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House of Commons Hansard #133 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cost.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, I wish the hon. member had asked a question about the motion. The motion is about the government's refusal to provide to the finance committee the information it needs to judge the government's legislation, including the efficacy or sense of corporate tax cuts today when we have a $56 billion deficit.

The hon. member made a couple of points that are not related to today's motion, but out of the kindness of my heart, I will respond to them.

In terms of health care investments, not only did the previous Liberal government balance the books but it also increased transfers to the provinces to record highs. It put $41 billion of new money into health care in 2004 and created most of the research and development infrastructure in Canada through the Canada Foundation for Innovation and through investments in universities. It was the most science friendly government in the history of Canada and that is why the science community is so upset--

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please.

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Elmwood--Transcona.

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, last night we had a take note debate on the promotion of democracy in Iran. The government members spoke all night long about how important it was for the Canadian government to take an active interest in promoting democracy in Iran. Two weeks ago we had a take note debate on democracy in Egypt. Perhaps we should have a take note debate on democracy here in Canada.

We have a Conservative government that is deliberately hiding information from members of Parliament, information that we as members of Parliament have a right to know, because we are tasked with making decisions that affect the entire country. We cannot find out the information that the government already knows on crime bills like C-59.

We had the deputy minister at committee admitting, when questioned by a Liberal member about the cost of the bill, that she had most of the information and would like to tell members the cost of the bill but could not.

The government had muzzled her and would not allow her to provide the information. That is absolutely unfair and not acceptable.

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, I certainly wish the hon. member would get up more in this House. We do not see him up and on his feet enough. In fact, that hon. member is probably one of the most active members on the floor of this House.

The member raises an important point. The government's argument that this information is cabinet confidence is totally false. Yesterday, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, said that during his 25 years of public service this kind of information was circulated broadly. It was not held or protected under cabinet confidence.

Earlier I raised the fact that in November 2005, during the Liberal government's fiscal update, this information was provided on page 83 of a public document, for goodness sake. The government's argument that this information and the cost of its legislation cannot be provided to the Parliament that is expected to vote on and judge that legislation is completely counter-democratic and anti-democratic.

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on a motion of the official opposition, the Liberal Party.

Allow me to read the motion. It is fairly long but also complete.

That, given the undisputed privileges of Parliament under Canada's constitution, including the absolute power to require the government to produce uncensored documents when requested, the government's continuing refusal to comply with reasonable requests for documents, particularly related to the cost of the government's tax cut for the largest corporations and the cost of the government's justice and public safety agenda, represents a violation of the rights of Parliament, and this House hereby orders the government to provide every document requested by the Standing Committee on Finance on November 17, 2010, by March 7, 2011.

As this motion indicates, the Standing Committee on Finance requested access to a certain number of documents it needed to be able to do its parliamentary work. The government refused to provide, forward or make these documents available to the committee.

This is very similar to the saga of the documents pertaining to the allegations of torture in Afghanistan. In that case, the Speaker ruled that the parties must come to an agreement or that there would be contempt of Parliament.

It is unfortunate that the Conservative government, a minority government, is seeking not only to govern as though it were a majority government but also to keep parliamentarians in the dark and prevent them from having all the relevant information. Parliamentarians are holding the government accountable on a certain number of issues. Clearly, the government has to be accountable.

This is extremely disturbing. I have not been a member of the House for very long, only since 2000. Under Jean Chrétien's majority government, which was never an ally of the sovereignists, I never heard of the possibility of a question of privilege leading to contempt of Parliament. And yet, at the time, we were dealing with a majority government. There is something in this government's attitude toward parliamentary institutions and the way democracy should be lived that closely resembles a certain degree of contempt.

We therefore do not hesitate in supporting this motion. I believe that, if the motion is not respected, it will surely lead to another question of privilege. Let us hope that we will soon see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The government consistently relies on pretexts such as national security and cabinet confidence. The decision of the Speaker of the House in April was very clear: parliamentarians are entitled to have access to all necessary information, in an uncensored format. In matters of state security, the Bloc Québécois and the other opposition parties—I believe that they too have consistently maintained this position—are prepared to find accommodations, as was the case with the documents dealing with allegations of torture in Afghanistan.

In this case, however, the government is acting as if the opposition parties were unschooled in these matters when, in fact, we have shown ourselves to be flexible in the past.

In this particular case, we are dealing with documents that have nothing to do with national security whatsoever. In what possible way would knowing the cost of tax breaks for big corporations be a risk to the Canadian state? That information has nothing to do with national security. I do not believe that our allies or enemies in the world are going to glean strategic information based on knowledge of the cost of the tax breaks announced by the Conservatives.

The same is true when it comes to the cost of the Conservatives' justice and security agenda. We know full well how obsessed they are with mandatory minimums. I do not see how the costs associated with this political choice, this ideologically driven vision of the Conservatives that focuses more on punishment than it does on rehabilitation, are a state secret. These documents should be submitted uncensored to the committee and made available to all parliamentarians so that they can, quite simply, do their jobs.

This is not the only area in which the government is trying to hide the facts in an effort, once again, to avoid being accountable. KAIROS, which we are currently debating in the House, is another example. We were deluded for several months into thinking that it was officials that made the decision. I even tracked down a response from the Minister of International Cooperation on April 23, 2010, in which she stated that CIDA, in a report to her, had suggested that the KAIROS grant be cancelled. We are talking about a substantial amount of money for a humanitarian organization like KAIROS—over $7 million. The Conservatives tried to pull the wool over our eyes. Eventually, a document was obtained through the Access to Information Act clearly indicating that the recommendation made by senior officials had been tinkered with. The word “not” was inserted into the funding recommendation signed by the minister in November 2009.

When we got that in December 2010, or one year later, the versions began to change in one way or another. Even today it is hard to understand the real ins and outs of this affair, apart from the Minister of International Cooperation having failed to tell the truth. We hope the Prime Minister will punish her for that, unless—and this is a theory that is constantly gaining ground— it turns out that she did sign the document authorizing funding for KAIROS. When the PMO and the Prime Minister found out about it, they asked the Minister of International Cooperation to stop the funding for purely ideological reasons with little basis in fact. So the little word “not” could have been added after the minister had signed.

That is all speculation, but it shows how far things have gone. Trying to find the truth is like playing a game of Clue, instead of just gathering all the facts and drawing conclusions in a calm, well informed way.

I am talking about KAIROS here but it could be the long form census. For several weeks, the Minister of Industry tried to make us think that was a Statistics Canada recommendation. The chief statistician resigned in order to demonstrate his disagreement with the government’s decision. Once again, they tried to cover up the truth and prevent us from doing our jobs.

But there is more to it than that. In the case of the census, without the obligatory long questionnaire in its previous form, not only parliamentarians but scientists, sociologists and demographers as well will be denied objective information. That is perfectly consistent with the Conservative way of doing things. Instead of making decisions on the basis of facts and reality, they do it on the basis of an ideology and worldview at odds with reality. Not only do they try to keep us in the dark, but they are interfering with the tools that parliamentarians, experts and scientists in all sorts of fields need in order to study reality on the basis of objective facts and identify problems and solutions. It is very worrisome.

It is obvious as well that the Conservatives are trying to infiltrate the entire machinery of government. We saw it recently with the partisan appointments to the CRTC. There is also the whole Rights and Democracy saga. They appointed people to this supposedly independent organization in order to turn it into a conveyor belt for spreading Conservative government policy on the international scene. They infiltrated the board of Rights and Democracy and fomented a crisis in an organization that had enjoyed great credibility in Quebec and Canada and around the world. They are still persisting in this and intend to reappoint two of the administrators responsible for the current crisis at Rights and Democracy.

When then Prime Minister Mulroney, a Conservative, created Rights and Democracy, he appointed a former leader of the New Democratic Party, Ed Broadbent, to head it. This was meant precisely to send a very strong signal that Rights and Democracy was independent of the Conservative government and could do its job as part of its network in civil society.

That is not the approach the Conservatives take today. They are going to do everything possible to bring Rights and Democracy to heel so it will be a mouthpiece for government policies, particularly in the Middle East. As we know, and I am not telling anyone anything new, they have abandoned the traditional Canadian approach of taking a balanced position on the Middle East, particularly in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now Canada stands foursquare behind Israel, regardless of what the Israeli authorities do.

We saw the best example of this in recent weeks when the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and I call this shameful, the very morning the dictator Mubarak left office, rounded up opponents and supporters of Mubarak back to back, as if the opponents who were fighting against a dictator were just as responsible as the ones advocating for him. That is extremely disturbing.

This is not one of our priorities, but I mention it for our Canadian friends and for Canada’s image in the world. Canada’s failure to gain a seat on the United Nations Security Council was no accident.

We see the same thing at Radio-Canada. There are partisan appointments that try to put pressure on Radio-Canada. Yesterday, again, the Minister of Immigration said that Radio-Canada journalists lie all the time. They are trying to intimidate Radio-Canada journalists and, in fact, all journalists. They know as well as I do that the Prime Minister only gives interviews now to journalists who are sympathetic to the regime. It is part of the effort to infiltrate and control the federal public administration, crown corporations like Radio-Canada, and independent agencies, and again I will make the connection with KAIROS. By cutting its funding, they are trying to muzzle an organization that is totally independent of the government that obviously, like all non-governmental organizations, needs public funding. They are being denied the resources to make their voice heard to counterbalance the polices of the Conservative government, particularly in the area of international cooperation and international relations.

I have spoken out against this attempt by the Conservatives to stage a quiet takeover of the machinery of government. So far, I have not even mentioned certain religious groups that use their privileges to try to influence Conservative government policy, federal policy. I will not have a chance to do that, but we can certainly tell that there is that intent and a well-planned strategy behind it all, to take control of the machinery of government and put it to work for the Conservative Party and its ideology.

I would like to use my remaining time to critique the government's positions and to argue for access to information we need on the tax cuts for big corporations. This is a political choice that is not only extremely questionable, but comes at a time when there are major strategic choices to be made, particularly with a looming deficit of over $55 billion.

Since coming into power, the Conservatives have instituted a slew of measures to reduce the tax burden on small and medium-sized enterprises. We have no problem with this when it comes to SMEs. We know full well that these SMEs create jobs in Canada and Quebec, and that they are suffering horribly from the effects of the rising Canadian dollar. Once again, the rise in the value of the Canadian dollar has been driven by the spike in oil prices and the federal government's choices with regard to energy. These choices, and the economic crisis itself, will have an impact on the public purse.

It stated in black and white in the Minister of Finance's budget that there would be a very steep increase in employment insurance premiums. This tactic smacks of a return to a strategy that we had hoped was a thing of the past: using employment insurance fund surpluses for purposes that are not stipulated in the act or that are not in the spirit of the act. This is a return to the ways of the former minister of finance, Paul Martin. The writing is on the wall. That much was clear from the Minister of Finance's budget. There will be a tax increase in the form of higher employment insurance premiums—and this increase will be very steep.

We fully supported the decisions made in this area. There was a drop from 12% to 11.5% in 2008, and then a further decrease to 11% in 2009. This reduction was fast-tracked in response to the economic crisis. We were fine with that choice.

It was announced that as of January 1, 2007, the total allowable revenue for a small company to qualify for the reduced federal tax rate would increase from $300,000 to $400,000. We have no issue with this either.

However, we have a problem with a number of things. There are the big tax cuts for large corporations, especially banks and the oil sector. Their tax rate was 19.5% in 2008 and will be 15% in 2012. That is a very large tax cut with no structural effect on the Canadian and Quebec economies. There is proof of that. It was not just yesterday that they started giving tax cuts to big businesses as well as the small and medium-sized ones.

It is understandable in the case of small and medium-sized businesses that there will be setbacks that explain the need for cuts. But there is no structural effect in the tax cuts the government is announcing because they do not force large corporations to improve their technology or engage in research and development. We think it is more to the point to have tax incentives for adopting behaviours that are good for the economic future. That is true of Canada and it is true of Quebec.

These tax cuts have not had a structural effect. The proof is that productivity decreased again in Canada over the last quarter. What is happening? The tax cuts are going straight into the pockets of the shareholders and company owners. The savings are not reinvested productively and have only fuelled speculation over the last few years.

As I said, it was not just yesterday that the federal government embraced this strategy. The Liberals did the same thing. Paul Martin substantially reduced the taxes on big business as well. That is not the way to ensure a solid, lasting economic recovery. The money could be used in much more productive ways.

If we cut the taxes on large corporations—to an extent we would very much like to know—how are we ever going to return to a balanced budget when our deficit exceeds $55 billion? Somebody is going to have to pay. There will be cuts, either to services or to transfers to individuals and the provinces. Or else there will be another tax increase, in one way or another, for small and medium-sized businesses, that is to say, a tax increase for the middle class and the most disadvantaged.

It is quite obvious. It is mathematical. There is no other way of doing it. We think they can ask the oil companies and the banks to do their share in this collective effort we call taxes. At present the oil companies receive benefits that come from subsidies on the order of $1.3 billion a year and the banks are using tax havens to avoid their responsibilities.

We will be supporting the Liberal motion.

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the motion before the House today has to do with the government's refusal to provide documents that it is the right of parliamentarians to receive.

The proof of that is also in today's debate in that every Conservative member who has stood today has spoken about everything except the motion. None of the Conservatives have addressed the motion because they have been handed speeches to read that are about other things, trying to deflect attention away from the issue.

Does the hon. member agree that it is not only the right and privilege of parliamentarians to have that information but it is also useful for the people of the country to have the information so they can tell parliamentarians how they feel about the priorities the government has laid out?

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his question. As I said, the documents the Standing Committee on Finance is asking for are not strategic documents in terms of national security. There is therefore no reason other than wanting to keep the public in Canada and Quebec from having the facts in front of them so they can judge the decisions made by the federal government.

The figures for the tax relief given to big corporations will probably scandalize some people, who see their employment insurance premiums rising even though they are no longer eligible for benefits. The justice agenda that the Conservatives portray as costing nothing—in any event they never talk about it—might give more than one person pause.

Is it more important today to open beds in prisons, as the member for Saint Boniface said, or to open beds in hospitals? When she talked about opening beds, I thought she was talking about hospital beds. Hospitals are where we have to open beds, not prisons. If we need to expand any penal institutions, I certainly want that to be done, but not by making decision after decision that leads only to more prison sentences and an increase in the prison population. Unless this is a Conservative strategy to artificially lower the unemployment rate. Whenever an individual is in prison, they are not in the labour market, and that artificially lowers the unemployment rate. That must be the Conservatives’ strategy.

Those documents, as the member said, must be accessible, in full, to parliamentarians and to the public as a whole. That is true for Quebec and it is true for Canada.

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, everyone knows that the government had to be dragged kicking and screaming last year over the Afghan detainee issue when it refused to provide the information on the basis that it was national security. In his speech, the member clearly compared the situation last year regarding the national security argument with the issue this year, which is the cost of the tax cuts and the cost of the public safety bills, neither of which could be considered in any way to be a question of national security.

The question really comes down to what the Conservatives are hiding and why they are hiding it. What could they possibly be giving away? What sort of state secrets could they be giving away by giving this information on the cost of the corporate tax cuts? What possible information could they be giving away on the cost of crime bills that would be related to national security?

Clearly, this one is another issue that the Conservatives will lose if they keep fighting the way they were last year. What does the member think they are hiding and why are they trying to hide it?

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, that is a very good question, but I am not able to answer it. Why would they be hiding these facts? The only reason I can see is political opportunism. They know very well that there will be an election in a few months, by October 2012 at the latest. They do not want the facts about the policy decisions they have made—the tax relief and their justice agenda—to be available for the public debate that will happen when the election comes. They will still be able to stick to broad generalities. Without information about the facts, they are going to try to carry on a debate that is purely ideological, simplistic, black and white, just like their rhetoric about the justice system.

On the question of Afghanistan, they said that if someone was concerned about allegations of torture it is because they were Taliban or in league with the Taliban. That is Conservative logic. The absence of facts can sometimes influence a segment of the public. Having the facts would allow for a calmer and more informed debate, a debate that would reflect what democracy should be in Canada and Quebec.

Fundamentally, their desire to conceal these documents stems from an antidemocratic vision of political discourse. It is in the interests of both parliamentarians and the public to speak out against this and force the government to make these facts public. This motion will be one more step toward a question of privilege and contempt of Parliament down the road.

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, considering that we are struggling to get out of the economic crisis, I would like to ask the member for Joliette, who is an economist by trade, what he thinks about the choices being made to give tax cuts to large corporations when we know that that money will go to the senior managers or shareholders of these companies, compared to the choice to invest so little in research and development for secondary and tertiary processing to try to restructure economies. My region of Trois-Rivières is suffering a lot.

I would like him to talk about these quasi-ideological choices being made by this Conservative government.

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Trois-Rivières for her question.

This gives me a chance to come back to the case of the oil companies, because I just touched on this issue at the end of my speech. According to the International Institute for Sustainable Development, every year, Canadian oil companies receive $1.3 billion in the form of direct or indirect subsidies. Based on the tax cuts announced, we can estimate that this will reduce their taxes by $1.9 billion. For 2010, that would be a total of $3.2 billion in benefits. That is a huge amount of money when you consider that the current litigation between the federal government and the Government of Quebec is for around $5 billion.

Next year, it will be another $3.7 billion for the oil companies. In 2012 it will be $4.6 billion and in 2013, it will be $5.4 billion. Since the oil companies will pocket that money, someone else will have to pay one way or another. It will be the provinces, Quebec, taxpayers and the people of Quebec and Canada.

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Madam Speaker, I want to talk about the implications of some of the rulings and decisions that have been handed down as well as some of the opinions, certainly in the case of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, regarding the Truth in Sentencing Act and other consequential acts. A lot of it has to do with amending the Criminal Code.

As a well-experienced person in this House, I was wondering if the hon. member could comment on the substantial increase in imprisonment, and continued imprisonment, of these offenders.

Public SafetyRoutine Proceedings

1:50 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I apologize for interrupting the current speaker.

I am tabling, in both official languages, information on our government's low-cost and tough-on-crime agenda as requested by certain members of Parliament, and as I told the Speaker three days ago that I would do.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—Documents requested by Standing Committee on FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be brief in responding to my colleague's question because I am sure that I do not have a lot of time left. First, it is obvious that there are costs associated with this. However, I do not know all of these costs. The Parliamentary Budget Officer spoke about several billion dollars for a single measure.

We need a complete picture. It does not mean that the government cannot take certain justice measures. The Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc have all suggested and supported various measures. As long as we do not have the big picture, the total bill could end up being very high, not only for the federal government and taxpayers, but also for the provinces and Quebec. There are a number of ideological choices being made by the Conservative government that will affect people sentenced to two years or less, who will be put into provincial prisons. As a result, the government is indirectly limiting the provinces' flexibility in terms of budgetary decisions. Again, I would prefer to open hospital beds, not prison beds.

Opposition Motion—Documents requested by Standing Committee on FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Madam Speaker, our founders would be horrified to learn of the motion we are debating today. That today in the House of Commons we would be debating and voting on a motion affirming our rights and privileges is disgraceful. Parliament's absolute power to require the government to produce uncensored documents when requested is fundamental to our democracy. Would we ever imagine a motion demanding that the government provide oxygen to this chamber? Of course not, yet documents, more specifically the information on them, is as critical to the functioning of this place as the air that we breathe.

That the government would deny the right to these things speaks to an administration that values secrecy, control, manipulation, and ultimately, a complete disregard for this House of Parliament.

I was elected not only to be the voice of the people from Mississauga—Streetsville, but to be their eyes and ears as well. They expect me to hold the government to account, to demand explanations for policy decisions, and to vote for or against those proposals. Without complete information, without clear and unbiased evidence, without a full cost analysis, how can I perform this honoured calling to the best of my abilities? The answer is I cannot.

That is why Parliament was vested with privileges. Our founding articles, the British North America Act, now called The Constitution Act, 1867, established in section 18 the privileges, immunities and powers of Parliament. These privileges are expressed further in the Parliament of Canada Act and in our Standing Orders. In his landmark ruling last year on the Afghan detainees documents, the Speaker upheld the supremacy of Parliament and the right to order documents. He affirmed the House's undisputed role as the grand inquest of the nation and its need for complete and accurate information in order to fulfill its duty of holding this government and any government to account.

Yet over the last five years of this Conservative government, the House has been required to cite its privileges at a rate never seen before in our modern history. Our esteemed law clerk, Mr. Robert Walsh, has never been so busy. Repeatedly he is asked to attend committees to remind them of their rights and privileges when confronted with attempts at obstruction by the government. The examples are numerous: government ministers refusing requests to appear before committees; senior Conservative staff members evading bailiffs with summonses; documents not provided or seriously redacted; and the list goes on and on and on. When committees request documents, the government drags its feet. It obstructs, and when it runs out of options, it flat-out refuses.

There are books that document the amount and degree of Conservative government obstruction. Mr. Lawrence Martin, in Harperland: The Politics of Control, a runner-up for the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing at the Writers' Trust of Canada awards yesterday, provides a lengthy list of the Prime Minister's march of audacities.

Since the 2006 election campaign, here are some of the highlights, with due acknowledgement, of course, to Mr. Martin: the elimination of the access to information database; the nixing of the court challenges program; the secret handbook on how to obstruct committees; hiding justice department studies on crime; hiding a firearms report to prevent embarrassment on the gun registry; the Rights & Democracy fiasco; slashing the budget of the Parliamentary Budget Officer; withholding details of the stimulus funding, and we all know why that happened; firing the nuclear agency head, Linda Keen; halting Peter Tinsley's probe on the Afghan detainees; ousting Paul Kennedy from the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP; smearing a career diplomat, Mr. Richard Colvin; defying Parliament's right to documents; padlocking Parliament by proroguing not once but twice; the move on Statistics Canada; and the list goes on and on and on.

Opposition Motion—Documents requested by Standing Committee on FinanceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I regret to interrupt the hon. member, but we have to proceed with other matters. There will be about fifteen and one-half minutes remaining in the time allotted for the member's remarks when the debate is resumed.

Renfrew CountyStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, you are invited. Everyone is invited. Renfrew County is having a celebration to honour the 150th anniversary of its founding.

This is going to be an incredible festival with special events happening all year long. The main attraction will be from June 9 to 12, 2011 on the Pembroke Regional Airport grounds. There is something for everyone to enjoy.

People can be a part of a journey through time at our pioneer village. They can listen to fiddlers, clap for the step dancers and admire the antique cars and trucks. They can see the live theatre and displays, aboriginal drumming, with lots more music and Ottawa Valley storytelling. There will be rafting and kayaking, pioneer exhibits, and a kids zone, a whole acre of activities for kids.

We hope to see everyone in the valley, the Upper Ottawa Valley. Everyone should join us for the 150th anniversary celebration.

CurlingStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the annual Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the Canadian women's curling championship, is being hosted in my hometown of Charlottetown starting this weekend.

Curling is an important part of Canadian culture and a great winter pastime. Sometimes, in good humour, it is referred to as Canada's other winter sport.

In the province of Prince Edward Island, we have a very strong and competitive curling community. Men, women and youth enjoy their winters at curling clubs across the province and generally do well in national competitions.

I would like to wish all teams the very best of luck in this year's Scotties Tournament of Hearts, and in particular, the team representing P.E.I. made up of Suzanne Birt, who is the skip, Shelly Bradley, Robyn MacPhee, Leslie MacDougall, Tricia Affleck, and coach Paul Power.

I welcome all teams and fans to Charlottetown for this year's tournament. I encourage all members of the House to tune in to the action and cheer on their respective provincial teams.

Evens GuercyStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, since this is Black History Month, I would like to take this opportunity to commend the extraordinary dedication of Evens Guercy, a sociologist and community police officer of Haitian origin who lives in Montreal. Mr. Guercy has made the personal growth and development of young people in poorer neighbourhoods his priority.

In 2005, he founded the Hope Boxing Club in the Saint-Michel neighbourhood of Montreal, where he helped these young people become more disciplined, while focusing on reducing school drop-out rates. A documentary entitled Les poings serrés, or Clenched Fists, was even made about the club. The film features two teens from the neighbourhood who have Hope Boxing Club and Mr. Guercy to thank for their success in life.

On behalf of my Bloc Québécois colleagues, I would like to congratulate Evans Guercy on his extraordinary commitment to young people. I am proud to know him and to count him among my childhood friends, for we grew up and went to school together in Saint-Hyacinthe.

TransconaStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, Transcona is a railway town that was founded in 1909 by Lord Strathcona and incorporated as the town of Transcona in 1912. The name derives from a combination of “Transcontinental” and “Lord Strathcona”.

A local business group is working with city councillor Russ Wyatt and MLAs Daryl Reid and Bidhu Jha on a plan to revitalize the downtown commercial district.

The group has committed to retain the connection to the hometown feel that has always made Transcona unique. Some of the already completed improvements include a new archway welcoming visitors to Transcona, a new centre median on Regent, new sidewalks, and solar-powered lighting fixtures.

The Regent Avenue area has attracted Universal Studios, which began working on a new movie, Beethoven Saves Christmas, on February 15.

This revitalization project is expected to be completed in 2012 in time for the community's centennial celebrations.

Wellington—Halton HillsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw to the attention of the House a couple of important events in my riding of Wellington—Halton Hills.

As past chair of the board, I am proud that the Elora Festival Singers and their conductor, Noel Edison, were recently nominated for a Grammy award in the best small ensemble performance category for the choir's 2010 recording of the music of Eric Whitacre.

While the Grammy went to another nominee, the nomination has put this local southwestern Ontario choral choir on the map. While we locals always knew that the village of Elora had a world-class choral choir, now the rest of the world knows as well.

I would also like to congratulate the Acton Scouts and Guides on 100 years of scouting in Acton.

Scouts is one of Canada's leading youth organizations offering programs for boys and girls in towns and cities across this great land. Over 74,000 young people are in Scouts which is provided by 23,000 volunteers. Acton has been part of this proud tradition for 100 years.

I congratulate the Elora Festival Singers.

I congratulate the Acton Scouts and Guides.

March of Dimes Conductive Education DayStatements By Members

February 17th, 2011 / 2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House today to commend March of Dimes Canada and recognize next Thursday, February 24, as March of Dimes Conductive Education Day.

March of Dimes, headquartered in Don Valley West, has been delivering programs and services to Canadians with disabilities since 1951. This is its 60th anniversary of working to improve the lives and livelihoods of Canadians with disabilities, advancing accessibility and creating a society inclusive of people with disabilities.

Conductive education is an innovative learning system that maximizes the independence and mobility of children and adults with neurological motor disorders like cerebral palsy, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis and those who have had a stroke or brain injury. The conductive education program has the potential to make a life-changing impact on the mobility and independence of close to nine million people in North America.

I ask all members to please join me in congratulating March of Dimes Canada and recognizing and supporting the conductive education program, a cornerstone of our ongoing efforts in Canada to achieve full inclusion of Canadians with disabilities.

Canadian Wheat BoardStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, a few days ago, my colleague, the member for Simcoe North, put forward a bill that would permit farmers to opt out of the Canadian Wheat Board. While I firmly believe it is in the economic interests of farmers to put the single desk Wheat Board to pasture, it is not the economic damage that the Wheat Board causes that I find most obnoxious.

Members should know that the original Wheat Board was installed in the World War I era to keep grain prices down. Then, when the Wheat Board was put into its current form during World War II, it was also aimed at lowering the prices that farmers received.

The Wheat Board did and does this by robbing farmers of the freedom to control their own wheat, their own private property. It is this annual expropriation of property that I find most egregious. No one forces farmers to buy their fertilizer or their fuel from one source and yet if a farmer chooses to sell wheat in his own fashion, he can go to prison.

If freedom means anything at all, it should mean the right to control one's own property, the fruits of one's labours. The Canadian Wheat Board is an assault on the liberties of not just farmers but an assault on the liberties of all Canadians.

Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural ResourcesStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, while the Conservatives claim to be champions of respecting provincial jurisdictions, it is troubling to see how indifferent they are to the cross-Canada tour the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources is on to promote a sustainable energy policy from coast to coast to coast.

This Senate expedition stopped in Montreal on February 7 and 8, clearly interfering in Quebec's jurisdictions. The taxpayer-funded travels of these unelected representatives of an archaic costly institution fly in the face of respect for Quebec's jurisdictions. Quebec and Canada have completely different visions of a sustainable energy future. Quebec is focusing on truly green energies and not on nuclear power and promoting the oil sands.

This Senate committee has no business dictating energy policy to Quebec. Quebec's energy future is determined by Quebeckers for Quebeckers.