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

Topics

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Madam Speaker, I would echo the comments of my colleague who just spoke. I congratulate the hon. House Leader of the Official Opposition for his thoughtful consideration of the matter, a matter that is important to Canadians.

We will be voting in support of this bill at second reading in order to send it to a parliamentary committee for further review and examination and to hear from witnesses.

Gambling in Canada is a properly-regulated activity governed by the Criminal Code that sets out the parameters for gaming. As has been previously stated in debate, up until 1985 the federal government was directly involved in running lotteries. It then devolved that through a provincial-federal agreement and the ensuing revenues went to the provinces. As a result, while the Canadian government maintains its legislative responsibility for criminal law, it is the responsibility of the provinces to licence and regulate all legal forms of gaming so long as the activities remain within the scope of the Criminal Code.

Betting on sports currently falls under paragraph 207(4)(b), which is the paragraph that is proposed to be amended by this private member's bill. It defines “lottery schemes” and explicitly prohibits provinces from allowing wagering on “any race or fight, single sports event or athletic contest”.

In reaction to this prohibition, provinces, through their provincial gaming corporations, have long offered parlayed-based wagering on sporting events. This allows for individuals to bet on the outcomes of three or more sporting events. We think of PRO-LINE, which is popular with millions of Canadians and allows them to wager on sports throughout the world, whether it is the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association or the one that is most popular in my house, the English premier football league.

These types of wagers allow individuals to choose the outcome of three or more sporting events, the odds of which are published in advance by the provincial gaming corporation. In order to win, a person must correctly predict all of the outcomes. For millions of Canadians, this is a fun activity. It allows them to be more involved in the sport they are watching or following.

Regulated gaming provides a legitimate and sanctioned activity free from tampering and has the effect of generating substantial revenues for governments.

Bill C-290 would delete the section from the Criminal Code that currently prohibits betting on a single sport and would allow provinces the ability to create a regulated environment consistent with their current gaming activities. For individuals, the change would allow them to bet on one match as opposed to three or more so long as the odds were predetermined and published.

It has been suggested by my colleague, the House Leader of the Official Opposition, that several provinces have a desire to see this specific change to the Criminal Code. As an example, two of them, Ontario and British Columbia, have taken the additional step of writing the federal justice minister.

Why support this change? There is a lot of illegal gambling in Canada. Some of it relates to betting on single sporting events. Millions of dollars are spent illegally on single sport gambling and much of this activity is conducted by organized crime and bookies. It is underground and it unregulated.

Technology is also playing a role in the new gaming reality. Members will not be surprised to know that the criminal world adapts very quickly to new technology, using the Internet to exploit and make money from illegal gaming. Illegal sports wagering is all too common throughout North America.

The full extent of this illegal gambling is unknown, but some reports suggest it is massive. I will cite a couple of them.

The United States National Gambling Impact Study Commission has stated that estimates of the scope of illegal sports betting in the United States range anywhere from $80 billion to $380 billion annually. We have heard these figures from the member for Windsor—Tecumseh.

In Canada, a review of the annual reports of the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada suggests that “bookmaking exists in every region of Canada”. According to the report, gaming profits revenue to organized crime groups to fund their illegal and legal activities. It says:

While the size of the illegal bookmaking market in Canada is unknown, it is also thought to be significant. If the range of illegal sports betting in the United States is accurate, it would not be unreasonable to assume that the range in Canada is between $10.0 billion and $40.0 billion.

These figures underline the seriousness of this issue and the need for action.

Regulated gaming provides a legitimate way for Canadians to gamble and, to be frank, it is a significant source of revenue for governments. Illegal gambling means lost tax revenue that provinces might use to provide more and better service to their citizens.

One sensible measure to combat illegal gambling is to change the Criminal Code to allow the provinces to regulate betting on single sporting events. It would have the effect of legalizing what is a common practice and deprive organized crime of another revenue stream.

While single-game betting is currently illegal in most jurisdictions, it is a booming business in other parts of the world. Online gaming is regulated and legal in many countries and they are reaping the benefit from increased tax revenues and profits. The largest component of this online betting includes sports and horse racing.

I believe this bill helps get the discussion going by pointing to a significant reality in Canada; that is to say there are legal and illegal forms of gaming and we need to address the latter.

I realize, as well, that some Canadians and perhaps members here as well, have, for various reasons, an issue with gambling under any circumstances. For them, there are some reasonable concerns. Like many activities, there are dangers involved in gambling. We all know, or have heard stories, of people who have an addiction to gambling with consequences that are serious and profound. A gambling addiction can overtake one's life. It can result in job loss, a broken family and financial ruin and we need to be sensitive to those concerns. However, for the vast majority of Canadians gambling is a fun and harmless activity.

In my home province of Prince Edward Island, for example, one of the highlights of the summer is our famous Gold Cup and Saucer. The Gold Cup and Saucer is one of the premier harness-race events in the world and one that has attracted thousands of tourists over the years. It is a great spectator sport, a great tourist attraction and a source of economic activity that is important to the local economy of Charlottetown. Tom Mullally and his team at the Red Shores Racetrack & Casino have done a wonderful job in preserving and enhancing this great island tradition.

I will be supporting this bill at second reading and hope that all members will do the same. It is important that we might have the opportunity to call witnesses at the committee to better understand the issues related to gaming in Canada. We may also have the chance to hear from people who may have concerns about this legislation and it is important that we hear from all sides of this issue before we proceed. I am sure the mover of the bill would agree with this as well.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak in favour of private member's Bill C-290, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting).

At present, the Criminal Code only authorizes a province or territory to conduct betting on the outcome of multiple sporting events. That form of betting is sometimes called “parlay betting”. By way of contrast, a province or territory may not currently conduct betting on the outcome of a single game.

Private member's Bill C-290, as sponsored by the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh, would modernize section 207 of the Criminal Code, which is the “lottery scheme” provision by authorizing a province or a territory to conduct, within its jurisdiction, betting on a single sporting event, such as a single hockey game.

Bill C-290 would leave it to each province or territory to decide whether or not to offer single sporting events betting and if so, whether to operate the betting by telephone, Internet and/or in land-based locations. Such provincial-territorial decision-making is precisely what now exists in section 207 of the Criminal Code with respect to provincial and territorial choices for other forms of lottery schemes, such as VLTs, video lottery terminals, and slot machines.

Under the lottery scheme provisions of the Criminal Code, only a provincial or territorial government may conduct a lottery scheme that is operated on or through a computer, slot machine or video device. A province or territory may not license others to do so.

Some provinces currently place video lottery terminals and slot machines in a land-based location, such as a casino or a race track, or in a lounge or pub. Similarly, under Bill C-290, a province or territory could place a single sport event betting operation in a casino, a race track or any other location that it might deem appropriate.

Currently under section 207 of the Criminal Code, a province or territory may also conduct a “lottery scheme” in co-operation with another province. We know that provinces and territories using this authorization have worked together to offer such national ticket lottery schemes, such as Lotto 6/49. Similar inter-jurisdictional co-operation would be possible under the amendments proposed in Bill C-290 for single event sports betting. A province or territory could choose to work co-operatively with any other province or territory.

Similarly, it would be up to the provinces or territories to ensure that they consult with the sport organizations to ensure the integrity of the game on which the single sport event betting is being offered. Similarly, it would be up to the provinces and territories to consult with problem gambling service providers to ensure that single sport event betters gamble responsibly.

I have been talking today about single sport event betting that would be conducted by a province or territory as a lottery scheme under the authority of section 207 of the Criminal Code of Canada. It is worth remembering that section 204 of the Criminal Code already authorizes any bet, so long as it is done between persons who are not in any way engaged in the business of betting. In Canada we are free to spend our money on a bet if we so choose, so long as we are betting with another private individual who is not in any way engaged in the business of betting.

Historically Parliament has not been concerned with betting between private individuals, but rather with illegal bookmakers who entice betters with credit and who charge exorbitant rates of interest on any debt. Parliament should maintain that concern for illegal bookmaking which has links to organized crime, as the member for Windsor—Tecumseh has correctly pointed out.

If a province or territory chooses to operate a lottery scheme under the amendment proposed in Bill C-290, there would be a benefit to betters who wish to bet on a single game, but have difficulty finding another person to take the opposite side of the proposed bet. Also, in provinces and territories that choose to operate single sport event betting, betters who currently bet with illegal bookmakers would have the opportunity to bet with a legal operation conducted by their province or territory. The profits from legal single sport event betting would support provincial programs and services rather than being channeled by illegal bookmakers into organized crime.

Provinces and territories have had many years' experience in conducting a broad range of lottery schemes. It makes sense that the range of lottery schemes that they are authorized to conduct be expanded to include single sport event betting.

Finally, it also makes a lot of sense to keep Canadian gambling dollars within a province or territory rather than sending the money to illegal bookmakers in Canada or elsewhere, or to offshore Internet betting sites that poach Canadian bettors regardless of whether those offshore sites are legal or illegal in the host country. Bill C-290 would be a step in correcting this and a step in the right direction.

For all those reasons, I support Bill C-290 and will be voting in favour of it.

Provinces and territories have the experience to offer this form of betting if that is what their the electorate wants. On the other hand, if a province or territory chooses not to go there, that again is the province's decision to make, and it falls within the province's constitutional jurisdiction.

I support this private member's bill. I see it as responding to a growing demand for the modernization of the Criminal Code “lottery scheme” provision. It reflects our circumstances in the 21st century.

For those reasons, I will be supporting the bill. I congratulate the member for Windsor—Tecumseh for bringing this important matter forward.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Windsor--Tecumseh has a right of reply.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, in my original speech I got all my points in. Thank you.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Is the House ready for the question?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

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

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, last Monday the parliamentary secretary rightly said, “Canadians can be proud of the contributions that Environment Canada scientists make to independent studies and policy development and to protecting Canada's environment”, and yes, we all can. Environment Canada has Nobel Prize co-recipients and scientists who make important discoveries, such as Dr. David Tarasick, who co-discovered the Arctic ozone hole.

What she did not say is that over 700 Environment Canada positions are in jeopardy, including those of Nobel Prize co-recipients in the climate change and impacts adaptation group, and that of Dr. Tarasick in ozone research.

What she also did not say is that the government is ending some programs, threatening science and reducing our ability to form evidence-based policy, and we know more cuts are coming.

In Atlantic Canada we have just learned that 18 positions will be lost, with 43 affected. Programs being reduced or lost include studies of the impact of antibiotic use in farmed salmon, the impact of waste from fish hatcheries on local waterways, the biological consequences of acid rain and the impact of mercury on loons. Her claim that the government is strongly committed to protecting Canada's natural heritage simply does not hold up.

The parliamentary secretary also said Environment Canada is more than committed to ensuring the continued engagement of stakeholders in international regulatory policy processes. However, scientists are asking the government to develop a plan to ensure the integrity of the ozone monitoring program and to commission a report to assess the adequacy of Canadian contributions to the global observing system for climate in support of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Will the parliamentary secretary commit to fulfilling the request, retracting the letters to ozone staff and continuing to support the ozone program?

Canadians should be highly critical of the Conservatives' record on the environment, particularly regarding climate change. For example, at the UN climate talks, we keep winning Fossil Awards for being followers instead of leaders on the world stage.

Canadians should also be skeptical of the parliamentary secretary's claim that the government will continue to both effectively and efficiently monitor ozone. We know the Ozonesonde program is in jeopardy and that there is no commitment to monitor ozone in the lower atmosphere. Moreover, the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre is just one person, and that person has been informed that his or her job is in danger.

Last week the parliamentary secretary brought up the point that Canada banned ozone-depleting chemicals. Yes, this is true, but it was the government back in 1987.

What we need now is for her government to step up to the plate, have the courage of decision-makers 20 years ago and take action to stop the cuts, to protect the scientists and to ensure that world-class science continues.

Let me be very clear. International scientists are calling for cuts to be reversed, and thousands and thousands of people across Canada want the cuts overturned. Will the government now do the right thing and reverse its irresponsible cuts to ozone research so that Canada can honour its international commitments?

7:10 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, my Liberal colleague is hardly in a position to criticize our government's plan as it was the previous Liberal government that signed grand international accords but took little action. In contrast, our government has a tangible plan to address climate change that balances the need to protect our environment and economic growth.

With regard to ozone, to repeat what has been said several times in this House, Environment Canada will not close the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre. Measuring ozone in the upper atmosphere, otherwise known as stratospheric ozone, is an international obligation required under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer under the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer.

When it comes to atmospheric ozone science, Canada has been and continues to be a global leader. Since 1966, ozone has been measured from Resolute Bay in Canada. This represents the longest record of ozone observation in the Arctic anywhere in the world. Many of the ozone measurements used globally today were pioneered by Canadians. Changing the way ozone is monitored in Canada does not mean that Canada's ability to monitor ozone would be degraded.

Currently, Environment Canada uses two methods to measure ozone: the Brewer network and the ozonesonde network.

However, just because something is the status quo does not mean it is the best way of doing things. Science and technology improves over time; this is a fact.

The current plan for ozone monitoring is that Environment Canada is to integrate and optimize the two existing ozone networks. This will allow Environment Canada to deliver sound science, while also remaining within budget.

Ozone networking data from Canada are shared with the world via the World Meteorological Organization. In addition, Canada has maintained the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre for many years. The WMO supplies the data to other weather centres and agencies in Europe and the U.S.

To be clear, Environment Canada is not closing the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre.

Integrating ozone monitoring networks and changing the management of the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre will mean reducing the number of employees dedicated to ozone science. However, Environment Canada staff would remain dedicated to both these activities and to achieving quality results.

To reiterate, Environment Canada will continue to measure ozone.

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, last week the parliamentary secretary asked me to support the government's plan to continue to monitor ozone. It is not a plan; it is cuts.

As a scientist, I simply cannot support cuts that will reduce Canada's ability to monitor the environment and respond to problems, reduce our country's ability to explore the links between ozone and climate change, and threaten international science and Canada's reputation. This is why I brought leading independent atmospheric scientists to Parliament Hill to speak at a non-partisan event to members of Parliament and senators this morning. They spoke about Canada's unique position to lead ozone research, our leadership in this area, and our responsibility to undertake research.

Finally, in light of the science presented today, I implore the government to do the right thing and reverse the cuts.

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Madam Speaker, Environment Canada will keep up its monitoring of ozone in the upper atmosphere. Environment Canada will not close the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre. Canada will continue to be a world leader in ozone monitoring, as it has been since 1966.

7:15 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-François Fortin Bloc Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is an important moment for me today as I rise in this House to speak about a vital issue that affects coastal residents of the Gaspé, the Lower St. Lawrence and Montérégie.

I will give a bit of background. Last December, almost one year ago, high tides pounded the Gaspé and the Lower St. Lawrence, causing all kinds of damage to the shoreline, land and homes. Shortly after that, in the spring, Montérégie was also hit by flooding caused mainly by overflowing rivers. This reminder is important because we have asked the government many times to help the victims in the Gaspé and Montérégie.

The federal government's current response program provides assistance to the provincial government to help disaster victims. The current program is a joint program that we are very familiar with. Over and above the more than $8 million Quebec will initially have to pay, the federal government will contribute dollar for dollar to provide the province with additional assistance to offset the cost of the damage.

However, it is not this program that we are talking about today, but a new program. All last spring, the government was being pressured to bring back the former shoreline erosion program, which fell under the responsibility of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. There was a program that allowed shoreline communities, whether they were along the St. Lawrence River or other large rivers in our beautiful land, to obtain help in the case of natural disasters or situations requiring them to adapt to the reality of the changing shoreline.

Last spring, we asked the government a number of times to bring back such a program. A new program is now needed with new adaptation measures, outside the existing program, that will allow the federal government to help provinces that experience weather-related damage.

On June 6, when he passed through Montérégie, the Prime Minister announced that there would be new mitigation measures to reduce the impact of weather-related shoreline damage.

My questions for the government are very clear. What exactly are these measures? Who exactly will these measures help? What criteria will victims or communities have to meet in order to receive funding from the government to adapt their shorelines? How much will the government invest in this new program or these new measures and, more specifically, when will these new measures come into effect?

Last week, the Government of Quebec hastened to double its efforts to help flood victims receive help more quickly. Now, I believe that it is time that the federal government lived up to flood victims' expectations by confirming and implementing such measures.

7:20 p.m.

Portage—Lisgar Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Madam Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to address the member's question regarding the Prime Minister's commitment to provide financial assistance to provinces and territories for flooding mitigation efforts in 2011, including those in the flood-affected regions of Montérégie and Gaspé in Quebec.

The year 2011 has been an exceptional year for flooding across the country. Provinces and territories conducted an assessment of patterns of precipitation, rainfall and snowfall, temperature, snowmelt, and soil moisture conditions which provided indications for significant flooding in 2011. Some provinces made proactive, permanent mitigation investments to eliminate or reduce the impact and risks of hazards through measures taken before 2011 flooding.

To support these long-term investments, the Prime Minister committed the Government of Canada to cost share with the provinces on a 50-50 basis for permanent mitigation measures taken specifically for this year's flooding that are not otherwise eligible under the federal disaster financial assistance arrangements.

Recognizing the increasing impact of flooding on Canadian communities, the Prime Minister also indicated that the Government of Canada is prepared to discuss a mitigation strategy that would apply to all provinces and territories and which would enhance infrastructure to better withstand future floods.

Pursuant to these commitments, officials at Public Safety Canada are working closely with their provincial and territorial counterparts to develop two key programs with a focus on mitigation: a one-time contribution program to reimburse affected provinces and territories for permanent flood mitigation measures taken specifically for 2011 flooding and a long-term mitigation strategy.

The Government of Canada recognizes the value and contribution of proactive mitigation measures taken before an emergency or disaster occurs to eliminate or reduce the impacts and risks of hazards in order to protect lives, property, and the environment, and to reduce economic disruption. Not only does mitigation serve to reduce the impact of disasters on the lives of Canadians but it is also a cost-effective approach for reducing the economic burden of disaster response and recovery costs on all orders of government, businesses, communities, families and individuals.

Though issues related to flood management are primarily within the purview of the provinces and territories, the Government of Canada is committed to providing assistance to flood-affected regions following natural disasters through federal mechanisms, including the disaster financial assistance arrangements and other forms of aid. For example, earlier this year following a request for assistance from the Province of Quebec for significant flooding in the Montérégie region, the federal government responded quickly by deploying the Canadian armed forces to provide assistance to the affected communities.

One of the highest priorities for the government is the safety and security of its citizens. We will continue to work with our federal, provincial and territorial partners, including the Province of Quebec, to protect Canadians from a range of natural disasters and to make our communities more resilient.

7:25 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-François Fortin Bloc Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the parliamentary secretary for her answer.

I believe the government is willing to work with the provinces that have been affected by these disasters, both through the existing program, which allows the federal government to help and compensate for damage sustained by the provinces, and also through new adaptation measures that would allow communities to adapt to changing weather conditions. In light of such evidence, we can no longer deny climate change around the world, but in Quebec and Canada in particular.

In light of the government's openness to establishing new adaptation measures, what is this government's game plan to raise awareness of these measures much more quickly, given how urgent it is for communities to adapt to the new realities?

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, let me assure my colleague that the Government of Canada remains committed to working as quickly as possible with the provinces and territories and other partners to ensure a safe and resilient Canada and specifically in regard to flooding. My own riding in Manitoba has experienced severe flooding. We are working very closely and as quickly as we can.

It is important to note that during the flood season, Canada's armed forces were actively engaged in the regions severely affected by flooding and assisted in evacuations as well as preserving infrastructure, transportation routes and residential areas. That happened both in Quebec and Manitoba.

The government is working to provide financial assistance to affected provinces through the disaster financial assistance arrangements, which is the mechanism through which the government provides financial assistance to provincial and territorial governments for response and recovery from natural disasters.

As I mentioned previously, the government will share on a 50-50 basis the cost of any permanent flood mitigation measures taken for this year's flooding that are not eligible under the disaster financial assistance arrangements.

Our government--

7:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I regret to interrupt the hon. member.

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 7:27 p.m.)