House of Commons Hansard #41 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environmental.


Canadian Environmental Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very proud to rise in the House to support a historic federal bill, Bill C-469, An Act to establish a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights. The bill would give Canadians the legal right to a healthy environment.

National governments across the globe are stepping forward to recognize the right to a healthy environment in their national constitutions. International bodies, regional authorities and local municipalities all over the planet are declaring rights to clean air, clean water and uncontaminated land. Environmental rights are enjoyed in over half the countries of the world, either through international agreement or by provisions of national constitutions.

Despite this global trend, environmental rights remain largely unconfirmed in Canada. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not address environmental protection or environmental health. In light of the momentous vote in favour of Bill C-311, the climate change accountability act last night, now is the time for Canada to step up to the plate.

Environmental rights are recognized by only four provincial and territorial laws: Quebec, Ontario, Northwest Territories and Yukon. I would like to congratulate these provinces and territories for being ahead of the federal government on this issue. In fact, Quebec's environmental quality act has been in place since 1978. The act recognizes the right to a healthy environment and to effective environmental protection. It allows for Quebec residents to seek an injunction or to stop unauthorized activity that is harming the environment.

The bill would create a federal and therefore national-wide framework to recognize and seek to protect the quality and health of the environment essential to human life and dignity. The bill recognizes that it is simply not enough to tell people that the government will protect the environment on their behalf. Instead, it would compel the government to protect the environment and it would give Canadians the ability to hold the government to account, not only at election time but whenever environmental offences occur.

Specifically, Bill C-469 would require the federal government to take action to protect the right of all Canadians to a healthy environment. It would ensure access to environmental information and grant the right for all Canadians to participate in environment-related decisions. It would compel the government to investigate and prosecute environmental offences. It would give all citizens the ability to take the government to court if it failed to enforce environmental laws. It would provide whistleblower protection to employees who reported environmental offences. These rights and duties are already found in the laws of over 130 other countries.

Let me provide the House and Canadians watching some examples. The constitution of Argentina recognizes that all inhabitants enjoy the right to a healthy, balanced environment which is fit for human development so that productive activity satisfy current needs without compromising those of future generations, and have the duty to preserve the environment. Damaging the environment generates the obligation to repair it as a priority in the manner that is established by law.

In 2005 France amended its constitution to include a charter for the environment that recognizes, among other things, a person's right to live in a balanced environment that shows due respect for health.

Most recently Ecuador passed a new constitution that recognizes the individual and community right to a healthy environment as well as direct rights for nature.

Recognizing environmental rights in Canada gives a voice and power to those most vulnerable to the harmful effects of environmental degradation.

For example, the Argentinian court ordered the government to provide drinking water to poor families living along the Suquia River after years of ongoing pollution from a malfunctioning sewage treatment plant. A court in the Philippines has ordered the cleanup of the highly-polluted Manila Harbour based on the constitutional right to a balanced and healthy environment.

There is support from the other opposition parties on this bill, in addition to prominent members of the environmental community who helped author this bill: Ecojustice, the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth. Let us review what these environmental champions have to say about this legislation.

Margot Venton, an Ecojustice lawyer who played an instrumental role in this legislation, stated:

We are calling on our political leaders to rise above the gridlock of a minority government to embrace this transformative piece of legislation. Passing the Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights is both a rare and urgent opportunity for all parties to show political leadership at a time when it is sorely needed.

Jean Langlois, the national campaigns director of the Sierra Club of Canada, stated:

This is a historic opportunity for Parliament. The interests of individual Canadians are compromised when decisions run roughshod over our common natural legacy. Our legal system currently provides limited and costly opportunities for the public to address such injustices. The CEBR [this bill] would finally give all Canadians the tools necessary to protect their environmental rights.

Beatrice Olivastri, CEO of Friends of the Earth Canada, stated:

It’s time that Canada caught up with the rest of the world in recognizing the rights of citizens to a healthy environment. Canadians, everywhere in this country, deserve protection against environmental destruction and its negative impacts on their health.

We must listen and we must show leadership. It is time we caught up with the rest of the world in recognizing the rights of Canadians to a healthy environment.

By voting against Bill C-311 last night, the government again showed its complete disregard for the environment. The government has already weakened the environmental assessment process, silenced scientists who disagree with it and failed to act to protect species at risk. Yesterday, parliamentarians showed they can act when the government will not.

It is vital that we, as representatives of Canadians from coast to coast to coast, work together to act to protect the environment and pass this bill for the future of all Canadians.

Canadian Environmental Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak today to the issue of environmental rights and Bill C-469, An Act to establish a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights.

Bill C-469 proposes to create a number of environmental rights and government obligations related to the protection of the environment. The bill stipulates that five emerging principles of environmental law would guide its interpretation: the precautionary principle, the polluter pays principle, the principle of sustainable development, the principle of intergenerational equity and the principle of environmental justice.

Those principles are already supported and implemented through existing government legislation and policies. For example, the Species at Risk Act, the Oceans Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act all refer to the precautionary principle. Through this principle, the government may, in certain situations, where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, take cost effective measures to prevent environmental degradation even if there is a lack of full scientific certainty.

In 2008, Parliament also passed the Federal Sustainable Development Act, which requires the Government of Canada to develop comprehensive federal sustainable development strategies based upon the precautionary principle.

In March of this year, our government presented to Canadians a consultation paper outlining a proposed federal sustainable development strategy for Canada. That strategy will both strengthen how government promotes environmental sustainability and improve the transparency and accountability of how we do it. The proposed strategy constitutes an effective and balanced approach for the government to meet many of the principles and goals advanced by Bill C-469. These include the precautionary principle, transparency and accountability, and the goal of sustainable development.

The proposed federal sustainable development strategy represents a major step forward for the Government of Canada by including environmental sustainability as an integral part of its decision-making processes. It replaces a system that was established in 1995 when amendments to the Auditor General Act required key federal departments and agencies to table in Parliament their individual strategies and other actions for sustainable development. That system lacked an overarching, government-wide strategy. It lacked the key elements for government-wide goals, targets and common ways to measure federal accomplishments.

The three key elements of this strategy represent the first major improvement in the system since 1995. First, the strategy will provide an integrated, whole of government picture of actions to achieve environmental sustainability in Canada. Second, we are linking sustainable development and planning and reporting with the government's core expenditure planning and reporting system. Finally, we are establishing effective measurement, monitoring and reporting in order to track and report on progress to Canadians.

Our government welcomes this opportunity to improve planning and reporting for environmental sustainability. Taking into account international best practices and the purpose of the Federal Sustainable Development Act, Canada's first federal sustainable development strategy will take a pragmatic approach based on key priorities.

The proposed approach is one of responsible, practical progress. It will deliver a significant advance in terms of sustainable development in Canada and will also allow the government to build on it as we learn over time. It will allow the government to address environmental sustainability in a clear and coherent way, while at the same time placing an emphasis on getting the framework correct. It will help Canadians and Parliament identify whether there are gaps in the system and how effective government has been in hitting the targets it has set. It also will become a valuable tool to help governments set ambitious goals that will lead to a more sustainable Canada.

The strategy will streamline the way departments and agencies report and put sustainable development at the heart of government decision-making throughout the body of government. It will enhance transparency for Canadians, hold government departments and the ministers more accountable and will deliver better results.

Our government is also supportive of another principle advanced by Bill C-469, the polluter pays principle. This principle, also known as principle 16 of the Rio declaration, provides that national authorities should endeavour to promote the internalization of environmental costs and the use of environment instruments, taking into account the approach that the polluter should, in principle, bear the cost of the pollution they create with due regard to the public interest and without distorting international trade and investment.

In June 2009, Parliament passed the Environmental Enforcement Act, an act that amends the offence, penalty and enforcement provisions of nine environmental protection and wildlife conservation statutes. These include the Canadian Environmental Protection Act , 1999; the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994; Canada's trade in endangered species legislation; and the Canada National Parks Act.

The Environmental Enforcement Act would ensure that enforcement and sentencing of environmental offences achieve the goals of deterrence, denunciation and, of course, restoration. This last goal reinforces the polluter pays principle by ensuring that offenders contribute to the restoration and remediation of the damage that they have caused to the environment.

Reflecting on the polluter pays principle, the Environmental Enforcement Act introduces minimum fines for offences that involve direct harm or risk of harm to the environment and obstruction of authority, not just the harm they caused but the harm they potentially could have caused. The act also adds a purpose clause to the sentencing provisions of the statutes it amends which would set out the fundamental purposes of deterrence, denunciation and restoration of that harmed environment. The act also emphasizes the importance of accounting for aggravating factors when determining appropriate penalties. It ensures that courts take into account damage to both the use and non-use values of the environment, ensuring that polluters pay the full value of any environmental damage they cause.

The Environmental Enforcement Act also directs environmental fines to the environmental damages fund, a special account in the accounts of Canada, from where they will be available to the community and other organizations for environmental restoration, improvement, research and development, and public education and awareness. This is a suiting penalty for someone who causes such degradation to our environment.

In closing, by its proposed federal sustainable development strategy and by the introduction of the new Environmental Enforcement Act, our government has already shown great support for the key principles of environmental law that Bill C-469 proposes to adopt as its guiding principles.

Therefore, our party, would like to see the debate on Bill C-469 continue in order to see how the bill would complement these and other existing measures and laws.

As an elementary school principal, a new school that I built was environmentally friendly. It was called a green school. It was one of the most modern green initiatives built by any federal or provincial government in Nova Scotia. The children who attended that school were versed in the green abilities of that school: the ability to take rain off the roof and use it to flush the toilets; and the ability to hydrate itself by taking moisture out of the air, reconstituting it and putting it back into the air of the school.

The children who go to school in a building like that will emerge from that school, after years of education, with a sound sense of protection of the environment and what a green school can do, what a green country can do, what a green nation can do and what a green world would do.

The next generation is something we need to concentrate on, which is why we are here in Parliament today talking about the environment and about protecting the sustainable development for the future. Anyone who chooses to ignore the next generation and to pollute our environment will have to pay. They need to ensure that any damage they do to our environment is restored by them. They may also have to pay penalties for the harm, not only that they have committed, but the harm they could have potentially committed. Those are the principles our government has put in place in several pieces of legislation. Those are the principles that are also contained in this bill.

On behalf of our government, we wish to see the debate on this bill continue. There are many good principles in this bill, many principles in this bill that our government supports.

However, there is a question we need answered? Would this bill cause redundancy in the other bills that have already been produced, both by our government and previous governments? How would those redundancies be overcome? Would they put unnecessary issues at work so that our government and future governments would have to deal with redundant statutes, redundant bills and redundant policies?

Not only must we ensure that we support the principles contained in Bill C-469, we also must ensure that any redundancies in current legislation or in current statutes do not impact the future of our environment, our children's environment and their children's environment. It is our responsibility to work together in this House to ensure, not only that the environment is safe and green for this generation and the next, but for all future generations in this country. Stewardship is very important.

As a parliamentarian, I ask us all to take a good look at the--

Canadian Environmental Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

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

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

6:35 p.m.


Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand this evening on this adjournment proceeding and speak about Veterans Affairs issues, in particular the new community war memorial program and the question I had asked. I am glad to see the parliamentary secretary is here this evening to answer some questions. I encourage him to take his pre-written speech and throw it out the window and let us get some really good answers on some real questions on this issue.

To set the tone on the community war memorial program, there is no disagreement from this side of the House. The Liberal Party fully supports the initiative by the government to institute a community war memorial program. We think it is a worthwhile initiative, so we will be supportive of that.

I want to ask some questions on it and get to the bottom of exactly how this community war memorial program will work. We will get to the facts of the matter and I will run my questions together and hopefully the parliamentary secretary will be able to address them and answer them correctly.

What the government does, and most governments have done this in the past, is make announcements on things, but then when we get into the finer detail of it, we realize it is not as good as what we first heard.

In the budget the Conservatives announced $2 million for a community war memorial program and then we later found out this would be spread over two years. We are dealing with a $1 million new community war memorial program. Hopefully the parliamentary secretary will able to correct that or agree with it.

The second part is this is not to be confused with the cenotaph and monument restoration program. In some documents the deputy minister provided us with answers to our committee the figure was correct. The cenotaph and monument restoration program for 2010-11 is $1 million. It is good to see that we have both programs where one is for new and one is for renewing the old cenotaphs and memorials. I want to ensure it is correct that both programs will be proceeding as announced.

This is where I get to my questions that I had asked the minister and they were brought up at committee. War memorials, whether they be new or old, are focused around one part in a particular town. Most towns have war memorials that need repairs, for which they apply to this program, and it is a good program. I have no qualms about it. It is a fabulous program for repairing those memorials. Communities that want to add on to their war memorial programs could apply under the new program and make application for this initiative.

Under the old program for renewing and updating war memorials, there is an independent committee. I will quote from the Veterans Affairs guidelines on this committee. It states:

Once all required materials have been submitted, they will be forwarded to a review committee which will include representation from national Veterans’ organizations as well as experts from organizations or institutions involved in reparations and conservation of this type.

It sounds great. There is a program where an independent committee will review this. Is my time up already?

6:35 p.m.


The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

It appears to be. I will check with the Clerk.

6:35 p.m.


Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

I was just getting going. I will sit down and listen to the parliamentary secretary.

6:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs.

6:40 p.m.

West Nova Nova Scotia


Greg Kerr ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Madam Speaker, I am sorry the member for Avalon was just getting started. I was just getting intrigued. I was going to compliment him on his tie and attire, but time will fly right by. The member was much gentler than our colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore earlier today. He was very calm in his approach.

The member is absolutely right. There is a brand new initiative coming in, a $1 million a year program. Details will be coming out within days or weeks, I am not sure exactly when.

The reason this is considered an important initiative at this time is that we have had a lot of comments and correspondence from organizations and groups across the country saying that they really appreciate the fact that the existing program has repaired some thousands of monuments that were damaged or hurt in some way or aged because of the length of time they have been up.

As the member knows, the committee is in place. It is a good committee, chaired by a former parliamentary secretary as a matter of fact, and it has done a lot of good work.

People are saying they would like an opportunity to see brand new memorials to reflect some of the newer issues, newer challenges, newer veterans, et cetera. The minister came forward and said that we really should have a separate initiative to deal with that. The existing restoration group has done a phenomenal job; there is no question about that. These are veterans groups and so on that are represented so I would expect we would see a lot of similarity in approach. I expect the same kind of success should take place on behalf of the people of Canada.

I am not sure where the member would have gone next with his comments or questions as we did not hear them. I know from his questions and comments at committee that he certainly is very interested in the process and in the initiative. I hope we will get a chance to exchange comments in more detail in the coming weeks when the initiative has actually started.

I am not going to go any further because I do not want to go over my time.

It really is an example of good ideas coming in a non-partisan way and working well. I look forward to the start of this initiative.

6:45 p.m.


Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Madam Speaker, I am going to cut right to the chase on my question now.

My point was that this new program will now be at the purview of the minister. He alone will make the decisions. That is what he said in committee and confirmed here in the House.

Rather than have the minister make this program political, I would encourage the government to let the existing independent committee allocate the funding.

Why will the parliamentary secretary and the minister not commit to let the committee handle the requests for new war memorials? It is set up and ready to go. The criteria would probably be very similar. I am glad to hear we are moving forward with this.

Will the government allow the committee to select the requests for funding with respect to the $1 million over the next two years? If not, why not? It would make the process totally non-partisan so that war memorials would not be political decisions of a minister, and we know that would happen.

6:45 p.m.


Greg Kerr Conservative West Nova, NS

Madam Speaker, I failed to point out that the present chair is a former Liberal parliamentary secretary. The committee has managed to be non-partisan by keeping some of the players from the former government in place. Fairness is there.

I would like to correct one misconception, which I hope is just a misunderstanding. All of the recommendations, close to 6,000 on restoration, were decided by the minister's office. Every one that came forward went through a recommendation review process but all had to be signed off by the minister.

The minister is confirming that the intention is to follow the very successful process already in place. I do not know how different the committee will be. It will be a separate process, probably a separate committee, but I think it will follow the same kind of mandate. I just wanted to correct that. The minister is not politicizing this. The former Liberal minister had to sign off on each and every application on behalf of the government, not on behalf of the committee. The exact same process will be followed this time. It will not be any more politicized. It will follow the very successful process that is in place already.

6:45 p.m.


Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House regarding a question that was raised concerning the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. There is one very simple fact: The Conservative government is about to scrap the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

The Aboriginal Healing Foundation was a program that was designed by aboriginal people. It was delivered by aboriginal people for aboriginal people to deal with the healing needs that have arisen as a result of the Indian residential schools experience.

The Conservatives want to replace that program with a program of their own design. It raises the question: Does the Conservative government think that it knows better than aboriginal people themselves what they need in their communities, for themselves and for their families? When we look at the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, it has exceeded expectations. The results have been good. There have been lower suicide rates. There has been more intergenerational communication, less child apprehensions and lower alcoholism rates. All of these things have been positive about the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. It has been accountable and transparent.

These are facts that have been borne out by the government's own independent audit that was done in the fall of 2009. We have to ask the question: Why scrap success? Why scrap something that was working, vitally needed and urgently needed in communities?

The government is scrapping it when the need is rising. This is evidenced by the figures themselves. Claims from the common experience payment program were originally projected to be around 66,000. The actual applications are now 95,000 and counting. The independent assessment process claims were supposed to number somewhere around 12,500. They are now at 14,900 in the first two years.

The need is rising. Just when there is a need in our communities and people are reaching out for help, the government changes the program. To whom is it giving the supposed program? It is giving it to Health Canada. Nobody disputes that Health Canada has done some good work, but it does not have the expertise the Aboriginal Healing Foundation has developed over the last 12 or 13 years.

Health Canada's approach is not community based. Health Canada's approach is one of individualism. Health Canada's approach is one that is narrowly constructed. It does not reach out in the way the Aboriginal Healing Foundation has to families, groups and communities.

What has the initial impact of this change been? I will use some of the examples in Nunavut and Clyde River. When the government said that it was scrapping the program, it said that there would be no land-based healing, no counselling and no therapeutic programs. Seven counsellors have been laid off. Women's healing, youth drop-in and counselling, men's healing and family counselling have all stopped.

That is not helping the individual. That is not helping the community. The government is doing a disservice to those aboriginal Canadians who vitally need the help at this pivotal time in their lives.

6:50 p.m.

Vancouver Island North B.C.


John Duncan ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the extension of the question from March 31 of this year.

There is quite a background to all of this. Members will recall we had a take note debate in this House on the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. It has been ongoing at committee. As recently as today, the aboriginal affairs and northern development committee met on this subject.

In order to sort of inform, I can go into some background. Four years ago the Indian residential school settlement agreement earned the approval of all key parties: Canada, former students, churches, the Assembly of First Nations, and Inuit organizations. This was a long process that was exhaustive and included research, conciliation and negotiation.

Implementation of the Indian residential school settlement agreement began more than two years ago and aims to resolve a painful legacy. There are five main elements of that agreement: a common experience payment for all eligible former students who resided at recognized Indian residential schools; an independent assessment process to resolve claims of sexual and serious physical abuse; the truth and reconciliation commission; commemoration initiatives; and measures to support healing, such as the Indian residential schools resolution health support program and an endowment to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

The Aboriginal Healing Foundation was initiated in 1998, long before this, and was never intended to last forever. As part of the foundation's 2010-15 corporate plan, it outlined a wind-down strategy and will continue to have 12 healing centres across Canada until March 2012.

The government's decision to fund the Aboriginal Healing Foundation beyond its original mandate of 2007 demonstrates a commitment to accountability for the legacy of Indian residential schools. The good work of organizations funded by the foundation informs the reconciliation with aboriginal peoples.

The government continues to ensure that appropriate supports are in place. This includes $199 million over two years in budget 2010 for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and Health Canada to address the increased demand for services due the common experience payment and the independent assessment process. Part of this money, $66 million over two years, has been allocated to Health Canada's programs. This program provides mental health and emotional support services directly to students and their families.

It is important to note this is new money. It does not re-allocate existing funds once allotted to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. These funds enable Canada to fulfill its ongoing legal obligation to provide emotional and mental health support.

The government will continue to support a range of programs and initiatives that aim to improve the quality of life by aboriginal people in this country. Today at committee, I think we came to a very good understanding of how to move forward on this.

6:55 p.m.


Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Madam Speaker, nobody has even asked that the Aboriginal Healing Foundation last forever.

The government can honour its legal obligations and still fund the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. There are other obligations, moral and ethical, to the people who suffered during residential schools.

Let us look at the experience of Health Canada when it just started out. Health Canada now has its regional co-ordination headquarters for the people of Nunavut who might need help in Whitehorse. It is three time zones away.

When Health Canada handed out its first pamphlets about its new program for health support, it was not in Inuktitut, the first language of many of the people in Nunavut or in Nunatsiavut, Labrador, or other places across the Arctic, it was only in English and French. When Health Canada mentioned the programs, it did not even mention Inuit or Métis. They were not even referenced in the pamphlets.

This is not the way to start a new healing program that is supposed to be culturally sensitive and responsive to the needs of people.

I would end with this, and this is very poignant. At committee today an elder said, “We were brave children”. I ask the government to show some bravery, to stand up and to support these people.

6:55 p.m.


John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

Madam Speaker, we recognize the importance of trying to bring closure to the legacy of the Indian residential schools. We know the importance of our legal, ethical and moral obligations. We are going to fulfill all of that.

One of the values of our committee and working together with other parties, working together with stakeholders, is to ensure that the kinds of shortcomings that were just described are things that we can address when we move forward.

For example, on the language issue, I concur. We need to be Inuit sensitive and not just provide literature but speakers who can be part of this program. That is a strong recommendation that we can make to Health Canada, to ensure that programming in Nunavut and other parts of Canada work properly.

6:55 p.m.


Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Madam Speaker, the question I asked the minister was clearly about supply management, primarily in the dairy industry, and the new trade agreement that the government has entered into with the European Union and how we intend to ensure supply managed farmers that indeed we are going to maintain the system we have in place.

There are three pillars that are talked about when it comes to supply management: import controls that help plan production so that the level of imports must be known and the predictability is achieved through tariffs high enough to prevent imports above the agreed level of market access; producer pricing, acting together farmers are empowered to collectively negotiate fair prices for their products and production discipline; and producers plan and adjust their production to match consumer demand.

I raise those three pillars because my experience in the past in collective bargaining is that when we put things on the table, there is a give and take in the bargaining process.

The government may say to not worry about it, but the reality is it is on the table. In negotiations the understanding is that everything is on the table. What we find out is the EU's common agricultural policy is not up for debate. Therefore, everything is not on the table.

When we put something on the table, to get it off there is a price. The other side that bargains never lets us take things off the table that may be of benefit to them unless we pay the price to remove it.

That is why when we have things we want to keep, do not put them on the table. We put things on the table that we want to simply let them have because we no longer have value in them anymore.

The government clearly has said that it values supply management. What we have heard is that it believes in the program, it wants to support the program and yet it placed it on the bargaining table.

If that is the case, then what assurances can the government give supply managed farmers and what guarantees can it give that the government offer on supply management will be taken off the table. How will it come off the table and when will it be removed?

Those are critically important questions for supply managed farmers who, I might add, are one of the few farm groups across the country who are able to sustain themselves because of what they do on the farm.

Too many other farmers across the country, and we are seeing it in the agriculture committee and seeing it on the road talking to young farmers, are not making any money. They are digging themselves a deeper hole, going into more debt to sustain the farm or going off farm for second jobs to keep the farm.

One of the things we all recognize is that we eat. The other thing we also recognize is that the things we buy in the grocery store to feed ourselves come from somewhere else, other than the grocery store. They come from farms and farmers.

We need to ensure that these things are protected. We need to understand that supply management works. This is one area across the entire farm sector of this country that is working for farmers. It is working for consumers as well.

As someone who lives less than 30 minutes from Buffalo, I know that to save 50¢ I am not driving to Buffalo to get milk. Let me say that I will pay 50¢ for four litres of milk more than what is paid in the U.S. to ensure that we have farmers who can sustain themselves, stay on the farm, continue to farm, and provide the quality food that they do for us. They will continue to do that for us into the future because that is what they want to do.

Again, I ask the parliamentary secretary, what guarantees can the government offer that supply management will be taken off the table? How and when will it be removed?

7 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia


Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Madam Speaker, I am a little bit puzzled that we are here tonight in the House talking about supply management. Certainly, no government in the history of this country has ever been more clear and more direct in its support for supply management.

The current Minister of International Trade, the former minister of international trade and the minister of international trade before him, all Conservative ministers, have supported supply management. We have debated it at committee. We have debated it in the House. Our position has never changed. We have been behind our farmers in supply management 100%.

I spoke on supply management myself at the WTO in Delhi. I have spoken at committee many times. I have to ask the question myself. Why are we speaking about supply management again, unless somebody is trying to spread misinformation about the position that this government has taken on supply management? The former government put supply management on the table in Doha. We fought against that in opposition, and certainly supply management has been defended every day by this government.

What we have here is a negotiation with the EU. Of course, the member would not want to talk about a free trade agreement or a comprehensive trading agreement with the European Union because his party has never support any free trade agreement that has come to the House.

The reality is that we are negotiating a trade agreement, a high quality, ambitious agreement with the EU. It is a priority for our government and for Canada. These negotiations represent a huge opportunity for all Canadians, including Canadian farmers. But specifically, in regard to supply management, our government has made it very clear we strongly support supply management.

We continue to defend interests that are important to these industries in particular. The hon. member mentioned milk, but he would also realize that the feather and egg industry also supply manage. It is specific to those industries. We also look out for the interests of farmers who are not supply managed. That is the job of government and that is a job that we take very seriously in our ongoing negotiations with the European Union.

The reality is that we live in a country that is based on trade. We have tremendous potential to expand opportunities for Canadian businesses, to expand opportunities for Canadian workers, to supply more dollars in Canadian homes, and open up opportunities for European businesses, families, workers and homes as well.

This is not a one-way street. Supply management is not on the table and the hon. member knows that. He is being a bit disingenuous when he tries to say that it is, but it is a fulsome and complete negotiation that will have discussions on a number of issues. At the end of the day we hope to be able to agree on a comprehension trading agreement with the European Union that will benefit both the European Union and Canada.

7:05 p.m.


Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Madam Speaker, if I heard the parliamentary secretary correctly, he said it is not on the table. I would ask him, when he gets up again, to clarify, is he stating for the House categorically that supply management is not and will not be on the table in the negotiations between the EU and Canada?

When it comes to free trade, he is right. I do not agree with free trade agreements, but I agree with trade policies and fair policies.

I would also remind him that the Minister of Agriculture said that he is also a strong supporter of supply managed systems, and so is the Minister of International Trade, who went on to talk about the fact that he too supports them.

The question is, is the hon. parliamentary secretary guaranteeing in the House this evening that supply management is not presently, nor will it be, on the table during these negotiations with the EU at any point during this round of negotiations? Can supply managed folks in the dairy sector, and all the other sectors that are supply managed, breathe a sigh of relief tonight, knowing that he has guaranteed that supply management is not on the table for negotiation?

7:05 p.m.


Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Madam Speaker, I guess a direct answer is the best answer for the hon. member. However, to be fair, I did not ask him to clarify his position. I am glad he did. He does not support trade agreements. His party has never voted for any trade agreement that has come to the House. I do not know how it expects Canadians to have jobs and feed their families. We are a trading nation. I am glad he clarified his position on that.

I do not need to clarify my position on supply management. I can tell the hon. member and everyone else in the House that our party has defended and supported supply management at every negotiation and opportunity in this place and abroad.

The reality is the supply management industry is not knocking down my door. It is not asking for meetings with the parliamentary secretary or the minister on a regular basis. The reason for that is it knows the position of this government and this government supports supply management.

7:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:09 p.m.)