House of Commons Hansard #34 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was peoples.


Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

moved that Bill C-206, An Act to amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (qualifying farming fuel), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, our farmers are the backbone of our community and the engine of our economy. They are the hard-working men and women who take to the fields every day in the searing heat and, lately, the snow and freezing temperatures. They make sure we have food on our tables and, literally, the clothes on our backs. Our agriculture industry represents more than 7% of the GDP, and it still bears repeating how important, vital and essential our agriculture community is and its impact on our economy.

Farmers contribute over 2.3 million employment positions, including people who own farms and those who are involved in farming. That is one in eight jobs that is there because of farmers and the great work they do. We are an agriculture dynamo.

We are a leader in many categories. We are number one in the world in maple syrup. We produce 75% of the world's maple syrup, so let us hear it for maple syrup. We are in the top five in many agricultural productions, such as flax seed, canola, pulses, oats and durum wheat.

During the pandemic, and in fact, at any time in recent history, Canadians have not had to worry about food supply. Canadians have some of the least expensive, highest quality and safest food in the entire world, and that is because of our terrific farmers and agri-food workers.

During the pandemic, farmers kept going. As we all battled the pandemic, they kept making sure that their fields were planted and their animals were fed, so we could be fed.

As we start contemplating what a stronger Canada looks like going forward, one of the questions we will no doubt think about is self-sufficiency. One thing I can tell the House about the future is that, as long as we take care of farmers, we will always be able to feed ourselves here in Canada.

Unfortunately, farmers have had difficult times in the recent years. Whether it was due to difficult weather conditions, global trade wars or pricing disputes, there have been numerous challenges. This includes, unfortunately, the latest free trade agreement with the United States of America, CUSMA, where there was a watering down or a reduction of the market share for many of our farmers, which is disappointing.

Different governments have responded to the pandemic differently in how they have supported the agriculture community. Our neighbours to the south have literally given billions of dollars to farmers to help them bridge to a better day and get the farms through this. Unfortunately, here in Canada, our farmers have not had the same benefit. Instead, our farmers are getting recycled funding announcements and endless platitudes. Farmers deserve better.

Even in our domestic marketplace, farmers are facing challenges. Multi-million dollar grocery stores are setting record profits. However, they are doing it, at least in part, on the backs of Canadian farmers. We need to give Canadian farmers a break.

Farmers are not asking for a handout. In fact, they are not even asking for a hand-up. They just want a level playing field because they know, as I know, that our farmers are the best in the world. Where they have an opportunity, they will be successful and they will win.

In 2008, before the government even contemplated a federal carbon tax, in British Columbia the government put in place a carbon tax. In fact, many commentators have highlighted the fact that our current carbon tax is built on the chassis of the British Columbia carbon tax. However, there are notable differences, one of which is that before that British Columbia carbon tax was ever put in place, its government contemplated deeply the effect it would have on agriculture.

The result was more fulsome exemptions for Canadian farmers and fairer treatment for B.C. farmers. They have a full exemption on all farm fuels, including natural gas and propane, which is exactly what my private member's bill calls for. As well, in British Columbia, most commentators have said this exemption actually strengthens the carbon tax and helps farmers. Why would we not do this federally?

In a world where much of our competition is not subject to pollution taxing, the carbon tax is an unfair barrier for our farmers. The government has hummed and hawed, saying, “Maybe it costs this much, or maybe it costs that much.”

We do have numbers on the cost of the carbon tax, but they are not from the federal government, unfortunately. They come from from producers, such as the Saskatchewan producers, who calculated that an unbelievable 8% of net income will go to the carbon tax for Saskatchewan producers.

In 2022, because of set escalators for everyone out there, there will be an automatic increase without parliamentary consent to the tax. It is a nefarious regime, no doubt. By 2022, because of those escalators, that tax will actually go to 12%. That means, to put it in the language of my neighbours, that one in ten cows that farmers raise would go to pay the carbon tax, one in ten pigs would go to pay the carbon tax and one in ten tonnes of grain would go to pay the carbon tax.

Many farmers have sent my office their bills. These are exorbitant bills, particularly during last year's harvest when the grain was wet and they had to spend extra time and money drying it. I have numerous invoices that show that the carbon tax was $10,000 to $20,000.

To add insult to injury, the government decided to charge HST on the carbon tax. Come on. What we are seeing is that this tax is not only making our producers less competitive, it is also reducing their margins.

Although the government will not admit it, the carbon tax is not neutral for farmers. The claim that the carbon tax is neutral is in dispute, but what is not in dispute is that, for farmers, as a particular sector, it is not revenue neutral. Farmers' prices are not set by themselves, but rather by governments and international markets. They cannot just push that cost along. It is coming directly out of the pockets of our farmers, and that is money they could be using to reinvest in their farms, invest in clean technologies and help support their families.

I come from a small town called Orono, Ontario. I think it is one of the prettiest towns in Canada. In this town, our economy is based on farming. Farmers go out and buy food at the local restaurants. They go to the feed store and buy feed for their stock. They go to the tractor dealership and buy tractors. There are countless jobs that are created by the farmers, and when we take this money out of rural Canada, we take this money out of Canadians' hands. Rural Canada does not need more taxes. What we need is more support.

The Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act currently includes a partial exemption on fossil fuels for farmers. It exempts diesel and gasoline. For whatever reason, and I still have not been given a good explanation of why this is, it does not exempt natural gas and propane. However, natural gas and propane, by nearly every environmentalist's account, are actually cleaner fuels.

I do not understand why we would not exempt cleaner fuels but exempt dirtier fuels. It does not make sense. This impacts all of the agricultural sector, but it has specific impacts on grain farmers, who have to dry their crops with natural gas and propane. There is nothing that our farmers would rather than to not have to do that, or to find an alternative way of doing it using renewable energy, but the reality is that that does not exist right now.

Now, if we could pause, give the farmers a break from the carbon tax and let them reinvest that money into innovation and clean technology, maybe that would occur. Maybe the free market could come up with some great ideas that could clean our environment, but as of now, the carbon tax is a continuing burden on farmers. It is slowing innovation and making our environment dirtier.

As the member of Parliament for Northumberland—Peterborough South, I have the great pleasure of representing some of the best farmers of all of Canada. I have had numerous conversations with our farmers, and whether we are at the back of a tailgate, out in the fields or in the boardroom, they tell me over and over that they spend more time in the environment than anyone. They tell me that of course they want a clean environment, of course they recognize that climate change is real and they want to fight climate change, but they do not want to do it by being taxed.

What we want to do is to come up with innovation: clean tech to have us go forward. Examples of that are already happening. Farmers are among the leading environmentalists in Canada. They have advanced technologies such as no-till farming and precision farming.

One thing that I have gotten to know about from talking with some of our farmers is precision farming. It seems like it is out of the Jetsons, for people my age. It actually uses satellites. The satellites beam down GPS coordinates so that every inch of productive farm area is used and so that no extra drop of gasoline, diesel, natural gas or propane is used. This reduces emissions. The farmers are working hard to be environmental stewards for us.

The reality is that the grain growers have done analysis based on Statistics Canada's numbers. They emit about 66 megatonnes of carbon dioxide, which is not good. However, on the other side of equation are the crops they plant: their carbon sinks. These actually absorb over 100 megatonnes of carbon dioxide. Farmers are already carbon-neutral, 20 years ahead of the government's schedule. However, farmers, unlike nearly every other industry, are not given credit for this. They are not given an offset for the great work they do for the environment. We are just asking that we allow farmers the same playing field as other industries.

Why would we not get support for this private member's bill? In B.C. the NDP have done the same. The province strengthened its carbon tax. From an environmental perspective, I give it a check. It will help farmers be more competitive. There is a check. It will help our economy be stronger. There is a check. I do not see any xes.

I know that this cannot be true and I am hoping it is not true, but the only reason to oppose this bill would be pure politics. I know that the members on the other side want to support this. Whether they are from the Bloc Québécois, the NDP or the Liberal Party, members want to go back to farmers to tell them they are proud of having voted for a bill today that will make their lives a little bit easier and make things a little less difficult for them. We have to get beyond this.

I was in the House about two weeks ago, proudly speaking for small business owners and asking for a simple pause of audits during the pandemic. We were opposed. Only one party voted against us. I think we have had great amendments for a number of bills that were being legislated, but every time they are opposed, opposed, opposed.

I am calling upon my great friends across the aisle to do what is right for their constituents. Put down your sabres, extend your hands and work with our government-in-waiting to develop constructive solutions for Canadians. We want to work with our colleagues. We want to make life better for Canadians. Please join us.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I respect the member's remarks because I do not think there was very much exaggeration, except I might question where the best farmers come from. He might have been a little offside there.

The exemptions on diesel and gas are fairly easy to propose, because it is easy to mark the fuels with a dye. I have not checked into B.C. I am pleased to hear what he said about B.C. and will check into that.

How would the member feel about making this exemption in a way that it could not be abused? I think that is one of the key points. I agree with him 100% on the cost. I have spent a lot of time in western Canada, and I know some farmers have bills for drying grain that are over $30,000 just for propane and natural gas. That is a cost burden that I recognize.

How could it be done in a way that the exemption would not be abused within the system?

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Madam Speaker, I deeply respect the member across the way for his advocacy for farmers and for Prince Edward Island. My wife's family is from down east, so I recognize and respect his claim that there are great farmers there as well.

British Columbia has already done this. We can use a receipt-based system otherwise. Anyone who has been in a farming community, which I am sure the member across the way would agree with, would know that farmers are among the most honest, hard-working people. I believe that we can come up with a system that farmers will abide by to make sure that we do not extend it to people who do not deserve it. I know farmers, and they will not abuse the system. That is a promise from me.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I commend my colleague for his speech and his comments.

I would like him to tell us what proportion of greenhouse gas emissions are actually produced by the fuel sector, such as propane and natural gas, in comparison with other sectors.

The Bloc Québécois thinks that we really need to focus our work on transforming western Canada's entire energy sector. What does he think about that and what measure would he suggest to help farmers become greener?

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Madam Speaker, I had the honour of being in the great province of Quebec to do my French training. I am still working on that, but maybe the next time I am up, I will be speaking in French.

I deeply believe in the free market and private enterprise. I believe that when we give farmers the opportunity, they will invest in green technology. I am sure members have had the same conversations in Quebec with farmers. They are passionate about the environment. They are passionate about climate change. They just want the opportunity to work privately and not have a heavy-handed government mandated on them.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to ask the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South about a few of the other costs that farmers are dealing with. Farm debt, we have seen, has doubled since 2000. We have seen that the costs of fertilizer, chemicals, machinery, technology and services are taking increasing amounts of farmers' revenues so they are only left with a small portion of them.

Does the member have any thoughts on how we can help farmers with those other costs given how much they are now paying for the inputs?

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Madam Speaker, I have deep respect for the member. I substituted on the agriculture committee and the member always has intelligent and extremely well-prepared remarks.

I would say much the same as I said earlier. Farmers are the most independent, hardest-working people. They are among the hardest working in Canada. All they need is for government to get out of the way: our farmers will make it happen if we reduce the burden on them. The beauty of the free enterprise system is that with freedom and liberty, millions and millions of farmers are making great decisions and producing great products. Quite frankly, they have an amazing track record of delivering on them.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to rise today to speak to Bill C-206, an act to amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act to extend the exemption for qualifying farming fuel to marketable natural gas and propane.

The bill before us attempts to alleviate potential costs borne by Canadian farmers. Let us take a closer look at the implications of the bill and what our government has already done to reduce the burden on Canadians as we safeguard the natural environment.

We continue to see the impacts of climate change through extreme weather events, from wildfires in western Canada to the increasingly powerful hurricanes, typhoons and storms that batter communities around the world. It is increasingly not a question of whether an extreme event will happen, but where it will happen.

Our government has made a serious commitment to address this major generational challenge. Canada must play a significant role in this global fight. We need to take immediate action in order to ensure that our children and grandchildren have clean air to breathe and a strong, healthy economy.

My constituents are very concerned about climate change, as am I. In recent months, I have received many emails from them asking me not to abandon the environment during this pandemic and telling me that we need to make the environment a priority. They are absolutely right.

This is why, in December 2016, Canada's first ministers adopted the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change. The pan-Canadian framework is the country's plan to meet our emissions reduction target, grow the economy and build resilience to a changing climate.

The framework is built on the following four pillars: pricing carbon pollution; complementary actions to further reduce emissions across the economy; measures to adapt to the impacts of climate change and build resilience; and actions to accelerate innovation, support clean technology and create jobs.

Pricing pollution is essential to the framework. A price on pollution reduces pollution at the lowest overall cost to businesses and consumers. A well-designed price on pollution provides an incentive for climate action and clean innovation while protecting business competitiveness. It is efficient and cost-effective because it allows businesses and households to decide for themselves how best to reduce emissions.

We are making sure there is a price on pollution across the country, while also taking steps to maintain affordability of households and ensure Canadian companies can compete and succeed in a competitive global marketplace.

The federal pollution pricing system has two components: a regulatory charge on fossil fuels, and an output-based pricing system for large industrial facilities, which provides a price incentive to reduce emissions and spur innovation.

All direct proceeds from pricing pollution under the federal system are being returned to the jurisdiction in which they were collected. Returning proceeds from pollution pricing helps Canadians make more environmentally sustainable consumption choices, but does not change the incentive to pollute less. Every time a consumer or business makes a purchasing or investment decision, there is a financial incentive to choose greener options, regardless of how the proceeds are rebated or returned.

Our government has made it clear that nobody should be able to pollute for free in Canada. I also want to make it clear that federal pollution pricing is not meant to generate revenue. Its goal is to help everyone understand that polluting has a price and to support cleaner growth and a more sustainable future.

I repeat, the government is not keeping any direct proceeds from the federal pollution pricing system. In Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Alberta, the Government of Canada is returning the bulk of the proceeds from the federal fuel charge directly to households through climate action incentive payments. Most households have been getting more back in climate action incentive payments than they pay in increased costs due to pollution pricing.

The remaining proceeds from the federal fuel charge are used to provide support to key sectors in the federal backstop provinces including small and medium-sized businesses, municipalities, universities, schools, colleges, hospitals and not-for-profit organizations, as well as indigenous communities.

It is important to note the agriculture sector already receives significant relief under the federal pollution pricing system compared with other sectors of the economy. Most emissions from agriculture are from biological sources and are not covered under the federal pricing system.

The act as it stands provides significant upfront relief to farmers for gasoline and diesel, subject to certain conditions. In particular, all or substantially all of the fuel must be for use in eligible farming activities. Relief from the fuel charge generally applies to the operation of farming equipment and machinery, such as combine harvesters. Only limited emissions from the agriculture sector are covered under the federal pollution pricing system.

In short, this bill needs to be carefully considered to ensure it would not introduce complexity and unintended consequences. As it stands currently, the act's strength is that it is simple and straightforward in targeting a reduction in emissions.

Those are important considerations, and Canadians expect us to take them into account as we assess the potential benefits of Bill C-206.

The federal pollution pricing system is about recognizing that pollution has a cost, empowering Canadians and driving innovation. Putting a price on products that are more polluting and returning the bulk of direct proceeds to individuals and families in the jurisdiction of origin enables households to make cleaner and more environmentally sustainable choices.

I would be happy to support C-206 if it is sustainable and if there are no other ways to help the agricultural sector. However, I do believe that if we do make exceptions in certain industries, such as the agricultural industry, then we are really taking a step back and it would be open to other industries to also ask for exemptions.

I do understand that considering the pandemic, a lot of the burden has been on Canadian farmers. They have been affected a lot more than other sectors, not necessarily economically because they have been doing quite well, but a lot of the burden has been on them. Thanks to them, Canadians have been able to have food during this time. That said, I am still not 100 per cent sold on Bill C-206 and I would need to see more. I would wait before I give an official position.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

November 23rd, 2020 / 11:30 a.m.


Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to acknowledge farmers for their hard work and day in, day out dedication. Every day, from dawn to dusk, these people are out in nature working the fields. If anyone in Quebec and Canada cares about protecting the environment, it is farmers. I take my hat off to them.

My colleague from Northumberland—Peterborough South said that we need to reduce the burden on farmers, and I have to say I agree with that in principle. We all want to reduce pollution, but we must always carefully consider the best approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We have two options: the carrot and the stick.

The carrot here is incentives to encourage people to change their behaviour. The stick is using punishment to achieve that goal. Every time we implement one of these measures, I think it is wise to ask ourselves whether it is effective and meaningful. That is not clear in this case.

This proposal would add propane and natural gas to the list of exemptions, since they are essential to drying grains. We all remember the CN strike last fall and the wave of panic that swept through our rural areas.

As this point in time, propane and natural gas are still the most efficient way to dry grain. When we talk about protecting the environment, we also have to think about minimizing the impact of changes on those who are hardest hit by the effects. Farmers are amongst the first to be affected by climate disruptions. If crops are extremely wet, more fuel is needed to dry the grains. This is not a personal choice that can be easily changed at this time.

Should we be looking for other heat sources that would be equally efficient and that could replace current fuels in the medium and long term? Yes, of course. Biomass is just one example that comes to mind. However, there are significant development and implementation costs to consider.

We have to think about providing support to the agricultural industry to make these changes as soon as possible instead of punishing our grassroots people. The problem is that Liberal polices often put the responsibility on the public and the grassroots. We see very few measures that target big business, the oil industry and the coal-fired electricity sector in western Canada. The Bloc Québécois knows that those are the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions, because the numbers prove it.

Of course, that does not mean that we can ignore agricultural pollution, on the contrary. We have to recognize, however, that the use of fossil fuels is not the primary source of agricultural pollution. That would be livestock emissions, the use of fertilizers and a whole lot of other things we need to look at if we want to effectively reduce greenhouse gases.

If we want to meet the Paris Agreement targets, which were clearly endorsed by this government, then we have to tackle the big polluters. So far we have seen only mediocre programs that certainly will not allow us to meet these targets.

In Quebec, individual transportation is currently the main source of greenhouse gases. We are fortunate to have hydroelectricity. I cannot say the same for the west. This is not a rebuke. I would like westerners to understand my comments. If we look at Canada as a whole, since 1990 the west has been the primary source of all increases in greenhouse gas emissions, in particular from oil sands operations. Our view is that projects such as the Trans Mountain expansion should be abandoned. That is where we should be hitting harder.

I want to come back to agriculture. There is another reason for the Bloc's support of Bill C-206, and that is obviously the desire to help out the agricultural sector. In addition, Quebec is not affected by this bill because the carbon tax was created by the federal government to compensate for the fact that certain provinces and territories had not adopted any such program. Quebec has the carbon market and its system has been tied to that of California since 2013. It works well. This program exempts agriculture, which is not affected.

Still, when it comes to fuels, there is a part that cannot be measured, and this has an indirect impact on farmers in Quebec. Members of the Union des producteurs agricoles estimate that farmers have paid roughly $40 million in indirect taxation through the carbon market. Talks are currently under way with Quebec about returning this money to that sector. I think that is the right thing to do, and in that spirit, it just makes sense that we recognize the contribution made by the farming community, as well as the difficulties it is experiencing. We therefore plan to support Bill C-206.

We have to keep one thing in mind. We think it would be unfair to demand immediate efforts and changes from those who are the primary victims of the crisis in the energy sector and the challenges posed by climate change, beginning with the farming community and their families. We therefore need to start with the most polluting industries.

The federal government has a responsibility here to stop subsidizing fossil fuels and to stop giving tax breaks that are much bigger compared to those given to other sectors. I could also mention Quebec's forestry industry, which has been woefully underfunded, even though this sector is an extremely sustainable source of materials if managed wisely. The key word here is “wisely”. When a government imposes a tax like the carbon tax, it needs to consider whether this tax will work and whether it will change people's behaviour.

I think we need to do a lot of research and development to find alternatives to using oil and natural gas for drying grain. Farmers do not currently have other options, and this remains the most effective method.

What is the objective of the legislation? Section 3 of the act sets out the farming fuels that qualify for an exemption: gasoline, light fuel oil and fuels set out in a regulation. The bill introduced by our Conservative Party colleague simply wants to add marketable natural gas and propane to that list. I think that respects the spirit of the act, which was designed to put a price on pollution without penalizing the agricultural sector.

In conclusion, we are choosing to spare farmers from having to take on the environmental tax burden, which I think is a good thing. However, the western provinces must start working on an energy transition to diversify their economy. The Bloc Québécois will always support western Canadians. We stand with them and we support them. We do not want to shut down their industries and let them go hungry.

What we are saying is that they need to start transitioning. That is where they need to do some work. It is the way of the future. The burden should not be placed on the most vulnerable workers.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to start by thanking the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South for bringing the bill forward for debate. He has substituted on the agriculture committee a few times and I have sincerely enjoyed working with him. I look forward to having him join us again in the future, this time as a witness to defend his bill.

Before I go into the specifics of the bill, I want to say that the NDP believes there should be a price on pollution. The fact that human-caused climate change is occurring is no longer in dispute; it is a verifiable scientific fact. Canada is facing a climate emergency, one that will manifest itself in increasingly costly ways to our natural environment and economy.

A change in climate will bring more extreme weather events, and it is our farmers who will suffer. Changing precipitation patterns will bring increased frequency and longer durations of flooding and drought in different regions of the country. Fluctuating temperatures could have devastating impacts on livestock production. There will always be the increase of deadly forest fires. There will be real and catastrophic economic costs to this, both in adapting to the changes and in doing our best to mitigate them.

This will indeed be the fight of the 21st century. Unfortunately, the continuing political fight over the carbon tax ignores these realities and sidelines the leadership we as a country need to take against climate change.

I want to talk a bit about farmers and the important role they play in this conversation. This centres on carbon sequestration. The only way we are going to solve climate change is if we significantly reduce the amount of carbon we are putting into the atmosphere and find new and innovative ways to sequester the carbon that is already there.

One of these ways is through good agricultural practices and giving farmers recognition of agriculture's potential for carbon sequestration. It is estimated in scientific literature that agricultural soils have a storage capacity of 30 to 50 tonnes of carbon per hectare. Ecological, agricultural practices, which include low tillage, no-till and intercropping, already sequester more carbon in soil than farmers are currently given credit for.

Recently, I took a trip to the interior of British Columbia to talk with ranchers who had won sustainability awards. They were using proactive management of their grasslands with their cattle herds. This is the leadership we need to see, and farmers are indeed taking it. We can all use this as a good example of what Canada is doing right. Also, our farms in Canada have great renewable energy potential, both in harnessing the sun and wind, and of course in their production of biomass for biofuels.

Despite the advances we have made and the potential that good agricultural practices offer in the fight against climate change, it is still an inescapable fact that farmers today depend on fossil fuels. This is especially true when it comes to drying grain.

The unseasonably wet autumn of 2019 was called the “harvest from hell”. It saw extensive and prolonged rainfall right before and during harvest time in many parts of Canada. Early snowfalls and frost also ruined many crops. Farmers had to use propane and natural gas heaters to dry their grain. Without the use of these grain dryers, their cash crops would have become worthless, as rot would have set in. That would have been a huge economic hit. As it stands, there are currently no viable alternatives to the use of propane and natural gas for the operation of these dryers.

With a changing climate, the new reality is that there will be many future years during which significant amounts of grain drying will be necessary for farmers across Canada. As certain pockets of western Canada are losing workers at harvest year after year, grain drying is now moving from something nice to have to something they need to have.

Let me outline the value of this sector to the Canadian economy.

Canola alone is worth $26.7 billion and pays out $11.2 billion in wages, and 90% of it is exported. It is Canada's largest agricultural export.

Let us look at other grain sectors, wheat in particular. We exported 20.5 million tonnes of wheat in 2017, and that was worth $21 billion in export sales.

This is a significant part of our economy. If farmers are suffering, as they have been with recent harvests, I believe, through the spirit of the bill, that they require some help.

Now let me turn to a more specific discussion on Bill C-206.

As the NDP agriculture and agri-food critic, I can say that the NDP will be supporting the bill at second reading. I believe the principle of the bill is sound and that it deserves to make it to committee for further examination. In fact, I wrote to the Minister of Agriculture in February to bring this particular issue to her attention.

Let us look at what the bill does. The bill makes amendments to the interpretation section of the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act to broaden the definition of what a qualifying farm fuel is. The Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act was brought about through the enactment of an omnibus budget bill, Bill C-74, in the previous Parliament. Bill C-206 would add natural gas and propane to the definition, which is currently limited to gasoline, light fuel oil or a prescribed type of fuel.

This is important because the term “qualifying farm fuel” is used in several important sections of that federal statute. It is referred to in section 17 and again in section 38, as two examples. This is important because those sections specify that a charge for the carbon tax is not payable. If we list these two additional fuels, natural gas and propane, as qualifying farm fuels so they are understood to be used only on the farm for farming purposes, the charge for the carbon tax would not be payable.

As my colleague, the sponsor of the bill, correctly noted, there are provincial precedents. In my home province of British Columbia, coloured fuel purchases can be made, such as coloured gasoline and coloured diesel. These are exempt from both the motor fuel tax and the carbon tax in British Columbia. British Columbia also lists propane as having an exemption from the motor fuel tax. It is understood that propane is going to be used by a qualifying farm for a farm purpose if certain conditions are met.

I believe there is strong provincial precedent, and that is why the bill deserves to go to committee for further examination. Hopefully we can hear from some qualified witnesses there.

Seeing that my time on the bill is wrapping up, I believe that Bill C-206, at this second reading stage, does deserve to go to committee. I am happy to be supporting it for that discussion.

As part of the broader discussion on the bill and the costs that farmers are bearing, we need to recognize, as has been detailed by the National Farmers Union, that Canadian farm debt is now listed at over $100 billion and has nearly doubled since 2000. Since 1990, the corporations that supply fertilizers, chemicals, machinery, fuels, technology services and credit have captured nearly all farm revenues, leaving farmers with just 5% of the total revenue.

While the measures provided in Bill C-206 would have a measurable impact and benefit, especially when farmers are having to dry their grain, I hope we can use the bill to broaden the discussion on the other costs that farmers are having to bear. As a country, we all need to come together to tackle the farm crisis. It is going to required a sustained effort to actually put our support in the farmers' corner.

I will conclude there. I would like to again thank the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South for bringing the bill forward. I hope the House sees fit to vote in favour of it at second reading so we can have a more specific discussion at committee.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-206. I want to take this opportunity to thank my colleague, the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South, for bringing it forward and addressing what is a very serious concern within our agricultural sector.

Our farmers across the country understand that certain things are outside their control: weather, droughts, floods and commodity prices. However, they continue to work extremely hard for Canadians' health in making sure we have food on our tables, and there is anxiety and mental health stress that go along with that. Farmers do that because they are passionate and love what they do.

However, there are some things they rely on the government to provide. They want to ensure they have the infrastructure to move their commodities to market. They want to ensure they have a competitive tax and regulatory regime. They want to ensure they have trade markets around the world in which to sell their commodities. One area where the current Liberal government is failing Canadian agriculture is the tax and regulatory regime, and Bill C-206 tries to remedy that situation.

In my opinion, the COVID pandemic has had a devastating impact on our economy. As parliamentarians and as Canadians, we are going to be looking to sectors of our industry and relying on them to help us pull ourselves out of this very deep financial hole. I would argue that agriculture will be one of the key sectors that can help us do that.

There are going to be food shortages around the world, and food security in our own country is going to be an issue. Canadian farmers, ranchers and processors are willing and able to take on that burden, but for them to do that we have to ensure they have the resources not only to survive this pandemic but to thrive afterwards. Asking them to pay the burdensome cost of a carbon tax, which other industries do not have to pay or have exemptions for, does not make sense. The bill would address that.

What is frustrating for our farmers and ranchers is they are not getting the credit they deserve for what they have already done. They are not getting the credit they deserve for the carbon sequestration and carbon sink that agriculture is. Keystone Agricultural Producers of Manitoba has done a study showing that Canadian agriculture is a 30-megatonne sink on the positive, yet we continue to attack agriculture with the misinformation and misperception that is out there.

Canadian agriculture is not part of the problem when it comes to climate change. In fact, it is part of the solution. It is decades ahead of every other industry in Canada, and no one has made people in the agriculture sector do this. There has been no carbon tax there forcing them to do this. They have done it because they know it is the right thing to do. Very few Canadians are as passionate about their soil, their water, their livestock and their grain. It is their livelihood, so of course they are going to do everything they possibly can to take care of things.

I found it interesting that my Liberal colleague, who was speaking on behalf of the Liberal Party, was saying that farmers need to find a more equitable solution to this problem. If there were a cheaper and more efficient way to do it, farmers would have found it.

I want to ensure that my colleagues across the way understand what we are talking about and the impact this is having on agriculture. It is unfortunate that my Liberal colleague was blaming farmers for climate change. Again, as I said, farmers have done everything possible to ensure they have done their part in the fight against climate change and in protecting our environment.

I am not going to name the person, but a Liberal colleague said, last year, “Why do farmers not put solar panels on their combines?” This speaks to what we are up against here in the misunderstanding around agriculture. They harvest 24 hours a day, seven days a week when harvest time comes, from sun up to sun down. When people say farmers should be looking for alternatives, we really have some work to do in understanding what farmers are doing and what limitations they already have.

The Kielstra family has a poultry farm in my riding and I toured their poultry operation earlier this summer. Mr. Kielstra was very upset about this carbon tax. He showed me his bills and gave me his Excel spreadsheet. He paid $51,526 in carbon tax last year, just to heat his barns. He has no other choice. It is winter.

He has to heat those barns to protect the health and safety of his birds. If not, he is going to be charged with animal cruelty. There is no other alternative. He cannot build a fire in the barn to protect his birds. He is using natural gas and propane to do that because they are clean fuels, they are inexpensive and they work.

When the carbon tax in 2022 goes to $50 a tonne, that $50,000 he is spending now will be close to $100,000 a year. We are not talking nickels and dimes here. We are talking about the difference between ensuring this operation is viable or going bankrupt. What makes it different for this sector is that farmers cannot pass on those costs to their customers. Agriculture is a price-taker. It is not that he can just increase the price of his birds by $50 a pound or kilogram.

The same goes for grain farmers. A grain farmer in northern Saskatchewan sent me his carbon tax bill for one delivery of propane to dry his grain. For one delivery of propane, his carbon tax bill was $800. That lasts him one week, not a month or a year. That is $3,200 a month he is paying to dry his grain and, once again, he has no other choice.

There was the harvest from hell last year, which we spoke a great deal about in the House, and northern Saskatchewan had a huge snowfall again this fall. Again he is going to have to dry his grain, and farmers from Saskatchewan to Ontario all had to do that last year. They had to take on costs they never expected. Again, as a grain farmer, he cannot pass those costs on anywhere else. He is absorbing those costs himself. The agriculture minister said last week that she understands that farmers work on very tight margins. Yes, that is right. Therefore, when the government has an opportunity to do something about it, why would it not please step up and do that?

Farmers are those who kind of keep their heads down, work hard and do everything they possibly can, but over the last year, year and a half, they have become very outspoken about the impact this carbon tax has had on them. I am very concerned about the position the Liberal government is taking on this. The previous agriculture minister said that all of the Canadian farmers he talked to were very supportive of the carbon tax. I can say exactly how many farmers I have spoken to who are supportive of the carbon tax. It is very close to zero.

When I asked the current agriculture minister, in an Order Paper question, what the cost of the carbon tax was to Canadian farmers, her answer was that the information was secret. Champions of agriculture, as Liberals profess themselves to be, should not be hiding the truth. We know what the cost of the carbon tax is to Canadian agriculture. It is crippling. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said the carbon tax is costing Canadian farmers about $14 million a year.

Conservatives are offering a very easy solution. There are already exemptions for purple gas and diesel. There are exemptions for the greenhouse industry. Why not expand that definition to include propane and natural gas, which are the cleanest fuels, the least expensive fuels and would offer Canadian farmers an opportunity to keep their heads above water through this very difficult time?

As I said at the beginning, Canadian agriculture has a unique opportunity to carry the burden, to help Canada dig itself out of a very deep financial hole, not only here in Canada but around the world. However, it is also important that we protect the security of our food supply and our supply chain. If our farmers cannot survive this, we do not have food on grocery store shelves.

With no farms, there is no food. That is imperative. Bill C-206 would help to alleviate the burden, the mental health stress and the financial crunch that Canadian farmers are feeling right now. I would urge my colleagues across the floor and throughout the House to support this bill.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business


Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I want to be very clear in terms of the Government of Canada's ongoing support of our farming community. We have actually had very strong advocates within the Department of Agriculture, including a minister who is very sensitive to all the different regions and the needs of the farming community.

I wanted to speak to this bill because I am someone who was born and grew up in the Prairies, around Manitoba and Saskatchewan. I can recall being on the John Deere tractor when I was 12 or 13 years old in the province of Saskatchewan, or driving down Highway 2 in the province of Manitoba, where we would see a line of farmers cultivating and harvesting wheat. It is a very impressive sight at 11 p.m. or midnight, when the lights are beaming and we can see the reaping of the fields to feed the world. It gives a whole new meaning and I understand this. I do not believe I am alone.

Within the Liberal caucus, where we even have a rural component, members are very much aware of the issues that farmers have to face in every region of our country. When we talk about a price on pollution, it is one of the reasons why, through a budgetary motion, we looked at some of the costs farmers have, particularly with gas and diesel, and then came up with the exemption. It was something that is fairly easily tagged and marked. Therefore, we could ensure that farmers are being given a break on the price on pollution.

I would question the member when he said that 98% of farmers are opposed to a price on pollution. At the end of the day, whether one is a rural or an urban member, we recognize the impact the population has on our environment. All of us want to play a role.

What is important is that the government recognized that we needed to level the field and make sure everyone is contributing a fair share. That is something the government has done and we will continue to look at ways in which we can improve the system. At times, the Conservatives try to give a false impression that the government, the Liberal caucus, does not understand the farming community. That is just not true.

I have had many opportunities to have discussions and visit farms with many different commodities, whether poultry, the pig industry in province of Manitoba or the many grains that are grown. I am not unique within the caucus. We understand the difficulties when farmers have a wet crop and need to dry that crop out to get it to market.

I want to remind my friends that, when Harper was the prime minister, we had heaps of wheat being piled outside of storage bins while we had ships that were empty miles away from the Vancouver port.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. The order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

The House resumed from November 2 consideration of the motion that Bill C-8, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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12:05 p.m.


Paul Manly Green Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour and privilege to speak today on Bill C-8 from the traditional unceded territory of the Snuneymuxw people. I want to acknowledge that the riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith lies within the territories of the Snuneymuxw, the Snaw-naw-as, the Stz'uminus and the Lyackson first nations.

Huy’chka siem.

I would like the thank the hon. member for Sydney—Victoria for sharing this time with me today so that I could speak to this important bill.

Bill C-8 is an act to amend the Citizenship Act. The bill would change the oath of citizenship so that newcomers to Canada, in addition to pledging allegiance to the Queen, will also faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the aboriginal treaty rights of first nations, Inuit and Métis people.

The Snuneymuxw people, whose territory I am from speaking today, signed a treaty in 1854. This was the 14th and the last of the so-called Douglas treaties, and it was ignored for over 100 years. It was not until the landmark White and Bob Supreme Court case in 1965 that this treaty was finally recognized by the Government of Canada. This historic case marked the beginning of the modern era of treaty and aboriginal rights and title, advocacy and activism across Canada.

I learned about this treaty while working on a film about the Nanaimo River, entitled Voices of the River. In my interviews with Snuneymuxw elder Ellen White and with her grandson Doug White, who was the chief of Snuneymuxw First Nation at the time, they both emphasized the importance of this treaty and the rights and title that it enshrines. Most residents of Nanaimo would have no knowledge of this treaty and what it means. It is a constant struggle for the Snuneymuxw people to have their treaty rights recognized.

This is true for first nations across Canada, as we have seen with the Mi'kmaq fishery in Nova Scotia and the Haudenosaunee dispute in Caledonia, Ontario. We are all treaty people in Canada. We have historical treaties that need to be respected, and for those first nations that have never signed treaties, it is incumbent upon the government to go through the modern-day treaty process in a respectful way.

It is important for newcomers to Canada to understand the indigenous and first nations rights enshrined in the Canadian Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. All Canadians, including new Canadians, need to understand these legal documents. They should understand that if they are not in a region that is covered by a treaty, then they are in a region that has never surrendered and is still legally indigenous territory.

The bill would complete number 94 of the 94 calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. That does not mean that the current Parliament has finally gotten to the end of the list and has implemented the previous 93 calls to action, far from it. We have a very poor record of implementing these calls to action. Earlier this year my colleague, the hon. member for Fredericton, presented a scorecard in her speech on this issue. Out of the 52 broader reconciliation recommendations, seven have been completed. Under justice, it is one out of 18; language and culture, one out of five; health, zero; education, zero; and child welfare, zero.

In the first year, five recommendations were completed, and just four since 2016. At the current rate, it will take approximately 38 more years before all of the calls to action are implemented. This is not reconciliation in action.

Call to action number 94 is important, but there are far more urgent calls to action that we need to turn our attention to. Call to action number one calls upon federal, provincial, territorial and aboriginal governments to commit to reducing the number of aboriginal children in care. Right now there are more indigenous children in the child welfare system in this country than there were children in the residential schools at the height of the residential school system. This is an ongoing abuse of human rights and a violation of fundamental social justice.

When I talk to local leaders from first nations and urban indigenous communities in my riding, they tell me the same thing: Children are being apprehended by provincial child welfare agencies, and it is not because the parents have neglected to provide their children with love, care or attention. The majority of child welfare apprehensions are a direct result of poverty and inadequate housing. The Government of Canada could deal with this immediately with a poverty reduction strategy and rapid housing program for first nations and urban indigenous populations.

The missing and murdered indigenous women and girls inquiry recommendations called for a guaranteed livable income to ensure no Canadian needs to live in poverty. A guaranteed livable income would remove the bias inherent in our social welfare programs and would be a step toward ending systemic racism in this country. Indigenous people are overrepresented in our prison system and in our homeless population. This is also a direct result of poverty and the disproportionate number of children pulled from their families and communities by the child welfare system.

We have a long way to go toward true reconciliation with indigenous people in Canada. Under the reconciliation section of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action, the first call to action, number 43, calls upon federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation. This is important and we need to get this done right away. Why are we not debating this right now?

It is a national shame indigenous communities have boil water advisories that go on for years and even decades, that indigenous communities deal with serious and persistent poverty, that indigenous people are overrepresented in our criminal justice system and in our homeless population, that we have such high levels of suicide among indigenous youth and that health outcomes for indigenous people are comparable to those of residents of low-income countries.

It is an international black eye for Canadians that we have encroaching developments and industrial projects forced upon indigenous communities after sham consultations and then have those developments and projects rammed through with enforcement actions by highly armed militarized police forces.

We need economic reconciliation to improve the conditions for economic development and economic sovereignty for first nations. The connection to land is key to the culture of indigenous people in Canada, but as colonizers we have broken that link. The reserve system forced indigenous people off the land and took away those key connections to their culture. Industrialization has destroyed many traditional territories with resource extraction, including excessive logging, mining and oil and gas production, destroying biodiversity and leaving behind toxic messes.

In my riding of Nanaimo Ladysmith, the traditional lands of the Hul'qumi’num-speaking people were stolen out from under them with the E&N land grant 150 years ago. Coal baron and B.C. cabinet minister Robert Dunsmuir was given 8,000 square kilometres of land, or 20% of Vancouver Island, to build the E&N railway from Esquimalt to Nanaimo as part of the deal for B.C. to join Confederation. This corrupt deal and historic wrong need to be corrected. We cannot celebrate 150 years of B.C. joining Confederation next year without reparation for this theft. Reconciliation must be more than words, it must include reparation for historic wrongs.

There is a long list of things we need to do to make things right in our relationship with first nations, Inuit and Métis people in this country. If this is indeed our most important relationship, as the Prime Minister has often repeated, then let us get on with it.

I have had the honour and privilege of working with many newcomers to Canada and I know they are keen to be good citizens and become part of our communities. Many of the newcomers arrive from difficult situations and have faced war, poverty, environmental degradation and human rights abuses. Once they learn about our history and fully understand the circumstances many indigenous people live with in Canada, these newcomers are shocked.

Bill C-8 is an acknowledgement of the responsibilities of all Canadians, including new Canadians. It is an important piece of legislation. The Green Party supports this legislation. We support all the calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we support the recommendations of the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls inquiry and we support the full implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

I hope to debate much more legislation implementing urgent calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation report soon. I hope this happens in the very near future.

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12:15 p.m.


Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Madam Speaker, one of the biggest challenges we face when we look at this piece of legislation is we are still not seeing a government taking an active role and actually implementing the calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Here we are again with another small step, but we still do not see substantive support to move forward in a way that is really about reconciliation.

I am wondering if the member could talk about why indigenous communities are being asked to wait, government after government, and when we are going to actually see action, and what would that action look like?

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12:15 p.m.


Paul Manly Green Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a very good question. I would like to know myself when the government is going to take the appropriate action. When are we going to move on the rest of these calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission? When are we going to deal with the recommendations from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, including a guaranteed livable income? When are we going to move indigenous people out of poverty and deal with our child welfare system?

I think that we need to do these things as soon as possible, and I would invite the hon. member to stand with me when I talk about reparation for the E&N land grant. I know that part of her riding is in that E&N land grant, and that is a historic wrong. It was one of the most corrupt deals in this country, which allowed the coal baron, Robert Dunsmuir, to build castles in Victoria based on the wealth he extracted from first nations territories.

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12:15 p.m.


Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very interesting speech.

For a number of years now, we have been seeing the Liberal government's inaction with respect to the cause of indigenous peoples across Canada and particularly in Quebec. We hear horror stories about reserves that do not even have clean drinking water for children. That is outrageous, and real action needs to be taken.

This bill takes real action and does something worthwhile. I think it is important to amend the oath of citizenship as proposed by adding the words “including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples”.

While we are doing something useful and cleaning up the oath of citizenship to add important elements, we could also remove the unnecessary elements. The first part of the oath states, “I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada”. Does anyone still think that is important? I would like to hear what my colleague thinks about that.

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12:15 p.m.


Paul Manly Green Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his statement. I am sure that if members of the Bloc Québécois have other ideas that they would like to bring forward on changing the oath of citizenship, they can do that in one of their opposition days.

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12:15 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, of the 94 resolutions, many do not actually require federal jurisdictional changes. I believe there are about 75 that do. However, not all of the recommendations require legislation in order to deal with the resolution.

Let us take a look at the first resolution that deals with child welfare. Would the member not agree that many of these resolutions and recommendations are, in fact, being acted on, at least in part? We have to work with other stakeholders. The federal government cannot just sweep in and say that it is done. There is an obligation to work with stakeholders. Would the member not at least acknowledge that is, in fact, the case for many of the resolutions?

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12:15 p.m.


Paul Manly Green Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, I do agree that we need to work as a country with different levels of government to deal with all of these calls to action. However, there are things that the federal government can do right away. One of those things is to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That is something that I would like to see this government push forward right away. Let us get that legislation dropped ASAP. I have heard it—

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council.

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12:20 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, to pick up on that, when we talk about how important that United Nations resolution is, we recognize that it was actually brought to the floor of the House a number of years ago from a member of the New Democratic Party. The Government of Canada did in fact support that piece of legislation and it passed through the House of Commons. It would have become law and received royal assent had it gone through the Senate, but it did not get through the Senate.

Since the last federal election a number of things have occurred, including, stating the most obvious, the coronavirus. The government's first priority was to deal with the negative impacts of the coronavirus. That does not mean that the government was not acting on all of the different fronts it needed to act on while it focused its attention on the coronavirus. When we hit that reset, we have often been criticized by the Conservatives about the throne speech. Why did we have to bring in another throne speech? In previous speeches that I have delivered on the floor here, I have addressed that issue.

Within the throne speech we find another commitment to bring forward the same legislation that the member from the Green Party just referenced. What I have found is that time passes pretty quickly here in Ottawa. The years go by pretty quickly. Here, once again, we are having to deal with legislation because of things that, in good part, were beyond our control. There was a commitment in the throne speech to deal with that particular call for action regarding the United Nations resolution. I am very confident that it is coming. Hopefully, we will be able to pass it through, just like we had government legislation that was brought in for the education of judges, with respect to sexual assaults. There was other legislation that passed in the previous Parliament, but because it did not pass the Senate, it was never given royal assent.

It is the same thing now where we have brought forward a piece of legislation as a part of the government agenda. We are going to have to deal once again with that other piece of legislation and are very hopeful.

When we take a look there are 94 calls for action. This particular piece of legislation we are dealing with today, Bill C-8 is making change to the oath. I will get to the actual oath and ceremonies at some point, but this is dealing with the last call for action. I have a handy booklet here with all 94 calls for action, something that I always keep at my desk, which highlights the importance of it to me personally. Just as it is so important to me, I know how important it is to our Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, virtually from day one, has talked about the relationship between government and indigenous people and how we need to change that relationship and work hard on that relationship.

What does bill C-8 do? It responds to the 94th call for action and states that we call upon the Government of Canada to replace the oath of citizenship with the following:

I swear... that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.

While it might not be word for word, a great deal of effort was put into that. That call to action and what the department has done to come up with today's wording has included a great deal of consultation with indigenous communities and others.

I constantly hear from members on all sides of the House about the importance of supporting the calls to action in general, maybe not 100% of them. However, we have made that commitment to work toward 100% of those or at least encouraging support for them. This is one of those calls. It as a very positive and fairly straightforward call. It would be nice to see it passed by the House of Commons, sooner as opposed to later. In good part now, it will be in the opposition court. It will determine how long it will be before it gets out of the House of Commons.

As I pointed out, there are 94 calls to action, 76 of which are linked to the federal government responsibilities. Many of those calls incorporate Ottawa working with others to fulfill the commitment. An example of that is the first. Today we are talking about call to action 94. Let us look at the first call to action. I referred to that call to action in my question to the member of the Green Party. It is a fairly length call to action, but it is a very important one. It deals with child welfare.

The significance to the debate on that is to recognize there are different types of calls to action. Today, we are really talking about Ottawa and our responsibility to change the oath. That needs to be done through legislation. This is why the bill is before us. However, not all calls to action are like that.

The first call states:

We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to commit to reducing the number of Aboriginal children in care by.

Then it states a number of things we could do.

The significance of this is that unlike this bill, it is not like the federal government could bring in legislation to say that call one is done. It does not work that way for all of the calls to action.

This one is going to require input from indigenous leaders, provincial governments and agencies and even beyond that. When we talk about the child welfare system, as cited in the debate today, I am very much aware of the situation. All one needs to do is look at my riding when we talk about children. If we look at the number of apprehended children, or children who are in the care foster parents, on a per capita basis, I would be surprised if Winnipeg North was not one of the highest, if not the very highest, in our country.

For many years, whether a parliamentarian in Ottawa or a member in the Manitoba legislature, we have had to deal with that. For my New Democratic friends, I would like to let them know that the worst provincial entity I can think of is the 15 years of governance by the provincial NDP in the Province of Manitoba. The problem actually peaked during that time.

As much as the NDP would like to blame the Liberals for not doing enough, there is a great deal of room for improvement within the New Democratic Party in Manitoba. It was one of the last issues I dealt with prior to leaving the Manitoba legislature. I talked about the child advocate, saying that Manitoba was in crisis because of the children in care. The NDP premier was more concerned with where the information came from and that it had been released rather than the facts.

When we talk about these calls for action, we need to get the support and consultations in place and work together with the different stakeholders. When my colleagues and friends from the Green Party or the New Democratic Party in particular say that there are 94 calls and only eight or nine have been dealt with, I do not believe that is the case.

For many of the different calls to action, certain actions have taken more time than others. However, we can be encouraged by the fact that unlike some of the previous reports that came forward, these recommendations are not sitting on a shelf collecting dust. Ministers and members of Parliament from our caucus consistently raise the importance of reconciliation in the calls for action on the floor of the House, or in our caucus or in our communities.

Earlier I cited the little booklet given to me by one of my former colleagues, Robert-Falcon Ouellette, the previous member for Winnipeg Centre. We all remember Robert's personality and miss him dearly. Hopefully, he will return. However, when we look at the 94 calls for action, some of them we can deal with in a timely fashion, where Ottawa gets to play the lead. This is one of them.

When I think about citizenship, one experiences many different feelings. I suspect virtually all members of Parliament have participated in citizenship court ceremonies. What a wonderful opportunity it is to do so. I have been doing it for many years, both as a member of Parliament and as a member of the Manitoba legislative assembly. I have wonderful memories of what I witnessed. They would be held inside the Manitoba legislature in the so-called Manitoba Room, which faces Broadway, with its huge beautiful chandeliers. It was such a wonderful feeling to walk into that room, see the chairs lined up, with a judge standing at the front, and individuals, who were receiving their citizenship, smiling from ear to ear. Seeing them in that beautiful room, in that democratic institution speaks volumes about freedom and democracy.

I remember going to what was the NorWest health centre in the community of Winnipeg North. A room had been set up with many chairs and a judge was present. People were receiving their citizenship. One of the most touching parts of that ceremony was a young woman of Filipino heritage who had taken her oath. When it came time to sing the national anthem, she pulled out a big Canadian flag and wrapped it around herself. We could see tears as we started singing the national anthem. It is a very special moment in time when people receive their citizenship. I have attended many different swearing-in ceremonies to reaffirm my citizenship, because we do live in a great nation, the best country in the world from my perspective.

To recognize the importance of indigenous people is of the utmost importance. For the life of me, I cannot remember his last name, but Winston is a resident of Winnipeg North. I believe he lives on Arrow Street, to be more specific. He is of indigenous background. I attended a special citizenship event in an armoury in Winnipeg. What was nice is that he brought forward a greeting and a blessing. New citizens heard first-hand the words he spoke. It was a rather strong and powerful message on how Canada is open for all.

At these citizenship courts, there has to be a judge, but we will also see an RCMP officer. In recent years, we have also seen someone representing the Canadian Forces. I have been to a couple where an indigenous elder attended. I would encourage indigenous elders to continue to attend to tell story of Canada. It is an important aspect.

In every citizenship ceremony I have had the privilege to attend, I have always walked away feeling very proud to be a Canadian, because people from around the world have chosen Canada to call home. Indigenous people are not getting the recognition they deserve for being there, opening doors and opportunities. A willingness to share is so important, to understand treaties and their relationship. That is why reconciliation is so important. That is why the Prime Minister consistently talks about the relationship between indigenous people and the government and why it is so important for all of us.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission came up with excellent calls to action. Today is all about call to action 94 and I encourage all members to support it.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, it is timely that we are talking today about the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In the Alberni Valley where I live, there is a housing crisis. Over two-thirds of the people living on the street are indigenous. We know the government has promised 3,000 beds next year to address homelessness, which is just not enough.

Last night, I received a call from Martha Martin, the mother of Chantel Moore. Her daughter was shot at the hands of police in New Brunswick. She told me her son, Mike, who had been living in care and aged out of care, took his own life two nights ago by suicide. I believe Mike could be alive today if all the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action were implemented. Numbers 18, 19 and 3 all relate to health. Numbers 30, 31, 35, 36, 37, 38 and 43 relate to justice.

Our system has taken two of her children's lives. It is killing her family. I know the member wanted to talk a lot about partisan politics but right now, we need to work together. We need to fast track this bill so we can deal with call to action number 94 and move it forward. We need to get to these items and stop the endless deaths happening on the streets of our country.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, the consequences to our society are significant the more we delay taking the actions necessary to improve living conditions in general. They are horrendous. The member made reference to a couple of examples.

Equally, it is irresponsible for us to try to build an expectation that is very difficult to achieve. We cannot resolve all the problems overnight. The member knows this is the case. It takes time, resources and a great deal of effort from not only the government in Ottawa but all governments, indigenous leaders, community leaders and many others.