House of Commons Hansard #171 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was workers.


Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

12:50 p.m.


Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to ask another question, because I do not think I heard what my colleague was saying about the creation of the infrastructure bank, which is an important part of this bill.

Speaking of dividing up the bill, this is exactly the kind of measure that could be separated, so that parliamentarians could vote on that in one way and on other measures in a different way. The very principle of splitting a bill is about allowing parliamentarians to vote on each measure rather than having to vote on all of them as a whole.

What does my friend think of the infrastructure bank and the potential risks of privatizing our infrastructure? According to the bill, the mission of the infrastructure bank would be to fund projects that generate revenue. This means more user fees.

I wonder if my colleague could talk about that part of the bill, regarding the creation of the infrastructure bank. What are her thoughts on that?

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

12:55 p.m.


Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, that is another excellent question from my colleague from Quebec.

I, too, am deeply concerned about the establishment of the infrastructure bank. I am sure I shared with many in the House today our shock when the government suggested that a mere $15 billion for the establishment of the infrastructure bank, using taxpayers' dollars, is nothing to worry about. Perhaps that is small change to the Liberals, but it is not small change to the majority of people I represent.

There are also growing concerns among the public about the conflict of interest, with the very people who were consulted on the establishment of this bank who may in fact be the very persons who get contracts or loans from this infrastructure bank to initiate major projects.

I heard earlier from one of our Liberal colleagues about how committed she is and the need for affordable housing. We need more spaces in affordable child care. I do not think anyone will be going to the infrastructure bank to establish those projects.

I have met with the majority of the groups in my own city who are trying to provide affordable housing and housing for the homeless. We are in dire straits in our city. It would be nice if the government would take part of that $15 billion and put it towards affordable housing and access to affordable child care.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

12:55 p.m.


Bob Bratina Liberal Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Madam Speaker, the finance minister has a tradition that when he makes his first budget speech, he has a new pair of shoes. Since this is my first speech to the budget, I have decided to implement a new tradition and I have a new tie, which was created by Inuit artist Aoudla Pudlat from Cape Dorset and it is called “The Imperial Bird”.

I am pleased to stand today to reflect on the budget measures our government is putting in place to carry out our plan for Canada.

In the brief time I have, I would like to highlight aspects of the budget that relate solely to the Canadian steel industry and the 22,000 Canadians who are direct employees along with 100,000 others indirectly employed in this fundamental sector of the Canadian economy.

There are 19 basic steel facilities in five provinces with annual sales of $14 billion, a big number. Let me put it in terms of my city of Hamilton.

ArcelorMittal Dofasco has a payroll of 5,000 employees in Hamilton whose average wage is $75,000. Let us do the math. This is an injection into our city's economy every year of $375 million, not including pensions and benefits. Furthermore, the company has never been busier. Thanks to advanced manufacturing innovations, it makes 450,000 tonnes of steel a year, which is more than twice the tonnage with less than half the employees than when I worked there years ago. This is world-class, environmentally sound, well-paid manufacturing second to none that supports Hamilton's middle class.

Hamilton's other steel plant, Stelco, is currently being restructured under the CCAA process, which allows it to continue operations and maintain employment. When this process concludes, Stelco's management is predicting a very positive future for its Hamilton operations, thanks in part to the measures we are introducing in budget 2017. These measures are intended to strengthen Canada's trade remedy systems by amendments to the Special Import Measures Act and related regulations, and I will described them briefly.

On circumvention, domestic producers will be able to file a complaint regarding trade and business practices that are intended to avoid duties. The Canada Border Services Agency will investigate complaints and apply duties to goods that are found to have circumvented our regulations.

On scope, specific products can be investigated by border services to determine if they fall within the scope of a trade remedy measure.

On particular market situations, unfair trade often involves price distortions by exporting countries. I will give an example of how they can get around the rules. Sheet steel that would otherwise be subject to tariffs might be chemically treated with a boron coating, which would then allow the steel to be re-categorized as an alloy product and thus not subject to the duty.

Another way of circumventing Canadian tariffs is shipping Chinese coils to finishing mills in Vietnam. Re-rolling that material and shipping it to Canada from Vietnam allows the Chinese producer to avoid Canadian duties.

These are simple examples. The process can get very complicated when foreign currencies are manipulated to hide the true cost of exported products, so we have created the tools industry needs to fight these practices.

The trade remedies we have introduced have already had a profound effect on the steel industry in Canada. In Calgary, Tenaris has just reopened a manufacturing plant and is in the process of recalling about 100 unionized employees. In Grande Prairie, Tenaris is moving ahead with a $20 million service centre, creating 20 jobs.

In testimony before our international trade committee, the company's representative stated that part of the reasons for these actions was the federal government's crackdown on dumping by countries like China that had depressed prices and forced layoffs and plant closures.

Sean Donnelly is president and CEO of ArcelorMittal Dofasco, chair of the Canadian Steel Producers Association, and a board member of the American Iron and Steel Institute. Here is what Sean had to say to our Standing Committee on International Trade:

Let me start by saying that ArcelorMittal Dofasco welcomes the Government of Canada's budget 2017 commitment to improve its ability to defend Canadian manufacturers against dumped and subsidized imports by implementing measures that effectively modernize the Canadian trade remedy system. These legislative and regulatory amendments will improve the enforcement of trade remedies, address the circumvention of duties, and better account for market and price distortions.

There is a very similar American perspective.

Thomas J. Gibson is president and CEO of the American Iron and Steel Institute. I met with Tom in Ottawa, and again recently in Washington, when I attended congressional hearings on the American steel industry. He said:

Congress recently passed legislation to improve enforcement at our borders to try to catch those who evade tariffs by deliberately mislabeling where the steel comes from, in addition to other clever tricks that are undermining the American steel industry....Congress gave the Commerce Department new tools last summer when it enacted legislation that made improvements to the trade remedy laws, and now it is critical that the department aggressively use them.

Budget 2017 also recognizes that labour unions have an important perspective to bring to trade remedy investigations. Therefore, regulatory amendments will be made to ensure unions have the right to participate as interested parties in trade remedy proceedings.

During my visit to Washington, I also heard from Tom Conway, the vice-president of the United Steelworkers, who acknowledged his Canadian guest and stated, “Buy America is about fighting our enemies and not our friends”, in reference to Canadian unionized steelworkers.

As co-chair of the parliamentary all-party steel caucus, I can report to the House that planning is under way for a joint meeting of our caucus and the American congressional steel caucus sometime in the next couple of months. Our American counterparts have made it clear that they will be taking strong measures against dumping of foreign steel in the American market. They will be encouraged that Canada is following suit with the measures I have outlined to keep our trade policies aligned with our NAFTA partners.

Canada cannot be seen as an easy entry point for cheap foreign steel produced without regard to modern environmental standards, working conditions, and compensation. The language I heard at the steel congressional hearings was explicit. “We are at war with China”, was the statement made by Ed Vore, who is the CEO of ArcelorMittal's tubular products division in Pittsburgh. The executives I met in Washington were aware of Canada's initiatives regarding trade remedies, which will go a long way toward ensuring a positive relationship in steel manufacturing between our two countries.

The measures I have just outlined did not make many headlines. However, virtually every stakeholder in Canadian steel has responded in the most positive fashion, not only by the supportive comments but by the actions already taken, as shown by the Tenaris announcements in Alberta.

Of course I am happy for my city of Hamilton but also for Regina, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Contrecoeur, Quebec, and every place in Canada within the steel supply chain. These were the measures big steel asked for, and these are the measures that we provided.

Budget 2017 also includes investments in automotive and aerospace. Our infrastructure investments in transit and transportation will require vast amounts of steel for projects all across Canada, from rail cars to rebar, because steel is a basic building block of our nation, and our steelworkers make the best in the world, with the highest environmental standards.

My emphasis on the budget measures related to steel is in part to dispel the myth that this is an industry of the past, associated with rust belts, old manufacturing, spoiled environments, and lost jobs. The company I know best, my old employer, Dofasco, has been steadily hiring for the past five years, and 30% of the workforce joined the company in the past five years. Young people are getting jobs in steel.

In terms of investing in its facilities, Dofasco has already spent $1.3 billion in the plant over the past two years, and another $1.5 billion in the capital budget between now and 2018. These expenditures are in step with the government's creation of a national advanced manufacturing economic strategy plan that commits to increasing value-added exports by 30% by 2025 and the establishment of innovation superclusters.

Members of the House and Canadians need to know that Canadian steel is world class, innovative, and advanced manufacturing is providing wages, benefits, and opportunity for thousands of Canadians. It is our duty as a government to provide the legislative and regulatory tools that steel needs to survive and flourish. That is what we have done in budget 2017.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

1:05 p.m.


Erin Weir NDP Regina—Lewvan, SK

Madam Speaker, it has been a pleasure to serve on the all-party steel caucus with the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek. Certainly, I would welcome the improvements to trade remedy provisions as a positive feature of the budget. Of course, the devil is in the details, and I hope the government follows through with enforcement on the good words in the budget.

I would like to ask about another aspect of the budget, which is the billions of dollars for infrastructure that other government members have mentioned during this debate. I would like to ask the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek whether there are any provisions in the budget that would encourage the use of that money to procure Canadian steel, rather than building infrastructure with steel imported from offshore. Something that has concerned me is the new Champlain Bridge in Montreal, which is a huge federal infrastructure project. It is only using 19% Canadian steel. I believe we can and should do much better than that.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

1:05 p.m.


Bob Bratina Liberal Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his participation and interest. I would point out that in his city of Regina, EVRAZ has just been named to provide 75% of the Trans Mountain pipeline steel, which will go between Edmonton and Burnaby, British Columbia. That news came forward very recently.

There is a bit of complexity in that we have very balanced trade between Canada and the United States. The value of products imported and exported is almost to the dollar. As we go through the next several months of discussion over NAFTA and the relationship between Canada and the United States, we will hedge our bets on how that kind of proposal would actually go forward without upsetting the trade balance we currently have with our American friends.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

1:05 p.m.


Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Madam Speaker, steel is very near and dear to my heart. As a mechanical engineering technologist, I have spent a lot of time in Canada's steel facilities.

Perhaps the member could comment a little further on the integrated supply chain for steel. Sault Ste. Marie is using coke and iron from the mines in the United States. Similar to the automotive industry, we cannot look at Canadian steel without having American content and vice versa.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

1:10 p.m.


Bob Bratina Liberal Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Madam Speaker, that is profound insight into the overlying question of how we will advance with our American friends. I would point out for my friend from Guelph that the commerce secretary for President Trump is Wilbur Ross. He is a member of the board of ArcelorMittal. He knows better than anyone the integrated nature of our two countries with regard to steel.

As I mentioned earlier, the balance in trade, in dollar terms, is almost completely equal. Therefore, it will be interesting whether there are anymore explosive tweets that come out of these subjects. Once we dig into the details, we will find that we are really the best friends of American steel and vice versa. For example, the ability for us to exchange coal and iron ore between the two countries gives us a huge environmental advantage over countries like China, which pollutes the environment with even the transportation of the raw materials it needs to make its steel.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

1:10 p.m.


Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Wetaskiwin, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand on behalf of the 160,000 constituents in Edmonton—Wetaskiwin, the largest constituency in terms of population in the country, with Leduc-Nisku at the heart of it, the heart of Canada's energy sector as well. I want to talk a bit about that energy sector, because, as I look at budget 2017, there is significant concern in the sector and with our biggest competitor, the U.S., cutting red tape and taxes. The Liberal government, of course, continues to jack up taxes, making the Canadian energy sector less competitive.

I have a couple of quotes from experts in the sector. The first is from Tim McMillan, the president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, who stated:

I am disappointed and I think it sends a bad signal and further puts us at a disadvantage in terms of the capital we are trying to attract from global markets compared to the U.S., which is our biggest competitor for that capital.

He went on to say:

The government is very concerned with the middle class. Our industry hires the middle class.

Successive Liberal budgets and policies have been devastating to the middle class in my riding of Edmonton—Wetaskiwin.

Jack Mintz from the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary had this to say:

I think this competitiveness issue is a huge issue for Canada coming down the road and I'm surprised they took actions right now on this when they will be needing to deal with a much bigger set of changes next year.... The U.S. is going in a completely different direction on carbon and major U.S. tax reform. That's in addition to the measures being taken on carbon in Alberta. You start adding it all up and it's not a healthy climate. Businesses are taking their money elsewhere.

This Liberal fiscal approach is of great concern to my constituents, with $52 billion in deficit over the past two years, $52 billion. I had the chance to host four round tables with constituents. More than 60 constituents came to the round tables during the last break. There were six main concerns that permeated the discussion at the round tables. Two of them were refugees and marijuana, but the other four were all financial concerns. Deficits and spending was one of them. Pipelines was another one. The carbon tax was another one. Seniors care and benefits was another one.

One of the questions that I ask at round tables is: For the $52 billion in deficit spending that we have had over the two years, with no real end in sight, no plan to get back to balance, does anyone feel that he or she is better off? I would say that of the more than 60 people at my round tables, there was one couple who said yes, they were better off, but then they went on to explain that their life circumstances had changed and they were better off because of changes in their life circumstances. It was certainly not because of anything the Liberal government had done for them. Again I ask that question: Is there anybody in Canada who is really better off for this $52 billion in deficit spending over the last two years?

One thing we do is look at history. History provides us a really good lesson in terms of where we are going under the current government. We can look at the previous Trudeau government back in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, when the prime minister of the day ran budget deficits in 14 out of 15 years over that course of time. The results of those deficits, of course, in the mid-1980s were that interest rates were so high in Canada and employment was a challenge in Canada. If we look at the result over the next nine years, the Mulroney years, while the government of the day pretty much spent what it brought in, the interest payments on the Trudeau debt were astronomical and provided some of the biggest deficits in Canadian history because of the debt that Trudeau ran up during those years.

We fast forward to 1993 when a new Liberal government came into power. What did it have to do? It had to cut transfer payments for social services, health care, and education. It cut spending across the board, cut international development spending, things that are really important to people in Canada and abroad. They were devastating cuts. We remember the tough decisions the provincial government had to make in Alberta. The provincial government in Ontario and provincial governments across this country had to make very difficult decisions because $35 billion in transfers were cut right out from underneath them for that important spending.

We fast forward to today and look at the current government. We take a lesson that down the road, someone is going to have to pay for this deficit. Down the road, difficult decisions are going to have to be made. Let us look at the demographics we are talking about when we are considering how those decisions are going to be made.

In the mid-1970s, there were seven people working in this country for every senior citizen. Today, that number is four. There are four people working for every senior citizen today. With the demographics changing, by 2030, we are going to have two and a half people working for every senior citizen. That is two and a half people paying the taxes and sharing the burden. Of course, seniors pay taxes as well, but in terms of people working before their senior years to pay the burden of this debt that is being racked up right now, it is going to be the younger generation who is going to pay for that. It is going to be our kids who are going to have to pay for that, much like the taxpayers in the mid-1990s had to pay for decisions made by the Trudeau government of the 1970s. Those cuts were devastating at the time.

If we are concerned about things like seniors care and benefits that my constituents brought up as one of the six issues that they are concerned about, for seniors living in a generation from now, having to face the cuts that are inevitable, given the unprecedented level of spending of the government, it is going to be tremendously difficult. Then the younger generation, the people who are just starting to vote now, are the ones who are going to have to pay the lion's share of the burden to pay off that debt. It is very concerning, to say the least.

Let us look at a couple of the other issues, such as the pipelines issue that my constituents bring up because it is very important. Let us take a look at energy east and, again, take a look at the perverse nature, I guess, in the sense of the government's decisions as they relate to the fiscal situation of the country. More than 600,000 barrels of oil come into Canada from outside Canada, from countries like the U.S., Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Algeria, and Angola. We have more than 600,000 barrels every single day coming into Canada from those countries by ships and by rail, instead of just having the political will to set in place a process that allows energy east to happen. It does not even require government spending. This is something that the private sector would build and the government just needs to get out of the way. If the government did that, we would see jobs come back to Alberta, jobs come back across the country, in terms of the building of the pipeline. We would see taxes being paid and revenues within the government increasing, not by raising the percentage, but just by creating wealth in the country. We would see transfers for things like health, social services, and education go up because of the impact of that. The government just needs to get out of the way.

I also want to talk for a second about something that is very personal for me. In all of this $52 billion of deficit spending the government has done, it could not find $3.8 million for a Canadian autism partnership. One in 68 Canadian children today is diagnosed with autism. It is a significant issue. If we think of an average family being four people, that is one in 17 Canadians living in a family with someone with autism.

We had an expert working group work for two years to establish a plan for this, report to the government with a budget ask that was incredibly modest, $19 million over five years, $3.8 million per year, and that budget ask was rejected. With $52 billion in deficit spending, hundreds of millions of dollars in spending overall, $3.8 million could not be found for some of the most vulnerable Canadians in our society. That is unconscionable. Something needs to be done about that.

I see that my time is winding up. I look forward to questions from my hon. colleagues. I am sure the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader will stand, as he usually does, and I look forward to his question.

Admissibility of Amendment to Motion Regarding Bill C-4Points of OrderGovernment Orders

May 5th, 2017 / 1:20 p.m.


Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I want to respond briefly to the argument the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons made a few moments ago.

The motion before the House that was the subject of an amendment made by my friend, the member for Carleton, has nothing whatsoever to do with the content of the bill. In fact, there is no bill before this House. The motion before this House is to send a message to the Senate in response to a message which the Senate sent to this House regarding certain decisions made by the Senate.

The bill itself is no longer before this House. This House is not debating the bill. We are debating a motion by the government to send a message to the Senate and we are formulating the content of that message. It is the composition of that message that is before us, not the bill.

Admissibility of Amendment to Motion Regarding Bill C-4Points of OrderGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I greatly appreciate the additional information from the member for Oxford. We will take it under advisement. We will look at the submissions that have been made so far on this issue and we will attempt to get back to the House as soon as we can.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Saint Boniface—Saint Vital.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

1:20 p.m.


Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

Madam Speaker, the hon. member asked if there is anyone in Canada who is better off. I actually wrote down the phrase when he asked that question, rhetorically, of course.

I can share with the House that, as I speak, there is $58 million being invested in 24 first nations in Manitoba to prevent and address long-term drinking water advisories, and finally produce clean water for those indigenous communities to drink. Of these 24 projects, one is in the feasibility stage, 10 are in the design stage, and 13 are in the construction stage. These are critical investments toward our goal of ending all long-term drinking advisories in indigenous communities.

Does the hon. member think those 24 indigenous communities are better off?

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

1:20 p.m.


Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Wetaskiwin, AB

Madam Speaker, some of the youngest populations in Canada are on reserve. When we look at where the burden will be because of the $52 billion in just two years in deficit that the government is running, the biggest burden will be on our younger people.

I would respond to the hon. member by saying when we look at the record, the historic levels of spending that the government is undertaking right now by borrowing money to do so, it will be the very people he is talking about who will pay the price down the road, because there will be a bill coming down the road. We just have to look at history, a former Trudeau government, to see what that price will be.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

1:20 p.m.


Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Edmonton—Wetaskiwin for his excellent comments and for his advocacy. His riding actually includes a lot of south Edmonton as well, so I thank him for his work for the city.

He is one of the greatest advocates that we have in our country, and certainly in this Parliament, for the issue of autism, and the cut to the support is disgraceful. I am wondering if the member could expand a bit on some of the work that could have been done with that money and how important it is to the community.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

1:20 p.m.


Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Wetaskiwin, AB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the concern that my colleague has always had, both privately and publicly, for families living with autism.

I am fortunate. My son Jaden is 21, and having grown up in Alberta, he has had solid support from the time he was two years old. However, the situation facing some families in this country, depending on where they live in some provinces, they know that their child has autism at two, but they cannot get a diagnosis for two years because they are on a wait list until the child is four. They cannot get treatment until the child is six. Certainly that is provincial jurisdiction.

What this Canadian autism partnership would have done, again for $3.8 million a year in the context of a $52 billion deficit, is bring experts together, renowned world-class experts who are right here in Canada, to advise governments in their jurisdiction on things like early intervention, education, housing, transitions and employment, all of those things that are real challenges for families living with autism, people living with autism across this country.

Again, we are talking about a minimal investment and two years of work by an expert panel that reported to the government on this, and it was rejected in the budget.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

1:25 p.m.


Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

Madam Speaker, it is a great honour and a privilege to rise today in this House on behalf of the citizens I represent in Saint Boniface—Saint Vital to share my thoughts on the budget.

I am happy to say that budget 2017 would deliver on the policy platform on which we were elected in October 2015. As important, it would deliver on what we have heard from Canadians over the last 18 months. We have done a lot of consultations, we have listened, and we are acting.

Let me say first that this budget is very good news. It is excellent news for the province I represent, the province of Manitoba. There are a number of initiatives that would benefit Manitoba as a whole. For example, budget 2017 would give Manitoba a major transfer of $3.7 billion in 2017-18. That is an increase of $148 million from the previous year, and it is the largest year-over-year increase since 2008. Members are never going to hear anyone in the premier's office or the Premier of Manitoba say those numbers, but they bear repeating. Budget 2017 would increase the transfer to Manitoba by $148 million, the largest year-over-year increase since 2008.

The Government of Canada's investment in the province of Manitoba is not limited to these large transfers of $3.7 billion. We are also going to make significant investments in clean technology in indigenous communities, our cities, our communities, and the Lake Winnipeg basins.

Within the $3.7 billion transfer there would be important investments in clean technologies, in indigenous communities, in rural communities, in cities, of course, and in the Lake Winnipeg basin.

We would deliver results with the Canada infrastructure bank. The infrastructure bank would be an arm's-length organization that would work with provincial, territorial, municipal, indigenous, and private-sector investment partners to transform the way infrastructure is planned, funded, and delivered in Canada. Public dollars would go further and would be used more strategically, maximizing opportunities to grow the middle class while strengthening our economy in the long term. Canada's infrastructure bank would be responsible for investing at least $15 billion over 11 years using loans, loan guarantees, and equity investments. These investments would be made strategically, with a focus on transformative projects connected to regional transit and transportation networks. We will continue to build strong communities using better public transit.

Public transit figures prominently in our budget. We will be making an investment that will help build strong communities, achieve greater economic efficiency, improve the quality of life, and ensure environmental sustainability.

The benefits of public transit are very clear: shorter commute times, less pollution, more time to spend with family and friends, and stronger economic growth. These are all well known and well documented. Through the public transit infrastructure fund, budget 2017 would invest $20.1 billion over 11 years through partnerships with the provinces and territories. In addition, the Canada infrastructure bank would invest at least $5 billion in public infrastructure transit systems across Canada.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

1:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I apologize to the member for Saint-Boniface—Saint-Vital. I forgot to tell him that I would be interrupting him at a certain point because the House must proceed to the consideration of private members' business.

The member will have almost six minutes to finish his speech when the House resumes debate on this matter.

The House resumed from April 5 consideration of the motion that Bill S-208, An Act respecting National Seal Products Day, be read the third time and passed.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.


Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to this private member's bill. I want to begin by acknowledging the excellent work of my NPD colleague, the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, who is our critic on this file.

Bill S-208 seeks to designate May 20 as national seal products day. I will get into why that date was chosen a bit later. Beyond its symbolic nature, this bill seeks to provide significant support to certain communities, especially to people who earn their income from the seal hunt and for whom this might be a traditional practice.

People watching us on television might be wondering why on earth a member from east-central Montreal is rising to talk about the seal hunt. I must admit that there are not a lot of seals or seal hunting in my riding.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

An hon. member

That we know of.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.


Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Yes, I better double-check.

However, Madam Speaker, it is important to me to rise because I want to show my solidarity with the communities and workers of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Magdalen Islands, and northern Quebec and Canada, as well as the Inuit and first nation peoples, to whom it is important to have a flourishing, balanced, sustainable, and cruelty-free seal hunting industry.

I know full well that this has been a controversial issue for years. It is a contentious issue, and emotions run high. However, I think we need to take an approach that is rooted in science, sustainable development, and support from the communities where seal hunting is an essential, traditional, and important practice.

The NDP has always believed that seal hunting could be done in a responsible, respectful, and sustainable manner. That is why we are proud to rise in support of this bill to designate a national seal products day.

We believe in seal hunting because, since the dawn of time, all human communities have used the natural resources available to them for sustenance, survival, and development. First we were gatherers, then we learned to farm the land, to fish, and to hunt the animals around us. In those days, there were few human beings on this immense planet, and their impact on the environment as a whole was minimal.

We have since come to understand that our very numbers sometimes put animal and plant species at risk. Unfortunately, species become extinct every year, often due to human activity.

We also know that it is possible to hunt and fish responsibly with the help of credible scientific assessments to ensure that stocks remain healthy, reproduce, and are not put at risk. That is the case for all fishing in Canada, and also for hunting. We hunt deer and caribou because we can set quotas. We can scientifically calculate the number of animals that can be harvested in a year while ensuring the survival of the species or herd in a given region. The process applies to almost all our hunting and fishing activities, and I am personally convinced, as are my NDP colleagues, that we could very easily do the same thing for the seal hunt.

We have to keep in mind that seals, particularly harp seals, are not threatened at all. Here are the facts. In 30 years, the harp seal population tripled. There are now between eight million and nine million harp seals, which is the most commonly hunted species. According to forecasts for 2030, this population will reach between 10 million and 16 million individuals. We have to do away with misconceptions, with images that captured the public's attention over the past few years, and offended or distressed some people. I will come back to that. I understand how they feel, but let us look at the facts. This species is thriving, sometimes to the detriment of other animals, such as our cod stocks and other fish that seals prey on.

The grey seal population has increased from 10,000 to 500,000, that is half a million, in 50 years. No additional protection is needed for either the harp seal or the grey seal. We can continue to hunt them responsibly and use the healthy products derived from them. We know that we can use their fur for boots, coats, hats, and sometimes even ties, which are proudly worn in the House of Commons. Seals are also a source of food, fuel, and health products. When researching my speech, I learned that there is a growing market for seal oil, which is very rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. There are many interesting and beneficial uses for all the products derived from the seal hunt.

I have something important to say to all those who are concerned about the seal hunt. Only humane practices are used. Let us remember when certain European celebrities visited northern Canada to capitalize on this issue. Denis Longuépée, president of the Magdalen Islands Sealers Association, a man who is aptly named for a hunter, said that we would never be able to get rid of that image because, even though white coat seals have not been hunted for 25 years, people are still using that image. He added that we need to try to convince people to buy and try seal products.

It is important to remind anyone who is concerned about cruelty to animals that white coat seals are no longer hunted. The practice has stopped. Seal hunting is respectful, sustainable, and science-based, and it can be done without people always reminding us of that old image, which is no longer even relevant.

It is important to remind people of this because, unfortunately, that shocking and distressing image has managed to influence policy makers on the other side of the Atlantic. Indeed, the European Union has made decisions that we do not agree with. In August 2010, it decided to ban Canadian seal products. The structure of the European Union is very interesting. It is something I have studied, something that I follow very closely. The European Union generally makes good decisions; that one was not so good.

As parliamentarians, as the representatives of all those communities and the workers who make a living from the seal hunt, we need to take a stand. Creating a national seal products day would send a clear message to everyone, here in Canada and in the European Union. We need to continue to engage in dialogue with the European Union to reopen that market.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Labrador Newfoundland & Labrador


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

Madam Speaker, I am happy to rise today and support a bill that has been put forward in the House of Commons by my colleague, the member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, which is, in essence, central coastal Newfoundland.

Bill S-208 is an important bill for all of us who have lived a traditional life, both commercially and non-commercially, around the sealing industry. The people in my riding of Labrador, both indigenous and non-indigenous, have engaged in the seal industry for centuries. Throughout my family, right back to my great-great grandfather's day, the seal was a very important part of survival, both from a cultural perspective and an earning value perspective, for the family. It is a way of life for us still today, as we eat seal and wear seal.

We feel that the federal government has an obligation to protect and support Canadian heritage activities, whether that be farming, fishing, or in this case, seal harvesting. We are asking members of the House of Commons to support that position.

Bill S-208 is just one way for the federal government to stand by its commitment to indigenous people and non-indigenous people and to those whose economies are affiliated with the seal industry.

While foreign governments and well-funded activist groups from away, and at home in Canada, have dealt a significant blow to this industry over the years and have created a terrible image of the Canadian seal harvest, we have an obligation to ensure that we make things right and point out the unfair publicity that has surrounded the industry.

It has been more than 30 years since regulations started to change in the seal industry. The images today of white coats and baby seals are still used by those who are trying to make a cash grab on the backs of those in the industry. However, it has been more than 30 years since that has occurred in the sealing industry in Canada. It is one of the most humane industries one could ever partake in, and the people who perpetuate a different image are indeed, as my colleague said, fraudulent in their intentions and fraudulent in their information.

What is happening in the industry today is that their negative propaganda has done harm. It has done harm to the Inuit people, who are dependant on seals for food security in their communities, and it has done harm to the rural and coastal communities of Canada.

For Labradorians, and for Inuit all over Canada, the seal harvest is part of our lives. It is the cultural core of who we are as people, and it is the mainstay of our diet.

It is really hard to explain to Canadians who have not been part of the north shore of Quebec and the Magdalen Islands' cultural industry, or that of Nunavut, Nunavik, Labrador, or coastal Newfoundland, what it means from a cultural and industry perspective, but I am going to attempt to do that. I will attempt to do it through my own story, as one person.

I grew up in a small, remote, rural community of predominantly indigenous Inuit people. When I grew up in the community, our clothes back then were all of seal. They were all hand sewn and handmade by my mother, my grandmothers, and my aunts. It was made from the seals my dad and my grandfather would catch. Not only was it the main source of food and protein for our family but it was a main source of clothing as well. Still today we continue in that vein, despite the negative publicity toward us.

We are not a society of people that judge others based on their culture. We do not judge them based on what they eat or what their cultural practices are, nor should they judge us, as northern and coastal people.

We know that sealing is more than a cultural industry and significant industry to the people of the north and coastal regions in Canada. It is also a species which is impacting the entire fisheries ecosystem in Atlantic Canada. Those who ignore the impact of the seal on other species are blinding themselves in a cloud; they do not want to be peeping out at the real story.

The real story is that in coastal areas like in Newfoundland and Labrador, we have seen the seal population growing at a rapid rate. We are no longer harvesting at the levels we once did because the commercial industry has been eroded, and because the international markets have been buying into the fraud and the negative propaganda of money-grabbing socialite groups. It is because of those things that our whole ecosystem is out of balance.

We hear it from those who work in the fishing industry. They are seeing a huge depopulation of capelin and cod. I live in a community that has a river running through it, where I fish for salmon with a rod from the rock just down the lane from my house. I can look out and see seals in that river, something my grandfather never saw. The animals are starving. They are looking for a food supply. They are starving, and they are going wherever they can to find food.

Seals have become overpopulated. They have become a huge predator to every other fish species in the ocean. Seals today are eating more fish in the Atlantic waters around the coastal communities and the ridings like the one I represent than any fishery could take in 10 years, based on the quota levels we currently have.

The seal industry is important in many ways. It is important to the people who live there and who have culturally used this animal for survival, and continue to do so today, as a main source of food and clothing. It is important to the ecosystem of the fisheries habitat that we continue to harvest, to ensure that balance is there and that communities are able to have sustainable fisheries, in seal, cod, salmon, shrimp, crab, and capelin. Right now the seal is overpopulated and has become a predator to every other species.

It is not uncommon for any of us in those communities to get emails and photos from fishermen, who, in just cleaning a seal, are opening it up to find its stomach filled with baby crab. This is in areas where the crab population is declining at huge rates year over year.

However, through this bill, we do want to point out the importance of seal products in Canada, in all of our communities, and what that means as a supplement to the income of people who live there. When we look at traditional crafts from northern and Arctic regions, especially in Nunavut—I think my colleague from Nunavut spoke on this bill a couple of weeks ago in the House of Commons—we can see the tremendous dependence on seal products to be able to run small businesses, to earn a living, and to build on investments in those communities. It has been a way of life for them, as harvesting, farming, and fishing have been a way of life for anyone else in this country.

We feel that this bill is consistent with our commitment to renewing our relationship with indigenous people who depend on this industry, as I have outlined. I would like to remind everyone in this House, and anyone who will listen, that Canada's seal harvest is one of the most humane industries. It is well regulated and sustainable. Seals are overly abundant and healthy in Canada; there is absolutely no doubt about that.

I want to assure all my colleagues of the importance of supporting this bill, and of the importance of marketing seal, as a product and as an industry, for Canadians who have depended upon it traditionally for many years.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.


Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to the private member's bill put forward by the member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame. It is also an honour to work with the member on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

I want to recognize the message the member for Labrador just spoke to, that being the importance of the seal harvest and seal products to those communities and their traditions and heritage.

I appreciate this opportunity to support the member and Bill S-208, which seeks to designate May 20 as national seal products day.

Canada is known as a melting pot for cultures from around the world. This is something we can be proud of. While we Canadians can be proud of how that melting pot is always changing, we should also be proud of how we developed as a country, a country that is continuing to grow and prosper from the ability to sustainably harvest and market our natural resources, resources such as our wood products, although that market is somewhat hindered right now; our minerals; our fisheries; and of course, the resource that was originally responsible for Canada's early development, our fur products. Those fur products included beaver, muskrat, marten, and of course, seal. All of these species have been harvested sustainably, and we continue to have healthy, viable populations. In fact, some seal populations are now at historic levels.

Seal products are much more than fur or pelts. They are a high protein product for our tables, and they provide top omega 3 oils for health care products, which many remote maritime communities rely on for their livelihoods. Without them, many of those coastal communities would dwindle and perhaps die.

What is really significant is that with the loss of those communities would be the loss of a big part of our Canadian heritage, a heritage we need not be ashamed of, a heritage that has continued for hundreds of years, sustainably and continuously. It allowed the early residents of this continent to live here. It allowed early European settlers to immigrate and build better lives for their families than they might have had in their homelands. It is a heritage that is truly part of Canada.

In considering this legislation, I reflected on another bill, a successful bill that recognized how important our outdoor- oriented heritage is in Canada, and that was Bill C-501, which passed in 2014. It was introduced by Rick Norlock, the member from Northumberland--Quinte West. That legislation established the third Saturday in September as National Hunting Trapping and Fishing Heritage Day, a day to recognize, as this bill would, the importance of these activities in the development and survival of this great nation of ours.

While many members of the House may never have had the opportunity, and I might say enlightenment, of taking part in any of these amazing activities, I believe that all members can see how these activities and the products derived from them have played an important role and should be recognized nationally. Without that recognition, we risk losing not only the significance of hunting, trapping, fishing, and sealing but we risk losing those communities on our coasts and in our hinterlands that are so dependent on the products that can be obtained in a sustainable way.

I would like to take a few minutes to share some of my thoughts and my experiences in participating in some of these heritage activities. Although I have not participated in a seal harvest, I have had the incredible experience of being out in the wild pitting myself against the elements, pitting myself against the instincts and senses of the fish and game species that are so abundant in Canada.

Anti-use groups will try to diminish what we do and how we survive as Canadians because they want to end our legal activities. However, because of my participation in these activities, I will put myself up against them any day. These activities have enabled me to experience what really goes on out there. They have allowed me to put food on my table and to do so sustainably. I have learned that the best way to value and build appreciation and continued recognition of our fish and wildlife resources is to be immersed in it, partaking in the activities of fishing, hunting, trapping, and sealing, something many opponents will never get the chance to experience and will never understand the value of being there, touching it, and experiencing it first-hand.

I admire the member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame for his initiative in asking for recognition of the value and the importance of seal products to our indigenous communities, our coastal communities, and the individuals who retain their sustenance and livelihood from seal products. We need to continue these roles and the importance of this. I truly admire him for putting this forward, not just on behalf of the residents of his area on the east coast, but for the importance of similar activities such as hunting, trapping, and fishing across the country.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not make special mention today. I would like to take the opportunity to wish my loving wife Linda a happy 38th anniversary.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I will also extend my congratulations, and happy anniversary.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to follow my colleague from British Columbia in support of Bill S-208, put forward by the member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, the illustrious chair of the fisheries committee.

I, too, serve on that committee. In fact, I have been on the fisheries committee ever since I became a member of Parliament, nearly seven years ago, and it has been a great committee to be on. Not that long ago, the chair talked about how many reports the committee had put out, 10 reports so far since this Parliament began. We have a very productive, interesting, and significant committee.

I very strongly support this bill. I represent a large rural area in Manitoba, and Manitoba is a coastal province. There are seals in Churchill in Hudson Bay. We do not seal hunt, but it is a coastal province.

For a prairie boy who grew up hunting, fishing and being the ultimate romantic when it comes to the outdoors, many years ago I got my hands on a book by George Allan England called, The Greatest Hunt in the World. He was on Captain Kean's boat in the 1920s and went on a seal hunt himself. As I read this direct account of the seal hunt, I could not imagine the toughness, the bravery, and the sheer guts it took for those men to go out on the ice every spring to harvest seals.

Canada's seal hunt is sustainable, and previous speakers have talked about the sustainability of it. Unfortunately, Canada's seal hunt has been the target of very unfair and fraudulent campaigns by the animal rights movement, led by groups like Animal Justice Canada, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and so on. It is clear that the sole purpose of these anti-sealing groups is to raise funds for themselves, and the collateral damage to coastal communities has simply been staggering.

A witness at the aboriginal affairs committee not that long ago talked about the increase in suicide rates in some Inuit communities, partly attributed to the collapse of the seal hunt. These people do not want to save cuddly animals. These people are a danger to rural and remote communities. The seal hunt is the canary in the coal mine. As somebody who has fought the animal rights movement and the people who want to shut down communities like the one I represent, the seal hunt, the canary in the coal mine, the tip of the iceberg, pick a metaphor, whether it is anti-logging, anti-trapping, anti-hunting, anti-mining, and, quite frankly, anti-oil and gas, it is the rural communities that bear the brunt of these campaigns. One of the reasons I became a member of Parliament was to protect and defend rural communities. I have had experiences fighting the good fight on all these issues.

Interestingly enough, again going back to the animal rights movement and the animal rights groups, these people do not care about cuddly animals. They want an end to all animal use, farming, ranching, trapping, and sealing of course, and sealing is the easiest target. However, if we look at all their websites, they also want an end to animal-based medical research. I do not know if members in the House realize it, but when I met with the Heart and Stroke Foundation some time ago, I asked point blank how much of the cardiac research was done on animals and it was 60%. Again, these anti-animal use campaigns can be extremely harmful.

I will also talk about the unfairness of countries that ban seal products. The European ban was completely uncalled for. It is easy for another country to point fingers at another jurisdiction and pay no political price for it, while being made to look like people who care about the environment. The U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act prevents seal products from entering the U.S., no matter how abundant seals are.

The animal rights movement caused a decrease in the seal harvest, and as colleagues talked about a minute ago, the number of harp seals has increased dramatically, from 1.8 million in 1970 to about 7.4 million now; and grey seals, from 13,000 in 1970 to 505,000 now. There are varying estimates, but the seals consume between 10 and 15 times what the east coast fleet harvests. It is quite clearly established that the high grey seal populations are preventing a recovery of the gulf cod.

Not that long ago, our fisheries committee submitted two reports to Parliament, one on Atlantic salmon and one on northern cod. In both studies, the seals were implicated in the decline of the Atlantic salmon in particular, and in the prevention of the recovery of the cod as well. Both committee reports recommended an expanded seal harvest, done humanely but expanded, to reduce the numbers of these seal species to improve the populations of Atlantic salmon and cod.

Nobody wants to wipe out the seals. However, I think it is our duty as human stewards of this earth to restore a balance that is completely out of whack right now.

I had the honour many years ago of doing work in the eastern Arctic, around Southampton Island, on Arctic char, and I had the honour of living with an Inuit family. I participated in a seal hunt and a walrus hunt. I have had a lot of experience in the outdoors, but I have had some Arctic experience. I do know what it is like to plunge one's hand into a freshly killed walrus and experience the joy and exuberance of the hunt when one is successful. It was an experience that I will cherish. I have eaten raw seal, raw walrus, and I found the tastes interesting, to say the least. It can be good.

I am very pleased, as well, to see an increase in demand for seal products, the seal oil, the high levels of omega 3. We have companies that are exploiting this. I applaud my colleague and the colleagues from all parties who support our traditions of sealing, hunting, trapping, and fishing. Many of us belong to an organization called the outdoor caucus, and I see a number of members wearing an outdoor caucus pin.

I want to finish up with the tale of Bill C-246. As we know, a Liberal member of Parliament introduced a private member's bill that many of us viewed as a closet animal rights bill. I was very pleased to see that many Liberal members of Parliament, and almost all Conservative members of Parliament, worked very hard to defeat that particular bill. We motivated people from all across the country to build a coalition of sealers, trappers, hunters, anglers, and medical researchers, who realized the implications of that particular bill.

While I must thank the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his speech, and I listened with great interest to it, I would note that almost all of the NDP caucus voted for Bill C-246, except for one, the member for Kootenay—Columbia. I do not say this to be mean, in any sense of the word, but it is very important that we, as members of Parliament, stand on principle to protect our communities and the people who hunt, trap, fish, and harvest seals.

I must also say that sealing is largely a rural industry, but we have a lot of people who live in cities who love to hunt, fish, and trap. Again, I want to compliment my colleague for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, a Montreal area member of Parliament, who has chosen to throw his support behind the bill for a national seal products day.

In conclusion, I am very proud to support the bill. I am proud to serve with my colleague on the fisheries committee. I look forward to the bill being passed and being a very great help to the sealing industry, now and into the future.