House of Commons Hansard #56 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-10.


Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Is that agreed?

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


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

6:15 p.m.


Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Speaker, Canada missed an important opportunity to make a positive contribution on the international stage during the World Conference on Social Determinants of Health, which took place in Brazil from October 19 to 21. In fact, the Minister of Health did not believe it was necessary to participate in this event, where 118 countries came together to establish an action plan.

Nevertheless, in Canada, 20% of health care expenditures are attributable to social issues that affect health, such as homelessness and unemployment. When I asked the minister to explain why she did not attend this important meeting, she was unable to provide an answer. Finally, she responded that she was attending other international meetings.

Clearly, the minister was completely unaware of this conference on the social determinants of health or it was not one of the priorities of the Conservative government, which has demonstrated a complete lack of leadership on this issue. I will explain why this conference should have been a priority for Canada. First, according to the World Health Organization:

The social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, including the health system.

These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels, which are themselves influenced by policy choices.

The social determinants of health are mostly responsible for health inequities—the unfair and avoidable differences in health status seen between industrialized and the least fortunate countries and even within industrialized countries. Canada, which is part of the G8, should thus have been concerned about this issue and participated in this meeting.

From what I know, even here in Canada, people are still suffering as a result of poverty, social exclusion, stress, unemployment, homelessness and malnourishment, just to name a few of the most important social determinants of health. Here are a few concrete examples of the direct impact these social determinants can have on health.

According to a 2003 WHO study by Wilkinson and Marmot, those living on the streets suffer the highest rates of premature death. Homelessness is still a relevant issue these days, as was highlighted during the 22nd edition of the Nuit des sans-abri on October 21, 2011, in Quebec. Do my colleagues know that it costs the Quebec health care system about $24,000 to take care of a homeless person, whereas if community services received adequate funding to fight homelessness, it would cost the federal government half as much? I think that some strategic choices need to be made.

In 2004, the Canadian Institute of Child Health stated that the lower the household income, the higher the incidence of emotional and behavioural problems in childhood. As a teacher who worked in a disadvantaged area, I can confirm that children who grow up in an unsafe environment with low levels of stimulation are unfortunately more affected by learning difficulties and behavioural problems. There are plenty of studies to corroborate that.

More recently, a number of health care experts testified before the Standing Committee on Health, and they all agreed that seniors who are isolated are more likely to develop mental health problems. They also said that low-income seniors are not able to buy fruits and vegetables, which are a nutrition staple, and that this often leads to problems. Those are just a few examples.

Every day, 21,000 children in the world die before their 5th birthday. All of these alarming facts and figures are from the WHO.

If health is one of this government's priorities, why was it missing in action in Brazil?

6:20 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario


Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I disagree with the premise of the member's statements here in the House but I do appreciate the opportunity to respond to her question this evening.

Canada actually played an important leadership role at the World Conference on Social Determinants of Health.

The delegation was led by Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer.

The conference provided an important opportunity to work with Canadian and international partners to identify actions that can be taken on these challenges. Over 1,000 attendees representing more than 125 world health organization member states participated in the Rio conference. It brought together Canadian and international partners to develop strategies for reducing health inequalities internationally, share experiences, knowledge and build on existing initiatives.

The major conference outcome was the Rio political declaration on social determinants of health, which was supported by all member states, including Canada. Why is this declaration important? It signalled that countries supporting the declaration were on the same page, understanding the need to look at whole of government collective solutions.

The Government of Canada looks forward to continuing to work with these organizations in the wake of the Rio conference. In Canada, relevant measures have already been implemented, as evidenced by the recent announcement of investments in 11 new research programs to improve health fairness.

We have also created the Canadian reference group on social determinants of health, a unique group of NGO and academic leaders in the field of environment, labour, social development and business, to help build momentum for efforts at the local level. Global action is making a difference.

I will take a moment to highlight an important meeting the minister attended in September in New York. She attended a conference on non-communicable diseases. The minister signed the UN Declaration on Preventing and Controlling Chronic Diseases. This important declaration addresses the growing threat of chronic diseases around the world. Countries agreed that they must take effective action to reduce their risk factors.

That is why our government has taken action on many things. For example, on reducing tobacco use and promoting healthy living. We also made significant investments in all of Canada's disease specific strategies. These include the Canadian partnership against cancer, the Canadian diabetes strategy, the aboriginal diabetes initiative, the national lung health program and the Canadian heart health strategy and action plan.

Our government's participation at these international conferences are important. They not only help to improve the health of people in Canada, they also help to improve the health of people around the world. Canada will continue to be a leader in the world at these conferences.

6:25 p.m.


Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Speaker, she was in New York, but the Minister of Health was here during the Rio conference. She did not seem to know anything about the conference, because she was unable to answer the question and she shifted her response to another subject. If taking action on the social determinants of health that create health inequalities were truly the government's priority, the minister would not have been here and the parliamentary secretary could have answered the question.

It is fine to say that this is important, but action must be taken. They must walk the talk. Consequently, if 20% of the health envelope is slated for social determinants, we must examine what has been done about homelessness and what is being done in the area of social housing.

6:25 p.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, our government has been working very hard on the social determinants of health. The problem is that every time we bring things forward to improve the situation, the NDP constantly votes against them.

The World Conference on Social Determinants of Health in Rio was an important opportunity for member states of the World Health Organization.

It was also important for non-governmental organizations, stakeholders, academics and other UN agencies. The conference involved a discussion on strategies and action for reducing health inequities at the national and international level. It also provided a unique venue to work with Canadian and international partners to identify actions that can be taken to address the underlying environmental, social and economic conditions that affect the health and well-being of Canadians.

Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, had the opportunity to highlight the significant steps Canada has taken in addressing social determinants.

Our government's commitment to this issue is underscored by the Minister of Health's recent announcement. Canada recognizes the complex causes of health inequalities among indigenous populations.

Canada also underscored that it will continue to work with partners to develop, test and document—

6:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order. The hon. member for Halifax.

6:30 p.m.


Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, the hole in the ozone over the Arctic has grown to record size. As we have heard in the House, it is now twice the size of Ontario. Reports are that it could take about four decades to repair. This hole poses major long-term health and environmental concerns related to ultraviolet rays and it represents a massive environmental, social and financial debt that will be paid forward to our children and grandchildren.

That is why it was so concerning when this summer the government announced cuts that would affect Canada's ozone programs. These programs are world-renowned. They are made-in-Canada solutions. People from around the globe rely on the information that these programs gather.

On September 23, in the House, I asked the minister about cuts to the ozone monitoring program. I specifically asked about the reports that he was getting rid of one of two measurement systems that are used to monitor two very different aspects of the ozone. On that day and in subsequent rounds of questions he responded repeatedly in the House and in the media that the cuts were to address duplications within the program. He also refused to provide any analysis for how the cuts could be carried out without actually affecting the scientific data being produced by the programs.

Incidentally, he has also refused to this date to provide Canadians with an analysis about how the government will continue to ensure a healthy biologically diverse environment and how we will pass it on to future generations despite massive cuts to Environment Canada and the Environmental Assessment Agency.

However, lo and behold, last week it was revealed that one of the minister's senior officials wrote a report to the minister in September about the ozone monitoring program that contradicted everything the minister had been saying in the House and that the she herself had said to the media only a week after writing the report.

The minister responded to the questions about these contradictions in the House by saying that the document was actually being misquoted.

That document, dated September 16, discovered through access to information requests, states specifically:

These methods measure different characteristics of the atmosphere and thus complement, but do not duplicate each other.

That is actually in this access to information request. The wording is very clear: there is no duplication within the ozone monitoring program, and yet the minister's response was to attack opposition MPs and the journalist who broke the story.

As usual, he chose to suppress the science of the matter with spin, something we are used to seeing here. However, he has continued to do so more on this issue than on any other issue it seems that he has been questioned about, including his government's climate change plan, which, according to all the data analysis, is actually failing spectacularly.

As with many of the decisions that are being made by the minister, the core of this issue is scientific capacity, because these cuts are part of a systematic attempt by the government to reduce the ability of the federal department and agencies to monitor and respond to environmental hazards. We need good science for good environmental assessments, for project planning and research and innovation. Both industry and environmentalists agree that enhanced scientific capacity is essential at the federal level.

I would ask the parliamentary secretary if the minister will come clean about the cuts to this program and actually reinstate the funding to Environment Canada to save these programs.

6:30 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta


Michelle Rempel ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, like my colleague opposite, I am very proud of the track record that Canada has with regard to excellence in monitoring the ozone. That is why we have repeatedly said in the House that our government, through Environment Canada, will continue to monitor the ozone.

What I am getting tired of hearing is that there has to be a trade-off between efficiency in program delivery and service delivery. That is what we hear over and over again.

With regard to the question, I will answer the same way that I have answered several times in the House. Taxpayers expect government officials to conduct the nation's business at a reasonable cost. They also expect service delivery. We know we can achieve both. This is something our government takes very seriously.

6:30 p.m.


Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, that answer was very short. There is not much to say when it comes to defending what is happening with these programs.

What about efficiency and program delivery? How about the fact that we have a program that is run by one scientist and that scientist received a notice saying that he may lose his job? How about the fact that we have another program that monitors something completely different, a completely different set of data that is relied on by the international community, and is run by one scientist who also received a notice saying that his job may be on the line?

The minister does not understand what these programs do. He does not understand that they do different things. He does not understand that they are all very much needed. This is not about efficiency in program delivery. This is about shutting down science.

When is the minister going to own up to the fact that that is what he is trying to do here?

6:35 p.m.


Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Madam Speaker, Environment Canada takes monitoring of the ozone quite seriously. That is why we have such a strong track record in doing so over the last decades. We have said over and over again in the House that we will continue to monitor the ozone, and that we will continue to deliver excellent services. Environment Canada and our government are committed to that.

6:35 p.m.


Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to stand in my place this evening and say a few words on behalf of the people I represent. I represent the riding of Cardigan in eastern Prince Edward Island. It contains a lot of farmers, fishermen, small business and tourism. Fisheries is a major issue in my area.

I recall my first term as a member of Parliament and touring through the federal riding of Cardigan and viewing the wharves. I remember in particular going to Savage Harbour and looking at the breakwater that is called the black wall. At that time it would have taken less than $200,000 to repair the wall, but I could not convince the government that it should be done. When the Liberals finally became government, it cost over $2 million to repair that wall. Wharf repair is like taking care of one's home, buildings, vehicle, or anything else. It is an ongoing issue.

I also remember going down to Graham's Pond and looking at the facing of the wharf that was being torn off. I tried to convince the government at that time that it needed to be repaired. Everybody in the fishing industry knows what happens when the face goes off. The ice gets in behind and pushes the wharf to pieces. In fact, the plant there was about to go into the water.

Then I looked at North Lake and Naufrage, and all the dredging that needed to be done there. The propellors on boats would be harmed on the way in because there was not enough dollars.

We put the harbour authorities in place after we were elected to government. That was a concern of mine when it happened. The fishermen decided that it was part of their responsibility, but it was understood that the Government of Canada would supply the proper funding. The harbour authority would provide a small amount of funding, but it would work with the federal government in order to ensure that the wharves were kept in proper order.

On October 17 I received an internal memo that indicated that ocean management projects, science services, aquaculture, and other important programs were being slashed by DFO.

At one time back then there was just about $100 million in small craft harbour funding available to repair wharves. Today, $57 million is available to repair small craft harbours. I hope that my good friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans will go back to the government and indicate what a serious issue this is. He knows very well that we are looking at close containment and the open net concept for raising salmon. We need the scientific dollars. We need to know what is going on with close containment and what is going on in the open net concept. I hope that the parliamentary secretary can indicate what specific areas are going to be cut.

The government is going to change the fishing licence service to an automated service. A lot of things happen in the fishery. If somebody cannot take out a boat and has to shift, then how is that person going to arrange those things? How is the government going to avoid hurting people who do not have the Internet? I hope the parliamentary secretary will be able to respond.

6:40 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.


Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Madam Speaker, as always, I welcome the opportunity to respond to some of the comments made by my friend from Cardigan. It allows me to outline some of the measures being taken by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to help our fisheries and maritime sectors grow and ensure that our aquatic ecosystems are protected for future generations.

Have we made changes in the way we do business? Of course we have. Modernization is essential to a stable, prosperous and sustainable fishery.

Over the summer and fall, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans travelled from coast to coast to coast meeting with key players from the fishing industry to discuss how the department could support the growth and sustainability of the industry. He spoke to stakeholders, whose interests lie in aquaculture and wild fisheries, and heard their views on licensing, sustainability, conservation, export markets and all the other important issues that were especially important to these fishermen.

These consultations helped shape the plan changes in how the department operates, changes that will come into effect over the next three years to ensure we continue to protect our ecosystems and build a more competitive fishing industry.

Some of the things we can expect to see include accelerated progress toward a more modern economically and ecologically sustainable Canadian fishing industry, modernization of fisheries management programs, increased use of modern navigational services and a department that appropriately focuses on core mandate responsibilities.

My colleague has raised a number of specific issues. I could respond to all of them, but I think it would be important to refer to the actual memo to which he refers. It is a memo that came out of the deputy minister's office, signed by her, the associate deputy and the commissioner of the Coast Guard, to employees of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. It begins by saying:

As you will know, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is pursuing a dynamic change agenda that will transform many of the ways in which we and our stakeholders do business. Over the past year, we have taken advantage of opportunities to advance modernization of our organizational model as well as many of our programs, services and business practices. Today, we are providing you with further information on initiatives that our department will be undertaking to pursue our modernization goals and, in turn, help to support the Government of Canada's priorities.

He referred to one of them in his comment in his question to the minister back in October. He said, “we are slashing”, I think that was the word he used our large ocean management area program and science and other things. Here is what she had to say about that. As she cites some examples of the modernization that is taking place, she said:

Realigning our oceans management responsibilities by winding down Large Ocean Management Areas pilot projects, now that we are in a position to begin applying integrated oceans management approaches as part of our regular operations.

She was not saying anything about the end of large ocean management areas as part of our program, but just these pilot projects, now that they will become part of our regular operations. She said:

Focusing aquaculture science activities on issues relevant to the Department's regulatory duties in relation to fish health and environmental interactions in order to strengthen our capacities in these areas.

Finding efficiencies and simplifying how science is managed, for example, by aligning our science resources to reflect the transition to an ecosystems approach to science....

I hope my colleague agrees with these approaches that are important.

This approach means a greater emphasis on science working in teams to address complex, interrelated issues affecting fish, fish habitat and the integrity of aquatic environments.

In fact, the modernization ship is sailing and I encourage my colleague from Cardigan to get on board.

6:40 p.m.


Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Madam Speaker, I appreciate it, but I am disappointed with what my hon. friend had to say.

I am pleased the minister travelled to talk to fishermen. I know they are realigning. I wonder if the minister happened to mention, when he was travelling and talking to fishermen, that he would cut the budget for small craft harbours from close to $100 million to $57 million. I would be very surprised with the people whom I represent. I live among fishermen who understand what needs to be done, what it takes to keep harbours in shape.

I hope my hon. colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, will go back and tell the minister and the government that it is just unacceptable if they cut the budget from $100 million. In fact, they are cutting the budget in half.

In his final comments I would like if he would indicate if that $57 million is the wharf in Pangnirtung at Nunavut. We support that wharf, but is that money coming out of the budget now, or is it new money, as we were told by the government a couple of years ago?

6:45 p.m.


Randy Kamp Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Madam Speaker, I would be more sympathetic to my colleague and his concerns if he had not been part of the government that throughout the 1990s and even as late as 2005 made much greater arbitrary cuts than we will ever see on this side the House.

With respect to small craft harbours, he knows that the budget has not been changed for that. He should know that in 2008 we put $45 million into the divestiture program. Then through the economic action plan, we put $200 million into projects across the country to allow us to catch up from the condition that we found the harbours in when we inherited them from the Liberal government. That $200 million is a lot of money even by Liberal standards.

6:45 p.m.


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 6:47 p.m.)