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House of Commons Hansard #39 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was lobbying.

Topics

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Desnoyers Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-471 regarding pay equity, just a few days after we celebrated International Workers' Day on May 1, even though there are not many reasons to celebrate in Canada with this current government.

I would first like to state our party's position. The Bloc Québécois fully supports the bill introduced by the Liberal leader, although, if the Liberals had taken action as soon as we received the report of the pay equity task force ordered by their own government, we would not still be stuck in this debate, which will ultimately show two things: the Liberals are progressive only when they are in the opposition, and the Conservatives are misogynistic all of the time.

When he was with the National Citizens Coalition in the fall of 1998, the current Prime Minister made his view on pay equity clear. He said that, for taxpayers, pay equity was a ripoff and had nothing to do with gender. According to him, both men and women taxpayers will pay additional money to both men and women in the civil service, and that was why the federal government should scrap its ridiculous pay equity law.

That is what the Prime Minister said, and that is what he was quick to do in the 2009 budget.

Part 11 of the 2009 budget implementation bill has to do with “equitable compensation” and it enacted the Public Service Equitable Compensation Act. The term “pay equity” is nowhere to be found in the bill, which instead refers to “equitable compensation” without ever defining it.

The act applies strictly to public sector employers: the Treasury Board, the RCMP and certain agencies and crown corporations. Businesses under federal jurisdiction are not covered, including some crown corporations, like Canada Post and CBC.

I think it is important to hear what is in the preamble:

Whereas

Parliament affirms that women in the public sector of Canada should receive equal pay for work of equal value;

Whereas Parliament affirms that it is desirable to accomplish that goal through proactive means;

And whereas employers in the public sector of Canada operate in a market-driven economy;

So, what does that mean? Clause 3 states:

An employer shall, in respect of its non-unionized employees, take measures to provide them with equitable compensation in accordance with this Act. In the case of unionized employees, the employer and the bargaining agent shall take measures to provide those employees with equitable compensation in accordance with this Act.

Of course the Bloc Québécois voted against this bill, which made pay equity a negotiable right and part of a collective agreement. Instead, the Bloc Québécois asked that sectoral committees on pay equity be created, as has been done in Quebec.

We also denounced the fact that the bill created a third category of workers in Quebec consisting of those who fall under Quebec pay equity legislation, those under federal legislation on equitable compensation, and those still subjected to the ineffective complaint system under the federally regulated private sector and certain crown corporations.

So we had to ask ourselves this: If the Conservative government believes that equitable compensation is necessary in the government, why would that not also be the case for private businesses under its jurisdiction, unless it believes that this principle is costly and harmful to private enterprise?

The Liberals and their party leader have gone to the trouble of introducing Bill C-471 on pay equity in order to show women how important they are, and yet the Liberals voted in favour of the budget.

In his speech introducing the bill, the Leader of the Opposition said, “To come right to the point, hidden in the 2009 budget was a measure that undermined pay equity.” The truth is, pay equity is worth nothing more to the Liberals than a couple of seats. The truth is, they voted in favour of the budget and in favour of driving pay equity backwards, knowing very well what they were doing, and too bad for women.

The pay equity issue is all but solved in Quebec. It is not complete yet because some female workers in Quebec are under the Canada Labour Code.

It is clear that the principle of equity, which is fundamental in Quebec, is not fundamental here. The federal government announced that it will cut $1.7 billion in spending and chances are that during collective bargaining, because they will obviously have to negotiate pay equity in the future, the government's negotiators will say that it is necessary to decrease the operating budget or that a collective effort is needed. If nothing concrete happens concerning pay equity during collective bargaining, it will be blamed on the union.

People will say that I am a pessimist, a cynic. However, this is the government that rejects anti-scab legislation, this is the government that goes over the heads of federal-level unions and that even repudiates its own collective agreements. This is the government that is risking the health of workers covered by the Canadian Labour Code, as was shown in a study last week. This government is even going so far as to vote against a Bloc bill that would exclude labour disputes from the employment insurance qualifying period. The truth is, the Conservatives do not like workers and never take their side.

At the same time, this government is questioning the right to abortion. It is cutting funding to women's rights groups and it is against a preventive withdrawal program. The truth is that the Conservatives have no concern whatsoever for women.

They want nothing to do with pay equity, this “ridiculous legislation”, as the Prime Minister called it a few years ago.

The Bloc, however, cares and has always supported the creation of proactive legislation.

On May 4, 2004, the pay equity task force published a report of more than 500 pages titled Pay Equity: A New Approach to a Fundamental Right. It recommended that the federal government put in place proactive pay equity legislation, and it presented a detailed plan outlining the best way to undertake this.

During the Pay Equity Task Force's consultations, stakeholders agreed on several key issues. Among other things, they agreed that they were committed to the principle of pay equity; that pay equity was a human rights issue; that employers had a positive duty to take steps to eliminate wage discrimination; that any new system must be available to unionized as well as non-unionized workers; that the new system must provide additional guidelines on how to comply with pay equity standards; that a neutral body responsible for providing information and support and ensuring compliance with pay equity standards should be set up; and that an independent agency with the power to settle pay equity disputes should be set up.

That all seems reasonable to me, and it is hard to see how anyone could be against this, yet the Conservatives are. They plan to silence anyone who speaks out against their equitable compensation scheme. They claim that they are making things better for women in the public service. They know that is not true. We all know that is not true, but the truth holds little sway with the Conservatives.

The theme for this year's workers' day was “For a fair Quebec”. This bill can help make both Quebec and Canada more equitable places.

Successive federal governments have done a poor job of defending Quebec's values of fairness and equity, so I believe, as always, that sovereignty is the best way for Quebec to become a fully equitable society.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the bill today. I noted that the previous speakers referred to the fact that pay equity was initially begun in Manitoba. It was the first province in Canada to bring in pay equity in 1986. I was lucky enough to be elected in 1986 and be part of the government of Howard Pawley that brought in legislation, eventually to be followed by Ontario and Quebec.

At that time, in some ways we were the vanguard of this type of legislation, but not only pay equity legislation. That government dealt with some very controversial areas. We were the first to bring in daycare proposals. Myrna Phillips, speaker of the legislature in Manitoba for awhile, was the legislative assistant who worked on the daycare issue. Pharmacare was brought in by the NDP in 1970-71, under the Ed Schreyer government.

To this day, even though we talk about having a national pharmacare program, and the Liberals will promise it occasionally before elections when they are in red book mode, when they become government, and when the Conservatives become government, we do not see actions taken in the areas of pharmacare. We do not see actions taken in the area of daycare. We certainly do not see actions taken in the area of pay equity.

Another issue we dealt with in 1986 was the inclusion of gay rights in the human rights code. That was when I was first elected. Even our own caucus was having difficulties with this issue. I know I was one of a group of four people who stood our ground. We fought the issue and over time we turned the government around on it and it agreed to bring it forth. To his credit, Premier Pawley to this day says that the action he took to introduce the legislation was one of his proudest moments during his six and a half years as premier.

We in the NDP in Manitoba, like the Bloc in Quebec, have been at the vanguard of a lot of very progressive legislation.

When I see Bill C-471 introduced by the Liberal leader, I wondered why it would be introduced in 2010. When we looked into the issue a little further, we found that it was a case where the Liberals and Leader of the Opposition essentially got themselves into a problem. Last year, on March 4, 2009, the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore instructed his party to vote with the government on the budget bill. Like this year's budget implementation bill, last year's was very similar, with a omnibus approach in which the government took a number of issues that it knew would be controversial in a minority Parliament and threw them in the budget.

There were environmental issues and there was this issue. The government decided to take the whole area of pay equity out under the purview of the human rights jurisdiction legislation and put it under the area of labour negotiations.

The members of the Bloc and the NDP understood what was going on with the government, regardless of its protestations, and members of the Liberal Party understood it as well. However, they were caught in this cat and mouse game, which the government has played with them over the last two year period. The government feels it can throw items like this into an omnibus bill and serve it up to the Liberals. The Liberals are so afraid to go to an election over it that they simply fall in line and vote the way they have. To try to recover and save some face in the matter and some credibility, the member has decided to come up with this approach. That is what we are dealing with right now.

The current Prime Minister has a pretty spotty record in this area as well. We have some issues and quotes from him. I believe the Bloc member dealt with it a few minutes ago, but the Prime Minister has made all sorts of very incendiary comments over the years. I recall him talking about the maritime provinces being overly dependent on government incentives and that got himself into a lot of trouble. He talked about building firewalls around Alberta and that got into a lot of trouble.

In 1998 the Prime Minister described our current pay equity laws in the following words. He said:

For taxpayers, however, it’s a rip-off. And it has nothing to do with gender. Both men and women taxpayers will pay additional money to both men and women in the civil service. That’s why the federal government should scrap its ridiculous pay equity law.

I do not believe the leopard changes its spots that easily. He knows he is close to a majority government and has to make some changes, so perhaps he will moderate his views a little to gain some short-term political advantage. At the end of the day, I do not really think he will have changed his views all that much.

He also pointed out specific flaws in the current legislation. He said:

Now 'pay equity' has everything to do with pay and nothing to do with equity. It’s based on the vague notion of 'equal pay for work of equal value,' which is not the same as equal pay for the same job.

Just to be clear, we recognize we will not count on the government any time soon to support women's issues in our country. In fact, Conservatives constantly come up with the negative on any of these issues. They can be pretty much guaranteed to be pulling out the cost factors on progressive social initiatives. If we want to establish pay equity, they will be the first to say that they cannot do this because it will cost too much, that it will slow the economy down, that it will bankrupt businesses, that it will bankrupt the government. They will put as regressive a face on it as possible.

We have the issue of the court challenges program, another program that the government eliminated, which is hardly a friendly move as far as women are concerned.

On the whole issue of affordable child care, both Conservative and Liberal governments over the years have failed to create affordable child care in our country. I recognize Quebec has had the best affordable child care system in the country for a number of years now. However, people can look back to 1986 and the work Myrna Phillips and Muriel Smith did in the area of daycare, and the member for Saint Boniface knows the people to whom I refer. It was before she became the speaker of the legislature. We brought in that daycare program in Manitoba.

The fact is successive Conservative governments have never dared to tamper or change those programs, and that is the fundamental fact. The Conservatives rarely propose innovative social programs. We will never see that happening. They are more concerned about corporate taxes. They cannot offend the big corporations. They have to reduce the corporate taxes to attract more business to the country. Then they will be able to afford proper daycare and pay equity 200 or 300 years into the future.

The Conservatives' priority is driving corporate taxes down to zero, if it can get it there, which is the difference between the Conservative approach and the approach of the NDP. I think the women in this country know very well that they are far better off supporting the NDP than they ever have been or will be supporting governments like the Conservatives.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, I am speaking out against Bill C-471, a private member's bill introduced by the Leader of the Opposition to repeal the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act from the 2009 budget.

I first need to indicate how confused I am about the Liberal position. This is a party that, today, once again, attempted to shut down a female member of Parliament's right to speak, a party that continually bullies our female members of Parliament. It is the male member for Ajax—Pickering who continues to do that on behalf of the Liberal leader.

I am talking about the debate that is going on about the gun registry, a debate that Canadians are seized upon and that many women care intimately about. It is an issue that we wanted to debate wholly and fulsomely but, unfortunately, the member for Ajax—Pickering attempted to shut down that debate by eliminating all but a couple of witnesses who actually sit on the side of repealing the long gun registry and tried to force through a whole contingent of witnesses who would only air one side of it.

Once again, they are bullying Canadians by trying to silence them. This is done because the leader, for whatever reason, is afraid to hear from police officers who are in fact in support of repealing the registry.

Today, after a motion had been made by the member for Ajax—Pickering, a motion to allow the mover of the bill only 30 minutes to speak when normal practice is that the mover of the bill gets an hour in every other committee, a bullying tactic by the member for Ajax—Pickering, the discussion period was limited to 30 minutes on a very important bill to repeal the long gun registry.

Again at that committee, the member for Ajax—Pickering bullied his way through committee and silenced the will of committee. The committee had voted very clearly on his motion to proceed with the 30 minute period for the person—

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I question the relevance of the member going on and on. My understanding of it is that that side had been filibustering in that particular committee. Now we are on a private member's bill in regard to equity.

Mr. Speaker, I think you should look into the relevance.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I appreciate the point that was raised. The member knows that members are given significant latitude in terms of relevance. I am sure the parliamentary secretary is speaking to the bill before the House.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am speaking to the bill because we are speaking about women's equality and how far women have come in this wonderful Canada that we call home.

Unfortunately, the Liberal Party sees fit to try to silence women, not only here in the House of Commons but across the country when things like the gun registry are being discussed, which is in their interest, for their protection and for safety. We need to make it more functional.

We need to make pay equity more functional, which is what our government has done. Today, when the member for Ajax—Pickering, after his motion passed in committee to allow the member for Portage—Lisgar to speak for 30 minutes on her bill, again limiting her because normally it is an hour, he then interrupted at the beginning of committee and limited her once again to 10 minutes. He was able to silence a female member and make it seem as if this were a normal process.

I am sorry but I question the honesty of that member and democracy among the party.

The private member's bill before us today is flawed and unworkable in so many ways that I do not even know where to start.

The Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, which affects only the federal public sector, is based on the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. That is the same principle found in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

In principle and in application, the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act shows that our government respects this fundamental value of Canadian society.

One of the flaws of the opposition's Bill C-471 is that it requires the government to implement a complex and costly pay equity system that would not serve federal public servants and the Canadian people well. We do not need that.

Canada and Canadian women have evolved a lot since 1970. In the last 30 years, women have made great progress, particularly in the federal public service, to which the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act applies.

In 1983, fewer than 5% of senior level positions in the federal public service were filled by women. Today, 41% of senior executives are women. This shows that women are increasingly taking their rightful place in the federal public service. They not only have access to these positions; their representation in most positions at all levels has also increased considerably over the years.

It is fair to say that there has been a profound change in the Canadian public service over the past few years and women have played an important role in that change. Today, the public service offers women and men equal access to all positions and the same pay within the same groups and levels.

Women have made significant progress in three decades and the Public Service Equitable Compensation Act recognizes that reality. Not only have women taken their place in the ranks of the federal public service, but their wages have been integrated into the bargaining process for all federal employees.

If you believe in the principle of equal pay for work of equal value and if you believe in the right to collective bargaining, that is as it should be. If you believe in equal pay for work of equal value, you will understand that public servants' remuneration as well as benefits must be established in the same way and at the same time, but not separately.

This proactive approach reflects the equality and equity enjoyed by men and women in the public service today.

I believe that most people would agree with me that it is better to adopt a proactive approach to all matters pertaining to remuneration than to engage in long and costly pay equity processes that will force future generations to pay women the salaries that they were entitled to from the beginning.

That is the aim of the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act.

Of course, Bill C-471, sooner or later, after much effort, may lead to a system of proactive remuneration, but at what cost? Repealing the entire Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act—a new law which will soon go into effect—and replacing it later with another complex and costly law does not make sense.

It is even less logical to think that any law that might replace it in the future would even come close to equalling the level of accountability and effectiveness in the Public Service Equitable Compensation Act.

Repealing this act would be terrible. It would do a lot of damage and would not be progressive at all, considering that an effective solution is already available.

I also want to point out that opposition members like to downplay one of the major reforms that the Public Service Equitable Compensation Act introduced: recourse.

Our new system does not deny women or any employee the right to file complaints in court.

On the contrary, it upholds that right via an independent watchdog: the Public Service Labour Relations Board.

There is another reason why this bill is defective.

Currently, the public service is going to great lengths to renew its workforce and work environment to keep them relevant to the next generation of Canadians and to ensure that they contribute to our country's success. We call it public service renewal. One of our goals is to create a work environment that will persuade the best and brightest to work for Canada.

In closing, I will be voting against the leader of the Liberal Party's bill because it does not enhance the ability of women to fight for their rights. We would be taking a huge leap backward, should we go back to what we had previously. I am not willing to allow women to go back to a system where it takes 15 years for them to get their just due and I will not agree with the Liberal leader's position on this.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It being 6:27 p.m., the time provided for debate has expired. Accordingly, the question is on the motion.

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

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

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

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, May 5, 2010, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Lee Richardson Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, if you were to seek it, I think you would find unanimous consent to see the clock at 6:30 p.m.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Calgary Centre has asked for unanimous consent to see the clock at 6:30. Does he have consent?

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to have a second chance at asking this question which I asked a few weeks ago. It was initially for the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, but it was the minister responsibile for FedNor who answered. It is about an important subject with regard to transportation, specifically rail in my area of Ontario. I was very disappointed in a couple of ways with the answer I received.

The answer was in the affirmative, that the federal government was actually going to come to the table with the $15 million that was requested in partnership with the provincial government to make sure that the rail line between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury, the Huron Central line, stayed in place. We have been talking about this for quite some time in Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Algoma and in this place. I was pleased that the answer was yes. Given that the provincial government had signed on to an agreement, the federal government agreed that the money would be there.

What disappointed me was the flippant way in which the answer was given. The minister could have expanded on the yes and talk about how the process would unfold in terms of the partners at the table. He could have said that a letter would be coming. I still have not seen a letter indicating how the process would work, how that $15 million would be delivered, how the necessary agreement among all the partners would be arrived at, or what the timelines were. I did not get that. What I got was a yes, the government said it would do it.

I then received a bit of a backhand, which I felt was rather unbecoming of the minister. It was certainly disrespectful of me as the member of Parliament for Sault Ste. Marie. It was as if to say that the yes was all due to the efforts of the mayor of Sault Ste. Marie, who happens to be seeking the nomination for the Conservatives in the next election. That answer indicated that I had absolutely nothing to do with it.

I have in front of me the questions that I asked in this House on two occasions. There was one in March of this year, which is the question I am speaking to today, and another one in the late winter. I also drafted a number of letters to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. I spoke twice to him here in the House about this issue and had some conversations over the weekend by email with the minister's office. I believe I did my part in making sure that this very important investment actually happens for Sault Ste. Marie.

My question today is for the parliamentary secretary. I appreciate that he is here this afternoon. He answered my first question a month or two ago on this subject, and he should have some understanding of the importance of this rail line to our region.

I wonder if he could elaborate a bit more on how this process will unfold. The federal government is in. The federal government is at the table. What are the timelines? Who needs to be in contact with the minister's office to ensure that all of the agreements are signed and that this happens as expeditiously as possible?

6:30 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I certainly hope to answer as many of my friend's questions as I can.

This government is committed to establishing world-class infrastructure in Canada to support a stronger economy, a cleaner environment, and better communities, a clear and necessary thing for all Canadians.

We are working hard to ensure that our infrastructure investments help Canada emerge from the recent economic crisis with a more modern and greener infrastructure in a number of different ways. We are doing this through the $33 billion building Canada plan and the $12 billion in infrastructure funding that is part of Canada's economic action plan.

Infrastructure Canada has actually committed more than $9.6 billion toward 6,000 infrastructure projects across this country. When combined with contributions from provinces, territories, municipalities, and other funding partners that have joined this effort, this means a total of more than $27 billion committed for infrastructure projects in communities across the country, like the member's own community and riding.

Thousands of communities across Canada have been able to benefit from this money, and build and upgrade infrastructure that stimulates the local economy, generating business and jobs. In just a one-year period of time we have announced 1,100 projects across Canada to clean up water systems, 60 projects to improve public transit, and 1,400 projects to upgrade local roads and highways that Canadians use every single day.

Communities in northern Ontario have also benefited and will continue to benefit from these infrastructure programs. This government supports the economic needs of Canada's communities, including those in my friend's riding of Sault Ste. Marie.

Over the past year we have heard from municipalities and industry in the area that the Huron Central Rail line is important to the economic sustainability of northern Ontario. We have heard that clearly.

On February 12 of this year, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities responded on behalf of the federal government. In a letter to his provincial counterparts, he explained that we are ready to provide our share of funding through the provincial-territorial base fund for this project. Let me quote part of that letter. It stated:

A joint call for proposals from Canada and Ontario was made pursuant to the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund, for which the Huron Central Rail line applied. I would note that in reviewing the applications submitted for short-line rail projects, Ontario did not indicate an interest or priority in funding such projects, including the Huron Central Rail's call for funding under that program...

The Infrastructure Stimulus Fund is no longer able to make new commitments.

However, should Ontario now choose to support this project, I am happy to inform you that the Government of Canada is indeed prepared to support this initiative, provided that Ontario submits it for funding under the Provincial-Territorial Base Fund.

I know it is quite lengthy. It went on to say:

As you know, we have been negotiating a Canada-Ontario Provincial-Territorial Base Fund agreement since 2008, most recently with the view to fully accelerating Ontario's entire allocation over fiscal years 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 as part of Canada's economic action plan.

We provided a draft of the agreement to you in August 2008 and did not receive initial comments until one year later in August 2009.

Ontario remains the only jurisdiction in Canada without an agreement in place to access their allocation of $175 million.

The minister then concluded by saying:

--that we move swiftly to sign the Canada-Ontario Provincial-Territorial Base Fund agreement--

It is this government that is moving forward to try to get Ontario to do so and I will continue to answer my friend's question as the night progresses.

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a copy of that letter as well and would be interested in allowing the parliamentary secretary to continue, to indicate whether, as I believe has been done, the agreement has been signed and the federal government has committed the $50 million. We are now wondering about the process for that to flow and some timeline in terms of when that money will flow so that the investment can be made.

Huron Central has indicated that time is of the essence as it looks at trying to source materials and sign contracts for people to actually do the work. I would be interested in knowing what the process is, what the timelines are, and if there is any commitment at all from the government to go beyond the freight piece of this to look at actual passenger service between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury.

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

There is never enough time, Mr. Speaker. I will continue with the minister's letter. He concluded by saying:

--that we move swiftly to sign the Canada-Ontario Provincial-Territorial Base Fund agreement, which could be the source of funds for infrastructure on the Huron Central Rail line initiative, and for other infrastructure priorities across Ontario. We understand that the Huron Central Rail initiative would proceed between now and 2015, and therefore this could have an impact on the extent to which Ontario's Provincial-Territorial Base Fund can be accelerated this year and next.

In essence, we are ready to go ahead and we encourage Ontario to get onboard as well, to sign the agreement in relation to this fund. I am very hopeful, clearly hopeful, that the Ontario government concludes its discussions on the base fund and signs the agreement as quickly as possible, so that we can move forward on this important project and many others throughout Ontario.

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for this opportunity to follow up on a question that I posed to the government on its lack of support for Bill C-311, the climate change accountability act.

This bill, the only climate change bill before this House, will now face a final vote here tomorrow evening.

It is a first necessary step on the road to tackling dangerous climate change, what many consider to be the greatest threat confronting our civilization today.

A recent Harris/Decima survey found that two-thirds of Canadians think that climate change is the defining challenge of our times. The same number of Canadians want Canada to adopt ambitious targets, regardless of what many other countries may do. They know that how we safeguard our planet and our future, in the face of climate change, for our children and generations to come, will be the test of our mettle.

The government keeps repeating the deception, the delusion, that it will be too costly to take the needed action. In fact, the parliamentary secretary said as much in his incomplete reply to my question the other day.

However, nothing could be further from the truth. Fiscal prudence tells us that we cannot afford not to take action. Other countries agree. Europe, the U.S., and even China, are all moving quickly to invest in renewable energy technologies and to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Let me quote from a report released today in Washington by the United Steelworkers and Environmental Defence Canada, called “Falling Behind: Canada's Lost Clean Energy Jobs”. It states:

At every opportunity, the Canadian government emphasizes that it is harmonizing its energy and climate policies with the United States. Yet, when it comes to investing in clean energy jobs, Canada does not even come close to matching U.S. efforts.

The study found that the U.S. is investing at least eight times more per capita than this government is in energy efficiency, public transit and renewable power. It is estimated that we are losing out on 66,000 jobs because we are so far behind.

In fact, the current government has recently shut down the eco-energy programs for renewable power and green home retrofits.

Here is just one example of the impacts of these cancellations. The ground source heating industry in this country, a fledgling industry, has had its knees cut out from underneath it. Homeowners who installed ground source heat pump systems cut their energy use by 40% to 60%, but needed the eco-energy program to help with the initial installation costs, which will not be available now.

Now that the eco-energy program has been stopped, installations of this energy-conserving technology have already plummeted. This is moving in the opposite direction of where we should be going.

The climate crisis we face has become urgent. We are approaching the eleventh hour.

I would like to quote a parliamentarian from history whose country faced no less of a threat:

The era of procrastination, of half-measure of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences

Just like when Winston Churchill spoke those prophetic words in the 1930s, our time for debate is drawing to a close.

My question is simple. Since the Conservative government has not tabled any serious proposals of its own, will any Conservative parliamentarians show the courage and the vision to support Bill C-311 becoming law before more precious time is lost?

6:40 p.m.

Langley B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, if the NDP really believed in climate change, it would not be supporting this publicity stunt that is called Bill C-311.

The Copenhagen accord represents a major step forward. It is an international climate change dialogue, laying the foundation for a post-2012 international climate change agreement that includes commitments from all the major emitters.

Bill C-311 is out of step with this development. The approach being taken by our major trading partners under the accord, including the commitments being made by our largest trading partner and market, the United States, is in no way reflected in Bill C-311.

Canada is aligning its efforts to address climate change with those of the United States to ensure environmental progress while preserving a competitive Canadian economy. In accordance with this commitment, Canada has identified an economy-wide emissions target of 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. It is only 10 years from now and that is fully aligned with the emission targets of the United States.

We are also aligning our efforts in other areas. For example, we published new proposed regulations for automobile and light trucks that are consistent with the national fuel economy standards announced in the United States. Actions such as these will foster significant technical improvements and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a manner which minimizes the burden on Canadian industry. That means jobs.

In contrast, Bill C-311's targets would undermine Canada's competitive position in the North American market, devastate the economic recovery and be divorced from the actions being taken by others under the Copenhagen accord. The bill's 2020 target is too aggressive and enacts policies to achieve that would be fundamentally undermined, devastating the recovery of the Canadian economy.

To put it into perspective, the target of 25% below 1990 levels is equivalent to 39% below 2005 levels. According to the report released by the Pembina Institute and David Suzuki Foundation, GDP costs of up to 3.2% can be expected from adopting Bill C-311. This is a much greater impact than any other developed country that is considering its commitments to climate change.

As currently drafted, Bill C-311 is likely ultra vires under the Constitution, therefore exceeding federal authority.

For these reasons, the government does not support Bill C-311. We are sticking up for Canada, for jobs, and for the environment. Instead we will continue to deploy a full range of instruments to combat climate change.

We are making investments in renewable energy, which the member constantly votes against.

We are using incentives and regulations to accelerate the development and deployment of green technologies, which the member votes against.

We will take every opportunity to engage with our international partners, working toward a global solution to a global problem.

The member needs to stop the publicity stunts and the photo ops, and get serious about fighting climate change. Let us do it internationally. It is a global problem with a global solution. Bill C-311 is not the solution.

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, as is obvious to anyone here today, I am not photogenic enough for photo ops.

If the response is “Our government has a plan and is taking action”, I would like to see it. All Canadians would like to see it.

With regard to Copenhagen, the Copenhagen accord is a farce. Canada could have led Copenhagen to a real solution but instead we stalled.

In response to the statement that our targets will be reduced by 17% by 2020, our government has changed its targets more times over the last few years than the Conservatives have change their socks, or their environment ministers, and that is almost every year.

The government's targets are weak. They are not based on 1990 levels. They are well below what is needed to avoid dangerous climate change. It is merely rubber-stamping whatever the U.S. comes up with. It is an abrogation of our duty.

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member, when he was at committee, heard from every scientist and witness who spoke at committee that Bill C-311, or whatever plan, to be successful, had to be done with a continental approach. That is exactly what we are doing. Bill C-311 does not take into account a continental approach.

His constituents also want to know how he is going to vote on the gun registry. He promised his constituents that he was going to cancel the wasteful long-gun registry. Is he going to respect the wishes of and his promise to his constituents, or he is going to--