House of Commons Hansard #25 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was businesses.


Opposition Motion—Consequences of the pandemic on Canadian workers and businessesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I suspect if you were to canvass the House you would find unanimous consent to call it 5:30 p.m., so that we could begin Private Members' Business.

Opposition Motion—Consequences of the pandemic on Canadian workers and businessesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


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

Do we have unanimous consent?

Opposition Motion—Consequences of the pandemic on Canadian workers and businessesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.


Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

moved that Bill C-218, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, it is truly an honour to stand in the House today and begin the conversation we need on the safe and regulated sports betting act, which seeks to legalize single-event sports wagering in Canada.

The gaming industry in Canada is a multi-billion dollar industry. Casinos, racetracks and other gaming facilities operating across the country directly employ tens of thousands of people. The economic activity created in these communities with gaming facilities generate tens of thousands of dollars more.

The gaming industry pays $6.7 billion in salaries per year and generates over $9 billion in revenue for governments and much-needed charities every single year. However, none of that includes the single-event sport betting industry, which is a $14-billion industry in this country. Unfortunately, all of that activity is taking place underground. Offshore websites like Bodog and bet365 take in billions of dollars a year, and criminal organizations operating black market betting rings across the country are taking in billions of dollars more.

As we look at this, none of that money is going back toward the public good, and much of it goes toward funding other forms of criminality. It is true that in this country some form of sports betting is taking place legally, and I mentioned that. Horse racing is one. It takes place all across this country. There is also what is known as parlay betting in this country. It is what programs like Proline and Sport Select have, requiring bettors across the country to correctly place wagers on multiple events. If a bettor does not get them all right, then the ticket is unsuccessful.

Parlay betting delivers about $500 million in revenue nationally each year in this country, but that is a mere pittance compared to what single-event betting brings offshore and to the criminal enterprises in this country.

In my province of Saskatchewan, the provincial government uses the revenue from parlay betting products to fund sports body government industries, the youth and amateur sports, and we also use that money for the amateur arts in our province. Imagine what we could do with our share of $14 billion.

Legalization of single-event betting is something that, for many years, governments along with indigenous groups across Canada have been calling for. The legalization of single-event betting is supported by provincial and many municipal governments across this country. I have spoken with and received support from provincial cabinet ministers coast to coast.

Travis Toews, the Minister of Finance in the province of Alberta, wrote to me in an email, “The current restrictions do not allow the provinces to compete on an even playing field, thus allowing substantial revenues to flow to unregulated, illegal operations and offshore Internet sites without providing any financial benefits to Canadians. Removing these barriers to allow for provincially regulated alternatives would not only provide the provinces with financial benefits for their communities and social programs, but would also provide gaming consumers with security and integrity that is inherent in provincially regulated gaming.”

That is the sentiment that is echoed by other provincial governments in this land, and I think it really speaks for itself. We need regulation. The provinces want to regulate it, and they have the expertise on regulating gambling and betting. They have been doing it for the past 30-plus years.

I have also spoken several times with the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, also known as SIGA. It believes that single-event betting would be a valuable addition to its businesses and would greatly benefit indigenous communities across my province of Saskatchewan.

SIGA's casinos are run to the highest regulatory standards of the Indigenous Gaming Regulators and are accredited by the Responsible Gambling Council of Canada.

This is done as a non-profit company that gives 100% of profits back to indigenous nations of Saskatchewan, to community organizations in Saskatchewan and to the Province of Saskatchewan. These are the organizations that we want running our betting operations, not the criminal enterprises in unregulated offshore websites that we have now in Canada.

I am going to address the elephant in the room: problem gambling and addiction. As it currently stands, there is absolutely no consumer protection or support for those struggling with gambling addictions built into the illegal sports betting systems that we have today in this country. The Hells Angels do not have a program for problem gambling.

Minister Toews mentioned in a letter to me that legalizing single-event wagering would allow governments to put strict standards and protections in place to protect consumers and offer assistance to those who need it. It would also give governments, as we all know, much-needed new sources of revenue that they could use to fund social programs, such as mental health programs, mental health research and addiction treatment, and broader sectors, such as education and health care.

The final thing we must consider is the context that we are debating the legislation in. I have had a few people ask me what the difference is between now and when the bill was introduced in the last Parliament. First of all, the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, the Canadian Football League and Major League Soccer have all asked for Bill C-218. In a joint statement made by these five professional leagues back in June, they stressed the importance of a legal framework for sports betting that could shift consumers from unregulated black-market betting to the legal and safe marketplace that this would provide. This would allow for strong consumer protection and safeguards, and would protect the integrity of the game.

We must also consider that our current laws put Canada at a significant competitive disadvantage. Since the proposal was last considered in Canada, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down their national ban on single-event wagering. Now nearly every state south of the border, 48 to be exact, has either legalized single-event betting or has a bill before the state legislature seeking to do so.

These include the border states, such as New York and Michigan. This poses a unique threat to our communities of Niagara Falls and Windsor, whose economies rely largely on the cross-border tourism. Gaming is a big part of the tourism sector. It is a big concern for these communities that if they are not able to offer this service, they will lose a significant amount of business to their competition in the United States.

As a federal government, we need to be giving our local industries and communities the resources they need to be competitive. We must also consider the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has had a profound effect on many industries and communities in this country, and gaming and sports, the two industries most talked about in the context of sports betting, are no exception to that.

I am sure that many of my colleagues are familiar with the situation in the National Hockey League as it resumes its season in the tightly controlled bubbles of Toronto and Edmonton. No one was allowed in without first isolating for two weeks. Once their isolation was done, teams spent additional weeks or months in the bubble away from their homes and families.

This system worked. There was not a single positive test of any player inside the bubble in Toronto and Edmonton the entire time. All things considered, the National Hockey League's return to play was a great success.

However, anyone who follows sports closely knows that this model simply is not sustainable. The total loss of revenue from the lack of tickets sales of any kind will take a toll on many teams. Asking players to separate themselves from their families for months at a time just is not feasible. Even if fans can return to the stands sometime in the near future, the teams will need additional resources of revenue to begin their own financial recovery.

There is the Canadian Football League, adored, of course, in my home province of Saskatchewan. As many know, the rough Riders are the heart and soul of sports in the province of Saskatchewan. Every weekend, fans travel from across the province to pack Mosaic Stadium to the brim and cheer on the beloved Rough Riders.

Unfortunately, the Canadian Football League was forced to cancel its season this year, and I might add the only professional sport league in North America that has not played this past year. The prospect of having no fans in attendance meant too much of a revenue loss to sustain alongside the cost of a season.

We are still not sure what is going to happen with the smaller sports leagues. When I look at the Canadian Hockey League or the American Hockey League, the teams in those leagues are often as important to their communities as the big league clubs are to the big cities. These the leagues, similarly, had to cancel their season due to COVID-19 and the inability to generate any revenue without fans in the stands.

My mind goes to the small market community-owned hockey clubs that lost out on the revenue this past year, on which they desperately relied, teams like Prince Albert, Owen Sound, Peterborough, Baie-Comeau and many more. As we know, many other teams that represent their communities on the ice serve as a role model for countless children in their communities. That was also lost this past year.

Single-event sports betting is not a cure all, but it can be an important part of any plan to support our gaming and sports industries. It can provide not only a significant new source of revenue for sports leagues, but it will drive increased interest in individual games and events. This is a step that the federal government can take to support Canadian sport coast to coast.

Canadians in Winnipeg and Quebec City know what it is like to lose a beloved sport franchise. Winnipeg lost the first version of the Jets in 1996, and it did not get another team until 15 years later. Quebec City lost the Nordiques in 1995. Sadly, it is still without an NHL team in that city. Not only does it hurt the fans, but it hurts the city as a whole.

I will summarize a few points of the bill.

First, single-event sports betting is already taking place in Canada to the tune of $14 billion a year. However, instead of safely regulated, these activities are run by the black market gambling rings and offshore websites. None of this money, absolutely none of it, goes back into the public coffers and none of it goes to addressing issues like problem gambling or mental health support.

Second, the provinces, our indigenous communities and major leagues want single-game sports betting in Canada. Fourteen billion dollars is a lot of money and it does not just mean more economic activity and new, well-paying jobs. It also means new tax revenues to invest in education, health care as well as the more specific investments like mental health treatment, consumer protection and problem gambling programs that are much needed in the country.

Third, this is an opportunity to assist our sports and gaming industries in their recovery from the damage done by COVID-19. As we speak, gaming institutions across this country are operating at a greatly reduced capacity or not at all.

It is a common sense change. I hope my colleagues will support Bill C-218

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario


Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Madam Speaker, it is an interesting speech that, unfortunately, is not supported by any facts.

What we know about casinos and the trouble they are having right now, is that they are losing a demographic because they have effectively bankrupted it. Then they prey on the next demographic coming down the road. In this case, casinos are now looking for single-event sports betting as a way of supplementing their income because they are losing on all other fronts. This has been shown time and again.

What I take issue with is this notion that it is going to expand the economy. It is kind of like the NDP tax hike for wealthy Canadians that is going to pay for everything seven times over because it is actually using the same tax hike to pay for everything seven times over. The list of what would benefit from this, from hospitals to schools to addicted gamblers to major league sports franchises to amateur sport, is continuous.

The trouble is that casinos take four dollars out of the local economy for every dollar that goes into it. Why would you want to bankrupt small business right now with a new casino offering?

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I want to remind the parliamentary secretary that he is to address all questions and comments to the Chair.

The hon. member for Saskatoon—Grasswood.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Madam Speaker, this member of the Liberal Party has stated tonight he is comfortable with Canada losing $14 billion to criminal activity in this country. He is comfortable with sites such as Bodog and bet365 taking $4 billion out of this economy and paying nothing back.

The member has also confirmed tonight that he does not care about the problem gamblers, because those involved in criminal activities and these websites certainly do not care about that. There are people down in their basements betting every night on these uncontrolled sites. By regulating this through Bill C-218, it will be done by the provincial governments. The provincial governments have been regulating gambling for the last 30 years.

He is absolutely intent on leaving $14 billion, which could be put into the Canadian economy for health, education and gambling addiction. That is despicable to me.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, my colleague is absolutely correct. When we look at the matter in front of us today, we see that the United States and other countries have moved to a regulated market. The result is that Canada has become a bastion for organized crime activity. Canada has become the laggard in regulation.

Canada has also become the neglecting party when it comes to dealing with the money we have to spend to fight organized crime. I would like the member to talk about that. How complex and organized do we have to be, and how much must we spend in taxpayer dollars, to fight the illegal market the parliamentary secretary is so comfortable with?

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for Windsor West for all his efforts in the last Parliament trying to pass his bill, which was exactly the same as this with respect to regulated single-event sports betting.

The member for Windsor West is right that we are losing out. Every province and territory in this country is losing out when offshore game sites, along with criminal activity, are using an underground economy. It is $14 billion today. If this bill does not pass the House of Commons, the $14 billion will go to $20 billion or $30 billion because it will take another three to four years to have this bill come forward.

It is now time for Canada to get on board and regulate it. The provinces want this, and they have been in the business of gaming for the last 30 years. I agree with the member for Windsor West. It is time this bill comes forward, gets passed in the House of Commons and becomes law, so the provinces can regulate it.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Sébastien Lemire Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I would first like to thank my colleague for his excellent remarks.

We do indeed need some regulation. Our colleague mentioned in his speech that this could be a source of funding that might help bring back the Nordiques, for example. Does he not fear that things could start going down a slippery slope? What effect would that have on people's mental health?

Could he drive that home once again? It seems to me that the crux of the matter is that we must ensure people do not end up alone at home making bets.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Madam Speaker, the member from the Bloc well knows that people in the province of Quebec have been depressed ever since the Nordiques left in 1995. We are hoping the Nordiques will some day come back to the NHL.

Part of this program I have talked about is in respect to gambling addictions and mental health issues. Hopefully, this bill will give the provinces and territories the much-needed revenue to deal with the issues we know exist out there today.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

November 3rd, 2020 / 5:35 p.m.


Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Madam Speaker, I look forward to the return of the Nordiques, especially since, in my opinion, Alain Côté's goal was legal.

Having said that, such short, clear and succinct bills rarely generate that much interest and debate. Bill C-218 consists of three clauses. The first tells us its title, the safe and regulated sports betting act. The third and final clause states that this act comes into force on a date to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council. All the substance of the bill is found in the second clause, which states that paragraph 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code is to be repealed. It is pretty straightforward. It is simple, but Bill C-218 is like a ghost haunting the halls of Parliament.

It started in 2011. At the time, so during the 40th Parliament, we had Bill C-627. The bill that had been introduced had the same objectives, but it was never debated.

There was a second attempt during the 41st Parliament, in 2013. That was Bill C-290, but it died in the Senate in October 2014.

During the 42nd Parliament, in other words, the last session of Parliament, there was Bill C-221, but it did not pass second reading on September 21, 2016.

Today, under the 43rd Parliament, we are back with Bill C-218. Hopefully, we can finally make an informed and effective decision on this bill.

Unsurprisingly, the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of the bill. It will do so because we have to take reality into account. The bill is in line with the legislative movement in the world. Our American neighbours already have laws allowing sports betting on a single sport. The attempt to end this practice was settled by the U.S. Supreme Court on May 14, 2018, with the Murphy v. NCAA decision. That court ruled that it was unconstitutional for Congress to ban sports betting. Americans can therefore do this.

It is 2020 and people in France and England can place bets online. Earlier, in the lobby, I spoke to someone who made bets on a site based in Gibraltar, so we no longer need to meet someone in our city to bet. Now, it can be done everywhere in the world, and it is even easier in the United States.

Our neighbours to the south are competing unfairly Quebec and Canada in the gaming industry. Quebec has always been somewhat concerned about the pathological aspect of gambling and the use of that money. My Conservative colleague spoke about $14 billion. In Quebec, we are talking about $27 million a year, which is no small amount. What is more, we have always felt that this money should not go into the pockets of organized crime but should instead be replenishing the government coffers.

Quebec therefore set up an institution called Loto-Québec, which manages gaming in Quebec. However, the gaming industry in New York state and the entire online gaming industry are currently competing unfairly with Loto-Québec. It is time for that to stop.

Bill C-218 seeks to regulate gaming and make it safer for the people who engage in it. My intention is not to say that betting is a virtue, but it does exist. It always has and it always will. Our job as legislators is to regulate it as best we can.

I will now go back to what I was saying at the beginning of my speech. The title of Bill C-218 is as follows: safe and regulated sports betting act. In my opinion, we must ensure that this industry is regulated so we can better protect the players. It is a major industry around the world.

We want to avoid unfair competition, regulate gaming more effectively and be part of the global movement.

There was a situation in Quebec less than a year ago, in December 2019, involving an 18-year old man from Laval who racked up an online gambling debt of $80,000. When online gambling debts are controlled by the mob, the interest rate ranges from 3% to 5% a week and the debt increases exponentially. That is a scourge that we need to tackle.

This young many obviously did not have the means to pay that kind of money and ended up committing suicide in his home. He ended his life because he was unable to manage his gambling debt and he feared the worst for the safety of his family and the people around him. The website in question was tied to the Montreal Mafia.

We do not want that. Our responsibility as legislators is to prevent situations like that from happening again. The National Assembly of Quebec decided to tackle this problem as best it could. In 2016, it passed Bill 74 to regulate gambling in Quebec. However, the Superior Court of Quebec deemed the bill to be illegal because it did not fall within Quebec's jurisdiction. According the court, Quebec did not have the authority to prohibit gambling.

Quebec's hands are therefore tied. There is a pathological addiction to gambling among people who play. We want to control this problem, and we have some expertise through casinos and commercial lotteries. However, we need the additional tool of Bill C-218 to prevent situations as sad as the one of this 18-year-old young man.

In Quebec, we are talking about $27 million, but my colleague was talking about $14 billion. No matter how many millions or billions of dollars we leave to organized crime, I think it is a disgrace and that we owe it to ourselves to take back this jurisdiction and ensure that people play safely within a well-regulated framework.

Some parliamentarians opposed to the bill have concerns about cheating. I would just like to point out that section 209 of the Criminal Code already prohibits cheating at play. This risk already exists, and will always exist, even after Bill C-218 is passed, and so I do not think this is a problem that should concern us.

We must instead ensure that people who gamble do so within a safe and regulated framework and that the profits from gambling do not end up in organized crime, but remain in government coffers to benefit the citizens of Quebec and Canada.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on Bill C-218. I want to start by thanking my former colleague and friend Joe Comartin who brought the bill forward in previous Parliaments. I have had it since then and I want to thank the member for bring it forward again in partnership. As we have heard, even from the Bloc, it is due time for this strong legislation.

I like the reference the international reputation and the work going on to fight illegal gaming across the world. That is a choice we have to make here right now. It is a choice we should have made before.

Unfortunately, the heavy lobbying by the professional sports organizations over a number of different decades have stopped Canada from moving forward. What has changed over the years is something the New Democrats saw taking place, which was the fact that this was moving across the globe and even into the United States. The court system was readjusting the Nevada circuit, which was borne out of criminal organization. It was finally broken down to provide this type of organized effort to regulate the industry across the United States, hence why the sporting organizations finally came to their senses and understood that we need a better plan.

Organized crime and those who prey on people have got away with this for far too long, not just in Canada but across the globe, because of an unregulated product. We spend millions of dollars in local areas to fight them and billions of dollars to fight them across the globe. When we look at the bill, all it would do is adjust something that is necessary at this point in time.

I have travelled across the country and have seen the people who have been affected by the unregulated market. The thugs, those doing the offshore betting and organized crime element, are not dealing with the social repercussions in regard to betting in general. In fact, we have to spend extra money just to fight those elements.

When we look at a province like Ontario, it is legal right now to bet on three games, but not on one or two games. The change has not happened here because of paternalism of a central government that goes back to colonialism.

We are asking that the provinces have a chance to fight back. The provinces need to make their own choices on what products and services they will offer their citizens. They will be the front-line people to deal with the repercussions if there is some negative activity with regard to single-event sports gaming. It will give them power and custodianship of a responsible product that is then put out. We are talking about the public good.

Right now, the system of three works against individual citizens. It is called a parlay bet because it is a rigged bet. It makes it very difficult for people to win and creates further problems and complications. This allows for us to come into the modern age of a regulated system.

Who are we fighting? We are fighting criminal activity from the organized elements connected to the Hells Angels and other organized crime. We are fighting those in the backrooms, basements and bars who run the numbers and make profits off the backs of people.

The alternatives are to bring in this regulated market. With the regulated market, we have revenue to deal with a number of different problems. We also have revenue that will bring public good.

For example, Michigan is the most recent to bring this into the United States. We saw that this was going to take place. It is putting its revenue toward helping firefighters who get cancer or other illnesses from the job. The rest of the money goes to education. Each province will get to chose what product it wants out there. It will decide how that goes out. Then it will decide where that revenue goes.

When we look at the history of this bill, it also comes from competition. Billions of dollars of legally regulated betting is now at risk. When we look at communities like Windsor or Hamilton and across the country, we have tourist destinations where people visit. Those places no longer have a product available. They have to compete with the United States and with the phone.

There is a sad story taking place here. There are the value-added jobs in the actual regulated sports industry business and all the entertainment that goes around it. Then we have all those doing the work for the web design, running the different scenarios and the work that goes on behind the analysis and activity that takes place.

We get no benefit from that right now. We send tens of billions of dollars underground that then goes to human smuggling, violent crime, prostitution and drugs. Then we have to use our other revenue to fight that at the cost of millions of dollars locally and hundreds of millions of dollars nationally. It is time to change that.

That is why when I introduced my bill, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Labour Congress were on board with it. Think of that. We have the business and labour communities together. The provinces and a number of organizations are looking at this through the tourism lens. A number of different groups understand the status quo does not work and that is why Canada has been left behind. That is why Canada now has to compete with illegal activity.

Here are some headlines of some recent illegal activity: “9 arrested, $35 million of items seized in organized crime bust”, “Police bust illegal casino and spa north of Toronto, seize 20,000 sq. ft. mansion and $1M in cash”, “Police lay 228 charges in alleged illegal gambling ring tied to Hells Angels”.

This is what is baffling about the government's current position on this. If we look at the most recent article, there are all kinds of things in it that are quite shocking that are tied to the unregulated market. Here are the words: “Dozens of suspects are facing hundreds of charges”, “illegal gaming”, “two-year-long investigation”, “18 other agencies and police services” had to come together, “further acts of violence”, “five allegedly illegal gambling websites”.

That is what is happening with Hells Angels and others. They have moved not only to thuggery on the streets but organized activity online. There were people gunned down in Toronto. A homicide is tied to this. There were 21 firearms seized, along with cash, vehicles, jewellery, vacation homes and gold and silver bars. That is what we are fighting against. There were 28 people charged with a total of 228 offences in this one bust alone. What the government is doing right now is not good enough. It is not good to put this onto another Parliament. We cannot compete out there with this activity.

Then there are the good things that can happen with a regulated market. Caesars Windsor, for example, has organized jobs with benefits. Money is going toward dealing with gaming addiction, which is super important to deal with in all of this. There is no way Hells Angels and other organized criminals are giving to the United Way. They are not giving to the charities and saying they will help them deal with the addiction problem. They are extending credit, giving people more products, giving them a raw bet, putting them further in debt and also making people dealing with this feel shame due to their admission of doing an illegal activity. The type of support that is necessary for people should be out there and people should not feel shame when dealing with it.

That is what is upsetting about the parliamentary secretary's intervention on this. We are telling all of the people who have those addiction issues that they have to keep it underground. For mental health issues, supports for families, all of those things, there needs to be money to deal with them. It is the responsibility of the provinces and the federal government, in this place, to deal with this. This is an opportunity for them to use revenues for the public good.

I mentioned what Michigan is doing, but I can say that right now, with COVID-19, we can do one of two things as the sports leagues emerge and as the betting activity stays at home, and we are all waiting. We can give them a bonus. That is what is happening. They are getting a bonus under COVID-19 and they are not going to be paying the big profit tax that maybe some other companies will. Those in organized crime are not going to saunter up to the table and say they will give money for infrastructure, health care and education. They are going to squirrel away that money either in Canada or somewhere else in the world and use it for all the other illegal activities.

From just the few stories I have noted, we are going to have to pay more money to the RCMP and to provincial and municipal police to fight this. That is what has taken place. It is time to change, time to come of age and time for us to grow up.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Bob Bratina Liberal Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-218 put forward by my friend, the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood, entitled an act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting).

My interest in this topic is not related to personal habits. I lost interest in sports gambling when, as kids, we collected hockey cards and played a game in which we flipped them to the ground against an opponent. Someone would flip their card and watch it land, heads or tails, and then someone else would flip their card. If the second person matched the first, heads or tails, they would win the card. That is how I lost my 1954 Topps Gordie Howe card, which, if I still had it today, would be worth $13,000.

My best bets over the years could have been profitable, had I backed them up with money. That would include Muhammad Ali knocking out George Foreman, the Tiger-Cats beating the Edmonton Eskimos in the 1986 Grey Cup, and the Czechs beating the Soviet Union in the 1968 world hockey championships.

If I am not a sports gambler, why am I addressing the matter of sports betting? It became obvious to me at an early age that people liked to bet on sports. Growing up in Hamilton exposed me to lots of it. Right near my grandparents' house in the east end was the race track known as the Hamilton Jockey Club. Although it had an illustrious racing history, Queen's Plates and all, its location near the steel mills in the days when workers were paid in cash meant that some dads came home after payday with no money.

Another feature of the east end was the floating crap game, once played on the street in storefronts, which were able to move away quickly if the police showed up. The last big one took place on July 2, 1959 at the corner of Beach Road and Albemarle, complete with drinks being served by a relative of mine who had been involved in the illicit alcohol trade. The reason the date is important is it was during a royal visit. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth was here, and that tied up almost the entire police force for the entire day.

Another relative was a well-known retired athlete and tavern owner. Fifty years ago people could place a bet on almost any sporting event in the tavern with Roy, the in-house bookie, who even had his own private telephone line.

Then of course there were the Irish Sweepstakes, well-known around the world, with winners becoming known to their communities and yet it was a total secret, supposedly, as to how one actually purchased an Irish Sweepstake ticket. One local winner won enough to retire as a waiter and purchase a farm.

My favourite story about the prevalence of gambling in our community came from the late and much beloved Sister Maria Cordis. Sister Maria was a well-known music teacher in the city who regaled us with stories. As a young novitiate, she was walking downtown and saw a man sitting in the park grass, slumped over. She took out a $5 bill and slipped it into his hand and said, “For His grace.” The next week she walked past that same man who waved her over and handed her $100. “What is this?” she asked. The man replied, “His Grace paid 20 to 1 at Woodbine.”

Sports gambling has been going on forever. The historians say the Greeks and the Romans bet on chariot races. It seems to be a natural human instinct to make a wager on almost anything, but especially sports competitions. Gambling as a whole involves staggering amounts of money.

In Hamilton, we were considering a downtown casino. We learned that the amount of money gambled by Hamiltonians at various Ontario Lottery and Gaming sites in one year was $40 million. As much as we, as a government, have had concerns about the obvious negative impacts and consequences of gambling, we have to acknowledge the reality that it does take place.

Not so long ago, the idea of single-event sports betting was opposed by major sports leagues and notably the Canadian Football League, here in Canada of course. The attitude among the North American pro sports leagues has changed over the past few years, to the point that serious consideration should now be given to the request from the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood.

However, I will say again that sports betting is an old story and an apocryphal one. It is related to the Grey Cup and goes back to 1954. That year, the Montreal Alouettes had assembled one of the greatest teams ever, with Sam Etcheverry, Hal Patterson, Red O'Quinn, Alex Webster and so many others. They were the huge favourites to win that game. The famous Chuck Hunsinger fumble led to a last-minute touchdown and an Edmonton victory. One bettor won so much money that he flew the entire Edmonton Eskimos team that day from Toronto to Montreal to celebrate, because in 1954 Toronto was fast asleep by sundown and was no place for a victory party. That is how much money he won. That story was confirmed for me by none other than Normie Kwong.

What confronts us now is, as always, to ensure that we carefully regulate gambling in a responsible manner with appropriate supports for individuals who may suffer from addictive behaviour and for the accompanying toll on personal and family lives.

The profits made through illegal gambling by organized crime do not find their way to supportive services. The Criminal Code currently prohibits all forms of gaming and betting, unless a particular form of gambling is specifically permitted. The provinces and territories are permitted to conduct or license a broad range of lottery schemes, including betting on the outcome of more than one sporting event, such as all of the NFL games in a weekend. However, there are exclusions, such as betting on a single event such as the Grey Cup game. The proposal before us would remove that exclusion.

We also need to take into account the competitiveness of our industries, whether it is making steel, mining potash or gambling, because our neighbours in the United States have legalized single-event sports betting. This puts their operators in a better position to offer a broader range of products and enables them to siphon off some of the money that should be coming to Canadian operators. This, of course, includes indigenous peoples and communities, for whom these proceeds can be critical, as we have seen during the pandemic lockdowns this year.

Among many things to be considered is the effect on the horse racing industry. The provinces and territories could be allowed wagering on single horse races, which could affect racetrack revenues. Repealing paragraph 207(4)(b), as contemplated by this bill, would permit the establishment of pari-mutuel betting, which could further impact the racing industry.

I want to congratulate the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood for taking the initiative to allow Parliament to explore a further enhancement to the gambling industry, and all of the jobs and activities it supports, through his thoughtful recommendations regarding changes to the Criminal Code. He has ideal credentials for sitting in this place because he did play-by-play sports. To me that is an outstanding credential, since I did that as well.

Those of us who are close to the sports and games understand in a very broad way that people are going to find a way to place a wager in a sporting event. It is up to us as the regulators to see if we can create what is proposed in this bill: a safe, legal and careful way of ensuring that supports are in place for those with problems, but that there are no negative impacts on the sports involved, especially in the horse racing industry.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Tony Baldinelli Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak in support of my colleague's private member's bill, Bill C-218, an act to amend the Criminal Code to legalize single-game sports betting in Canada.

I want to thank my Conservative colleague, the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood, for bringing this important piece of legislation forward. I also want to thank my NDP colleague, the member for Windsor West, for being one of Parliament's most vocal supporters for legalizing single-game sports betting.

I am proud to add my voice to this effort through second reading debate today, and I sincerely hope that all parties in the House will provide their support for this important piece of legislation, which is long overdue. In addition to legalizing single-game sports betting, Bill C-218 would help stimulate the creation of much-needed new jobs across Canada, generate millions in annual new revenues, spur tourism recovery and, more importantly, undermine the efforts of organized crime.

I will discuss these benefits in more detail, but first I want to recognize the 40,000 hard-working tourism employees in my community of Niagara, including those in our two casinos.

Before the pandemic, Fallsview Casino and Casino Niagara employed approximately 4,000 workers. Due to COVID-19, these casinos have been closed since last March. It is my sincerest hope that we can soon reach a state in Ontario whereby our tourism recovers and our two casinos can return to a sense of normalcy and responsibly reopen so that workers can begin returning to the jobs that they so dearly miss.

Bill C-218 may be a small bill, but if it is passed by Parliament, it could and would make a big difference. Over the past 10 years, there have been several opportunities for Parliament to address and remedy the situation. Each time, however, this opportunity has been lost. The most recent example, Bill C-221, was introduced in the first session of the 42nd Parliament by my colleague for Windsor West. Despite his valiant efforts, the bill was defeated at second reading by the majority Liberal government of the day. Hopefully, this time will be different.

I am encouraged by the kind words of several Liberal members who have been supportive of this initiative. Some even campaigned on it in the last general election. With cross-party support, it is my hope that we can come together as a Parliament and pass this legislation.

There have been some significant changes to the gaming industry landscape across North America since Bill C-221 was defeated. In a 2018 ruling, the United States Supreme Court legalized single-game sports betting. In response to this ruling, many states rushed to implement this newly legal and hugely popular activity. As of December 2019, 13 U.S. states had already legalized single-game sports betting, including cross-border states like New York, Michigan and Montana. These states are Canada's direct international competitors, and compete against border communities in Canada for tourism visitation, jobs, business and revenue generation.

Another development in the aftermath of this ruling was a shift among major professional sports leagues, which have become far more favourable in their support of single-game sports betting. For example, on June 15, 2018, the NHL released a statement. It read: “The National Hockey League has long opposed legalized sports betting; however, in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling, the practical reality is that the landscape for sports betting in North America has changed dramatically. The National Hockey League is no longer opposed to Canadian federal legislation that may be contemplated to eliminate the provisions in Canada's Criminal Code that prohibit provincial governments from offering bets on single sporting events.”

Other major professional sports leagues in Canada that endorse single-game sport betting after this ruling include, but are not limited to, the Canadian Football League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Soccer and Major League Baseball. I cannot overstate the significance of these changes and what it means to have the support of these leagues behind this legislation.

According to a 2017 national economic benefits report published by the Canadian gaming industry, $17.1 billion was generated by this industry, including $16.1 billion in direct gaming activity and $1 billion in non-gaming revenue, which includes items such as food and beverages, entertainment, accommodations, retail and so on. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, gaming in Canada directly supported 182,500 full-time jobs and generated $9.2 billion annually to fund government and community programs and services. Of significance, the Canadian gaming industry has also invested $120 million annually on problem gaming treatment and initiatives to promote research, awareness and prevention as well as responsible gaming programs. It is incredible to think that these were the contributions of the gaming industry to our economy as of 2017. One can only imagine the growth that is ahead when our Canadian Parliament finally agrees to legalize this activity.

A final benefit I would like to discuss is the impact legalization would have on the illegal gaming market that currently exists. In January 2020, the Canadian Gaming Association noted that Canadians are estimated to be spending $10 billion annually through illegal sports betting operations controlled by, or orchestrated by, organized crime.

In December 2019, the Ontario Provincial Police put an end to a sophisticated illegal gaming operation through an investigation called Project Hobart. The police operation led to the arrest of 28 individuals who are now facing a combined 228 charges. From January 1, 2019, to July 2019, a period of just seven months, their illegal gaming websites are alleged to have brought in approximately $13 million in illicit funds. Over the period of five years, the police believe they grossed more than $131 million in illegal revenues. These revenues are a strong source of funding for organized crime.

OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique said the illegal gaming network placed individuals, society and the economy at risk. It is for these reasons and more that it is time we legalize single-game sports betting in Canada. If the economic arguments are not convincing enough for some of my esteemed colleagues, perhaps this public safety argument is.

The truth is that Canada is very far behind on this matter. We need to catch up to our international competitors, and do so quickly. We were behind even before the pandemic struck, then Parliament was prorogued and here we are today: even further behind. Every day that goes by is an additional day lost to our international competition. These delays cause Canadians to miss opportunities that they should be afforded.

From a tourism recovery perspective as we seek to navigate a path forward from COVID-19, Bill C-218 would deliver exactly what this industry needs as we prepare and plan for our recovery. As member of Parliament for Niagara Falls, I am proud to support Bill C-218 to legalize single-game sports betting, and I encourage my parliamentary colleagues of all party stripes to do the same.

Safe and Regulated Sports Betting ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

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

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

EthicsAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today and address the matter that has really plagued this place and its members for some months now. No, I am not talking about COVID-19; I am talking about the cover-up that has followed the scattershot, at best, response by this government in so many areas.

We have seen this most acutely at committee with filibusters, and I say “acutely at committee”, because we saw, on a very large scale, the lengths to which the Liberal government will go to hide from accountability. That, of course, was when the opposition parties proposed a motion that would have formed a special committee to look at the pandemic response, to look at the failed Canada student service grant and to look at other pandemic-related measures, and the government made it a confidence vote. It was so afraid that Canadians would find out the truth that it backed the opposition into a corner and, of course, the official opposition, Canada's Conservatives, voted for the motion. We voted to form that committee, because that is what we were sent here to do.

I talk about what happened at committee. We have heard, most recently, Liberal members refer to the blacked-out documents that we saw at the finance committee as being sacred texts. They said the documents were as sacred as the Bible, the Quran or other religious texts. Those are the lengths that they will go to, so the question is: do they want to black out other religious texts, or do they just believe that corruption is sacred?

Just minutes ago at the ethics committee, we heard Liberal members go on about everything from underwear manufacturing to reading out donors to the Conservative Party. I will go off topic very briefly just to say it would take the Liberals a long time to read the list of Conservative donors, based on the news this weekend of the records that have been set by the party with our new leader. The member for Durham has led us through a very strong quarter, because that is the response that we are getting from Canadians. The opposition has not just attempted to bring to light what the Liberals are so desperate to hide, we have also posed concrete solutions and concrete improvements to flawed legislation that they have brought forward.

It does leave Canadians, members and me wondering what they are so desperate to hide. The ethics committee has rounded over 20 hours of filibuster since Parliament has resumed following the cover-up prorogation. The government said it was to reset the agenda and that they are focused on one thing. Yes, they are focused on one thing, and that is avoiding accountability, so we need to know what they are trying to hide. We need to see what is in the documents that they are fighting so desperately for Canadians not to see, and why their members are saying such unusual things, such as these redacted documents being sacred.

My question to the government is: what is it trying to hide?

EthicsAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 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, the focus of the Conservative Party throughout this entire process is interesting. The Conservatives often like to talk about how they are trying to work collaboratively with the government on the coronavirus. I see this great reluctance on their part. I can see the sadness in their faces quite often. If we want to get a Conservative excited, just throw the name Liberal in anything to do with government and instantly the antennas go up and it becomes unethical or scandalous.

I genuinely do not believe we are trying to hide anything. I hope I will have a chance to go to the ethics committee to talk about the issue of scandals. I have seen scandals in the past.

When I hear the Conservatives talk about about scandals, I scratch my head. We are in the midst of a pandemic. I realize they get really excited about this stuff for political purposes, but at some point in time they must realize that the number one issue in our country is the pandemic. Being the official opposition, members have more of a responsibility to the collective Conservative Party than focusing on things that, from my perspective, are just not there.

I had asked a question about committee meetings and how many had been held. I understand that since March to August, there have been over 200 House committee meetings, over 50 meetings in July and August. It is unprecedented in recent decades. It is truly amazing.

When the Conservative Party, the Bloc and the NDP say it is a scandal, they call in the Ethics Commissioner. Often the Ethics Commissioner says no, but they still call in the RCMP. It does not matter what the issue is as long as they can try to get that headline. That is really why they scream from the mountain top about corruption. Just because the Conservative Party says it is corrupt does not make it corrupt.

If I get that opportunity to go to the ethics committee, I will share with the members there some of the things that happened under the Harper regime and the Mulroney regime which were corrupt. I remember the Airbus scandal. I can go back to the Harper regime and the in and out scandal. What about the Senate? I do not know how many people from the PMO were directly involved. Going right into the Conservative Senate, we can talk about fundraisers and the whole nine yards. We get a lot of discussion and debate about the issue of corruption.

Maybe what the ethics committee should be looking at is the importance of the Ethics Commissioner and the potential role the commissioner can play in informing Canadians. The worst thing a Canadian can do is listen to the Conservatives on the issue of corruption. If we look at what the Ethics Commissioner, an independent officer, has to say, we would get something closer to an element of truth.

EthicsAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Madam Speaker, I too trust the Ethics Commissioner, who twice found the current Prime Minister guilty of breaking ethics laws, with “The Trudeau Report” and the “Trudeau II Report”. The Prime Minister is now under investigation for a third time.

We have a government that has been slow to respond to the pandemic. We have tried to approach this with a team Canada approach to improve the measures the government has put forward when it was slow to close borders, when it flip-flopped on mask usage and when it failed to procure rapid tests in a reasonable amount of time. We can talk about the scandal: misappropriating $1 billion by giving it to close friends of the Prime Minister and his family.

The question is not what the Prime Minister has to hide, but what else he has to hide that we have not found out yet.

EthicsAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, whether there is something there or not, the Conservatives will find something to justify their behaviour. I would suggest what the Conservative Party really needs to do is look at what we have been able to accomplish, often without any direct input from the Conservative Party of Canada.

We have found a higher sense of co-operation from provincial Conservative parties than we have from the official opposition. A lot can be learned from the provincial level where there is team Canada approach on the number one concern of Canadians, which is the coronavirus and keeping Canadians healthy and our economy doing well.

Post-Secondary EducationAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Heather McPherson NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, last week, I asked the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth what happened to the $912 million the Liberal government promised to students in June. Students and recent graduates in my riding of Edmonton Strathcona are really struggling. I wanted the minister to know and share in my concern for their welfare. However, instead of showing understanding or compassion, the minister simply rattled off more platitudes and self-congratulatory rhetoric.

The minister spoke of Canada summer jobs. She spoke of the government investing more money in the program. Let us talk about Canada summer jobs. On April 8, the Prime Minister announced changes to the Canada summer jobs program in response to COVID-19, including extended deadlines, extended programming dates and an increase to the wage subsidy rate for employers.

While these changes may have been welcomed by some, they did not actually make a difference for students in my riding of Edmonton Strathcona where only 40% of eligible Canadian summer job applicants received funding. The one thing that would have made this program better would have been more money. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister did not announce any new money for the Canada summer jobs program that day, and instead hinted at a new program for students that would be coming soon.

We now know that the new program was the WE Charity $912-million Canada student service grant. It was announced with great fanfare on June 25 and lasted for eight days before it was cancelled. The why and how of the program is now being investigated by this House, but the overriding question I have is where is the $912 million that was promised for students?

Not a single student benefited from this much-hyped program. To our knowledge, none of this money was spent. Instead, students have gone without and they are suffering because of it. Students rely on summer employment, not just for the summer months, but to provide the funds they need to live on when they go to school.

When the public health crisis shut down so many businesses, students were among the hardest hit. Some were able to access CERB, while others relied on the Canada emergency student benefit, something the Liberals only created when the NDP demanded it. These did help students and allowed them to survive for a few more months. However, these emergency supports have ended and they did not give students and recent graduates the means to survive this school year.

I have a few stories to share. Sandy is a student and when COVID hit, her employment disappeared. She was not eligible for CERB and has had to live on her credit card. She is now back in school, but is facing a pile of bills and looking into personal bankruptcy.

Ethan graduated last November. He was working part time in retail and was looking forward to a career in his chosen field. When the pandemic hit, he lost both his temporary job and his career placement. He could not get CERB or the emergency student benefit, and now does not know how he is going to pay his student loans or even just survive.

Alice had a job lined up for May, but it fell through. She tried to apply for the Canada student service grant, but we know how that ended. She has taken out another loan to pay for her semester, but she is worried about debt and is planning on dropping out.

It is only November. Students are facing at least five more months of tuition and living expenses. The government must make sure that the $912 million allocated for the student service grant program, which never happened, gets to students and gets to students now.

Will the government tell us today how it is getting these emergency funds to students who need them now?

Post-Secondary EducationAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Milton Ontario


Adam van Koeverden LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth and to the Minister of Canadian Heritage (Sport)

Madam Speaker, I have great respect for the member's work and the advocacy she is doing on behalf of her constituents and students in her riding.

I want to be very clear. The Government of Canada has been committed to supporting young people from the very beginning of this pandemic. We introduced a nearly $9-billion comprehensive support package for students. That package included boosts to job programs, boosts to income supports and a pause on student loan repayments. I will provide more details, starting with the job aspect.

The Government of Canada recognized many students could not find work this summer, which is why we introduced the Canada emergency student benefit. Through the CESB, eligible students received $1,250 per month between May and August. They were also able to continue working part time while receiving the benefit, as long as their income did not exceed $1,000. This meant they could remain connected to the labour force. Students with permanent disabilities and those with dependents received an additional $750 per month. This benefit has provided income support to over 700,000 post-secondary students and recent graduates since its launch.

The youth employment and skills strategy has helped to put focus on creating more opportunities for youth who face barriers to employment. New funding announced during COVID-19 provided nearly $190 million in additional funding to create almost 10,000 more work and training opportunities for young Canadians. These jobs are critical in sectors such as agriculture, health and essential services to support communities impacted by this virus.

In response to disruptions caused by COVID-19, the Government of Canada also invested nearly $62 million to boost the Canada summer jobs program. I know this because I manage the Canada summer jobs program here in my riding. Through this investment, we increased jobs under the program from 70,000 to 80,000, with just over 84,000 total jobs approved and thousands of opportunities currently still available. I encourage youth to visit I have been sending students there in search of work, and many of them in my riding have been successful in finding some temporary work.

We also introduced temporary flexibilities to the program this year to respond to the pandemic, which included allowing employers to offer part-time and stay-at-home positions and extending the hiring period to the end of February 2021.

Another important job program is the student work placement program. It has given real-world hands-on work experience to post-secondary students across Canada. This year the government invested over $266 million in that program to support up to 40,000 work placements for students in vital sectors such as health care, food processing and e-commerce.

As this pandemic drags on, we promise to be there for Canada's young people. They are our future and the leaders of today and they absolutely deserve our support. I want to thank the member for Edmonton Strathcona once again for her advocacy on this important issue and for students from coast to coast to coast. I truly want to make sure we do well to serve them.

Post-Secondary EducationAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I understand there was trouble connecting, but I want to remind the member he should be wearing a headset because it makes it a lot easier for the interpreters to translate.

The hon. member for Edmonton Strathcona.

Post-Secondary EducationAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Heather McPherson NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, with all due respect, the member spoke of programs that are either over or completely inappropriate for the COVID pandemic. The stress of being a student or a recent graduate right now is incredible. They lost their summer employment. They have no job options. They are facing tuition increases. They do not know how they are going to pay their student debt.

The University of Alberta Campus Food Bank has been inundated with new requests. This is a tragedy, and it has only just begun.

Let us start with a few concrete suggestions. Will the government forgive student loan interest, or at least extend the interest-free deferral program until after this pandemic? Will the government work with the provinces to make tuition more affordable, with the ultimate goal of tuition-free post-secondary education for all Canadians, something that is already being done in over two dozen countries? Finally, will the government—