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House of Commons Hansard #131 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was sentence.

Topics

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-343, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act (family leave), as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

There being no amendment motions at report stage, the House will now proceed without debate to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

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

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

All those in favour will please say yea.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 98, a recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, February 16, 2011, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

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

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to follow up on a question I asked before Christmas. The question concerned the enabling accessibility fund. This is a fund that was set up a number of years ago by the government ostensibly to provide support to the disabled community by helping to renovate buildings to become more accessible for people with disabilities.

There was a problem with the fund when it was announced that the stipulations for what was called the large or major segment of the fund were brought into disrepute by people in the disability community. They suggested that these large amounts of money were set up specifically to apply only to projects in ridings of government members, including the Minister of Finance. In fact, at the time, Traci Walters, who was the national director of the Canadian Association of Independent Living Centres, said:

Non-profit organizations are under-resourced and under-staffed--especially disability organizations...We do not have a team of experts who can pull something like this off within one month.

That was the timeline they were given. Of course, when the funding was announced it turned out that a total of $30 million out of the $45 million that was allocated for the entire fund, two-thirds of the money, went to two projects, one in the riding of the Minister of Finance, the other in the riding of a Conservative member from Calgary.

What made it even worse was when the other funding was announced there were 166 projects that were funded. To follow the math, 166 projects were funded totalling just under $6 million. Of those projects that were funded, 21 were in Liberal ridings, 15 were in Bloc Québécois ridings, 23 were in NDP ridings, and 107 were in Conservative ridings. This meant that 35% of the funding went in the smaller funds, and it went in incredibly disproportionate numbers to Conservative ridings. In fact, two-thirds of the money went to Conservative ridings.

A couple of years later the government replenished the fund. With the attention that was brought to it and the outrage by disability groups, one would think the Conservatives might have thought a little more about it and decided there should be a more equitable distribution. In fact, the funding was even more skewed.

What does this mean?

This means that the Government of Canada has set up a fund and is politically using it as a slush fund for its own members. It is taking money meant for disabled Canadians across the country and picking to which ridings the funding will go.

Most amazing is that one rural riding in Ontario received more grants than all of the GTA ridings put together. Why is that? It is because the GTA ridings were held by Liberal members of Parliament.

As MPs we all do our jobs. We represent disabled people across the country. This should be done fairly.

Last week I had the chance to meet, as I am sure other parliamentarians did as well, with two leaders in the disability community: Steve Estey, who happens to live in my area of Halifax and Dartmouth; and Vangelis Nikias. Steve is hearing impaired and Vangelis is visually impaired and they are leaders in the disability community. They have helped to negotiate and have worked on Canada's position going back to 2004, 2005 and 2006. They helped to negotiate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Disabled, a landmark achievement that countries across the world signed on to.

It took Canada almost four years to ratify that deal. Last spring the Government of Canada decided it would ratify the UN convention. Great celebrations were held across the country. I was at two of them. I was at the one in Halifax and the one in Ottawa. There was virtual jubilation in the disabled community that finally the government was recognizing that we could do more for the approximately four million disabled Canadians. Since then, we have had nothing.

My question for the parliamentary secretary tonight is: How could the government use funds like the enabling accessibility fund in such a political way?

6 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, the facts are simply not as the member states. He is trying to make political hay out of a non-partisan issue like support for Canadians with disabilities and trying to score cheap political points. It is simply shameful.

No government has done more for persons with disabilities to become fully included in our society than our Conservative government. We have removed barriers to participation across the country, including rural and remote areas, as evidenced in part by the over 300 enabling accessibility fund projects supported so far. From building ramps to upgrades to washrooms, to the creation of comprehensive centres, the enabling accessibility fund is making a significant difference in the lives of Canadians with disabilities all across our great country.

We support accessibility everywhere because people with disabilities live everywhere. We are not focused on just a few large cities where most of our opposition colleagues live.

We have launched other programs like the RDSP, the registered disability savings plan, that is helping over 40,000 Canadian families save for the future. We also introduced the Canada disability savings grant and the Canada disability savings bond. These are all pioneering initiatives that are important and that have been well received by the public.

We ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as the hon. member mentioned. We have increased funding for training to help Canadians with disabilities join the workforce. We have invested $75 million for affordable housing specifically for persons with disabilities.

Members should not just take it from me. They should listen to what others have said about our government's record. Al Etmanski from the PLAN Institute said, “I believe the...Government is hands down the most effective Federal champion people with disabilities and their families have ever had”. He further stated, “The...Government's commitments are impressive”. I guess that is why the organization presented the Prime Minister with a lifetime membership for making a positive difference in the lives of Canadians with disabilities.

We have done a lot and we will continue to do a lot. I just wish the opposition would support our efforts because its record on this issue has not been stellar. In fact, the enabling accessibility fund, to which the member speaks, has helped Canadians with disabilities all across this country, including in the member's own riding and in the ridings of many of his Liberal colleagues.

I would also point out that the member is complaining about a program that, if it were up to him and his Liberal friends and colleagues, would not even exist. Why is that? It is because they voted against it. They voted against it when we first brought it in and invested $45 million over three years, a program, as I said, that was very well received by Canadians with disabilities.

The Liberals voted against it again in budget 2010 when we invested another $45 million to ensure even more communities and more Canadians were able to benefit. They have consistently voted against help for persons with disabilities. The member and the Liberals voted against the EAF twice, against the RDSP and against increased skills training money for persons with disabilities.

The record is clear. We have provided unprecedented support to Canadians with disabilities in budgets that have been voted against by that party time and time again. Our record is clear and it is one that is supported by persons with disabilities and Canadians across the country. These funds have been distributed and disbursed to various areas, including rural and remote areas. The member should get behind these initiatives and not complain about them.

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Just by way of comparison, Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary suggested that we should be grateful that some projects in our ridings have been funded. My riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour received one grant in the amount of $50,000 for the Iona Presbyterian Church. The Minister of Finance received $15 million. That is $50,000 versus $15 million. This is an issue of fairness.

He talked about the enabling accessibility fund. When it was set up, it seemed to be a very noble cause. The fact that it has become a political football bandied around by the government is the shame of it. I will guarantee him and any Canadian that what a Liberal government would do for people with disabilities would dwarf anything that the Conservatives have done, any of the small bits of money.

When we look at the billions of dollars that they waste on things like G20 summits, planes, prisons and things like that, we can think about what that could do. Even the $6 billion we are talking about now in corporate tax cuts, we can think about what that could do for people with disabilities. We can think of what that could do for the Dartmouth Adult Service Centre in my riding which is applying for this fund. That is the kind of organization that needs the support. It should not be done politically, it should be done based on need.

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, the member raises the issue of the $50,000 contribution to the Iona Presbyterian centre in his own riding. The member and his party voted against the enabling accessibility fund. So, if the member had had his way, the centre would not have had that at all. There also would be no RDSPs, registered disability plans, which have been helpful to those who have family members with disabilities. They have been very well received. Job start, in his leader's own riding, is an example of something that also would not exist. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind in his deputy leader's riding would not have been helped.

Exactly which particular programs across the country is the member opposed to? If there was no support for these programs, none of these would be available. There would not be any programs like the registered disability fund that has been well received. Those are the kinds of things that need support, not opposition.

6:10 p.m.

NDP

The Acting 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 6:10 p.m.)