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House of Commons Hansard #131 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was changes.

Topics

Access to InformationRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I have the honour to lay upon the table, pursuant to subsection 39(1) of the Access to Information Act, a special report of the Information Commissioner, entitled “Measuring Up: Improvements and Ongoing Concerns in Access to Information 2008-2009 to 2010-2011”.

This report is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(a), I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 26th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs in relation to a question of privilege: the free movement of members within the parliamentary precinct.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

May 31st, 2012 / 10:05 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to take the opportunity to respond to the report. My party, the NDP, has prepared a dissenting opinion with regard to the recommendations that came from the procedures and House affairs committee.

This is a very important issue with regard to the practice of the privileges of our members of Parliament. We have a long tradition of an absolute right to unimpeded access to the House. There have been a number of times that the committee in the past has looked at this in the way of a motion as a result of determinations by yourself, Mr. Speaker, and other speakers, your predecessors. We have consistently retained that right as an absolute. It was always expressed as an absolute.

What I am very concerned about in the report that came out through the majority of the committee members on the government side is that it made no finding of breach of privilege in this case. It is quite clear from the facts that at least several members have been improperly impeded on those occasions from accessing the House in order for them to do their parliamentary work.

We have recommended in the dissenting opinion that there be a finding that privileges were breached and then, as the main report does, made some recommendations. Unfortunately, the main report made a major concession, as we saw it.

There is always this issue of a balance between the historical absolute right of our members of Parliament to access the House and precinct unimpeded versus—and this is where we get into the balance argument—the question of security.

The security issue, Mr. Speaker, as I am sure you are quite aware, only comes up as a significant concern when we have international visitors and the risk is raised significantly. For instance, when the President of the United States was here, there were problems. When the Prime Minister of Israel was here, there were problems, which is what this is about.

The government side is saying in the report, in effect, that security trumps. We are saying no, there are alternatives. We set those out in three very specific recommendations, that there are alternatives, that the absolute right should remain and that security can still be taken care of and all those concerns met. That is why we presented the dissenting report.

Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons With DisabilitiesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 5th report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons With Disabilities, in relation to the main estimates 2012-13.

Species at Risk ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-426, An Act to amend the Species at Risk Act (funding of atlassing)

I rise in the House today to introduce a bill to amend the Species at Risk Act. My bill deals specifically with the funding of atlassing or enumeration.

The enactment amends the Species at Risk Act to ensure that funds for the enumeration of a species, in connection with the financing of programs and measures for the conservation of wildlife species, are paid to the persons responsible before the enumeration of the species begins; that is the essence of this bill.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Laval—Les Îles, a member of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, for supporting this motion.

I have received statements from at least half a dozen associations and organizations in eastern Quebec alone. They have been promised funding in November or December to enumeration of a species. Endangered species often come to Canada in March, April or July, but the organizations receive the funding only in September or October. In some cases, the organizations have almost missed the opportunity to enumerate the species because they have to find a bank that will loan them money to hire people with the appropriate expertise to do the atlassing or enumeration.

At any rate, since it would not cost the public purse any extra to pay those people on time, this new measure would allow the organizations to do the atlassing with no administrative problems.

I personally believe that the House should take care of this simple administrative formality and pay them on time so that they can hire competent people and ensure the future of endangered species in Canada.

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

Income Tax ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Tyrone Benskin NDP Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-427, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (income averaging for artists).

Mr. Speaker, this is a proud and humbling moment for me. I have lobbied for this for at least a decade before joining the House.

This bill would help independent artists who do not have access to employment insurance and the Canada pension plan during feast or famine years. All independent artists can have a number of lean years. Then, if they are blessed, they will land something that shoots them up into the stratosphere. The bill intends to make it a little easier in regards to averaging their tax burden for that year over four or five years.

Many artists have looked for this. I know members of the House on the opposite side have heard that for a number of years. It would bring a sense of fairness to the people who contribute to this country in large measure.

Therefore, I stand here today to introduce this bill.

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

International Co-operationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to present a petition on behalf of residents of my riding who support international co-operation, and in particular an organization called Development and Peace.

They have signed this petition denouncing the cuts affecting non-governmental organizations whose reputation is beyond reproach and which have been involved in international co-operation for very many years.

In the case of Development and Peace, $35 million will be eliminated over five years, and this is completely unacceptable. This organization supports over 250 partners in 40 countries.

In essence, this petition calls for the funding to Development and Peace to be restored and for Canada to increase its international aid.

Wine IndustryPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to bring attention to the House a petition that I received from my constituents in my riding of Niagara West—Glanbrook. The petitioners call upon the House of Commons and Parliament to vote in favour of Bill C-311, an act to amend the importation of intoxicating liquors act (interprovincial importation of wine for personal use).

With over 40 wineries in my riding of Niagara West—Glanbrook, this piece of legislation is near and dear to me and my constituents. I echo the sentiments of these petitioners and urge all of my hon. colleagues to vote in favour of the bill.

There is a pressing need to modernize the 1928 federal Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act with a personal exemption for the purchase and shipment of wine across provincial borders. Allowing interprovincial importation of wine for personal use would greatly benefit not only the hard-working men and women of my riding but also Canadians from coast to coast who would soon be able to experience the extravagant array of wines grown not only in Niagara Peninsula but across our great nation.

PovertyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I have a petition from a number of residents in my riding, which I will attempt to summarize.

These petitioners are very concerned about the effects of poverty. Ten percent of Canadians live in poverty in a country that is incredibly rich. Among those are aboriginal people, recent immigrants and persons living with disabilities. We know that one in eight children in this country live in poverty.

The petitioners ask the Government of Canada to implement Bill C-233. This bill would require the federal government to develop and implement a strategy for poverty elimination in consultation, of course, with the provinces, territories, municipalities and aboriginal governments. Civil society is very concerned about the effects of poverty on our entire community.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, residents of Winnipeg North have made a fairly strong statement by signing petitions regarding the government's decision to increase the age to apply for OAS from 65 to 67. They believe that people should continue to have the option to retire at age 65 and that the government should not in any way diminish the importance and value of Canada's three major seniors programs: OAS, GIS and CPP.

Rights of the UnbornPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Madam Speaker, I have three petitions.

The first petition is mainly from the county of Grand Valley, the village of Grand Valley, the town of Orangeville and the town of Shelburne in my riding.

Canada's 400-year-old definition of human beings says a child does not become a human being until the moment of complete birth, contrary to 21st century medical evidence. Parliament has a solemn duty to reject any law that says some human beings are not human.

The petitioners call upon the House of Commons and Parliament assembled to confirm that every human being is recognized by Canadian law as human by amending section 223 of our Criminal Code in such a way as to reflect 21st century medical evidence.

AbortionPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Madam Speaker, the second petition is from basically the same towns in my riding. It is similar to the first, but it is worded differently.

Canada is the only nation in the western world and in the company of China and North Korea without any laws restricting abortion. Canada's Supreme Court has said it is Parliament's responsibility to enact abortion legislation. The petitioners call upon the House of Commons and Parliament assembled to speedily enact legislation that restricts abortion to the greatest extent possible.

The EnvironmentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Madam Speaker, my third petition is from people all over Canada who are concerned with the proposed megaquarry in Melancthon Township in Dufferin County, It would be the largest open-pit quarry in Canada, at over 2,300 acres.

The petitioners are concerned with a number of things, one of which is that the proposed megaquarry threatens the Grand and Nottawasaga River watersheds, including various freshwater fish species. The petitioners ask that the Government of Canada conduct an environmental assessment under the authority of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act on the proposed Highland Companies' megaquarry development.

Human RightsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions. The first relates to human rights, particularly in China.

This petition is from members of the public in Mississauga, Toronto and the vicinity who are offended by the continued persecution of people practising Falun Dafa or Falun Gong within China.

The petitioners call on the Government of Canada and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to impress upon the Chinese government the importance of human rights to Canada.

The petition is timely as we are creating more investment opportunities for China without environmental reviews as a driving force behind Bill C-38. It is important that we give this petition attention.

Shark FinningPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, the other petition is from residents of my own constituency of Saanich--Gulf Islands, residents from Mayne Island and Saturna Island, who are calling upon the House to take action to end the practice of shark finning. More than 70 million sharks are killed annually through this barbaric practice for the purpose of one important ceremony, but one dish should not wipe out a species.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, if Question No. 593 could be made an order for return, this return would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 593Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

With regard to the 2010 strategic reviews included in Table 5.1 in Budget 2011 (and also included in Table 6.7 of Budget 2012 under Budget 2011 spending restraint), what is the breakdown of expected savings for each department, agency and organization in each of the fiscal years 2011-2012, 2012-2013, 2013-2014, 2014-2015, 2015-2016, 2016-2017, and ongoing?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

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

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

moved:

That this House call on the Conservative government to abandon plans to further restrict access to Employment Insurance for Canadian workers who have followed the rules and who will now be forced to choose between taking a pay cut of up to 30% or losing their Employment Insurance benefits.

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.

I am pleased to move, on behalf of the entire NDP caucus, a motion calling on the Conservative government to abandon its reckless changes to Canada's employment insurance system.

First and foremost, employment insurance must be about providing a safety net for workers. Government ministers and Conservative MPs keep saying that jobs are not being filled because the unemployed do not want to work, but Statistics Canada pointed out just last week that there were almost six unemployed workers for every reported job vacancy in Canada. In other words, despite its rhetoric, the Conservative government's record on job creation has been an abject failure.

Therefore, yes, this is the time that workers need to draw on the employment insurance that they paid into all of their working lives. However, instead of helping workers to access what is rightfully theirs, the minister responsible for the program hurls insults by saying, “We do not want to make it lucrative for them to stay home and get paid for it”. It is outrageous. Workers need EI, not so they can stay at home but so they can keep their homes.

Even before these ill-advised changes, only 40% of unemployed Canadians were able to access EI benefits, and those who do bring home a maximum of 55% of their former wages. Unemployed workers can assure the minister that EI is not lucrative.

What then motivated this last round of EI reforms? Toronto Star columnist, Thomas Walkom, hit the nail squarely on the head when he blamed the changes on “bone-headed ideology and contempt”. The Conservatives have continually demonstrated their hatred of Canada's social safety net, including employment insurance, and the disdain starts right at the top.

This is what the Prime Minister told the American Council for National Policy in 1997. He said:

In terms of the unemployed, of which we have over a million-and-a-half, don't feel particularly bad for many of these people. They don't feel bad about it themselves, as long as they're receiving generous social assistance and unemployment insurance.

He also derided Atlantic Canadians for using social services, saying in 2002:

I think in Atlantic Canada, because of what happened in the decades following Confederation, there is a culture of defeat that we have to overcome.... Atlantic Canada's culture of defeat will be hard to overcome as long as Atlantic Canada is actually physically trailing the rest of the country.

As Walkom rightly points out, “The contempt is that of comfortable, well-heeled politicians who, deep down, assume that those unfortunate enough to have lost their jobs lack moral fibre”. However, the issue is not that Canadians do not want to work. The issue is that there are no jobs available in many parts of our country. Yes, that means that Canadians will try to access employment insurance. It is, after all, a program that was designed to help the jobless get by while they search for work.

As things stand right now, regular EI covers up to 55% of former salary to a maximum of $485 a week for up to 45 weeks. Last year, 850,000 people relied on the program, including thousands in my hometown of Hamilton where the manufacturing sector has been particularly hard hit. If one were to ask people who have tried to access employment insurance, they would be the first to point out that the system does need reform. The reforms just are not in the direction that the government is moving. We need to enhance, not restrict, access to EI for Canadians who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own.

As it stands now, less than half of the unemployed qualify for EI benefits. Only 40% of men collect and an even lower 32% of women get any support from EI. The reason is that the rules are biased against part-time, temporary, self-employed and women workers, yet all workers pay into the system.

The conversation we should be having in this chamber is about how we enhance access to the benefits that employees and employers paid for. It is only the workers and the employers who contribute to the EI system. There is not a dime of the government's money in the pot and yet successive Liberal and Conservative governments have raided the surpluses in the EI fund to the tune of $57 billion. They have treated it as their own cash cow to fund everything from debt reduction to new government programs and now it has the audacity to suggest that the program is too lucrative for workers and that things need to change. It is completely outrageous.

If we are going to change the system at all, we should live up to the commitments made by the motion on EI reform that I tabled here in the last Parliament, which, I might add, was passed by the House of Commons. That motion called for the elimination of the two-week waiting period, a lower qualifying period that was consistent across our country, an increase in the replacement wage to 60%, improved funding for training and a mechanism for allowing the self-employed to participate in the program.

Three years later, the government has still only acted on the will of Parliament with respect to one of those proposals, and that is making EI available to the self-employed. All other tinkering the Conservatives have done with respect to the EI system has been counter to the spirit of my motion and has been at the expense rather than to the benefit of hard-working Canadians.

We need to just look at the changes resulting from the most recent Conservative budget. Budget 2012 announced the Conservative government's intention to introduce legislation “to strengthen and clarify what is required of claimants who are receiving regular EI benefits and are looking for work”. Instead, the Trojan Horse bill, Bill C-38, gave the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development the power to create regulations concerning what constitutes suitable employment and reasonable and customary efforts to find employment.

When asked what the regulations would look like, the minister responded, “We haven't announced those details yet. We want to make sure the legislation gets through first”. Really. Do the Conservatives want us to buy a pig in a poke? That will not happen and the more details we learn, the more we know just how misguided the government's approach has become.

Under the new scheme, frequent EI claimants will no longer be able to hold out for something akin to their former jobs at roughly the same wage. Instead, they will need to accept similar work at as little as 80% of their previous wage during the first seven weeks of benefits, yet we do not know what “similar” means. After that, they must take any work they are qualified to perform for as little as 70% of what they used to make. Less frequent users will fare marginally better. They can hold out for jobs within their usual occupation at 90% of their former wage for 18 weeks. After that, they, too, must accept similar jobs at 80% of their previous wage.

Obviously this has nothing to do with connecting workers with suitable jobs. This is all about driving down wages. The Conservatives love free markets unless, of course, it is a labour market. One has to wonder though for whom they are doing this.

Yes, these changes will help their friends in the tar sands hire temporary foreign workers who can now be paid 15% less than the going regional wage. At the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development, where we have been studying the projected shortages of skilled workers in Canada, many employers have actually come forward to tell us that forcing workers in seasonal industries to do other work during the off season will do permanent harm to their businesses and, indeed, to their entire regions. That, of course, is due to out-migration.

If the fisherman's helpers, forestry workers or farmhands are forced during the respective off-season to take on a job they do not like and that pays less, they will be more inclined to head to western Canada. That leaves local businesses high and dry.

When we combine that attack on rural Canada with the fact that stripping Canadians of their employment insurance will lead to an increased reliance on provincial social support systems, it is no wonder that premiers from across the country are crying foul. Despite the fact that it is their provincial budgets and their provincial taxpayers who will pay the price for these ill-conceived changes to Canada's EI system, none of them were consulted before the changes were announced.

As an editorial in the Saskatoon StarPheonix put it:

This is clearly an issue that needs a national debate--one we were robbed of when the government stuffed the changes into its omnibus bill.

That is why the New Democrats have brought this motion to the floor of the House today. We do need a national debate on the changes to Canada's employment insurance system and the people who pay for that system and who use it must have a say in its future. Until then, we must change course and abandon all plans to further restrict access to employment insurance for Canadian workers.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague across the way and at one point I could hardly contain myself because she was decrying the fact that a Canadian might actually need to take employment at 80% of his or her previous wage. Is it not terrible to take employment at 80% of one's previous wage? Is that not better than accepting employment insurance, which is only 55% of the previous wage?

In addition, employment insurance payment comes from the very people who are causing the opportunities for employment. The employers in this country and the employees are paying into that. Claimants are taking that money.

Would it not be better to earn 80% and have a productive, meaningful job and the self-esteem that comes from that job rather than sitting at home and receiving 55% of one's previous employment wage?