians.

I want to start, first, with the question of sound public policy and the question of accountability and sound budgeting practices.

The bill that has been tabled is approximately 880 pages long. It is what is called an omnibus bill. For any Canadians who might be watching right now, that means that the government has taken items that are normally part of a budget and has added to them legislative proposals on a wide variety of other subjects that are not typically part of a budget bill.

I would respectfully suggest to all my colleagues and to all Canadians that this is an inappropriate practice, and there are some solid reasons for that.

First and foremost is one of respecting the democratic process. When a budget is tabled in the House, of course, members of Parliament debate the items in that budget and determine the proper and appropriate economic blueprint for the year ahead, which is what Canadians have sent them to do. That includes raising revenue and spending revenue and other measures that have to do with the running of our country, fiscally and economically. In order to debate that budget properly, we need to have subjects in that budget that lend themselves to that debate.

When a government, such as the one here, throws into that budgetary process items that have no business being in that budget, it cripples the debate, and it causes parliamentarians to have to vote on items that are not budgetary in nature. We cannot then have a proper, full debate on issues that are very important.

In some ways, I think Bill C-9 is a classic example of one of the major problems of the current government, which is that it has a fundamental disrespect for Parliament and a fundamental disrespect for the institutions of government in this country.

Of course, this is not the first time the current government has illustrated this disrespect. It has prorogued Parliament twice when it has found it inappropriate or uncomfortable to debate the issues Canadians send us here to debate. It has used the budget process before to engage in this kind of inappropriate behaviour.

We all remember back in 2008 that the current government used the budgetary process as a political attack--a political attack on the public service, a political attack on pay equity, a political attack on women, and a political attack on political parties--by trying to ram through a budget in the fall of 2008 that was as much an aggressive document of political ideology as it was one of sound budget.

I want to highlight for Canadians a couple of those inappropriate measures in this budget, and there are many. These are some of the more egregious ones.

First, the current government has seen fit to put in provisions that would seriously and significantly impair the environmental assessment process at the federal level in this country. They are in the budget. Now, Canadians might ask what an environmental assessment process has to do with a budget. If Canadians asked that question, they would be asking an astute question that I think exists on this side of the House, which the government does not seem to want to answer.

I want to briefly summarize this environmental assessment process. It exempts certain federally funded infrastructure projects from environmental assessments, period. It pre-empts a review of the environmental review process in June 2010. It allows the Minister of the Environment to dictate the scope of environmental assessments. It weakens public participation. It enables the removal of the assessment of energy projects from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and transfers that jurisdiction to the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

Let me repeat that. It takes the review of energy projects away from an environmental assessment tribunal and has the projects reviewed by energy agencies. I think Canadians would find that shocking, particularly because, as we speak, there is an oil well in the Gulf of Mexico that is gushing millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It is creating what will no doubt be a century of environmental degradation and devastation. Why? It is coming out that there were weak regulatory and oversight procedures in the United States. In other words, the fox was in the henhouse.

Canadians, North Americans, and citizens of our world, I would argue, want projects to be analyzed in terms of their environmental sustainability and worth. That is not done by the very agencies whose job it is to try to pass those energy projects. It is a clear conflict of interest.

This budget also includes the privatization of part of the business of Canada Post. One might ask what that has to do with the budget. Why is there any place in this budget for a provision that would send the international mail provision of Canada Post off to the private sector? Again, it is because what the government wants to do is put ideological and political measures into the budgetary process to try to have them passed as a confidence measure. Government members know, as all Canadians know, that the Liberal opposition in this country will pass anything to avoid an election. That is putting narrow political partisan interests ahead of good public policy, and I think it is lamentable.

I want to talk about the budget from a straight budgetary point of view, because there are a lot of bad measures on their own in this budget. For instance, as has been spoken about, $57 billion of EI premiums have been taken from workers and employers in this country—

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5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

That was the Liberals.

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5:30 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is a good point. The money started to be taken by the Liberals. It has been finished off by the Conservatives. They took $57 billion and put it into general revenues and have not put the money back.

I hear catcalls of innocence from Conservative members. If they are sincere about that, they will put $57 billion back into the EI account. They will put it back in, because it is not their money. It belongs to the workers and businesses who deducted it and paid it, trusting that the money would be there as insurance money for unemployment, not for funding tax cuts to corporations.

Let me move to that. What is in this bill, as well, and what is odious in this economic time is the momentous tax shift from corporations to individuals. Every Canadian knows that the Conservative government brought in the HST in Ontario and British Columbia and provided $6 billion of bribe money so that the governments in those two provinces would bring in the HST. It will result in hundreds and hundreds and in some cases thousands of dollars in taxes being transferred onto the backs of ordinary people in these two provinces.

We are doing that at a time when the government is running a deficit of over $50 billion. One would think that when we are running a deficit of $50 billion, we would not be giving money to corporations, but the government does. Why? Because it is the triumph of ideology over common sense. No government in its right mind would be transferring money and wealth, going into debt, and borrowing money to give to corporations when it is $50 billion in deficit, but the government has done that.

It is raising the airline tax by 50%. Every time a Canadian goes to the airport in this country, he or she will be paying twice as much as he or she used to.

The government says that it is opposed to tax hikes, but it has raised EI premiums, doubled the airline tax, and brought in the HST. Canadians are not fooled. They know who is taxing them, and they know that they are being taxed unfairly.

What is not in this budget? There is no child care, no national housing policy, and no real help for pensions in this country. In terms of pensions, the country needs an expansion of CPP and an increase in GIS. We need $700 million annually to lift seniors out of poverty in this country. All we need is $700 million. The government will spend $1 billion on security for three days of meetings in Toronto for a photo op for the Prime Minister, when for $700 million, every senior in this country could be lifted out of poverty.

Budgets are a question of soul. When a budget is brought forth, we look into the soul of a government, and I think all Canadians are seeing clearly where the soul resides in this government.

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5:35 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, we are dealing with the deletions in group no. 1, specifically the air travellers' security charge, the environmental assessment, and the EI funding.

I am particularly interested in the air travellers' security charge. It has been alleged, and rightly so, that the revenues that are being collected through the air travellers' security charge far exceed the money that the government is actually spending on security.

The government is already raising more money than it is spending on security. Why would it increase the charges by 50%, making Canada the highest taxed jurisdiction in the world, exceeding Holland, and putting us at a competitive disadvantage to the United States? In the United States there is an international security tax of $5. The new Canadian tax is $25.

Before this new change, Canadian airlines were already at a competitive disadvantage with people buying their airfares in the United States through U.S. carriers. Why would a government that is trying to make Canada competitive be making Canada more uncompetitive?

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5:35 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, a government will increase fees on Canadians when it wants to hide the fact that it is raising revenue from ordinary Canadians while trying to fool them into thinking that they are not paying taxes.

Just because a government says it is so does not make it so. The government stands up day and after and says it is not raising taxes. That is what the government says, but it raised the HST, and it is raising the airline taxes and EI premiums. To taxpayers, those all amount to the same thing, it is money out of their pockets.

Worse, the government claims that it is raising the security fee increase in order to pay for security, but the money that would be raised by this tax is not going to aviation security, it is going to consolidated revenues. That tells Canadians quite clearly that the government is raising money off of Canadians every time they go to the airport to help it deal with its $50 billion deficit so that it can give money to corporations in this country that do not need it.

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5:40 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the items in this budget bill that perhaps has not gotten nearly as much attention as it should have are the sections that are eviscerating federal environmental assessments.

For people who are maybe watching this debate at home today, that is particularly germane in light of what we are seeing south of the border in the Gulf of Mexico, particularly with respect to the oil spill down there.

We have a government here that, instead of re-examining all aspects of development that have an adverse impact on our environment, is making it easier and is loosening regulations. It is making it possible for people to essentially get around environmental assessment criteria. It is now being put into the budget in a way that formalizes the gutting of our environmental assessments.

I think it is one of the issues that deserves much more detailed attention. It deserves independent study, outside of this budget bill.

I know the member for Vancouver Kingsway is on the west coast. I know he has his own concerns about tanker traffic. I just wonder whether the member could bring a western perspective to that part of the debate, on environmental assessments in particular.

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5:40 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for this opportunity to address this issue.

It is exactly true. We on the west coast have a pristine coastline. We are very aware and sensitive to the fact that we are in a seismically active area. Any drilling that would go on, on the west coast or up in the Arctic, would be subject to particular dangers that are simply not worth it.

I think I can safely speak on behalf of British Columbians when I say that they do not want to see drilling off the west coast. They do not want to see oil tanker traffic in sensitive waters off the west coast. They do not want to see any drilling up in the Arctic, where we all know weather and harsh conditions would make the kind of disaster we are seeing in the Gulf of Mexico utterly incomprehensible.

Moving major industrial projects from an agency that is dedicated to environmental protection and handing it over to an industry-friendly board, like the NEB, is simply irresponsible. It is the kind of issue that should not be in the budget. My friend is quite right that we should be examining that separately because I think members of this House would not want to see such a bad policy move. It is hard to do so when it is enveloped inside an 880-page budget bill.

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5:40 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, all members of Parliament here in the House of Commons were elected to represent the constituents in their ridings. Representation can and, I believe, should take two forms.

First, we are elected to be the voice of our constituents and represent their interests here in Ottawa. Our constituents write to us, call us and send us emails. They tell us how they feel about certain issues. They chat with us at the farmers' market or at different community events, and they share their perspectives with us.

We have an obligation to take that feedback. We represent our constituents by bringing those perspectives, thoughts and opinions here. It helps guide us in how we vote, what we say in debates, and how we shape the policies of our parties as well as our government.

However, we are also elected to represent ideas and perspectives of our own, to take leadership on issues, to take positions, and to make decisions about the policies facing our country and our citizens. We are elected to take thoughtful and informed positions and even sometimes unpopular positions.

There is a tension here between what the individual constituents are saying and the mandate upon which an MP was elected to move forward. With respect to this budget and this budget speech, I would like to raise thoughts and ideas that come from individual constituents as well as perspectives of my own and perspectives of the NDP. Interestingly enough, the three are very much aligned.

Like many members of Parliament, I solicit feedback from my constituents with mail-back cards that are attached to my MP mail-outs and newsletters. I have a pretty engaged constituency. I am always thrilled to see a stack of cards in my office with feedback that my constituents want to share with me. I would like to share some of their responses with my colleagues here in the House. It is specifically feedback that I received regarding 2010 budget.

Tim Hosford wrote to me. He said, “Megan, we need a law to protect our pensions. As for the economy, we need to continue to put money into it, allocate monies for education and we need a plan for the next 10 years”. A plan sounds like a good idea.

Halifax has the highest density of students of any city in Canada. It is often reflected in comments that I receive in my office. For example, Dustin Joldersma wrote, “University students!!! Make it easier to get student loans, for example, part-time students should be able to get student loans. Also making cuts to foreign aid is not an answer. Government and universities cannot overlook part-time students”.

Another constituent named Burton Coutts wrote that the Prime Minister is “giving us the worst government in my lifetime and I am 87. Recent priorities are return of money to cancelled and reduced women and children's issues, also CIDA and KAIROS, and it appears his cohorts want to cut funding for birth control and abortions here and in countries where women and children are at risk”.

Alan Matte provided great feedback on pharmacare that was pretty straightforward. J. Scott wrote to me and said, “A priority long overdue is better health care. More doctors available for faster and better service. More help to nurses in hospitals, better emergency service--”

M.T. Lynden from my riding has a really great list. It is a pretty big list, starting with free education. The letter continues, “It's important that everyone can access education, regardless of their income. University students often end up with a large debt. Interest should not be charged on their student loans, neither provincially nor federally...and health: dental and medication coverage...for those who don't have a benefits plan”.

That is a little snapshot of the mood of my riding. I am proud to stand here in this great House and share that feedback with my colleagues.

I would like to pick up on the last issue that came through in a couple of letters from my constituents: the issue of health care. As we heard, it is something that my constituents care quite a bit about. We keep hearing from the government about the need to cut spending, the need to trim the fat, and the need to tighten our belts.

However, the government and this budget fail to realize that while spending on health is growing, we can get a handle on health costs if we just turn the corner and start focusing on what Tommy Douglas referred to as phase two of his health care vision. We could actually control and reduce our costs when it comes to health spending.

Tommy Douglas described his original vision for health care. He described Canada as a country “where all can live free from fear, free from crippling debts when we fall ill”. We have seen a lot of that vision implemented since he established medicare in Saskatchewan half a century or so ago, but that vision is eroding due to a lack of leadership, a lack of vision, and neglect. It is time for us to move ahead with a new vision that is suited to our times and that is phase two.

Phase one was universal public insurance for physician and hospital care.

Phase two has two components. First, to extend medicare to cover services that are increasingly delivered outside of a hospital, services that have become an integral part of our modern health care system, such as home care, long-term care, community care, drug therapy, and initiatives that address the social determinants of health. Again, this is about prevention. This is about reducing our costs.

Dennis Raphael, a professor at York University, put out an excellent report on the social determinants of health. The social determinants of health are a better indication of what one's level of health is going to be and how long one will live as compared to the kind of treatment one will get. We could actually save a lot of money by focusing on social determinants of health and things like home care.

The other component of phase two is managing health care better. Let us make better use of health human resources, wait list management, team practice, integration of services, sharing of best practices, evidence-based practice and other innovations.

I am looking forward to the report coming from the health committee about health human resources. The committee heard some amazing testimony about innovative ways to look at exactly how we can manage health care better, how we can make better use of health human resources and save money, and start controlling our health care costs, but perhaps more important, making sure that Canadians are healthy, happy, and doing well in our communities.

I have spoken before in this House about what I see as the failures of this budget, specifically its failure to seize opportunities in the world of science, technology and innovation. The last time I spoke to this bill that was the focus of my speech, particularly in the world of the green economy of the future. This lack of vision carries through the budget. It is not just the failure to grasp science, technology and innovation. It goes right through the budget on all kinds of issues, including health care.

The only vision that I see here is the sell off of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, gutting environmental protection, and killing successful projects like eco-energy renewables. That is quite the vision.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives put together a very well researched alternative federal budget and it has a vision in its alternative budget, a vision for health care, something that is missing from this budget. It says that, “Canada's public health care system is a fundamental pillar of our society, and it must be strengthened, especially in the wake of devastation caused by the economic crisis”. Its alternative budget says, “It's time to launch serious discussions with the provinces and territories to cost share pharmacare between the federal and provincial government and employers--”

The centre proposes a royal commission on the establishment and financing of a public drug plan, and funding the pharmacare of low income Canadians.

It also calls for a restoration of federal cash payments for extended health services, including nursing home intermediate care services, adult residential care services, home care services, and outpatient health care services.

It also talks about working with professional regulatory bodies, health care unions, and immigrant rights organizations to facilitate the recognition of international education.

Its plan calls for funding of post-secondary education in health programs, looking at health human resource strategies, innovative strategies.

This is a real plan. It is an alternative federal budget that actually has a vision for health care. It is a vision that is notably absent from Bill C-9 and it is not a bill that I can support.

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5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague had quite a lot of substance in her speech. I just want to talk about two issues.

She spoke about the social determinants of health. Some of the new neuroscience is very compelling in terms of looking at how a child's brain develops, particularly in the first five years going back to the prenatal stage.

I wonder whether or not my colleague feels that a national headstart early learning program would be one of the most powerful things the federal government could do by working with the provinces, and enabling parents and children to have knowledge about the importance of literacy, proper nutrition, proper parenting, and physical activity.

I will reference the work by Dr. Mark Tremblay from Montreal, who did some groundwork research in terms of showing the decline of our children's health and establishing that this is the first generation of children who will actually have a shorter lifespan than their parents.

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5:50 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, yes, absolutely.

I was so lucky in that during the election campaign I was able to carve out some time to attend a conference and listen to Dr. Charles Coffey talk specifically about this topic.

The age group of zero to five years is exactly when we need to be involved. That is when children's bodies and brains are growing at an incredible rate and they have such an opportunity to learn. They need to be given good, nutritious food in order to grow up to become healthy adults. We need to work with parents. Frankly I do not care what form that kind of program takes, but it is critical. If we expect to have a healthy, vibrant and productive workforce, we need to get involved when kids are in their early years.

I am absolutely in agreement with my colleague.

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5:50 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I was very interested in what the member had to say regarding this file. I would like to ask her about electronic health records.

She probably knows that the United States is light years ahead of us in that area. It has certainly been developing electronic health record systems for the last 10 or 15 years now, and Canada is falling behind.

Another area is the idea of a common computer system where a hospital program is developed once and it is replicated across the country. The Canadian government, since the Paul Martin days, has been approached on that subject and has not done anything about it. For example, there is an SAP program in the member's province of Nova Scotia. The city of Halifax is on SAP. I believe the government is on SAP and the hospitals are on SAP as well. In Manitoba the city of Winnipeg headed off on its own with a different system.

Has the member spent any time looking at this area and what are her observations about getting systems online?

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5:55 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the member for Elmwood—Transcona has brought up a really good point. This is exactly the kind of role the federal government could play. There are many things that fall under provincial jurisdiction, but the role of the federal government is to provide leadership. The federal government also has the power of taxation; let us be honest.

We are falling behind when it comes to electronic records. We are falling behind when it comes to housing. We are falling behind when it comes to all kinds of things. We have a government that refuses to show leadership and say, “We are going to convene a meeting of federal, provincial, territorial and first nations representatives. We are going to lead and we will carve off money to help bring this forward”.

With respect to first nations, we do not have a TB strategy. We do not have a national housing strategy. There are so many areas in which we need that kind of federal leadership. Where is it? Why are we not moving forward on electronic records, especially when we consider that, again back to the money issue, it could save us money? More importantly, it could save lives.

This is one of the best ways to make sure that we get accurate, up to date information about a person's health status. Why are we not implementing these innovative measures?

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5:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the amendments that have been proposed by the New Democrats. I specifically want to acknowledge the member for Acadie—Bathurst, the member for Edmonton—Strathcona and the member for Hamilton Mountain, who proposed a series of amendments that would delete some of the more egregious clauses of the budget implementation bill.

Those amendments have been divided into two separate groups. Today we are specifically dealing with the amendments in Group No. 1 with regard to deleting the clauses pertaining to the airport security tax, changes to the easing of the rules for environmental assessments and changes to the EI fund. In the short 10 minutes that I have, I am going to deal with two of those areas.

Listeners might wonder why we are debating deletions to the budget implementation bill. This legislation is an omnibus bill that is over 800 pages long. Buried in the bill are a number of items that normally would be stand-alone legislation. They would normally be bills that would be introduced in the House of Commons. They would have a fulsome debate here in the House. If they passed second reading, they would be referred to a parliamentary standing committee where members of the standing committees would call witnesses and examine the legislation in detail.

Instead, the government has chosen to cram some significant changes into an omnibus bill. That is normally not the way Canadians would expect those legislative agendas to be dealt with. They would expect the democratic process of a full parliamentary debate, that due diligence to ensure there would be no unintended consequences.

The New Democrats have been forced to attempt to amend the budget implementation bill. That is the only avenue open to us. Other members have pointed out for example that the part that deals with Canada Post has been introduced as legislation in the House at least twice before. The government had little hope of ramming that legislation through, so instead, it has buried it in a budget implementation bill and is calling it a matter of confidence.

It flies in the face of what we would consider to be a democratic process. I would urge all opposition members to support our amendments to delete the most egregious parts of the budget implementation bill.

I want to turn to two of these deletions.

What the government has done is essentially enshrined the theft of $57 billion from the employment insurance fund. The Conservatives are continuing along the lines of what the Liberals did previously. They are using the premiums that workers and their employers have paid into the EI fund to pay down the deficit.

When workers and employers paid that money, they fully expected it to support the employment insurance fund but also to support other training initiatives. In these economic times, that would seem to be a reasonable use of that money. By including this in the budget implementation bill, the government is admitting that it has no intention of honouring those commitments to workers and their employers.

Let me tell the House why that is important. An article put out by the Citizens for Public Justice, entitled “Bearing the Brunt: How the 2008-2009 Recession Created Poverty for Canadian Families”, states:

The recession revealed the inadequacy of the EI as a social safety net. Despite a rise in EI coverage, almost half of the unemployed did not receive benefits.

Canadians who did receive EI benefits were living in poverty unless they had other household sources of income.

As many as 500,000 Canadians have exhausted their EI benefits without finding new work.

Many of the Canadian men and women who have exhausted their EI benefits are in my own riding. Forestry workers have faced shutdowns in that industry off and on for the last four or five years and now. They have exhausted their EI benefits and many of them are now facing going on welfare.

The article also speaks about employment and income:

The recession increased the rate of precarious work, as part-time jobs replaced full-time jobs, and temporary jobs replaced permanent jobs.

Growth in average earnings for part-time workers did not keep pace with inflation.

Recessions increase the income gap between high income and low income Canadians. The poorest Canadians lose more of their income during a recession, and do not recover at the same rate between recessions.

Those numbers are being borne out. We often hear government members talk about the jobs they have created, but they fail to say that many of those jobs are part-time seasonal contract work and they simply cannot give a family a living wage. They cannot allow families to send their kids to school. In a country as rich as ours, it is absolutely shameful.

The Canadian Labour Congress made a statement to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. The Canadian Labour Congress, the New Democrats and other organizations in this country have some meaningful proposals on employment insurance reform. This includes uniform entrance requirements across the country of 360 hours so that more workers will qualify. It also looks at evening out the unemployment regions. I have talked about this in the House before. My region is tied to the Vancouver labour market. Despite the fact that unemployment is much higher in my area than it is in Vancouver, workers in my area exhaust their benefits far sooner than they should given the rate of unemployment. That simply should not happen.

The Canadian Labour Congress suggests that those differing rates of gaining access to benefits should be evened out. There should be longer benefit periods of at least 50 weeks in all regions so that fewer unemployed workers exhaust their claims. It also calls for higher benefit rates. Given that there was $57 billion in the EI fund, it seems reasonable to make sure that workers in these tough times have access to that money.

I want to turn briefly to the changes to the regulations around the environmental assessment process. Today is the 20th anniversary of the Sparrow decision which was handed down by the Supreme Court of Canada. It set the foundation for treaty negotiations in British Columbia. Today, Sophie Pierre, the chief commissioner of the B.C. Treaty Commission was quoted in a news article as saying, “It put an end to 130 years of denial of aboriginal rights by the B.C. government”. The article states:

The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled on May 31, 1990 that aboriginal rights exist and were not extinguished by federal fisheries regulations....“We recognize that litigation has informed treaty negotiations and continues to do so. But a government-to-government relationship, with all its complexities must be negotiated,” said Pierre. “We understand that First Nations may feel forced to take legal action to protect interests they do not see being addressed at the treaty table. That's a delicate balance. All governments must recognize that relationships cannot be built in court.”

One might wonder why I bring that up in the context of the easing of environmental regulations. I predict that with the easing of environmental regulations, unless the government upholds the honour of the Crown and makes sure that consultation is in place when these major projects come through, we are going to see more court cases. Sadly, the Sparrow decision is an indicator of how many years it took the first nations to get some justice. There are aboriginal groups who have written to the Prime Minister warning him not to weaken those environmental laws.

On May 26, Duncan's First Nation took its case to the Supreme Court of Canada and the Hague. The case concerns the tar sands and the impact that project is having on first nations in Alberta. It is another example of even when there are environmental regulations in place, first nations are still forced to go to the courts, even internationally, to have their cases heard and their rights respected.

It would be lovely if the government would support these amendments, but I would urge the opposition parties to support our proposed amendments and delete these clauses from the budget implementation bill.

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6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's comments and I commend her on her speech. I was very pleased that she referenced poverty and specifically the recent report from Citizens for Public Justice which confirms the belief that I and her colleague from Sault Ste. Marie and many others have that the recession has been taking a toll.

The government has talked about reductions in child poverty and poverty, but both poverty and child poverty have gone up 2.5% since the beginning of the recession. It is very serious and the government has not allowed the social infrastructure to be prepared for this.

I want to ask the member if she shares my concern. The poor in Canada received very little of the stimulus benefit. It went to higher income groups instead of to those who need it. The small changes made to EI and even social housing are temporary and are going to run out. Those who need help the most are going to be hurt the most. I wonder if the member shares that view and if she has any ideas about how we could remedy that.

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6:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, Citizens for Public Justice, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and many other organizations have rightly identified the fact that there is a growing income gap in our country. A recent report on first nations noted how first nations people were simply largely left out of the whole infrastructure's economic stimulus package.

We need a comprehensive approach. We need to ensure that the social safety net of employment insurance is in place so working families have access to that money in tough economic times and that it is an adequate amount of money. People cannot live or support a family on approximately $300 a week. That is what the average EI benefit is right now.

We need to ensure that we have affordable housing available. We need to ensure that we are supporting early learning and child care. The list goes on and on. Those are investments in our economy.

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6:05 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have been debating these amendments to the budget bill for quite some time now, both in committee and now at report stage. It seems to me there are two separate types of issues here. One is a process and the other one is substantive. Substantively, there is a lot at stake, and we have talked about that at great length, whether it is the privatization of Canada Post, the gutting of environmental assessments, the fire sale of AECL, the legalized theft of $57 billion from the EI fund. All those issues are of grave concern to Canadians. However, what is equally of concern to them is they do not have an opportunity to participate in this process because all of these issues have been rolled into this omnibus budget bill.

I recognize we are at report stage, but surely it is not too late to sever those six critical areas from the budget bill, to deal with the budget bill on its own and to deal with these six individual items, if we have to, as stand-alone bills in the House. That would only require the Liberals to vote with us on this. With the Liberals, the Bloc and us, we could give Canadians that opportunity.

First, does the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan see that opportunity as a real one? Second, does she share my optimism that this is something we could do and should do?

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6:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Hamilton Mountain was also a mover of some of the amendments that we proposed.

If the Conservative government had faith that its suggestions for changes around AECL, employment insurance, easing of environmental rules, Canada Post and the airport tax, it would put those forward in separate legislation. If the government had confidence that Canadians supported that, it would put it forward and allow that kind of debate to happen. If the Conservative had confidence that they were on the right track, they would not be afraid to have a fulsome debate at committee and call in witnesses.

This is an opportunity for the opposition members in the House to demonstrate that they do not agree with where the Conservative government is going and for all members to be present in the House to support the NDP amendments.

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6:10 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to continue to challenge the government regarding its approach to the difficult times we individual families and workers are facing. At the outset, I am alarmed at what seems to be a lack of understanding by the government to what is happening out there, the real challenges we are facing in the economy both nationally and globally.

I suppose it should not surprise me. When the government introduced its action plan back in November of 2008, an action plan that almost brought the House down and might have led to a better, more progressive government holding fort in the country, it did not understand either the depth and breadth of the recession we were in and that it had to deal with, so it brought nothing forward. It prorogued the House, as it has a habit of doing, and then brought forward a plan in January of the following year.

I am surprised that Conservatives have not learned anything. They are not doing as so many other countries are doing, which is looking realistically at what is going on in the economy and in their communities.

Let us look for a second at what is happening in the world. We are now looking at the kind of debt that we have not seen, I would guess, probably for centuries in this world. Every country is struggling with what has happened in the last year and a half, trying to come to terms with it and put in place programs and plans to restructure their economies. They are looking at some pretty significant and frightening levels of debt.

For example, this year Portugal is facing an equivalent of 8.8% of its GDP in debt. For Spain, the figure is 10.4%. In Ireland, the Celtic Tiger many will remember, is looking at a debt of 12.2% of GDP. These are staggering numbers. Yet, because of the global nature of the way the economy works these days and that we have bought into in such a significant way, we are affected and will be affected by this.

If there is in fact, as some economists are predicting, a second dip to this recession, we will be affected. We will have to take action. I wonder, because I do not see it, if Bill C-9 situates us as a country to deal with this very difficult reality. When we put that together with what has happened in our communities and to the families and workers we represent, I would challenge the government to rethink what is before us and the proposals it has put forward.

For example, we are in a time when we should be restructuring and reworking our own domestic economy, not talking about free trade as if nothing happened last year or the year before, as if it is just business as usual. In fact, we should be going back to our communities, going back to that which helped us to become one of the strongest countries in the world and, I would suggest, has situated us to deal with the recession in a more stable and better way than many other jurisdictions have dealt with it.

Believe it or not, some Canadians are running out of EI, if they qualified in the first place. Some of those people are getting work, but it is work at much lower wages, so their standard of living and their ability to look after themselves and their families is in jeopardy. People who have already run out of EI are having to resort to living on welfare.

When the stimulus runs out, as it will in a big hurry, as is indicated in the budget, even the few jobs that now exist, which are paying less than the industrial jobs people had before the recession, will also be gone and we will have more people on unemployment.

I will go back to the point I made earlier. As countries around the world were running up serious debt, many Canadians had no choice but to deal with our very difficult economy. Many are facing the challenges of paying bills, paying rent and feeding their children. Some have gone into debt in a major way. As they have struggled with the difficult challenges, many have maxed out their credit cards and their lines of credit and have used up every bit of credit that is available to them. Now they are at a point where they have to deal with that.

I remember back in the middle of the recession attending a meeting in Sault Ste. Marie. An economist from Export Canada talked about the nature of the recession coming at us. He said that it was like a Tsunami, it would come in waves. He described three of the waves that had already hit, and we all identified with that. However, the wave that concerns me most is the one we are still waiting for, and in some instances it has already hit.

Those folks who have worked hard all their lives and have taken advantage of opportunities in their communities to put bread on the table and earn a decent living have maxed out their credit. Now they will have to default on that. Imagine what will happen when the stimulus money runs out, the jobs it created disappear and the economy still has not recovered and hundreds of thousands of people are unable to find jobs and start to default on their loans and credit. What do we do then? How do we respond to that? How do we help those folks? How do we restructure the financial world institutions that will be impacted in such a major way? It is the backing up of a system that I think we will have a very difficult time managing.

On a global level, countries will find it very difficult to deal with the rising amount of debt, together with much of our industry that is struggling at the moment with massive debt. Individuals and families will no longer be able to deal with the debt they have run up in order to keep body and soul together.

Short of Bill C-9, and I do not see anything in it that indicates any preparedness or even understanding of that reality coming at us, what does the government propose to do when that next wave, that next Tsunami hits, and we find ourselves at the beginning of what some economists have predicted that second dip?

I hope we will hear from the government at some point over the next few days just what its plans are.

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6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a couple of simple questions on the issue of the government's lack of response to articulate a debt reduction strategy that is credible. The government said that it would cut $17 billion over five years. To me that is voodoo economics in the face of a $56 billion deficit.

Does my colleague accept the government's position that $17 billion over five years will bring us back to a balanced budget, or does he feel the situation is much worse than that and the government will face structural deficit with its inability to deal more effectively with cutting more and elevating taxes a bit in a responsible way? That needs to be done to get us back to balanced budgets.

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6:20 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, at the outset I will confess that I am not an economist, nor am I an expert in financial matters. However, I do understand, from my own experience and from listening to my constituents, the difficulty that they are facing. All of them are heading toward a structural deficit in their life that they have never seen before.

I would suggest that the government needs to get real about what it is that we are facing. There are some things that it could do. We are inviting the Liberal Party caucus members to join us in challenging the government in away that does not allow it to take advantage of the road we are on.

I believe we do have some vehicles that we could use to manage this debt and deficit and to restructure our economy in Canada that would be way better than what is being proposed in Bill C-9.

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6:20 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have had the privilege of working in one capacity or another with the member for Sault Ste. Marie for almost 20 years. In fact, on June 6 he will be coming up to his 20th anniversary in public service.

In all of those years, I can honestly say that I have never met a better advocate for trying to create an anti-poverty strategy, first in Ontario and now, of course, in the federal House. Knowing that record and knowing that deep personal commitment, I can only imagine how deeply disappointed the member for Sault Ste. Marie must be with this federal budget.

I will just focus on one part of it and that is the $57 billion theft from the EI fund. For so many Canadians, EI is the very last defence, the very last hope, the very last income support that keeps them from falling into poverty. We know that 880,000 Canadians are about to run out of EI and the government is not helping those Canadians, even though they lost their jobs through no fault of their own.

It is not because the government does not have the money. There was a $57 billion surplus in the EI fund and yet the government does not allocate a dime of that money to helping people who are losing their jobs. It is the workers' money. It was contributed by them and their employers. It is not the government's money.

I wonder if the member could comment about what an integral part of any poverty prevention strategy an effective EI program is in this country?

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6:25 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I could not agree with the member from Hamilton Mountain more in that she is absolutely right.

We have just done a two-year study of poverty at the HUMA committee. What we heard over and over again from people across the country was that they needed a number of things, such as a national housing program and a national child care program, but they also needed EI reform. We could do this immediately. We do not need to wait. This could be done tomorrow.

The government could have the support of everybody on this side of the House tomorrow to reform the EI system so that it worked better for people, so more people qualified, so that when they qualified they got more of the money they needed to pay those bills and so they could stay on EI longer, until the economy returns or they get that job that will help them pay the rent and feed their family again.

EI has to be a central part of any anti-poverty strategy the federal government takes on. We encourage the government to take hold of that report when we table it in this House, run with it and do something good for those who are most at risk and marginalized in our communities.

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6:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to speak to the report stage of Bill C-9, the budget implementation act. This act may more properly be called the Godzilla act because it is a monster act.

The government has taken a budget implementation act and it has thrown in everything but the kitchen sink to make this monstrous, multi-headed act that it is now trying to bring through the House. Fortunately, in this corner of the House we in the NDP do not stand for bullying and we do not stand for these kinds of incredibly dishonest tactics. We are fighting this and bringing forward amendments that will split things off so that we do not have the Godzilla act in front of us.

As members know, Godzilla is a mythical creature in Japanese movies. At least we thought he was mythical until we saw the Prime Minister at work. Godzilla used to run roughshod over people. These report stage amendments address that running roughshod over people. Coupled in Bill C-9 is the removal of $57 billion in employment insurance moneys that are properly owed to the unemployed workers of this country, the Canadians who paid into the fund.

The government is taking out the EI surplus and basically legalizing that theft. One has to wonder what the Conservatives did to replace that. They gave us the HST. In British Columbia, a record number of British Columbians are signing the referendum initiative. That is something that I believe British Columbians and many people in Ontario simply do not accept.

The other thing that Godzilla did was to be very destructive of institutions and buildings. What we see in the Godzilla act of 2010, Bill C-9, are things like Canada Post and the AECL offered up. They are fine Canadian institutions that are being slowly destroyed by the Conservative government. However, the one thing I should say in Godzilla's defence is that he came out of the sea because of the toxic wastes that were being dumped in the ocean. In this case, I think Godzilla was much more environmentally inclined than the government.

In this Godzilla act, Bill C-9, we see environmental assessment being gutted. That is fundamentally important. People around the world are focused on what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico. We have countries moving forward and saying that we have to tighten our environmental policies and the procedures to ensure this kind of thing never happens again.

What do the Conservatives do? They weaken the environmental assessment process, not strengthen it, in reaction to one of the greatest environmental and ecological catastrophes in human history. They are moving to phase out the kind of important environmental assessments that protect our environment and Canadians. It is absolutely ridiculous.

We are bringing these report stage amendments forward because this Godzilla act needs to be pulled apart so that Parliament can vote in an appropriate fashion on each and every aspect of this Conservative hidden plan that it has tried to introduce with this monster legislation.

I know I will be speaking more on this later in the week but I will add that the idea that this HST would be imposed when British Columbians are saying no and up the taxes that are paid under the softwood lumber sellout is particularly reprehensible to British Columbians—

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6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please. The member for Burnaby—New Westminster will have six minutes remaining when we return to this matter.

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

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, in early April, I asked the Minister of Finance to explain to Canadians why his party was choosing to pursue unnecessary corporate tax cuts rather than focusing on important priorities for Canadians.

I will put this in perspective. Before entering public life, I was a business leader. I remember during the 1990s us petitioning to try to bring down corporate taxes. I will share with the House some of KPMG's tax figures. I recall back in 2000 when the federal tax, including a surtax, was 29.1%. It went down in 2004 to 22.1%. In 2007, it was 22.1% again. In 2010, it is down to 18%.

I also recall in mid-2000 the business community saying that if it could only get to 17% it would be a good corporate tax rate. It is at 18% now and there have been a lot of changes to our economy and a lot of requirements that are needed for investments in our country to ensure we have the kind of country that we want to have going forward.

What the Liberal Party is advocating is that rather than continuing to decrease tax rates from 18%, possibly getting down to 15%, we press the pause button.

I asked the Minister of Finance a question about whether it would not be better to take some leadership as a country and make strategic investments in our country.

We know there is a perfect storm coming. We know, for example, that we have aging demographics, a pension crisis, a skilled labour shortage and our health care costs are sky-rocketing. In the future, 50% to 70% of provincial revenues may be used toward health care costs. We need to find some solutions to those issues.

We also have a change in our economy. We are moving from an industrial economy to a knowledge based economy. We need to make big investments to ensure we have the workers for the jobs of tomorrow and to ensure we take care of some of the concerns that we have as Canadians.

Instead of pushing the pause button on decreasing corporate taxes, the Conservatives are actually increasing payroll taxes by some 35% over the next five years. They speak out of both sides of their mouths. They say in one sense that they will decrease corporate taxes and bring them down even below what the corporate community was calling for but on the other hand they will increase payroll taxes by some 35% over the next five years.

We need to make investments in innovations, in science and technology and in the jobs of tomorrow. We need to make investments in the care of Canadians, in learning, in early childhood education, in ensuring that everyone has access to post-secondary education and in ensuring that people have the right kinds of skills needed in our country.

We had a conference a couple of months ago where we engaged Canadians on the type of Canada they wanted to have by the time we reach our 150th anniversary. We talked about some of the changes that are occurring in Canadian society. Some of the knowledgeable speakers who came to see us spoke about the rising level of unemployment in our country. Another million people will be joining the unemployment ranks over the next number of years. By the time we reach 2017, over another million Canadians will be unemployed but at the same time there will be over 1.7 million job vacancies. That is because of the skill shortage in our country.

Why would the minister not consider making some very important leadership choices and decide to press the pause button on corporate taxes and make some very big investments in our communities?

6:35 p.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Speaking of choices, Mr. Speaker, we need to reflect on the choices that the former Liberal government made during the 1990s. In her comments, the hon. member spoke about education, so let me just reflect on a couple of comments.

The former Liberal government radically slashed transfer payments to provinces and territories. We all know that. It has been referred to in here many times. Let me quote some of the groups that were blindsided by this shortsighted policy.

The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations said the Liberal federal government:

chose to cut investment in education in the mid-1990s to reduce the deficit. Due to these cuts, Canada faced a brain drain.

Let me also quote the Federation of Canadian Municipalities when it said:

the mistakes of the nineties...pushed deficits off the balance sheets and onto the streets of cities and communities. The damage done to Canada's cities is still evident

On the other hand, our Conservative government has taken real action to support students and higher education. We are ensuring, and we will continue to ensure, that provinces and territories have the ability to provide the health care, educational and other social services that families need. But shamefully, each and every time, the Liberals have voted against that support.

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Against? You've got to be kidding. Shameful. I cannot believe that.

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Absolutely. They voted against it. I know my hon. colleague behind me cannot believe that.

We lowered taxes for students when we made post-secondary scholarships and bursary income a student receives tax-free. The Liberal opposition once again voted against that.

We announced $45 million to establish new post-doctoral fellowships valued at $70,000 per year.

We also provided additional funding to support world-class research and researchers, including new resources for the research granting councils. Unfortunately, the Liberal opposition voted against all that.

Since forming government in 2006, we have made landmark investments in Canada's educational system.

We made Canada number one in terms of research and development spending in higher education when compared to all other G7 countries. The Liberal opposition yet again voted against that.

Clearly, our Conservative government is providing positive support for higher education.

If the Liberal opposition does not take my word for it, they should talk to the presidents of the 13 leading Canadian universities, including the University of Ottawa's president Allan Rock, a name familiar to many of us, who wrote an open letter in newspapers right across Canada that praised budget 2010. Here is a small sampling:

In past debt-elimination drives, federal transfers to provinces were rapidly reduced. Provinces then passed the cuts on to universities and colleges, hospitals and municipalities. Budget 2010 reduces the chances that this adverse history will be repeated.

This budget has also given universities a clear signal to get on with the job of laying the foundations for a sustainable economic recovery. We welcome that signal and the support that goes with it in a period of tough choices.

These...are very positive initiatives.

For that vote of confidence in higher education and advanced research, we are indeed grateful to the government and to Canada's taxpayers.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Yes, Mr. Speaker, tough choices had to be made in the 1990s.

I recall as a business leader sitting around boardroom tables talking about the fiscal crisis in our country. The fiscal crisis was so bad that the International Monetary Fund was about to enter Canada. Can members believe our debt-to-GDP ratio was somewhere in the seventies? We are talking about a serious problem and the legacy of the former Conservative government. When we took over power in the early 1990s, we were $42 billion in deficit, $500 billion or more in debt.

It is unbelievable that the member who spoke did not credit the Liberals for having the solid banking system that Canada enjoys today, for ensuring that we have the room within our fiscal framework to ensure that we could make the investments. I am sure the member opposite would also agree that we made the investments during the 2000s. It is truly unfortunate that since the Conservative government has taken power, we have slipped back into deficit after 10 years of surplus where we could actually start making investments in our country.

I am sure that when we are given the opportunity again, should we ever be given the opportunity again, we will make sure that Canada once again is strong.

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Well, Mr. Speaker, let us hope that never happens.

I know the hon. member is trying to avoid the fact that the Liberals did actually hurt education. They hurt Canada's economy, because they stalled the education of young people, and that is where our entire future depends.

Clearly the question today is why Liberals are pretending to support post-secondary education when they voted against all of our initiatives, including removing taxes from scholarships and bursaries.

We are doing this to help students get the education they need for the future. Helping students was clearly not a priority for the former Liberal government. As the Liberal member for Kings—Hants has publicly noted, the Liberal government:

balanced its books by slashing transfers to the provinces by forcing the provinces...to...face deficits, and health care systems and education systems in a crisis as a result of the its inability and irresponsibility to actually tighten its own belt more significantly.

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, it relates to a question that I posed to the Minister of Agriculture a back some time ago concerning the Canadian Food Inspection Agency when it comes to Ms. Weatherill's report when it came to the CVS system.

Clearly, one of my questions will be, has the government indeed implemented the CVS and has that audit been completed?

Of course, I partially know the answer to that because the most recent report talks about a third-party review of CFIA food safety inspection resources that is under way and is expected to be completed by September 2010.

Unfortunately, in this House, last fall the minister said it would be this spring; this spring, he said this summer; and now, clearly, the ministry says it will be September.

Clearly, one of the questions is when, and if, the CVS audit will actually get completed, because to date it has not been done.

The other piece relates to the fact that U.S. decided to change its standards for what it needed to have in terms of inspection in Canadian plants and we had to comply if we wanted to export, which meant there was a differential between us for domestic product and international markets. We said we would try to cover that off, and we have been doing that with overtime.

So the second question becomes, is the overtime still continuing? Clearly what we said in committee was the number of inspectors we were supposed to get. Mr. Cam Prince said, during committee, that it takes a while to get folks trained, and as of that time, they had 35 inspectors in the system.

So the third question is, are the 35 inspectors out of the system and on the front line? Are we making any progress in hiring the next 35 inspectors that Mr. Prince said, back in March, were needed and would probably happen in the next four to six months, who then said they got additional moneys from the ministry, which I believe to be correct, and said that would hire an additional 100 inspectors? However, of course, he said it is difficult to find these folks.

It seems to me that we needed 170 front-line inspectors for ready-to-eat meat plants. It was accepted that we needed to get that done last fall, and the government said that there would be money available to hire them. The dilemma becomes, as Mr. Prince, who is responsible for human resources, says, there are only 35 in the system, not inspecting but in the system, getting through the hiring process, through the training process, and not out there doing front-line meat inspection.

Clearly, if we have a need to inspect to ensure that the Americans are getting what they require for export, and we are saying from this side of the House, and this member is certainly saying, that if indeed what we need is to have the same compliance for the domestic market, then how are we doing that when it was accepted that we needed 170 new inspectors last fall before the Americans made the change? We are already short 135 inspectors, by Mr. Prince's own estimates of what he needs for manpower, and we now need more because we are working overtime to cover off the demand by the U.S. that we do something different. We have now said we will do it for the Canadian one. The minister clearly said, during committee, that we are not quite doing it yet domestically when it comes to the same standards to the U.S. He said we are doing it in the bigger plants but not quite in all the domestic plants yet.

So the fourth question for the parliamentary secretary is, do we have them all covered now, or are we still trying to do it with overtime?

6:45 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, certainly food safety is of key importance to Canadians. I thank the member for raising these issues because Canadians want to know that our Conservative government is committed to continuous improvement in order to protect the safety of our Canadian food supply.

Since 2006, CFIA's inspection staff has increased by a net total of 538. Last week in the House, the Minister of Agriculture tabled a memo he received from CFIA that demonstrates the progress that CFIA has made in hiring inspectors since we formed government. I would invite this member to read that. It is a hiring process that the opposition has tried its best to undermine by voting, time and time again, against our budgets and the additional funding we allocate for food safety.

This is a very important point. This member rises in the House today. He has gone to all this trouble to raise these questions tonight in the House, and what does he do when it comes time to allocate new money, new funding to food safety? He votes against it not once, but time and time again.

Our Conservative government is committed to implementing all 57 recommendations of the Weatherill report. I am happy to tell Canadians that many of the recommendations concerning the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have already been implemented. Actions taken to date have focused on prevention, surveillance, detection and better response.

These would include strengthening the CFIA directives regarding control of listeria and federally registered, ready-to-eat meat processing plants; equipping CFIA inspectors with better tools and technologies such as laptops, cell phones and better network connectivity; updating federal, provincial and territorial protocols for managing food-borne illness outbreaks and enhancing laboratory capacity and research into the development of rapid test methods.

The CFIA and Health Canada have developed a new screening method for listeria in meat that allows for a more rapid response during food safety investigations. Furthermore, we have launched a food safety portal on the web that is accessible to Canadians and provides Canadians with comprehensive food safety and food-borne illness information.

Ensuring that Canadians are not exposed to contaminated foods is the agency's top priority.

Canadians can rest assured that their food safety and public health networks are actively working on this. Canada is better able to target its actions because of the lessons we learned from the listeriosis outbreak in 2008.

What I have highlighted is that we have tougher food safety requirements than we have ever had before, but what we need and what Canadians need are members such as this one voting to support the measures that we take to improve food safety. As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, each and every time we allocate additional funding and additional resources to CFIA, to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to implement the Weatherill report, this member and all of his colleagues vote against it.

This member has an opportunity to vote for these measures when we pass the supplementary estimates in the budget coming up. He has one minute to address this. I would like to know how he will vote. Will he vote yes to improving food safety in Canada?

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary has clearly decided that my voting record is more important than food safety. Ultimately, he still cannot answer the question about how many inspectors they have. They still do not know. Why do they not know? It is because they have not done the very thing that Sheila Weatherill said was the most important thing to do, and that was to get the CVS audit done.

That was her number one recommendation, to get it done and get it done immediately, because it is an absolute failure on behalf of the new system. What do we have? We have delay after delay. Now we are into next fall.

Here is the bottom line: If they want to make sure that the food in this country is safe, they need to get inspectors hired and they need the audit done. We needed it done last September, not September of this year. Of course, they are not there yet.

The question is clear. Will this parliamentary secretary confirm tonight that the audit will be done by September 2010?

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I really have to go back to my previous point. The hon. member is speaking about food safety, but when it comes to concrete action, his voting record speaks for itself. He voted against our food safety agenda outlined in the Speech from the Throne. He voted against budget 2010, which provided $13 million to hire 100 new inspectors. He voted against supplementary estimates C, which provided the first $8 million out of the $75 million for CFIA related to the Weatherill report.

He has a chance to redeem himself. The current supplementary estimates A includes an additional $17 million in further response to the Weatherill report. How will this member vote? Will he stand up and put action behind his words? Will he vote in favour of food safety and additional funding for food safety?

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to raise an issue regarding the unethical behaviour of the government.

On April 9, the Prime Minister asked his former minister for the status of women to resign. The Prime Minister stated that it was related to matters of a criminal nature.

Then we heard about the former Conservative MP for Edmonton--Strathcona, who had been charged with driving under the influence and with possession of cocaine. He was using the Conservative logo on his website as well as the MP cards for his Green Power Generation, despite the fact that he was no longer a member of Parliament.

The former Conservative caucus chair also misused a special government passport to promote a green energy company in Cuba, leaving the impression that his overtures had government approval.

To add insult to this unethical or ethical injury, the Minister of Industry appeared in a promotional video for a chemical company owned by a prominent Conservative in his own riding. Where are the ethics? Where is transparency? Where is accountability?

We then have the Conservative member of Parliament for Calgary Northeast, who is linked to a mortgage fraud investigation and is currently being sued for ignoring repeated requests to turn over records related to five real estate transactions.

We have constant examples of unethical behaviour. The ministers of Labour and Natural Resources have declined to appear before the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates to discuss lobbying access to the green infrastructure fund, followed by a timely announcement from thePrime Minister that he would not allow staffers to attend and be questioned, especially when those staffers were interfering with the inquiry.

There is unaccountability, non-transparency, and the Prime Minister is the person who should be accountable and he should ensure that this accountability takes place.

The Prime Minister and his cabinet's effort to ban political staff from appearing before committees, after blaming them for recent cover-ups, is an attempt to avoid accountability to Parliament.

Then we have committees treated as circuses by the Minister of Transport, who shows up at committee meetings to stand in for the Prime Minister's spokesman.

One of the major problems we face when looking at ethics is that we are either ethical or not ethical, and the government just does not get it. It has so many examples of trying to circumvent ethics, it just does not know where to stop, and when questions are posed and ministers are asked to be accountable, the Prime Minister has shown no leadership. In fact, he obfuscates every time.

The Conservatives control how information is released. They control who releases information. They control the information that is being released, and that is not transparent, especially when the government brought forward the Federal Accountability Act. Governments have to walk the talk. The public deserves better.

Can the government please tell me how it will deal with the growing problem of the ethically-challenged decisions on behalf of the Conservative Party.

6:50 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, this Prime Minister passed the Federal Accountability Act, the toughest anti-corruption law in Canadian history. It included expansion of the access to information system, whistleblower protection, and more powers for the Auditor General. We will continue with our agenda of accountability.

I would like to note today though the exciting news that Canada's economy grew by 6.1% in the last quarter. I notice that the member did not raise that point. I wonder why she would not celebrate this news with us.

This means more jobs, more hope and opportunity for families. Businesses will be able to reinvest more and hire, and expand, making customer service an even bigger priority. It means that the government will, we hope, receive more revenues to balance its budget quicker so that we will have the financial resources available to go ahead with scheduled tax reductions and to investment in the things that matter most to Canadians.

This success in our economy is due to Canada's economic action plan. We have lowered business taxes, also known as the tax on jobs, so that businesses can hire more. We have lowered the GST to keep costs down so that families can afford to stretch their dollars a little bit further.

We have lowered income taxes so that people keep more of what they earn. We have introduced special tax credits to help parents with the cost of kids' sports, students with the cost of textbooks, passengers with the cost of public transit passes, and tradesmen with the cost of tools. I could go on. I think the House is gathering that this is a government that has lowered taxes in order to generate prosperity.

We have also brought in the Conservative tax free savings account which allow people to put aside $5,000 a year every single year. That number accumulates over time. All of the interest dividends and capital gains on those investments are tax free. That will attract billions of dollars in additional investment into Canada's enterprises. It will also help Canadians prepare for their retirement and save for a new home or other dreams that they may have for themselves and their families.

These are the exciting things that are happening in Canada. I wish the member would join with us, work with us, in order to build on that success and create a brighter future for all of us.

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that my colleague is totally ashamed of the government's record on accountability and transparency. It appears there is one rule for the Conservatives and another rule for the rest of Canadians.

This past fall Liberals filed a complain with the Ethics Commissioner regarding the presentation of government cheques from 12 Conservative MPs in excess of $594 million in either their own name or that of the Prime Minister. She ruled this type of branding as inappropriate. However, the ethically-challenged government keeps on indulging in more unethical behaviour.

The Prime Minister has broken his promise to Canadians that he would never appoint senators. In one year the Prime Minister has made 32 such appointments, unequalled in Canadian history.

Also large numbers of more partisan appointments were made to the courts, government boards and agencies.

The Prime Minister is fixed on rewarding Conservative insiders rather than focusing on issues like job creation and health care.

Therefore, when will the government put its money where its mouth is and be accountable? Do not give us legislation which it cannot follow itself.

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member talks about putting our money where our mouths are. In fact, we put money back in the pockets of taxpayers, the people who earned that money.

We have lowered the GST, cut income taxes, lowered the tax on jobs, also known as the business tax, instituted special tax credits for kids' sports, students' textbooks, passengers' bus passes, and tradesmen's tools. We have brought in a revolutionary idea in savings, called the tax free savings account allowing people to put aside $5,000 every year and that number adds up. Every single year it accumulates. The interest, dividends and capital gains remain tax free.

That allows people to multiply their savings by taking advantage of the growth in the economy so they can have more to set aside for their own futures, more to invest in Canadian businesses that ultimately create jobs, hire people, and that great cycle keeps going. This is the exciting news that all of us should be celebrating today.

7 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Pursuant to Standing Order 81(4), the motion to adjourn the House is now deemed withdrawn. The House will now go into committee of the whole for the purpose of considering votes under natural resources in the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2011.

I do now leave the chair for the House to resolve itself into committee of the whole.

(Consideration in committee of the whole of all votes under Natural Resources in the main estimates, Ms. Denise Savoie in the chair)

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Chair NDP Denise Savoie

Order. Tonight's debate is a general one on all of the votes under Natural Resources. Each member will be allocated 15 minutes. The first round will begin with the official opposition followed by the government, the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party. After that, we will follow the usual proportional rotation.

As provided in the motion adopted on Tuesday, May 25, 2010, parties may use each 15-minute slot for speeches or for questions and answers by one or more of their members.

In the case of speeches, members of the party to which the period is allotted may speak one after the other. The Chair would appreciate it if the first member speaking in each slot would indicate how the time will be used, particularly if it is to be shared.

When the time is to be used for questions and answers, the Chair will expect that the minister's response will reflect approximately the time taken by the question, since this time will be counted in the time originally allotted to the party.

I would remind hon. members that, pursuant to order made on Tuesday, May 25, during this evening's debate no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be entertained.

We can now begin this evening's session. The hon. member for Halifax West.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Chair, all of our members will be asking questions. I will be splitting my time with the member for Yukon and the member for Vancouver Quadra in this first opening session.

I would like to know how much the Government of Canada is committed to carbon capture and storage? Has it increased from the $850 million already earmarked? How much of the departmental budget is committed to research into a major oil spill? How much is committed to oil spill emergency response?

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis ConservativeMinister of Natural Resources

Madam Chair, there already was a $1 billion clean energy fund, of which $205 million was earmarked for energy efficiency and renovation projects. Currently, $466 million is being invested in three major projects and $166 million is being invested in 19 other carbon capture and storage projects.

As far as oil spill response is concerned, this is handled by the National Energy Board, which is responsible for regulating drilling and exploration.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Chair, is the minister really saying that he does not know how much is dedicated to cleaning up a major oil spill? It seems to me that we do not know how much is committed to research in a major oil spill. Is the minister telling us that the NEB is responsible for that and he is not really interested in that question? Is that what the minister is telling us?

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, that is completely false. The National Energy Board is a quasi-judicial body that runs on a cost recovery basis. It can also ask companies for money up front, as a guarantee in case something happens. This is done on a case-by-case basis and is not part of the core budget of the Government of Canada.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Chair, the minister is saying that none of the budget is committed to research into a major oil spill. That astonishes me. And none of it I gather is assigned to oil spill emergency response. That would, I think, be very disconcerting to most Canadians. If the minister does not know the answer and there is other information, maybe he could provide it to us later.

On May 26, in question period, the minister said Canada has “the highest standards in the world”. However, witnesses told the natural resources committee that Canada's regulatory process is, in fact, getting softer while the U.S., Greenland and Norway are getting tougher. Could the minister explain why we are falling behind the rest of the world?

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, no, I do not agree. Canada has strong environmental laws and standards, a robust safety regime, and experienced independent regulatory agencies. The health and safety of Canadians and the protection of Canada's environment remain the Government of Canada's top priorities.

Canada and the United States must ensure that robust regimes are in place to protect the health and safety of workers and to protect the environment. Canada will review any findings related to the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico with a view to enhancing the safety and environmental performance of our regime.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Chair, can the minister tell us why exploration permits are being issued before the National Energy Board has a chance to regulate the drilling?

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, the National Energy Board announced on May 12 that it will be reviewing all procedures related to drilling and exploration. In the United States the situation is quite different. President Obama has rebuked the Minerals Management Service for its partiality, while here, we have a completely independent, quasi-judicial board that has had an excellent record for the past 50 years. That is why we have confidence in the process established by the National Energy Board.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Chair, I hope that Canadians have the same confidence as the minister, but I am not convinced of that at the moment.

On May 3, the U.S. government unveiled the creation of a board to review offshore drilling safety and to tighten oversight of oil equipment testing. On May 27, President Obama ordered a number of changes to the regulatory process that are designed to ensure that offshore drilling is safer going forward.

Aside from the NEB plans to review Arctic safety, can he tell us of any other plans to improve safety and environmental protection from offshore oil and gas activity in Canada, including off the east coast?

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, it was announced on May 12 that the National Energy Board, the organization in charge of Canadian regulations and project management, would review all procedures related to regulations.

I must add that on May 28, several additional measures were added to the robust regulatory oversight requirements already in place. I speak about the Canada-Newfoundland board.

The board has established a team to oversee the operation and will increase the frequency of its site inspections. Chevron is required to provide the board with ongoing reports on the safety mechanisms it has in place. Prior to penetrating any targets, Chevron must ensure that the board is satisfied that it is safe to proceed.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Chair, does the government have any plans to review its weakening, in December 2009, of our drilling and production regulations in light of the BP disaster continuing now in the Gulf of Mexico?

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, let me be clear. The Obama administration has serious concerns about its regulatory agencies. This is not the case here. They have disbanded them and are proposing a new arm's-length regime similar to what we already have here in Canada. They have 30 times as many deepwater offshore wells currently in operation in the United States.

I am happy to see that the American government has suspended drilling while they determine the cause of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Our government expects our on-site regulators to be prudent and to take action to protect the safety of the environment and the workers.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Chair, the minister's government has claimed that this shift away from prescriptive regulations, from real, solid regulations, to a more goals-oriented approach resulted from advances in research into the causes of accidents in relation to injuries and spills.

In the U.S., the federal government is in charge when an oil spill occurs. Will the minister confirm whether the federal government here in Canada is now developing a contingency plan, including an emergency response plan, in the event of an offshore oil spill?

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, that is completely untrue. Regulations are already in place. The Canada Oil and Gas Drilling and Production Regulations, under the Oil and Gas Operations Act, are very strict. A strict legal framework already exists. We know that operators are in charge of cleaning up after a spill. So, as I said earlier, the operators must provide a financial guarantee up front. They have to provide a contingency plan that contains a detailed description of the operations that would take place.

Let me be clear, if the board is not convinced that the project will both ensure the safety of workers and protect the environment, no projects will go ahead here in Canada. I would invite my colleague to consult the Canada Oil and Gas Drilling and Production Regulations. These plans have existed for a long time.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Chair, on May 26, in question period, the minister stated that no drilling permits had been issued for the Arctic or for the Beaufort Sea and that no projects will be undertaken unless and until the government is convinced that the environment and workers' safety will be protected.

Can the minister confirm that there are currently several companies bidding on new leases in the Arctic?

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, allow me to clarify the situation. What we are saying is that there is no authorization for drilling.

There is no authorization to drill in the Beaufort Sea, nothing.

And in terms of arctic waters, the is no authorization for deep water drilling. That is the current state of affairs.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Chair, that was not the question. It was whether there are new companies bidding on new leases.

If he cannot answer that, try this one.

There appears to be an open call for bids for additional exploration licences in the north, including one in the deep offshore of the Beaufort Sea in a 205,946 hectare area named BSMD-5. This open call for bids has a closing date of July 6.

While it may true that there are currently no drilling permits issued for the Beaufort Sea, would the minister tell us if there are any plans to halt all new leasing activity in Canada's Arctic?

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, there are currently no authorizations to drill exploratory wells in the Beaufort Sea. Drilling does not and will not occur unless the National Energy Board is satisfied that drilling plans are safe for workers and the environment, period.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Chair, that is the second question he could not answer.

Would the minister tell us when the companies that currently hold leases in the Arctic will begin their exploration activities, since their exploration leases stipulate that they must begin work within five years of the contract being awarded?

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, as I stated earlier, there is no authorization to drill in the Beaufort Sea, and there is no authorization to drill in deep water in Arctic waters. This is the fact now. There is no project that will go on, unless this government and the energy board office are convinced that the safety of the workers and the protection of the environment will be ensured.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Chair, that is the third time the minister has not been able to answer a question about leases.

Does the minister agree with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, which is asking for public hearings and consultations before seismic testing is allowed in the proposed marine park in Lancaster Sound?

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, my colleague the Minister of the Environment announced that a project would be conducted in a safe manner. A marine mapping project will be carried out, as is done throughout Canada. Canadians can be proud of finally having a government that has made Arctic development a priority. Arctic sovereignty is important to all Canadians, and going ahead with marine mapping does not put marine protected areas in jeopardy. Let us not mix up the issues.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Chair, does the Conservative government support the moratorium on offshore drilling and the 1972 Trudeau oil tanker ban on B.C. coast inland waters?

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, there is a moratorium on drilling in the offshore area on the west coast and that will not change. Our government does not intend to review these provisions.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Chair, on May 14, 2010, in question period, the minister responded to a question regarding tanker traffic off the west coast, stating:

[T]here is a tanker exclusion zone in British Columbia. No oil tankers are allowed in the inside passage. That is the way it is, and it will not change.

Is the minister suggesting, through that comment, that the 1988 tanker exclusion zone on the outside waters west of Haida Gwaii and Vancouver Island includes and is the same as the moratorium on oil tanker traffic on the inside waters east of the islands? In other words, it is the ban brought about by a Liberal government in 1972.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, the tanker exclusion zone negotiated between Canada and the United States applies only to loaded oil tankers travelling southbound with Alaska crude oil. A voluntary tanker route measure is in place off the west coast of B.C.

However, under federal and provincial law, tankers are free to travel to and from Canadian ports, including in B.C.

The government has no plans to reopen the exclusion zone.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Chair, the minister is just compounding the confusion caused by all the inaccurate answers he has given to these questions previously.

I would like to know whether this minister believes that the views of first nations who live along the pipeline route leading to Kitimat and the coastal route of the oil tankers that will take oil to customers in the east are important.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, there is a joint review panel about the northern gateway project. This is the most severe way to make an environmental assessment, and the public will be heard. Let us have the process take its due course.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Chair, is the minister aware that all the coastal first nations are standing together against this potential tanker traffic on the Pacific north coast that could do immeasurable damage to our ecosystems in north coast British Columbia--

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Chair NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. minister.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, as I was saying, my colleague, the Minister of the Environment, announced the creation of a joint review panel when the project was still in its initial phases.

Now that the application has officially been filed, the joint review panel will examine the project and will consider any concerns that might be raised by the public or by first nations groups.

I repeat, this is the most severe way to make an environmental assessment. That shows that we are taking this process seriously.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, I will share my time with the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

I am happy to be able to address the House in committee of the whole. To start, I would like to give the committee a brief overview of some of the things that Natural Resources Canada has done to ensure that our country maintains and improves its status as a natural resources powerhouse.

I do not use the word “powerhouse” lightly. Our natural resources sector employs some 755,000 Canadians. In 2009 the sector contributed up to $70 billion to our trade balance and accounted for 11% of Canada's GDP, truly a cornerstone of our economy.

We want these massive contributions to our economy and quality of life to continue and grow. We will do that by working with the sector to create a sustainable resource advantage to make Canada a leader in clean energy sustainable resource development around the world.

An immediate priority is to deliver the key commitments of the second year of Canada's action plan. Our economic action plan includes significant investments in the energy and other resource sectors, investments that are generating jobs and economic activity today and setting the foundation for greater and cleaner prosperity in the long term.

The $795 million clean energy fund is one example. These funds are already being invested in clean energy technology projects, large and small, across Canada. This new fund is building on past investments, such as the eco-energy technology initiative, one of a suite of eco-energy initiatives we launched in 2007, with a total investment of $4.2 billion. These programs are increasing energy efficiency and supporting clean energy research, development and demonstration.

The economic action plan saw increased funding for our own retrofit program, helping an additional 300,000 Canadian homeowners make their homes more efficient, reducing emissions and energy costs.

Over two years, the economic action plan has provided $170 million in measures to help the struggling forestry sector and the workers and families who depend on it.

This amount is in addition to the $209 million in funding for the community adjustment fund used for forestry projects.

These are important measures, but there is much more to be done to help make our resource sectors more competitive. We want to be able to take advantage of the recovery and the return of the markets. We must ensure that our resource industries are ready today for the markets of the future. They must be ready to support fluctuating commodity prices. These industries are facing increasingly intense international competition, and must face complex environmental and social challenges.

All of that is vital. Success will depend more and more on the ability of the sector to combine good business practices and increased productivity with a clear demonstration of its leadership in terms of environmental protection and social responsibility.

To support the sector's response to this new model of competitiveness, Natural Resources Canada will focus on five key priorities: improving the performance of the regulatory system for major project reviews, which will help ensure that Canada is the best country in which to invest; enabling a competitive resource sector; increasing innovation in the forest sector and green mining to enhance market opportunities and create the jobs and economy of tomorrow; advancing the clean energy agenda in Canada through science, technology advancement and program investments; and advancing sustainable resource development in the north to help Canada realize the vast potential of the region's people and resources and managing nuclear issues to meet Canada's energy and environmental needs, while reducing costs and risks to taxpayers and positioning Canada's nuclear industry to prosper.

Clean energy is and must remain a major consideration. Canada can count on vast reserves of fossil fuels. The oil sands constitute the second largest proven reserves in the world, and are crucial to North America's energy security and to Canada's prosperity.

We have heard time and time again that oil will remain the world's main source of energy for decades to come. So we must recognize how lucky we are to have so much here in Canada.

However, we must produce and consume cleaner forms of this resource. With our partners—the provinces and the private sector—we will invest in technologies that could help considerably reduce the environmental impact of oil sands development.

There can be no doubt that Canada's abundance of energy resources gives us a tremendous economic advantage. The challenge is to make the most of this advantage in order to ensure that Canada becomes a clean energy superpower and a leader in the creation of new green jobs.

As stated in the Speech from the Throne, we will review our energy efficiency and emission reduction programs to ensure they are effective and delivering results for Canadians. To date, we are seeing great success from the eco-energy programs we launched in 2007.

Over a million Canadian homeowners have already reduced their emissions and their energy costs through the ecoenergy retrofit—homes program. Our ecoenergy for renewable power program worth $1.5 billion has given a real boost to Canada's renewable energy industry.

In 2009, nearly 1,000 megawatts of new wind power capacity came on line. There are now wind farms in every province, nearly 100 in total, and more are being built. We now have a capacity of nearly 3,500 megawatts of wind power, enough to power a million homes.

We are also seeing unprecedented success with integrated community energy systems. Natural Resources Canada designed and supported with several partners the Drake Landing Solar Community, a 52 home subdivision in Okotoks, Alberta. This community has recently become the first in the world to have 80% of its space heating needs met by solar thermal energy and it is on track to reach 90%.

Our $1.5 billion eco-energy for biofuels program is seeing similar success as new production capacity, new opportunities for farmers and new jobs for Canadians gear up across the country.

As part of our clean energy fund, we have supported 19 clean energy systems demonstration and pilot projects throughout Canada. These projects range from a small electricity network in New Brunswick to a wave energy development project on Vancouver Island. As part of the clean energy fund, we are also investing with private and public sector partners in large scale carbon capture and storage projects. This technology could reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by hundreds of millions of tonnes a year. One of the priorities of the U.S.-Canada clean energy dialogue has been greater co-operation to develop this technology.

I know I am quickly running out of time, so I will conclude with just a few words. Canada is a natural resources powerhouse. In all of the ways I have just outlined and many others, our government and NRCan are committed to delivering on our vision of improving the quality of life for Canadians by creating a sustainable resource advantage.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Madam Chair, the minister spoke about Canada being a natural resources powerhouse. It is clear that natural resources have been a cornerstone of Canada's economy since before Confederation.

Could he tell us more about the contribution natural resources sector makes to a Canadian economy of today and a little about its potential for the future?

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, as I said in my remarks, our natural resources sector employs some 775,000 Canadians. In 2009 the sector contributed up to $70 billion to our trade balance and accounted for 11% of Canada's GDP.

Moreover, resource-related projects have generated considerable investment in the neighbourhood of $400 billion in potential capital investments expected over the coming decade.

Canada is a leader in energy production. For example, it is the world's largest uranium producer. Canada is also the world's seventh largest crude oil producer with the second largest proven reserves.

The forestry sector has gone through tough times recently, but there are signs of recovery. The prices of softwood lumber and pulpwood have gone up by 71% and 50%, respectively, since last year.

In 2010, we expect to see plants reopen or production ramp up to meet demand. The minerals and metals sector produced 3.3% of our GDP in 2008, and mineral production was estimated to be worth $43.5 billion.

While all of these figures point to the importance of natural resources sectors to today's economy, we must also look to the future. This is why I said in my remarks that we wanted the contribution of natural resources to our economy and quality of life to grow. The government will do that by working with the sector to make Canada a leader in clean energy and sustainable resource development around the world.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Madam Chair, I rise on a point of order. Numerous times, when the minister was speaking, the translation was tar sands when in fact it was the oil sands. It is very important that be made clear, that translation properly translate as oil sands and not tar sands.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Chair NDP Denise Savoie

I thank the hon. member for the correction.

The hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Madam Chair, I would like to ask the minister a question so that we can review the measures we already have in place together with the National Energy Board to ensure that what is going on in the United States in the Gulf of Mexico can never happen in Canada.

I gather that the National Energy Board has already implemented strict measures. I would like the minister to provide more information about that.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, first of all, as I explained, we have a regulatory board here, the National Energy Board. It is a quasi-judicial, independent organization that has existed for 50 years. It is in charge of regulating and managing all gas and oil drilling and production projects in Canada.

We have regulations, known as the Canada Oil and Gas Drilling and Production Regulations, which state that the board requires the operators to provide information on contingency plans, resources, deadlines and emergency response procedures. The board can also require the operators to provide moneys up front as a guarantee.

It is a very strict system. However, given what has happened in the Gulf of Mexico, the board has also launched an extensive consultation that will be open to the public. It will be open and transparent. Those interested can contact the board with their concerns. The goal is to better understand what has happened in the Gulf of Mexico in order to advance our understanding and improve the regulations we already have in place here in Canada.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:30 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Chair, a number of people have pointed out that Atomic Energy of Canada Limited has cost taxpayers more than $20 billion since it was established in the 1950s. That is a lot of money when we think of how it could have been used to develop real green energy, such as wind, solar and geothermal energy.

Bill C-9, the reason we are here tonight, simply hands over the keys to AECL to the Minister of Natural Resources. He could decide the future of the crown corporation without even being accountable to Parliament. He could keep transactions secret for a period of 15 days under the pretext of commercial confidentiality.

In view of the money invested in AECL, should the government not be more transparent with regard to the future of the crown corporation?

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, one thing is clear. Everyone agrees that AECL should be reorganized, and that is what we are currently doing with the CANDU reactor division. We want to ensure that the industry is viable and that it can position itself to create and maintain high-level jobs here in Canada. At the same time, we want to reduce the burden on Canadian taxpayers, and that is why we are looking for a strategic investment.

We know that nuclear energy does not produce greenhouse gases. It is part of a robust mix of energy sources in Canada. The purpose of Bill C-9 is to ensure that we can move forward with diligence. Everyone agrees that we must move forward.

Bill C-9 has been before Parliament for three months, and I hope that the opposition will support it. Naturally, the final decision about AECL's restructuring will be approved by cabinet.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:30 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Chair, the Minister just said it: nuclear technology is a cutting-edge industry that has been developed with the financial support of Canadian and Quebec taxpayers.

Nonetheless, the intellectual property and Canadian nuclear technology belong to all of us. What Canadian companies could acquire AECL? What will become of AECL if only foreign companies want to acquire it? What will become of the employees, who are very worried?

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, this restructuring is unavoidable. We are seeking strategic investments to achieve the purposes I mentioned. Of course, conditions and intellectual property are issues we are taking into account. This is a Canadian asset, but there are also collective agreements in place. We expect the entity that emerges following the restructuring to comply with the obligations in those agreements.

Naturally, we cannot disclose the names of the companies themselves right now because of the sensitive and commercial nature of the restructuring process.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:30 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Chair, at the very least, can the minister tell us whether any Canadian companies are in a position to buy AECL?

My second question is about the minister's commitments concerning isotope supply. We know that Bill C-9 does not provide any supply guarantees whatsoever. People, sick people in particular, are worried.