House of Commons Hansard #138 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-38.

Topics

The House resumed from April 30 consideration of the motion.

Search and RescuePrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand and speak in this debate. Being from Nova Scotia, I can appreciate the importance of having a solid and responsive search and rescue system in Canada. Many Atlantic Canadians have traditionally made their living from the sea, whether fishing or depending on it for our imports and our exports.

While we have a love for the sea, we also have a high degree of respect for the dangers that the sea brings. The sea is responsible for countless incidents every year, and having a search and rescue system that can come to the aid of Canadians during these incidents is crucial.

So far in this debate we have heard about how in Canada search and rescue relies on all levels of government and volunteer organization to work together in the best interests of Canadians. We have heard how the Canadian Forces are just one component of this system, albeit a crucially important one. We also have debated the relative merits of diverting more of our search and rescue resources toward establishing a continuous 24/7 readiness posture for Canadian Forces search and rescue crews of 30 minutes from notification to liftoff.

The government does not support this for the reasons we have already stated in the debate. In rising today, I will add to this debate by highlighting some of the outstanding expertise and capabilities that the Canadian Forces bring to search and rescue in Canada, capabilities that are deployed in more than a thousand search and rescue calls each and every year, capabilities that provide assistance to three or four people in distress each day in this vast and rugged country, including a total of more than 200 people since the beginning of this year alone. This so we might better appreciate the impressive quality of the search and rescue system that we already have in Canada.

Within Canada's search and rescue system, the Canadian Forces have a specific role to play. It operates the joint rescue coordination centres of Victoria, Trenton and Halifax. It monitors distress signals and, along with the Canadian Coast Guard, it coordinates the national response to air and sea incidents. Under search and rescue's mandate, our military also plans and prepares to respond to major air disasters taking place anywhere in Canada.

This means, following a plane crash, and immediate search and rescue response should an event be declared a major air disaster, but the Canadian Forces has the responsibility to deploy additional search and rescue technicians and survival equipment and logistics and medical personnel.

The unique specializations and capabilities of the Canadian Forces which it brings to the table allows it to assist when possible with missions within provincial or municipal responsibilities as well. These include medical evacuation or searches for lost persons. The bottom line is that when and where it is needed, the Canadian Forces always do its best to respond whenever and wherever it can.

Such was the case on April 15, 2011, when Canadian Forces crews from Greenwood and Gander flew more than 2,400 kilometres to Baffin Island aboard a CC-130 Hercules and a CH-149 Cormorant to help rescue two hikers, one of whom had fallen into a crevasse and was in need of immediate medical attention.

More recently, on March 27 when the Greenwood search and rescue crews were called on two different incidents over the span of a few hours. First, in support of the province of Nova Scotia, five fishermen were hoisted out of the Great Pubnico Lake after their 14-foot boat capsized. Only a few hours later, three people were hoisted off a disabled sailing vessel off Cape Sable Island to a Cormorant in 11 metre seas. This level of service is clearly outstanding and I believe it deserves the pride and support of all Canadians.

The location of search and rescue bases in CFB Comox, Winnipeg, Trenton, Greenwood and Gander is based on decades of historical data that demonstrate that these areas are central to approximately 90% of search and rescue incidents. Canadian Forces crews can respond with Hercules and Buffalo aircraft that provide them the reach, the endurance and the speed to conduct searches for hours over Canada's vast search and rescue area of responsibility.

We also have a dedicated fleet of Cormorant and Griffin helicopters that have the versatility and stability required for critical hoisting operations. These air assets are by no means all the Canadian Forces has to offer. When the Canadian Forces respond to a search and rescue incident, every one of its resources on every base on this country is a potentially deployable asset. The Canadian Forces will send its most appropriate capability that can get there the fastest.

Of all of the search and rescue capabilities at the Canadian Forces' disposal, the most valuable and most impressive is the search and rescue technician, better known as the SAR tech. The SAR techs are trained to provide on-site, life-saving medical help and have an impressive range of professional capabilities. They are experts in trauma life support, land and sea survival, Arctic rescue, parachuting, diving, mountain climbing and rappelling. They do not hesitate to put their own lives in danger to save others.

These men and women are professional heroes in Canada and on an average day these SAR techs, along with an aircrew, deploy as many as three or four search and rescue missions. This means that, at this very moment, a crew is likely in the air on its way to provide help to someone in need somewhere in Canada right now.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, their service sometimes comes at a price. Such was the case in October 2011 when two hunters were stranded in a life raft in the Arctic waters off of Igloolik. Three search and rescue technicians parachuted out of a CC-130 Hercules into the freezing waters of Canada's Arctic to help the two semi-conscious men.

Sergeant Janick Gilbert, one of the SAR technicians, lost his life that day responding to that call. Sadly, this is not an isolated event. In the last 25 years, 34 SAR members and volunteers have given their lives in their quest to save others.

The government fully recognizes the inherent risks of the search and rescue profession, just as it does all aspects of military service. For this reason, we are committed to working with members of the Canadian Forces to provide them with whatever tools and support they need to strengthen their search and rescue capabilities so that they can both succeed in their missions and return home to their families safely.

For example, in one of the most challenging areas of the country, the Arctic, we have undertaken a number of initiatives to enhance the reach and responsiveness of the Canadians Forces, such as the pre-positioning of northern survival caches at several key northern airports and ensuring that search and rescue organizations have access to life-saving equipment and material that can be rapidly air dropped.

In addition, the Department of National Defence also provides training and financial assistance to the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association which is establishing the capabilities of northern commercial operators to help increase the availability of search aircraft in Canada's north.

Perhaps most important, the Canadian Forces is increasing its physical presence and capabilities in the north by conducting training operations.

The Canadian Forces has various domestic roles and is responsible for multiple activities on a daily basis, such as surveillance, search and rescue and readiness training, all of which must be considered when planning the distribution of its assets so that the right mix of capabilities is distributed to optimize its availability for a variety of roles in Canada.

Such was the case just a few weeks ago when the Minister of National Defence announced the deployment of a third Griffon helicopter to 5 Wing Goose Bay. This will increase the operational flexibility of 444 Combat Support Squadron to support secondary roles, such as search and rescue missions.

In conclusion, I believe this debate has made it clear that this government, along with the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces, continually strives to provide the best service possible so that Canadians receive the help they need when and where they need it.

While we cannot support this particular motion, I thank the hon. member for bringing this discussion forward and for taking such an active interest in the Canadian Forces and its primary mission, which is protecting the safety of Canadians. I think all members of the House can agree on that.

Search and RescuePrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my very great pleasure to speak to this motion. Many of my colleagues are aware that I am a former member of the military, but I was also a medical assistant in the Canadian Forces. That job has a direct connection with the subject before us.

The reason I wanted to say a few words about this motion is that, in the three elections in which I have campaigned, many people came to talk to me because of my military background and asked me what purpose our armed forces serve. They told me they found it hard to understand what purpose our armed forces actually serve, simply that they went on missions abroad and they did not understand more than that. They added that it seemed to them that the armed forces should focus more on our needs. Often, that was when people started talking about search and rescue.

Search and rescue is really a job that our armed forces do directly, to protect and assist the Canadian public by coming to the rescue of people who are in need. Search and rescue is something that really does focus on our needs. As well, I think search and rescue fits well with the Canada first theme of the Canada first defence strategy. Search and rescue means helping, protecting and serving Canadians first. I think that having very high standards for search and rescue is entirely appropriate and is in line with the strategy and the kind of army that most Canadians want to have, to defend their country and serve them.

I would also like to mention that as a medical assistant in the armed forces it is truly a dream to be able to work in search and rescue someday, because doing that job means performing a real service to society. It means saving lives. I did search and rescue exercises with the Canadian Forces reserves every year. It is something that we took very seriously because we wanted to be ready and able to do it on the day when we had to do it in real life, when someone’s life had to be saved. Those training exercises were highly valued by soldiers. Thus, we must understand that search and rescue is important to Canada.

I would like to take the time to read the motion, because it really is an excellent motion. The motion states:

That the House acknowledge that Canada lags behind international search and rescue norms and urge the government to recognize the responsibility of the Canadian Forces for the protection of Canadians, and to take such measures as may be required for Canada to achieve the common international readiness standard of 30 minutes at all times, from tasking to becoming airborne, in response to search and rescue incidents.

I will get back to the motion, but I must say that this is an excellent motion and a number of elements help us better understand the situation.

If we are talking about international norms, the norm of 30 minutes at all times comes from a report produced by Seacom International Inc., which is a company that specializes in emergency preparedness. This company prepared a report for the Standing Committee on National Defence. In this report, Canada was ranked last, behind Australia, Ireland, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States when it comes to search and rescue response times.

I think it is awful that Canada is last given that our country usually aspires to a leadership role in search and rescue.

I think it is essential that we aim higher. First of all, I want to make it clear that, with respect to search and rescue response time, the clock starts ticking when the authorities give the order and ends when the aircraft, boat or vehicle leaves the base to carry out the search and rescue mission. No more than 30 minutes should elapse between tasking and the time people leave the base to carry out the mission. It is important to understand that it can sometimes take a lot of time to transport people.

So, it can take quite a while for the search and rescue mission to reach the person. Sometimes it can take more than two, three or four hours in the air or on the water to reach the person in danger. I want to make that very clear.

I would like to provide a brief overview of the number of responses that search and rescue people will have to carry out. There are three joint rescue coordination centres located in Halifax, Trenton and Victoria. These centres coordinate search and rescue interventions. Every year, they coordinate some 1,100 interventions in response to incidents, rescue more than 20,000 people, and literally save an average of 1,200 lives. It is important to keep those numbers in mind.

Now I would like to talk about the problem that led to this motion. Currently, the Canadian Forces have two different search and rescue response times. During office hours from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., the response time is 30 minutes, which is what the motion calls for. However, in the evening and at night, from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m., weekends and statutory holidays, the readiness standard is 120 minutes, or two hours.

Thus, two hours can go by between the time when the order is received and when the plane or boat leaves the base. After that, there is also the time needed to get to the site, which can take up to an additional two hours. This means a really long response time.

Most emergency situations—over 80%—that require a search and rescue response occur outside the hours when a the 30 minute response time is the norm. So it is particularly disturbing to think that, for over 80% of operations, people have to settle for a two hour timeframe. In practical terms, one of the reasons for this is that, if people are out on the water for the day, either for work or recreational purposes, other people—their families and spouses, for instance—who are waiting for them ashore will not begin to worry until the evening, when their loved one has not returned. That is one reason why so many calls are logged in the evening and at night. Calls are received when people begin to think it is really strange that their loved one has not appeared.

At that time of day, people must wait two hours to contact a person. If we consider the example of someone who calls at 6 p.m., if there is a two hour wait, the work will have to take place at night, but if the response had begun within 30 minutes, the work could have been done in the daylight. Something is really not working here.

Everyone here agrees that if someone were to call the hospital when their spouse was having a heart attack and they were told that it would be two hours before the ambulance even sets out, that would be considered completely unacceptable, especially if they were told that it normally takes 30 minutes to send an ambulance, but, sorry, since the heart attack happened in the evening after supper, it will take two hours. So, they will just have to wait a bit and hope the someone is good at performing CPR. It makes absolutely no sense. No one ever chooses the moment they will need emergency assistance.

I would also like to say one last time that it is understandable that the volume of distress calls is not always the same when we are talking about search and rescue and medical help. It is fact of life that the call volume goes down in the evening, but we still have to be ready in case a call does come in, because lives are at stake.

The Conservative government has to make choices in its budget and in the budget bill. When we talk about the Canadian Forces, Canadians understand the need to set high standards in order to promote effective search and rescue services. People would understand if the government made that choice. This is a question of choice. The Conservatives can make that choice and avoid needlessly putting lives in danger.

Search and RescuePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today and speak to the motion introduced by my neighbouring colleague with respect to search and rescue in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Search and rescue is extremely important to Newfoundland and Labrador. Many thousands of miles of coastline and many different industries depend on search and rescue, from the fishery to the offshore oil to people at its location. St. John's has long been a hop-off for many people, adventurers who go across the Atlantic. Our search and rescue boundaries go well beyond just our immediate shorelines.

As a member of Parliament, it is a privilege and an honour to serve in this House. It is also a privilege and honour to go out and experience first-hand what our men and women do in the armed forces, in particular with respect to search and rescue. I have had an opportunity in the last year and a half to do two things. The first is that I spent three days at CFB Greenwood to see what our men and women in the armed forces do. I had an opportunity to see our SAR techs' abilities and to see them in action.

Let us not mistake this motion before this House today. It does nothing to talk about the excellent work of our SAR techs. It does not criticize them. We have great Canadian Forces members who do excellent work for the men and women in our armed forces. The SAR techs in particular are amazing individuals. The knowledge and comprehension required of these men and women as SAR techs is amazing, whether it is of high angle rescue, scuba diving or first aid.

This motion today does not talk about our forces. I heard the Conservative members talking about how much our search and rescue means, and I absolutely agree. This motion talks about response times. We are talking about 30 minutes to wheels up and being in the air. Currently that response time is Monday to Friday from 8:00 to 5:00, regular working hours. However, times have changed over the last 20 to 30 years. When this was first established, there probably were not a lot of people on the water outside of those normal hours. This has been on the books for many years. Times change, and so should the services we provide to Canadians. We need to look at that.

The second thing I did as a member of Parliament since being elected was tour the marine search and rescue sub-centre in St. John's, which the government has decided to close. It is another important search and rescue asset and is done through the Coast Guard. If one tours this facility, the local knowledge and skills that these people have on the ground in Newfoundland and Labrador is unbelievable. To stand on guard listening for that distress call is an important part of the search and rescue debate. To close the search and rescue sub-centre in St. John's does not make sense to any of us in Newfoundland and Labrador, because the people who are listening for that call know the local area, know what to listen for, and know the land and the sea. It is very disappointing that the government has chosen to do this.

Getting back to the motion at hand, members talk about “wheels up, ready to go”, this international standard of 30 minutes. The Americans pride themselves on their American Coast Guard. We often see it portrayed in a lot of circumstances. We need to portray our search and rescue in the same fashion. To be honest, I do not know what the standard is in the United States. However, in Canada we have to make sure that we have that 30-minute response time.

Are we surprised that the government is not supporting this particular motion? No, because a year or so ago the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke was in Newfoundland and Labrador on a committee meeting, and she came under fire from our province for her comments regarding search and rescue in Newfoundland and Labrador, and in the country. This is where we get to the crux of the matter, which is the fact that the government just does not get this particular aspect.

I would like to read a quote from when the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke was there and made a statement. It reads as follows:

Explaining that those who operate on the Great Lakes and Ottawa River don't count on the Coast Guard for help, the Ottawa Valley MP told an audience in St. John's — including those who lost relatives and fellow workers during marine accidents — that it's up to local communities, the province and private companies to make more of an effort to help with rescues and perhaps finance such services.

This is what the Conservatives think. They think it should not be up to the national government and that we should download it onto the provinces and put more burden on them. We should put this onto volunteer groups. They should be in charge of search and rescue.

The member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, who sits on the defence committee, went on to state:

In Ontario we have inland seas, the Great Lakes, and it would never occur to any of us, even up the Ottawa River, to count on the Coast Guard to come and help us.

Search and rescue is for all Canadians. It is there for the Great Lakes, the Ottawa River, the St. Lawrence Seaway. One never knows when one is going to need search and rescue.

Time is very important. We need look no further than what happened to young Burton Winters in Makkovik this past winter. Time ran out on him after he walked almost 19 kilometres. In some circumstances, all we have is time, and the quicker search and rescue can get on site and deploy the resources needed, the better.

The cost on this to government is not a large amount of money. This is about scheduling. This is about having a couple of extra search and rescue crews on each of the bases, so that a 24/7, 30-minute response time can be scheduled. The costs now are even higher, because when a call does not fall into the 8:00 to 5:00 slot on Monday to Friday, there is overtime and other costs that come along with it. If we did the research, we would realize that it would not cost that much more to provide such a valuable service with a 30-minute response time. Weather never co-operates on the east coast of this great country, and we never know what to expect with regard to the weather. A 30-minute response time is very important, and we should strive toward this international response time so that our brave men and women who do this excellent work will continue to serve their country well.

I am pleased to have had an opportunity to speak to this motion today. Search and rescue is a valuable resource. The government needs to reconsider its decision to close the sub-centres in St. John's and Quebec City, just for linguistic purposes alone.

There is a community in my riding called Upper Island Cove. It is affectionately called Island Cove. When a call comes in from someone in Upper Island Cove, search and rescue staff need to know where the individuals are. If the people only have 30 seconds before their ship goes down and they are off of Upper Island Cove in Newfoundland, the person on the other end needs to know that they are off of Upper Island Cove, not Lower Island Cove. There is a very short window of time to get a distress call out, and that plays into the search and rescue assets being deployed. Many marine disasters that happen with fishing vessels occur early in the morning or late at night as they are steaming home with their catches. It is very important that they receive an on-time and timely search and rescue response.

I congratulate the member for St. John's East on putting this motion before the House. It is something that should be considered. There is nothing wrong with government saying it needs to strive toward this response time. I encourage all members who live in coastal communities, the Conservative members too, to strive toward a 30-minute response time. It might take some time for us to get there, but that should be our goal in today's day and age: a 30-minute response time.

I encourage all members, in particular those on the government side, to strive toward this important goal for search and rescue in our country.

Search and RescuePrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to have the opportunity to speak to the motion introduced by my hon. colleague from St. John's East.

This issue is very important to me, because I represent a maritime region. Many coastal communities are very concerned about maritime search and rescue operations, which save the lives of fishers, mariners and pleasure boaters, who flock to the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands.

People condemn the fact that there is a double standard in Canada right now. One standard applies on weekdays, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. During that time period, it takes 30 minutes to launch a search and rescue operation to save fishers or mariners. I am not saying that search and rescue workers do not give their all. These people are clearly very brave, and we really appreciate the dangerous work they do. They go through some very intense training.

The fact is there is simply not enough staff for dealing with the high volume of recreational boaters who are active outside regular working hours, on weekends, which, statistics show, is when 80% of the emergency calls enter our system.

There is a major disconnect between the service offered and the resources required to have the first-rate service we deserve in a free and democratic country such as Canada. We expect first-rate service.

Recently, there was question as to whether closing the marine rescue centre in St. John's, Newfoundland, would have an impact. For example, a sea captain with a health problem radioed the centre, but the centre did not have enough staff. The call had to be directed to a doctor in Rome. First, obviously the doctor was not familiar with the Newfoundland dialect. Second, he was unfamiliar with the Grand Banks of the Atlantic Ocean. Third, he did not know the risks this poor captain was facing. All this is very worrisome.

The budget cuts the Conservatives are proposing today, with Bill C-38 for instance, will endanger the lives of our fishers, mariners and recreational boaters. Canadians expect the federal government to protect them, but this government is abandoning them.

Frankly, Bill C-38 should not be passed by this House and today's motion moved by the hon. member for St. John's East on the staff at the search and rescue centres, is a good reason why not. We do not have the means to save Canadians' lives and we should be ashamed.

The Conservatives are offering solutions to fix the staff shortage. We already know that many of the fixed wing search and rescue aircraft need to be replaced. What is the government proposing as a replacement? It is proposing the F-35 fighter jets. Those planes are not built for saving lives. They are built for war.

Should the Conservative government's top priority not be Canadians' health and safety, instead of going ahead with plans to declare war elsewhere? Resources absolutely have to be in place here, in Canada, but that is just not the case. The Cormorant, Griffon, Hercules and Buffalo aircraft are all in an abysmal state of repair. We absolutely must replace a great deal of our equipment, and that is just not happening.

There are delays and discussions. There is talk, but no action. We have seen the consequences of not replacing equipment. We can cite the death of Burton Winters in Makkovik, Labrador, which is really not that far from Gander, where there is a rescue centre. We should have been able to save that young man, but we did not mainly because we did not have the resources. If someone finds themselves in trouble after four o'clock in the afternoon, too bad for them. There is a good chance that they will not make it because the Government of Canada is not there to provide the help they need and expect.

Quite frankly, it is shameful to spend money on F-35s when the lives of Canadians are at risk. Many Canadians died last year, and that will continue. It is a real shame.

It makes no sense to endanger the lives of our fishers, mariners and pleasure boat operators in the name of budget cuts. We must obviously consider the state of Canada's finances, but not to the point where we jeopardize people's very lives. This is what is troubling about the Conservatives. Perhaps they misunderstood the consultations conducted last year. The Standing Committee on National Defence travelled to Gander and Halifax, and committee members met people and heard testimony from individuals who requested improved and increased resources and better service.

The committee was unfortunately unable to publish its report. Many members in the House may not have had a chance to read the testimony. I invite members from all parties to take note of the evidence received by the Standing Committee on National Defence in late January or early February of last year. It would definitely be instructive to read it even though the report was not published.

We understood that Canadians felt the Conservative government was not doing enough. In fact, it is even doing the opposite. It is cutting budgets at a time when we need more resources. It is making cutbacks of nearly $80 million at Fisheries and Oceans Canada. It has made cuts to the Coast Guard. The vessel traffic services centres are shutting down, and the rescue centres are closing. No service improvements are planned, quite the contrary. More people will definitely be at risk than in the past. I believe the Conservatives will pay a heavy price for the choices they are making today. Endangering people's lives in order to save pennies—mere scraps—is incomprehensible.

The government claims to be saving $1 million by closing the Quebec City rescue centre. The Trenton rescue centre, however, which was supposed to replace it in large part, is unable to do so. Nearly $1 million will have to be spent to upgrade it to the level of the rescue centre being closed.

You do not save money just to spend it later. Doing that not only risks the lives of fishers, mariners and pleasure boaters, but it also puts the lives of francophone fishers, mariners and pleasure boaters at particular risk.

In a recent report, the Commissioner of Official Languages pointed out that closing the search and rescue sub-centre in Quebec City will put francophones especially at risk. Clearly, Trenton is not likely to have a large bilingual population. I know that the people in Trenton do a very good job—it is a renowned military centre—but the fact is that they are not known for their bilingualism or their ability to understand the Acadian accent and dialect.

In addition, the government has closed the rescue sub-centre in St. John's, Newfoundland, and transferred the staff to Halifax, but the people there do not know the Grand Banks or the Newfoundland dialect. The government is putting people's lives at risk to save a few bucks. We do not even know for sure that this move will save money. At the end of the day, I believe it will cost money and lives, and that is truly shameful. It makes no sense to risk the lives of our fishers, sailors and pleasure boaters.

The Conservatives will have to answer for this, and they should be ashamed.

Search and RescuePrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in this House today to support the motion moved by the member for St. John's East concerning search and rescue in Canada.

This motion states that Canada lags behind international search and rescue norms, and it calls on the government to recognize the responsibility of the Canadian Forces for the protection of Canadians and to take such measures as may be required for Canada to achieve the common international readiness standard of 30 minutes at all times, from tasking to becoming airborne, in response to search and rescue incidents.

The purpose of this important motion is to fill a major gap in Canada's current system. As a number of my colleagues have explained, the Canadian Forces currently have two different response times for search and rescue incidents. Response times are set according to the hours of work generally in effect in other occupations. During regular business hours, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., the response time is 30 minutes.

During those hours, it takes 30 minutes or less between the time authorities give an order and the time the rescue vehicle leaves the military base where it is stationed. However, the situation is completely different at other times. Between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m., and on weekends and holidays, the response standard for search and rescue teams is 120 minutes. In other words, it takes two hours to organize a search and rescue operation to respond to an emergency situation where human lives are at stake.

Such a double standard is unacceptable when people's survival depends on the speed of the response. My colleagues from Newfoundland and Labrador spoke movingly about certain tragedies at sea, where people lost their lives because search and rescue operations took too long to get organized. They referred, among other incidents, to the tragic case of the Melina and Keith II, a fishing vessel that sank off the coast of Newfoundland, around 5:30 p.m., on September 12, 2005.

Of the eight fishermen who originally survived, only four made it. Unfortunately, the other four died because they were not rescued quickly enough. Canadian Forces helicopters took 3 hours and 8 minutes to reach the site where the boat had sunk. Since this tragic incident occurred during what is considered a down time for the Canadian Forces, that is after 4 p.m., the 30-minute response standard did not apply.

It is absurd to think that, had the Melina and Keith II sunk just two hours earlier, four fishermen could have been saved because the Canadian Forces would have had to have responded within 30 minutes.

It is obvious that this two-tier system for search and rescue operations in Canada is not adequate in its existing form. As parliamentarians, we have a duty to examine this issue and to try to correct the serious flaws in the system, which jeopardize the lives of many Canadians.

Given that close to 80% of emergencies occur outside the period covered by the 30-minute response time, it is obvious that things must change. According to a report produced by Seacom International for the Standing Committee on National Defence, Canada ranks last when it comes to rescue times for search and rescue operations. Indeed, Seacom International, which specializes in emergency preparedness, puts us in last place, behind Australia, Ireland, Mexico and the United States, among others.

I think it is worth taking another look at the comparison between our standards and international standards. As I mentioned, under Canadian standards, rescue time is 30 minutes during the day and 120 minutes between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m., and on weekends.

When we look at what happens in Ireland, we can see that the norm for response time is 15 minutes during the day—that is, from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.—and 45 minutes after 9:00 p.m. In Australia, the response time is 30 minutes around the clock. Australia has a vast area to cover. It has kilometres and kilometres of coastline. Yet they provide a 30-minute service, day and night, for people in distress on their shores.

If we look at the United States, the same thing is happening. We are talking about 30 minutes 24/7. But here, in Canada, response time outside regular working hours is two hours for people in distress. It simply makes no sense; we have to change the current norms to comply with international standards that are in effect almost everywhere and that make perfect sense. We have enough resources. If we redistribute the resources we currently have, we will be able to provide this service to every Canadian, and to all the people in distress on our shores.

We absolutely must make search and rescue a priority here in Canada. Like many other countries, Canada has many kilometres of coastline; British Columbia, the north, the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Maritimes and other areas come to mind. We have to make sure that all Canada's coasts are protected and that we allocate sufficient resources to ensure that all people who find themselves in emergency situations along our coasts have the best possible chance of survival.

Canadians' health and safety must be a priority for us, for every parliamentarian, regardless of their political party. The priority should not be F-35 fighter planes that are going to cost Canadians billions of dollars and will not necessarily save Canadians’ lives when they need it. We have to set priorities that directly serve our fellow Canadians. We have to admit that the cuts being made by the government are going to make the already difficult job of the Canadian Forces, when it comes to search and rescue operations, even more difficult than it is now.

People complain there are not enough personnel, but even more pressure is going to be put on Trenton and Halifax, for example, to try to meet the needs that are currently covered by the maritime search and rescue centres in Quebec City and St. John's. Considering the language requirements, we see that this has been brought up in this House a number of times. It is not clear that the military bases, for example in Trenton, are going to be able to provide people with bilingual services. As well, the closure of the maritime search and rescue centre in Quebec City has been moved back a year because the needs cannot be met by Trenton at present.

In addition, the need for someone to be understood in their own language immediately is a matter of life or death when they are facing an accident at sea. Sometimes it is a matter of seconds that can change how an event turns out and save someone’s life. We have to make sure that the people who answer distress calls are able to provide equivalent service to everyone, and that is not the case at present with the changes announced by the Conservatives.

As well, the closure of the maritime search and rescue centres in Quebec City and St. John's will cause a significant loss of expertise, and that is for the Gulf of St. Lawrence alone. That is a coastline with quite specific features. There are many dangers and it takes people several years to get to know that coastline well enough that they can help people. By closing that centre and centralizing all operations in Trenton and Halifax, for example, we lose that expertise and we endanger people’s lives.

So if we put these cuts in perspective, and add in the fact that there is a double standard when it comes to rescue times in Canada, we clearly have a responsibility, as parliamentarians, to consider this issue and do everything we can to guarantee Canadians’ safety. This issue has to be discussed in the House, as we are doing now. This is an important debate and I urge all members to vote in favour of this extremely important motion, as I will be doing with pride, and as my colleagues will be doing as well.

Search and RescuePrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, it is important for me to speak to the motion introduced by the member for St. John's East.

First, I can announce that the Bloc Québecois will be supporting this motion. I also invite all parliamentarians in the House to support this bill, which goes beyond any type of partisanship and will necessarily help all pleasure boaters, fishers and all people who go to sea in our waters.

The motion as worded states that the government must take all such measures as may be required to achieve the international readiness standard of 30 minutes. That standard is essential to the survival of our people who go to sea.

Far from promoting progress toward the response time target, the government is making a decision that does not reflect the importance of this service, which must be quick and effective.

As I said earlier, every minute counts when action is taken at sea. In a country whose motto is “From Sea to Sea”, the government seems at times not to realize that the motto means more than words; it requires an understanding of reality and some concrete actions.

The government can no longer disregard that reality: we have a large marine area to cover and thus the responsibility to ensure that the people who navigate in our territorial waters are protected by high-quality services and a rapid response.

Fishers and pleasure boaters are entitled to service that meets the international 30 minute standard. Why not aim for a shorter response time?

But what is the government doing? The Conservatives have announced the closing of the Quebec City marine rescue centre. They have also announced the closing of the Rivière-au-Renard maritime radio station, which is at the port of entry to the gulf. This means that 15 jobs will be lost in our region. The closing of that station increases the danger to shipping in the gulf. Les Escoumins maritime radio station will now have to cover all of eastern Quebec, which will increase the workload of the people there. They are already doing an outstanding job, but an even greater burden is being placed on their shoulders.

Knowledge of our territorial waters is crucial in responding appropriately to the captain of any type of vessel navigating in Canada's territorial waters. People are concerned, both fishers and pleasure craft operators.

I enjoy sailing myself. I have a pleasure craft licence and have sailed in different situations. Sometimes conditions deteriorate very quickly in our waters; there are a number of dangers. So, if the need for help arises—and we hope it never does—it is important to be able to count on a service that is able to respond quickly and efficiently in order to save lives.

The Commissioner of Official Languages also expressed concern about the transfer of the emergency centre to Trenton. When people get into situations that lead them to call for help, they sometimes become nervous, because it is an emergency for them. For French-speakers—most of the people in Quebec waters—getting a response from someone who does not fully understand their language can increase the danger. The language barrier can also reduce the ability to respond appropriately to a specific emergency request.

That is why the search and rescue sub-centre in Quebec City must be maintained and why the government must support the motion introduced by the hon. member for St. John's East, which calls for the achievement of the readiness standard of 30 minutes.

I urge every member of this House to set aside all partisan differences and to meet the needs of fishers, pleasure boaters and anyone sailing anywhere in our waters.

Search and RescuePrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank members on both sides of the House who participated in this debate. A lot of people took the opportunity to talk about search and rescue in general, and I am very glad to see it given that attention in the House. It ought to be a greater priority, we believe, for Canadian Forces. Therefore, the attention being given to it from all parts of the country is certainly valuable and worthwhile.

I did not really hear any rationale for not supporting this motion. We know that SAR involves many elements, but the Canadian Forces' response time with helicopters and fixed wing is extremely important in getting to an emergency, particularly at sea. The position of the double standard of 30 minutes during the 8:00 to 4:00 period and two hours afterwards, when about 80% plus of the taskings take place, is really unsupportable.

The Kitsilano Coast Guard station, which was closed down by this government, with 12 people, provides a rescue crew of 3 people at any one time who can respond 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the whole year round, and they can do so within 1 to 2 minutes of being tasked.

Coast Guard ships on SAR standby duty are able to embark within 30 minutes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In St. John's if someone is in a helicopter being transported to the Hibernia, or any other oil platform off the coast of Newfoundland, there is another SAR helicopter required to be wheels up in 15 to 20 minutes. This is a result of the recommendation of the Wells inquiry into the Cougar crash of March 2009. If there is an emergency, especially at sea, we need the rescue to “get there fast”, to quote the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley. I agree with him, getting there fast means getting into the air fast, to get there.

Therefore, why do we continue with a system that says we can have a SAR aircraft in the air within 30 minutes between 8:00 and 4:00 on weekdays, but outside that, when as I mentioned over 80% of the tasking takes place, the standard required is two hours?

Members opposite said that we are unique and that this is the reason why we must have our own standard. Well, we certainly are unique in the world. We are in fact the second largest country in the world, which is all the more reason we need to get into the air faster. We also have the longest coastline in the world. We have to remember we are going from only four places for primary aeronautical SAR for all of Canada: Gander, in Newfoundland and Labrador; Greenwood, in Nova Scotia; Trenton, Ontario; and Comox, B.C. There are four places for all of Canada, including the Arctic. Getting there fast means getting into the air fast and that requires a better standard than we have.

Other countries have set a better standard. The United States and Australia have 30 minutes to wheels up, 24/7, 365 days. Norway has a 15-minute standard for getting a helicopter into the air, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland have an elongated day, 15 minutes in the daytime up until 9:00 or 10:00 at night and 45 minutes overnight. Even Mexico has around-the-clock 40-minute wheels up, in the air.

These countries can do this; why can we not? Why can we not give the priority to search and rescue that it deserves? Why can we not have a 21st century rescue service that can respond quickly, as other countries can? Even the United States, for example, has not only the 30-minute standard but a standard that says they have to be at any place in their area of responsibility within a total of 90 minutes. A country like Canada should be looking at standards like that to be sure we can meet our commitments to our citizens, in particular the Canadian Forces, whose job it is to defend Canada and protect Canadians.

I urge members opposite who have considered voting against this motion to change their minds. We would sure like you have their support for improving search and rescue standards in Canada, to help save lives, particularly for those who are in desperate emergencies that require search and rescue to get there as soon as possible.

Search and RescuePrivate Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The time provided for debate has expired.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Search and RescuePrivate Members' Business

Noon

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Search and RescuePrivate Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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

Search and RescuePrivate Members' Business

Noon

Some hon. members

Yea.

Search and RescuePrivate Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Search and RescuePrivate Members' Business

Noon

Some hon. members

Nay.

Search and RescuePrivate Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

In my opinion, the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93 the division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 13, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Bill C-38—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on June 5, by the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands regarding the form of Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures.

I thank the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for having raised the matter, as well as the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the hon. House Leader of the Official Opposition, the hon. House Leader of the Liberal Party, and the hon. members for Winnipeg Centre, Winnipeg North and Thunder Bay—Superior North for their comments.

The foundation of the arguments brought forward by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands is that Bill C-38 has not been brought forward in a proper form and is, therefore, imperfect and must be set aside. Specifically, the member relies on Standing Order 68(3) which states that, “no bill may be introduced either in blank or in an imperfect shape”.

In laying out her case, she argues that in its current form the bill fails the test of being “a proper omnibus bill”; first, because it lacks one central theme, that is “one basic principle or purpose”; second, because it fails to provide a link between certain items in the bill and the budget itself; and third, because it “omits actions, regulatory and legislative changes” that are purported to be included in it by representatives of the government.

In response, the government House leader indicated that Bill C-38, as a budget implementation bill, had as its unifying theme the implementation of the budget. This, he reminded the House, arose from the adoption of the budget by the House. To use his words, “The budget sets the clear policy direction and the budget implementation bill implements that direction” and is “a comprehensive suite of measures designed to ensure jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity”.

Before I address the arguments put forward in this case, it is perhaps useful to remind members of what the provisions of Standing Order 68(3)—the basis of the point of order raised by the Member for Saanich—Gulf Islands—refer to. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, at page 728, states:

Since Confederation, the Chair has held that the introduction of bills that contain blank passages or that are in an imperfect shape is clearly contrary to the Standing Orders. A bill in blank or in imperfect shape is a bill which has only a title, or the drafting of which has not been completed. Although this provision exists mainly in contemplation of errors identified when a bill is introduced, Members have brought such defects or anomalies to the attention of the Chair at various stages in the legislative process. In the past, the Speaker has directed that the order for second reading of certain bills be discharged, when it was discovered that they were not in their final form and were therefore not ready to be introduced.

Furthermore, at pages 730 to 734, members can find a description of the various elements that comprise a bill. A bill must have a number, a title, an enacting clause, and clauses. It may also have a preamble, interpretation and coming-into-force provisions, and schedules.

Having reviewed Bill C-38, I can assure the House that it contains all of the required elements and is therefore in proper form in these respects. In addition, the requisite notice was given for its introduction and the bill was preceded by a ways and means motion, as is required. It is also duly accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Now the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands has taken the argument of imperfect shape one step further in stating that Bill C-38 is not in the proper form and that it is not, in her words, “a proper omnibus bill”.

Here again it is perhaps useful to return to House of Commons, Procedure and Practice, second edition which states, at page 724, in reference to omnibus bills, “Although this expression is commonly used, there is no precise definition of an omnibus bill”.

It then goes on to state that:

In general, an omnibus bill seeks to amend, repeal or enact several acts, and is characterized by the fact that it is made up of a number of related but separate initiatives. An omnibus bill has “one basic principle or purpose which ties together all the proposed enactments and thereby renders the bill intelligible for parliamentary purposes.” One of the reasons cited for introducing an omnibus bill is to bring together in a single bill all the legislative amendments arising from a single policy decision in order to facilitate parliamentary debate.

At page 725, O'Brien and Bosc goes on to state:

It appears to be entirely proper, in procedural terms, for a bill to amend, repeal or enact more than one Act, provided that the requisite notice is given, that it is accompanied by a royal recommendation (where necessary), and that it follows the form required.

Naturally, there have been a number of rulings on the subject. Among these is a ruling given by Speaker Sauvé on June 20, 1983, which can be found at pages 26537 and 26538 of Debates, where she stated that:

—although some occupants in the Chair have expressed concern about the practice of incorporating several distinct principles in a single bill, they have consistently found that such bills are procedurally in order and properly before the House.

On April 11, 1994, Speaker Parent faced similar objections to another budget bill—C-17—when a member argued that the House was being asked to take a single decision on a number of unrelated items. As can be found at pages 2859 to 2861 of the Debates, the Speaker disagreed, noting that in the Chair’s opinion:

—a common thread does run through Bill C-17; namely, the government's intention to enact the provisions in the recent budget, including measures to extend the fiscal restraint measures currently in place.

The second argument raised by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, which is irrevocably linked to her first argument regarding the need for a central theme, was that there were elements found in Bill C-38 that were not provided for in the budget. It would be useful, at this juncture, to remind members that the long title of Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, is very broad, as is typical in bills of this kind. Clause 1 of the bill, which contains its short title, provides that “This act may be cited as the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act” and thus restates the very broad scope of the measure. O'Brien and Bosc, at page 731, notes that the long title sets out the purpose of the bill, in general terms, and must accurately reflects its content.

Speaker Fraser, on June 8, 1988, at page 16257 of the Debates, also referred to the use in our practice of generic language in bill titles and stated that, “every act being amended need not be mentioned in the title”.

If the long title had been specific and limited in scope, then the hon. member might have had a sounder basis for claiming that the bill went beyond what was contained in the budget. However, the title of Bill C-38 is wide in scope, and therefore, it is an accepted practice that the content of the bill could be similarly broad.

The third point raised by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands relates to her contention that representatives of the government, during debate at second reading of Bill C-38, claimed that the bill gave legislative effect to policy decisions that are not in fact contained in the bill.

What the member is raising here is perhaps a question of relevance in debate or a dispute as to facts. As Speaker Milliken stated at page 5411 of the Debates on October 27, 2010:

It is not the Speaker's role to determine who is right and who is wrong. I know there are disagreements over some things that are said in this House, but it is not up to the Speaker to decide either way.

It may well be that members, in their remarks, spoke about elements of the government's fiscal or regulatory policy intentions that were not contained in the bill, or that may flow from the bill if it is passed. These are matters that are beyond the purview of the Speaker. Given the generous latitude for relevance which is typically accorded to members on such wide-ranging debates, including that on the budget, it is in keeping with parliamentary practice that issues raised in debate would not exactly mirror the contents of legislation in every respect. As such, while these concerns are certainly pertinent to the wider debate surrounding the bill, they do not, in and of themselves, point to a technical deficiency in the bill itself.

As the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands noted, my predecessors have frequently been called upon to rule on matters pertaining to omnibus bills. In this regard, her argument that, “… there is a compelling case that the House must act to set limits around omnibus legislation” is one that has been made before. On these occasions, the key question faced by Speakers has been: What is the role of the Chair in dealing with such matters?

As Speaker Sauve said on March 2, 1982 at page 15532 of the Debates:

It may be that the House should accept rules or guidelines as to the form and content of omnibus bills, but in that case the House, and not the Speaker, must make those rules.

Speaker Fraser, in the June 8, 1988 ruling referred to by the member, advanced his own view of the role of the Chair in dealing with omnibus bills, by stating, at page 16257 of Debates:

Until the House adopts specific rules relating to omnibus bills, the Chair's role is very limited and the Speaker should remain on the sidelines as debate proceeds and the House resolves the issue.

Indeed, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands herself also recognized the limited role of the Speaker in such circumstances, stating:

It is clear that the Speaker is not, at present and in absence of rules from the House to limit the length and complexities of omnibus bills, entitled to rule that an omnibus bill is too long, too complex or too broad in scope.

It may well be time for members to consider our practices for dealing with omnibus bills. However, in the absence of any clear rules, I find myself agreeing with Speaker Fraser, that the most appropriate role for the chair is to step aside and allow the House to determine the matter.

When addressing similar matters in relation to omnibus bills, Speaker Jerome on May 11, 1977, at page 5523 of Debates, and Speaker Parent on April 11, 1994, at page 2861 of Debates, both suggested that members could propose amendments at report stage to delete clauses they felt should not be part of a bill, or vote against it. We all know that this has certainly been done with respect to Bill C-38.

In the same ruling by Speaker Parent, again at page 2861 of Debates, he stated:

—it is procedurally correct and common practice for a bill to amend, repeal, or enact several statutes. There are numerous rulings in which Speakers have declined to intervene simply because a bill was complex and permitted omnibus legislation to proceed.

Perhaps the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which is engaged in a review of the Standing Orders, could examine this thorny issue as part of its study, but until such time as the House feels compelled to set new limits on omnibus legislation, as your Speaker, I must continue to be guided by current rules and practice.

Having reviewed the submissions made by hon. members and the relevant precedents, including the many rulings just cited, the Chair cannot agree with the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands to conclude that Bill C-38 is not in the proper form and therefore should not be allowed to proceed.

In the absence of rules or guidelines regarding omnibus legislation, the Chair cannot justify setting aside Bill C-38 and accordingly must rule that Bill C-38, in its current form, is in order.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Speaker's RulingJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

As members are aware, the chair does not ordinarily provide an explanation on the basis for the report stage ruling. In cases where there are a large number of amendments or where the relations among them are complex, it has been found helpful to provide some description of the underlying organization of the ruling. I believe that the case before us today is one in which the House may benefit from some comments in this regard.

I remind the House that my comments are limited to addressing procedural issues relating to report stage and to my responsibility as Speaker to ensure that the relevant provisions contained in the Standing Orders are complied with.

On February 27, 2001, the House adopted a motion to add an additional paragraph to the “note” to Standing Order 76(5) and 76.1(5). That additional final paragraph added to the note reads as follows:

For greater clarity, the Speaker will not select for debate a motion or series of motions of a repetitive, frivolous or vexatious nature or of a nature that would serve merely to prolong unnecessarily proceedings at the report stage and, in exercising this power of selection, the Speaker shall be guided by the practice followed in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.

As mentioned in the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, at page 778, “This occurred in response to the flooding of the Notice Paper with hundreds of amendments”.

Following the adoption of this new note in the Standing Orders, Speaker Milliken made a statement, Debates, March 21, 2001, pages 1991 to 1993, regarding how the Chair would interpret this note which has formed the basis of our current practice with regards to the selection of motions at report stage. If I may add, this process appears to have effectively served the House since that time.

Given the infrequency with which similar cases to those that led to the introduction of the note have arisen in the past decade, the Speaker has little in the way of precedent to guide him in arranging the report stage motions in a manner which will adequately reflect the various competing interests in the House.

In reviewing the motions placed before the House, there are essentially two types of motions the Chair has received. First, hundreds of motions to delete individual clauses in the bill have been placed on notice as well as a second group of amendments which seek to amend the text of a clause.

The recent precedents in relation to both types of motions are clear. For example, motions to delete clauses have always been found to be in order and it must also be noted have been selected at report stage. These motions are allowed at report stage because members may wish to express views on a clause without seeking to amend it. As is the case on such occasions, I have tried to minimize the amount of time spent in the House on this kind of motion by grouping them as tightly as possible and by applying the vote on one to as many others as possible.

The second group of motions, which seek to amend the text of individual clauses, have been submitted by members who had no opportunity to present amendments at committee stage and, consistent with the current practice, their motions have also been selected, except in the case where similar motions had already been considered by the committee and where all other procedural requirements have been met. The grouping of these motions follows the divisions of the bill. Motions have been grouped by the members submitting them for each clause of the bill. The vote on the first motion will be applied to the member's other motions in that class.

Although 871 motions have been placed on the notice paper, it is clearly not intended, nor do our rules and practices lend themselves to the taking of 871 consecutive votes. With respect to the voting table, substantive amendments have been grouped so as to allow for a clear expression of opinion on each of the subject areas contained in the bill. Motions to delete have been dealt with in conformity with the grouping scheme outlined above.

As your Speaker, I am fully aware of the extraordinary nature of the current situation. In reviewing the March 2001 statement by then Speaker Milliken, I was struck by the following, which I feel might have some resonance today:

As your Speaker, I am ready to shoulder the report stage responsibilities that the House has spelled out for me. However, I think it would be naive to hope that the frustrations implicit in the putting on notice of hundreds of motions in amendment of a bill will somehow be answered by bringing greater rigour to the Speaker's process of selection.

Since the decision of the House on February 27, 2001 to add the final paragraph to the note in the Standing Orders regarding report stage, there are few precedents to guide the Speaker in dealing with this type of situation. In my selection of motions, in their grouping and in the organization of the votes, I have made every effort to respect both the wishes of the House and my responsibility to organize the consideration of report stage motions in a fair and balanced manner. To the extent that some may have differing views concerning the decisions taken, it may be that the House or perhaps the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs will wish to revisit the adequacy of our rules and practices in dealing with cases of this extraordinary nature.

There are 871 motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of C-38.

The Chair will not select Motions Nos. 570, 571, 576, 626 to 628, 630, 842 and 843, since they require a royal recommendation. The Chair will not select Motions Nos. 411 and 412, because they were defeated in committee.

Motions Nos. 27, 29, 39, 55 to 61, 71, 73, 75, 83, 85 and 545 will not be selected by the Chair as they would introduce inconsistencies.

All remaining motions have been examined and the Chair is satisfied that they meet the guidelines expressed in the note to Standing Order 76.1(5) regarding the selection of motions in amendment at the report stage.

The motions will be grouped for debate as follows:

Group No. 1, Motions Nos. 1 to 15.

Group No. 2, Motions Nos. 16 to 23.

Group No. 3, Motions Nos. 24 to 26, 28, 30 to 38, 40 to 54, 62 to 70, 72, 74, 76 to 82, 84, 86 to 367.

Group No. 4, Motions Nos. 368 to 410, 413 to 544, 546 to 569, 572 to 575, 577 to 625, 629, 631 to 841 and 844 to 871.

The voting patterns for the motions within each group are available at the table. The Chair will remind the House of each pattern at the time of voting.

I shall now propose Motions Nos. 1 to 15 in Group No. 1 to the House.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-38 be amended by deleting Clause 1.

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-38 be amended by deleting Clause 2.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

moved:

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-38 be amended by deleting Clause 4.

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-38 be amended by deleting Clause 6.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

moved

Motion No. 5

That Bill C-38 be amended by deleting Clause 7.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

seconded by Ms. Duncan, Etobicoke North, moved:

Motion No. 6

That Bill C-38, in Clause 7, be amended by replacing lines 1 to 5 on page 7 with the following:

““political activity” means the making of a gift by a donor to a qualified donee for the purpose of allowing the donor to maintain a level of funding of political activities that is less than 10% of its income for a taxation year by delegating the carrying out of political activities to the qualified donee;”

Motion No. 7

That Bill C-38, in Clause 7, be amended by replacing line 5 on page 8 with the following:

“interest, being any activity that contributes to the social or cultural lives of Canadians or that contributes to Canada's economic or ecological well-being.”

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

moved:

Motion No. 8

That Bill C-38 be amended by deleting Clause 8.

Motion No. 9

That Bill C-38 be amended by deleting Clause 9.

Motion No. 10

That Bill C-38 be amended by deleting Clause 10.

Motion No. 11

That Bill C-38 be amended by deleting Clause 11.

Motion No. 12

That Bill C-38 be amended by deleting Clause 13.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

moved:

Motion No. 13

That Bill C-38 be amended by deleting Clause 16.

Motion No. 14

That Bill C-38, in Clause 16, be amended by replacing line 5 on page 14 with the following:

“on January 1, 2013 a salary of $137,000.”

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

moved:

Motion No. 15

That Bill C-38 be amended by deleting Clause 17.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are now at the report stage. I am very sad to say that the Government of Canada has been totally deaf to our entreaties to reconsider its outrageously anti-democratic approach to the budget implementation bill, an approach which will have profound implications for our country. Simply stated, the Conservative government has said to Canadians, “This is how we do things and that is the way it is going to be”. It brings to mind the schoolyard bully who never felt the need to explain his actions but just went ahead and did what he wanted to do.

However, I have news for the government. Canadians do not like it and they are waking up to the way the government is doing things. Who would have thought that Canadians would be familiar with procedures such as prorogation or time allocation during debates or the use of in camera in committees? Slowly but surely, Canadians are beginning to understand these procedures and beginning to question what the government meant when it promised, six and a half years ago, to be open, transparent and, most of all, accountable. I believe Canadians are beginning to feel that there is a contradiction between what has been promised and what is actually being done by the government.

It has come to this. All the opposition parties have been asking the government from the start to split the enormous, 425-page Bill C-38. That way, the changes that are not directly or even indirectly related to the budget but that will have significant consequences on our country could be addressed separately.

I am talking about the changes that affect the way we assess the environmental risks associated with developing our natural resources. I am talking about changes to the Fisheries Act, which will put endangered species at greater risk of extinction. I am also talking about changes to the criteria for old age security, or the OAS eligibility age, which will go from 65 to 67 as of 2023.

In our analysis, we found that this change is not necessary and that the Canadian economy has the means to allow Canadians to receive old age security at 65. In any event, is this change proposed by the government so urgent for the economy that we need to include it in this budget bill? Why does this change not merit its own bill?

The same can be said about the unprecedented changes to employment insurance, which could result in significant changes in the regions, especially those where seasonal employment is the norm. These are unprecedented changes and the federal government has not even taken the time to consult the provinces, which could be hard hit by a decline in population or an increase in requests for social assistance.

In all, more than 60 pieces of legislation would be modified, created or deleted by Bill C-38. The government's only argument for charging ahead is that the economy is fragile and it cannot wait. This is, of course, preposterous since many of the changes in the bill are not remotely time critical or, in many cases, even related to what we would expect in a budget implementation plan. Old age security changes would be 11 years away. Why do the Conservatives think they can behave this way? And will somebody in the government explain to me why Canada's economic stability is critically dependent on changes to the Fisheries Act being implemented immediately?

We live in a democracy. In democracies, even those with majority governments, there is a proper way to enact legislation and it is not by cramming a very large number of pieces of legislation into a single bill.

I would like to repeat an important point. Not only should Bill C-38 be split into several bills dealing with the environment, fisheries, employment insurance and old age security, among other things, but a government committed to working with the provinces would have consulted them before going ahead with Bill C-38, a bill that will definitely affect the provinces.

Unfortunately, this government ignores everyone and consults no one. This was the case recently with the premiers of the Atlantic provinces on the issue of employment insurance and with the National Assembly last Friday, which once again voted unanimously on changes to employment insurance.

We in the Liberal Party knew from the beginning that the government would not suddenly become reasonable. It is simply not its style. We knew that its members would charge blindly ahead with no intention to listen to reason or to compromise and damn the torpedoes. For that reason we decided that in addition to speaking out loudly and clearly about the government's abuse of democracy, we needed also to maximize the effectiveness of our procedural tactics. If I may say, here the Liberals have quite a bit of experience. We did try to propose substantive amendments to Bill C-38 in committee, but they were rejected. The government simply refused to listen. The result is that we introduced 503 report stage amendments to delete clauses that we felt were unacceptable to this bill.

In addition to this, we worked closely with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands and told her we would support any substantive amendments that she proposed and with which we agreed.

I recognize that the Conservative government has the majority of seats in the House of Commons. I respect that reality. Ultimately, that allows it to do what it wishes. However, that does not mean that ignoring the arguments raised by opposition parties is the smart way to behave, given that opposition parties sometimes propose sensible amendments to government bills. In fact, one might argue that a smart majority government will occasionally listen to the opposition parties and sometimes put a little water in its wine. That is a smart move. It is viewed not so much as a concession or a surrender, but more as a willingness to work together, something Canadians admire and expect from their politicians. So far, this has not happened, but it is not too late.

If this government is willing to listen and make compromises, we could work together in the interest of Canadians.

My party is prepared to vote right now on the parts of Bill C-38 that are related to the budget, but the clauses in Bill C-38 that have no direct bearing on the budget should be removed. The government should not be trying to hide important changes to Canada's legislation in this bill.

The Prime Minister did not raise the issue of changing the age of old age security in the last election. He did not talk about overhauling the environmental assessment regulations and legislation or the Fisheries Act. He never mentioned important changes that were coming for employment insurance. These require fulsome debate as well as consultation with the provinces.

I close by appealing to the government to listen to reason. At the end of the day, it can get a great majority of what it wants. However, what it needs to remember is that Canadians will judge it by the way it goes about it.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I understand that seasonal industries are an incredibly important part of the economy, not just of Atlantic Canada but right across this country from coast to coast. The changes buried within this budget bill would have a significant impact on access to labour for those people who run businesses in seasonal industries, such as forestry, tourism, agriculture, the fishery and construction. We have heard right across this country that the end result would be a depleted pool of skilled labour for those industries.

I am wondering if my colleague could comment on this. There is a total lack of consultation. If there was a bit of consultation, might we be able to avert the negative impact it would have on those seasonal industries?

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that the changes to EI being proposed in the budget implementation plan, which were suddenly inserted at the very last minute and for which there was very little detail, which we had to push the government to provide, would have a profound impact on certain parts of this country, particularly for those where employment is seasonal.

At the very least, this extremely complex question, which could result in the depopulation of certain areas and could be a greater burden on the provinces with respect to paying welfare, would have a profound transformational effect and, frankly, simply looks like a policy designed to pull people away from certain regions so that they go to other areas where there is a need for labour. This kind of profound change requires consultation, not only in this House of Commons where we should have had a fulsome debate as a separate bill, but more primarily with the provinces.

We heard the four Atlantic provincial premiers express their concerns. We heard l'Assemblée nationale du Québec last week unanimously vote against these EI changes. That really was a statement more about the fact that they were not being consulted.

Yes, this would have profound ramifications for Canada. The government should have consulted.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I have a number of questions for my colleague.

Is the hon. member aware that the last three budget implementation acts in the last three years have been larger? Is he aware that there has been more study on this legislation than on any bill in 20 years? Is he also aware that there is an excellent summary at the very start of this legislation that talks about each change?

I think members can actually look at the changes and if something perks their interest they can look at the details.

Would the member not agree that our government is behaving very responsibly, as compared to the Liberal government of the 1990s? We have committed within this budget to maintain health care transfers to the provinces at record levels and have made a long-term commitment, as opposed to the Liberal cuts, to health care, which impacted the provinces in a significant way.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, if one looks at the length of budget implementation bills, one gets a very misleading picture of the situation. It is the breadth of what it entails. Even if one looks at the length and at the last 22 budget implementation bills, on average, the Conservatives' implementation bills are three times longer. I have done the math and that is the situation.

I want to get back to the breadth of the bill. The breadth of this bill is staggering and cannot remotely be linked to important budgetary changes that need to be done at this time to protect a fragile recovery. The point here is the breadth of the bill. It touches 70 acts of Parliament, either deleting them, modifying them or in some cases creating new ones.

One clause, clause 52, would create an environmental assessment act, 2012, for Canada, and runs for 30 pages. That is what we are concerned about here today, not the length of the document.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, over the past few weeks, parliamentarians have been invited to look into the massive so-called “budget bill”. And, as we have been saying for weeks now, this bill is a real Trojan Horse.

It has all sorts of provisions that will have an impact on everything, from old age security, food inspection and healthcare transfers right through to immigration. Of course, one third of this Trojan Horse bill includes significant changes to environmental protection regulations.

In short, this bill repeals the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act and, as a result, cancels all international accountability measures on climate change. Briefly once again, this bill repeals the current Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and, as a result, allows the Conservatives to considerably weaken the assessment system. So, in a nutshell, this bill dismantles the measures that were implemented to protect our environment and turns its back on climate change.

Just imagine what the rest of this bill contains. It is over 400 pages long and amends 60 different pieces of legislation, rescinding half a dozen and adding three, including a complete overhaul of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

I want to stress that the short title of the bill, “jobs, growth and long-term prosperity”, does not reflect its content. First, much of the bill has nothing to do with the budget and, second, the bill is about austerity. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has confirmed that public sector job cuts will be in the order of 26,800 over the next three years. In addition, about 6,000 contract positions are being cut. The government has refused to detail where many of these cuts will be made but many of the services and programs that Canadians rely upon will be diminished or eliminated.

It also seems clear that, since our economic recovery has stalled and in the face of global economic uncertainty, the last thing we need are further cutbacks, which will be a further drag on the overall economy.

Have we gained new jobs from the very depths of the economic downturn in 2008-09? Yes, of course. However, since the employment rate fell dramatically by 2.5% of the working age population at that time, it has only rebounded by 0.6%. Only about one-fifth of the labour market damage from the recession has been repaired. Between one in four or one in three net new jobs created in Canada from the end of 2007 to the end of 2011 went to temporary foreign workers. We have still not recovered from the lost jobs and we have not kept up with population growth.

However, the changes in the bill to employment insurance, rather than helping Canadian families adjust to a chronic shortage of jobs in most parts of the country, seem designed to compel them to abandon their skills in a rush to take any job at all. What a waste of skills at a time when Canada needs vision and leadership to help us transition to a more modern and environmentally sustainable economy.

We have somewhat succeeded in opening the debate. The minister finally clarified, in a way, what she has in store for employment insurance, but that cannot replace the normal democratic process.

Even though the Prime Minister has expressed opposition to omnibus bills in the past, the Conservatives do not seem too concerned about them today. But this bill is different. For many of the measures proposed, this is the first time we are hearing about them being in the bill. However, despite the bill's scope, the government is determined to pass it as quickly as possible, without consulting Canadians and their members of Parliament, and without having the bill carefully examined by experts and other stakeholders.

Conservative commentator, Andrew Coyne, wrote in the National Post:

Not only does this make a mockery of the confidence convention, shielding bills that would otherwise be defeatable within a money bill, which is not: It makes it impossible to know what Parliament really intended by any of it. We’ve no idea whether MPs supported or opposed any particular bill in the bunch, only that they voted for the legislation that contained them. There is no common thread that runs between them, no overarching principle; they represent not a single act of policy, but a sort of compulsory buffet.

But there is something quite alarming about Parliament being obliged to rubber-stamp the government’s whole legislative agenda at one go.

That was said by a Conservative commentator, and I could not agree more.

The Conservatives' approach is very worrisome. The official opposition has tried to work with the government to split the bill and allow the various measures to be debated more substantively and studied more carefully within the proper committees. The Conservatives refused.

We have asked for enough time to study the bill within the Standing Committee on Finance. The Conservatives gave us only four minutes per clause. And they refused to give us more time when witnesses representing both sides were unable to attend the meetings, whose schedule was strictly controlled by the Conservatives. This reduced the time for debate even more.

The finance subcommittee set up to study part 3 of the bill had just 12 hours to hear from witnesses on a wide variety of changes to environmental regulation and changes impacting our fisheries and species at risk, including an entirely rewritten environmental assessment act. Our colleagues on the subcommittee reported that hearings were often rushed, often interrupted, that consultation was extremely limited and that a lack of opportunity to draw on the expertise of the standing committees on environment, fisheries and natural resources prevented a proper and robust evaluation of the proposals in the bill.

I regret to say that our experience in the finance committee was much the same. The extremely tight timeline made it impossible for several witnesses to appear, which significantly cut down on our hearing time. Some witnesses, who did appear but did not support the government's position, often had their testimony dismissed. One economist had his work dismissed as garbage, and Paul Kennedy, who spent 20 years in the area of national security and who served as a senior assistant to the deputy minister of public safety, had his testimony dismissed as simply wrong. His error. He voiced concern over the impact of the elimination of the position of the inspector general of CSIS.

Canadians have every right to expect that their government will listen to the public. The New Democrats were listening, both at committee and at public hearings across the county. We heard from Dr. Haggie, of the Canadian Medical Association, who warned that raising the age of eligibility for old age security was certain to have a negative impact. He emphasized that gnawing away at Canada's social safety net would no doubt force hard choices on some of tomorrow's seniors. The choice between whether to buy groceries or buy their medicine will, in the end, put a greater burden on our health care system.

We heard from a number of experts who warned that the proposed changes to employment insurance would contribute to a low wage policy by forcing people to take significant pay cuts or be cut off from the benefits they paid into. One, Professor Marjorie Griffin Cohen, said:

Going from making $14 or $15 an hour to making $10.25, the minimum wage, makes a very huge difference for women. We see that this legislation will contribute to a low-wage policy, and already the vast majority of low-wage workers are women, so these policies will affect them. I would like the committee to understand that.

Last fall, I spoke with one of my constituents who came to Ottawa to protest peacefully on Parliament Hill against the government's inaction on climate change. She is in her sixties and had never participated in civil disobedience or been arrested but she felt so strongly that Canada was going down the wrong path and that the government was not listening, she felt she had to do something, so she travelled to Ottawa to make her voice heard. This person is not a radical. Is it radical to believe that government policy should involve public debate. In a democracy, this should be commonplace but the Conservatives are determined to shut down debate.

We have fought tooth and nail every step of the way to have debate on the bill. We will continue to do so. That is why we brought witnesses forward to the finance committee and subcommittee. That is why we held hearings across the country. We are trying to make it clear that we do not want the government to balance its books on the backs of seniors and to make clear that massive changes to EI should only come after a substantive debate.

We want to provide an opportunity for all Canadians to have their voices heard on this important bill which would have very real impacts on them now and on generations forward.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know how hard my colleague from Parkdale—High Park works and how hard other members of the NDP as well as all opposition parties have worked on the bill at committee. They diligently and in total good faith tried to find a way to split the bill to ensure there would be overall examination.

Even yesterday, coming back from my riding, people were drawing to my attention various things in the bill that are still being discovered. There is still very little known about the changes.

One of the particular concerns I have is the change to the health care funding formula. As we know, the Conservatives unilaterally changed the health care funding formula to the provinces. This will have a huge impact on health care in the future in Canada. I wonder if the member could comment on that because I know it is an aspect of the bill that probably has not had the in-depth review and coverage that it needs to have, which is precisely why we needed to have much further examination of the bill.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right that in this massive omnibus bill of 753 clauses, one small part of it attempts to lock in the take-it-or-leave-it offer from the government to the provinces for the future of health care funding.

There will be increases to funding going forward, but over time they will continue to be less than the cost of inflation, less than growth, less than population growth. What we are going to see over time is like a noose around the neck of the provinces that will gradually squeeze them on health care costs.

Canadians are going to see the impact of this on their health care services. Will there be more privatization? Will more services be cut?

We think that this is a very dangerous step forward, and it has been done with a take-it-or-leave-it offer rather than through a collaborative approach of working with the provinces that deliver health care.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to this debate now for quite some time. What escapes my understanding is that this budget was tabled in the House in March, close to three months ago. I have just checked with the parliamentary secretary to my right, and the committee and subcommittee have held over 70 hours of meetings and have had over 100 witnesses come in front of committee. All I hear from the opposition is “process, process, process”.

The opposition members do not actually talk about what is in the budget, and that is the most important part. When Canadians look overseas and see what is happening in Europe, Spain, Greece and other countries, they are worried about jobs and the economy, and what is going to make our economy stronger is contained within the budget.

What do we not hear from the opposition? We do not hear what is actually in the budget to strengthen our economy.

Enough with the process. I would like the opposition members to talk about what is in the budget and how it will move Canada forward in terms of strengthening its economy.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, there we have it. Suddenly democracy, this House and the public debate are dismissed as “process”.

I have to say how profoundly offensive that is, because we have, for example, changes that will result in people being in poverty or being forced onto welfare, and we have not had open discussion and debate. The government did not even talk to the Atlantic premiers before tabling these changes on EI, changes that will have a drastic impact on seasonal workers in those provinces.

To dismiss this as “process”, to me, is profoundly offensive. Democracy is what this House is about. It is not just about process. It is about what we do here and why we are elected.

I am proud to stand with my NDP colleagues and I will defend democracy. I will defend open debate. I defy any member of the Conservative Party to say otherwise, to say that we should not be defending democracy, parliamentary debate and open hearings with Canadians.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak at report stage on Bill C-38, a bill that many other colleagues in the House have accurately described as an affront to democracy.

I heard my hon. colleague say that somehow we, in the opposition benches, should speak to the content of the bill. I propose to do so, but I also must point out that it is the appropriate role of the Parliament of Canada to review legislation. It is not a mere process that gets in the way of the grand aims of the particular Conservative who is ruling Privy Council. The role of Parliament is, at its essence, to review legislation.

In this case we have before us a bill of over 420 pages repealing, amending and changing over 70 different laws. We now have before us hundreds of amendments grouped into 159 votes, but we know that this legislation will not receive adequate review.

I am going to direct my comments to those aspects of part 3 that are changed in Bill C-38, but I note that my amendments cover things that are changed in part 1 under the Income Tax Act, changed roles that are important, for instance, for the various agencies that are being ended, such as the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, which does not end up in part 3, which is generally reviewed as the environmental changes that are hidden within Bill C-38.

There are many changes within this legislation that will have long-term, serious and negative repercussions for Canada, for Canada's society and, yes, for Canada's economy. It is a false piece of rhetoric.

We have to beware. I do not like to be Biblical very often, but let us beware of the wages of spin. We are told a lot of spin in the House all the time, told that this is going to bring great jobs and prosperity. By asserting our rights to examine Bill C-38, we are not threatening the economy; we are trying to protect the integrity of Canadian institutions and our ability to forge policies that protect the environment and develop our resources at the same time.

In that light, I want to turn to some of the evidence we heard. I was not a member of the subcommittee on finance, but at its essence the repeal of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is appalling. It has served Canada since 1993 and was working well up until these amendments, according to industry sources I have already cited in this House. We will repeal, under Bill C-38, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and we will see a whole new act in its place.

That new act, on the basis of expert evidence to the subcommittee on finance, will not work well. It will not work well for proponents who want to build projects. It will not work well for Canadians, who have an interest in the proceedings and wish to come forward to present their concerns. It will definitely not work well in respect to first nations and their inherent and treaty rights, which the federal government has an obligation, a fiduciary duty, to respect, as numerous court decisions make clear. As well, It will not work well for industry.

We have an entirely new scheme of legislation put forward without adequate review. We have had less than 14 hours of hearings, combined, on the changes to the Environmental Assessment Act, the Fisheries Act, the Species at Risk Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act. I do not blame those in the legal departments who drafted this bill, clearly without adequate time and without adequate preparation. The drafters of Bill C-38 have taken a sledgehammer to environmental law and policy that have served this country well for decades, and that sledgehammer approach has left environmental law and policy in ruins.

I hope the Conservative members of Parliament will examine and consider voting in support of the amendments I have put forward today in order to make Bill C-38 serve the purpose they themselves say they want: to protect the environment while pursuing economic development.

In specific cases, the proposed co-called Canadian Assessment Act 2012 fails to define what environmental screening is. It fails to describe what an environmental assessment is. The Conservatives have done so much damage to the scheme of the legislation that they have created new chasms of uncertainty. Anyone who is about to do a project will not be able to tell from reading the new so-called CEAA 2012 what it will cover and what it will not cover.

I have heard the hon. members for Wellington—Halton Hills and Dufferin—Caledon call numerous times on the floor of the House for a federal review of the appalling megaquarry proposed for Melancthon Township, and I applaud them for doing so. However, if Bill C-38 passes, we should watch out. We would not want a federal review. That is the last thing we would want, because the only thing the environmental assessment panel would be able to examine would be the effect of the megaquarry on fish, marine plants and migratory birds.

The essence of the threat posed by the megaquarry is to the water table, to the surrounding farms and to the fertility of the soil, which is absolutely world-beating. No one can grow better potatoes than they do in the soils of that area of Melancthon County, yet if that megaquarry had a federal assessment, it would be restricted to looking at the impact on migratory birds and fish. It has the effect of a sledgehammer.

The witness I want to mention, whose testimony people can read in Hansard, is Stephen Hazell. He worked as a member of the legal staff of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and said exactly this: that this change will lead to greater uncertainty, more economic losses and mistakes that will cost us well into the future.

The same point was made by National Chief Shawn Atleo with the Assembly of First Nations. These changes will lead, in his words, to greater conflict, greater uncertainty, conflicts in the courts and conflicts in terms of direct action. If we are interested in democratic processes that respect all parts of society, this is not the way we want to go when we embark on large new projects.

The other pieces I must speak to in the limited time I have are my amendments, which attempt to repair the damage done by the sledgehammer to the Fisheries Act, particularly subsection 35(1). I know that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, in addressing the House numerous times, has claimed that the municipalities of Canada were clamouring for these changes so that when they installed various municipal works, they would not have to worry about whether there was a habitat for fish in the vicinity. That claim is belied by the vote last weekend in Saskatoon, when the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, representing hundreds of municipalities, passed a resolution on an emergency basis calling upon the Prime Minister to stop, rethink this and remove the Fisheries Act changes.

In the same tone, we have the words of four former fisheries ministers. I can mention their names in this place because they no longer sit among us. They are fine and honourable public servants. They are former fisheries minister Hon. Tom Siddon, the Hon. John Fraser, Hon. Herb Dhaliwal and Hon. David Anderson.

It is not just by chance that I stand here as the only leader of a federal political party from British Columbia. I note that those four former fisheries ministers all hail from British Columbia, where people understand that wild salmon are as important to British Columbians as the French language is to Quebeckers. It is part of who we are as British Columbians to defend our salmon when there could be changes that would allow the wholesale destruction of fish habitat that supports the sockeye, the endangered wild salmon runs and the coho. Why would we make changes in this place that would do such damage to the linchpin of environmental protection in Canada?

Subsection 35(1) of the Fisheries Act does not protect just a few fish. It is a fundamental piece of legislation and is part of federal jurisdiction in the Constitution that leads to the protection of fresh water. It leads to the protection of grizzly habitat, of forests and of ecosystems. Without subsection 35(1) of the Fisheries Act remaining intact, we open up the gangway to reckless destruction not only of our extraordinary natural resources but of nature itself.

We are constantly being told that we have a false choice, that we have to choose hell-bent-for-leather economic development with no attention to what it means to first nations rights and sustainability of natural capital. As I mentioned in the House before, we are told that the planet is a business in liquidation, and everything must go as quickly as possible.

I beg my Conservative colleagues in this place to reflect on the voices of their former colleagues, people like the former member of Parliament for Red Deer, Bob Mills, who pleaded that we keep the national round table, and people like the former fisheries ministers and scientists right across Canada. Report stage is the time to rescue Bill C-38 from being a bill that destroys the environment over the long term to one that respects it.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague across the way for her passionate plea. However, I would like to say on behalf of the government that this is not something that was put together at the last moment. This is something we have been working on for many years, so I would hope the member would take much of that into consideration.

However, I do have a couple of questions for my hon. colleague. First and foremost, she spoke at length about many of the environmental assessment measures, et cetera, but I am interested in knowing, on behalf of her riding, how she feels about the integrated cross-border law enforcement operations act. It is important to her riding. Her constituents are waiting to hear from her on this measure. Therefore, I would like her to address it. So far, it has been very well received from all the stakeholders.

The last question I would have for her is this. Is she considering a run for the Liberal leadership given that its members seem to have found their sea legs under her guidance and leadership? I am just curious to know if she has considered it.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I remind my hon. colleague across the way that this kind of approach, making these numerous changes under cover of a budget implementation bill, were once called by her own leader a backdoor way and a dangerous way of proceeding and would certainly not have the support of his party of the day. That was the current Prime Minister speaking in 1994.

I will say to all colleagues, and I know I have limited time for an answer, that I am grateful for the support of the Liberal Party for my motions. I do not for one minute suggest that I will be anything other than the leader of the Green Party of Canada, serving the interests of the voters of Saanich—Gulf Islands, and I believe that the so-called free rider provisions are an intrusion on Canadian sovereignty that should not be allowed.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her speech in defence of democracy and the environment.

It was interesting to hear the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance saying that the government had been working on these ideas for destroying environmental protections for years. I wonder whether you could comment on the timing and urgency now, because it seems to me that part of what this omnibus bill does is facilitate pipelines across northern British Columbia by removing the necessity of environmental assessments? Perhaps you could comment on whether you think the timing of this bill, since the Conservatives have been working on it for years, has some connection to pipelines?

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order. Before I go to the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, I would like to remind all members to direct their comments and questions to the Chair rather than to their colleagues.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was also surprised to hear the parliamentary secretary say the Conservatives have been working on these measures for years. Perhaps it was in some back room or some shadowy part of the House of Commons but certainly not before committee and certainly not in any public, transparent or accountable fashion.

Of course, we became aware of the threat to the fisheries habitat through a leaked memo. Having had an alert from a former fisheries' biologist within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Otto Langer, whose concerns were reported in the media, I read the budget very carefully on March 29, in case there was anything there about proposed changes to section 35(1) of the Fisheries Act. It is not mentioned at all in the budget and is not part of a budgetary measure.

In answer to my friend, when we are looking at Bill C-38, I believe that many of the changes could have been written from within the corporate boardrooms of the oil industry, perhaps in Beijing as well as in Canada.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on her speech and pick up on the theme that was raised by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance.

If indeed the government has been working on these changes for years, I am wondering if the member could help us understand why it is that just recently the government dispatched 10 senior cabinet ministers around the country to try to convince Canadians that the environmental assessment process would be capped to two years, only to then have to admit that in fact, when a project proponent delays, the two-year timeline no longer applies.

Maybe the member could help us understand, for example, how that applied in the case of Imperial Oil in the Northwest Territories.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague has put the case very well. I will just say that most of the delays we have seen take place in the past, for instance, on large projects such as the review of the Mackenzie gas pipeline, were directly due to the proponent not being ready, and that has created delays.

A lot of us would like to see certainty around reviews, but we want to make sure the proponent cannot rag the puck so long that the process gets delayed and then those interested parties, and in a different category particularly, the first nations interested parties, have to rush to catch up with their analyses when the proponent is responsible for the delay.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, before talking about the clause I am asking to be deleted, I would like to congratulate the leader of the Green Party on the excellent speech she has just made. The Bloc Québécois joins in her argument and is entirely in agreement with her demands regarding this Bill C-38.

Clause 16, the elimination of which I am calling for in the amendment I am proposing, concerns the Governor General. It is unreasonable for the Governor General’s salary to be doubled. About a month and a half ago, I introduced a motion in this House after discovering that the Governor General did not pay income tax. It is unreasonable for him to be the only person in Canada who pays no income tax, when the Queen of England pays tax, as do the governors general in the other Commonwealth countries.

The government agreed with my argument in the last budget: it decided to have him pay income tax. The great injustice is that it decided to double his salary because he is going to be paying income tax. I know of no one in this country, no working person, no member of the general public, who is getting their salary doubled all at once overnight. The government’s argument is that it is going to double the Governor General’s salary because he will be starting to pay income tax like all Canadians. That is absolutely ridiculous. His salary was $137,000 and it is going up to $270,000. The net salary will therefore be higher; that is unreasonable. His pension will also be higher.

The purpose of my motion was to remedy an injustice. Not only is it not being remedied, but a flagrant injustice is being created toward all members of the public, in both Quebec and Canada. Are there working people whose salaries have gone up by 100% in the last year? The government is making cuts everywhere: for seniors, unemployed workers and not-for-profit organizations. Would this not be an excellent opportunity for the government to put an end to this monarchy madness? But doubling the Governor General’s salary because he will be paying income tax in future is not the way to do it.

Note that the Governor General receives a pension equal to 100% of his salary after spending only five years in office. Is there any citizen or worker in Canada who receives that benefit? On average, Canadians work 35 years for a pension of approximately 75% of their salary. Note as well that this is merely an honorary position held for five years. During that term, the Governor General is clothed, transported, housed and fed. He enjoys unlimited international travel and then leaves office with a pension equal to 100% of his salary. He also has 160 people in his service and an annual budget of more than $60 million in cooperation with six departments.

Let us consider the cost of the Senate. It comprises 104 senators and costs $45 million, including staff and everything else. The House of Commons costs approximately $200 million. And it will cost $60 million for this person alone. Is it normal to attach so much importance to this position? I do not believe so.

This would be a good opportunity for the government to require the Governor General to pay income tax on the same salary, to put an end to this monarchy madness in which it has been engaging since the start of the year, and to consider the will of Quebecers and Canadians.

In fact, 80% of Quebeckers and 50% of Canadians in the other provinces would like to sever ties with the monarchy.

I repeat: only 16 Commonwealth countries have maintained this link to the monarchy. It is time this government listened to the population. The Governor General must pay income tax; that is fine, but does it mean that we have to increase his salary by 100%? That is utterly ridiculous.

I do not believe the monarchy is equal to or synonymous with democracy—quite the contrary.

I am going to conclude by saying that, in addition to clause 6 of Bill C-38, which is completely unfair, we also disagree with a number of other provisions. This legislation affects 60 departments. For example, seniors will have to wait two additional years to receive their old age pensions. The changes to employment insurance were made without any consultation, without taking into account the reality of the regions.

The Bank Act is unfair to Quebec. The minister responsible, the federalist Liberal Quebec minister, is preparing to go before the courts. This will be the third or fourth time that the Quebec government has taken such action against this government. It is unacceptable for the federal government to be solely responsible for the Bank Act. It violates Quebec's Public Protector Act. As of 2016, health transfers will be reduced, but there have been no consultations on this.

So, many measures were decided in haste, with few if any consultations, and are being imposed in a 460-page document. That is unusual. It is not normal. That way of doing things is unprecedented. It completely contradicts the spirit of British parliamentarianism which, after all, is one of the noblest forms of parliament among the major democracies. However, we must take the time to debate issues.

In conclusion, I hope that clause 16 will be abolished, or at least amended so that the Governor General's salary remains the same when, in 2013, he begins paying taxes just like every other Canadian.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, first I want to congratulate my colleague on his excellent speech, which sums up the Bloc Québécois's position on Bill C-38 very well.

I also want to ask him about his views on the proposed employment insurance reform. This reform is a direct attack on the regions, because it does not take into consideration the reality of seasonal workers in the forestry, tourism, fishery or agriculture sectors. The approach ignores the way the regional economy is structured. The bill attacks the regions by forcing workers to relocate over an hour away from their homes, and by forcing them to accept much lower wages, somewhere around 70% of their of their previous income.

I wonder if my colleague could elaborate on this issue.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

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

During a press conference, he explained the consequences for the regions very well because he, himself, is from a region we would call "remote": the beautiful Gaspé. That is where this employment insurance reform would do harm. While this may be appropriate in an urban region, it seems that the government has in no way considered the consequences of this employment insurance reform on the maritime provinces, or on Quebec specifically.

I have been a member of Parliament for a long time, but I have rarely seen a bill that management and employees are both unanimously against. Not only does this bill destroy the economy, but it also destroys businesses built by families. For example, in the wood industry, in sawmills, workers are trained year after year. But we have winter in Canada. So, these individuals are unemployed for a few months and then they return to work at the sawmill. If the workers who are trained to work at the sawmill are moved, that means that the sawmill will have to close and, if those workers have been moved elsewhere, they might not come back.

So there is a huge danger for the regions. This is a direct attack on those regions, and the government should change its position.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I share the concerns that have been raised by my colleague. If he has the statistics, the numbers, could he share them with the House?

About 28% of seasonal workers come from Atlantic Canada and close to 40% come from the province of Quebec. I know that those seasonal industries in Atlantic Canada contribute about 54% of the regional GDP, which is a significant part of the GDP of Atlantic Canada.

Could my colleague tell the House, even anecdotally or statistically, what component of the regional economy is drawn from seasonal industries because this budget would place those industries at risk?

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, the statistics for the remote regions of Quebec are basically the same as those for the Atlantic provinces. In fact, this is the way it is when a region relies on a single industry, such as fishing or wood. Fishing cannot necessarily be done all year long, nor can wood be cut and processed year-round.

In that respect, it is absolutely tragic for the regions to see cuts being made to employment insurance, which ensures a distribution of wealth. In fact, let us not forget that the government does not pay for employment insurance; it is the employer and the employee who pay for it to provide against these months of unemployment until the regional economy improves thereby ensuring that workers are receiving an essential minimum income. If, however, the workers are sent outside the region, the immediate region will not receive any economic spinoffs during that short period of time.

Since my time is up, once again, I hope that the government will give more thought to the situation of unemployed workers in the regions.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I truly appreciate this opportunity to highlight some of the very important initiatives in the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act and to speak against the opposition amendments to delay this important legislation.

I listened intently this morning to a number of the speeches. I do have tremendous respect for democracy and tremendous respect for this place in which we all work. However, the suggestion by opposition members that democracy is in question here I refute completely and wholly. This is democracy. This is democracy in its finest hour because the government is defending democracy today.

My speech will address a number of things that defend democracy here today. Before I continue, as a member of the finance committee, i will acknowledge the detailed examination of this bill at committee stage. I will give all members the facts.

The finance committee and a special subcommittee, which is one of the first times we have ever seen a special subcommittee on a budget implementation bill, studied today's bill for nearly 70 hours. This is the longest consideration of budget legislation in decades. We heard from literally hundreds of individuals and organizations, from government officials, business leaders, academics, labour groups, industry associations and countless others.

The bill we are debating today positions Canada for economic prosperity, job creation and long-term fiscal health. It is designed to create a climate for private sector investment, innovation and opportunity.

It is crucial that Canada achieve its economic potential so that it can weather another period of global economic uncertainty. The economic upheaval abroad is bound to have an impact on our economy. Even though we must not underestimate the risks, Canadians can be sure that their country is in a good position to face the challenges posed by the global economic situation, as it has done in the past. To that end, we will continue to focus on measures that will keep Canada as competitive as possible during this time of economic uncertainty.

I am convinced that the bill before us today is a blueprint for a strong, prosperous Canada.

Having said all of that, I will now talk about how today's bill builds on Canada's commitment to make us more competitive in the future by removing red tape and bureaucratic obstacles.

As a trading nation, we understand how important an efficient border is to Canadians and our economy. Canada, like many other countries, provides residents returning from abroad with a personal exemption from duties and taxes for goods purchased up to a certain dollar value. Some of these exemption limits for Canadians have remained the same for many years. Given the considerable amount of travel that Canadians undertake every year, it makes sense to update these limits, as consumer groups have long requested.

Effective June 1, 2012, residents returning to Canada after being out of the country for 24 hours or more are exempt from duties and taxes on up to $200 of goods they purchase abroad. The exemption limit for those returning after at least 48 hours abroad has also been raised to $800.

These changes would reduce red tape for travellers who bring in goods within the new exemption limits and make it that much easier for Canadian residents returning home to complete the customs process. More important, these exemptions are exactly the same exemptions the Americans have when they shop here in Canada and return home. Consistency means efficiency. Our government understands how important an efficient border is to Canadians and to our economy.

These new exemption limits would expedite customs clearance for returning Canadian consumers, making cross-border business and personal travel more convenient for Canadians.

To facilitate access to Canadian tourist destinations, Bill C-38 will also eliminate or reduce the taxes on foreign-based rental vehicles temporarily imported by Canadian residents.

Before these changes were announced in Canada's economic action plan, foreign-registered rental vehicles that were temporarily imported by Canadian residents were usually subject at the border to GST on the full value of the vehicle, the green levy and the automobile air conditioner tax.

Until recently, this type of import was prohibited by federal vehicle safety rules, unless the vehicle in question was proven to comply with all Canadian standards.

Rental vehicles temporarily imported by foreign tourists visiting Canada are generally not subject to any taxes or similar restrictions.

In other words, the bill we are discussing today will eliminate or reduce the taxes on foreign-based rental vehicles temporarily imported by Canadian residents and, consequently, will make it easier to access Canadian tourist destinations. That is a good thing.

As households across this country understand, ensuring prosperity also means being responsible in how we treat every dollar.

Canadians know the importance of living within their means and they expect the government to do the same. For example, today's legislation would modernize Canada's current system by eliminating the penny from Canada's coinage system. Over time, inflation has eroded the purchasing power of the penny and multiplied its manufacturing costs. Until penny production was halted recently, it cost taxpayers 1.6¢ every time we made a penny. For businesses, the time and cost of processing pennies has increased, taking them away from the task of growing their businesses and creating jobs.

Other countries, such as New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland and Sweden, have made smooth transitions to a penny free economy. The government expects that businesses will apply rounding for cash transactions in a fair and transparent manner. Canadians can rest assured that they will be able to redeem pennies for full value.

As consumers and businesses begin to rely less and less on the penny in their day-to-day lives, we hope that all Canadians will consider putting their last pennies to good use by donating them to charity. Eliminating the penny from Canada's coinage system will ensure that the Canadian currency system remains efficient and responsive to the needs of consumers, businesses and the economy.

We are also proposing to simplify administrative formalities as we strengthen our immigration system.

The jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act supports the government's commitment to better focus our immigration system on our economic objectives with the following three measures.

First, we are going to return applications to some of the applicants to the federal skilled workers program and refund as much as $130 million in fees. This will shorten the backlog in processing applications in the Canadian immigration system and will allow us to focus our efforts on responding to the real needs of the job market.

Second, we are going to work with the provinces, the territories and other stakeholders to further improve foreign credential recognition and to identify the next set of target occupations beyond 2012. This will help highly qualified new arrivals to find work in the area for which they have been trained and to contribute quickly to the Canadian economy.

Finally, we will continue to study other ways to improve the temporary foreign worker program in order to support economic growth and recovery and to make the program correspond better to the requirements of the job market.

From the countless hours of testimony we heard before the finance committee, I recall the comments of Richard Kurland, noted immigration policy analyst and attorney who told us:

I feel the government is doing the right thing. This is the right solution for a problem that has been plaguing this country for over 25 years. It is the first time it's being fixed.

The door is not shut; it's just that those are no longer the skills we need.

All of these measures would help to ensure that the Canadian economy continues to move in the right direction. We must take these actions in order to respond to the challenges of today while setting out a plan that our long-term goals demand.

I, therefore, urge all hon. members in this House to please take the work of the finance committee and the subcommittee to heart. This is a good bill that would move Canada forward. It would secure jobs, secure long-term prosperity and secure our economic growth.

I implore members from the opposite side to stop arguing about process, to look at the content, to see that it is good for Canadians and to vote in favour of moving this forward.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her remarks.

In her opening comments, she claimed that members on this side of the House do not respect democracy. I must point out to her that democracy is not about passing a bill in haste or about saying to other hon. members, “Too bad—we have a majority”.

But let us talk about the economy. They claim that Bill C-38 will help the economy. Tourism is very important where I come from. Not only will it be affected by the changes to employment insurance, but Parks Canada services are also going to be cut. That will prevent Fort Chambly from providing the same level of service that it previously provided. Fort Chambly is one of the most frequently visited Parks Canada sites in Quebec. In spite of that, services are going to be cut, and the quality of tourism services in the region is going to be lowered, which in turn will have a negative impact on the region.

How will this contribute to economic prosperity and job creation?

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's question. He touched on a number of issues in his question.

First, I would like to talk about the democracy he mentioned. Democracy is alive and well here in the House of Commons. But when one single NDP member took several days in the House to debate this bill when it was first introduced, leaving only a few minutes for the Liberal Party to respond and no time for other, independent members to raise any objections, I also wonder if the delay amounts to nothing more than a filibuster.

Is that what the hon. member really thinks democracy is? Frankly, the delays are a real obstacle.

In terms of tourism, I just talked about rental vehicles. For some time now, the hon. member for Yukon has talked about the challenge of bringing rental vehicles to Yukon to allow tourists to visit Yukon and the Canadian north. And now we have a provision in this bill to address that situation, a measure that will help us in the tourism sector.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to attend the budget implementation act technical briefing. This was an opportunity for all members and their staff to ask questions with regard to all the amendments and so on that were taking place on the bill. We found that people realized that any of the major questions and concerns that were being raised were of a political nature and certainly not a technical nature.

One example had to do with the integrated cross-border law enforcement operations act, Just a few moments ago, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands indicated that she did not approve of this particular clause.

My question is for the parliamentary secretary. Who was consulted in the development of the act and why is it such an important measure?

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Red Deer for the incredible work he does, not only in his riding, but in the House of Commons. He has been instrumental in helping us with the bill.

I want to address this very important clause in the bill. I was disappointed to hear the member from the Green Party say that she was not in favour. Let me list the stakeholders that were consulted. We consulted provincial attorneys general, police associations, local governments and aboriginal groups in close proximity to the border. We spoke with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Association of Police Forces, the Canadian Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, First Nations Chiefs of Police Association, the Canadian Bar Association, the Barreau du Québec, the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, et cetera. We spent an enormous amount of time trying to ensure we got this right.

I would have thought we would have at least had support from the opposition parties when we look at legislation that would actually allow us to collaborate with our U.S. counterparts in the area of law enforcement, ensuring we restrict contraband from being smuggled into our country.

A pilot project also ran and something like 1.4 million contraband cigarettes were seized during that project. A child abduction was solved as a result of the pilot project.

Therefore, this is a good measure on which I would have anticipated support from all members. It is unfortunate that the member from the Green Party does not support it. I know her riding members certainly seem to support it.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to discuss some of the provisions in Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, and to explain why we must not let the New Democrats and the other opposition parties delay its passage.

As the Conservative government said very clearly, since 2006, our focus has been on the economy. As we have all noticed, we are on the right track in terms of jobs and growth. In many ways, Canada has done well despite the global uncertainty. For example, almost 760,000 jobs have been created since July 2009. That is the strongest job creation record in the G7.

The IMF and OECD both project that Canada will have among the strongest growth in the G7. For the fourth straight year, the World Economic Forum rated our banking system the world's best. Forbes magazine ranked Canada as the best place for businesses to grow and create jobs. Canada also has the best fiscal position in the G7 by far. Canada also has the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G7.

In the words of respected financial analyst and commentator, Camilla Sutton, of Scotiabank, “the long-term story for Canada on a relative basis is still a very, very good one. There's very few other places I'd rather be than Canada...when it comes to these uncertain times, Canada holds its own and shines”.

However, we all know that global economic recovery remains fragile, especially in Europe. That is why we are focused on jobs, the economy and implementing economic action plan 2012 through Bill C-38. As successful as our past has been, we must stay focused on the present and the future. The economy must remain at the forefront of our priorities. It is the right thing to do.

The well-being of Canadians depends on a healthy economy. The well-being of my constituents of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell depends on a healthy economy.

A strong economy makes it possible for all Canadians to benefit from growth and long-term prosperity. By making sensible and responsible decisions today, we will provide everyone with a better standard of living tomorrow.

That is the goal that the Conservative government has set for itself with this bill. And that is why it is so important to move forward with this bill today, and not allow the New Democrats and the other opposition parties to delay its passage with their stalling tactics.

In my remarks today, I would like to focus on a few of the measures in Bill C-38 that would help strengthen Canada's housing sector.

The housing sector is one of the most important pieces of our economy. In my riding, certain towns like Clarence-Rockland have seen tremendous growth. Local businesses are benefiting. The local economy is benefiting. For that to continue, there is a real need for new families to choose housing in these communities. We can all agree that the housing market requires ongoing stability and close monitoring.

For most Canadian families, the biggest investment we make in our lifetimes is the purchase of a home. Families will not buy if they think the housing market is unstable. Ensuring that such an investment is secure is the responsible thing to do. That is why our government regularly monitors housing finance risks and takes action when necessary.

For example, we have adjusted the rules for government-backed insured mortgages recently on multiple occasions. In addition, in June 2011, Parliament approved legislation to formalize arrangements with private mortgage insurers and Canada Mortgage and Housing, CMHC, in an effort to better manage risks arising from the mortgage insurance sector.

Now, as part of the Conservative government's ongoing efforts to strengthen the mortgage sector, we are proposing amendments in today's bill that will reinforce supervision of CMHC and guarantee that its commercial activities are managed with a view to promoting the stability of the financial system.

Specifically, the amendments include the following: an additional objective for CMHC of ensuring that its commercial activities promote and contribute to the stability of the financial system, including the housing market; legislative and regulatory powers given to the Minister of Finance in respect of CMHC's securitization programs; powers given to the Superintendent of Financial Institutions to review and monitor the safety and soundness of CMHC's commercial activities and to report to the CMHC board of directors and HRSDC; and the addition of the deputy minister of human resources and skills development and the deputy minister of finance as ex-officio members of CMHC's board of directors.

We believe these amendments would contribute to the long-term stability of the housing market and would benefit all Canadians. We have heard a great deal of positive reaction.

Louis Gagnon, a professor at Queen's University, stated:

I believe that the federal government's plan to bring CMHC under the direct supervision of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions is long overdue.

OSFI is responsible for the oversight of insurance companies and it only makes sense to bring CMHC under its purview, since CMHC is the most systematically important insurance entity in the land and also the most vulnerable one.

This is what the respected Finn Poschmann, vice-president of the C.D. Howe Institute, said:

...the legislation will require at least annual inspections from OSFI, with reports to the board and the responsible ministers. Formalizing the requirement in legislation could do wonders for reporting and accountability, and will help the board and management reassure themselves that CMHC is carrying out its activities...“in a safe and sound manner … with due regard to its exposure to loss.” This is good....

Before concluding, I will turn my attention to the health sector where we are proposing changes to the tax treatment of certain health related goods and services. Health care is very important to the people of my riding, as it is to people across Canada. As a father of five children, I know very well how easily the costs add up when someone is affected by illness. The more our government can do to alleviate these costs during these stressful periods the better.

These changes will better reflect the changing nature of the health sector and will acknowledge the impact of the expenses related to health and disability that Canadians encounter for their own care or that of their loved ones.

For example, we are proposing to remove the GST from the professional services of pharmacists beyond those related to dispensing prescription drugs, which are already tax exempt.

We also propose to expand the list of health care professionals who can order certain medical and assistive devices that are zero rated under the GST. This reflects the increasing involvement of health care professionals, such as nurses, in giving orders for these devices. We also propose to expand the list of GST zero rated medical and assistive devices and the list of expenses an individual may claim for income tax purposes under the medical expense tax credit.

These measures represent a simple, thoughtful and appropriate way to ensure that our tax system remains fair and up to date.

I note that during the finance committee's study of today's act, the Canadian Medical Association voiced its support for the measures that I have just mentioned.

Today's act would accomplish a great deal for Canadians and it contains a host of other measures that deserve my colleagues' attention. As an example, today's act would take the first step toward making important improvements to the registered disability savings plan, or RDSP, by allowing spouses, common-law partners and parents to establish an RDSP for adult individuals who might not be able to enter into a contract themselves.

It has been my pleasure to highlight some of the key measures recently proposed by the Conservative government to keep the country on the path to growth and prosperity.

Now it is important that we work together and continue to co-operate for the good of Canada and Canadians. The measures in today's bill are necessary and will have lasting benefits.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I know that my colleague represents a mostly rural riding with many farmers. I would like to know whether he has had the chance to talk to his constituents, especially those in the agricultural sector, about the changes to employment insurance.

I ask him the question because I have talked to the farmers in my riding. I can say that they are infuriated over the changes. In my riding, as in his I am sure, agriculture provides seasonal employment. The people in my riding see the employment insurance provisions as an obstacle to seasonal employment and a headache for the farmers, as businesspeople who need to retain their workforce.

Has my colleague consulted with farmers to see what they think about this?

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, as a member for an agricultural region and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, I naturally work closely with the farmers in my riding and all across Canada. It has to be said that farmers support our efforts to strengthen the Canadian economy.

Farmers thrive in a healthy economy. They have enough challenges in front of them without also having economic instability. They see that our measures with respect to employment insurance would help Canadians find work. They are particularly concerned about this because they have problems finding help on their farms. They must go to the extraordinary measures of bringing people in from outside of Canada to work on their farms. They would much rather employ people right here within Canada on their farms. These EI measures would help in that regard.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, twice now the government has brought in a new fisheries act to change the existing Fisheries Act. Twice it has been sent back to the drawing board to come back with another act. In two throne speeches it has promised a new fisheries act but has not lived up to those commitments. It has now jammed the fisheries legislation into this bill.

Why will the government not have a separate debate on the Fisheries Act itself? Twice in its throne speeches the government was going to bring in a new fisheries act and now it has jammed it into the budget bill.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would invite my opposition colleagues to work with the mayors in small rural communities, such as mine, and in other rural communities across Canada. They would then hear feedback from the mayors who are trying to maintain the infrastructure within their ridings and yet it is far more costly, far more time demanding and requires more resources because the way in which the Fisheries Act is currently written is employed within small rural communities.

I believe the fisheries minister has his focus right, which is focusing on Canada's fish stock and fish resources and ensuring that we do whatever is possible to protect those resources without compromising what our rural municipalities are trying to achieve.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Portage—Lisgar Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I just got off the phone half an hour ago with one of my constituents, Doug Dobrowolski, who is a farmer, a businessman and the president of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities. He represents hundreds of mayors, reeves and councillors who have been asking our government, since I have been elected and before that, to change the Fisheries Act in order that it is not punitive to small towns and farmers who are trying to dig ditches and culverts.

It seems that the opposition is always ignoring the needs of rural Canada and putting its needs first. I think it is time that we all realize that we can balance the interests of rural Canadians, protect our fish habitat and do what is good for the country and good for the economy. Would my hon. colleague comment on that?

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to comment on that because my colleague is absolutely right. I am from a rural riding myself. My mayors for the past six years have been pressuring me on the difficulties and the challenges they face in maintaining rural infrastructure. What my colleague just said in terms of a discussion that she has had with one of her mayors, it is the same discussion I am having with my mayors. They are asking us to simply find a balance that would allow them to fulfill their responsibilities in a cost-effective and time-effective manner. I believe that this review of the Fisheries Act conducted by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is exactly what Canada needs.

Motions in AmendmentJobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to be able to say that I am pleased to be rising in this House, but that would not be entirely true given our current topic of debate, which is, of course, Bill C-38, the budget implementation bill.

I have heard Conservative members say again and again, and even a moment ago, in the House, in committees and during the first debates we held, that this bill is a marvel and absolutely must be passed for the sake of prosperity, jobs and so on. As a member of the Standing Committee on Finance and the official opposition’s assistant finance critic, I can tell you that nothing could be further from the truth.

This is a very harmful bill. Based on our reading of it, the bill is nothing more or less than an attack on the middle class and less well-off families. It is obvious in several respects that many provisions of this bill have been inserted specifically to put downward pressure on Canadians' wages. Consequently, it is not Canadians who will benefit from it. It will probably be the business world as a whole, which will benefit from declining wages and the competition among a larger pool of unemployed or low-income individuals on which it can draw.

What are those provisions? There are a few. There is obviously division 23 of part 4, which repeals the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act. That act established wages that, as its title indicated, were fair for employees, particularly in the construction industry. There are also provisions concerning the Employment Equity Act. The bill will remove employment equity requirements and thus represents a step backward in its approach to companies doing business, that is to say subcontracting, with the government. And there is obviously the issue of employment insurance.

I know my colleagues will definitely be discussing a lot of other provisions in the bill, particularly the increase in the age of eligibility for old age security from 65 to 67, immigration issues and other questions. We have a mammoth bill on our hands, as has been noted many times in the media, but I will limit myself to those three elements for the purposes of my speech.

What people need to realize is that the budget was presented in March and it has passed, although the government would have people believe that this budget implementation bill is the budget. The budget has already passed and it was an austerity budget. With $5.2 billion in cuts, it will have a rather significant impact. Not only is it an austerity budget, but it will clearly have recessionary consequences.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer stated his opinion in that regard and other economists have confirmed his opinion. This shows that the direction this government is taking will prevent us from reaching our economic growth potential, which could help us create many jobs. This austerity budget, which has been criticized by two major rating agencies, Fitch and Moody's, represents a huge economic blow delivered by this government to Quebec and Canadian companies.

Based on his own modelling, the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that this budget could possibly cost more than 100,000 jobs by 2015-16, although those jobs can be saved if we are really careful, given that we are currently in a period of economic uncertainty. However, we are not Greece or any of the other countries currently affected by the crisis in Europe. Our reality is altogether different. Yes, we are experiencing some economic uncertainty and we need to be careful, but on the other hand, our problem is quite different from that in Europe.

I find employment insurance very interesting. I know that I only have a minute, but I could probably talk much more about this topic. So, that is a problem. I have spoken with many of my constituents, and those who are most affected are not necessarily the employees themselves—although they will be affected—but it will be the employers. For them, seasonal work is a reality. They have no other choice. That is the case with controlled harvesting zones or with companies that must shut down two or three months out of the year for various reasons, such as that cabinetmaking company in Saint-Jean-de-Dieu. These people fear losing their workforce. A business owner was even worried about the fact that she might have to pay employees to do nothing for two or three months in order to keep them.

I will stop here for now, and I will continue my speech about employment insurance later.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives tried to seduce Quebeckers by making promises about an open federalism that would respect their differences. But now, the only federalism Quebeckers are seeing is fraught with contempt and arrogance.

The Conservatives with Bill C-38 are like pyromaniacs with a can of gas. They are torching relations with Quebec, in particular by exempting major banks from consumer protection requirements; trampling on the Kyoto protocol; reducing health care funding even though our population is aging; and proposing employment insurance reforms that, quite frankly, will harshly penalize workers, employers and the regions of Quebec.

While the Government of Quebec is stepping up its legal recourse to ensure its rights are respected, the federal government insists on saying that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. Quebeckers will not put up with being treated with contempt.

Nature ConservationStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister recently announced the creation of a new hunting and angling advisory panel, HAAP, that will provide independent advice to the Government of Canada on national issues and policies important to fish, wildlife and habitat conservation in Canada.

It is made up of representatives from provincial and territorial hunting and angling associations and conservation organizations.

As co-chair of the all-party outdoors caucus, I am pleased to see HAAP become a reality. The outdoors caucus strives to promote fishing, hunting, trapping and sport shooting as safe and healthy outdoor heritage activities. HAAP will help to increase awareness of the economic importance of Canada's outdoor heritage while ensuring that government decisions on matters such as wetland protection, endangered species and nature conservation are based on sound, balanced advice.

In my riding of Yorkton—Melville, where there is an abundance of wetlands and wildlife, HAAP is welcome news, and I am very “HAAPy” that this government has pushed ahead with this important conservation initiative.

YouthStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel NDP Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, in recent weeks, I have had the pleasure of meeting hundreds of young people in my constituency, young people who have distinguished themselves through their excellence, their leadership and their involvement in our communities.

I applaud the 75 young people from all over Quebec who took part in the Sommet québécois Rio+20 de la jeunesse that was held at Collège Saint-Joseph in Hull. The statement they developed together will be presented to the Earth Summit in Brazil at the end of June.

Their statement offers solutions for the present and future challenges faced by our planet and lists the values that they wish to see Canada support at the summit.

I would also like to congratulate the winners and the nominees recognized at the awards gala of the Réseau du Sport étudiant du Québec en Outaouais. The personal commitment of these student athletes is outstanding.

Young people are the future of our country. By getting them involved in our communities, we help to shape the leaders of tomorrow.

Tax Incentives for Charitable DonationsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, charities are vital to the well-being of our society, and all members of Parliament can attest to the positive impact charities have in each of our communities.

I believe it is important that our government work closely with charities and collaborate with national organizations such as Imagine Canada and Community Foundations of Canada to ensure that the charitable sector continues to be effective and sustainable and responsive to our changing society.

As a result of my private member's motion, the finance committee is engaged in a study of the charitable sector, looking at ways to motivate increased giving. Witnesses are providing insight into the challenges faced by the sector and offering innovative ideas to capitalize on future opportunities.

I look forward to seeing the results of this important study and to advancing our collective efforts to build a more caring and compassionate society.

Animal ProtectionStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, it is disturbing to read stories about animal abuse in Canada.

Animals are, for millions of Canadians, an essential component of family life, forming special bonds that are valued and endearing.

Whether it is a seeing eye dog or a German shepherd providing services to our military and police forces, animals are valuable, loyal and dedicated. What they ask for in return is little.

Just recently we have learned how important dogs have become in support of our returning veterans, providing many of them with companionship in difficult times.

Former MP Mark Holland and the hon. member for Vancouver Centre have both attempted to strengthen animal protections by introducing legislation that would modernize laws against intentional cruelty and neglect.

Parliament must do more to protect animals.

I want to recognize community workers and humane societies throughout Canada, including Kelly Mullaly from the P.E.I. Humane Society, for giving a voice to animals.

100th Anniversary CelebrationsStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce that three communities, Avonlea, Briercrest and the Rural Municipality of Baildon, will celebrate their 100th anniversary this summer. They deserve to be proud of their progress since the first settlers broke ground, planted their first crops and made their homes adjacent to the railroad.

Hundreds of residents and visitors are expected to gather over the Canada Day weekend in Avonlea and Briercrest. Residents of Baildon will celebrate on August 4. Community volunteers are to be commended for their efforts in putting together these celebrations, which promise to be events to be remembered. It is truly the passion of residents that makes small communities a great place to live and visit.

I offer my congratulations to the residents of Avonlea, Briercrest and the Rural Municipality of Baildon for reaching this milestone and wish them all the best over the next 100 years. I ask all members of the House to wish these communities a very special 100th birthday.

PovertyStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow, dozens of Rosemont residents will meet to work together to change their neighbourhood. They will set up committees with representatives from community organizations to work on the seven priorities determined by the whole neighbourhood during an extraordinary citizen action process. A similar process is also taking place in La Petite-Patrie. On May 12, the Rosemont community development corporation held a major social forum.

I would like to inform members of the House that the hundreds of people who participated in the forum identified two main priorities: housing and food security.

The fact is that, in Rosemont, a central Montreal neighbourhood, hundreds of families do not have access to decent housing and rely on food banks. The people have made it clear that fighting poverty is a priority.

As a New Democrat, I am in full agreement with their view. Ensuring that every person in Canada has access to healthful food and decent housing is an urgent matter.

Budget Implementation ActStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, conservationists, not just Conservatives, are supporting Bill C-38, the budget implementation act.

First, the bill would eliminate needless duplication of proceedings by government. The targeted inefficiencies include overlapping reviews by federal and provincial governments that do nothing to protect fisheries but interfere with jobs and economic growth.

Second, the bill would correct problems with the current habitat protection program: by clearing up uncertainty; defining more clearly what “important habitat” is; and focusing resources of the fisheries department on areas about which Canadians really care. The bill would address these faults with clearer definitions of fish habitat and stiffer penalties for offenders. The bill would also grant the minister increased flexibility to respond to the particular needs of each province.

As we approach Canada Day, I am grateful to live in the most beautiful place on earth, with such abundant resources and people who care so passionately about the legacy, environmental and economic, that we are committed to leave to our children.

National Blood Donor WeekStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Terence Young Conservative Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commemorate National Blood Donor Week, which is taking place between June 11 and 17. This annual event recognizes the valuable contributions of Canadian blood donors to the health and well-being of us all.

Every minute of every day a Canadian requires a blood transfusion. An estimated 52% of Canadians have indicated that either they or a family member has required a blood transfusion. These statistics underline the need to give thanks and appreciation to Canadians who take the time to donate their blood to anonymous strangers. Additionally, Canadian Blood Services also provides blood for members of our Canadian Forces serving overseas.

I hope this week will encourage many more Canadians to donate blood and promote awareness of this noble practice to their friends, families and colleagues.

On behalf of my constituents in Oakville and the Government of Canada, I wish Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec a successful blood drive and increased awareness on the occasion of this year's National Blood Donor Week.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday marked the opening of the Baie-des-Brises nature preserve in Saint-Stanislas-de-Kostka, in my riding. Thanks to the efforts of the Centre d'intendance écologique Latreille, and specifically its founder, Dr. Jean-Marie Latreille, this reserve will act as a purifier for the water of Lac Saint-François and will protect the ecosystem that helps preserve the quality of the water in the lake and the water table.

Now more than ever, we need to mobilize Canadians to protect our rivers, lakes and streams because this government has weakened all the environmental protection measures.

The government is eliminating the protection of habitats covered under the Fisheries Act, limiting the number of waterways protected by that same act and by the Species at Risk Act. It is repealing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which will make even more areas vulnerable and will give the minister the authority to make decisions on oil pipeline projects.

For every step forward for environmental protection, this Conservative government takes four steps back.

Fortunately, there is hope with people like Dr. Latreille, who believe in the need to preserve nature's beauty and benefits for future generations.

BurmaStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Conservative Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada is concerned by reports of violence in Rakhine state in western Burma, where a state of emergency was declared this past weekend.

We condemn the attacks and call on all sides to work toward a peaceful solution to this conflict. We urge security forces to protect the rights and safety of all concerned and to facilitate access by humanitarian organizations wherever assistance is needed.

Canada has consistently called for peace and reconciliation in Burma.

In light of the most recent events, Canada has updated its advice to travellers wanting to visit Burma and is now asking them to avoid all non-essential travel to Rakhine State. Canadians in Burma can get consular assistance from the Australian embassy in Rangoon or the Canadian embassy in Bangkok, Thailand.

City of Saint-EustacheStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, 40 years ago, in 1972, the city and parish of Saint-Eustache amalgamated to become a single entity.

In order to acknowledge the important contribution made by the seniors of Saint-Eustache, a founders ball is being planned for August 25.

I would like to congratulate Johanne Dupuis of the Les Cours du Moulin retirement residence and the city's community leadership service on this wonderful initiative to highlight our heritage.

The first mayor of the amalgamated city, Guy Bélisle, will lead the celebration, which will also serve as a fundraiser for the Fondation Émile-Z-Laviolette, a foundation that supports various anti-poverty organizations in the Deux-Montagnes RCM.

The people of Saint-Eustache are fortunate to live in a city that is so rich in culture and history.

I invite all my constituents to take part in this event in order to pay tribute to the founders of Saint-Eustache and to celebrate our city.

Yad Vashem Holocaust MuseumStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express the Canadian government's solidarity with the people of Israel and the Jewish community around the world after this morning's reports of vandalism at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

The Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum is dedicated to the commemoration of the six million Jews murdered during World War II.

The mission of Yad Vashem is in line with our government's belief in the importance of Holocaust education and dedication to speaking out against anti-Semitism. Holocaust education helps ensure such atrocities never reoccur.

An important expression of Canada's dedication to Holocaust education is our involvement with the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, which we will proudly chair in 2013.

Canada is committed to teaching future generations about the Holocaust, about the poisonous effects of anti-Semitic and xenophobic hatred and about the prevention of all acts of genocide.

Ontario Veterinary CollegeStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, founded in 1862 by Andrew Smith, the Ontario Veterinary College is the oldest veterinary college in North America and celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. Originally located in Toronto, it relocated to its present home in 1922 and was a founding college of the University of Guelph in 1964.

The college was initially founded to train and assist people in Upper Canada who were responsible for horses. Now it has grown to become an international leader in veterinary health care, learning and research.

The OVC is a cornerstone of the community in Guelph. More than a landmark physical institution, it has been the home for the past 150 years to thousands of men and women who have gone on to graduate and spread out across Canada and the world to improve the health and welfare of animals, ensure the safety of the food we eat and assist in the protection of our environment.

I am certain that 150 years from now, Guelphites will reflect on the ever-increasing and important role the Ontario Veterinary College will have played on its 300th anniversary.

EuropeStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Mr. Speaker, Conservatives reject NDP and Liberal calls to use Canadian taxpayer money to bail Europe out of its debt crisis. The opposition needs to explain to Canadians why their hard-earned money should go to the IMF to bail out European countries that have borrowed to the brink.

Economic experts agree. Professor Stephen Gordon, one of Canada's preeminent economists, said that the Prime Minister was right to dismiss the IMF's calls for Canadians to fund the bailout. Harvard's Ken Rogoff, a former IMF economist, agrees Canada should not participate in an IMF bailout.

Unlike the opposition, our Conservative government will not adopt the same fiscally reckless policies that exacerbated the debt crisis in Europe. We have a plan to balance our books, while securing the long-term prosperity of our country. Indeed, Canada's economy is creating jobs and is home to one of the world's most stable financial sectors.

Canadian taxpayers should not be penalized by debt-focused fiscal policies of European countries. They should not be on the hook for Europe's unsustainable accumulation of debt. This is Europe's debt problem and it needs to fix it.

The BudgetStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, a budget bill is not a catch-all that the government can stuff with whatever it wants. Yet the Conservatives' Trojan Horse makes cuts everywhere: employment insurance, fisheries, pensions, science, the environment, immigration, and the list goes on.

No one is safe when the Conservatives get out their chainsaw. But the people of this country are not fools. They see everything the government is trying to make them swallow in this ill-considered bill. They hear bones cracking when the Prime Minister twists his backbenchers' arms to make them accept the unacceptable. And most importantly, they know that more and more of their fellow Canadians from one end of the country to the other feel that the Conservatives are going too far, that they are trying to pull the wool over Canadians' eyes with this shoddy, hasty process, and that enough is enough.

They that sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind, and the whirlwind is upon them.

When Conservative premiers, former Conservative ministers and even Conservative backbenchers all voice their opposition to a bill, this government is clearly going in the wrong direction.

This irresponsible government does not seem to realize that this whirlwind could turn into a hurricane that will cost it dearly in 2015.

Organ DonationStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, late last year the House engaged in a debate regarding organ donation. Today, more than six months later, there are still about 4,000 Canadians in need of an organ transplant.

Last year I shared how Betty's final gift saved five lives. We discussed this last year after our friend Garry Kellar shared publicly his need for a new kidney.

I am pleased to inform the House that our prayers were answered. Last week Garry received a new kidney from a live donor. He is recovering well and maintains his sense of humour.

I challenge hon. members to encourage their constituents to register as organ donors. In Ontario, people can register at beadonor.ca.

On behalf of the House, on behalf of Garry and his wife Anna and on behalf of the 4,000 Canadians still in need of a transplant, I thank the donor who saved Garry and all Canadians who have taken the time to discuss organ donation with their loved ones. God bless them all.

The BudgetOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' Trojan Horse budget will slash vital public services that Canadians rely on: food inspections, border security, research and development, housing, health care, employment insurance, old age security. The list goes on and on.

The Conservatives cannot even tell Parliament the details of their own proposals or how much they will cost. If the Conservatives are so proud of all these cuts, why are they hiding them? Why are they ramming them through? If they are so good, why not study them?

The BudgetOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, our government has been focused on the economy and on job creation, and doing that in the short term and the long term. As a result of our economic action plans, consistently opposed by the NDP, we have delivered for Canadians over 760,000 net new jobs so far.

Economic action plan 2012 continues on that path. It is a comprehensive plan to ensure our economic security through job creation, economic growth and indeed through balancing the budget so that we do not go down the path that we see in Europe, where the hon. Leader of the Opposition is suggesting we send Canadians' billions in order to bailout Spanish and Greek banks.

The BudgetOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I will say it every time. That is an utter fabulation.

In addition to all of these cuts and services to the public, Conservatives are carrying out an unprecedented attack on oversight and accountability in all sectors, slashing environmental assessments, gutting the Fisheries Act, cutting back on air safety, weakening foreign ownership rules, scrapping the Inspector General for CSIS, eliminating oversight by the Auditor General and deep-sixing their own Accountability Act.

This is not the agenda the Conservatives campaigned on last year. Is that why the Conservatives are trying so hard to make sure Canadians do not see what is in the budget?

The BudgetOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what the words “utter fabulation” mean. I guess it means “I do not remember what I said last week”, because last week the leader of the NDP said in this House in a question to me:

At the G20 meeting in April the Minister of Finance led the effort to block an international plan to resolve the European economic crisis. He told European countries “to step up to the plate” and fix the problem on their own, as if our fate were not intimately connected to theirs....

He then asked when we would come up with a plan.

He wants us to send billions to bailout Spanish banks, to bailout Greek banks. We believe that our answers for the economy here via the economic action plan 2012 are delivering for Canadians right here in Canada, not Spanish banks.

The BudgetOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, our fate is intimately tied to what happens in Europe. We are not Fortress Canuck.

When the Conservatives withdrew Canada's application for membership in the Security Council, they did not withdraw it because they were afraid we would lose. They withdrew it because they knew we would be humiliated at the UN. The Canada they are projecting onto the world stage is unrecognizable to Canadians and unrecognizable to the world. That is the shame of the Conservatives.

The reality is also that there is a drift away from democracy. The government has imposed 30 gag orders.

Why prevent a study of the mammoth bill?

The BudgetOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, the Canada that we are projecting onto the world stage is that of an economic leader, a leader among developed countries. It is a country that has the lowest deficit of any of those major countries because we have taken measures here, and we will continue to balance our budget in economic action plan 2012. It is a country that has posted stronger economic growth and stronger job creation growth than any of those European economies because of the measures we have taken here.

The member opposes those measures. He wants to substitute sending billions over to Europe for those measures.

I appreciate he sees we are interconnected. I think the best way for us to help out the global economy is by ensuring the Canadian economy remains strong, not by sending our tax dollars abroad where good money is going after bad.

The BudgetOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, in light of the growing economic concerns around the world, the Conservatives have chosen to present a Trojan Horse that attacks employment insurance, old age security and the environment. None of the bill's measures deal with growth.

The economic measures in Bill C-38 could have been adopted already if the Conservatives had agreed to split the bill. But in these times of uncertainty, they prefer Euro-bashing and cutting services.

How will this help the economy?

The BudgetOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member would read the bill, she would learn that there is a hiring credit for small business, for example, that we are extending, which is vitally important for business across the country. That is a matter that is in the budget implementation act. It has direct economic consequences. It means jobs. It means people who are unemployed will become employed.

This is the bill that the opposition, the NDP opposition, wants to delay.

The BudgetOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are six times more cuts than job creation measures in this budget.

When faced with an economic crisis in 2008, the Minister of Finance tried to deny the crisis, and he brought forward a budget that dramatically cut spending, attacked collective bargaining rights and destroyed pay equity. The only thing that stopped Conservatives was a threat of losing their jobs.

With today's shaky world economy, why is the minister so hell-bent on a budget that does nothing to help growth, but instead cuts services and creates austerity, services that Canadians rely on?

The BudgetOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite wants to see austerity, then the member ought to look at the United Kingdom and other European countries. Because, quite frankly, of their failure to promote economic growth and their failure to achieve surpluses and balanced budgets over time, they are in the difficult situation, the crisis, they are in today.

We in Canada do not want to go to that place. We want to stay on track, stay on the economic action plan. We do not propose sending billions of Canadian tax dollars to Europe to support European banks, unlike the Leader of the Opposition.

The EconomyOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance knows full well that any Canadian transfer to the IMF is not a tax transfer, it is not an expenditure transfer, it goes on our books as an asset, and the Minister of Finance knows that perfectly well.

The EconomyOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

The EconomyOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. Order, please. The hon. member for Toronto Centre has the floor.

The EconomyOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it may be a convenient cartoon for the Minister of Finance to say that anybody is suggesting transferring Canadian tax dollars to European banks. Nobody is suggesting that.

I would just like to ask the Minister of Finance: What makes him think for a moment that Canada is, in fact, the island that he talked about on June 7?

The EconomyOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, we are an island of stability because we have been posting stronger job growth and economic growth numbers and lower deficit numbers than others, but the Liberal leader is conveniently leaving out the fact that his own party is arguing that it should also join the Leader of the Opposition and have us send money abroad.

In fact, the member for Markham—Unionville said the following about the Spanish bank bailout:

Well I believe Canada should make a contribution. ...Canada should contribute its share to this process.

...this is a question of putting massive funds into the scene.

With the greatest of respect, we do not agree. That might be the kind of approach that worked in Ontario to get them into one of the deepest debts ever, under the leadership of that member. We will not do it here in Ottawa.

The EconomyOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, what has just been spoken reminds me very much of a distinguished Conservative predecessor of his, Neville Chamberlain, who said in 1938 at the time of Munich:

How horrible, fantastic, and incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas masks here because of a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing.

That is the kind of isolationism—

The EconomyOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

The EconomyOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. Order, please. The hon. government House leader.

The EconomyOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, in Canada's engagement in the globe on the economy, we have actually been leaders. We have been leaders through the G20 process, where the Prime Minister has led the way on preaching the importance of resisting protectionist measures, the kind of measures that member used to embrace when he was a member of the NDP, in resisting measures to see greater debt and in fact encouraging G20 commitments to see all governments work toward balanced budgets.

We see the importance of that, and the fact that Canada has been a leader in that is the reason why we have been performing better than others, the reason why we have more resources to focus on the Canadian economy to create jobs and growth here for Canadians for the future.

The EconomyOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the sad reality is that the government has not been a leader in creating the new international—global—financial architecture that is needed to deal with the problems. There are no small problems in the world. We know very well that economic and financial viruses can travel from one country to another. No country is isolated, and it is ridiculous to say that Canada is an island in the world. Canada is involved in the world, and the government must start to realize that.

The EconomyOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, when one looks at the track record of that member when he actually had a chance to govern, as he did in Ontario, one will see why we reject that approach to economic policy. When he was Premier of Ontario, he raised taxes some 32 times. That would kill jobs in Canada. He put Ontario on the track to record deficits of $10 billion, $12 billion, $11 billion, year after year, the highest ever in Ontario history. Of course, under his leadership, we saw that Ontario went to 10.9% unemployment, a stark contrast to our record of creating jobs to the tune of three-quarters of a million since—

The EconomyOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. Let us have a bit of order. The hon. member for Hamilton Mountain.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative record for workers is abysmal, attacking seasonal workers, temporary foreign workers and construction workers, and the worst is yet to come. The Conservatives' omnibus budget bill would give the minister carte blanche to make unilateral changes to employment insurance. If we cannot even trust the Conservatives with public legislation, how on earth can we trust them behind closed doors?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, one thing we know we cannot trust is the NDP when it comes to creating jobs for Canadian workers. Every single thing we have brought in to help those who have been laid off to get new jobs and keep those jobs, and to support them while they are looking for jobs, the NDP members have voted against.

We introduced a tax EI credit for small businesses to create jobs. The NDP members voted against that. We are trying to help Canadians get back to work by connecting them with jobs that are available in their areas, and the NDP members are voting against it. Why will they not stand up for Canadian workers?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister sure seems proud of an embarrassing record. However, she forgets two key facts. One, we will always vote against Conservative budgets that do not get the job done. Two, EI belongs to the workers who paid into it, not to that minister.

The minister refuses to meet with Canadians, listen to their representatives or hold any consultations outside the PMO. Will the minister stop using the budget bill to give herself new powers to undermine EI?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, that is utter fabrication. I and many of my colleagues have met with Canadians right across the country. We have listened and we have heard. People want help getting back to work. They want to make their families better off. Employers right across the country are looking for workers who quite often are discouraged from working because of the current structure of the EI system. We are changing that because we want these workers to have better access to jobs, so that they are better off, their families are better off and their employers are better off. That makes the country better off all round.

PensionsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, the unemployed are not the only ones in the crosshairs of this budget implementation bill. In clause 447, the government is raising the old age security eligibility age, effectively stealing money from seniors. These few lines will deny millions of workers access to a social program that they are entitled to. When one is not proud of what one is doing, one tries to hide it. It looks as though that is what the Conservatives are trying to do.

Does the minister not think that such changes merit in-depth study rather than a mere mention in such a gigantic budget bill?

PensionsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, we want old age security to be there for today's seniors and for future generations. We are changing the program to keep it sustainable. Nothing will change for people who are already receiving benefits. We will begin to gradually raise the retirement age in 2023 to ensure that the program remains available to all Canadians who need it.

PensionsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, we understand that the minister is trying to justify the government's actions, but we would also like her to try to answer the question.

If the Conservatives are so bent on destroying old age security, they could have introduced a separate bill and taken the time to explain to MPs and seniors advocacy groups why they want to steal their money. At the very least they should have analyzed these changes thoroughly and publicly instead of hiding them in the middle of a 425-page bill. Old age security is too important a part of our social safety net to be sabotaged so negligently.

Does this government realize how irresponsible its approach is?

PensionsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, the old age security system is very important to us. It is one of the foundations of the social security system for our seniors. That is why we want to safeguard it, which means gradually increasing the eligibility age from 65 to 67, starting in 2023. In addition, we are going to give seniors the choice of receiving more money if they want to wait longer for it. They will have that choice.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, this budget bill will allow mining and pipeline projects to move forward without proper consultation. The Conservatives are reducing the right to participate in environmental assessments, limiting that privilege to those directly affected. The minister refuses to clarify what that means.

Who is affected when a pipeline starts leaking? Is it just those who share the minister's opinion?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, the NDP members need to quit making things up. The public is well aware that we are focusing on making the review process far more predictable and timely. They know that we are trying to reduce duplication and regulatory overlap. They know that we are working to strengthen environmental protection. They know that we are enhancing consultations with aboriginal people.

The NDP needs to get on side with us and support the bill, rather than trying to delay it and opposing it at every turn.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, as the Parliamentary Secretary knows, we only get one chance to do these projects right. Future generations are going to pay for today's mistakes. Instead of allowing a study of the bill, the Conservatives have rammed through sweeping changes to environmental protection. In one clause Conservatives create an entirely new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Now cabinet gets to overrule decisions from the National Energy Board. Politicians will decide, so there is no need for science or research or evidence.

Will the Conservatives stop their power grab and work with us to find a reasonable compromise?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, reasonable compromise was months of consultations prior to the budget coming down. It was 50 hours of consultations and hearings at the finance committee and 20 more hours of hearings at the special committee set up to study these very things. The critic herself chose not to attend most of those committee meetings after she had taken a slot on the committee, so she should not be giving us a lecture about listening to Canadians.

We have heard from Canadians. They support this budget. They want to go ahead with it. They want jobs and economic prosperity in our country, and we aim to provide that for them.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, this weekend for the first time every Inuit publicly protested. They wanted to draw Canadians' attention to the high prices for food in Nunavut and across the north: $15 for a small bag of apples and the same for a 2-litre carton of milk.

After Conservatives replaced the food mail program with the nutrition north program, people saw their food budgets increase. Will the Conservatives admit the nutrition north program needs fixing and find a way to correct their mistakes?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Kenora Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question. Of course we are committed to providing northerners with safe, secure and healthy food choices at affordable prices at the point of purchase in their communities. In consultation with northerners, retailers and suppliers, we created an advisory board made up of northerners to take stakeholders' concerns and provide recommendations to the government as this program develops. We have northerners' concerns in mind, which is why we even support safe and secure traditional foods, and important items like baby food and formula are subsidized.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, that just does not cut it. The Conservatives have boasted for years about their northern strategy and have promised investments to promote social development in the north, but on one of the most fundamental aspects, food, their approach is failing Canadians who live in these remote communities.

The problem with nutrition north is that while subsidies were supposed to help food prices go down, consumers have no idea where the savings are. Will the Conservatives commit to making the program more transparent?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Kenora Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, if the member actually had isolated and remote communities in her riding, as I do—more than 25—she would know that at the point of purchase, there are savings on many kinds of healthy food. Nutrition north is bringing fresh, healthy food to northern homes. The program allows for a new, market-driven model that is sustainable, efficient, cost-effective and transparent. It means bringing safe, secure and healthy food to northerners at affordable prices.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, last month, I met with the UN special rapporteur to discuss the outrageous and prohibitive food prices in communities like Kashechewan, Attawapiskat and Fort Albany. The health minister had a chance to show real leadership, but instead she led this embarrassing attack on the United Nations. The government knows to ship Timbits to Kandahar but has no idea about how to get fresh milk to Attawapiskat.

It is a simple question. Instead of attacking the United Nations, will the minister stand to admit that she has blown this file and that the government has no plan to help communities in the Far North?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Kenora Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, northerners asked for a program that focused on healthy foods and traditional foods and on making them safe, secure and affordable at the point of purchase, which is a major renovation from the food mail program. We did consult--

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please.

The hon. parliamentary secretary has the floor. I would like to hear him finish the answer.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

I thank you, Mr. Speaker, as my colleagues here do.

Mr. Speaker, we have continued listening through the advisory board made up of northerners and we are implementing changes based upon what they have heard. This is an ongoing process.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I suppose we were a bit hasty in complimenting the government on its shipbuilding strategy.

To go along with other botched procurements in this decade of doofus, including the F-35s, the fixed-wing search and rescue, the military vehicles, the close combat vehicles, the Chinooks, we now learn that the shipbuilding plan is both behind schedule and over budget.

Does this mean we are going to have another seven-point plan administered by the three blind mice and the minister of gazebos?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Edmonton—Spruce Grove Alberta

Conservative

Rona Ambrose ConservativeMinister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, our government is very proud of the fact that we have committed to building our ships here in Canada for the Navy and Coast Guard. We know that our national shipbuilding strategy means long-term jobs and investment in the shipbuilding industry and will create more than 75 million person-hours of work for the Canadian shipbuilding industry.

This is a long-term industrial strategy. I have every confidence that Irving and Seaspan will work with the Coast Guard and the Navy to implement these projects on time and on budget. For our part, we will be providing oversight.

EthicsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and chief government ethics spokesperson continues to be under active investigation and is facing the highest personal penalties in the Canada Elections Act.

Now he says he has the records that will explain it all. What is he waiting for? When will he release them?

If the parliamentary secretary needs more time to focus on his own ethical mess, will the Prime Minister do him a favour and relieve him of his duties as the government's ethically challenged ethics spokesperson?

EthicsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has already submitted all of the relevant documents to Elections Canada. That was almost four years ago. They were audited and approved by that agency at that time. Now we have unproven allegations by the opposition, which is just trying to distract from the fact that its own finance spokesman came out over the weekend and said that he wanted to take “massive” quantities of Canadian tax dollars and send them over to Europe at a time when this government is focused on creating jobs and building our economy here at home.

EthicsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary is one of a long list with government denials that do not add up.

In the 2006 in-and-out scandal, the previous parliamentary secretary, the one who just answered, spent years denying guilt. However, the Conservatives had to own up and paid $300,000 for election fraud—

EthicsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

EthicsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. There is still far too much noise.

The hon. member for Malpeque has the floor.

EthicsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

--and now, for the 2008 campaign, the current parliamentary secretary is himself being investigated for election fraud.

I ask the public security minister: has the RCMP been called in?

EthicsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, this is coming from a member of Parliament who tried to claim rent money from the taxpayers, money to which he was not even entitled, and then kept it secret.

We are used to that side of the House throwing rocks when they live in glass houses. However, if they are going to live in a glass house, at least they should pay rent to live there.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, at a time when the Conservatives are stealing money from the unemployed and seniors by cutting employment insurance and old age security, spending at the Department of National Defence has increased by $4 billion over the past year.

The President of the Treasury Board had asked all departments to reduce their spending, but the Minister of National Defence took the opportunity to increase spending, despite the F-35 fiasco, which does not even factor into this equation.

How does the Minister of National Defence, with his creative accounting, explain going over budget by $4 billion?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, what I do know is that the Department of National Defence has enjoyed a billion-dollar increase in our budget, thanks to the support of the Minister of Finance and our Prime Minister. That has allowed us to embark on new procurements. It has allowed us to put new programming in place to support our men and women in uniform.

The department's spending is reported through public accounts that are tabled in the fall. The public accounts will reflect those year-by-year adjustments.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, a whopping $3.8 billion was reportedly spent in one month alone. The minister's talking points do not explain the 55% hike in his department's March madness spending. At the same time, a majority of shipbuilding projects are being pushed back, with a three-year delay expected in the delivery of ships for the Arctic.

Managing things properly, on time and on budget is out the window with the Conservatives. What concrete measures will the minister be taking to reign in the out-of-control spending in his department?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, as I just said, the public accounts will reflect the year-end adjustments.

Also, The Fiscal Monitor is produced by the Department of Finance and reported on an accrual basis, not actual spending. Although the final expenditures will not be available until the fall of 2012 and cannot be released until tabled in Parliament, it is expected that the department's accrual expenditures will be similar to those in fiscal 2010-11.

I do know that we are not going to take advice from the no-defence party, which opposes everything we spend on the military.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, we hear the minister's comments, but what we want and what Canadians expect is for the government to keep its promises.

Shipyards have been selected for the national shipbuilding strategy, but no contracts have been signed. Meanwhile, spending is out of control, and we still have returning soldiers struggling with mental health issues and lacking adequate support.

Can the minister gain control of his department to make sure priorities are met and our soldiers are looked after?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the answer is, of course, yes. We are making major investments across the board in procurement, base improvements and programs that support the military, their families and veterans.

The ironic thing about the question from the member opposite is that when we make these investments, in every case he and his colleagues in the no-defence party stand up and oppose those measures. There is one word for the member opposite, and that is “hypocrite”.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, those were three opportunities for the Minister of National Defence to account for almost $4 billion of spending in one month alone. He failed three times, and this after being advised that the Canada first defence strategy—by his own department, I would add—is unaffordable. Now even shipbuilding threatens to blow the bank, but the minister, undeterred, treats defence procurement like his own personal shopping spree.

Will the minister put down the catalogue and present a new, prudent defence strategy, including the required equipment that will serve our troops as they serve to protect us?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, how ironic and how sad that the member opposite would suggest that military procurement, investments in our brave men and women and investments in our returning soldiers who need treatment that they and their families benefit from somehow depend on a catalogue.

What we are doing is investing in these programs, procurements, and people who need that support. That party and that member continually oppose those investments, to the detriment of the men and women in uniform.

The EconomyOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am encouraged by the agreement concluded this weekend among members of the eurozone to stabilize the Spanish banking system. These small steps are the kinds of measures that Europeans must undertake to move their economies forward.

Can the Minister of Finance please comment on the situation in Europe as we head into next week's G20 summit in Mexico?

The EconomyOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, we are encouraged to see Europe taking steps to tackle the ongoing challenges with respect to sovereign indebtedness and with respect to undercapitalization of the banks. We have consistently urged our European allies to do so. Europe has the resources to do this and we applaud it for the announced measure. We look forward to the timely implementation of this next action in Europe.

In contrast, of course, we will not be advocating for the use of Canadian tax resources to bail out European banks, unlike the NDP.

Fisheries and OceansOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, despite widespread opposition, the fisheries minister is stubbornly moving ahead with his threat to scrap fleet separation.

An independent fishery once flourished on the west coast but then owner-operator rules were removed and the industry is now dominated by large corporate interests. This is the future fleet devastation that awaits the east coast fishery.

Will the minister stand up for an independent east coast fishery and withdraw his reckless plan to eliminate fleet separation?

Fisheries and OceansOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick

Conservative

Keith Ashfield ConservativeMinister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, apparently the member opposite has a crystal ball that I do not have. There is no mention in the BIA about fleet separation or anything else.

I consulted with the fishermen and asked for their feedback on what they perceived as possible solutions to improving the fishery. Obviously, I got some feedback in that regard and I am carefully considering all of the feedback that I have received.

Fisheries and OceansOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I can understand the minister not telling us what is going on. He has not talked to the fishers or the communities that will be affected by his cuts.

We now learn that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will no longer be enforcing the tagging of lobsters, which will have a devastating impact on the ability of the industry to conserve lobster stocks into the future.

When will the minister recognize that he is going down a reckless path and start consulting with fishermen? When will he recognize that this is the time to make some changes?

Fisheries and OceansOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick

Conservative

Keith Ashfield ConservativeMinister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for admitting that his party is prepared for change when it comes to modernizing the fishery.

I tend to think that the NDP makes up questions on the go. I have no idea what the member is talking about when he talks about eliminating the tagging of lobster.

Fisheries and OceansOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has proven once again that he has no desire to protect fish habitat or listen to people from the fishing communities.

After his devastating cuts that eliminated contaminants surveillance, weakened marine safety and eliminated six regional offices, the minister is now warning us that there are more cuts to come. The fishery is one of our national industries.

Why is the minister refusing to tell Canadians what essential services will be cut next?

Fisheries and OceansOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick

Conservative

Keith Ashfield ConservativeMinister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about close to 11,000 employees in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. We have sent out 1,000 letters of notification that jobs may be affected, which will probably net out to 400 jobs, just slightly over 3% of the total employment in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which can easily be handled through attrition.

Fisheries and OceansOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, frankly, this minister is not giving us any answers, is not being transparent in any way and is not taking any responsibility. The fishing communities deserve better.

Things are going from bad to worse. He is not only dismantling his department, but he is also threatening the survival of independent fishers with his irresponsible policies. Atlantic fishers have been clear: fleet separation has to be maintained, but the minister is turning a deaf ear. He is not consulting our fishers.

Why is the minister insisting on attacking independent east coast fishers and favouring multi-national companies?

Fisheries and OceansOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick

Conservative

Keith Ashfield ConservativeMinister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, that one thing that I have done is consulted. The purpose of our consultation process was to hear back from people in the fishery and fishing industry as to what they thought we could do as a government to improve the fishery and improve our efficiencies to make it so fishers can actually make a living from fishing.

That is what we are doing. We are listening to people and analyzing what we have heard.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, this past weekend, Nunavummiut took to the streets to protest the high cost of food in the riding of the Minister of Health.

The minister's nutrition north has utterly and predictably failed to lower food prices for northerners.

Will the minister finally admit that food and security is a crisis, accept that nutrition north is not doing the job, start doing hers and implement concrete solutions so northerners can feed their families?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Kenora Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, in consultation with northerners, retailers and suppliers, we have created an advisory board made up of northerners to take stakeholders' concerns and provide recommendations to the government as the nutrition north program continues to develop.

Our government has entered into formal agreements with food retailers to ensure accountability and to ensure the subsidy is being passed on to consumers, which means at the point of purchase in those communities.

PovertyOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lise St-Denis Liberal Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government decided not to renew grants to a number of social organizations, claiming that they no longer meet the established criteria. But these organizations help the very people who are not eligible for the tax credits offered by the government for sports and cultural activities, the very people for whom the $1,200 offered directly to families is not enough to pay for childcare.

Why does the government only care about the most fortunate members of society?

PovertyOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, our party believes that parents are in the best position to decide how to raise their children. We therefore give them $100 a month for each child under the age of six, so that they can choose childcare that is most appropriate for their family.

We are very proud of this program and we will keep it.

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, as the Conservatives' punishing refugees act goes to the other place, the opposition to Conservative attacks on refugee health care is growing. The Canadian Medical Association and seven other national medical organizations have warned the minister that these changes could be catastrophic.

I want to ask the minister the same question that doctors who treat refugees are asking. Are we, as a country, willing to risk the health of a pregnant mother? Is this the kind of Canada the minister and the Conservatives really want?

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member asked the question because it once more reinforces that the New Democratic Party is in favour of giving extra supplementary taxpayer-funded health benefits that are not available to taxpaying Canadian citizens, and that is just wrong.

We are standing on the principle that there should be equal access to health care and that bogus asylum claimants should not be getting health benefits. They should be leaving Canada. Asylum claimants will be getting basic care but no better care than what provincial governments give to taxpaying Canadians. We stand by that.

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister knows that all of these changes to immigration will merely transfer costs to the provinces, which he refused to consult.

The most vulnerable people in the country will pay the price. The Canadian Paediatric Society has sounded the alarm. If these changes go through, a child with pneumonia may be denied access to antibiotics; a child with diabetes may be denied access to a doctor; a pregnant woman may be denied prenatal care.

Is that the kind of Canada the minister really wants?

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, our reforms will provide health insurance to resettled refugees and the vast majority of asylum seekers, but refugees will no longer receive federal health insurance that Canadian taxpayers do not receive. We believe that supplementary insurance should not be provided to asylum seekers. We believe that people should be treated fairly the same way we treat Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

FinanceOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, today is tax freedom day.

I know it deeply saddens my NDP and Liberal colleagues but today is the day when hard-working Canadians no longer have to send tax dollars into three levels of government. On this side of the House, our Conservative government believes that Canadian families should pay low taxes, and that is why, since taking office in 2006, we have taken steps to lower the tax burden on Canadian families to its lowest point in over 50 years.

Would the Minister of Finance please inform the House how much earlier tax freedom day takes place today than it did when we took office?

FinanceOral Questions

3 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, in 2005, before our government was elected, under the tax-and-spend Liberals, tax freedom day was on June 26.

Now, following over 140 tax reductions, like lowering the GST, personal taxes, business taxes, introducing the tax free savings account and much more, tax freedom day is now over two weeks earlier.

A low tax plan for the average Canadian family means a savings of $3,100 per family.

RCMPOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, for five years, the Conservatives have battled disabled veterans, including Dennis Manuge, in court to justify pension clawbacks. The disabled vets prevailed.

For the last four years, Royal Canadian Mounted Police veterans have been locked in a similar law suit against the government to stop clawbacks of their pensions. Gerald Buote from Summerside led the suit but has passed away waiting for resolution.

Will the Conservative government again throw everything at the RCMP vets to deny their legal rights or do the honourable thing and include them in the discussions arising out of the Manuge victory in the Federal Court?

RCMPOral Questions

3 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, we have been very proud of the work that we have done with the RCMP. For example, we invested over $150 million in the Depot Division in Regina to ensure that what happened under the Liberal Party does not happen again where it shut down training at Depot.

That is the party that turned its back on the RCMP. We will continue to work with the RCMP and ensure that Canadians are safe.

G20 SummitOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, a G20 planning document by the Canadian Forces listed a number of potential security threats, among them, embarrassment to the Government of Canada.

It is too bad it did not listen because that is exactly what happened. It cannot plan the largest civil security undertaking in Canadian history on the back of an envelope in four short months. The results were smashed windows, illegal arrests and a city turned upside down.

After so many G20 failures, will the government finally do something right and apologize to the people of Toronto?

G20 SummitOral Questions

3 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member would know that security decisions around the G8 and G20 summits were made by security experts, not politicians.

In fact, the members of the Canadian Forces, who supported the RCMP and the municipal and provincial police, were there to provide security for Canadians and for our international guests. This was an unprecedented period in our country's history with the G8 and G20 coming back to back.

I am very proud of the work that was done by members of the Canadian Forces.

Veterans AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government is cutting red tape to ensure our veterans receive the benefits and services they deserve more quickly.

We have already taken several steps through the cutting red tape for veterans initiative. These include reducing the paperwork and wait time for veterans, using plain language in its letters to veterans, and moving to upfront payments to veterans for certain elements of the veterans independence program.

Could the Minister of Veterans Affairs provide an update on our government's cutting red tape for veterans initiative?

Veterans AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Lévis—Bellechasse Québec

Conservative

Steven Blaney ConservativeMinister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Huron—Bruce for his support for veterans and for bringing the Helmets to Hardhats partners to the table.

This morning, I spoke to the Royal Canadian Legion in Halifax and announced a new measure to cut red tape for veterans who travel for medical purposes.

With these new measures, veterans will no longer have to submit receipts to receive the financial support they need to cover travel expenses incurred for medical appointments. Dominion president, Pat Varga, says that any change or improvement that makes the process easier for veterans is great.

I will support—

Veterans AffairsOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Trois-Rivières.

HousingOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, for a year now, the Government of Quebec and the NDP have been asking the federal government to help more than 1,000 families that have been forced to rebuild their basements because of the presence of pyrrhotite in the concrete.

Since the NDP made this request, the Conservatives have still not reviewed the federal standards on the composition of concrete and have still not provided any financial support to the families that have had to spend an average of $200,000 on repairs.

The Government of Quebec, the municipalities and even businesses have already done their share. Why are the Conservatives dragging their feet on this file?

HousingOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Quebec has set up a program to help the home owners affected by pyrrhotite.

Any home owner who needs assistance should submit an application to the Société d'habitation du Québec.

G20 SummitOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the hon. Minister of National Defence. I was surprised to hear him claim that decisions around the G20 were made by security experts.

Since the G20 for 2010 had already been planned for November in South Korea, since the Prime Minister of Canada decided to offer up Canada for a second G20 in the same year, at more or less the last minute, and since the Prime Minister decided to put it in downtown Toronto over the objections of the mayor of Toronto, what security expert dictated these decisions to the Prime Minister?

G20 SummitOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I repeat that security issues, security matters and decisions around the G8 and G20 were made by experts, not by the Prime Minister and not by politicians. They were made in close consultation among a number of departments, including Public Safety as well as the Department of National Defence. There were preparations in place for acts of possible disruption, planned violence, civil disobedience and even for some sort of terrorist attack. Those decisions are best made by experts.

Oral QuestionsPrivilegeOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a question of privilege arising from question period, the comments of the Minister of National Defence and his personal attack unleashed on me in response to a question.

On this side, we are used to the practice on the other side, which has become commonplace, of attacking the party by saying that we did not vote for a particular measure, even though we all know, as parliamentarians, that when an opposition party votes against the budget, it is a matter of confidence in the budget. We are used to that.

However, when the minister in this case launched a personal attack on me and went so far as to use unparliamentary language in his attack on me, that goes beyond even just the use of unparliamentary language, which I hope he will apologize for and withdraw, but it also goes beyond that into a personal attack on a member, suggesting, in frankly a deceitful way, that when we vote against the budget, we are voting against a particular measure, one or another.

We all know that there are $250 billion in the budget and there are many things in it that of course we support, but this practice and this personal attack is unparliamentary and is a matter of personal privilege.

Oral QuestionsPrivilegeOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is used to being in a court of law. The facts, on their voting record, do speak for themselves.

With respect to the personal attack, I do know, having been here a number of years, that the use of the word “hypocrite”, which I referred to the hon. member for St. John's East as a hypocrite, and I apologize for calling him a hypocrite, and I reserve the word “hypocrite” in reference to the member for St. John's East.

Oral QuestionsPrivilegeOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, that was probably the least apologetic apology I have ever heard in this Parliament.

Statement by MembersPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, during a statement I made in the House on Friday, there was an error where remarks I quoted could have been attributed to the member for Saint-Jean. I want to be clear that the member for Saint-Jean made no such statement and I in no way meant to attribute those remarks to him.

Upon becoming aware of this error, I apologized to the member, and have ensured that Hansard is now accurate.

I wish to publicly apologize to that member for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Statement by MembersPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I accept the hon. member's apology. I think it was an error made by his team and his staffers. I will not hold it against him.

Statement by MembersPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. members for their interventions.

I understand the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley has a question of privilege.

Bill C-38PrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, is decorum not a nice thing when it breaks out in here once in a while?

I bring forward a question of privilege, after significant work and research, with regard to the bill we have before us in Parliament. I bear your consideration, Mr. Speaker. A letter will be forthcoming to your office to outline and explain the specific details, but we believe we do have a prima facie case of privilege. We have looked at this with very careful consideration, and I would like to thank my team for putting this together under difficult circumstances.

There are many charges of contempt that go on within this place and not all of those are privilege, but every finding of privilege is in fact a contempt. The definition of this is that the powers of Parliament to do its job, to do three things in particular, to legislate, deliberate and hold the government to account, are paramount to all of our work. We know, through the very Constitution itself, that the exclusive legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada extends to all matters coming within the classes of subjects hereinafter enumerated, “1A. The Public Debt and Property...2A. Unemployment Insurance...8. The fixing of and providing for the Salaries and Allowances of Civil and other Officers of the Government of Canada”. This will be the focus of our point with you this afternoon, Mr. Speaker.

We have also confirmed this all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada in Canada v. Vaid in 2005, that the supremacy of Parliament to do its job in this regard is paramount and cannot be confined nor restricted. O'Brien and Bosc on page 59 confirm this and that this right, this privilege can be broken either individually for members or collectively for us as a group. We include very explicitly that the privileges of members of the governing side have also been infringed by the process that has been taken on through Bill C-38.

Page 61 of O'Brien and Bosc states:

The privileges of Members of the House of Commons provide the absolute immunity they require to perform their parliamentary work while the collective or corporate rights of the House are the necessary means by which the House effectively discharges its functions.

We have built our case, Mr. Speaker, and are confident that you will find in this that the breach of privilege conducted here is significant enough to warrant a decision from you, hastily, after other parties have had their opportunity to intervene.

In one of the last rulings by your predecessor, Speaker Milliken, on April 27, 2010, in ruling on the question of privilege surrounding the provision of information to the special committee on the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, Speaker Milliken said:

In a system of responsible government, the fundamental right of the House of Commons to hold the government to account for its actions is an indisputable privilege and in fact an obligation.

Herein lies our privilege. We have used every available tool to the opposition through questions on the order paper, requests through the Parliamentary Budget Officer, through questions during question period and at committee directed to the ministers pertaining to this issue, to understand directly and implicitly the impacts of the legislation that the government has been moving forward through its budgets and explicitly about what the cuts and implications will be for its budget measures, cuts to either services or to the number of employees who will be affected.

Allow me to say this, Mr. Speaker, and it is extremely important for your ruling, there is no dispute from the government side that the numbers in fact exist. The government is well aware of what the impacts will be on Canadians and has in fact publicly declared that the information exists. We heard from the President of the Treasury Board himself. He said in an interview with a reporter on May 9 of this year that he would like to release more information but was held ““hostage” to parliamentary reporting procedures and labour contracts, which require notices to affected employees going out before cuts could be made”.

Essentially, the government is requiring members of Parliament to vote blind on the legislation coming forward. In our conversations with the Parliamentary Budget Officer and in his conversations with the government, he has explicitly requested the information that has been made available to him, by right, under the act that the government moved as its second act, the Federal Accountability Act. Various places in the act require the government to produce, in a timely and transparent manner, information that exists.

There are two reasons why the government may withhold this information: if the information is not accessible through access to information; or if the information is confidentially provided to cabinet. The Clerk of the Privy Council has provided neither of those reasons. Herein lies the case of privilege. In citing the reasons of confidentiality because of some obligations under the collective agreement with the various unions that make up the civil service, while I may say as a caveat is a unique moment where the government has actually cared about a collective agreement with anybody under their employ, the reason given by the Privy Council, the head of the civil service, is not a valid one.

That is not a reason that he can use to block information to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. That is not an exercisable reason under the act and it in fact impedes parliamentarians from doing their work and, as I said, makes them vote blind on the actual budget. There is no cabinet confidentiality and these are not pieces of information that have been denied through access to information. To say this is critical to members of Parliament to understand before they vote on the budget is an understatement.

The government has moved a number of measures, which will have impacts on Canadian society, through the services and programs Canadians rely upon and directly through employees of the federal government and communities across this country. I would have expected members of the government to ask this question, but they have so far been mute on this point.

In breaking the Federal Accountability Act, the government has once again shown that perhaps the act is not worth the paper it is written on. This is the response we got from the Clerk of the Privy Council, in a letter written to the Parliamentary Budget Officer on May 15. It states:

...but, as indicated in the Budget document, the Government is equally committed to treating its employees fairly and respecting its contractual obligations. This means that departments will provide information to affected employees and their unions in the first instance, as required under the applicable collective agreements. Once this has happened...the Government will then begin...to communicate accordingly.

That is, it will then offer up to the Parliamentary Budget Officer and, through him, to parliamentarians the information.

The unions have been contacted and they have publicly said to the government and to the Privy Council that this does not break their collective agreement, thereby taking away the sole reason of the government to deny MPs their privilege.

I will run through the timeline and finish with this. The first thing members of Parliament sought to do was to request the information from the government, as is our obligation under the Standing Orders as members of Parliament, that is, to find out what the impacts of the bill would be. This would apply to any bill. Certainly with a bill as broad and sweeping as this, this would be important. The government denied this, either through question period or at committee. We then sought information through questions on the order paper. That too was denied. We then sought information through the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who is legally obligated and enshrined with the right to seek this information unless legally denied, which he was not. That too was denied by the government. We are now at a place where we are being forced in some short time to vote on a bill whose impacts the government understands, but refuses to share with members of Parliament and those people whom we seek to represent. This is, by all definitions we can find, an infringement of the rights and privileges of members of Parliament.

If the House cannot hold the government of the day to account, then why have the House at all? If members of Parliament cannot do their jobs and cannot go back to their constituents with a clear conscience and understanding of the legislation that has been brought before us and its implications, then why are members of Parliament in the service of Canadians at all? They are not.

We seek this through you, Mr. Speaker. We carefully went through all of O'Brien and Bosc, which offered us numerous points. I will mention one. On page 281 of Bourinot's Parliamentary Procedure and Practice in the Dominion of Canada, it states:

The right of Parliament to obtain every possible information on public questions is undoubted, and the circumstances must be exceptional, and the reasons very cogent, when it cannot be at once laid before the houses.

There is no such reason given by the government. The Conservatives do not deny that the information exists, that the cuts to services and programming for Canadians exist and are understood. They have said that, from the most senior bureaucrat down, the person who works with the Prime Minister. The President of the Treasury Board has also said that the information exists. Their reasons for denying members of Parliament their right to this information have also been shown to be not true. All that is left in defence of this place, in defence of members of Parliament, is you, Mr. Speaker, whose job and role it is to defend the institution, regardless of the sways of the political discourse that goes on every day. The institution requires us to have the information to both debate and vote with clear conscience and information. The government is denying us that information. While this may be a pathology with the Conservatives, it does not give them the opportunity or the reason to deny members of Parliament these key and critical data. It is absolutely essential for us to maintain, as best as we may through all of the discourse that goes on here, certain principles.

The principle that we in opposition hold dearly is that our job, each and every day, is to hold the government to account. There should be those on the other side who share that principle, because that is a principle shared by all of us. The Conservatives may heckle the opportunity to speak and they may suggest that there is not something of right and privilege here, but they know better.

I remember the days when that hon. members on that side stood for these principles. I remember the days when we in opposition worked with the government on its second piece of legislation, the Accountability Act, as we have quoted here today, which set up an institution that we agreed with the Parliamentary Budget Officer should seek and garner this information.

Now what do we have? We have a government that insists that members of Parliament should vote blind, that Canadians should simply trust them and that it is somehow good enough. This is not a right-left issue; this is right and wrong. The government knows it is wrong. The government has the information and is denying Parliament and parliamentarians and the people we represent access to information that we need.

There is much more that we could say, but I understand that time is pressing. I am therefore prepared to move an appropriate motion if you, Mr. Speaker, find a prima facie question of contempt.

Bill C-38PrivilegeOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my friend for his novel and innovative approach to this question, but I think it actually ends up being so innovative that it is far off the mark.

First, I will start by saying that I believe what he was saying was that we have to deal with this now because it is in the context of Bill C-38. I understand that is the context in which he raises his point of order.

Of course a point of order such as this has to be raised at the earliest possible opportunity. Bill C-38 was introduced into the House on April 26. We are now some month and a half later, so he is very late in raising this argument.

Second, he has not cited any particular section or provision of the bill to which he takes exception, and for which he says these important questions have not been answered. Once again, I think what he is talking about is not anything to do with any content of Bill C-38, so he is off the mark there.

Third, the kinds of measures to which he is speaking, moneys that are spent on programs and personnel, are normally reported and approved by Parliament, not by a budget implementation act but rather through the appropriations bills that appear before this Parliament. That is the appropriate point for him to raise his questions. That is the process through which Parliament would report and provide the information he is looking for.

If he is looking for more detailed information than is in one of those appropriation bills, that would be the point for him to raise those questions and points. We are not currently dealing with an appropriation bill through this House. There is no appropriation bill outstanding before this House. I expect that he may wish to return to his point of order some months hence, when we have our next appropriation bill before the House, if he feels he has not achieved satisfaction at that time, that is, if he feels that the reporting mechanisms of the government have not been sufficient. However, we certainly are not facing that situation in any way with regard to Bill C-38.

Therefore, I think his point is very far off the mark, but I would be happy to return if further submissions are required.

Bill C-38PrivilegeOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank both hon. members for their interventions on this point. I will get back to the House in due course.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's responses to 30 petitions.

Transport, Infrastructure and CommunitiesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in relation to Bill C-321, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials).

The committee has studied the bill and decided to report the bill back to the House without amendment.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

moved:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 27, the ordinary hour of daily adjournment shall be 12 midnight, commencing on Monday, June 11, 2012, and concluding on Friday, June 22, 2012, but not including Friday, June 15, 2012.

Today I rise to make the case for the government's motion to extend the working hours of this House until midnight for the next two weeks. This is of course a motion made in the context of the Standing Orders, which expressly provide for such a motion to be made on this particular day once a year.

Over the past year, our government's top priority has remained creating jobs and economic growth.

Job creation and economic growth have remained important priorities for our government.

Under the government's economic action plan, Canada's deficits and taxes are going down; investments in education, skills training, and research and innovation are going up; and excessive red tape and regulations are being eliminated.

As the global economic recovery remains fragile, especially in Europe, Canadians want their government to focus on what matters most: jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity. This is what our Conservative government has been doing.

On March 29, the Minister of Finance delivered economic action plan 2012, a comprehensive budget that coupled our low-tax policy with new actions to promote jobs and economic growth.

The 2012 budget proposed measures aimed at putting our finances in order, increasing innovation and creating suitable and applicable legislation in the area of resource development in order to promote a good, stable investment climate.

The budget was debated for four days and was adopted by the House on April 4. The Minister of Finance then introduced Bill C-38, Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act, the 2012 budget implementation bill. The debate at second reading of Bill C-38 was the longest debate on a budget implementation bill in at least two decades, and probably the longest ever.

On May 14, after seven days of debate, Bill C-38 was passed at second reading.

The bill has also undergone extensive study in committee. The Standing Committee on Finance held in-depth hearings on the bill. The committee also created a special subcommittee for detailed examination of the bill's responsible resource development provisions. All told, this was the longest committee study of any budget implementation bill for at least the last two decades, and probably ever.

We need to pass Bill C-38 to implement the urgent provisions of economic action plan 2012. In addition to our economic measures, our government has brought forward and passed bills that keep the commitments we made to Canadians in the last election.

In a productive, hard-working and orderly way, we fulfilled long-standing commitments to give marketing freedom to western Canadian grain farmers, to end the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry, and to improve our democracy by moving every province closer to the principle of representation by population in the House of Commons.

However, in the past year our efforts to focus on the priorities of Canadians have been met with nothing but delay and obstruction tactics by the opposition. In some cases, opposition stalling and delaying tactics have meant that important bills are still not yet law. That is indeed regrettable.

In the case of Bill C-11, the copyright modernization act, a bill that will help to create good, high-paying jobs in Canada's creative and high-tech sectors, this House has debated the bill on 10 days. We heard 79 speeches on it before it was even sent to committee. This is, of course, on top of similar debate that occurred in previous Parliaments on similar bills.

It is important for us to get on with it and pass this bill for the sake of those sectors of our economy, to ensure that Canada remains competitive in a very dynamic, changing high-tech sector in the world, so that we can have Canadian jobs and Canadian leadership in that sector.

Bill C-24 is the bill to implement the Canada-Panama free trade agreement. It has also been the subject of numerous days of debate, in fact dozens and dozens of speeches in the House, and it has not even made it to committee yet.

Bill C-23 is the Canada-Jordan economic growth and prosperity act. It also implements another important job-creating free trade agreement.

All three of these bills have actually been before this place longer than for just the last year. As I indicated, they were originally introduced in previous Parliaments. Even then, they were supported by a majority of members of this House and were adopted and sent to committee. However, they are still not law.

We are here to work hard for Canadians. Adopting today's motion would give the House sufficient time to make progress on each of these bills prior to the summer recess. Adopting today's motion would also give us time to pass Bill C-25, the pooled registered pension plans act. It is a much-needed piece of legislation that would give Canadians in small businesses and self-employed workers yet another option to help support them in saving for their retirement. Our government is committed to giving Canadians as many options as possible to secure their retirement and to have that income security our seniors need. This is another example of how we can work to give them those options.

In addition to these bills that have been obstructed, opposed or delayed one way or another by the opposition, there are numerous bills that potentially have support from the opposition side but still have not yet come to a vote. By adding hours to each working day in the House over the next two weeks, we would allow time for these bills to come before members of Parliament for a vote. These include: Bill C-12, safeguarding Canadians' personal information act; and Bill C-15, strengthening military justice in the defence of Canada act. I might add, that bill is long overdue as our military justice system is in need of these proposed changes. It has been looking for them for some time. It is a fairly small and discrete bill and taking so long to pass this House is not a testament to our productivity and efficiency. I hope we will be able to proceed with that.

Bill C-27 is the first nations financial transparency act, another step forward in accountability. Bill C-28 is the financial literacy leader act. At a time when we are concerned about people's financial circumstances, not just countries' but individuals', this is a positive step forward to help people improve their financial literacy so all Canadians can face a more secure financial future. Bill C-36 is the protecting Canada's seniors act which aims to prevent elder abuse. Does it not make sense that we move forward on that to provide Canadian seniors the protection they need from those very heinous crimes and offences which have become increasingly common in news reports in recent years?

Bill C-37 is the increasing offenders' accountability for victims act. This is another major step forward for readjusting our justice system which has been seen by most Canadians as being for too long concerned only about the rights and privileges of the criminals who are appearing in it, with insufficient consideration for the needs of victims and the impact of those criminal acts on them. We want to see a rebalancing of the system and that is why Bill C-37 is so important.

Of course, we have bills that have already been through the Senate, and are waiting on us to deal with them. Bill S-2, which deals with matrimonial real property, which would give fairness and equality to women on reserve, long overdue in this country. Let us get on with it and give first nations women the real property rights they deserve. Then there is Bill S-6, first nations electoral reform, a provision we want to see in place to advance democracy. Bill S-8 is the safe drinking water for first nations act; and Bill S-7 is the combatting terrorism act.

As members can see, there is plenty more work for this House to do. As members of Parliament, the least we can do is put in a bit of overtime and get these important measures passed.

In conclusion, Canada's economic strength, our advantage in these uncertain times, and our stability also depend on political stability and strong leadership. Across the world, political gridlock and indecision have led to economic uncertainty and they continue to threaten the world economy. That is not what Canadians want for their government. Our government is taking action to manage the country's business in a productive, hard-working and orderly fashion. That is why all members need to work together in a time of global economic uncertainty to advance the important bills I have identified, before we adjourn for the summer.

I call on all members to support today's motion to extend the working hours of this House by a few hours for the next two weeks. For the members opposite, not only do I hope for their support in this motion, I also hope I can count on them to put the interests of Canadians first and work with this government to pass the important bills that remain before us.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, regrettably, it comes as no surprise to hear the government House leader move this motion today for extended hours over the next two weeks. It is also no surprise that New Democrats are going to oppose it. Time is at a premium in this place and is a very powerful commodity.

I listened very carefully to what the government House leader had to say. He called on all members to work together in a constructive way. However, it seems to me that the process for doing that has to come from the government. There has to be a trustful relationship and a sense of goodwill about how the House agenda is managed. There are House leader meetings that take place every week to do that.

I find ironic that we have a government that is intent on restricting the amount of time for debate, whether on Bill C-38 or many others. About 24 bills have had time allocation or some sort of closure applied to them. On the one hand, the government is restricting the time for debate, but, on the other hand, wants more time. Why? It is because it wants to ram these bills through.

The government House leader gave an indication of some of the bills that the government is looking at. It seems to me that the proper place for that, where there is agreement, is at House leader meetings which are for that purpose. We now know the motivation for doing that, which is to push these bills through very quickly, as we are seeing with Bill C-38. If we allowed that to happen, we would be derelict in our duty. It would not be members working together, it would be the government acting in a very high-handed manner.

I would ask the government House leader on what basis he believes he has the authority to ram these bills through. I know he can move this motion, but in terms of proper process, is this not another example of ramming through government legislation?

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Not at all, Mr. Speaker. The authority for doing this is in the Standing Orders, which provide that on one day a year, we can move to have extended hours for the last two weeks of our sitting. We have been adopting the approach of running Parliament in a productive, hard-working, orderly fashion, where there is certainty and we actually come to decisions.

Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, is a perfect example. Through our measures and the use of time allocation we have been able to ensure that we had the longest debate ever on a budget implementation bill, certainly the longest in the past two decades but probably ever. Similarly, we have also had the longest consideration in committee, not counting the subcommittee that was established. We are not interested in limiting debate. We are happy to have lots of debate and we have ensured that for some of the bills, some of the priority ones I listed like copyright. There has been far more debate in this Parliament to get to the same stages of bills than in previous Parliaments when the bills passed much sooner.

This is not our concern. Our concern is that we make decisions. That is what we were sent here to do. Canadians voted for us and said they wanted us to go to Parliament, address the important questions, debate them and make decisions on them. That is what we are asking the House to do: actually make decisions on the bills before us so that Canadians can benefit from those changes.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I found it interesting that the government House leader, in his remarks, asked us to do what he believes is in Canadians' best interest. The Liberal Party of Canada has been doing just that.

One could ask why the government House leader is not behaving in a fashion fitting for this House. When he asks us to do what is in the best interest of Canadians, how would he, for example, defend the government's approach in dealing with Bill C-38, the budget legislation?

He complains that the opposition wants to debate the bill and have it in committee. However, it should come as no surprise to the government House leader that this is the single largest budget bill ever presented to this House. It is indeed unprecedented. The amount of legislation that is being brought into the bill through the back door is unprecedented. That is why it needs to be thoroughly debated.

The work ethic of the members of the Liberal caucus is second to no other caucus inside this chamber. We are prepared to debate the bill and other bills that are important to Canadians. We are prepared to challenge the government through amending legislation and forcing votes, to try to get the government to recognize the responsibility that it has to Canadians.

I do not shy away from work in this House. I wonder if the government House leader would make a commitment in this chamber to sit in this chamber as long as I do in order to see this bill pass. Surely to goodness he would be open to sitting as often as I do in the chamber to ensure the issues are being addressed and that Canadians are put first. Will he make a commitment to sit in the chamber as long as I do?

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, when Canadians reflect on the opposition parties in Ottawa today, the reason that they often conclude what we see mostly are partisan games from the opposition is that normally the member would be standing up complaining that he does not have enough time to debate. Now, faced with a motion to provide more time for debate, the opposition parties, both of them, indicate that they have a problem with that motion. I find that irony tells us everything we need to know about the motives of the opposition party members in how they approach things.

Our approach, as the hon. member talked about C-38, is to take a look at what is important for Canadians. What they are concerned about most these days is job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity. We brought forward a legislative agenda, including our budget implementation act, to deliver on things like a tax credit for small business job creation; additional investment in skills development, research and innovation; additional opportunities to harness our natural resource advantages; a way of making sure that we continue to have the most skilled workforce in the world; and bringing forward that comprehensive economic plan, subjecting it to the longest debate in decades in Parliament, the longest committee consideration, but also ensuring that we move forward with real decisions.

The opposition's response is to look for delay and obstruction tactics. It is not to talk about the substance of it, but simply to delay and play games. However, we want to deliver real results and focus on the substance of the economy for the benefit of Canadians.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, in answer to one of my colleague's questions, I think the hon. colleague on the other side said that Canadians send us here to make decisions. That is true. However, Canadians also have an official opposition which is an important feature of our British parliamentary system to hold the government to account and to make sure that decisions that are not well considered or that may be wrong can be caught. That is why debate is so important.

Government members keep saying over and over that we have had 70 hours of debate, the longest debate in decades. Of course, the difference is that this is an unprecedented type of budget bill. Canadians have not seen a bill like this that would amend 70 different acts. We are talking about one hour of debate for each act. That is 60 minutes of debate for each act that would be fundamentally altered, changed or in some cases abolished. That is not a lot of debate. It is not sufficient debate.

The decisions that would take protecting fish habitat out of the Fisheries Act, or raising the age of old age security from 65 to 67, or changes to EI that would profoundly affect people who live in rural areas, are the kinds of decisions that Canadians want us parliamentarians to take in a measured, thoughtful way.

The Prime Minister said on April 18, 2005, “When a government starts trying to cancel dissent or avoid dissent is frankly when it's rapidly losing its moral authority to govern”.

Does the member see any applicability of that comment to today as his government tries to ram through a Trojan horse budget bill with insufficient debate?

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member just spoke about the merits of more debate. I trust that he will support this motion, because that is what this motion is about, allowing more debate until midnight every night in this House.

We talked about accommodating dissent. What will that mean? It will mean a lot of opportunity for him to put his dissent on the record. That is what we want to see, but we also want to see decisions get made, and that has been our approach in governing.

We also want to see that the decisions that are made are made, most importantly, on the priorities for Canadians, and that is the economy, job creation and economic growth. That does not lend itself to simply the budget implementation act, which has been the subject of the longest debate in decades of such a bill in this House.

It also extends to other important economic measures we would like to see passed, things like opening new markets to Canadians goods and services, things like our free trade agreement with Jordan and our free trade agreement with Panama. I suspect that member does not support the free trade agreement with Panama. I suspect he wants to see it opposed. I suspect that is why he does not want to see more hours for debate on that item in this House, even though it will mean jobs for Canadians.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that we have this debate today about extending hours, because we cannot look at this particular motion in isolation from everything that has happened in the past year since the election, under this Conservative government.

I would begin my remarks by saying that I think a measure of a government is how it represents and respects the institution it operates within. By and large, certainly a majority government controls that institution. Therefore, how the government actually operates on a day-to-day basis and operates overall in terms of respecting the opinions of opposition, of members of the public, of committees, of the structures and the vehicles that we have, is a very important criterion in terms of how one looks at how a government is performing, whether it is the current Conservative government, a majority government or former governments. One has to look at this motion today in that context.

I mentioned in my remarks earlier that we have seen the government now bring in time allocation possibly 20 to 24 times on different bills. Time is a very valuable commodity. It is something by which we all operate. We understand the importance of it. I do find it incredibly ironic that, on the one hand, we have a government that has been doing everything it can to restrict the time we have for debate, for example, on Bill C-38, but on the other hand it is looking for an expansion of time in the next two weeks because it wants to get everything else through. This is really very disrespectful of the process we have in Parliament and is disrespectful of the engagement that members of Parliament want to have.

Bill Blaikie, who was the former member for Elmwood—Transcona, actually was the dean of the House. He was a very long-standing member of the House of Commons for more than 20 years. I remember speaking with Bill Blaikie on many occasions and getting a sense of how much the procedures had changed in this place, how much the rules had been bent, managed and finessed to basically minimize and restrict what members of Parliament can do.

We have to look at this issue over the longer term. We have to look at how much has been cut out already. Whether it is the right to have ongoing debate or the rules of the House generally, there has been so much undermining of the democratic process in this place. When we look at this motion today and we look at the underlying intent that motion has, which is to basically control the government agenda and to do everything it can to push through what it believes is necessary, then we can see that this place begins to be diminished. Its role and the role we have as individual members of Parliament begins to be diminished.

I remember, back in 1998 or 1999, the Reform Party of the day bringing in 472 amendments on the Nisga'a treaty. It is curious though that the Conservatives seemed to have no problem then in insisting that there had to be proper debate and a proper process. In fact, they used it. They were very opposed to that treaty. I remember voting. I think it was about 48 hours straight when we voted on those 472 amendments to the Nisga'a treaty in British Columbia. They seem to have forgotten all of that. They seem to have forgotten the process and the need to have some sort of equilibrium in this place. It has now become a very heavy-handed measure that it uses. That is what we are seeing today with this motion.

If we add on other examples, such as gag orders to employees, this is no longer a place where even people who work in different departments of the federal government are free to express an opinion. The gag orders are out there to shut down, to be silent and to self-censor. It all speaks to a pattern of incredible control. It speaks to a pattern of undermining the democratic process.

All opposition parties have a responsibility to hold the government to account. My hon. colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley, the NDP House leader, in his earlier intervention on a point of privilege made the point well that by blocking information to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, by withholding information to parliamentarians, we are impeding the proper functioning of a democratic process.

When we put all of that together, we can begin to see we have a government that is arrogant in its approach and dismissive of any opposition. That speaks badly to our democratic process as a whole.

We have seen unbelievable opposition to Bill C-38. We heard the governement House leader say earlier that this is the longest debate we have ever had. Seven days at second reading on a bill that would have so much impact on almost every aspect of anyone's life in Canada, amending more than 70 pieces of legislation, is the equivalent to having one day of debate for 10 different pieces of legislation. I do not think anybody could characterize that as any kind of adequate or substantive debate.

We are not only opposed to the motion and all of the processes that are unfolding in such a high-handed way by the Conservative government; we are also dealing with the substance. We are also opposed to the process of ramming through all of these bills because the substance of what is contained in the legislation is critical. It is important that people understand what all of these changes are about. We have been pressing that day after day in question period and in committee, where our team did an incredible job of bringing forward amendments.

The list of changes and their impacts is just unbelievable. We have heard about changes to food safety inspection and EI. The government is basically rewriting the way EI will operate. What is worse is that it will be under the complete control of the minister.

We are debating changes in Bill C-38 that would give the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development huge powers to make regulations and unilateral changes to the employment insurance system. This is particularly offensive because, as we know, the employment insurance system is based on contributions from workers and employers. It is a system that people rely on when they need it. Yet the wholesale changes that we know are coming, with respect to what is considered suitable employment, how far one has to travel, the wages that are involved, are all substantive changes. The ability to examine even that one piece in Bill C-38 has been minimal.

We also heard earlier today from the member for Halifax, who raised a question in question period, as she has done for many days both here and in committee, about the changes to environmental assessments. Today in question period she noted that Bill C-38 would, with one clause, change the whole environmental assessment procedure in Canada. The bill would basically bring in a whole new system. In normal terms over the history of Parliament, these are changes that would have intense scrutiny, each and every one of them.

Scrapping the director general of CSIS, what is all that about? Why is that being allowed to happen? What about the gutting of the Fisheries Act?

What about weakening foreign ownership rules on telecommunications? People who work in this industry, not the big corporations, are hugely concerned that buried in Bill C-38 are significant changes to foreign ownership rules that would make it much easier for corporations from abroad to come into Canada and take greater control over our telecommunications industry. That is something that requires substantive examination, but it is buried in the bill.

We have the cuts to health services for refugees. This one only came out more recently and now there is a huge outcry across the country about what the impact would be for refugees. We hear the talking points from the government members saying that refugees will not get anything more than anybody else. However, the loss of some of these medical services would have a significant impact upon people's lives.

However, do we get time to examine this? I do not think so because again this is something that is being rammed through.

The governement House leader mentioned some of the other legislation that his government wants to move through if the motion to extend the hours passes, which, of course, it has the votes to do. It is very possible that, with some of these bills with which other parties in Parliament agree with, there may be some agreement to have a good debate and to see the passage of those bills. That is something that we have done for many years where there is co-operation, where there is some dialogue, conversation, that we can actually come to an agreement. It seems to me that is the way we should be conducting our business. We should be allowing the House leaders to meet to figure out, where there is some agreement, which bills can go through, because there may well be agreement that there has been adequate discussion and that would be a timely and proper thing to do.

However, I think it is wrong to lay down a whole list of probably 15 or more bills and say that in the next two weeks we will sit until midnight, that we will ram all these bills through no matter what anybody thinks and no matter the length of debate. I know the Conservatives will use the argument that we can debate it all we want but I think the central point that we need to make about this motion is that it is not intended to allow substantive debate on these bills, whether there are 6 or 10 or 15. The purpose is to allow the government to , ram them through. I will bet my bottom dollar that it will now accompany this extension of hours, if it gets it, with time allocation.

I again come back to my first point, which is that on the one hand, the government is both restricting debate on Bill C-38 and other bills and it is also creating time for further debate so that it can also restrict debate to get the bills through. This is what we have come to. I have been in this Parliament now 15 years, through six elections. I have seen minority Parliaments and majority governments. I have seen how this operates. I know that if there is that process of some dialogue, goodwill, respect and trust, having been a House leader for eight years as well, we can arrive at a consideration and an agreement about the House agenda. We have the capacity to do that.

However, when the government y is so disrespectful of both the process and the substance and has an agenda that it just wants to ram through in the closing weeks of Parliament, all I can say is that we need to do our job and our job is to hold the government to account. Our job is to ensure that there is substantive and proper examination of all the bills before the House. We owe that to our constituents and to the public in general. I can tell from the emails that I am receiving and the stuff that is on Facebook that people are truly alarmed at the government's method of dealing, in particular, with Bill C-38.

People are only just beginning to understand the comprehensiveness and the far-reaching impact that the bill would have. This notion that it has had the longest debate ever is just nonsense. We need to look at what is in the bill. We need to know all of the legislation that it is trying to change. We need to know that none of that has been properly examined.

I do find that the government, in putting forward this motion today, is, regrettably, just a continuation of the arrogance it has displayed. It is a continuation of a disrespect of this place. It is a pattern of just wanting to get something through at any cost.

I feel very proud that the NDP, the official opposition, has spoken out very strongly. All of the amendments we have for Bill C-38, which will be voted on this week, are a reflection of the opposition that exists in this country. They are not just spurious amendments. These amendments are a reflection of what it is we are hearing from Canadians.

It is incredibly disappointing that the government is refusing to budge even an inch to look at splitting the bill or to look at ways to manage the bill so that there is proper debate. We have not seen the government willing to move anything on that front. That is a real indication, unfortunately, of where the Conservatives are at.

We will not be supporting the motion, not because we do not want to be here at night to debate. We are quite happy to do that. We are good at it. We would be happy to debate until midnight. However, we need to look at the intent of the motion and we know full well that the intent of the motion to extend the hours is so the government can bring in further time allocation to ram through Bill C-38, plus a dozen or more other pieces of legislation.

That is offensive. It is disrespectful of this Parliament. It is something that we do not think can be unchallenged, and it is for that reason that we oppose the motion.

I would like to move an amendment. I move:

That the motion be amended by replacing the words “Friday, June 22” with the following: “Thursday, June 21”.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The amendment is in order.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Winnipeg North.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, over the weekend, I was in Winnipeg. I have found that as more and more Canadians become aware of what Bill C-38 is all about there is a great deal of resistance. We are starting to see its quite significant presence on the Internet as more and more Canadians are starting to react to finding out what the government has done with regard to that specific bill.

I would ask my colleague from the New Democratic Party how she feels Canadians as a whole are reacting to Bill C-38 specifically.

My interpretation is that the more people find out about it the more upset they are. I think the government would do well to recognize how offensive the bill is to our democratic system and to Canadians as a whole. The government would be well advised to go back to the drawing board, in essence, on this bill and to bring in a normal budget implementation bill that would take away a lot of the amendments proposing to significantly change legislation, such as our environment act.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is just no two ways about it. The more people find out about Bill C-38, the omnibus budget bill, the more they hate it and the more the government is intent on getting it through the House and out of the way. This is what this is about.

I attended a public forum with some of my colleagues in Regina a couple of weeks ago and that was when information about the bill was just beginning to come out in a way that people were asking what was going on in Ottawa and what was all the stuff in the bill. When we started listing for them all the different pieces of legislation and the issues they would impact, whether it was pensions, the environment, health care or first nations, people's jaws were dropping.

There is a critical mass of people across the country, whether in organized groups or individuals, who are aghast at the methodology that the government is using, which, of course, is why the government now wants extended hours. It wants to finish things off and get the bills through, something that we oppose.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I find it somewhat curious and almost passing strange that the deputy leader of the official opposition would bring forward an amendment calling for debate to be curtailed by a full day. I say that because, in almost every other parliamentary session I have been in, along with the member opposite, the NDP has consistently tried to promote a narrative that it is here to do the work on behalf of all Canadians and will work here until the very last moment. Now it seems to be saying that it wants to get out early.

I would also point out for my colleague and friend that, as she well knows having been a former House leader herself, in years past this has been a practice among the House leaders. The House leaders would determine if there were pieces of legislation that the government had that the opposition might find its way to support and, if such an arrangement could be made, then perhaps there could be an accommodation to allow Parliament to rise a few hours or a day early.

I find it curious that, with this amendment, the NDP is trying to force Parliament to curtail debate. I wonder if the member would comment on that. Why has the NDP suddenly changed its mind about debating until the bitter end and now, seemingly, wants to get out of this place at least a day early?

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, in my remarks earlier, I mentioned that it was very important that there be good faith discussions and agreement among the House leaders. One hopes that is what happens so that we would not be in a position of having this motion. However, that has to begin somewhere and it is with the government, which has the majority, showing that it is willing to work in good faith with other parties. However, that has now become very difficult.

In terms of the amendment, I would point out that it is the government's motion that we are responding to and the government's motion does not include Friday, June 15. We are not saying that we will not be here until the end of the session. Of course we are. This is about the extended hours. The government itself has said that it does not include June 15 and we put forward an amendment on that basis.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, when the government House leader claims that the government is suddenly providing additional hours for debate and proper study of the bill, at least in the case of Bill C-38, his mouth should feel as though it is full of ashes to say something like that. We have seen the torching of environmental legislation by it being rammed through at second reading and the committee process that followed.

I heard the hon. member on the Conservative benches say that this bill has received more study than ever. I worked on the passage of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act that, by Bill C-38, would be repealed. It was taken through the Privy Council Office in 1987 for permission to draft. It was finally tabled before the House and passed but did not get royal assent until 1994. In my experience, it takes years to bring forward good environmental legislation and it takes weeks to bring out a wrecking ball.

I do not see how, at this point, being told that sitting until midnight for the two days left at report stage provides any real content to the debate.

Does my hon. friend from Vancouver East get any sense that the Conservatives are willing to negotiate to bring Bill C-38 to a conclusion that includes taking on amendments?

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her comments and for giving us some idea of how long it took to deal with the original Canadian Environmental Assessment Act in 1987 and what a substantive process that was.

The member is entirely correct that what are seeing here, basically with the stroke of a pen or a majority vote, is that these things are just gone. They are just cut out. I think that is what makes us so concerned and why we challenge so much of what is going on.

I would say that I am not privy to all of the discussions, but nothing that I have seen or that any of us has seen has given us any indication that the Conservative government has been willing to step back a little, reflect on what the bill will do or hear what Canadians have been saying.

In fact, it is really disturbing that the government has not consulted anybody, whether on EI changes or environmental changes. It has not consulted the people who are going to be impacted. It is just ramming it through, and that is completely wrong.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's comments. As she mentioned, she has been an MP for 15 years. She has seen more than one government do things that are harmful to Canadians.

What is interesting is the argument about the number of hours of debate and the number of witnesses that have been heard in committee. It is somewhat difficult to make a comparison because there is nothing comparable. In fact, this is the first time that we have seen a bill of this scope, that would make so many changes to such unrelated aspects of society. As the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands said, it would require months and years of work to implement this bill and to put in place the institutions that are such a part of our identity and of the work we want to do.

What we all need to remember here is that it is not because we are not willing to work. However, we are wondering why the government is extending the hours of the House to ram through this bill, when we could be out there listening to the comments that are still being made about how this bill is bad for society.

I would just like to allow my colleague to speak a bit more about this in order to show the extent to which the NDP, unlike the government, has consulted the people who will be affected by the changes.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member is entirely correct. The NDP went to extraordinary lengths to hold budget hearings, both here in Ottawa and right across the country.

When we realized that the government was intent on just pushing this measure through at any cost, we decided that we had to get out there and hear from people, and we did just that. We got a huge response from people, and I think it has helped to generate people's awareness about this bill and given visibility to what is in the bill.

I agree with the member that this is not an issue of whether we come here at 10 or 11 o'clock at night. We have shown on so many different occasions, whether on back-to-work legislation or in any debate we have had, that we are totally engaged in doing our work in this place. We take it very seriously.

What we are responding to with this motion is the intent behind it. I think it is just an illusion that somehow we are going to have more debate on this particular bill and other pieces of legislation.

This is all about creating space to then allow for more time allocation. Let us make no mistake about that. We absolutely know what the number is and we know what is going on here. I want to say very clearly that what we are calling for is substantive debate, not only of Bill C-38 but also of the other pieces of legislation that may come forward, so that we can have a thorough oversight and investigation into all of these elements, particularly in Bill C-38.

This is the most important thing that we should be doing, and the government has absolutely refused to respond to it.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I stand to speak to this motion, a motion by which I am not totally surprised. One could have anticipated it, given the record of the government and its inability to negotiate in good faith.

Let me start by saying that I do not have a great deal of legislative experience here in the House of Commons, but I do bring with me quite a bit of experience from the Manitoba legislature. I like to think that a lot of the principles are the same. There are different issues and so forth, but I have a fairly good understanding of the principles of how a chamber works and how House leaders should be working with each other to try to get through legislative agendas. I have been doing it for 20 years now.

I would like to focus my first few minutes on the fact that we need to look at why we are in the situation we find ourselves in today. The government, more than any other government, has set a record on time allocation. It brings in time allocation in order to pass its legislative agenda. It is almost becoming standard process, as opposed to sitting down with opposition parties.

The Conservatives present their legislation to the House. They pick a bill, wait a day and then bring in time allocation in expectation that it will pass. They do not have to consult. I think that is some sort of pent-up anger from the minority days or something of that nature, and we are seeing a very irresponsible, anti-democratic Reform Conservative majority government that has been destructive to process inside the House of Commons.

I have worked with majority government in the past, when there were NDP House leaders and Progressive Conservative House leaders. On all occasions, I have had the opportunity to sit in the House leader's office or in a committee room, and the government members will say, “Here is what we are looking at as a legislative agenda. Here are the important bills that we want to get passed over the next number of months”. Opposition members will then say, “We want to have x number of hours of debate on this particular bill because it is controversial legislation and we feel it needs to be debated. It has a higher priority for debate.”

The point is that there is a sense of cooperation to make sure that what is taking place on the floor of the legislative assembly, or in this case the House of Commons, is being debated fairly.

That is not to say I have never witnessed closure of some form or another inside the Manitoba legislature. That happened, and whether it was the NDP or Progressive Conservatives, it happened. It is a tool that is there, and I believe political parties of all stripes have at times had to go into that tool box.

However, more often than not I have witnessed agreements to go into extended sitting hours, and that is what this motion is all about. House leaders say they need more time to get something passed, but what has amazed me in my year and a half in the House is the lack of goodwill, the lack of trust coming from the government side in terms of trying to get things through the House of Commons in a fair and appropriate fashion.

I can recall the Canadian Wheat Board legislation that was put through in this session. This huge piece of legislation impacted 30,000 or 40,000 prairie farmers. We have a law in place that says that the Prime Minister has a responsibility to ensure a plebiscite for the farmers. The plebiscite is still in the court process, but the government brought in legislation that it expects MPs to pass without the farmers even having the plebiscite, a right that the law in essence guaranteed them. It guaranteed that they should have a vote because of the changes to the wheat board.

We in the Liberal Party opposed what the government was doing. We opposed the fashion with which it was bringing in legislation. What did the government do? As it has done 20 other times, which is a record, the government brought in time allocation. It has brought in time allocation 25 times, I believe.

What does time allocation do? In essence, it prevents debate and allows the government to rush through legislation. By doing that, the government is doing a disservice to Canadians and it is not respecting the House.

I do not know what the tradition has been—three, four, five times a year?—but I do know that no other government has brought in time allocation 25 times in one year. That has to be record. It could be a Commonwealth record, as far as I know. That is what is wrong with the Conservative government.

I am not fearful of sitting until midnight. I have sat around the clock before. I have sat in committees before.

The government House leader says we have had eight or ten hours of debate. This is a budget bill, and we are spending over $250 billion. The Manitoba legislature had 240 hours of line-by-line debate on estimates to spend $6 billion. That was only on a $6 billion budget at that time. Those 240 hours have been reduced somewhat, and the amount of money that the province of Manitoba spends has changed , but everything has to be put into its proper perspective.

Bill C-38 has been termed the “Trojan Horse” as a budget bill because 70 laws would be changed, amended or deleted, and all through the back door. Is there any wonder that all these little red flags are shooting up all over the place the more Canadians find out about it? Canadians realize that what is happening here is wrong.

It goes beyond the NDP and the Liberals. I saw the YouTube clip in which a Conservative backbencher was sharing with an intimate group of constituents that a number of Conservatives have some trouble with the legislation but that they do not have any choice. I would suggest that there is a choice, and that choice needs to be looked at.

This is unprecedented. The size of the legislation and its profound environmental impact are significant.

The motion we are dealing with does not deal just with Bill C-38. It deals with a wide variety of pieces of legislation. There is no secret here. We know the government's intentions. It is going to bring in more time allocation, because the government House leader has not been able to negotiate. He has not been able to sit down and work things through.

The budget bill would have a profound impact on the environment. Why did the government choose to put something like that in a budget bill?

I do not know how many of my Atlantic colleagues have raised the EI changes in question period to try to get the government to wake up on the employment insurance issue. This is costing industry in Atlantic Canada, Quebec and all over Canada. We have industries that are being put in jeopardy because of what is being sneaked through the back door with this legislation. There would be reforms to EI and pensions.

I have never had as much interest for signing petitions as I have had on the pension issue. Whether here or in my previous life as an MLA, I have submitted a few petitions over the years, but never with as much interest as on the pension issue. Canadians feel very passionate about our social programs. Increasing the retirement age from 65 to 67 is just a dumb idea and Canadians do not support it.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Yes they do.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

A member from across the way says that they do. He better canvass his constituents because it will become an election issue. The Liberal Party will take that issue to the polls.

At the end of the day, the residents of Winnipeg North, and I do not think they are too far off from those in the rest of Canada, are very upset and concerned about the pension issue. They want to have that option to retire at age 65. They believe in that program.

Let us take a look at the micro-scales on the impact of the budget bill.

We have immigration offices that are being closed down, hundreds of CIC workers are being taken out and individuals who are in need of these services are impacted.

We can talk about search and rescue and the impact the budget bill will have on it, with offices being relocated or closed down. There are many different issues.

Earlier today I received some correspondence regarding the Riel House in the city of Winnipeg. Louis Riel was one of the founders of Confederation as far as many Manitobans and Francophone are concerned, but that house is now in jeopardy.

There are so many issues that are related to Bill C-38. We have to look at all the other issues. The government House leader said, the Conservatives had other legislation that they wanted to get passed, and he then started to list off more legislation. We welcome the opportunity to debate and have proposed legislation go to committee.

We are interested in those important issues on which Canadians want parliamentarians to work. It was the Liberal Party that first raised the issue in last fall's session that the number one priority for Canadians was jobs, jobs, jobs. Unemployed people are concerned about being able to provide for their family and themselves. We have recognized the importance of the economy.

We are prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure that we move forward in a positive way and that we let the government know what the concerns are. Last fall, I spent a lot of time talking about jobs. However, in the last few weeks it seems I have been talking more and more about process because I am concerned about what is happening inside the House. Many may see process as being somewhat of a dull issue, but it is far from that.

This is about democracy. This is about the rights of members of Parliament to really engage in discussion that is necessary, whether it is on the floor of the House of Commons or after a bill passes and goes to committee. We have to ensure that those rights are protected. There is an expectation, and I do not know about other members, I would assume so, that when we knock on doors and tell our constituents we are prepared to go to Ottawa to ensure their concerns are addressed, that we do so. I have always added that I want to bring Ottawa to Winnipeg.

The point is to ensure that the concerns of our constituents are addressed. That is why in this very short of period of time, when we talk about the extension of hours, I raise the issue of the budget and the seniors issue. I can talk about how this budget will impact health care. It has always been a very important issue, not only for residents of Winnipeg North but, I believe, all Canadians. A big issue has always been crime and safety in our streets, something that I have argued may even likely be the number one issue for Winnipeg North in the minds of a good percentage of my constituents, and for just reason. This is one of the reasons why I talk about that a great deal, and will continue to do so.

However, the motion that we ultimately will be asked to vote on is if the House should extend its sitting until midnight for the next period of time. I would feel so much better if the government House leader and the government's House leadership team would work with the opposition House leaders and their teams to see if in fact we could come up with some sort of compromise so Canadians would be served first and foremost.

It is interesting. The government House leader concluded his opening remarks on the motion by saying that we should put Canadians first. This would be a challenge that I would put to him, to put Canadians first.

I was provided with a quote that the government House leader actually made back in July 2005. It states:

A major reason I became politically active was because many in my family...lost their lives, or freedom at the hands of the Soviets or Nazis. I believe our democracy is fragile, and something we must cherish and defend.

This was something he apparently had on a website on July 5, 2005. He was talking about what was a sad day in the House of Commons.

I, like the government House leader, like to think I am a defender of our democratic system and our institutions. I believe it is important that as a House we work together to try to address the important issues of all Canadians.

The House leaders of all political parties inside this chamber play a very important role. If the House leaders do their job, then we are able to have an orderly ending to a session. There will be bills that will be opposed and the opposition will want to voice those concerns. We should not try to tie their hands. We have to allow, for those controversial bills, the opportunity for the opposition members to express themselves. That means not bringing in time allocation as often as the current government has. It means to allow the committees to do the work they need to do so these issues are addressed in a timely fashion.

I look forward in the future to the government House leader working with opposition House leaders in an attempt to have more orderly windup sessions.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I was listening intently to many of his remarks. Since I will be addressing this place in a few moments on the government side, much of what my colleague mentioned I will be addressing as well, particularly the working relationship among House leaders of all political parties. Although I dispute some of the analysis done by my friend, I certainly will speak to the relationship that I believe needs to be a healthy one for a good, functioning democracy in this place.

I want to point out one mistake, hopefully an inadvertent mistake, in some of the comments made earlier in his presentation, and that was about the Canadian Wheat Board. The member for Winnipeg North continues to say, as do many of his colleagues, that the government was obligated to hold a plebiscite before changes made to the Canadian Wheat Board. That, in fact, is not true. Section 47 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act specifically states that if a government were planning to eliminate either wheat or barley from the Canadian Wheat Board, then a plebiscite would be needed. We did not do that. We simply changed the act so the Canadian Wheat Board is now a voluntary mechanism. It controls both wheat and barley. Canadian farmers, being some of the smartest businesspeople in Canada, know that if they will get a better product at a better price by going through the Canadian Wheat Board, they will continue to use it. That is all we have done.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Before going back to the hon. member for Winnipeg North, I would remind all members of the matter that is before the House. The hon. member for Winnipeg North raised this matter and it has been questioned, but I would encourage all members to make comments relevant to the matter before us.

The hon. member for Winnipeg North.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is somewhat relevant in the sense that we are now dealing with a motion to extend sitting time. The bill that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons made reference to was in fact a time allocated bill because the government wanted to rush it through.

Having said that, where the member is wrong is that if he were to canvass the 20,000-plus prairie farmers who voted in a referendum, he would find that the vast majority of them believed that they had a right to a plebiscite. In fact, it is in court today. It is not as simple as he tried to portray it. There is a valid argument that thousands of prairie farmers have made that the government did not have the right to bring in that legislation.

It makes my point in the sense that there is legislation that is brought through the House and there will be controversial legislation that has to be thoroughly debated and sent to committee. This is critically important. When House leaders negotiate, they recognize that, but they equally recognize legislation that is not as important, does not require as much debate and will pass through the system more quickly. The key is that House leaders need to be prepared, in good faith, to sit at the table and set a legislative agenda so things can happen in a more timely way. If they cannot do it in year one after an election, they will find it more difficult in the years to follow. Now is the time for us to be trying to build a sense of co-operation going forward.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for the comments he just made. I sit on a committee with him and really appreciate his thoughtful approach. The fact is that he does come across as one who wants to find solutions. I heard that in his speech today. This is not about not wanting to sit until midnight or 2:00, 3:00, 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. We have done that in the past. I have an incredible capacity to stay up, day in and day out, for quite a number of days and still sound semi-coherent. However, that is beside the point.

The question I have for my colleague who just spoke is: What are some of the key concerns he has with this Trojan Horse bill? What are the key elements that give him cause for concern that have not been debated in as fulsome a way as they should be? We feel that this new process that the government is suggesting is just another attempt at ramming things through rather than a thoughtful debate.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the simple answer is that, instead of being 400-plus pages that affect 70 acts and in some cases delete some of them, Bill C-38, the budget bill, likely could just as easily have been 14, 15, or even more substantial pieces of legislation. That is why Canadians need to be concerned with where the limit is. If the government says it is going to have a “long live Canada” budget bill, that means it could incorporate every piece of legislation it wants to put in in any given year and say it is now the budget implementation bill, and it could affect even more than this one does. It is a very dangerous direction we are going in today with Bill C-38.

What offends me most is that the government somehow accumulated the courage, and courage is probably not the right word on this. I would never have thought it would bring in a bill like this that incorporates so many changes in so many different ways in one bill, a budget bill. I believe it is dishonest and anti-democratic. I truly believe there are a number of Conservative members in the House who would be voting against Bill C-38, if there were a free vote.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Before we resume debate, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for St. John's East, National Defence; the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé, Canada Revenue Agency; and the hon. member for Western Arctic, the environment.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to stand here and debate some of my more learned colleagues on the motion we have before us, which is of course to extend debate until midnight over the course of the next two weeks.

Standing Order 27 is the standing order we are talking about here. I should say that this standing order, of course, has been utilized many times in the past. In fact I recall when we first formed government in 2006. I believe the first opportunity we had to utilize Standing Order 27 and extend debate was in 2007. Since that time we have not had extended debate.

We have not had extended sitting hours for the last two weeks of a Parliament, but that is due to a number of different factors. For a couple of years, 2008, 2009, I believe it was just an agreement made between parties that it would not be required. I also believe there was an implied threat from members of the opposition during those minority government years that, in fact, if our government had brought the motion forward it would have been defeated.

There is a reason why Standing Order 27 was incorporated to begin with, and that is to allow the government of the day to bring forward pieces of legislation in an attempt to get them passed before that Parliament rose for the summer. It is always in the last two weeks of a parliamentary session, heading into the summer months, that this ability of a government to bring forward a motion for extended sitting hours is there.

I find it interesting that members of the opposition, particularly members of the official opposition, the NDP, have stated that they will be opposing our motion for extended sitting hours. In fact I always find that disingenuous on behalf of the opposition members, because they have consistently stated that they want more debate time. On almost every single piece of legislation we have introduced in this Parliament and previous parliaments, the NDP has consistently stated it wants more debate time.

We are now offering more debate time on several bills that are on our legislative calendar, yet faced with the opportunity for increased debate, enhanced scrutiny, the NDP says no. The NDP members do not want to sit the extra hours each and every night to debate bills.

I do not know if we have heard nothing but loose lips talking in previous months and previous years, from the NDP, if in fact it really did not want increased debate all these years, or if the NDP is actually telling the truth right now when it says it opposes the increased debate because it disagrees fundamentally with the government on Bill C-38.

I find it strange that the NDP uses that argument when we in fact have been debating Bill C-38. The opposition obviously has seen enough of the bill to be able to introduce more than 1,000 amendments originally, pared down to 871 amendments.

On one hand, again, we see this disconnect between reality and what the official opposition is stating publicly, and that is simply this: if it did not have enough information about Bill C-38 to begin with, how in the world could it have then brought forward 1,000 amendments? It does not seem to make sense to me that it would have a lack of information about what is contained in Bill C-38 but still have the ability to bring forward more than 1,000 amendments. It must have some knowledge of what is contained in Bill C-38, or else how could it have brought forward any amendments?

We know, of course, that the reality is simply this: opposition members, both on the NDP benches and the Liberal benches, are not looking for more reasoned debate on any piece of legislation that our government has brought forward. They are simply trying to delay implementation of each and every piece of legislation we bring forward.

That is readily apparent, and not only on Bill C-38 but on some of the other pieces of legislation in which we wish to engage the opposition in debate over the course of the next two weeks. There is Canada-Jordan free trade, Canada-Panama free trade and the modernization of the Copyright Act.

All these legislative initiatives were brought forward not only a few weeks ago but, in some cases, years ago. We have been engaging the opposition in debate on some of these matters for literally years, but to no avail. Something I find very troubling is that I hear members of the opposition state that they wish to have meaningful debate and they want to have co-operation with all parties in this place, yet they consistently go out of their way to try to inhibit legislation from passing.

I understand. I get what an opposition does, and I certainly agree that it is there to hold the government to account. I understand that the opposition members' primary function is to oppose government legislation. However, they cannot then say they want to work with the government to bring legislation to fruition if in fact their primary motive is simply to kill the bill, with apologies to Quentin Tarantino.

The government is attempting to bring forward legislation in a timely fashion and to ensure we have adequate debate. However, members of the opposition have consistently demonstrated that they wish nothing more than to delay, obfuscate and do anything in their power, through procedural tactics like hoist bills and other delaying tactics, to prevent our government from passing legislation. That is okay. If that is what they consider to be their primary function in this place, we will deal with that.

However, that is the reason, more than anything else, that we have brought forward time allocation on a number of occasions now. I will also point out to those who may be paying attention to this debate, who are not completely familiar with parliamentary procedures, that time allocation is a function used by many governments in previous years. It is a part of our Standing Order package that allows the government of the day to put a certain time allocation on a respective bill before it comes forward for debate at either second reading, report stage or third reading.

However, I will point out differences between our approach and those of governments in past years, particularly the previous Liberal governments who used time allocation and closure far more frequently than our government and used to have a standard one day of debate on bills that they used to time allocate. Members of this place will know, if they have been paying attention, that is not the approach we have been taking. When we have brought forward time allocation, we have done so in a fashion that would allow for several days of debate after the time allocation motion has been brought forward. Again, contrast that with the previous Liberal government, which would bring forward time allocation motions and restrict the debate to one day and sometimes, as the record would show, to as few as three hours in some cases.

So the only reason we have been bringing forward time allocation on a number of bills is that the opposition members have demonstrated that they will do everything within their powers to delay implementation. If any government is faced with a situation where it has been demonstrated that the opposition will delay and obfuscate to the point of never allowing any legislation to pass, then the government has no recourse and no other option but to bring forward time allocation motions, and that is what we have been doing.

Of course, from a political standpoint the narrative that the opposition members, particularly the NDP, have been trying to weave is that if they can force our government into bringing forward time allocation motions it benefits them politically, by allowing them to stand up in this House and to go to political meetings and say, “This government is restricting debate; look at all the time allocation motions it brought forward”. However, what the opposition members are trying to do is run up the score. They are trying to force our government to bring forward time allocation motions on almost every piece of legislation because it feeds their narrative. That is the reality. Is it good politics? Perhaps. We will find that out.

What Canadians expect of any government is that legislation be passed and that it be passed in a timely fashion. That is what we are doing, more than anything else.

If we look at the number of days of debate, the number of hours of debate, the number of speeches presented in this House on debate with various pieces of legislation that we have time allocated, we would find on average that there has been more debate on a bill-by-bill basis than with any government in the last 20 years. The opposition members do not like that because it is the truth, but if they took the time to actually research what I am saying, they will find it is absolutely true.

We have many new members in this place, so I do not expect them to know all of the parliamentary history, but I would encourage them to please go back and look at legislation that previous Liberal governments brought forward and look not only at how many times time allocation was used but also at closure. I am assuming that the members opposite know the distinction between time allocation and closure.

The reality is simply this, that Canadians expect governments of the day, regardless of their political stripe, to pass legislation, because without that ability, no government can function.

One of the problems in a minority government, which we all saw from time to time, is parliamentary gridlock. We reached an impasse where legislation simply would not pass because of the combined forces of the opposition blocking any attempt by this government to pass legislation in a timely fashion.

Obviously the dynamics have now changed: we have a majority government we are getting legislation through. Yet more needs to be done.

I will give four quick examples of what I consider to be critical pieces of legislation that Canadians would like to see our government act upon. I have mentioned them previously. One is the copyright modernization act, an act that has not been modernized for far too many years. We are on the cusp of finally passing that bill, but we need additional time to do so.

We have two more free trade agreements, one with Jordan and one with Panama, that will greatly enhance our economic ability to create jobs, to create wealth within our country. We need time, however, over the course of the next two weeks to get those bills properly debated and, hopefully, passed.

Of course, we have the pooled registered pension plans act that will provide, for the first time, to Canadians who are self-employed and do not currently have pensions the ability to opt into a pension plan, which will affect hundreds of thousands and actually millions of Canadians.

These are all extremely important pieces of legislation that Canadians want to see passed, which is all that we are trying to do, to ensure that over the course of the next two weeks before we rise for the summer, that at minimum these four pieces of critical legislation are passed.

Do we expect to get cooperation from the opposition? I will not prejudge that; I simply will not do that. I hope that the members opposite who have been speaking today in this debate, stating that they wish to cooperate with the government, are sincere in their comments, but time will tell.

I do want to mention the relationship, as I mentioned to my colleague, my friend from Winnipeg North, that should exist among House leaders. I, too, have been involved with the House leaders management team for the past number of years. In fact, I have been the parliamentary secretary to five different House leaders since we were first elected to government in 2006, and I can assure the members opposite, all members, that from time to time, while there may be acrimony and some hard feelings, I believe that on most occasions the House leaders of all parties, opposition and government together, do work together in a fairly collegial atmosphere.

There will also be times when all opposition parties and the government, through their House leaders and their House management teams, can agree on certain pieces of legislation that can be passed.

I will not tell any stories out of school, or break any confidential pact, because House leaders meetings of course are in camera and are confidential, but I can assure members opposite that I have been involved in previous years in negotiating when sessions end.

I do not want to give the impression to any Canadian that parliamentarians want to get out of here early and do not want to do the work they have been elected to do. However, from time to time, as we get close to an end of a parliamentary session, there is the opportunity for all parties to come together to try to agree on what legislation might be available for quick passage.

It is not uncommon, for example, for opposition parties to come forward during House leaders' discussions and ask what priority pieces of legislation the government has on its agenda. That is code of sorts, quite frankly, for what pieces of legislation the government wants passed before we get out of here for the summer. Maybe we could have some discussion; maybe we could find some common ground, some agreement. It has always worked well and I anticipate, or at least I certainly hope, that this opportunity over the course of two weeks will not disappoint me and that we will find common ground again.

I particularly want to point out that I agree with a comment by my friend from Winnipeg North a little earlier, that surely to goodness there could be the type of relationship among House leaders that allows for some legitimate debate on the length of time that bills need to be debated. I have had this conversation with the House leaders of both the Liberals and the NDP in months and years past. In a perfect world I would love to see a situation or the type of dynamic in play where on a relatively normal bill, a non-controversial bill, we could agree on an average length of debate. If we could agree, whether it is five days or ten days or so many hours, that would be the standard we would try to hold ourselves to.

Obviously there would be times where legislation that any government introduced would be opposed vigorously by the members of the opposition. We have clearly seen some of those in this session of Parliament, such as on the long gun registry and the Wheat Board, and there will be others. I can understand that, and I believe that the opposition members understand that those are the types of legislative initiatives where the opposition and the government will never find common ground. That is okay. That is the nature of democracy; that is the nature of Parliament. In those cases though, I still think that we could find some common ground to agree that if we are going to encounter vehement opposition, then what is a legitimate timeframe we can put on that debate. Perhaps it would not be as short as some of the more non-controversial pieces of legislation, but can we at least find some agreement to limit debate after a certain period of time, if we know that we will never find agreement between the opposite sides of the House?

That has been attempted. At times it has proven to be successful. I would like to see more of that type of dialogue between parties. However, where we cannot bridge that impasse, then we will find that the government has to use the levers at its disposal. We have been doing that, but I believe we have been doing that in a judicious manner.

I invite comments from opposition members to see if there are ways they would suggest for us to find even more enhanced co-operation between all parties in this place.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

5 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened attentively to the hon. member's presentation, with some admiration for his experience, his eloquence, and his ability to pass off half-truths as the whole truth. What more evidence do we need than this extension of sitting hours that we are being asked for? We are now being asked to believe that, finally, additional time is being allowed for debate in this House. But the list of bills that we are going to have to study keeps getting longer.

Let me do some simple calculations for those who are watching. Imagine we have one hour to debate one bill or two hours to debate five bills. In my opinion, the math can be done quite quickly, and everyone understands quite well that what is actually being proposed is once more a reduction in the time in which to debate each one of the bills that the government wants passed before the summer recess.

However, I am ready to listen to the proposals for a possible compromise on the amount of time allowed for various bills. I feel that there would be more chance of that if we had the feeling that we were listened to on at least one occasion. But really, that is extremely rare.

Is there a specific proposal on the table?

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

I am not sure, Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite feels that I have been speaking in half truths and trying to portray them as truths, and if he is willing to listen to anything I might say.

The reality is this: how can the member opposite say that the number of bills and the opportunities for debate are going to decrease when in fact we are increasing the hours per day for the next two weeks? We are proposing an extra five hours per day for the next two weeks. It seems to me that that would allow for more meaningful debate and more opportunities for compromise, or at least for some agreement. Frankly, I find it astonishing and quite confusing that the opposition would stand and say it is opposing increased hours for debate when it has in fact been saying for the last several months that it wants more time for debate.

There is a disconnect. I cannot see how it could possibly be bridged other than if the members of the opposition recognized what is known to all Canadians, that they are simply trying to delay legislation and not work together.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of quick comments and then a question.

First, I cannot resist commenting with regard to the time allocation debate. It is important to note that when the Liberal Party was in government, time allocation did not occur immediately after the introduction of bills, but often days after bills were introduced. When we take a look at the number of time allocation motions, I suspect that the entire Chrétien government, in its 10-plus years, did not bring in time allocation more than the Conservative government has in this last session since it acquired a majority. I am going to push that to the side right now.

The member offered a challenge. I love the idea. How do we pass, in a timely fashion, controversial legislation? Other jurisdictions, as an example, say that a controversial piece of legislation has to be introduced x number of days into a session and if it is not introduced before that time, time allocation is not allowed. Members have to make sure that it is done far enough in advance of the session winding down, for example, and then a minimum number of hours are established for debate before time application could be applied.

The point is that if there is a will among the House leaders and the House leadership team to sit down and negotiate in good faith, bills can get through the legislature, even the controversial ones, in which—

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order. I would remind all hon. members to keep an eye on the Chair when they are asking questions or making comments for some indication of time.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I applaud the member for Winnipeg North for volunteering on behalf of his House management team that there be a solution, that we may be able to find some common ground; but, unfortunately, I have not been able to see that demonstrated yet.

Obviously, the members opposite will try to blame the government for the failure to find common ground on an appropriate length of time for debate. The government sees it quite differently. I know that from time to time, quite frequently in fact, our government has gone to the opposition and asked how many speakers will be standing on a particular bill and how much time it thinks it needs to speak on a certain bill. Unfortunately, many times the answer from the opposition benches has been nothing more than that they would like to see how it plays out.

I would love to find a system that works, but it takes two to tango. Unfortunately, to date we have not been able to find that compromise and that common ground. I can assure the member opposite, however, that we will continue to work as hard as we can to see if we can find common ground.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I had some time this weekend to travel through my riding and I ran into some folks who always ask what Parliament is doing and what we are working on. I shared with them that we would again be talking about pooled registered pension plans this week and they asked, “Did you not finish that in the spring? Haven't you already talked about that?” They are quite amazed at how long it takes and how much conversation takes place. They also ask how I can sit and listen to the same things over and over again. I am all for great debate, but when the members opposite continue to get up one after the other and say exactly the same things, it does make me feel a bit weary.

I want to ask the member if he is hearing the same thing, that this is about getting the job done and being asked by people back home to come here and have good, earnest debate, but at some time to finish our job.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to applaud my good friend for asking a tough but fair question. All kidding aside, I mentioned in my address earlier that Canadians do expect government, regardless of whether it be Conservative, Liberal, NDP or whatever government, to get legislation passed. That is why its members are elected. Unfortunately, we find far too many times that debate is just extended for the sake of debate, not for the sake of trying to improve a piece of legislation.

I know others share this view with me. I would love to see a system, such as other jurisdictions have, where we are not allowed to read a speech in debate. I do not mean any disrespect to any members. Members from all sides do this. I see them during debate and question period with written questions or a speech that somebody else has written which they read verbatim. We would have far more meaningful dialogue if more members did not use written texts. There are many here who do not, and I am one of them, but there are many opposite who do. Frankly, if we simply had a rule, such as other jurisdictions employ, wherein members were not allowed to read a speech, they would have to stand up and speak extemporaneously. The level of debate would increase significantly. Canadians would be the beneficiaries of that debate.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will ask my colleague a fair and hopefully tough question. I am sure he has a lot of experience in the House. There are many rules and procedures that he has talked about in this House.

One of the procedures or rules that I have learned from my friends the Conservatives is time allocation. They have certainly used it enough times. I know backwards and inside out how the motion is put together. My Liberal colleague talked earlier about how that is used to stop debate in the House. I will go even further. I think the Conservatives really do not want to talk about what is in Bill C-38 so we cannot get to the bottom of it.

Therefore, my question to my colleagues is this. What are they hiding? What do they have to hide that we cannot have a proper discussion in the House on Bill C-38?

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. parliamentary secretary. A short answer, please.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, all parties and all members use different techniques that are available to them. However, what I find more distressing and most undemocratic is this. Earlier this year when we introduced the budget, and I wish I could remember the name of his riding, the member who was the acting finance critic on behalf of the opposition used I think two and a half or three days of debate without allowing the Liberal opposition party members to put their views forward.

If we want to talk about preventing honest debate and dialogue among all parties, I would suggest that my friends opposite look in the mirror.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak on behalf of my party on this motion. I want to preface my remarks by saying I was hoping to have the opportunity to ask my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, a question. I, too, am amazed at how he can so articulately outline the position of the government and make it so understandable and do it without notes. Unfortunately, I have not gained that opportunity. However, maybe with a few more years of sitting under his mentorship I will have some of that under my belt.

I am pleased to rise in support of the government's motion, pursuant to Standing Order 27, to extend the sitting hours of the House in the final two weeks before the summer adjournment. Later, I want to make a few general comments about why we need to extend the hours. Now, I would like to focus on the House rules as they relate to the ability of the government and the need of the government to implement this measure.

O'Brien and Bosc House of Commons Procedure and Practice states on page 403:

Since 1982, and the advent of a fixed House of Commons calendar, the Standing Orders have provided for the extension of sitting hours during the last 10 sitting days in June.

O'Brien and Bosc further states, on pages 403 to 404:

In order to extend the hours of sitting in June, a motion, for which no notice is required, must be moved by a Minister during Routine Proceedings on the 10th sitting day preceding June 23. The motion, which must propose to extend sittings to a specific hour, but not necessarily for every day during that period, is subject to a maximum two-hour debate before the question is put by the Speaker.

Standing Order 27 is designed to provide the government with the option of seeking additional time before the summer adjournment for consideration by the House of important government priorities. This House has accomplished a lot this session, but there is more important work to do. Adopting the motion would provide further time for the House to debate important economic bills, like Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, which would benefit our constituents, before we return to our ridings this summer.

Earlier in the debate today, my colleague from Winnipeg North made a comment to the House leader, something to the effect he was challenging the House leader to be sure that the House leader stayed here in Parliament for the full extent of the debate that we would have during these sitting hours.

I would like to point out to those who may be watching that much of the work of a parliamentarian is done outside this House. Yes, it is important that we are here for debates, motions and votes. However, my colleague will know that much of the work of a parliamentarian has to happen outside this House. We go back to our offices here on Parliament Hill. There are emails to deal with, phone calls to deal with, stakeholder meetings that are required of us. All of these functions are part of a parliamentarian's duties.

Add to that the responsibility of a House leader and one could imagine that it would be impossible, and my colleague knows this, for the House leader to sit here at his desk all day long to engage in debate. There are other important obligations placed upon our House leader.

It is important to point out to Canadians who were expecting us to move ahead on many of these initiatives to think about some of the positions that the NDP members have taken over the past number of weeks. They have repeatedly complained of lack of time to debate the legislation that we put before them. And now, here we have before us an opportunity to extend the hours to give them more opportunity.

Another point of irony in this whole debate is that during the debate on Bill C-38, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster used virtually 98% or more of the time available for all members to debate that bill. He used up all of that time, not allowing his colleagues, even the members of his own party, let alone the opposition, the opportunity to adequately enter into debate on that bill.

So, here we are, today, giving them the opportunity to extend those hours so that we can have important debate on the important legislation that we have tabled and they are saying, “No, we don't want to do that”. I think Canadians expect us to work until the job is done.

In these last six years that I have been a member of Parliament there are two things for which I am thankful. One is that I was raised on a farm and learned how to work hard and the other is that I learned how to work as a team member. Farmers realize that when it comes to spring planting season, they have to put in longer hours if the job is going to get done. When it comes to harvest in late summer or fall, farmers have to put in extra hours and extra resources may have to be called in. Canadians expect us at this point in history, when the economic recovery is still so fragile, to get the initiatives in this legislation implemented quickly.

Some misinformation has been given out today regarding the environmental changes that we are proposing. My colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands said “we are torching” the environmental regulations. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Bill C-38 proposes that when major projects are under review there be one project, one review, so that we are not needlessly duplicating and adding time and cost to those who are trying to move on with a project. Environmental assessments will be just as rigorous, perhaps more so. We will be giving companies a timeline in which the answer will be given. The answer may still be no, that the project cannot go ahead because of an environmental concern, but at least at the end of the day the company that is trying to move ahead with a project will have a definitive answer and it can move ahead with certainty.

Over the past number of days and weeks we have debated the changes to the EI system. I sat here through hours of debate as my colleagues on the other side argued against the fact that people should have the opportunity to take a job earning 80% of what they previously earned rather than sitting at home earning 55%.

Many of my constituents find that incongruous. How can those members possibly argue that it would be better for a Canadian to sit at home, not gainfully employed, not feeling productive, not having the honour and the self-esteem of having a productive job, when that individual could earn up to 80% of what he or she previously earned?

Also in the works here are the immigration and refugee changes we are suggesting in terms of getting rid of the hundreds of thousands of backlog cases that we inherited and trying to match the skills of those who plan to immigrate to Canada with job opportunities here. On this point, there is one thing that is being missed by a lot of Canadians.

People criticize us for wanting to keep immigrants out. Nothing could be further from the truth again. I have attended probably 100 citizenship ceremonies in the last six and a half years. Those who are calling for changes to our immigration and refugee system are new immigrants to Canada, who arrived here within the last 10 to 30 years. These people are saying that we need to ensure that we have a fair immigration system, one that gives a clear timeline as to what immigrants can expect in terms of job creation.

Changes to the fisheries and oceans act would also be implemented with the passing of this legislation. I come from an urban-rural riding. Many times farmers in my community have told me how frustrating it is when the Department of Fisheries and Oceans puts undue regulatory roadblocks in the way of their development simply because at one point a particular ditch may have had water in it and there may have been a few tadpoles in it and now they are facing many obstacles in getting on with fully implementing the projects that they want to do.

Under our government's economic action plan, Canada's deficit and taxes are going down. We heard today that Tax Freedom Day is today, June 11. I remember so clearly when I was running for office in 2005-06 that Tax Freedom Day was June 26. Here we are, fully two weeks earlier in reducing the tax burden on Canadians we have been called here to represent.

It is an honour for me to support the government's initiative to extend the sitting hours so that we can actually get the job done. Canadians expect that. They sent us here to do that. If we work together, we can get it done.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It being 5:25 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 27, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the motion now before the House.

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

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

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, with the agreement of the whips and pursuant to Standing Order 45(7) we ask that the recorded division be deferred to the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

As requested, the vote is deferred.

Citizenship and ImmigrationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition from dozens of people in the Vancouver area calling on the Government of Canada to withdraw Bill C-31, a bill that punishes legitimate refugees and does nothing to stop human smuggling.

The petitioners point out many troubling aspects of Bill C-31, including: giving the minister the power to hand-pick which countries he thinks are safe without advice; creating two tiers of refugees based on how they arrived in Canada; a five-year mandatory wait for bona fide refugees to become permanent residents and reunite with their families, again based on how they arrive in the country; and treating 16-year-old refugee claimants as adults, including detaining them.

The petitioners call on the government to scrap Bill C-31 and implement Bill C-11, Balanced Refugee Reform Act, legislation that passed just last year with the support of all parties in this House.

With the third reading vote scheduled for tonight, it is the last chance for the Conservative government to do the right thing.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I bring forward yet another petition from the residents of Winnipeg North regarding the eligibility for pension age increase from 65 to 67, which is what the Conservative government is proposing to do.

The petitioners believe that people should be able to continue to have the option to retire at the age of 65 and that the government not in any way diminish the importance and value of Canada's three major senior programs: OAS, GIS and CPP.

It is with pleasure that I bring this petition to the government in the expectation that the government will listen to what the residents are saying.

Rights of the UnbornPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present a petition from a number of constituents in beautiful Langley.

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

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

TelecommunicationsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, earlier this year, the Minister of Public Safety stood in the House and said that if people were not for the government's online spying bill, its so-called lawful access legislation, then they were standing with child pornographers.

I have a petition here from the good people in my riding of Davenport, in Toronto, who beg to differ with the minister on his statement and with the government on the online spying bill. They are particularly concerned about measures in the bill that will compel telecommunications companies to hold and store personal data that would be made available to law enforcement agencies without a warrant.

Canada PostPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have another petition from people in my riding who are very concerned about cuts to public services in their riding.

Canada Post may or may not close the one big postal station in our riding. My constituents are very concerned. This petition is a testament to that concern.

Canadian Broadcasting CorporationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5:30 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions. The first is from residents of Quebec.

The petitioners are calling on the government to provide stable, secure and predictable funding for the national public broadcaster.

The petitioners have stated that CBC/Radio-Canada has a unique and dramatic role to play.

Bill C-38PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5:30 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition, very much on point, is from the residents of Oakville; Windsor; Kitchener-Waterloo; Niagara-on-the-Lake; Vernon; Courtenay and Black Creek, B.C.; and Montreal, all calling on the government to withdraw Bill C-38, the so-called budget implementation bill, and to ensure that those non-budgetary matters receive proper review and are not forced through, as the government appears intent upon doing.

The EnvironmentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition circulated by the Dogwood initiative in British Columbia and signed by over 57,000 people who do not support the Enbridge project.

The petitioners are calling on the House of Commons to protect British Columbia's waters from an oil disaster by legislating a ban on bulk oil tanker traffic off B.C.'s northern coast.

The petitioners note that the proposed Enbridge project would bring more than 225 supertankers the length of the Eiffel Tower to the pristine coastal waters of northern B.C.

The petitioners also note that even with the most modern technology and oil industry promises, accidents happen with devastating consequences. The vast majority of British Columbians oppose tanker traffic.

Bill C-38PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second group of petitions calls on the Government of Canada to immediately abandon Bill C-38 and introduce only those measures that are directly related to the budget.

The petitioners note that many of the measures in the bill were not mentioned in the March 29 budget and most of them have nothing to do with implementing the budget.

The petitioners also note that the measures would amend over 60 different laws, including repealing or eliminating the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Fisheries Act, and many others.

The petitioners say that Bill C-38 would undo decades of environmental law and degrade the Canadian government's ability to defend our environment.

Genetically Modified OrganismsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition signed by literally hundreds and hundreds of residents in southwestern Ontario concerned with the science and long-term health implications of genetically modified organisms.

The petitioners call on the House to immediately cease the licensing and release of new GMOs and request an independent review of existing GMOs that are presently in the market.

Sri LankaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to present hundreds of pages of the petitions on the topic of justice and human rights. We know of the war that took place on the Island of Sri Lanka over the last almost 30 years.

The UN report of the Secretary General's panel of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka found credible allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes on the island.

The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to urge the United Nations to immediately establish an independent international and impartial mechanism to ensure truth, accountability and justice in Sri Lanka.

Canadian Museum for Human RightsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I table a petition today from the residents of Elmwood—Transcona. The petition is for equity and fairness at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

The petitioners humbly pray and call upon Parliament and the government to ensure that the Holodomor and Canada's first national internment operations are permanently and prominently displayed at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in their own galleries, and that the government suspend any further funding to the museum until issues surrounding the governance of the museum are reviewed and addressed.

International Co-operationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5:35 p.m.

NDP

José Nunez-Melo NDP Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present this petition, signed by some 200 of my constituents, in support of Development and Peace.

The petition primarily calls on the government to fulfill its international responsibilities by once again committing Canada to give 0.7% of its GDP, as recommended, and, in the interests of international solidarity, to fully re-establish the $49 million in funding requested by Development and Peace for the next five years.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition signed by residents from Random—Burin—St. George's regarding the government's decision to raise the eligibility age for OAS from 65 to 67. I continue to get petitions on this issue. Thousands of people have sent petitions signing their names. They are calling on the government to reverse its decision, looking at the fact that it would impact those most vulnerable in society, which includes single women and our seniors. Even though it would not impact our seniors today, the fact that it would impact the seniors of tomorrow is still a serious issue and must be addressed. The only way to address this is to have the government reverse its decision to increase the eligibility age for OAS from 65 to 67.

Rights of the UnbornPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions all similarly worded indicating that Canada's 400-year-old definition of a human being that a child does not become a human being until the moment of complete birth is contrary to 21st century medical evidence. They also state that Parliament has a solemn duty to reject any law that says some human beings are not human.

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

These signatures and petitions are from the Grenfell–Broadview area, another similarly worded petition from the Estevan–Lampman area, and another similarly worded petition from Kenosee Lake, Carlyle and area.

EuthanasiaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a fourth petition from the residents of Canada is in support of the Attorney General's strongest possible opposition to the legalization of euthanasia and/or assisted suicide.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, I have the honour to present a petition signed by the people of Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, who are concerned about the Conservatives' announced changes to old age security. According to experts, this program is viable in the long term.

Since the changes announced to old age security will have a direct, negative impact on the middle class and on seniors most susceptible to living in poverty, the petitioners are calling on the government to not only maintain eligibility for old age security at the age of 65, but to also increase guaranteed income supplement benefits, because they are not enough to help seniors out of poverty. It is a shame that there are Canadians living below the poverty line.

Sri LankaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I, too, present a petition signed by many people around Canada who cite a report of the Secretary-General's panel of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka which found credible allegations that, if proven, indicate that during the final stages of Sri Lanka's war a wide range of serious violations under international humanitarian and human rights law were committed both by the government of Sri Lanka and LTTE, some of which amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The petitioners are calling upon the Government of Canada to urge the United Nations to immediately establish an independent, international and impartial mechanism to ensure truth, accountability and justice in Sri Lanka.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

5:40 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, if Questions Nos. 621, 622 and 624 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 621Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

With regard to the planned reductions in departmental spending for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) announced in Budget 2012, for fiscal years 2012-2013, 2013-2014 and 2014-2015: (a) what is the total dollar amount of reductions for each of the program activities, specifically, (i) International Policy Advice and Integration, (ii) Diplomacy and Advocacy, (iii) International Commerce, (iv) Consular Services and Emergency Management, (v) Passport Canada, (vi) Governance, Strategic Direction and Common Service Delivery; (b) what are the total reductions for full-time equivalents (FTEs) for each of the program activities, specifically, (i) International Policy Advice and Integration, (ii) Diplomacy and Advocacy, (iii) International Commerce, (iv) Consular Services and Emergency Management, (v) Passport Canada, (vi) Governance, Strategic Direction and Common Service Delivery; (c) what is the total dollar amount of reductions to the Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor for the Extractive Sector; (d) what is the total dollar amount of reductions to the Office of the Assistant Deputy Minister, Afghanistan, Middle East and Maghreb, broken down by (i) Afghanistan Inter-Departmental Communications and Information Services Bureau, (ii) Director General, Afghanistan Task Force, (iii) Middle East and Maghreb Bureau; (e) what is the total dollar amount of reductions to the Office of the Assistant Deputy Minister, Americas, broken down by (i) Director General, Latin America and Caribbean, (ii) Hemispheric Policy Bureau, (iii) North American Platform Program, Executive Coordinator and Senior Advisor, (iv) North America Policy Bureau, (v) North America Programs and Operations Bureau, (vi) North American Leaders' Summit Division; (f) what is the total dollar amount of reductions to the Office of the Assistant Deputy Minister for Europe, Eurasia and Africa, broken down by (i) Africa Bureau, Director General, (ii) Europe, Director General, (iii) North Asia, Europe and Eurasia Bureau, (iv) Office of the Chief Negotiator for the Canada-EU Political Framework Agreement, (v) Senior Advisor, Resource Review, (vi) The New Way Forward Secretariat; (g) what is the total dollar amount of reductions to the Office of the Assistant Deputy Minister, Global Issues, specifically for the (i) Economic Policy Bureau, broken down by Development Policy and Institutions and International Economic Relations and Summit Division, (ii) Energy, Climate and Circumpolar Affairs Bureau, broken down by Circumpolar Affairs, Climate Change and Energy Division, Secretariat for ABS Negotiations and Sustainable Development Division, (iii) Human Rights and Democracy Bureau, (iv) Human Rights and Freedom Bureau, (v) International Organizations, Human Rights and Democracy Bureau broken down by Democracy and Governance Division, Democracy, Commonwealth and Francophonie Division, Human Rights and Governance Policy Division, Senior Advisor Multilateral Initiatives and Advocacy, and United Nations and Commonwealth Affairs Division;

(h) what is the total dollar amount of reductions to the Office of the Assistant Deputy Minister, International Security Branch and Political Director, broken down by, (i) area management office - multilateral group, (ii) International Security Bureau (iii) Senior Coordinator, International Crime and Terrorism; (i) what is the total dollar amount of reductions to the Office of the Assistant Deputy Minister, Latin America and Caribbean; (j) what is the total dollar amount of reductions to the Office of the Associate Deputy Minister listed by (i) Office of Protocol, (ii) Programs and Departmental Security, broken down by Global Partnership Program, Program Services Division, Security Abroad Task Force, Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force Secretariat, (iii) Strategic Management and Resource Coordination Bureau; (k) what is the total dollar amount of reductions to the Communications Bureau; (l) what is the total dollar amount of reductions to the Communications Consular, Security and Emergency Management Branch, broken down by (i) Area Management Office - Consular, (ii) Consular Operations Bureau, (iii) Consular Policy and Advocacy Bureau, (iv) Emergency Management Bureau, (v) Management and Consular Officer Renewal Team Office, (vi) Security and Intelligence Bureau (vii) Task Force on International Critical Incidents; (m) what is the total dollar amount of reductions to the International Platform Branch; (n) what is the total dollar amount of reductions to the Strategic Policy and Planning; (o) what is the total dollar amount of reductions to the Summits Management Office; (p) what is the total dollar amount of reductions to the Office of Transformation; (q) what is the total dollar amount of reductions to the Office of the Inspector General; (r) what is the total dollar amount of reductions to the Legal Adviser; (s) what is the total dollar amount of reductions to the Corporate Secretariat; (t) what is the total dollar amount of reductions to the Corporate Finance and Operations Office; (u) what is the total dollar amount of reductions to the Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs; (v) what is the total dollar amount of reductions to the Office of the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs); and (w) what is the total dollar amount involved in the asset sales of official residences and land abroad, (i) what is the timeline for the sales, (ii) what is the review process for the sales, (iii) will the sales be disclosed publicly and, if so, where will the information be available, (iv) what departments are involved in the sales?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 622Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

With regard to Canada’s examination of its participation in some international organizations, as announced in Budget 2012: (a) what international organizations are part of the examination; (b) what is the timeline for the examination; (c) who will be consulted during the examination; and (d) will the results of the examination be made public?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 624Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

With regard to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency since 2005-2006, broken down by fiscal year: (a) how many inspections have been conducted in the Canadian food sector; (b) how many inspections in the Canadian food sector have resulted in recalls; (c) how many inspections in the Canadian food sector have resulted in fines; (d) what is the average number of inspections conducted in the Canadian food sector per inspector; and (e) what is the ratio of physical inspections to administrative inspections?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

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

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from June 7 consideration of the motion that Bill C-25, An Act relating to pooled registered pension plans and making related amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed; and of the previous question.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the official opposition critic for seniors, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-25 today.

I must begin by mentioning what our dear Prime Minister said a few months ago in Switzerland. During a speech, he said that Canada's aging population is a problem and that if the government does not tackle the problem, it may have even more serious consequences than the recent economic crises.

First, I would like to express the NDP's official position that the aging population is not a problem; it is a situation. And it is not a surprise situation. We have seen it coming for a long time. Today's 60- and 70-year-olds were not born yesterday. Not only is this not a problem, but I think we can view it as an asset. Canada's seniors are a tremendous resource. They have experience and they share their knowledge and experience. These people volunteer in their communities and in politics, and they spend precious time with their families. No matter how numerous our seniors, they are not a problem for our country.

Today, we should not be attacking the aging population, but we should simply know how to adapt. Yes, there are things that need to be done in this regard. As a country, we need to adapt to ensure that everyone can continue to live well and with dignity. We have known about and seen this demographic trend coming for a long time. One way to adapt is to ensure that the seniors of tomorrow will have reliable pension programs and, we hope, financial security that will enable them to live many more years after retirement in dignity and happiness.

Generally speaking, the fact that today we are talking about a bill on one specific pension program is good news because it means that Parliament is addressing the issue and wondering how it can help people retire with dignity.

However, there is something we do not agree on, and that is how to adapt and what tools to give people to ensure that they will be able to have a pleasant retirement.

What do people want exactly? I think that is a basic question that needs to be asked. What is the problem on the ground? What do people expect the government to do to help them?

I travelled all over Quebec. I visited over 30 towns and cities. People went out of their way specifically to address the issue of seniors' financial security. I heard a number of concerns, questions and fears. I would like to share some of them here today.

First of all, old age security is an important part of Canada's overall pension system. Old age security is universal. Everyone is entitled to receive it when they turn 65. Everyone counts on it, especially middle-income families and people who live below the poverty line—people who do not make enough money to set some aside in savings plans, people who have had an accident, people who have had to stop working for an extended period of time and perhaps have been unable to return to the labour market, people who were laid off at age 55 or 60 and who have not been able to find another job.

Old age security is an essential part of the system, and because of it, Canada can count itself among those countries that have a smaller percentage of seniors living in poverty. Despite that, there are plans to raise the age of eligibility for the program, which will unfortunately increase poverty among seniors. We have talked a lot about this issue. Given that this is not our primary focus here today, I will move on to some of the other subjects before us.

The Canada pension plan, much likes its equivalent in Quebec, is a pension plan that serves all workers. Regardless of the number of hours a person works and no matter what kind of employer he or she works for, everyone who accumulates hours of work contributes to the Canada pension plan or Quebec pension plan. Depending on the number of hours worked and the wages earned, everyone is entitled to receive a certain amount of money. However, this Canada pension plan payment is not enough to replace a person's salary in any meaningful way.

It has to be supplemented by something else. What is more, the Canada pension plan and old age security do not provide Canadians comfortable financial security at retirement either.

Another type of benefit people receive at retirement is an employer provided pension plan. Unfortunately, 12 million Canadians do not have one. Unfortunately, more and more businesses are declaring bankruptcy and are not reimbursing the employees' pension plans, which the employees were counting on for their retirement. Unfortunately, in many cases, these pension plans have been mismanaged by the employers and the benefits have had to be reduced, causing a great deal of discontent.

Something can be done to help Canadians who have employer provided pension plans, but many Canadians do not. What is the government doing for those who do not have an employer provided pension plan?

Another type of savings exists and that is everything to do with RRSPs, group RRSPs, TFSAs, et cetera. Again, many Canadians cannot invest in such plans. People who work full time and earn minimum wage are living below the poverty line. They can hardly put money into an RRSP or a TFSA. I will come back to that later. Here again, more needs to be done to allow Canadians to save for their retirement.

Yes, people have expectations of their government. They have worthwhile suggestions for solving the problems in Canada's pension system. I will come back to this later.

People want a reliable pension system that will provide them with a secure retirement. And I have excellent news: we can create such a system. We have the tools. We have the resources to provide seniors with greater financial security. All that is needed is a willingness to take this issue seriously and a little political courage. Unfortunately, we see no political courage in Bill C-25. This is not a strong, effective measure that will help Canadians save for their retirement, and that is too bad.

What does Bill C-25 really do for Canadians? That is a good question, because there is not much difference between a pooled registered pension plan and an RRSP, a group RRSP or a TFSA. There is some difference, of course, but it is not big enough to ensure that the 12 million Canadians who have no workplace pension plan will be able to retire worry-free. These measures are not really going to solve the problems I talked about earlier.

At present, 12 million Canadians do not have workplace pension plans and 31% of Canadians eligible to contribute to RRSPs do so. Why do almost 60% of eligible Canadians not contribute to an RRSP? Have the Conservatives asked themselves this question? It is important to know the answer. PRPPs and RRSPs are very similar. We have to wonder why Canadians who can contribute to an RRSP do not currently do so. Perhaps they would not contribute to PRPPs for the same reasons. It is important to ask the question.

Here is another statistic: 41% of Canadians have a TFSA. Why do approximately 60% of Canadians not have one? It is very pertinent to ask this question because, once again, if people have trouble making ends meet, and do not have enough income to live on and to support their children, they probably could not put money into a PRPP any more than they could into a TFSA or an RRSP.

Furthermore, 50% of Canadians who have a TFSA earn $100,000 or more.

Once again, what are we going to do for these middle- and low-income Canadians who have no retirement security. Is there a better way to help them than setting up a pooled registered pension plan?

Some countries have tried to implement PRPPs but have failed, whereas other countries have been successful. Let me expand on that. For instance, New Zealand and the United Kingdom implemented pooled registered pension plans and they were successful.

That makes you think. What are the differences between the program implemented in those countries and the program that the Conservatives want to implement? The biggest difference is that, in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, employers are required to contribute if the employee does. So it is a very attractive incentive for employees and it increases the amount of money that people can get after they retire. That has encourage with RRSPs or TFSAs, for example. Neither do we find it in the pooled registered pension plan proposed in Bill C-25.

In New Zealand and the United Kingdom, another incentive for people to contribute to pension plans is that the state provides a tax break or pays a bonus to employees who contribute to their pooled registered pension plans.

Countries that have had success with that kind of pension plan have much stronger, much more solid incentives and restrictions. I am not saying that a pooled registered pension plan would be the best solution. But I do want to stress that there are ways to make the tool much more attractive and much more effective.

In a number of cases, we wonder why the government is proposing a solution of this kind. I suggest a comparison with another situation that is being talked about a lot these days, the increase in the age of eligibility for old age security.

Why raise it by two years? A lot of questions remain for which we have no answers. By “we”, I do not just mean my colleagues and I, I also mean experts who also have no explanation as to why the government is moving in that direction.

First of all, what were the government's objectives for old age security? The government tells us that the program is not sustainable, but a number of experts say that indeed it is. Can we have the figures and the calculations? What is the objective that the Conservatives are trying to achieve by raising the age of eligibility for old age security. How much money do they feel is needed to make the program sustainable? We do not know.

The other day, an hon. member opposite told me that it is about plain old common sense, of very simple math. I am sorry, but calculations and arguments like that are not very convincing. Can you identify a clear problem and propose clear objectives that would allow us to analyze the various options and act accordingly?

What other options are being studied? There are other options. A bill presents one option to us, but what other options have been looked at? Why this option for the PRPP and not another? Why would another option not work? These are questions that have to be asked but have not been answered. It is difficult to work co-operatively and to propose specific initiatives when we have no idea of the basic objectives. What other options have really been studied? Why was this one chosen rather than another?

Lastly, what will the short-term, medium-term and long-term repercussions be? In other countries, an option like that was studied, put in place and did not work. Why would it be any different in Canada, with Bill C-25? I expect to get some very interesting answers. What can we do to ensure that it will work this time in Canada, when it has not worked in other countries?

It is a well-known fact that the NDP is proposing a solution other than the one proposed in Bill C-25. It proposes doubling the Canada pension plan and Quebec pension plan benefits, rather than create a PRPP, first because of the management costs. How much will the management costs be for a PRPP? Once again, we do not really have an answer. The number is approximate, but it is certainly higher than the costs of managing the Canada pension plan. Then, it is much more egalitarian for certain segments of the population.

One of the examples I like to give is the example of women. The Canada pension plan takes into account the obligation of women to leave the work force if they have a child and the obligation of people to leave the work force if, for example, they have to take care of a family member who is ill. Women are often the ones who do that as well. A pooled registered pension plan does not take those obligations into account. People who have to stop contributing during a specific period will then be penalized through reduced benefits when they retire.

The Canada pension plan is a plan where the risk is assumed by everybody and, because everyone's contributions are grouped together, it makes up for the fact that some people have to take time off for an illness or disability or for family reasons.

Introducing PRPPs instead of improving CPP will lead to an increase in poverty among women. I do not think I need to go on at length about this, but there is much more poverty among senior women than senior men. Something must be done about this. It has to be taken into account. It cannot be ignored. It is a problem the government has to be sensitive to.

Risk sharing is also important. With CPP, everyone shares the risk. But with a PRPP, a single individual assumes the risk. I want to come back to what will happen to someone who lives longer. Since a PRPP is not a defined benefit plan, this person knows how much he is putting into the plan, but not how much he will get out of it. There is certainly a fixed amount. This means that someone who lives a long life will have to figure out how to manage his portfolio so that he has enough money to live on for the rest of his days. What are we saying? Should we hope that this person does not live too long, or else he will pay through the nose and live in poverty? It makes no sense. We can avoid this sort of situation by enhancing CPP.

The same applies to someone who becomes disabled at 58, for example. That person has to stop contributing and will be penalized. The individual has to bear all of the risk, but that risk could be shared by improving the Canada Pension Plan.

I still have so much to say, but I think I will end with some good news.

Canadians want to know that this is not the only way to do things. The Conservatives often argue that if they do not take this step, our economy will crumble and we will end up like this or that other country. That is not true. There are many ways to run a country and many ways to address a problem. There are alternatives to Bill C-25. As I mentioned earlier, the government could double Canada pension plan benefits. We think that can and should be done to ensure financial security for as many seniors as possible.

The government could also increase the guaranteed income supplement. I have talked at length about poverty among seniors. Currently, the government does not provide seniors with enough money to get them out of poverty. Seniors have to choose between buying food and buying medication. That is unacceptable in our society. The government should increase the guaranteed income supplement to ensure a certain level of dignity for our seniors.

There are still more things the government could do: leaving the old age security age at 65 is an obvious one for the NDP. Protecting employer-managed pensions and amending Canada's Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act are other options. There are many good things the government could do to ensure financial security for retired Canadians.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's remarks, but there was one comment right near the end that I really take exception to. She was commenting about the amounts given by government not being adequate. Well, the amounts given by government are actually the money that is earned by Canadians, so we simply cannot continue to spend other people's money. That is the NDP proposal.

I would like to ask my colleague why she would be opposed to extending the right to a workplace pension to Canadians who do not have that option now. Over 60% of Canadians currently do not have access to a workplace pension.

There are all kinds of small and medium-sized enterprises. We know that the small and medium-sized businesses in the country are the economic engine that keeps our country going, so why would she deny them that possibility? The small engine repair shop, a dental office or a hair salon are all examples of these kinds of business that up until now could not afford to go out and buy a pension plan, but if they pool their resources with others in similar professions, they could actually get a low-cost, effective pension plan. Why would she deny that to the 60% of Canadians who do not have access to it?

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6 p.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his very pertinent and intelligent question.

It is true that I am prepared to say that the pooled registered pension plan is not a problem in itself. I agree with it, but it is not the best solution. A number of Canadians are not able to put money aside in RRSPs. Will PRPPs really help those Canadians? Some, maybe, but certainly not all. We can do better, as I have been saying since this debate began.

Why not enhance Canada Pension Plan benefits? The program works well; it has very low management costs and the ability to handle risks collectively.

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6 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, prime ministers like Mackenzie King and Lester Pearson saw the value of retirement and the importance of providing a pension income for our seniors. Today we look at the foundation programs that were put into place by Liberal administrations in the past, such as the CPP, OAS and GIS. These programs have provided for seniors over generations now, and we believe in those programs.

In regard to this specific bill, there are provincial jurisdictions, we are told by the federal government, that support the need for having this bill passed so that this new pension option would be there for those few Canadians, and ultimately it could be quite a few. In particular, the Province of Quebec and the Province of Manitoba, where there is an NDP administration, seem to be supportive of having this pooled pension plan.

We in the Liberal Party see it as a small tool. It needs to be changed and it could be far more effective, but there does seem to be a desire to have it. Why would the NDP oppose it as at least a pension option? That seems to be all it really is. It is a very small one.

We too want to see the increases to programs like CPP, but this does seem to be a consumer-friendly option for individuals who might have additional pension money going forward. I do not quite understand why the NDP would oppose it as an option.

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6:05 p.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

But, Mr. Speaker, we also have to emphasize the fact that a lot of people are not in favour of creating savings schemes of this kind, but instead are in favour of enhancing the Canada Pension Plan, or its Quebec equivalent, the Régime des rentes du Québec.

I would like to quote from a recent study done by the Régime des rentes du Quebec, which states:

…this quick analysis shows that there may be a significant gap in the standard of living at retirement between those with fixed benefit pension plans and those who must rely only on RRSPs, RRIFs, LIRAs and LIFs.

We can add PRPPs to that list.

There is a better way to provide for people's financial security and quality of life than by creating a program like this. It is time to take decisive action, with political courage and with specific initiatives.

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6:05 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her excellent intervention on this topic.

Recently at the World Economic Forum, our Prime Minister announced that there would be major transformations coming to Canada's retirement pension system.

The only transformative change that Canada really needs for retirement security is investment in our Canada pension plan and Quebec pension plan, yet the government once again is proposing another privately administered voluntary savings plan. However, statistics have shown and even members across the aisle have said that people are not participating in it, and that makes it difficult.

My colleague here has many suggestions. I wonder if she could elaborate very briefly on some suggestions that would be equitable, to lift every senior in Canada out of poverty rather than just the wealthy ones.

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6:05 p.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

First, I spoke a lot about old age security, an essential part of the social security net. Increasing the age of eligibility for this program would have a direct negative impact on people in the middle class and people living close to the poverty line.

There are other things that Canadians want to see us do about their retirement security. They are investing in RRSPs, but right now they are now seeing their RRSPs decrease because RRSPs depend on the stock market. That is not retirement security.

Canadians want a defined benefit pension plan. This means that they would be able to count on a set amount of money. Regardless of the amount, they must be able to count on a set amount.

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6:05 p.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Independent Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, building on the previous several questions, it is clear to everybody on this side of the House and I think we all agree that what we need is a real CPP, expanded, enhanced and made functional.

Having said that, I am getting a lot of correspondence from small business people in my riding saying this is not great but at least it would be something for small businesses and for people who do not currently have another vehicle.

My question to the hon. member is simple. Despite all the things we would like to see, which would be much better, does she think there is some potential for this to meet the needs of some people, and would there be any real harm in it if we were to go with the flow?

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond by talking about another very similar tactic, which we have seen in other cases.

Recently, the Conservative government announced that it was working very hard on combatting elder abuse because it had amended a small part of the law that makes it possible to ensure that elder abuse would be subject to a harsher penalty. That is the type of smoke and mirror show that the Conservatives like to put on. They brag about taking action for a cause, when really all they are doing is amending a small part of the law, and they could have done so much more.

Why not combat the real causes of elder abuse? Why not combat poverty among seniors? Why not ensure that they have access to affordable and adapted housing? Why not take strong measures to truly address the issues, rather than making big promises but very few changes?

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6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to stand to talk about the pooled registered pension plan bill that is here before us.

I am going to talk a bit about some of my experiences as a small-business person and how this would help the employers, the employees and the entrepreneurial sector of our economy. The small businesses, as was said earlier, are the driving forces in our economy. We sometimes forget how important that sector is and how hard it is for them to save for retirement.

I am also going to talk a bit about what a pooled registered pension plan is, so that we can better understand what it is, how it works and what it would do.

If I have time, I am going to talk about the organizations and people out there who have talked positively about pooled registered pension plans, and I will try to convince some of my colleagues on the other side that this would be a great tool to put in the toolbox of pension saving.

First, let me talk about small businesses. Let me talk about small-business owners. In my past, I have certainly been a small businessman. I have been a mentor to other small-business people. Far too often the entrepreneurs in this country worry a lot about one thing in their business. That is the customer, the person who they are selling their product or their service to; that is their whole outreach. Small-business people and entrepreneurs are singularly focused to do what they do and do it right.

It is not that they, in any way, dislike their employees or do not want to do best by them, but something like putting together a pension plan for the employees would come under some of the other things that small-business owners and entrepreneurs have to do. It is about their economy. It is about growing their business and serving their customers right.

Entrepreneurs, by their true nature, are usually very good at one thing, whatever it is. I rather like the food business and the customer service side of the food business. I was very focused and I knew I was very good at that. Others may be very good as insurance brokers, as mentioned earlier, as dentists or whatever. Whatever small-business owners are engaged in, they are usually absolute experts at the one thing they do.

But guess what? Small-business owners are the only people who get to make the decisions. They get to be the purchasing director, the person who ensures all the supplies show up and at the right price. They are also in charge of marketing, even though their business may not be about marketing. They are in charge of making sure customers come and are happy.

Most of the day, they spend their time being a coach, a trainer, helping their employees do the job right to serve their people properly. They are also financial planners because their bank will want to know what it is they are looking for. Sometimes they are nothing more than cleaners. If there is a spill, as owners, they are the ones who clean it up. That is what small-business people do: customer service, customer complaints. They are in charge of productivity. In a big business, there may be a whole department, but here in small-business and entrepreneurism, it is the owners. The owners of a small business are responsible for ensuring that happens. They are the accounts payable manager. They are the accounts receivable manager. They are all these things. As small-business people, they may be expert at one thing, but they are responsible for being good at all those things.

Let us add to it, then, pension planning. It just is not in their portfolio, in most cases.The pooled registered pension plan would give them the ability to allow that to go somewhere else. It would be administered by pooling together a business' employees with other businesses' employees, those of other small-business people and other entrepreneurs who might otherwise never plan a pension plan. The money would go into a great big pool and would be administered by someone else. A small-business owner would think, “Is that ever good. Somebody is going to do part of my list. I'm going to be able to hand this off to someone else”.

Let us talk a bit about what the pooled registered pension plan would do. It would do exactly what it says. It would allow businesses, certainly small businesses, entrepreneurs, single-owner businesses and single-operated businesses, to pool together.

I cannot tell members how many times during RRSP season I drive by a bank with a sign that says to buy RRSPs by such and such a date. As a small-business owner I may have even been on my way to that bank to make a deposit. However, I would get to that the next day. Procrastination on the areas where we are not really experts, as entrepreneurs, get left until the next day.

One of the previous speakers asked, if this is so great, why is there not more uptake on RRSPs and why is there not more uptake on TFSAs, the tax-free savings accounts. The reason is that they both require a small-business owner to go someplace and do something. This requires employees to automatically become registered as part of a pooled pension, and it works. It will automatically happen.

As a small-business owner, I always thought my small business was my retirement. That was part of the financial planning. At the end of the day, I hoped it was worth enough and I could sell it, and that was how I would retire. I think most entrepreneurs out there with a small number of employees, or no employees at all, think that is what their retirement is. Their saving for retirement is working hard every day, hoping their business is successful.

What the pooled registered pension plan does is make it also available for them to pool together with other small businesses and save for their retirement in a different way besides simply being the cleaner, the dentist, the hairdresser or whatever the business is. It just is out there. It is a tool in their toolbox. It makes it easy. If we can make it easy, people will do it. It makes it easy for them to pool together to get their employees to automatically register, and then there are pensions out there.

I heard one of the previous speakers talk about some 60% of people in Canada not having a pension plan. That is absolutely right. It is terrible. Here is a chance for more people, whatever their rate of pay, to pool together their assets in those pooled pension plans and allow that to pay for itself and provide a pension plan for them.

In order to increase or do anything with the Canada pension plan, it takes the provincial ministers of finance and the federal Minister of Finance to agree to do it. I am sorry, but we are not at that point. We have not yet been able to get the required number of provinces to do that. That is not on the table, but this is, and when it was launched it had unanimous consent of the ministers of finance in the provincial and federal governments to move forward to do this. It can be done.

Let me switch to some of the great comments that have been made about pooled registered pension plans on behalf of small business. I recognize that I am concentrating there because of being a former small-business owner. The new voluntary low-cost and administratively simple retirement savings mechanism would allow more employers and employees and those who are self-employed to participate in a pension plan. Who would not wish for that to happen?

Dan Kelly, from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business agrees and wants it to happen.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce stated that this legislation:

...introduced...has the potential to benefit the estimated 60 per cent of Canadians who have either no, or insufficient, retirement savings.

That is the group we are trying to address here, those who are not part of a large industry and have a pension plan to go with it. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce believes PRPPs, pooled registered pension plans, would give many businesses the flexibility and tools they need to help their employees save for retirement, who might otherwise not do it because they missed the great big reader board at the front of the bank saying that RRSP time was here and it was time to put some money in there.

Here is one of my favourites. Minister Duncan from Ontario said that the McGuinty government supports the federal Conservatives' PRPP proposal but believes it is only one tool in helping Canadians save more.

I agree. It is only one tool. We will still have the Canada pension plan, the OAS and the rest of the things, but there is just one that would have given me a chance to save for retirement as a small-business owner, a person who got up every morning and went and worked for myself most of my life.

This is important to us. Let us get this done.

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6:20 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wonder what the size of that tool is or how big a tool it is in that toolbox that the minister across the way spoke of. There are micro screwdrivers and maybe this pooled pension Ponzi scheme that he is talking about is a micro screwdriver. I can tell the member opposite that there are a lot of small businesses in a riding like mine in a big urban centre. Not one of them would be able to access this plan or use it to build a retirement plan.

Will the member opposite agree with me that, if this is a tool, it is a darned small one at that?