House of Commons Hansard #146 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was regard.

Topics

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

Along with my colleagues, many of us have said that we encourage this bill to be the source of great discussion and deliberation at committee. Therefore, our side of the House will ensure it goes in that direction. However, we have pointed to some very serious issues that are in the bill but are also recurring issues in the bills the government has put forward with respect to crime.

One of those main issues we have is the way the bill could allow for decreased discretionary power on the part of our judges. We know that judges do critical work, not only as part of our justice system but really as part of our society. Their side of work is one of those key pillars on which Canadian society and Canadian democracy are built. Unfortunately, that is something the Conservative government has tried to chip away at, the work that judges do, that important part around discretionary power that they have bestowed upon them and use with great care and sensitivity day in and day out.

The other piece we do not support is the increased pressure, the hardship that this legislation would put on so many victims, people who have already fallen through the cracks of society, who are among the poorest of the poor, who in so many cases have lived a life of poverty and immense challenge financially. The bill would do nothing to address that reality which so many people face in the justice system.

I also want to speak to the extent to which this and so much legislation put forward by the government when it comes to crime really points to the hypocrisy in its tough on crime agenda. Where we can see that best is in a constituency like the one I have the honour of representing. Just last week, the chief and council of Lac Brochet along with the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak and the Denesuline First Nation in northern Manitoba came together and talked about the atrocious conditions people who were arrested in their community faced simply because the community had nowhere to put them. This is because the RCMP has closed the one holding cell that exists in the community and will only allow it to open if somebody with proper training can manage it.

The kicker is that there used to be a program funded by the federal government to ensure that people from Lac Brochet and northern communities could have the training to police their communities and to ensure that people who were apprehended would be in a safe space. The federal government has cut that funding. This program no longer exists for training and the end result is people have been taken to the arena of the community, have been chained to a door on the floor of that arena and treated with the kind of ignorance and offence that we cannot imagine in Canada. That is because this community has said it wants to ensure the public safety of individuals, it wants to ensure these people are away in a place where they will not harm anybody and themselves and the federal government is nowhere at the table to ensure they have a dignified way of doing so. Unfortunately, the government has turned around and absolved itself from any responsibility when that is not the case.

We are dealing with yet another bill where the government is claiming to want to do something to ensure our communities are safer and that victims are protected, but when communities in northern Canada want to do that very same thing, they do not have the support from the federal government to do so.

On the topic of prevention, the bill talks about fining criminals, but where is the money to make sure we do not have criminals to deal with or to reduce the number of people who end up falling through the cracks into a life of crime or on the other side of the tracks?

In communities like those I represent, and I will speak to The Pas, gang prevention funding has come to an end. A very successful program in the inner city run by The Pas Family Resource Centre has been told that its funding will not be renewed and it has no ability to service children above six years old to prevent them from joining a gang.

Is this the response that the federal government truly wants to show to a community that has struggled with gang violence in recent years? Are we going to wait for a shooting to happen, a death or another young person to be thrown into jail before that gang prevention money comes back to that organization?

Why is the federal government shutting out organizations like The Pas Family Resource Centre? Why is the federal government saying no to communities like Lac Brochet that want to prevent more criminals coming into our system? Why is the federal government not working especially with aboriginal communities that are often the source of so many people falling through the cracks, especially in northern Canada, and ending up in our correctional system?

If only that kind of passion for eliminating crime was infused into prevention, rehabilitation and supporting safer communities, then we could see a genuine approach to dealing with crime. Rather, there are half-baked bills like the one we have here and the rhetoric we see in the media where leaders in aboriginal communities have said that public safety and victims' rights are the very things they are concerned about, but when it is about partnering with the federal government, it is nowhere to be found.

I also want to point out that when we are looking ahead to try to truly deal with preventing and cutting down crime in our country we are in the best position to do that by looking at the evidence, listening to the advocate organizations that are on the ground and to the victim organizations that are on the front line, such as Elizabeth Fry or the John Howard Society. We should be listening to correctional workers who are increasingly concerned about what legislation like Bill C-10 would mean. We should be listening to the concerns of people who work with victims and to what the people within the justice system are saying.

Let us follow their lead. Let us follow the evidence-based research that indicates prevention and rehabilitation are the way to go. That is where the investments need to be made in order to truly cut down and eliminate crime and, at the end of the day, make our communities safer.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob NDP Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question.

I want to begin by saying that I agree with supporting this bill at second reading so that the committee can improve it. It could certainly use a lot of improving. I also want to say that the NDP recognizes the importance of supporting judges' discretionary powers. The NDP also supports victims of crime and their families. However, I also agree with my colleague when she says that true prevention means improving quality of life within the social fabric of the community involved.

I would like to ask my esteemed colleague how we can improve quality of life in communities instead of imposing surcharges. What impact would that have on prevention and on victims? True prevention means preventing people from becoming victims.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

Clearly, investing in prevention will result in lower crime rates. Research proves that. We know that when the government stops investing in programs for youth, in education and in opportunities for young people, for example, the crime rate goes up. Unfortunately, this government keeps talking about its crime reduction strategy, but its actions belie that message. Those are the outcomes Canadians want but are not getting from this government.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with jaw-dropping amazement to the comments from the member for Churchill as she blamed the federal government for every ill in Manitoba. I hate to break it to her, but there is an NDP government in Manitoba right now that is responsible for the high crime rate that is in Manitoba right now. Winnipeg is the violent crime capital of Canada. If the NDP government cared about victims, cared about citizens, it would do something about it. The NDP government of Manitoba is implementing the policies that the gang across the way would want to implement. We have seen what the results are.

I would like her to comment on the Manitoba government, a government with which she has some familiarity. I would like her to comment on the abysmal failure of the NDP policies in Manitoba in curbing and controlling violent crime.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I might be bursting the member's balloon but the reality is that first nations are under federal jurisdiction, so when I talk about Lac Brochet, it is actually the federal government that is not at the table to help the community.

Let us be clear about the level of government that he is a part of and the fact that it is nowhere to be seen when it comes to working with first nations to ensure their communities are safer. Actually, he might know from the first nations he represents, who face very similar challenges to the ones I represent, that unfortunately the federal government is not part of the solution. What we are seeing as a result of legislation from his government is an expected increased incarceration rate for the aboriginal people he represents and I represent, something that is unacceptable in a country like Canada in the year 2012.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to know what my colleague thinks. When a surcharge is imposed without taking into account the circumstances a judge could invoke in deciding to waive it, and when there are children involved, are those children not being victimized by a system that does not allow judges any discretion?

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has raised an excellent point. This brings us to one of the NDP's major concerns, the attack on judicial discretion. It is an attack against the very essence of the legal system and against the respect Canadians must have for the very foundation of our democratic system.

It is the Conservatives' preferred target and we are against this attack.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill, which we support at second reading. Obviously, we cannot be against virtue or against the victims, even though the members opposite claim that we are. We care about communities, Canadians and victims. We also care about the families of victims, and the families of criminals, which are sometimes blameless.

We will support this bill at second reading so that it can be studied in committee and because we still have questions about it. Some changes are required in order for it to be acceptable.

I will provide some context. First, Bill C-37 would amend provisions of the Criminal Code and double the amount of the surcharge. The surcharge would total 30% of any fine that is imposed on the offender, or $100 if no fine is imposed. The fine would be $100 for offences punishable by summary conviction and $200 for offences punishable by indictment.

Is that really a solution for the victims? I am not absolutely sure about that. Instead of taxing people even more, other things could be done. In addition, this bill eliminates the court's ability to waive the surcharge if the offender proves that it would create hardship for himself or his family. It is worrisome because the power of judges is being eroded. Judges are there to judge; what more can I say.

Rulings will always be given on a case-by-case basis, and that is why we have judges. As my colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie stated, judges are the elite of our lawyers. They are brilliant and capable of making appropriate rulings, and we can trust them. If all their powers are taken away, as the government seems to enjoy doing, then it is difficult for them to do good work in specific situations. I am especially worried about this. We are taking away judges' powers and we are not proceeding on a case-by-case basis.

I would like to list a few stakeholders that share our position. The Elizabeth Fry Societies are concerned about the impact of additional fines on the disadvantaged aboriginals who do not have the means to pay. Once again, it will be the criminal's family that will become a victim. I side with society and do not think that we want to make the children, brothers and sisters, and parents of the criminals pay. This is no way to do things. It is something that can happen, but it is not what we want. The government should not aggravate things.

The John Howard Society does not necessarily have a problem with the fines, but it is afraid that, under this system, the fines will sometimes be disproportionate to the crimes. We are dealing here with a wide range of crimes. It would be worthwhile to move ahead more gradually.

The Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime has long fought for better funding of services for victims of crime. Is this how we are going to do it? I am not convinced.

I have a few interesting statistics. In 2003, crime cost about $70 billion. That is a big number. Victims took about $47 billion of that, or 70%.

That is another major problem. A 2004 study estimated the pain and suffering of victims at $36 billion—another major problem.

A significant number of eligible victims do not claim compensation, often because they do not even know that they are entitled to it. We are talking about costs and amounts, but victims are not necessarily well compensated. Is it really by going after small amounts here and there that we will be able to adequately compensate those individuals?

I have a hard time putting myself in the shoes of a victim, because I have never been a victim of crime or anything else. I am really lucky, knock on wood. I hope that this does not happen to me or my family. I do not think that an amount of money would fix things. It is more about getting help. Money can sometimes help in seeking assistance, but it would be better if we came up with a more helpful measure for victims.

I have a few quick questions for the government. Perhaps I might get an answer. Bill C-37 overlaps with another private member's bill, Bill C-350, which also seeks to increase offenders' accountability. How will those bills overlap? Will they complement each other? I do not know. I am just wondering.

With the removal of the discretionary power of judges to waive the surcharge, does this measure not become excessively punitive in some cases? I am referring to low-income offenders or people with mental health problems. We know those people exist. I am not saying this to minimize the suffering of victims, but we have to think about offenders with mental health problems.

I am wondering once again how we will ensure that the money really goes to victims' groups that really need it. I also feel that the government should consult with organizations working with victims on the ground. I think that would be very useful. In my riding, for instance, we have the sexual assault centre CAVAS that does an outstanding job with little money. The hon. members opposite must surely have similar organizations in their ridings. It might be worthwhile to go talk to those groups that work on the ground in our communities to see how we can fix all this.

In conclusion, I would like to come back to what my colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie was saying earlier. When we talk about crime, we need to think about prevention, first and foremost, which comes before punishment. Education and fighting poverty are also important. Wealthier societies have less crime. Wealth does not solve all problems, but it can help considerably. I would be remiss if I did not mention affordable housing, since that is an important issue for me. When people have suitable housing and can eat three meals a day, that helps reduce crime rates significantly. So why not make that our first priority?

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was with the RCMP for just over 20 years. Part of the member's statement was that paying the surcharge may cause undue harm to the accused or the family of the accused. I am a little taken aback by that. The way I look at it is that if offenders do not want to pay the victim surcharge, maybe they should not commit crimes. That might be a fairly simple way of dealing with this.

Is the member saying that those convicted of crimes should not be accountable to the victims of crime with a victim surcharge?

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to answer this question, because I really do not appreciate it when people try to put words in my mouth.

No, I do not believe that criminals have absolutely no accountability to victims. That is not at all what I said. I simply said that perhaps there are other solutions to consider before imposing a surcharge on offenders and taking away judges' discretionary powers. That is what I said. I want to make this clear to the member.

I simply cannot agree with a philosophy that tends to adversely affect offenders' families, as the gentleman mentioned, or with a philosophy that makes someone else pay for their parents', their brother's or sister's mistakes. This only makes victims out of the family members of people who commit crimes or break the law. They are the ones who end up paying, not the criminals themselves.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her speech.

All afternoon, I have listened to debates and questions. I am asking myself a question about this bill. Does this bill really help victims? Does it not, rather, seek to take a little more revenge on those who have committed crimes?

My question for my colleague is this. Will this bill really help victims or is there not a better way to help them?

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a very interesting question. If this bill helps victims, then that is a good thing. However, in my opinion, this is not the ultimate solution. This bill might create a small budgetary surplus for some victims organizations, but I do not think that anything special can be done for victims with $100.

In my opinion, the government is using victims to seek revenge on offenders and criminals. Yet, in the end, victims do not have much to gain.

I cannot emphasize this enough: we need to fight poverty; we need to focus on prevention; we need to provide housing for the homeless; we need to make sure that people have enough to eat. I believe that these types of solutions are the ones that will really help to combat crime.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative member made a comment giving the impression that this victim surcharge could prevent crimes from happening.

Is the member as convinced as I am that having a victim surcharge will not actually prevent crimes from happening? I do not think we will have criminals worrying that they will need to pay an extra surcharge if they commit a crime.

With very little imagination we could come up with a lot of programs that would be effective in preventing crimes from taking place but this is not one of them. Is that a fair assessment?

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am not in the shoes of an offender, but I think that someone who commits mischief is not even thinking about the likelihood of being fined in the future. I do not think that a $100 fine is going to dissuade anyone from committing any type of crime.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before I give the floor to the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue, I will remind her that the period for government orders will end around 6:30 p.m. and I will have to interrupt her at that time.

The hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak to this bill. I will share my time with the member for Laval—Les Îles tomorrow, unfortunately.

Over the course of the debates, I have had some questions about some of the answers I have received. The first question has to do with victim fine surcharges. I asked whether there were any adjustments in relation to income. For the same crime, does someone with a much higher income pay a much higher surcharge? The answer was that it was possible, but not mandatory. That is a general question I have about the surcharge.

Take, for example, someone who caused an accident while driving drunk. Say that he injured someone; therefore, there would be victims of this crime. If the driver earns a seven-figure income, compared to someone who struggles to earn an income of more than four figures, we would have to explore the possibilities in committee. We must be logical. If we want to hold offenders accountable, then we must ensure that the punishments are consistent. The surcharge that someone with a lower income pays must not be the equivalent of the cost of a pack of gum for someone with a higher income. The committee must examine that, and I hope that people will be able to delve into that aspect a little deeper.

I also have questions about discretionary powers for judges. As I explained, I am a little concerned about that. For example, a judge could use his discretionary power to say that it would cause harm, that it is obvious that the person does not have money and that if he has to pay a surcharge, it would cause harm. The judge could say that. That it would not cause harm to the individual in question, but to his children. The judge knows that if he imposes this surcharge, the person would not be able to pay it or would be forced to go without, and in the end, it might be the children who would not eat that week. Judges have the ability to reflect and to question. I do not think they do it as a rule. They can do so in situations where it is very much appropriate. I am concerned about this discretionary power being eliminated.

We need to be logical about this. If the court imposes a $100 surcharge and it costs $350 to have the bailiff or someone else collect that money, that is a $250 loss. Could that $250 not be given directly to victims? That would be much simpler. More money would go to victims instead of having the court pay $350 to collect $100. In the end, victims could end up with nothing.

That is another aspect the committee will have to take a very close look at to ensure that the system is efficient. It would not make sense to remove judges' discretionary power while leaving victims empty-handed.

I would like to raise one final point about this bill. The Elizabeth Fry Society has expressed concerns about the impact of surcharges on poor aboriginals who cannot pay. I am a nurse, and I often work with these people. I spend a lot of time in my communities. In many cases, the children of adults offenders will bear the brunt of these surcharges. They may not eat that week. I would like the committee members to take some time to think about that.

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to express these concerns. I hope that the committee will discuss them.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue will have five minutes to complete her speech and five minutes for questions and comments when the House resumes debate on this motion.

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

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to take the opportunity to revisit my question about health care spending in the budget. We are all well aware that this is an issue that is constantly ranked as very important to most Canadians.

It is also well known that the funding formula for the Canada health transfer is an ongoing concern for the provinces that, for the most part, deliver health care. The role of the federal government has traditionally been to provide leadership to foster uniformity in the service that is experienced by Canadians.

Recently, there has been an increasingly obvious difference between Canada's provincial health care systems. We also know that the experiences of rural communities and northern communities are quite different than what is happening in the rest of Canada. Furthermore, the gap between health care provided to first nation Canadians and that provided to everyone else is also growing.

Federal leadership is required now more than ever to ensure Canadians have access to quality health care across the country. These are facts that frame this debate. Yet, when I asked the minister about downloading more of the costs for delivering health care on the provinces and the plan to limit the Canada health transfer in the near future, I received a response that relied on a single talking point, stretched to unbelievable lengths. It was that this budget contained record amounts of health care spending. This answer dismissed the meat of the issue and the fact that the provinces were not happy with health care funding in the budget.

The minister also brushed aside my reminder that the Conservatives had promised they would not touch health transfers.

It is clear the government missed an opportunity to strengthen health care.

The bigger concern seems to have been getting the right talking point when it should have been finding a way to stabilize and improve health care delivery, which is inseparable from funding.

Canada is changing and stability for the Canada health transfer would help the provinces and allow them to develop longer-term plans. As our population both grows and ages, we need to ensure our public health care system is able to match these trends. When one considers regional challenges and persistent challenges, such as the struggle for many to find a family doctor, it is clear that this is no time to rest on our laurels.

Yet, when we raise the concerns of the provinces in question period, the government tells us it has allocated record amounts, which actually turn out to be incremental increases that leave the provinces struggling to maintain services and, in some cases, are forcing cuts that are felt at the very front line.

Worse yet, the plan to tie the transfer to GDP-based averaging means the shortfalls would become more acute.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer has told us that the federal share of Canada health transfer will decrease to the point that the provinces will be short-changed by $31 billion in just 12 years. The problem then becomes one that it is shouldered increasingly by the provinces. As the money transferred to provinces shrinks, the leadership role and authority of the federal government to ensure a certain level of service for most Canadians shrinks with it. In places like rural northern Ontario the prospect of simple things like providing enough family doctors becomes less certain despite promises to reverse this trend.

Given the opinion and experience of the provinces as well as the overwhelming desires of Canadians, surely the better option for the government is to commit to a funding formula that, at a bare minimum, maintains service.

Is it not time to reconsider the plan for GDP averaging for the Canada health transfer and commit to stable funding that protects health care?

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I would be pleased to elaborate on the response offered by the Minister of Health on March 30.

Our government plays an active role in health, while respecting provincial and territorial responsibility and jurisdiction. Our universally accessible health care system is a source of pride for people across this great country. We recognize that Canadians expect the health care system to be there when they and their families need it, both today and into the future. This is why our government has maintained an unwavering commitment to continue the publicly funded health care system that Canadians have come to expect.

Unlike previous governments that balanced their books on the backs of the provinces and territories, we have committed to long-term stable funding that will see health transfers reach historic levels by the end of the decade. Health transfers from Ottawa to provinces and territories have grown by nearly 35% since we formed government. For the next five years, federal health transfers will continue to increase by 6% per year. This rate of increase is well above what provinces and territories are spending on health care. As the Canadian Institute for Health Information's data shows, federal transfers are projected to grow faster than average provincial spending on health care.

Federal transfers for health are increasing at a much higher rate than provincial and territorial health care spending.

This increase in transfer payments would provide provinces and territories with the ability to reform the health care system and make it more sustainable. Our investments will help preserve Canada's health care system so it is there when Canadians need it. Provinces and territories have recently identified health care innovation as a priority. Our government applauds the collaborative work by provinces and territories on issues of common concern.

Our government is investing over $1 billion annually to support innovation through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Canada Health Infoway and other programs.

Our government is engaging with provinces and territories on ways in which we can continue to support their efforts to improve health care and promote the long-term sustainability of the health care system through existing federal initiatives.

We recently announced that we will invest over $238 million in the Canadian Institute for Health Information over the next three years to support the collection and reporting of objective information on health system performance. This will result in more and better information about the state of health care in Canada and the overall health of Canadians. If we cannot measure how the system works, then it is hard to know how to improve it. That is why performance measures and reporting is increasingly used across leading health systems internationally to drive system change.

In closing, this government remains committed to building on our effective publicly funded health care system. By continuing to provide sustainable and predictable funding and working with our provincial and territorial counterparts, we will continue to support our universally accessible health care system so that it meets the evolving needs of Canadians.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I say hogwash to that. It is not just the Canada health transfers that show the government's hesitant support for health care. There were many measures in the omnibus budget that point to this: the $310 million cut to Health Canada; the complete gutting of groups that provided research and services specific to women and first nations; and the seeming abandonment of the accountability mechanism proposed for the Canada health transfer committed to in the 2003-04 health accord. This completes the picture of a government that seems nowhere near as concerned with Canada's health care system as it should be.

Instead of treating the federal government as a business, the government needs to remember it serves the people of Canada first and foremost, those same people who value health care and like to have peace of mind knowing that help is available to them regardless of their ability to pay. We need to start building the next generation of health care in our country.

Why are the Conservatives not looking at areas where we can control costs, such as bulk drug purchasing, and move on reforms from the Romanow report and the 2003-04 health accord designed to improve our system? That is my question.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

What is hogwash, Mr. Speaker, is that the member obviously did not listen to my speech.

This government understands the importance Canadians place on maintaining a high-quality health care system. That is why we have continued to increase health funding to record levels and set it on a sustainable path for the future. We are providing long-term, stable funding arrangements with the provinces that will see transfers reach the historic level of $40 billion by the end of the decade.

Moving forward, our government is exploring potential partnerships to support provinces and territories in their pursuit of innovative health reforms and to demonstrate results to Canadians. We look forward to working with our provincial and territorial partners and all Canadians to make Canada's health care system the best it can be.

Aboriginal AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

September 17th, 2012 / 6:40 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour and privilege to kick off the adjournment debate and also the return of Parliament under the banner of the incompatibility of the Conservative program with the realities of the communities in my riding.

Although the purpose of the original question put to the Minister of Indian Affairs —this minister's title has changed a number of times, but I am a traditionalist—was to expose this government's lack of respect for environmental and aboriginal socio-cultural imperatives, I must say that this attitude also extends to all of my constituents.

Like my colleagues, I was called to travel in my riding on a number of occasions during the summer to give speeches and make public appearances. Each time, I made a point of emphasizing the fact that the Conservative members were probably doing damage control. In other words, a number of concrete legislative measures that were adopted and implemented over the course of the year were received with trepidation and curtailed enthusiasm throughout the country.

I come from a riding where natural resources play an important role. We have a growing forestry industry and some mining is also taking place. The fishery, and its associated economic value, has also recently made some gains.

It is important to understand that we are seeing people throughout the world take a stand. This is not something that has been happening only in the past year; rather, it is an ongoing trend. My riding is no exception. People are taking a stand, in both word and deed, that often goes against the current government's agenda. Ordinary citizens are becoming more aware of the fact that the exploration and use of resources at all levels are likely to be harmful and to have a negative impact on their quality of life. I am going to make a distinction between corporate citizens and ordinary citizens in this speech.

That being said, I would like to point out that, any time I speak in public, I emphasize the fact that this government should invariably reconsider many of its positions, particularly in terms of the environment, if it wants to maintain the small amount of public support it has for its legislative measures and the action it is taking.

With regard to this small amount of public support, the focus of the Conservatives' agenda is first and foremost to please industry and the corporate machine. Often, these measures promote economic growth. However, social and cultural growth, as well as environmental considerations, are often left by the wayside in the measures that this government is planning and using. Now, the Conservatives will likely have to reconsider their position because, in the end, the corporate citizen has only a very small influence when it comes to exercising the right held by every ordinary citizen, and that is the right to vote.

The next general election in 2015 will be decisive; the current government will have to reposition itself and reassess its actions to ultimately respond to the expectations of ordinary citizens.

Aboriginal AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the question from the hon. member for Manicouagan.

I assure the hon. member that our government takes its legal duty to consult with aboriginal groups very seriously. Not only is consultation an important part of good governance, sound policy development and decision-making, but Canada has a legal duty to consult aboriginal groups where appropriate. For example, consultation with aboriginal people is an important pillar of the responsible resource development initiative that was announced recently. This initiative is our government's plan to modernize our regulatory system so that Canada's natural resources are responsibly developed for the benefit of all Canadians.

In 2010, natural resource sectors employed over 760,000 workers in communities throughout the country. In the next 10 years more than 500 major economic projects, representing over $500 billion in new investments, are planned across Canada. Unfortunately, major economic projects in Canada are currently subjected to long, unpredictable and potentially endless delays because of a needlessly complex and duplicative approval process.

That is why our government is taking action in the economic action plan to streamline the review process for major economic projects. Our government will put in place a system of one project, one review in a clearly defined time period. We propose to do this by enhancing consultations with aboriginal peoples and by making reviews of major natural resource projects more predictable and timely. We also want to reduce duplication in the review process and strengthen environmental protection. Streamlining the approval process for major economic projects will result in the creation of good, well-paying and skilled jobs while still protecting the environment.

I would also add that our government takes a whole of government approach to consultation to ensure that meaningful consultation is carried out on resource projects and other activities. Meaningful consultation also supports aboriginal peoples in their efforts to improve social well-being and economic prosperity and develop healthier, more sustainable communities. These consultations also support aboriginal people to participate more fully in Canada's political, social and economic development.

Our government continues to work in concert with aboriginal peoples because we want informed decisions to be made to meet today's needs and those of future generations.

Aboriginal AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is precisely the problem.

The member on the other side of the House said that consultations had been carried out in the communities, and that there was also a fiduciary relationship.

I think that is pro forma because if you think about it, there is always a possibility.

When they talk about consulting the communities, there is a chance that a community says no, the equivalent of stonewalling, but that cannot be true for every project. However, it is a possibility. During a consultation, it is possible to oppose a project.

Now, they are trying to limit debate here. They simply talk about an obligation to consult our country's aboriginal communities. I would say that there is an obligation to consult all Canadians because this will ultimately have repercussions for all Canadians.

The government is trying to be divisive, to keep people in a vacuum. It says that it will look at what is going on in aboriginal communities in the country, that it will speak to them independently. It is dividing and conquering.

That is what we are seeing. In my own community, they say that we should not go talk to the people of Natuashish. They are not the same. We must not talk to the people of Mashteuiats, because they are not the same as the Innu of Uashat. The government is trying to be divisive. I would say that this is in order to prevent people from opposing and objecting. Public approval is needed to move forward with—