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House of Commons Hansard #105 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Auditor General of CanadaRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I have the honour to lay upon the table the spring 2012 report of the Auditor General of Canada. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(g), this document is deemed to have been permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

Canadian Human Rights TribunalRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I have the honour to lay upon the table the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal's 2011 annual report.

Canada Labour CodeRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-411, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (occupational disease registry).

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to introduce a bill that was tabled in the previous Parliament by Tony Martin, my former colleague from Sault Ste. Marie, who we all know was one of the hardest working MPs this House has ever seen.

I thank my colleague from Jonquière—Alma for seconding the bill.

The bill would require employers to report information about all accidents, occupational disease and other hazardous occurrences known by the employer to the Minister of Labour. It would also require the minister to maintain a registry containing all of that information and to make the information available to employees and potential employees for examination.

As I speak, I am drawn to the memory of my friend, Julius Hava, and his courageous battle with mesothelioma stemming from a workplace carcinogen.

He is not alone. We need only look at Elliot Lake. Every April 28, more names of deceased workers are added to the miners' memorial monument due to occupational diseases.

The measures laid out in the bill would be very important going forward for workers. I hope members on all sides of the House will see the merit in the bill and help move the chains forward on an issue of significant importance to many Canadians.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Official Development Assistance Accountability ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-412, An Act to amend the Official Development Assistance Accountability Act (poverty reduction).

Madam Speaker, as the official opposition critic for international co-operation, I am pleased to introduce an act to amend the Official Development Assistance Accountability Act, seconded by the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie.

My bill seeks to ensure that Canada meets the international target for donor countries of spending the equivalent of 0.7% of GNI on official overseas development assistance.

New Democrats believe that Canada can and should do more to help the world's poorest countries and people. In fact, the NDP official opposition is the only party in Canada that remains committed to former prime minister Lester B. Pearson's aspirations of dedicating 0.7% of our gross national income to development funding.

In our 2011 platform, we called for an immediate increase of $500 millions to Canada's ODA envelope, followed by a practical plan to reach the 0.7% over time.

For the NDP, this is not just an election issue. In 2005, our late leader, Jack Layton, was presented with a rare opportunity to rewrite a Liberal government budget. Jack cancelled billions of dollars in corporate tax cuts and invested the funds in priority areas, including a major boost to Canada's ODA.

When we consider that the 0.7% goal was originally set by former Liberal prime minister Lester B. Pearson and that the Conservatives believe in a robust foreign aid system, I hope my bill might find support from all corners of the House.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

April 3rd, 2012 / 10:10 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-413, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (judicial discretion).

Madam Speaker, this is a fairly straightforward bill to amend the Criminal Code. It is a provision that first appeared in the English criminal justice system.

Given the role that the government has played in increasingly dumping more mandatory minimums on to our judicial system, it is a way of moving back to what should be the case in this country, which is allowing each conviction and sentencing to be dealt with on the facts before the court at the time. What England did was to give to its judiciary the discretion to override mandatory minimums in appropriate cases, and that is what this private member's bill would do.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-414, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals).

Madam Speaker, this private member's bill deals with an issue that is scandalous in that it was not put into law many years ago. This bill, in a somewhat different form, has been through this House twice and then stopped, once by prorogation and another time by the Senate.

The bill is quite straightforward. It is to address the reality that our criminal law dealing with animal cruelty has not been changed for over 100 years. This bill would bring us into the 21st century where other countries, which I would argue from a criminal justice standpoint are not nearly as advanced as Canada is, have moved on this issue.

The bill would do two basic things. It first recognizes that animals are sentient beings as opposed to a piece of wood or a piece of furniture, which is the way the Criminal Code currently treats them. The other thing that it would do has a very clear consequence. The number of convictions for animal cruelty would increase dramatically under the Criminal Code. We have estimates that only one in a thousand cases of animal cruelty can result in convictions under the Criminal Code, and this would address that issue.

It is a bill that I have worked on for a very long time and this is the third time I have had it as a private member's bill. It has been before this House for well over a decade and still has not become law.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, I have a petition calling on the government to maintain funding for OAS and to make the requisite investments in the guaranteed income supplement to lift every senior out of poverty.

These petitioners know all too well that the OAS is affordable and that the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the OECD have indicated that OAS is well funded. They also understand that the government's arguments citing that people are living longer ignores the fact that those living the longest are the most well-to-do and that lower income Canadians do not share the benefit.

Finally, the petitioners understand that these changes will affect future generations who are being piled upon by the government that is only interested in immediate results, not those of our children and our grandchildren.

Most of these signatures are from the great city of Elliot Lake.

TelecommunicationsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, a couple of weeks ago, the Minister of Public Safety stood in this House and told Canadians that if they were against the Conservatives' lawful access legislation, then they were for and stood with child pornographers. The very good people of my riding in Davenport in Toronto beg to differ.

Many have signed this petition I am presenting today because they have deep concerns about major parts of this legislation. The bill compels telecommunications companies to collect and store personal information about users and hand over this information to law enforcement agencies without a warrant.

Upholding civil liberties, including the right to privacy, is the bedrock on which liberal democracies have been built.

The folks in my riding who have signed this petition wish to add their names to the well over 80,000 people who have signed a similar petition on OpenMedia.ca. I am honoured to be able to present this petition on their behalf in this House today.

The EnvironmentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions.

The first petition is signed by residents of Salt Spring Island within my riding who seek to bring the attention of the government, ironically, to the recommendations of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. They point out that the round table was created under the previous prime minister, the right hon. Brian Mulroney, and that it put forward estimates of the costs to our economy of ignoring the climate crisis.

This information, I wish to point out for the Minister of the Environment, is completely inaccessible on the Internet and is only developed through a multi-stakeholder process involving industry leadership, environmental groups, first nations and trade unions. There is no replacement for the national round table and its recommendations are brought forward by the petitioners calling for urgent action on the climate crisis. They lament the decision in the budget to kill the agency.

The second petition is from residents of Victoria, Duncan, Lasqueti Island, Hornby, Thetis Island, as well as Toronto calling on the Government of Canada to act urgently to bring into place a climate change plan to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The petitioners are also very much focused on the need to have a full, fair and transparent inquiry into the proposed pipeline across northern British Columbia to supertankers, which the petitioners believe are inherently unsafe in the northern waters of British Columbia.

VeteransPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to present two petitions on behalf of my constituents and others across the country.

The first petition is in regard to veterans. On April 9, we will be commemorating the 95th anniversary of Vimy Ridge. While we honour first world war veterans, tragically we have forgotten about modern-day veterans, the young men and women who have answered their country's call, provided service and ensured our freedom.

The petitioners want the Government of Canada to recognize the service of post-Korean veterans and to honour its commitment to ensure they have the benefits and supports they need. In addition to that, the petitioners call upon the House of Commons to conduct a full and honest debate on the future of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the services and benefits provided to our veterans and peacekeepers. They call upon the government to respect the will of Parliament and immediately implement any motions or legislation that would allow veterans to have the same services, including veterans hospitals, as their predecessors.

PovertyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, the second petition is in regard to poverty. As we all know, poverty affects about 10% of Canadians and disproportionately affects aboriginal people, recent immigrants and seniors.

The petitioners call upon the government to enact swift passage of my colleague's private member's bill, an act to eliminate poverty in Canada.

Canada PostPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very honoured to rise here today to present a petition on behalf of the people of L'Avenir, one of the municipalities in my riding. The people of L'Avenir are worried about the reduction of services at their post office. They all—or nearly all—signed this petition calling on the government to maintain services and to ensure continuity of service at the post office in the municipality of L'Avenir.

Having a post office is not a luxury. This service should be provided in all municipalities. It is very important in rural environments.

These people have banded together and signed the petition. The mayor of L'Avenir is working very hard to get a meeting with Canada Post in order to ensure that there are adequate services.

The petitioners are calling on the minister to take concrete measures to ensure that rural post offices stay where they are and that services are not reduced.

Search and RescuePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I am proud to present yet another petition from residents mostly of Newfoundland and Labrador. These residents of Canada have grave concerns regarding the changes that are being made to the marine rescue coordination centre in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. In fact, it is being closed.

The petitioners urge the government to acknowledge and understand that this closure will put lives at risk. Six hundred people per year are saved as a result of the work of this centre. It is responsible for 900,000 square kilometres of ocean and nearly 30,000 kilometres of coastline. The centre is staffed with a group of people who are very knowledgeable of the coastline, of weather and water conditions, and of the people themselves and the dialects they speak. It is important to them that this centre not be closed.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Madam Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from April 2 consideration of the motion that this House approve in general the budgetary policy of the government.

Financial statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the members of the NDP caucus, an extraordinary caucus of very energetic and dynamic people who do a fine job of representing their constituents.

I am very happy to continue the budget debate. We are now in the eighth or ninth hour. I should warn the House that I will be speaking for a little while, probably into the 12th or 13th hour.

Madam Speaker, if you could give me a heads up five minutes before and then one minute before we go into statements by members, it would be much appreciated.

The NDP caucus has been absolutely floored by the reaction from the public. Tweets continue to come in from across the country. There are postings on Facebook from coast to coast to coast. Emails are pouring into our offices. There are many phone calls. Canadians seem galvanized by this budget debate. They want to hear what other Canadians have to say about the budget. That is what is exciting about Canadian democracy. Canadians are actually getting their chance to put forward their comments on the floor of the House of Commons.

Yesterday there were some very poignant comments from across the country. Madeline, an eight-year-old girl from Nova Scotia, talked about the importance of preserving the environment for future generations. That eight-year-old girl, who understands the importance of the environment, sent a very powerful message to the Conservative government that the environment is not something to be messed with, that the environment is something to be preserved for future generations. That is the kind of wisdom we are getting from Canadians from coast to coast to coast. It is an exciting time when Canadians can pass on their concerns around the budget through the NDP members of Parliament from coast to coast to coast.

What was remarkable yesterday was the number of comments pouring in from ridings held by Conservative members of Parliament. Canadians in those ridings deserve to be represented. That is why they are sending tweets and emails, posting on Facebook, and phoning our offices. All of these are important.

I will continue to speak today through to statements by members to raise the messages that have come to all of the 102 NDP MPs in the House of Commons. I will just flag for my Liberal colleagues that at approximately 4:30 I will be sitting down to allow a couple of Liberals to speak to the budget.

I should say that Conservative ministers have been going all across the country on the taxpayer's dime making all kinds of announcements and saying what I believe to a great extent are untruths about the budget. I would like to make it clear that I will not be sitting down to permit Conservative MPs to raise what I would call their budgetary poison in the House of Commons. We will be raising the concerns of Canadian families all day today in the House. Toward the end, I will be sitting down to permit my Liberal colleagues to say a few words as well. We believe profoundly that this budget of fewer jobs, less growth and less prosperity is not in the interests of Canada. We believe Canadian families deserve better.

I would like to start with a comment from a Canadian from Surrey, British Columbia. I represent Burnaby—New Westminster. Right across the Fraser River is the city of Surrey, British Columbia. Members will find this to be a very heartfelt message from somebody who has always voted Conservative. Mr. McKay, from Surrey, British Columbia, encapsulates for us the essence of this budgetary debate we are engaged in, that we are standing up for Canadian families and bringing forth the points of view from various parts of the country.

As I mentioned yesterday, these comments are coming from eight-year-old Canadians and eighty-year-old Canadians. They are coming from Canadians from the west coast to the east coast and northern Canada. They are coming from Canadians of all walks of life. I remember the poignant comments from people in the manual professions who feel personally attacked by the government's attempt to raise the retirement age when in so many cases their bodies have given all that they can. Through all of those comments we are seeing some movement and consensus.

From Mr. McKay, a Conservative voter from Surrey, British Columbia, we get a sense of how Canadians are reacting to this budget. He said:

I will start by saying you are doing a great job, as I watched you today Monday April the 2nd 2012 on the parliamentary channel here in Surrey B.C.... I have been a long-standing voter for the Conservatives for quite a lot of years now....I am 60 years of age and I am on disability. I have never been so upset as I am now with this Government of Canada. When they play with people's lives as they are doing by cutting jobs, playing with the pension plan, it is heartbreaking to a lot of people, but when they start cutting funding for [our] youth in this Country [it] is totally sickening. If they would put more funds towards helping [our] youth of today we would not need so many jails to house them. I hope you and your party members keep up the pressure and get this changed before there is severe damage done to our great country. Like I said before, I have been a voter for the Conservatives for years now. But people do and can change [their] way of thinking. I have been talking to a lot of people and friends my age and we are all thinking of changing the way we think about our government of the day. Even though I have never voted NDP, I just might start thinking of changing my mind. So thank you for your time. Please, you and the NDP keep up the good work you are all doing towards this issue.

I would like to thank Mr. McKay for his honesty. Mr. McKay represents so many Conservative voters who feel betrayed by the government. Mr. McKay could be a national symbol for his honesty and for saying that people can change the way they think when they analyze events. He is an inspiration to many people who may have voted Conservative in the past. Canadians see what has happened in this budget, which is a breaking of solemn commitments that were made by the government and the Prime Minister at a time when the nation went to the polls on May 2, 2011. Members will recall that the Prime Minister looked Canadians in the eye and said, “I will not diminish health care transfers. I will not interfere with retirement security. In fact, I will maintain it and enhance it. I will not cut services to families”. He said that while looking right into the eyes of Canadians.

In that old-fashioned Canadian way, Canadians from coast to coast to coast are known for their honesty and keeping their word. That handshake means we are making a commitment. What the Prime Minister did prior to May 2, in fact what all of his candidates across the country did as well, was make that solemn commitment to the people of Canada to not cut health care, to not cut retirement security and to not cut services. That was the commitment that was made. It was a commitment we all witnessed from coast to coast to coast. Mr. McKay and so many other people felt that the Prime Minister was being honest in making that commitment. The Mr. McKays of Canada said that they were going to vote Conservative because the Conservatives will not cut health care, retirement security or services.

We fast forward to March 28, 2012, when the Prime Minister and every single Conservative member of Parliament broke every single one of those commitments by cutting health care to the point that the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates we are losing $30 billion in health care that needs to be there in the coming years. These cuts are not done through intelligent ways of adjusting the health care system, increasing home care or looking at bulk purchasing of pharmaceutical products, but by cutting back on those essential services for Canadian families.

In the budget we see the forced raising of the retirement age from 65 to 67 at a time when we know, and we have been getting letters and emails to this effect, that Canadians, particularly in the manual professions, who have worked to the age of 65 simply cannot give any more. Those who are unable to work from 65 to 67 will live in dire poverty for those two years.

We see in the budget systematic cuts to services Canadian families depend on, cuts to food safety, transportation safety and the environmental protections that Canadians feel so strongly about. We see nothing that deals with the myriad of crises that Canadian families are facing: records levels of debt, lower incomes, as the government has made most Canadian families poorer and poorer through the erosion of real wages, and the incredible and ongoing employment crisis. We have seen 50,000 lost jobs up until March 28 and will see another 50,000 or 60,000 lost jobs as a result of this budget.

Canadians who witnessed those commitments and who voted because they believed that the Prime Minister would keep those commitments are feeling betrayed by this budget.

The Mr. McKays of this land are now rising up and saying “Enough is enough. This government has broken its commitments”. Mr. McKay says, “I have never been so upset as I am now with this Government of Canada when they play with people's lives, as they are doing by cutting jobs and playing with the pension plan. This is heartbreaking.”

The Mr. McKays are sending a very powerful message. We are saying that we understand and we are communicating that message on the floor of the House of Commons. Canadian families deserve better than what the government did.

I would like to move on now to a message from another Conservative riding, the Halton riding in Oakville, Ontario. We will be doing this throughout the course of the day because as Mr. McKay has so clearly said, people can change. Those who have been strong supporters of the Conservative Party can change when they read the budget and understand what the government is doing and how mean-spirited the government is.

We believe Conservative MPs can change. They have been getting emails, twitters and Facebook postings, saying, “This is a bad budget for Canada. This is a bad budget for our area. On behalf of the constituents of your riding, you should be voting against this.” We are reading into the record so many comments from Conservative-held ridings because Conservative members should be listening to their constituents.

Mr. McDonnell writes:

I happened to catch some of today's budget debate on CPAC and wanted to take a moment to thank you for your passionate work. As a self-described centrist, I don't always agree with NDP policy, but found your arguments very compelling today. I particularly agree with your opposition to raising the retirement age to 67. I am 39 and really hadn't given this issue much thought until I heard you present your case. I've worked in the distribution side of the flooring industry for 17 years. I am not an installer, but many of my customers and friends are. Many flooring installers walk with limps at 45 years old, let alone 67.

They literally spend their workdays on their knees and it takes a toll on their bodies. Most of them are too busy working to get involved in politics. I'll definitely take the time to bring this to their attention. Believe me, just because flooring industry workers look at the floor when we walk into a room doesn't mean we're shy. I always love to hear a compliment on a job well done and always try to thank others for one well done today. The NDP's chances of forming government are greatly bolstered with members like your caucus who all work together with experienced members working as mentors to the younger members of your caucus.

We thank Mr. McDonnell for his heartfelt comments. We are standing up for floor installers and all those in the manual professions who are adversely impacted by the government's mean-spirited push to raise OAS eligibility from 65 to 67. As Mr. McDonnell says, many flooring installers walk with limps at 45 years old. The government is saying it does not matter, whether one is a flooring installer, a carpenter or a manual worker, it does not matter how much their bodies are giving, it is going to force them to work two more years. We say Canadian families deserve better than that. We are going to stand up for them.

I would like to pay tribute to my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, who is doing a fabulous job as deputy finance critic. He is in the House all the time and is a phenomenal part of our caucus. He just went out to that overcharged fax machine that has smoke coming out of it because there are so many faxes pouring in from Canadians. They are coming from Canadians like Mr. McDonnell, the floor installer, and like Mr. McKay, the former Conservative voter who is now changing his mind because he sees this budget as so profoundly mean-spirited. All the NDP MPs have encouraged people to send in their tweets. When my colleague, the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, sees a choice one he points it out. Along with emails or faxes, these messages are from Canadians who want their points of view expressed. That is what we are endeavouring to do.

These are not the Prime Minister's Office talking points. They are not recycled. If I were sitting down right now we would be hearing from a lot of Conservatives and they would all be saying the same thing from the Prime Minister's talking notes. On this side of the House, we are saying real Canadians need to be heard. The floor installers need to be heard, those on disability who have always voted Conservative who feel betrayed by the budget need to be heard. Their comments are the most important thing to hear on the floor of the House of Commons today.

I would like to pass this one on. It is from another Conservative-held riding, Langley, British Columbia. Mr. Brennand says when he sees NDP members performing in the House he is extremely proud to say that he knows NDP MPs like all of us. He wants everyone to know that the Canadian people are becoming more aware of how mean-spirited the current government is. He says the Conservative Party seems to be every bit as reactionary as many people said before they formed government. Mr. Brennand also says to keep up the work and not to let the government rest comfortably with a budget that is so bad for Canadian people. We certainly appreciate his comments.

This individual, Ms. Burrell, has written in from the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, a very beautiful part of our country.

Financial statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Robert Chisholm

How far down the valley? We will find out whether it is a Conservative riding or a Liberal riding.

Financial statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

My colleague asks whether it is a Conservative or a Liberal riding. I think the Annapolis Valley is in a Liberal riding. Ms. Burrell says:

As a volunteer at the local food bank, I regularly see the huge amount of volunteer support that is needed to help impoverished members of our local community deal with the fact that their basic needs greatly exceed the amount of funds they receive, often through holding numerous part time minimum wage jobs. I understand there is nothing in the budget to address the need for good paying regular employment. Having worked for a brief time at a local blueberry farm picking blueberries for commercial purposes, I was shocked at the number of seniors who needed to supplement their limited incomes with such hard work. The amount of money received after hours of hard labour is usually well below the minimum wage. The exhaustion from the work by the seniors was obvious, as they struggled to meet a reasonable quota for their labours as the day wore on. If the OAS qualification is increased to 67, I fear how much more stress there will be on the bodies of the seniors who already are barely able to make ends meet without having their joints and backs give out totally. The budget needs to address the concerns of the vulnerable; it does not, and instead continues to feed the corporations' tax reduction, which even business leaders agree has no clear relationship to job creation.

I can think of no more eloquent testimony to the fact that Canadian families deserve better than what the government is putting forward in this budget.

Ms. Burrell is pointing out what we are hearing from so many people in the manual professions: that this attack on old age security will provoke incredible hardship among seniors who are already struggling to make ends meet and who have to go to local blueberry farms in order to put food on their tables. We are not talking about people who are wealthy and who are vacationing in the Bahamas.

We are talking about real, live Canadian seniors, people who work with their bodies. The government is now forcing them to work two more years or live in poverty. What a choice they are being given. What an appalling, inappropriate use of government resources which says that seniors will be forced to make a choice. It is double Jeopardy. The seniors can either live in poverty, eat cat food, and if they are lucky keep a roof over their head, or they can go work at a blueberry farm to get through to the age of 67.

If people are wondering why NDP MPs bring so much passion to this debate and question period, whether we are younger or older, and why we bring such passion to this issue of raising the retirement age two years, it is because of the kinds of comments we are getting. People understand what the impacts are. They understand that what is being done with the government's irresponsible actions, forcing seniors out into the blueberry fields, is absolutely, totally unacceptable.

We have been steadfastly raising these concerns on the floor of the House of Commons because Canadians deserve to be listened to by the government. They deserve better than what the government has in store for them.

I am going to move on to more comments that have been received. I have some other comments I will make a little later on. Following along, this is from the riding of Windsor—Tecumseh, which is represented by the NDP House leader, a fabulous MP who works very hard. What this Canadian, Patricia, says from Windsor—Tecumseh is the following:

“Rest assured; I will take your reply to my retired friends and neighbours, who also share my concerns over the OAS, some of us being single or divorced with only our own pensions and savings to survive on. In discussions, some have mentioned that the government is worried not so much as to the actual monthly pension cheque but the cost of prescriptions to the 65 and over group that is pushing up the cost of the OAS. I can certainly understand that. I currently buy my own prescription coverage and am aware of the cost of a few medications, even with partial coverage. Where to lay the blame in this case? Is it with the government, pharmaceutical companies, or doctors? I guess we'll leave that in the hands of our elected officials. Thank goodness my elected official is the member for Windsor—Tecumseh.”

This is yet another senior Canadian who is raising concerns about the issue of OAS and how the government has handled it. Yes, when we raise the question of pharmacare and pharmaceutical costs, the reality is that it is the fastest-rising component of our health care system. The government is not dealing with it adequately, not putting in place the measures that would actually bring the cost of prescription drugs down. Our former leader, Jack Layton, said for years and the current leader, the member for Outremont, has also said that what we need is bulk purchasing of medications. That lowers the cost. It has been done in other industrialized countries. It lowers the cost of medication. It relieves the stress and pressure of the cost of medication on the health care system.

The government has not done that. It has enlarged patent protection, which has increased profits. The pharmaceutical industry is the most profitable industry sector in North America, but at what cost? There are huge profits on the one hand, and then on the other hand, there are Canadian seniors who try to scrape together the money to buy the medication they need. As my colleague, the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, mentioned yesterday, with the CETA agreement that is being negotiated, the costs and pressures on our health care system are going to expand exponentially. We are talking about many billions of dollars more that taxpayers will have to pay for the same products. All of it goes to what is excess profit. It is not being used for future research. It is being spent on marketing. When the Patricias of this country step forward to say this is a real concern, the government should be listening.

I will move on now to a constituent in yet another Conservative-held riding. This is another constituent of a Conservative MP, who is writing to the NDP because she believes her views will not be represented. She starts off by saying:

The NDP is doing a fantastic job in the House. Please keep it up. You're giving voice to so many Canadians who thought they had no voice.

She has attached a letter that she hopes I will find the time to read in the House of Commons. We certainly feel that this time is important, and I am going to take the time to read her letter from Calgary, Alberta. We want to hear it, absolutely. The member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing is absolutely correct that we want to make those views known on the floor of the House of Commons.

Some Conservatives have suggested I should just sit down and let them talk, let the Conservatives talk all day with their Prime Minister's Office's talking points. We are saying no way. We are going to bring those points of view of Canadians to the floor of the House of Commons.

So, the letter starts:

“I would like to make it known to all members of Parliament that, as an Albertan, I do not subscribe to the policies and ideologies of this government. I know, as a constituent in Calgary, my opinion on the recent budget would not be voiced if this opportunity was not given to me by the NDP. As an Albertan, I resent the assumption of the Conservative government that we all support an agenda that would be detrimental to our environment and to the future of our children. I believe there are many green alternatives to the one taken by this government that seems to favour big oil.

“The budget priorities of the Conservatives will lead to reckless development of the oil sands by foreign companies, such as PetroChina, with little regard to health and environmental damage.

“In addition, this valuable resource will be sent outside Canada, as will associated jobs that could have been created in the refining industry.

“It is obvious that this government is only interested in short-term financial gains for those who financially support their electoral campaigns.

“Budgetary cuts to environmental programs and the muzzling of scientists also illustrate this government's disregard for the future of Canada and of our children. Climate change is a great concern for many Canadians, and this government has blatantly ignored and, indeed, hampered action by not only its own departments but by concerned environmental groups, which it has attempted to demonize by grossly overfunding their oversight.

“I am extremely worried about the future of my children in such an environment of government disregard for democracy, the environment, fairness and truth. The Conservative budget only serves to deepen my concern.

“Thank you for this opportunity to voice my concerns. I have many more concerns about this government, but not enough time, as a hard-working Albertan, to list them all.”

We say to this constituent that we share her concern.

As the fabulous member for Edmonton—Strathcona just whispered behind me, and I think it is worth saying into the record, many Albertans share the view of this constituent.

Also, many Albertans admire the work of the member for Edmonton—Strathcona, who has been a tireless voice in this House of Commons for the people of Alberta, speaking up each and every day.

Moving on, we have another comment from an individual from the province of Quebec. That individual says:

“I would like to send my support to you in the NDP in how you're defending a vision of Canada based on the concept that the economy must be in service to people and not the people in service to the economy. So many elements of this budget exemplify a belief that Canadian citizens must serve the economy; for example, the finance minister's and the government's changes to the immigration policy, suggesting that Conservatives are content to build Canada's society based predominantly on someone's perceived ability to fill a job vacancy rather than the previous and more global set of criteria used to allow the 200,000 people waiting in the backlog to apply and be given a positive response to their request to come to Canada.

“Let's not even talk about how inefficient it is to be basing this policy on assumptions about the workforce and job market when we know how quickly this scenario changes. It sounds to me that the finance minister is acting like an employment agency and not thinking in the larger social scale of building our society.

“The NDP understands something that the Conservatives also know is true, but Conservatives have made the ideological choice to ignore, and that is that greater and greater income disparity hurts our community and, after all, this is what we are: a country, yes, but a community first and foremost.

“Please continue to defend a vision of Canada that I believe even most supporters of the Conservatives would be found to adhere to. We are a community. We need to work in a way that balances the needs and strengths of one region with the others. I do not see evidence of this in the Conservative budget at all, and I thank the NDP for standing to defend a fair vision of our country.”

We thank her, as well, for her comment.

Moving right along, this is from the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. My colleague, the fabulous member for Newton—North Delta, is applauding and of course we like to hear from our folks at home. It is a very important thing when we hear from home, and that is why when I kicked off debate I read into the record a number of comments from my constituents in Burnaby—New Westminster. We feel very acutely the responsibility of representing our constituents. Today, yesterday and Friday, we have been representing our constituents solidly in the NDP but also, perhaps a bit sadly but because of necessity, we have been representing the constituents of many Conservative members of Parliament, who may not be bringing these views forward. We are ensuring their views are known.

This gentleman lives in another Conservative riding, and here again we are hearing a comment from a constituent of a Conservative member of Parliament. He says:

“I live in a very Conservative riding. Unfortunately, as nothing has been done for unemployed and underemployed deaf citizens, I find that I can't support the budget. The budget emphasizes jobs, but for whom? Certainly not for deaf or disabled Canadians. The unemployment rate for deaf citizens hovers around 60%. While the defence minister goes riding around free in a helicopter, deaf Canadians are frustrated with an economy which places the emphasis on money more than people.

“Why can't we have an economy that puts people first? The budget here obviously promotes greed. Certainly we need a balanced budget but it must make huge allowances for people in need and not just push environmentally ruinous pipelines through British Columbia, the province I know and love.

“The Prime Minister may be an economist, but he certainly is not a people's man. He does not understand that we all live on this earth only once. Why punish people with this horrific budget? I hope that he will go back to school and get some sensitivity training.”

I would like to say thanks in American Sign Language. That is how we say thanks for sending in his very important message from the deaf community in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.

I am going to move on to somebody from Scarborough in Toronto. This individual writes to her NDP MP. She says:

“The OAS cut is a big mistake. It won't be long before there will be means testing and only the very poorest may get anything. What we need is a national housing program now. Our cities are now unaffordable for people coming up, younger people, immigrants and such.”

And she thanks her local NDP MP for having the opportunity to speak out on the budget.

I am going to move to a few other comments we have received around the issue of the Katimavik program being cut. That is something that a lot of younger Canadians in particular are giving voice to. It is important that we provide their voice in the House of Commons.

The first is from the riding of Ottawa Centre, which is represented by a dynamic NDP MP whose riding includes this House of Commons.

Ms. Sullivan says the following: “I was fortunate enough to participate in a Katimavik leadership program in 2005-2006. It was an incredible experience, one that I can say without hesitation shaped the person that I am today. I learned many things while in Katimavik, not the least of which are confidence, tolerance and responsibility. I am completely opposed to cutting funding for Katimavik. It would be a tragedy to lose this program that has benefited countless Canadians and hundreds of communities across the country”.

Here are some other comments, this time from Ms. Dorner in Maberly, Ontario: “Thank you for speaking up to defend the Katimavik program. I'm sure that my own member of Parliament, who is Conservative, does not represent my views on the government's wish to scrap the program. I can tell you that experiences in Katimavik are very broadening experiences. I not only spent time in three different parts of the country, but I met and befriended many people from all backgrounds and walks of life. I was able to do worthwhile community service work while gaining work skills and generally developed a much better understanding and appreciation of the country as a whole. Thanks to my Katimavik experience, I was able to learn to communicate well in French, a skill I now use daily in my work in a federal crown corporation. More recently, two of my children have been Katimavik participants, with similar positive results. For the sake of our young people and for unity in our country, keep the Katimavik program alive”.

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Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, here is another from Ville-Émard, Quebec: “I'm writing you because I hope that you will fight to continue the Katimavik program. I never personally had the opportunity to participate in it since I went to university straight from high school, but I had looked into it and always regretted never taking that chance to participate. Please stand up for Katimavik. These kinds of programs can have a huge lasting impact, not just on the participants, but on the lives of those they touch in the communities they visit and on future generations. We need more proud and patriotic Canadians”.

Here is another letter on Katimavik from the Morse and Bernard family in the riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, which reads: “I have learned today that youth accepted into Katimavik for July 2012 have had their places in Katimavik revoked, pulled away, by this government. This affects my 17 and soon-to-be 18-year-old daughter who was elated to be accepted into the program, which we had encouraged her to apply to. I am writing to ask for your assistance in persuading the Conservative government to reconsider its decision. I would prefer to have Katimavik remain funded as a whole. In particular, I think it is quite unfair not to permit those youth already accepted into the program to complete their session. I believe it is prejudicial to those youth already accepted for them to not be able to follow through with their plans. The government's decision effectively sets them behind their peers and is patently unfair as a result”.

We certainly will continue to be the voice of that parent who wrote to us and of all the other families across the country.

I will continue with another comment from Ms. Sullivan from Toronto, who says the following: “I would like to add my voice to the calls in support of the Katimavik program. I was a Katimavik participant in 2004. The program gave me an opportunity that I would otherwise never have had to travel across the country and experience life in the different communities I stayed in. I also gained valuable work experiences, made friends from all over the country and my French improved greatly. I think that Katimavik is a valuable program for this nation's youth and I sincerely hope that it can continue to be funded so that future generations of young people can continue to have the opportunities that I had”.

From the great riding of Edmonton—Strathcona, represented by a fantastic MP, a constituent, Ms. Mercier, writes to her member of Parliament: “I have never written a letter to a member of Parliament. This will be my first, and I have to say that I am proud to live in the one Alberta NDP riding”.

As the member for Newton—North Delta said, there will certainly be a lot more than one after the next election campaign.

Ms. Mercier continues, “I want to express my extreme anger that the program Katimavik has been eliminated in the latest budget. It's a clear political move on the part of Conservatives, as I'm sure you're already aware, as was the 10% cut from the CBC budget. It's heartbreaking to know that this is, in part, a result of not enough people getting out and voting. I truly believe that if more people made the effort to vote we would not have a Conservative government. What a sad day for Canadians”.

My colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour has just passed me another. This is a very thoughtful comment from the riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl, which has an excellent NDP MP of course. In it, Ms. Bowering writes: “First, a little bit about myself. I'm an 18-year old Memorial University student from Mount Pearl, Newfoundland-Labrador. I recently participated in Katimavik and I wanted to share my views about the recent abrupt decision to eliminate the program. I'm not going to scream, to yell or to put the blame on anybody. The fact is, plain and simple, that youth apathy is a problem in Canada. Less and less youth have bothered turning out to vote in elections, 36% in the 2008 election. Yet here we stand as a nation moving backwards. Cutting the Katimavik program is a giant leap backwards. Youth have less and less to do with politics. Political parties are simply failing to connect to the young electorate. What better way to distance themselves further from youth as a general rule than by cutting a program that we as youth are generally passionate about. “Get a life” is Katimavik's slogan, “Dégage”, for our fine francophone population, and I was accepted fresh out of high school to the July-December 2011 program. I made friends. I learned to develop an opinion, to voice it and to listen to other's opinions in both official languages. It was difficult. Most times it was difficult. Fun, but hard work. But that's just life, isn't it, a challenge”.

Ms. Bowering asks, “Why wouldn't we want competent, developed youth ready to join our workforce, eager to voice their opinions, to fight for what's right? That's what I see here, the youth reaping the benefits of Katimavik and using what they learn in order to fight for what they believe in. We stand side by side with those who were perhaps too young to apply in previous years. We stand in solidarity with all of the organizations which Katimavik youth touched, with those community members whose lives were impacted by our presence. We stand together with all of the alumni, the project leaders, the support leaders, the coordinators and staff that helped shape Katimavik and shape the youth of our country, of our Canada. Cutting Katimavik is a mistake. Katimavik was Canada's leading youth volunteer service program and I fully believe that it should continue to be”.

For this student in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador, we know that her MP and the entire 102 member NDP caucus is onto it. We will certainly continue to push for Katimavik to continue and for opportunities for youth. Given what this budget has done to Canada's youth, we say clearly that Canada's youth deserve better than what the government has done.

As members can see, as fast as my colleague next door gives me these notes, they continue to pour in from across the country. We will certainly endeavour to read as many as we can into the record because these are the heartfelt feelings and thoughts of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

We now have one from Kaslo, British Columbia, in the riding of B.C. Southern Interior, which has elected a fantastic member of Parliament since 2006. I cannot mention his name, but he is one heck of an MP.

From Kaslo, British Columbia, we hear the following: “I know that you listened to the budget with a similar sense of concern as we did in Kaslo, British Columbia. There are so many things to be concerned about. The most immediate one that comes to mind at this point is the cutting of the funds to Katimavik. I was leader with Katimavik, a district coordinator, and in the last two years a sponsor for Katimavik. I was so impressed that these young people were given the opportunity to learn about volunteerism, to learn about Canada, to learn about themselves, all the while that they helped communities in ways we could never afford to pay people to do. To me, this was a real education for youth. What a sad day to see the program cut. I wrote to the Prime Minister, but I wanted you to know as well”, referring to the member for the British Columbia Southern Interior.

There is a second one from a Mrs. Keenan from the British Columbia Southern Interior, who writes: “I am resident of Caswell. I know firsthand how important and valuable Katimavik is in the lives of its volunteers and in the communities in which they reside. Here in Caswell volunteers once offered services to JVH School, the Caswell Youth Centre, the Perriwinkle Children's Centre, the fire department, the Lang Cultural Centre, to the Caswell Historical Society, and the North Kootenay Lake Community Services. Likewise, groups in Nelson and Castlegar were present in similar organizations. I hope and believe there is still time to reverse the government's bad decision. I urge you all to speak up for Katimavik and trust that we will once again see the benefits of it here in the Kootenays”.

To this constituent, I say yes, that we will continue to speak up about Katimavik on the floor of this House of Commons. I am going to continue because the messages keep flooding in.

Here is another one from the region of Halifax. This constituent, Ms. Glover, writes to the great member for Halifax and says, “I am writing you from Halifax. Since the announcement of a new federal budget, I have been thinking a lot about the Katimavik program. I completed the program over seven years ago after finishing high school and before starting university. While I am sure you are aware of the broader arguments about the value of the Katimavik program, I would like to share with you my personal experience.

“After high school I felt like I was faced with a difficult choice, university or work. Obtaining full-time work with a high school degree seemed daunting. Would I find meaningful work? Would I be paid adequately? How could I convince my potential employers of my capabilities when I had little work experience? University was equally intimidating due to the weight of making a choice of what to study. What if I chose the wrong major? If I took on debt, how would I get out of it?

“Katimavik provided me with another choice and provided me with the freedom to explore all those questions. I lived in Regina, Saskatchewan; Alma, Quebec; and Vernon, British Columbia during my stint in Katimavik. From the first day with the program I felt a certain freedom, being away from my home town. I was free to create and explore a new identity, something that I believe all young people deserve to do. I became someone who was confident in the kitchen, someone who could speak articulately about issues that matter to me, and someone who took on new experiences with excitement rather than fear. One of the largest take-aways for me was that as an individual you could contribute to a community and it could make a difference. What an amazing experience to learn as a young person. I look back and marvel about what I and my fellow participants accomplished.

“As young Canadians, we are faced with higher tuition rates and a tougher job market. I believe Katimavik has an even more important role today. I was extremely saddened to read about the funding cut, but I am optimistic that advocates of the program will fight for it. As for all the former participants, Katimavik has trained them to stand up for what they believe in and to make a noise.

I appreciate your taking the time to read this, and I hope you will advocate for the continued presence of Katimavik for the sake of young people across Canada and for the communities that Katimavik serves”.

Of course we will. Moving right along—

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NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Newton—North Delta.

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NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I hate to interrupt my hon. colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster, who has been speaking quite eloquently this morning on this reckless budget that is hurting Canadian families.

At the end of my point of order, I intend to seek the unanimous consent of the House, so I hope that you, Madam Speaker, will hear me out.

My friend from British Columbia has been reading into the record emails and tweets that he has received from concerned Canadians from coast to coast to coast. A lot of these remarks are from Canadians in Conservative-held ridings, so it has been invaluable to hear their perspectives and for their own members to hear their objections to the budget. It is important for these emails to be part of the record so that all members can consult them in their work. I therefore seek the unanimous consent of the House for Mr. Julian to table the emails that he is reading from this morning.

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NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I would like to remind the hon. member that mentioning members by name in the House is not allowed.