House of Commons Hansard #325 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was affairs.

Topics

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, our government is proud to have a feminist foreign policy. Gender equality produces greater prosperity and a more peaceful and secure world. At the Women Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Montreal, the Minister of Foreign Affairs reaffirmed Canada's international leadership in promoting women's empowerment, gender equality, peace and security. Can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs update the House on this important announcement?

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Orléans Ontario

Liberal

Andrew Leslie LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Canada-U.S. Relations)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Etobicoke Centre for his tireless work on this issue. Our government knows that women are powerful agents for change and for peace, and we also know that when women are involved in the peace process, peace agreements tend to last longer. That is why the Minister of Foreign Affairs was proud to announce the creation of an ambassador for women, peace and security. Women's empowerment is a crucial issue and I hope all of my colleagues in this House will join us in celebrating this important announcement.

Public Services and ProcurementOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have asked the Minister of National Defence and the Prime Minister three times now to fix the fiasco threatening the integrity of the King's Bastion at the Quebec Citadel. According to the government's own experts, this is a safety issue, as the structure could collapse. Its architects are recommending using the original stone.

Why is the government using American, non-compliant, substandard stone? It shows utter contempt not only for Quebeckers but also for our Canadian heritage.

Public Services and ProcurementOral Questions

September 25th, 2018 / 3 p.m.

Vancouver South B.C.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, we value the rich heritage of the Citadelle in Quebec City, so let me be clear: We will repair the fort using original Citadelle stones. In cases where damage to the original stone is too severe, a Quebec bidder has been contracted to ensure additional stones meet strict regulations. National defence is doing its work to make sure this stone follows the requirements because we understand how important this is to Quebec City.

Status of WomenOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, the pay gap between men and women is 32%. It is even worse for women with disabilities, indigenous women and racialized women. Women are done waiting. We want economic justice now. However, every day we hear heartbreaking stories about women in poverty with the same root cause: no pay equity. If Liberals were serious about gender equality, why are women still waiting for the proactive pay equity legislation they have been promised for 42 years?

Status of WomenOral Questions

3 p.m.

Thunder Bay—Superior North Ontario

Liberal

Patty Hajdu LiberalMinister of Employment

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member opposite that equal pay for work of equal value is a human right, and that is why we are so proud as a government to be moving forward with proactive pay equity legislation. It is a key way that we are demonstrating our commitment to gender equality. It is a key way that we will attempt to close the gender wage gap. We are already working diligently. Consultations have been done and we will be moving forward with pay equity legislation later this year.

SportsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

Mr. Speaker, this week is National Coaches Week, a week to recognize coaches from coast to coast to coast and the incredible contributions to athletes, families and communities. I would like to thank all coaches in my riding of Brampton North, including my son's soccer coach, for their dedication and countless hours of helping our youth and athletes learn, train and succeed.

I want to thank them for supporting children and young athletes throughout their lives.

Could the Minister of Science and Sport tell this House how important coaches are to the communities in Canada?

SportsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Kirsty Duncan Minister of Science and Sport, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, happy National Coaches Week. All over Canada, coaches give their time to help athletes and youth succeed in sport and in life. Coaches are supporters, motivators and role models. They help athletes to dream, set goals, believe in themselves and reach their full potential. Today, I ask all members of the House to join me and thank the coaches they know, by using #thankscoach.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is increasingly evident that the Liberal environment and energy policy is an unmitigated disaster. The Liberal carbon tax has been resoundingly rejected as just a tax on Canadians that will have literally no impact on global emissions. Even with significant Canadian taxpayer dollars spent, there is a broad consensus that we will still not meet our greenhouse gas emission commitments.

Will the government confirm today that despite all of its bluster, it will not in fact meet our Paris Agreement targets?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

3 p.m.

Sean Fraser Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, this government is confident that it is going to meet its Paris Agreement targets. The hon. member seemingly has not read the report from Stephen Harper's former director of policy that indicated that when we put a price on pollution, it is going to have an economic benefit for middle-class Canadian families.

I invite the hon. member to get on board instead of taking money out of his constituents' pockets so that he can make pollution free again.

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipOral Questions

3 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Beaulieu Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Sunday, the Minister of Border Security claimed that the vast majority of the 35,000 irregular border crossers have since left Canada. He then admitted in the end that it was closer to 1% of them. The problem in that situation is that the rest of those individuals are waiting because their files have simply not been processed.

Does anyone in the government know anything about this situation? Does anyone have the authority to do anything on the immigration file?

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipOral Questions

3 p.m.

Dominic LeBlanc Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, we think it is important to start with the facts. As a government, we make evidence-based decisions, and the data show that the number of border crossers intercepted is lower than it was last year.

As a government, we think it is important to uphold Canadian laws and work with our partners, including the Government of Quebec, respect our commitments and make the safety of Canadians our top priority. That is exactly what we are doing.

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bloc Bécancour—Nicolet—Saurel, QC

Mr. Speaker, in April, the government promised Quebec that it would have a migrant triage plan within a week. In May, it told us that we would have to wait a few more weeks. At the end of July, it told us that the plan was almost ready. Today, there is still no plan, and Quebec is still waiting to be reimbursed nearly $100 million for social services expenses for last year alone.

I will repeat my colleague's question: does anyone really have the authority to do anything on the immigration file?

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Dominic LeBlanc Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, the answer is yes. My colleague, the Minister of Border Security and I have had some extremely encouraging conversations with the Government of Quebec and other partners. We acknowledged the government's obligation to reimburse the expenses incurred by our partners, including the Government of Quebec, for providing temporary housing for example. I myself have had several very encouraging discussions.

Quebec has been a key partner for our government and we will continue to work with our partners.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the urgent warnings from climate scientists are increasingly punctuated by extreme weather events, whether forest fires, floods, hurricanes or tornadoes. However, the government is prepared to spend far more on pipelines than on climate action. It is as though we really believe in reconciliation for indigenous people but first we need to build a few more residential schools.

Will the government instruct the National Energy Board to include climate impacts of the pipeline we now own, as it did for private sector energy east?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Sean Fraser Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, we were elected on a commitment to grow the economy and protect the environment at the same time. This means we are going to take steps to get our resources to new markets while we still take steps to protect our environment and meet our Paris Agreement commitments. I note, in particular, that we are moving forward with a price on pollution that will reduce emissions. We are investing in clean technology and we have put $1.5 billion into our oceans protection plan to protect our oceans and waterways.

As a coastal MP in an area that the hon. member is very familiar with, this is a commitment we share and I look forward to continuing to partner with her to move forward.

Presence in the GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the recipients of the 2019 Indspire Awards:

Barbara Todd Hager, Grand Chief Ronald Derrickson, Jijjuu Mary Snowshoe, Dr. Vianne Timmons, Dr. Marlyn Cook, Dianne Corbiere, Peter Dinsdale, Brigette Lacquette, Billy-Ray Belcourt, Kelly Fraser, James Lavallée and Atoat Akittirq.

Presence in the GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today in the House to talk about this very important topic. I want to start my remarks by expressing my sympathy for Constable Catherine Campbell. This was a heinous tragedy and a crime that was committed on her. It is fair to say that the nation feels for her family and what they have had to endure since her tragic death.

I also want to take the opportunity to talk about military personnel writ large. I have the opportunity to serve the constituents of Kingston and the Islands, where we have a military base. I have been surrounded by military personnel my whole life and have had the opportunity to engage with them from time to time. However, it was not until I became a member of the Standing Committee on National Defence that I really gained an appreciation of why our military personnel, throughout the world, have the incredible reputation they do. Those who have had the opportunity to engage with our military in various parts of the world will have seen that they deserve and command a certain level of respect from others they engage with.

Quite often, we tend to think that it is the politicians and policies we make and have made throughout the years that have given Canada this great reputation of being peacekeepers and peace builders throughout the world, but it is in fact our military folks who have been instrumental in extending the Canadian way to others and imparting upon people what it means to be Canadian and the values we stand for. It is our military personnel who really give us the distinction of what we have come to be so proud of, which is peacekeeping abilities. Politicians will come and go, but it is our military personnel who last throughout generations in various parts of the world who truly give Canada the amazing name it has.

The motion we are debating today is very timely, and I am glad to be able to speak to it. We have the opportunity to speak specifically to where we have come as a government on the veterans file, where we were before that and what we plan to see in the future. I would preface my comments by saying that there is, is my opinion, never enough we can do for our veterans. Our veterans have given us the incredible quality of life we have come to enjoy and the ability to sit in this House and have these debates. It is because of them and their willingness to go to other parts of the world and give us this incredible opportunity that we are here today and have the amazing quality of life that we do.

I should say that I will be splitting my time today with the member for Winnipeg North.

I would like to talk about where we were with our veterans over 10 years under the Conservatives, what they were able to do to the Veterans Affairs system writ large and how we saw diminishing services and support for veterans throughout the years.

The reality is that over 10 years, the Conservatives looked at the Veterans Affairs department as a place to cut costs in an effort to balance budgets, which they failed to do in almost every single year. Some examples of that are killing the lifetime pension for veterans and closing nine Veterans Affairs offices throughout the country. In fact, the Auditor General found that the previous Conservative government failed veterans, noting that the percentage of returned soldiers with mental health issues had actually increased sixfold between 2002 and 2014.

The Conservatives slashed 900 jobs, despite pleas from managers in various departments in Veterans Affairs not to do that because of the impacts it would have on delivering services to veterans. The Conservatives clawed back nearly $1 billion from Veterans Affairs, generally speaking. In fact the courts ordered the Conservative government to pay $887 million to veterans. The court had to order the previous Conservative government to pay veterans.

We come to where we are today and what we are trying to do. Of course, when we look at the record of the previous 10 years, the failure of a decade, we could call it, under the Conservative government as it related to veterans, it is not something that we are just going to flip a switch on and be able to bring back all the services immediately, especially when we talk about the money that was stripped from the department and the employees who were fired or terminated from the department. Not only has this government worked to re-establish the services that existed 10 years ago, it has surpassed those services in many regards.

The service our veterans have provided to our nation, as I said earlier, is invaluable, and this government understands that. There have been no costs spared in rewarding their service and providing our veterans with the quality of life they deserve. Let us talk about some of those things.

On the accomplishments in the budget of 2016, this government invested $5.7 billion to provide veterans with better financial security by increasing income replacement from 75% to 90% of a veteran's pre-release salary and increasing the annual maximum pain and suffering compensation.

We re-opened offices that were closed in Corner Brook, Newfoundland; Brandon, Manitoba; Sydney, Nova Scotia; Kelowna, B.C.; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Charlottetown, P.E.I.; Thunder Bay, Ontario; Windsor, Ontario; and Prince George, B.C. Not only did we re-open all nine offices, we opened another in Surrey, B.C., which expanded outreach into the north. Veterans Affairs staff are now able to travel to the territories and northern communities monthly to meet with veterans and their families.

A little closer to home, in eastern Ontario, of the nine offices that were re-opened, two are in Ontario: Thunder Bay and Windsor. We have seen that the re-opened office in Thunder Bay has brought up to seven additional front-line staff to the province to improve access for veterans. The Thunder Bay office serves approximately 1,700 veterans and enables approximately 70 veterans who work with case managers to meet with them in person.

With respect to the 900 staff who were terminated from Veterans Affairs, 460 new staff have been brought on. This government has a commitment to make sure that we can move from the 40:1 ratio of veterans to caseworkers to 25:1. A ratio of 40:1 is where the previous government left us, which is 40 veterans for every caseworker. We have made significant progress. I believe we are at around 30 veterans per caseworker now and are moving towards that 25:1 ratio.

On pensions for life, we committed to bring back pensions for life to make things simpler and to make services simpler, and that is exactly what has been done. Veterans whose service and sacrifice result in illness or injury now get a monthly tax-free pension for life of up to $1,150. Veterans who were greatly injured, which has had an impact on their quality of life, can receive an additional $1,500 a month tax-free for life. Veterans whose injuries prevent them from finding gainful work will now get the income replacement benefit, providing 90% of a veteran's pre-release salary monthly, indexed annually. In addition to that, we have provided various other services for our veterans.

What I am trying to say is that despite the political gaming with this particular issue, and it is an extremely unfortunate one, this government has been absolutely committed to veterans. It has not only been restoring what the previous Conservative government removed from veterans but has been going above and beyond that. I am extremely proud of this government's reputation on the veterans file, and I look forward to continuing to work on this.

As I said earlier, there will never be enough we can do for veterans, but we must always strive to do more and better for those who gave us the incredible quality of life we have.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, today the debate has certainly been concerning and very puzzling. It really revolves around the government's response from the very beginning.

Sometimes things happen that are very unusual and clearly wrong. I want to go back to when people heard that Clifford Olson was receiving OAS. The immediate response of the then prime minister was, “I have instructed the minister to look at what options are available to us to rectify the situation because it should be rectified.”

Now, it took a little while to make sure that it was rectified in a way that did not have unintended consequences, but it was recognized from the outset that this was wrong and that it needed to be rectified.

What is it with the Liberals and the government that they could continue to try to defend and hide behind all sorts of ridiculous arguments on this particular case? It is wrong. It should be rectified. Why have they not been willing to go there for so many weeks?

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, the reality of the situation is that it was the veterans charter in 2006, which the Conservative government brought in, that extended benefits to the families of veterans. It had not been changed since 2011. However, it was the extension of those benefits that actually enabled what happened and what the Conservatives are talking about in this motion.

In my opinion, this House is about policy setting, and we should create good policy. If one wants to have a discussion about what should be in that charter to trigger certain aspects of it to remove someone's ability to access benefits, then we should have that discussion. We should have that policy debate. The reality of the matter is that it was the Conservatives who brought in this piece of legislation that enabled what we are debating today.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am certainly not going to defend the Conservatives' record on Veterans Affairs, but it is a bit egregious for the Liberals to try to pretend that they are any better. If we look at the ratio of caseworkers to veterans right now, in Kingston, Thunder Bay and Calgary it is 1:42. That has not changed. The member is criticizing the Conservatives for having a ratio of 1:40, and we are seeing cities across this country where the ratio is actually higher.

The other problem is that the Conservatives shortchanged veterans by putting aside about $150 million that should have been invested in Veterans Affairs, yet $143 million was left on the table the year before last. This year it is $148 million. What we are seeing is the Liberals copying the shortchanging of veterans that started under the Conservatives.

Will the member admit that the Liberal government has not done what it should be doing to help our nation's veterans?

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, no, I will not admit to that. The member can cherry-pick his numbers and cherry-pick two or three different cities, but the reality is that if we look at the averages, the average under the Conservatives was 40:1. Our goal is 25:1, and we are currently at 33:1. I know if we cherry-pick certain areas, we can have numbers that make the debate sound great in this place, but if we look at the averages, they are exactly what I presented.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want this member to maybe take a moment and be mindful that it was actually the Paul Martin Liberal government that introduced the new veterans charter. The minister of the day had to present it to this place and be accountable for it. The Conservative Party, under Mr. Harper, had successive ministers who tried to improve that piece of legislation. Again, the member can say whether we fell short, it is up to him, but he cannot misconstrue those facts.

The second thing is that this debate is about the Minister of Veterans Affairs not correcting a wrong, which is being seen right across this country. Does this member believe that the minister needs to stand and answer legitimate questions in regard to the misuse of funds going to a convicted cop killer who has never served a day in his life in our great military?