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House of Commons Hansard #72 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 2nd, 2012 / 5:35 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Madam Speaker, I am rising today to speak in opposition to Bill C-217. I do so somewhat reluctantly. I have come to know the member who sponsored this bill in his capacity as chair of the citizenship and immigration committee on which I sit. I can say half jokingly that he treats us all with a kind of even-handed impatience. I know that his intentions in putting forward this bill are no doubt noble and stem from a profound respect for the veterans of this country. I also say “reluctantly” because I share that profound respect for our veterans.

I have had the opportunity and privilege to tell the House before that I am the son of a World War II veteran, and the grandson of a veteran who was very seriously injured in the First World War but survived and went on to have a career as a diplomat on behalf of his home country, Australia. My father had the privilege of growing up the son of a diplomat in New York City. When he turned 18, he had a choice to make. He was free to join the forces and fight in the Second World War. That was a choice that he made. I realize it is a choice that hundreds of thousands of young men and women make and I want to be clear how much respect I have for the choice that all of those folks make.

Lastly, in terms of my reluctance to oppose this bill, I want to talk about the importance of war memorials. There is no question that they serve and should serve as important symbols in our public life. They are not symbols that celebrate war but in fact mark the terrible tragedies which occur in war. One hopes that in building war memorials as well as assembling before them that the tragedy of war is felt deeply by so many. I think that in our society war memorials can really serve as markers on the road to peace. I hope that is the service they provide to society. For that reason, I feel they need to be protected.

However, running through this private member's bill and frankly so much of the government's legislation is a common thread. There is a tendency to respond with intolerance, never with the humility that recognizes the very human tendency for all of us to err, and never in a fashion that recognizes the real human capacity that most of us have to redeem ourselves if given the opportunity.

It seems that all transgressions under government and private members' bills coming from the other side seem to end with someone getting incarcerated, as if incarceration is a redeeming and ennobling exercise.

I want to tell a story that demonstrates why this approach to the bill is wrong-headed. It is a story that spans a great many years, but I will shorten it for the House. It is centred in my riding of Beaches--East York. At the centre of the story is the Malvern Collegiate War Memorial, a war memorial I have spoken about here before. It was built in 1922 to honour the sacrifice of the 25 “Boys of Malvern”, all graduates of that high school who fought and died in World War I.

About 25 years ago, the memorial was moved to accommodate some renovations to the school and in that process it lost an arm. It stayed that way for a long time. In its centennial year, the school's alumni association decided to restore the monument to its former glory. It took about seven years of hard work and considerable fundraising and the memorial was beautifully restored November 4 of last year. I attended the rededication of the memorial and spoke on behalf of the Minister of Veterans Affairs because that ministry had provided some funds for the restoration. There were about 400 people in attendance at that rededication. It was very much a well-attended event in my riding. The war memorial itself had a lot of national media coverage. It was something of a celebrated war memorial.

It was at that event that I met a woman, Dr. Vandra Masemann. She was there to speak at the rededication as both the president of the school's alumni association and also as the chair of the war memorial restoration committee. It was a very proud day for a large number of people involved in this restoration process. The national media turned out, as did many local and regional media outlets as well.

It was a wonderful day, a very proud day for so many people. However, within 36 hours the memorial had been vandalized. The video evidence showed four young men getting out of a car in the dark of night, climbing the monument and wrapping it in blue duct tape. In the process they caused a couple thousand dollars' worth of damage to the memorial. The national media returned to the scene to cover the event and the outrage of so many people who lived in the neighbourhood and contributed financially and with their hard work to the restoration project.

I met Vandra a couple of weeks later. We were sitting on the stage beside each other at the high school's graduation ceremony. During the ceremony she leaned over to me and said, “I want you to know that I oppose that bill.” She was referring to Bill C-217. I followed up with her after the ceremony. She asked me for a bit of time to put her thoughts into writing for me about why she opposed the bill, having put so much work into the restoration and being so proud of what she had accomplished.

Vandra's characterization of the vandalism was very clear and concise. She said that this was indeed a desecration of the war memorial. In spite of this, she had a very firm opinion in opposition to this bill. I want to quote her at length. She wrote to me:

I ponder on who are going to be the ones that do these things--young males around 18-24. These boys are the same as the Boys of Malvern who died and who are remembered on that monument. We cannot rescue those boys who died, but we can rescue the ones who have done such a foolish and stupid thing as to vandalize a war memorial.

We need to be much more creative about the kind of consequence that will teach them the awful significance of what they have done. Giving them a criminal record and letting them learn nothing from the experience is of no redemptive significance whatsoever. It is imperative that they understand the nature of the act they have committed, and surely their cell-mates will not be able to do this. I am in favour of a fine proportional to the cost of repairs as well as an educational experience that ensures they will never even dream of committing such an act again. It could be community service with a veterans' group or hospital, with the War Amps program or with projects that aim to gather the memories of the soldiers that are still living. It needs to be concluded with a public apology and an expression of atonement for having committed such a crime. Surely our lawmakers can come up with more imaginative solutions than 2-4 weeks in jail. Lastly, several of those who have commented have noted that this act could also be construed as a “prank”. Many may disagree with this assessment, but a jail term will not convince the perpetrators that it wasn't. Only a serious attempt at re-education will show them the error of their ways.

If members tend to think that this is all wrong-minded, let me bring Reverend Jim McKnight into this story. Reverend Jim saw the news about the desecration of the Malvern War Memorial. He is an alumnus of Malvern and came forward to admit publicly that 43 years earlier he, along with a couple of other buddies who have remained nameless, desecrated the very same monument with a can of white paint.

In 1968 Reverend Jim was a top student, editor of the school newspaper and president of the United Way committee. That night he was, in his words, as quoted in the Toronto Star, “giving society the finger.” The school's principal caught him but the police were never called in. Reverend Jim's punishment was a lifetime of regret. As he put it:

I didn't think it was a big deal; I thought it was just some statue till I saw the newspaper....I remember the words, 'Memorial desecrated'. Something about 'desecrated' threw me for a loop. Then, an older math teacher pulled me aside. He was visibly shaken. His big brother had been killed;...his name was on the memorial. That really got my attention.

Reverend Jim never spent time in jail, never even paid a fine. It was the math teacher, who was a fellow Malvern alumnus who spoke of being in Malvern in the 1940s, of empty desks, of friends being killed overseas. These are the experiences that helped a kid who gave society the finger one night appreciate the courage and sacrifice of our veterans. That is all it takes, a little life experience, a little education, a couple of conversations, to accomplish what this bill seeks to accomplish with fines and incarceration.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Seeing no one rise, I will ask the hon. member for Dufferin—Caledon for his right of reply.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Madam Speaker, I would first like to thank all members who participated in the debate on this bill, which recognizes the importance of honouring and respecting the memory of our country's brave men and women of the Canadian Forces.

Bill C-217 seeks to amend the Criminal Code by adding significant penalties for any person convicted of mischief against a war memorial, cenotaph or other structure honouring or remembering those who have served in our Canadian Forces and those who have died as a consequence of war. The bill seeks to impose a minimum penalty of a fine not less than $1,000 for a first offence, prison not less than 14 days for a second offence and prison not less than 30 days for all subsequent offences. These minimum sentences are not overly harsh. Instead, they are necessary to put an end to such disrespectful acts against those who died for our country.

A great number of examples of such heinous acts have already been presented to the House, bringing light to a growing yet hidden problem. Such examples of insolence cannot go unpunished. An apology or a small donation is not enough. These vandals must know what they have done is completely unacceptable and Canadians will not tolerate this disrespectful attitude.

When I first addressed the House on the bill on November 3, 2011, I cited many examples of desecrated war memorials and cenotaphs. Therefore, it saddens me to bring forward new examples today, one of which was just referred to by my colleague. However, it underscores the seriousness of the problem and the need for concrete action by the House.

Days before this past Remembrance Day, a war memorial in Calgary had graffiti painted on it. Concerned citizens and veterans alike expressed their outrage and disgust, voicing feelings of disrespect and lack of acknowledgement for the sacrifice of Canada's fallen.

Then, as my colleague has just said, in November of 2011, just hours after Malvern Collegiate in Toronto rededicated its war memorial to soldiers who had attended the school and following a $44,000 restoration, the monument was vandalized. The monument was wrapped in blue duct tape and three letters were knocked off it in what the school described as a planned and deliberate act of vandalism. The vandals then remained at the site and they chatted and took pictures before they left the site. All of this was caught on tape and, as expected, they failed to display any signs of remorse or regret. The damage will now cost the school nearly $2,000, all of which will have to be community funded. The school principal explained that in her eight years at the school, the memorial has been defaced, painted, dressed in rival school clothing, all acts of vandalism and disrespect.

The 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 is quickly approaching, as well as the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. With the upcoming anniversaries of two historical events, it is of utmost importance that such amendments be put in place to protect the dignity and respect of those being honoured and remembered.

Bill C-217 would remind Canadians that the sacrifices of soldiers will never be forgotten or unappreciated. Canada will continue to honour its fallen through the protection of such important structures and will punish those who disrespect them.

The opposition has provided examples where vandals have expressed regret and disgust with their own acts of dishonour and now devote their time to protecting these sacred memorials. The opposition unfortunately sees this as an example of why minimum punishments should not be added to the Criminal Code. However, these vandals, although remorseful, committed a form of disrespect so great that new-found regret does not compensate for the immense and unforgettable damage done to the memorial and the community where it stands. The opposition has suggested rehabilitation as an appropriate response to those who committed these horrific acts.

Bill C-217 is not opposed to such a response, but seeks punishment first for those who displayed such great disrespect for war memorials and cenotaphs to ensure they recognize the gravity of their deplorable acts. Such amendments to the Criminal Code force potential vandals to also think twice before they act, due to the knowledge and fear of the criminal sanctions to come for their actions, rather than responding with rehabilitative efforts after the irreversible damage has been done to a memorial and its community.

Bill C-217 sends a clear message that vandalism and desecration of any Canadian cenotaph or war memorial will not be tolerated. We owe it all to the men and women who have fought and continue to fight in the Canadian Forces of our great country.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

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

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley on a point of order.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Madam Speaker, we ask you to see the clock at 6:30.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Is it the pleasure of the House to see the clock at 6:30?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to return to a question I asked just a few months ago, one that is still just as relevant, especially given the student demonstrations that took place yesterday on Parliament Hill. This question concerning student debt is now more important than ever, because the current government intends to make cutbacks that will endanger the old age security of the upcoming generation, a generation now comprised of students. These students want accessible education.

In response to my question, the minister said that billions of dollars have been invested in various loan and bursary programs since the government came to power. Yet the figures demonstrate that student debt is continuing to rise exponentially. Only yesterday I asked a question on this issue and clearly emphasized that student debt is about to reach its legal limit of $15 billion. This is an extraordinary sum of money.

In discussions with students, which I engage in frequently given the responsibilities I have held in my caucus since the start of my term, I have observed an openness to different ideas that are not shared by this government and that could greatly assist in reducing tuition fees. These are very concrete and simple measures to reduce student debt.

In this particular case, it is clear that education is a provincial area of responsibility. However, in several other areas of provincial jurisdiction, the federal government has fiscal powers that can be useful in assisting provinces with the delivery of their programs, especially in the areas of health care, education and the like. The solution favoured by the New Democratic Party is to increase transfer payments to the provinces while respecting our Sherbrooke declaration, which gives Quebec the right to opt out, thereby respecting Quebec’s distinct nature and the particular natures of the other provinces.

Increasing transfers to the provinces helps them to provide programs and reduce tuition fees. This measure is supported 110% by students of various organizations.

I would like to offer an example that, in my opinion, says a lot about this government's failure to listen. It concerns something that happened during the election. The Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, in the pamphlet, “Student Voice of Quebec”, asked all the main parties running in the federal election what they would do to improve access to education and quality of education. Every party chose to respond, except the Conservative Party of Canada, which is currently in government.

When I observe the Conservative Party’s failure to respond to these questionnaires, I cannot help but think that they are not listening to students. What students are calling for is very clear: an increase in transfers to the provinces so that they can cut tuition fees and consequently reduce the student debt of a generation that will be the future driving force of our economy.

6 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

Madam Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to address the concerns of the member for Chambly—Borduas on the need to reduce student debt.

Post-secondary graduates play a vital role on our road to economic recovery and prosperity. That is why our government made changes to student financial assistance in 2008 and why we are proposing more amendments to the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act.

However, it should be underlined that the policies of post-secondary institutions, including the establishment of tuition levels, fall under provincial and territorial jurisdiction.

We support the provincial and territorial governments through block funding for post-secondary education under the Canada social transfer. This ensures that provinces and territories have the flexibility to invest funding according to their own needs and priorities. This reflects a long history of Canadian governments working together on shared national priorities. It also recognizes that in areas of provincial jurisdiction, provincial and territorial governments are best placed to deliver the services and to be accountable for their outcomes.

We are living in the age of knowledge and information. Therefore, it has never been more important to give the young people of today the means to pursue post-secondary education if we want them to succeed in the world of tomorrow. That is exactly what we are doing.

Our government has made available a number of supports to help Canadians finance and repay their post-secondary education. Our government invests more than $10 billion annually in direct support for post-secondary education.

As announced on January 1, part-time students no longer have to pay interest on their Canada student loans while enrolled as students, bringing their costs in line with those of full-time students.

In the 2009-10 school year, 400,000 students received loans and grants totalling nearly $2.7 billion through the Canada student loans program. Of that, $593 million was for Canada student grants, received by 295,000 Canadian students. That is more than double what it was under the old Liberal system.

Budget 2011 indicated that our government will forgive a portion of student loans for new family physicians and nurses who choose to work in under-serviced areas, such as remote and rural communities, like my own home areas of Elmvale and Angus in the riding of Simcoe—Grey. Budget 2011 also increased the amount students can earn while working without their loans being affected. This helps over 100,000 students.

Canadians still believe, correctly I would add, that post-secondary education is a sound investment. This is why more Canadians than ever before are seeking assistance to help them meet their post-secondary education goals.

Our government is aware of the concerns about rising student debt. We remain committed to helping students access affordable post-secondary education with a loan they can reasonably repay.

6 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

Madam Speaker, I have to acknowledge that I agree with part of my colleague's response. The provinces are in the best position to manage education programs.

For that reason we are asking for federal transfers to the provinces to ensure better management. This will guarantee better access and reduce student debt. As is the case with the health care system, the federal government has the power to help the provinces while ensuring that the division of powers is respected. I believe this is what the NDP and students are asking for and that they are aware of the different jurisdictions involved.

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Madam Speaker, our government is committed to having the most educated skilled work force in the world. It is vital for our economic recovery and success.

To help borrowers who face repayment difficulties, our government introduced important measures in budget 2008. We changed the repayment assistance plan of the Canada student loan program. Now borrowers are only required to pay back what they can reasonably afford, and based on their family income and size. In 2009-10, approximately 160,000 individuals who were issued a Canada student loan benefited from the repayment assistance plan.

As a result of this and many other measures at HRSDC, we have been able to help students not default on their loans, and an historic low in default rates has been achieved, at just under 15%.

To help borrowers manage their debt, we contact them before their repayments and provide them individual counselling so they are able to be responsible borrowers.

Our government wants students to realize their post-secondary education goals,. We are helping them do that.

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Manon Perreault NDP Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, at the end of November 2010, a report published by Campaign 2000 disclosed some shocking numbers. In 2009, there were 639,000 children living in poverty. That number represents about one child in 10. Twenty years ago, the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion to end child poverty in Canada before the year 2000. Two years ago, we committed ourselves to implementing an immediate plan for everyone, to eradicate poverty in Canada. But here we are today with a child poverty rate of 9.5%.

In the riding of Montcalm, food banks have never been so busy. With the cost of living rising and households carrying more debt than ever before, we have to find ways of helping Canadian families who are having trouble making ends meet.

The Campaign 2000 report lays the problem out very clearly. In a time of economic uncertainty, adopting a plan to eliminate poverty not only serves to restore social justice, but also makes excellent economic sense. As a society, either we pay now or we pay later. Some children are more at risk than others, especially children of immigrants, aboriginal children and children with disabilities. In fact, 40% of parents who have a child with a disability work fewer hours so they can care for their child, and that affects the family’s income. As well, 25% of parents are unable to work for pay. Clearly there is a lack of support for families who are caring for their own disabled child.

Last fall, a constituent came to see me; she was truly discouraged. She had exhausted the resources available to her to help keep her severely disabled son at home. Together, we went through all the federal and provincial programs, but we could not find anything that met her son’s particular needs. Finally, she had to approach non-profit community organizations in the region to get the support she needed. That seems unacceptable to me.

Canada is still failing to meet its obligations to children. We have to do more to provide basic services for families. The NDP has proposed that certain existing measures be combined, like the Canada child tax benefit, to create a non-taxable child benefit and, over the next four years, gradually increase the support provided by up to $700 per child, while maintaining the current level of the universal child care benefit.

The New Democratic team is committed to working in partnership with the provinces and territories to establish and fund a Canada-wide child care and early learning and education program. That program would create 25,000 new child care spaces per year for the next four years and would provide for improvements to community infrastructure, in addition to creating integrated, community-based, child-centred early learning and education centres. The NDP has proposed practical solutions. It is high time for the government to listen and help Canadian families.

The numbers in the Campaign 2000 report are clear. Canada is still failing to meet its obligations to disadvantaged children and families. The report also shows, once again, how badly this government is neglecting Canadian families who are caring for children with disabilities.

When is this government going to decide to implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which recognizes everyone’s right to a decent standard of living?

6:10 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

Madam Speaker, standing here today as the parliamentary secretary for HRSDC, I thank the hon. member for Montcalm. She asked what we are doing to implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and I am pleased to respond.

Our government is committed to building a inclusive society in which all Canadians can participate. To that end, we are doing our best to remove obstacles and create opportunities for people with disabilities. Let me mention just some of the things that we are doing.

When Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2010, we took our commitment to build a inclusive society to the international level. Our ratification of the convention was the culmination of seven years of collaboration with international bodies and the disabilities community across Canada.

The Office for Disabilities Issues at HRSDC is promoting coordination across the government on disabilities policy and is working toward compliance with the convention. I am sure my hon. colleague will be glad to know that the government is currently preparing Canada's initial report on compliance with the convention which is due in April 2012. In addition to the disability tax credit, we offer a non-refundable tax credit that reduces income tax payable for eligible taxpayers.

In addition, we have the child disability benefit, a tax free benefit for families who care for a child under the age of 18 who is eligible for the disability tax credit and who has a severe and prolonged impairment in physical or mental functions. As well, we help people with disabilities by enhancing their income security through the disabilities component of the Canada pension plan.

People with disabilities and their families are often worried about their financial future. In response, we have helped them save through the registered disability savings plan, the Canada disability savings grant and the Canada disabilities savings bond.

Between December 2008, when the RDSP first became available to Canadians, and October 2011, a total of 49,857 RDSPs have been registered. During this same time, the Government of Canada contributed a total of $200 million in grants and close to $85 million in bonds.

We help students with disabilities finance their post-secondary education through special grants and loans. We have employment programs that make it easier for Canadians with disabilities to get into the job market, including the opportunities fund for persons with disabilities and the labour market agreements with the provinces and territories for persons with disabilities.

A disability should not keep anyone from participating in their community or the economy. That is why we created the enabling accessibility fund, which funds community-based projects that increase access to facilities, activities and services. The fund has made more than 600 accessibility projects possible in communities across Canada. As a matter of fact, the fund has been so successful that a year ago we extended it with an investment of an additional $45 million over the next three years.

In addition, we expanded the range of eligible projects by creating a mid-sized component, allowing communities to undertake larger retrofit projects and to foster partnerships for creating new facilities. Because of this, even more individuals will benefit.

Our government is removing barriers to participation in the economy and in local communities because the participation of Canadians with disabilities is vital to our economic success.

No government has done more for Canadians with disabilities than our Conservative government. As a pediatric surgeon who has worked and cared for children who have severe disabilities, I am extremely proud to be a part of it.

6:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Montcalm has one minute to reply.

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Manon Perreault NDP Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, unfortunately, I do not quite agree with my colleague opposite. The enabling accessibility fund is no longer truly available to organizations.

We are currently discussing child poverty. According to my colleague opposite, it is somewhat difficult to acknowledge that 52% of single mothers with children under the age of six live in poverty. We also know that children belonging to minority groups and disabled children are more likely to be living in poverty. I said earlier that two out of five parents with a disabled child work fewer hours and therefore have less income.

I am having trouble following everything my colleague said because what I am presently hearing is not at all what she just said.

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Madam Speaker, those who have read the actual text of the convention know that its main emphasis stresses the right to equal treatment and equal opportunity. The convention acknowledges that people with disabilities may need a measure of assistance but not if it conflicts with their personal autonomy and their ability to participate in the community.

In regard to the independence and inclusion of people with disabilities, we have made considerable progress in Canada over the past several years. We should celebrate that progress rather than decry the fact that inequities still exist.

All of the accomplishments that I outlined in my previous speech really speak to our commitment to the inclusiveness of all Canadian society, to include children and adults with disabilities.

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I continue to deplore the fact that the government does not have a balanced approach to economic development. During question period on November 29, 2011, I pointed out that it is completely possible to create good-quality jobs while investing in clean energies. I also asked the government why it stubbornly refused to follow in the footsteps of a number of our trading partners that have created jobs by investing in the green economy.

Since 2006, the Conservatives have invested heavily in supporting the oil industry. For instance, there was an accelerated capital cost allowance for oil sands investment that will last until 2015 and, as another example, the preferential tax treatment in Bill C-48 that gives oil companies $1.7 billion in tax gifts each year.

The reality is that the government listens only to the oil companies. The Minister of Natural Resources showed which side he was on when he described the aboriginal people, ecologists and other Canadians who are concerned about the future of their environment as radical opponents of the authorities.

The statutory review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is another example of this government missing an opportunity to better reconcile economic development and environmental protection. The Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development is currently reviewing the federal environmental assessment process. The purpose of the review is to determine whether these assessments make it possible to reconcile economic development and sustainable development. It is, therefore, a crucial study. Yet, the Conservatives have done everything in their power to undermine this study by limiting the duration of committee business. Only 11 committee meetings have been dedicated to hearing witnesses. One single environmental group appeared: the Sierra Club. One single aboriginal group appeared: the James Bay Advisory Committee on the Environment.

We are currently drafting a report on the environmental assessment system, despite the fact that the Environment Commissioner and several ministers and federal organizations heavily involved in these assessments have not yet been heard. Nevertheless, over the course of the committee meetings, most of the witnesses from industry have said that they want an environmental assessment process that is more credible in the eyes of local communities. A solid environmental assessment process makes projects socially acceptable. On the other hand, an environmental assessment process that is not credible undermines public confidence, which can hamper the development of the project.

The government's hastiness is all the more worrisome given that the Minister of Natural Resources and the Prime Minister are talking about amending the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act right in the middle of consultations regarding Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline project, which would cut through an ecologically fragile area. Moreover, by calling Canadians who are concerned about the environment radicals, the Minister of Natural Resources has further discredited himself. In my opinion, given the wealth of scientific knowledge about climate change, it is those who deny the existence of climate change who are the radicals.

The NDP's vision is simple: we must reduce our reliance on the carbon economy. We are convinced that, by redirecting the earth's resources towards a green economy, we will protect our environment and create thousands of good, sustainable jobs here in Canada. Will the government be inspired by this vision as it prepares the upcoming budget?

6:20 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, I will begin by correcting my colleague opposite. We refer to the abundant natural resources in our country, to which she is referring, as the oil sands, not the tar sands. I encourage her to talk to the hundreds of thousands of people who are employed in this energy sector and do not believe in denigrating our country and our energy sector. I also encourage her to speak to her constituents, who are the beneficiaries of social programs and supported by Canada's energy sector. Those are two points for her to follow up on.

I am most interested in the core of her question that she originally posed in the House when she referred to a strategy that hurts everyone. I am here tonight with a small glimmer of hope that she just might think about when she continues to denigrate our energy sector and our country and not recognize that we are world leaders in environmental protection and clean energy production in Canada.

Let us talk about that. The NDP has been advocating that our country stay part of the Kyoto protocol. When our country signed onto the Kyoto protocol, it only included 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions. . It did not include large global emitters. Now it only includes less than 13%. Clearly, this is not an agreement that will see real action in global greenhouse gas reductions. I find it quite disappointing that my colleague opposite continues to support an agreement without looking at what our government is saying. We are saying that we want to see real action in greenhouse gas reductions and that is why we need to continue on the good work that is happening in Copenhagen and Cancun and have a global agreement where all major emitters come to the table.

It kind of shocked me. I was speaking with my colleague opposite on a television program in late December and she suggested that China was a benchmark to be held up with regard to some of its comments at Durban about staying on in the Kyoto protocol. We believe we need to enter into a new agreement that has all major emitting countries committing to binding targets. The Kyoto protocol's second commitment period would not see that happen. I am quite proud of our government's stance in saying that we need an agreement where emissions are managed and monitored, as our country does right now.

The other thing that alarms me is I continually hear rhetoric from my colleague opposite, the environment critic and the NDP party in general about our country not being a world leader in our energy sector and in our environmental protection programs. With regard to domestic action at home, we have entered into a very bold sector-by-sector regulatory approach that will see real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to meet a target of 17% reductions from 2005 levels by 2020. This is real action. New Democrats continually oppose this. What is even worse, is that they have no plan. All we hear is rhetoric. We never hear a plan from them. We hear some vague things about a green economy, et cetera, but they do not have plans. They talk about jobs in a green economy and yet they vote against our budgetary measures that support investment in the development of clean energy technology and climate change adaptation.

I am very tired, as a proud Canadian, hearing our energy sector denigrated and hearing the opposition parties talk about awards that would denigrate our country's name.

Tonight I would ask my colleague opposite to stop spouting her party's talking points over and over again. Her environment critic lobbied against 500,000 Canadian jobs in the U.S. I would encourage her, for once, to support our government's action-focused plan with regard to environmental protection so that we can move forward and see some action done.

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, it is obvious that the hon. member opposite has not done her homework because she still does not realize that the Conservative policy concerning the oil sands is bad for Canadian jobs. The Conservatives are missing an incredible opportunity to invest in a green economy, which would create jobs within Canadian borders, local jobs that tend to be well-paying.

We only need to look at the case of the northern gateway to see how Conservative policy is flawed. The former Insurance Corporation of British Columbia CEO, Robyn Allan, noted that although the northern gateway Pipeline has been touted by proponents, like the member opposite, as a nation-building enterprise, it really represents a "serious economic risk" to the Canadian economy. Allan's study of the effects of the project show that it would result in an oil price shock to the economy, resulting in businesses being downsized, jobs being lost and inflation and, moreover, that it would boost crude oil prices to $2 to $3 per barrel annually over the next 30 years. This is something that has been confirmed in fact by the proponent Enbridge.

When will the government learn to take Canadian jobs seriously and invest in green jobs in the green economy?

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Madam Speaker, let us talk about the green economy, because again I have heard nothing from my colleague on her plan for the green economy. I would ask her to look at the auditor general's report in Ontario that just reported how private sector jobs were lost at the expense of green energy jobs that were created by an ill-fated government program, whereas our government is saying we are making real investment, in lockstep with industry, into sustainable development technology. We are seeing the emergence of a clean energy sector in our country. These are real investments. These are real green jobs.

I beg her to look at the evidence and say that we are world leaders in environmental protection. We have a green economy emerging. I refuse to believe that we cannot balance economic growth with environmental sustainability. That is what we are doing in our country with our policy.

She talked about a nation building enterprise. What is not a nation building enterprise is continuing to denigrate our energy sector and our country's environmental track record.

6:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The motion that the House do now adjourn is deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:27 p.m.)