House of Commons Hansard #205 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pope.


Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

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

One of the principles that is important to our democracy is the separation of church and state. People who enter the religious life do so selflessly because they believe in what they are doing. They do not seek out honours or recognition. They want their message to be heard and to reach future generations.

In order to reconcile these two principles, would my colleague find it acceptable if the day were dedicated not to Pope John Paul II, but to one of the Pope's favourite causes? In that way we could remember not just the person but also a cause that was dear to him. In that way we could maintain the separation of church and state, while honouring the causes the loved and the message that he sought to deliver.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that this is not a religious bill. John Paul II was the head of the Catholic Church, but he was a man who reached out to everybody. He was the man who made some of the biggest changes in this world in recent history.

Therefore, it was not only the values he represented, but his courage as a person, his outreach to everybody regardless of cultural or religious background. It was outstanding. He embraced everybody.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I personally hope that the bill does go to committee.

I recognize Pope John Paul II, with the length of term he stayed as the head of the Catholic Church, from 1978 to 2005, was the longest-serving pope. He actually visited 129 countries. When we think of Canada alone, he had been to Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg.

There are world leaders of an iconic nature, and I could make reference to Sikhism's Guru Gobind Singh, and to other world leaders, such as Mahatma Gandhi, or Dr. José Rizal from the Philippines.

My question for the member is, does he see the value in terms of Canada recognizing these world iconic leaders and in essence somehow expressing that acknowledgement through recognition? He has pointed out one of the ways in which that may be done. This is one of the reasons I personally do not have any objection to it going to committee.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are many important and significant people in the world. If we looked at John Paul II as a person and not as the head of the church, we would have to recognize the huge impact he made on this world, especially Europe, which was under strict communist regime that many people thought would never end in our time. I can speak to that because I personally experienced it.

I was present at the first visit of Pope John Paul II to Poland, in 1978. I do not think I fully understood the meaning of his simple words “be not afraid”. I do not know how it happened, but people truly lost fear, which was the main tool in the state to control people. This happened, thanks to him. Now we have a free and democratic Europe. We have ended a cold war that lasted for so long.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to rise to speak about Bill C-266, an act to establish Pope John Paul II Day. I want to thank my colleague, the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville for introducing it to the House.

As the first Polish Pope and a global force for peace and inter-faith dialogue, John Paul II remains today an important figure in the hearts of people around the world. I am happy to stand today to support the motion.

As the member of Parliament for the electoral district of Parkdale—High Park, I am honoured to represent so many members of the Polish community in Toronto. They are a people that through generations of hard work have built one of the most vibrant and community oriented neighbourhoods in our city. From the Canadian Polish Congress national office to the St. Stanislaus-St. Casimir's Credit Union, the Copernicus Lodge, St. Casimir's Church and St. Vincent de Paul, our neighbourhood is home to many landmarks in Toronto, built by generations of Poles in the west end of our city.

Every year, families from Parkdale—High Park mark proud moments such as Polish Constitution Day and Polish Independence Day. We commemorate the terrible tragedy of the Katyn massacre by laying a wreath at the Katyn monument at the foot of Roncesvalles. We come together in joyous celebration at the Polish annual street festival on Roncesvalles. Over the years, these meaningful community events have helped me understand the lasting importance and influence of Pope John Paul II in the lives of the Polish community, but also to respect his global achievements.

The Polish community knows intimately the role that Pope John Paul II played in bringing hope and democratic reform to Eastern Europe. Canada's recognition of Pope John Paul II would send a profound signal that Canada stands with global leaders who speak out against oppression. Most importantly, it would signal that as Canadians we support leaders who use compassion, diplomacy and goodwill to advance the principles of democracy.

Karol Wojtyla, who would come to be known as Pope John Paul II, was born in Poland in 1920. The course of Pope John Paul II's life was deeply intertwined with major historical shifts in his country.

As the Polish community in my riding, and all those who have migrated from another country know well, the welfare of the people at one's birthplace or those who share one's language and culture is never forgotten, even after many years. Though Pope John Paul II was seated at the Vatican in Rome, his early experiences with Nazi and then Communist violence in Poland motivated him to take an active role in pressing for religious freedom and democratic reform in Eastern Europe and around the world.

Karol Wojtyla was raised in an era marked by tremendous political turmoil and suffering. During his first year of university the Nazis invaded Poland, jailed Jewish professors and closed classroom doors. Desperate to support himself and his father, he found work in a quarry. In the following years, his father and last living parent passed away and he devoted himself to religious study.

Under the Polish Communist Party he saw first hand the aggressive way in which religious freedom was extinguished. The Polish Communist Party tried to neutralize the influence of the Catholic Church. Church schools were nationalized, monasteries and seminaries were shut down, Catholic hospitals and nursing homes and charities were closed; church leaders were blackmailed, persecuted and harassed; and priests were recruited as informants on other priests. By 1953, a thousand Polish priests were in jail.

His experience, first of Nazi violence, and later the total control of the Polish Communist Party, left him with a deep understanding of the ways in which violent dictatorships affect the lives of ordinary people. He saw that first hand.

Later, when Pope John Paul II, he went on to speak about his experiences at the United Nations. He reached out to the diplomats there to end political abuses and to view any threat to human dignity as “a form of warfare against humanity”. He went on to say that he had come from the country on whose living body Auschwitz been constructed.

From Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines to Jean Claude Duvalier in Haiti to Sese Seko Mobutu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pope John Paul II was vocal in his recriminations of dictators around the world. He was also an outspoken critic of the South African apartheid regime and the Iraq war.

In addition to speaking out against oppression, he also took the initiative in building positive forums of international and interfaith co-operation. In 1985, Pope John Paul II founded World Youth Day, seeking to inspire and engage youth in community development on a global level.

Canadians have long been committed to the same values that Pope John Paul II so strongly advanced on the world stage: democracy, diplomacy and dialogue. Historically, Canada has often played the role of mediator and peace broker on the world stage. Pope John Paul II served as an excellent example of what can be accomplished when global leaders commit to pursuing these principles and putting them to action.

I understand that some people may say they do not agree with every opinion that was expressed by Pope John Paul II. Some people will say that we should perhaps not be dedicating a day to a religious figure. I would argue that when we consider the global narrative of the life of John Paul II as an international force of hope, of justice and dialogue, it seems fitting for Parliament to celebrate his legacy. Above all, I am in the House to represent my constituents, and I know what Pope John Paul II means to so many of them.

Parkdale—High Park is the heart of the Polish community in Toronto, home to community organizations, newspapers, and a strong community fabric that has made it one of the most vibrant community oriented neighbourhoods in Toronto.

In our community, Pope John Paul II represents not only an important figure in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, but also a remarkable geo-political leader who spoke up for freedom and democratic change in eastern Europe and around the world. It is for that reason I will be supporting the bill.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour again to stand here. I say again because the last time the bill came in the House I spoke on it briefly as well. I want to thank the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville for bringing this to the floor of the House of Commons. In the last session it was brought in by the member for Brampton West, Andrew Kania. I want to quote from his speech, but I will get to that in a few moments.

I want to reiterate what was said earlier about the true inspiration of a man who travelled this world seeking out peace, seeking out ways to bridge the gap between the human dynamic, between us and those people we may not agree with or those people we find ourselves in constant conflict with. He was a man who was situated in a position that was clear to the world where he was, which was the head of the Catholic Church, situated in Vatican City, yet he managed to bridge the gap between so many different factions of people, their religion as well as nations around the world. As someone said earlier, the man visited 129 countries in the existence of his 27 year rule as the leader of the Catholic Church. It is absolutely incredible.

I am not Catholic, but I sure am inspired by the actions of this individual as a world leader at a time when the world needed it, from the late 1970s until his passing in 2005. It is an honour to be here tonight and talk about this. I will be supporting the bill.

I remember his first words from October 16, 1978, when he said, “Dearest brothers and sisters, we are still all grieved after the death of the most beloved Pope John Paul I. And now the imminent cardinals have called a new bishop of Rome. They have called him from a far country, but always near to through the communion of faith and in the Christian tradition”.

Those were the first words of the new pope, Pope John Paul II, formerly Karol Józef Wojtyla, the first Slavic pope in the history of the Roman Catholic Church and a pope who reigned 27 years.

I am very honoured to speak to designating this day. We have honoured other world leaders, including those religious leaders such as the Dalai Lama and others. We have also honoured great leaders of certain nations. Let us put John Paul II in the category of each and every one of those as a world leader, a religious leader, a leader of faith, a leader of nations and a leader in the world of diplomacy, which is a huge thing to do over his 27 years. Some credit him with the fall of communism, but his roots were within the community in Poland. That made him put in the very distinct position of understanding through the years of growing up in Poland.

These are a couple of things Canadian journalists had to say after the passing of Pope John Paul II. Eric Margolis described going into the central committee headquarters in Moscow after the election of John Paul II and this is what he described. He said, “I was the first Western journalist inside the KGB headquarters in 1990. The generals told me that the Vatican and the Pope above all was regarded as their number one, most dangerous enemy in the world”. He is one of the architects of the defeat of communism, there is no doubt it. He must be remembered not only for his religious ties and role, but for his worldwide historical influence.

In terms of his role in the fall of communism, this is another comment from James Caroll who is not only a writer but a former priest. He says, “What is the greatest most unexpected event of the 20th century? Isn't it that the Soviet Empire was brought down non-violently”. One the largest empires this world has ever seen was brought down non-violently. He went on to say, “Isn't John Paul II's story part of that”? It is a big part of that. What came from that was his desire to see impoverished people were able to fulfill dreams, the dream of feeding their own families, of worshipping as they so choose to do.

He became such a large part of the world dialogue on peace that everywhere he went world attention followed him. People knew he was the type of individual to bridge the gulf between warring factions and those who conflicted with each other. That is the big reason we are here today; it is to honour a man. However, it is not just a national honour, but an international honour in this national forum. As I said earlier, the Soviet Union fell without one bullet being fired.

Pope John Paul's trip to Poland, in 1979, is described by Timothy Ash as the “fulcrum of revolution which led to the collapse of communism”. He said:

Without the Pope, no Solidarity. Without Solidarity, no Gorbachev. Without Gorbachev, no fall of communism.

In fact, Mikhail Gorbachev himself said, “It would have been impossible without the Pope”. He credits Pope John Paul II for being the key factor in the fall of the Soviet Union.

There is another major accomplishment by John Paul II. Nobody will agree with everything that any leader ever does, which is to be expected, but he did bridge the divide between the Roman Catholic church and other religions, as I mentioned earlier.

In October 2003, the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement congratulating Pope John Paul II on entering his 25th year of the papacy and essentially complimented him for his role in bridging the divide between the Jewish faith and the Roman Catholic church.

Immediately after the death of John Paul II, the same Anti-Defamation League issued a statement that Pope John Paul II had revolutionized Catholic-Jewish relations, saying, “...more change for the better took place in his 27-year papacy then in the nearly 2,000 years before”. What a statement from the Anti-Defamation League, that he accomplished in 27 years what could not be accomplished to that extent in the 2,000 years prior.

There are other examples of his attempts to bridge with other faith communities. In terms of the Muslim community, Pope John Paul II, when in Casablanca on August 19, 1985 during his journey to Morocco, said:

Christians and Muslims, we have many things in common, as believers and as human beings. We live in the same world, marked by many signs of hope, but also by multiple signs of anguish. For us, Abraham is a very model of faith in God, of submission to his will and of confidence in his goodness. We believe in the sane God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to their perfection.

He reached out to the Muslim community, once again, in 1986. He said:

The Jewish religion is not “extrinsic“ to us, but in a certain way is “intrinsic” to our own religion. With Judaism therefore we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers and, in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers.

This was an amazing compliment from that man. Let us face it, he was extremely brave to be saying these things. No other Pope had said this prior to him. This was a man who was obviously sincere in his belief in the church and the Roman Catholic faith, but he was so sincere in his attempts to bridge the gulf between what conflicts us that he was willing to put himself on the line to say these things. It was controversial at the time, and I remember when it happened, in the mid eighties.

On a personal note, I come from Newfoundland and Labrador. The Pope visited the little island of Newfoundland, and with him came an incredible sense of patriotism in our own province. Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Jews who lived in Newfoundland all said the same thing. We could not believe the Pope was actually coming to our little piece of the earth. In this little corner of the earth that we call our own in the north Atlantic, the weather is not great, and the Pope did experience that. We were so proud that this man of great international and historical significance was there. Why? He wanted to be there because he wanted to spread the word. He wanted to take the word of God and bring it around the world. It was the word of God, yes, but also peace, love and happiness. It was an incredible honour.

It is a mild gesture that we could make in this House to pass this bill.

I would like to quote from my former colleague Andrew Kania, who spoke eloquently when he brought the bill to the House. He said many things about how the pope would travel the world, as I mentioned earlier, and how he tried to bridge the gap between other religions. He said:

This was a pope who will go down in history as not only one of the greatest popes, but one of the greatest world leaders, somebody who did try to reach out to different communities and different religions and show respect. He did not go around saying that the Roman Catholic Church was right and other religions were wrong. He went around saying let us work together and try to be good, help and respect one another and show love and compassion.

A love and compassion that we still feel to this day as if he were still with us. In many respects he is still with us, and that is one of the chief reasons why we should pass the legislation.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my friend and colleague the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville for bringing this important legislation before us today.

As the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor said, this is an international type of bill. It is not just a Canadian or a Polish or a Catholic bill. I would like to thank him for his comments because I really enjoyed what he had to say on communism.

I would also like to thank Mr. Chris Korwin-Kuczynski, a long-time former deputy city councillor, former deputy mayor and retired honorary navy captain, for his dedicated campaign to see the bill brought before Parliament. I would also like to thank Fathers Gil, Blazejak and Filas for their generous support and faith, and Ms. Danuta Gumienik and Mietek Lotakow for their dedication and assistance in making sure that the bill reached us here on the floor today.

The member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor also talked about the fall of communism and the ideas, and why John Paul II was such a threat to totalitarianism. It was because ideas are the enemy of tyrants. Mikhail Gorbachev went on to say one other thing, which is remarkable given that he was one of the main adversaries of John Paul and his mission to bring freedom and democracy to the earth. He said that Pope John Paul II's “devotion to his followers is a remarkable example to all of us”.

I fully support the bill and everything that it represents. In fact, I am the seconder of the bill and proud to be so. The bill is not just about Blessed John Paul II being Polish or Catholic, though there is no doubt special meaning for the Polish community, especially Canadians of Polish heritage and Catholics generally. It is truly about the inspiration that he left as his legacy to all peoples of all faiths in all lands in the world and in Canada.

Blessed John Paul stood for values that are shared by diverse peoples across this planet: justice, democracy and forgiveness. John Paul II held the value that all people are equal and should be free to practice whatever religion they choose, no matter where they are in this world. These values are not only Christian values, but they are shared by many religions around the world. For Canadians, he practised the values of freedom, democracy and human rights the world over and promoted that everywhere he went. He was not just solely focused on the Catholic church but was also influential, as we have already discussed, on the world stage building bridges between all faiths.

It was already remarked that when he visited Israel he addressed them as “my older brothers”. That was absolutely significant and historic.

He reached out to the Eastern Orthodox church and the Muslim faith. A goal he had was to form a coalition of faith. When he visited the Umayyad mosque, which was a former Christian church where John Paul the Baptist is believed to be interred, he made a speech calling for Muslims, Christians and Jews to live together. As he continued to visit mosques and places of worship of many faiths around the world, he did so in order to reach out for understanding and to build those bridges between those faiths.

One of his major accomplishments was inspiring a peaceful revolution in Europe that resulted in the downfall of communism on that continent, which began in his native Poland with the rise of the solidarity trade movement, and it was through those words “be not afraid”. Those were meaningful and impactful words. Those uplifting words resulted in human rights and freedom being brought to Poland and subsequently to now all former Iron Curtain countries that made up the Soviet bloc. He did this not with a sword or rifle but by using words and by using ideas, which, again, were the enemy of tyrants.

He did this simply because those who suffered through communism imagined the changes that they wished to see, which he promoted, and they did it by being not afraid. They dared to imagine and they dared to aspire. It inspired those who had lost hope that they would ever see political freedom in their lands, and they found hope through solidarity. History tells us what happened later on: communism fell.

John Paul II had close ties to Canada. He made separate visits here. He went to the Arctic in 1987, just that visit, because he had promised to go there and was not able to do it on a previous visit. He made a special attempt to do that and he succeeded. There is also a special meaning to the pope for me. There is actually only 20 days difference in age between my dad and the pope. In fact, my dad will be 93 on April 2.

The two of them had very similar histories in Poland. Both of them were 19 when the war began. My father, obviously, subsequently became a soldier, and John Paul followed his faith. That was important.

In 2002, the military did a very special thing for me. They allowed me, as part of a four-person military team, to assist with World Youth Day for almost an entire year, to help plan World Youth Day and bring 800,000 people to Canada.

This was a post 9/11 world. All the youth of the world came, and they were not just Catholic. They were of all different faiths. It was important to see the numbers of different faiths that came here.

As a Canadian solider at the time, with Polish immigrant parents, from the Parkdale area of Toronto and St. Casimir's Polish Catholic parish, this was a massive honour for me personally. It was a huge responsibility to get it right and ensure that the close to a million people from around the world who arrived here to celebrate with Pope John Paul II were able to do so safely and were able to celebrate with all the other youth of the world.

The atmosphere was absolutely electric. To have the honour of being so close to the Pope, as close, in fact, as I am to the member for Brampton West right now, was something that was inspiring. To be able to talk to him, to be able to hold his hand, to be able to have a conversation with him in Polish was something that was inspiring to me and to the kids he was able to inspire.

What the Pope often said was, “You are the salt”, and “You are the light”. He referred to the youth as being those. They reacted to that. “[D]o not be afraid” was something he repeated quite frequently on the stage.

What he said to them was:

You are young, and the Pope is old, 82 or 83 years of life is not the same as 22 or 23. But the Pope still fully identifies with your hopes and aspirations.... I have seen enough evidence to be unshakeably convinced that no difficulty, no fear is so great that it can completely suffocate the hope that springs eternal in the hearts of the young. You are our hope, the young are our hope.

It should be noted that the Canadian World Youth Day was the last one he attended. He was the originator of World Youth Day, which happens every year in Rome and about every four years in a different country around the world.

Having stood mere feet from His Holiness at that time, I could see his courage. I could see the incredible suffering in his eyes, because he was so pushed down by the serious illness he had.

It is important that all of the members know that he lived his life as he spoke it. He showed nothing but courage by sitting there, by suffering as he did, to make sure that he came to Toronto. To make sure that he came here and to make sure that he inspired those young people was absolutely monumental. I came away absolutely inspired, having met Papa.

The Pope was a brilliant man who reached out to millions of people beyond the borders of the church. By supporting this bill, we show all Canadians that we have not forgotten this great man and we honour those values he inspired in us all. He was a man who travelled with a staff in his hand and wore the shoes of a fisherman. He was a man who brought hope, peace and comfort to so many all around the world. He was a man who, with his words, through his deeds and with his faith, brought us all together with his message of hope.

He was a man who will be remembered long after the rest of us have been forgotten. He was a man who made this earth a more human place for us all.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will not hide the fact that I am speaking today with a somewhat troubled heart. I want to speak to the proposal from the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville.

I have long admired His Holiness Pope John Paul II. However, as the member for Beauport—Limoilou, I will not be supporting the idea of establishing a day in his honour.

As a devout Roman Catholic, I strive to follow Christ's example in my everyday life. But following that example is sometimes difficult, as evidenced by many events in His Holiness's life. Before I go any further, I would like to remind the House that Christ said that he did not come to bring peace to the world, but a sword.

I feel I can take the liberty of quoting Christ in the House because His Holiness Pope John Paul II came to Canada in 1984, when I was 17. It is no secret that it was an absolutely extraordinary moment. It moved people. Pope John Paul II had a strong personality; he had a real charisma, almost a magnetism, and he thrilled the crowds. It was incredible to see him in action.

However, I was elected to represent my constituents, just as my 307 colleagues represent Canadians across this country. Canada is vast and beautiful. It is multifaceted and its people have various faiths. I think we need to convey the message that we will maintain freedom of conscience for everyone in our country, no matter what they believe, and that includes those of different faiths, agnostics and non-believers.

I believe that establishing a day in Pope John Paul II's honour would send the wrong message. However, I understand why my colleague, who is of Polish descent, would introduce this bill in the House. Pope John Paul II was a hero who lifted the hearts of the Polish people; he was an inspiration. He also freed a people from unbearable oppression.

I think that the Catholic Church certainly has the ability to maintain and promote the work of John Paul II. I do not think it is the role of the Canadian government to do so. I do not want to get into a comparison of every pope in the succession of popes since Saint Peter, but I must admit that I am partial to recent popes. Take the example of John XXIII, who created the Second Vatican Council, and Leo XIII, whose letter, the encyclical Rerum Novarum, was the cornerstone of the Church's social doctrine, which flourished over a good part of the 20th century.

As I said, with a somewhat troubled heart, I had the pleasure of reading a number of encyclicals by His Holiness John Paul II. At the time, I even defended some of the pope's positions to my friends and acquaintances because the pope was very controversial in Quebec at that time. I remember how very divided people were. I remember theologists from Laval University spoke out against positions taken by His Holiness, particularly with respect to contraception.

This obviously had some unfortunate consequences. Regardless, I do not want to dwell on that. Those debates are over. I also do not want to bring up painful memories about His Holiness, because he did some very good work.

As I said, I do not believe it is the role of the government to recognize a specific pope among all of the popes in the 2,000-year history of the Catholic Church.

To support my position, I want to quickly talk about 12 other popes I greatly admire. There is obviously John XXIII, who created the Second Vatican Council, at the very beginning of his pontificate at the end of the 1950s, to the surprise of everyone, including the bishops and the Roman Curia. This council was truly a defining moment for the Catholic Church in the 20th century. It enabled His Holiness John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who was on the council at the time, to shape their ideas, make a name for themselves and make a contribution.

I will go further by saying that the pope that I admire the most is Leo XIII, who wrote and advocated the Rerum Novarum over 120 years ago. The Rerum Novarum was also a turning point for the Catholic Church at the time. This work is so significant that, on its 100th anniversary in 1991, His Holiness John Paul II recognized it in his encyclical, Centesimus Annus. His Holiness John Paul II recognized and supported social and economic justice, values that I share as a politician and a human being.

I will continue to speak about this well-known social doctrine of the Catholic Church, which His Holiness John Paul II also lived by, and to cite its noble tenets.

First, there is human dignity, which the Catholic Church did not necessarily recognize before this encyclical and before the church's social doctrine movement, which took off in the early 20th century.

Second, there is the common good. We are all part of the greater human community. We therefore have to think about all of our brothers. This was one of Christ's teachings. We are all responsible for our brothers and sisters in our society.

Third, is the principle of subsidiarity, according to which we must recognize that every human being on this earth and in our society makes an inalienable contribution that cannot be disputed.

Finally, there is also solidarity.

The fact that His Holiness John Paul II was a strong supporter and defender of these great values is a source of pride for the hon. member.

However, the fact remains that, as elected officials, we must make difficult choices. That is what I am doing. Although it breaks my heart a little, I think I am doing the right thing and I am calling on my colleagues to do the same. We need to think long and hard before moving forward with this.

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

Canada Post CorporationAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I raised a question a while back with regard to the cutting of postal services with respect to a part of my riding called Honeymoon Bay. In Honeymoon Bay, what has been a traditional service is that on Saturday mornings the post office is open so that residents, who mostly work outside of the community, have an opportunity to visit their local post office.

When I raised the question, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of transport responded by saying that it was up to the Crown corporation that makes the operational decisions. However, the minister of transport does have some overall responsibility for the principles with respect to the kind of service Canadians can expect.

I want to give members an example of some of the correspondence I have received. I received many letters and emails on this particular matter.

With regard to the closure of the post office on Saturday mornings, one resident wrote:

This idea is stupid. Period.

One cannot say it any more clearly than that. She continues:

Saturdays is the only day for most business folks to pick up the mail here in rural B.C. Most of the time that is the case for me. What is next? Close Mondays, Saturdays, and Tuesdays? Need the example go on?

She went on to write about a number of other issues in the email.

The point is that Honeymoon Bay is a really good example of a community where the forestry sector has been really hard hit. In fact, one of the mills closed down a number of years ago, taking a significant number of good jobs out of a place called Youbou. Many of the residents of Honeymoon Bay worked in Youbou. People are now having to drive 40 to 50 kilometres out of their community to work. Often they are leaving early in the morning and are coming home late at night, so Saturday morning was an opportunity for them to actually go to the post office and do whatever they needed to do.

We wrote a letter to the minister, and in that letter we indicated:

A number of our constituents have voiced opposition to the plan to remove the customer service hours on Saturday and consequently reduce the postal service to the community. For some people Saturday is the only day they have available to do postal business. This is especially true for the Honeymoon Bay Post office that is open until 3:00 p.m. only on weekdays. Cuts to Canada Post weaken the ability of Canadians to receive quality public service.

When the government cuts the working hours of the country's rural posts offices it harms the people and the local businesses that deal with Canada Post, thus hurting the regional economy. As my colleague [the member for Vaudreuil—Soulanges] mentioned “The post office in rural communities is an institution. It is something that links the community together. We can talk about modernization schemes, but the fact remains that people in rural communities love their post offices."

Canada Post has a charter. One of the elements in the charter has to do specifically with closures. When there is a serious change in services, one would think Canada Post would actually go out and consult with the community.

Therefore, my question to the parliamentary secretary is whether, in this case, Canada Post consulted with the community members and businesses in Honeymoon Bay.

Canada Post CorporationAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario


Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the question of Canada Post is of great importance to me. I have a mixed constituency of suburban and rural residents who value the mail service, though they are increasingly part of the worldwide trend toward electronic forms of communication.

I find it interesting that the NDP has taken a sudden interest in the well-being of Canada Post customers, because it was the NDP that supported the union drive that ultimately led to a work stoppage and declining use of Canada Post by Canadians.

Within that corporation we have one of the most radical unions in the entire country, a union that, at a time the corporation is losing money and is forced to make difficult decisions, demands that it receive funds from the corporation, owned by the Canadian people, to travel down to a Brazilian beach town to attend a conference that, among other things, promoted the release of a convicted and confessed murderer from the Middle East. I do not know what the link is between a conference in Brazil on liberating a confessed murderer from the Middle East and the services the Canadian people receive in their mailboxes.

I also realize that in this increasingly competitive world of communications, Canada Post must run a focused operation or face a whole series of very unpleasant decisions. That is exactly what we have to demand of that corporation if we want it to be viable and avoid it having to impose major costs on Canadian taxpayers, who are its owners.

Unfortunately, this union has made it next to impossible for the company to operate in a competitive fashion. It has imposed stifling demands and made it difficult for workers to perform to their highest potential. Moreover, the costs that this union imposes on Canada Post are passed on either to its customers or the taxpayers who, it turns out, are the very same people.

If is to continue to favour the costly and unaffordable demands of union bosses, the NDP must decide where it will get the money from, because Canada Post does not have billions of extra dollars sitting around waiting to be spent. In particular, if the member across wants to make new demands for service, which will inevitably come with new expenses, she will have to indicate from whence that money will come. Will taxpayers need to pay a bigger subsidy through higher taxes? Will customers be forced to pay higher fees for stamps? Will Canadians who use the postal service have to make some other sacrifice? I do not know because I am not the one making the proposals that the NDP and the union bosses consistently put forward.

My view is that we need a competitive postal system that operates within its means and respects the workers who do the job, the taxpayers who own the company, and the customers for whom the service has always been intended.

Canada Post CorporationAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, to be absolutely clear, this is not a new demand for a new service. This is an existing service that the government is cutting from the residents of Honeymoon Bay.

I am sure that the many unionized workers in my riding would be very interested in the member's perspective on unions. It is so typical of that member particularly and the government that they actually refuse to deal with the issues.

What I asked the member about was the service cuts in the Honeymoon Bay Post Office, the services that have been in place for a number of years. Under the Canada Post charter, the corporation made a commitment to Canadians from coast to coast to coast that it would consult with community members and businesses before altering or cutting services.

It is a very simple question: Did Canada Post consult with Honeymoon Bay residents and businesses before cutting the services, yes or no?

Canada Post CorporationAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, we always consult as a government, but what I do not understand is why the member had to make it all about unions. It shows, once again, the obsession the NDP has with the narrow agenda of union bosses.

She talks about union workers. Unionized workers in the country expect their union bosses to be transparent. Those workers are increasingly calling for the right to make their own decisions, rather than be susceptible to forced unionization. The costs of union boss demands are becoming increasingly clear. We have to face that fact.

It is time for the NDP to join with us in standing up for taxpayers, workers and Canada Post customers because those are the people we are supposed to be serving here.

Foreign InvestmentAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise again tonight to address the foreign investment protection and promotion agreement, or FIPA, that the government recently concluded with China but has not yet put into place.

I will start by reiterating the New Democrats' commitment to working with Canadian businesses, labour and our international trade partners to expand trade and investment opportunities around the world. The Canadian economy and Canadian jobs rely on trade and our businesses benefit from foreign investment.

Of course, China is a big part of the trading dynamic. It is the second largest economy in the world. It is an ascending economy and there is a profound connection between our two countries. In my riding of Vancouver Kingsway, nearly half my constituents are either immigrants from China or have Chinese heritage. This connection is what brings both cultural and economic vibrancy to my community and to our country.

FIPA took 18 years to negotiate between Canada and China. It has provisions that once in force will keep it in force for at least 31 years. Yet the government and the MPs on the government side of the House did not schedule any form of debate or study about the FIPA. The minister would not come before our committee to answer any questions about the FIPA. In fact, the government members would not allow any study of the FIPA at committee. A motion I put forward to study it at committee was turned down and they did not schedule the FIPA to be brought to a vote in the House.

If anything deserves careful study and scrutiny, it is this investment protection agreement. The general concept is sound. The protection of investors is especially needed in China. It is not disrespectful to China to point out the difficulties and challenges that Canadian investors, and in fact any kind of foreign investors, face in China. There is inconsistent application of the rule of law and difficulty in enforcing contracts. Those are well known issues.

The concept of a FIPA is sound between the two countries, but FIPAs, like the one we are discussing now, can prevent governments from enacting policies in the public interest. What we are talking about are provisions of this particular FIPA that are of concern to Canadians. This agreement that the Conservatives signed would allow foreign state-owned companies to buy up more and more interests in our natural resources and if the government tried to impose restrictions on them we, the Canadian taxpayers, could be sued.

For the first time in Canadian history, the Conservative government allowed for a dispute resolution process, a process that is already prone to corporate bias and antithetical to principles of the rule of law. It has allowed this process to happen behind closed doors. The government has signed a section that says that if one of the countries that is being sued wants to, it can have the hearing, the legal suit challenging breach of agreement, heard behind closed doors and all documents would be hidden from the public.

Canada is a democratic country where we follow the norms of the rule of law. The rule of law is we have open courts. We have an open justice system. We do not allow court tribunal systems to be heard in private, maybe in a private commercial setting, but not when taxpayer dollars are on the hook. The government signed a provision like that, for the first time in history.

Second, this FIPA contains a provision that allows China and Canada to keep all non-conforming measures, which are measures that are currently restraints on trade. The problem is that China has been a closed economy for a long time and has many non-conforming measures, whereas Canada is a liberal market model.

My question for the government is this. Why would it signed an imbalanced agreement that treats Canadian investors unfairly, gives them less rights than Chinese investors in Canada and has a dispute resolution mechanism that allows disputes to be heard behind closed doors in secret? Why is that?

Foreign InvestmentAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia


Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, the part of the speech that the member for Vancouver Kingsway got correct is the fact that China is the second largest economy in the world. It will more than likely be the largest economy in the world by 2030.

The most egregious and incorrect part, among many, in his speech is that this would sign Canada up for 31 years. It would be renewable up to a period of 31 years; it does not sign anyone up for a 31-year period. The other issue on which he is, quite frankly, incorrect is the idea that it would prevent Canada from enacting legislation or public policy to benefit Canadians. That is absolutely incorrect.

I am going to try to sum up the issues. I know we have limited time, but it is an important issue and I want to take some time to discuss it. However, before I start, another point is the fact that prior to our government coming to power in 2006, treaties were not tabled in the House of Commons for 31 days and there was no opportunity to discuss those treaties. Yes somehow we are hearing a lot of rhetoric about the government not discussing this treaty. We tabled the treaty in the House of Commons for 31 days. They were 31 sitting days and thus 31 opportunities for any opposition members to discuss this treaty if they wished. However, the reality is that they really do not want the bright light of the sun to shine on this treaty because it would refute the accusations they are making against it.

Trade is part of the powerful engine that drives the Canadian economy. We moved forward with a very ambitious pro-trade plan, opening new markets for Canadian exporters, including in the very fast-growing Asia-Pacific region. We moved aggressively, expanding commercial relations in the region to create jobs and economic benefits. The economic benefits and opportunities are tremendous there. Asia-Pacific countries represent huge markets, with economic growth rates two to three times the global average. By doing this, we are creating the right conditions here at home for Canadian businesses and exporters to compete and succeed internationally.

An important part of the equation is ensuring that two-way trade and investment between Canada and other countries, including China, takes place in a stable and secure manner. That is why we have signed over 24 foreign investment promotion and protection agreements with key trade and investment partners, including China, the world's second-largest economy.

Let us be clear. What would happen if we do not sign these agreements? We would be working in a system without clear rules, without parameters, and without clear guidelines. Thus, it is important to note that as a result of this agreement, Canadian investors in China would no longer have to rely upon the Chinese legal system to have investment disputes resolved. Let me be clear: This agreement would give Canadian investors in China the same types of protections that foreign investors have long had in Canada.

I have to ask the member opposite, why would he deny Canadian investors the same benefits abroad that foreign investors have in Canada?

Foreign InvestmentAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, here are some facts.

This agreement would be in force for 15 years and even if the government does not renew the agreement and cancels it, the provisions of the agreement mean that it would stay in force for a further 15 years after that. The member well knows that. In short, this agreement, even if cancelled, would be in force for a minimum of 30 years, plus the one year. That is a fact.

Second, I put a motion before the trade committee to study the FIPA. As the current Conservative government is fond of doing, it went behind closed doors, so I am not at liberty to tell members how anyone voted. However, what I can tell members is that when we came out of that meeting, my motion was denied.

When the government tries to tell the Canadian public that it wants to shine the light on this agreement, that is belied by the facts. The government refused to study this FIPA and to bring stakeholders, Canadians and investors to our committee where we could actually study the agreement to see if it were a good deal.

The reason the Conservatives were afraid to do that is that they know it is a bad deal. They know that Canadians would not accept a deal that would allow China to go behind closed doors to hear disputes in private and they would not sign a deal that would give Canadian investors less equal treatment than Chinese investors.

I ask the member, why will the government not agree to study this deal when it will have such important ramifications and be in force for a minimum of 31 years? Why will it not allow the trade committee to study this? For Canadians, answer that direct question.

Foreign InvestmentAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.


Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Again, Mr. Speaker, the hon. member wants to lead off in a misleading way on 31 years, so I will come back to my original statement about the 31 sitting days that this agreement was tabled in the House. Why did the NDP and the Liberals shy away from debate? They had ample opportunity to debate this. They wanted to draw this out and make something more of it than it actually was. That ruse simply did not work.

As I said before, our government signed this agreement to help protect the interests of Canadian investors, particularly Canadian investors in China. I would point out that our government has brought transparency to the treaty process by tabling it in the House of Commons. It should be very clear that it was not the Conservative Party that chose not to debate it. It was the Conservative Party that chose to table it. It was the NDP that chose not to debate it in the House of Commons for the country to hear.

This is very similar to the other 24 investment treaties we signed with key trade and investment partners. It establishes clear rules for Canadian businesses when they are investing abroad.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

February 6th, 2013 / 7:25 p.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like an update on the government's plans to replace our fighter jets.

Like me, Canadians would really like to hear some concrete details on what exactly is going on with the secretariat. Has there been any progress on this file? Canadians would really like to have some concrete details on this matter.

La Presse revealed recently that Public Works and Government Services Canada is considering a short-term alternative besides the F-35 to replace the CF-18s.

The government has finally recognized the delays and serious problems associated with the production of that aircraft. It realizes that perhaps we need to take action now to ensure that we do not end up with a fleet that is too old to fly in a few years' time, without any replacements waiting in the wings. The situation is becoming more and more critical.

For months, or even years now, we have been telling the government over and over that it needs to have a plan B, since plan A appears to have some serious holes in it.

Many participating countries have withdrawn from the program and others have put their military procurement strategies on hold. Still others have scaled back their order to adjust to the new production costs.

The government continued the charade, insisting that everything was fine, openly and without shame here in this House. Over the past several months, the program has become quite a joke.

When my colleagues and I said that this program was a fiasco, the minister said:

The stuck in...misinformation and misrepresentation about the benefits to Canada of the F-35 program.

Misinformation and misrepresentation: all the minister's and the government's statements on this issue turned out to be misinformation. No government member ever apologized for misleading Canadians and this House.

For more than six years, the Conservatives have shown us, step by step and point by point, what not to do when it comes to military procurement. They did not have a bidding process for the F-35s. They did not provide any formal guarantee of the industrial spinoffs or any formal guarantee of jobs. They hid the $10 billion overrun in total costs. And more importantly, no one has taken responsibility yet.

The KPMG report released in December highlighted the Conservatives' bad management, just as the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the Auditor General and the NDP did previously. We have been talking about this issue for months.

Yet a short time ago, the Minister of National Defence said that the total cost to acquire the F-35s would be $9 billion. Those who said otherwise were just making their numbers up.

He also said that there was no need for a bidding process because the F-35 was the only option that would provide our troops with the best possible equipment.

We know that the cost of the F-35s has mushroomed, and the Conservatives have no plan B because they selected a sole supplier. We also know that everything the Conservatives said about the F-35s was misleading and false.

How much misinformation, how many false statements, how many internal accounting documents are still hidden away in the offices of the two ministers responsible for this file?

I would also like to know whether the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence can provide any useful details about the secretariat's progress.

Have they visited manufacturing facilities lately? Have there been discussions about alternatives?

I am sure that Canadians would be happy to know any meaningful details he can provide.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering Ontario


Chris Alexander ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows full well that we would never mislead her. Everything I have to say tonight is the truth and shows what we are doing to replace the Royal Canadian Air Force's CF-18 fleet.

The new story of the replacement program, which is already well known throughout the country, begins in the spring of 2012 with the Auditor General's report.

He gave a detailed report. It has been discussed in this place. It made a particular point about full life-cycle costs for the F-35 and the need to calculate them properly to make sure they were full life-cycle costs, not a practice previously undertaken either for fighter jets or other acquisitions in National Defence. We accepted that recommendation immediately.

However, we went beyond it and put together a seven-point plan that included action on that recommendation but represented a restart of this program, a program that had not really begun because money had not been spent to buy a new aircraft to replace the CF-18. We were still some years away from an actual acquisition.

We froze funding on the acquisition. We established the seven-point plan.

We established a secretariat to complete the work that the government has to do as part of this new plan. This is not just any kind of secretariat with a few employees. It is led by a number of ministers and has a governance committee led by very reputable deputy ministers from the public service of Canada. To some extent, it resembles the secretariat that successfully ran the program to replace our naval ships.

Then surprise, surprise, the work done already by the secretariat has borne fruit. I am not going to give all the credit to public servants serving the Government of Canada now because there are independent experts who are taking part in the work of this governance committee: Denis Desautels, a former Auditor General of Canada, very distinguished; and Dr. Kenneth Norrie, a former university president.

The House knows very well what their work has achieved so far. In December, two ministers presented some of that work: the DND annual report on costs; the KPMG independent review of those costs, including the forward-looking cost estimate framework; as well as an Industry Canada update on the industrial opportunities already accruing to Canada through the joint strike fighter program, of which we remain a member.

There has been a lot of rhetoric, and a lot of misinformation has been spread about the costs. They now cover a 42-year life-cycle. They still represent the 65 F-35s, which are candidate aircraft for the acquisition. However, the costs have in effect not changed. KPMG and DND confirm the acquisition would be about $9 billion, and the running costs about $1 billion a year.

What do we have to do next? Obviously, under the seven points, an options analysis still needs to be done. That is detailed work taking place in the secretariat. We are going to leave to them the task of carrying that work forward. It is going to relate to a full range of choices and outline the advantages and disadvantages of each choice. We set aside the statement of requirements for the fighter aircraft that had been previously used. We are going to assess—

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order. The hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to quickly go back to one point.

He said that money had not been spent, but the government has already spent $700 billion on the F-35 joint strike fighter jet development program. It is important to make that distinction, because many people who are having a hard time paying for their groceries could eat for a very long time with that kind of money. It is important to note that.

Now, I am a little confused about what the parliamentary secretary just said. He talked about a restart, while the Minister of Public Works said that the work had already been done and that the money had been used. Alternatives have already been examined, such as the Eurofighter, the Rafale and the Super Hornet.

Have there been any developments with respect to the specific alternatives?

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.


Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague can rest assured that the planes she mentioned, and perhaps others, have never before been subjected to such rigorous evaluation.

The evaluation is being carried out under the authority of a new secretariat that was given its mandate by the government itself and that reports to the House. This is unprecedented for the procurement of fighter jets for Canada.

Yes, we must make that distinction. There are two programs to develop a new aircraft with several partners.

Several hundreds of millions of dollars has already been spent, but not one cent has been spent to date to replace our CF-18s, no contract has been signed, and no decision about or analysis of the options has been made.

We are taking the time necessary for due diligence, to ensure oversight and transparency and that we get the right aircraft and value for taxpayers' money. The current Auditor General has already said that our government is taking steps in the right direction and there have been other very positive comments on the success of these seven points so far. We will wait for the options analysis, hopefully later this year, and for the completion of the seven points.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:37 p.m.)