Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand in support of Bill C-45, a bill that would strengthen Canada's opportunities at home and abroad.
We on this side of the House are very proud of what has been accomplished since the worldwide recession in which Canada has been a leader in both the G7 and G20 and will continue to do so for some time due to our strong economic environment and our robust natural resource sector. It is with this in mind that I would like the folks to know what seems to be missed by the opposition, that being all of the benefits that the bill would provide to Canadians.
The registered disability savings plan holds benefits for thousands of Canadians. For instance, there would be greater access to the RDSP savings for small withdrawals. It would also give greater flexibility for parents who have children with disabilities in that RESPs can be rolled into RDSPs if the plan shares a common beneficiary. This is a great move forward because each year, unfortunately, some parents must face great despair when a child is injured and faces years if not a lifetime of rehabilitation. This, in a small way, is to recognize that savings transferred from an RESP to an RDSP will be of benefit in the long term.
Amending the Income Tax Act to accommodate PRPPs is yet another great option that is now available for those companies that, under normal circumstances, could not offer a pension plan to their employees. So many small businesses across Canada will be able to offer pension benefits which, in my opinion, will work toward employee retention. When employees see that their employers are looking at ways to ensure their longevity at a company, it can only prove as a benefit for all involved.
I will switch now and speak to the Fisheries Act because the opposition seems to focus in on it.
Under the Fisheries Act, fines collected under section 40 would be directed to the environmental damages fund. This fund money would be used for proactive initiatives to advance protection of Canadian fisheries. I find it interesting that the opposition parties do not mention this very proactive move by our government to ensure that the environmental damages fund stays well-funded. They will always focus on the doom and gloom and how the destruction of our environment is inevitable, even when Canadians know that we have some of the strongest environmental standards in the world.
More evidence of this is found under section 136 of the Fisheries Act, which says that “No person shall”:
(c) damage or obstruct any fishway constructed or used to enable fish to pass over or around any obstruction;
(d) damage or obstruct any fishway, fish stop or diverter constructed or installed on the Minister’s request;
(e) stop or hinder fish from entering or passing through any fishway, or from surmounting any obstacle or leap;
(f) damage, remove or authorize the removal of any fish guard, screen, covering, netting or other device installed on the Minister’s request; or
(g) fish in any manner within 23 m downstream from the lower entrance to any fishway, obstruction or leap.
Fish are not to be obstructed.
Our government recognizes the importance of fish spawning and the ability for fish to get to their natural spawning grounds. We also respect the inherent right of first nations for social or ceremonial purposes or for the purposes set out in a land claims agreement.
Following on with first nations, I am pleased that changes to the Indian Act would make it easier for first nations to have designated land on reserves. This is huge for first nations as it would allow for economic development in a more efficient manner. By making these amendments, it will allow first nations to work at the speed of business. Making decisions in a timely manner is what first nations want.
That brings me to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Let us be perfectly clear that this is not about weakening environmental standards. This is about recognizing that not every waterway in Canada must be subject to rules regulating boats, vessels and ships. In my constituency, two major waterways will fall under this new act, as they should, the Columbia River and the Kootenay River. They are two of the most used river systems in western Canada, both for recreation and electrical generation.
Let me flesh this out a little more so Canadians understand what this is. The assessment factors include, first, the characteristics of the navigable waters in question; second, the safety of navigation; third, the current or anticipated navigation in the navigable waters; fourth, the impact of the work on navigation in the navigable waters, for example as a result of construction, placement, alteration, repair, rebuilding, removal, decommissioning, maintenance, operation or use; and fifth, the cumulative impact of the work on navigation in the navigable waters.
We have gone further. We also put in regulations with regard to depositing and dewatering to ensure that the safe travel of water vessels is paramount.
I have given an overview on some items found in Bill C-45. As one can see, our government continues to put the interests of Canadians first. We are the only party that recognizes the importance of protecting the environment, all the while ensuring that our natural resource sector moves forward to ensure that Canadians will be able to afford the services they have today and into the future.
I would like to invite anyone to ask any questions.