This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #120 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was regard.

Topics

6:45 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind my Conservative Party colleague, who sits in the House of Commons and represents the people of Beauport—Limoilou, that the $60 million she is talking about, which gave people access to clean water, did not just magically appear.

A number of questions were raised in the House and the members exerted pressure. Remember, the government was obliged to pay money out because it acted in bad faith on this issue. We recall the Radio-Canada report that condemned the attitude of the Department of National Defence and its irresponsibility on this issue. As if by chance, the minister finally decided to pay out a certain amount of money. And another thing I know about this issue and this money is that several million dollars has not yet been paid out to the municipality of Shannon.

My colleague may say that her government and the minister responsible for national defence are acting in good faith, but the citizens' committees were part of—

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am always pleased to respond to my Bloc Québécois colleague from the Quebec City area. It always makes me smile when she thinks that Bloc dollars are going to resolve these matters in Shannon.

Our government sat at the negotiating table and worked in partnership with the provincial governments. We held talks and we allocated money. We are able to do that because we are the government.

This is not about dithering and talking about people's health just for the sake of talking. We are here to take real action, and that is what we are doing every day for the people in the Quebec City area and Shannon.

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, on October 5, 2010, I raised a question in the House, asking the Minister of Industry about the Conservative government's decision to abolish the long form census.

According to a former minister, the decision was motivated by the thousands of complaints that were coming in each day about the 2006 census. However, when Industry Canada tried to find those thousands of complaints, it turned out that only 25 or 30 complaints had been received about the short form census and long form census that year.

According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal of July, “With no consultation, the Harper government has undermined--

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I would remind the hon. member that we cannot use proper names even if we are quoting. I heard the Prime Minister's name. Even if we are quoting from an article or something like that, we must remember to use titles or ridings.

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

With no consultation, the [Conservative] government has undermined evidence-based decision-making in Canada. For a government that made accountability a key priority, this policy choice is perplexing.

In 2006, this country had more than 32 million inhabitants, but it took just one complaint from Richmond Hill and an additional 25 or 30 complaints from elsewhere in Canada for this government to destroy a crucial element of public policy development in Canada. As a result, a radical policy change was made.

What is not clear is, other than Richmond Hill, did all the other complaints come from one town, one province or across the country? Were they all from Conservative-held ridings in Ontario? I am not aware of any person in my riding of Laval—Les Îles complaining and yet the government took such a drastic decision.

The Conservative government has now said that it will spend some $30 million more than what is now being spent for a lower quality, voluntary national household survey. The data will be based on a response rate of a bout 50%. This is a far cry from the previous rate of 94% on the long form.

Witnesses who have appeared before the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities have all sent the same message. I am talking about academics, community based researchers, social policy agencies and private companies. Their message was to leave the long form census alone and that abolishing it would hinder the accurate collection of demographic data on which Canada's public policy is based.

How does the government intend to set departmental plans and priorities with data from a voluntary household survey that will be sent to only 30% of households? Response rates could be 1%, 2% or even less since replies would be voluntary. Will this be sufficient information on which to base future policy?

The Minister of Industry must explain to Canadians how his government intends to evaluate such data over time. People who work in this field have indicated that this new method will not be an acceptable research tool.

A motion passed unanimously by the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly October 29, 2010 also called for the long form's reinstatement. Aboriginal groups and people on fixed incomes have told us that without the mandatory aspect of this process, the form will rarely be filled out.

Surely in a pluralistic and democratic society it is important to listen to the voice of those who have spoken out against the government's decision to scrap the long form.

Will the government now do the right thing and scrap the voluntary household survey and reinstate the long form census?

6:50 p.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, the member has asked if the government will do the right thing and the answer is absolutely yes. The government will do the right thing. The government will make changes so Canadians are not subject to fines and jail time because they do not want to tell the government how many bedrooms they have in their house or how much yard work they did last week. We think that is wrong. We made changes in instituting the new national household survey that changed this. I agree with the hon. member. The government will do the right thing and make those changes.

There is a lot to disagree with in terms of the hon. member's statement. The hon. member talked about one complaint from Richmond Hill. That is interesting. I have a letter from the member of Parliament for Richmond Hill who talks about receiving a few letters of complaint from constituents.

He says:

They are primarily concerned with the great detail of personal information they are required to fill out and therefore a potential invasion of privacy.

The hon. member talked about one person who complained. The member of Parliament for Richmond Hill, that member's Liberal colleague, goes on to say “I share this constituent's concern”.

Maybe that one complaint that the member is talking about is her own colleague's complaint. It looks like there are more in his riding. That is why he wrote the letter, but she may want to take that up with the hon. Liberal member for Richmond Hill who is concerned about the great detail of personal information his constituents are required to fill out.

In regard to the committee hearings, I may be wrong but I do not believe the hon. member is a part of the committee. I do not remember seeing her there. She has her facts wrong as well. Almost half of the witnesses who were before committee were in favour of the move the government was making. They may not have received as much coverage. Certainly Liberal members of committee did not listen too closely to what they had to say. They were not concerned with that. They moved a private member's bill to reinstitute a system of fines for people who did not want to share information regarding their religion or how many bedrooms they had in their house.

We did hear from witnesses who thought the government's move was the right move. We heard from Darrell Bricker, who is a statistician. He said that he was confident a voluntary system could gather the same quality of information.

Speaking to what the Liberals have proposed, the Liberal member for St. Paul's has proposed a system that would institute a fine of up to $500 for any Canadian who does not want to tell the government what his or her religion is.

The Conservative position, with a new national household survey, is to treat Canadians like adults. We still have the census where we require Canadians to fill out information on where they live, how many people live in the household, their gender, their marital status, those kinds of things, basic demographic information that most Canadians would acquaint with a census. We still have that mandatory census.

What was the long form, we are calling the national household survey. It asks questions like how many bedrooms in the house, how much housework someone did, how much yard work he or she did last week, how much time was spent with his or her kids, his or her religion. We are not going to threaten Canadians who do not want to answer these questions with fines and jail time.

Our positions are clearly different. The Liberal Party talks about the fact that most of the people who are unlikely to answer the survey come from vulnerable groups. We on this side of the House think it would be inappropriate for us to threaten vulnerable Canadians, such as a single mother living near the poverty line. We do not think we should tell her that if she does not answer a question—

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Laval—Les Îles.

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I listened to the response by the parliamentary secretary, I can understand why Canadians are very reluctant to give the Conservative government a majority.

Dissent is definitely not something the government tolerates. The government is prepared to risk the accurate collection of data for ideology.

What will the government lose? It will lose the accurate collection of data on our country's health, housing needs, educational needs, seniors' needs, the workforce, new arrivals and, overall, the need for federal programs. I see that the hon. member has not responded to any of those arguments.

On behalf of the people of Canada, researchers, community organizations and aboriginal peoples, we ask the government to stop this haphazard approach to policy development and reinstate the long form census.

Let us explore ways to meet the concerns of the reluctant few.

For every one million Canadians, one complaint was received by the government. How statistically significant is that number?

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is clearly and demonstrably untrue, as I pointed out in what I read earlier.

Speaking of tolerating dissent, let us talk about the Liberal position. For a new Canadian, for example, who tells an enumerator that he or she does not want to share what his or her religion is, for whatever reason that might be, the Liberal position, which we can read in the total refusal form that the enumerator has to fill out, states:

The information provided in the following sections may be used to support legal prosecution.

If a Canadian does not want to share what his or her religion is for whatever reason, this is what the enumerator has to fill out: “Description of the person who refused (e.g. age, gender, height, weight, other physical details such as facial hair, tattoos, glasses, birthmarks, distinctive clothing, etc.)”. I would say that seems like a somewhat heavy-handed approach to take for dissenters who simply do not want to tell the government what their religion is. That is the Liberal approach, not our approach.

7 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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

(The House adjourned at 7 p.m.)