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House of Commons Hansard #26 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was illness.

Topics

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

All those opposed will please say nay.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

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

Vote #37

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

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

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, tonight I implore the government to reconsider the proposed cuts to Environment Canada's atmospheric ozone research program and scientists, to end the international witch hunt for those who had the courage to speak out against the cuts, and to unmuzzle its own world-class scientists.

The proposed cuts would reduce Canada's ability to monitor earth's life-giving atmosphere and respond to problems. They would reduce our country's ability to explore the links between ozone and climate change. They would further threaten international science and Canada's reputation.

The ozone layer is expected to recover over the coming century; however, surprises are possible. Detection of the largest ozone depletion ever measured in the Arctic occurred in the spring of 2011. Models suggest that the effect of climate change may in fact lead to an excess in ozone over Canada in the long term. Therefore, there is an urgent need to understand how climate change will affect ozone in the coming decades. Thus, it is crucial to continue ozone research, monitoring and assessment.

The minister and the parliamentary secretary have told the House of Commons that ozone monitoring services are not being cut. On the other hand, the assistant deputy minister has told reporters that budget cuts will mean that the ozone monitoring network will be reduced.

Furthermore, Environment Canada scientists responsible for managing the ozonesonde network and other aspects of the monitoring program have received letters saying their job functions are in jeopardy.

Can the government explain how its statements are consistent with these facts?

More disturbing than the government's failure to get its story straight is its failure to understand ozone science and the tremendous need for ozone research. We continue to hear the same discredited and ridiculous argument that there are two existing ozone monitoring networks, and that they need to be streamlined and combined. The reality is that the system is already streamlined and optimized.

The parliamentary secretary has given her assurances that Environment Canada will continue to measure ozone in the upper atmosphere. What will happen to monitoring in the lower atmosphere?

I have one last question. How does the government plan to implement its newly announced oil sands monitoring program? The air quality monitoring component of the plan lists ozonesonde monitoring and aircraft measurements as major activities.

There is only one person who does ozonesonde monitoring, and that person has been notified that the position is under review. Everyone in the aircraft division has also been notified that their positions are on the chopping block.

Finally, we heard that the government will not close the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre. The reality is that the centre is one person sitting behind a desk with a computer and a telephone, managing the world's ozone data. The undisputed fact is that the centre's manager has received a letter saying that that job is in jeopardy, and that letter has not been rescinded.

In closing, the minister and his parliamentary secretary continue to repeat that ozone monitoring and the centre will not be cut. This is inconsistent with the known fact that the scientists responsible for the network and centre have received letters saying their jobs are in danger. Even the assistant deputy minister has told reporters that budget cuts being implemented will mean the ozone monitoring network will be reduced.

How can the claims of no cuts to ozone monitoring stand up to these truths? When will the government rescind the letters to these scientists so they can continue their work, which we all agree is valuable and necessary?

6:45 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her questions and for her deep care for this issue.

We also care about this issue. That is why the Minister of the Environment has no plans to close the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre. Environment Canada will continue to measure ozone in the upper atmosphere. Time and again, the Minister of the Environment has made this very clear to the House.

The Government of Canada will maintain its delivery of sound science while remaining cognizant of today's financial constraints. To this end, Environment Canada will continue to ensure Canada has a strong track record in atmospheric ozone measure.

Canada has been on the forefront of the development of ozone measurement methods. Canadians pioneered numerous measurement methods that are now used around the world. For nearly half a century, Canada has been a world leader in atmospheric ozone science.

Since 1966, regular ozone measurements have been carried out at Resolute Bay. Recently a study emerged regarding ozone depletion in the Arctic that was recorded in the spring of 2011. This was reported in a peer-reviewed journal, Nature, to which Environment Canada scientists contributed. This government is proud of the contributions its scientists make to academic works.

Contrary to what the member opposite suggests, ozone monitoring remains a priority of this government. As measurement methods change and develop over time, so too must Environment Canada's strategy towards ozone measurements. This will allow Environment Canada to continue to monitor ozone matters, including the ozone depletion issue mentioned in Nature.

Environment Canada currently uses two methods to measure ozone: the Brewer network and the ozonesonde network. Our plan is to optimize and integrate these two networks. Implementing this plan includes a review of existing network sites in terms of their scientific validity, which will allow Canada to fully meet its requirements for surveillance of ozone holes and the chemical composition of the atmosphere.

By way of the World Meteorological Organization, the WMO, Canada shares its ozone network data with the rest of the world. The WMO supplies the data to other weather centres and agencies in the U.S. and throughout Europe. Furthermore, Canada has maintained the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre for years. Environment Canada is not cutting or closing the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre.

Environment Canada staff will remain dedicated to both the World Meteorological Organization and the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre, ensuring that quality results are achieved.

Just so it is crystal clear, Environment Canada will continue to measure ozone in the upper atmosphere and the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre will not be closed.

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, in light of the fact that a 2-million-square kilometre ozone hole has been discovered in the Arctic and cuts are being made when we do not fully understand the ozone problem or the future of the ozone layer, will the government rescind the letters to the scientists?

I must also ask, was the government aware of the Arctic ozone hole when it decided to cut monitoring?

The government should have been aware of the research when it told scientists that their jobs were in jeopardy. The Nature article was accepted for publication in May and cuts were reported in August.

If the government was not aware of the research, why not?

Regrettably, instead of considering this urgent evidence, the government appears to have chosen to make cuts based on its own ideological agenda.

Finally, yesterday, the minister congratulated a scientist for his contributions to the Nature study.

Is the minister aware the scientist received a letter?

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Madam Speaker, Environment Canada will continue to measure ozone, maintaining its significant achievements in this area.

Canada's environment is a strong priority for our government. It remains a strong priority, even in tough fiscal times.

6:50 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, in recent weeks, the provincial nominee program in the province of Prince Edward Island has come under fire due to an alleged scandal involving bribery and fraud. Government workers have come forward to speak to the large amounts of money exchanging hands, potential political interference and a complete lack of accountability. This, of course, raises the issue of integrity in our immigration system.

All Canadians and all members of the House want to be confident that our immigration system is fair, transparent, accountable and operated with integrity. However, there are many aspects of the immigration system that cause Canadians to wonder if this is indeed the case in other programs as well.

The temporary foreign worker program comes to mind. There are serious issues of enforcement across our country where workers in Alberta, British Columbia or across the Prairies are working in conditions that violate our employment standards in those provinces. There is the possibility of exploitation of those workers, as we saw last year when an employer operated a lumber camp where workers were housed in deplorable conditions and treated far below the standards that Canadians have come to expect.

We have immigrants who are not on the citizenship track through the temporary foreign workers program. I might point out to Canadians that we now have more temporary foreign work visas issued every year than we have permanent residents coming to this country.

What does it say about our country when we let people come to Canada, not to be part of our society, not to make a life for themselves and their families and not to become citizens, but for their inexpensive labour before we send them home after using them?

We have a backlog that has recently been confirmed by CIC officials to be over one million long. Wait times are unacceptable. We are telling the world that we want people to come here. We invite people to come make their lives in Canada. We need them to come here and build our economy but then we make them wait for years to come, or worse, years to bring over their family members.

There are good economic reasons to increase the number of permanent residents who we accept every year, especially in the case of family reunification. This would only bolster the integrity of our system.

With respect to wait times, it is not uncommon for people to wait 10 to 13 years to bring their parents or grandparents to our country. It is not uncommon to wait five to ten years to bring a skilled worker to this country. Part of integrity in any system is having faith that it can be operated in an efficient manner, and that is not the case right now with many parts of our immigration system.

Then there is the issue of consultations. There is a disturbing trend to the manner in which the government is developing policy. It claims to be doing wide-ranging consultations, however, many people and groups are left out of the consultation process. This was the case last summer. People who are not invited to consultations are told that they can submit an online statement. How can they feel confident that their views will be heard and acted upon? The minister toured the country seeking input about the levels of immigration our country should have and yet many groups and people were not consulted by the minister and their views were ignored.

Last week, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development announced that they would be doing consultations on temporary foreign workers in Alberta but the Alberta Federation of Labour is not welcome. It cannot get answers from the ministers.

Canadians want to know that we have good policies. Canadians want to know that our system is administered in a fair and efficient manner.

Live-in caregivers want to be reunited with their families and people who apply for temporary resident visas in this country want to ensure we have a fair program and a fair policy.

Canadians want integrity in the immigration system. I ask the government to assure Canadians and tell us how Canadians can have that confidence, not only in light of what has happened in Prince Edward Island but also with respect to the comprehensive immigration system that we have?

6:55 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's comments. They are a little more wide-ranging than I anticipated. When I was asked to be here this evening, it was going to be a discussion on Prince Edward Island.

He obviously understands that the matter is under investigation and knows that I cannot comment on it, but I certainly want to comment that it is a little surprising to see that he wants us to get politically involved. I think that if we did that, he would be asking the exact same question as to why we are politically motivated to be involved in an issue that is in fact not being investigated by the government presently.

These are the facts. Individuals provided department officials at Citizenship and Immigration with new allegations and information regarding the provincial nominee program in Prince Edward Island. Department officials acted appropriately and responsibly and have forwarded those allegations to the RCMP. It is now up to the RCMP to look at the allegations and proceed accordingly.

As the RCMP is currently investigating this issue, it would certainly be inappropriate for me to comment further, and it would be irresponsible, quite frankly, to prejudge or interfere with that investigation.

I would like to remind my colleague that the government has acted on the provincial nominee program in Prince Edward Island in the past. If he recalls, in 2008 the government made changes to clearly forbid a passive investment program, and the immigrant partners program in P.E.I. was shut down.

P.E.I. introduced a new program in March of 2011 that complies with the federal immigration laws and its regulations. In order to qualify, applicants have to show that they will have an active role in the day-to-day management or operations of the business in which they are investing. The government has been clear that we will not tolerate another passive investment program, and any such applications will be denied. The focus of the provincial nominee program must be on bringing people with needed skills and entrepreneurship to the province and to our country.

As I have already said, the new allegations were provided to the department and forwarded to the RCMP. I hope the member will allow the RCMP to do the job that it is required to do.

7 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, it was out of the greatest respect and sensitivity to my friend's need to maintain some sensitivity about the fact that this matter is under investigation by the RCMP that I delicately tried to move this debate away from that particular issue and on to broader issues that I thought he would feel more comfortable talking about.

In terms of the integrity of our immigration system, I think the official opposition has some positive proposals to make. We want to work together with the government to increase and speed up family reunification. We want to work to improve the visa process, in particular to add a visa appeal system so that we can get families here to visit their loved ones for weddings and funerals and momentous events. We want to make sure that we make our system more efficient by computerizing our system, as Australia has done and as the Auditor General has called for. We want to raise levels close to 1% of population and make sure we get more immigrants to Canada because that, after all, is how we built this great country of ours.

7 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Madam Speaker, we will do just that.

In fact, as my hon. colleague knows, for the next four to five weeks we as a committee will be studying the backlog. We will be looking at and determining issues we can present to the government to work through that backlog as hard as we can to eliminate it.

However, the decisions that are going to have to be made are not going to be easy ones, so I trust in the words I have heard from my colleague that we will indeed do our best to work together in an attempt to work through the issues, whether those be family reunification, foreign credential recognition, issues with respect to temporary foreign workers, or the issue that we have worked so hard on, and so successfully, on this side of the House with respect to highly skilled foreign workers. Put forward in the proper way, I think that is just one example that will lead to success in the backlog issue that we face.

7 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:02 p.m.)