House of Commons Hansard #33 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was grain.


Importation of Intoxicating Liquors ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Dan Albas Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

I will be as quick as I can, Madam Speaker.

In my own riding we have the Pacific agri-research station. The Ambrosia apple came from that, so yes, I absolutely believe that we have a role to play in research and innovation. It helps our farmers to stay competitive internationally and provides jobs in the economy of the future, not just in traditional industries.

Importation of Intoxicating Liquors ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to say that I am in favour of sending this bill to be studied in committee. The question is not so much about governments losing revenue as it is about helping small business and small producers. My colleague was right to say that many provinces, Quebec included, have small wineries, and this bill would allow them to increase production as well as trade between provinces.

In this case, it should be made clear that the bill is specifically about individuals. It says:

...the importation of wine from a province by an individual, if the individual brings the wine or causes it to be brought into another province, in quantities and as permitted by the laws of the latter province, for his or her personal consumption, and not for resale or other commercial use.

It is important to examine this in committee in order to understand the potential repercussions of this bill in terms of loss of revenues for a government. Certain points need to be studied. For instance, since the Province of Quebec does not allow individuals to import wine and there is no exemption for this, that province could suffer losses. This risk exists for other provinces, too. On the other hand, this bill would stimulate the economy, which is good. It would help small businesses, especially at a time when economic uncertainty is at our door. This bill could really be beneficial for small businesses that really need help right now.

Thus, it is important to look at all aspects affected by this bill. I know many people support it, like my colleague. At first glance, we can see the benefits this bill could have in terms of job creation and assistance to small wine producers.

However, I would like to add that, at this stage, it is difficult to really assess its impact. One study said:

It is not possible to determine the impact of Bill C-311 on stakeholders, such as wine producers and provincial/territorial governments, in part due to differences among the provincial and territorial liquor-related statutes and exemptions contained in those statutes. In addition, prohibitions regarding the interprovincial/interterritorial importation of wine are not enforced consistently in respect of consumers and wine producers. Wine producers are unable to ship orders directly to individuals across provincial/territorial borders; however, individuals who transport wine from one province/territory to another on their person are rarely charged with an offence.

That is from a report submitted as part of the prebudget consultations for budget 2011.

The activity that would appear to be most affected by the bill would be the direct shipment of wine to individuals across provincial borders.

For wine producers, a beneficial effect of the bill would likely be an expanded market for Canadian wineries, resulting in higher sales, more jobs, and increased investment in winery equipment and infrastructure; the provinces would thereby benefit from additional income tax revenue.

There are obviously benefits in this regard. The bill would allow more production and more trade between the provinces. Wine lovers, especially individuals, would be able to go to another province and bring back wine to their province without necessarily breaking the law. However, what is important once again is to look at the limits imposed by the provinces. The report also states:

However, any increase in wine demand could be limited by any personal exemption provided by the provinces or territories, which for most is no more than 1.5 litres of wine.

There already are some restrictions and exemptions. For example, in Ontario, there is a nine-litre exemption. Thus, someone who buys wine outside the province can bring back up to nine litres.

For provinces and territories that have a personal consumption exemption, the effect of Bill C-311 on provincial/territorial revenues could be zero, assuming that individuals would not exceed the amounts allowed in the exemption. If individuals order amounts that exceed the personal consumption exemptions, then provincial/territorial liquor authorities would decide how to enforce the exemption amounts.

For provinces/territorial that do not have an exemption, the primary impact of the bill could be a decrease in provincial/territorial revenues in the event that individuals who would normally order wine from other provinces/territorial through their provincial/territorial liquor board, commission or corporation would perhaps instead order directly from the winery.

Some of the repercussions must be analyzed. Let us take a look at what happened in the United States.

A examining interstate wine shipments found that, when a similar prohibition on interstate alcohol importations was lifted in the United States in 2005, interstate sales of wine increased by 11.5% between 2005 and 2008; however, wine sales that did not have tax deducted by either the shipping state or the receiving state, whether due to wine producers not charging taxes consistently or due to tax evasion by consumers, increased by 9.6% over the period.

These data could suggest that a loss of tax revenue might occur with increased accessibility to direct wine shipments in Canada. However, other sources have argued that wine sales directly to individuals in Canada represent an estimated 1% of the Vintners Quality Alliance 100% Canadian wine sales; thus, the bill's impact on liquor board, commission or corporation revenues could be limited.

That comes from the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance pre-budget consultation in 2011.

The issue here is to really look at what the impacts are and what the benefit will be, obviously for the wine producers but also for all the other producers or makers who are related to wine as well. My colleague did mention that there are a lot of people involved in that industry, so it could be beneficial.

I think Canadians will strongly benefit from a greater selection of wine, especially from the smaller wineries across Canada. We need to really look at the options and what this will bring to the economy.

In terms of analyzing, as I mentioned before, it is really difficult for us to know exactly how loss will occur due to the loss of revenue for provincial governments. We should sit down and look at it. That is why it is important for the Standing Committee on Finance to look at all the options and all the benefits that would bring.

There are some issues with the bill, but when we look at the benefits, especially right now in terms of the economy, helping our wineries, especially the small wineries, could be very beneficial. It is something we have to look at.

Importation of Intoxicating Liquors ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-311, An Act to amend the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (interprovincial importation of wine for personal use). As the law stands today, it is illegal to purchase wine from a winery in one province and then bring it home.

In Canada a consumer cannot purchase a bottle of wine in one province and then transport it across a provincial border. One cannot purchase wine online or have it sent by mail if the wine is coming from a different province. I use these examples because simply laying out the facts as the law stands now, it seems difficult for people to believe we have a law in place that is this nonsensical and anachronistic.

The reality is it is easier today for a consumer to import wine from another country than to import wine from another province. There are more trade barriers between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia than there are between Canada and Chile, as an example. This ridiculous situation needs to be addressed and this legislation is a big help in addressing it.

As an example, if people from New Brunswick make the very short trip to visit a winery in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia, they cannot even bring wine home with them. It is against the law. There are both federal and provincial laws that make this activity illegal. Most of these rules date back to the prohibition era. They are outdated and they needlessly cost Canadian jobs. We need to get rid of them.

That is why I am proud not only to support but also to second Bill C-311. The bill would get rid of the federal rule against importing wine from one province to another as long as that wine would be for personal use and not for commercial purposes. It would amend Canada's Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act to create an exception for personal use. I would argue that we ought to go further to include the restaurant industry and commercial use as well. That is a discussion for another day and also engagement with provincial governments.

The legislation would not get rid of the problem entirely. Most provinces will still not allow wine to be imported from another province, but Bill C-311 sends the right signal and provides some federal leadership by removing the federal obstacle. That is a step in the right direction.

Thankfully, the Province of Ontario is already moving in that direction on the provincial side. This past summer the LCBO changed its rules to allow individuals to bring with them up to nine litres of wine from another province. It makes me wonder why they would choose nine litres when wine comes in cases, of course. However, sometimes the bureaucracy does things that we cannot understand. It is like buying cars that never seem to take whole containers of antifreeze. Anyway, that is another discussion.

In any case, it is a step in the right direction. I commend the Ontario government for taking that step. We need every province to make these kinds of changes.

The member for York Centre referred to the Liberal Party's aversion to free trade. In fact, the Liberal Party, with the exception of one election in 1988, has always been the party of freer trade. In fact, if we look from an economic perspective, liberalized trade is something that is key to the Liberal Party and core to our beliefs on the economy.

In order to keep Canada's wine industry, including our wineries in Nova Scotia competitive, it is essential that we break down these barriers on the federal side and on the provincial side. In terms of Nova Scotia's wine industry, when I was first elected 14 years ago, there was one winery operating in my riding of Kings—Hants. As of 2010, there are now 17 farm wineries and 30 grape growers operating vineyards. It is a $10 million a year industry.

The hon. member referred to the fact that today the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia is perhaps where the B.C. industry in the Okanagan Valley was 20 years ago. That is quite right. It would be helpful for us to look at what lessons we can learn from what has occurred in the Okanagan Valley and in the Niagara region. We should also look at the genesis of the wine industry in the Napa Valley, the Sonomo Valley and central coast. We should be looking at these and determining best practice on a local level.

In any case, the success of these wineries in my riding has created huge spinoffs for restaurants and tourism, and the whole foodie-type tourism which is growing. It is a remarkably valuable resource and an enhancement to the quality of life for people who live in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia.

In my riding of Kings--Hants we can now boast nine wineries: L'Acadie Vineyards in Gaspereau, operated by Bruce Ewert; Avondale Sky Winery in Newport Landing, operated by Ben Swetnam; Benjamin Bridge Vineyards in Gaspereau, operated by Gerry McConnell and his family; Blomidon Estate Winery in Canning, managed by Greg Benjamin; Domaine De Grand Pré in Grand Pré, managed by Hanspeter Stutz, winemaker Jurg Stutz; Gaspereau Vineyards in Gaspereau, managed by Dan Burns, winemaker, Gina Haverstock; Luckett Vineyards in Wolfville, operated by that great Nova Scotian entrepreneur Pete Luckett; Muir Murray Estate Winery outside of Wolfville, operated by Dr. Jonathan Murray; and Sainte-Famille Wines in Falmouth, operated by Suzanne Corkum.

In terms of recognition, people are taking notice of the wines in Nova Scotia. Many of these wineries are now winning awards. As an example, at last year's Canadian Wine Awards, Bruce Ewert of L'Acadie Vineyards received a gold medal for his 2007 Prestige Brut. Nova Scotia is excited to host this year's awards in November 2011.

A recent Globe and Mail article on Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve was titled, “Surprise! One of Canada's best wines is from Nova Scotia”.

It said:

I’ll say it straight. One of the best Canadian wines I’ve tasted comes from Nova Scotia. I’m only surprised that it didn’t come from the Champagne region of France. It’s called Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve...

The sparkling wine industry is evolving successfully in Nova Scotia as well as the ice wine industry. The success is also enhancing our orchard industry and value-added industry related to the orchards and the emerging cider industry. There are a lot of spinoffs.

This is probably a bad sign for any industry, when politicians start to enter it, but a couple of years ago we planted a vineyard on our property on the shores of the Minas Basin. We have a wonderful south-facing slope on the shores of the Minas Basin. We planted L'Acadie vines and we are intending on expanding that this year. In my line of work, it is always good to have a backup plan.

The wineries in our region are drawing tourists from throughout the country and around the world. Tourists are touring the wineries, eating at our restaurants, staying at the inns, the bed and breakfasts, and hotels, supporting the local economy.

What is really crazy is that in many cases people from other parts of Canada, after sampling the excellent local wines, cannot buy a case to take it home with them. That is nuts.

I remember in the 1990s, I lived in New York and travelled throughout the U.S. doing business. I remember spending a weekend in Napa Valley. We bought cases of wine and had them shipped back to us in New York. It was great. That is the way it should be. It is not only good for the local economy, but it is civilized.

The idea that we cannot transport wine across a provincial border is so nonsensical and damaging to the development and the evolution of businesses, wineries and restaurants. It makes no sense whatsoever.

In terms of the future growth of Nova Scotia wine, more and more Nova Scotians are discovering and supporting local wineries. In fact, last year the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission sold $109 million of worth of wine. Of that, almost 6% of that was local wine from Nova Scotia.

Even in terms of our own province, it is growing. The key, the way to grow our markets, is to actually expand so that we can sell wine across Canada.

Nova Scotia has a population of less than a million people, so our market is too small to sustain the kind of growth that we are able to achieve in our industry. We need to remove these needless interprovincial trade barriers and open up our markets so that local businesses can create jobs and grow the economy.

I know I am delving into areas of provincial jurisdiction which is always a mistake for a federal politician, but nevertheless.

I am a citizen of Nova Scotia. I did not relinquish my citizenship to become a federal politician. As such, I do have opinions and one of those opinions is that neither the provincial liquor commission in Nova Scotia nor the provincial government need be in the liquor business to begin with. Last year the liquor commission made $230 million and was run by bureaucrats. Imagine how much it would be worth if it were run by retailers who understood the markets. We could privatize that and take $3 billion or $4 billion off the provincial debt.

Importation of Intoxicating Liquors ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


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

Madam Speaker, I agree with much of what is being said today, particularly by the sponsor of the bill, the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla. He is a well informed advocate on behalf of the wine producers of his region as is the member for Kelowna—Lake Country, who was the sponsor of this legislation in the last Parliament.

I am supporting this bill in part because of what it would do for the wine industry and also because of what it potentially would do as a model for all of our value-added agricultural products, for which wine is the template model.

We have an agricultural industry which ultimately goes in one of two directions. It can either produce on a mass scale some kind of modified product, and there is nothing wrong with doing that and doing it effectively, but that naturally assumes economies of scale and the end of the family-operated farm or agricultural producer, or it can produce a value-added quality product which has a clear line of sight between the producer and the consumer, so that the consumer can identify that he or she really likes a certain product and then chooses to seek out that product either through a retailer or through direct purchase from the producer.

That is what we are trying to cause to happen with this legislation, to allow individuals to visit a winery in whatever province it happens to be, find a product they like, and arrange to have it shipped back to them. This is something which I have done myself within my own province.

A few years back my wife and I visited the Niagara Peninsula and arranged to have a couple of bottles of wine every month sent from Andrew Peller Estates to our house in Lanark County. That is possible because they are both in the same province. If there were an intervening provincial boundary, we would be out of luck and the winery would be out of luck, and that potential relationship would be severed. Again, we are not commodity consumers of wine my wife and I. We are not volume consumers, but we are willing to spend more to get a better product to make our evenings and meals more enjoyable.

I think that reflects many consumers of wine and of other products that are of a similar nature, such as cider, craft root beer, various maple products, various types of cheese, and so on. All of these can follow potentially the model that is presented by wine, and which if we think about it, is an agricultural product. It is nothing more than grape juice that has been fermented a certain way. The grapes are certainly fermented a certain way, preserved a certain way either in oak barrels or in bottles, and then sent off to the consumer. As a result of the magic that happens in between, it becomes a potentially valuable product and it allows the creation of a robust, rural economy.

Many links have already been pointed out. Agri-tourism results from a prosperous wine growing region. I am an enthusiastic agri-tourist myself, and particularly the various wine trails. I am just going to give a small and partial list of some of the wine trails I have been on to make the point because they are models of what can happen when producers can establish that link with consumers and start shipping products to those who like what they taste.

I have been on the wine trail and have visited vineyards in, among other places, California, New York State, and Massachusetts of all places. I was on a tour in New Zealand along with several other MPs and we went to some of the wineries there. I have also been to five different Australian states, every Australian state except Queensland, which is too warm to grow a decent wine. I could go on.

I have visited wineries in a number of provinces, but I have never been able to legally import that wine. I was on the wine trail in the Saint-Jean region of Quebec. I was on the wine trail from Nova Scotia back to Ontario. I inadvertently, and unknowingly illegally, brought back some Quebec wine. I did not know there was Quebec wine until I went to language training in Saint-Jean and discovered SAQ, bought a bunch of it, brought it back, again breaking the law unknowingly. I am no longer in contravention of the law because the wine is now gone. That should not have happened.

Had I actually known that I was doing this and said that I liked this stuff and wanted to buy some more, they would have told me I could not do that. That is a problem that should be corrected. One of the reasons why it should be corrected and why this rule change is beneficial in Canada in a way that would not conflict with jurisdictions is that our wine industry is not based on the kind of mass production in some other jurisdictions. In parts of South America such as Chile, Argentina or in Spain there are entire landscapes which have rows and rows as far as the eye can see of grapevines producing massive quantities of what is largely a commodity product.

Canada's wine production is based on microproduction, microclimates, and small areas. In Quebec, for example, the wine areas were located and identified largely by Swiss investors who were familiar with growing on south-facing hillsides in their own country and identified using satellite images of soil temperature, areas that would successfully have microclimates. When there is a microclimate in a small area to work with, there has to be a certain type of production which is all about quality rather than quantity.

That means it is linked into agri-tourism, visiting people from other provinces, people who are going to establish a taste for the wine which is already a premium product and arrange to ship it back. That is the kind of market that naturally will benefit from a widespread market, a market that is thin in terms of the number of people in any given part of the country who like the product, but broad in terms of the coverage.

Speaking of another illegal wine drinking experience I had at one point, some friends went to Nova Scotia, brought back sparkling wine my colleague talked about a minute ago from Jost. We enjoyed it together in Ontario illegally and unknowingly. I could not go to the Jost website to order some for my personal consumption. I could visit Nova Scotia, but realistically developing a market through the Internet is not an option that is available to me as it would be, ironically, if I were returning home from Nova Scotia to my home in the State of Maine. That definitely is a particular aspect that needs to be emphasized.

We are trying to get rid for the sake of prosperity of various trade barriers. On the international level we are doing a better and better job as a country. We established the North American Free Trade Agreement. We have negotiated trade agreements with countries as small and remote as Colombia and Jordan, and with various European countries. We are now working on removing trade barriers with the EU as a whole, also India. There are a lot of exciting things going on and some of the provinces, to their credit, are trying to get rid of their own trade barriers. British Columbia and Alberta negotiated a trade agreement which was called TILMA and I think Saskatchewan has joined in, and that is good.

This, however, through an artifact of history, is a federally created trade barrier. This is a step we as federal politicians, federal statesmen let us say, can take to get rid of an unnecessary impediment to the prosperity of our rural areas, to the cultural well-being of our consumers, and to the general betterment of the kind of rural areas that people like me represent.

In my riding we have two wineries at this point. Again, most of the riding is far too cold, but on the north shore of Lake Ontario in Lennox Addington County there is an area where it is possible to grow wine in small quantities, but it is very good wine. Two wineries, Bergeron and 33 Vines, are in many respects typical of the kinds of vineyards that are across the country in many provinces that deserve to have the ability to sell across provincial lines to the willing and enthusiastic customers who are out there hoping to sample their excellent product.

Importation of Intoxicating Liquors ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I am very happy to rise to speak in favour of Bill C-311, An Act to amend the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (interprovincial importation of wine for personal use), an act from 1928.

As a bit of a digression, there was a time in 1928 when these kinds of prohibitions created some opportunities in the area in which I live. The ship named Malahat was built in Victoria in 1917. It was a five-masted schooner nearly 80 metres long, which carried 60,000 cases of rum down to California. It would sit in international waters and then have small boats run through the American prohibition. We are talking about a law that dates from an era that is obviously a long time ago and a very different situation, a law which no longer serves a useful purpose and in fact inhibits the development of many small wineries around the country.

On Vancouver Island there are now 26 wineries operating. In order for those wineries to operate, they buy lots of things locally. They buy all of their agricultural equipment, fertilizers and marketing goods and they employ people to build websites. It is a very important link to a lot of small businesses in my riding in particular and around Vancouver Island.

It is also very important, as many have mentioned, to the tourism industry. People who come to visit my riding could start at Starling Lane Winery on West Saanich Road, cross over to Salt Spring Island, as my friend from Saanich—Gulf Islands said, cross back to Cherry Point Vineyards in Cobble Hill, Yellowpoint Vineyard in Ladysmith, Blue Grouse Vineyards & Winery in Duncan and come to the largest winery on Vancouver Island, Averill Creek Vineyards in Duncan. All of these are family-owned enterprises and small businesses.

As many have already mentioned, the peculiar thing is if people from British Columbia have a designated driver and sample the wines at each of the vineyards, they can take a case with them or order one shipped to their homes. However, people from Alberta or Quebec cannot have wine shipped to them or take it with them as they drive across the country. This is completely non-productive, which is the nicest word I can think of to use, for economic growth and development in all of these regions, particularly for small businesses that face the challenge of high costs these days.

One thing that is particularly difficult for wineries on Vancouver Island and in the Okanagan are the increasing land costs. When a small winery is established, wants to expand and buy more land, it is very difficult, so it needs to make use of whatever revenue sources it can to develop its business further. If wineries were able to run online businesses and ship across the country, it would be important revenue generation, which would add very little in terms of costs to their operations. It might be the difference between wineries being able to survive as a family-supporting business and not being able to survive in the future. The damage the existence of this law has done is quite serious for small businesses and may become more serious as time goes on.

In contrast to the hon. member for Okanagan—Coquihalla who is not a wine drinker, I will join the others who have confessed to being wine drinkers. My partner and I like to go on wine tours in the Okanagan. We have done it on several occasions, taking turns being the designated driver each day and stuffing the car full of bottles when we drive home. However, if we lived in Alberta, we could not stuff the car full of bottles.

On our last tour, some people I know who run a winery, one of my favourites, Road 13 in Oliver, asked me if they could ship me a case. I replied that as a newly-elected MP I would love to have a case shipped to me so I could entertain members with fine B.C. wine. They said that I could not do that. They said that they could not sell it to me, I could not advertise for them or promote the industry because of the existing very archaic law.

We drove across the country this summer through the Okanagan. If we had managed to stuff wine under the seats of our car, or put a few in the back seat next to the dogs and delivered it here, I would be unable to invite members for a drink later for two reasons: first, there might not be any left; and second, I would not have done that because it would be illegal for me to do so.

I make light of this because it is an absurd situation we are in, where small businesses that are doing very well in developing very high quality wines cannot market those to other Canadians in other provinces.

I look forward to this going to committee. I look forward to the debate on it. I look forward to the day when I can invite members around to my office to sample some of the great wines from British Columbia, but that will not be tonight.

Importation of Intoxicating Liquors ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Madam Speaker, it is with a great deal of pleasure that I rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-311, an act to amend the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (interprovincial importation of wine for personal use).

I will begin by recognizing the work of my colleague from Kelowna—Lake Country on this file and congratulate him on his very important work. Members will know he has done a great deal to move this file forward and I am sure we will continue to work together to address this issue in order to help Canadians improve their ability to have greater control over the wine they choose and help an important Canadian industry to grow and prosper.

As background, for the benefit of all members, the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act, or the IILA, controls the importation of intoxicating liquors into Canada and between provinces, as we have been discussing. The Canada Revenue Agency is responsible for the IILA, as it interacts with the Excise Act and the Excise Act 2001. Canada Border Services Agency administers the IILA at the border. However, neither agency administers or enforces the IILA in respect of interprovincial transactions.

Since 1928, the act has legally restricted the movement of wine across provincial borders. While this may have responded to the needs of the day, Canada did not even have a wine industry at the time. However, today fantastic wineries can be found in provinces from coast to coast. Vineyards are a fast growing and increasingly important part of our agricultural sector and they could be growing even faster.

Many of Canada's innovative vintners have earned worldwide recognition for their outstanding products. Indeed, Canadian wines are frequently the recipients of international prizes. These award-winning wines are in demand around the world.

Despite this progress and success, Canadian wineries find themselves in contravention of federal law if they respond to requests for their products from consumers in neighbouring provinces. That is because the IILA makes it a crime for consumers to purchase wine directly from vintners beyond their provincial borders.

Not only does the legislation penalize consumers by limiting choice and their access to Canadian wine products, it also hurts the culinary and wine tourism industry, an important sector of our economy in my home province of Ontario and in beautiful British Columbia due to the increasingly popular tourist wine regions in these areas. Wine tasting tours in areas like the Niagara region of Ontario and the Okanagan or Fraser Valley in the B.C. Interior are tremendously popular with domestic tourists and visitors from around the globe.

More important, this outdated aspect of the legislation limits wineries' sales of their products across Canada. This is particularly the case for small and medium-sized wineries that are just getting their business off the ground. Many wineries complain that the process of applying to provincial liquor boards to have their products put on the store shelves can be lengthy and costly. The last thing these vintners need is 83-year-old legislation that hinders job creation and stifles economic growth.

Importation of Intoxicating Liquors ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order. The hon. member will have approximately four minutes when the bill returns on the agenda.

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

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

7 p.m.


Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Speaker, I am here to discuss a question I asked the Minister of Health on September 30 when the good news was received throughout Canada that the Supreme Court of Canada had ruled that Insite, the safe injection site in Vancouver, cannot be shut down by the Conservative government because it saves lives.

I asked the Minister of Health if she would accept the ruling of the Supreme Court and commit to stopping the government's attack on Insite. She responded that she would be reviewing the decision. I am now hoping that the decision has been reviewed, accepted and will now be followed by the government.

There is no question that drug addiction remains a major health problem in Canada. It costs Canada approximately $5 billion annually in economic costs including health care, lost productivity, property crime and enforcement. For example, in Vancouver an estimated 70% of criminal activity is associated with illicit drugs and roughly 63% of federal offenders have drug abuse problems. It is a major problem.

It is also a health problem. We are beginning to understand the neuroscience of addiction. We now know that drugs actually change the neural pathways in the brain making it difficult for addicts to cease using drugs permanently. As is the case with other neurological disorders, it causes changes in the brain and is actually a health problem.

The public wants the government to assist in the humanitarian effort to save lives. It wants the government to take the social objective of reducing drug addiction and the crimes associated with it seriously. It would also like government to pay attention to fiscal concerns and the responsible spending of tax dollars in doing so. In terms of those issues, I would contend that the Conservative government is working against the priorities of Canadians and not getting the job done.

The science is in on saving lives: Insite saves lives. There have been well over 20 peer-reviewed studies showing that. In one year there have been zero cases of overdoses among the drug users who have been supervised at Insite compared to over 200 overdose-related deaths on the streets of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Therefore, Insite does save lives.

In terms of reducing drug addiction and crime, it is becoming increasingly clear that treatment is a more effective and less expensive method. We see legislators in Texas wagging their fingers at the Canadian government because they believe our approach is wrong.

I heard in committee two weeks ago that the government has spent $122 million in increased security costs to prevent drugs from getting into prisons but at the same time it has reduced treatment program availability to addicted inmates by $2 million. Why would it reduce the treatment programs when treatment is the most effective method of dealing with that crime? For example, $1 spent on treatment will achieve the same reduction in the flow of cocaine as will over $7 spent on enforcement. The government has it backwards.

It is not getting the job done and is spending more tax dollars on its failed corrections policies and its failed tough-on-drugs approach. Fighting against Insite, which the government has done for the last few years, is just a testament to its approach, which is ideology over evidence.

7:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order. I must interrupt the hon. member. However, she will have one minute later in reply.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health.

7:05 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario


Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to comment on this important issue. The Supreme Court of Canada has made its decision and although we are disappointed we are complying with the court's decision.

Our government is committed to addressing the issues related to illicit drug use here in Canada. A key pillar of our national anti-drug strategy is prevention and treatment for those with drug dependencies. Our government believes that spending money on treatment and support to help get people off drugs is the best investment we can make.

Since 2007, the health portfolio has invested $577 million over the five years of the strategy's prevention, treatment and enforcement activities. As part of the strategy, we have made significant investments to strengthen existing treatment efforts through the treatment action plan.

For example, we have invested $30 million over five years in a targeted mass media campaign. It raises awareness among parents and youth between the ages of 13 and 15 about the dangers of illicit drugs. Studies show that it is important to get those messages through to youth at that age.

Right now the youth campaign TV ads are on the air from October 3 to 30, and will run again from November 7 to December 11. The mass media campaign has seen impressive results. For example, 25% of parents who saw one of our TV ads have taken action by engaging in discussions with their children about drugs. That is great. There has also been an increase in the proportion of youth who say they know about the potential effects of illicit drug use on relationships with family and friends.

Under the prevention action plan, our government also funds health promotion and prevention projects for youth through the drug strategy community initiative fund. Since the announcement of the national anti-drug strategy in 2007, 103 such projects have been approved across Canada. This represents approximately $40 million in multi-year community-based investments.

If we are able to save one child or one family from the negative impacts of drugs it will be money well spent.

I will conclude by stating our government is aware of the complex challenges faced by people addicted to drugs and the impact those drugs have on Canadian communities. We remain committed to working with our provincial, territorial and municipal partners to address the issues related to illicit drug use across Canada.

7:05 p.m.


Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Speaker, the member opposite is expressing a commitment by the government that if it can save one child from the negative impacts of drugs it would do so.

I would invite the parliamentary secretary to reflect upon the fact that those people in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside who are addicted to drugs are someone's child. They are the very people who are dying of overdoses. However, that is not the case when they are treated at Insite where there has been zero overdose-related deaths.

Those vulnerable people who are addicted and who have this health problem are getting infected with AIDS which unfortunately can lead to a premature death. They are someone's child who could possibly die from the negative impacts of drug use. With Insite, that transmission is reduced if not eliminated because it prevents needle sharing.

7:10 p.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, the Supreme Court of Canada has made its decision and again I will state that although we are disappointed we will comply with the decision.

Our government believes that spending money on treatment and support to help people get off drugs is the best investment that we can make. This is the most effective way of building safe and healthy communities.

The health portfolio alone has invested $577 million over five years for its prevention, treatment and enforcement activities. This represents an unprecedented level of funding for anti-drug initiatives by our government and reflects our commitment to the individuals, families and communities affected by drug use.

We will also continue to work with our provincial, territorial and municipal partners to address the use of drugs in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver and across Canada. I think everyone knows that prevention is the best strategy.

7:10 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on the reply that I received to a fairly simple question. It had to do with the F-35s and the government's maintaining that the price per plane is $75 million. It is clearly a preposterous position to take. I want to ask the Minister of National Defence whether he continues to adhere to that position.

I received one of the more lame responses that I have received to a question in question period for a long time. He said that the government budgeted $9 billion and that it has a strong mandate to obtain the plane. It seems that the minister wishes to interpret his mandate as a mandate to blow money.

The government's position is that the cost of the plane is $75 million per plane. The U.S. Congressional Budget Office, on the other hand, said it is more likely to cost $133 million to get the plane. Our own Parliamentary Budget Officer said it is closer to $150 million, which is virtually twice the cost that the government maintains, in spite of this great pile-up of facts to the contrary. We have to keep in mind that whatever price the U.S. pays is the price we will pay.

In the United States people are very skeptical of the numbers being put out by Lockheed Martin with respect to this airplane. Of course, it is based upon the assumption that 3,000, or 4,000, or 5,000 planes will actually be bought by the U.S., its various branches of the military, and the allies. If the orders are up, the price will go down, but if the orders are down, the price will go up. It is an inevitable fact of economics.

Based upon the best information available, the PBO and the U.S. Congressional Budget Office are saying that the cost at a very minimum will be $133 million to $150 million per plane. That is just the acquisition cost. In addition, there are all the back costs, which I am not going to get into.

As I said, if the orders are down, the price will be up. What does the current evidence say?

Turkey has already bailed on the program, so there goes quite a number of planes out the door.

Italy will not be able to afford anything. In fact, I doubt that Italy will be able to afford Cessnas, for goodness' sake, let alone these very sophisticated jets.

Denmark is holding an open competition. We in the Liberal Party have suggested for months if not years to the government that it can walk away at any given time from the commitment the previous government made to this process. Denmark is doing just that. It is walking away from whatever financial commitments it has made and it is holding an open competition.

Australia has given quite a strong indication that it, too, will bail on the program.

Japan, like Denmark, and as we should, is holding an open competition to get the best value for taxpayer dollars.

The U.K., Norway, and the Netherlands are stretching out their order purchases. Frequently, when a purchaser buys anything, let alone a jet plane, and stretches out the acquisition time period, it is usually an indication that maybe it is not quite so firm on the acquisition. The U.K., of course, is extremely important to this entire program because it is the next largest buyer after the U.S.

Of course, the U.S. itself is facing financial difficulties which are extraordinary and likely to make the acquisition of this plane very difficult.

7:15 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario


Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood for his question and the opportunity to answer it here in the House.

First, let me start by saying that in today's uncertain world, we cannot know all of the potential threats that Canada may face in the future. However, as we outlined in the Canada first defence strategy in 2008, the Royal Canadian Air Force requires a next generation fighter to carry out its core missions of defending Canadian sovereign airspace, defending North America as a partner in NORAD, and providing this country with an effective and modern capability for international operations.

The joint strike fighter is an advanced, adaptable and sustainable multi-role platform that will defend against those threats we can foresee today and those that we may encounter in the coming decades.

The F-35 is the only fighter aircraft available that meets the Canadian Forces' requirements. I should remind the member opposite that this aircraft was selected after an extensive and rigorous competitive process conducted by a partnership that the Liberal government joined.

The commitment to purchase next generation fighter aircraft was clearly spelled out in the Canada first defence strategy.

This commitment was made following a thorough analysis of the current and perceived roles and core missions that this fighter would be responsible for. The conclusion was that a fleet of next generation fighters will be required to successfully carry out Canada's obligations both at home and abroad.

More important, Canadian participation in the joint strike fighter program will bring high-value jobs and other economic benefits to our country for decades to come.

Canadian companies will have access to billions of dollars' worth of subcontracts for the entire production run of more than 3,000 joint strike fighters being purchased by partner nations under the JSF memorandum of understanding, as well as for the many potential additional aircraft that are expected to be acquired by non-partner nations.

This government remains on track to acquire these aircraft for the amount we have budgeted. These costs are based on actual detailed estimates calculated by the multinational joint strike fighter program office on an evolving basis and are validated through independent analysis.

Canada is purchasing the least costly variant of the aircraft at the most cost effective point of production.

Canada is contributing a fixed amount to the development of the F-35 program.

The cost of the procurement as well as the sustainment of the F-35 fleet is fully funded through the Canada first defence strategy and the national defence investment plan.

While the Liberal members in the House have cold feet about the program they started, we remain steadfast in our support to the needs of the military and providing the resources it needs so that our troops can continue to do the important work that is asked of them.

7:15 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health for reading the notes of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence. I can see that he too has been taken in by the blandishments of the Minister of National Defence.

I do agree on one point, namely that we do live in uncertain days. However, there are certain certainties in these uncertain days, and the certain certainties are that the U.S. is under extraordinary financial pressure, and the EU is under extraordinary financial pressure, all of which will make it very difficult for any government, whether it is in North America or in the European Union, to actually sustain a multi-billion dollar purchase of these airplanes, the consequence of which is, as I said earlier, that orders are actually down and countries are bailing on these purchases. The consequence of that is inevitably the price will go up and the costs--

7:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

7:20 p.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, one thing we can be sure of is that the Liberals are experts at bailing out. I think that was the issue with the helicopters that the armed forces did need.

The F-35 will help the Canadian Forces defend the sovereignty of Canadian airspace, remain a strong and reliable partner in the defence of North America, and provide Canada with an effective and modern capability for international operations.

This government is fully committed to delivering a modern, multi-role, combat capable Canadian Forces in a sustainable and affordable way. We are taking steps to improve efficiency and effectiveness at defence to be able to do just that.

The investments that this government committed to in the Canada first defence strategy will enhance the readiness and capabilities of the Canadian Forces. These investments will improve and increase training for personnel and make more equipment available for both training and operations.

Even as the government fulfills these commitments, we will also ensure that all programs and initiatives will make the best and most efficient use of taxpayers' dollars.

That is our commitment.

7:20 p.m.


The Deputy 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 7:21 p.m.)