House of Commons Hansard #57 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was access.

Topics

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1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Does the hon. member for Windsor West have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

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1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

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1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

There is no consent.

Questions and comments.

The hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan on a point of order.

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1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the motion, the government had promised the opposition that we would pass Bill C-11 at all stages at an appointed time agreed on by all parties. Of course, the government broke that commitment by calling Bill C-11 this afternoon without notice.

We do not believe in playing politics on this important issue and we do have another slot we want to use—

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1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order. The unanimous consent motion was actually defeated, so I think it is not really a point of order, but the member might want to incorporate that into his comments at some point if he has the opportunity to do so.

Is the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay rising on the same point of order?

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1:20 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

No, Mr. Speaker, on questions and comments, but I am more than willing to be recognized.

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1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Questions and comments, the hon. Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities.

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1:20 p.m.

Delta B.C.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough LiberalMinister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite and all of my colleagues here in the House for their heartfelt support and their consideration of this very important issue.

I just wanted to correct the number of countries that have actually ratified the Marrakesh treaty. It is 16. Canada will be the 17th. After Canada, there will only be a need to have three more countries ratify this treaty, so we are a little further ahead.

I did want to acknowledge the member's comments around the role of parents who have children who are visually impaired and blind. As parents we set the expectations and we dream for our children. The hon. member dreams big for his children, so I want to commend him on that.

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1:20 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her contributions, obviously, in this subject matter and getting it moving right away. I think that is important to note.

Even though my two motions have failed here today, I still have hope that maybe my third will eventually pass. It may be something else, but I am trying.

At any rate, I thank the minister for her contributions and also for correcting the number of countries. I am hopeful that we can use this as a springboard to push other countries toward it. I am hoping the government has a real strong strategy on doing that and maybe a goal line set for it maybe in the fall for getting the other countries on board with this.

One of the things we can do is create momentum with this. I am pleased that the government has brought this forth. I would also like to note that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development has been raising this with New Democrats as well. We appreciate the interventions.

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1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, one of the issues coming to me from a constituent who has children who are disabled is the issue of tax deductibility. I want to hear the member's thoughts on this.

We have heard of people who want to claim on their taxes necessary equipment to assist them, but then it is called a toy by the CRA, something like an iPad or necessary applications. It would help them actually access these materials getting misidentified by CRA.

I would be of the view that this is an important issue to move on as well to ensure that yes, people have access to these materials, but also that they get the equipment to help them consume this material and that they be treated fairly under our tax law. I wonder if the member could comment on that.

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1:25 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to this question.

My first battle here in the House was stopping the disability tax cuts from being eliminated by the then Liberal government. John Manley was the minister at that time and the Treasury Board was pushing hard for him to do that. I give him all the credit in the world for standing up and not doing that.

The challenge with the disability tax credit to this day, and the member for New Westminster—Burnaby has been doing a wonderful job on this, is making sure that people are aware of the tax credit. I would ask anyone listening to this debate to go to their member of Parliament's office and ask for information and assistance to get the disability tax credit, because it is a credit that can go back 10 years.

With regard to taxation policies and new technology, there is certainly a lot we need to look at, because some of these devices the member is talking about are necessities, not luxuries.

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1:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest, and I know my colleague has had a passion for this for years.

I was really hoping to speak to this because I would have followed up on the issue that the minister talked about, the fight that parents have. People probably do not understand the institutional blocks that are put in the way of children with disabilities. My daughter fought from grade 1 on. She has had to go to the human rights commission time and time again. These are fundamental issues. I would think it would have been a good thing to discuss.

In my 12 years here, I have never ever seen government use its power to stop opposition members from splitting their own time, except today, with what I think is the unfortunate and poisonous behaviour of the member for Winnipeg North. He would not allow our own party to participate using our own time.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague what he thinks it does to the quality of debate in the House when we see such poisonous interference in a discussion that should be about building us as a Parliament into something a little more credible, a little less partisan, and a little less cheap.

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1:25 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, there was a genuine feeling of disappointment when I heard that, because I thought, first, generally speaking, most members in the House do not want to hear me speak for 20 minutes anyway.

That aside, I cannot say where I did not hear something, but I am seeing red right now, because this affected the ability of my colleague to speak, and it undermines a systematic approach we have had to let people speak and split the speaking times. It is rather unfortunate because that is a passive aggressive way to basically get something done as punishment, or some other type of thing, that should be absent on this bill. We have done everything we possibly can. In fact, I gave credit to the parliamentary secretary for industry for approaching me on this and making sure we had cleared the decks for this. Despite us going through a number of different challenges, orders of business, and all those different things, we did so.

The member for Timmins—James Bay was there by my side every single time to protect my flank so we could get this done. Then what do we get? We get that kind of nonsense rearing its head. It is unfortunate though, because I think, in my heart of hearts, some of the Liberal backbenchers who cannot even participate in debate here today should finally be standing up for themselves, their communities, their constituents and persons with disabilities, because they should have a voice here too.

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1:25 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate, given the importance of this legislation and what appears to be all-party support for a worldwide treaty and the leadership role that Canada could play, that the NDP has chosen to play party politics on this issue. Statements in terms of division of speaking time have been denied in the past. There is an idea behind negotiations, supporting agreements, and so forth that should be respected.

There is no doubt that many members of the chamber would love the opportunity to express their thoughts on legislation of this nature. How wonderful it would be if the House sat many hundreds, if not thousands, of hours from my perspective. Then everyone would be able to share their thoughts on everything. Unfortunately, out of goodwill, at times there are limits put in place, such as what we are talking about today, because we want to see the legislation pass.

Would the member not recognize that Canada can and does play that leadership role, and part of showing that leadership is in fact seeing the legislation pass in a timely fashion?

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1:30 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada does not play that role right now because of members like him and their attitude in the House, claiming we are playing partisan games when I openly thanked the parliamentary secretary for supporting this and pushing the issue along.

We have shown our capabilities in this matter. We have shown that when it comes to this House, at the end of the day, we need to stand as one to show that united element to our friends abroad on this debate. What do they get at the end of this? They get to see parliamentary inside games from the PMO on something we care deeply about here and elsewhere. That behaviour shames a lot of the chamber, but fortunately, there are many more of us who will rise above that type of manner.

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1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to this subject. I will be splitting my time with the member for Lethbridge who also serves as our party's critic for disabilities. She is doing a phenomenal job in that role, standing up for vulnerable people.

This is a great bill. It is a bill that all parties as well as unrecognized parties agree on, but it is important to express some disappointment about the reality of the process and how this debate has come up today. We had Bill C-14 on the Notice Paper. Then we had a vote to concur in Bill C-6. Then we had closure on Bill C-10. Now we are on to Bill C-11 without notice.

I say this precisely because of the importance of the bill. It is a bill that we should all be coming together not only on substance but on process. Had we the notice, had we been able to plan this debate at a time when all parties were ready and organized for it, we would have been able to get so much more out of this conversation. There would have been an opportunity to bring in stakeholders perhaps, to listen to and to observe this debate. This would have given all parties the opportunity to ensure that those who really wanted or needed to speak to this were in a position to do so.

Instead, this very important substantive legislation is being used as a procedural weapon, it seems. The government tabled the bill on March 24. As much as the minister has mentioned the urgency of moving this forward, the Liberals could have at least given notice that they were going to do it today. We could have had the bill debated earlier. This is a missed opportunity.

In the previous timeslot, my colleague from the NDP, the member for Windsor West, wanted to split his time and a government member blocked that from happening. We have these missed opportunities of collegiality, missed opportunities to work together to put our best foot forward as a House. It is unfortunate, because we agree with the issue and can work together on it. Yes, there are times for partisanship in this place, but the bill should not have been one of those times.

I do not blame the minister for this. I have spoken to the minister at committee and I know she is committed to working across party lines on important issues. However, this speaks to the House leadership on the government side and how it views absolutely nothing it seems as beyond partisanship.

I want to get that out of the way because it is important to put on the record.

Let us talk about the bill. I am very proud to be speaking in favour of it.

Just to highlight for those who may be just joining the debate, the bill has three substantive different parts to it.

The bill would allow not-for-profit organizations acting on behalf of a person with a disability to convert books and other works into an accessible format without first seeking the permission of the copyright holder. It would instantly allow books that were currently not in accessible format to be converted into those formats. That is an important change, one that would make a positive difference.

Also, as part of the treaty that the bill would operate under, the Marrakesh treaty, which was signed in 2013 and would now through this legislation be ratified, it would allow the sharing of those works between different countries participating in that treaty. There is the domestic element of allowing people to have access to this important information. There is also that international element, encouraging sharing between different countries of this vital material.

Finally, the bill would make important related amendments to digital lock provisions.

Obviously we are going to support the bill. It is getting a lot of consensus. This is the conclusion of a prior process of which the previous government was certainly a part. Budget 2015 set out a plan to implement this treaty. Page 286 of budget 2015, stated:

The Government will propose amendments to the Copyright Act to implement and accede to the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled.

The ability to access printed information is essential to prepare for and participate in Canada’s economy, society and job market. According to Statistics Canada, approximately 1 million Canadians live with blindness or partial sight. The Government will propose amendments to the Copyright Act to implement and accede to the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled (the Marrakesh Treaty).

Aligning Canada’s copyright limitations and exceptions with the international standard established by the Marrakesh Treaty would enable Canada to accede to this international agreement. Once the treaty is in force, as a member country, [Canada] would benefit from greater access to adapted materials.

It is worth nothing that this process has been in place. Certainly, this was the plan laid out in Canada's economic action plan 2015. However, we are very pleased to see the new government continue on with this important work. This work needed to be done.

I would like to specifically motivate the philosophy behind the bill. It is essential that every person has access to books. Books are a major part of all of our lives, and they are an important part of every child's life.

My daughter, Gianna, and I read books all the time. I read books to her on Skype when I am in Ottawa. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have a child who has a visual impairment and who is unable to get books which he or she can read. My daughter is a voracious reader. I brought four books with me and we went through them all in one evening. I need to bring more books with me next time I come to Ottawa, clearly. It is great to see how important books are to us all, especially kids. We need to ensure that people of all ages, including children, have access to reading material of all kinds.

As has been discussed in the House, people's reading decisions are not limited by the availability of books.

Again, I cannot imagine what it would be like to really want to read a particular book, whether a novel or a work of non-fiction, and be told that because of a disability, I cannot read that book, that the book is not available to me, that the knowledge is not available to me. I think that would be a very difficult thing for anyone to deal with. That is why this legislation is important for ensuring that everyone has access to books, that there can really be the full sharing of knowledge that takes place.

Everyone in every situation should have access to as much knowledge, as many books as possible. There can be nothing but good that would come from more access to books for more people.

I also want to talk about the international dimension of this. One of the things we know about Canada is that many people maybe have come here from other places or maybe were born here, but who like to read books in other languages. They might be more comfortable in a language other than English or French, or they simply enjoy reading works from a range of different languages. Specifically, the international dimension of this treaty would allow Canadians to have greater access to books in other languages that may be in a better format which they can make more use of.

Some of the countries that have signed the treaty so far are Argentina, El Salvador, India, Mali, Paraguay, Singapore, UAE, and Uruguay. In a multicultural Canada that likely means more access to materials in languages like Hindi, Punjabi, and Spanish. It is important that through those international sharing takes place for all Canadians, not just those who want to access things in English or French, have access to them.

Noting the countries that have signed the treaty so far, it does not look like there are that many Francophone countries. In addition to us ratifying this, there is a lot of value in Canada playing a role, encouraging other countries to ratify and, in particular, seeing if we can use our relationships through the Francophonie to encourage more Francophone countries to ratify this and therefore ensure we have good access to more French-language materials.

We need to get to 20 countries. It is important that we get those 20 countries ratifying. I understand from the minister that we only have three more to go. This is an important leadership role Canada can play and the continuing advocacy we have to do.

I mentioned this during questions and comments, but I have had a constituent raise with me the importance of ensuring those tools people access that allow them, as people with disabilities, to operate in the world, to read, and to do other things, it may be an iPad or a speech app on a phone, are tax deductible. I see measures that address those issues as aligning well with the measures in this legislation.

I look forward to supporting the bill.

Copyright ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kyle Peterson Liberal Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I share the member's affinity for this bill and his support for it. I just have a quick question for the member.

It has been said many times that it is never the wrong time to do the right thing. Why does the member see this as the wrong time to do the right thing? He must agree this is the right thing. We all agree on it. Let us get it done. Let us get this bill passed. I would like to hear his comments on that.

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1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, just on the procedural point, we have said we will pass this after question period.

I did not say that it was the wrong time to do the right thing. What I said was it helped to give notice if people planned on doing the right thing, and if they wanted others to go ahead with them.

It is always the wrong time to use cheap procedural tactics when we have a bill that is this important. We should be working together on this. All the government had to do was give notice that this would be up for debate. We could have engaged more stakeholders. This would have been a good opportunity for all parties to work together.

There is obviously still collaboration around the content of the bill, but things like letting the NDP members split their time, things like giving advance notice, these are basic elements of courtesy that are normally observed in this place. It is disappointing to see, on legislation this important where we should be coming together, that not happening to the fullest extent.

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1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up on my colleague's question of the right time.

All of us came to the House this morning fully under the impression that we would be debating Bill C-14. Through the joint committee study, through the justice committee study, we were told time and time again that we did not have time to get all these witnesses in. We were under a tight time frame. We were under the deadline of June 6.

Today, we were hoping to start debate on Bill C-14. Instead of that, we have had at least three different bills brought to the House today, taking up the time that members of the House could be debating Bill C-14. The clock is ticking.

Again, what are my colleague's feelings about why the government would have chosen today to implement three bills that could have been passed another week when Bill C-14 was under such a tight timeline?

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1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, obviously Bill C-11 is the kind of bill that we want to see move forward as quickly as possible. We are doing all we can to move it forward in a reasonable way, given the way this has been handled.

However, the best way to address these issues is if parties can work together on these things. This morning, again, to have one bill on notice, to have a different bill put forward for concurrence, to then move closure on a different bill, and then to have this bill brought up, I do not want to be talking about this, quite frankly. If we are going to be talking about Bill C-11, I would rather be talking about the substance of the bill. It is substance on which we can all agree.

However, this has to be said. Canadians need to know that there has been a missed opportunity here, a missed opportunity to engage more people and to engage more stakeholders in a conversation that needs to happen. If this is sunny ways, I do not know what clouds would look like.

Copyright ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, on a couple of occasions, through requesting the unanimous consent of the House, the NDP, in particular, have put forward the thought of having this bill passed through all the different stages. The Conservative Party has denied that unanimous consent.

Could the member explain to the House why the Conservative Party has chosen to deny a unanimous consent that would have ultimately seen the bill pass before lunchtime today. Would the Conservatives possibly entertain that now?

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1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry if the member missed my specific intervention where I specifically addressed this point.

I will just identify again that our position was that having agreed in the past to pass Bill C-11 at an appointed time agreed on by all parties, this was the commitment that had been made. Then the government broke that commitment by putting this bill forward, totally without notice.

We do not want to see the government playing politics with this issue. This is an important issue, and we would like to move forward on a consensus basis. We have said that after this speaking slot, we will agree to pass Bill C-11 after question period.

It is not a substantial difference in terms of time. We want to move forward with this as well. However, there is a missed opportunity here in terms of engaging stakeholders and in terms of working together collaboratively among the different parties.

Copyright ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to reiterate what my hon. colleague said when he mentioned that this is a missed opportunity to work together as colleagues in the House. Back in my riding, people have told me many times that they are looking for us as parliamentarians to take those opportunities where we can collaborate and work together to make legislation better, to serve Canadians from coast to coast to coast. This was one of those opportunities, and unfortunately, it was missed today because of the rush that was put on Bill C-11, a bill that would amend the Copyright Act.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Carleton for his hard work on this piece of legislation when the Conservatives were in power. The member can be assured that there is support from this side of the House with regard to this legislation, because we can see how it would enhance the quality of life for those with a visual impairment and therefore do not have the access they need to library services. Canadians who are print disabled should have the same level of access as all Canadians, and so again, I will reiterate that we do support this legislation going forward.

This legislation would build on that which was introduced previously by the Conservative government to allow for charities and not-for-profits to produce alternative formats for copyrighted material. The important limitation is that this is a not-for-profit exemption, so no one would be able to make a profit off an artist's or a writer's intellectual property. This is a key point, because the legislation would be for the betterment of all Canadians. It would serve our nation as a whole and not profit.

The bill addresses a barrier to inclusion for those with a visual or comprehension disability, which is why we support this legislation for building a more inclusive society.

We all support efforts to bring into effect the World Intellectual Property Organizations' Marrakesh Treaty, as it is known. This treaty is designed to remove barriers to the access of alternative format print materials through changes to domestic copyright laws on an international basis, while also facilitating the sharing of literary materials among nations.

I agree that reading material should be accessible to all. Growing up in my home, I had parents who put a lot of emphasis on the importance of reading. Before I was able to read, my mom spent a lot of time reading to me, believing that it helped with development. I do see where it has had a positive impact. I learned to read at a very young age and I enjoyed it tremendously. I learned much through my reading. I can only imagine what it would be like for someone who does not have access to reading materials to take advantage of the opportunities for learning, enjoyment, and cultural engagement in the same way that I was able to.

We can all agree that this legislation is important and that it would address a pressing need of those with visual or comprehension disabilities. However, the minister overstates how this legislation would increase the employment opportunities for persons with a disability. There are other factors that have to be understood on this matter.

We have all heard the personal stories of those living with a disability, how difficult it is for them to secure and maintain employment, or how difficult it is for them to have a sustainable income. These individuals are looking for the leadership from the present Liberal government that they saw under our previous Conservative government. Unfortunately, the government appears to be going after the low-hanging fruit on this file, with legislation that was already in motion, introduced under the previous government and largely in the same format as we see it today.

The Liberal government promised in its platform to introduce a national disabilities act, and unfortunately we have not seen any movement forward on that. The focus of such an act would be to address the systemic barriers to accessing employment and community services that are faced by persons with disabilities.

Bill C-11 is a much-needed piece of legislation for Canada. It is a much-needed initiative going forward. Persons with disabilities in this country are asking the present government for a real plan and sustained leadership. They are asking for employment opportunities and for equality in all things having to do with life.

While this legislation before us today is a good step, it is not adequate and it does not show leadership in the way Canadians need.

It is unfortunate that there was no mention of persons with disabilities in the Speech from the Throne or in the Liberals' 2016 budget, again reiterating that the current government is not taking seriously those persons with disabilities.

Our Conservative government had a strong record of providing new tools and programs to give persons with disabilities control over their future. Under the initiatives brought in by the late Jim Flaherty, we increased training for employment, increased accessibility for those who have a disability, and ensured they are able to join employment forces. We funded community projects to make facilities more accessible to those with a physical disability. We created a registered savings plan so that parents were given new tools to financially plan for their child with a disability.

While we support this legislation that is before the House today, we are left asking some very significant questions. We wonder where the ambition of the current government has gone, where its promises lie. We wonder if the current government is going to follow through on its commitments to a national plan with regard to those with disabilities. Again, not having seen it in the 2016 budget and not having heard of any sort of plan in the Liberals' throne speech, we are left wondering these things. Why is it that the Liberals have not made inclusion of persons with a disability a top priority?

What I have heard on the ground from those people living with a disability is that they want to work so that they can provide for themselves. They want opportunities to seek employment and to not be discriminated against as they do so. Again, they are looking to the current government to take leadership in this regard. We know that among us it is often disabled individuals who are the most impoverished. Because they cannot find the type of employment that perhaps others can, they are left with a rather meagre income. As a result, they are living in poverty and do not have access to the services and the lifestyle that perhaps the rest of Canadians have. They want to be able to access public spaces, to participate in their communities, and to be contributing members. Once again, they are looking to the current government to provide some leadership in these areas.

I have not heard of this bill, Bill C-11, as being a top-of-mind concern for constituents when so many of those persons with a disability are in fact living in poverty because they cannot access employment. Once again, I would reiterate that the minister is overstating that this bill that is before the House today would create greater employment opportunities to the extent that she has implied. Although it would be a helpful step in that direction, once again I implore the government to take adequate steps in this direction.

While we support this legislation and the intent that it holds, we are left asking this. Where is the plan to address the more serious issues that face the Canadians among us who have a disability? Where is the leadership that the current government promised for the sake of all Canadians, to have an inclusive place within Canadian society?

Copyright ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, what we have been listening to for the last little while is what has become very clear in terms of the overwhelming support for the bill. We recognize in the contributions, whether from the minister or members opposite, that there seems to be very good and substantial support for the bill.

I would ask if there would be the unanimous consent of the House to see Bill C-11 pass through all stages at this time.

Copyright ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Does the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?