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House of Commons Hansard #149 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was economy.

Topics

Opposition Motion—The Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Opposition Motion—The Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will sit down until I can actually hear myself speak.

Opposition Motion—The Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member has a few seconds left to complete her answer.

Opposition Motion—The Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, unlike the NDP and the Conservatives, Liberals have never believed in an either/or, black or white, answer.

We believe that the oil and gas economy is extremely important to Canada. The energy economy is extremely important to Canada, but we also do not want bitumen going down the northwest coast of British Columbia, either in pipes across the province or down the coast into the pipelines through Kinder Morgan. We do not believe in that.

We are saying, though, that we should find a way to move non-bitumen oil. We should look at things like refining. We should look at things like using trains to try to move that oil and gas across the province.

There are lots of ways we can have both things. Our position is pretty clear that we believe in finding a solution that will not be black and white, or either/or.

Opposition Motion—The Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a quick question for my colleague.

We have heard the Conservatives say that the Prime Minister has not had a big first ministers conference, but he has been chatting with premiers one-on-one on the phone and meeting them one-on-one.

Would my hon. colleague not agree that a one-on-one conversation has a very different dynamic than when we meet in a group. In a group we can share ideas, cross-fertilize, come up with a consensus and create a vision but one-on-one we cannot do that. We may never reach a consensus because we can never reach everyone at the same time.

I would like her to comment on that and I would also like her opinion on whether she thinks the Prime Minister's approach, this one-on-one approach, is a little defensive. Maybe he does not want to meet all the premiers at once because he might feel somehow isolated or contradicted.

Opposition Motion—The Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I cannot comment on what is going on in the Prime Minister's mind. It defies logic sometimes, I am sorry to say. I do not know why the Prime Minister refuses to sit down and talk with the premiers as a group around a table and come to some kind of consensus.

For me, this is the heart of being a federal government. The federal government is the glue that holds this country together. The federal government ensures that we are all moving in the same direction so that as a nation we can be globally competitive, globally productive and able to hold our heads up as a country.

The member is right. By meeting together we get to talk to each other, we build an understanding of the issues, and we come to a consensus.

Meeting separately is a great way to pit people against each other. It is as great way to tell people one story here and another story for another group, so we never speak with one voice. I do not know if that is what the Prime Minister wants to do, but I think he is failing abysmally as the leader of the nation called Canada and as a leader of a federal government by not meeting with the premiers.

Opposition Motion—The Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my good friend from Western Arctic, who will be raising some other good points of northern value.

I represent a riding in northwestern British Columbia, a place that has an incredibly long and rich history, diverse in its culture but also in its appreciation for the natural resources that are our endowment as a people. What we have seen over the last number of years going back to the mid-eighties is a slow and steady degradation of our economy and our ability to put food on the table, our ability to add value to the natural resources that exist in our part of the world. Steadily, both from forces that we can lay at the feet of the various governments and from those market forces that we feel sometimes have a challenge in understanding the human element of the economy, we have been losing our ability to add value to our lumber, fish and mineral resources.

Increasingly we have seen not only governments at peace with the idea of sending out those resources raw, but also an encouragement from those same governments, because there is a short-term benefit to some in the corporate offices to no longer make those investments. It was the condition of contract of doing business in this great country that one would seek to make investments with the consideration of the governments of the day that would benefit the people. Time and time again we have seen what I would describe as neo-conservative governments siding more and more with a narrow interest of Canadians in the broader investment sector and less and less with the general population.

We see it in the motion today, which as I said to my friend from the Liberals, has the audacity to suggest that the Prime Minister of this country should meet with his counterparts, the various premiers of the provinces and territories. This is not at the request only of the New Democratic Party but at the request of those premiers, Conservative premiers, Liberal premiers and New Democratic premiers across this country, who have said in order to, “fully engage all the economic forces in the country the two orders of government must be working together”. The premiers called on the Prime Minister to join them at the Council of the Federation national economic summit in Halifax.

We have the audacity to suggest that real leadership from the federal government and the Prime Minister would require that from time to time he sit down with his counterparts and addresses issues that are at the forefront of the day.

The economy is fragile. There is not a dispute in this place or in the general discourse of this country that our economy is not yet on solid ground. It is reminiscent to me and to many others of a government that believes that simply talking up the economy is enough to replace the fundamental concerns within that economy. Conservatives said this before the 2008 recession. Time and time again the finance minister was on his feet, lauded by his own party for being a financial wizard, saying the fundamentals are sound and there is no recession. We know he actually believed that, because he brought in a budget that same year that addressed nothing of the economic reality that was coming our way.

To simply try to split hairs and say that the things that happened were a global event and Canada has somehow become a island is an interesting iteration of geography from the government: Canada is an important trading nation on the one hand but an island on the other. Being a stable island, the effects and causes of what happens in the global market no longer come to bear on us. Conservatives had to eat crow and introduce a budget that was counter even to their political ideological nature and say the role of government in an economy happens from time to time to involve itself, to become engaged in that economy in different ways.

The government is remiss to say that, in its history as Conservatives, it has not done this exact thing. The prosperity that has come out of northern Alberta and the oil sands was only possible because the various levels of government sat down with industry and made plans together, designs together, thoughts and actions together to ask how they could take a resource that sits in northern Alberta that is not commercially viable because it did not have the technology or regulations to deal with it. They did not know how to get it out of the ground, make any money and have anyone go to work. It was the various levels of government, municipal, provincial and federal, that became engaged in the question. They forgot to finish the second part of the conversation, which is to ask, once we start it, how much do we want to do and how fast.

Folks like the recently departed Premier Lougheed said that maybe a plan would be a good idea for the oil sands in northern Alberta, because if they went too fast, it would actually have the counter-effect of overheating the economy, not just in that region of Fort McMurray but right across the Alberta economy, the western economy and maybe throughout Canada. Those were Conservatives saying that and raising a fundamental point of resource development, which is that it is a good idea once in a while to have a plan.

We see what a government looks like when it does not have a plan. I will provide Statistics Canada numbers. These are not numbers that New Democrats have pulled out; these are numbers that have been gathered by the federal government. There are 300,000 more unemployed Canadians. Canadians watching will wonder how that number jibes with the number we hear insidiously from the government day after day that there are all these net newly created jobs. The fact of the matter is that since the bottom of the recession, one out of every three new jobs created in Canada has gone to foreign temporary workers. That is not an accident; that is a policy. That is a government telling industry that if it is too inconvenient or expensive for industry to hire a Canadian worker, the government will allow it, through its policy and bills passed through the House of Commons, to hire 200 carpenters from Colombia, 300 plumbers from the Philippines and electricians from wherever.

The government also includes the numbers of temporary foreign workers in its immigration numbers, saying nothing has changed in Canada's immigration policy and the numbers have stayed relatively the same. It is not true, because it has padded these numbers with all the temporary foreign workers who have no ability or right to ever apply to live in Canada. After their two-year contracts are done, they have to leave. They cannot become Canadians.

My family is an immigrant family. We played the traditional role of immigrants all across the world. We came here, invested here and worked hard. I was raised as the first-born of my family coming from Ireland. The contract between my family and the people and government of Canada was to work here, follow the rules, do what we could to build this country up, and we did, as did so many millions of Canadians. However that is not what this is.

During the last election, we talked about working together, not just in Quebec but across Canada. The idea—the role and vision of a Canadian government—is to work together. Today, the Conservative government has the option of working together. Let us work together with the provinces and territories. It is not a bizarre concept or option for Canada, since the provincial leaders have Conservative, Liberal and New Democrat roots.

For me, it is bizarre to see Conservative member after member say that it is shocking, strange or bad for a government to have such a meeting.

When we look at the fragile state of our economy right now, the average household debt is 154% of its net income per year. That is the average. There are Canadians who owe far more than that. We say we have lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs that have not been replaced and we have lost more than 300,000 net jobs since the bottom of the recession. We have an economic strategy from the government that says to replace Canadian workers with temporary foreign workers because they are cheaper for industry to hire and they are less of a hassle for industry to hire because they cannot join a union or demand workplace safety regulations the same way a Canadian worker can. These are facts.

The Conservatives are entitled to all the opinions they want, but the fact of the matter is that the Canadian economy remains fragile and some of that fragility and weakness is a direct result of a government that says hands off of certain sectors, allows people to suffer on their own and says it will allow the nationalization of our natural resource companies by a foreign country without any concern or bother. The clock is ticking on the Nexen deal. There must be some colleagues within the Conservative ranks who have some concern about a state-controlled company buying the 12th largest player in the oil patch. It must cause some concerns for our energy security and sovereignty. They wrap themselves in the flag in moments of convenience but not in moments when we need them to stand up for Canada, not as some sort of pamphlet that appears at election time but when the questions are being put and decisions are being made.

Meet with the premiers, and they will say the same thing.

Opposition Motion—The Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, as a fellow British Columbian, I certainly listened to the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley with great interest. However, frankly, even the motion today was surprising to me. It seemed a very odd motion. Perhaps they have been a bit asleep at the switch.

We have acknowledged some economic concerns for a number of years. To be quite frank, all oars have been in the water. The Prime Minister has met more than 250 times, regardless of the government, with the provinces, minister to minister. I certainly know that in British Columbia, as we rolled out the economic action plan, the provinces worked in collaboration with the federal government and municipalities in an unprecedented manner. We know what has happened. We know the great outcome. We have toured the world. We know we are the envy of the world.

However, his leader has put forward a motion wanting the Prime Minister to meet, when he himself actually refused to meet with the ministers from Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan, calling them simply messengers of the federal government. I actually found that very offensive.

For the NDP to put this motion forward today is very surprising.

Opposition Motion—The Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know my friend from across the way well, but I will allow her to stand later and correct the record that in fact our leader did offer to meet with the premier of Alberta. He met with her deputy premier as she was out of the country. He has not had a request from the other two premiers, one who she knows will be outgoing in some short amount of time.

The Conservatives have somehow made the mistake that a ribbon-cutting event with a premier constitutes consultation and planning and working together and that a five-minute phone call, which we have seen on the PM's agenda, somehow counts as working together with the provinces and territories.

We are simply asking the Prime Minister to accept the invitation. This was not our invitation. It would be rude for us to offer it. It is from the premier of our own province and the premiers of all the provinces and territories that are represented here in the House of Commons.

She finds this confusing. I think we have a lot of work to do here. If the invitation so generously offered by our provincial and territorial leaders confuses Conservative members as to why that would be worthwhile, we have perhaps more work than I thought with this particular government.

Opposition Motion—The Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Kings—Hants put it best some time ago when he said we have a finance minister who cannot add and a prime minister who can only divide. I read that one journalist recently said we have a prime minister who is de-confederating Confederation. He continues to subsidize the oil industry with over a billion dollars of assistance and yet he threatens small fishers in the Maritimes by changing the policy on fishers that would allow them to continue to fish not competitively with large industry.

Could the member speak about the value of meeting, by reflecting on former prime ministers who have met with premiers and resolved a lot of things that were ailing in our country?

Opposition Motion—The Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I feel some regret that I did not get an invitation to a lot of those meetings so I did not get to see them first-hand.

One leader of Canada once quipped that Canada works well in practice but not in theory. I think what they were suggesting was that this is a diverse and complicated country with a very strong neighbour to the south, spread over a large territory, and it requires constant vigilance and work to keep us together. All parliamentarians and Canadians know that there have been tough times for the country. However, one of the best ways to stay together, be it a Confederation relationship or any kind of relationship, is by talking; it is by actually getting together and finding common cause.

I take great umbrage with the government, not in the fact that it is Conservative or that it has a particular line on how to handle taxes or certain issues. There is an ideology within the government that it actually wants to break government. It wants to break the very idea and contractual negotiation with the people it seeks to represent and lower expectations to the point that there is no government in their lives whatsoever. As Ronald Reagan once quipped, “...government is not a solution to our problem; government is the problem”.

The Prime Minister of our country could have said the exact same thing. That concerns me because whatever one's political ideological stripe, let us contribute to the health and welfare of our economy and country. Let us get together once in a while. Should it be so difficult for the Prime Minister to humbly accept the offer from the premiers?

Opposition Motion—The Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, one of the keys to success is always being able to work and co-operate with others.

This November, the premiers of the provinces and territories are meeting in Halifax at the national economic summit, organized by the Council of the Federation. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister will be a no-show.

From a northern perspective, a major concern is the proposed European free trade agreement that would affect government programs aimed at helping to economically develop the north, for example, the NWT's business incentive policy. The business incentive policy gives preference to registered northern businesses in the Northwest Territories for the government's purchase of products and services. This policy applies to all contracts entered into directly by the Government of the Northwest Territories.

Under the policy, the Government of the Northwest Territories supports the creation and growth of competitive businesses as a foundation in the Northwest Territories' economy and will, when purchasing goods, services or construction, provide an incentive to NWT-based businesses that recognizes the higher costs of operating business and manufacturing products in our territory. This encourages Northwest Territories-based businesses to create employment and develop necessary experience and business skills and complies with any intergovernmental agreements to which the GNWT must adhere.

It is the last bit that concerns northerners. They wonder if the European free trade deal would mean the end of BIP.

The Prime Minister could allay these concerns by meeting with the northern leaders and the provincial premiers and ensuring that this vital policy is protected.

Another issue that could be discussed is how to properly encourage economic development in the north.

The key phrase for northern economic development is stewardship. Northerners know that economic development in the north means, for the most part, natural resource development. We know the government's approach is to exploit the north's natural resources as fast as possible and damn the consequences, much as the Liberals before them.

A better approach is to sustainably develop resources, to shepherd resources to ensure the longest life of the development to ensure the maximum level of job creation. That is the way northerners look at development. We look at how we can benefit from those developments and how we can build our society.

Proper resource development ensures that the environment is protected. Northerners have learned the hard way that setting standards and maintaining them is the only way to protect ourselves against development. If we do not have that, then the public ends up cleaning up the mess. One only has to look at Giant Yellowknife mines right now where, once the environmental assessment is finished, the federal government will be on the hook for about a half a billion dollars to clean up the mess that is left there.

Another area that the Prime Minister could discuss with northern leaders is how to improve public infrastructure, which would not only aid economic development in the north but improve the life of northerners by reducing costs and, in many regards, would be the best way to strengthen Arctic sovereignty.

The Prime Minister is great at making promises to northerners, but we are still waiting for him to live up to them. For example, take the long-promised harbour at Iqaluit. It is not there yet. We can also consider the airport in Iqaluit, which needs a $400 million upgrade. These are infrastructure improvements that are absolutely essential to the functioning of Nunavut.

Improving housing is another type of infrastructure that really needs improvement. The cost of constructing new, healthy homes based on southern Canadian standards has gone through the roof. In addition to the high costs of construction, living in the homes is just as expensive. In addition to the high cost of energy, utility costs are astronomical. The provision of water and sewer service in remote northern communities is invariably by truck: haul it in, haul it out.

ThePrime Minister could discuss with northern leaders ways of reducing the high cost of living in the north. Rather than importing a southern lifestyle, we should be developing a sustainable northern lifestyle.

In practical terms, regarding the northern cost of living, sustainability can apply to supply systems, attitudes, materials, local economics and consumption practices. Societal tools for influencing sustainability include full market pricing, based on a complete understanding of all costs such as education, advertisement, incentives, regulations and policy.

One has to view the whole situation in the north to understand what has gone wrong with this attempt to recreate a southern lifestyle north of 60. One example is the cost of heating a home or a business in the north. For most communities in northern Canada, which are beyond the range of a natural gas pipeline or a major electrical grid, in terms of heating costs the last decade has been pure hell.

Over that time, the majority of Canadians enjoyed natural gas prices, which really were no different than they were at the start of the decade. Meanwhile, northern homes and businesses supplied by imported fuel oil have seen their prices go up 300% or 400%. Considering that the number of days requiring heat in homes in the north are double that of southern Canada, the magnitude of the problem becomes apparent. The system is not working for us.

At the same time, these communities generate electricity from the same fuel oil used for heating. The cost to run the coolers and freezers at grocery stores is over 10 times what it would be in Toronto or Ottawa. The increased cost of energy adds to the high cost of food for sale in the stores. Food and energy are linked together in Canada's north just as they are across the world, but in our case to a greater degree of unsustainability.

Transportation of people, goods and energy is another area where cost surge from high energy prices have been an Achilles Heel to the southern lifestyle imported to the north. In the north, distances are great and roads are poor or non-existent. Air travel is based on low volume, small planes and high prices. It can cost more to fly from Edmonton to Yellowknife than from the Alberta capital to Europe. The already costly petroleum needed to heat homes, generate electricity and power automobiles goes up even more when the high cost of northern transport is added in. These high transport costs are reflected in the high cost of food in the north, which is imported from the south.

Yes, there are many things that the Prime Minister could meet on and talk in public with our leaders from the territories and provinces. Many of the problems that northern provinces have are the same as in the northern territories. We need discussion. We need support to come up with better solutions that promote sustainability rather than subsidized lifestyles that are at great risk at all times.

There has been a call right across the country for a national energy strategy, from provinces, industry and people on the street. They are all saying that we should get together on this, act like other countries in a sane and rational fashion and form the vision of what we have for a Canadian energy system.

Why is the Prime Minister not willing to meet with the premiers who have themselves indicated that they want to do this and have pushed it forward on their agenda? Why is the Prime Minister not able to engage with the premiers on this issue? Why is he content to leave it alone?

This is not the way to govern this federation. We need the Prime Minister to actively engage with the other leaders in the country. We encourage him to do this through this motion today. We plead with him. It is better for the country that he do that.

I hope the Prime Minister is listening today to this debate, that he recognizes the importance of the debate that we are having and why this party is putting this motion forward at this time.

Opposition Motion—The Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher ConservativeMinister of State (Transport)

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member intently. Having visited his riding several times, including last summer, I want to say that it is a beautiful riding with wonderful people.

However, the NDP policies do not seem to be consistent with the desire of the people of the north. For example, on the gun registry, the member for the Northwest Territories voted against that. We had action through Bill C-38 to increase the ability for environmentally-friendly development at a fast rate. Again, it was something that would be great for the people of the north, but the member voted against it.

Everything we have done as a government is wonderful for the north, but the people across the way just want to make the north a big national park for the Americans.

Opposition Motion—The Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, my short answer would be to chuckle at those remarks. I apologize to the member because I really do not view it in the same fashion that he does.

The north needs real answers on energy, there is no question about it. We have some going on right now and we are making changes within our territory. We have something to offer the other territories as well, but we need to bring this together in a national energy strategy.

I feel very confident that we can make these changes, but we need the support of the federal government across the country and the understanding that this is not simply a problem of the Northwest Territories, it is a problem for all of us. That is what standing up and talking about a national energy strategy and willing to commit to that debate will create in the country.

Opposition Motion—The Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It being 5:15 p.m., pursuant to an order made earlier today all questions necessary to dispose of the opposition motion are deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Tuesday, September 25, at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

Opposition Motion—The Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask that you see the clock at 5:30 p.m.

Opposition Motion—The Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Is that agreed?

Opposition Motion—The Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

September 20th, 2012 / 5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

moved that Bill C-293, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (vexatious complainants), be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-293, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (vexatious complainants). This important piece of legislation was brought forward to help the Correctional Service of Canada meet its legal obligation to fairly and expeditiously resolve offender grievances.

I am gratified to see so much support for my legislation from so many members in the House and in committee. The changes this bill would bring to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act would help ensure the complaint and grievance process in the federal penitentiaries is fair and, most importantly, accessible to all offenders, not just a select few who choose to clog up the system with frivolous complaints. Essentially this bill would help ensure that the complaint and grievance process functions as it was originally intended to.

It is clear to me and to so many hon. members in this House that these changes are far long overdue, and this is why I introduced this particular piece of legislation. As I indicated, Bill C-293 proposes to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, or CCRA. Within the CCRA, we find sections 90 and 91, which are the subject of the proposed legislation I have put forward, which is before us today in the House. These sections ensure that all offenders have access to a fair and expeditious grievance system which they can use without fear of negative consequences. This system is not only the law, but it also has many long-term benefits.

In his committee appearance, Mr. Jay Pyke, warden of Kingston Penitentiary spoke of four specific benefits of this process. He said:

First, it provides offenders with a means of redress when they feel they've been treated unfairly.... Secondly, it contributes to institutional safety through the early identification and resolution of problems....Thirdly, it contributes to offender accountability by encouraging offenders to resolve problems through an appropriate means. Finally, the process ensures that CSC's decisions affecting offenders comply with the rule of law.

I want to point out that the majority of offenders using the grievance system are in fact submitting complaints in good faith related to situations affecting their life, liberty or safety of the person, which of course is what the process was originally intended for.

When used properly, this system ensures that offenders are treated fairly and are given a proper way to deal with their grievances. Unfortunately, there are those offenders who choose to abuse the system, submitting complaint after complaint in order to harass a staff member or merely to fill their days. In some cases it has become somewhat of a hobby or even a game.

All of us in the House have heard the stories about the ice cream being too cold, the eggs or potatoes being too small, or the light bulb being too bright. Not only is this an enormous waste of staff time and resources, but it also clogs up the system and negatively impacts those offenders who must wait longer for decisions on legitimate complaints. This is unfair. It is very clear that changes are needed. Bill C-293 aims to do just that. This bill was developed to put a stop to the actions of offenders who purposely exploit the grievance system at the cost of the rest of the offenders in federal custody, not to mention the cost to the Canadian taxpayer.

As we have heard, there is a small group of offenders across the federal correctional system who submit a high volume of frivolous and vexatious grievances. I would refer again to the committee testimony of Mr. Pyke, warden of the Kingston Penitentiary, who said that last year three offenders were responsible for 7% of the 501 grievances and complaints submitted at just one institution. Of course, this would be acceptable if these complaints had any merit, but in fact, as committee members heard, most of these complaints, 86 in total from these three offenders, were merely attempts to draw negative or unwanted attention to a staff member they did not like or a rule that they simply did not agree with.

According to Mr. Pyke, of the 86 grievances submitted by these three offenders, 81 were denied on the grounds that they lacked merit. In fact, only two grievances were upheld as having merit, and the remaining three were upheld in part because of Correctional Service of Canada's untimely response to the complaints, delays which ironically would have been reduced through the passing of this legislation. This is just three inmates in one institution for one year.

Hon. members can well imagine the impact on resources, time and energy if we multiply this across our entire federal correctional system. That is why it is so important that we move ahead with Bill C-293 without any further delay. In fact, Bill C-293 would expand the language within sections 90 and 91 to provide Correctional Service of Canada with a more effective grievance and complaint process, a system that would impose consequences on offenders who submit a high volume of frivolous and vexatious complaints.

I would like to take a moment to thank all of the committee members for their thoughtful review of the legislation and for their support of some important amendments that were introduced in committee to further strengthen my bill. I believe that these amendments will ultimately help ensure that this legislation would truly meet its goal of ending the troubling trend of a small group of inmates abusing the grievance system. These amendments will ensure that this bill would achieve its intended objective in a manner that is consistent with the remainder of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and also the corrections and conditional release regulations.

If we look closer at the amended legislation, we see that it consists of three clear provisions that lead to this worthy goal. First and foremost, the commissioner would have the authority to prohibit offenders who submit a high number of vexatious and frivolous complaints from submitting any further complaint or grievance unless a vexatious complainant designation is lifted. This is in legislation for the very first time. In other words, the commissioner would have the final say on whether or not a new grievance or complaint is heard. Of course, the commissioner would allow an offender's complaint or grievance to be heard if it was deemed that the issue being grieved affects the offender's life, liberty or security of that person. I want to make that perfectly clear.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the benefits of the grievance system is that it encourages pro-social behaviour in offenders. It is certainly not the intent of this bill to slap a vexatious complainant label on any offender and then close the door forever on any hope that the designation would be overturned. That is why the second provision within Bill C-293 states that the commissioner would undertake a regular review of all offenders who have received a prohibition order from a vexatious complainant designation.

As originally drafted, the bill required the commissioner of CSC to review the vexatious complainant designation every six months, and then to provide the offender with written reasons for a decision to maintain or lift that designation. Bill C-293 was amended at committee to indicate that this review would take place once a year rather than every six months. As we heard during committee hearings, a six-month window would likely have become operationally cumbersome for CSC and after reviewing the committee testimony, I agree. I believe that an annual review of the complaint prohibition would be a much more workable provision. In this way it is hoped that the offender would understand the benefits of acting in a positive way and thereby break the cycle of frivolous and vexatious complaints and grievances.

The third provision within Bill C-293 would allow the Governor in Council to make changes to the corrections and conditional release regulations as needed to give further precision to the administration of the vexatious complainant scheme. This is in keeping with the current corrections and conditional release regulations.

I believe that as amended, Bill C-293 is an effective piece of legislation that would help reduce the ongoing abuse of the grievance system by a small handful of inmates. The intent of the vexatious complainant process is not to punish offenders, but rather to hold them accountable for their actions. Bill C-293 would provide Correctional Service of Canada with clear, defined steps that could be taken to end the activities of vexatious complainants. It also would promote accountability by encouraging offenders to use the complaint and grievance process for the purpose for which it was originally intended.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to speak today in the House to my private member's bill and I urge all hon. members of this House to put their full support behind this bill.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

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

We examined her bill in the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. As a member of the NDP, I will unfortunately not support this bill and I will explain why shortly.

I have a question about the complaints and grievances offenders file with the Correctional Service of Canada.

Professor David Mullan produced a report in which he made 65 extremely interesting recommendations for changing how the complaints process is handled. Not a single one of these recommendations was taken into account in this bill.

I would like to know why my colleague did not heed the recommendations of an expert in the area.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, the objective of private members' bills is to fix something that is broken or to improve upon something within legislation.

As someone who supports my constituency, having been elected on May 2, 2011, I am responsible to the Canadian taxpayer. When I learned about this abuse within our correctional system, I was absolutely shocked. I cannot believe that we have allowed this to go on for this long, that a handful of inmates, approximately 20 to 25 inmates, create and log 15% of all complaints. There are 29,000 grievances per year. Over 4,000 complaints, or 15% of the total, are submitted by just a handful of inmates.

This is the problem that needs to be fixed. I am fixing it with this bill. When this legislation is passed, it will ensure that the system will work as it was originally intended to.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is the first opportunity I have had to congratulate you on your appointment. You are a very good choice and we are pleased that you are the Deputy Speaker.

I was very impressed with the member of Parliament. I chair the public safety and national security committee. She was fortunate in that her name was drawn to submit a private member's bill in her first Parliament. I have never had the opportunity to come before a committee with one of mine, but she has. She was very articulate, focused and well spoken. She gave us some statistics. What was interesting to hear when witnesses appeared before us is that even many of the prisoners are upset by the people who bring forward vexatious complaints. Many of them feel that the vexatious complaints may limit the attention that their real complaints get.

I would ask the member to comment from that perspective. We understand there is a huge cost. Twenty-five people are making thousands of complaints. How does that affect the other prisoners who may have legitimate complaints?

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that my colleague has brought up this question because just recently, during the summer, there was a particular case that went to the Federal Court. It was initiated by an inmate who complained that his grievances were not being heard in a timely fashion. It is interesting that this has been brought up because my bill would actually seek to address that. It would correct a system that has been broken by this loophole that is costly for Canadian taxpayers. Most importantly, it would make sure that the system works as it was originally intended to.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again, I really appreciate the opportunity to ask questions about this fascinating bill.

First, I would like to tell the members opposite that I support the principle underlying this bill. The only thing I do not support is the means employed here. Unfortunately, this measure will not prevent vexatious complainants from submitting complaints. As the member opposite probably knows, most vexatious complainants are people with mental illness. This is not the way to help them.

Does my colleague have any other suggestions for how to help people who need help more than they need punishment?

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, a similar question was brought up in committee. Someone from the NDP asked me why I did not submit a private member's bill on another issue or another component that needed to be fixed. My answer is that if members want to put forward a private member's bill to address a particular area of concern, I encourage them to do so.

Most importantly, this bill would address and correct five things. One, it would correct a costly loophole. Two, it would support our hard-working front-line officers in the Correctional Service of Canada. Three, it would hold offenders accountable and guide them to true rehabilitation. Four, I need to point out, because sometimes we forget that we are all responsible for the Canadian taxpayer, that the bill shows respect for the Canadian taxpayer by eliminating waste. Five, and most importantly, as I have stated previously, this change would make the system work as it was intended to.