House of Commons Hansard #26 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cyberbullying.


Protecting Canadians from Online Crime ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I absolutely agree that the bill should be separated. It makes no sense that we have created this omnibus bill.

I mentioned the Canada Evidence Act, the Competition Act, and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act. These are huge pieces of legislation that should be separated and not put in with the cyberbullying bill. That is the critical element here.

That is what I believe this House is responding to that was so critical in affecting people like Amanda Todd, Rehtaeh Parsons, and other victims. I think we would find agreement that we need to move forward and tackle that legislation, get it through the House, and get it implemented so that we can start saving lives and making a difference to kids and their families right across this country.

Protecting Canadians from Online Crime ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to start my remarks on Bill C-13 by congratulating my many colleagues who work tirelessly for justice, the protection of all Canadians and respect for their rights and for individuals. It is truly high time for us to better protect ourselves from the non-consensual distribution of intimate images.

We are all shocked and saddened, and were truly heart-broken at the highly publicized suicides of teenagers who were victims of cyberbullying, including Rehtaeh Parsons, in Nova Scotia, Amanda Todd, in British Columbia, and so many others. We must prevent such tragedies from happening again, because these young girls are not the only ones to have been bullied.

Youth between 12 and 14 are most likely to be victims of cyberbullying, which can seriously affect their mental health and well-being.

According to recent studies, cyberbullying has an adverse effect on the social and emotional aspects of a young person's life and on their ability to learn. These young people suffer from anxiety, shorter attention spans, lower marks at school, feelings of despair and isolation, depression and even suicidal tendencies, as in these well-known cases, unfortunately.

I want to acknowledge that my colleague, the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, brought attention to the issue of bullying in the House with his motion to create a national bullying prevention strategy. I want to thank him for taking that initiative. His hard work to fight any form of bullying is truly admirable.

Earlier this year, the NDP member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour introduced a bill to make the non-consensual distribution of sexually explicit images an offence.

Unfortunately, instead of setting partisanship aside and expediting passage of these measures, the Conservatives refused to act on the motion and bill brought forward by my colleagues and waited until it suited them to introduce Bill C-13, a bill that contains a number of provisions that have nothing to do with cyberbullying and provides nothing meaningful for its prevention.

I would like to thank the NDP justice critic, my colleague from Gatineau, for the hard work she has done on this issue. She moved that Bill C-13 be divided in order to remove the parts of the bill that do not pertain to cyberbullying and address them in another debate. She moved for the bill to be split so that the provisions related to the non-consensual distribution of intimate images could be passed quickly since everyone in the House agrees on them. This would have allowed the other provisions, which were previously set out in the now-defunct Bill C-30, to be carefully examined separately in committee.

This would have allowed us to deal with the provisions of the bill that are not related to this very sensitive issue separately. That is what we must do in order to have a healthy debate on this subject, since the Conservatives are trying to include provisions on telemarketing and other things in a bill on cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is a very important issue, and we need to deal with it.

For example, I would like to share with the House what Ann Cavoukian, the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, had to say on this subject. She said:

We can all agree that cyberbullying is an issue that needs immediate attention but it is very troubling to see the government once again trying to enact new surveillance powers under the guise of protecting children. Regrettably, the federal government is using this pressing social issue as an opportunity to resurrect much of its former surveillance legislation, Bill C-30.

It is important to remember the work of my colleague, the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville, who fought hard against Bill C-30, which was a direct attack on the freedoms of Canadians and their right to privacy.

I am certain that she will ensure that the Conservatives are held accountable when the committee examines this bill, which unfortunately contains provisions that have nothing to do with cyberbullying and are of concern to many people in the digital community.

Bill C-13 covers much more ground than Bill C-540, which was introduced by my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. Along the way, it addresses many other issues, such as the financial data of banks, the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act, telemarketing and the theft of a communication service. It also includes some of the provisions of Bill C-30.

The New Democrats, privacy advocates and the public rejected Bill C-30, forcing the Conservatives to abandon it earlier this year and to promise that the Criminal Code would be modernized and would not include the measures contained in Bill C-30.

Now, privacy advocates are criticizing the provisions in Bill C-13 on lawful access to personal information and stressing the need to implement measures to protect Canadians' right to privacy against abuse. They say that certain specific provisions must be examined more closely, especially clause 20, which deals with the new procedures for obtaining a warrant.

The NDP proposes that the two very different parts of the bill be separated. It is clear that the Conservative government is just playing politics to pass its controversial provisions, under the guise of doing something for our youth. At the very least, we should carefully study this bill in committee, to ensure that it will provide police with the tools they need to protect our youth and to answer important questions about the other provisions included in the bill.

I will take this opportunity to talk about what the youth centre workers in my riding know well. They know this issue very well because they too often come face to face with problems that many people would rather not see. These workers are role models and friends to the young people who so desperately need them. They are on the front lines in their work with young people. I think we have to take their views into consideration. Here is what one worker at the youth centre in Saint-Canut, in my riding, had to say about cyberbullying.

She told me that a number of young people were victims and that very few resources were available to fight against cyberbullying. She finds it hard to control this type of bullying because everything happens so fast on social networks, bullies can remain anonymous and it is everywhere.

At her youth centre there is zero tolerance. If the computers at the youth centre are used inappropriately, there are consequences. She said that it was important for them to make their teenagers aware of the repercussions that this could have and to educate them in order to prevent cyberbullying. This is about confidentiality on the Internet and being careful about the comments and photos we post.

They encourage young people to file a complaint if there are abuses, but often, unfortunately, the police do not have the resources or the time to deal with this type of problem. According to her, it would be better if the complaints were taken seriously and processed as quickly as possible. Young people who commit this type of bullying have to know that there will be consequences for their actions even from behind their computer screen. She thinks it would be important to give police officers what they need to be quick and effective. The sense of anonymity and of not being able to get caught makes young people believe that they can do whatever they want on the Internet. That is what she told me.

Prevention, raising awareness among young people and giving police forces and youth case workers the necessary resources are key to fighting cyberbullying, in addition to the provisions contained in the first part of Bill C-13, the part that truly deals with cyberbullying.

This would help reinforce the legal framework. Nonetheless, it is a national strategy, like the one proposed by my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, which might have an impact on the other aspects.

I gather from this debate and the information from young people and stakeholders in my riding that some of the pages of this bill will help in the fight against cyberbullying. However, prevention and awareness raising are even more pressing.

This bill incorporates a patchwork of measures on telemarketing, theft of telecommunication services, and terrorist activities. These are direct descendants of measures in Bill C-30, the infamous bill the Conservatives had to go back on.

In closing, it is important to move forward in the fight against cyberbullying. As my two colleagues who spoke before me said, the NDP will be very active and very vigilant on this file.

Protecting Canadians from Online Crime ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I thank my NDP colleague for her speech.

The question I want to ask has to do with the evidentiary requirement for a warrant. One of the things that this bill would do is change the threshold for obtaining a warrant for matters contained in the bill, from having reasonable and probable grounds to believe, to having a reasonable suspicion.

If someone files an access to information request for information within a minister's office, the standard that has to be met is for there to be reasonable and probable grounds to believe that the information is contained within the minister's office. Given the higher standard that is required to obtain information from ministers' offices compared to the standard that would be lowered for the electronic records of everyday Canadians, does the member see the incongruity there, with respect to the rights of private information of Canadians, which would now be easier to get than the records that are contained in a minister's office under an ATIP application?

Protecting Canadians from Online Crime ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. He mentioned an interesting contradiction.

I agree that it does not make sense. I really want to clearly emphasize the fact that the NDP will remain vigilant regarding the inclusion of clauses that might be too similar to those in Bill C-30, which contained measures that went way too far in terms of Canadians' privacy. That is a priority for us. That is a top priority for my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville, whose constituency is next to mine. I know she has been working very hard on this file. It makes no sense to ask so much of Canadians. The member really illustrated the government's double standard, depending on whether the issue pertains to the government or to Canadians.

Protecting Canadians from Online Crime ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to ask my colleague a question, since she is chair of our women's caucus.

Since members, like me, who are younger than what we normally see in this House were elected, people have often wondered if age could lead to prejudice about behaviour. I often explain that it is not a question of age, but rather a question of gender, unfortunately.

When we look at the cases of cyberbullying that have appeared in the news in recent years, particularly those my colleague and some other members have mentioned, it seems to me that girls and young women are unfortunately more often the victims.

Given that my colleague cares so much about this issue, I wonder if she could comment on this aspect and the importance of defending gender equality in the fight against cyberbullying.

Protecting Canadians from Online Crime ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Chambly—Borduas for his excellent question.

He knows that, among ourselves, we often compare how we are treated. Experience tells us that people have no trouble accepting young people in politics, but they have some trouble accepting young women in politics.

Indeed, as a young woman who grew up in the digital age, I see something of myself in the stories we watch on television about Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd. I know girls who have gone through similar situations. My colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville said she was bullied when she was younger. I too have been bullied.

This is a crucial issue that we do not talk about enough. Young women seem to be targeted much more often than young men. That said, we must also talk about all forms of bullying.

I find it really unfortunate that the government did not seize the opportunity to focus on prevention and talk about this issue seriously. Instead, it tried to implement measures that were so unpopular they had to be withdrawn. It is truly unfortunate that we cannot address this issue because we are faced with the re-emergence of Bill C-30.

Protecting Canadians from Online Crime ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

We are going to resume debate. I will let the hon. member for Davenport know we do not have quite the 20 minutes that he might have expected for his remarks, but it looks as if we have nine minutes or so. Of course he will have the remaining time available when the House next resumes debate on the question.

The hon. member for Davenport.

Protecting Canadians from Online Crime ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, as usual it is a deep honour to rise in the House on behalf of the constituents in my riding of Davenport in the great city of Toronto on a piece of legislation that strikes to the heart of families right across the country.

As many of my colleagues have already said here today, witnessing the profound courage and commitment of both the Parsons and Todd families through this incredibly difficult chapter in their lives has been something that I think all Canadians have noticed and learned from.

I think when Canadians are faced with something of this magnitude that touches all of us in the way that this does, they rightly expect that we here park some of our partisan instincts and deal with the situation at hand.

One of the ways a majority Parliament can sometimes work is when members on the opposite side and the opposition present bills that really do connect with an important issue right across the country and that pretty much everyone here in this place agrees with. Sure enough, from time to time, the government adopts those ideas. I think it is fair to say that while we work toward being on that side of the aisle and having that party on this side of the aisle, in the meantime, we find ways once in a while to advance issues that we can all agree on, and I think this was one of those issues.

My colleague for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour tabled a piece of legislation in which we sought all-party unanimous consent, but we did not get it. That is one thing, but to have the government come back with a very similar bill is something altogether different. We can support that, but as usual with the Conservative government, it cannot resist its inclination to play politics with every issue. Every issue for the current government becomes a wedge issue and an opportunity to fundraise and hector the opposition.

We saw this with Bill C-30, the widely discredited online spying bill that the government presented. The minister in charge of it at the time badgered the opposition, and in fact, all Canadians who happened to disagree with his perspective and the wide breadth of the bill by saying that if one did not support Bill C-30, one stood with the child pornographers, which was an absolutely outrageous comment and effectively killed the bill.

The government also eventually declared that Bill C-30 was not going to come back. There were too many questions, not the least of which were the outrageous comments from the lead minister. There were also too many questions around privacy and civil liberties. We need to be clear that the foundation of a liberal democracy is the protection of civil liberties.

We see that in the bill we could have just dealt with the cyberbullying. I am sure members opposite on the government side would probably prefer to do that too. Canadians watching this would also be wondering why we do not just do that. The issues of cyberbullying are complex and critical, and they are happening right now as I speak.

This issue is far too important, too pressing, and too complex, quite frankly, to dump it into a boilerplate piece of legislation that contains all sorts of other issues. Maybe the government can explain to Canadians the link between cyberbullying and the inclusion in this law of a two-year sentence for the theft of cable television. That is in the bill.

We are trying to get to the nub of an issue that is affecting many of our young people and many of our families, and for some families it is affecting them in the most tragic of ways.

I am trying to contain my sense of outrage that we even have to discuss pulling this part of the bill out and having it as a stand-alone piece and voting on it immediately. However, the government did have that opportunity when my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour presented his cyberbullying bill in the first place.

When faced with such pressing issues around protecting our young people, it is tempting to consider lowering the bar in our pursuit of protecting people's privacy and protecting civil liberties. It is tempting to do that. I think that one of the reasons the government has thrown in all these other things that it would like to do is that, again, it is trying to play politics with this issue.

However, it is not just the opposition that has serious concerns about some of the other issues that are in the bill. The Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner, Madam Cavoukian, also has serious concerns about this, as she did with Bill C-30. It is the same with Canada's Privacy Commissioner, who had raised serious concerns about Bill C-30 and is going to carefully look at this bill as well.

I would sum up by saying that sometimes it is better for all of us that we park the partisanship in this place and deal with a pressing issue that affects Canadians and some of our more vulnerable young people from coast to coast to coast. By separating this part out of Bill C-13, we would be doing that. We would also be signalling to Canadians that we do take this seriously and that we want to act quickly to protect the young people of this country.

Protecting Canadians from Online Crime ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Davenport will have eleven and a half minutes remaining in the time provided for his remarks when the House next returns to debate on the motion.

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business, as listed on today's order paper.

Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON


That, in the opinion of the House, the government should endorse the report of the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities entitled “Rethinking disAbility in the Private Sector”, and its findings, and commit to furthering public-private cooperation by: (a) building on existing government initiatives, such as the Opportunities Fund, the Registered Disability Savings Plan, the ratification of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities; (b) issuing a call to action for Canadian employers to examine the expert panel's findings and encouraging employers to take advantage of private sector-led initiatives to increase employment levels for persons with disabilities in Canada; (c) pursuing greater accountability and coordination of its labour market funding for persons with disabilities and ensuring that funding is demand driven and focussed on suitable performance indicators with strong demonstrable results; (d) establishing an increased focus on young people with disabilities to include support mechanisms specifically targeted at increasing employment levels among youth with disabilities, through programs such as the Youth Employment Strategy; and (e) strengthening efforts to identify existing innovative approaches to increasing the employment of persons with disabilities occurring in communities across Canada and ensuring that programs have the flexibility to help replicate such approaches.

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and a thrill once again to rise and speak to my motion and again turn the attention of members of the House to a tremendously important issue: creating important economic opportunities for people living with disabilities and supporting their social and economic integration into our communities.

Private member's Motion No. 430 calls upon the House to endorse the recent report from the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, entitled “Rethinking DisAbility in the Private Sector”, and its findings, and to commit to further building public-private co-operation on this issue by taking a number of additional concrete steps.

I can think of no better way to begin than to quote the first three sentences of the report that was tabled. I will mention the panel members by name because of the excellent work that they have done. They are Kenneth Fredeen, who was the chair; Mark Wafer; Dr. Gary Birch; and Kathy Martin. All of these members are key individuals in advancing persons with disabilities and advocating for them to find gainful employment.

I will quote from the report:

We all have abilities, but some are more apparent than others. From what we have seen in companies that hire people with disabilities—and from our own experiences as friends or family members of someone with a disability—we know that they can contribute greatly to business and to society. Yet despite an aging population and a looming labour skills shortage, this significant talent pool is being overlooked.

That is the thrust of my motion. My motion calls not only on governments to endorse the labour market panel's recent report but also on the private sector to hear, examine, and act on the findings. It makes good business sense.

It also calls on the government to promote further public-private co-operation, because we know that leadership from the private sector is crucial if we are going to see real progress.

Motion No. 430 also calls for a specific focus on young people with disabilities in programs such as the youth employment strategy, which we currently fund, and new approaches to ensure that government programs are flexible and adaptable to innovative community-level strategies. It calls for improvements to our labour market agreements for people with disabilities to ensure that funding is relevant and effective.

These measures would help make sure that Canada is supporting those individuals who are on the front lines, supporting Canadians with disabilities, and capitalizing on innovative community-level approaches.

I will give the House an example. In my home community of Brantford, there is an organization called Crossing All Bridges. Crossing All Bridges is currently going through the process of developing skills and offerings to individuals in the private sector for those individuals and their clients to build social enterprises in the form of co-operatives that provide services. Social enterprises are not a new movement, but it is new terminology.

One such service that the organization is considering is a shredding service. This is a task that many individuals with disabilities not only enjoy doing but get a sense of fulfillment from, since they are working. Those services can then be offered, generate income, and sustain the needs of the people with disabilities.

There is momentum building on this behind the scenes and right across Canada. We know that more and more Canadians are beginning to speak up about this issue. There is a growing effort among businesses and disability organizations across Canada to break down the stigmas that have persisted for too long about hiring people living with disabilities. We are seeing the issue being elevated on the national stage through a renewed focus by our Conservative government.

The human resources committee has just completed a comprehensive report on employment opportunities for people with disabilities. We heard from many people and communities right across Canada. Organizations and individuals came to our committee and suggested that there are so many people who are ready, willing, and able to work yet are having a hard time breaking down the stigma and the barriers to employment.

We want to focus, as the report does, on those entrepreneurs and private companies that are great role models in the country. They have focused on hiring persons with disabilities, because it benefits their businesses.

In our government's 2013 budget, we placed a specific focus on helping to support people with disabilities who want to work, including with new funding for the Canadian employers disability forum. The employers forum is an extension of the panel's work. It will seek out and pull together the best practices of employers on a national level for the purpose of sharing and disseminating them right across the country to educate private business owners about the benefits and the business case for hiring someone with a disability.

In my community, we have a car dealership that has an employee who is one of the most wonderful people one could ever meet. Everyone in the business and the community is aware of Norman at this particular car dealership. Norman comes to work every day. He gives a 200% effort every day. Everyone sees Norman's commitment to the business. It inspires the culture of the business. It inspires the customer base. It inspires the whole community.

Another company in my riding is SC Johnson. When people come to the reception desk, they meet a young man who is blind. He greets everyone with a large smile on his face and introduces them to the whole perspective of the company, right there at the reception desk. If they are going anywhere in that large plant that employs over 400 people, he will take them to every corner, even though he lives with blindness.

It does not matter what the disability is. It could be a physical, mobility, intellectual, or episodic disability. These are all disabilities we need to address through heightening awareness across this country. My motion aims to capture and build on that momentum.

We know that Canada is projected to face very challenging labour shortfalls in the years ahead due to the aging population. This means that supporting Canadians who are currently under-represented in the labour force is more important than ever. We need to better connect them with the jobs that are available. Statistics tell us, and this information is quite startling, that today there are 800,000 Canadians with disabilities who are ready, willing, and able to go to work. Of those, 350,000 have a post-secondary education.

There are many barriers in the workplace today and stigma attached to having a disability, whether it is the way one walks or does not walk, the way one talks, or the fact that one is deaf. There are opportunities for all of these people, and their skill sets are solid.

As I have said before, I am thankful for the great work of groups like the recent Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities and a host of other organizations. We now know that Canadians living with disabilities represent one of the most significant untapped pools of talented people in Canada who want to contribute more. In putting this motion together, we spent over a year talking with organizations from across the country that represent people with disabilities. There are specific groups. There are people representing the intellectually disabled. There are people representing all nature of disabilities.

We came together with them to listen to what their needs were. Inevitably, they ended up telling us these people just needed the door opened a bit and once it was open a bit for them in a private company, they would show their talent and shine in those roles. That is what we are witnessing. Not only do they want to work, but they make exceptional employees.

The panel's report carries an important message for employers: that hiring employees with a disability is not just the right thing to do, it makes good business sense.

Some other examples are pointed out in the report. Some are U.S. examples. A major 2005 U.S. survey of customer perceptions toward companies hiring people with disabilities found that 92% of Americans viewed these companies more favourably and 87% said that they would give their business to companies that hired people with disabilities.

A DuPont study showed that 90% of people with disabilities did their jobs as well as or better than non-disabled co-workers. It found that turnover, absenteeism, and tardiness dropped appreciably in organizations with disabled workers.

A widely accepted study conducted by the U.S. Job Accommodation Network found that providing workplace accommodation typically came at low cost, with 50% of participants reporting spending nothing at all. Imagine one of the barriers is a person who needs some accommodation in the workplace and the employer looks at that and says that it is one of the things it will have to do. Perhaps it is a physical accommodation in the workplace. Fifty per cent of the time there is no accommodation needed for persons with disabilities and when there is accommodation needed, statistics show us the cost is usually less than $500 to a business.

Businesses reported major benefits for reduced turnover when employing people with disabilities. For instance, the Marriott hotel chain has reported a 6% turnover rate among employees with disabilities versus 52% in its overall turnover rate. Canadian Rich Donovan, founder of the Fifth Quadrant Analytics, found that companies that performed well in disability were highly responsive to their customers and thus outperformed peers in revenue growth. This is the business case that is being made.

I am very proud to say our government has moved forward on a number of initiatives, ahead of the curve in terms of the momentum that has been gained. Under our labour market agreements for persons with disabilities, we transfer over $218 million to provinces to support programs.

My motion also seeks to take advantage of some of the new and innovative ways to integrate persons with disabilities through new negotiated labour market agreements with the provinces. They include the youth employment strategy, with $300 million annually for young Canadians, including those with disabilities. The opportunities fund provides $30 million annually to help persons with disabilities prepare for, obtain, and keep employment, and for self-employment.

In my community, there is a business that has been set up by Lisa Hooper. She, along with four others who work in her organization, consults with employers from across the community and consults with persons who desire to work. She matches them together. This is a trend that is happening more often, and it helps employers. Again, this is another avenue. We help support programs that Lisa delivers within my community.

This is an issue that is at the forefront.

I will conclude with one quote from an organization called People First Canada. It states:

There are so many benefits that come from being employed in the regular workforce. There are social, personal and community benefits that often mean more to a person than their paycheque does. People First of Canada believes...Motion...M-416 is an important step towards increasing employment across the country for Canadians with disabilities.

It is a privilege to put this issue on the floor of the House of Commons.

Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Manon Perreault NDP Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not doubt that there are good intentions behind this motion. However, I doubt that the member can name the key issues for employability of people with disabilities.

I will explain. During debate on the motion, I would have liked us to have an in-depth discussion on flexible scheduling, job stability and, perhaps, the notion of high-quality jobs. Jobs offered to people with disabilities are often not that interesting.

Besides the measures he mentioned earlier, what would my colleague say is the most important issue that should be tackled first? What makes it difficult for a person with disabilities to go to work?

Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, the biggest issues facing persons with disabilities who are ready, willing, and able to go into the workforce are the stigma and the barriers that are currently in our society, which prejudice this group from being able to be employed.

To address another part of the question, I can think of some high-skill jobs that have been created by some employers across the country. One such employer is in Kitchener. It is Dolphin Digital Technologies.

Dolphin makes software for the investment community. It is highly successful. All but one of its employees has a disability. These are highly skilled people who come to work. One individual who is paralyzed uses a mouth-pen to touch the screen to do the work. All they need is some accommodation. This is a highly successful company.

It does cover the broad range of occupations. Many people with disabilities have high skill sets that are required in today's workforce.

Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the motion put forward by my colleague from Brant.

I share the opinion he expressed in his reply to the last question about the stigma that surrounds and limits opportunities for persons with disabilities. Through the course of our last study, we saw companies like Tim Hortons step up and say that they have not done enough. It is a pool of labour that they have not tapped, and they promise to do a better job with it. That was sort of encouraging.

I want to ask my colleague a question. There are some good things that take place in each of the provinces. A current undertaking by the government is the Canada job grant, and a portion of the LMAs, from which the provinces draw their funding to support these programs, is now profiled so that it has to be used for the Canada job grant.

We are hearing from groups that are concerned about losing some of those opportunities, some of the infrastructure, some of the capacity that they have been building over the last number of years, because this money has been in the system since 2008.

Is the member hearing from those groups about those same concerns?

Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question and for his ongoing support of not only my motion but the issues surrounding it.

There are a multitude of issues surrounding persons with disabilities, which we well know. I am so glad he asked this question. Actually, what we have been hearing from organizations for well over a year, as I mentioned in my speech, is an actual item within my motion. There are five prescriptive items that we are asking the government to undertake. The one thing they said they wanted us to do was to renegotiate the labour market agreements with the provinces they lived in. This was from right across the country.

Sometimes there are better ways to do things, and I believe that is what organizations were saying to us. In fact, I know that is what they were saying to us. There are better ways to deliver to this community of disabled people in our provinces. We want to see change in the labour market agreements as they exist today, and that is why it is in my motion.

Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Manon Perreault NDP Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, just now, when I asked my colleague what is the greatest challenge, I would have liked to hear him talk about transportation. It is true that prejudice is still widespread. However, transportation for people with disabilities is a major issue just about everywhere in Canada. That is the reality and we cannot ignore it.

I am pleased to speak to Motion No. 430 today concerning job opportunities for people with disabilities. I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the commitment of my colleague who, with this motion, has drawn the attention of the House to this crucial issue. I appreciate the work he has done and his commitment to helping people living with functional limitations.

I can say from the outset that we will support this motion.

That said, I have some doubts and some questions about the motion. I cannot help but be somewhat skeptical, given the government's record on this issue in the two years that I have been in office.

After all, since the Conservatives have been in power, they have not really done anything to address the issue of unemployment and disproportionate underemployment for Canadians living with functional limitations.

I will admit that this motion is a step in the right direction. However, I do not think it is enough after all these years in office.

Let us begin by taking a look at the wording of the motion. The motion asks the government to “endorse the report of the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities entitled 'Rethinking disAbility in the Private Sector'”, and to support other measures to promote employment opportunities for Canadians with disabilities based on the panel's findings.

Let us first talk about the panel's main findings, which are often referred to in the motion. Among other things, we are told that nearly 800,000 persons with disabilities are able to work and that about half of them have a post-secondary education. The report also indicates that when businesses hire persons with disabilities, special arrangements are not needed half of the time. When special arrangements are required, the average cost to the business is only $500.

The report also says that there is a strong will to hire persons with disabilities, but that more education and training are necessary for businesses to understand how to overcome obstacles and implement their ideas. The example must come from the top and actions by business leaders are absolutely necessary. Mental disabilities are particularly problematic because employees are reluctant to disclose such difficulties to obtain special arrangements from employers.

The report also found that hiring persons with disabilities makes good business sense and that myths and preconceived ideas still exist in the business community regarding the costs and risks related to the hiring of persons with disabilities.

Come on. Was the government really so ill-informed? The answer is surely no. These are likely open secrets.

Although many studies have been conducted on this issue, most of the recommendations have never been implemented. The existing barriers to employment for persons with disabilities are fairly well known and have been for a number of years. Everyone agrees that the panel's report contains good suggestions for employers and encourages them to hire people with disabilities. However, is that enough after all these years?

For the reasons I just mentioned, I think this report simply ignores the important role that the federal government plays in the fight against inequality in the workforce. This report is sorely lacking because it does not examine job stability, flexible scheduling, the notion of high-quality jobs, health and disability benefits, transportation, housing and income security.

These are all issues that we talked about with witnesses during the study in committee. However, there is no trace of these considerations in a report based on all these consultations.

I wonder why the panel's report is addressed only to Canadian business leaders. Why was the panel not mandated to make recommendations to the government?

If we make the effort to study an issue, it is because we want to come up with recommendations. We could easily ask ourselves why the Conservatives are relying on the private sector and the provinces and territories to fix the problem.

Are they trying in a roundabout way to undermine the federal government's role as the catalyst for change in this file?

For years, organizations that represent Canadians with disabilities have been calling on the government to adopt a comprehensive strategy to improve the representation of people with disabilities in the workforce. This motion and the report's findings to which it refers do not constitute such a strategy. The motion also refers to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the UNCRPD. Need I remind members of the Conservatives' poor record in that regard and that we are still waiting for the follow-up report to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is over a year late?

Not to mention the fact that the government has also not appointed an internal oversight body to monitor implementation, which could simply have been the Canadian Human Rights Commission. What is more, the government did not sign the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. When he appeared before the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities on February 28, Laurie Beachell, from the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, even said that the government had not yet issued its first report to the United Nations. He added that, having signed the convention, Canada is obligated to provide that report. He added that the council was still waiting for the report and that he was disappointed about not having two things: first, the council does not have a strategy for how it is going to move forward and use this document; second, while new policy initiatives are going forward, the council believes that, in some cases, they are not being measured against the convention.

With respect to the existing policies and programs the motion refers to, they contain many gaps and inadequacies, lack coordination with provincial programs and services, and do not include proper performance measures or measurable objectives. A comprehensive assessment of those policies and programs must be done before we go any further on this. The motion and the panel report both fail to take into account people who have complex needs or multiple disabilities or who must overcome multiple forms of discrimination. I am referring, for instance, to women or first nations people with disabilities.

In short, no initiatives or support measures have been proposed for these people. No solutions have been suggested to correct problems with income security programs, which are full of employment disincentives. Am I to presume that the private sector will take care of this problem on behalf of the federal government?

The motion also fails to take into account issues of education, employment and social assistance that specifically affect working age women with disabilities, who are more likely than men to live in a low-income household. Nor are there any measures for first nations populations, who already face considerable obstacles, including severe limitations on their access to transportation, education, communications and health services. The rate of disability among this group is roughly double the Canadian average. The government therefore needs to clearly state that it intends to work in partnership with the provinces and territories, first nations and people with disabilities in order to come up with an implementation plan for Canada, in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Consequently, I believe that this motion is a step in the right direction. Of course, I will be supporting it, and I am pleased by my colleague's efforts.

However, we want to see more done to change the situation. Although the motion has merit, it is just a first step, and we must go further.

The representation of disabled people in the workforce has stagnated over the past 30 years. It is time to change that and truly give them access to the labour market and a decent standard of living. This motion is the first step to getting there.

I would like to remind my colleague and the other members in the House that after spending at least 23 years in a wheelchair, I might know what I am talking about. When I say that transportation is truly a critical issue for the employability of persons with disabilities, I am speaking from experience.

Naturally, I am familiar with the problems we face when we enter the job market. One of the biggest problems is transportation. Para-transit is often run by a service that covers only a small area. In my opinion, that is one of the biggest problems.

Getting housing near where we work is another major problem, which is also related to transportation.

That being said, I appreciate a number of aspects of my colleague's motion. I know that he is well-meaning, but there are important aspects that must not be overlooked. I would like us to study this matter further.

Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr.Speaker, I thank the member for Brant for his motion.

The report by the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities provided some insightful information on companies that used best practices and as well dispelled many myths about employing people with disabilities.

The Liberal Party does not disagree with any aspect of the report. The member for Brant's motion calls on the government to support a number of the actions to help reduce barriers to employment for persons with disabilities. Neither I nor my party disagrees with any of these ideas. That is why the Liberal Party will be supporting this motion.

I fully expect that my colleague from Brant will get his own government officials to support this as well. I will go out on a limb now and say that maybe he will.

The panel's report said in its concluding remarks, “It's time for Canadian businesses to step up to the challenge of employing more people with disabilities.”

I would submit, and I believe that many in the disabled community would agree, that it is time for the government to step up to the plate and listen and lead when it comes to real and effective policies and initiatives that will make a difference. My concern, and I am not convinced, is that the passing of this motion will not help a great deal in making the government do that.

Ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities are protected from discrimination or respected to be given an equal opportunity to provide for themselves and their families is something Liberals have always fought for. I am proud to be a member of the Liberal Party that gave Canada the Canadian Charter of Rights that guaranteed “equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination” to individuals in Canada with mental and physical disabilities. I am also proud that our party also was responsible for the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Employment Equity Act.

These important pieces of legislation have created rights for persons with disabilities, but we need to do more to ensure that Canadians with disabilities have equal opportunities to employment to provide for themselves and their families.

Part of the solution is having a rounded approach to the issues that most affect persons with disabilities, such as living in poverty, access to transportation and housing, as we heard from my colleague from the NDP, and a long-term employment plan.

The human resources committee, of which I am a member, concluded a study on employment opportunities for persons with disabilities this spring. Several witnesses spoke to this point that enhancing opportunities of employment for people with disabilities could not be discussed in isolation of other policies and barriers that act as disincentives to work.

Dr. David Lepofsky, chair of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance said:

Don't think about employment in isolation. We've got to tackle the barriers across the board. Transit, education, and employment must all be tackled together. The same barriers hurt in all contexts.

Laurie Beachell, national coordinator, Council of Canadians with Disabilities, spoke about a long-term employment plan, “We would call on the Government of Canada, and on Minister Finley”, who was then the minister responsible, “specifically, to develop a five-year strategic plan to address employment needs—”

Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

November 28th, 2013 / 6:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I usually let the first one slip by, but in that the hon. member used the name of another member of the chamber a second time, I thought I would prevent him from possibly doing it a third time.

The hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso.

Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I apologize for that. I am new around here.

I will finish the quote, which states:

One-off single issue, one-community measures will simply not get us where we hope to be.

The problem has never been that we do not know enough about the issue to do anything, but it is more a matter of political will to do what is needed. The panel's report brought to light startling myths about employing a disabled person, such as that in 57% of cases there is no cost to accommodate a disabled person, or that in 37% of cases the average cost to accommodate is under $500. When we find out from the report that nearly 800,000 working-age Canadians with disabilities are able to work but are not working and almost half of those have post-secondary education, obviously we are failing. We are failing as a society, and there is a cost to all of us, socially and economically.

What can we do? The panel's report challenges employers to lead, but we all know that for real substantive and effective change to happen, it has to be the federal government that steps up. We heard some real ideas to help persons with disabilities at committee, just as I had mentioned. One area that was brought up by a number of witnesses was the EI program. Carmela Hutchison, president of the DisAbled Women's Network of Canada, stated:

People with episodic and chronic illnesses often do not have enough time to qualify for benefits. There's a lack of flexible supports for chronic illnesses not deemed severe enough. Very often we see people who are struggling to maintain employment while undergoing cancer treatment, or they have MS and again they're struggling. If they take a lighter schedule, then their funding for their disability is cut to that lighter schedule. Other people have talked about being considered too disabled for one program or not disabled enough for another.

Laurie Beachell, with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, stated:

EI has a real problem with those people who have episodic disabilities, mental health concerns, MS, those people who are well at periods of time in their life and can work, and then cannot work at certain times.

My office manager was diagnosed with MS eight years ago. I can speak first-hand to the fact that I have never met anybody more inspiring. She has been an incredible staff support person, but it is important that she pays attention to her body, and time is taken on occasion when she has to rest. If employers are able to accommodate, then the benefit is that they can continue to maintain quality staff.

One of the actions this motion calls on the government to take is to focus more on disabled youth through the youth employment strategy. I am glad my colleague included this. However, he should be aware that the number of youth assisted through the skills link program that helps youth with barriers has decreased from 32,000 under the previous Liberal government to just 12,000 at the end of last year. That is a perfect example of how the government is failing not only our youth but the disabled community as well.

I want to thank my colleague from Brant for creating this motion and for his ongoing commitment to help those with disabilities. I do not believe the challenge will be to get support to pass this motion. The real test is whether the government will actually do what is needed to give persons with disabilities a fair and equal opportunity. That will be the true test of success.

I would hate like heck not to mention that, in committee, witness after witness living with a disability said that the one thing all of them see as being a challenge further down the road is the fact that the eligibility for OAS has gone from age 65 to 67.

Many Canadians who have lived with disabilities live their life waiting to turn age 65. Some say it is the most affluent they have been in their entire life, because they struggled to maintain themselves and lived so close to the edge. Now that will evade them again for an additional two years. Certainly that is regrettable.

Hopefully there will be some kind of program or a change of heart or a change of government with a different heart, or a change to a government with a heart, that will recognize this shortcoming and address it.

Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley Nova Scotia


Scott Armstrong ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, before I get to my prepared remarks, I would like to dedicate the speech I am about to make to a former student of mine named Thomas Moss. Thomas was a student I had in elementary school. He was disabled. He was stricken with Asperger's syndrome. With inclusion being implemented in the classroom, we were able to put many changes in place in the school system to support our children with special needs.

Thomas went through that system after inclusion was put in place in our school system. He was able to go through the elementary school system. It was not without struggles, but we were able to get him through. He excelled once he was in the secondary level, once he matured physically and emotionally, and then went on to Mount Allison University at an earlier age than his colleagues, graduated with honours from Mount Allison, was able to be successfully employed, and is doing very well now.

That is what can be achieved if we have the right things in place to support children with special needs and adults with disabilities. It takes the rest of society to accommodate them and meet their needs for them to be successful. That is what we are talking about here tonight.

That is why I would like to congratulate the member for Brant on this motion. It talks about how we as a society can adapt what we do and what we feel and what we know so that we can allow this section of Canadian society to be successful.

It is on us; it is not on them. They are doing their part; we have to do ours to make sure we reach out to this very accessible, very talented, and very employable group of Canadians. We are not adequately dealing with them to make sure that we find jobs for them.

In honour of that, our government's top priority is jobs and long-term growth. That is why we believe it is important for Canadians with disabilities to actively participate in the workforce within their communities.

This is why I am so supportive of the member for Brant's motion tonight. There are many opportunities that exist, but there are also many barriers in the way of people with disabilities as they struggle to get employment.

First, people with disabilities have to overcome obstacles every day just to get to work. Gaining access to job opportunities is a different matter altogether. Many preconceived ideas still linger within the rest of society. As the member across the way said, there are over 800,000 people with disabilities in Canada who have no job, but they are capable of working. Over 400,000 of them have post-secondary degrees.

Clearly, things must change. Information, education, and increased awareness are needed. We have to dispel the myths that have helped perpetuate the unemployment and underemployment of people with disabilities and special needs.

In 2012, the government created the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. The four members of this panel hold key positions with Deloitte, Loblaws, Tim Hortons, and the Neil Squire Society.

They enthusiastically accepted the challenge our Conservative government set for them: to consult directly with employers across the country to identify private sector successes and best practices in the labour market participation of people with disabilities.

The report was entitled “Rethinking DisAbility in the Private Sector”. It was the outcome of several months of intense work. As the panel mentioned in its report, we all have abilities; some are just more apparent than others. I would argue that we all have abilities, but maybe people just have not taken the time to notice.

The panel took up the challenge of showing what people with disabilities are capable of accomplishing and how the private sector can better use this untapped pool of talents and skills, and the panel succeeded.

For example, the report highlighted in over half of the cases, workplace accommodations are cost-free, and in 37% of the cases that require expenditures, the average cost amounts to about $500. Now, $500 is not a lot of money to spend to get a highly qualified, talented employee. Most employers across the country would agree with that.

Our government agrees with the report and has acted on many of its recommendations already, including a proposal to create the Canadian employers disability forum in economic action plan 2013.

Our government supports the Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities, which provides support for employers to hire persons with disabilities across Canada. In 2012, we provided additional temporary support with over $30 million over three years. Economic action plan 2013 took this one step further, proposing permanent ongoing funding of $40 million a year starting in 2015-16. We are investing millions to support this initiative.

This investment is enabling us to promote job opportunities and assist individuals who have little or no labour force experience to prepare for, obtain, and keep a job, or to become self-employed. Unfortunately, both the New Democrats and Liberals voted against this measure when they voted against budget 2013.

Several other steps were recently announced in economic action plan 2013, many of which align with the recommendations of the panel. For example, a new generation of labour market agreements for persons with disabilities will be in place in 2014. As well, there will be additional funding for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, some of which will support research related to the labour market participation of people with disabilities. In addition, as mentioned earlier, there will be support for the creation of a Canadian employers disability forum, as recommended by the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, and the extension of the Enabling Accessibility Fund on an ongoing basis to support construction and renovations related to improving accessibility for people with disabilities, including in the workplace.

That said, this government is doing its part, but government cannot and should not have to do everything alone. Employers must and can do more to hire and train people with disabilities.

Employers from across the country have told us that the skills shortage is the number one barrier to growing their businesses. At the same time, we have this large pool of talented people available for work, many of them already trained and others just needing a little more training. We need to match employers with this subset of disabled Canadians to ensure we better grow the economy of the entire country. I would argue that what is good for people with disabilities is also good for employers and also good for Canada.

We need to encourage Canadian companies to hire persons with disabilities as they look for their future labour market needs. We are seeing unprecedented labour shortages in several sectors and in several regions, and this is likely to grow as the population grows older and retires. Clearly, private sector employers must find better ways to develop this untapped pool of skilled workers existing among people with disabilities and ensure that their workplaces can accommodate their needs.

I would encourage employers to take advantage of the Canada job grant to help create guaranteed jobs for persons with disabilities. I believe the Canada job grant is a perfect way to train persons with disabilities to ensure that they have the skills and training to fill the jobs that are currently going unfilled across the country. The Government of Canada's job grant will be available to all Canadians, and despite the rhetoric, that includes the most vulnerable Canadians as well.

As the expert panel indicated, employers know better than governments when it comes to understanding what training is required. The Canada job grant will directly link Canadians with employers and available jobs. We cannot afford to forgo the talents of thousands of people who want to work, have the ability to work, and have the skills to do the work. We must act, which is why I am pleased to stand in support of Motion No. 430.

I will close by saying there are many like Thomas Moss out there across this country, young people who have been highly trained and who have the skills necessary to do a great job for employers. All they need is a chance.

It is up to us and the rest of society and employers in this country to engage with the government and with this talented pool of employees. Working together, we can do this for Canada. Let us ensure we go out there and hire some of these disabled Canadians and put them to work. They will not let us down.

Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

We are resuming debate. Before we get under way with the member for York South—Weston, we will let him know that there are about seven minutes remaining in the time allocated for private members' business. He will have the remaining time when the House next takes up debate on the question.

The hon. member for York South—Weston.

Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, first I wish to thank the member for Brant for bringing this issue to our attention. It is of great importance to us here in the NDP. I also wish to congratulate him on his recent appointment as chair of the human resources committee. He did bring this to our attention during our study of this issue last spring, and he was very knowledgeable and caring about it.

My riding of York South—Weston has a significant proportion of individuals with disabilities, mostly because the riding is one of the places in Toronto where people can afford the housing. As a result, persons with disabilities end up in the riding because the housing is cheap and not because they necessarily want to live there. However, there are not very many supports for those individuals in the riding. There are not a whole lot of employment supports; put it that way.

This motion is a good motion, but as with the report of the government side at the human resources committee this spring, the motion does not go far enough. Our standing committee studied the issue for the 20th time in 30 years, and none of those studies resulted in any significant change in the level of employment for persons with disabilities. I fear that the most recent study will soon collect dust on a shelf, and we will be no further ahead.

We in the NDP agree with what the member for Brant is proposing. We need to do all five of the things he has asked, but that is only a very small part of the puzzle.

Unemployment among persons living with disabilities is extreme. Over half of those who want to work and who are capable of working are not working. Of 800,000 persons, nearly half have some form of post-secondary education. So the problem is not one of availability of the workforce.

The focus of the panel and of the government's report from the standing committee is to lay the problem squarely at the feet of the private sector employers. The motion goes a little beyond this, but not far. It does not address some very real government-controlled systemic issues that place persons living with disabilities at an extreme disadvantage when it comes to employment.

The standing committee heard from many witnesses who gave evidence that the income support programs in this country are not helpful in keeping persons with disabilities gainfully employed. For example, the EI system contains a mechanism by which many Canadians are protected against income loss due to illness or injury. The rules are quite rigid. One must wait for 2 weeks before claiming anything, and one is limited to 15 consecutive weeks of payments. There are no provisions for persons with episodic disabilities.

One of my co-workers years ago at the CBC underwent dialysis three times a week, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and it took the whole day. He was out of commission for those days. The CBC, the union, and the insurance company got together and figured out a way that he could continue to receive a full salary even though he was only working three days a week. This arrangement went on for many years until his death. If he had been forced to use the EI system, he could not have had any kind of assistance whatsoever, because the EI system cannot deal with that.

The witnesses who were at the committee are not the first to urge the government to fix the system, but so far there has been no action from this or any previous federal government on this issue.

Another big flaw is in our health care system. Many persons with disabilities are heavily dependent on medical intervention to keep them alive and able to function. Motorized wheelchairs are not cheap and are generally not provided by provincial health systems. Maintenance drugs are not provided by most health systems, with the exception perhaps of Quebec. Hearing aids and seeing-eye dogs, and the list goes on, are not provided by provincial medical systems.

There are only two ways for persons living with disabilities to get support for such medical necessities. One way is to be employed with a good employer, and that good employer would have a medical plan that provides for these things. Some do, and some do not. The other way is to be unemployed and seek assistance from the provincial government's disability program. In Ontario, the province I am most familiar with, it is called the Ontario disability support program. It is available as a form of income support for persons with disabilities. It includes a living allowance, housing help, transportation help and access to the drug benefit program, but it is not available to persons who are working.

Our standing committee heard from several witnesses who pointed out the Catch-22 that lies therein. Persons who want to work and can find work lose their support programs, including access to medical programs. Therefore, faced with that choice, they choose not to work. That is not any way to run a railroad.

Some disabled individuals qualify for a Canada pension disability pension. The program is designed to help those who cannot work as a result of a disability, and it carries them to age of 65, when OAS kicks in. However, with the new OAS rules, it does not start until 67, so there is a two-year gap for persons with disabilities.

The Canada pension disability program does not provide any kind of medical or other benefits. Persons who qualify, and it is difficult to qualify, are not provided with any kind of medical benefits.

It is also not easy to use it for episodic disabilities. A person who recovers sufficiently to go back to work but suffers a relapse, such as a person with multiple sclerosis, et cetera, must requalify for CPP disability, which is a long and complex process.

In closing, we support the member for Brant's motion. It is well intentioned. It essentially brings some of the recommendations from the panel to the House. It brings to the House's attention issues that need our attention, as mentioned earlier. However, as has been the case with the government side of the standing committee, it does not go far enough to address the systemic problems facing persons with disabilities in Canada in becoming employed. To repeat, those problems generally have to do with income and benefits.

We in the NDP want the government to address those issues first, and then we will have a system that is non-discriminatory in terms of income and medical support for persons with disabilities.

Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for York South—Weston will have three minutes remaining for his remarks when the House next resumes business on the question.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

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

Natural ResourcesAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Bruce Hyer Independent Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to Canada's natural resources, the government talks frantically about our supposed need to ship our crude oil out of the country to the United States or overseas as fast as possible.

However, the Conservative approach to resource development is ill-considered and is not in the best interests of Canada or Canadians. Instead of rushing to ship our unprocessed oil elsewhere, the government should be looking out for Canadian interests and Canadian national energy security.

Without the infrastructure to transport western oil across the country, eastern Canada has been forced to import expensive foreign oil from unstable regimes like Venezuela and the Arabian Peninsula. At the same time, we ship our unprocessed resources to foreign markets at much lower prices. This “buy high and sell low” colonial approach costs the Canadian economy a whopping $18 billion every year.

What is more, we currently produce in Canada 40% more oil than bitumen than Canadians consume, without meeting our own energy needs. We could have a trade surplus but, instead, we have an $18-billion deficit.

Conservative mismanagement of our natural resources has maximized profits for multinational oil companies while hurting Canadian energy security and costing our economy and our citizens dearly.

It is way overdue to fix this mess. Canada is the only major industrialized nation without a national energy strategy.

The government spends a great deal of time and energy pushing for pipelines like Keystone and the northern gateway, when these projects would only increase the deficit and export Canadian jobs.

Our wealth of natural resources in Canada could put us at a relative advantage in the global economy, if only we develop them in a sustainable way that protects our environment in the long term and creates value-added jobs for Canadians here at home soon.

Developing a national energy strategy is an important first step. We must be proactive in laying out a plan that puts Canadian energy security first. We have more than enough oil to supply all of Canada. We must supply domestic needs first and then focus on exports. Energy security for Canada is not just the best economic option, it is also a more environmentally-sound approach to using our resources.

By using our own oil instead of importing from foreign nations, we could be able to ensure that we adhere to higher environmental standards. In exercising greater control over our resources, we could ensure that oil sands production would remain responsible and sustainable.

Once upon a time, Canada had 44 oil refineries across the country. Now, as a result of shipping Canadian resources abroad, we only have 14.

The Conservatives are shipping our jobs overseas. Let us process our own resources here so we can create economic opportunities and employment for local communities across the country.

Canadians do not want the few temporary construction jobs that would come from Keystone. We want long-term employment and economic stability that would come from a real plan.

Therefore, I ask the government once again: Where is our national energy strategy? Where is our plan for protecting Canadian energy security and building up our economy? Where are the long-term, value-added jobs that Canada really needs? Finally, why do the Conservatives always put American and big oil interests ahead of the best interests of Canada and Canadians?

Natural ResourcesAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta


Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and for International Human Rights

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question, because it is very important to understand what is happening with the energy sector in this country.

Contrary to what the member is talking about, that we supposedly do not have a plan, we do have a plan. As a matter of fact, the Conservative government has a responsible resource development plan that maximizes its natural resources industry.

As the member is talking about the oil not only going to the south but into eastern Canada, allow me to tell him that this is exactly what part of this strategy is. We have several pipeline expansion proposals, which are currently under discussion, going east to the refineries in Quebec and New Brunswick. Yes, it is indeed very important that our natural resources, specifically in the oil sector, are developed in such a manner that they offer advantages to the whole country. For the member to say that we are looking after American interests is absolutely false.

What is important is that we need markets. Markets are everywhere around the world. Selling to a market down to the south or across to the east or west is a comprehensive strategy in which we can export and develop our resources, most importantly our energy resources.

The Prime Minister said that we are aspiring to be an energy superpower. The only way we can be an energy superpower is when we use all of our resources to develop our energy sector, not what the member is alluding to, that we are in the hand of America. We are not. I can assure the member that all Canadians will benefit from the energy sector.

Between 2000 and 2012, more than 99% of crude oil and petroleum was transported in Canada. I want to emphasize that 99.999% of this transportation was done safely.

We will continue working on this to ensure that as Canada's energy sector grows stronger and develops, it benefits Canadians first.