House of Commons Hansard #266 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was treaties.


The House resumed from April 29 consideration of the motion that Bill C-476, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Parliamentary Budget Officer), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Parliamentary Budget Officer ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, this is a big day today. I just exchanged pleasantries with the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, and it is his birthday. We are expecting to maybe put forward legislation identifying today as a national holiday.

I am happy to put in my two cents' worth on this important bill. This is a significant and important piece of legislation, and certainly my colleague from Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, during first reading of the bill, identified the fact that our party will indeed be supporting it because we believe in the spirit of the bill and that, in essence, it would be an important step forward. I also recognize the fact that my colleague, the member for Markham—Unionville, had tabled the first motion before Parliament in February 2009, calling for the parliamentary budget officer to be made an independent officer of Parliament. That is worth noting as we begin to discuss this particular bill today.

Although this bill is about the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, it is hard to talk about it without talking about the first Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page. For obvious reasons, the two will be inextricably linked. My thoughts on this bill will therefore be very respectful of the experience Mr. Page had over his five years as PBO, and his comments on the office, including the challenges that he faced and the worries he had about its future if not strengthened and protected.

One of Mr. Page's comments sums up the issue around transparency and accountability under the current government. He summed it up well when he said, “Our institutions of accountability are in trouble. Parliament does not get the information and analysis it needs to hold the account.” Of course, “the executive” refers to the Prime Minister and cabinet. Later in his comments he said, “In a culture where secrecy is far too common and analytical dissonance is not welcome, the future of my office, the legislative budget office is in doubt.”

This is a debate that has taken place here in the chamber, but also right across this country in the court of public opinion. I believe it was one that Mr. Page put forward. Canadians understand the significance around this issue and certainly are respectful of the courage, the vision and the passion he had for this position, and as well of his ability. It has been proven time and again, issue by issue, that the Parliamentary Budget Officer was very often closer to reality than what we were hearing from the government benches and the spin around the various issues or crises of the day.

Mr. Page is a man who dedicated five years of his life to the service of Parliament and to Canadians to provide and promote financial transparency and accountability. Seven years ago, the current government promised a new standard of accountability. We know the Conservative government rode in on the white horse called “accountability”, promising a different era, certainly a more open Parliament and a more open government.

We have not seen that. That horse has been dead for quite some time, as much as the government might want to beat it. In the eyes of most Canadians, whether the horse ever arrived in Ottawa or not, it is certainly gone now. The government had a golden halo of transparency that was very much touted and highly talked about, but that halo is considerably tarnished now.

That is what happens when the standard method of operation is “do as I say, not as I do”. It is very significant, in the wake of what transpired this past week, when we saw the former Conservative member for Edmonton—St. Albert comment, “I barely recognize ourselves and worse I feel that we have morphed into what we once mocked.”

I certainly do not agree with everything the member has said or with his views on many issues. However, I think it was eloquent, poignant and truthful. Many Conservatives across this country, certainly Conservatives in my riding with whom I have great friendship and for whom I have great respect even though we may have different political views, are very concerned about how the government has taken those principles of transparency, openness and accountability, and just sort of put them in the back of the bus.

The departure of the member for Edmonton—St. Albert brings that to a very poignant point in the life of the government.

Bill C-476 stands for principles, including the principle that the parliamentary budget officer should be an independent watchdog and provide independent analysis to Parliament, not cheerleading for the government.

The purpose of the office itself is to help with forecasts on economic and fiscal planning, help with costing new programs, and help with the scrutiny of departmental apportionments and appropriations. We have seen the debacle with the F-35s. The numbers continue to change. I think it was my colleague, the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie, who first brought the issue around the F-35s to the House two and a half years ago.

We were given a snow job then. We were given numbers that certainly dismissed any concerns around the procurement of the F-35s. It was with a clear vision, clear thinking and a commitment to get to the truth that the Parliamentary Budget Officer pursued what was real within the tendering process. Through those numbers, the Parliamentary Budget Officer was able to bring it around to what many other nations across the world that were involved in the procurement of this particular aircraft knew all along.

I want to commend my colleague, the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie. I want to again echo support for this bill on behalf of our party. We think the parliamentary budget officer should be independent from the executive. The role of the PBO is essential in providing this House with the important information that it needs, so that it can base its decisions on truth, not spin; on fact, not fiction; and on hard numbers.

It is for those reasons that we will stand and support this piece of legislation.

Parliamentary Budget Officer ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise to speak in support of Bill C-476, tabled by the member for Outremont and leader of the official opposition.

Bill C-476, once enacted, would create an independent Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, separating it from the Library of Parliament where it is now; broaden the PBO's mandate and access to relevant information; require annual reports to the House of Commons and Senate; create a streamlined non-partisan process for appointment; and finally, ensure that the PBO is capable of understanding and working in both official languages.

Why are these proposed changes to the legislated mandate for the PBO so critical? The government created the PBO to support its once widely touted new transparent, accountable and open government. In fact, the Conservatives' 2006 electoral platform committed to create an independent parliamentary budget office authority to provide objective analysis directly to Parliament about the state of the nation's finances and trends in the national economy. As stated by the finance minister in 2006:

Canadians deserve to know the true state of their economy and to live within a budget which is based on accurate, open and honest figures. We must put an end once and for all to the previous government's habit of getting it wrong. Governments cannot be held to account if Parliament and Canadians do not know the real state of public finances.

The Prime Minister, in speaking of the PBO in 2006, stated, “Such a body would ensure that the government is genuinely accountable for taxpayers’ dollars and that we maintain fiscal discipline at the federal level.”

Now flash forward to 2013, where the selfsame Minister of Finance has had quite a change of heart now that the rigorous analysis that he once so enthusiastically supported has now exposed many problems. The finance minister made an accusatory comment about the PBO to the effect that he was wandering off from his mandate of reporting to Parliament on “how the government is doing in its budgeting”.

We note, as my colleague said, the comments by the member for Edmonton—St. Albert, that he is deeply chagrined and in fact has left the Conservative Party because it has strayed from its principles of openness and transparency and the members have morphed into what they formerly criticized.

Indeed, despite these early endorsements for open government and a strong role for the PBO, seven years later we witness case after case where the government has refused PBO requests for information necessary to delivery his statutory mandate including: estimated costs for the Afghan war, estimated costs for the F-35 fighter jets, the estimated deficit, sustainability of the OAS program and estimated impacts of cuts to the federal service on continued delivery of front-line services.

The mandate and services of the PBO have been found invaluable to the ability of MPs to do their job scrutinizing government estimates and spending. The PBO mandate appears to be quite clear to most, with the apparent exception of the very government that created the office. What is the mandate? The PBO was created in 2006 with the enactment of the Financial Accountability Act. This mandate is clearly prescribed in law “to provide objective analysis to the Senate and House of Commons about the estimates of the government, the state of the nation’s finances and trends in the national economy”. The PBO is also mandated to undertake research and assist committees in their review and analysis of estimates. Clearly, to deliver this mandate, the PBO must have ready and open access to financial and economic data.

Accessibility to all information has regrettably become a matter of ongoing contention for the former PBO. He was ultimately forced to seek a court ruling due to access denials. The court referral related to requests from the leader of the official opposition seeking the PBO's analysis of the effect of cuts to the federal public service on front-line services. Here is what the court ruled vis-à-vis the mandate of the PBO:

The Parliament of Canada has, by statute, mandated its budget officer to, among other things, “estimate the financial cost of any proposal that relates to a matter over which Parliament has jurisdiction” when requested to do so by any member of the House of Commons or any Senator.... In order to give effect to that mandate, subject to certain exceptions, section 79.3... the Parliamentary Budget Officer by request to the deputy head of a department, or delegate, is entitled to “…free and timely access to any financial or economic data in the possession of the department that are required for the performance of his or her mandate.”

In the course of my role on the government operations committee, we undertook, as well, a review of how members of Parliament could begin to do a more effective job of review of estimates and spending. In doing so, we heard from a number of experts.

One of the worldwide experts that has stated support for a strong Parliamentary Budget Officer is the OECD. Our report noted that the OECD found that the best practices for budget transparency required that parliamentarians had the opportunity and the resources to effectively examine any fiscal report they deem necessary.

Our community heard from, among others, Dr. Joachim Wehner. Dr. Wehner is associate professor of public policy at the London School of Economic and Political Science. He testified that in order to improve scrutiny of estimates and supply:

The to protect and enhance the role of the Parliamentary Budget Officer.... Internationally, the Parliamentary Budget Officer of Canada is very highly regarded, and it's certainly a major the degree the parliament in Canada has access to an independent, highly professional research capacity.

He added, though, that based upon his experience with similar officers in other jurisdictions, the role of the PBO could have been further strengthened if made a full officer of Parliament, with total access to all relevant information.

Also, Canadian expert Dr. David Good, professor of the School of Public Administration, University of Victoria, testified to our committee:

First, I would make the Parliamentary Budget Officer a full agent of Parliament to assist parliamentarians and committees. I think the role and mandate of the Parliamentary Budget Officer needs to be clarified and strengthened by making the office legislatively separate and independent of the Library of Parliament, thereby operating as a full agent of Parliament.

Accessibility to all information, regrettably, became a matter of ongoing contention for the current PBO. He was ultimately, as I mentioned, forced to seek a court ruling. That court ruling was related to a request from the leader of the official opposition.

I can personally attest to the value of the reporting and analysis provided by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. My participation in the parliamentary study on scrutiny of estimates and supply, and subsequent examination of government priorities and spending, has opened my eyes to the disconnect between the information the government is willing to reveal and the information parliamentarians actually require to make informed decisions on spending taxpayers' hard-earned dollars.

As elected members of Parliament, we are meant to be stewards of the public purse. We can choose to make informed decisions. A strengthened mandate for the Parliamentary Budget Officer, as provided in Bill C-476, could offer that window.

I encourage all members of this House to vote in support of the member for Outremont's bill, Bill C-476, create an independent Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, broaden his mandate, require annual reports and create streamlined, non-partisan processes for appointments.

Parliamentary Budget Officer ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to rise to speak to the bill of the leader of the official opposition, the member for Outremont.

The purpose of this excellent bill is to create a separate and independent Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer—who will be a full officer of Parliament—that will not just be part of the office of the Library of Parliament, as is currently the case.

First, it would be pertinent to ask why this bill is needed now. It is needed because something is broken in the system. The Conservatives broke their promise of transparency and their commitment to an open government that listens to the people. They have given us one disappointment after another.

The Conservatives are willing to undermine the credibility of those who say things they do not like, who dare to stand up, tell the truth and remember the facts. They attack those who work as our system's watchdogs and any others who dare criticize them, such as environmentalists, scientists and unions, whom they often, and very publicly, treat with contempt.

First of all, the Conservatives promised to establish the position of parliamentary budget officer, and they did. However, they then did everything they could to undermine his credibility. It was a good idea at the outset, and then it all fell apart. When they realized that the officer they had appointed could stand on his own two feet, challenge their figures and even point out scandals, such as the cost of the F-35s, which was much higher than they were telling people, they began to say that people should not listen to the parliamentary budget officer, that he did not know what he was talking about and that what he was saying was untrue.

We heard Conservative members make light of the work done by the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, even though this work was essential and could shed light on what was going on in terms of the Conservative government’s real expenditures. As the truth can be shocking and upsetting, they did everything they could to sideline and muzzle the parliamentary budget officer and publicly cast doubt on his credibility, when in fact he was doing good work.

That is why the member for Outremont introduced a private member’s bill that would strengthen and protect the parliamentary budget officer position and make it truly independent. We need this external audit and this oversight from competent people who are sheltered from political attack and manipulation by the Conservative government.

When we hear people from the Prime Minister's Office tell us that what they need is a new parliamentary budget officer who is capable of co-operating with them, it is worrisome. It means that they do not want their little lapdog to bark too loudly, upset things too much, undermine them and reveal information that might cause a public scandal, such as the famous scandal around the exploding cost of the F-35s.

As my colleague from Alberta just mentioned, when I entered Parliament, the late Jack Layton honoured me by appointing the official opposition critic for the Treasury Board. My experience was similar to what my colleague from Edmonton—Strathcona found. The budget process is so complex, intricate and lengthy that it is extremely difficult to check the government's estimates against the actual expenditures made afterwards.

As the main estimates are about to be tabled, followed by two supplementary estimates—supplementary estimates (A), (B) and sometimes (C)—it is very difficult to know what the government’s real intentions are with respect to its program spending. The main estimates are also unrelated to the budget tabled by the Minister of Finance, and two years may go by before Public Works and Government Services Canada can to tell us how the money was actually spent. No wonder it is all so confusing.

This lengthy, complex and highly intricate process makes it very difficult for parliamentarians to know how the money is being spent. Yet one of the main roles of the legislature as opposed to the executive is to monitor government spending.

Without a parliamentary budget officer who is completely independent and provided with the means to do his job, parliamentarians are deaf, blind and unable to verify whether promises have been kept or planned cost reductions implemented and if so, what consequences such cuts have had.

In that respect, I want to remind the House that the Leader of the Opposition called on the former parliamentary budget officer to assess the impact of the Conservative government's cutbacks.

It is all well and good for them to say they are going to cut $4 billion from the envelope set aside for public services, that they are going to eliminate 19,600 positions that provide services to the public, and in the same breath have the nerve to say this will have no impact on services to Canadians. Everyone knows this is nothing but smoke and mirrors. We need to be able to determine the real impact.

The leader of the NDP asked the parliamentary budget officer to contact every department to determine the real, specific consequences of the Conservatives' ideological cuts. The parliamentary budget officer quickly found himself in the midst of a fight, because the ministers stood in his way, refused to give him access to the information he needed and prevented him from doing his job. The parliamentary budget officer, a position that was created by the Conservatives, was forced to take the matter to the Federal Court to fight the government to get that information. This is an absolute disgrace, which is why Bill C-476 is so essential.

The Conservatives promised transparency and integrity. I do not want to get into what is happening in the Prime Minister's Office regarding its relationship to senators who apparently cheated the expense claims system. Once again, there is no transparency and we are being left completely in the dark. Yet, the Conservatives promised Canadians integrity and an honest, open and transparent government. They promised one thing and are doing the exact opposite. They have broken their promise over and over again.

It is no wonder the hon. member for Edmonton—St. Albert left the caucus. He left specifically because as soon as the Conservatives came to power, they became everything they despised about the Liberals when they were in power before them. The Conservatives wanted to change Ottawa, but instead, Ottawa changed the Conservative Party. The PMO must maintain absolute control at all times. One lie after the other is being told to try to convince people that the Conservatives are doing what they promised, when really, quite the opposite is true.

The member for Edmonton—St. Albert was thoroughly fed up. When they intervened to amend his private member's bill to disclose only the salaries of senior officials earning $444,000 or more, he said that that was enough and that he had not come to Ottawa to play that game or to continue keeping little secrets or to appoint friends to various organizations, as they are doing. He had had enough and decided to sit as an independent. I understand him.

Canadians will also understand that we cannot trust the Conservatives and that their promises of transparency are mere smoke and mirrors. We see how they acted with the former parliamentary budget officer. It was truly shameful. Bill C-476 will solve that problem and ensure that, regardless of the party in power in future, we will have an independent officer of Parliament who can do his job and tell the public what is actually being done with their taxes. We need that.

They will no longer be able to play games, as they are currently doing. For example, the parliamentary budget officer's term comes to an end and they leave the position vacant, promising ultimately to fill it, and pass the buck to the Parliamentary Librarian. That is simply not her job. She has neither the means nor the expertise to devote herself fully to that task, which actually amounts to a full-time job.

The bill provides that the leader of every recognized party in the House will have to be consulted and that the appointment must be made six months before the previous term expires. That will allow for a genuine transition. The person who takes up the position of parliamentary budget officer will be able to prepare. That will prevent the kind of vacancy that we are currently seeing. We do not really have anyone in the position on a full-time basis, even though that is important because this is the time of year when the Minister of Finance tables his budget. The Conservatives have made sure that we do not have a real parliamentary budget officer.

It is also important to realize, when we compare ourselves to our American colleagues, that we must allocate significant human and financial resources to the parliamentary budget office. For a budget of tens of billions of dollars, only 12 people work in the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, whereas the American equivalent has 200 employees.

I understand that there are many more Americans than Canadians, but we should at least double the resources allocated to the parliamentary budget officer so that Canadians can finally see what happens to their money, how it is spent and what the impact of the Conservatives' cuts is and so that, one day, they can finally have a transparent government in Ottawa.

Parliamentary Budget Officer ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues, and particularly our leader, for bringing this piece of legislation forward.

It is interesting that the week we are debating this is National Public Service Week. I begin my comments by saluting all the hard-working public servants who, day in and day out, make our country function. I thank them for their work, and I hope the government actually says that at some point this week. I know they have had some tough times recently, but we all have to thank our public servants for the work they do, which, frankly, make us look good. I wish there was more respect for them.

In fact, when we look at the position of parliamentary budget officer and the work Mr. Page did and the need for reform of this position, it is all about serving the public.

We would have to go back in time to when the Liberals were in power. Time after time, we saw budgets coming in after the government looked at the private and public sector forecasts and lowballed them. Every budget would come in having extra money. The Liberals could say that they were great managers. It was a lack of truth in advertising. Everyone knows that. It was not about the Liberal Party's great fiscal management. It was about the fact that it played with the numbers.

Because of that, people quite rightly decided that we should have an independent position created, as they have in the United States and other jurisdictions, to give us truth in advertising. We came up with the idea of a public servant we would all depend on, who was recently Kevin Page, and the public discourse we would have in the country when the parliamentary budget officer would provide the facts.

That was fine. It was a good idea. I was on the committee for Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act, which is interesting to look at now, considering the government's lack of accountability. However, we supported the government on the PBO. We also supported the government in bringing in more accountability.

The two positions that were extremely important for the New Democratic Party were the parliamentary budget officer, and of course, the public appointments commission. In both cases, the Conservatives undermined and took issue with these positions. In the case of the public appointments commission, they killed it. Everyone knows that story. In the case of the parliamentary budget officer, the position was created, but to the surprise of all of us, they decided that instead of having an independent office, they would actually put this office in the Library of Parliament.

I do not have to explain to you, Mr. Speaker, because you have been here for a while, what that would do to the independence of the budget officer when he would have to actually report to the head librarian. With no disrespect to the Library of Parliament, it showed us from the beginning what the government was up to: under-resourcing the office. The mandate would be such that the reporting mechanism would go through the library.

When we actually had a report from the parliamentary budget office, the government started playing around with it. The first study Kevin Page did was on the war in Afghanistan. Going back in time, we had asked in the House, time after time, that the government come forward and tell us how much the war was costing and how much was it going to cost. In the United States, in the U.K. and among all of our allies, these were the questions being asked. They actually got answers, because no country was going to go to war without understanding how much it was going to cost. That is just basic, responsible government. Our government said that it was too complicated and that it could not add up all the costs of the war and project them.

I actually wrote to Kevin Page and asked him to do a study. I think to the surprise of the government, he did the study. The bigger surprise was that he had it ready during the 2008 election. This is when it got interesting, because during the election, when he had his study ready to send to me, there was some politics involved. The government did not want him to release the information, because it was during an election. That is when that information should have been in front of Canadians.

The government played games and threatened some of us by saying that the report should go only to me and that I was not to release it to anyone. I, of course, said no and that I would release it to Canadians and share it with parliamentarians, because the work the parliamentary budget officer does provides transparency.

It was important, because during that time, people wanted to know not only what our goals were in Afghanistan but what the costs would be. Regardless of one's position on the war, it was fundamental that our government tell us the truth about how much this war was going to cost. The government would not do that. Kevin Page did that, and we should thank him for that and for the many other reports he did during his tenure.

It is the job of parliamentarians to make wise decisions, but unless parliamentarians have the facts, it is impossible to make wise decisions. That is why this office was created.

Every new MP, once he or she has gone through the first year here, notes that we go through the estimates process rather quickly. One of the key aspects of the parliamentary budget officer's role is to give us the information we need to break open the numbers. That is why the office was created; it was to help us do our work. If the government holds back information that would allow us to make wise decisions, it is clear what its agenda is.

It is interesting to note that just this past year, we had the unprecedented experience of watching an officer of Parliament, the parliamentary budget officer, take the government to court, because his office could not access basic information. This was astounding coming from a government that said that it would be more accountable, more open and more transparent. The government undermined the PBO from doing his basic job, which was to give information to us.

What did the Parliamentary Budget Officer want? He wanted the government to share with him the numbers for forecasting the cost savings the government would realize in its budget estimates. The government would not provide that information. The President of the Treasury Board said that the government files that information every year. The government files some numbers, but not the forecast that would break open those numbers.

Everyone knows that we cannot just rely on a speech from the Minister of Finance, and certainly not from the President of the Treasury Board, and say that all is well. We need to have input. We need to know what the assumptions are based on. The government would not provide that information, and our PBO had to go to court to get that information from the government. It still has not been forthcoming with that information.

The court case was interesting. I think Mr. Page validated his position and that of his office. I will read from the decision, because it is important to note:

If the majority wants to abolish the position of the parliamentary budget officer, or define his or her mandate somewhat differently, so be it! However, [and this is the important part] it must do so by legislation. Having made the law by statute, it must unmake it by statute. In the meantime, Parliament has no right to ignore its own legislation.

In other words, the government was offside. It was undermining the PBO and therefore undermining Parliament and therefore undermining Canadians. We want to change that with this legislation. With this legislation, my leader is proposing to bring the parliamentary budget office into the position it should have been in from the beginning.

This legislation proposes having a seven-year mandate to allow the person in this position to not only recruit the right people but to become an expert in the field to ensure that there is a proper transition. That is not what we had here. The government knew when the mandate was up, but when our leader and our party pushed to have the mandate extended, which it could have done, the government said that it could not do that and that there needed to be someone new. Did it have anyone new? No. This is a clear question of competence.

We have been left with fixing the mess of the Conservatives yet again, and that is what we will do with this legislation. If they dare oppose it, they will be sending a message to Canadians that they do not care about accountability anymore. They do not care about making sure that there is truth in advertising. They will be like the party before them in just trying to cover things up and not being direct with Canadians.

I am proud to support this legislation. Canadians should have this. This is what we in the NDP mean by true accountability and true transparency.

Parliamentary Budget Officer ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the bill introduced by the member for Outremont, the leader of the official opposition, is very important. It contains ideas that the Conservatives will find revolutionary.

The bill lists the skills required to hold the position of parliamentary budget officer. The incumbent must be bilingual; have experience and knowledge of the federal budget process; and have an appropriate educational background, including a graduate degree in economics, finance or accounting.

The bill states that it is important not to leave the position vacant, as the Conservatives have done, and to ensure, in advance, that there is someone to take over the reins. Here is another idea that the Conservatives will find revolutionary: ensure that the parliamentary budget officer has access to all of the documents required to do his or her job. Incredible. These truly are revolutionary ideas.

Perhaps we ended up in a somewhat difficult position because the Conservatives did not understand the importance of establishing a rigorous process for analyzing the budget, our finances, and the approach advocated in this bill. I will come back to that later. However, it should be said that, had the member for Outremont and Leader of the Opposition's bill already been implemented, we would not be in this same unfortunate position regarding the Conservative government's current and previous budgets.

As members of the House know, I am a former financial administrator. I made a living managing budgets, studying them, analyzing them and making sure that the numbers matched what was in the budget. It is no secret: the NDP already has financial management experience.

By and large, whether we are talking about a Conservative, Liberal, or NDP government, it has been clear for a long time now that New Democrats are the best at managing finances. Those are not my words. This is coming from the Minister of Finance and the federal Department of Finance. For the past 20 years, every time there is a new fiscal period, they keep saying that NDP governments manage the country's finances better than any other government.

The Conservatives are a distant second. However, they are ahead of the Liberals, who are always in last place. I think we can anticipate the Conservatives' slogan for the next election campaign, “Vote Conservative. We are not as bad as the Liberals”. That might be the slogan they will use.

If the Conservatives keep it up, they might surpass the Liberals when it comes to bad financial management and perhaps even corruption—just look at what is happening right now in the Senate and in other areas.

It is quite simple, especially when we look at where the Conservatives have failed. If the type of structure that the Leader of the Opposition is proposing for the parliamentary budget officer had been in place, as is the case in a number of other countries, including the United States—my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie talked about this—the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, South Korea, Australia, we could have avoided the problems related to the F-35s that my colleague from Edmonton—Strathcona mentioned and everything related to the deficit and poor financial management. I am referring, of course, to the $2 million limousine that was sent to India, all the problems surrounding the G8 summit in Muskoka, and all the wrongdoing by Bev Oda, Mike Duffy, and Pamela Wallin.

All these problems could have been avoided if the Conservatives' guiding principle had been to manage the country's finances properly. It would have made a difference. Having a parliamentary budget officer in place also would have made a difference.

Despite all the poor financial management, not one Conservative MP stood up, before last week, to say that we could not go on this way. Canadians should not have to watch their quality of life erode, or do without housing or access to employment insurance benefits when they need them just because the Conservatives are incapable of managing finances properly. This would have made a difference.

On this side of the House, we believe that putting those financial structures in place and using the NDP model to make sure there is pure financial accountability in the federal government right across the country, we can ensure a better quality of life. We can avoid the kinds of problems that we have seen repeatedly from the government. It is a government that is simply incapable of properly managing the finances of the country.

We seem to constantly have the Prime Minister going off with his pet projects, rather than putting the fundamentals in place to make sure we have the kinds of things that Canadians need for their quality of life.

For example, when there are 300,000 people on the streets of our nation, the government should ensure there is employment insurance so that when people lose their jobs, they have the wherewithal to put food on the table. It should make sure that our health care system improves. Those are the kinds of investments that we need, but we are not seeing that from the Conservative government. This is a fundamental problem.

We have a different belief of how this country can be prosperous and how Canadians can have a better quality of life. They can say on that side of the House that they have created hundreds of thousands of low-paying jobs for temporary foreign workers; on this side of the House, we believe in creating high-paying jobs for Canadians. That is the kind of approach that we would take in government.

The member for Edmonton—St. Albert was so very clear last week. I said that up until now, no Conservative MP has stood up for proper financial management. No single Conservative MP has done that. I think that in a very real sense, tragically, they have all betrayed their constituents.

However, one member, the member for Edmonton—St. Albert, actually stood up on principle and resigned from the Conservative caucus last week. He spoke about ministerial opulence. He spoke about the spending scandals. He said "I no longer recognize much of the party that I joined".

That is a harsh indictment of a Conservative government that is simply incapable of even effectively managing the nation's finances. They certainly have not contributed to the quality of life that Canadians need to see.

I think it is fair to say that an increasing number of Canadians right across the country are saying that we can no longer afford to have a Conservative government in this nation. They are looking forward to 2015, when they will be electing, for the first time, an NDP government that actually takes proper financial management as an important principle. As the ministry of finance has been saying for 20 years straight, New Democrats manage finances better than any other party.

We balance the books. We pay down debt. What we do is simply take wise financial counsel, as millions of families across this country do. What they do is put priorities first. They do not invest in pet projects; they invest in making sure that the quality of life of Canadians is taken care of. That is what we will be doing in 2015, with a parliamentary budget officer fully in place to boot.

I can hardly wait for 2015, and I think a lot of Canadians feel the same way.

Parliamentary Budget Officer ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Resuming debate.

The hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie has approximately 5 minutes for her speech.

Parliamentary Budget Officer ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to express my support for Bill C-476, the excellent private member’s bill introduced by the member for Outremont and leader of the official opposition.

When the Conservatives were first elected, they made a great deal of noise about transparency and accountability. They were going to clean house in Ottawa. That was the background to their establishment of the position of parliamentary budget officer. It was, indeed, a very good idea. Many countries have institutions, agencies or offices like that. However, there was a small glitch. The manner in which they established the position was far from perfect. Was this deliberate—a lot of talk, but only a little action? Was their doing things too quickly and ineptly just a sign of their incompetence? It is difficult to say. The future and historians may perhaps be able to tell us one day.

Now, however, they appear to be regretting the very existence of the parliamentary budget officer. Indeed, the former parliamentary budget officer did his job highly professionally and found some very disturbing things. To be sure, he examined the federal budget. He produced his annual report on financial viability and also considered some very specific matters. For example, he revealed the true cost of the F-35s when the government was attempting to pull wool over our eyes. He is one of many experts who said that it was not necessary to raise the retirement age to 67. He revealed the cost of the Safe Streets and Communities Act. Not only that, but as my colleague from Ottawa Centre mentioned earlier, he gave us details about the costs of our mission in Afghanistan.

The interesting thing is how the Conservatives reacted to all of this. Did they say that they would work with the parliamentary budget officer in the interests of the country? After all, it is in the interest of the country and all Canadians for things to run as efficiently as possible. No, because that would have quickly damaged their electoral and partisan interests. They therefore began to do everything possible—absolutely everything—to prevent the parliamentary budget officer from doing his job.

The Conservatives are prepared to spy on Canadians, but they do not seem to like the idea of having a legitimate agency look at what they themselves are doing. What did they do? They denied the PBO access to the information he needed. When his mandate came to an end, they simply did not renew it and have not permanently filled the position. That is how they treat just about anyone who dares say anything against their policies.

Nevertheless, the PBO does very important work. We need an institution that is able to provide an independent opinion on budgetary issues. The Americans have understood that. I had the opportunity to visit the Congressional Budget Office in Washington. It is rather impressive. It has 235 employees and a budget of nearly $50 million. However, they manage to save much more. Is it 10, 20, 30 or 100 times more? We will see. Most importantly, this agency is respected because it is independent. People have told us that they do not always like the agency's findings, but they respect it nevertheless because they know it is an independent agency. This is not the kind of thing the Conservatives like to hear because they try to politicize everything, including the public service, the colour of airplanes, and I could go on. There is a long list.

An independent PBO is essential because our world is becoming increasingly complex, as are our financial and budgetary operations. This does not explain how the Conservatives managed to misplace $3 billion. However, aside from that, we need an independent opinion.

This bill proposes that the parliamentary budget officer be given a clear, specific mandate, free from political influence, so that the individual can carry out his or her duties for parliamentarians and all Canadians.

Parliamentary Budget Officer ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Outremont Québec


Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, five minutes will be enough. As you saw from the speeches, there is consensus in the House. The only thing we need now is to hear from the government.

This Conservative government was first elected in early 2006. It promised to bring more openness to Canadians and to establish such institutions as the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer to better serve Canadians. It talked a good game, but it still needs to walk the talk. This is the first time that the French translation, “faut-il que les bottines suivent les babines”, is funnier than the original, which was “walk the talk”.

Well, since then, they have done exactly the opposite.

Let us look at the Conservative track record on accountability and on transparency.

Conservatives promised more transparency and more accountability.

When I was in Washington recently, I had occasion to visit the Congressional Budget Office, which was essentially the model that inspired the creation of our own parliamentary budget office. The idea is simply to say that government finances are complex and the government controls the whole ministry.

Contrary to the case with the Americans, which has a pure separation from the executive, the legislative and the judiciary, we separate the elected functions from the judiciary, but our executive sits in the front row. We do not have the same airtight separation, so it is even more important when we have a partisan person controlling it, whether it is treasury or whether it is finance, to be able to give real information in real time to the public so that they can rely on it and know what is happening with their money.

Of all the things we do here, I dare say that deciding how taxpayers' money is spent and how it is accounted for are among the most important.

This group is headed up by the former head of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Canadian citizens this, Canadian that. The Conservatives lost track of $3.1 billion in the past few months. So much for giving lessons to other people. That is why it is important that we look at the track record of the Conservatives.

One of the other things the Conservatives promised was a public appointments commission. Do hon. members remember that? I do. They offered only one person who could possibly head that up, a man named Gwyn Morgan. Where does that name reappear? We might notice his name reappearing regularly in everything to do with SNC-Lavalin. Why? He is the chairman of the board.

Fast forward to Arthur Porter: come on down. Talk about public appointments. That is what we would have had with the Conservatives, a lot more Arthur Porters.

In their 2006 platform, Conservatives promised to strengthen the Access to Information Act. Let us look at the facts. This one is worthwhile.

A decade ago, in 1999-2000, the federal access to information system disclosed all the requested information over 40% of the time. By the time the Liberals had finished messing with the system, it was down to 28%. However, members should listen to this: it has plummetted by almost half again. In 2009-2010, the last full reporting year—and it has become even worse since then—in only 15% of cases were citizens were getting the information they are asking for.

That is the Conservative government that preached transparency and preached accountability.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

This is the same Prime Minister who promised Canadians that he would “never appoint senators”. That is a promise he has broken exactly 59 times, a record in terms of appointments to the Senate, and we see what sort of quality we have. When they get caught defrauding taxpayers to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, it is the Prime Minister's Office, backed up by a million-dollar slush fund, that starts cutting cheques to shut them up. That is quite a lesson in transparency and accountability.

They promised that an ethics commissioner would be responsible for both sides of the House. Obviously, they never followed through.

What could be easier and more important than to show respect for the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer?

As several speakers have clearly shown, since this happened—as they will ignore anything that does not come directly from the elves in the Prime Minister's Office—they will withhold funding and refuse to comply with the parliamentary budget officer.

Bill C-476 is intended to revitalize and protect this institution for one single purpose: to protect the public interest and the public's right to know.

Parliamentary Budget Officer ActPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

It being 12:04 p.m., the time provided for debate has expired.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Parliamentary Budget Officer ActPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members



Parliamentary Budget Officer ActPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Parliamentary Budget Officer ActPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


Parliamentary Budget Officer ActPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Parliamentary Budget Officer ActPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


Parliamentary Budget Officer ActPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 12, immediately before the time provided for oral questions.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill S-15. I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak in support of this bill.

Sable Island is one of Canada's great natural treasures, a windswept remote island renowned for its wild horses and its historical role as the site of the nation's first life-saving station.

It is a place of astounding beauty, with sand dunes, marram grass and freshwater ponds. Anyone fortunate enough to visit this unique environment is captivated by its diversity of plants, birds and animal life. The island is home to several endangered species.

This rare and remarkable place also has a rich cultural history. Sable Island holds a special place in the hearts and minds of Nova Scotians and Canadians. It has inspired artists and writers locally, across the country and internationally.

An island of such spectacular beauty, rare flora and fauna and cultural heritage is wholly deserving of our protection. That is why on October 17, 2011, the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia signed a memorandum of agreement to establish and manage Sable Island as a national park reserve of Canada.

Our objective is to protect Sable Island for all time for the benefit, education and enjoyment of the people of Canada. As the House is aware, the designation of Sable Island as a national park reserve of Canada takes into consideration the Mi'kmaq asserted rights and title in Nova Scotia. These are being addressed through the made-in-Nova Scotia process between the governments of Canada, Nova Scotia and the Mi'kmaq.

Moreover, the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia have agreed that Parliament will enact legislation amending the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act to prohibit drilling for petroleum in Sable Island national park reserve of Canada and to limit the range of surface access rights in respect to the petroleum work or activity in the park reserve.

We have done the essential preparatory work, and I would like to highlight the many reasons why Parks Canada is uniquely situated to oversee the protection of Sable Island.

The Parks Canada network now includes 44 national parks, 167 national historic sites and 4 national marine conservation areas. Since 1911, this agency has worked hard to ensure that Canada's historic and natural heritage is protected and that Canadians and people around the world can engage in inspiring discoveries of our treasured and natural historic places.

Let me give an overview of how we have expanded Parks Canada's protected areas network in recent years. In 2006, that network was 277,400 square kilometres in size. Since then, the Government of Canada has taken actions that would protect an additional 149,639 square kilometres. This would bring Parks Canada's network to more than 427,000 square kilometres, or a 54% increase.

What these numbers demonstrate is how completely Parks Canada is committed to taking care of our natural treasures and to acting as their ever-vigilant stewards. The early visionaries of our parks system recognized that connecting with the natural world can be a deeply meaningful and moving experience, and a fundamental part of that mission was a way to foster these connections. This is a principle to which Parks Canada remains dedicated.

Allow me to give some highlights of Parks Canada's achievements over the past few years, all of which provide ample evidence of this agency's fitness for the stewardship role with regard to Sable Island. Let me start with some recent top achievements, several of them marking firsts, not just in Canada but in the world.

In 2007, the Prime Minister announced the creation of the largest freshwater marine protected area in the world, Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area. This addition to our system comprises more than 10,000 square kilometres, including the lake bed, islands and north shore lands.

In 2009, we expanded the boundary of the Nahanni National Park Reserve sixfold to over 30,000 square kilometres. There is absolutely no doubt that this landmark conservation achievement is quite significant. In fact it is the greatest accomplishment for Parks Canada in a generation. I am delighted to note that it was done in close collaboration with the Dehcho First Nations.

Another outstanding accomplishment in 2009 was the establishment of the Saoyú-§ehdacho National Historic Site in the Northwest Territories. This marks the first of three firsts in Canada. This national historic site was the first northern cultural landscape commemorated by the Government of Canada; the first northern national historic site co-operatively managed by Parks Canada and an aboriginal group; and also the first protected area established under the Northwest Territories protected areas strategy. This historic site comprises two peninsulas bordering the Great Bear Lake. It is an area of 5,565 square kilometres, which is approximately the size of Prince Edward Island. This site protects a cultural landscape of great importance to the Sahtu people of the Great Bear Lake. The elders' vision for the site is one of continued teaching and healing, a place that forever helps to sustain the culture and well-being of the people.

In 2010, the Government of Canada formally established the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, which some people call “the Canadian Galapagos”. This achievement was a result of historic and outstanding collaborative partnership between the Government of Canada and the Haida Nation. What is extraordinary about this unique protective measure is the combination of the existing park reserve with a new marine conservation area. In total, over 5,000 square kilometres are now protected: a spectacular wilderness that extends from alpine mountaintops to the deep sea beyond the continental shelf. The scope of this achievement is a first not only for Canada but also for North America and the world.

In 2011, Parks Canada oversaw the successful reintroduction of the plains bison and the black-footed ferret, an animal once thought to be extinct for most of the 20th century, in the Grasslands National Park. This measure was part of the $75-million investment to improve the ecological integrity of national parks and national park reserves across Canada.

It was also in 2011 that the Government of Canada announced it would create Canada's first national urban park in Toronto. The concept of a national urban park is an entirely new and unique one to Parks Canada and, indeed, to Canada. Once established, Rouge national urban park will provide an unparalleled opportunity to reach the 20% of Canadians who live within the vicinity of the park and in Canada's most culturally diverse city. Since the 2011 announcement of the Rouge national park, Parks Canada has made steady progress toward establishing this unique protected area in the heart of Canada's most populated area. The agency has worked with first nations and more than 100 communities and organizations including youth. I note that my riding in the city of Barrie is very close to this Rouge national park, and I know that across southern Ontario the commitment to it has been supported and appreciated.

I also remind members of the House about four successful multi-partnership expeditions that Parks Canada has led in Canada's Arctic, in search of the lost vessels of Sir John Franklin. This work has helped narrow our search, with the great added advantages of further asserting Canadian sovereignty and deepening our scientific knowledge in the Arctic. The work to protect our natural heritage is ceaseless, and it takes in all parts of our vast nation.

In May 2012, for example, the governments of Canada and Quebec announcement the creation of an advisory committee for the feasibility assessment of a marine protected area in Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

In August 2012, the Prime Minister announced the establishment and boundaries of Canada's 44th national park, the Nááts'ihch'oh National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories. This new national park reserve will serve as a launching area for visitors to its northern wilderness, with its breathtaking landscapes of the upper reaches of the world-famous South Nahanni River. Together, the Nahanni and the Nááts'ihch'oh national park reserves protect habitat for mountain woodland caribou, grizzly bears, Dall sheep, mountain goats and trumpeter swans, while at the same time supporting the economic aspirations of first nations and the tourism industries of the region.

I need hardly tell members that the Parks Canada role in the protection of our diverse precious natural areas and species is one of which all Canadians can justly be proud. In its dedicated work as a steward, Parks Canada is an example to the world. In fact, its reach and influence extend globally, and it has received international recognition for its achievements.

For example, in May 2011, the World Wildlife Fund International recognized Parks Canada with its prestigious Gift to the Earth award. The award noted Parks Canada's outstanding conservation achievements, including the recent dramatic growth of Canada's system of national parks and national marine conservation areas.

In September 2012, Parks Canada led the development of the publication titled “North American Protected Areas as Natural Solutions to Climate Change”, released at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress in South Korea. This publication is a collaborative effort of the North American Intergovernmental Committee on Wilderness and Protected Area Conservation with the government representation from Canada, the United States and Mexico.

I would like to turn now to some of Parks Canada's achievements in the realm of historic and cultural commemoration. As I noted earlier, these are important aspects in the protection of Sable Island.

In fact, in 2012, Parks Canada received such a historic designation itself. That year, the Government of Canada honoured the agency as the world's first national parks service by commemorating the Creation of the Dominion Parks Branch and the birth of Parks Canada as an event of national historic significance.

Parks Canada's other commemorative highlights last year included the opening of the new visitor centre at Fort Wellington National Historic Site as part of the special War of 1812 commemoration. The Calgary Stampede, billed as the greatest outdoor show on Earth, was also recognized as an event of national historic significance as was the Grey Cup.

In August last year, our environment minister designated Canada's heritage lighthouses under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, which included the St. Paul Island Southwest Lighthouse in Dingwall, Nova Scotia and McNab Point and the Saugeen River Front and Rear Range lights in Southampton, Ontario.

On the 100th anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic, the government honoured the historic efforts of Canadians in the recovery of victims of the disaster.

Earlier, I mentioned Parks Canada's involvement in searching for the ships of the Franklin expedition. In July 2010, the agency embarked upon its 10 day archeological survey of Aulavik National Park to locate HMS Investigator wreck and document and map the land sites associated with Captain Robert McClure's expedition to find the Northwest Passage. This initiative produced a number of findings, including the shipwreck of HMS Investigator, three gravesites and new information on the equipment and provision cache site.

I said that Parks Canada's commitment to protecting our natural and cultural heritage is unceasing. So, too, are the agency's efforts to help connect Canadians with nature.

The early visionaries of our parks system recognized that when people connected with the natural world they could have an experience that was deeply meaningful and moving. A fundamental part of Parks Canada's mission is therefore to foster these connections.

Today, that mission is more urgent than ever before. As many members of the House know, North Americans are becoming more and more disconnected with nature. Tackling the disconnection and fostering Canadians' close relation with the natural world is therefore a task for Parks Canada, and it takes it very seriously.

It is typical of the agency's dedication to this vision that it used its own anniversary to further this crucial work. In its anniversary year of 2011, Parks Canada introduced a series of ongoing programs to reach Canadians and youth in particular.

Among these were the innovative and highly popular learn to camp initiative, overnight camping events aimed at introducing city dwellers, many of them young families or recent immigrants, to camping and other fun outdoor activities.

Through its my parks pass program, the agency provided every grade 8 student across the country with passes to enter all of Parks Canada's sites free of charge for 12 months.

Parks Canada also introduced a promotion called “Canada's coolest school trip” in which a grade 8 class could win a school trip to visit a national park or historic site.

Using multimedia, the agency's national parks project brought together 52 of Canada's best musicians and filmmakers to create music and film inspired by Canada's most breathtaking national parks. These films are available online. The soundtrack album is in stores and on iTunes and a documentary TV series is running on Discovery World.

Also on television, Parks Canada premiered Operation Unplugged, a reality show in which eight urban young people traded their techno-dependent lifestyles for a summer unplugged in the national parks.

In all these ways, Parks Canada's centennial celebrations help the agency meet its target for public engagement so Canadians' awareness of Parks Canada and support for its work are growing across the country. Parks Canada reports the visitation to national parks is now slowly increasing, helping to reverse a downward trend seen over many years.

In my overview, I have touched on many areas of Parks Canada's achievements, all of which demonstrate the agency's long history, experience and passion for protecting our natural and cultural heritage. I noted its international recognition and that it was the first national parks agency in the world. I am fully confident that this superbly well-qualified federal agency will make an ideal steward for the wondrous beauty and unique character of Sable Island. I am therefore urging all members in the House to support the bill, which would make this exquisite island one of the jewels in our national parks system with Parks Canada as its able steward.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I hear my colleague's message loud and clear. I understand his good will and his desire to help Canadians connect with nature. However, since the Conservatives made significant cuts to Parks Canada, they have also cut its activities, environmental assessments and the protection of navigable waters. Furthermore, some Canadians now have to volunteer their services in order to take care of Parks Canada.

We will support this bill because it is important. However, I would like to know what the member has to say about this. If we add a 44th park, what will happen and who will look after it? Will the government allocate funds specifically to protect the environment? Will the government reverse the cuts it made to Parks Canada? I would like the member to answer those questions.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, since 2006, this government has put significant investments into Parks Canada. More significant, we need to look at the overall numbers. One could say that in this year or that year there was small cut or a large increase, but the bottom line is if we look at an overview of Parks Canada, the protected areas in 2006 went from 277,000 square kilometres in size to an astounding 427,000 square kilometres today, a 54% increase to Parks Canada. That is an accomplishment for the Government of Canada. It shows the commitment of the Conservatives to Parks Canada, which is quite astounding.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta


Michelle Rempel ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, as we have debated this bill in the House over the last few sessions, I have been pleased to see a lot of support for getting the bill to a parliamentary committee for review.

There is one colleague in the House who has spoken out against the bill, and that is the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands. She has incorrectly stated that the bill would change the scope and functionality of the Canada National Parks Act, when instead, it would create a reserve for Sable Island, which prevents hydrocarbon drilling on the surface of the island and a buffer zone around it. That would provide significantly increase protection for the ecosystem of this area. It has been developed in partnership with the Nova Scotia government and industry.

Could my colleague speak to the importance of supporting the bill's passage through to committee and perhaps some of the inaccurate comments that the colleague has made?

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, let me note that it is great to have such an advocate in the member for Calgary Centre-North. Her commitment at the environment committee and to Parks Canada is simply incredible.

She is absolutely correct that it is a mistake for the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands to try to block or build support against investing in Parks Canada and against creating national parks. It does an incredible amount of good. When it comes to ecological protection, I think this is something all Canadians value to ensure the partnership created with first nations and with the Government of Nova Scotia is honoured at the multi-level agreement. We should honour that ecological protection. I am so proud to be part of a government that is so committed to doing so.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague appears to understand the importance of national parks. It is also clear, however, that his comments are simply for appearances, considering the cuts imposed on Parks Canada, as my colleague mentioned earlier.

Furthermore, Canada is not even coming close to meeting its commitments regarding the conservation targets set out in the United Nations convention.

Can my colleague tell us when his government will put an end to the piecemeal approach it has adopted so far when it comes to the environment as a whole?

Of course, the NDP supports and will vote in favour of a comprehensive approach on environmental issues.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, this government has shown a tremendous commitment to the environment. Rather than just talk about it, like the NDP likes to, the Conservative government has taken tangible action. In my own home area in Simcoe county, for the first time in history, the Government of Canada, rather than leaving it to local authorities to invest in, invested in the cleanup of Lake Simcoe, with a $30-million initial grant and a subsequent $29-million grant. Phosphorous levels are now at an all-time modern low. It is not just Lake Simcoe, it is Lake Winnipeg and across the country that there has been a commitment to cleaning up the environment in a very real and meaningful manner.

In terms of the international forums the member mentioned, I would note that we are being honoured in Canada for Canada's unique and zealous commitment to the environment. A good example is in 2001 the World Wildlife Fund recognized Parks Canada with its prestigious Gift to the Earth award to recognize Canadian efforts. Additionally, we were recognized at the World Conservation Congress in South Korea in 2012.

This is certainly a government with a track record of success and accomplishments in the environment. I know my home community in Barrie, Ontario, tremendously appreciates the cleanup that has happened on the shores of Kempenfelt Bay.