Mr. Speaker, I trust that maybe at a future time I will be able to get the extra two minutes if in fact it is deemed necessary
It is with pleasure that I rise today to speak to Bill C-625. It is an interesting bill, to say the very least. Just listening to some of the debate, I can appreciate why members would be expressing a great deal of concern in regard to census material. My colleague from York raised other issues, but was able to bring it around so that we could understand the relevance of the way in which the government has changed in its behaviour in regard to the whole issue that Bill C-625 is trying to deal with.
Numerous thoughts come to my mind that I think are worth sharing with members. When I think of what the member for Elgin—Middlesex—London is attempting to do here, I have a great deal of admiration in terms of why the member has seen this as something that is important. I suspect that if we were to canvass constituents, many would find it somewhat odd, maybe a little peculiar, as to why it is that someone could ultimately end up in jail if in fact he or she did not fill out mandatory forms.
I understand, through listening to some of the debate, that the member for Kingston and the Islands introduced a bill of a somewhat similar nature. However, I suspect that at the time the government's opinion on the issue had been different than what it appears to be today. That is why we would encourage members of the Conservative Party to better explain the rationale or their positioning on Bill C-625, given the response that we had to an earlier piece of legislation that would have done the same thing.
It almost goes without saying that the current law as it states, as someone has pointed out, has really, with the exception of one occasion, never been acted on. I can understand why it has not been acted on. However, at the same time, it is worthy to note that someone did ultimately have to go behind bars, but I understand, based on what I have heard this evening, that incident was based on protest more than anything else. That does not necessarily mean that the bill does not merit being passed.
As I indicated, on the surface I look at the bill and it is worth supporting, given that it is a private member's bill. The Liberal Party caucus has been fairly transparent and open in encouraging members of the Liberal caucus, in fact all members, in dealing with private members' bills of this nature and we encourage having free votes on it. I also see that as a very strong positive.
I want to pick up on the issue of the long form census and that is where I would like to spend some time. I do not really believe the Government of Canada understands the importance of what StatsCan did and the impact of the government's decision to get rid of that mandatory component and downsizing Statistics Canada in its ability to provide the type of results that it was known for.
It is second to no other institution in the world. In fact, there were many other countries that looked at Canada and the way in which we conducted StatsCan through the long form census, and found that it was done in a world-class fashion.
That information is of critical importance. My colleague made reference to schools. The impact that the census had on school divisions is an example of where a school board might be planning to have a school. In certain situations, it has an impact on where it might decide to look at either closing or using a school for an alternative purpose.
There are some really big numbers to be thrown around. We are talking about billions of dollars that are provided to provinces in the form of social transfer payments, whether it is social services, health care, equalization, all of which rely heavily upon the census material that is provided to them. Ensuring that as many Canadians participate in the census process is of critical importance. We are not talking about thousands of dollars or hundreds of thousands of dollars, we are talking about the transferring of literally billions of dollars from Ottawa to the different provinces, recognizing the many different inequities that are scattered throughout virtually every region of our country.
If I were to focus on the province of Manitoba alone, I can recall a very heated debated inside the Manitoba legislature. There was a question as to whether we were getting the appropriate amount of money through equalization and transfer payments based upon some of the demographics in the province of Manitoba. There was a dispute between Ottawa and Manitoba in trying to come to a better understanding of what the actual numbers were.
When we look at equalization payments, many different things are taken into consideration. It is not only the population of each individual province. We need to have an understanding of the needs of each of the different provinces when we talk about federal policy changes. We saw the impact on changes in health care policy. Provinces that have an older population will be penalized more than provinces that might have a healthier population. I can give a good example. Some communities are better known as retirement communities and have a much higher senior population. Where there is a senior population, there are many more demands upon social services, in particular, health care services.
It is the nuances that are so critically important when we make government decisions. We need to have the best information possible. One of the things we have become very dependent on is the fine work that Statistics Canada has done for generations, and we have all benefited from that.
When we talk about the importance of individual Canadians contributing to that data bank of information that is so vital in the determination and development of good, strong, healthy social policy, it is absolutely critical that this be taken into consideration
I suspect I will have another two minutes when the House gets the opportunity to debate the issue again.