House of Commons Hansard #375 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was home.


Foreign Lobbyist Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Joyce Murray Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, Canada has achieved remarkable success as a free, open and prosperous democracy. We can be proud of our reputation as one of the best countries in the world to live in. We have world-class cities, and I would be remiss if I did not mention my own city, Vancouver, which was recently ranked the sixth most livable city in the world out of the top 140.

Many have played a crucial role in the success of our country, including our public service, which was recently ranked as the most effective in the world. That was the finding of the International Civil Service Effectiveness Index, which is a joint project of Oxford University and the U.K. Institute for Government.

The public service operates as part of the executive in a well-functioning system that consists of a number of important components. These include the legislature, the judiciary, civil society actors and lobbyists. In fact, legitimate lobbying has played a key role in ensuring that the government remains responsive to the needs of Canadians.

The public perception of lobbying is often negative, but lobbying is not about influence peddling or bribery. Lobbying is the process through which individuals and groups articulate their interests to parliamentarians and to government in order to inform public policy or decision-making. In fact, I have learned that they also educate, because they are deeply knowledgeable about their subject, and I as a parliamentarian may not be that deeply knowledgeable about so many subjects.

Many interest groups, such as non-governmental organizations and advocacy groups, have government relations staff or consultants who speak with the government on their behalf.

Take the environmental movement. Many of these organizations lobby or hire lobbyists to advocate for a range of causes, such as reducing greenhouse gases, conserving our wildlife and protecting our lakes and rivers. These lobbying efforts help government to develop policy that better reflects the views and interests of Canadians. This is an important aspect of lobbying that is often forgotten.

Clearly, lobbying, when done ethically and transparently, is a legitimate and fundamental part of our democratic system. We cannot ignore the significant contribution from good and ethical co-operation among diverse interests. It can lead to the collaborative development of sound policy that reflects the expectations and needs of Canadians.

Furthermore, individuals, organizations and businesses can and should communicate their opinions and ideas to government decision-makers and policy-makers. The challenge for us as lawmakers is establishing clear rules to ensure that lobbying is done openly. That is why the Lobbying Act is so important.

The purpose of the act is ensure transparency in lobbyists' activities without restricting access to government institutions. It requires lobbyists to register and report their lobbying activities every month. That includes communications with designated public office holders. That information is available online in a public registry maintained by the Commissioner of Lobbying.

The bill before us today proposes two changes to the act as it stands now.

The first amendment would require all corporations and organizations that lobby the government to disclose all funds received from foreign nationals, non-resident corporations and non-resident organizations. The act currently requires any entity that lobbies the government, whether domestic or foreign, to register with the office of the Commissioner of Lobbying. The act also currently requires corporations to disclose their parent company and subsidiaries, which may include foreign companies.

Second, Bill CC-278 would also expand the types of activities that lobbyists must report as “grassroots communications”. As it now stands under the act, lobbyists must identify the techniques they use to communicate with public office holders, including whether they use grassroots communication. Under the Act, “grassroots communication” means appealing to the public directly or through mass media to try to persuade them to communicate directly with a public office holder to influence their opinion.

Bill C-278 would expand the definition of grassroots communication to include situations where lobbyists are encouraging the public or organizations to undertake activities that could indirectly influence public office holders.

Any proposal to amend the Lobbying Act should be assessed against the principles of the legislation itself, which state, first, that free and open access to government is an important matter of public interest; second, that lobbying public office holders is a legitimate activity; third, that it is desirable that public office holders and the public be able to know who is engaged in lobbying activities; and fourth, that a system for the registration of paid lobbyists should not impede free and open access to government.

The amendments proposed by Bill C-278 could increase the reporting burden on lobbyists. They could also generate additional costs for the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying to implement the changes to the registry and to monitor compliance. It is important that any amendments to the Lobbying Act respect the principles of the act, which seek to strike a balance between transparency and ensuring that the compliance burden imposed on lobbyists is reasonable and fair.

I welcome consideration of any measures to improve transparency in lobbying. Our government is committed to raising the bar on openness and transparency in government. For example, our government was the first to open the door for Canadians to see cabinet ministers' mandate letters, which under previous governments were kept secret. We publicly report on how far we have come in keeping the promises we made, and government departments track the outcomes of their programs with indicators and then publish the results online for public scrutiny. We have an open data portal, which makes vast amount of government data accessible, and we have taken this data portal from being a pilot project to being a permanent program.

We are also trying to take the idea of open by default to a deeper level through a pilot portal that provides public access to internal working documents. We recently proposed important changes to the Access to Information Act, such as mandatory proactive publication for 240 government institutions as well as ministers' offices.

Accomplishments like these are what led Canada to being elected chair of the Open Government Partnership Steering Committee for 2018-19. Our track record on openness and transparency speaks for itself.

Make no mistake; we are committed to the continuous improvement of the Lobbying Act, and we welcome this debate on the subject. I encourage all members to look carefully at these proposals with a view to balancing the interests of all stakeholders, the rights of lobbyists to advocate, the rights of those they represent, and the rights of Canadians to know how their government does business.

Foreign Lobbyist Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Before we go on to the next speaker, I just want to remind hon. members that these wonderful new chambers are fantastic as far as carrying sound, so if they are having conversations across the hall or even in the back benches, all of us can hear what they are saying, and I am sure they do not want us to know what their private conversations entail.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Calgary Midnapore.

Foreign Lobbyist Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Today l am proud to rise in the House of Commons as shadow minister for democratic institutions to speak to Bill C-278, also known as the foreign lobbyist transparency act. This private member's bill, brought forward by the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, would make crucial adjustments to the Lobbying Act to counteract foreign interference in our free and democratic system. The bill would be an effective and invaluable piece of legislation that would increase transparency of foreign lobbyists and their influences, seen and unseen, on Canadian politics.

Bill C-278 would accomplish this with two primary legislative changes. First, lobbyists who are funded by a foreign national, a non-resident corporation or a non-resident organization would be required to publicly disclose that information. Second, these entities would also have to disclose whether they were using grassroots communication that could negatively impact the government's ability to consult the Canadian public on a specific course of action. Together, these changes would provide Canadians with information necessary to see how foreign lobbyists could be impacting Canadian politics.

Currently, the Canadian Registry of Lobbyists gives Canadians important information on the companies and organizations that try to influence government policy. Canadians can know who is lobbying on behalf of these organizations and see which topics are discussed, and even which lobbying activities are taking place.

This change to the Lobbying Act simply adds two new categories to the long list of information already collected by the Officer of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada. It is a small change that will offer some big advantages.

When implemented, this bill will give Canadians a better overview of the lobbying done by foreign entities and a greater awareness of foreign influence over public policy-making.

Healthy democracies provide their citizens with transparency. Canadians deserve an open government that can assure them that they are not being unknowingly manipulated by foreign entities. We cannot assume that foreign corporations or organizations do not have malicious motivations. Canadians and the government need to know what organizations or corporations are foreign funded so we have a greater understanding of the possible conflicts with the issues that they may be lobbying on behalf of. We cannot have foreign lobbying groups pretending that they have domestic concerns when in reality they represent foreign interests. Canadians should be the only ones determining their domestic policies.

Foreign lobby groups can be especially malicious when using grassroots lobbying strategies. Grassroots lobbying occurs when lobbyists persuade the public on a given issue instead of government officials. Public support of an issue can aid in the persuasion of policy makers. Foreign lobbyists using grassroots strategies can be alarming since the public may not be receiving the bigger picture of the issue and can be manipulated into believing in a policy that is beneficial for these foreign entities, but bad for Canadians.

Grassroots campaigns also have the ability to interfere with government consultation processes. The government and Canadians deserve a fair and accurate consultation. If this is being impeded by groups with foreign interests, Canadians should have the right and ability to know this.

The use of grassroots lobbying is easier than ever. With social media, lobbyists can deliver information to citizens faster than ever before. Individuals are posting and sharing constantly whether the information is real or fake. Canadians deserve to know not only if foreign corporations or organizations are lobbying Canadian officials, but whether they plan to use Canadians to do their bidding. When these groups are internationally funded, their motivations should have the opportunity to be questioned. Canadians deserve transparency and the ability to know when they are being manipulated.

The government needs to start taking foreign interference seriously. The members on that side of the House tried to prevent foreign interference in Canadian elections with Bill C-76, but they left some significant shortcomings in the bill.

Canadians should be the only ones to determine the outcome of elections in Canada, not foreign entities. The Liberal government is not doing enough to eliminate the possibility of foreign interference. Canadians deserve to know where the money spent on elections is coming from, and it is up to the government to ensure that all third parties are completely transparent. If third parties decide to do any advertizing during an election, they must be transparent and tell Canadians where that money is coming from.

The government is not taking foreign interference in third-party campaign financing seriously enough in Bill C-76. Today we are offering an opportunity to at least impede foreign influence exercised through lobbying. The laws currently in place simply do not go far enough. Our democracy is at stake. Canadians, and only Canadians, should have any influence over our democracy. As Conservatives, we believe that every Canadian vote counts, but the government needs to work harder to prevent foreign entities from undermining our democratic institutions.

We need to continue working on keeping our democratic institutions safe. Foreign influence in elections is a credible and global threat. The Communications Security Establishment has already recognized, as well as the Prime Minister himself, that foreign influence took place in the 2015 election and is expected to increase significantly in 2019 as it has in recent elections around the globe. We cannot have our elections or our domestic policy influenced by foreign entities. Our democratic institutions and government will begin to crumble if we let them succumb to foreign influence.

Canadians deserve a system of government they can trust. This bill put forward by my hon. colleague is a way for Canadians to be confident that Canadian policy is not being unduly manipulated by foreign entities who wish to interfere. It is essential that Canadians maintain trust in their democratic systems for our government to be effective in protecting Canadians and providing them with services. When foreign actors start having an impact on domestic policies behind closed doors, that trust begins to fade.

Canadians should be the only ones making the decisions for Canada. When foreign-funded entities are getting involved with lobbying the government or getting involved in our elections, Canadians have the right to know.

My colleague mentioned Vivian Krause, who has been researching the oil sands for nearly a decade, and this touches dearly upon my home in Alberta. She said that her studies have led her to believe that the push against the oil sands is funded by American philanthropists in an effort to landlock Alberta oil so that it cannot reach overseas markets where it would obtain a higher price per barrel. She estimates that about $90 million over the last 10 years has gone towards various efforts to restrict oil and gas development and exports from Alberta.

Again, Canadians in my home province of Alberta and also across the country have a right to know when their democratic institutions are being compromised.

Foreign Lobbyist Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to address the legislation introduced by the member opposite. It provokes a great deal of thought that collectively, as a House, we should be looking at the broader issues related to lobbying, especially if we take into consideration, for example, technological changes. When I look at social media today and compare it to the day I was first elected back in the late 1980s, there has been a great deal of change. One needs to be aware of the potential influence that lobbyists or even, to a certain degree, individuals can carry nowadays through social media.

I listened to members on all side of the House address the issue and a couple of things came to my mind.

We need to recognize that lobbyists have rights also. We do not want to in any way prevent lobbyists from being able to approach public officials. There needs to be accountability for that. Let me provide a specific example I have really appreciated over the last couple of years.

The constituents I represent are very much in tune with the idea of having a national pharmacare program, in which prescribed medicines are made available to Canadians. This is long overdue. For the first time in decades, we now have a government that seems to be sympathetic to it.

Having said that, I use it as an example because I have been lobbied on this very issue. I was lobbied by unions and different types of health care workers. A few individuals have advocated as to why we should not move in this direction. I have tabled a number of petitions in the House, probably a couple of dozen, on pharmacare. In fact, I tabled one from my constituents earlier this week.

When we think about how policy comes to be, we often need to take into consideration that it is multi-faceted. Everyone has a role to play, even multinationals. For example, a corporation like Pfizer would have a vested interest in not having a national pharmacare program in Canada. I would be very interested in knowing the possible lobbying efforts in that area. Equally, in order to ensure the sense of fairness, we should know when lobbying takes place from different organizations, whatever they may be, that advocate for a national pharmacare program.

I invite and welcome all those interested in this subject matter. I know pharmacare is an important issue for my constituents. I know the government is, and I suspect all members are, following this issue very closely. The critical component is transparency. This is all about that. We need to know when money flows and when individuals, or corporations or non-profits are engaged in lobbying.

To me, that is very important. I believe we have seen a prime minister and a government demonstrate a great deal of goodwill, and even more than goodwill: We have seen legislation dealing with enhancing transparency for Canadians on issues such as lobbying, and in particular legislation dealing with election financing. That is something that I think is worth noting.

With regard to the question I forward to my colleague across the way, there is a statutory study that is done on the Lobbying Act. I would like to think that the issues she and others have raised this afternoon will come before the committee when it comes time to review the act, with the idea of coming up with some ideas and recommendations that would improve and enhance the position of lobbying commissioner. Part of that discussion also needs to incorporate the potential costs and value.

Foreign Lobbyist Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

January 31st, 2019 / 6 p.m.


Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

A cost-benefit analysis. You are right.

Foreign Lobbyist Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.

Kevin Lamoureux

A cost-benefit analysis: The former Treasury Board minister knows this stuff like the back of his hand.

When it comes to accountability and transparency and the whole nine yards, I can assure members that this is a government that takes it all very seriously. That is one of the reasons I believe we need to recognize right up front that when we deal with issues of this nature, what we really need to spend a great deal of time talking about is the issue of transparency. Let me give members an example of something tangible that we saw in the last year from the government that dealt with the issue of transparency.

We talk about the engagements that ministers or leaders of political entities conduct. They call them fundraising events. Not that long ago, the Prime Minister indicated that we wanted to open the doors of accountability and transparency so that even during fundraising events, media members would be afforded the opportunity to participate and observe. We have nothing to hide. We want Canadians to know who is financing and lobbying the party once it hits a certain level.

We even went further than that. For people who ultimately want to become a prime minister—for example, the Leader of the Opposition or leaders of other political entities—there should be an obligation. That is why we brought that in through legislation. It was because there was resistance from opposition parties to making sure the public knows who is attending and lobbying our leaders, whether they are ministers or leaders of political parties. Therefore, not only are we a government that talks about the importance of transparency; our record clearly shows that we have acted on it.

One of the nice things about the House of Commons is that we have independent offices. The lobbying commissioner has done outstanding work. When we talk about ways we could possibly expand that responsibility, it is important that we go back and reflect on the issue of resources, because at times there may be a need for us to expand, whether in this area of Elections Canada or with other independent offices of the House. We want to make sure that they are properly resourced and that the ideas that ultimately flow into the legislation have been well vetted, not only by parliamentarians but also by our constituents. The constituents of Winnipeg North are very much opinionated when I go out to ask for their thoughts on issues, and the different stakeholder groups themselves have a great deal of input on issues of this nature.

I appreciate the bill coming forward. I look forward to the ongoing debate on the matter.

Foreign Lobbyist Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Kevin Sorenson Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour today to rise in this place and contribute to the debate on Bill C-278, an act to amend the Lobbying Act, regarding reporting obligations, proposed by my colleague from Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. The goal of Bill C-278 is to expand the lobbying registry, to make public the sources of funding for all lobbying conducted here in Canada.

Within the United States there is a large body of academic studies examining the strategies and practices used by private foundations to influence public policy, and that is important to understand. Many of these foundations have enormous financial resources, including billions of dollars in assets and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenues, and they are influencing federal governments. Maybe that is fine, but the legislation would help us make sure there is transparency and that the public understands it.

Increasingly, U.S. studies have addressed the strategies used by private foundations and the many other groups they fund, most of which have charity status in influencing public policy. The strategies include broad communications and education programs to influence public perceptions of policy issues and to garner public support for specific actions, the lobbying of governments at all levels, the infiltration of the media, and concerted, coordinated action to achieve specific objectives.

While there is less information and academic analysis available here in Canada, some private researchers have made efforts to “follow the money” in terms of how foundation and charity funding is spent. These efforts are impeded by superficial reporting requirements and the lack of publicly available information from organizations like the Canada Revenue Agency, which administers the provisions of the Income Tax Act related to charities, and the lobbying registry, compiled by the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada.

Researchers such as Vivian Krause, who has endeavoured to find out more about the use of domestic and foreign foundation funding for the anti-oil and anti-pipeline campaigns, have found that they must often rely on United States Internal Revenue Service records, as the information they seek here in Canada is not available from Canadian sources. That is a shame.

ln my riding, we have seen the first-hand influence these new strategies and practices can have on Canadian industries and jobs.

Vivian Krause has been interviewed throughout Canada, certainly by Global. I saw an interview done by her where she showed how monies went to charities and then went directly to campaigns against Alberta's goal of seeing more pipelines to tidewater and of seeing more of our energy go to new markets around the world. We see people from the United States, as Vivian Krause has pointed out, doing all they can to prevent that goal of Albertans seeing their energy sold around the world, while the world needs new access to our energy. This is very much an issue for my province of Alberta but it certainly is an issue for all of Canada.

ln recent years, we have witnessed a real change in how Canadians participate in our democracy. The rise of social media and the ubiquity of mobile devices has dramatically empowered individual Canadians. Many children in junior high have iPads or mobile phones. Each one of us has the ability to access any type of information we want but we also have access to influence a certain issue.

While many, if not most Canadians, might not appreciate the extent of their personal political powers, members of Parliament never forget it, and they better not forget it or they will become former members of Parliament. However, if most Canadians are unaware of the influence they can have over their elected officials, foreign actors have been quick to realize it.

Twenty years ago launching a grassroots movement to affect some policy change required considerable manpower and massive amounts of resources. Today, these campaigns can be launched for the cost of a domain name. In the past, one would have to spend millions of dollars on advertising and direct mail just to reach out and persuade a few thousand people on whatever issue or whatever topic they wanted.

Now, for a few hundred or a few thousand dollars, one can launch a Facebook ad campaign with the potential to reach literally millions of people. It can be targeted to certain areas specifically, but broadly, it can go around the world. This is more and more becoming an issue Canadians are attuned to. They know that a foreign actor can launch a million emails with just the push of one button.

Social media and mobile technology are enabling Canadians to participate more meaningfully in our political and policy debates. If that is true for Canadians, it is also true for non-Canadians. It is true for non-Canadians that most people, when they see their ad, might actually believe that they are Canadians. Foreign actors have access to the same tools and can have the same impact.

Just when Canadians are awakening to the opportunities to influence their own laws, they could find those efforts swamped by foreign interests without even realizing where this attack or this campaign was coming from. The role played by foreign governments as well as foreign foundations in campaigns to influence public policy in Canada should be of interest to all concerned about the independence and integrity of the Canadian political and government processes.

The increased globalization of corporate, institutional and geopolitical interests would seem to require that Canadian democratic institutions be more vigilant about these possible intrusions. This, in turn, demands that reports on the activities of foundations and charities seeking to influence policy be made more transparent to the public and more useful to the parliamentarians who wish to exercise oversight.

While the foreign lobbyist transparency act would not block foreign actors from launching fake grassroots campaigns, requiring disclosure of their funding of Canadian organizations to do so would give additional tools to public officeholders in understanding where the latest round of form emails may really be coming from or where they originated. A transparent registry of foreign lobbyists and their campaigns would provide journalists and researchers with a new way to follow the dollar.

I would also add here that when we give to charities in this country, we expect a certain return. We expect that they abide by certain rules. However, many charities in other countries may well not apply those same restrictions and rules, and they may indeed be the ones that start some of these campaigns. Rather than taking an approach that attempts to restrict or regulate the speech of foreign actors, restrictions that would inevitably hamper Canadians' own rights and freedoms, Bill C-278 would simply require disclosure. Foreign entities would need to report when they were funding campaigns to influence federal officeholders and officials.

Truth and transparency are always our best defences in preserving an open and democratic Canada. It is my genuine hope that these are changes that all members of Parliament can support.

One can say that there are Conservative organizations that may be doing it, there are Liberal organizations, there are socialist organizations, and there are Green-backed organizations that may well be doing this. Some of that may be all right, but let Canadians know who they are. Too often, questions about foreign funding of different sides of a policy debate are dismissed as being partisan by one side or the other. We can all play that game. The foreign lobbyist transparency act would cut through the partisan divide by applying equally to all foreign actors, whether they were supporting a cause we hold dear or opposing a policy we would prefer.

This bill would not limit Canadians' ability to solicit foreign financial support for an issue they were pursuing. It would simply require them to disclose to their fellow citizens the ultimate source of those funds. Individual Canadians could then assess for themselves whether the source of funding was material to the issue.

The digital transformation of our democracy is still in its infancy. Who knows what the next year or the next five years will hold for the digital world? It presents an opportunity to meaningfully increase Canadians' participation in our laws, but only if we have faith in it. By ensuring greater transparency for foreign funding of lobbying and public relations campaigns, we can restore a measure of trust in our democracy. I know we all want to do that.

Foreign Lobbyist Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Churence Rogers Liberal Bonavista—Burin—Trinity, NL

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-278, an act to amend the Lobbying Act.

Our government is committed to the continuous improvement of the Lobbying Act and welcomes this debate on the subject. Lobbying has been part of getting things done in the country politically from its earliest days. Apparently, even the grants, monopolies and concessions that made possible the early voyages of Cartier, Frobisher, Hudson and others were obtained through lobbying at court.

Today, lobbying refers generally to an effort to communicate with legislators or other public officials against or in favour of a specific cause when carried out for compensation. It is the normal way organizations and interest groups inform and influence the policy-making process. It is vital to the healthy functioning of a government that is open and responsible to the will of the people.

At the same time, lobbying is subject to checks and balances that provide disclosure about who is working to shape government policy. Transparency as a curb on potential corruption of public officials is every bit as important as influencing and ensuring the system works. The purpose of the bill before us is to increase the amount of information lobbyists are required to disclose under the Lobbying Act.

I think we can all agree on the importance of both free and open access to government as well as the need for Canadians to know who is lobbying their government. Both are in the public interest and must be carefully balanced. In fact, the recent history of lobbying legislation in the country is the story of trying to get the balance right.

Until July 2008, lobbying at the federal level in Canada was governed by the Lobbyists Registration Act, which came into force in 1989. The act established a registration system intended to foster the public's right to know and to be informed about who is trying to influence government policy.

Foreign Lobbyist Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. member for Bonavista—Burin—Trinity will have eight minutes coming to him so he can complete his elocution when we take up the bill again.

The time provided for 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.

Veterans AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.


Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, a question I have been pursuing for a great deal of time concerns the inability of women who marry military people and the inability of Canadians over 60 to get access to their late husband's pension.

In my case, I was first alerted to this issue by Patricia Kidd from my riding of Victoria. I have also had letters from across the country on this issue. She and her late husband Pete were married 33 years ago. They were married for 31 years before he died. They raised two sons. However, Ottawa will not give Patricia a penny of the pension money that other veterans' widows get because of an archaic rule dating back to 1901 that was inserted into the pension legislation before the First World War to prevent young women from marrying aging veterans.

That clause is not unique to the armed forces. It is in other pension plans, such as those pertaining to judges, Mounties and other federal workers. The clause has been the source of enormous injustice, which the government has acknowledged. It acknowledged it by making clear in the 2015 mandate letter of the minister of Veterans Affairs that eliminating the so-called “marriage after 60” clawback clause was a priority.

That was in the 2015 mandate letter. I have spoken with the then minister of veterans affairs, the member for Calgary Centre, and wrote to him on September 13, 2016. He said help was on the way. Then I spoke to and wrote to the minister of veterans affairs, the hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl, to the same effect. I wrote to him September 25, 2017, and again in February 2018. Then I asked a question in question period, and that minister said he had heard about this, that it was very important to many veterans and their families, and said “I can assure the member and the House that we are indeed working diligently on this file”.

That is not diligent. I cannot seem to get an answer from the government. It was a commitment made to me and to Canadians in the mandate letter that there would be a change. Patricia Kidd and so many like her are waiting for justice.

I ask the government when we are going to see this Liberal promise kept.

Veterans AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Stéphane Lauzon Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for raising this very important issue in the House of Commons and giving it significant national attention.

As previous ministers said in response to the member's questions last October, this issue has been raised in town halls and we continue to work diligently on this file.

The answer remains the same. The provision the hon. member speaks of is part of the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act. Under the power of the Minister of National Defence, the provision indicates that survivors who marry a pensioner under the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act after the veteran turned 60 years of age do not automatically receive a survivor pension. The optional survivor benefit is provided to pensioners who married after age 60 under certain conditions.

We are well aware that this is an issue affecting a number of Canadians and their spouses. This is why finding a solution to the issue has been part of the mandate of the Minister of Veterans Affairs and why the Minister of Veterans Affairs and the Minister of National Defence are working together to address those provisions in the legislation impacting marriage after age 60. It is not that easy.

The Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs understand the implications of the marriage after 60 provision and are trying to find the best way to address it. This is part of the efforts being made to ensure that Canadian Armed Forces pensioners receive the appropriate survivors' pension and sickness benefits.

Over the past three years, our government has delivered on its promises and made many improvements to the benefits and services offered to veterans, their spouses and families. We have also improved how they are delivered. We have invested nearly $10 billion in new funding in benefits and support for veterans and their families.

We immediately increased the maximum lump sum pain and suffering compensation from $310,000 to $360,000 and increased income replacement for veterans in rehabilitation from 75% of their pre-release salary to 90%.

We increased support for survivors and partners by eliminating the one-year time limit to apply for the rehabilitation services and vocational assistance program. This gives families some flexibility so they can access a program when they need it.

Benefits provided to family members include the caregiver recognition benefit, which pays $1,000 a month, tax-free, directly to the people looking after eligible veterans.

Veterans and their families have access to the veteran family program and the 32 military family resource centres across the country.

Common-law spouses of veterans may now be eligible for career counselling, job search training and job search assistance, of course.

We also made a commitment to the well-being of our veterans and their families, and we delivered on our promise for a pension for life. Beginning April 1, this monthly non-taxable benefit for life will provide the option of a monthly benefit giving veterans and their families financial stability and focusing on wellness services such as rehabilitation, education and career training.

For example, a young corporal who served for six years before sustaining serious injuries, mental and physical, would receive nearly $6,000 a month in—

Veterans AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The member for Victoria.

Veterans AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary has told us about the money being spent on veterans, for which I am grateful. He has told us about efforts continuing. He has told us that a number of other programs are being expanded, which is terrific.

However, that does absolutely nothing to keep the promise that the government made in 2015 to widows like Patricia Kidd in my riding and so many others I have heard from across this country. The parliamentary secretary has tried to change the subject here tonight. He has done nothing for Patricia Kidd. This is another broken Liberal promise.

I would ask the parliamentary secretary again: Will this promise be kept, the promise made in 2015 in the mandate letter to Canadians? Will it be kept before the election in October of this year?

Veterans AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, Lib.

Stéphane Lauzon

Mr. Speaker, the current government intends to bring the policies and regulations that affect veterans and members of the Canadian Armed Forces into the 21st century.

Our government is determined to honour the service and sacrifices of veterans and their families, as indicated in the mandate letter.

We are working hard to give veterans and their families the care and support they need when and where they need it and to encourage Canadians to remember those who served.

We will continue to listen to veterans and to work with veterans, their families and stakeholders across the country.

Thanks to all the comments we received during our open and frank conversations, we can continue to give priority to what is really important to veterans and their families while continuing to fulfill our mandate.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased to be able to pursue tonight in adjournment proceedings one of the most important questions I have ever asked in this place, which was for the Prime Minister on October 16.

The night before we had held in this place quite an extraordinary emergency debate, thanks to the Speaker's ruling that it was, in fact, qualifying as an emergency. The IPCC, the United Nations agency of the world's best scientists, had just delivered a report that warned humanity that unless we held the global average temperature increase to no more than 1.5°C, we could face unimaginable consequences up to and including the loss of human civilization and potentially our own extinction.

I put it to the Prime Minister that on the eve of the climate negotiations in Poland, now was the time to improve our targets. The IPCC report made it very clear that Canada's targets were wholly, and are wholly, inadequate to the task ahead of us. The good news, and I must stress this, from the IPCC report is that we still have time to avoid those consequences, but we no longer have time for procrastination.

Of course events have taken place since then. The climate negotiations, in which I participated in December in Katowice, Poland, are over. Canada did not step up to improve our targets. I have to say not just lamentably but shamefully that the only countries that improved their targets were Fiji and the Marshall Islands. However, it is very clear that we must take a role of global leadership. Where other countries are not improving their targets, surely Canada, with the weakest targets within the OECD, must do so.

The Prime Minister's response to me was “we are working hard to meet our 2030 targets.” I want to stress that these 2030 targets to which Canada is now committed have not changed since May 2015, when the former government of Stephen Harper placed them with the United Nations. We know from the IPCC report that the targets we put forward are not just inconsistent with the Paris agreement, they are dangerous and reckless.

The Prime Minister went on to say, “We are reversing the Conservatives' reckless changes...” I put it for my friend, the hon. parliamentary secretary, that the most reckless change of the Harper administration was to cancel Kyoto and weaken our targets, not once but three times. We have now embraced, and the Liberal government has now embraced, the weakest of the targets from the three times Stephen Harper changed them. They are clearly inconsistent with the Paris agreement. They clearly do not take us to 1.5°C. In fact, it has been calculated by other scientists that if all countries on earth were pursuing Canada's weak efforts, global average temperature would go to 5.1°C, or well past the danger zone.

We now know we have very little time. We know that other levels of jurisdiction within Canada are recognizing this is a climate emergency. Halifax just did, Vancouver has and other cities are considering it. However, in this place, it seems as though the major political party with the most seats in this place thinks we can just pretend, until we get through the next election, that the Harper targets are good enough. If the small efforts being made by the Liberal Party and the government, for which I am grateful they are not as weak as the Conservatives, lead us to extinction, in the end it will not make a difference.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

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

Mr. Speaker, as always it is a pleasure to engage in a thoughtful debate with my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands. I will take this opportunity to congratulate her, on the record, on her upcoming nuptials.

Canadians know that the impacts of climate change are very real. We see them in our communities every day, and we need to take them very seriously.

We understand the importance of limiting the temperature increase to 1.5°C, as examined in the IPCC report that the hon. member has referred to. That is why we supported the goal of 1.5°C in the Paris Agreement, with significant discussion around targets. The real target that I am most concerned with is 1.5°C. It is going to prevent a catastrophe that could potentially render our planet uninhabitable for future generations.

The Government of Canada knows that growing the economy can be done while we protect the environment. I had the opportunity to take part in a panel with the hon. member this morning, during which we discussed, in fact, the notion that protecting the environment can lead to economic growth.

We have made significant progress in implementing our pan-Canadian framework on climate change. In December of this year, we published our second annual progress report, which details some of the work that has been done so far.

The focus in the short term is on doing the things that will have the maximum impact. I note in particular that we have implemented new regulations to help significantly reduce methane emissions from heavy-duty vehicles, and importantly, we have accelerated the phase-out of coal-fired electricity. I anticipate that by 2030, 90% of our electricity will be generated by renewable resources.

We released a clean fuel standard regulatory design paper for consultation. We made significant investments in clean technology, innovation and green infrastructure, which is going to drive growth while we reduce pollution.

I do not want to just rhyme off a list of accomplishments, but suffice it to say, we are focusing on the things that are going to make the biggest difference.

Of course, the price on pollution that we are introducing is a marquee policy of the government that is going to be the most effective tool we have in the tool kit. Members do not have to take my word for it. They can look at the many endorsements of this approach from groups like the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and from a number of economists in the United States and Nobel Prize winners, to name a few. Our analysis found that pollution pricing alone in Canada is going to reduce pollution by 50 and 60 megatonnes. This is a policy that will have a significant impact.

We are always going to be looking to see what other policies we can be adopting to go further and to do more to achieve the decarbonization we need to ensure that we do not put our planet's health in the way of irreparable harm.

In certain provinces, of course, there is push-back against the policy that we are trying to implement. However, we will not be stopped just because there is a lack of political will to implement what we know is the most effective policy for reducing our emissions.

We remain committed to meeting our target of 2030. We want to achieve that 1.5°C maximum that we discussed in the Paris Agreement. We are going to work with our partners both across Canada and in the international community to try to get more people and countries on board to ensure that emissions come down so that we all have a safe planet to inhabit not just in this generation but, going forward, for our kids and grandkids as well.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, this has been the government's response on every occasion. It is as though what we are doing now is enough, while at the same time, as the government recognizes, it is not enough. It is an extreme case of cognitive dissonance.

I was so moved by the statements of the young Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg. She recently spoke in Davos at the World Economic Forum, and she said, “Our house is on fire.... I want you to panic.”

I will continue with her metaphor. Let us say a house is on fire and there are people on the roof of a four-storey building who need rescuing. If people rush forward with a stepladder, the assembled crowds will not cheer for the stepladder.

Our house is on fire, and the government policies to date are the stepladder. We cannot reach the fourth floor unless we aim for it. We need to improve our target. We need to do it now. As Greta Thunberg said, first we have to panic; then we have to act.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

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

Sean Fraser

Mr. Speaker, I am familiar with the speech to which the hon. member refers, and I appreciate the point of view.

In the face of great danger, our preference is not to panic, but to start doing the most that we can as soon as we can. That is why we are advancing some of the policies that I outlined in my initial response.

However, I want to also point out that it is not just government that is going to help us get there. There are opportunities for enormous progress if we look to the private sector. There is an ability to innovate. We can accelerate, with the government's help, the adoption of technologies like electric vehicles. We could look to groups like CarbonCure, which is in my hometown of Dartmouth. It sequesters carbon and turns it into concrete forms. We could look to partner with groups across Canada to help sequestration by transforming our landscape.

We will always be open to doing what we can, when we can and as quickly as we can, while working with those who can take us further than we currently stand today.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

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

(The House adjourned at 6:41 p.m.)