This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #148 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Ahuntsic introduced Bill C-612 after holding a number of consultations and having the legal rules explained—since this is not her primary profession—that need to be respected in order for her proposed improvements to have a legal impact and to make clarifications. When a private member's bill is introduced it is not enough to have good intentions. Such bills need to be translated into legal language that will have consequences.

That is where another hon. member went wrong. Her definition of human trafficking was so broad that it ended up only covering exploitation. It was clear that the Supreme Court would have rejected it because of the minimum sentence. It would have used the same reasoning as it did in the Smith case in the 1980s. In that famous case, the Supreme Court studied the minimum sentence of seven years in prison for importing narcotics. It found that the definition was so broad that even the smallest amount of imported marijuana would be punishable by a minimum sentence of seven years in prison. It found that to be unreasonable and declared that minimum sentence unconstitutional; it has not be reinstated since.

If a minimum sentence were established for simple exploitation, without regard for the duration, the type of exploitation or its extent, the Supreme Court would uphold the same reasoning. I have defended it without using authority as argument. Here we should naturally be concerned with applying the charter, which outlines the principles of justice we should all share. The charter in this case has made Parliament a little irresponsible. In this case, the changes are useful and it is clear that they were made following consultations with people who apply them. They fill the gaps that were hindering enforcement.

The first change has to do with jurisdiction. It is rare for Canada to claim, as France does, to oversee the conduct of all individuals on Earth. France claims that, no matter where an offence is committed, France has jurisdiction over it. Canada has applied its jurisdiction in a certain number of cases that were perfectly justified and it did so again recently. Canada assumes extraterritorial jurisdiction for crimes having to do with sexual exploitation abroad. That is the first amendment being proposed in clause 1.

Next, consecutive sentences are added. I would like to respond to the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine by saying that, even when consecutive sentences are imposed, judges retain their discretion. Consecutive sentences have a certain amount of importance in this situation. Very often, the pimp lives with his victims. He sexually abuses them and changes victims regularly. His victims will not file a complaint about their situation. Nevertheless, the police can establish that the person is being exploited. Very often, the pimp who is living with the victim is the one who is exploiting her. A presumption is therefore created.

The presumption is created based on observations made by police.

I would like to come back to the consecutive nature of the sentence. The judge retains his or her discretion. Most of the time, the pimp leads a life of crime and has committed many other offences. When he is arrested, he will likely face a number of charges. Sexual exploitation of women, particularly if they are also young, is an offence that must be clearly indicated and he must understand that a specific sentence will be imposed for that offence. The sentence for this offence should not be buried under the other sentences he may have to serve, for example, if he has stolen goods in his home, if he is in possession of drugs, if he is in possession of a large quantity of drugs, if he has been trafficking in drugs. No. He must understand that the sentence being imposed on him is for the sexual exploitation of the woman. This does not take away from judges' discretion, but requires them to specify which punishments are for which crimes in a given case.

Indeed, one of the major shortcomings we found with Bill C-268, which was introduced by the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, is that the definition of “exploitation” was too broad. I would like to remind the members of the wording of that bill:

Every person who recruits, transports, transfers, receives, holds, conceals or harbours a person, or exercises control, direction or influence over the movements of a person, for the purpose of exploiting them or facilitating their exploitation is guilty of an indictable offence...

I took the time to read the entire clause, but the most important word is “or” because it indicates that any one of these acts is a crime. It does not say “recruits, transports, and transfers, and receives, and holds, and conceals”. It could be any of those.

The word “harbours” is in there. We know that organized crime is often behind such exploitation, and they have groups of prostitutes. The girls are taken quite young and are sometimes taken from a foreign country. Consider a girl who starts at the age of 17 and a half. After eight months, when she is 18 and has an apartment, she is told that another girl will arrive the following day and they ask her to take this new girl in until she can find her own place. Or maybe they ask if she can stay there and the two could become friends. So the girl who is 18 years and 2 months old is harbouring the girl who is 17 years and 6 months old for the purpose of exploitation and for the organization. Does that warrant a five-year prison term? No judge would want to hand down that sentence. In all the cases the member who introduced this bill was worried about, I am sure that the judges would have given a five-year sentence, but there are clearly exceptions to be made.

There is another issue. It is clear that each of these acts—recruiting, transporting, transferring—must be for the purpose of exploiting a person. But what is exploitation? It is defined in the act, a bit further down:

...a person exploits another person if they

a) cause them to provide, or offer to provide, labour or a service by engaging in conduct that, in all the circumstances, could reasonably be expected to cause the other person to believe that their safety or the safety of a person known to them would be threatened if they failed to provide, or offer to provide, the labour or service.

In short, I would say that that is a form of intimidation.

But this is a matter of providing labour. For how long? Sometimes, when I go into a convenience store, I get the impression that some young people are very young. How did they come to be working at 11 p.m. when they are only 15 or 16 years old? Did someone make them feel that they should do it? The definition was too broad and that is why, I am sure, it will be declared contrary to the charter.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I recognize that I only have two or three minutes left, so I am going to have to compress my comments.

I first want to congratulate the member for her bill, Bill C-612. I think it is a very important bill. I want to also recognize the member for Kildonan—St. Paul for her work with her bill.

Just so that the members know, human trafficking is the third largest grossing sector of organized crime, after drugs and arms. Therefore, it is very important that the member has dealt with some specific changes to the Criminal Code. However, the one that I would like to point out that impresses me the most is the fact that the bill would allow for the confiscation of any proceeds of crime related to the commission of the offences of procuring and trafficking in persons.

That is important. We see this happening in my home province of Manitoba as well, where we passed legislation that confiscates the proceeds of crime. If we can seize the houses, the bank accounts, and the money from criminals who are dealing in drugs and dealing in this type of activity, or any criminal activity, we can take away their reason for doing the activity in the first place. That is a very important part of the process here.

I believe I will have more time in the second hour, so I will deal with other issues then. However, just in the off chance that I am not returned in the election, I want to say that I have enjoyed working with all 308 members in the House here and I want to wish all 308 the best in all their future endeavours.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member will have eight minutes should this bill come back for the second hour of debate.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

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

March 24th, 2011 / 6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Alexandra Mendes Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Monday I asked the government to commit to replacing the Champlain Bridge in Montreal. All I received by way of an answer from the minister of state was empty words, coming from a government that has washed its hands of its responsibility for the busiest bridge in Canada.

The Champlain Bridge is a critical artery, not only for my constituents, but also for all the people on the island of Montreal, in Quebec, and even in eastern Canada. It is a highway upon which a major part of our economy depends.

We know that the bridge is reaching the end of its useful life and we also know that a feasibility study will soon be conducted. The federal and provincial governments will be advised of the results and then the recommendations will be made public. The government must understand the importance of making the Champlain Bridge a priority. I know that the pitiful state of the bridge concerns everyone who uses it and that South Shore residents are tired of waiting for a permanent solution. We do not want a band-aid solution like the one proposed to us by a candidate and senator on March 18.

I was profoundly shocked by the cynicism and opportunism of the current government with regard to the serious problems that threaten our Champlain Bridge.

We can no longer believe that a few million dollars, spread out over three years, will be sufficient to address the fundamental issue in a sustainable manner. The government must take extraordinary efforts right away to find a real long-term solution by replacing the current structure of the Champlain Bridge.

For as long as studies have been piling up over the past few years, the government had an obligation to find a solution, not an oversized band-aid.

I am flabbergasted that the government has refused to make a firm commitment regarding the necessary federal investments to ensure the sustainability of the Champlain Bridge.

I would remind the House that in budget 2009, the government announced funding to repair the bridge and said that the work would extend the life of the bridge by 20 to 25 years. In February 2011, the current Minister of Transport told La Presse that the bridge would be good for the next 10 years. In barely two years, the bridge's lifespan was reduced by 10 to 15 years.

Such scorn is worrisome, and the government's refusal to give us all the pertinent information is even more worrisome. Why does the government not consider the Champlain Bridge a priority infrastructure project? I am astonished that this regime refuses to make a firm commitment regarding the federal investments needed to ensure the durability, and more importantly, the safety of the Champlain Bridge.

Why does this government not regard the bridge as the top priority for the Montreal region? What is it waiting for to ask Transport Canada and Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated to come up with an appropriate, long-term solution as soon as possible?

I know that the results of the other feasibility study will be released shortly, but if we rely on the timeline the government has given us, we are running out of time to find a solution. Furthermore, my constituents are sick and tired of hearing about more studies. How many have been done? The time to act is now. We need a new bridge, and construction must begin as soon as possible.

If the government is serious about being transparent on this issue, why does the minister refuse to table the diagnostic tests conducted on the bridge? At least we would be able to have a clearer picture of the problems. Will it take a major catastrophe for the government to act and finally make the replacement of the Champlain Bridge a real priority?

6:30 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, this Conservative government is taking the issue very seriously, which is something different to what the past Liberal government did.

The member is a member of a Liberal Party and I would suggest that she could possibly have had more influence with that particular party when it was in government. It could have done something to solve this. It is like many things. We came across many Liberal government issues that just were not done. This is no different.

We recognize that the Champlain Bridge is actually the busiest bridge in Canada, as each year some 60 million vehicles pass over it. It is actually used to carry approximately $20 billion worth of trade. We do indeed recognize the importance of that bridge to the economy and to the economic conditions of the area. As a result of that, we have been taking very serious steps on this, something different from what was done by the previous Liberal government. We understand that the Champlain Bridge is absolutely essential to the Montreal area and, of course, its commuters. It is an integral part of what the continental gateway corridor speaks to.

We in this government understand that it is very important to invest in all corridors across this country, which is why we have seen a huge investment in the Windsor Bridge in the Windsor-Detroit corridor. We recognize that the goods that come from Montreal do not just stop outside of Montreal. Many of them actually go down to the United States and have to go through the Windsor corridor as well.

It is necessary to look at this as a system of corridors, which is what we are doing. We are making the best decisions for Canada and for Quebec in relation to this particular bridge. This bridge was built in 1962 and it is, quite frankly, reaching the end of its life expectancy. It now carries more traffic, in particular more commercial traffic, which is so good for the economy there, than it was ever envisioned for it to do when it was first built.

All aging infrastructure requires repair. It is no different for this particular bridge, and the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated understand that. It is the owner and operator of those bridges. It takes these needs very seriously. There are regular inspections of the bridge by independent private sector engineers and their observations and recommendations are used to create the work plan for the repairs of the bridge.

There is no political interference in this. It is all about the safety, security and good commerce that is necessary to keep the people of Montreal content and happy and to keep them flowing.

As this has connectivity to other parts of Canada, it is very important that we work on this systematically and with the best approach, keeping in mind what is best for the people of Montreal.

The Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated has actually implemented these carefully designed work plans to ensure that this absolutely crucial and vital asset remains operational and safe for all its users.

In 2009, this government, the federal government, provided funding of $212 million over 10 years. There is nothing insubstantial about that. In fact, it is quite a bit more than was allocated by the previous Liberal government, and certainly for the implementation of a major repair program that is absolutely crucial and necessary. It will actually result in the strengthening of many components of the bridge and those things that are identified as necessary by those independent contractors and engineers.

The program has been in place for two years and the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated has assured us that it is very successful and is continuing to contribute to the safety of the bridge, the ongoing conditions of the bridge and the success of the use of that bridge.

Indeed we are acting and we are doing what is necessary to keep traffic flowing and to keep people safe.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Alexandra Mendes Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is trying to accuse us of doing nothing about the bridge. The entire span of the bridge was almost completely refurbished in 1999, 2000 and 2001, causing a fair number of headaches and nightmares for people travelling between Montreal and the south shore. It is a bit rich to accuse us of having done nothing when we were in power.

The work was done. The bridge has had much heavier use than it was built for. This is one of the reasons why a number of studies have been carried out in past years. I believe we have arrived at the point where we have the studies. We have everything we need to set out a long-term plan. I believe that everyone who has studied the issue agrees that a new bridge should be built.

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, clearly the people in Quebec understand that when the Liberals were in power they did absolutely nothing for them. They lined their own pockets and did what was necessary to help their friends remain happy.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

That is not true and you know it. There are four Conservatives charged right now.

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

People can listen to the member for Malpeque across the way but it does not change anything.

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie had a question and it is important that we let the parliamentary secretary answer that question.

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, as I said, we know that when the Liberals came to power they did absolutely nothing for the people of Quebec except line the pockets of their friends and continue to try to keep them in power and in the organization.

We know the Bloc members can do absolutely nothing for the people of Quebec ever because they will never form government. All they can do is be obscene on the other side of the House and vote against everything.

It is only the members of Parliament from the Conservative Party who deliver the goods to Quebeckers. We will ensure that the Champlain Bridge is safe, and if there is a need to build a new bridge we will do that.

We will keep Canadians safe and secure, we will keep the people of Quebec happy and content and we will do it all in fairness.

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, last December 3, I put a question to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food on the crisis facing the hog and pork sector. The question arose on behalf of 900 beef and hog farmers who attended a conference in Stratford, Ontario, as well as the rest of the hog and beef producers across Canada who made it clear that the government's safety nets were not working.

As usual, the government responded by claiming, “What crisis?”.

Here are some of the facts that I am sure the government will deny.

I will begin with a quote from page six of the main estimates just tabled a couple of weeks ago. It reads:

The Main Estimates.... ...contains detailed information on the spending plans and authorities being sought by each department and agency.

According to the President of the Treasury Board, the main estimates outline more than $10 billion in reduced spending for this year. He apparently was proud of that statement.

How he could be proud is a wonder to me. Cutting programs that matter to people, to communities and to primary industries in order to give tax breaks to the wealthiest corporations in Canada, to the oil and gas industry in particular, buy untendered jets and pay for U.S.-style prisons is just unbelievable to me when our primary industries are in difficulty.

For Agriculture Canada, the government has tabled a plan that will implement, and I am reading from page 47 of the main estimates, “a decrease in net spending of $418.6 million”.

While federal programs basically forced farmers to take on more debt, $64 billion in fact, the federal Conservative government is cutting back on farm spending so it can increase tax breaks for the most wealthy in the country. That is just unacceptable.

For farmers on Prince Edward Island, the Conservatives have clearly failed them. The $418 million of cuts in the estimates, cuts to business risk management for our hog and beef farmers, who are the core of our agricultural industry, is very serious. Does the government just not care about primary producers?

For consumers on Prince Edward Island and in the rest of Canada, there were cuts of 35%, $53 million, for food safety and biosecurity risk management, programs that assisted farmers in developing the best on-farm food safety programs possible. Does the government not care about food safety?

When the government should be investing more in public research, innovation and value-added visioning for the future, the Conservative regime cut science, innovation and adaptation by some 38%, $150 million. The government should be responding with more research, not less.

For the primary industry of fisheries on Prince Edward Island, the estimates for small craft harbours were cut 44% and the budget slashes DFO by an additional $84.8 million over three years. Does the government just not care about the primary industries?

6:40 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to this member for some period of time now, almost seven years, and I can say with assurance that he is the king of sucking and blowing. He says that he is going to stand up for farmers, but when it comes time to vote, he votes against them.

Maybe the people of P.E.I. should ask themselves, why is this poster child for the Canadian Wheat Board? It does not affect P.E.I. farmers; it affects Canadian farmers. Why he does he want to keep the Canadian Wheat Board? He does not listen to farmers. He only listens to himself and uses political opportunism when he can. He wants an election that nobody wants in Canada. Why? It is political opportunism.

Unlike the Liberal Party and its reckless coalition, our Conservative government will always put farmers first. That is why we are represented in almost every rural seat across this country, not just in the last election or the one before but the election before that and some time before that. Clearly, budget 2011 once again continues to promote our commitment to Canadian agriculture. The member should actually take some time to read it.

Our Conservative government has, for instance, allocated $50 million over two years to promote research and innovation through the agri-food innovation fund. This investment would help farmers become even more competitive on the world stage, which is important and we recognize that importance. Why will the member for Malpeque and his party not support this budget? It is because they do not stand up for farmers. They only stand up for themselves.

Clearly, over the next two years we have allocated $24 million to help control disease in the hog industry, so that it can respond quickly to ensure animal health. We have also allocated $17 million to fight plum pox that is affecting fruit trees in the Niagara region. Both of these investments clearly build upon the government's commitment to fight disease in the area of animal and plant health. Why will the member for Malpeque and his party not support this budget? It is clear the Liberals are only out for themselves. It is political opportunism. They are not interested in supporting the people of Canada or standing up for farmers. It is this Conservative government that does that.

Our Conservative government has actually allocated $100 million to ensure that the food Canadians eat is safe. What could be more important to Canadians? Nothing. The investment would go toward enhancing food safety by ensuring our inspectors have the tools and training to get the job done.

This funding actually builds upon previous announcements and measures that our Conservative government, not the previous Liberal government but our Conservative government, has taken with regard to food safety. It was not done by the previous Liberal government. The people of P.E.I. should ask themselves why they sent somebody here who stands up against farmers.

That is my question for him. Why is it that every chance he has to stand up, represent farmers, support this government, and its great initiatives for farmers across this country he stands in his place against farmers? He should be ashamed of himself.

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I just have to ask, why does the parliamentary secretary provide such misinformation? He is right in terms of $50 million being added in the budget for innovation, but what he fails to tell us is that on page 46 of the estimates, where the cuts really are, under “Science, Innovation and Adoption” there was $150 million cut. Really, there is $125 million less in science and innovation for next year. The parliamentary secretary spins a line, but we should look at the facts in the documents.

To make matters worse as to where the government is really at, the budget even cuts regional development in Prince Edward Island and Atlantic Canada. It is slashing the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency by $31.9 million over three years. Does the Prime Minister just not care about Prince Edward Islanders and Atlantic Canadians?

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the humour of my friend opposite, but, frankly, let us talk about some of the facts. We know we have added 538 net new inspectors. That means new from the time the Liberals governed. That is 538 more people to make sure that Canada's food supply remains safe.

Do not listen to me. Let us talk about the executive director of the Grain Growers of Canada, who stated that the grain growers are pleased with the announcement of a $50 million fund for research and innovation.

The Canadian Pork Council stated:

The Canadian pork industry is grateful that the government has recognized the importance of animal health...The funding extension...[will allow] the industry to continue to improve its capacity to react swiftly to emerging animal health challenges.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture and others all say the same thing. They support our governments initiatives and this budget, but the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition is going to take down the government even though industry experts have said we are doing the right thing.

6:50 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, the members of the House are well aware of how like a vampire the government, through its ever-increasing fees, is sucking the life out of Canada's aviation industry.

According to a report released last year by the National Airlines Council of Canada, these extra costs can comprise between 30% and 70% of total ticket prices. In response, Canadians who live near the U.S. border are heading south to fly out of airports like Buffalo, New York and Seattle, Washington.

In desperation, Vancouver International Airport, for example, has frozen its landing and terminal fees until 2015. Toronto's Pearson International Airport has cut its airport improvement fee from $8 a flight to $4.

Part of the problem is the excessive airport rents charged by the federal government. In 2007, the actual airport rent collected by the federal government at Canadian airports totalled $285 million. The elimination of these rents would result in a significant increase in economic activity. According to the Canadian Airports Council, this economic activity would result in passenger traffic growth of over 590,000 passengers annually. This would increase airfare and traveller expenditures by $304 million.

This increase in passenger traffic would create 2,700 direct person years of employment, which would mean $90 million in direct wages, resulting in an additional $140 million in direct GDP and would create $300 million in direct economic input. That sounds pretty good, does it not? This increased activity would mean an additional $50 million in tax revenues. That is one thing that we can do.

There is another. There is an air travellers security charge, which the government just increased. For domestic itineraries, the ATSC is $7.12 one-way to a maximum charge of $14.25. For transboundary itineraries, the ATSC is $8 one-way to a maximum charge of $16.

Unlike any other form of transportation, air passengers must pay for their own security in Canada. As the National Airlines Council told the transport committee, aviation security is a public good, an essential service in Canada and should not be solely the financial responsibility of Canadian air passengers.

Then there are numerous air and navigation service charges from NAV Canada. They just add up and add up. Annual charges for small aircraft, daily charges for propeller aircraft, en route charge, terminal service charge, en route facilities and services charge, it just goes on and on. We just bleed these airports to death.

We are still not done with the fees and taxes the government charges. There is a federal excise tax on jet fuel. There is the GST, which further increases the base fares for passengers. The GST is imposed on both domestic and transborder flights.

Added to this is the increased costs the government caused when it eliminated funding for providing police protection at airports. The government legislates police protection, but will not help cover the costs.

Though the government does not like science, the facts do not lie. Canadian airports are underperforming compared to their international counterparts.

A report to the National Airlines Council by Dr. Fred Lazar found:

Toronto has fewer passengers per population than all of its comparators with the exception of Barcelona and Philadelphia, and neither of these is the major hub for their respective hub airlines. Toronto lags significantly behind Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Miami, even though geographically it is better located to connect both Europe and Asia to North and South America.

Vancouver underperforms all other similar airports and neither of these two U.S. cities that are similar in--

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. Four minutes are up.

I will turn the floor over to the parliamentary secretary.

6:50 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I thought I had seen it all and maybe it is the season, but I see now NDP members standing up for private industry, competitiveness and open borders. I thought I had seen it all in this place, but it must just be because the NDP plans to take down our government tomorrow, and they plan to challenge the government on the basis of the great work that the Prime Minister has done in regard to building the economy and protecting us from the economic global recession. I am not sure how and why the member has positioned himself for this. It just does not make sense and I think most people who listen understand that.

However, let us talk a bit about Canada and why it is different from the United States because the member suggested that we should compare it to the United States. First of all, we are a bigger country and we have about 10% of the population, so we have one of the greatest, most diverse and lowest density of populations in the world. Clearly, it is a different scenario for us than it is for the United States and I wish the member would understand that. Part of Canada's context is our extended border with our southern neighbour. Certainly most countries do not have this particular implication in their economies, but we do have that.

The close proximity of many of the American airports is of course a situation. The United States has 10 times the population and a little less than a third less land mass. So certainly this is a situation that is troubling, but at the same time it is good for consumers. We stand up for Canadian consumers because we understand that they want choice and they also want to have the opportunity of not having taxes levied for something they are not utilizing.

We have to look at that in context, because comparison of the Canadian air transportation system to that of the United States is very difficult indeed, given the various factors at play. As I said, the United States is 10 times larger with a passenger base almost 13 times larger than that of Canada. Unlike Canada, the United States also has an extensive network of low cost carriers that specialize in greatly discounted domestic airfares for United States leisure destinations. We do not have that same system here, at least not to the same extent.

The Canadian air transportation system subscribes to the user-pay principle, and I think most taxpayers do too. The United States does not adhere to that as much as Canada, believe it or not. So we are proud of that and most Canadian taxpayers want that. All elements of the Canadian transportation industry, including air carriers, airports and NAV Canada are operated by private entities. These are independent of the government. That ensures that they are not only trimmed and doing the right job on the basis of the economy and what they have allocated to them, but they are also independent of public interference. I certainly hope the member opposite is not suggesting that now we need to interfere in NAV Canada, airports and air carriers. That would be the wrong message to send to our economy while it is doing so well.

Like any private entities, these entities seek to recoup their costs through various fees and charges. Our government is committed to helping maintain competitiveness in the Canadian aviation industry. We have one of the most competitive industries in the world and one of the most competitive airport systems in the world. Over the last decade, we have also provided over $400 million to the industry for safety and infrastructure related projects. To be clear though, airport rent is not a tax. As a matter of policy and good business practice, on behalf of all Canadians the government chose to lease rather than sell its airports. Rent is charged to Canada's largest airports as a return on taxpayer investment. Taxpayers paid for those airports. Do they not deserve to receive that money back?

It is clear that this government has taken the right position, and the members opposite are only opportunistic, trying to have an unnecessary election at the cost of taxpayers. It is not necessary at all.

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague and his party of shopkeeper economics, do not mind giving very large subsidies to oil companies that are making record profits. However, when it comes to airports which provide the service and have the opportunity of expanding business around every hub, the Conservatives are determined to stifle them.

When my hon. colleague talks about the difference in population, the statistics are that Toronto has fewer passengers per population. In other words, for the population of Toronto and surrounding area, fewer passengers are going through that airport than through comparable airports in the United States. Why is that? Because those airports are cheaper. Through the provision of acceptable charges in the United States, those airports can provide their service at a cheaper rate.

No matter what the party in the House of Commons, if members opposite cannot see the sense in that, then they are just simply not getting it.

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

I do get it, Mr. Speaker. The member is talking about the rent charge which is less than 1% of the total ticket price or an average of less than $4 per ticket. Speaking of sense, that is actually what it is, just cents.

Is the hon. member suggesting that we should compromise the security and safety of Canadians at our airports? Is he suggesting that the airports should not have to pay a return on investment to the taxpayers who originally paid for all those improvements? Is he suggesting that we should provide to them free? They already have tax situations that are advantageous, but they should pay taxpayers for what the taxpayer invested in those airports, and certainly they should keep Canadians safe. That is what this government will do.

I understand the NDP is not interested in that, but this Conservative government will keep Canadians safe and secure and keep the economy rolling very well, as we have been managing to do quite well.

7 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It has been a pleasure to serve as Deputy Speaker in this Parliament. It looks like this will be my last shift in the chair and it will be the last time I will say this. The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7 p.m.)