House of Commons Hansard #202 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was community.


Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

It being 5:30, the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Portuguese Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

5:20 p.m.


Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON


That, in the opinion of the House, the government should recognize the important contributions Canadian Portuguese have made to building Canada and to Canadian society in general, the cultural diversity of the Portuguese communities in Canada, and the importance of educating and reflecting upon Portuguese heritage and culture for future generations by declaring June 10 as Portugal Day and the month of June as Portuguese Heritage Month.

Madam Speaker, it is with enormous pride and a sense of privilege that I rise in this venerable House to support my private member's Motion No. 126, celebrating the contributions of Portuguese Canadians to this great nation.

My riding of Davenport is blessed to have the largest Portuguese community in Canada. I truly believe that Canada and Canadian society is enriched by Portuguese culture, traditions, history, and language.

It is with enormous pride and privilege that I rise in this venerable House to support my private member's motion, Motion No. 126, celebrating the contributions of Portuguese Canadians to this great nation.

However, any discussion on settler community in Canada cannot start without first acknowledging and thanking the traditional stewards of this land. We are grateful to the indigenous peoples as we are gathered here today on the traditional unceded lands of the Algonquin people.

It is a pleasure to be back in the House this week with all of my colleagues. I want to thank members from all parties for supporting my motion. I would like to thank the Minister of Canadian Heritage, my Liberal colleagues, and especially the members of the Canada-Portugal Parliamentary Friendship Group, for all their encouragement and support. Of course, I would like to thank my staff for its hard work over the last few months and days.

It is also important to mention that the province of Ontario, the City of Toronto, and the public and Catholic school boards of Ontario all took the lead in recognizing June as Portugal heritage month and/or June 10 as Portugal day in their respective jurisdictions. I am building on their great initiatives and accomplishments, and I want to thank them for their leadership.

Finally, I would like to thank all of the Portuguese leaders, Portuguese clubs, associations, and the Portuguese media in my riding of Davenport and across the country. They have tirelessly promoted the Portuguese culture, language, and community and serve as an inspiration for this private member's bill. It is to honour them and their aspiration for the Portuguese to be recognized at the highest level of our nation and be celebrated for its many contributions to Canada, and equally to set the stage for the preservation and promotion of the Portuguese language, traditions, and culture for many decades and centuries to come.

[Member spoke in Portuguese]


There are approximately 16 million Portuguese around the world, from those who live in Portugal, including the Azores and the Madeira Islands, and other parts of the Americas, Europe, India, and Africa. However, when we consider Portuguese-speaking people, that number jumps from 16 million to 220 million.

Indeed, the Portuguese language evolved form Latin and became a compulsory language in Portugal under King Dom Diniz in the 14th century. For the following two centuries, the 15th and 16th, the Portuguese were known global explorers, such as Vasco de Gama, who discovered far off lands that at the time were unidentified and who discovered, in 1497, the first ocean route between India from Europe, connecting for the first time ever the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

There is also Fernão de Magalhães, born in the northern part of Portugal, who, in 1519, led the very first expedition by ship that circumnavigated the world.

Poet Luís Vaz de Camões wrote the epic poem Os Lusíadas that interprets this exciting age of exploration and discovery of the Portuguese. Camões is known as Portugal's greatest poet and, indeed, the day of his death, June 10, is celebrated as Portugal's national day.

It was also around this time period, the 15th and 16th centuries, that the Portuguese were first identified as coming to the shores of Canada to fish off the coast of Newfoundland. In subsequent centuries, a number of Portuguese explorers made their way to Canada.

There are two great stories I want to share. The first is the story of Pedro Da Silva, Canada's first official letter carrier, who, on behalf of New France, delivered parcels and letters between Montreal and Quebec, beginning in 1705.

Then there is Portuguese Joe Silvey, born in Pico, Azores. Portuguese Joe came to Canada in 1860 via whaling schooner, and decided to stay, trying his hand at goldmining. He married an indigenous woman from the Coast Salish nation, became one of the founders of Vancouver's Gastown, and had 11 children, with many of his descendants still populating the B.C. coast today.

Just last year a monument was erected to honour him in Stanley Park. It honours the link between Portuguese and Coast Salish first nations cultures, marking the land's rich heritage and symbolizing unity for Vancouver's present-day diverse inhabitants. I love this wonderful connection between the Portuguese and Canada's first nations.

The first official group to come from Portugal, in terms of immigrants, arrived at Pier 21, Halifax, Nova Scotia on May 13, 1953. They came aboard a boat called the Saturnia steamship. Three to four more full boatloads came the year after. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, thousands of Portuguese immigrated to Canada to escape the poverty they experienced under the dictatorship of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, considered the most oppressive and longest-serving dictatorship of Western Europe. Many also left to flee the Portuguese Colonial War, Portugal's war against the nationalist movements in Portugal's African colonies.

In the early 1970s, our then prime minister Pierre Trudeau introduced the policy of multiculturalism, the first country in the world to adopt such a policy. It was this policy that paved the way in the early 1970s for Canada to create a pathway to citizenship for many of the tens of thousands of Portuguese who to this day are forever grateful to have been given a chance to start a new life in a country that has given them their freedom without having to give up their language, culture, traditions, and identity.

Indeed, now over 40 years later, the Portuguese are 500,000 strong, which includes up to their fourth generation. While their population is largest in Ontario and Quebec, they have vibrant communities right across this great land from the west coast in B.C., right to the east coast in Nova Scotia.

Members will also be very happy to know that many universities across the country now offer Portuguese studies, from the University of British Columbia, University of Winnipeg, York University, University of Toronto, and Brock University, to Université de Montréal. The University of Toronto celebrated 70 years of Portuguese instruction just this year. I want to thank and acknowledge university academics right across this country, including Manuela Marujo, Inês Cardoso, Maria João Dodman, and Carlos Teixeira for their tireless efforts to promote Portuguese studies in Canada.

More locally, in my riding, the First Portuguese Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto has been teaching the Portuguese language since 1956. I want to give a shout-out to Celina de Melo, the current principal, for her tireless years of service to the school.

Today, it is gratifying to see Portuguese taught in schools right across the country. There are over 16 jurisdictions in Ontario, and a number of public schools right across the country, from B.C. through to Manitoba through to Nova Scotia.

Finally, I want to recognize the heroic work of Portuguese clubs right across the country. They work tirelessly to provide a space for their members to come together, to practise their language, and to celebrate their culture and traditions. There are over 150 clubs in Canada, and more than 20 in my riding of Davenport alone. I wish I had the time to mention each one of them, because they work hard and they deserve the recognition.

I want to thank each casa. I want to thank each organization, leader, board member, and all tireless volunteers for all that they do to keep their clubs active and relevant. It will not come as a surprise that so many Portuguese groups do a lot of fundraising to raise money for different initiatives in the community.

Two of my colleagues, the member for Brampton South and the member for Brampton West, told me of their great pride of the Amigos Portugueses do Peel Memorial for their extraordinary fundraising efforts for the William Osler Health System and for the Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Health and Wellness.

I know that my Mississauga colleagues would tell me that they are so proud of the Luso Canadian Charitable Society Centre, headed by Jack Prazeres, that supports families and adults living with developmental and physical disabilities. Of course, I have to give a shout-out to the many female Luso groups, such as the Amigas de Toronto, raising money for cancer research and support.

We cannot talk about Portuguese clubs in Canada without mentioning ACAPO. The Alliance of Portuguese Clubs and Associations of Ontario does such an extraordinary job of bringing all the clubs together, doing the most ambitious programming for Portugal Week, and organizing the second-largest street festival in Toronto. I want to acknowledge José Maria Eustáquio for his leadership, and the leadership of their board and volunteers.

The Portuguese are highly established and very integrated into the Canadian diaspora. Many of the Portuguese when they arrived in Canada took construction and cleaning jobs. These honourable jobs helped hard-working Portuguese to support their families, buy homes, and contribute to their church and community. The Portuguese also raised citizens and leaders who currently serve in important roles and who are an inspiration to all Canadians. We know of many of them today.

There are two in the House. We have the MP for Brossard—Saint-Lambert and the MP for Mississauga East—Cooksville. We have two provincial financial ministers: the hon. Charles Sousa and the hon. Carlos Leitão. We have a provincial member of Parliament, Cristina Martins and wonderful municipal leaders in Ana Bailão in Toronto, Frank Monteiro in Cambridge, Martin Medeiros in Brampton, and Nelson Santos in Kingsville.

The Portuguese even have their own Portuguese Walk of Fame, created in 2013 by Toronto-based community leader Manuel da Costa to recognize Portuguese Canadians in all fields for their outstanding achievements to our country.

From cleaners and construction workers who have built much of the infrastructure in Toronto and across Ontario, a very successful professional class of talent has emerged. The Portuguese business community is super-active.

A group called the Federation of Portuguese-Canadian Business Professionals was created to promote business activities, leadership, and Portuguese culture. This group has inspired an impressive list of civic leaders, including two of its founders, Armindo Silva and Fernando Dias Costa, and businessmen such as José Pinto and Louis Louro Jr. I have no doubt that under the current leadership of Michelle Jorge, the federation will play an integral role in building stronger economic ties to Portugal through the Canada-Europe trade agreement, which was just ratified today by the Portuguese parliament and which comes into force tomorrow.

I cannot mention groups in Canada without mentioning the fact that I have a very strong building trades union and construction union in my riding. There is no Portuguese fundraiser that is not supported by Local 182 and Local 506. I want to thank Jack Preset as division manager for his extraordinary leadership.

Our Prime Minister never tires of saying that diversity is strength. One could be a proud Portuguese and a proud Canadian and there is no conflict. Indeed, the Portuguese Canadians have shared much of their culture with us including their fado music; their great love of football, whether a Benfica, Porto, or Sporting FC fan; their amazing cuisine, whether it is the baccalhau, churrasquiera, quejos, amazing pastéis de natas; and their amazing world-class wines from Douro, Alentejo, or Dão regions.

Portuguese media is like no other I have ever seen. They are unbelievably strong for a community of its size, particularly in Montreal and Toronto. I would like to give a huge shout-out to Sol Português, Antonio Perinu; Correio da Manhã, Eduardo Viera, ABC, Fernando Cruz-Gomes; and PostoMilénio.

We also have wonderful TV programs with Omni, Sergio Mourato; and GenteTV, Nellie Pedro; and of course Portuguese radio CIRV that was created by Frank Alvarez.

The motion to enshrine June as Portugal heritage month and to designate June 10 as Portugal day in Canada is important not just for the obvious reason of ensuring we recognize the contributions of the Portuguese to Canada at the national level, and not just to promote the culture and language in years to come, but because by doing so we also reinforce and promote our Canadian values and serve as a model to the world.

This is especially important at a time when there is increasing racism and anti-immigration sentiment in too many countries globally. It is much easier to see our differences than our similarities. In Motion No. 126, we remind ourselves that we are stronger because of our differences and not in spite of them. Canada is a light and model for the world for showcasing that diversity is a strength.

The Portuguese have always been a people open to the world, a people who came to Canada and have successfully integrated into Canadian society, achieving great things and setting an example for the leaders of today and tomorrow.

I have no doubt that the Portuguese from every part of Canada will continue to play a key role in creating a better Canada. It is an absolute honour to be able to present Motion No. 126 today, celebrating the contributions of Portuguese Canadians to this great nation.

I am thankful for the opportunity to do so.

Portuguese Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, to my friend, the hon. member for Davenport, muito obrigada.

We are very pleased to see the bill come forward. I am happy to second it and I wanted to let the member know that the story of Portuguese Joe is one I know well. Joe Silva is very well known throughout the coast of British Columbia and his life did take a very unhappy turn. At one point, he left Stanley Park where he had been so successful, one of the early founders of Gastown. In his last days, he lived in my area on the Salish Sea on Reid Island, just off Galiano.

There is a lot of Portuguese heritage that stretches to both coasts. A lot of Portuguese explorers and colonizers were the first to reach Cape Breton and many of the place names around Cape Breton Island, where I am from, were also originally Portuguese.

I want to thank the member for this initiative. In terms of a question, I can only ask what we can do to help.

Portuguese Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I love the story of Portuguese Joe. I love it because there is this connection between the Portuguese community and the first peoples of our country. I also love the statue. I have only seen pictures of it. I have not been blessed to see it, but I know it is a beautiful statue. It has Portuguese tile from the Azores Islands surrounding it. It also represents a special story in the history of Canada.

With respect to, having this motion pass in the House is important. Continuing to encourage the Portuguese culture to support the Portuguese communities across the country is one of the ways all of us can support the diversity of our great nation.

Portuguese Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

London West Ontario


Kate Young LiberalParliamentary Secretary for Science

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for bringing this private member's bill forward. She no doubt has much support of House.

One of my favourite restaurants in my hometown of London is Portuguese. It is located in the riding of one of our colleagues across the floor, who I think would agree with me that King of the Pigs is quite possibly the best restaurant around.

I want to thank the member, because the Portuguese community of London will be happy we are supporting this. I truly hope everyone will be on board. I want to ensure that others have a chance to appreciate the Portuguese culture.

Portuguese Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I probably could have spent 15 minutes just talking about Portuguese food, because the porchetta sandwiches are very popular. These pork sandwiches are famous within the Portuguese community.

I have just returned from a month in Portugal and was blessed to taste a lot of its fresh fish. I did not mention the bacalhau, or codfish, which is very popular and has also been introduced to our Canadian culture. I also think the queijos, which are the cheeses, are popular in Canada. With the Canada-Europe trade agreement going into effect tomorrow, I have no doubt that we will be able to experience even more Portuguese food within Canada very shortly.

Portuguese Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, before I begin today, I would like to share a quote with my colleagues that I came across while preparing for this speech. It is a quote from Summer Sanders:

To be a champion, I think you have to see the big picture. It's not about winning and losing; it's about every day hard work and about thriving on a challenge. It's about embracing the pain that you'll experience at the end of a race and not being afraid.

As Canadians, we are not shy when it comes to hard work and facing challenges, particularly in my beautiful riding of Haldimand--Norfolk, where we are not afraid to roll up our sleeves and get the job done.

When I think of my Portuguese friends at home, these are the traits that personify them completely.

Today, I rise to pay tribute to the Portuguese community within my beautiful riding of Haldimand--Norfolk on the south coast, north shore of Lake Erie, and I do so by sharing my thoughts on Motion No. 126.

This is the first time the motion has been debated in the House, so for my colleagues who are not aware of what the motion proposes to do, let me explain briefly.

Motion No. 126 was put forward by the member for Davenport, and calls on the government to recognize the contributions made by the Portuguese community to building Canada and their contributions to Canadian society in general.

As a way of educating and reflecting on Portuguese heritage and culture for future generations, the motion proposes that June be declared Portuguese heritage month, and that June 10 be claimed as Portugal day. Before I go into why I am standing to support the motion today, please let me first share with the House a brief history about why this month and this day are important to the Portuguese community.

Every June 10, the Portuguese celebrate their national holiday known as Dia de Portugal, or Portugal Day, as it known to the rest of the world. While many Portuguese Canadians currently celebrate Portugal Day, the motion would solidify this day as a recognized cultural day right across Canada.

This date commemorates the death of Luis de Camoes, a significant figure in the history of Portugal. Camoes is best known for his work on Os Lusiadas, the national epic poem of Portugal that celebrates the nation's successes and its rich history.

Camoes was known to be an adventurer. His many escapades include surviving a shipwreck in the region of Cochinchina, now known as Vietnam, and losing an eye while in battle in Ceuta. Legend has it that in order to save the Lusiadas, Camoes had to keep it afloat with one of his hands while he used his other arm to swim through the unforgiving waters of the region's seas. Patriotism and bravery are just a few of the qualities that Camoes had that made the nation choose to celebrate Portugal Day in his honour.

Camoes, and his perseverance through his adventures, is a direct representative of the Portuguese people in my area. Their ability to see a challenge and overcome that challenge is, quite frankly, inspirational. I cannot think of a better way to honour them then by showing our support for this day and the motion.

In order for me to explain further why the motion is important to people where I live, I need to share with the House a bit of background on my beautiful riding of Haldimand--Norfolk and the wonderful people who live there.

There is no doubt that Canada is a diverse country. Many people come from all over the world to live here, and that is something that should make us all proud.

I do not have the largest Portuguese population in my riding, especially when it is compared with ridings like those of the member for Davenport. In fact, Haldimand--Norfolk is made up largely of people from countries such as Britain, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, and Hungary.

The Portuguese people make up just shy of 3% of the population throughout Haldimand--Norfolk according to the latest census records. That is just over 3,000 people. That may not seem like a lot, but 3,000 people is the total population of many of the smaller communities in my riding if I were to lump them all together.

While the Portuguese community in my riding does not make up the same large percentage of the population as perhaps that of the member for Davenport, and there may not be as many Portuguese in Haldimand—Norfolk now as there have been in past years, this group contributes immensely to the community. It is not just about the number of people, but the quality of those people and the action that those people choose.

In Haldimand—Norfolk, challenges are abundant. In order for many people in my community to provide for their families, hard work is often a requirement. It is not easy, but if they are not afraid to get some dirt on their hands, the opportunities are also abundant. All the Portuguese people I know make hard work look easy, even when we know that it is not. In fact, they welcome it with open arms, and that does not change whether that work is working in the home, or around the yard, working for an employer, or their very generous contributions as volunteers.

Not only does the Portuguese community welcome hard work, but they also welcome other people around them. I consider myself very fortunate to have good friends in our Portuguese community. In fact, whenever I visit them, they always make me feel at home.

I have one very special good friend who is a leader within the community and he often takes me to visit with his friends and even with his family. Whenever I enter their homes, I am always greeted with love and affection, just as if I were a direct member of the family. We share stories and we share wonderful food. We laugh and sometimes we cry from laughing so hard. Then, perhaps after too many carafes of Vinho Verde or Porto, I leave feeling even more like a family member than when I arrived.

Like hard work, this comes as second nature to the Portuguese community. I am proud to call them my friends, and I am honoured to support this motion. This is a community that could not be more deserving of this kind of recognition.

For my Portuguese friends at home and those in communities right across Canada, they truly are champions and they deserve this. Obrigado.

Portuguese Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Obrigado, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to rise today and tell the member for Davenport how much we appreciate her motion. I think it represents a step in the right direction.

Quebec and Canada are societies and communities of people that come from all over the world. With the exception of the first nations and Inuit people, we are all sons and daughters of more or less recent immigrants, some families having settled here earlier than others.

We often say that our diversity is our strength, a slogan that can sometimes ring a bit hollow. We need to live with other people, participate in cross-cultural dialogues, and celebrate together to see just how true this really is and to realize how lucky we are to live in a peaceful, tolerant, inclusive, and diverse society where we can meet people from all over the world. As parliamentarians, we need to recognize that.

The member for Davenport's motion seeks to celebrate our diversity and one community in particular, which is very dear to me for several reasons that I will talk about in the few minutes that I have to speak.

Strong ties between Newfoundland, Quebec, and the rest of Canada and the Portuguese community have existed for a very long time. As far back as the 16th century, Portuguese fishermen would sail the coast of Newfoundland and even make contact with the people living there. Monuments have been erected to remind residents of that connection and of the presence of fishermen and people from Portugal off the coast of Newfoundland and sometimes even on the island.

I did some research, and the first known permanent Portuguese immigrant supposedly arrived in 1677. His name was Pedro da Silva and he was from Lisbon. Mr. da Silva was a family man, and in fact, had 15 children. It is believed that most of the da Silvas in Quebec and Canada today are probably descendants of Mr. da Silva, who arrived in 1677.

In certain communities I know in Montreal, some of which I am lucky enough to represent, the Portuguese community has very deep roots, although the vast majority of Portuguese people began arriving in the 1950s. A strong, vibrant, hard-working community has been established and has integrated well. We know that these are very hard working and entrepreneurial people. They love their gardens, love food, and love making things grow. There are apparently at least 25,000 people of Portuguese descent in Quebec. Most of them are in Montreal, but some have more recently moved to Laval.

I have the good fortune of living in a neighbourhood where my neighbours on one side are Chinese, Fred on the third floor is from Haiti, and then on the second floor we have international students from France. My neighbour on the other side, Annibal, is an older gentleman originally from Portugal. I have to thank Annibal because he takes care of keeping the front of our house very clean every morning. He is there for us. He is extraordinary and he always says hello to us. He is a very nice man.

The closest grocery store to us is a cornerstore called Marché Sá et Fils. It is currently being run by two brothers, Benny and Eddy. My wife and I know them well. There is also the late Fernando, their other brother who disappeared, unfortunately. They know us well because my wife and I are not always very organized and we end up going back to the store two or three times in the same day to get milk, butter, or the ingredient or vegetable that we forgot.

In the neighbourhood, on the corner of Rachel and Saint Urbain streets, there is the Santa Cruz church, a very important place to the Portuguese community. It opened its doors in 1986. Another church already existed in the neighbourhood, but it was too small.

It is a big, beautiful church, awash in colour and bustling with life and activity. During the summer, the Portuguese community begins its traditional religious processions at the Santa Cruz church, and those processions often go right by my house. It is always very interesting to see, and participants even give out food sometimes. These processions are traditions that come from Portugal's Azores and Madeira islands.

Just recently, there was a large parade of Portuguese Canadians that was much louder than the usual religious processions. It was when Portugal won the Euro 2016 final against France 1-0. For a while, I was living in the loudest neighbourhood in Montreal. Everyone was in the streets waving flags and honking their car horns. We came out of the house with our children and walked around and celebrated with our Portuguese friends, who were extremely proud of their victory.

That is how we celebrate diversity in real everyday life, when we are close to a community like this. That is why I am so pleased to see this motion to make June Portuguese heritage month and declare June 10 Portugal day.

I also want to say that Festival Portugal International de Montréal was celebrated for the fourth year in a row this past June, giving thousands of people the opportunity to enjoy Portuguese traditions such as good food, dancing, and music. I hope that the festival will continue to be held for many years to come. I am certain it will, since we are extremely proud to have friends from Montreal and Quebec of Portuguese heritage.

In closing, I am pleased to say that we will proudly support the member for Davenport's motion to help celebrate our friends from the Portuguese community.

Portuguese Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage (Multiculturalism)

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak in the House today in support of Motion No. 126, introduced by the member from Davenport. It seeks to have the House recognize the important contributions Canadian Portuguese have made to building Canada and to Canadian society. The Minister of Canadian Heritage and the government are proud to support the motion.

The motion seeks to acknowledge the cultural diversity of the Portuguese communities in Canada, and the importance of educating and reflecting upon Portuguese heritage and culture for future generations by declaring June 10 as Portugal day and the month of June as Portuguese heritage month.

Our country has a long and proud tradition of opening its arms to newcomers from around the globe. Because of this, we have become one of the most diverse countries in the world. The presence of Portuguese individuals in Canada contributes to that tremendous diversity.

People from all corners of the globe choose to leave their homes, family, and friends to come to Canada. When they do so, they know they will become part of a welcoming society with a strong commitment to inclusion, grounded in a proud tradition of multiculturalism. As the parliamentary secretary for multiculturalism, I know personally that newcomers play a critical role in developing our cultural diversity and economic strength, and in contributing to the vitality of our communities.

In 1988, our country became the first nation to proclaim a multiculturalism act, an act that requires we preserve and enhance the multicultural heritage of all Canadians. It also requires that we work to ensure that all Canadians are equal in our economic, social, cultural, and political life.

Our government is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the value of our Canadian diversity and strengthening our multicultural and pluralistic society. This commitment was clearly articulated in the Speech from the Throne, and is referenced in our cherished Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which includes a specific provision declaring that the charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.

As Canadians, we can never take this commitment to diversity and inclusion for granted. Our society has prospered, and will continue to prosper, thanks to the strides we have all made to ensure Canada remains a welcoming society for people from all corners of the globe, of different faiths and cultural backgrounds, who can feel proud in calling this country their home.

Parliament's support for Portuguese heritage month and recognition of June 10 as Portugal day will be in line with our commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Celebrating the rich diversity of our many multicultural communities is nothing new in Canada. In my riding, just this past weekend, we concluded a weekend of celebrating both the Polish and Ukrainian diasporas that exist in my riding of Parkdale—High Park, communities that I am very proud to represent in Ottawa. Each year, celebrations such as those are held in communities across the country to honour and recognize an incredibly diverse range of communities that call our country home.

On a national level, we have the celebration of Black History Month in February and Asian Heritage Month in May. These are two significant examples of Canada's commitment to acknowledging and highlighting the vital contributions of Canada's many diverse communities to our society.

By seeking to recognize the unique contributions of Canadians of Portuguese heritage who live in my riding and ridings around the country, such as Davenport, and ridings in Montreal, what we are doing today with this motion is continuing this quintessentially Canadian tradition of respecting and nurturing the pluralism that continues to make Canada the envy of the world.

Motion No. 126 presents us with another important opportunity to appreciate the commonalities that unite us, while helping to dispel negative preconceptions that may divide us. In celebrating our diversity, we learn about our common struggles and our shared values.

Portuguese heritage month and Portugal day would provide an opportunity to celebrate our diversity and for Canada's Portuguese community to share its unique culture, history, and traditions with all Canadians.

There was a national household survey in 2011. It indicated that approximately 430,000 people in Canada reported their ethnic origin as Portuguese. Additionally, Portuguese was the tenth most spoken non-official language in our country, with approximately 225,000 Canadian households reporting it as their primary mother tongue in the 2011 census. For those people, obrigado.

Canadians of Portuguese heritage from coast to coast to coast should feel welcome and duly recognized through the motion brought forward by the member for Davenport. Recognition of Portuguese heritage month would be in keeping with the recognition already given in my home province of Ontario, with the largest population of Portuguese Canadians, which established June 10 as Portugal Day and June as Portuguese History and Heritage Month in 2001.

Ontario has an act called the Celebration of Portuguese Heritage Act, which points to the longstanding presence of Portuguese in this country that dates back over 500 years to the age of exploration and the seafaring of Portuguese navigators, such as Gaspar Corte-Real, who explored the northeast coast of Terra Nova, or Newfoundland, and named Conception Bay and Portugal Cove.

Government recognition will also be consistent with the fact that Portuguese heritage is also celebrated officially and unofficially throughout June in cities right across Canada. Toronto's Little Portugal neighbourhood, right next door to Parkdale—High Park, in the lovely constituency of Davenport, is home to a thriving and vibrant community of Canadians of Portuguese heritage who come together annually to celebrate the month of June, and June 10 is Portugal Day.

My constituents of Portuguese and non-Portugese descent attend that celebration to celebrate with their neighbours, but also to show their respect to the immense contributions of Portuguese to this country.

Portugal Day, which falls on June 10, is celebrated in honour of Luis de Camoes, who is one of Portugal's most revered poets and author of the most famous Portuguese epic poem, The Lusiads. Portugal Day is also officially recognized as a day to celebrate Portuguese communities around the world in recognition of the millions of people of Portuguese descent who reside outside of the homeland.

With this in mind, this motion is timely, given that Canada is home to one of the largest Portuguese diaspora communities in the entire world. The establishment of Portuguese heritage month would provide an opportunity for all Canadians to learn more about this tremendous community, and the many notable historic and current figures who have contributed to Canada in so many ways.

The list is immense, but I will cite just a few examples, such as the world-famous singer Nelly Furtado, and, no, I will not do a rendition; Canadian Olympic medalist, Meaghan Benfeito; and the hon. Maria T. Linhares de Sousa, who is a judge of the Superior Court of Justice in Ontario; among many others.

Celebrations such as Portuguese heritage month are an expression of the vitality of our multiculturalism, which I started out referencing. Our hope is that Canadians of all backgrounds will view Portuguese heritage month as an opportunity to learn about Portuguese culture while celebrating our inclusive sense of Canadian identity.

I will conclude by reiterating our government's support for this motion, our government's support for the efforts being made by the member for Davenport, and highlighting that it is essential that Canadians celebrate, and acknowledge the various communities that have helped to make Canada one of the most successful multicultural countries in the world.

With this in mind, I urge all members of this House to vote in favour of Motion No. 126.


Portuguese Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in support of Motion No. 126.

I rise in support of the groups of talented and dedicated Portuguese Canadians in my riding of Brampton South. I rise in support of the talented and dedicated Portuguese Canadians across the country. It is important to recognize those who worked hard to help build our country, and whose hard work continues to shape and define our communities from coast to coast.

In Brampton South, we have a very special group, Amigos Portuguese do Peel, whose members dedicate their time, energy, and talents to supporting community projects throughout Peel. Under passionate and compassionate community leadership, the Amigos Portuguese has made its mark on the Peel region and in Brampton South. It has been working hard over the four years, organizing fundraising events, dances, golf tournaments, bocce tournaments, and more, to support redevelopment of Peel Memorial.

In my first speech in this place, I spoke of the Amigos Portuguese and its fundraising efforts, where once again it exceeded its goals. It is clear to me, and to anyone who works with this group, that it is dedicated, hard-working, and is eager to make a difference in our communities. We should all be so fortunate to have groups like Amigos Portuguese in our ridings and across the country. Their hard work is literally shaping our community.

Across Canada and around the world, in businesses, sports, media, and in community building, the Portuguese community is thriving. In Canada, we know that diversity is our strength, and we can do more when we come together as one family. The Portuguese Canadian members of this family have shared their diversity, their culture, and their custard tarts with us. We are forever grateful.

As we know, the GTA saw a major movement of Portuguese immigration in 1955, most of the Portuguese people coming to Canada to help fill labour needs. Keeping up with the post-World War II development boom, Portuguese families settled into their new homes and helped rebuild cities. From those early days to today, we have a lot to thank our Portuguese Canadians for.

I support this motion because I feel it is vitally important to recognize and celebrate the various communities that have come together to make the Canadian mosaic.

During the summer, I had the chance to visit Ponta Delgada, on Sao Miguel Island in the Azores. I toured the beautiful landscapes and learned about the community. I was happy to see this beautiful place, where many residents of Brampton South trace their heritage.

In my riding, I am proud that we are home to the Church of Our Lady of Fatima, which hosts the annual Santo Cristo procession and the Holy Ghost festivities. Both of these celebrations are among the largest in Ontario, and bring Portuguese Canadians from across the province and beyond to join in.

In June, I joined my colleagues in Brampton, along with members of the city government, to raise the Portuguese flag at Brampton city hall. It was an honour to join my colleagues and honour this important community in Brampton.

Later that day, everyone was invited to Garden Square in downtown Brampton, which is right beside my office, for a Portuguese festival that celebrated the unique heritage of this community. There was live music, a food festival, traditional dancing, and many crafts. It was a wonderful day, and I look forward to continuing these celebrations in years to come. In fact, on that day, for the first time, June was proclaimed as Portuguese heritage month in the city of Brampton. I hope we can share this celebration across Canada with the adoption of this motion.

By marking Portuguese heritage month, as this motion would do, we are entrenching in Canadian culture the importance of recognizing the history and traditions of so many of our neighbours and friends.

I am proud to have a great community partner in regional councillor Martin Medeiros, who joins me in engaging the Portuguese community. Councillor Medeiros is tireless, and I am grateful for the work he does to recognize Portuguese Canadians at the regional level in Brampton and Peel.

We have also had important celebrations in Ottawa. Last spring, the Canada-Portugal Parliamentary Friendship Group hosted a parliamentary celebration of Portugal Day. We had visitors from Brampton South, a whole bus load, as well as from many other communities in the GTA with large Portuguese Canadian populations.

The festivities that day were celebrated with joy. We had music, food, and friends, the best kind of celebration. This is how we should always celebrate our diversity. We share our histories. We share our cultures. We share our values. One of the traditional dances of Portugal is the Fandango, a competition to see who is the lightest on his or her feet while engaging each other in a fun and exciting dance. I encourage all members here to join their Portuguese community and learn the Fandango.

As a member of the Canada-Portugal Parliamentary Friendship Group, I want to take a moment and thank my colleagues, the chairs of the group, for the work they do in organizing special events to celebrate Portuguese heritage. They have worked tirelessly as leaders of our group, and I would be remiss not to thank them for their work. To paraphrase an often-repeated line, “Together, better is always possible”, we are always better together.

I want to commend my colleague the member for Davenport, for bringing this motion forward, and recognizing the wonderful contribution Portuguese Canadians have made, and will surely continue to make to Canada. The member is a hard worker. It speaks great volumes of her dedication to representing her community, and celebrating the diversity of all Canadians, to bring forward such a motion in this place.

I encourage all colleagues to join me in supporting this motion, and in supporting the celebration of Portuguese heritage this year, and every year going forward.


Portuguese Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

Mr. Speaker, I was very impressed with the speech made by my colleague and friend, the member for Davenport. Listening to her speech, one gets an appreciation for just how much passion she has for the Portuguese community. This is not the first time I have heard her speak in the House and outside of it, whether it is in caucus or in the lobby. One gets the sense that she has immense pride and joy for the Portuguese Canadian heritage group. I applaud her for her actions today in recognizing the value of one of our treasured communities in Canada in the month of June. It is long overdue, and I applaud her, as well as others.

Members often bring resolutions and ideas such as this to the floor of the House of Commons, which are quite often supported by the grassroots within our communities, those who work so hard on ethnic and cultural events that take place in every region of our country. My colleague from Davenport has already mentioned many of them, even by name, as she knows the community so thoroughly, but generally speaking, I am referring to all of those involved in assisting us to have this great discussion and debate today and recognizing a very important community.

The Prime Minister often talks about Canada's greatest strength, being our diversity. I am a little biased, I will admit that up front. I would argue there is no greater demonstration of our diversity than in Winnipeg during the month of August. My colleagues, the members for Winnipeg South and Winnipeg Centre, join me and we share our sense of pride in the Portuguese community. In fact, the member for Winnipeg Centre has at least two Portuguese activity centres in his riding. I know that he, as I and other members of the Manitoba caucus have, has taken a great deal of pride in enjoying the wonderful Portuguese hospitality.

When we listen to the Prime Minister talk about that strength, we really get an appreciation. Some members referenced what other countries are thinking, at least in part. Not all other countries but some raise concerns, and perhaps do not recognize the true value of multiculturalism or immigration, and how our society in Canada have benefited from it. We can see that. We get a snapshot of that by looking at the Portuguese community.

My colleague from Davenport made reference to good, solid, quality jobs in construction. I hate to think what construction the City of Winnipeg would have missed out on if there were not such strong, hard-working personalities in that community. There is a beautiful Portuguese centre on Notre Dame, and I know individuals like Mario Santos and so many others made it happen.

Let us talk about commitment. Nowadays groups will go to governments at different levels and ask how they can get centres built. I encourage governments to get involved where they can, and having said that, this community centre was built decades ago. Members of the Portuguese community went to the table, talked about getting the land and supplies, and took part in building the centre. For those who have never seen the centre, I would encourage them, if they are in Winnipeg, to check out the Portuguese centre.

When I meet with members of the Filipino and Ethiopian communities, I often make reference to the Portuguese centre as an ideal type of centre, and even the manner in which it came into being.

In recommending that members go to the Portuguese cultural centre, let me make a suggestion as to when they should go. If they really want to get a taste of Portugal and see Portuguese pride, I would recommend they go during Folklorama. That particular facility, and as I have said there is more than one facility, really comes alive in a tangible way then.

Thousands of people from Winnipeg and other parts of Canada and from the United States are there during the month of August to participate in Canada's greatest multicultural show, and many of them will visit the Portuguese pavilion. People have a choice when they walk into this particular pavilion. They can start by looking at the heritage clothing that is often worn and is on display in the basement. They will see an emphasis on football-soccer, depending on what one wants to call it. The sport is a passion of the Portuguese. Downstairs there is a wonderful display of all sorts of things that makes one think about travelling to Portugal.

In the main auditorium people will be treated to some fantastic food. Some of my colleagues have talked about good food. Well, during Folklorama the desserts are hard to say no to, let alone some of the other food. The hospitality is incredible.

People will also see some fantastic dancing, whether by young people or not as young. It is done in circles, and I must be excused for not knowing the actual name of the dance, but it is a real treat to see. This is just one aspect of our Portuguese community.

I could talk about the Portuguese community in rural Manitoba where many Portuguese own property.

I could talk about both pavilions, both of which are first class.

I realize my time has expired. I always appreciate being able to share a few words.

Portuguese Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

When the motion returns to the House, the hon. member will have two minutes' credit to continue.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

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

HousingAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.


Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, on April 10th of this year, I asked a question of the Minister of Social Development about seniors in dire need of proper housing. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives had published a report showing that 42% of B.C. seniors were experiencing core housing needs.

The Minister of Social Development answered by saying that the Liberals reduced the age of eligibility for OAS back to 65 years, and that was lifting them out of poverty. That really was not my question. The housing crisis is systematically impacting seniors, and I am hoping that today we can get these concerns addressed in a more candid fashion.

In that report, certain groups of senior renters face even higher rates of core housing needs than seniors as a whole. Senior renters living alone are more at risk than those living in families, 51% compared to 23%. Women are disproportionately affected. More than half of all senior women renters living alone experienced core housing needs at 54%, compared to 45% of senior men living alone. I have seen it time and time again.

In my riding of North Island—Powell River, in British Columbia, and across the country, where are the resources so desperately needed now? This is after report after report has demonstrated the need for support now. The minister was basically saying good luck, and that is unacceptable.

The CCPA information about core housing needs was reconfirmed this week by government sources. According to data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, CMHC, nearly 370,000 senior citizens living in British Columbia are going through a rental squeeze.

About two years ago, the vacancy rate for seniors across B.C. was at 6.3%, but this figure has seen a reduction by 10% this year, with the rental vacancy rate for seniors standing at 4.7%.

Canada's seniors worked hard to build our country, but rising costs mean that seniors cannot make ends meet. Unaffordable housing is one of the many factors making life more difficult for seniors. Today, more than a quarter million seniors live below the poverty line. In a country as prosperous as Canada, that is unacceptable.

In my riding of North Island—Powell River, we held 11 town hall meetings across the riding to discuss issues impacting seniors. Hundreds of constituents participated by attending those town hall meetings, emailing, or calling with their thoughts.

Earlier this summer, we organized and participated in round tables with local stakeholders on the issue of housing. Both issues are very important to me and my constituents. These are both local issues and national issues that require immediate action.

Whether it is seniors who cannot leave the hospital due to a lack of housing, who simply have nowhere to go, or partners living on 20% of a pension because the remainder is paying for a spouse's care facility, or seniors living in shelters, there is no doubt the time for action is now.

The time to turn a blind eye is over. I hope the minister understands that the government's own crown corporation is telling it there is a problem. He has to listen. Our country needs strong institutions that can effectively meet the challenges of Canada's aging population.

Canadian seniors deserve a solution now. Could the minister tell struggling seniors, who are having difficulty paying rent or difficulty finding appropriate housing, how this will be addressed?

HousingAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

Mr. Speaker, earlier this year, the hon. member for North Island—Powell River asked in the House how the finance minister could tell Canadian seniors that housing was just not available. On behalf of the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, I would like to suggest that is simply not true.

The welfare and the well-being of our seniors, notably through proper housing, are top of mind for our government. In fact, over the past year and a half, our government has brought forward a number of measures, policies, and initiatives to improve access to affordable housing for Canadian seniors. As announced in budget 2017, we will invest more than $11.2 billion over 11 years in initiatives designed to build, renew, and repair Canada's stock of affordable housing. The national housing strategy, which will be announced later this year, will ensure that more Canadians have access to housing that meets their needs and that they can afford. This will help to reduce core housing needs and lift more Canadians out of homelessness, contributing to stronger, more inclusive communities.

As part of the government's renewed role in housing, we will establish a national housing fund to address critical housing issues and prioritize support for vulnerable citizens, including our seniors. Working with the provinces and territories, we will also co-invest with the proponents so that housing can complement other socio-economic priorities, such as housing for seniors and at-risk youth.

The budget 2017 initiatives build on the government's budget 2016 announcements related to housing, which included over $200 million over two years to help improve housing conditions for more than 5,000 low-income seniors' households. This funding is being delivered by provinces and territories through the investment in affordable housing. Greater accessibility and availability of services tied to housing and more housing options are top priorities for this government, as they will support Canadian seniors, among others.

That is why we held extensive consultations across the country to gather ideas and suggestions to guide the development of an inclusive national housing strategy for Canada. We know that the prosperity of the middle class and inclusive communities rely on safe, affordable housing, yet too many Canadians, including seniors, still struggle to find affordable housing that really meets their needs. We have been working with provinces and territories, indigenous peoples and other communities, as well as stakeholders and the public to address this issue and improve the lives of Canadian seniors, and we intend to continue on the same path.

On a very quick note, I would make reference to one of the first initiatives that we put in our very first budget. It was to ensure that the poorest of Canada's seniors, those receiving the guaranteed income supplement, would receive a substantial increase, to the degree that many of those seniors, for example, are now receiving an additional over $900 a year. For a senior in poverty, that is a lot of money. That was a priority of this government.

Our seniors and individuals who are concerned about the future of housing in our country need to be assured that we have a Prime Minister and government that are committed to providing the types of housing that we believe, and we know, Canadians are going to need into the future. We are working in a very robust fashion to deliver wherever we can on this very important issue facing all Canadians,

HousingAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I encourage the government to listen to its own body, the CMHC, which has reported in the past year that there was also a short supply of new homes for seniors across B.C., with only 500 newly erected buildings. Earlier this year, we saw low-income seniors facing eviction from their retirement homes to make way for higher profits for the owners. This example gives us a glimpse of the vulnerable situation low-income seniors are facing. Without the public's outcry this situation might have had a very different outcome.

With a growing aging population, this need will just continue to grow. Can the minister offer us a concrete solution? How will he and his department help spur growth of seniors' homes and make sure that seniors have appropriate housing? They cannot wait.

HousingAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned earlier some of the measures, the policies, and initiatives that our government had put in place to meet the needs of Canadian seniors for affordable housing.

As I said, in budget 2017, we announced $11.2 billion over the next 11 years to build, renew, and repair Canada's stock of affordable housing and help ensure Canadians would have affordable housing that would meet their needs.

The national housing strategy, which will be launched later this year, will also provide funding to support innovative approaches to housing development, to encourage better collaboration, and leverage additional investments in housing.

Budget 2017 investments are in addition to the existing funding for housing and the homeless provided in budget 2016, which included additional funding to help seniors access affordable housing through the investment in affordable housing.

We also consulted Canadians from coast to coast to coast to develop an inclusive national housing strategy for Canada. That is what we have been doing to improve access—

HousingAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith.

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, in June, the New Democrats made a final appeal to the finance minister to maintain the public transit tax credit. This used to be an incentive to encourage ridership.

In the last federal budget, the government announced that the tax credit would be killed on June 30. It was extremely disappointing that after all the opposition from seniors, students, poor workers, and single moms, the government still decided to go ahead and abolish the tax credit. That is not leadership and that is not walking the talk on either the middle class or on climate change.

That transit tax rebate made the daily use of public transit a bit more affordable in my community. In our community of Nanaimo—Ladysmith, there was a double hit of the cancellation of this tax rebate: bus riders were the obvious one, but also ferry-dependent communities, such as Gabriola Island, where I live.

Lots of commuters go back and forth every day. People in my community who work at the hospital, who are back and forth on the ferry every day, were saving hundreds of dollars a year, and more. In my region the evidence does not support the government's assertion back in the spring that this was a benefit for wealthy people riding the bus. Middle-class families and low-income individuals are the ones who are paying the price of this cancellation.

In 2018, 1.5 million Canadians will see an increase in their federal income tax because of the cancellation of the public transit tax rebate. The public transit users, obviously not the wealthiest people in Canada, were getting back, collectively, $250 million a year. Now each individual person will pay, on average, $150 to $200 more in federal taxes. That will affect seniors, students, the working poor, and single moms. It is a transit tax rebate that used to be open to everyone across the country. It was one of the things that used to give people who would ride public transit a bit of a break.

Reducing accessibility to public transit while everyone is just struggling to get by runs counter to the fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Clearly, the government does not walk its talk on either public transit or affordability. Therefore, if the government is really serious about fighting climate change and defending the middle class, why did it proceed with the cancellation of the public transit tax credit?

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Louis-Hébert Québec


Joël Lightbound LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith. I think we share the same goal, which is to create favourable conditions for public transit. We may differ on how to achieve that.

I can assure her that our government is determined to build an economy that works for middle-class Canadians. That is why we embarked on an in-depth review of federal spending, taking into account concerns people shared with us about the efficiency, fairness, and complexity of the tax system.

The purpose of the review was to ensure that federal spending is fair for Canadians as well as efficient and viable in terms of the budget. We know that eliminating misguided and ineffective tax measures as well as ineffective and outdated government initiatives saves money and frees up resources that can be redirected toward more important priorities.

Quite simply, evidence suggests that the public transit tax credit has been ineffective in encouraging the use of public transit and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Canadians deserve better. They deserve government investments that actually work for them, whether in support of public transit or a cleaner environment. Our government is committed to supporting both, but unlike the public transit tax credit, we are doing so in a manner that is actually effective.

Budget 2017, for example, announced $20.1 billion in funding over 11 years to provinces and territories, plus at least $5 billion through the Canada Infrastructure Bank for improved public transit, and it goes even further to support clean, healthy communities for Canadians.

Budget 2017 laid out the government's plan to invest $21.9 billion in green infrastructure, including initiatives that will support the implementation of the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change. This included $9.2 billion for provinces and territories over the next 11 years to support priority projects, including those that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, deliver clean water, safely manage waste water, help communities prepare for challenges that result from climate change, and help build cleaner, better connected electricity systems.

These are just a few examples of the steps we are taking to put our plan into action, a plan to grow the economy in a way that works for the middle class and those working hard to join it.

It is worth mentioning that we also introduced a tax cut for the middle class that is helping nearly nine million Canadians. Furthermore, thanks to the Canada child benefit, nine out of ten families are getting more help today than they did under previous programs, with an average increase of nearly $2,300 in tax-free benefits per year.

Still more recently, in budget 2017, the government took steps to make these tax breaks for individuals and families even more effective and more accessible. These are just a few examples of what we can achieve when we make more efficient use of available resources.

This is why I am proud to support this approach for the benefit of Canadians.

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, we still have heard no evidence from the government on the basis which it decided this was not an effective way to help affordability and help people want to ride public transit. The prospect of spending on public transit 11 years out does nothing for the people who right now need that rebate to help them ride the transit to get to work. The middle-class tax cuts that the government keeps talking about did not affect the most low-income people in my community or across the country. Therefore, it is very hard to hear this. There is a good intention, but there is no implementation.

My colleague, the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, had an online petition. Thousands of people signed it, saying that public transit helps local air quality, commuters, jobs, and the environment.

Why did the government proceed, and do this mean-spirited cancellation of the tax rebate?

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Joël Lightbound Liberal Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have heard loud and clear the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith, but when she talks about the poorest members of her community, they do not actually stand to benefit much from a tax credit. This is why it was an inefficient measure, both in helping lower-income Canadians to have access to public transit, and ineffective in inducing people to actually use public transit.

We decided, instead of going forward with a measure that we know to be ineffective, to go with investments in public transit; cleaner communities; tax cuts for the middle class; and the Canada child benefit, which will lift 300,000 children out of poverty in this country.

These are effective measures to reach the goals, which I know we both share, to have cleaner, healthier communities, and less inequalities in this country.

Government AppointmentsAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, as usual, I am pleased to rise in the House. I see that my colleague is still here so I want to say hello. I imagine he is the one who will be answering my question.

This evening, I am going to talk about Liberal appointments. During the last session, I was asked many questions about the partisan appointments the Liberals were making. Members will all recall the appointment of a former Liberal minister who had just left her job as an Ontario minister. She was angling for a Senate seat but instead was appointed official languages commissioner. She had met a huge number of people from the Liberal Party since she had contributed to the Prime Minister's election campaign. If that is not partisanship, I do not know what is.

The opposition parties all joined in strongly condemning that appointment since, in our opinion, a high-ranking Parliament of Canada official should never, and I mean never, be associated with any party, whether it be the Liberals, the Conservatives, or the NDP. Such officials really need to be non-partisan. When Ms. Meilleur withdrew her candidacy, which was very commendable of her, the government told us that the selection criteria had been revised, even though it had previously boasted that the criteria in use were the very best.

As of today, September 20, no one has been appointed as Commissioner of Official Languages; the position is being temporarily filled, and no one knows what the selection process is. I was familiar with the last process because I used to work on the official languages file. I now look after rural affairs. I know that some senior Liberal Party officials will be going over these appointments, but I would hope that this process will be much more transparent this time and that people in the opposition will be asked to provide names of candidates.

Both sides of the House need to ensure that the next person appointed Commissioner of Official Languages or any other Officer of Parliament is non-partisan. It is essential that these people maintain a certain degree of independence. When we appoint a Commissioner of Official Languages, we are accountable to linguistic minorities. It is not about talking on behalf of a party. This has to be—

Government AppointmentsAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


Government AppointmentsAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to national government appointments, I suggest that it is actually a good news story. I sat in opposition and witnessed former Prime Minister Stephen Harper make many appointments. When it comes to appointments, it is a good news story, and let me explain why.

This government put in place a new appointment process that supports open, transparent, and merit-based selection processes. When we talk about being open, this what we mean. Selection processes are open to all Canadians to provide them with the opportunity, should they be interested and have the required qualifications, to participate in their democratic institutions by serving as a GIC appointment. When we talk about being transparent, we are talking about clear information about the requirements and steps involved in the selection process being readily available to the public in order to reach as many Canadians as possible and attract a strong, diverse field of highly qualified candidates. Appointments are publicly available on the Privy Council Office orders in council database.

With regard to merit, let us think about the selection being designed to identify highly qualified candidates who meet the needs of the organization and are able to perform the duties of the position to which they would be appointed. It seeks individuals who have the qualifications, including education, experience, knowledge, skills, and abilities, and personal suitability to fill the position, and who are also able to meet any statutory and/or other conditions that may be required. This new process will help strengthen trust in our democracy and ensure the integrity of our public institutions. Our aim is to identify high-quality candidates who are committed to the principles of public service and embrace public service values.

Under this process, we have made well over 200 appointments. It is important for us to recognize the mix of those 200 appointments: 60% are women, 10% are visible minorities, and 10% are indigenous people. This truly reflects Canada's diversity. It is something I am very proud of, especially if we contrast the new process that we have put in place since the current Prime Minister made a commitment to Canadians of being open, transparent, and merit based when it comes to national appointments, with the previous one. That is why I say it is a good news story. When we do the comparison, hands down everyone will realize that this government takes its commitment very seriously, and by the results that I just listed, everyone will see that we have maintained that commitment.