House of Commons Hansard #142 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was changes.


Divisions at report stage on Bill C-38Points of Order

11:05 a.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, it has come to my attention that I have been inaccurately recorded as voting yea in Division No. 325 at page 9478 of Debates and page 1650 of Journals for Wednesday, June 13. If you were to look at the video, you would clearly see that I stood and voted nay to Motion No. 273, along with my government colleagues.

I would ask that the records of the House be changed to reflect that fact.

Divisions at report stage on Bill C-38Points of Order

11:05 a.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. government House leader for bringing this to our attention. We will certainly look into it and make sure that the record is accurate.

The House resumed from May 14 consideration of the motion that Bill C-300, An Act respecting a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention, be read the third time and passed.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Don Valley East has eight minutes left to conclude his remarks.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Joe Daniel Conservative Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I stand this morning to talk about Bill C-300, the federal framework for suicide prevention act.

Suicide is a tragedy that not only affects the person who actually commits suicide but all the people around him or her, the whole community and relatives, et cetera, who are actually involved. The tragedy of suicide is that most people do not understand why.

A close friend of mine woke up one day and went into the washroom only to find his brother hanging there, having committed suicide. The effect of that on him and his family was tremendous. Years later, he remarks that he just does not understand why. Understanding why has been a quest for many people for a very long time.

This bill is very supportive in terms of trying to understand why. The framework allows some investigation and research to be undertaken and pushed forward so that we can better understand what causes these tragedies.

For example, a very famous footballer in England had a successful football career and was a coach in one of the first division leagues. He was seen the night before, partying and enjoying himself. The following day, it was discovered that he had taken his life. Nobody really understands why people feel this despair and that they have to take their own lives, ending it like that. He was a successful, wealthy man.

Suicide affects people from the entire spectrum of life, from the very rich to the poor and everybody in between. Understanding suicide in this country can help. We have had many tragedies of suicide among aboriginal people, particularly among youth, in the prime of their lives, who take their own lives. There must be some reason for that.

To understand that reason has to be a quest that we as a Parliament can undertake. The question is, “Why are these tragedies happening?” This bill puts forward a framework whereby research can be done, as well as follow-up with the victims and the communities around them, to try to understand and prevent some of these tragedies that are happening.

I ask all members on all party sides to support this bill.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak, today, to what no one can doubt to be an incredibly important and urgent issue: the need for a pan-Canadian suicide prevention strategy.

The House of Commons demonstrated its commitment to developing a national strategy in October of last year. The hon. member for Toronto Centre, the interim leader of the Liberal Party, introduced an important and powerful motion passed by this House almost unanimously when we agreed that suicide is more than a personal tragedy; it is also a serious public health issue and public policy priority. As a government and as national representatives, we must work with our counterparts in the provinces and territories and with representatives from non-governmental organizations, first nations, Inuit and Métis people, to establish and fund a comprehensive, evidence-driven national suicide prevention strategy.

I was proud to stand along with nearly every other member in this House to support that motion.

This issue with other mental health and end-of-life concerns has been forefront in my mind for more than two years, both here and as a member of the all-party parliamentary palliative and compassionate care committee, which I helped form with Bill C-300 sponsor, the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga, the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh, the hon. member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar and the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis.

What brought us together goes back to our initial reactions to a private member's bill dealing with end-of-life issues. At that time I felt, and still feel, that if people are given a reason to live, feel their lives are relevant and significant and truly do not feel that they are a burden on society and are able to live pain-free, they just might be less inclined to turn to more desperate measures as a relief from the emotional, mental or physical pain from which they suffer.

Over the course of our hearings, we travelled widely and Canadians from across the country came to Ottawa, at their own expense, to share their stories and experiences with us. These were men and women, parents, siblings and families who were directly affected by mental health issues and suicide, as well as experts who deal with mental health and suicide prevention daily.

Our committee ultimately concluded and recommended that the federal government establish a suicide prevention secretariat and that it provide the secretariat with adequate funding so that it might conduct and support research and act as a conduit between the provincial and municipal governments and community stakeholders to accomplish these goals.

The result of this federally directed collaboration would be the development and implementation of a national suicide prevention strategy, similar to the one we are discussing today. By working together, the various levels of government and stakeholders could develop and implement a program with nationally recognized and accepted standards for the training of suicide intervention personnel. By providing a nationally directed body to coordinate with other levels of government and groups, research and information could be more easily shared instead of being isolated in a series of silos across the country.

More important, it would enable the development of a national public awareness program on suicide and suicide prevention, as well as facilitate social media around reducing the stigma associated with suicide and mental health issues.

We have all heard various notable figures speak out and tell marginalized youth that it gets better; an important and valuable lesson that too many Canadians do not hear in time. However, our efforts to reach youth and others in need more effectively must be better coordinated across the country.

The facts behind suicide are staggering. Ten Canadians take their own life every day. By the time we wrap up here tonight, 10 more Canadians will have committed suicide because they are struggling with pain and hopelessness, depression and desperation. By the end of today, 10 more Canadian families will be devastated by the loss of a loved one. For every Canadian who commits suicide, there are 100 who attempt to kill or deliberately harm themselves. That is 1,000 Canadians a day, hundreds of thousands a year. Many of those Canadians will be men aged 25 to 29 or 40 to 44, or women aged 30 to 34. Suicide is the leading cause of death in those age groups. It is the second leading cause for young men and women between 10 and 24 years old. It may be one of our veterans, where the suicide rate is nearly three times higher than in the general population.

Suicide rates among gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, intersexed and two-spirited youth is seven times the rate of heterosexual youth. The leading cause of death for aboriginal males aged 10 to 19 is suicide and the rate for Inuit youth is among the highest in the world, at 11 times higher than the national average. Yet, in the face of these staggering statistics, and for not one good reason, we remain hostage to our inability to appropriately deal with the crisis, which affects us from coast to coast to coast. We are one of two countries in the G8 without a national suicide prevention strategy.

We also know that suicide intervention works. Countless lives are saved every year through intervention. We know that so much more can be done and so many more can be saved with the appropriate public funding of research and a national direction to guide the response in each of our provinces. Many organizations have called for a national suicide prevention strategy. In October 2004, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, known as CASP, issued the first edition of the CASP blueprint for a Canadian national suicide prevention strategy, a document that was later revised in 2009. The CASP blueprint called for an awareness and understanding of suicide, so that we might all understand this tragedy better, and so that fewer Canadian families would be needlessly victimized. It called for prevention and intervention that not only features community-based programs which address the specific needs of at-risk sections of our population, but that can be implemented more broadly. In order to adequately address these needs, the call for funding and support, as well as a more coherent approach to the gathering of information, must be answered.

A month ago, the Mental Health Commission of Canada reported on its mental health strategy for Canada, once again calling for a national suicide prevention strategy. It stated, “Despite the fact that pan-Canadian initiatives could help all jurisdictions to improve mental health outcomes, planning documents that address these matters from the perspective of the country as a whole are rare.”

The testimony is voluminous, the statistics are clear. Suicide is so much more than a personal and sudden decision made in a time of great pain, angst or isolation. It is a terrible scourge that affects nearly every family across the country.

In closing, all of us here want to see this national tragedy end, and we have yet another opportunity with this step forward. We came together in October to pass a motion calling for a national strategy for suicide prevention. We came together as members of an all-party committee to advocate a national strategy for suicide prevention, outlined in the committee's report, “Not to be Forgotten”. Now we can come together again and support Bill C-300.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Manon Perreault NDP Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-300 would require the government to establish a federal framework for suicide prevention in consultation with relevant non-governmental organizations, the relevant entity in each province and territory, as well as with relevant federal departments.

I support this bill because suicide is a major health issue in this country and it must be recognized as such, so that Canada makes it a real public policy priority. There are some 4,000 suicides in Canada every year, so this is an urgent problem and the government must take a stance. We must increase awareness and understanding of suicide across the country and make prevention a priority. This bill will open the dialogue on suicide prevention.

Suicide is a public health issue that requires proper public intervention in terms of prevention, treatment and funding. For intervention to be even more effective, the government must take some responsibility, by calling on the provinces and territories, first nations, the Métis and the Inuit to work with the federal government to develop a long-term national suicide prevention strategy.

This is what families and stakeholders have been calling for for years. We need clear measures to ensure that our commitment gives rise to tangible, concerted actions with stakeholders across the country. Any strategy must also take into account groups at risk, which we must absolutely not ignore in light of what is at stake. I am thinking in particular of young people, the first nations, persons with disabilities, veterans as well as gays and lesbians.

The only way to help them is to understand their realities and the taboos associated with the issue and stigmatization, which is common. Take, for example, persons with disabilities, whose condition is deteriorating every day, who struggle with instability and social isolation, and who have a much higher unemployment rate than the general labour force. Needless to say, these are factors that lead to situations of great despair.

We are also seeing new social groups in distress that are harder to reach, such as farmers. This group of people rarely, if ever, turns to crisis workers despite high levels of stress and intense distress. In recent years, the Canadian armed forces also reported a higher suicide rate as soldiers returned to Canada by the hundreds: 20 of them took their own lives in 2011, nearly twice as many as the year before. According to the Canadian army, 187 soldiers have committed suicide since 1996. Mental health issues and post-traumatic stress are taking a heavy toll, putting soldiers at increased risk of suicide. It is clear that there are serious, ongoing deficiencies with screening and prevention services for these soldiers.

We must also consider the aboriginal communities that the government has been neglecting. The suicide rate among young aboriginals is much higher than among non-aboriginals—four to six times higher. The situation varies from one community to the next, which points to the need for targeted initiatives that take into account the unique cultural and spiritual makeup of each community.

The riding of Montcalm is also especially affected by suicide. According to the suicide prevention centre in Lanaudière, the suicide rate in this region is above the Quebec average. Statistics Canada determined that the Quebec average in 2006 was 14.8 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants, and that of Lanaudière was 16.1 suicides per 100,000.

That said, it is very difficult to put numbers on suicide attempts, but there are 210 hospitalizations for suicide attempts in Lanaudière in an average year. Despite a gradual decline in youth suicide among Quebeckers since 2000, we should still be concerned about this excess mortality, especially among boys, whose suicide rate is much higher than that of girls.

On the other hand, the rate of attempted suicides is twice as high for girls. For each of the groups affected, we must find all the factors that may lead to suicide and we must intervene. It is absurd that a national suicide prevention strategy has not yet been established, after nearly 20 years of demands from NGOs. The impact of suicide on Canadian society is clear to everyone; nearly 4,000 people take their own lives in Canada every year. It is one of the highest rates among the industrialized nations.

Suicide is not an issue that affects only one region of the country; it affects them all. In order to meet the needs of people in distress, however, the appropriate public health resources must be in place and we must work with the communities to reflect the special factors in each cultural and community group.

Prevention initiatives must reflect these specific realities. Combatting this phenomenon is possible, but in order to do so, we need to take concerted, coherent and intensive action so that people who are in distress have access to the effective resources they need. We must be able to guarantee access to mental health and addiction services, provide adequate support to professionals and stakeholders, reduce the stigmatization and focus on research.

In terms of suicide prevention, I find Canada's poor record compared to other industrialized countries very disturbing. Our suicide rate is far too high, and yet we do not have a national strategy to address the problem. Furthermore, industrialized countries that have a national suicide prevention strategy have lower suicide rates and are doing much better than we are.

In the 1990s, both the United Nations and the World Health Organization called upon every country to establish its own national strategy. Many countries answered that call. Unfortunately, Canada was not one of them. It makes no sense. Why did Canada depart from this trend towards adopting a national strategy?

Nevertheless, I want to commend the hard work of mental health care professionals across the country. They do an outstanding job of answering calls, engaging the public and working with schools and workplaces. However, their work would have a greater reach and be more effective if their efforts were coordinated and best practices were shared nationally.

Currently, efforts are fragmented and organizations working on prevention are underfunded. The government can do something to change this situation by clearly identifying current shortcomings and disseminating best practices on prevention, research, expertise and primary care. We absolutely must have national guidelines on this.

With this government, we also have very few effective suicide prevention initiatives for our soldiers and veterans. It is inconceivable considering that modern-day veterans have a higher suicide rate than other Canadians, according to three studies released in 2011 by Veterans Affairs Canada, the Department of National Defence and Statistics Canada.

It was the first reliable statistical study of its kind, and I would like to share some of the findings. The suicide rate among veterans is 46% higher than that of other Canadians in the same age bracket, and the only cause of death that is proportionally higher.

Why is there no ongoing evaluation of initiatives and monitoring of trends? What are we waiting for to take suicide seriously?

The World Health Organization calls suicide a huge public health problem but, we should remember, it is a problem that is largely preventable. In Quebec, there has been a 34% decline in the suicide rate in the past 10 years. Research has led to significant progress in suicide prevention. Consequently, it would be unfortunate to not share these advances and new means of prevention.

I will close by saying that this bill reminds us that we must take immediate action, and it will help prevent people from committing suicide. Given the extent of the scourge we are trying to eliminate, the government must act and continue to act. Because the high rate of suicide is a concern, prevention must be a public policy priority.

Therefore, I encourage all my colleagues to support this bill and to continue our suicide prevention efforts. After all, suicide is a concern for all of us. We must ensure that this issue becomes a priority for Canada so we can help more people in distress and save as many lives as possible.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a little bittersweet for me to rise today to discuss this issue. Nevertheless, I am here to speak about the troubles that my home community is facing.

I inevitably return to my roots and talk about my community and other aboriginal communities in the country. Now, members must understand that the kind of reasoning I am using also applies to the rest of Canada.

Although I always try to distance myself or separate myself from the negative discourse surrounding the realities in Canada's aboriginal communities, after reviewing my recent speeches, I see that I tend to bring up some obscure points when I talk about the realities in the communities. What members must know is that I spent part of my life in a community that really struggled socially. This will necessarily be reflected in my speech. My colleagues have mentioned this to me, and since I am capable of introspection, I must say that these obscure points sometimes come out.

As I have said many times over the past year, my professional orientation probably has been guided and shaped by the idea of culturally appropriate social intervention. When I say, “culturally appropriate social intervention”, I refer to my criminal law practice, and also to my work in mental health.

In addition to providing legal services, I made sure that I took action, spoke to people and tried to find agreement or a way to connect with people more directly by referring to their everyday reality. That is why I was so successful with the legal aid office, where I began working when I was quite young, in 2007. As I have said before, I dealt with 400 files. Word got around quickly and people in the community asked me to help them more and more, because, in addition to providing legal services, I tried to improve their quality of life and influence everyone's future.

When I finished my bar admission course, my employer asked that I take responsibility for contentious matters involving the Innu and Naskapi communities. With time, my activities in the mental health field grew, and became a large part of my professional practice.

When I joined the legal aid office in 2007, I was assigned to the circuit court. As we travelled, I discovered that there was a rather significant demand for mental health services in my community. Rapidly, I found myself being asked to go to the psychiatric wing of the Sept-Îles hospital to meet clients who were sometimes dealing with the criminal justice system or the penal system, as well as custody orders, or custody in institutions under the Quebec Civil Code. In each of these cases, I had to specialize and reorient my career, because of the huge demand.

Now, when talking about problems and care with respect to mental health, there is always the concept of suicide, along with violent death and other elements that reveal the deterioration of the social fabric. These elements often come to the surface when clients are receiving services.

At the tender age of 24, 25, 26, I was called to work in fields that typically require specialized knowledge. The other lawyers who took these cases on had much more experience than I in the field, but I took the cases on anyway. Over the years, I gained more and more specialized knowledge. Now I can talk about Seroquel dosage and anticonvulsants because I was assigned to many of those cases. I am also familiar with the concept of toxic psychosis, which I will discuss in further detail shortly.

Inevitably, exposure to marked social dysfunction during childhood, combined with the career path I chose, influenced my understanding of social problems like suicide and associated issues. Everyone in my community has a passing familiarity with violent death.

I am not saying that this problem is the norm. Still, every time I return to Uashat, one of the first things I do is ask my family and friends whether there have been any violent deaths. By that, I mean everything from suicide to cirrhosis and overdose. That is the first thing I ask people in my community about. Invariably, they have names to add to the list. Many of the dead are people I represented in my legal practice, neighbours or friends. At times, when I call, people name others too. I do not necessarily need to go to Uashat to get that information. However, every time I return to my community, people tell me things that, while anything but banal, are part of daily life there. Children grow up intimately familiar with the atmosphere of bleakness and gloom in the community. That is part of everyday life there, and that background inevitably informs my own views.

I did a little research, and my community of Uashat won the gold medal for having the highest suicide rate in the world in 2003, as reported in Le Soleil in that same year. That is a very sad record, I know, but it simply illustrates the scope of the problem in my community.

I brought this up at a meeting of the aboriginal affairs committee. One stakeholder said that Uashat was going through a period of economic growth and increased socio-economic affirmation. However, I reminded that individual that this has always been a major problem for the community. Although, technically, there is some economic vitality, as I said in committee, in the end, it has very little impact on maintaining any quality of life or on the quality of the social fabric.

Aside from emphasizing the need for a national suicide prevention strategy, we also need to ensure that government initiatives and efforts on the ground somehow converge in order to really understand the causes and variables that will ultimately give us some answers. Not only is the suicide rate far too high—at dozens of suicides every year—but these suicides are being committed by very young people. In our communities, violent deaths are not necessarily limited to young people, but the suicide rate among youth is nevertheless especially high. Government efforts will have to address this problem. I will always be willing to work on this problem.

Aside from the fact that Canada will have no choice but to adopt a national suicide prevention strategy, I believe that particular efforts must be made to help aboriginal Canadians and aboriginal youth.

I submit this respectfully.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank members of the House for the discussion we have had on this important topic.

It is never easy to talk about death, and as members have acknowledged, it is even more difficult to talk about suicide. That is why this conversation was so important. I am grateful to all hon. members who joined in.

As I have said so often, in this case the conversation is just as important as the legislation, but the legislation is important. We know that 10 Canadians die by suicide each day. We know that suicide is the second largest killer of our youth. We know there are identifiable communities which suffer from suicide rates that are grossly disproportionate to their general population.

These are broad statistics that do not lie, but while the statistics are depressing, the thousands of stories behind the statistics are tragic. Let me share one person's story.

This individual was molested at the age of seven. This person also experienced severe bullying. Today, he is openly talking about taking his own life. This individual just turned 11. It is one thing to hear numbers about youth suicide, but it is another thing entirely to be confronted by a real-life story where an 11-year-old child requires intervention.

As the father of three children and the proud grandparent of nine, I was sick when I heard this story. What to do? I am not trained in crisis intervention, but when this child's mother sought help from my office, we were able to connect her with people who possess the skills, experience, understanding and training to offer help.

It was on the recommendation of a friend who follows the deliberations of this House that the mother contacted me. The conversation has already made a difference.

Bill C-300 is only under debate. The legislation has not yet been enacted and is not in force. This conversation, though, has been ongoing for months, and without this conversation, at least one child would still be contemplating a very permanent response to some temporary and surmountable challenges, but with connections to help has now found hope.

I thank all hon. members for the quality of debate they brought to this topic. I thank members from my party and also members from the opposition parties who were willing to attach their names to this effort as joint seconders.

This conversation has already helped at least one child. Please do not let this conversation end with this debate. I ask all hon. members to keep it alive, both here in Ottawa and at home in their constituencies.

Every riding in Canada needs to engage in this dialogue. The most important type of leadership members of the House can provide is not as makers of the law, but as local leaders of critical and crucial conversations. By continuing the conversation, each one of us can help break the stigma and the silence. We can provide hope, the oxygen of the human spirit.

I ask members to allow Bill C-300 to proceed without a standing vote. I ask them to let Bill C-300 move as quickly as possible to the Senate to become law and provide hope as soon as possible. With each day's delay, 10 Canadians will fall victim to suicide.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The time for debate has expired. The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Some hon. members


Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Suspension of SittingFederal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The House will suspend sitting until 12 o'clock.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:37 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12 o'clock)

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

June 18th, 2012 / noon


Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders


Saint Boniface Manitoba


Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I wish a belated happy Father's Day to you and everyone else in the House.

It is my absolute pleasure to kick off third and final reading of the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act. This is a very good measure that the government has put forward which will help Canadians across the country secure jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.

Before I speak to the bill, I will take a brief moment to thank my fellow members of the finance committee and the special subcommittee that was created specifically to study the bill. Together, both committees held nearly 70 hours of hearings on the legislation, making it the longest committee study of a budget implementation bill in over two decades.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the hundreds of witnesses we heard at committee, including government officials, business leaders, union representatives, economists, industry associations and many others. Their words and testimony made clear that we need this legislation to keep our economy strong, especially when events in Europe remind us that the global economic outlook remains fragile.

We heard from witnesses such as University of Guelph Professor Jane Londerville and Carleton University Professor Ian Lee. Both applauded this bill for the increased oversight it brings to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which will strengthen Canada's housing sector.

The Mining Association of Canada explained how the mineral exploration tax credit would help northern and remote communities to grow.

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities voiced its approval for the measures taken by this bill to increase the availability of registered disability savings plans.

Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters praised our government's focus on more efficient and responsible resource development because it believes our plan will “maximize our economic opportunities while maintaining the right balance between environmental protection and economic growth”.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business gave its approval to reforms to employment insurance that would better assist and encourage Canadians looking for work.

Witnesses such as the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association and Consumer Health Products Canada were pleased to see the elimination of bureaucratic red tape that delayed new products already approved by Health Canada from coming to market for years on end.

The Canadian Museums Association noted that amendments contained in this bill would mean that Canadians right across the country would get to see more and more of the world's finest art in our museums.

We heard from witnesses such as the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and the Rotman International Centre for Pension Management, which commended the government for common sense reforms to old age security, which will ensure that the program remains sustainable for generations to come.

Windsor Police Service and the RCMP explained how provisions contained in this legislation would allow them to better partner with American law enforcement to keep Canada's border with the United States safe and open for business.

There were many more witnesses who provided countless hours of testimony and spoke to the great importance of this bill and the positive impact it would have on Canada's economy. I encourage Canadians to visit the finance committee's website and read about all of this first hand.

At times like these, Canadian families want their government and elected officials to stay focused on the economy, not on partisanship or procedural games. Canadians see the headlines about Greece and Spain. They read about how those economies have hit hard times. They know that European governments have been unable to effectively deal with their economic crisis.

While it should be clear to everyone in this Parliament, sometimes it does not seem that way, so I will say it anyway. Canadians do not want economic uncertainty. Canadians do not want their politicians to play procedural games while the economy teeters. Canadians want a government with a plan to grow Canada's economy and create jobs in their communities so they can continue to focus on what matters to them, such as raising their families, saving for their retirement and continuing to live in the very best country on Earth. That is exactly what our Conservative government has committed to do since being elected in 2006.

Despite what the NDP and Liberals would have us believe with their constant talking down of the Canadian economy, our Conservative government's plan to grow the Canadian economy has worked and it has worked very well. It is a plan that has included record investments in research and development, record investments in infrastructure, over 140 tax cuts leaving over $3,100 in the pockets of an average Canadian family, lower business taxes, investments in skills, training and education, and so very much more.

We know that our plan has been effective but members do not have to take my word for it because the facts speak for themselves. Let us look at the facts.

Fact, since we took office in January 2006, Canada has created nearly 1.3 million net new jobs, which is the best job growth record in the G7.

Fact, Forbes magazine, one of the world's leading business publications, has ranked Canada as the best country in the world to do business.

Fact, the World Economic Forum, a respected independent financial leader, has declared Canada's banks to be the soundest in the world for four straight years in a row.

Fact, both the OECD and the IMF have forecast that Canada's economic growth will be among the strongest in the industrialized world in the coming years.

Fact, Canada's net debt to GDP ratio remains the lowest in the G7 by far.

Fact, all three of the world's major credit rating agencies, Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Fitch, have recently renewed Canada's top credit rating.

When Conservative members point out these facts, the NDP and Liberals are quick to attack them, dismissing undisputed international praise of Canada's economy as somehow having nothing to do with our government's economic policy since 2006. Naturally, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, I do not agree with that statement at all.

Canadians might expect some bias in my assessment, so I do not want them to just take my word for it. This is what the OECD said only a few short days ago about Canada's economy, “overall, Canada's...performance has been very good in recent years. We attribute that to good macro policy settings, good structural policy”.

When Canadians watching at home hear the NDP and Liberal speakers stand up bashing Canada's economy and our government's economic policies, I urge them to consider all of the facts.

Despite our careful stewardship to grow and protect Canada's economy, we cannot be complacent and rely on our past achievements to carry us forward. That is something almost every Canadian can relate to, be it a small business owner who is hoping to grow, an employee looking for a promotion, a high school student applying to college, or a family trying to pay the bills while also trying to save enough for retirement.

To succeed we must look forward and be prepared for the challenges and opportunities ahead. Both today's legislation and economic action plan 2012 would do exactly that and are unapologetic in their comprehensiveness and ambition. The challenges we face are equally multifaceted and wide-ranging.

There are many challenges and uncertainties still confronting the economy. The recovery is not complete and too many Canadians are still looking for work. The global economy remains fragile and any potential setbacks would have an impact on Canada. Canadian businesses face ever-increasing competition from emerging fast-growth countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Our aging population will put pressure on public finances and social programs. Let us not kid ourselves: it will not be easy during this particularly intense time, but we know that we have the leadership that it takes to get things done.

Economic action plan 2012 takes important steps to address these structural challenges and ensure the sustainability of public finances and social programs for future generations.

International experience shows the importance of taking action now, rather than delaying.

Economic action plan 2012 focuses on the drivers of growth and job creation—innovation, investment, education, skills and communities.

Underpinning these actions is the ongoing commitment to keeping taxes low, which is central to the government’s long-term economic plan. I am pleased to announce that since its release nearly four months ago, economic action plan 2012 has received some extremely positive reactions.

As the Quebec Employers Council said, the economic action plan contains “measures to support economic development and job creation in Canada”.

These are the words of the Vancouver Board of Trade:

This budget reflects the type of long-term thinking that needs to be shown in a global context of the need for more free trade, particularly with Asia, South America and Europe.

The St. John's Board of Trade said that budget 2012 “focuses on the future and on future generations. It's a focus on high-quality job creation. We have a focus on innovation that is going to help us diversify the economy, which is going to be critical for future success”.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce said:

The 2012 federal budget presents a plan for long-term economic growth that builds on Canada’s economic fiscal advantages.

Finally, a recent Waterloo region editorial in the The Record stated that budget 2012 was an:

...intelligent and visionary plan to preserve a progressive, prosperous Canada in a global landscape filled with both upheaval and promise.

And for this reason it is the most ambitious and important federal budget in a generation.

Underlying it all is an astute recognition of how this nation and the world around it are changing. Canada is aging. The growth in its workforce has slowed to a crawl. New economic superpowers — China, India, Brazil — that have emerged or are emerging offer new markets yet greater competition.

This budget tackles these challenges head-on....

What do all those third party assessments of economic action plan 2012 have in common? They recognize that our Conservative government's plan is forward looking and focused squarely on Canadians' long-term economic prosperity.

We contrast that with members of the NDP who continue to push their failed high tax, anti-globalization, anti-trade agenda and the ever-expanding government bureaucracies of the 1970s that go with it. Or, the LIberals who also want higher taxes and who are guided by the belief that every aspect of Canadian life should be managed by a government program run by an endless stream of bureaucrats. Or, let us consider the radicalism of the Green Party which wants to shut down huge sectors of the Canadian economy, punish Canadians with a new tax on the energy they use and labels Canada's natural resource industry and the people it employs a “disease”.

None of the oppositions' proposals are based on facts, like how Canada's population is aging or the continued fragility of the global economy. Instead, the oppositions' plans are based on a rigid ideological belief that government must always grow larger, control more and leave less in the pockets of its citizens through higher taxes. That is why they have been so vocal in their opposition to economic action plan 2012.

I want Canadians at home to know that today's bill is a solid plan for our economy that will bring jobs today and prosperity for tomorrow. With today's act, we are encouraging business to invest and create jobs in Canada by making the review process for major economic projects more timely and transparent while protecting the environment under the principle of one project, one review; extending the mineral exploration tax credit to support junior mineral exploration; and getting rid of dated foreign investment restrictions that prevent Canadian telecommunications companies from growing their operations.

We are improving training by making employment insurance more efficient and focused on job creation by removing disincentives to work while continuing to support unemployed Canadians. We are bolstering Canada's immigration system to better meet our economic needs by ensuring that skilled immigrants can come to Canada and apply their skills where they are needed most.

We are supporting families and communities by guaranteeing the increase of health and social transfers well into the next decade, expanding tax relief to better meet the health care needs of Canadians, expanding accessibility to the registered disability savings plan, requiring that federally regulated long-term disability plans be insured, and ensuring wider access to OAS and GIS through proactive enrolment.

That is a lot in one paragraph and there is so much more covered in this bill.

We are also better managing taxpayer dollars and getting back to balanced budgets by refocusing government programs, including completely eliminating dated and ineffective programs that are duplicative or no longer serve the needs of Canadians.

Before closing, allow me to say that our government's economic policies have made Canada a model of stability in a struggling global economy. We are one step closer to passing this important piece of legislation, which will support job creation, the responsible development of our resources, small business and vital sectors of our economy.

This bill has had the longest debate in the House of Commons and the most extensive study in committee of any other budget implementation bill in over 20 years.

Canadians want their government to concentrate on what is most important: jobs, growth and economic prosperity.

That is exactly what we are doing by implementing economic action plan 2012.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, how can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance present such a rosy picture of this omnibus bill when we see our trade deficit worsening, our employment rate sluggish and our personal debt rate at an all-time high?

We have heard expert testimony, including from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, at the finance committee that this budget implementation bill will worsen unemployment and be a drag on our economic growth. It will cut services, cut jobs and cut growth. At a time of such global economic uncertainty, why would we backtrack on our international environmental commitments? Why would we backtrack on developing growth and our economy?

If the hon. parliamentary secretary is so confident in what the government is doing in this omnibus bill, why does the government not have the courtesy and honesty to break it up and allow for a full and honest debate throughout this country?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague across the way for the question but, unfortunately, I do not agree with much of anything that she said.

In fact, as I made perfectly clear in my speech, Canada is seen by many countries across this world as being the leader when it comes to job creation following a recession that hit us all.

When my colleagues across the way talks about a sluggish employment record, that is absolutely not true. We have the strongest economic growth and the strongest employment growth as a result. In fact, we have seen over 760,000 jobs created since 2009, thanks to the economic policies and thanks to the environment that was produced so that economic growth could continue.

When we talk about the measures in the budget implementation act, all of the things mentioned by my learned colleague are actually false. We have protected the environment. We have taken some measure to move forward to protect the safety and security of Canadians. We have moved forward to ensure that there are health measures that protect generations to come.

There is more and more to see in the budget. I wish the member would take the time to actually read it and not continue to argue about process.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to working with the hon. member as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance and, as such, a member of the finance committee as we undertake our work on the study of income inequality now that the House of Commons has overwhelmingly supported my motion on income inequality. I do look forward to working with her , and with members of all parties on the finance committee to address this important issue.

My question for the parliamentary secretary is about the issue of accountability, transparency and respect of Parliament. This morning, the Parliamentary Budget Officer came forward with a legal opinion, which had been sought, that actually says that the government is breaking section 79.3 of the Parliament of Canada Act in its refusal to provide detailed information on the impact on the fiscal situation of the cuts that the government is proposing to make.

The government is refusing to give members of Parliament and the Parliamentary Budget Officer the detailed impacts of the legislation we are passing on the fiscal situation, such the impacts of spending initiatives and the impacts of cuts.

Today we have an unprecedented situation where the Parliamentary Budget Officer has attained a legal opinion that the government is actually breaking section 79.3 of the Parliament of Canada Act.

Why is the parliamentary secretary not actively defending the interests of Parliament to have this information before we vote on this kind of legislation? Why are the Conservative members of Parliament complacent and comfortable voting blindly without knowing the impacts of this legislation on Canada's fiscal situation?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to continuing my work in the finance committee with the hon. member of the Liberal Party as well.

With regard to the budget implementation bill and savings measures, I clearly remember hosting a briefing for all parliamentarians, which included House of Commons members, senators and anyone belonging to their staff. A four and a half hour session was held to educate members and to answer any questions they had about those savings. A number of questions were asked about savings in different ministries that were answered at that time. Unfortunately, a number of people were missing and they may not have received the information, but the information was nevertheless provided when asked for.

When it comes to the deficit reduction action plan, we have been clear. Thanks to the work done by this government, by cabinet, $5.2 billion in savings will be found in the area of ineffectiveness and waste in ministries.

We also have to be clear that we have collective agreements that also have to be honoured. We will not disregard the rights of union members to know upfront some of the situations that they will face. Our ministers are diligent about ensuring that they allow for those processes to take place.

We will continue to provide the information and continue to respect all aspects of the rollout of the deficit reduction action plan in time.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. friend for her great work as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance.

I have listened to members opposite, especially members of the NDP. They have never talked about how to create wealth, but they are good at talking about how to spend money. Their solution to every problem in government is to spend more and more money. We have seen how that particular approach has taken the European economies, especially Greece, Italy, Spain and so on.

Could the parliamentary secretary please inform the House why it is so important for Canada to not only keep its financial house in order, but to make its financial position even stronger?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I enjoy working with my colleague, who is chair of our Manitoba caucus. It has been a thrill to work with him since he was elected in the past election. I look forward to working with him again in the future.

With regard to our economic fiscal advantage, Canada is seen as a leader because of the record we have with regard to our economy. However, we are not alone in this world. We are affected by outside sources. We are affected by things like what goes on in Europe and in the United States. We must remain diligent to ensure that our economy is protected from outside forces as much as possible. We do not want to be in a position like we see in Greece or Spain, where there has been some devastating economic news. They have had a heck of a time trying to secure the future for their citizens.

It is absolutely imperative that we deal with the economy in a very prioritized way, which is what the BIA and economic action plan 2012 would do. It focuses on jobs, growth and economic prosperity, along with other prosperity measures, for all Canadians.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member across often mentions that she is basing things on fact, however, she tends to cherry-pick the facts. She has mentioned the OECD report as a fact that Canada is doing well. Yet this report states that Canada is going through a mild case of Dutch disease. Total employment numbers since 2006 are lower than pre-2006 figures. When we say sluggish job growth, that is what we are talking about. We are not growing jobs.

Would the hon. member agree with the facts in the OECD that state that Canada is going through Dutch disease? Would she agree with the fact that total employment numbers are lower than pre-2006 numbers?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, once again, Canada has the strongest job creation record in the G7, which is over 760,000 jobs. That is a fact.

When we look at measures with regard to the OECD report, I wish the hon. member would have read it. Here is a quote directly from the OECD report, “Canada weathered the global economic crisis well” and “thanks to a timely macroeconomic policy response and a solid banking sector...Canada enjoys strong institutions and policy credibility”.

The head of the European Financial Stability Board, who is also our Governor of the Bank of Canada, said just the other day, “It's too simple” what the NDP has said. “The factors influencing our currency are more complex than one price or another” and “He rejects completely the argument of Dutch disease put forward by the NDP” completely.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to make it clear that NDP objects, in the strongest possible terms, to Bill C-38, what we call the Trojan Horse bill. Here we are, regrettably, at third reading of this massive omnibus bill, consisting of 425 pages and 753 clauses. Let me be clear about what this bill would do.

One-third of the bill is dedicated to gutting environmental protection and turning back the clock on it. It would make sweeping changes to old age security and employment insurance, vital programs on which Canadian families rely. It would press the delete button on over 300,000 federal skilled worker applications for people who have been playing by the rules and waiting their turn. It would open the door to the privatization of our food safety system and would roll back the clock on government transparency and accountability for the future by concentrating powers in the hands of ministers and reducing oversight and reporting requirements. These are just a few of the measures contained in the bill, everything but the kitchen sink, all bound up in one massive package.

There is growing national consensus that this is the wrong way to make significant changes to government policies and programs. Matthew Carroll of Leadnow confirmed that “Canadians are hungry for a truly participatory democracy that works. The majority are outraged at the direction the current government is dragging our country”.

Even those who agree with some of the proposed changes are decrying the lack of proper oversight and study of the bill. Conservative commentator Andrew Coyne wrote about this Trojan Horse and stated:

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

We have tried from the outset to reach out to the government and work with it to find an acceptable way to divide this bill into manageable parts for a more effective and democratic study. Our attempts were thwarted. We tried to offer amendments at the finance committee, but not one of the 53 amendments was accepted, this even in the face of testimony that seriously cautioned the government on several of its proposed changes.

Will Amos of Ecojustice testified. He stated:

There is no law that we can recall that has ever, in such a broad and structural manner, changed the federal environmental governance regime....Canadians are not ready for this. Parliament is not ready for this. There has been inadequate process to consider the transformative changes that are being proposed.

Professor Marjorie Griffin Cohen cautioned, as follows:

What we don't often understand or look at is how various portions of the budget will interact with each other. For example, when you change the OAS and you then change the employment insurance, you're going to see that older people who are over 65 are probably going to be doing part-time and temporary work; they're not going to be able to qualify for a pension, nor are they going to be able to qualify for EI, if they aren't employed. We may be pushing a lot of people in specific kinds of groups into positions of poverty...

On the removal of the Inspector General's oversight from CSIS, and that is also in this bill, Paul Kennedy told the commons committee the following:

The cost associated with the Office of the Inspector General is a small price to pay if one wants to maintain a covert intelligence agency in Canada. The elimination of the Eyes and Ears of the Minister, if that is the course that you chose to adopt, should be accompanied by a common recommendation that future missteps by the intelligence service will be accompanied by the resignation of the Public Safety Minister. Wilful blindness as to potential problems at CSIS must carry a price. After all, responsibility ultimately rests with the Minister.

Mr. Kennedy is a former senior assistant deputy minister of public safety with 20 years of experience in national security. The Conservatives dismissed his testimony as simply wrong.

Finally, after time allocation in the committee, which left us with about four minutes of study per clause and further time allocations in the House, we were left with attempts to delete and amend the bill at report stage and every amendment was voted down by the government.

We urged the government to consult with Canadians about some of these massive changes, to hold hearings to meet with political and community leaders. However, the Atlantic premiers were not consulted about the impact of the proposed EI changes on their provinces and key environmental organizations were not consulted about the impact of gutting environmental laws.

National Chief Shawn Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations testified at the subcommittee. He said:

Part 3 of Bill C-38 needs to be withdrawn to take the time to work with first nations to ensure their rights and interests are reflected and will not be compromised through such legislation.

New Democrats did our best to open up the process by holding hearings across the country and encouraging Canadians to contact us by email, mail and social media, and thousands did. However, just as Canadians are realizing what is at stake, the government is determined to ram this bill through. We can only believe that the Conservatives' original intent was to pass this massive bill without most Canadians even knowing what was in it. It is abundantly clear that the Conservatives are determined to shut down debate and shut Canadians out of the plans they have for our country.

We believe we have made the process somewhat democratic, but it is still unacceptable that such major changes are being implemented without consultation or adequate oversight. Unfortunately, the impact of this so-called budget bill will be felt not just for a few years, but for decades. If the government is so confident about the measures it is implementing, why did it not promote them in last year's election campaign? Why is it so afraid of a public debate today? Why does it not want Canadians to find out what impact the proposed changes will have on them and their families? When did the Conservatives begin to fear accountability?

I must also emphasize that the short title of this bill, “jobs prosperity and long-term growth”, more than misses the mark. The vast majority of these 425 pages have nothing to do with the budget or economic growth. In fact, some measures would create downward pressure on the income of Canadians. The proposed EI changes would quickly move unemployed workers to lower paying jobs or else right off EI and onto welfare.

We see other measures such as the temporary foreign workers provisions already announced by the Conservative government that would require an employer to only search for a Canadian to fill a job for two weeks before bringing in temporary foreign workers who, now for the first time, can be paid 15% less than the average wage.

Economist Jim Stanford testified before the finance committee. He said:

It is an enormous shortage of jobs, not a lack of workers and not a lack of work ethic, that explains the decline in the employment rate...policies should be designed not to compel more labour supply but rather to support Canadian families in an era where there's a chronic shortage of jobs that dominates the outlook for our labour market moving forward.

We are already living in volatile economic times. Personal debt is at an all-time high of 152% of household income and yet there are nine times more in cuts than in job creation measures in budget 2012. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has cautioned that these changes will have a negative drag on our economy and, overall, unemployment would likely rise. Our trade deficit is high and growing.

To continue with Jim Stanford, he says:

There’s a big difference, however, between signing free-trade pacts and actually doing something about trade. Canada’s trade performance deteriorated badly over the past decade. The quantity of goods and services shipped abroad is seven percentage points lower than when the [Conservative] government took office, lower even than back in 2000....Our once-impressive trade surplus has melted into deficit.

Yet irresponsible, no strings attached budget cuts and tax cuts to the largest corporations have reduced the government's capacity for flexibility in these times. This omnibus budget bill does not address these problems. Instead, it makes them worse.

I look at my own community of Parkdale—High Park. There are people who are desperate to find jobs to support themselves and their families. People work hard, sometimes at two or three jobs, yet they cannot get their heads above the poverty line.

It is a sad fact that in the city of Toronto, with all its wealth and opportunity, one in three children lives in poverty. I see other families who are making a higher income but who are paying exorbitant child care fees, many thousands of dollars on top of an increasing cost of living on everything from housing to food, but their incomes are not rising accordingly. These families see nothing in the budget to provide more affordable housing, nothing in child care, nothing to create jobs and improve their incomes in Toronto.

I see young people who would love the chance to have a decent future and to be part of the economy of tomorrow, but there is almost nothing here in skills development and apprenticeship training.

Young people now have twice the national unemployment rate. If they lose hope, our country will pay the price in years to come. If we invest at the front end, in job skills training and child care and better housing, we will all reap the benefits for years to come.

Regrettably, the government's determination to grow the prison population and purchase fighter jets at the expense of these measures takes Canada in the wrong direction. It is not just morally and socially wrong. It is economically unsustainable.

We believe that it is wrong to attempt to sneak measures past Canadians and to ram them through Parliament as quickly as possible. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has said repeatedly that MPs are not getting the information they need in order to reasonably be able to exercise their power of oversight. And today, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has come forward with a legal opinion that backs his battle to obtain information about the proposed cuts.

We are living in uncertain times, and forces beyond our borders will likely continue to have a significant impact for some time to go.

We will have a jobs crisis, likely to get worse. We have an environmental record that has plummeted, among the worst under the Conservatives, and we have a government that repeatedly misleads Canadians to serve its agenda.

Canadians need a government committed to job creation in a meaningful way, not just talking points. We need a government that understands that economic growth and environmental protection must go hand in hand. And we need a government that not only sets up a Parliamentary Budget Office but that provides that office with the information it needs to provide real accountability for Canadians.

That is why New Democrats have been standing firmly against this undemocratic Trojan Horse bill every step of the way and that is why, today, I would like to introduce the following reasoned amendment. My reasoned amendment is as follows:

That the motion be amended by deleting all of the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

“this House declines to give third reading to Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, because this House:

a) does not know the full implications of the budget cuts given that the government has kept the details of the $5.2 billion in spending cuts from the Parliamentary Budget Officer whose lawyer Joseph Magnet says the government is violating the Federal Accountability Act law and should turn the information over to the Parliamentary Budget Officer;

b) is concerned with the impact of the changes in the Bill on Canadian society such as:

i. making it more difficult for Canadians to access Employment Insurance when they need it and forcing them to accept jobs at 70% of what they previously earned or lose their EI;

ii. raising the age of eligibility for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement from 65 to 67 years and thus driving thousands of Canadians into poverty while downloading spending to the provinces;

iii. cutting back the federal health transfers to the provinces from 2017 on, which will result in a loss of $31 billion to the health care system; and

iv. gutting the federal environmental assessment regime and weakening fish habitat protection which will adversely affect Canada's environmental sustainability for generations to come; and

c) is opposed to the removal of critical oversight powers of the Auditor General over a dozen agencies and the systematic concentration of powers in the hands of Government ministers over agencies such as the National Energy Board which weakens Canadians' confidence in the work of Parliament, decreases transparency and erodes fundamental democratic institutions by systematically eroding institutional checks and balances to the government's ideologically driven agenda.