House of Commons Hansard #73 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was debate.


Opposition Motion—Time allocation and closureBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak today. Just so my colleague across the way understands, when we get back to this fine institution in a couple of weeks, as a backbench member of the government I will be voting against the motion that is in front of us.

I have done a bit of research and have thought about the motion here in front of us. I basically broke down my presentation into two or three different areas, and hopefully I can get to them all.

First, so the public understands, let me talk about what is happening today.

Today is a supply day. Supply days were a creation of the Liberal government in 1968. They have been around for a long time. Previous to that time, the estimates, the actual allocating of money, was all dealt with in the House. It took up a tremendous amount of time. There was no time, or very little time, for creating legislation. The Liberal government of the day, in conjunction with the opposition members, came to the conclusion that things could be done more efficiently and effectively by allocating 25 days of the year to supply.

This means that the opposition parties can bring forward any motion that they would like on any topic that they would like. I am just guessing, but I think the vision of the day was that opposition parties would be able to bring a non-confidence motion forward and either criticize the government's policies or programs or maybe even present an alternative. That was the fundamental reason for supply days to begin with, and that is what we are doing here today.

I find it a bit strange that the Liberals are using this valuable time in this way. Because the Liberal Party is now in third place, it gets fewer days. Because the days are allocated by the size of the opposition, obviously the official opposition would get more days than the Liberal Party, and today the Liberals are using one of their two spring supply days to talk about process. I thought that was very strange, but I am happy to talk about process if that is what they want to talk about.

I thought maybe they wanted to define “middle class”. In part of my research, I was looking up “middle class”. The leader of the third party has been talking about the middle class quite a bit, so he must know a lot about it. His father was the prime minister of Canada and his upbringing was not really in the middle class, but I thought maybe it was his grandfather who instilled the middle class piece in him.

I looked in The Canadian Encyclopedia. I know my family and the vast majority of Canadian families are not mentioned in the The Canadian Encyclopedia, but the Trudeau family is. I found out that the former prime minister's father, the grandfather of the present leader of the Liberal Party, was listed there as being a wealthy businessman from Quebec and part of the elite even back in that generation.

I find it very strange that the Liberals are using today to talk about process. Maybe it is because they would have a difficult time talking about what they would like to accomplish, because they really have not indicated a whole lot to Canadians about what they want to do.

This brings to me to the actual motion, which is about time allocation.

The Liberals have chosen two specific areas to talk about in relation to time allocation. I want to make clear that what they are talking about is time allocation. Let me go through the three ways that it can happen.

There is a difference between closure and time allocation. Time allocation is allocating the amount of time in this House to deal with whatever the item happens to be. It makes it much easier and more convenient for us to determine how many speakers we have, when we will do it, and what days we will allocate to speaking on whatever item. It is purely organizational.

There are three ways that I know of that time allocation can happen.

First of all, the public should know that the House leaders from each party meet. They discuss the agenda, or the orders of the day as we call it here, such as, what is going to happen in the House, when things are coming forward, and how much time will be put to them.

It is my understanding that in the past the number one way of allocating time was by agreement between House leaders. For example, a House leader would agree to put up 20 speakers and another House leader would agree to 5 speakers. There would be an agreement on how much time is spent on a particular item. That is how it has happened in the past and it can happen in the future.

Then, when there is agreement, members would come back to the House. The House leaders go back to their whips and organizations, in our case the parliamentary secretary in charge of that area, and they would organize the speakers from our side who would speak to a particular item. The same thing happens with other parties and their critics.

A second way of allocating time is to have an agreement with the majority of the parties in the House. There are three recognized parties in the House, and two of the three can come together to figure out what we want to do. Technically they can allocate the time for whatever the discussion will be on a particular area.

The third way to allocate time is unfortunately what we have had to come to, but it is completely legal and fair. It is that the government of the day can allocate the time. That is not closure; it is not saying that we are not debating something.

I spoke earlier this week when we were debating our budget implementation bill. I was the 69th speaker, and there was going to be a speaker after me. There were 70 speakers at second reading, and five days were allocated to the debate in second reading.

The bill then goes to committee. If there are amendments at committee, it comes back here to report stage, which I did not know about until I got here. That was not mentioned much in the political science books that I read in university. However, there is a report stage. Again, there is an allocation, which may be done through the House leader on the government side or through a negotiation and discussion at the House leaders meeting. However, there is an allocation of time to debate the item, based on the amendments.

As members know, there could be a lot of amendments. The Speaker could group amendments together and we could then have debate on single sets of amendments. It is not just amendments in total, but on single sets. That could go on for a lengthy period of time. The bill then comes back for third reading. Third reading in this House has another time allocation piece to it.

Unfortunately, what is happening is that we are not able to get agreement from the other side on allocations, so the House leader on our side has to tell the House how much time will be allocated. There is always a 30-minute discussion on the government's allocation of time.

On the budget implementation bill, for example, we allocated five days to it. People can say that five days is not a lot. However, I did a little research on this, and I want people to understand the agenda in terms of the length of time that we are here.

In this calendar year, we will be sitting for 27 weeks in Ottawa, doing Canada's work. We all do plenty of work in our ridings, of course, but this is work on legislation that comes to the House. I then took all of the days that we have in a week and broke it down.

I do not know if people understand this, but there are 20-minute time slots for the speech and 10 minutes for questions and answer. Technically, one could split one's time. Today we have 20-minute slots, but to maximize the amount, it could be 10-minute speeches with a 5-minute question and answer period.

For example, on Monday, we are in the House from 11:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. We have to remove an hour for private members' business and an hour for question period. There are a lot of other things that eat into the time, but I am being judicious in saying that those two things automatically happen. There is also routine procedures and so on, which is another 15 minutes or so. In actual fact, we have about five hours and fifteen minutes on Monday, which is about 21 slots, if we split the time slots.

On Tuesdays there are six hours and fifteen minutes for discussion. That is 25 slots. On Wednesdays it is only a couple of hours, at two hours and fifteen minutes of actual time, which is nine slots. That time gets eaten up with trading over. On Thursdays we are back to the same as Tuesday, with 25 slots. On Fridays we have two hours and fifteen minutes, the same as Wednesday, with another nine slots.

If everything went absolutely smoothly and there were no interruptions or points of order and we went right to the minute and moved along, that is maybe 89 or 87 spots in a week.

I heard a few minutes ago that members of Parliament get elected here to talk about the items. Can members imagine if all members, all 308 of us, were required to speak to every item? We have about 88 spots a week. We are here about 27 weeks of the year. We then have supply days thrown in. We have other items. We have voting. If everything was as smooth as glass, based on my math, we would get maybe two pieces of legislation through every year.

That is not including the budget and the budget implementation bills, because in a sense those are automatics. We have a budget presented by the finance minister. There is debate and discussion on it. Then there are also two budget implementation bills, one in the fall and one in the spring, and time is allocated for debating those bills as well.

My estimate is that if we followed the rule or the expectation that all 308 of us would get a chance to speak to every item, we would get through a maximum of two pieces of legislation in the House.

That is not including committees. The public should know that. As I was saying this week, I was the 69th speaker at second reading. The bill then goes to committee. At committee, members of Parliament hear witnesses and get involved in debate and discussion about the legislation in front of us. The bill then comes back here for the report stage and third reading.

In my view, if there was no such thing as time allocation, as members of Parliament we would get virtually nothing done. I am not sure that the public of Canada is sending us to Ottawa to do absolutely nothing. The public expects some legislation to be passed.

The public expects discussion to take place, and there is discussion. There are speeches from both sides, from one side or the other, and there are often areas of concern or interest. On our side, normally we promoting. On the opposition side, members are often taking exception. Those discussions will happen.

People will notice that comments are often repeated over and over again. We do the same thing on our side. I am not saying that it is a one-sided thing. We repeat the same thing, or something very close to it. I know that the rules of this place are that we cannot say the exact same thing as somebody else. I do not really use speeches, as members can tell by my standing here. I have some notes, but I do not have actual speeches.

What I am saying is that time allocation does not stop debate. It assists debate. It allows fair discussion on the issues, and the limited time that the House has to deal with legislation requires time allocation.

We are being criticized, partially in this motion, over time allocation as if it had never existed before and as if it were something new that we had come up with. As far as I know, time allocation has been part of the process here forever, because it would not make sense to do otherwise.

Stanley Knowles, a New Democrat member of Parliament many decades ago, has been quoted as saying that it is important to have time allocation, that it is important that we have an understanding of how much time we are going to spend on a particular item and move forward to make decisions on whether we are going to support or oppose something.

The Liberal motion today tries to focus on two specific types of bills. In my view, they have done that because they know very well that time allocation is an important process around here, and they are using these two items for political reasons, not for practical reasons of improving how this place operates. We have a reform bill by one of my colleagues here before us. But in my view, if we really want reform of this place, and we know how little time we have to debate different issues, and given the scheduling that we have to arrange between committees, and so on, I think there are better ways to operate the House of Commons. I have made some suggestions on the number of committees, the timing of committees, and how much time we allocate for House time. We could be much more efficient than we are, strictly from a business perspective.

My concern is that when we hear the opposition say they did not have time to debate it, if we look at the actual speeches they make, they are repetitive and clearly not supporting the actual legislation in front of the House. That is fair. That is their job, to be in opposition. However, they should be able to make their points and then move on. That is not what is happening.

Time allocation and closure are two different things. Closure is a motion invoked when a piece of legislation is required by a certain time, whether it is in other statutes, or a Supreme Court decision has been granted on a certain item and the House has to report back by a certain date. If we check the records, closure is rarely used.

Another item I have heard about recently, aside from the debate on the fair elections act, is omnibus bills. The opposition are concerned about the size of bills, and they will quote big numbers. This week they were quoting it as 489 pages long. I agree that the particular piece we were dealing with this week is 489 pages long, but it is in both English and French, so it is actually about 250 pages. The fair elections act is not even that long, but it is in two languages.

If, say, we have to read a couple hundred pages, I am pretty sure that most Canadians believe that members of Parliament can read a couple of hundred pages. Additionally, what is also great about the way the system works here is that despite the fact legislation arrives before us in legalese, there are summary pages at the front of every piece of legislation highlighting what is important and what each section does.

What happens is that I, as a member of Parliament, read through the summaries and look through the parts of the legislation that are of concern or interest. If there is something I do not understand, I read it in more detail. Then I have an opportunity to talk to the minister. That opportunity is open to every member of Parliament. They normally have a session with a briefing that anyone can attend, including staff. They are briefed at the bureaucratic level on what is in a bill so they will have an understanding of it.

With the amount of time we have, which I am running out of now, I do not think we should support the motion. Time allocation is getting a bad name because people do not understand what it is used for and how it works. It is something that makes the House operate. If we were to ask people on my street, they would believe we are way too slow in getting legislation through the House.

Opposition Motion—Time allocation and closureBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, if we coined the parliamentary secretary's turn of phrase from some days ago, we would say that the Chief Electoral Officer should not be wearing a team jersey. He questioned the whole independence of the Chief Electoral Officer.

I want to remind the House that in September 2011, every agent of Parliament, including the Chief Electoral Officer, wrote to the Speaker and copied the letter to three parliamentary committees, the public accounts committee, the access to information, privacy and ethics committee, and the procedure and House affairs committee.

The seven agents of Parliament asked to meet with parliamentarians, to meet in committee, to talk about the independence and the accountability of the agents of Parliament, including the Chief Electoral Officer.

This side over here had nothing to do with it, would not do anything with it, and refused them entry to the committees. That discussion has never occurred.

The Auditor General and the Chief Electoral Officer asked Parliament three years ago to meet with us and to talk about this. Why did the government not accept the invitation? Why were they not invited to committee? That is what I want to know.

Opposition Motion—Time allocation and closureBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to point out that the motion is about procedure. I know the members are highlighting two areas of procedure they would like to change.

However, on the fair elections act, since the members asked, I want to point out that there have been more than 40 speakers to second reading; 40 speakers from all sides have had an opportunity to speak to it. As we have seen every night in the news and on television, a very proactive committee has met numerous times, inviting numerous guests and witnesses to the committee. We are hearing about it every day. The Senate, for example, is pre-studying the item.

The process is working. The Liberal members may not like the legislation, or parts of it, but through the process at committee they can move amendments. They can do whatever they wish. The process works.

That piece of legislation that is being highlighted here today will also come back to this House for more discussion and more debate. I think that is the appropriate way. We have allocated the right amount of time for it. There has been a lot of discussion on it, and that will continue. That is the appropriate way to deal with legislation.

Opposition Motion—Time allocation and closureBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's speech with interest.

The member was a bit hyperbolic about the timeframe. When we consider any debate that goes on in Parliament, the government has the right to not put up speakers and to reduce the amount of debate in that way.

In looking at the record of the past number of years, we see the debate on the postal workers back-to-work legislation; the government simply put in all-night sessions so it could get through the debate. Really, there are many tools used in the House of Commons to ensure that debate is conducted in a reasonable fashion.

This bill has so many complex changes to the electoral system, which is the basis of this democracy, that more time is required not only in Parliament but in committee. That is why I think this motion today is very appropriate for this particular bill.

Opposition Motion—Time allocation and closureBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would remind the member, who I respect, that this is not a bill; it is a motion. Also, if this motion were to pass and were to change the Standing Orders, it would not just affect the fair elections act; it would affect legislation from here on forward dealing with those areas.

What I did find interesting in the member's comments is that, when we have legislation in front of us and we do not have anything more to say, we do not put any more speakers up, and the opposition criticizes us for that. We are criticized for not putting up speakers when we do not want to waste any more time.

We know what we want to do. We know what Canadians want. We want to get it through this House. We want to get it completed and into law, so we can make a difference for the middle class of this country.

Opposition Motion—Time allocation and closureBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Essex Ontario


Jeff Watson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the intervention of the member for Burlington in explaining the process of allocating days with respect to debate and how that is used as a management tool for keeping the House efficient in terms of all the matters it has to consider at every stage of reading. Legislation can flow to committees to keep them focused on important matters and legislation and can move to the Senate, which can consider these matters as sober second thought.

In some countries, because of debate and other means, they do not pass a budget for year X until year Y or year Z. We had a situation in the U.S. Senate, when it did not pass a budget for four years. It debated budgetary matters, when matters have to be decided efficiently.

In the case of Bill C-23, I understand that there are aspects of the bill that have to be implemented in advance of the next election. To do that, it has to clear not only this House but the Senate in a specific amount of time. Can the member talk about how time allocation relates to meeting that standard?

Opposition Motion—Time allocation and closureBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned before that there are certain criteria required in terms of a Supreme Court decision. Another one would be getting ready for the 2015 election. There are timeframes in legislation. If we are to make a change, it has to be done by a certain date. In this particular case, time allocation is a useful tool for the government and this House to plan. If we are to deal with items that will affect Elections Canada in the 2015 election, they need to be in place by that time.

The tool used by the House leader to allocate time is not stopping debate. It is to allocate time to discuss the issue at second reading. How much time will there be at committee, how much time at report stage, and how much time at third reading? It is important for us to get this done in a timely and efficient manner.

Opposition Motion—Time allocation and closureBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member was talking about the government's bill to amend the Elections Act coming back to the House and how he is keen to have further discussion on it. The difficulty is that there has been no sign whatsoever of the Conservatives listening to any of the witnesses so far, particularly people like Marc Mayrand, of Elections Canada; the Commissioner of Canada Elections; the commissioners of elections for provincial governments; the former auditor general, Sheila Fraser; and even an expert witness from Britain. We have become international now.

So many witnesses are attacking this bill. We have a situation where the Commissioner of Canada Elections is trying to investigate alleged fraudulent actions in the last election by Conservative members of Parliament. The Conservatives are making it more difficult for the commissioner to comment on those elections and are making it harder for that person to investigate those elections.

In view of these actions, will the member agree that they really ought to change this bill, in terms of what it does in allowing members who have committed fraud to get elected, to the elect more crooked Conservatives act?

Opposition Motion—Time allocation and closureBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that the process is simple. Amendments do not happen on the floor of the House. They happen at committee. The committee is active right now on this bill. There is opportunity for both the official opposition and the third party to bring amendments at committee. It is not a study. It is legislation. They can bring amendments when they go clause by clause. The committee is hearing, from my understanding, a tremendous number of witnesses who have been invited by all sides to talk about what is good and what needs to be improved. The minister would never, in this House, stand up in the middle of the debate happening at committee and move amendments or make any changes. That is what committees are for. That is why they are there. That is why they should be doing their job and working at committee.

Opposition Motion—Time allocation and closureBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is important that we get a reality check and get some clarity on what we are actually talking about this morning. When we talk about time allocation, what are we really talking about? It is a rule in the Standing Orders that allows the government, at times, to expedite legislation in somewhat of a timely fashion. That is the time allocation rule that we are talking about today in relation to the Canada Elections Act.

Here is the problem. This particular Conservative majority government uses time allocation as part of the normal process. It has absolutely no respect whatsoever for allowing debate on important pieces of legislation. Rather, it constantly brings in time allocation, and it does not matter what type of debate it is. Time allocation is meant to be a tool. The majority Conservative government abuses that tool, and by abusing it, it is abusing members of Parliament preventing them from communicating the concerns of their constituents on legislation that is so very important.

We need to recognize that the Canada Elections Act is like no other. It defines the rules that apply when we knock on doors and ask for votes, when we ask Canadians to get engaged and vote. This legislation should be designated such that time allocation cannot be applied to it. That is very important to recognize, because it is a fundamental pillar of our democracy. Even now, the government is forcing this legislation through and is using time allocation to do so.

Why is that a problem? It is because the government has no credible source outside of the Conservative Party that supports the legislation we are debating. The Chief Electoral Officer; the previous chief electoral officer; Sheila Fraser; the head of the commission, Mr. Côté; and 100-plus professors from coast to coast to coast in Canada do not support this legislation. Not one political party supports this legislation. The only one that we know is supporting this legislation is the Prime Minister himself, and through the PMO's office the mandate has gone out saying that every Conservative will support this legislation. They have no choice. If a Conservative member of Parliament wants to run as a Conservative in the next election, he or she has to support this legislation.

I say shame on the Prime Minister, shame on his office, shame on the Conservatives who are not prepared to stand up for democracy here in Canada.

Let us take a look at the minister responsible for democratic reform. What has he done lately? He made a verbal assault on the Chief Electoral Officer for doing what he is supposed to be doing. The Minister of State for Democratic Reform needs to apologize. He needs to stand in his place and say that he is sorry not only to the Chief Electoral Officer but to all Canadians for his inappropriate behaviour and the manner in which he is executing this bill through the House of Commons. It is wrong. It is a bad bill.

Yesterday the leader of the Liberal Party talked about allowing a free vote on this legislation. What was the response from the government? We know that the Prime Minister would never want a free vote. A free vote could ultimately embarrass him. After all, there might be some Conservative members who are prepared to put democracy ahead of their own political party and that party's best interests. Why will the Conservative Prime Minister not allow for a free vote on this legislation?

Mr. Speaker, if he believed in democracy, he should at the very least allow for a free vote. All we need to do is to look at the manner in which this legislation has been introduced and pushed through the House. It is being forced through, and we need to allow those Conservatives who have the integrity to stand in their place and say what is happening today with the elections act. It is not the fair elections act, it is the unfair elections act, and the Conservatives know it. This is a Conservative elections act.

However, we are appealing to those who believe in democracy more than the Conservative Party. We are asking them to look at what the motion is talking about today. We are asking them not to continue to force the bill through, but to vote in favour of the motion and allow the legislation to be debated thoroughly. It is a fundamental—

Opposition Motion—Time allocation and closureBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

2 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please.

Regretfully, the time for government orders has expired. The hon. member for Winnipeg North will have 14 minutes remaining when this matter returns after question period.

Robotics CompetitionsStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Maria Mourani Independent Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada has been enriched economically, culturally and socially by the contributions of citizens from all walks of life.

Today I would like to acknowledge the presence of representatives and members of Quebec's Canadian-Lebanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ottawa's Canadian-Lebanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Lebanese association of Montreal taxi workers.

I am also proud to highlight the achievement of a group of grade five students from Saint-Gérard school who recently won the Robotique FIRST Québec tournament. The school, whose catchment area extends into my riding, will be one of two Canadian teams participating in the FLL robotics world festival in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 23 and 24.

Congratulations, kids, we are proud of you.

National Volunteer WeekStatements By Members

2 p.m.


John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to recognize and pay tribute to all volunteers for their selflessness and the exceptional contributions they make to communities across this country.

Volunteers are the backbone of every healthy and vibrant community. Indeed, more than 13 million Canadians contribute over two billion volunteer hours each year building and maintaining resilient communities at home and around the world. Volunteering is part of our identity as Canadians, and our government values the dedication of those who give so generously of their time, often with little to no expectation of recognition.

As we celebrate National Volunteer Week, it is with great honour that I introduce the first annual Don Valley West community volunteer awards. I urge all residents of Don Valley West to visit my website for more information and to download the nomination form. I thank all the tireless volunteers who make Don Valley West the great community it is.

National Volunteer WeekStatements By Members

April 10th, 2014 / 2 p.m.


Francine Raynault NDP Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to draw attention to National Volunteer Week. In my riding, Joliette, dozens of people are getting involved in organizations such as the Centre communautaire bénévole Matawinie and the Centre d'action bénévole Émilie-Gamelin.

Having worked as a volunteer for many community organizations myself, I understand the importance of volunteers and the remarkable work that they do. They give so much to their community, but they get something back too.

I encourage everyone to try volunteering. For young people, it is a good way to gain experience. For seniors, it is an excellent way to stay active in the community.

Of course, volunteering does not put food on the table, and it is important to work toward full employment or at least a decent employment insurance system. However, the fact remains that volunteer work makes our communities more active, strong and charitable.

Thank you to all the volunteers in Joliette.

National Paramedic CompetitionStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, this past weekend I had the honour to attend the 13th annual National Paramedic Competition held at Durham College. Day in and day out, through community paramedicine and emergency services, paramedics save lives each and every day. They often go into situations that are unpredictable, yet that does not stop them from saving lives. They are truly heroes.

This past weekend, Oshawa residents had the opportunity to see these heroes square off against each other and put their skills to the test to prove that they are the best paramedics in the country. Thirty teams from all across Canada, including Durham Region, competed in three divisions: the advanced care paramedic division, the primary care paramedic division, and the paramedic student division.

Our local heroes did not disappoint. Jeff Hooper and Andrew Mokendanz, of Durham College, finished second in the student division; and Dale Button and Matt Walton, of Durham Region EMS, finished second in the primary care division.

I would like to thank paramedics for all their service to Oshawa and around Canada and congratulate all the winners and participants in the national competition.

Mental HealthStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, one in five Canadians is affected by some form of mental illness. That means that in this chamber, 60 or more members or families are directly impacted. My family would be included in that number. Our son's diagnosis and prognosis are not good.

We all fear stigmatization, yet the less we speak out, the less likely we are to see some solution in our lifetimes.

Today the Canadian Psychiatric Association is on the Hill to speak to parliamentarians about the importance of mental health. Psychiatrists are an integral part of Canada's health care system. However, many Canadians cannot easily access one, and the average wait time is 11 weeks.

I encourage my colleagues to meet with the psychiatrists today to discuss how the federal government can provide the strategy necessary to implement a mental health strategy and continue to combat the stigma associated with mental illness. If we deal with the stigma, maybe the solutions will follow.

National Volunteer WeekStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to welcome the B.C. Wildlife Federation to the great city of Kelowna this week as it holds its 58th annual general meeting and convention.

The federation is British Columbia's largest and oldest province-wide, volunteer-driven conservation organization. Its mission is to protect, enhance, and promote the responsible use of the environment and to build a legacy of conservation for generations to come.

As this is National Volunteer Week, I would like to acknowledge my constituent, Bill Bosch, the hard-working president of the B.C. Wildlife Federation, and his team and all the volunteers who support our local organizations and improve the quality of life in Kelowna—Lake Country.

As a member of the Rotary Club of Kelowna Sunrise, I have also seen the positive difference volunteers make throughout the world by supporting global projects such as helping to eradicate polio, in partnership with the Government of Canada.

Volunteerism is a tangible example of the power of action over words, and Canadians continue to be the beneficiaries of those efforts.

Literacy OrganizationStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Manon Perreault NDP Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to highlight the excellent work being done by the A.B.C. des Manoirs organization.

A.B.C. des Manoirs provides support to people who want to finish their schooling and improve their knowledge of French and math. The organization helps people who want to re-enter the workforce by providing the training that some people desperately need. It helps many people get a high school or vocational diploma, but most of all, it provides some hope for a better future to people who very much need hope.

I want to congratulate the people at A.B.C. des Manoirs for the profoundly human work they do so well.

The support provided by this organization goes far beyond financial considerations, and before it even helps people improve their financial position, it gives the people of Montcalm something that no amount of money can buy: dignity.

It will be an honour for me to continue to support its mission. I wish this organization nothing but the best in the coming years.

Mental HealthStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, today marks my 3,000th day serving as the member of Parliament for Kitchener—Conestoga.

I can no longer count the number of times I have risen in this House to speak to issues regarding mental health, mental illness, and suicide prevention. In Canada, we suffer about 4,000 deaths by suicide each year. About 90% of those victims suffered from a diagnosable mental illness.

Today, members of the Canadian Psychiatric Association are on the Hill, raising awareness of the policies, programs, and investments to prevent and treat mental illness. The CPA asked our government to continue to strengthen the mental health services we deliver, and it expressed its willingness to partner in this effort. At the CPA's breakfast this morning, I heard the stories of Matt and Rachel, two ordinary Canadians, and how they are successfully managing their illness and leading productive lives.

To break the stigma surrounding mental illness, we need to talk about it.

Congratulations to Matt and Rachel for their courage, and our thanks go to the CPA for ensuring that their story is heard.

VaisakhiStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Devinder Shory Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, this year Canadians of Indian heritage will celebrate the festival of Vaisakhi on April 14.

It is a day to thank God for the harvest and the many blessings that we have. It also marks the start of the New Year in parts of India and around the world. For Sikhs, Vaisakhi is one of the most auspicious celebrations, as it marks the founding of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth Sikh guru.

On behalf of the constituents of Calgary Northeast and the Shory family, Happy Vaisakhi to all.

I would like also like to congratulate my good friend and successful businessman from Calgary, Bob Dhillon, for his acquisition of a sword that belonged to Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the first warrior king of the Sikh empire. This sword is the only Sikh artifact of its kind in Canada.

Mr. Dhillon purchased the sword to preserve it and share it with the Sikh community and all Canadians. For that, I commend him.

National Volunteer WeekStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, as we mark Volunteer Week, I would like to acknowledge the work of more than two million volunteers who contribute their time and effort to various organizations in Quebec. I have always considered volunteering to be the selfless art of giving of one's love, work and time.

The Centre d'action bénévole de Saint-Hubert and the Centre d'action bénévole “Les P'tits bonheurs” in Saint-Bruno, as well as the Centre de soutien entr'Aidants, the organization Au Second Lieu and our two youth centres, to name just a few, can count on a team of volunteers who want to give back to their community and make a difference.

The riding of Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert is fortunate to be able to count on people whose generosity is matched only by their dedication.

On behalf of my community, I would like to salute their exceptional contribution and thank them.

HomelessnessStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I had the privilege of attending earlier this week an event that featured Canada's Minister of State for Social Development releasing the Mental Health Commission of Canada's final report on housing first.

The research shows that the housing first approach rapidly ends homelessness, is a sound investment that can lead to significant cost savings and, more importantly, works over the long term. As of April 1, our government, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, began the shift toward housing first in our homelessness partnering strategy.

Despite this evidence, the Liberal Party does not support housing first. The member for Westmount—Ville-Marie has gone so far as to state that housing first will have a “...negative impact on community outreach programs for homeless Canadians...”. Once again, the Liberals show that they are in over their heads by ignoring this evidence-based approach.

On this side of the House, we make no apologies for ensuring that hardworking taxpayer dollars are directed to where they have the largest impact.

VaisakhiStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

[Member spoke in Punjabi]


Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I wish everyone a happy Vaisakhi, the traditional Punjabi harvest and the 315th year of the Khalsa Panth.

I have tremendous respect for the tenets of Kirt Karna, Vand Chhakna, Nam japna, and Seva: working hard, sharing with others, conviction, and community service. These are the values that all Canadians can proudly stand behind and share.

For over 100 years, the Canadian mosaic has been enriched by Sikh communities and others of Indian origin. This is a wonderful time of year to reflect on the significant contributions of these brothers and sisters who have made our wonderful culture.

From coast to coast, Canadians are celebrating this joyous time of renewal by visiting beautifully decorated gurdwaras, joining colourful parades, big and small, and reflecting upon the diversity that makes our wonderful country so strong.

Happy Vaisakhi.

[Member spoke in Punjabi]

Hong KongStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Bernard Trottier Conservative Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, recent developments in Hong Kong indicate that the basic law guaranteeing the people of Hong Kong the preservation of their separate democratic system and market economy is not being respected.

This week, several fellow parliamentarians met with two distinguished members of the Hong Kong legislative assembly, who expressed concern that the guarantees of universal suffrage outlined in the basic law are not being followed. They expressed concern about shifting timelines, as well as freedom of the press.

In February of this year, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that pressure was being exerted on Hong Kong news media. In other cases, journalists have engaged in self-censorship for fear of reprisals.

I call for the spirit and letter of the basic law to be respected, so that the people of Hong Kong can freely elect their chief executive in 2017 and have a legislature elected by universal suffrage in 2020.

VaisakhiStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.


John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, next week, Sikh, Hindu, and Buddhist Canadians across our country will celebrate Vaisakhi.

Vaisakhi has different meanings for the different faiths that celebrate the festival. For many, it is a harvest festival, a time to be thankful for the bountiful harvest. Beyond the traditional harvest thanksgiving, Vaisakhi has a special meaning for many Sikhs. In 1699, Guru Gobind Singh laid down the foundation of the Khalsa Panth.

As members may recall, my riding of Markham—Unionville is the most multicultural riding in Canada. I have always enjoyed celebrating Vaisakhi with my constituents, and I look forward to this year's celebrations.

On behalf of the Liberal caucus, I wish everyone from coast to coast to coast who is celebrating a very happy Vaisakhi.

[Member spoke in Punjabi]