House of Commons Hansard #153 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was measures.


Canada Shipping ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise to speak in support of this historic bill introduced by my hon. colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley. It is called an act to defend the Pacific northwest, and a better name could not have been given to this initiative.

When I ran exactly two years ago, I knocked on many doors in Victoria and Oak Bay, in my part of Vancouver Island. I met so many different people, but not one person did I meet in my constituency who supported the Enbridge northern gateway project. They were all fearful of what it would do to our beautiful coast and how it would impact our first nations communities. The bill would codify that resistance British Columbians have, and that is what central to this initiative.

I was shocked and delighted a moment ago to hear the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources rise in this place and say something quite remarkable. She concluded her remarks by saying that this bill was “redundant”. I looked on Google, where we all look for definitions of words, and saw that redundant meant “not or no longer needed...superfluous”. I guess what she is saying, on behalf of the Conservative government, is that a ban on oil tankers, or VLCCs, in the Pacific northwest is unnecessary because it is already there.

I did not know that. It shows that the Conservatives actually have thought about the impact of a spill in this part of the world, and I was delighted to learn they had accepted that.

Maybe it is not necessary, but if we could therefore simply agree to those conditions, that would be great. However, the bill goes beyond that quite substantially.

It would force pipeline proponents to look at adding value to resources and creating jobs in Canada by amendments to the NEB Act, something I would commend. Most significant, perhaps, given the Tsilhqot'in case and other cases in our courts, it would strengthen consultations between the federal government and first nations communities on pipeline reviews. It would do that for all municipalities, as my friend has suggested, but it would go much beyond that in light of the new obligations we all face all as we deal with first nations in the resource development context.

For us, this is a common sense initiative that would put the environment and first nations back and centrally into the energy conversation, and would ensure that Canadians would get the full benefit of energy development.

In particular, the bill would stop the Enbridge northern gateway in its tracks. I feel I have a mandate to represent the people who sent me here, all of whom are opposed to this. Therefore, the bill, “redundant” though it may be, would definitely put a nail through the heart of that egregious project, which so few people in my part of the world think makes any sense at all. It is grotesque.

It is inspired by the experience of northwest B.C. and its fight against Enbridge. Bill C-628 would legislate immediate protections for the pristine north coast from threats from these oil tankers, while addressing the key concerns raised by the poor process that led the Conservative government to approve the pipeline.

I am very proud to have been the past co-chair of the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria. Those people are now in court, fighting the NEB and the government's decision to accept the JRP's report because of its numerous procedural errors that are so patently obvious to any lawyer who has examined them. This would go some distance, if Bill C-628 were to be accepted, to address some of the deficiencies that were made so apparent during that process. It was a process where literally thousands of people appeared, some 99% of whom opposed this pipeline. Nevertheless, three individuals appointed by the NEB came to British Columbia and said that they knew what was best and that they would go ahead and recommend approval for this project.

Nobody in our community takes that process seriously. Nobody takes it seriously in the Kinder Morgan process. If this bill went some distance to improve it, it would be worth it on that basis alone.

Three hundred scientists from around the world condemned that joint review panel project as full of errors and omissions. They said that it cannot be used to make decisions about pipelines and demanded that the government finally say no to the lunacy of the Enbridge northern gateway pipeline proposal.

As recently as in today's Globe and Mail, we have seen a change in the economy. Green energy sector jobs now surpass the total of oil sands employment in this country. There are 6.5 million people employed now in the clean energy sector, according to Clean Energy Canada in a report released today. There has been $25 billion invested in Canada's clean energy sector in the past five years.

As I say, more people are employed in this sector than in the oil sands. The world has changed; the Conservatives have not. Projects like Enbridge northern gateway show how much they have their heads in the sand. Perhaps I should say in the oil sands.

A constituent in my riding, Dr. Gerald Graham, works with Worldocean Consulting. He calculated that over a 50-year period, the chance of a major tanker spill is somewhere between 8.7% and 14.1%. These are the same odds, at the top end, as Russian roulette.

Applying a standard model used by governments to project spill risks, researchers at Simon Fraser University have estimated that the northern gateway pipeline would generate a tanker spill somewhere between every 23 and 196 years, a terminal spill every 15 to 41 years, and 15 or 16 pipeline spills on land every year. Overall, they pegged the probability of a tanker spill at 90%.

Yet the joint review panel said that “a large spill is unlikely” and “a large spill would initially have significant adverse environmental effects...[but] the environment would ultimately recover”. Tell that to first nations people who depend on the sea in the northwest part of British Columbia. Tell municipalities like Kitimat, which despite propaganda from the Enbridge company decided to vote against even allowing that project in the community. They have spoken. The Conservatives have certainly not listened.

I could go on to talk about the lunacy of a report that said that dilbit may not even sink. I did not know that. Tell that to the people in Kalamazoo, Michigan. They spent over $1 billion trying to clean up something on the bottom of the Kalamazoo River, but I guess it does not sink. There must have been a lot of wasted money. The report says that when it gets to the waves and the sea water, it is an entirely different issue.

The scientists with whom I have consulted think the report's conclusion on such a central issue was itself lunacy, and of course, we are playing Russian roulette, as I said earlier, with the fate of one of the most beautiful parts of our planet and some of the most dangerous waters on our planet, when one thinks of Hecate Strait and Douglas Channel, with 90° turns out to the ocean.

If we look at the map Enbridge gave, those islands do not exist, apparently, but I have seen them. I have been there many times. It is my favourite part of this planet, and I will not let the Conservatives destroy it by allowing this pipeline and these tankers to go through this part of the world.

I have been an environmental lawyer for most of my life. I have participated in many hearings and have been commission counsel on environmental assessment projects myself. This project was flawed from the get-go. The process has been so inadequate that everyone has spoken against it. The same people are now speaking out about the Kinder Morgan process in British Columbia.

I am proud to stand here in support of my colleague for introducing this bill. We are lucky to have him in the House. He was in my riding a couple of weeks ago with several hundred more people. “Take back our coast” is what he calls it. There were several hundred a year or so ago and several hundred now. We are not going away. Our resistance to this project is only getting started. This bill would make an enormous difference in how we do business in Canada to address these kinds of projects.

I commend my colleague for this initiative, and I hope all members of the House will support it.

Canada Shipping ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.


Cathy McLeod ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour and for Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in response to Bill C-628 which calls for, among other things, the Canada Shipping Act to be amended.

The proposed amendments would ban oil tankers from operating off the northern coast of British Columbia, specifically in the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait, and Queen Charlotte Sound.

I want to put some facts on the table in my conversation. We have certainly heard some passion from the other side, but I think facts become important, and certainly we are committed to protecting the environment. As a member representing British Columbia, I know how important our coastal environment is and how important waterways are, and we take our duty to protect these areas very seriously.

The member's proposal to ban tankers off the west coast is problematic for a number of reasons. First I want to talk about how we have already taken significant action to ensure we have a world-class tanker safety system and how we are keeping shipping safe.

The cornerstone of Canada's maritime regulatory regime is the Canada Shipping Act, also known as the act. The act's main purpose is to ensure marine safety. This includes preventing pollution from all shipping, including tankers. The act is applicable to all vessels operating in Canadian waters and to Canadian vessels worldwide.

What we are trying to do is balance the safety of shipping with the protection of the marine environment while encouraging maritime commerce. In order to ensure that oil is shipped safely, the act establishes standards that require oil tankers to be double-hulled and sets out how they are built, equipped, inspected, certified, and operated.

Oil tanker traffic in Canada has an excellent safety record under this regulatory regime. Roughly 320 million tonnes of oil are safely shipped off of Canada's coasts annually, with 43 million tonnes of oil shipped annually through the coastal waters of British Columbia.

Even with this high volume of oil shipping, Canada has not suffered any significant oil spills since its current regulatory regime was implemented. This track record can be attributed to the strong prevention measures that have been implemented over the past two decades.

Transportation of goods by vessel needs to be compliant with the act and is vital to British Columbia's coastal economy. Multiple prevention measures are set out in regulations, such as the Vessel Traffic Services zones, which monitor the movement of vessels so that traffic separation schemes and special routing measures are in place where appropriate.

Crews aboard these vessels must also meet stringent international standards for training and certification. In accordance with the Pilotage Act, there is compulsory pilotage in British Columbia's coastal waters. This means that a vessel must have on board a pilot, who is a navigator certified to have specialized knowledge of local waters.

Mariners are dedicated professionals who undergo years of training and experience to advance through the ranks, again in accordance with training and examinations overseen by Transport Canada and other maritime administrations around the world.

Transport Canada has also established the Canadian marine oil spill preparedness and response regime, which requires tankers to have an arrangement with a Canadian response organization to provide cleanup services in the event of a spill. Tankers are also required to have a shipboard oil pollution emergency plan.

The Marine Liability Act, which forms part of Canada's regulatory regime, sets out rules for tankers to carry insurance, not only for the oil cargoes they carry but also for the oil they use as fuel.

Internationally, Canada is highly respected in the maritime community as a country that provides a clear and predictable set of rules to ensure safety and to protect the environment. A key way we achieved this reputation was by being party to international conventions that set rules for how ships, including tankers, operate safely and prevent marine pollution. Being party to these conventions allows Transport Canada the right to inspect ships that call in Canadian ports. The conventions also provide rights for Transport Canada to act if standards are not met. This can include warnings, detaining a vessel in port until repairs are made to comply with standards, or proceeding with prosecutions.

Not only are we party to these international conventions, but we are also very active at the International Maritime Organization, the United Nations specialized agency that governs global shipping.

We have had leadership roles in this International Maritime Organization for several years and have been working to facilitate the world's adoption of maritime standards to protect the environment. So we have been working not only in Canada but also worldwide.

We continue to strive to make our regulatory regime stronger and recently have done so through our world-class tanker safety system initiatives. Of course, as members are aware, British Columbia was interested in having the best system in the world.

In May 2013-14, we announced a number of new measures that have since been put in place. We announced that there would be increased tanker inspections, new and modified aids to navigation, and an expansion of our national aerial surveillance program to increase surveillance efforts while continuing to deter polluters and enabling early detection of marine oil spills.

However, a ban on oil tankers, as proposed by the NDP, would have a lasting negative effect on Canada. I understand that the NDP is anti-trade and does not comprehend the issues of a trading nation. The NDP always wants to say no. NDP members do not ask how we can perhaps have a process in place and look at how we can have a balance.

I have to go back to the recent provincial election where their leader stood up in the riding that I represent and said that they were not even going to support this pipeline, that they did not care about having a process in place and were against it.

However, I think British Columbians spoke clearly when they said that they wanted to find a balance. The environment is critical to them, but they want to find a balance.

I am not sure it has worked out so well for the NDP members to always be saying no. They do not even want a process before they say no. It is just an automatic no. It has not worked out so well.

Banning the tanker traffic would essentially eliminate any chances Canada would have to further diversify energy exports to countries other than the United States. I would also note that the NDP has said no to the Keystone pipeline, to east-west, and to north-south. It seems to be no, no, no. NDP members are not looking for any way to get to a yes, in spite of whatever measures we can put in place to have an environmentally sound practice.

I think the ban would also be seen very negatively by the United States and other countries that view these waters as free for navigation, specifically the waters in fishing zone 3, between the Queen Charlotte Islands and Vancouver Island. As members might know, they are disputed as international waters.

In closing, our government is already keeping shipping safe and preventing pollution in our waters through our current regulatory regimes. We continue to be proactive in our approach to safety and we are proud of recent initiatives, such as our world-class tanker safety system.

Canadians generally and British Columbians can be reassured that our government is committed to protecting our beautiful west coast. As I said, as a member from British Columbia, I believe that we can get to a yes on some of these projects with the important measures that are in place.

Banning a class of vessels operating legitimately within the standards I have just described would be contrary to the comprehensive system that has served Canadians so well. This type of ban proposed by the NDP would have drastic impacts on Canada internationally.

I heard the member for Victoria say that every single person said no. However, many people in my riding are saying yes, and some say no, but I think there are people in British Columbia who recognize that we can get to a good balance on these issues.

For these reasons, our government will not be supporting the NDP's Bill C-628.

Canada Shipping ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in favour of Bill C-628, an act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, and the National Energy Board Act, introduced by my colleague the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

Let me provide some background information about this bill. Bill C-628 is designed to fully stop the Enbridge northern gateway pipeline in its tracks. The bill would also steer the National Energy Board toward a process that respects communities and first nations and puts Canadian jobs and energy security first.

Enbridge proposes to have supertankers the length of the Empire State Building traverse through the sensitive and difficult waters of the Douglas Channel and B.C.'s north coast. Over the 50-year life span of the project, it plans to do it 11,000 times. Given Enbridge's track record, we do not trust the odds that a devastating accident will never happen.

Polls consistently show that more than two-thirds of British Columbians oppose Enbridge's northern gateway supertanker scheme and the dangers it poses to the coast and communities that depend on it. Thousands of people wrote letters and testified before the northern gateway joint review panel; municipalities and the Province of British Columbia formally declared their opposition to the pipeline; and 130 first nations signed the Fraser Declaration opposing northern gateway, only to have their views discarded by the Conservative government's decision to support it.

The Enbridge northern gateway project would move 525,000 barrels of diluted bitumen per day from Bruderheim, Alberta, to Kitimat, B.C. The 1,177 kilometre length of the pipeline would cross the Rocky Mountains, hundreds of rivers and streams, and sensitive habitat for species such as woodland caribou. B.C.'s north coast is a place of great biological diversity and extreme weather. It is home to 120 species of seabirds and 27 species of marine mammals such as orca and grey and humpback whales, as well as the commercially important wild salmon, halibut, and other fisheries. Spills along this coast are more likely, and they would be devastating.

The supertankers Enbridge plans to send down Douglas Channel have a minimum stopping distance of three kilometres, while the channel itself is a network of sharp turns and narrow passages, just 1.35 kilometres in some places. Winds have been recorded up to 200 kilometres an hour, with waves as high as 29 metres.

The economic cost of a spill would be enormous. The seafood sector in B.C. generates close to $1.7 billion each year, while wilderness tourism in British Columbia generates more than $1.55 billion in annual revenues. This sector is a permanent source of income for around 45,000 Canadians who would be deeply affected by a spill.

There were 10,000 individuals and organizations, including the provincial government of British Columbia and several first nations, who wrote to or appeared before the joint review panel for the Enbridge northern gateway, and their opposition was nearly unanimous.

I look forward to continuing this in the New Year.

Canada Shipping ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam will have seven minutes remaining for his comments. He can pick it up from where he left off when the House next returns to debate on this particular question.

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

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

Canada Revenue AgencyAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


Bruce Hyer Green Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak about a troubling trend of Conservative interference that is putting a chill on Canadian charities. Canadian charitable organizations now increasingly operate in a climate of fear. The Harper government has made it part of its mandate to target charitable organizations that oppose Conservative policies, especially environmental and social justice groups.

The latest victims include the Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists, which received an ominous message from the CRA ordering an end to its so-called “partisan practices”. As far as I can tell, the only partisan practice this charity was guilty of was disagreeing with the Harper government.

Canada Revenue AgencyAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. Just a casual reminder to the hon. member that we do not use the proper names of other hon. members. Their riding names or their positions can be used.

Canada Revenue AgencyAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


Bruce Hyer Green Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

I apologize, Mr. Speaker. As far as I can tell, the only partisan practice this charity was guilty of was disagreeing with the Conservative government. The Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists simply sent letters to the government, opposing the approval of neonicotinoid chemicals that damaged bee colonies. It was contacted just a few days later by the CRA. Are we expected to believe this was a coincidence?

Another charity targeted last year was the David Suzuki Foundation. That organization provides dozens of programs to educate Canadians about the causes of global warming and to support sustainable practices. They are not left-wing radicals. The Suzuki foundation produces science-based analyses by some of Canada's greatest minds.

While there are quite a few climate deniers in the Conservative caucus, they cannot use their power to shut down environmental research. Last time I checked, Canada was a liberal democracy, not a dictatorship.

PEN Canada, an organization that advocates for freedom of expression, has also been targeted for a political activity audit. PEN Canada has been critical, as have I, of muzzling scientists on the public payroll and now it, too, is being muzzled by this audit.

Is the Conservative government so afraid of criticism that it must resort to harassing charities?

These organizations know as well as most Canadians that the Conservative government has been turning a blind eye to the environmental consequences of its policies. From lack of regulation of harmful chemicals to irresponsible energy policies, the Conservatives have made it clear that the environment is just not important to them.

However, this is not the main issue for tonight. The issue is the right to free speech. It is our democratic right as Canadian citizens to use our voices without fear of persecution. These citizens were exercising their freedoms as Canadians and, yet, were met with harassment.

This shift in Conservative policy has created a chill among charities. Despite being within their constitutional rights, organizations have received the message that criticism of the government comes with consequences.

On the flip side, conservative think tanks that are registered as charities have not endured these abuses. For example, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, in Ottawa, is not being audited, despite its clear right-leaning research.

Charities work for the good of a cause rather than any one individual. Their founders and employees give time and effort for something they really believe in. Under the Conservative government, they have had to forge ahead, knowing that they may be targeted. This is simply unacceptable. The Canada Revenue Agency is not meant to carry out a political agenda.

Will the Conservatives stop punishing charities that advocate for science-based conclusions to Canadian issues simply because they oppose the Conservative agenda?

Canada Revenue AgencyAdjournment Proceedings

December 2nd, 2014 / 7 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia


Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue and for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, there was so much factually incorrect about the statement from the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North that I really do not quite know where to start. Maybe if I could get him to step out from under that umbrella of conspiracy theories, we could just talk about the facts instead of some fictional conspiracy theory he has.

Here are the facts. Charities registered under the Income Tax Act are afforded the valuable privilege of providing tax receipts to their donors. In fact, in Canada, as the hon. member should know, 86,000 registered charities issued receipts worth more than $14 billion in 2012. The idea that none of those charities should be checked is ludicrous.

The reality is that in return for those tax receipts, Canadians expect that the government will take all the necessary steps required to ensure that their charitable donations are used for charitable purposes. All registered charities are required by law to have exclusively charitable purposes. Some political activity may be allowed, provided that it is not partisan in nature and that it is connected and subordinated to the charity's purposes.

These rules are not new. They have been around for decades. I know the CRA goes to great lengths to support charities and help them meet their obligations as easily as possible. In recent years, it has provided a wide range of new tools and resources and has updated and improved existing ones to help charities better understand the rules, including those rules that relate to political activities.

Fostering voluntary compliance and helping charities get it right from the start is always the number one priority.

The CRA ensures compliance through a balanced program of education, guidance, and responsible enforcement. Audits are an important part of the CRA's overall approach, as they allow CRA officials to better understand a charity's activities to confirm whether it is complying with the rules.

Whenever the CRA conducts an audit, whether related to political activities or any other issue, it follows an education-first approach and uses the full range of compliance measures at its disposal, including education letters and compliance agreements, to ensure that the rules are followed.

Let me be clear. The rules related to political activities apply to all registered charities, and the CRA's compliance efforts also apply to all charities. No charity, no sector, is singled out. The process for identifying which charities will be audited for political activities is handled by the CRA alone in a fair and consistent way. As with all CRA audit activities, it is not subject to political guidance.

Frankly, the member opposite is attempting to politicize something that is completely removed from the political process, and it is absolutely shameful that he would do that.

That member, along with a few others, should be asking himself why he is attempting to score cheap political points at the expense of public servants. I have full confidence in the professionalism, integrity, and fairness of CRA officials who administer the charities program on a day-to-day basis. I can assure the members of this House that these officials are doing their jobs professionally, competently, and free of any political direction.

Canada Revenue AgencyAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.


Bruce Hyer Green Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, sorry, but it is clear that there has been a campaign of political activity targeting charities that have criticized the government. This is an abuse of power and cannot continue in a democratic society. If this does not convince the hon. member, perhaps comments from his colleagues might.

The finance minister said not very long ago that environmental groups have a radical agenda. What exactly is that radical agenda? Is it to lower our carbon emissions so future generations can live safely on a liveable planet? Is it to protect ecosystems that have been damaged by mismanagement and an irresponsible lack of regulation?

Perhaps if the Conservatives even looked at the harm they have caused the environment they would see that we need change. Instead of owning up to their failures, the Conservatives are targeting charities, whose main goal is to distribute information and research to Canadians, as they should.

It cannot be a coincidence that of the $8 million in the 2012 budget allocated to political activity audits, groups critical of the government have been targeted the most.

Will the Conservatives own up to their own policy failures instead of scaring charities into silence?

Canada Revenue AgencyAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to the hon. member, his comments are nonsensical, incorrect, and incoherent.

To begin with, we do not know who is audited. The only way anyone knows who is audited is if that person or group that is audited chooses to tell. We have no idea who else is being audited in this country, because there is no way to track that. That is private information, kept within CRA.

As I mentioned previously, audits are an important element in CRA's balanced approach to compliance. When CRA identifies non-compliance, it can use a series of progressive compliance measures ranging from education letters and compliance agreements for less serious cases to tougher measures like financial penalties, suspension, or even revocation for the most egregious cases. However, the truth is that the overwhelming majority of charities selected for audit are able to correct identified non-compliance concerns and continue their charitable programs. The CRA's approach is clearly working.

To close, in case the member opposite missed what I said earlier, in a recent message to all CRA employees, the commissioner and deputy commissioner said:

To be clear, the process for identifying which charities will be audited for any reason is handled by the Charities Directorate alone and, like all audit activities, it is not subject to political direction.

There are 86,000 charities in this country and $14 billion in charitable money out there. The hon. member thinks that there should be no audit of any of that. That is not responsible.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have a chance to rise and speak about a question that I asked last week but certainly did not get a very satisfactory answer to. It was about the Conservative government's lack of commitment to the health and welfare of our Canadian veterans. There is really only one word to describe it, and that is “shameful”, I am sad to say.

Too many veterans are too often denied benefits they are entitled to, while others are forced to fight their own government for years before they can get the help they need. In fact, this fall the Auditor General's report presented clear evidence that the government has failed to provide adequate access to mental health services, which are needed by many of our veterans. The report that noted that mental health support for veterans was very slow, complex, poorly communicated, not tracked, and not comprehensive enough. In fact, the Auditor General concluded that Veterans Affairs, believe it or not, was largely unconcerned with “ well veterans are being served and whether programs are making a difference in their lives”.

The Conservative government has closed down regional support offices to save a few dollars. At the same time, it has allowed over $1 billion to lapse and go unspent in this department so that it can make claims about balancing the budget. It is a government that shamelessly fudged the numbers with regard to the recently announced programs to enhance mental health services. While the Conservative cabinet minister originally led us to believe that this funding would flow over 6 years, we then learned that it would in fact be stretched over 50 years.

Imagine being a government that presumes it can announce what is going to happen for the next 50 years. The gall and arrogance of that is appalling. Worse than that, to come across and pretend that the government is going to spend it over 6 years, when it is in fact over 50 years, is fundamentally dishonest. The government should be ashamed of that.

Not only has the government failed to deliver mental health services for Canadian veterans, but a new report reveals that after committing to hire more mental health personnel for our Canadian Armed Forces, the Conservative government also failed to deliver. It is no wonder that Canadians do not believe a word the government says when it comes to the treatment of our men and women who serve our country and have served it in the past. The government simply cannot be trusted to tell the truth.

Unfortunately, the lack of adequate and timely support for our veterans is clearly taking a toll. Over the last decade, 160 Canadian Forces members have died by suicide. Many more are struggling with mental health issues like PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. However, as the Auditor General pointed out, under the current system, one in five veterans is forced to wait up to eight months to get help from the government. The Conservatives talk a good game about supporting our veterans and armed forces, but they clearly fail to recognize that we have an obligation to those who serve our country and to their families.

This fall's report by the Auditor General is a reminder of the Conservatives' failed record on Canadian veterans. The Auditor General has found that Veterans Affairs needs to update its outreach strategy to include family physicians and that it needs to educate family members on how to spot possible signs of mental illness. Why on earth is it not doing this already? Why does the government not want this to happen? Is it because it does not want people who have PTSD to be found, recognized, and dealt with? Does it not want to know? What is wrong with the Conservative government?

When we ask why the government has failed to correct this problem, what do we get? We get PMO talking points. I hope that we will not get the same thing tonight when the government has a chance to respond.

Again, why does the government take this approach? Is it because it really does not want to know? That is the question on my mind. Is it because the minister is more concerned with photo ops than being available to respond to the report of the Auditor General? Is it because he would rather try to bully and intimidate veterans instead of listening to their legitimate concerns?

Perhaps the parliamentary secretary, in the minister's place, could answer my colleague, the member for Guelph, who asked why the current funding for veterans' mental health is stretched over 50 years and wildly insufficient, especially when compared to the $1.13 billion that Veterans Affairs left unspent and the fact the Conservatives have squandered hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on partisan advertising campaigns.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario


Paul Calandra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and for Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that it was the Minister of Veterans Affairs who proactively asked the Auditor General to conduct a review of the existing mental health services and supports offered Canadian veterans by his department. I would also like to draw to the attention of the member opposite the fact that it was the minister who acted promptly and announced new and expanded mental health initiatives for veterans, still-serving members, and their families, which was a huge step forward.

The minister did not stop there. He also announced a mental health services for veterans action plan to further support these investments and to continue to be forward-thinking and proactive. We will provide more timely access to psychological assessments and treatments. Also, the new operational stress injury clinic in Halifax slated to open in 2015 in, I believe, the riding of the member opposite, as well as satellite clinics across Canada, will give veterans faster access to specialized mental health services. We will strengthen our outreach efforts, targeting the reserve force as well as families and family physicians.

We will invest in treatment and research and work with the Mental Health Commission of Canada to develop mental health first aid programs for veterans and their families. The expansion of the operational stress injury support program with 15 new peer support coordinators will also help veterans and their families seek treatment.

The member opposite highlighted a number of things. The Prime Minister today highlighted the fact that the announcement that we made recently was for $200 million. The Prime Minister also highlighted today that it would be over six years, while the member opposite talks about it being over 50 years. Here is a note to the member opposite: not all veterans' issues will be resolved in six years. It might take a little bit longer. That is why the life of this program will be longer than the six years that we announced.

He talks about funding for veterans services. This government has actually increased funding for veterans services to levels that have never before been seen in this country. When the member opposite and his party sat on this side of the House in government, they had the opportunity to respect veterans and chose to do just the opposite. That is why, when we came into office in 2006, we had to immediately set on a new course of respect with veterans. That is why we increased funding to veterans services, as I said, to record levels, and it is why we have opened up new clinics across this country. It is so that veterans have better access to services. That is why we are improving psychological services for veterans. All told, we have provided in excess of $5 billion more than the Liberals provided.

One thing we do every single year in this place is make sure that Veterans Affairs has all of the resources it needs to properly fund all of the services that Parliament has approved. We do that every single year. That is what we have done. We are very proud of the work that we have done in government, but, more importantly, we are proud of the work that our veterans and the Canadian Armed Forces have done. That is why on this side of the House we have continued to support them at record levels. We will continue to do that, not only this year but in the years to come.

Yes, the member is right. As long as we are on this side of the House, for the next 50 or 100 years we will continue to support the veterans who have made this country such a great place to live. The member is quite correct. As long as Conservatives are here, we will always stand up for veterans, whether it is 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, or even 50 years, despite the objections of the members opposite.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I guess what I did get, in fact, was PMO talking points, but I am accustomed to that. It is not a surprise. For example, I did not hear any explanation about how it was that the Conservatives failed to spend $1.13 billion allocated for the Department of Veterans Affairs, yet apparently had to close nine regional offices that were providing services to veterans across this country.

The fact of the matter is that this report, other reports, and veterans themselves indicate the government is failing them and failing to deal with the mental health problems they are facing. If people were to talk to any member of Parliament who is hearing from veterans in their ridings who face problems and could see the hurdles they have to go through to get benefits, they would see how outrageous it is.

People would understand that someone who is entering the forces has to go to boot camp and go through obstacle courses, but to make suffering veterans go through that kind of a course and go over obstacles constantly in order to get the benefits to which they are entitled is outrageous, and that is what we are seeing from the government. That is what we are hearing from Canadians all the time.

It is time for the government to change its attitude, contrary to what my hon. colleague says, have a change of heart, have a heart, and pay attention to the real problems that our veterans are experiencing.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.


Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member opposite does not listen. It was actually the minister who asked the Auditor General to look at the program so that we could find better ways of providing our veterans with quicker and easier access to the programs they deserve, programs this government put in place after years of shameful mismanagement by the Liberals opposite.

When we came into office, we realized that there was a huge deficit with respect to honouring our veterans. That is why we increased funding to veterans services.

As I said, it was this minister who asked the Auditor General to come in. We identified some shortcomings and accepted the Auditor General's report, and we have made some changes.

There is better communication between the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs so that we can provide better and quicker access for our veterans. We are doing better. We have more work to do, and the minister is undertaking that work as we speak.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Winnipeg North not being present to raise during the adjournment proceedings the matter for which notice has been given, the notice is deemed withdrawn.

The motion to adjourn the House is deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:19 p.m.)