House of Commons Hansard #222 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was finance.

Topics

The House resumed from October 24 consideration of the motion that Bill S-230, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (drug-impaired driving), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill S-230 under private members' business.

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

Vote #377

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I declare the motion defeated.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I wish to inform the House that because of the delay, there will be no private members' business hour today. Accordingly, the order will be rescheduled for another sitting, as will the debate on the motion to concur in the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Finance.

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

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government will be announcing the 2018 immigration levels plan soon. This will provide an opportunity for the government to match its lofty rhetoric with action. Far too often, the government makes grand statements and fails to act on them. When it does act, the action, unfortunately, seems to revolve only around meeting a self-interested goal, with short-sighted planning and one-time exceptions. Then it is just back to more consulting.

We saw this with the Syrian refugee initiative. If it were not for Canadians from coast to coast to coast stepping up, the government would have fallen short of its lofty promise, even after changing that promise three times. While taking as many self-congratulating photo ops as possible, the government failed to provide the necessary funding for resettlement services once its resettlement target was hit.

We continue to see long wait lists for newcomers trying to access language training and a lack of child care spots, which has a disproportionate impact on newcomer women. So much for our feminist Prime Minister. We heard at committee about the extensive pro bono work being done by Canadian medical professionals due to the inadequacies of the interim federal health program. We also heard about refugees struggling to pay back travel loans while seeing the one-time exception of the government's waiving travel loans for a select cohort of Syrian refugees to ensure that enough people could arrive before its self-imposed deadline.

For this year, we saw the government immediately scale back refugee resettlement, squandering the humanitarian drive of Canadians by capping private refugee sponsorships, and committing to only 7,500 government-assisted refugees. This year, the government has also failed to take leadership in dealing with the situation of asylum seekers crossing the border. There was a lofty tweet and then months of ignoring the repercussions. Despite underfunding and understaffing at the Immigration and Refugee Board, the government continued to ignore calls for action, even as the IRB's backlog increased by 1,000 cases per month, which has now, by the way, increased to 1,400 cases per month, and still no action being taken in response, only consultation and more review.

In the meantime, the IRB is forced to rob Peter to pay Paul, reallocating its internal funding and experienced staff to clear the legacy claim backlog. At this rate, the writing is on the wall: the government's failure to act is going to create legacy claims 2.0 when all is said and done. This will leave the parliamentary secretary's successor forced to respond down the road, as he did in response to my question in May when he said, “The board also set up a working group to deal with the existing caseload, which will help eliminate the backlog of refugee claims inherited from the previous government.” The government cannot claim to be living up to its promise to “deliver a safe, secure, and humane refugee system” when it continues to ignore the needs of the IRB. People's lives become trapped in limbo as they spend years wondering what will happen with their files. It is unjust and, frankly, inhumane.

Does the government plan on matching its words with actions? Will next year's levels plan match its humanitarian rhetoric? Will it finally provide the IRB with the resources it needs?

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Serge Cormier LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her question. I am pleased to have an opportunity to talk about Canada's asylum system and the other subjects my colleague raised.

Although we are always endeavouring to find new ways to enhance our system, I could not disagree more with my colleague when she describes our asylum system as defective and broken. On the contrary, Canada has been proud to provide refugees with assistance and protection for a long time.

Members will recall that Canada recently welcomed more than 40,000 refugees fleeing dire circumstances in their home country. We are going to continue to welcome refugees from many different countries around the world.

The Syrian refugee resettlement initiative was a national project that was embraced by Canadians across the country, to whom we owe a debt of thanks. Canada's system is highly respected around the world as a fair, safe, and efficient model. In fact, our approach has attracted a great deal of interest.

When the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, visited Canada last year, he hailed our private refugee sponsorship program as a model for nations around the world. Canada then joined the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the University of Ottawa, the Radcliffe Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations to launch the global refugee sponsorship initiative, a joint initiative to increase private refugee sponsorship around the world.

This joint initiative will help more refugees resettle around the world by enabling states, civil society groups, the business community, and individuals to launch private sponsorship programs based on the Canadian model. I believe that private sponsorship, which has worked so well in Canada, can produce results in other countries and save more vulnerable people around the world.

Even though our refugee system continues to respect Canada's longstanding humanitarian tradition, we are sparing no effort to make this system as efficient as possible and anticipate making further improvements to ensure it continues to garner respect around the world.

For example, we made investments to improve our system in budgets 2016 and 2017. I can assure the House that the government is concerned about the backlogs raised by my colleague and that we are working very hard to resolve the situation. For example, the IRB recently announced initiatives to reduce the backlog and expedite application processing.

As I have said before in the House, we have launched an independent review of the IRB to find ways to improve its productivity.

We are determined to improve our immigration system and we will get there by working together. That has been our government's approach from day one and I think that Canadians understand that our immigration system has a bright future.

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government, frankly, is tone deaf on the issues that have been brought to its attention. If the government does not adequately fund the IRB, it will put the integrity of our immigration system in jeopardy. The government went from #welcometocanada to sending MPs around the U.S. to try to convince minority communities not to come to Canada. It has been out of touch on the situation on the ground from the start.

To quote an IRB decision-maker, ruling in favour of one of the 69% of successful claims made by irregular crossers, on the increasing fear and uncertainty in the U.S. system, “Certainly, that seems to be playing out as you have feared, and today on the news I know that President Trump has suspended the Syrian refugee program. You have provided, in my view, a reasonable explanation of your failure to claim in the U.S.”

Instead of rhetoric and consultation, will the government take action and provide the IRB with the staffing and resources it needs to protect the integrity of our system?

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Serge Cormier Liberal Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, as I have said in the past, we are proud that Canada has an immigration system that is respected and regarded internationally as one of the best.

At committee recently, the member opposite had the opportunity to put a number of questions to various experts, including for example, representatives from the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. She also had the opportunity to ask questions of departmental officials. Furthermore, she was able to ask the Minister of Immigration and the Minister of Public Safety questions regarding what we are doing to improve our immigration system.

As I said, we are currently conducting an independent review of the IRB. However, the IRB has also taken measures to reduce backlogs and wait times. We are working closely with all those groups and we will succeed in improving our system.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, in Canada right now, one in 68 children are diagnosed with autism. More than 500,000 Canadians are living with autism today, and it is the fastest growing and diagnosed neurological disorder in our country.

About half of those with autism are of average or above average intelligence, yet very few of them actually graduate from high school and go on to post-secondary institutions. These numbers are concerning to me, because they represent a tragic loss in our society. We have these individuals who have immense potential and abilities, which are not being developed, because families lack the resources they require.

To better advocate for individuals and families living with autism, the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance brought together more than 90 autism organizations, researchers, and public policy champions, and consulted with more than 5,000 people across the country, including self-advocates, remote and rural communities, indigenous people, researchers, civil society organizations, and Canadians from every region of Canada in order to lay the foundation for a national Canadian autism partnership. Together, under the autism partnership, these groups and individuals would work together to advance research, and make sure families had the resources needed instead of duplicating their efforts.

How much would this cost? In November 2016, the Autism Partnership Project proposed it would need $19 million over the course of five years, which is only $3.8 million per year. Instead of granting this small amount of money, the current government actually made a decision to kill the partnership altogether.

The Liberals will try to tell us they spent money on research, but they are missing the point altogether. Research is one small piece of what the autism partnership would have accomplished had it been able to go forward. The autism community wanted a coordinated national strategy to pull together research, treatment, and best practices all in one. To use a metaphor, it is kind of like entire families going to a dealership wanting to buy a car, but the Liberals are actually just willing to sell them a tire.

Families struggle to know how to best support their loves ones, because there just are not enough resources available to them, and there is not enough research to backup those that are developed. However, the Liberals made a choice that reveals they really do not believe these families are, in fact, worth the investment. I find this very sad.

Just this week, the government took another step further for those who live at a disadvantage, and cancelled the tax credit for those who have diabetes.

The government claims to stand for the middle class, and for those who are working hard to join it. This is the Liberal tag line. The Liberals like to use that in this place day in and day out. However, in essence, or in happenstance, they actually take direct, and destructive action toward the most vulnerable among us in this country. I do not believe that is right. In fact, I believe it is altogether mean.

My question is simple. Why is it the current Liberal government can provide $400 million to Bombardier to subsidize a plane that will be owned by European billionaires, and assembled by people in the U.S., therefore putting jobs there, but it cannot find a mere $19 million, or $3.8 million per year, in order to create a Canadian autism partnership, and benefit the most vulnerable here in Canada?

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

Bill Blair LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Lethbridge for her question and her interest in this issue. Frankly, I will assume that her comments about Bombardier are rhetorical. Instead, I would like to take this opportunity to explain the Government of Canada's work on autism.

The Government of Canada is profoundly concerned about the pressures and challenges faced by all individuals with disabilities, including those with autism spectrum disorder and their families. Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD as it is often referred to, is a broad and complex issue. We understand the value of collaboration and the role the federal government plays in this important area.

That is why the federal government has focused its efforts on building research and evidence on ASD to improve our understanding of this disorder and to help organizations, professionals, and families address the health, social, and other impacts of ASD. In fact, over the past five years, the federal government, through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, or CIHR, has invested over $44 million in ASD-related research, with over $11 million allocated in 2016-17 alone. This funding has contributed to advancing our knowledge about the underlying causes of ASD and to the translation of research knowledge into better diagnostic tools and treatments for patients. CIHR's investments also include partnering with ASD organizations to support a research chair whose work focuses on the relationship between mental health and ASD. Since the launch of this research chair in 2012-13, much more has become known about the prevention and treatment of mental health challenges for people with ASD.

An essential component of building the evidence base around ASD is ensuring that we have accurate data. That is why the Public Health Agency of Canada is working with provinces and territories to implement the national autism spectrum disorder surveillance system. Data collected through this system will tell us how many Canadians are living with ASD and how many new cases are emerging. The Public Health Agency of Canada is also supporting the Canadian Paediatric Society in developing clinical assessment guidelines for ASD. These guidelines will contribute to improvements in early detection, screening, and diagnosis, as well as early intervention.

Our government is committed to supporting greater accessibility and opportunities for Canadians with disabilities, including those with ASD, in their communities and their workplaces. Under the guidance of the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, the Department of Employment and Social Development Canada is working to provide people in Canada with disabilities, including ASD, with new opportunities to learn and develop their skills, and to participate in our economy. Through the disability component of the social development partnerships program, the Government of Canada supports projects intended to improve the participation and integration of people with disabilities in society. An example of such a project is Meticulon Consulting, which created an innovative assessment model used to train, support, and engage individuals with ASD in addressing their social inclusion needs and identifying opportunities for their community participation.

Employment and Social Development Canada is also supporting initiatives to improve employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. For example, the Government of Canada is investing $26.4 million in employment and skills training specifically for individuals with developmental disabilities, with a primary focus on ASD, to improve their labour market participation. Projects currently under way include working with partners to provide community support, employer engagement, and vocational training.

Under the leadership of the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, we have recently completed Canada's largest ever national consultation on disability to inform the development of new federal accessibility legislation. We anticipate that this legislation will be introduced in Parliament later this year, or very early in 2018.

In closing, I would like to reaffirm that the Government of Canada understands the complexity of this issue. We are committed to working collaboratively with our provincial and territorial partners and stakeholders to ensure that federal initiatives support a better quality of life for those living with ASD and their families.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, the problem with the argument that we just heard from the hon. member across the way is that he is talking about the government putting program after program into place, meaning that we have made the government much bigger and created many levels of bureaucracy that someone will have to step through to receive any sort of help that their family with a loved one with autism needs. That is not okay.

What I am talking about is a partnership that actually brought people together at a grassroots level. I am talking about more than 5,000 people from across the country who gathered the best knowledge, the best experiences, and the best practices possible, who would have been able to share that wealth of information and pursue greater research to help everyday families.

This is the problem with the current government. The Liberals think they know best. They think they can dictate to Canadians what they need. Well, they cannot. They are wrong. Canadians know what they need and should be empowered to be the solution to the challenges they face. The role of government is to empower people, not disempower them, not to create more bureaucracy, and not to create more application levels.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member from Lethbridge for her comments with respect to consultation and partnership. I want to assure her that the Government of Canada acknowledges that ASD cannot be effectively addressed without proper consultation and partnership among all stakeholders. We are working to identify where the federal government can best invest in help for individuals with disabilities, including people living with ASD.

I want to assure the member opposite that we are committed to working with stakeholders to ensure that federal initiatives help support a better quality of life for those living with autism and for their families. For example, the government is making significant investments in ASD research. We will continue to do so. We have provided $39.1 million to the Kids Brain Health Network over a 10-year period to further our understanding of the genetic and environmental causes of neurodevelopmental disorders, such as cerebral palsy, autism, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

We remain committed to broad consultation, partnership with all stakeholders, and we share the member's concern that we need to ensure that we hear from all people with a concern about this issue.

InfrastructureAdjournment Proceedings

October 25th, 2017 / 7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and follow up on a question that was raised in the House on May 17. The more time goes by, the more history repeats itself.

It is worth taking the time to read out part of the question I asked the Minister of Finance on May 17. That day, I told the Liberal version of the story of Robin Hood. It was the story of the Minister of Finance, who invites his rich billionaire friends to pick the pockets of poor Canadian taxpayers. At the time, I said that the minister's recipe was to borrow billions of dollars, to be paid for by future generations of young Canadians, and give them all to his rich Liberal friends, while promising them risk-free returns. I called him the “Robinbank“ of infrastructure, referring to the Canada infrastructure bank.

However, I must admit that I was wrong. The finance minister's role was not to take money from poor Canadians and give it away to his rich friends. It was to keep it for himself. As we have been seeing since Parliament reconvened, the Minister of Finance forgot to disclose certain information about his personal finances to the Ethics Commissioner and the Prime Minister. This allowed the minister to keep amassing personal wealth while serving as a member of Cabinet.

My family and friends would say that it is a coincidence, but I say that there are no coincides, and that this is just history repeating itself. Yesterday, I listened carefully to the speech given by our finance critic, the member for Carleton, who was responding to what the government calls an economic update. That announcement cannot really be called an economic update because all the government did was announce that it was going to continue spending. It is going to continue to try to take all the money it can out of taxpayers' pockets to try to pay off this huge deficit. The infrastructure bank was one way of doing that, but the Minister of Finance thought it was such a good idea that he would personally take advantage of it.

What we are seeing is that the government is continuing to do the opposite of what it says. Speaking of rich Liberal friends and the money the government is taking out of the pockets of the middle class, let us remember that the government was supposed to take that money from the wealthiest Canadians. That is what the Liberals said that they would do, that they would make the wealthiest Canadians pay more. The Liberals said that they were raising taxes for the wealthiest Canadians. However, the member for Carleton was very clear yesterday when he said, “...according to the finance minister's own department, the rich are paying $1 billion less in taxes”. That is the reality.

The “Robinbank” forgot that it is supposed to help the poor and the middle class. Unfortunately, this government has been doing the exact opposite from day one. The result is that the wealthiest Canadians are the winners since they have been paying $1 billion less in taxes since this government took office in 2015.

In short, the “Robinbank” still exists. I hope that the members opposite will understand that it is not by pushing Canadians further into debt that they are going to improve the lives of the real middle class.

InfrastructureAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs Québec

Liberal

Marc Miller LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Mégantic—L'Érable for his speech.

When the member mentioned Robin Hood, I could not help but think about Robin Hood's companion, Friar Tuck, which was altogether characteristic of the previous government's action in their gluttony, in which it consumed the democratic process. It gave me a chuckle. Gladly, Canadians put that to an end, and that is why we are here today.

The Government of Canada is taking a new approach to infrastructure financing with the establishment of the Canada infrastructure bank, as my colleague mentioned. The bank is an additional tool to build new infrastructure by attracting private sector and institutional investors to support the infrastructure that Canadian communities and Canadians need.

The Government of Canada is committed to finding new and innovative ways to help partners address their pressing infrastructure needs. The bank is one of the new tools we are bringing in to meet these needs.

The infrastructure bank will invest $35 billion in growth-oriented infrastructure across Canada, such as public transit and trade corridors, and serve as a centre of expertise for projects supported by private and institutional investors. It will also advise other levels of government on designing and financing revenue-generating projects. The investing in Canada plan will provide $15 billion, which represents about 8% of the total infrastructure funding commitment in our historic long-term plan worth over $180 billion.

We know that many infrastructure projects will not be a good fit with the bank's mandate. However, for those projects that are, we will work with select partners to provide even more infrastructure to Canadians. The infrastructure bank will be one of a number of funding options available to our government partners. This will enable the federal government to allocate more funding to projects that need public money.

To ensure that the bank meets the needs of our partners and our communities, we have created a system that will produce long-term benefits. We have done extensive work and held broad consultations with third parties and specialized partners across Canada, including in the infrastructure and finance sectors, at every stage of its development.

To ensure appropriate independence, the bank is structured as an arm's-length crown corporation. It will be led by a chief executive officer and governed by an independent board of directors. The bank will make independent investment decisions that represent good value for money for Canadians. This includes structuring, negotiating, and managing its investments using its specialized expertise to meet its mandate.

The bank also is subject to appropriate oversight as it is accountable to Parliament and the public in a number of important ways. It is required to submit, through the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, an annual report that will constitute the appropriate oversight.

Again, in conclusion, I would like to highlight the fact that the hon. member across the way has suggested a number of allegations with respect to our finance minister. It must be noted that at all times he has complied with the instructions of the Ethics Commissioner, and he has gone above that in the steps he has taken to proactively put up the proper measures to ensure proper transparency. All that to ensure that he is completely above board with the Canadian public. We are proud of the record. We are proud of the fiscal economic update. Canadians should be proud as well.

InfrastructureAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals promised to stick to a small $10-billion deficit, but now it is a $117-billion deficit over a few years that the government is going to leave our children. That is the issue.

My question was: when will “Robin Infrastructure Bank” stop taking money from middle class Canadians to give to the Liberals' rich friends?

The plot has changed. It is no longer about bows and arrows for Robin Hood. Now we have structures, screens, and ethics commissioners. There is an entire system that protects the minister from having to give us access to the information we need in order to be able to trust him. He is the most important minister in the Liberal cabinet. This is the Minister of Finance we are talking about here, the one who manages our country's finances. It is only normal for us to have 100% trust in the Minister of Finance. That is why, on this side of the House, we are calling on the Minister of Finance to disclose all his assets and all his numbered companies so that we can get an idea of whether or not there is a conflict of interest. Above all, we have to be able to trust him and not a third party like the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

InfrastructureAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Miller Liberal Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs, QC

Mr. Speaker, I did not hear a question there, but this gives me an opportunity to say some more about our economic plan, which is working well and moving full steam ahead. On that note, I would like to wind up my response once again by talking about the Canada infrastructure bank, which was the subject of my colleague's initial question.

As mentioned previously, the bank is an additional tool that our partners can use. It is an engagement tool that our partners proposed to us. It is not forced upon them, such as the measures that were taken by the previous government to force certain projects through a screen. They can decide to use it or not. We will not impose it on anyone. By having this tool available for some projects, it frees up the federal grant dollars for those projects that would not be a good fit for the bank. All this is focused squarely on Canadians.

Through infrastructure projects like those we are supporting, and through our fruitful partnerships, we are going to make a real difference in the lives of Canadians and the future of our country.

This is a project that we will go ahead with cautiously, but with the infrastructure dollars and the additional dollars by our private partners that we have committed to.

It is new. It is innovative. It is squarely focused on Canadians, squarely focused on building the infrastructure necessary for the 21st century.

InfrastructureAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

(The House adjourned at 7:43 p.m.)