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House of Commons Hansard #162 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was omnibus.

Topics

Motion No. 13Ways and MeansPrivate Members’ Business

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Motion No. 13Ways and MeansPrivate Members’ Business

6:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motion No. 13Ways and MeansPrivate Members’ Business

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-398, An Act to amend the Patent Act (drugs for international humanitarian purposes), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Patent ActPrivate Members’ Business

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie for bringing this matter before us again by introducing this bill.

I thank the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie for bringing forward Bill C-398, which would amend the Canadian access to medicines regime. It is my pleasure to speak today in support of the bill and to move it to committee stage by voting for it at second reading. It is time to move the bill to committee and move on the legislative process, which was interrupted in the last election after it passed this House with support from all parties.

We are very fortunate in Canada that we live in a country where we are able to benefit from medication and as a country we have the infrastructure and the know-how to produce medicines. As Canadians, we also feel that we have an obligation to help those around the planet who are less fortunate, who are sick or dying and could be helped if they had access to medicines that exist today.

That was the motivation for Bill C-9, the original Canada access to medicines regime, also known as the Jean Chrétien Pledge to Africa Act.

Some medicines are expensive and the point of CAMR is to make available to developing countries safe, generic versions of medicines manufactured in Canada and to do it within international rules on trade and on intellectual property rights. It is intended to provide the competitive pressure to reduce the cost barrier to those countries that would never be able to afford the medicine but would greatly benefit from it and where people are in dire need of the medicine. We know that other countries can produce generic drugs but the Canadian product is produced with higher standards in quality control and it will provide competition on that basis.

CAMR came into force in 2005 but, as people have noticed, since that time this regime has only been used to provide one shipment of medicine to one country so far, which is why we believe there are barriers. One of the barriers that has been identified is the cumbersome licensing process.

The core of Bill C-398 is to provide the so-called one licence solution, which would remove the need for each individual country to make a request for a compulsory licence to produce generic drugs that are needed for serious health problems in these countries. It would remove the need for individual countries to apply and, instead, a Canadian generic pharmaceutical manufacturer would apply for the licence for all countries.

This reform has been sought for several years now, and in the previous Parliament, Bill C-393, upon which Bill C-398 is based, passed this House with support from all parties and probably would have come into force had the May 2011 election not been called.

I want to expand a little bit on the remarks that my colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie made and I want to talk a little bit about intellectual property issues, which were the subject of the speech by my hon. colleague from the Conservative benches.

Advocates for reforming CAMR do not wish to jeopardize pharmaceutical R and D in Canada. They have said that an I think they do believe in the importance of the knowledge economy , and one of its pillars, the value of intellectual property.

I think we all agree that Canada's future will depend very much on its participation in the knowledge economy and nobody wants our kids to be competing in the world on the basis of providing the lowest cost labour. I believe that the drafters of Bill C-398 recognize some of these concerns.

For example, Bill C-398 improves upon Bill C-393 in that respect by specifying that Canadian generic manufacturers must post online the quantities of medicine being exported to each country. They must also put online the notification that each WTO country gave to the WTO trade related aspects of intellectual property rights council, or, for a non-WTO country, the notice that country gave to the Government of Canada.

The old bill, Bill C-393 from the last Parliament, at first removed a two-year time limit on licences before a renewal was required. In the last Parliament this was amended in committee to restore that time limit. Bill C-398 keeps that two-year time limit in the current draft. Drafters of the bill have responded to concerns about an open-ended licence in time.

In the spirit of the changes that the drafters of Bill C-398 have made, compared to Bill C-393 that already passed the House in the last Parliament, we could make some amendments to emphasize that it is not the intent of the bill to negatively impact any R and D investment in Canada. It is not the intent of the bill to devalue intellectual property that is a pillar of a knowledge economy.

People have asked me, for example, why Qatar is on the list of countries in the bill. It is a country with a per capita income of $90,000 per annum. I believe that no one wants that distraction. It really is distracting from the fact that people are sick and dying and need medicines that they cannot afford. Therefore, this is something we could look at in committee, the list of countries in schedule 2 of the bill, to remove these distractions that may lead people to question some aspects of the bill.

My colleague from the Conservative Party is worrying about safety issues. Some critics have worried that the generic drugs would not be subjected to safety reviews. However, section 21.04(3)(b) in the current legislation remains unchanged under Bill C-398 and affirms that any generic product must meet the requirements of the Food and Drugs Act and its regulations. Therefore, my hon. colleague is incorrect when he makes that point. It is an old point that was made in the past but this bill is slightly different and that point is covered. In fact, the advantage of importing drugs from Canada is that products are manufactured with higher standards and with better quality control.

I will be voting in favour of the bill. It is time to move toward reforming Canada's access to medicines regime, a process that was accidentally interrupted at the last election, but which had already passed the House. We must not delay in sending the bill to the next stage of the legislative process, to committee where we can examine it and related issues in detail, as we should examine every bill. We must move this bill to committee and I urge my colleagues to vote for the bill at second reading.

Patent ActPrivate Members’ Business

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the Bill C-398. I will start by giving some context to this bill. Then I will build on what has already been mentioned.

I want to discuss where this bill will matter the most, and that is in places like Africa. In fact, it is where the Prime Minister just visited, the Democratic Republic of Congo. I was there a couple of years ago to see some of the projects that had been funded by the World Bank. One of the projects I remember well was the HIV testing labs that had been set up. This was a good project. It was one that allowed people access to testing for HIV-AIDS and other diseases. Particularly important, was that access to testing there had been elusive and the capacity was set up. This is important because this is part of the bill that people have critiqued before, the capacity on the ground and that some might interfere.

I was able to see the testing being done with modern equipment. Testing all people was very successful, young people, men and women, and it was done in a way that we would see here. There was the same standard of anonymous testing that allowed people to be tested without stigma, which has been a huge problem during the years that people have been fighting this disease and others.

I was then taken to a warehouse, which Canada in the past had been helping out, where medicines were stored. That warehouse was half empty. This was the place where the medicines were stored for the people who had been tested and identified as having the HIV virus, in some cases full blown AIDS and other diseases were reliant upon. I was stunned. I was there with members of Parliament from other countries and asked where all the medicines were. They said that they could not get any. I asked why not and they said that was the problem with the system, that they could not get any because there were problems with patent barriers and getting safe drugs.

I will never forget it because we essentially gave people false hope. We gave them the indication that we were going to be helping them out, fortifying their health system and ensuring that people who we wanted to help were going to be identified first. We all know that without the next step, without providing treatment, we are essentially giving people notification of a death sentence. We are not there to help them. In fact we are there to say, “Here you are, here is your death sentence”, and walk away from them. That is what I saw on the ground in the Congo. That story is happening right across the developing world. We can do something about that. This bill is about that.

We can talk, and I will, about compliance, what happens with the WTO. This is about standards and ensuring there will be requirements in this bill to ensure we are going to follow the highest standards we have in place and not jeopardize the pharmaceutical, generic or research companies. We will be saying that a kid in the Congo will get the same access as my son would get, or a woman with HIV-AIDS in any part of the developing world will have the same access as my sister or nieces. That is what this is about. Fundamentally, this is about social justice. That is why so many people are in favour of it.

When we passed the bill in the House, I was very proud to be the author of the bill. However, it was not about me. It was about many people in the House who saw the value of working together as members of Parliament to make a difference for people in the rest of the world, in particular, the people in two-thirds of the world who live in poverty. It was a proud moment for me. I saw members of the Conservative Party working with members of the Liberal Party, the Bloc and New Democrats. It was a very proud day.

I would like to re-energize the House on this bill again. For those who might have some questions, let us talk about it. Let us see how we can make this work.

As was mentioned already, when the bill was first passed, it was a great idea. However, looking at the record, we were unable to get the drugs to those countries that needed them because of the barriers. Rwanda tried once, but there were too many barriers and it would not do it again.

This is analogous to getting oneself, or someone in one's family, a prescription for a life-saving medicine, but each time a pill is needed, one has to go back to the doctor, get the prescription, go to the store again and one may not even have money to buy it. This is what we are talking about, but on a national scale.

The bill would refine the process to have one licence. Therefore, once there is an arrangement between a country, ourselves and industry, it is done.

Do we monitor? Absolutely, and those provisions have been talked about. Do we make sure there is quality? Yes, no question about it. Who would want to jeopardize the quality of Canadian drugs?

One of the stories we heard today was from a senator who had been to Uganda. It was a very touching story about a pen pal of her grandson who she went to meet on a regular basis in Uganda. This past year she went to meet with this young boy, who is younger than my son who turns 14 today, and it was for the last time. She could not meet with him because he did not have access to safe malaria drugs in Uganda. This is the real world now and this bill could deal with that.

There are so many stories. There are stories of women who have been tested and have been told they can be helped. They could be given first-line treatment and if that did not work, then they could go to the second-line treatment. On this file, things have not stayed static, some things are fluid, and that is another important point.

We have fought the fight against HIV-AIDS and we have won many battles. We have not found the cure, but we have been able to manage the disease. However, as members know, over time the virus adapts to some of these medicines, so we need to have second and third-line regimes, or different combinations of drugs. The bill deals with this as well and it is crucial for the people we have helped in the past to stay alive.

For my friend for Peace River, let us talk. Anyone on that side who has a concern, let us sit down and talk. We have been talking to industry and this is something we can do. There are so many people who are counting on us to do this. This is not the time to turn away. It is not about partisanship. This is about reaching out to each other to help people somewhere else.

I am so damn proud of what the House did before. I saw Conservative members and people from all parts of Canada come together, faith communities particularly, standing up to say that they were going to do something to help their fellow men, women and children. They did not want to talk about it; they wanted do it. Fundamentally, that is what the bill is about and that is why I support it.

We need to talk about the issues so we can solve the problem. When I go back to Congo with any member of Parliament and we go to that warehouse after people have been tested, we will not see an empty warehouse. We will see it full. We will see people being taken care of. When we are asked, we can say that we stood up, we were there for people and we made a difference.

Patent ActPrivate Members’ Business

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address Bill C-398, an act to amend the Patent Act, drugs for international humanitarian purposes. Unfortunately, even though we have heard a lot of discussion tonight, this bill would make Canada's Access to Medicines Regime unworkable and would not address the real challenges that face those suffering from disease.

Every member of the House shares a deep concern for the millions who are suffering from grave public health crises in the developing world. The statistics from the World Health Organization quite honestly are tragic. Nearly one million people, most of them children under the age of five years, die of malaria annually. Globally, more than 5,000 people die of AIDS every day. As Canadians, we will continue to do our part to make a difference. Our government has an approach that works to fight these diseases internationally.

The Canadian government has proven to be a global leader and highly active international partner in the fight against HIV-AIDS, TB and malaria. In addition to our continued support of Canada's Access to Medicines Regime as an avenue to access Canadian-made generic drugs, our government has been a key contributor to global efforts to supply low cost drugs to millions of people in need.

For instance, Canada has contributed $540 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for 2011-13. The global fund disburses funding for programs that reduce the impact of HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in low and middle-income countries. It has become one of the most significant factors in the fight against these diseases, treating 3.6 million people with HIV-AIDS, treating 9.3 million people with tuberculosis and distributing 270 million nets to prevent the spread of malaria.

Canada has a clear plan and a proven track record that is producing tangible results for public health in low and middle-income countries. Canada's substantial financial support through international partners has vastly improved access to treatment and health care delivery. Over 6.6 million people were receiving drug treatment for HIV-AIDS in Africa in 2010. That is over 23 times as many as the 280,000 who were receiving such treatment in 2002, just 10 years ago. In 2010, over 7.7 million people were receiving treatment for TB. That is 4 times as many as the 1.7 million who were receiving it in 2000.

Other major Canadian commitments include $450 million over 10 years to the Africa health systems initiative to ensure facilities and expertise are in place to make effective use of medicines. We have provided $149 million to the Global Drug Facility to stop tuberculosis, which has delivered more than 20 million treatments in 93 countries. Above all, Canada has been a leader in mobilizing global action by providing a total contribution of $2.85 billion to improve child and maternal health.

Of all the countries that have put in place an access to medicines regime, Canada is the only country to successfully use its regime to export drugs to a developing country. It took the government just two weeks to grant Apotex Inc., a Canadian generic pharmaceutical company, a license to export an HIV-AIDS drug to Rwanda. Canada's access to medicines regime, with the appropriate safeguards in place, ensured that high quality Canadian generic drugs reached those who needed them most. Rwanda now has one of the highest rates of antiretroviral coverage at almost 90% and HIV prevalence is now below 3% of the general population of Rwanda.

While we have made great strides in combatting these public health problems, we are not done. This bill, while laudable in its objectives, will not increase participation in Canada's access to medicines regime. Changing the regime will not change the fact that other avenues are used to procure low-cost drugs for low and middle income countries, such as the global fund to which Canada is a very strong contributor.

Some of the countries are able to find low-cost sources of generic medicines in the market, for instance, from producers in emerging markets such as India, which supplies an estimated 80% of donor-funded antiretrovirals to developing countries without needing to draw on Canada's access to medicines regime.

The Canadian regime can and will assist in the international supply of low-cost drugs only if there is an external demand for a Canadian generic drug.

This bill does not address the issues underlying the pressing health needs of the developing world. For many, changing patent rules for drugs is not the most relevant issue. In fact, more than 95% of the drugs that are sought are not patent-protected. Conditions such as poverty in developing countries are more significant obstacles to acquiring pharmaceuticals and appropriate health care.

We have heard testimony from a variety of witnesses with detailed knowledge of public health issues in the developing world. They would agree that continued investment is needed to strengthen national health systems, including human resources, technology and basic health infrastructure. The changes proposed by Bill C-398 would not make progress on these underlying issues.

In fact, Bill C-398 would remove essential safeguards. The bill would allow a generic manufacturer to export an unlimited amount of its drug. It would remove mandatory safety reviews by Health Canada, and it would reduce the transparency of the system. Bill C-398 would risk exported drugs being diverted back to richer, developed country markets.

This bill's approach is not in keeping with the World Trade Organization decision upon which Canada's access to medicines regime is based. It would undermine our trade relationships and reduce our access to key international research partnerships to help fight these very diseases.

In addition, by removing the key checks and balances of the regime, the bill could hinder continued pharmaceutical investment and growth in Canada.

Canada's access to medicines regime has an important role to play in providing access to cheaper generic drugs in developing nations, but it is just one tool among many. We will continue to encourage those in need to use the system and stand ready to respond to a request from any country in need that notifies us of its intention to import drugs.

We remain deeply committed to pursuing our comprehensive approach, providing Canadian leadership in the fight against disease and working to raise health care standards in the developing world.

Patent ActPrivate Members’ Business

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before we resume debate with the hon. member for Guelph, I will just let him know that I will have to interrupt him about four minutes into his remarks. The remaining time will be available to him the next time the House considers the motion. The hon. member for Guelph.

Patent ActPrivate Members’ Business

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, from time to time we have an opportunity to discuss an issue that is so fundamentally important that the question of action is not if, but how.

Before us today is a bill that will address the ongoing and terribly destructive crisis with access to medicines in developing and least developed countries across the world. While this bill is not perfect, there is a balance to be struck between maintaining our country's commitment to intellectual property protection while ensuring that we do not build unnecessary barriers limiting access to the medicines that are much needed in developing countries. That is why it is important to get this legislation to committee for closer examination.

We have no excuse for inaction. The House already passed a version of this bill in the last Parliament and the problem is not going away. It has been eight years since the Liberal government of the day put forward a bill that established a legal framework for Canada's access to medicine regime. The bill, otherwise known as Jean Chrétien's pledge to Africa act, was meant to create a balance between addressing our commitment to combat HIV and AIDS and simultaneously honouring intellectual property rights and trade obligations. The bill passed unanimously. Through that legislation, parliamentarians of all stripes signalled that it was a priority that there be timely access to affordable generic versions of patented drugs meant to fight HIV-AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases that are killing thousands of vulnerable men, women and children every day. As an international leader, we could not stand idly by and watch others suffer without trying to help.

It has since become clear that the bill, well-intentioned as it was, proved ineffective in accomplishing its main role. Whether it has been overly complex or onerous or unresponsive to the urgent needs of countries in need, Canada's access to medicines regime has simply not lived up to its intended purpose. That is not to say that we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are solutions and we must move forward to implement them and reach these noble goals.

The bill before us today contains workable solutions to the administrative burdens that have made CAMR frustratingly inaccessible. In fact, we saw this legislation before the last Parliament as Bill C-393, and the House of Commons passed it before it died in the Senate when Parliament was dissolved for a general election.

I remember its passage from the House as one of the proudest moments in my time here, standing with a majority of fellow members, Liberals, NDP, the Bloc and several Conservatives alike saying to the world that we would help. At that time I argued that we could, and I still firmly believe that we can, pass this legislation and prolong lives while preventing the transmission of insidious diseases like HIV-AIDS. We can renew a lease on life for ailing parents, confident in the knowledge that they can live to provide for their loved ones, secure in knowing that they will not transmit the disease to their children. It is not enough to wish it were so, and words certainly will not make it true. Action is necessary. We can act now and finally address this head on.

Mr. Speaker, I will defer to you, understanding that I will have six minutes remaining when called upon again.

Patent ActPrivate Members’ Business

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

That is exactly correct. The hon. member for Guelph will have six minutes remaining for his remarks when the House next resumes debate on the question.

The time for consideration of private members' business has now 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 deemed to have been moved.

Aboriginal AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

October 16th, 2012 / 7:20 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to be here to discuss and bring back to this House a very important question that I asked of the government some months ago. I will repeat the final question. When will the federal government partner with provinces and first nations to put an end to the unacceptable living conditions that aboriginal people in Canada face?

As the member of Parliament for Churchill, I have the honour of representing 33 first nations. In some of these first nations, in fact in most of them and certainly in parts of all of them, there are people who are truly living in third world conditions. It is a message that I get day in and day out in the work that I do in northern Manitoba and the reality that so many first nations face across Canada. As we know, that is unacceptable in a country as wealthy as ours. The fact of the matter is that there is work being done on the ground to address their poor living conditions, including non-existent housing and the need to access health care. However, that work is not being done by all of the partners that need to be around the table. Notably, the missing partner is the federal government.

I will address the need to have the federal government play a true partnering role with the province and first nations when it comes, for example, to the all-weather road on the east side of Manitoba, a truly tremendous undertaking providing jobs for first nations in the area. For the first time in history, roads will be built between first nations that have been isolated, allowing them access to materials and health care and education services to a much greater extent. Unfortunately, the federal government has not been at the table to support this critical initiative.

I will also mention education. The province has made serious commitments with respect to the University College of the North. Unfortunately, the federal government has also been absent in that respect. In fact, it was due to the efforts of the late Jack Layton some years ago that there was at least some federal funding for the UCN at the time. Unfortunately, under the current government we have not seen a commitment. We hope that the federal government will shore up its commitment to education by supporting such critical initiatives as the University College of the North, but also by investing in K-12 education, recognizing that institutions like the Frontier Collegiate Institute in Cranberry Portage require federal funding for the first nations students sent there. The federal government ought to be part of a partnership to support primary and secondary education among aboriginal youth.

We also hope that the federal government will be part of a job creation strategy. The provincial government has been doing that kind of work with first nations, but unfortunately what we have seen from the federal government are damaging cuts when it comes to employment insurance and a total absence from the table when it comes to economic development that would benefit first nations and eradicate the third world living conditions so many of them face. That is the kind of action we would like to see in northern Manitoba and across Canada when it comes to making a difference for first nations people.

Aboriginal AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to the question from the member for Churchill.

Let me begin by reassuring my hon. colleague that our government continues to work with willing partners to improve the quality of life of aboriginal people. We have made significant targeted investments that have a direct impact on living conditions, including education, water and housing.

Let me remind the hon. member that economic action plan 2012 contained significant financial and legislative commitments to support our government's approach to improving the living conditions of aboriginal people. We have taken concrete steps to address water and waste water issues on reserve to ensure that first nation communities have access to safe drinking water.

Economic action plan 2012 includes almost $331 million, over two years, to help sustain progress made to build and renovate water infrastructure on reserve and to support the development of a long-term strategy to improve water quality in first nation communities. In addition, in February 2012, we introduced Bill S-8, the safe drinking water and first nations act, to ensure enforceable drinking water standards for first nations on reserve.

These initiatives and investments build on the concrete actions our government has taken since 2006 to support first nation communities in improving access to potable water, including sustainable development and investments under Canada's economic action plan and the first nations water and waste water action plan. These examples demonstrate our government's commitment to address the issues of water and waste water on reserve and to ensure first nations have access to safe, clean drinking water.

We are also very proud of our record of partnership and collaboration with provinces and first nations. A good example is our commitment to working with first nation partners to provide first nation students with the quality education they require to realize their aspirations. In collaboration with first nation partners, we are working on a concrete agenda to improve the education outcomes of first nation students and to provide them with the opportunity to acquire the skills they need to enter the labour market and to participate fully in a strong Canadian economy.

Of the $270 million announced in budget 2012, $100 million will be used to provide early literacy programming and other supports and services for first nation schools and students, and to strengthen the relationships with provincial school systems. This also includes $175 million to build and renovate schools on reserve, providing first nation students with better learning environments.

Our government will also work to explore mechanisms to ensure stable, predictable, sustainable funding for first nation elementary and secondary education. Access to high-quality education is crucial to success later in life. We believe that all Canadians benefit when first nation students can access education and can fulfill their aspirations.

When it comes to food security for aboriginal communities, our government supports this initiative through a number of programs, including nutrition north Canada. Nutrition north Canada is a program that helps provide northerners with greater access to nutritional perishable food, such as fruits, vegetables, bread, meat, milk and eggs. Furthermore, this program benefits 103 remote northern communities in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Our government remains committed to improving the lives of aboriginal people, as these initiatives truly demonstrate. This is definitely in contradiction to the direction the NDP would take us. As the member opposite mentioned, her party's preference would be to elevate taxes, to focus on something that we would really prefer not to focus on. The NDP wants to implement a $21 billion carbon tax, something that would ensure that we cannot create jobs and provide opportunities for these young aboriginal Canadians. We are against that. We are going to be focused on ensuring that aboriginal Canadians can succeed.

Aboriginal AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I had hoped that this conversation would focus on first nations' living conditions rather than the Conservative Party's talking points because the issue is grave.

With reference to access to clean water and sewer, I would invite the member across, and members of the government, to visit Garden Hill, St. Theresa Point and Wasagamack, which do not have full running water. In fact, only a small fraction of the community is serviced. Forty-nine high-risk aboriginal communities exist, when it comes to unsafe water access. First nations are 90% more likely than non-aboriginal communities to not have access to running water.

The member across brought up nutrition north, a program that many northerners have real concerns about because it is not working for their communities. We know this from the protests that we have seen in Nunavut, and certainly I know this from the communities that I represent.

With respect to education, I would like to see the federal government make a commitment to truly treat first nations with respect by working with them to find a way to invest in education appropriately rather than shutting the door on respectful, treaty-based negotiation.

I would hope for the day, and maybe it will take an NDP federal government, where first nations will be treated with respect.

Aboriginal AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, our government has consistently shown its commitment to aboriginal people through significant investments enabling them to participate in, contribute to and benefit from Canada's prosperity. We are taking concrete action on education, housing, family and child services, safe drinking water and other improvements on the pressing issues in first nation communities.

Our government is working with our partners to create jobs and growth in first nation communities, unlike the NDP who want to impose a $20 billion carbon tax that would actually kill jobs for all Canadians including aboriginal Canadians. Together we are working to build a future in which first nations are self-sufficient and prosperous, making their own decisions, managing their own affairs and making strong contributions to the country as a whole.

Our government will continue to focus and work with first nation partners across Canada to deliver tangible and lasting results to ensure first nations are well positioned to be full participants in the Canadian economy.

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, I would like to talk about the cost of prisons.

With unbelievable cynicism, on October 14, 2011, the Minister of Justice invited the provinces to dip into the Canada social transfer to pay for the increased prison costs resulting from the passing of Bill C-10. In general, what is the Canada social transfer used for? It is used to fund social assistance, health care, social services and higher education, not to pay for this government's bills that have absolutely nothing to do with the Canada social transfer.

The minister even said this: “I note, in the last budget, an over $2.4 billion increase in transfers,” said Mr. Nicholson in Montreal, “and I know this will be very helpful to the provinces who have for the most part the responsibility of the administration of justice.” It is as though he was telling the provinces that they had $2 billion and that they should make do. It is as though the provinces do not have education or health care systems or anything else to manage.

In a detailed study, the Institut de recherche et d'informations socio-économiques estimated that it would cost over $18.8 billion to build prisons and that there would be $3.8 billion in ongoing operating costs. The provinces will have to pay for three-quarters of the cost of the construction alone.

The Government of Quebec must therefore face the fact that 18 of its prisons are full. In practical terms, this means 565 to 1,048 additional beds in Quebec prisons. The cost of building new cells is estimated at approximately $750 million and the ongoing costs associated with the arrival of additional inmates is estimated at approximately $80 million.

Quebec was not the only one to protest. The other provinces also appealed to the government. Ontario even said that it would have to spend billions of dollars.

In order to save money, Quebec asked Ottawa to transfer ownership of the Leclerc Institution, which Ottawa wants to shut down. The federal government has invested $3 million to renovate this penitentiary. It is unbelievable. Furthermore, we have already paid for it. The Correctional Service of Canada spent $3 million on all kinds of renovations over two years, hundreds of thousands of dollars to install surveillance cameras, $5,000 to renovate a supervisor's office, $15,000 for painting, $1 million for roofing, and much more.

What was the Minister of Public Safety's response to a question I asked yesterday about transferring ownership of the Leclerc Institution?

I certainly will look at the request.

We will wait and see. The government may do something.

The request was made in a letter from the former Quebec minister of public security dated May 8, 2012. The letter was reported by the media and stated that, in three years' time, the three new prisons in Quebec would not meet demand and that Quebec wanted the Leclerc Institution. The minister must have received the letter dated May 8, 2012.

The Conservative government has never fully costed its justice initiatives. The Conservatives are closing prisons even though they want to jail more people. That does not make sense. If they want to jail more people, they have to build prisons. Instead of closing prisons, they should be giving money to the provinces so they can cover the extra costs.

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.

Delta—Richmond East B.C.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, for too many years our criminal justice system was going in the wrong direction. It focused more on the rights of criminals instead of the rights of victims.

Since coming into office, our government has accomplished a great deal when it comes to cracking down on crime, better protecting Canadians and giving victims the rights and protections they deserve, but we know that more needs to be done, which is why we introduced Bill C-10.

As the hon. member may know, after lengthy debate and study, Bill C-10 was passed by Parliament and received royal assent on March 13, 2012. I would like to take a few minutes to remind the hon. member what exactly Bill C-10 accomplished.

A major component of the Safe Streets and Communities Act targeted criminals who sexually exploit children. Bill C-10 proposed denouncing all forms of child sexual abuse through the imposition of new and higher mandatory minimum penalties for people who prey on our most vulnerable, that is, our children.

Furthermore, Bill C-10 brought in two amendments to correct the gaps in the Criminal Code. The first amendment made it a crime when two adults conspire to set up a child for exploitation. The second amendment made it a crime to give a child sexually explicit material for the purpose of grooming that child for exploitation.

Another major component of our legislation targeted the source of the illicit drug trade, the drug traffickers. Bill C-10 has stiffened penalties for the production and trafficking of illegal drugs.

I remind the House that the criminals we are targeting with these amendments are those who are involved in selling drugs to kids on playgrounds and near schools.

In addition, the Safe Streets and Communities Act ended house arrest for serious crimes like sexual assault, kidnapping and human trafficking, as well as eliminated pardons for crimes like sexual offences against children.

It also better protects the public from violent young offenders; supports victims of terrorism; and prevents the trafficking, abuse and exploitation of vulnerable immigrants.

As hon. members know, this government was elected to implement its promises, and one such promise is to better protect our most vulnerable, including children. Bill C-10 did exactly that, and I am proud to be part of a party that stood in support of this important legislation.

Canadians deserve to feel safe in their homes and communities, and that means keeping dangerous criminals off our streets. We will continue to fight crime and protect Canadians so that our communities are safe places for people to live, raise their families and do business.

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, if they want to be tough on crime, then they should be tough on crime. We are not telling them not to be; we are telling them to pay for it. It is not the same thing.

Can they pay for these prisons? They want more people in prison. That is fine. They have a majority. They can do what they want. But can we see some cash? That is what we are saying.

They want to be tough on crime but usually in order to do that, you have to build prisons. They should not be closing prisons; they should be building them. It only makes sense.

Now, what is the government's real agenda?

In my opinion, this government seems more interested in gradually moving toward the privatization of prisons and management of the correctional service, rather than in working to improve the system. That is what I think. I cannot come to any other conclusion given all these prison closures.

Furthermore, in October 2011 and in March 2012, with the greatest of discretion, the government commissioned a study on the different models of privatization in seven western countries, and 10 prisons were examined. A 1,400-page report was produced.

I think that the government may have something up its sleeve.

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is incredible to me that the hon. member has nothing to substantiate her point that there has been a serious increase in the number of prisoners as a result of the legislation we brought in. In fact, this just has not materialized.

However, I am extremely proud of this government's approach to fighting crime and protecting our communities. It is a made in Canada approach that will increase public safety and restore the confidence of Canadians in our justice system.

The Canadian approach is a balanced one that combines crime prevention, punishment and rehabilitation. Bill C-10 is one piece of this complex puzzle, and our government remains committed to ensuring that crime is prevented, that appropriate rehabilitation takes place and that proper punishments that fit the severity of the crimes are served. That is whom we are targeting, serious and violent repeat offenders.

The people of Canada elected this government because they can count on us to deliver on our communities and to stand up for victims of crime. It is unfortunate that the hon. members on the other side of this House cannot say the same.

EmploymentAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, back in May, I asked the minister about the changes in the budget implementation act that impacted employment insurance. As we now know, these changes have not worked. The minister has already been forced to retract some of those changes.

Sadly, many people are still struggling. I want to ask the minister when she will start improving employment insurance to ensure that those who need it can access it, instead of making it more difficult for those who are out of work to access the funds they have paid into during all of their working years. Hard-working Canadians deserve this much from the government. We need investments in our families struggling to make ends meet.

I had also asked the minister about the gutting of the appeals tribunal for employment insurance. Instead of separate tribunals with dedicated staff, we now have one big tribunal with a fraction of the staff. Asking 70 staff to review over 30,000 appeals will not make the system efficient. It will grind to a halt and the government knows that. The minister shrugged off my question by reiterating that having few people reviewing more cases at the appeals tribunal would be more efficient. Reduced staff cannot review more cases. It is simple math. People now have to wait longer to have their appeals heard. The people asking for appeals have legitimate complaints and are in desperate need.

The facts are clear. The Conservatives have replaced the tripartite system that had appeals judged by a local three-person panel with one representative appointed by the minister, one appointed by the EI commissioner for workers and one appointed by the EI commissioner for employees. This has been replaced with a centralized system in which a small number of full-time referees will review the appeals individually. These changes will result in a loss of sensitivity to local labour market conditions and cultural context. The appellant and his or her legal counsel or representative will no longer have the opportunity to appear in person to present a case. A person behind a desk will review the case and make a decision without ever interacting with the appellant.

With this new system of appeals, the interpersonal face-to-face meeting at which judges can ask specific questions in order to understand the challenges and suffering of an appellant is now eliminated. This will not create better decisions. It will make it more difficult for those making the decisions. They will not have the ability to assess an appellant in person and there will be no opportunity to truly understand the merits of the appeal.

I want to know who the minister consulted on these changes, changes no one thinks are efficient. I want to know why the government thinks creating a backlog is an acceptable cost-saving measure. I also want to know why the government thinks that it is acceptable to leave vulnerable people waiting to hear whether they can receive benefits that they desperately need.

I want to know why it is yet again the poorest and the most vulnerable Canadians who must bear the brunt of the government's poorly thought out budget cuts.

EmploymentAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I will address the issue of how appeals will be made on decisions regarding employment insurance, the Canada pension plan and OAS.

Changes to the appeals process should be easy to understand, because the system as it now exists is simply too costly and confusing. We are not against people appealing decisions. What we are against is costly red tape that prevents them from getting timely replies to their appeals.

Beginning in April of next year, the four existing appeal tribunals will be merged into one single decision-making body called the social security tribunal. This means a simple, more efficient single window for Canadians to access appeals and appeals processes, something Canadians are looking for. This will be a single access point for all Canadians wishing to appeal their decisions on any of these three national programs.

The 70 tribunal members will be full-time governor in council appointees solely dedicated to hearing and deciding EI, CPP and OAS appeals. Single-member panels will replace these three previous member panels, significantly reducing costs. This is a significant improvement over the many part-time appointments that previously existed under the old cumbersome tribunal process. The tribunal will use technology to reduce the current paper burden and to speed up the appeals process by using video conferencing instead of in-person appearances, reducing travel costs and costly administrative expenses.

At the end of the day, a savings of $25 million per year will be realized by this new system. The right to appeal any decision is important but the savings are exceptionally important. We want to save Canadians funds, unlike the NDP which would unnecessarily tax Canadians $21 billion for a carbon tax if it were given the opportunity.

The social security tribunal will improve the way we do business and ensure good service at the lowest possible cost.

The new tribunal will be more accessible, reduce administrative burden and provide greater consistency in decision-making. It will continue to provide a fair and accessible appeals process for all Canadians.

EmploymentAdjournment Proceedings

7:45 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I see the parliamentary assistant is more interested in perpetuating untruths than listening to what is being said. The government continues to make financial cuts that have the deepest impact on the poor and those on the razor's edge of poverty. It amazes me that the government is balancing the books on the backs of the poor, when it is very clear that the impact on people is horrendous. It can mean the difference between putting supper on the table, having money for medication or paying utility bills.

The changes to EI and the tribunal are kicking people who are already down. It is neither morally responsible nor fiscally responsible. In the end, people living in poverty will cost the economy more in social services, the justice system and the health care system.

All of Canada would benefit by improving EI and having fair and expedient appeals processes. It is about time the government did something that would benefit Canadians rather than constantly berating them and undermining their social good.

EmploymentAdjournment Proceedings

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are seeking to find ways to help Canadians by moving to a simpler, more efficient appeals process.

The social security tribunal will streamline the appeals process, so that Canadians do not have to enter a bureaucratic maze to have their cases heard.

This is not about cutting services. It is about working smarter and better. It is about saving the $25 million a year that was realized in this new system, unlike the NDP, whose choice, if given the opportunity, would be to impose a $21 billion tax hike on Canadians through a carbon tax.

This change is about improving the way we do business to ensure the top-notch services Canadians expect. We are committed to setting up a tribunal that replaces the current part-time membership with full-time dedicated experts and resources to hear appeals, and reduces the administrative burden, providing greater consistency for decision-making.

EmploymentAdjournment Proceedings

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:49 p.m.)