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 #80 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was banks.

Topics

Canadian Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, we need these two tiers. I am absolutely convinced of that. The Criminal Code, our criminal justice system, is, like the mace, too harsh a tool to be used in the vast majority of cases.

I want to address some of the problems with section 13. This section has been in the act since 1977. It is not a new section. It has been amended on a couple of occasions. It really became a problem with the advent of the Internet, the amount of hate literature that was on the Internet and the attempt by the Canadian Human Rights Commission to intervene and try to shut some of that down, if not all of it. Society, as a whole, needs to tell the bigots and hate-mongers they cannot do it and we have a mechanism we are going to use to shut them down. This is not about a debate over free speech. This type of speech, like slander, defamation and libel, we have recognized historically people cannot do.

I want to make one other argument in terms of addressing what we are hearing from the government side. Conservatives say this is a major interference with freedom of speech. That was the same type of argument that I heard repeatedly throughout the 1960s and 1970s as society moved to prevent discrimination in hiring and residences. I could go down the list. We heard usually from right-wing people that they had a right to discriminate, that they did not want someone whose skin was a different colour living next door to them. We heard that they had a right to do that, that they did not have to employ people because of the colour of their skin. We have said that is not acceptable in our society. Now, if we keep section 13, we are saying the same thing about that kind of language being used against those identifiable groups.

Canadian Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I have waited all day for the opportunity to speak to this bill. I am certainly honoured to speak to Bill C-304, put forward by the member for Westlock—St. Paul. I recall, as will the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, back in the 39th Parliament, when he and I both served on the justice committee, I had moved a motion to have the committee do a complete and fulsome review of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act for the very reason we are speaking about today, to repeal that portion of the act.

When I was appointed as parliamentary secretary, I was no longer able to sit on the justice committee. Obviously, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, I had new responsibilities.

I certainly want to congratulate the member for Westlock—St. Paul. Upon being named to the justice committee in the 40th Parliament, he immediately picked up the issue, pursued it and moved forward with it. After three years of doing a lot of work on the issue he has introduced his private member's bill. I commend him for his efforts in pushing forward on this very important legislation as a private member. We all know how few private members' bills actually move forward and receive royal assent and are enacted. It is a special opportunity that he has. He has done a tremendous job to get his bill this far.

I also want to speak to the point the member for Windsor—Tecumseh made. He spoke about having two tiers when it came to freedom of speech, that there somehow needs to be two tiers in terms of deciding what is or is not hate speech. I find that phrase to be extremely ironic when it is the belief of both the member and his party that there should not be a two-tier health care system, that there only needs to be one tier, that being the health care system we now have in this country which all of us believe in. However, when it comes to freedom of speech, two tiers is not only something he spoke about but something he thinks needs to exist. I think it is a dichotomy. I would hope the member for Windsor--Tecumseh would think a bit about the statement he made this afternoon in terms of, in one case two tiers not being okay yet being acceptable in another case. Either it is or it is not. He cannot have it both ways.

The Canadian Human Rights Act is intended to prevent and resolve cases of discrimination. It is not criminal law. Yet section 13 has subjected many Canadians to a quasi-judicial process for making statements that are not hate speech. Section 13 is simply not an appropriate or effective means for combatting hate propaganda. The Criminal Code is the best vehicle to do so. Intentional wrongdoing is within the scope of criminal law and there are already hate propaganda offences within our Criminal Code. It is an offence to incite hatred by communicating statements in any public place against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace.

It is also an offence to wilfully promote hatred by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, against any identifiable group. These are criminal offences. They are committed only if the speaker acts with criminal intent. Because they are criminal offences, they carry the full procedural protections of the criminal law, the due process that section 13 simply lacks.

Under similar provincial legislation, John Fulton, a business owner in my riding of St. Catharines, was accused of discrimination. The charges were eventually dropped against him but John was left with legal bills of roughly $150,000 and he did not have the chance to defend himself. He was never given that opportunity. In fact, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal then said that he had no right to compensation for legal expenses, even though the charges and allegations were completely and utterly dismissed.

Section 13 puts too much onus on defendants. Defendants are not always permitted to face their accusers. Normal standards for the validity of evidence do not apply. The government funds the plaintiff but the defendant is left to himself or herself. Most disturbingly, the absolute truth is not an acceptable defence. With all of these advantages, people have been able to plainly and simply take advantage of this part of the act. Who and what is censored by section 13 depends on who has the time and resources needed to pursue a section 13 complaint.

If the point of a section 13 complaint is only to pursue the speaker, then this should be done in a more formal system with better procedural safeguards. I am standing in this House to ensure that the people of St. Catharines, people like John Fulton, do not have their life and reputation damaged by this well-intentioned but seriously flawed legislation.

We all recognize that a law against hate propaganda is necessary to prevent the evils of discrimination. That exists within the Criminal Code. Section 319 of the Criminal Code contains two hate propaganda offences. These offences do not cover as many groups as section 13. For example, hate speech based on national origin, age, sex and mental or physical disability is not covered. It is for this reason that our government introduced an amendment to fill this gap. We are amending section 319 of the Criminal Code to add national origin, age, sex and mental or physical disability to the definition of identifiable groups.

I had an opportunity to speak to section 319 of the Criminal Code very recently. This means that it would now be a criminal offence to publicly incite and wilfully promote hatred based on these grounds. This means that our government is protecting the rights of minorities while preserving the right of free speech.

Dean Steacy, the lead investigator at the Human Rights Commission, once testified that freedom of speech was not given any value. That is unacceptable. The best way to fight bigotry is to ensure that we protect and enhance our fundamental freedoms. We must especially protect freedom of speech, which is the very bedrock of our parliamentary democracy and the democracy of this country.

In practice, section 13 is conflicted with section 2(b) of the Charter of Rights which guarantees that everyone has freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression. While charter rights are subject to reasonable limits prescribed by law, section 13 does not clearly describe these limits and this has led to highly subjective interpretations of freedom of expression.

The wording in the Human Rights Act leaves it so unclear as to what constitutes an act of hatred or contempt that former Liberal member of Parliament, Keith Martin, rightly described it as “a hole you could drive a Mack truck through”. This is why section 13's overly broad hate speech provision was ruled to be unconstitutional in 2009.

We need the Canadian Human Rights Act to preserve our rights, not to take them away. We cannot allow one badly written section to undermine a defendant's right to due process and the free speech of every Canadian.

On behalf of people, like John Fulton, who have had their rights challenged by the Human Rights Commission, I ask all members of this House, regardless of party and partisanship, because it speaks to the freedom, the very bedrock of our democracy, to support Bill C-304. We will create a system where charter rights like freedom of expression and due process are valued and minorities are protected by our Criminal Code.

Canadian Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I will now invite the hon. member for Westlock—St. Paul for his right of reply. The hon. member will have five minutes.

Canadian Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Conservative Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will begin by acknowledging all my colleagues who have stuck around and participated in the debate. As it is Valentine's Day, I thank them and their spouses for allowing them to be here to participate in it. I also thank my lovely spouse who is here supporting me tonight, giving up part of our Valentine's Day.

The purpose of the bill is to protect our fundamental freedoms. The core freedom, the pillar of our democratic society, is the freedom of expression. It has been argued on the other side that all freedoms are about equal. However, without the freedom of expression, the freedom of religion and the freedom of assembly have less value if we do not have freedom of expression to go with them. This is the tool that all truly free and democratic societies use to push the societal norms.

Open debates in our society are not just necessary, they are imperative to having a healthy and free western democratic society. Open debates are what this place was built on. It is what our society was built on.

Canadian Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

It's not happening lately.

Canadian Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Conservative Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, I know the member for Malpeque does not like open and free debates. That is why he tried to hold western Canadian farmers away from freedom for so many years.

I will now take the time to address some of the concerns of opposition members.

Members of the Liberal Party have come forward today and said that section 13 is very important and that protecting against hate speeches is critically important, but that it is not so important that we should actually have any penalties for those who break it. That is actually what the Liberals came forward today and said.

Every member of the NDP caucus who has stood has used the excuse that the burden of proof under the Criminal Code of Canada is too great and that it is too complex. They propose that we have two tiers of hate speech. I, for one, do not necessarily understand that. I do not understand how we can have one tier of hate speech that is worse than another tier of hate speech.

When we talk about the burden of proof and trying to make it easier, what we are giving up as Canadians are some of our natural rights as Canadians. What they are asking Canadians to give up is the right to an attorney, the right to a speedy and fair trial, and the right to face our accuser. Heck, they are even saying that we should not have the right to defend ourselves with the truth, that the truth should not be a defence in this country.

When my constituents hear about this and they hear about these quasi-judicial courts, they are absolutely appalled. That is why I believe it is important that we, as Canadians, stand up and defend our civil liberties and say that it is time to repeal section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and ensure that these types of trials happen in an open, fair and transparent system called the Criminal Code of Canada where there are checks and balances that Canadians have already approved.

The core message of Bill C-304 is protecting freedom.

The last thing I will address is the hesitancy on the opposition benches. I know there are a lot of new members of Parliament in this place but when I look at the weak arguments of burden of proof I see people who have already been told by their whip how they will vote so they need to formulate a reason for voting against it.

What I would ask members on the other side to do is to please throw off the shackles of their whip. This is a private member's bill. I would ask them to please stand and vote the conscience of their constituents. I have consulted my constituents on this bill. I hope all members will consult their constituents before they take the time to vote on this because protecting our freedom of speech is one of the greatest things we can do in this country.

Canadian Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

Canadian Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Canadian Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Canadian Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Canadian Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canadian Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canadian Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93 the division stands deferred until Wednesday, February 15, immediately before the time provided for private member's business.

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

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Friday I asked the Minister of Industry a question on Statistics Canada. Since 2006, Statistics Canada has done away with about 40 publications regarding important analyses. This decision was imposed through measures adopted by the then president of the Treasury Board, Stockwell Day. Some of the studies that have been dropped since then are extremely important. They include studies on the number of pregnancies and abortions, the number of marriages and divorces, public transit, movements by individuals, culture, exports by country, broadcasting and telecommunications, and industrial chemicals.

Statistics Canada no longer deals with these issues, precisely because of the Treasury Board decision with which Statistics Canada had to comply. One particularly interesting and useful study is also going to be dropped. I am talking about the national longitudinal survey of children and youth, which has been following the same cohort since 1994. This survey helps us understand social habits and behaviours, which is essential to conducting a good social analysis.

The Minister of Industry's answer to the question I asked on Friday is extremely disappointing. He said it was a question of efficiency and that most of these surveys were redundant. That is false. These are unique surveys, and dropping them will deprive the government and researchers of data that are useful in understanding the world in which we live. They are solid pillars on which governments base their decisions.

This situation has been decried by a number of organizations, including the Association francophone pour le savoir, ACFAS. Pierre Noreau, president of ACFAS, talked about the government's wilful blindness in making this decision and its inability to make decisions based on hard facts. We have seen it so many times: this government does not take the data into account when it comes to a number of important issues, including the elimination of the long gun registry and a number of other issues we have been addressing.

Mr. Noreau spoke about the government's inability to make decisions based on hard facts and its tendency to give free rein to its ideological leanings. This is really important. The Conservative government is entitled to its opinions—it has expressed many opinions since coming to power—but if there is one thing that it is not entitled to, it is its own version of the facts. Organizations that produce statistical data, such as Statistics Canada, are recognized around the world for the quality of their data and the information they are able to compile and make available to researchers or the government.

The government seems to have an aversion to data collected by Statistics Canada. I gave the example of the long gun registry, but there is also the long form census, which enabled us to gain a better understanding of Canadians and Quebeckers in various regards. We will no longer have access to those data in the future. Most researchers have decried the fact that these surveys will become less and less effective and useful in the future. Mr. Noreau spoke out against the decision, as did Céline Le Bourdais, Canada Research Chair in Social Statistics and Family Change.

I would like to take this time to give the government the opportunity to retract the response of the minister, who said that these surveys were redundant, and to set the record straight on this decision, which will deprive researchers and the government of useful data.

6:45 p.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to serve with the member on industry committee, as I have since he was elected.

Our government has shown a strong and longstanding commitment to science and technology since the release of our science and technology strategy in 2007. The strategy recognizes the important link between knowledge and the capacity to innovate in the global economy. What is more important than having a strategy is that we have been implementing it.

Years one and two of Canada's economic action plan provided $6.3 billion in science and technology investment, and budget 2011 provided an additional $700 million. Every federal budget of this government has increased S and T investments. At a time when other countries are struggling to maintain the stability of their funding for research, science and innovation, Canada is moving forward.

Our country now attracts the best and brightest minds in many scientific fields. Over the summer, the Prime Minister announced the 2011 Vanier scholarships. These are valued at $50,000 per year for up to three years. We also announced the first recipients of the Banting fellowships, which provide $70,000 each year for two years to top-tier post-doctoral talent. In June, as part of budget 2011, we announced the creation of 10 new Canada excellence research chairs, a program that offers $10 million over seven years to internationally recognized researchers and their teams to conduct their work at Canadian institutions.

Through these programs and many others, our government is supporting academic research at the highest level. Measured as a percentage of GDP, Canada's higher education expenditures on R and D are the highest in the G7.

We have more work to do. We recognize that despite high levels of federal support for research and development, Canada continues to lag in business R and D spending, commercialization of new products and services, and thus in productivity growth. That is why we asked an independent panel of experts to review federal investments in business R and D and to provide advice on optimizing this support.

In October, the expert panel led by Mr. Tom Jenkins provided recommendations on maximizing the effect of federal programs promoting business innovation. We are carefully considering the panel's recommendations.

Our government has a plan that we set out in 2007. The real test is not putting out plans but implementing them. We have demonstrated that we are on the right track and we will stay the course in science, technology and innovation.

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague. I enjoy working alongside him on the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

His answer was somewhat disappointing because I am talking about Statistics Canada and he is talking about science and technology. Statistics Canada conducts studies that are important for science and technology, but the issue I raised in question period on Friday had to do specifically with Statistics Canada and the moratorium on studies and analyses that are not merely useful, but actually crucial to understanding the world in which we live. Government decisions should be informed by these studies. By shutting down crucial studies, the government is foregoing extremely useful data.

Since I have a minute left, I would like to conclude with a quote from the ACFAS president, Mr. Noreau, whom I mentioned in my remarks. He had this to say about the cuts:

There may indeed be financial reasons, but there is also an ideology in play dictating that the cuts be made here and not elsewhere. The government regularly airs its general skepticism about the usefulness and relevance of this data. We are dealing with political thinking that is based on an ideological view of the world rather than a scientific one. This government is more interested in where we are going than in where we are.

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, the original question by the member did touch on science and technology and the government's approach to science and my answer therefore reflected that. We do not know ahead of time what line of questioning the opposition might take when it goes into these late show debates, but I did try to address the issue he brought up in his original question.

In his intervention the member also brought up the census. He is right, the government has changed the long form census. It is no longer mandatory. We now have a national household survey because we do not believe that Canadians should be threatened with fines and jail time because they do not want to tell the government what their religion is or how much housework they do or how many bedrooms they have in their house. That is something this government will not do.

We changed the guidelines and changed what was a mandatory long form census to the national household survey.

We will continue to respect the privacy of Canadians.

6:50 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, earlier I asked the government a question about pension plans and expressed my concern about the fact that this government is leaving seniors to their own devices. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to discuss this matter further.

One thing is clear: the Conservative government is playing Russian roulette with Canadians' pensions. It is relying solely on the performance of the stock market. My hon. colleagues opposite must realize that the dignity and well-being of our seniors should not be played with and that it is time to introduce honourable and secure pension plans.

The people who live in the riding of Alfred-Pellan are worried. Men and women who have worked hard all their lives are no longer able to pay their bills and live comfortably. Statistics indicate that 11 million Canadians do not have access to an employer-sponsored pension plan. Six in ten people live paycheque to paycheque and cannot save for the future. In 2012, a person 65 years of age or older who retires receives a maximum of $986.67 per month to cover their expenses.

How could anyone really think that someone could survive on $986.67, when that amount has to pay for all expenses, including rent, groceries, bills and sometimes even medication, which can be extremely expensive?

Is this really how the government wants to thank our seniors and pensioners who worked hard their entire lives? The answer should be no, but unfortunately, this government is not offering any solutions to families that must go into debt to pay their bills.

This is a crisis and the government's plan to fix this crisis is to ask families to invest more in private pension funds, which have already proven themselves to be ineffective for many people. People come to see me, write to me and call to tell me how worried they are about this. They ask me how they are going to be able to retire in dignity and in good living conditions.

I think the solution is clear: we need to work with the provinces to increase public pension benefits across Canada, including Quebec, so that everyone can enjoy a secure retirement.

There are even reports proving that the government can improve the pension system. The Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, issued a report on February 8 that analyzes the long-term costs of seniors' benefits.

We can see that his findings contradict the government's claims. He said that the government could maintain this program and improve it even more: “The federal government could reduce revenue, increase program spending or some combination of both...while maintaining fiscal sustainability”.

My NDP colleagues and I have a plan: to increase the benefits of the guaranteed pension plans in Canada and Quebec by gradually doubling them.

We would like to double the CPP and QPP benefits up to a maximum of $1,920 a month. Some 45 years ago, we helped create the Canada pension plan, and its equivalent, the Quebec pension plan. The CPP and the QPP are low-cost, inflation-proof plans.

When is this government going to take expert advice into consideration and listen to the needs of Canadians and Quebeckers, in order to protect their savings and allow them to retire with dignity?

6:55 p.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her excellent question.

I want her to know that our government understands the importance of a secure and dignified retirement for people who have spent their entire lives building a better and more prosperous Canada for us all. That is why I am proud of this government's record toward ensuring the financial well-being of Canada's seniors.

By introducing the pooled registered pension plan, or PRPP, our government is taking the next steps forward in helping Canadians save for their retirement so they can achieve their retirement goals. Incredibly, just over 60% of Canadians do not have access to a workplace pension plan, many of whom work for small- and medium-size businesses or are self-employed. PRPPs are an innovative, broad-based, privately administered low-cost pension option that will play a critical role in allowing millions of Canadians to access a low-cost workplace pension plan for the first time ever.

By pooling pension savings, PRPPs will give Canadians greater purchasing power. Essentially, Canadians will be doing what we call bulk buying. This means that more money will be left in their pockets when they retire. If the NDP had its way, it would actually abandon the PRPP framework altogether. Rather than provide Canadians with a broad-based, low-cost pension option, New Democrats would actually jeopardize Canada's economic recovery by trying to expand the CPP and QPP. However, in order to expand CPP and QPP, contribution rates would have to be increased and that would mean higher payroll costs for small- and medium-size businesses and higher premiums for workers and the self-employed.

Our government's top priority remains the economy and that means focusing on job creation and economic growth. That is why our government does not believe that now is the time to impose a job-killing tax on job creators. The provinces agree with us.

In December 2010, the provinces unanimously agreed to pursue the development of the PRPP framework. There was not a consensus on expanding CPP and QPP. Not only is this the economically prudent decision but is also the decision that Canada's finance ministers believe will be an effective way to help modest and middle-income individuals save for their retirement.

PRPPs will help these individuals in a variety of ways. They will be able to save by providing a new, accessible, straightforward and administratively low-cost retirement option for employers to offer their employees; by allowing individuals who currently may not participate in a pension plan, such as the self-employed and employees of companies that do not offer a pension plan, to make use of this new option by enabling more people to benefit from the lower investment management costs resulting from membership in a large pooled pension plan; by allowing for the portability of benefits that will facilitate an easy transfer between plans; and by ensuring that funds are invested in the best interests of plan members.

By adding PRPPs to Canada's retirement system, we will be making a system that is already strong much stronger. Why does the NDP not support a framework that will help millions of Canadians save for their retirement?

Why does the hon. member not encourage the Province of Quebec in its efforts to support this plan. I encourage the hon. member and her party to support us. All the other provinces are on the verge of lending us their support in this regard, and I am asking the hon. member to reconsider her position.

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member opposite. When I ask my constituents what priorities they want me to stand up for in the House of Commons, most of them say retirement pensions. They are worried that their savings will go up in smoke because of this government's lack of judgment, because it thinks only of filling the pockets of large corporations and too often forgets about Canadian families.

My constituents are wondering why they cannot afford to pay their bills and their rent, and why they cannot afford to pay for their prescriptions and other everyday essentials. As the stock markets fall, they are wondering how they will be able to manage their income and access their well-deserved retirement pensions. When will this government finally show some respect for workers who have laboured their whole lives to save for retirement?

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague mentioned seniors and pensioners. When it comes to caring about seniors, we back that commitment by leaving them with more of their hard-earned money. All told, we have provided $2.3 billion in additional annual targeted tax relief to seniors and pensioners through measures such as pension income splitting, increases in the age credit amount and a doubling of the maximum amount of income eligible for the pension income tax credit.

We also introduced the tax-free savings account. This is a flexible, registered general purpose savings vehicle that allows Canadians to earn tax-free investment income to more easily meet their lifetime savings needs, including retirement savings.

Once again, I implore the member across the way to please take these points under consideration and help us to support the provinces in this endeavour.

February 14th, 2012 / 7 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be in the House this evening to ask a few questions regarding the Muskrat Falls project in Newfoundland and Labrador. The timing of this question is quite interesting because today the public utility board in Newfoundland started some public hearings into the Muskrat Falls deal.

There are many people back home asking questions about this deal, such as what the true value of it is and if it will benefit Newfoundland and Labrador. Many people are skeptical of the deal. Today in the public utilities board meeting there were a lot of comments around the financing of the deal, whether it would go over budget and by how much or whether it would it go under budget.

A lot of this surrounds the question I asked in the House regarding the loan guarantee from the federal government. We need to look at the timeline. The loan guarantee was promised prior to the election. The memorandum of understanding was signed in the summer. Some deadlines were put in place. August 31 was one deadline and another was November 30. All these seem to have come and gone and we have received no clarity.

I want to quote from the memorandum of agreement that was signed between the province and the federal government. It states:

The Parties agree that time shall be of the essence in this agreement and will be bound by this agreement including the following timelines, unless otherwise extended by mutual agreement: on or before August 31, 2011 -- announcement of the terms of this agreement; on or before November 30, 2011 or 8 weeks following access by the Government of Canada to the projects’ data room...

I will get back to that in a second, because that is where my question is going to be. It continues

—and detailed analyses and representations by credit rating agencies--agreement on term sheet for engagement with capital markets; and on or before financial close--completion of formal agreements for provision of the loan guarantee.

My first question for the parliamentary secretary is on this eight weeks following access to the Government of Canada's projects' data room. Has the Government of Canada had access to the projects' data room? If so, when? One of the things in the agreement states that it needs to be reported back eight weeks after that has happened.

As well, who is the financial adviser on this file? Again, the memorandum of agreement states:

—the federal government is retaining financial advisors to complete due diligence analysis. The purpose of due diligence is to assist the Government of Canada in the implementation of the Memorandum of Agreement. The Request for Proposal for financial advisors is posted on the Government Electronic Tendering Service (MERX) and will close on September 6, 2011.

The government has tendered for financial analysts. The Minister of Natural Resources has confirmed that a financial adviser is in place, but has not stated when these details would be finalized.

Therefore, my other question to the parliamentary secretary is this. Who is the financial adviser on this file and what is the timeline when he or she will come back and report to the federal government on the particular outlines of this agreement?

These are a couple of specific questions regarding Muskrat Falls that people are wondering, and the timing of the question this evening is very prudent.

7 p.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for speaking about this very important project. Some of the questions the member has asked will have to be referred back to the minister for an answer.

I will answer the specific question he asked with regard to tonight's late show because that is in fact what the late show is for. Having said that, I will to proceed to provide him with some clarity on the issue of the memorandum of agreement.

In August our government signed a memorandum of agreement to provide or purchase a loan guarantee for the Lower Churchill clean energy projects. This agreement is an important step, one step, to realizing the full potential of one of North America's most ambitious energy projects. It demonstrates our government's strong commitment to work in partnership with the provinces and territories to develop Canada's renewable energy resources.

These are enormously important projects for Newfoundland and Labrador. The numbers tell the story. It is estimated that these projects will generate total employment of 18,400 person-years in Newfoundland and Labrador and 47,800 person-years across all of Canada. They will provide $3.5 billion in benefits to local businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador and over $750 million in taxes to federal and provincial coffers. In addition, the projects will help toward displacing oil and coal-fired generation in the region, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by up to 4.5 megatonnes.

In short, these projects will bring clean energy and create jobs and growth for the entire Atlantic region.

The Lower Churchill projects provide an opportunity for Newfoundland and Labrador to meet their energy needs in an environmentally sustainable way. Once completed, Newfoundland and Labrador will obtain up to 98% of its electricity from non-greenhouse gas emitting sources.

Our government has hired a financial advisory firm, as was stated. This firm is going to assist in the implementation of the memorandum of agreement and to ensure that the support it provides to Lower Churchill River projects is fiscally responsible.

The financial advisory firm is currently conducting due diligence analysis on the projects and will assist in the development of terms and conditions for the loan guarantee.

I can assure the hon. members that the work is in fact in progress. We continue to work on a guarantee that will be provided in a timely manner, while ensuring that all due diligence is performed.

Our government is very proud of the commitment we made to Lower Churchill. It is a very important economic development project for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and in fact for all of Canada.

As I said before, our support for Lower Churchill will boost clean energy projection, grow our economy and strengthen our status as a global energy superpower. That is the bottom line.

With regard to any additional questions that were not put before us earlier this evening, I will endeavour to ask those questions for the member and I am happy to get back to him in a timely fashion.

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, obviously a firm has been engaged, but the parliamentary secretary cannot tell us the name of the firm. She has great talking points there, but we are a little light on details.

I will quote the premier of Newfoundland who said, on January 31:

The Government of Canada has also reviewed the Muskrat Falls project and has concluded the proposal is in the national interest, worthy of warranting national support...

Therefore, we are not sure if it is a loan guarantee or equivalent financial support. She went on to say:

—in effect making a project that was already deemed cost-effective even more so. Work is progressing well in finalizing the guarantee.

However, we do not seem to have any details on where the guarantee is or at what stage it is. I asked a question about the eight weeks and the parliamentary secretary could not answer that.

I have another question. Have the capital markets been engaged as per the terms of the agreement, yes or no?