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House of Commons Hansard #116 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environment.

Topics

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, a recorded division on the motion is deferred until Wednesday, May 9, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

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

7 p.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians face long commutes stuck in traffic and smog. Across Canada, urban mayors are asking for federal leadership in assisting them to establish better public transit. Sadly, the government refuses to act.

Investing in public transit would create jobs, reduce harmful emissions and save billions in lost economic productivity. For years, the NDP has been leading the way in calling for a national public transit strategy. Our bill, introduced by my colleague, the member for Trinity—Spadina, is designed to ensure fast, accessible, affordable public transit in cities across the country. It calls for a permanent investment plan for transit systems and innovation research. It calls on different levels of government to work together to ensure quality transit under the leadership of the federal government.

It is time to get moving on transit. We see the need in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and even in Fort McMurray. Cities and towns, big and small, need permanent, strong, stable, national transit funding so that Canadians have access to reliable, frequent public transit to get to and from where they live, play and work.

We need to put public transit back on the national agenda. Canada has been falling behind, and that is holding us back economically. We are the only country in the G8 without a national transit strategy. Federal leadership and investment in transit is vital to a healthier economy and a healthier environment. It is vital to our cities, large and small, and everyone who lives in them.

Canada's big city mayors have been calling for such a strategy since 2007. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Canadian Urban Transit Association, the Canadian Construction Association and, yes, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce have all come out to support a national public transit strategy.

In February I rose in this House and asked the Minister of Transport why the government is ignoring this growing crisis. When will it finally give cities like Toronto the stability they need? It had a chance to address this crisis in the federal budget. Unfortunately, the budget set no money aside for transit. In fact, infrastructure funding took a big hit.

I understand that the minister is working on developing a long-term infrastructure plan to take effect after the Building Canada Plan expires in 2014, and will be consulting with stakeholders. In light of the recommendations emanating from the Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities' report on a national transit strategy, how important is public transit as a key foundation to the long-term infrastructure plan?

7:05 p.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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Scarborough Southwest for his interest in this important issue.

Here are the pertinent facts. Federal support for investments in public transit infrastructure has been and continues to be an important national priority for our government. Since we took office in 2006, we have committed close to $5 billion to public transit projects across the country. In addition, public transit is a major beneficiary of investments through the gas tax fund, which our government increased to $2 billion annually and recently made a permanent source of long-term sustainable funding for municipalities. Since 2006, municipalities have used approximately $1.5 billion of their federal gas tax fund allocations toward transit investments.

An important portion of these investments has been made in the greater Toronto Area. In fact, the City of Toronto has chosen to invest all of its gas tax fund transfers in public transit. This means an investment of close to $500 million in public transit in the city of Toronto alone. The Cities of Edmonton, Ottawa, Vancouver and Calgary have made similar decisions.

The Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities has been very clear that our government will continue to be a supportive partner of municipal needs, but we believe that cities are best positioned to identify and make decisions about their infrastructure needs.

The greater Toronto area is also a very important beneficiary of federal investments in public transit through the government's infrastructure programming. Since 2006, the government has committed over $1.86 billion toward public transit projects in the greater Toronto area, such as the construction of an 8.6 kilometre extension of the Spadina subway, improvements to the GO Transit network and an important revitalization project at Union Station.

Through the infrastructure stimulus fund, the federal government has invested more than $100 million in public transit projects in the greater Toronto area. Examples of projects supported through this program in Toronto include a transit station modernization program, the renewal of subway tracks and overhaul of subway escalators and elevators and various transit infrastructure improvements identified by the Toronto Transit Commission.

This unprecedented level of federal support for public transit in the greater Toronto area and across the country for projects such as the Evergreen transit line in the greater Vancouver area, the expansion of the light rail transit systems in Edmonton and Calgary as well as the light rail transit project in Ottawa, demonstrates that the government understands the importance of public transit in making our communities more prosperous.

In budget 2011, and again in our recent budget 2012, our government committed to work with provinces, territories, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and other stakeholders to develop a long-term plan for public infrastructure that extended beyond the expiry of the building Canada plan in 2014.

While expressing an interest in discussing public transit infrastructure as part of the government's engagement process to develop this long-term plan, both the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Canadian Urban Transit Association have praised the levels of investments provided by the Government of Canada for public transit. We are pleased to be working closely with both these important stakeholders as part of our development process of a long-term plan. In fact, the discussions over the development of a new long-term infrastructure plan will be taking place on the foundation of the unprecedented levels of investments provided by the government for public transit in the greater Toronto area and across the country.

7:10 p.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been investments put in, but that is to make up for the huge deficiencies that have existed for years. When we look at what a lot of the money is spent on, it is state of good repair things, maintenance and replacing tracks. It is that aging infrastructure. What the cities need is that long-term stable funding. All these projects that the member mentioned are one-offs. It is a bit of money here, a bit of money there. We applaud the fact that the gas tax money goes to the cities, but the cities need more of it. This is why the NDP called for an additional 1¢ of the gas tax to go to public transit, and the Conservatives voted against it.

For years and years, I have been a loyal public transit rider in Toronto, taking it to work, to play, to everywhere. However, the moment we get out of the downtown core, there are problems that abound. It does not serve the people well and it harms the economy, which is the biggest thing.

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am a bit surprised to hear the member opposite make light of $5 billion for public transit projects through our infrastructure programs. From our point of view that is a significant investment. I hope he can appreciate that.

He talks about federal stable, predictable funding. In fact, that is coming through the federal gas tax fund, which we have now made permanent. It provides that dedicated funding for our municipalities, which enables them to direct financial support to environmentally sustainable municipal infrastructure projects, including transit infrastructure.

In conclusion, our government's infrastructure programming is supporting a number of large scale transit projects, both in the GTA and across the country. These investments are contributing to more efficient transit systems in the Greater Toronto Area and in fact across Canada.

7:10 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am going to take advantage of this adjournment debate to say something a little more concrete than the rhetorical games that have been taking up our time in this chamber.

My earlier question concerned the government's duty to provide a constant level of funding for first nations education.

Those who follow my speeches in the House religiously know that my trademark is sticking to the empirical and concrete. I shall continue to do so today.

The media in my riding told us barely a month ago about the dismissal of four teachers and the subsequent sudden resignation of two principals, of the primary and secondary school in a community within my riding. I will refrain from mentioning the name of the community because it is all rather defamatory. I also do not want to do anything to further stigmatize the residents of the community. However, if you search the Internet, it is easy to find the information.

From my subsequent discussions with the band chief in question, I learned that the dismissals of the teachers were the result of the band's budget adjustment plan that was drafted jointly with—and with the approval of—the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development in 2011.

This information was brought to my attention on Facebook. I make effective use of this social networking site. People in my community and neighbouring communities know that they can reach me through Facebook.

The parents of these elementary and high school students were quite concerned and naturally contacted me to tell me that the situation was problematic and that their children's school year was in peril. I therefore made the necessary effort to find the cell phone number of the band chief in question. I contacted him when he was in Montreal and we had a good discussion. During the course of that conversation, the chief indicated to me that these teachers were laid off or dismissed—whichever term applies here—as a result of financial recovery measures. I took the chief at his word. He told me that Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada was involved and that these recovery measures had been approved and were meant to target a deficit that, today, is approaching $20 million. Ultimately, he almost avoided being under federal government supervision. I was rather shocked by what he said.

I believe it is worthwhile to present this matter to the people of Canada and that is what I am doing today.

This situation is now rectified. I would like to point out that these measures were simply abolished and the teachers kept their jobs. The students can therefore still go to school today. However, this situation is worrisome, to say the least, if we consider the draconian nature of the measures being considered and the negative impact they would have on the education of young people living on reserve. Some confrontations resulted from this situation and the police had to intervene. One young person was possibly even injured. It can all be seen on YouTube.

In the member's opinion, is this kind of measure that compromises the academic advancement of young aboriginals consistent with the principles that came from the national panel on first nation elementary and secondary education?

7:15 p.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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Manicouagan for his intervention and his interest in this issue. I am pleased to hear that the specific situation that caused his concern has been resolved. Therefore, I will not attempt to respond to that, but I will simply comment on the general issues raised.

Here is the key point I would like to make. Our government is taking action to improve the education of students in first nation communities. Our ultimate goal, which he probably shares, is to provide first nation students with a quality education that enables them to realize their aspirations and develop the skills they need to be full participants in a strong Canadian economy. Canadian aboriginals form Canada's youngest population, so it is in the interest of all of us to see aboriginal people educated, skilled and employed.

We know there is work to be done to ensure first nation students achieve the same educational outcomes as other Canadians. That is why our government has been making continual investments in first nation education. In budget 2008, for example, our government launched the reforming first nation education initiative and invested in two new programs, the first nation student success program and the education partnerships program, to help set the foundation for long-term improvements in education. We have continued to build on that foundation.

Budget 2012 confirms our commitment to education reform through new investments of $275 million for first nation education over three years, aimed at improving school infrastructure, addressing literacy and improving educational outcomes. We would also work to explore mechanisms to ensure stable, predictable and sustainable funding for first nations elementary and secondary education.

We also committed to working with willing partners to introduce a first nation education act and have it in place by September 2014. I hope my colleague will help us in that regard. The act will be aimed at establishing structures and standards to support strong and accountable education systems on reserve. This is a direct response to the final report of the independent national panel, which provided the government with valuable feedback and recommendations on the next steps that could be taken to improve educational outcomes for first nation students living on reserves.

In the coming months, the Government of Canada will be working with first nation and provincial partners to determine the path forward on first nation education, including government structures. In fact, partnerships across the country are helping to develop stronger relationships among provincial governments, first nations and the Government of Canada. As a key component, our government has signed several tripartite agreements focused on putting the building blocks in place to ensure better outcomes for first nation students.

It is evident from our commitments that our goal is to provide first nation students with quality education that provides them with the opportunity to acquire the skills needed to enter the labour market and be full participants in a strong Canadian economy. We are committed to reaching that goal.

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for the hand he extended to me. Nevertheless, I would like to point out that when this recovery plan was drafted, the panel had still not submitted its report. I trust that this will not happen again in future, because I will always remain on the alert, at least in my riding. I am going to stay close to the communities. I can assure you that I will work together with my colleagues from all the other parties, because this is a problematic situation, one that has little to do with pure partisanship and making political capital. I believe that the important thing is the welfare and education of young people. I am prepared to work with all the authorities.

As I mentioned, I could not support such a measure. I hope that the chief was making assumptions when he told me that it had been developed in co-operation with the community. I will simply have to take his word for it. I did not do any further checking. In my view, the government is in a position to deal with this situation in a more enlightened fashion.

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his commitment to his community and his interest in working with us on these important goals.

Certainly, improving the educational outcomes of first nation students is a shared task. It is a shared priority among governments, first nations, educators, families, students and members here. That is why we continue to invest roughly $1.5 billion annually in elementary and secondary programs for about 117,500 first nation students across Canada. With budget 2012, we are investing an additional $275 million for first nations education over three years, $100 million of which would be used to provide early literacy programming and other supports and services to first nations schools and strengthen their relationship with provincial school systems.

We intend to continue to work with our provincial partners to ensure that first nations have in place the necessary programming, structures and resources that will allow them to transfer between first nation and provincial schools without academic penalty.

Without a doubt, our government is making progress toward ensuring first nations have access to the same educational opportunities as other Canadians.

7:20 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for staying at this later hour and attending these proceedings. It is appreciated.

Commercial fishing and the fish processing sector are an economic engine not only in my riding, Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, but also in neighbouring ridings.

The people in the coastal communities of the Gaspé in the Magdalen Islands make their living from fishing and have done so for hundreds of years. As a result of the policies on fleet separation and owner-operators, fishers in the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands continue to use their own fishing boats and have licences issued in their name. They can earn a living from fishing. They invest their profits in the coastal regions where they live.

These policies protect the fishery economy, which in return creates thousands of secondary jobs in the fisheries sector and in adjacent sectors within the region. The elimination of independent fishing would be harmful to the coastal communities of the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands, as well as to other adjacent ridings, and towns and villages that have existed for hundreds of years would be at risk of disappearing.

The Conservative government talks about “modernizing” the fisheries. It also talks about modernizing the Fisheries Act by revoking section 35. Apparently, this means getting rid of the independent fishing fleets and leaving the coastal fishery in the hands of large corporations. Indeed, the Conservative government plans to eliminate the policies on fleet separation and owner-operators to allow the large corporations—the processors and others—to take control of the coastal fishery on the east coast.

Many fisheries groups and associations in Atlantic Canada are opposed to these changes. These groups and associations represent fishers in the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Quebec.

Signatories from Quebec include the Alliance des pêcheurs professionnels du Québec, which includes the Association des pêcheurs propriétaires des Îles-de-la-Madeleine, the Regroupement des pêcheurs professionnels du sud de la Gaspésie, the Regroupement des pêcheurs professionnels de la Haute et de la Moyenne Côte-Nord and the Association des capitaines-propriétaires de la Gaspésie.

These groups of Atlantic fishers represent the vast majority of permit holders and crew members in Atlantic Canada's fishing industry. In 2010, fleets of Atlantic owner-operators harvested $1 billion worth of lobster, snow crab and shrimp, or 63% of the total value of fishing activity in Atlantic Canada for the same year.

By eliminating both the owner-operator and fleet separation policies, the Conservative government will be handing over almost $1 billion in economic spinoffs to major corporations, to the detriment of our coastal communities.

Why is the Conservative government turning its back on Canada's coastal communities?

7:25 p.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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine for his interest in this issue and other fishery-related issues. I appreciated his occasional involvement in the fisheries committee and was pleased when he was made a permanent member just recently. I look forward to working with him on issues such as this one.

First and foremost, no decisions have been made to eliminate any part of the current fisheries management policy regime. What we are doing is listening to views about how to give the fishing industry the tools it needs to operate in an environment that is more sustainable, stable and economically prosperous.

It is for these reasons that we went out to speak with Canadians with an open mind to hear their views on what works and what does not. We have heard from my colleague and his constituents, but we wanted to hear directly from those who make a living in this business about what they need not only to survive but to thrive in an increasingly competitive and global marketplace.

During this process, we did receive thousands of comments through regional face-to-face meetings, online submissions and even via fax. The opinions expressed were as varied and diverse as the policies and management measures that we are speaking to today. They share many common values: a deep-rooted respect for the sea and fellow fishermen, a duty to their communities and a strong sense of perseverance and entrepreneurship. Although differences in opinions have emerged, all expressed a passion and commitment for the fishery, which my colleague has reflected today, and we must appreciate and respect these.

Many expressed the need for change. Just as there are fluctuations in resources and shifting market demands, policies and management measures must work to meet the needs of today's harvesters. Many of the rules currently in place were established decades ago in response to issues that emerged under then new management regimes. This is not to say that they are all outdated, but there is a valid need to examine these management measures to see whether they are helping or hindering those who work in the fisheries and to continuously improve how we do business.

The concerns raised by the hon. member have been raised before. They have been raised when visiting with members of the fishing industry, stakeholders and representatives from various governments. These people and Canadians in general are concerned about the future of many fisheries, the challenges that exist and the opportunities for change.

When we went out to speak with and, more important, to listen to Canadians, it was our intention to get feedback and input on ways to improve the sustainability of the resource. We wanted to hear people's thoughts on how the complex web of rules currently governing fisheries management could be streamlined.

To be fair and objective, we set no preconditions on what could be suggested. We wanted to hear all views. When someone suggested that we change a specific policy, our reaction has been, “Why?” and not, “Sorry, we cannot consider that”.

In examining an issue as complex as Canada's fisheries management regime, we cannot arbitrarily exclude key elements in our analysis. We have to look at the whole system and all of its rules, policies, practices, management measures and regulations, and we need to look at how each of those parts interacts with the others, and that is what we did.

In general, the response to this process was very encouraging. It is now up to us as a government to review and analyze all of the submissions, and that is what we are doing.

7:25 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I again thank the parliamentary secretary. His words are certainly well considered.

I appreciate the efforts of the government to seek out and consult with local populations. However, I would like to know specifically what form those consultations have taken and to whom they have spoken, because the people with whom I have been speaking consider that the changes being proposed and circulated at this point would hinder local communities, not help them.

I have not heard any fishing association at this point tell me that it is looking forward to the elimination of fleet separation policies. I have heard from larger companies, such as those who do fish processing, that they would like to see a leveling out of the platform so they can access these fishing permits and transform the product afterward. For them it would be very economical and profitable.

However, the economic spinoff of spreading that wealth among all the communities on the Atlantic coast would certainly seem to be much more beneficial for local communities and for the federal government because we would actually raise more revenues this way.

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, I assure the member that we did not go out there to discuss any particular policy—not owner operator, not fleet separation, not any one of the complex web of policies that exist out there.

Our commitment is to improve Canada's fisheries, so we went out there to talk to those who are involved in the fisheries. It is our sense that the fisheries can contribute more to the Canadian economy than they are currently doing. If we continue with the status quo, we will probably not get to that point. Therefore, we went to ask them whether there were policies that were hindering them and the enterprise in which they were involved from being as prosperous and profitable as they could be.

As I mentioned earlier, we heard a variety of issues about that, including some of the opinions that the member has expressed. We are considering all of them at the current time.

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 7:32 p.m.)