House of Commons Hansard #60 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was regional.


Opposition Motion—Proposed changes to the Elections ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk to the members about my personal experience with the last by-elections.

Not everyone in Quebec has to have a photo on their health card. People living in a senior's residence no longer have a driver's licence and there is no photo on their health card. People were sent back to their apartments once or twice so that they would have a piece of ID to show at the polling station.

The new process creates a lot of confusion. As the Chief Electoral Officer said, we need more time to prepare the people who will be working at the polling stations so that they do not exclude poor people or someone belonging to a minority group. The number of people who vote is dropping right now, not increasing.

I would like to hear the member's opinion on that.

Opposition Motion—Proposed changes to the Elections ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would respond in part by quoting Mr. Neufeld, who said:

I think Mr. Mayrand is absolutely correct.... And [with] the provision that no one is allowed to use the voter information card that is sent to every individual voter who's registered, I think it will disenfranchise more people in addition.

We have the experts saying that all of the big problems the minister put forward and suggested were evidence of fraud or potential fraud were actually administrative issues.

Mr. Mayrand gave us an example at committee a couple of weeks ago. A woman and her son, who was a student, came in. He did not have all of the ID, but he had the card. His mother vouched for him. The clerk at the polling station, instead of recording the woman's name, wrote “mother”. That was an administrative mistake, but in no way was it fraud.

This is the kind of thing that Mr. Neufeld was pointing to as being an administrative issue, which the government is now trying to somersault into potential voter fraud.

Opposition Motion—Proposed changes to the Elections ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Paulina Ayala NDP Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, the fair elections act contains provisions that are in no way related to electoral fraud and that have clearly been created to prevent certain segments of Canadian society from voting. In addition, it gets rid of the Chief Electoral Officer’s public education mandate. He will no longer be able to discuss certain aspects of the electoral process, including where, when and how to vote.

The bill will eliminate the practice of vouching, which poses a huge problem for aboriginal Canadians, students who live far from home, the homeless and seniors living in residence. They are all are less likely to have a valid ID card and would make use of the practice of having someone close to them vouch for them.

Voter cards will no longer be a valid option to identify the voter. Those ID cards are essential for people who have a hard time proving their address when it comes time to vote, and that includes students, seniors and aboriginal Canadians, who sometimes have to wait months to get their status card.

I would like to say more about the first issue, getting rid of the Chief Electoral Officer's public education mandate. This is really important to me. I would like to point out that, in my previous life, I taught history, which included civic education. I know the importance of teaching.

Democracy should not be taken for granted. It does not grow on trees or fall from the sky. It is a hard-won right. We can reassert that right every time we pass our democratic experience on to the next generation through education. However, if there is no more civic education, democracy will suffer, and that is very, very serious. We think it is scandalous when other countries do not have the kind of democracy we deem acceptable. With measures like this, however, we are starting to look quite a bit like some of those countries we tend to criticize.

Right now, the purpose of Elections Canada's civic education program is to increase people's knowledge of and interest in Canadian democracy. It targets people under 30, including those who have not yet reached voting age, instilling in them a belief in the importance of voting and creating a foundation for citizen involvement. The program has two parts.

I want to talk about this today because I used the program, not just as a teacher, but as a mom, when I went to volunteer in my child's school. Several activities are ongoing. Some schools hold parallel elections. Kids really like it when their teachers bring all of the gear in so they can vote in their schools. They take it really seriously. I have seen it, and it is really something. Those kids keep talking about politics afterward.

During every federal election since 2004, Elections Canada has worked with Student Vote, a parallel election program for Canadian schools. In 2011, I was a teacher, and I can tell you that my students voted. They did not necessarily vote for me, but they voted, and that is the beauty of democracy.

During the 2011 election, almost one-third of all Canadian schools participated in the program, and over 560,000 students voted for real candidates. Their feedback showed that the program significantly improved their knowledge, raised their level of interest and strengthened their belief that voting is a civic duty.

I will make one comment. In the schools in major urban centres where I worked, the students are mostly new arrivals. Some of these families left their countries because of the lack of democracy. Thus, we can show them that it is possible to have democracy, but that it has to be protected. Education is a fundamental pillar of our democracy.

All the teachers who also participated in this program said that they became more confident about teaching civics. There is something else: parents are also affected. When you can reach out to a sixth-grader, that child is going to talk to his parents. He will say to his mother that his teacher taught him how to vote and will ask if she knows who the candidates of the political parties are. We have definitely raised the child's awareness as well as that of his parents and perhaps his grandparents, who may decide to vote. Not only do we have to reach out to the young people, but we also have to reach out to adults who feel let down by politicians.

This is a very important program. I remember very clearly when, as an MP, I participated in the program with grade six students at Wilfrid-Pelletier school. After one of the meetings, the parents of these children told me that I had spoken to them about the importance of democracy, which is a fundamental value.

We are here, we are quite happy, and we take it all for granted. However, we should realize that democracy is always under threat and it must be protected.

Another activity in Elections Canada's civic education programming is Canada's democracy week, which was launched in September 2011. In the spirit of the United Nations, this activity celebrates democratic values. We belong to the big United Nations family and we cannot shirk this democratic role.

Now I want to address another point, namely voter education resources. Elections Canada provides teachers, free of charge—and I can confirm this to be true—voter education resources that are adapted to different age groups and easily accessible online or on paper.

I can still remember when those large boxes from Elections Canada arrived at my children's school. Even the teachers were amazed. The boxes contained polling stations. The young school children lined up and showed their ID cards. It went swimmingly. I am sure the feeling of being included as citizens will remain in their hearts and minds forever. I can attest to the fact that this works. I used this educational tool in the past myself.

Elections Canada provides a host of educational programs. Why would the government want to make cuts to that? The Conservatives are saying there is a decline in voter turnout and they blame these programs for never producing any results. I apologize for reacting like a teacher, but there are quite a few people talking.

If we apply the same analysis to schools and dropouts, is the government going to start closing schools? Teenagers quit school, so we will close the school. That is more or less what the government has done by saying that it wants to eliminate the voter education programming by Elections Canada. On the contrary, if we see that there is a decline in voter turnout, then we have to find out why young people no longer want to vote. Perhaps it is because we waste a lot of time in the House talking about all sorts of things, but not things that really matter to our youth.

I will conclude with a very personal story. When I was young, I remember civics courses being taught, back in the old days in Chile. Under the dictatorship, it was forbidden to teach civics education programs. I want to protect Canadian democracy. What is more, as a teacher and citizen, keeping educational programs for our children and for future generations is important to me.

Opposition Motion—Proposed changes to the Elections ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to emphasize in regard to Bill C-23 that we need to acknowledge it is fundamentally flawed. It is flawed to the degree that we have had editorials, and many different stakeholders from across the country who have expressed a great deal of disappointment, saying that the bill would be better off being killed than being allowed to continue in its current fashion.

I wonder if the member would support the idea that the government should leave the bill, work with opposition parties, with Elections Canada, and with other stakeholders, who have a vested interest in ensuring that Canada has good sound election laws. These would be election laws that would, for example, allow the Chief Electoral Officer to have the ability to compel witnesses.

We would be far better off doing this overhaul of Bill C-23, as opposed to even attempting to have it passed in its current state. Would the member not agree with that?

Opposition Motion—Proposed changes to the Elections ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Paulina Ayala NDP Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am a woman who believes in democracy and I fought for it. I firmly believe that the public must be involved in the making of such an important law. The government really needs to listen to the people and to open a dialogue in order to develop real legislation that can put an end to electoral fraud.

The real problem is electoral fraud. We have to be able to work together. By “together”, I do not mean the majority government alone. I mean everyone, even those who think in terms of red and black. Regardless, we must agree to change this legislation in order to prevent electoral fraud.

We need to work together to change things. I agree with the member in that regard.

Opposition Motion—Proposed changes to the Elections ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for speaking about our motion today. I believe that she truly understands the issues.

I would like to raise a point that the Chief Electoral Officer raised when he appeared before the committee last week. Elections Canada will no longer be able to advertise or to encourage people to vote. It cannot even promote voter participation.

On this issue, Mr. Mayrand said:

l am unaware of any democracy in which such limitations are imposed on the electoral agency, and l strongly feel that an amendment in this regard is essential.

Could my colleague comment on the fact that, right now, no democracy in the world has such measures to censor their elections agencies? In her opinion, what message does this send to other countries? I would like her to talk about her experience.

Opposition Motion—Proposed changes to the Elections ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Paulina Ayala NDP Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her question.

I come from a country where, during a period of dictatorship, people were not allowed to teach about or provide training on civil rights. That country is Chile. We were able to overcome that obstacle and now Chile is a democracy.

This measure is unacceptable. We need to inform people about democratic values. I completely agree with the Chief Electoral Officer's position.

Opposition Motion—Proposed changes to the Elections ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

2 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Honoré-Mercier will have a minute and a half left for questions and comments when the House resumes debate on this motion.

Minister of FinanceStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, the appointment of the new Minister of Finance does not bode well for Quebeckers.

Since he was the former executive director of the Ontario Securities Commission, it is very likely that he will pursue his predecessor's desire to create a Canada-wide securities commission and that he will continue attempts to take away Quebec's jurisdiction to benefit Toronto.

Furthermore, his ties to the oil industry and his attempts to reduce environmental requirements are well known, which means that we could end up seeing measures that are even more lenient towards the big oil companies.

By calling those who are opposed to blindly increasing oil sands production radicals, he has proven once again that our public finances will be managed based on ideology instead of fact.

Jeffrey MacDonaldStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, Manitoba Conservatives have lost a good friend in Jeff MacDonald. Growing up on a farm near Minnedosa, Jeff was a political institution. He worked at the legislature for Premier Gary Filmon's minister of agriculture, and was the project manager for the Economic Development Board of Cabinet. Federally, he worked in my riding office.

Many candidates, me included, are indebted to Jeff for his community knowledge and advice as he managed successful nomination and election campaigns over three decades.

Jeff attended the University of Manitoba, where he received a diploma in agriculture. He went to work at Assiniboine Community College, but his heart always remained on the family farm.

Jeff grew up in a political home where politics was always a part of the discussion. He attributed much of his interest to his mother, who was an avid Conservative volunteer.

Jeff MacDonald was a Conservative's Conservative. He also loved hockey, curling, baseball, golf, and spending time with his nephews and nieces and cheering them on to victory.

Canada needs more people like Jeff MacDonald who give of themselves to the political process.

Jeff will be sadly missed by his many friends and his family.

Greek Independence DayStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Craig Scott NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, March 25 is a cherished day in the calendar for Greek Canadians. Greek Independence Day celebrates the start of Greece's liberation struggle from the Ottoman Empire in 1821.

As the MP for Toronto—Danforth, it is an honour to be one of the participants in the annual parade on the Danforth. Yesterday it was also my special honour to lay a commemorative wreath before the statue of one of Greece's, and indeed my own community's, greatest historical figures, Alexander the Great, in the parkette that is one of the prides of Greektown, on the Danforth BIA.

At this time of year, I also think of Greece as the cradle of a value so central to my party that it is also our middle name: New Democratic Party.

As I said to a gathering of the Pan-Macedonian Association yesterday, there may not be a better time than now for us to thank Greece for the gift to the world of democracy.

Best wishes. Long live a democratic Greece. Long live a democratic Canada.

Xtreme Hockey NightStatements By Members

March 24th, 2014 / 2 p.m.


Brian Storseth Conservative Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to share with Canadians and hockey fans, such as my niece Xeina, exciting news about the Xtreme Hockey Night charity event that I will be hosting once again this year.

Last year, the event raised over $100,000 for nine different local community organizations, such as the St. Paul women's shelter. This year it is promising to be even more successful.

We will also be honouring three men with local roots, who have demonstrated where hard work and dedication can take us in the world today. Wilf Martin and Pierre Dechaine are being recognized for their success in amateur and professional hockey. Guy de Moissac, a mentor to many, will be recognized for his role in helping aspiring athletes and being a core builder of hockey in our community.

What is more, our afternoon hockey game will feature local greats, along with members of Parliament from across Canada.

I thank the fundraising committee for its hard work, and our sponsors for making this possible. The second annual Xtreme Hockey Night in St. Paul is sure to be a fun-filled event, bringing families together to raise funds for the numerous local organizations that do critical work in our community.

International Arms Trade TreatyStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, in April 2013, Canada and 153 other countries voted in favour of the principle of a UN resolution regarding an international arms trade treaty.

Since then, 116 countries have signed the treaty, including our allies Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Poland and even the United States. What is Canada doing? It continues to analyze the issue, one year after the vote. We are now part of a group that involves Russia, North Korea and Syria, countries that have yet to sign.

We are supposedly studying the repercussions for our domestic market. That sort of excuse did not hinder our allies, a number of whom are at the ratification stage. Our government is still pandering to its base. This is no time to procrastinate. It is time for Canada to sign the treaty.

Orangeville Lions ClubStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I have the honour of recognizing the 65th anniversary of the Orangeville Lions Club.

We can thank the Lions for initiating school crossing guards in Orangeville in 1950; selling light bulbs, with the proceeds going to children's books at our public library; the infamous Lions TV Bingo; supporting the construction of the Tony Rose Arena; donating over $600,000 to Headwaters Hospital; constructing the Lions BMX park; hosting the annual Home and Garden Show as well as Lobsterfest; and the building of Murray's Mountain.

This is just a small overview of the many outstanding contributions this exceptional club has given to our most appreciative community.

On behalf of the residents of Dufferin—Caledon, I would like to sincerely congratulate the Orangeville Lions Club on this milestone and thank all of the members for the excellent work they perform to make our community a better place.

Rail TransportationStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Transportation Safety Board just released the results of laboratory tests on the oil that exploded in Lac-Mégantic, levelling the downtown core and killing 47 innocent people. The tests showed that, contrary to the classification posted by MMA, the oil on the train was not group III, but group II, meaning that its flashpoint was similar to that of gasoline. How much evidence will have to pile up before the Conservative government understands that companies cannot be allowed to monitor themselves, especially companies that are repeat offenders?

I am asking the government to hire enough inspectors and to implement the three recommendations issued by the TSB in 2014 as quickly as possible. The old DOT-111 cars are not made to transport highly flammable oil. The government must not wait for the next catastrophe. Those cars have to be replaced now.

Paralympic Winter GamesStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, today it is my pleasure to recognize one of the greatest performances in Paralympics history.

On March 10, Canmore's Brian McKeever won our country's first gold medal of the 2014 Paralympics, winning the men's 20-kilometre visually impaired cross-country race.

But he was not done there. On March 12, Brian skied one of the greatest races in Canadian history. The shortest of cross-country disciplines, the one-kilometre race leaves virtually no room for error. Near the beginning, Brian fell to the snow after getting tangled up with a competitor. Displaying true Canadian character, Brian rose to his feet and overtook not one, not two, but three opponents to win the gold.

Brian capped off his Paralympics with a third gold medal in the 10-kilometre race, setting the Canadian record by winning 10 gold medals in a career.

On behalf of all Canadians, it is my honour to congratulate Brian and all of Canada's paralympic athletes for their outstanding performances and for inspiring us all.

International TradeStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Wai Young Conservative Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, in a competitive global economy, diversified trade is a path toward economic growth and jobs for all Canadians.

This month, our government successfully negotiated the historic Canada–Korea free trade agreement, Canada's first FTA in Asia. Through tariff reductions, this agreement is projected to boost Canadian exports to South Korea by over 30%, and grow the Canadian economy by $1.7 billion every year. It will also level the playing field with other countries that already enjoy free trade with Korea.

British Columbia, the heart of Canada's Asia-Pacific Gateway, will realize significant benefits for workers and businesses. In fact, the agreement will eliminate tariffs on almost all of B.C.'s exports to Korea, including natural resources, agriculture, seafood, wine, and fruit.

Our government is getting the job done. Our ambitious trade agenda is working, and together we are building a bright future for all Canadians.

Sealing IndustryStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week marks the start of the sealing season, which is open in the Magdalen Islands. The seal hunt is an integral part of the islanders' way of life, and the hunt is sustainable, responsible and necessary. Every year the people of the Magdalen Islands organize the Rendez-vous Loup-marin on the archipelago, an event that pays tribute to those who continue this fine tradition through their work.

Over the course of the last few decades, many islanders have tried to establish seal product businesses, but have been thwarted by a lack of support and resources. Nonetheless, today a number of them have managed to succeed with innovative products and services. The time has come to support our hunters in order to develop this sustainable economy and create good jobs. As a new hunting season opens, I ask the people of the Magdalen Islands to be careful and I wish them a very successful hunt.

Merrill HendersonStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is with great sadness that I stand today to announce the passing of a constituent and dear friend, Merrill Henderson.

Merrill Henderson was a five-time councillor and five-time deputy mayor for the City of Moncton. He was instrumental in countless projects and continually worked for the betterment of our community.

Merrill never shied away from hard work and what was difficult. He was a wise, sympathetic, and tireless worker who left no stone unturned in the accomplishment of whatever he undertook. The tasks assigned to him were often those most difficult. He was a perfect example of a dedicated and passionate public servant who devoted his life to helping others. He cared greatly about his colleagues and his employees, and he will be remembered for his humility, generosity and, above all, his integrity.

This is a great loss not only for those who knew him personally but also for the whole of the Greater Moncton community. He will be sadly missed.

Ex-Member for Trinity—SpadinaStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to speak with mixed emotions about a friend and colleague, the former member of Parliament for Trinity—Spadina, Olivia Chow.

I will always remember the first time I met Olivia. She and Jack had invited Catherine and me to a dinner in Hudson to discuss their progressive vision for the country. That was the start of a lifelong friendship.

As an MP, Olivia brought an extraordinary energy and determination to her job that won the respect of MPs on both sides of the House and of Canadians across the country. She was a strong voice for her beloved City of Toronto, and she used her critic roles to fight for what she believed in: better transit; fairer immigration; and affordable child care.

Olivia represented the best of what this place could be. On behalf of New Democrats, I would like to thank Olivia Chow and to wish her every success. Our loss is Toronto's gain.

Paralympic Winter GamesStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Joan Crockatt Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, on March 16, the Sochi Paralympic Winter Games ended a fantastic week and a half of competition that saw Canada win 16 medals, ranking third in the world. Heroes emerged, like visually impaired skier Brian McKeever, a Calgary native—even though I know the member for Wild Rose would also love to lay claim to him. Brian fell during one of the races, yet showed such great determination that he got up, dug in, and went on to win gold.

Josh Dueck, who carried the Canadian flag at the closing ceremonies, won gold and silver in para-alpine skiing and is a talented athlete, a fierce competitor, and a wonderful ambassador for sport in Canada.

My heartfelt congratulations to our entire Canadian paralympic team. They embody the values of courage, determination, inspiration, and equality. Many of them went on to have performances that gave us spectacular and moving moments on the podium.

Our government is so proud to support them.

World Tuberculosis DayStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is World Tuberculosis Day, and this year's theme is “Reach the 3 million”. While TB is curable, current efforts to find, treat, and cure everyone who gets the disease are not sufficient. Of the nine million people a year who get sick with TB, three million are missed by health systems.

Many of these three million people live in the world's poorest, most vulnerable communities, or are among marginalized populations such as indigenous peoples, internally displaced persons, and refugees.

Let us work to overcome today's TB challenges: treating the three million people missed by health systems; slow progress in tackling multi-drug resistant TB; and increased and prompt delivery of antiretroviral therapy for TB patients living with HIV.

Let us ensure that TB REACH, an initiative of the Stop TB Partnership, is funded, and that everyone suffering from TB has access to diagnosis, treatment, and cure.

Public SafetyStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.


David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canadian families expect safe and healthy communities in which to raise their children. Dangerous and addictive drugs are inherent dangers to society, represented by drug dealers, the risks associated in their use, and impacts on communities as a whole.

As we have seen with the recent B.C. audit of the Portland Hotel Society, even once a court-ordered permit has been granted for an injection site, taxpayer dollars are wasted and provincial NDP politicians get paid trips to Disneyland.

The respect for communities act would make organizations like the Portland Hotel Society submit a financial plan when they seek continued approval of their operations. Communities deserve a say before a drug injection site opens in their neighbourhood and they deserve to know that their tax dollars are not paying for NDP junkets.

Supreme Court of CanadaStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.


Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, on Friday, the Supreme Court quite rightly checked the power of the PMO and ruled that the Prime Minister cannot ignore the law or unilaterally amend the Canadian Constitution.

Unfortunately, not all Conservative members understood what was going on. One took to social media to say that by interpreting the Constitution, the Supreme Court was undermining our “system of checks and balances in Canada”.

For the benefit of my Conservative colleagues, let me explain. The Supreme Court interprets laws passed by Parliament based on a document called the Constitution, and in particular the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That Conservatives do not understand the role the court plays in protecting provincial jurisdiction and individual rights is, at best, disturbing.

Canadians deserve better.

UkraineStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, this past weekend the Prime Minister made a historic visit to Ukraine. He was the first G7 leader to meet with Ukraine's interim government.

This visit reaffirms Canada's strong support for the new Government of Ukraine as it undertakes a new course that is based on the principles of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. The Prime Minister also took this opportunity to once again condemn Russia's illegal military occupation of Ukraine and to reiterate the withdrawal of all Russian forces from Crimea.

Our government stands in solidarity with those courageous Ukrainians who aspire to a free and democratic Ukraine. Although the situation in Ukraine remains fragile and fluid, the priority of our government is the economic and political stability of Ukraine. Our government continues to stand ready to assist Ukraine through this historic moment in its history. I wish to express my gratitude to our Prime Minister, our government, and this Parliament for their strong support of Ukraine.