House of Commons Hansard #8 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was infrastructure.

Topics

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the amendment to the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #8

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I declare the the subamendment defeated.

The next question is on the amendment.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #9

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I declare the amendment defeated.

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

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak during the adjournment proceedings this evening.

On December 8, I asked the Prime Minister, and received an answer from--

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Order, please. I will interrupt the hon. member for a moment. If I can ask everyone to take their discussions outside into the lobby.

The hon. member for Langley.

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, I asked a very important question about seniors. The government had just announced, with great fanfare, that it was going to be increasing the amount of taxes Canadian seniors pay. It was not good news for Canadian seniors back in December.

On December 8, I asked the Prime Minister, and I received an answer from the Minister of Finance that they were balancing their election promises, that the government was going to reduce the amount Canadian seniors could contribute to their tax-free savings plans. Over half of the tax-free savings plans in Canada are used by seniors. They put money away so that they can save it to support themselves.

It is good to see seniors contributing by putting money away. Right now in Canada, every sixth person is a senior. In 14 short years, one in four Canadians will be a senior. A very large percentage of the Canadian population will be seniors. There is a dramatic foundational shift in Canada.

It is important that seniors continue to be productive citizens within Canada but also that they prepare while they age. That is why it is so important and why so many seniors contribute to tax-free savings plans. The government said it was going to take that away, because it had made a lot of promises to Canadians, and it was going to balance what it was doing on the backs of Canadian seniors.

During the election, Liberals made a lot of promises. They promised that they were going to do a lot for seniors.

Just a few days ago, the organization known as CARP was outraged. It said, “Finance ministers will not move CPP reform forward”, as had been promised. “CARP members are outraged—all Canadians should be”. It said that the government is not going to do what it promised it would do. What was that promise? It was going to make these changes to help seniors within three months of the election, which would have been January 19, just a week ago. Liberals have just told seniors that they are not going to keep those promises. Organizations like CARP are outraged, and rightly so.

The question remaining is why the government is trying to keep these promises on the backs of Canadian seniors. It is just not right. The other major concern I am hearing from Canadians is that the government does not have a minister for seniors. It is important. When one in six Canadians is a senior, why does the government not have any representation for seniors?

Will the government appoint a minister for seniors, and will it stop attacking the savings accounts of Canadian seniors?

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Saint-Maurice—Champlain Québec

Liberal

François-Philippe Champagne LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak here today. I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his very important question on seniors and our middle class.

The previous government's plan to nearly double the tax-free savings account, or TFSA, contribution limit would have helped the wealthiest Canadians save more and would have cost the federal treasury hundreds of millions of dollars over the next five years and tens of billions in the long term. This government made a different choice. We have a plan to grow the economy, and we have already gotten the ball rolling.

We will implement initiatives that will help the greatest number of Canadians succeed. During the election campaign, we talked about the middle class, and those are the people we want to help. In December, we started by cutting taxes for the middle class. In the 2016 budget, we will introduce a Canada child benefit that will make things better for nine out of 10 families in this country.

We also know that only 6.7% of Canadians who can contribute to a TFSA hit the limit in 2013. Doubling the annual contribution limit does not help the 93% of Canadians who cannot max out their TFSAs. I can assure Canadians that the limit for 2015 is still $10,000 and that the change will not be retroactive.

I would also like to take this opportunity to tell my hon. colleague that we conducted pre-budget consultations all over the country, from Moncton to Yellowknife. Along with the Minister of Finance, we hosted approximately 20 meetings with hundreds of Canadians. We also heard from over 100,000 Canadians who shared their opinions online.

People want us to focus on the middle class and talk about innovation, productivity and smart infrastructure, infrastructure that will move our country forward. People also spoke to us about exports.

After travelling all over the country, we know that Canadians want a responsible government that will invest in the middle class and make sure that Canada's economy continues to grow. That is exactly what we are doing when we invest in the middle class, as we did in December by lowering taxes for the middle class. That is exactly what we did when we created our Canada child benefit. We are putting more money in the pockets of Canadians in order to grow the economy.

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for telling us about what they are going to do for the middle class. It is important. He also said that his government had quite different priorities than the former Conservative government that increased the age of credit amount by $2,000, introduced pension income splitting, saving seniors taxes, the home accessibility tax credit for seniors, and on and on. The former government lowered taxes for seniors. The new government is now raising taxes for seniors. That is why in the poll that CARP has just conducted, 84% of respondents are outraged and angry with the government for breaking its promises.

Therefore, will the government keep its promises that it made to seniors and will it appoint a minister for seniors' issues?

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

François-Philippe Champagne Liberal Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the question.

That is precisely what we are doing. We are investing in the middle class. What my colleague said is not exactly true. In December, we cut taxes for the middle class. What we did fulfills one of the many promises that we intend to keep, such as creating the Canada child benefit, which will benefit nine million people in Canada. Indeed, nine out of 10 families will benefit.

That is precisely what got us elected. We told Canadians that our priority was to invest in the middle class and provide benefits to Canadian families in order to lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty. That is how we do things. That is exactly what we told Canadians during the election campaign, and that is exactly what we are doing today.

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipAdjournment Proceedings

January 25th, 2016 / 7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak in the House today about a very important topic, one that I think all Canadians can agree upon. That is Canada's response to the refugee crisis in the Middle East.

Certainly, I think all sides of the House, all parties, agree that this is a humanitarian crisis of great scale and one that Canada should have a role in responding to. However, the question is how do we respond to that?

During the campaign, the Liberals focused on an escalating series of numbers and landed on 25,000, and I think somewhat arbitrarily, by the end of 2015. Of course they were not able to make that commitment.

Now the question becomes how refugees are being cared for when they come to Canada.

Over recent weeks, there have been questions around the provision of affordable long-term housing, which is a big concern for many municipalities and refugee agencies, language training services, the cost associated with various programs and their sustainability, and who will bear that burden. We are seeing more and more of this. Today, there is article posted by CBC News, entitled, “Syrians 'feel hopeless' as government-sponsored refugees [are] in Toronto...”, and there is a quote from a refugee. Through a translator, the refugee said:

We were told that when we arrived to the hotel...we would only be staying for three to four days maximum. However, things have been changed and we've been here for 10 to 11 days, and we've been told it could be even longer. The problem is that we have kids and we would rather be outside in a settled house than sitting at a hotel...

A wide variety of people commented in this article, talking about the fact that the government really did not think through the plan on how it was going to manage this.

I think we will be hearing more on this, and that is very unfortunate. I think we are all willing to work with the governments on this. However, today in the House of Commons the minister responded to a question from a government member, again on the number of refugees who had come to Canada. He responded, “However, more than the numbers, we have done this well...”.

That is a little blind, given the article that came out today and the reports we hear from different municipalities and agencies within these municipalities requesting pauses on the arrival of refugees. This mismanagement is very important, both when we think about accountability to Canadians as well as ensuring the success of refugees when they arrive in our country.

Last year, the government staged a photo op at Pearson Airport for the first arrivals of Syrian refugees to Canada. Given the amount of mismanagement and the overriding cost, would the government tell the House exactly how much was spent on that photo op, both for lighting, as production-quality lighting was set up there, staffing, transportation and the number of full-time equivalent hours that were put into designing the photo op? I would love to have that number. I certainly do not think the government has been forthcoming with it. Why did it decide that spending the amount of time it did on staging a photo op was more important than dealing with some of these very pressing issues, such as looking at the issue of long-term housing for refugees?

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration

Mr. Speaker, in terms of the effort we are undertaking, all of my hon. colleagues have been impressed and inspired by how much Canadians from coast to coast to coast have embraced the new arrivals with warm and open hearts through these cold winter days. We have always said that it is not simply a federal government project—and we have heard that line repeated by the minister—but it is truly a national effort, a partnership among individuals, organizations, and different levels of government from communities across this country.

Our partners in the private and public sectors and governmental and non-governmental organizations of all sizes in places large and small have contributed their time, their energy, and their resources to make our national project a reality, but they have also maintained and even increased their level of commitment and enthusiasm over these many weeks, which is apropos of what the minister was saying today during question period.

I have no doubt that the enthusiasm will take us through to the end of next month and beyond, when we expect to surpass our initial goals. As for the federal government, our efforts are proceeding at full pace. The minister has frequently talked about these efforts as a building wave, and we are seeing now that this wave is virtually at a full crest. Whether it is the identification and processing of refugees from Lebanon, Jordan, and now Turkey, the flights to Canada, the welcomes in Toronto and Montreal, or the settlement and community integration in every corner of the country, all systems are working at their full capacity.

From the very beginning, we have been committed to being transparent with Canadians about the progress of our national effort, including any setbacks or hurdles or challenges we have faced along the way, some of which were mentioned in the comments of my friend, the member for Calgary Nose Hill. Her original question for which we are here in adjournment proceedings related to the specific numbers and about how the process was proceeding. I propose to give some of those numbers now, and then I will address some of her comments forthwith.

As of today, the numbers are 13,512 who have been admitted into Canada since November 4. Of those, 7,691 are government assisted, 4,985 are privately sponsored, and 836 are what we call blended visas. In addition to this, there are 5,660 applications that have been finalized overseas, which include 4,000 visa holders who have not yet arrived in this country. In grand total, that is 19,172 refugees who have either arrived in our country or have been approved but have not yet travelled to Canada. There is also a total of 15,000 additional applications currently in progress.

This leads us to the optimistic perspective that we are well on track to reach our targets. That is thanks to the Government of Canada's proactive outreach and co-operation with the governments of Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, which have helped to expedite the exit permits. It is an ambitious commitment, but it is a commitment that was warmly received by Canadians last year. It has been warmly received by Canadians in terms of their participation and co-operation in getting behind this national effort. Further information on the latest numbers is available on the IRCC website.

I have a couple of specific responses to the member for Calgary Nose Hill. The comment was made that we reached the 25,000 target arbitrarily—far from it. A lot of input was put into achieving that number. We are committed to achieving it, and we will be achieving it by February 29.

Some hurdles have been identified by my friend from Calgary Nose Hill in terms of housing, language training, and the associated costs. We have been fully conversant with all of the costs that have been provided. We are working with the settlement agencies to resolve the housing issues.

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague opposite said earlier this month that it is clearly a fact that we are treating Syrians differently from refugees from other parts of the world. Therefore, given that the government has, through some criteria that are unknown to us, decided that this cohort is different from others, could the member tell us when it will be tabling the immigration levels report and what feedback it has received from the provinces in reports saying that they will, in fact, be lowering the number of provincial nominee programs in light of the Syrian refugee initiative?

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Arif Virani Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, in terms of the differential treatment of Syrian refugees, that is absolutely correct. We are doing dedicated airlifts. We have provided 54 flights thus far, and the flights continue. It is no different from what any other of the major parties committed to during the campaign and it is no different from what we are doing now.

There is a humanitarian crisis, which my friend identified in her initial comments. It is the largest migration of individuals the world has seen since World War II. The European Union has identified it as such and so has the UNHCR. We are treating them differently because their crisis is severe. The civil war is severe.

Turning to what we are doing to address some of the hurdles that were identified earlier, my friend took issue in her original comments with the fact that the minister has claimed we have done things well. My friend does not need to take my word for it. She can take the word of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who said that Canada is a shining example in this regard, because of its leadership symbolically and the mechanisms it is putting in place to successfully receive individuals and integrate them into our communities.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am really pleased to have this opportunity to rise during adjournment proceedings today.

This is in follow-up to my question of December 7, 2015. On that day I asked the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to tell Canadians the full costs of implementing the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Not only did I not get a cost, which I had asked for, but I also asked if they had analyzed the implications. This is an important area that I felt we needed a more fulsome discussion of.

The commission, of course, was created by the Conservative government in 2007. A year later the former prime minister, the hon. member for Calgary Heritage, stood in the House and apologized to former students and their families for the Canadian government's role in the operation of the residential schools.

There is no doubt that the school system had a profoundly lasting and damaging impact on aboriginal culture, heritage, and language. There is no place, as has been noted a number of times, in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian residential school system to ever prevail again.

Of course, it took extraordinary courage for the survivors who came forward to share their painful memories. It is a testament to their resilience as individuals and to the strength of their culture. The scars are a long way from healing. The work of the commission is a step towards that goal.

The Prime Minister has promised Canadians a transparent government. He has promised Canadians that his government will implement each of those 94 recommendations.

While many of the recommendations are excellent and necessary, I believe the government needs to appropriately calculate and share with Parliament the full cost and implications of them with Canadian taxpayers, including for example the implications of our accepting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and what impact that might have and what the assessment is of that in terms of Canada's economic future.

The declaration calls on countries not just to consult and accommodate indigenous people on laws and projects that might affect them, as Canada has been doing, but also to obtain their full consent.

There are many legal minds who have suggested that this will give a veto. Implementing this declaration was in the minister's mandate letter. Is it the intention of the federal government to give a veto over specific development projects? Obviously, indigenous people have the right to be consulted, but I do believe it is important for the federal government to maintain its final authority. Otherwise there is no clear process to follow. Legislation and projects may be stonewalled indefinitely, whether they involve natural resources or tourism. These projects are vital as we struggle with difficult times. They are vital for our economy. We need to have clarity around what that means. We cannot operate with that level of ambiguity.

In addition, there were many far-reaching recommendations, from money for truth and reconciliation centres, to monuments, athletic programs, and CBC/Radio Canada.

Again, we absolutely need to move forward on these important recommendations, but there are some that perhaps need a second view. We need to share with Canadians fully the costs and the implications.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Labrador Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

Yvonne Jones LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to respond to the question put forth by the hon. member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo.

For all of my colleagues here I think it is clear and understood that the Prime Minister has said no relationship is more important to him and to Canada than the one with indigenous peoples. We have come to recognize each and every day that the relationship Canada has with indigenous peoples is vitally important not just to our shared economic interests but to our respective identities as a nation. It is way past the time for a renewed relationship based on trust, respect, and the true spirit of co-operation. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action provide all Canadians with a renewed path going forward for Canada's unfinished journey of healing and reconciliation with our indigenous peoples.

As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, I would like to acknowledge the hard work and tremendous efforts that have been displayed by the commissioners and the commission throughout this mandate, as well as by all of the staff who worked so diligently on this. The final report is a monumental achievement, and that has been recognized by all Canadians.

For many of those former students and their families, it is also a testament to the courage that they have shown in sharing their stories. We want to acknowledge them and their suffering. We admire their strength, we want to move forward, inspired by their words and their hope for change, in a new direction for a new culture that can be shared between Canada's indigenous people, our country, and our government. This will provide that path forward for federal and provincial governments and all Canadians so that we can build on these efforts toward reconciliation. Our government is committed to working in partnership with the survivors, with first nations, the Métis and Inuit people, along with the provinces and territories, the parties to the Indian residential school settlement agreement, and other key partners, to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action. Doing so will take time, but we are committed to getting this right.

Currently, the government is working with all of these partners to design an engagement strategy that we will have prepared for the spring of 2016 and developing a national reconciliation framework. This framework will be informed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. On an issue as important as reconciliation with indigenous peoples, it is more important to do things right rather than do them quickly. It is important that reconciliation not be done independently by government but that it be done in partnership with all of those who are involved.

Therefore, I say to my colleague that we want to engage all parties, we want to encourage all people, we want to ensure that this collaborative framework is done properly so that we can have real reconciliation with indigenous people in Canada.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I remember that when the report was tabled in June of last year, which was a very significant day, no one had time to read the 94 recommendations or analyze them. At that time, the leader of the third party came in and said, “I accept all 94 recommendations. We're going to move forward with them.” Perhaps a third party leader can do that.

The government has a responsibility to analyze the implications and the costs of each of those 94 recommendations, and share with Canadians what that would mean. Will it mean a veto in terms of natural resource projects? Is the government giving up its right to have final decisions in terms of projects? Canadians need to know that.

It would not be fair for the government to not move forward in an open, honest, and transparent manner with all Canadians as we move forward. I agree it is an important process. The government has to be open, accountable, and transparent.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

Yvonne Jones Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the concerns that the member opposite has displayed on this issue.

First, I would never underestimate the due diligence of the Prime Minister of Canada. The Prime Minister and the government will be led by action. This is a government that has made a commitment to reconcile the differences that we have had with the indigenous people of Canada for many generations and decades.

We have started that process on truth and reconciliation and that call to action. We are committed to that process. We are committed to doing it in partnership with indigenous groups across Canada. We will not do it in isolation of those who are the first peoples of this country, because in doing so, governments have failed.

We plan on getting this right and we plan on taking the time that is necessary to work with the indigenous people of this country to build a stronger nation-to-nation relationship going forward that will benefit all Canadians.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:30 p.m.)