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House of Commons Hansard #84 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreement.

Topics

7:05 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, before I start I want to acknowledge the great work that the member for Mount Royal has been doing on the human rights issues around the world. I would like to commend him for the work that he has done.

Canada is deeply concerned by the Iranian government's continued disrespect for the human rights of its citizens, its destabilizing regional role and its nuclear proliferation activities.

I would say to the hon. member that Canada has taken a very strong stand against Iran. Since February 2007, Canada has imposed multilateral sanctions in line with four UN Security Council resolutions against Iran's nuclear activities. Since July 2010, Canada has imposed two major rounds of sanctions in tandem with our allies and concerned countries around the globe against the belligerent government of Iran.

Most recently, on November 21, 2011, Canada again implemented a number of strong measures against Iran under the Special Economic Measures Act. These expanded sanctions prohibit almost all financial transactions with the Iranian government, add individuals and entities to the list of designated persons and expand the list of prohibited goods. With the enactment of the 2011 round of sanctions, Canada has targeted measures in place that prohibit the export of any goods used in the oil, gas and petrochemical industry in Iran. This comprehensive ban covers the Iranian crude sector.

In the same round of sanctions, Canada prohibited virtually all financial transactions between Canada and Iran, including transactions with the central bank as part of more comprehensive measures against Iran, which is what the member has been demanding.

Innocent citizens of Iran are not intended to be the target of these sanctions. The nature and scope of these measures have been proportional to the defiance and non-compliance of the Iranian regime to the international community. Their purpose is to put pressure on the Iranian authorities to address the concerns of Iran's nuclear program and the military linkages that were revealed in the most recent IAEA report.

Canada has already targeted several branches of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, notably, as the member has said, many of the forces are in the IRGC.

Canada's concerns about human rights violations in Iran are long-standing. As part of its ongoing efforts to promote respect for human rights in the country, Canada led the adoption of the resolution “Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran” in the fall 2011 session of the United Nations General Assembly. This is the ninth consecutive year Canada has led this initiative. The resolution was co-sponsored by an additional 42 member states and supported by 89 in the vote, with only 30 member states voting against it. This represented the largest margin of adoption since Canada assumed lead of this resolution in 2003.

Canada's sanctions against Iran are among the toughest in the world. We will continue to lead the international community's attempts to put pressure on Iranian authorities to comply with their international obligations and return to negotiations regarding its nuclear weapons.

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my hon. colleague that Canada is deeply concerned. It has acted and taken a strong stand regarding, as the member put it, the Iranian nuclear activity. It has sought the sanction of individuals and entities regarding the financial complex and the like. However, my point is that we need to adopt a comprehensive and integrated approach.

One, Canada should not just sanction certain financial activities, but it should sanction the Central Bank of Iran, which is the nerve centre of the financial activity.

Two, Canada should not only sanction certain individuals and entities connected to the IRGC, but also sanction the IRGC as a whole by listing it as a terrorist entity. It has been called the world's deadliest terrorist organization. That would at the same time deter its Iranian nuclear weaponization program, undercut its terrorist activities and combat its human rights violations.

Finally, on the matter of the human rights violations, we have to expand the orbit of our sanctions not only with respect to the individuals and entities, but with respect to the entire approach that I mentioned earlier and make combatting those human rights violations a priority in our foreign policy.

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, again, we have no problem with what the member is asking for. We have one of the toughest sanctions against Iran and we agree with him on the threat that Iran poses to international peace.

Our sanctions prohibit dealings between individuals in Canada and Canadians abroad with the Revolutionary Guard Air Force. Our measures currently in place target those individuals making the decisions to carry out acts of nuclear proliferation and human rights violations.

There is a ban on virtually all financial transactions subject to certain exemptions for transactions under a contract signed before November 22. These are exemptions against the Central Bank of Iran. There are also exemptions to make sure that the embassies in both countries are operating and that people can transfer money less than $40,000.

These are very strong sanctions. Again, they are the strongest in the world against the brutal regime in Iran.

7:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, previously in the House I raised a question around child and family poverty. Part of my question focused on the reality that most families needed to work two jobs just to make ends meet, yet nearly 3 million children did not have access to regulated child care. An affordable high quality child care program could pay for itself. Let us just look at Quebec.

I want to reference the Quebec model. This is from a paper by Pierre Fortin on “Economic Consequences of Quebec's Educational Childcare Policy” from June 22, 2011. There are a number of aspects to this policy, but the three I want to talk about are the fact that: full day kindergarten has been offered to all children age 5 since September, 1997; early childhood education and care, as of 2004, cost $7 a day; and before and after school programs for children age 5 to 12 have also been available at $7 and prior to that it was much cheaper.

The paper talks about three macroeconomic impacts of Quebec's early childhood education program: on women's labour force participation, on gross provincial income and on federal and provincial finances. The federal government might want to pay attention to the impact on taxes and transfers. It states that increased family income generates more tax revenues and lower government transfers and credits and that all types of tax revenues increase, not only income and payroll taxes, and all levels of government benefit, not only the provincial level.

The paper talks about the impact on gross provincial income. It states that adjusting for hours of work and productivity of the new participants, it was found that the program was adding 1.7% to Quebec's GDP in 2008. The paper also talks about the longer term effects. It states that on net, for every dollar spent on early childhood education, the provincial government harvests $1.05 and the federal government gets 44¢ for doing nothing.

In the province of Quebec, where there has been a very progressive child care program, the federal government directly benefits to the tune of 44 cents on every dollar and it does not invest directly in child care.

In summary, the paper states that by 2008 Quebec's early childhood education program: had increased women's employment by 70,000, an increase of 3.8%; had increased provincial GDP by $5.2 billion, an increase of 1.7%; it was entirely self-financing within the provincial budget; and it was procuring $717 million in additional revenue to the federal government.

New Democrats have consistently called on the government to invest in a national child care strategy, which would increase child care spaces in the country. I want to emphasize investment.

I know in my own riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan, several child care centres have had to close down because of the fact that people cannot afford them. I think part of that points to the failed policies of the $100 a month, which is less after tax, that simply does not create child care spaces. We need an early childhood education program that assists parents in going to work and contributing to the family incomes.

Often the government across the way talks about the best way out of poverty is a job, and we would agree, but it has to be a good paying job and there has to be child care available. Therefore, once again, I ask the minister this. When will the government invest in a national child care strategy?

7:15 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 happy to respond to the member from Nanaimo—Cowichan on the state of Canadian families.

The member stated that too many Canadian families were burdened with high debt, and the government could not agree more. One of the ways of dealing with that is exactly what she mentioned a few moments ago, which is to ensure that people are employed.

Our government has invested almost $2.5 billion each year to the provinces and territories to deliver critical services and supports to Canadian workers needing help transitioning into the workforce and to new jobs. Helping Canadians gain the skills and opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency is one of our government's approaches to reducing poverty.

The other approach is to provide targeted support to those facing particular barriers. Families represent the most important building block in society and as such our government provides over $14 billion per year in benefits for families with children. The funds are invested through the Canada child tax benefit, including the national child benefit supplement for low-income families, and through the universal child care benefit and the child tax credit.

Our efforts are working. The low-income rate for children has been cut by almost half in most recent years from a peak of 18.4% in 1996 to 9.5% in 2009. Since 1996, the number of single female-parent families with children under the age of 18 living in low-income circumstances has dropped from 56% to 21.5% under this Conservative government in 2009. That is tangible and measurable progress.

This is partly explained by the fact that women are earning more income through employment. Women's participation in the labour market has increased by 8% since 1996 and their average weekly earnings have increased over 30%.

The decrease in poverty among female-headed families might also point to the positive impact of federal programs and the positive work incentive effects of the national child benefit supplement and the working income tax benefit. The Canada child tax benefit provides a base benefit that goes to 90% of Canadian families and children. The Canada child tax benefit includes the national child benefit supplement for low-income families and provides a tax-free monthly benefit of up to $3,485 per year for the first eligible child under 18.

In budget 2009 we raised the level at which the child tax benefit base and the national child benefit supplement for low-income families are phased out. This allows families to earn additional income and still qualify for full or partial benefits.

Thanks to these important adjustments, a family with two children now receives an extra $436 a year.

The national child benefit initiative has been successful in reducing the incidence of children living in low-income families. The national child care benefit initiative has also allowed families that continue to live below the income threshold to improve their living conditions.

Our government also supports families with young children through the Canada social transfer. Approximately $1.2 billion was transferred to provinces in 2010-11, and will be $1.3 billion by 2013-14.

Families have been the centre of our government's work. We have made substantial investments in their benefits and we have improved the tax regime, all for the purpose of supporting Canadian families.

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, we still are talking about structural barriers.

According to Campaign 2000, one in ten children and their families in our country live in poverty. In my own province of British Columbia, it is one in five children and their families, which is 20%, still living in poverty.

What we know, again according to Campaign 2000, is that the economy has more than doubled in size over the last while, yet the income of families in the lowest end have virtually stagnated. The gap between rich and poor families has continued to widen, leaving average-income families struggling to keep up. Again, I point to the structural barriers that are getting in the way of eradicating poverty.

Research and the facts from the province of Quebec show that the earning ability of families can be increased by providing a child care program that not only looks at children between the ages of zero and four years, but also looks at after school care.

Again, since we know this is a factor in helping eliminate poverty, when will the government put in place a national child care strategy?

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the most important investments we can make in our country is to help families with children. The universal child care benefit provides approximately $2.6 billion each year to 1.5 million families and has lifted an estimated 55,000 children in 24,000 families out of low income.

Budget 2010 make improvements to the registered disability savings plan, a long-term savings plan to help Canadians with disabilities and their families save for the future.

Our government also provides Canada disability savings grants and Canada disability savings bonds to low and modest-income families with a disability.

In recognition of the fact that a family having a child with a disability children may not be able to contribute regularly to their plan and that it may take some time for these types of plans to be set up, budget 2010 allowed a 10-year carry forward time frame for these opportunities.

Our government is supporting Canadian families in their quest to live, work and contribute to a prosperous and inclusive economy. The NDP do not seem to want to support any of these efforts to help these struggling families.

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, on November 28 I asked the Minister of the Environment about the then upcoming climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa. I asked why the Conservatives were misleading Canadians and the international community by trying to hide the fact that they are actually negotiating in bad faith. The minister responded that in Durban Canada would continue to work to encourage the international community to embrace a new international climate change agreement that includes all major emitters. On the same day, the environment minister repeatedly refused to confirm or deny whether Canada planned to formally withdraw from the Kyoto protocol. Specifically, the minister said, “I won't comment on a speculative report”. He further said, “I am neither confirming nor denying. This is not the day. This not the time to make an announcement”.

Why is there a lack of transparency and accountability to Canadians and the world? In stark contrast, South Africa's High Commissioner to Canada said that there had been speculation for weeks about the Conservative government's planned withdrawal and about it wanting other countries to follow suit.

We all know what happened. Canada pulled out of Kyoto after the minister returned from South Africa.

I will now address some of the climate change comments by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment on February 7 as they are relevant to the discussion at hand.

First, I want to make it very clear that the Kyoto protocol is a seminal agreement in modern environmental diplomacy and is the only legally binding framework for greenhouse gas emissions. I am enormously proud that my party signed it. Even the environment minister recently admitted, “Kyoto was a good idea for its time”.

Second, while the government is quick to point out that the original agreement did not include major emitters, it fails to recognize that the accord struck in Copenhagen in 2009 and confirmed in Cancun in 2010 created a system for registering commitments from all major emitting nations. The government should stop trying to pull the wool over Canadians' eyes regarding major emitters.

Third, the parliamentary secretary's claims that Liberals had no plan to implement the Kyoto protocol is patently false, and she should stop repeating such claims. The Liberal government was up against the Conservative-Reform alliance that did not even believe in the science of climate change and threw up every conceivable roadblock. The Liberals attempted to hold a debate in the House of Commons to discuss the merits of the Kyoto protocol but the party of the members opposite, many of whom are now ministers, filibustered and slowed down progress considerably.

While Kyoto was signed in 1997, it was not ratified until 2002. In 2005 the Liberal government introduced project green, a comprehensive plan developed with stakeholders across the country to put Canada on the right track to meet commitments. The Conservatives killed the plan when they became government. The Conservatives are trying to rewrite history by calling the Kyoto protocol a blunder. The only purpose is to mask their own inaction.

Fourth, if the parliamentary secretary believes, and I quote, “In order to see real action in global greenhouse gas reductions we need to have a global agreement which includes all major emitters”, why did her government walk away from Kyoto, the only legally binding agreement for greenhouse gas emissions?

Last, how can she be “proud of this approach” and claim to look forward to “continuing the good work that was started in Copenhagen, Cancun and in Durban”?

Let us unpack the spin. What good work: negotiating in bad faith, obstructing climate negotiations, or failing to take action on climate change?

7:25 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague opposite for her question and her response because we do agree on one thing, that we do need to have action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in this country because we want to see action on climate change. Our government fully supports that.

However, I would like to review her version of history when looking at the Kyoto protocol.

The fact remains that when the Kyoto protocol was ratified, it did not include all major emitters. In fact, it only covered less than 30% of major emissions in the world at that time. That does not lead toward a real reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for the purpose of dealing with climate change. That is why our government has a pragmatic approach and is saying that we need to have all major emitters come to the table now, especially since the Kyoto protocol in its present format targets considerably smaller reductions in global emissions. Therefore, we are working toward getting an agreement where all major emitters come to the table. We have seen progress happen in Copenhagen, Cancun, and now in Durban. We are proud of that approach because we are working toward an agreement that would see all major emitters come to the table. That is very important.

Looking at history, again my colleague opposite is supporting an agreement that does not have all major emitters around the table. Her former leader actually said that her party did not get the job done when it came to dealing with climate change. Under her party's watch, our country's greenhouse gas emissions actually rose considerably, about 30% I believe, from 1997 onward. What shocks me is that for someone who is so committed to this issue, she cannot accept the fact that we now have a practical target aligned with other major economies, one that would not disadvantage our economy, and that we are making real progress.

I talk often about our sector-by-sector regulatory approach. It is a really important plan. We have looked at the coal-fired power generation sector and have proposed regulations on the table for that. We have dealt with the transportation sector so far, and we have other sectors to come, but we are doing that in consultation with important groups that affect the economy because we believe in balance. We want to see real action, which the member's government did not achieve. It did not achieve that. The only thing it has done recently is to have put forward a plan for a carbon tax in its 2008 election platform, which was overwhelmingly rejected by the Canadian electorate.

Now we have a plan to see real reductions. I believe the International Institute for Sustainable Development said that we are on the right track with our policy in this area. It is a balanced approach and we continue to look forward.

I just want to quote a Globe and Mail article from this week that talked about the fact that the World Wildlife Fund had commissioned a report by the firm Cleantech Group, which now rates Canada as seventh in the world for creating green technology firms.

We have this wonderful sector in our country where we have both industry and new jobs being created around clean technology. It is very exciting. Therefore, to say that we are not world leaders is false. Our government has a plan to see real action with reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. This is something that I hope my colleague and I can work forward toward implementing because it is about balance and about seeing real action.

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, even the minister recently admitted that Kyoto was a good idea for its time. The reality is that Kyoto has been far more of a success than a failure. Most of the parties that were subject to binding emission targets either met or exceeded their goals. Canada is among a relatively small number of countries that failed to do so. The minister's excuses for pulling out of Kyoto are predictable and meant to blame others and whitewash the government's own failings, namely that Canada's original targets were unreachable, targets that the government has cut by 90%, and that action by Canada is pointless unless the United States and rapidly developing economies like China and India are also subject to binding emission targets.

It is important to note that the government's withdrawal would still allow Canada to continue to be a negotiator on the future of the protocol and, according, to Alden Meyer of the Washington-based Union of Concerned Scientists, would allow Canada to water down the treaty and wreck the jobs of others.

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Mr. Speaker, earlier my colleague brought up the year 2005 and her government. In 2005, the Commissioner of the Environment said, with regard to the Liberal government's inaction regarding the environment:

When it comes to protecting the environment, bold announcements are made and then often forgotten as soon as the confetti hits the ground. The federal government seems to have trouble crossing the finish line.

Again, I implore her to move past her party's inaction in this area and to work with us and our balanced, pragmatic approach that would see us go forward as an international negotiating partner to get an agreement with all major emitters signed onto it with binding targets. The Kyoto protocol does not do that. She should look past her determination in calling the Kyoto protocol an important symbol. We need to have more than a symbol: we need real action. That is what our government is doing with our sector-by-sector regulatory approach.

I really hope to work with her constructively on this, rather than just hear continued rhetoric.

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

(The House adjourned at 7:31 p.m.)