House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was countries.


Federal Spending Power ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to offer some commentary on Bill C-507, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (federal spending power).

It is a very straightforward bill. It basically states: payment shall be made out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund in respect of expenditures relating to any of the subjects listed in section 92 and subsection 92A(1) of the Constitution Act, 1867 that are under provincial jurisdiction.

That is unless the province gives the authority to do so. It basically says that the federal government should stay out of provincial jurisdictions and just give them the money and everything will be fine.

The bill requires the royal recommendation in the first place and, therefore, will not be coming to a vote. However, it does give members an opportunity to put on the record some of the thoughts that they have with regard to the importance of healthy federal-provincial relationships in Canada. There are split jurisdictions but there are some things we must work on together because there is no point in having 10 of something, or 12 if we include the territories, when it is possible to have it all come under one umbrella with a sharing of the cost. It is like economic efficiencies.

I will give an example of such an efficiency which might demonstrate why I feel that the bill is not appropriate. It has to do with the fact that Canada is the only industrialized country in the world that does not have a national public cord blood bank. I am sure most members of Parliament have read stories about how after a baby is born the blood can be removed from the cord and the placenta. It is about a cup of blood that is so enriched with stem cells and pluripotent cells that it can be of enormous benefit to the child that it belongs to should he or she develop health problems. This can be stored. Interestingly enough, though, that is a private system. There are private businesses. I know one of our colleagues is spending $100 a month to store the cord blood for his recently born child.

Other countries have found that, because of the costs involved, this is not a health service available to Canadians as a whole. However, having a public bank would allow people to store cord blood and then, through a registry system similar to the way we match blood types, commence matching for anything requiring compatibility to lessen the risk of rejection. This all has to do with stem cell research and therapy.

The fact that we are the only industrialized country that does not have one causes me to question why we would not do such a thing. We do have the Canadian Blood Services Agency which, in 2007, consulted with the provinces, research groups, transplant physicians and operators of public cord blood banks, and it concluded that Canada needed to establish a national public cord blood bank and that the time to begin was now. However, we have not done it and the reason we have not done it is because we are feuding about money.

I was at a breakfast this morning sponsored by the member for Etobicoke North who is very knowledgeable in this area. She told me that I needed to go to the breakfast because I needed to hear something. We are talking about $60 million to establish a national public cord blood bank. It would be of benefit to all Canadians and in fact would be linked into an international network. I have strayed too far away from the bill in terms of time so I will leave it at that.

This is a perfect example of federal and provincial co-operation. Even though health care delivery is a provincial responsibility, the bill says if we want to have a national bank, go ahead, but the provinces do not want it. The provinces want to be able to opt out and get compensation. With that kind of relationship between the provinces, the territories and the Government of Canada, good things do not and cannot happen.

That is a specific example of why the provinces want to have a national public cord blood bank, but they want to haggle over the cost, and that is why they are so far behind. They are probably about five years behind other countries around the world, because of haggling on the financial side. It is shameful. It is wrong and it should be changed. If I had my way, if I were the minister of finance, I would put $60 million in the budget to start a national public cord blood bank. That is the way it should be done because it is for the health and well-being of all Canadians.

We cannot vote on the bill because it requires a royal recommendation, but I have some other thoughts.

The federal-provincial fiscal arrangements in which the federal government exercises spending power in the areas of jurisdiction afforded to the provinces actually dates back to Confederation when the provinces were provided with grants from the federal government to compensate them for the loss of certain fiscal powers. Today these arrangements form an important and positive nexus in federal-provincial relations that help to shape the economic and social environment of the country. The most visible means by which the federal government exercises this power is through transfer payments, including the Canada health transfer and the Canada social transfer. However, various third party federal trust and federally funded institutions, including the Canadian Foundation for Innovation also act as vehicles for exercising federal spending powers in the provinces.

Some parties consider the manner of federal spending as a forcible encroachment by Ottawa on the provincial jurisdiction, which the bill does without consultations or consent. That has fuelled the desire for increased autonomy, especially in the case of the province of Quebec and, more recently, the province of Alberta. When things are good provincially, we fight for our province.

There comes a point at which there is no rational reason to argue it is me first before the country. That goes not only for provinces, it goes for our people. We are all better off when Canada is strong, when Canada is humming along. Unfortunately, the current government has had some difficulty managing a simple bank book. It did not understand that black was good and red was bad. We have too much red in the books, but if we get more red on the other side of the House, we will fix it and bring it back to the black.

The proposed change the Bloc is seeking in the bill is absent of any explicit authorization from the provincial government and is the main issue within the bill.

The Liberal Party opposes this motion for the same reasons that we opposed the Bloc opposition day motion on October 21, 2010. It was quite extensive, but again, incorporated the same elements of argument in this bill, and members may want to consult the Debates of October 21, 2010, to get more background and details as to the arguments made by the various parties.

Having said that, the bill is not votable. However, should it have been votable, the Liberals would vote against it and we oppose the principle of the bill.

Federal Spending Power ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to the members speaking on this issue here today. Of course, no political system is considered perfect. Some would say that the current system is very generous towards the provinces, but in what way? It is generous towards the provinces with the provinces' money. It is generous with the power it gives itself with the money that the provinces or the taxpayers must pay to the provincial and federal governments.

The hon. member for Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière tried earlier to justify the federal government's stranglehold over provincial powers by citing urgency. He probably wrote his speech yesterday when it was extremely cold out. He gave a speech that I would describe as numb, as though from the cold. He had no idea where he was going with his totally gratuitous remarks.

In the current situation, one would have to be either small-minded or an idiot to say such things to Quebeckers. If he really believes them or if the Conservatives really believe them, we can only denounce such woeful ignorance.

Bill C-507 focuses on three principles. First, it seeks the explicit elimination of Ottawa's self-given right to spend in areas outside its jurisdiction, a right Ottawa claimed not by citing urgency and saying that it knows how to spend our money better than we do, but rather by believing that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. That is what the member for Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière was saying. Asking for permission would have taken too long. He is probably right, because we agree that having endless discussions on the Constitution and on the power to do this and that takes too long.

We only need to look at how the federal Minister of Finance behaves with the Quebec finance minister concerning tax harmonization. They have been arguing about it and discussing it for 19 years. He says that it does not seem to be taking too long and that the officials are going to continue discussing it. As long as they are in discussion, Quebec will not see any money. Time is money.

The second aspect of Bill C-507 has to do with Quebec's systematic right to opt out without conditions and with full compensation. In other words, having joined Confederation once upon a time, we could agree to put this or that into the pot, but if something has been forcibly taken from us then it must be given back.

The third aspect is that compensation has to come in the form of tax points and not a cheque. We know full well that sometimes a cheque can be withheld. We see that clearly with the Minister of Finance, who owes $5 billion to Quebec. He says he is not sending us the cheque. There were two court rulings, one in 2006 and another in 2008. The government did not go to the Supreme Court because it would have been denounced. It is not paying. Anyone in this House who had two court rulings ordering him to pay up would have his assets seized if he did not. In this case, the Queen is saying that we cannot seize crown assets. We are fed up with this type of discussion. We are not interested in getting cheques. We want tax points in order to determine a tax field that would belong to us.

This entire discussion is the basic principle behind our sovereignist or independence movement. We want to do things our own way. The members opposite can have their own country, the way they want it. I have no problem with that. If they want to give the automotive industry $10 billion, that is fine by me. If they want to give the oil industry billions of dollars, that is just great, but let them do it with their own money, not with mine or ours. We need the money for the forestry industry. That is spending power.

We have our own beliefs, principles and views. We want to build a country in a certain way. What is a country? It is tax principles. In other words, we do not like the tax havens that others encourage. We do not like fraudsters. On Tuesday, in the Standing Committee on Finance, we were told that Canada was promoting the use of tax havens. If that is what they want, that is fine, but we do not agree. Can we opt out and have our own tax policies?

There is also the social aspect. I met with the Minister of Finance yesterday. I told him that, for us, community housing and the fight against homelessness, for example, are very important. We shall see. For years they have said no, they do not agree. If they do not agree, that is fine, but what we are saying is that as long as we are part of this country, we want our money. The member for Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière was right in saying that our stated political goal is to get the heck out of here, to be somewhere else, at home, in Quebec. That is what we are doing today, what we did yesterday and what we will be doing tomorrow.

However, as long as the people say that they are willing to wait for a “yes” vote in a referendum, we will be here, because we were elected by people who asked us to be here. And the members need not be worried: we will get re-elected. We will get re-elected because we have different social and moral objectives.

We saw it with the gun registry. The vote was not close, not at all. It is not true that there was a two-vote difference. More than 75% of Quebec members voted to keep the gun registry and more than 60% of Canadian members voted against it. They might scrap it, but we do not agree and we will create our own.

There are fundamental differences. This bill is super-simple. It asks the government to stop encroaching on our jurisdictions, to stop acting like highway robbers who claim to know what we need. We have had enough constitutional negotiations. We have had enough fighting over the numbers. Is it $6 billion, $5 billion or $2 billion? What do you want? What do you not want? What do we want? What do we not want? Today it was about taxing diapers. Come on. They can tax them if they want to, but we do not want to.

In the meantime, we want our full powers. That is what this bill is about, and I will say that this bill is just a reasonable accommodation until we are able to pick up and leave, when we have the power to make Quebec our own country. That is why we are all here. That is why I am here and that is why we will be here until Quebec sovereignty is a reality.

Federal Spending Power ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to add a number of words on this particular bill before us. I disagree with what the previous speaker was talking about. Having been a provincial legislator for almost 19 years, I understand there are many issues in each and every province and, at times, many of these issues dictated that we did not necessarily agree with what Ottawa was saying, or what this prestigious chamber was acting on.

On different issues at different times, there are always going to be differing opinions. However, at the end of the day, I see the merit of having a strong national government that is able to provide programming standards from one coast to the other. I think that is critically important.

If one listens to the logic of the previous speaker and the talk about tax points, the point made was not to give us money but the tax points. So if a province wants to opt out of something, give us the tax points.

In the 1990s, there was a great debate in the province of Manitoba. It centred around health care. Manitoba politicians were arguing that based on the tax points transfers, it was only a question of time before Ottawa would not be giving any money towards health care. I would argue that the day that occurs, the federal government would not have any real influence in terms of national health care standards in any province in Canada. We need to have the cash transfers. If we do not have the cash transfers, we do not have the ability to ensure that the Canada Health Act is in fact being respected. There has to be the money. If we do not have the money, if we are not prepared to pay part of the bill, we will not be able to ensure there are national health standards.

There are people in every province across Canada who would like to see no money coming from Ottawa, that all of the money would just come in the form of a tax transfer. There are people in Manitoba who would ultimately argue that point. However, I believe a majority see the merit of having national health care standards.

If we ask Canadians, no matter in what province, we will find that Canadians are very proud of the health care system we have. Yes, the provinces have the primary responsibility for administering health care. I know that, because for years I was the health care critic in the province of Manitoba. However, Ottawa has a responsibility to ensure there are national health care standards, to ensure that every Canadian has the right to go into a hospital, whether in the province of P.E.I., Newfoundland, B.C., Alberta, Quebec, or any other province.

My ancestors come from the province of Quebec. I am very proud of the province of Quebec and the things that are happening there, as I am very proud of every province in our country. I believe there need to be national standards.

I am a very proud Manitoban. I love my province and I was part of that debate during the 1990s when we were talking about national standards in health care, and when we had the tax points dwindling the federal commitment to health care. Those things concern me. I was glad when former Prime Minister Chrétien said they were going to establish a floor, a guarantee, in terms of health care funding. That was a good thing, and Canadians supported it.

If we followed the advice of some members or some Canadians from whatever province, we would never have an ability to have a national daycare program. Remember, it takes leadership to demonstrate and respond to what Canadians from all provinces want to see. Daycare is one of those issues. I would suggest that if in the future, we want to be able to have an national daycare program or to support daycare in every province, one of the things we can do is to look at some form of national financial commitment to ensure there are some standards in place, so that every parent or guardian is able to have his or her child in a program.

There are many different types of contributions Ottawa makes to the provinces that are critical to their overall development.

When Lloyd Axworthy was a minister, he made a commitment to redevelop a core area of Winnipeg, The Forks. Today, over two million people visit The Forks. The Forks is a reality today because of an Ottawa initiative. It was Lloyd Axworthy who came up with the idea. He shared it with others and said the government was prepared to put in some money. The provincial and municipal governments got onside and now there is a wonderful, beautiful thing in Winnipeg. Millions of people every year go through The Forks. Prior to that, it was a raw piece of land that had train tracks on it. No one went there. Now it is a magnet for tourism.

This was done because there was a federal government that took an interest in a certain development in the city of Winnipeg. I would argue that this sort of interest is not just in Winnipeg. There are other politicians in all political parties, even within the Bloc no doubt, who have ideas that could make a difference in their provinces. Why would anyone want to prevent Ottawa from encouraging it or investing in it?

That is why it is important to recognize the valuable contributions Ottawa has made in the past and can continue to make in the future, but we need to recognize and respect that provinces have primary responsibilities in certain areas. We have to respect that, but that does not mean we do not play a role in it.

I remember some of the debates on the Constitution. I do not want to open up that issue, but I can recall that one issue was housing. One issue was that maybe the provinces should have sole responsibility for housing and if we followed the logic of the Bloc members, they would say to get rid of the transfer payments and the cash and give tax points instead.

Today Ottawa nowhere near as much as I or many provinces would like to see should be investing in housing. Housing is a serious issue in every province. We need to provide more affordable housing to all Canadians. To say that the federal government does not have a responsibility for that is hogwash. The federal government does have a responsibility to provide shelter for all Canadians, no matter in what province they live. It has a role to play. It is our responsibility. It is time we started living up to those types of responsibilities.

When the government is deficient in addressing those issues, it is the responsibility of the opposition to remind the government that it has that responsibility.

If a resolution, motion or a bill passed of this nature, imagine the profound impact it would have on our nation and how we would we be serving Canadians by allowing a bill of this nature to be passed. It does not matter where one lives.

At the end of the day, if it is important to Canadians, it should be important to us. If there is a way in which we can deal with some of those issues by supporting municipal or provincial governments and working in co-operation with the Quebec government or the Manitoba government, we should be doing it. That is what I would be arguing for.

I feel very passionate about this issue and look forward to many more debates on it.

Federal Spending Power ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Josée Beaudin Bloc Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank my colleague from Hochelaga for his earlier remarks about this bill. He spoke with all the zeal and passion we have come to expect from him. Specifically, he spoke clearly about Bill C-507.

I have the pleasure of rising to conclude the debate at second reading of Bill C-507 regarding what has become known as the so-called federal spending power.

Contrary to what the members for other parties may have said over the course of the debate, the purpose of this bill is not theoretical debate, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister might think, nor is it an “esoteric constitutional matter,” as it was described by the member for Brossard—La Prairie during first reading.

First, I would like to remind those esteemed members that the termination of the so-called federal spending power is something that Quebec has been demanding for a long time. In fact, since the 1960s, no matter what their political party, all the successive Quebec governments have been disputing the so-called spending power that the federal government has given itself. The federal government gave itself this power in order to assume unlawful oversight in Quebec's affairs and impose its standards and conditions on Quebec. I am always extremely surprised to hear Conservative members from Quebec accept this fact. By exercising this so-called power, the federal government negates the social choices that Quebeckers have made, are making and will make. The reason this issue is important is that in Quebec we are concerned about our health care, education and other systems. And that is neither theoretical nor esoteric.

For instance, consider the example of research in Quebec universities. Federal funding in this area comes with strings attached, which means that the federal government can choose the areas of research it wants to promote. In budget 2008, for example, research grants were awarded on the condition that the research relate to business. Other examples are the Mental Health Commission of Canada or the cervical cancer vaccination program announced by the Conservative government in budget 2007, whereby the transfer of federal funds was conditional on respect for federal priorities without taking into account the priorities of Quebec and the provinces.

During the 2005 election campaign, they tried to seduce Quebec by promising to eliminate the fiscal imbalance, even though the federal government's exercise of the so-called spending power is an integral part of the fiscal imbalance.

A few months after the election, the Prime Minister even added: “I have said many times, even since the election of this new government, that I am opposed and our party is opposed to federal spending power in provincial jurisdictions. In my opinion, such spending power in the provinces' exclusive jurisdictions goes against the very spirit of federalism. Our government is clear that we do not intend to act in that way.”

Since that time, however, the Conservative government has definitely not “delivered the goods”. Indeed, in budget 2007, it instead quietly mentioned that it wanted to limit the supposed federal spending power instead of ending it altogether. After project seduction and the election campaign were over, we began to see the true colours of this government. By saying it wanted to limit a power that does not exist, the government was in fact acknowledging it.

Then, in budget 2008, the government said it wanted to introduce a bill that would impose limits on the so-called federal spending power in areas of Quebec and provincial jurisdiction. Obviously, we are getting further and further from the Conservatives' original promise. In fact, the Conservatives are simply following in the footsteps of all previous federal governments, regardless of their party colours: interfering in fields of Quebec and provincial jurisdiction to set national standards and determine what Quebec's priorities should be, instead of allowing Quebec to do so.

As for the NDP, in the first hour of debate, the member for Outremont used a false pretext to avoid saying he was in favour of the bill. The bill would set the record straight by limiting federal spending power to the federal government's own areas of jurisdiction. If the provinces want the federal government to interfere in their affairs, they can sign agreements. The member for Outremont said that he recognized the federal government's right to interfere in areas outside its own jurisdiction, and that he would legitimize the so-called spending power by amending our bill to say that this power exists, except for Quebec.

We cannot accept that. The rule must be clear: the federal government cannot spend money in areas outside its own jurisdiction, unless it is exceptionally asked by a province.

Lastly, all of the federalist parties refuse to recognize that the so-called federal spending power has no basis and that we must put an end to it and give some tax room to Quebec and the provinces to properly fulfill their responsibilities in accordance with their own priorities.

All of these federalist parties insist on legitimizing this so-called spending power to continue to deny Quebec's legitimate aspirations and choices. In fact, all—

Federal Spending Power ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order. The time provided for debate has expired.

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

Federal Spending Power ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members



Federal Spending Power ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those in favour will please say yea.

Federal Spending Power ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Federal Spending Power ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Federal Spending Power ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Federal Spending Power ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

In my opinion, the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, February 9, 2011, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Federal Spending Power ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe if you were to seek it, you would find unanimous consent to see the clock at 6:30 p.m.

Federal Spending Power ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Is it agreed?

Federal Spending Power 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.


Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, since the beginning of the recession in 2008, families across Canada have struggled to make ends meet.

Many Canadians are barely getting by and any unexpected expense would be enough to stretch their resources beyond where they can manage. An example would be the sudden illness of a loved one, particularly one of the main earners within the household. Sadly this is the reality in many homes across Canada. Fortunately Canadian families pull together when challenges like these present themselves.

There are approximately 2.7 million family caregivers in Canada responsible for 80% of Canadian home care services. This represents some $9 billion in unpaid care each year in our country.

Motivated by love and compassion, these caregivers willingly meet these difficult challenges. However, in doing so, they reasonably expect that their government would be willing to stand with them. Many of these families have paid their taxes for years without ever having taken anything back. Now they need a hand, and it should be there.

Unfortunately the Conservative government has decided that instead of making Canadian families a priority, it will instead continue with cuts to corporate taxes, while building more prisons despite volumes of studies that show this is not the way to go.

The reality is that our population is aging at an incredible rate and these numbers will only continue to climb. One in five Canadians will be over the age of 60 in the next decade. By 2017, just six years from now, it is expected that the number of Canadian seniors with chronic conditions requiring home care will increase by one third.

When we consider that already 40% of family caregivers are forced to take time off work and have to dip into their personal savings to survive while providing home care, and that well over half of Canadian caregivers have a household income of less than $45,000, Canadians are already being put into a tough spot.

As more and more Canadian seniors come to need home care in the next few years, the Conservative government is showing a disappointing lack of planning. It is not only poor planning, it is bad public policy.

Caregivers must make tough choices, but the Liberal Party will never let that choice be one of not being able to care for a parent, spouse or child results because they must work to stay financially afloat.

Canadians deserve the flexibility of care for their families and ailing Canadians deserve to live in dignity as they face health challenges and advancing years.

That is why I am proud of the Liberal Party's proposed family care plan. We will invest $1 billion annually in this plan in order to reduce the economic pressure on hundreds of thousands of Canadian families.

This plan includes a new six month family care employment insurance benefit that would replace the existing six week compassionate care benefit, so Canadians do not have to choose between quitting their jobs and caring for a gravely ill family member.

This new EI benefit can be broken up over 52 weeks so that the weight of caring for a sick loved one is no longer placed on one family member's shoulders.

We will also introduce a tax benefit to help low and middle-income family caregivers who provide this essential service. This tax benefit of up to $1,350 per year will help an estimated 600,000 families and will be available to all families earning under $106,000 a year.

While we are seeking to give Canadian families choices in caring for their families during a challenging period, how is it that the government can find the funds to cut $6 billion from taxes paid by big business and corporations, but not be able to find $1 billion for family caregivers?

6:20 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan


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

Mr. Speaker, to start, I think every member of the House empathizes and sympathizes with Canadians who have loved ones in need of care, whether they are an elderly parent or an ill child.

Many Canadian families at some point need to make the decisions that come along with providing that care. Those who are providing care now, and who will in the future, deserve our appreciation and respect.

As a government, we have translated our respect into action to support these Canadians. In 2006 we expanded the number of people who could qualify for the EI compassionate care benefit by broadening eligibility to both more extended family members and others outside of the family.

In this Parliament, we have extended voluntary access to the compassionate care benefit and indeed to all EI special benefits for the first time to approximately 2.6 million self-employed Canadians. Groups like the CFIB, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Canadian Bar Association, the Grain Growers of Canada, the Real Estate Association and the Direct Sellers Association praised our government for this measure, which will help with the home lives of many Canadian families.

As I said, Canadians deserve respect and understanding of the choices they face in their home and family lives. Our idea of respect for Canadians reflects our belief that Canadians know their families best and know best how their families need to respond to challenges like care for the elderly, the ill or disabled family members. Canadians endorsed that idea by electing us in the last two elections and rejecting the opposition, whose idea is excessive spending and excessive taxes.

Our government introduced the universal child care benefit, which endorses choice and respects the family. We have created the registered disability savings plan, the RDSP, a very popular program, to help families save to look after loved ones with long-term disabilities and can provide more choice in a real forum of home care.

Perhaps most important, unlike the tax and spend Liberal government, our government is leaving more money in the pockets of Canadian families so they can have even more choice to better act on their priorities. That help, over $3,000 more per year in the pockets of Canadian families under our government, most certainly includes helping to take care of loved ones in need of care.

We are respecting Canadians and their families by ensuring families have more of their own resources to direct themselves to make their own choices. This is in stark contrast to the rigid view of the opposition. The Liberals and the coalition partners demonstrate that they see only one solution: new programs with ever-more bureaucracy and ever-decreasing choice in flexibility and increasing taxes.

We do not think one size fits all. Government bureaucracy is not the solution for Canadian families. That is not what is best for families with all their individual needs and that is not what is best for our government.

We believe Canadians need more choice and more flexibility. We are delivering more choice and more flexibility to Canadian families so they can look after their needs.

6:20 p.m.


Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government seems to miss the point yet again. Its programs do not reflect the realities of the present economy. Nor do they do anything for the multitude of Canadians who will be over 60 in the next 10 years.

The Canadian Nurses Association, the Victoria Order of Nurses, the Canadian Association of Retired Persons and the Alzheimer Society all agree that the Liberal plan is the way forward to safeguard public health care and reflect the values of family caregivers in our society and what they mean to the Canadian economy, to our health and to our communities.

Obviously one must wonder if the government does not believe that Canadian families deserve the support that they are giving to corporations.

Why will the Conservative government not recognize the realities facing millions of Canadians and invest in a program that will allow Canadians to survive financially during trying times?

6:25 p.m.


Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, how can the member and the Liberal Party possibly think they have any credibility on this issue?

The Liberals had 13 long years of promises they did not carry out, broken promises on this and other related issues. They have proposed family care plans five times in the past 15 years. They have proposed their choiceless child care plan just as many times.

The fact is the Liberals failed to deliver when they had the power to do so. They failed to deliver through 13 long years in government. They said that if they only had one more term, they would deliver. Now they are making these promises again, but from the safety of the opposition benches where they do not have to take responsibility for the finances of the country.

Our government has taken action to help families look after their loved ones. We are delivering for Canadians just like we said we would.

6:25 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the government is giving away billions of dollars in corporate tax breaks while, at the same time, it is not prepared to commit money to help in terms of preventing or steering young people away from gangs. The government needs to invest in getting tough on the causes of crime, and that is what it is that I am suggesting.

Ultimately, I would argue that we can prevent crimes from happening.

The issue that I raised the other day highlighted four programs in Winnipeg that were having an impact in terms steering people away from getting involved in gangs. The government's lack of a commitment to indicate that we will continue with these programs has caused a great deal of apprehension in the province of Manitoba. I believe the population wants to see a government that is just as keen on getting tough on the causes of crime.

As a government, it has the opportunity to prevent crimes from taking place. If we can prevent young people from joining a gang, and quite often even the initiation process of joining a gang involves that person having to commit crimes in order to become a gang member, we would be affording them the opportunity to do something that is far more productive in life and, thereby, also preventing victims from occurring.

If the government were to say that it was not in a financial position to continue to financially support these programs, that would be one thing, but I would still argue that we still need the programs. That at least would be an argument. However, when we are giving billions of dollars in corporate tax breaks, how can we not support programs such as this that would enable us to prevent some crimes from taking place?

Since the government, the Prime Minister and the minister responsible are not prepared to say that they will commit to these programs going forward or look at other programs that would have the same impact in terms of preventing people from getting involved in gang activities, one needs to question why the government does not recognize the value of getting tough on the causes of crime.

6:25 p.m.

Oxford Ontario


Dave MacKenzie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take this opportunity to speak to the government's commitment and actions in crime prevention and to address the issue of youth gangs in particular.

This government is proud of its record in supporting communities to implement crime prevention initiatives and providing positive options for youth.

Crime prevention is a key component of the government's tackling crime agenda. Our government is not just committed to getting tough on crime. We also remain committed to taking action to prevent criminal activity and to making our communities safer.

In May 2006, the government committed $46.1 million in funding over five years to help communities prevent youth crime with a focus on guns, gangs and drugs.

Recognizing that youth gangs were an ongoing concern in many communities, this government established the youth gang prevention fund in January 2007. This fund provides short-term funding for the development and implementation of evidence-based interventions aimed at youth who are in gangs or at risk of joining gangs. It helps municipalities and community-based organizations implement programs to help direct vulnerable youth toward jobs, education and positive social activities.

A total of $33.6 million were allocated to Public Safety Canada for the administration of the youth gang prevention fund through the National Crime Prevention Centre and $12.5 million to enhance the youth justice fund at the Department of Justice.

The youth gang prevention fund is a limited time fund and funding can only be provided up to a maximum of five years. Currently, all the funding available under the fund has been spent or is committed.

In line with its agenda on preventing and reducing crime, this government approved the renewal of the national crime prevention strategy in June 2008, providing additional ongoing funding to the National Crime Prevention Centre to support effective interventions with an increased focus on youth crime prevention.

This fiscal year alone the National Crime Prevention Centre has spent over $40 million in support of local crime prevention projects, most of them involving youth and many targeting youth crime.

The government has heard the legitimate concerns of the Canadian public regarding the youth gang situation and is committed to effectively address this issue that affects the safety of our communities. That is why we are working in partnership with the provinces and territories, not only to curb youth crime and violence by providing positive options for youth but also to find solutions that would ensure sustainability of effective crime prevention initiatives. We are also exploring possible avenues for the continuation of the youth gang prevention fund.

This government recognizes that there is a need to continue investing in effective results-oriented initiatives that contribute to preventing young people from becoming entrenched in a crime-ridden life. Preventing youth gangs continues to be a priority for the government.

6:30 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, when the sun goes down, seniors in certain areas of Winnipeg North do not go out of their homes because of the fear of not being safe in their own communities. Crime and safety is a major issue. In the last five to ten years it has become a lot worse in Winnipeg North and there is a sense of frustration as to why Ottawa is not listening or doing enough to deal with this.

Why will the national government not make a long-term commitment to do what it can and provide the funds necessary to assist young people in steering away from gang activities? Will the government make a long-term commitment to do just that?

6:30 p.m.


Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, the fact remains that this government has made considerable investments in crime prevention to support communities addressing crime issues, including youth gangs at the local level.

We are committed to obtaining measurable results for Canadians. We are currently taking stock of the knowledge accumulated up to now through the many crime prevention projects that we have supported. We will assess what has worked well based on past experiences. This will allow us to better help communities implement effective measures adapted to their local conditions in order to reduce and prevent crime.

This government will continue to be committed to effective results-oriented crime prevention in local communities.

6:30 p.m.


Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, during this adjournment debate, I will be speaking mainly about the question I raised on November 2, 2010, about access to high-speed Internet. Access to high-speed Internet in rural areas is not widely available. The Conservative government has been making promises for years about investing in this. The reality is that in rural areas access to high-speed Internet is still an issue.

We must consider something else. Access is one thing, but do we have the means to pay for Internet service today? We saw the Conservatives' panic in recent days caused by the CRTC decision that would have people pay for Internet service based on their usage. The majority of Canadians were no longer concerned by that. They no longer bothered to find out their usage because it was unlimited. That meant people searched for information on the Internet, students did research and small and medium-sized companies conducted business on the Internet.

Not only will Internet access be limited in the regions, but the way the Conservatives are handling this, we will now have to pay based on usage. The government can say what it will, but over the past few days, it has not immediately and unequivocally reversed the CRTC's decision, as the Liberal Party of Canada called for. They are leaving this in limbo. Who is now living in uncertainty? People in every region of the country. They are living in uncertainty and rest assured that the people in my riding told me clearly today that the Internet has become indispensable to them, in their lives, in their education and in their business. They were told to use the Internet.

Service Canada tells people to apply for employment insurance online. That requires using the Internet. The CRTC ruling would mean that people will be billed every time they use the Internet. It is fair to say that, in order to be entitled to employment insurance, the Internet may cost us more. This is an indirect way of taxing the taxpayers.

When will the Conservatives decide to provide high-speed Internet access everywhere immediately and stop dragging this on for years? We are not seeing concrete results in our regions.

When will the Conservative government show some leadership and assure the public that the government and Parliament will reverse the CRTC'S ruling?

There is a will to change the CRTC ruling. Where is the Conservatives' decision and willingness to ensure that the CRTC ruling will be reversed immediately to allow people to no longer live in uncertainty about usage-based billing, as is currently the case? That is what people are seeing: a reluctant government that lets big business do as it wishes, but does not take the needs and reality of Canadian taxpayers seriously.

6:35 p.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont Alberta


Mike Lake ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, obviously the hon. member missed a lot of things that were going on in committee during his afternoon nap.

The original question that was asked that led to this late show was actually about broadband Canada and rural broadband. Broadband Internet networks bring important economic social benefits, including Telehealth, business opportunities, distance learning and everything else the world has to offer to our Canadian communities. These networks encourage economic development, spur innovation and improve the quality of life in hundreds of communities from coast to coast to coast.

Broadband Internet is increasingly a must have and our government believes that Canadians should have access to broadband wherever in Canada they may be. Access to high-speed Internet service is just as important today in terms of bringing people and communities together as the railroads and highway systems were in the past.

As I mentioned before, broadband Canada was announced in the 2009 federal budget, Canada's economic action plan, and given $225 million in funding to help close the broadband gap in Canada. By far the biggest component of this strategy is “Broadband Canada: Connecting Rural Canadians”, which targets areas of the country that are currently not served or underserved by broadband networks.

In May and July of this year, two rounds of conditionally approved projects were announced under the broadband Canada program. These 77 projects represent a Government of Canada investment of up to $110 million and will bring broadband connectivity to 220,000 households across the country.

On November 6, 2010, the Minister of Industry announced the latest round of projects conditionally approved under the program. This third round consists of 21 projects in four provinces and one territory and represents another $29.1 million federal investment to bring connectivity to an additional 30,000 households.

Through the broadband Canada program, the government has committed a total of $139 million to expansion of broadband infrastructure. This investment will provide broadband Internet access to over 250,000 households. This means that once broadband Canada and similar provincial programs are completed, fewer than 2% of all Canadian households will be without access to broadband Internet services. In a country the size of ours, that is truly an incredible achievement.

We define broadband access as a minimum download speed of 1.5 megabytes per second. With this level of service, a consumer can use multiple applications at the same time, make a voice call over the Internet, download audio files and experience video quality streaming and video conferencing.

This past summer, Industry Canada spearheaded consultations aimed at developing Canada's first ever digital economy strategy. This will be a blueprint for propelling our country forward and ensuring we are ready for the opportunities and the jobs of the future.