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House of Commons Hansard #111 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

Regional Economic DevelopmentOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities said that the closure of the Economic Development Agency of Canada offices in Laval and Montérégie would not affect services. However, reducing the number of regional offices and service personnel will result in a poorer understanding of regional realities and needs. The government cannot take care of Argenteuil's economic development from Gatineau.

Why does the minister want to deprive the regions of opportunities and impair our regional economic diversity?

Regional Economic DevelopmentOral Questions

3 p.m.

Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean Québec

Conservative

Denis Lebel ConservativeMinister of Transport

So, Mr. Speaker, development can be managed from Argenteuil and Laval, but not from Gatineau? That is very interesting indeed.

None of the Economic Development Agency of Canada's regional offices have been closed. None of the offices in the Quebec regions have been closed. The Laval and Longueuil operations have been centralized in Montreal. They are all already organized into an urban community for transportation and plenty of other things, and they have already been working together for years.

That being said, the money will still be there for all regions of Quebec. We will remain very active in all regions of Quebec, and I will continue to visit all regions of Quebec.

The EconomyOral Questions

April 26th, 2012 / 3 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, on March 29, 2012, our government introduced plans for jobs and growth, economic action plan 2012.

The plan is forward-looking in addressing long-term challenges and opportunities for Canadians. It is a plan that Canada's leading economists have applauded. Now our Conservative government is squarely focused on implementing it and its pro-job, pro-economic growth measures.

Can the Minister of Finance please explain how we are moving forward with economic action plan 2012?

The EconomyOral Questions

3 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the question.

He is asking, of course, about the number one priority for Canadians, which is creating jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity. It is the first question this week on that subject. I have been so lonely over here. We have to get the opposition asking questions about what really matters to Canadians.

Today we introduced the first budget bill, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, to implement key measures from economic action plan 2012. This includes responsible resource development, helping build a fast and flexible economic immigration system, promoting the stability of the financial system and the housing market, and so much more.

The EconomyOral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

More. More.

The EconomyOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. The hon. member for Chambly—Borduas.

Canadian HeritageOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' obsession with controlling information is such that they shred documents without even looking at them. We never know what the envelopes that arrive at the Prime Minister's Office might contain, except that in this case, they are apparently stuffed with historical documents that deal with politics, music and sport.

Is the information contained in the destroyed envelope the missing piece of the puzzle that is preventing the Prime Minister from finishing his famous book on hockey?

Canadian HeritageOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, we always take care with those kinds of documents.

JusticeOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-François Fortin Bloc Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, since the Conservatives came into office, we have watched them try to impose openly ideological measures and laws.

There are many examples, be it the firearms registry or their frequent attacks on the opposition parties, but their most nauseating practice remains the perpetual attacks against a woman's right to choose.

My question is quite simple. Is the Prime Minister aware that the creation of a pro-life parliamentary committee charged with circumventing the medical and legal arguments, as the member is proposing, in fact reopens the abortion debate? The Prime Minister should instead be reaffirming the right to choose, as Quebec's National Assembly and the Bloc Québécois did unanimously.

JusticeOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has been clear. He will not reopen this debate.

JusticeOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

That concludes question period for today. I think we will go to the Thursday statement first, and then I will hear the point of order. Then I understand there is a further intervention on the question of privilege.

The hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great interest that we ask the government what the plan is for coming legislation. We know the ways and means has been adopted. Unfortunately, the budget implementation act is next. We are very curious as to the timing of this debate, how long the government is expecting it to take and if it remains committed and addicted to its recent penchant for time allocation? This addiction is worrisome in the democratic sense. It might like to invoke it on Motion No. 312, but it cannot.

It has now been two months since the unanimous motion giving more powers to the Elections Canada CEO passed through the House. It is an NDP motion trying to seek democratic reforms that are necessary for elections. I seek an update from the government on that important motion.

I also seek an update on whether the government will seek time allocation on the act that the finance minister just referred to, which strips away section 35 of the Fisheries Act, which is the core environmental protection Canada has relied on for many decades. Will we even be allowed to discuss and seek the potential of that act being restructured so it is actually reaffirmed and strengthened?

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by welcoming the new House leader for the official opposition. I look forward to working with him. I anticipate a positive and constructive approach.

In terms of his question relating to the issue of the motion of the House dealing with the Chief Electoral Officer and concerns about whether the statute in place was appropriate for him to do his job, I believe that motion had an expectation of about half a year before the government was to respond. I anticipate we will fulfill that.

On his question about the budget, the government introduced Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act. The bill implements key measures from economic action plan 2012. Our plan is working, as we have already created nearly 700,000 net new jobs since the recession. Most of these are full-time jobs.

Canadians want to see a productive, hard-working and orderly Parliament, focusing on their priority, the economy. Thus we hope to have the bill come to a vote on May 14. That target will allow members to study the bill, which implements important measures from the budget that Parliament has already approved.

As hon. members are aware, May 2 will mark the one-year anniversary of Canadians electing a strong, stable, national, Conservative majority government. And it is only fitting that, on this one-year anniversary, after members and caucuses have had close to a week to study the bill, we will debate our government's plan to continue creating jobs and economic growth in Canada. We will continue debate on Bill C-38, the Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act, on Thursday, May 3, and Friday, May 4.

During the budget bill study week, before that debate starts, we will cover other business.

This afternoon we will complete debate on the NDP opposition motion.

Tomorrow we will start debate on Bill C-36, protecting Canada's seniors act, which addresses the great concern of elder abuse. This bill is part of our government's efforts to stand up for victims. This is the end of what has been an important national victims of crime awareness week, where we saw the Prime Minister make an announcement of increased support for families of missing children. We also saw the introduction of Bill C-37, the increasing offenders' accountability for victims act, which follows through on our campaign commitment to double the victim surcharge that convicted criminals pay.

Monday, April 30, will be the second allotted day. In this case, I understand we will debate a Liberal motion. I would invite the hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie to share with all members—and, indeed, with Canadians—what we will be debating that day, so that hon. members can prepare.

On Tuesday, we will finish third reading debate on Bill C-26, the citizen's arrest and self-defence act. Based on my discussions with the new opposition House leader, I am confident that we will complete that debate early in the morning.

Then we will move on to Bill S-4, the safer railways act, which was reported back from committee yesterday. Given the importance of improving the safety of our railways, I hope this bill is able to pass swiftly.

Since I anticipate a productive day on Tuesday, I will then call Bill C-36, but only in the event that we do not finish earlier, that is tomorrow, followed by Bill C-15, the strengthening military justice in the defence of Canada act, a piece of legislation that has now been around for three Parliaments and should get to committee where it can again be studied.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I rise in response to the comments made by my colleague for Timmins—James Bay during question period today, where he asked, “I have not heard what steps the Conservatives are going to take to keep this woman in line”. I realize this may have been said in the heat of the moment, but it is very rare to refer to anyone in the House by gender. I fear that the ease by which the statement escaped the member's lips reflects his actual feeling toward women parliamentarians.

I would call on him to show some respect and apologize to all female parliamentarians in the House.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, you know I have great respect for your judgment and I will certainly listen to whatever decision you make on this. I also recognize your desire to not turn these issues into debates. However, the question at hand had to do with serious questions asked day after day about a minister's refusal to take accountability. Therefore, the simple question with respect to the refusal of a minister to stand up to speak and take responsibility is this. Is there a plan to keep that minister in line?

If I said “woman”, I certainly would retract that and say “minister”. Is there a plan to keep that minister in line? That is a legitimate question. I can remove the word “woman”, but I would say this. Where is the plan to keep that minister in line, because she has broken the trust of taxpayers repeatedly? I would like to see that minister stand in the House and explain if there is a plan.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It seems that the member has addressed the particular concern.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Lévis—Bellechasse Québec

Conservative

Steven Blaney ConservativeMinister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, because the member for Timmins—James Bay seems to be playing word games and not simply apologizing, I would like to draw this fact to your attention: whether we are speaking in English or French, sexist comments are unacceptable in this House, period. We may use colourful expressions and have strong opinions, but there is no place in the House for sexism.

The expression “keep this woman in line” is very sexist and a patriarchal attitude implying that it is the role of men—

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I heard the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay address the issue at hand. He indicated to the House that if he had used the word that caused offence, he would withdraw it and replace it with the word “minister”. I do not see the need to continue discussing it.

The hon. member for Toronto Centre has a further intervention on the question of privilege.

National DefencePrivilegeOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to reply to the comments made by the government House leader with respect to the question of the incompatibility between the government saying that it accepted the findings of the Auditor General and accepted his conclusions and the unwillingness of the government to accept any degree of ministerial accountability and any degree of responsibility for providing disinformation, misinformation, inadequate information over a year and a half with respect to the most important procurement that the Government of Canada has ever made, most important in terms of the sums of money involved.

It is a classic case where the government House leader again adopts the same line that was used during the break by the Minister of National Defence, saying that all we have here is a difference of accounting techniques between the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Auditor General and the Government of Canada, that this is simply an accounting issue and has nothing to do at all with respect to ministerial accountability or ministerial responsibility.

To quote the comments that were made by the government House leader:

As we can see, this issue boils down not to whether Parliament was deliberately misled about the costs of the F-35, as the leader of the third party might like us to believe, but to the best way to account for the costs of purchasing replacement equipment.

This is a false statement by the government House leader. It is not what the issue is about. It does not describe the problem. It does not recognize the findings and the conclusions of the Auditor General. It does not in fact refer to the answers that the House has been given since the summer of 2010 with respect to this question of the purchase of the F-35s.

It is a fact that it was a finding of contempt by the House with respect to the refusal to provide adequate information to the finance committee and to the House of Commons that led to the contempt motion which led to the election.

The evidence is overwhelming, and it is overwhelming even today as the government responds to our questions, that in fact the contempt continues. This is a contempt that has still not stopped. The government is still not prepared to come clean. The government is still not prepared to provide us with adequate information. The government is still not prepared to accept responsibility for what has taken place. That is the basis of the question of privilege.

The privilege is very clear. Ministers systematically, since 2010, gave the House information which has proven to be incorrect, inadequate, partial and, in some cases, untrue.

As I am being heckled by members opposite, Mr. Speaker, let me simply refer you, Sir, and the House, once again, to the comments of the Auditor General of Canada, because these comments are very clear and it is very clear that we are not dealing here with an accounting question. We are dealing here with information that has simply not been provided to the House and with this absurd situation where the government says, “We accept the conclusions of the Auditor General”, and I can read out the conclusions of the Auditor General, but then nothing happens as a result.

No minister is held to account. Nobody is responsible for misinformation or disinformation being given to the committees of the House of Commons. No one is held accountable for the fact that Parliament was supposed to get information on this issue, but did not receive information on this issue. The government, to this day, continues to show not just disdain for the questions that are posed and refuses to give answers, but contempt for the House and, indeed, contempt for the entire process in simply not giving us the information which it has, which the Auditor General says its has and which it is not prepared to provide.

Let me refer you, Mr. Speaker, to the report of the Auditor General.

On page 28, paragraph 2.71 states:

We have a number of observations regarding the life-cycle costing for the F-35. First, costs have not been fully presented in relation to the life of the aircraft. The estimated life expectancy of the F-35 is about 8,000 flying hours, or about 36 years based on predicted usage. National Defence plans to operate the fleet for at least that long. It is able to estimate costs over 36 years.

Further on in that paragraph, it is stated:

However, in presenting costs to government decision makers and to Parliament, National Defence estimated life-cycle costs over 20 years. This practice understates operating, personnel, and sustainment costs, as well as some capital costs, because the time period is shorter than the aircraft’s estimated life expectancy. The Joint Strategic Fighter Program Office—

--the office in the United States--

—provided National Defence with projected sustainment costs over 36 years.

That clearly implies that the Minister of National Defence knew what those 36-year costs were. The entire time the House was debating this issue, he refused to come forward.

Paragraph 2.72 states:

Second, the following expected costs were not accounted for:

Replacement aircraft. National Defence considers 65 aircraft the minimum number needed to meet its training and operational requirements. Based on past experience, National Defence expects to lose aircraft in the course of normal usage. Based on National Defence’s assumed attrition rate, in order to maintain the fleet of 65 aircraft, Canada may need to purchase up to 14 additional aircraft over the next 36 years. National Defence did inform the government of the need to consider the requirement for attrition aircraft at a later date. The cost of replacement aircraft is not included in the life-cycle estimate for this project and will be treated as a separate project in the future.

In other words, all of the costs which were presented by the Government of Canada to the Parliament of Canada with respect to this issue did not include the question of replacement costs. In other words, this House was misled. We were not given the full information to which we were entitled. We were given answers by the Minister of National Defence which did not in fact respond to the need for life cycle all-in costs. We repeatedly asked the minister for all-in costs and he repeatedly told us they were $9 billion plus $7 billion, a total of $16 billion. That was the number he gave us. That is a false number. It is an inaccurate number. It is an incorrect number. It does not in any way add up to what the real costs of this are.

In paragraph 2.72, the Auditor General states:

Upgrades. It is expected that over the life of the aircraft, Canada will need to invest in various upgrades to the F-35 fleet, both in software and hardware. These costs were not known when the 2008 and 2010 budgets were established, but have since been estimated to be more than CAN$1.2 billion over 20 years.

We have not been provided with that information.

The Auditor General went on to say in paragraph 2.76 on page 30:

We also have significant concerns about the completeness of cost information provided to parliamentarians. In March 2011, National Defence responded publicly to the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s report. This response did not include estimated operating, personnel, or ongoing training costs.... Also, we observed that National Defence told parliamentarians that cost data provided by US authorities had been validated by US experts and partner countries, which was not accurate at the time.

Let me repeat that:

Also, we observed that National Defence told parliamentarians that cost data provided by US authorities had been validated by US experts and partner countries, which was not accurate at the time.

In other words, inaccurate information was given to the committee that was studying this question. It is further stated in that paragraph:

At the time of its response, National Defence knew the costs were likely to increase but did not so inform parliamentarians.

I say to my colleagues who are sitting patiently on the other side of the House that if they were sitting on this side of the House, they would be up on their feet asking, “Where is the accountability?” They are the ones who brought in the Federal Accountability Act. They are the ones who asked, “Where is the accountability?” We are asking a simple question. When Parliament is misled, when Parliament is given inaccurate information, when Parliament is provided with information that the government knew perfectly well was not correct, where are we supposed to go, except to this place and say that a government which persistently gives us inaccurate information is a government that has been in contempt of Parliament.

I do not see how you have any other conclusion to draw, Mr. Speaker, except that the information provided to Parliament was inaccurate. All you have to do is compare the Auditor General's report to the answers that have been given in this House by the Prime Minister of Canada, by the Minister of National Defence, by the Associate Minister of National Defence, and then ask how the answers given compare and compute with the report of the Auditor General of Canada. The answer is that they do not. They do not compare and they do not compute. It is really striking to me that even today the Auditor General said that he got letters from the officials, the deputy ministers in the departments which he was criticizing for their lack of due diligence, saying that they objected to the conclusions in the report.

The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons has said there is a difference between what the deputy ministers say and what the Government of Canada says. That is news to me. That is a novel doctrine of constitutional law. It is a novel doctrine of administrative practice. The Prime Minister says it is normal practice for deputy ministers to object. Do they object to something without the approval of the Prime Minister? Do they object to something without the Prime Minister's Office knowing they are objecting? It is inconceivable.

We are in a ridiculous Alice in Wonderland situation. We have deputy ministers who do not agree with the Auditor General because he finds them and their departments responsible for what has gone wrong. We find a Prime Minister who says that he accepts the conclusions but that there are no processes of accountability for what has happened in the past. It is the worst abnegation of ministerial responsibility we have seen. The government and the Prime Minister are refusing to take responsibility for what has taken place. What has taken place is that the government is refusing to admit that it provided to Parliament information which was inaccurate, inadequate and did not in fact deal with the seriousness of the situation.

Hence, the contempt that was found in March 2011 continues today. There is no way we can accept the conclusion of the government and the excuse it has given. Conservatives have gone on talk shows and elsewhere and said that this is simply an accounting issue, that it has to do with other things.

There are so many examples in the Auditor General's report. He refers very explicitly to the fact that the estimates provided by the government with respect to maintenance are based on the notion that somehow the same maintenance costs will be there for the stealth fighter as were there for the CF-18, which is like saying that the maintenance costs for a Maserati will be exactly the same as the maintenance costs for a Ford Fairlane. I say to my friend, the Associate Minister of National Defence, he knows that is not true. I am not suggesting he has a Maserati or a Ford Fairlane. I am just suggesting that the government has to come to grips with telling the truth to Parliament.

The Conservatives have not told the truth to Parliament and they cannot simply turn the page and say, “Oh well, that was then and this is now. We're not going to take any responsibility for what has taken place in the past, we are simply going to talk about the future”. This is a place of reckoning.

The House of Commons is the place where people have to speak the truth. If we cannot believe what ministers, deputy ministers or prime ministers say, if we cannot believe them, the trust that exists in the House will be completely lost.

That is the situation we find ourselves in today. This is why we raised a question of privilege: we do not have truth and accountability. This is the problem, this is the situation, and that is my response to the replies from the government House leader.

National DefencePrivilegeOral Questions

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. member for his further comments on this question.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—PensionsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There are four minutes left for questions and comments.

The hon. member for Beauséjour.

Opposition Motion—PensionsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

I would like to congratulate my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot on her speech. I share many of her concerns about the government’s policies. I would like to ask my colleague two simple questions.

Does she agree with me that the fiscal and financial reasons put forward by this government to justify this ideological increase do not stand up? Does she agree with me that the government must not create a false financial crisis to justify an ideological decision?

I definitely share my colleague’s concerns about these measures and the implications they will have for people who do physical labour, like the people who work in the fish plants in my region, in Acadia, for example, or others who do physical work. I think the idea of just staying in the labour market for two more years is completely unreasonable.

Opposition Motion—PensionsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. I am going to answer his first question—he had two questions.

The government has decided to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67. That is a completely unjustified decision on its part, given that we have concrete evidence that the system is sustainable.

On the question of physical labour, as I said earlier in my speech before question period, working two more years is completely unthinkable for many people who do physical labour, in agriculture or industry, for example, because of health and physical condition issues. We have to consider those workers and people who have paid into the system for their whole lives and who are simply entitled to take their well-deserved retirement at the age of 65.

Opposition Motion—PensionsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her speech and the answers she provided. On this side of the House, we believe, as all the experts do, that the system is sustainable.

Could the hon. member perhaps elaborate on the fact that experts have said that our system is sustainable?