House of Commons Hansard #42 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.


Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

moved that Bill C-248, An Act to amend the Canada National Parks Act (Ojibway National Urban Park of Canada), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise here on Bill C-248, an act to create a national urban park: Ojibway national urban park in particular. As private member's business, this is an exciting opportunity. We all get a draw in a lottery that determines where we actually get in the standing order. Often, Parliaments change. This being my eighth one, I was lucky to be selected in a favourable position: number seven.

It is an honour. Some of the things that we can do under Private Members' Business, whether they get full legislation completion or they get partial movement, are quite significant for this country. It is the part of our democracy that is intrinsic to keeping it strong because if one party or one small cabal has all the answers, we miss out on great opportunities that are unique. That is what this is. This is a unique opportunity to create a national urban park in the city of Windsor, not only for Essex County and not only for Ontario but for Canada.

The property that I am talking about is very significant. In fact, some of the property has 130 endangered species at risk. It is a hot spot, and it is a connection not only to the United States, which is looking at this legislation in a favourable context as well, but also to other parts of Ontario and Canada. There are migratory patterns and other environmental connections that are very significant. We live in a Carolinian forest area that has very much diversity along the Great Lakes.

For those who are not aware, with regard to national parks, around the world there is a growing sentiment that urban and national parks are becoming important not only for culture, wellness and significance to our economies but also to us as individuals. Nothing demonstrated that more than when, under COVID-19, we saw outdoor spaces being necessary for our wellness and mental health. They supported new connections to our community.

That leads me to Michelle Prior, the president of the National Parks Association of Queensland in Australia, who talked about national parks being a cornerstone of a modern, enlightened society. Not only are world-famous parks important to form our identity, but they also provide an abundance of benefits reclaimed from the past for the future. That is what we are looking at with regard to this national park along the Detroit River and the Great Lakes system that extends into the city of Windsor. They contribute to filling a gap for traditional peoples, which is very important.

We in this territory come from the Three Fires Confederacy first nations, which include the Ojibway, the Odawa and the Potawatomi. We respect the long-standing relationship with these first nations. What is really unique and exciting about this is that it also includes Caldwell First Nation. I will not get into the full details of that, but recently it had a settlement to re-establish itself in this area and it is supporting this project. What is important is that these are some of the heroes of the War of 1812 who were out land-settlement claims that are now being rightly justified. The nation's support of this project and Chief Mary Duckworth is very much appreciated.

This park system would not involve any private property. It would connect several pieces of property together, which I will briefly describe, to create one larger national urban park. We have an example of this: the Rouge National Urban Park in the Toronto area is unique. Just so members are aware, each park has its own distinctive legislation. The government did move forward with a proposal for some urban parks before the last election and committed some money toward them, but they are not fully established national urban parks and they will be deprived of significant resources and deprived of cultural, economic and environmental connections. Each piece of legislation is important because it begs the uniqueness of each park.

This park is critical because of some of the significant pieces of land there. The most significant piece is Ojibway Shores. It is owned by the Windsor Port Authority right now, but the port authority expects City of Windsor taxpayers to foot the bill for multiple millions of dollars for public land that we already own. That area actually has 130 endangered species in it.

The public had to have an uprising several years ago. I talked with the developer who was working in conjunction with the port authority to raze the entire area and smash it down, saying that it was scrub brush and it was nothing. The developer in the project backed down after I talked with them, and then the port authority subsequently put this on to being purchased. However, the public has pushed back so hard that we finally got an inventory of the site. It has over 130 endangered species that are quite significant. This 33-acre part of the park system is important because it brings it into the fold with other parks, including the Ojibway Prairie Complex, for example, which is a collection of five closely situated park systems from the City of Windsor and the Province of Ontario.

These include Ojibway Park, Tallgrass Prairie Heritage Park, Black Oak Heritage Park and the Spring Garden Natural Area and total approximately 604 acres. This is along the last undeveloped area of the Detroit River in the city of Windsor, and is one of the last places along the Great Lakes as well that is close to an urban setting. It is an area of scientific interest, and it is across from and adjacent to the American heritage river registration and environmental improvements that are significant. Connected to this is the Spring Garden Natural Area. It is an area of significance for the Essex Region Conservation Authority, which has been very helpful in this process.

A number of species have been identified in the area, including butterflies, birds, fauna and trees, and a series of elements that are very important and endangered.

Black Oak Heritage Park is part of this under the City of Windsor. As a city councillor, I was part of that as well. It connects to the Spring Garden Natural Area through a series of other parks. The waterfront area next to it is the property of Ojibway Shores, then there is Tallgrass Prairie Heritage Park and Ojibway Park. There are a number of species in this area, such as the red-bellied snake, Butler's gartersnake, the eastern foxsnake and the massasauga rattlesnake. As well, there is slender bush-clover, which was found in 1977, and other types of inventory that are not available in other parks.

As I mentioned, each national park has its own legislation. Point Pelee National Park, which is very close to this proposed park, is an area that would actually see some benefits from it, as well as Rondeau Park. This is important, and I am very pleased that the member for London—Fanshawe is seconding this bill, because it would connect us with southern Ontario very well. We also have Ojibway Park at the edge of the town of LaSalle, which has a new wildlife centre and ecosystem research. The Province of Ontario has looked favourably at this.

The landowners involved in this entire complex are quite significant. We have the port authority with a key piece of property that the public owns. The port authority is an extension of the federal government, and it has public lands. The Province of Ontario has a piece of property as part of this, and the City of Windsor and other municipalities are endorsing the project to make the park come to fruition.

The significance of this opportunity is economically important, because it would be next to an international crossing: The Gordie Howe International Bridge is being built. As a city councillor, I think I had my first public meeting at Marlborough Public School in 1998. It was the first fight to get a new border crossing in this area. Now we have the Gordie Howe International Bridge being developed. At the same time, adjacent to it is all of this property in a green space.

Ironically, on the Detroit side there is Zug Island, which is notorious for its environmental hazards and degradation. What is interesting is that we now have the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, which was created in Detroit in 2001, and there has been more money poured into it.

I want to thank a number of people who came to my town hall held at Southwood Arena about two and a half years ago. We had attendees from the Michigan government and the American federal government. There were others who came over from the United States as well as from the Audubon Society, which is in relation to birds, and so forth because the connections are so strong. Anyone interested in the Great Lakes, the value of their waters and their ecosystem is going to have a high degree of interest in this, as it is one of our last refuges.

In 2004, the U.S. created the Humbug Marsh refuge, which is across the Detroit River and adjacent to this area. This is historic, and the property that we are talking about is giving rise to a series of interesting developments.

As I was doing my constituency work, I had a book from Marty Gervais, Walk in the Woods: Portrait of the Ojibway Prairie Complex. It goes over a series of things that go back to the 1960s. For members who may not know, Marty Gervais is a local historian and celebrated author who has done a number of works on this. We had a calendar and a colouring book of Ojibway Shores.

With what is happening with climate change, I find that the opportunity for people to be engaged has been muted in some ways, because they feel that it is out of their control. They feel that there is no way they can actually have a correlation with it. I am trying to make a difference with this bill. Those who have been in support of it include Unifor, Friends of Ojibway, a series of other environmental individuals who have been involved in this, as well as the tourism industry and the businesses next to the area, because of flood mitigation.

They find that this project is giving them hope and an opportunity to have a real result. As I mentioned earlier, with COVID-19, outdoor public spaces are important. There is some use of these properties' outdoor spaces, but it is not coordinated. They are not coordinated or connected in the way they need to be, but they would be under this bill. That is what is exciting.

Even Parks Canada recently funded $600,000 in inventory for this region, as well as the subsequent affiliated regions, to better build the environment there, but still, without having this legislation, we do not have an official road map. We are missing out on opportunities to get funding. We are missing out on the private sector, which wants to invest heavily in this project to make sure it would be beautiful, beneficial and environmentally protected. This will also help with adjacent properties, as others from outside the region are supportive of the diversification we have down there.

We have seen bald eagles down there and kingfishers. There are all kinds of the different elements that are really important to actually reclaiming our environment in urban settings. That is one of the most important things about this. When I talk to students at schools, different people, it is incredible the response I get. Back in 2017, the Essex County Field Naturalists' Club ran an inventory and found that this was not scrub brush, which is what those at the port had said. They had told me for years that it was not worth saving. What the naturalists found were over 130 endangered species.

We still do not have a plan. What we have is an area that meets nine out of the 10 criteria to save the environment, which is one of the reasons the Province of Ontario was interested in this. It is why it is building a coalition of those there to support it. There are many different groups and organizations that have been a part of this. I have had Dr. David Suzuki down at the property. I have also even had different students and organizations.

When we look at the bill in its entirety, we see we have the opportunity to act. If we sit on our hands feeling sorry for ourselves about not being able to get it done, then we will miss out on unique opportunities.

This one is simple. It is all public land. It is all put together. It is almost ready-made. We need to do this for our future because it is to all our benefit.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

Madam Speaker, I appreciated the member's comments and that we are having this debate this morning. What comes to mind after listening to him is that the member talked about the public interest, from those of members of the public themselves, to those of small businesses and to different levels of government. On numerous occasions he made reference to a plan. Something that I think is lost on a lot of community leaders is that we do need to have a more holistic plan, particularly with urban parks, going forward.

Could the member give his thoughts to the importance of having those strategic, long-term plans? We should not just be talking about the situation today. We should be talking about future generations having access to our environment and our parks.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, it is actually kind of interesting because my colleague is right. The bill only has a couple of pages of descriptions. After that it is all about the locations necessary to actually identify the creation of the national parks. They have to be identified. That is what this is. It is a plan. When we look at the possibilities of future stuff we can do, what more we can do, that is one thing. Here is a controllable that we can do now. It is all to our benefit, with everything on top.

That is why this is really important. That is why the bill, if one looks at it, identifies locations.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Chris Lewis Conservative Essex, ON

Madam Speaker, I congratulate my hon. colleague, the member for Windsor West, for Bill C-248, his private member's bill.

He spoke specifically to a road map. We have Malden Road and we have Matchette Road, two major arteries from LaSalle, which is in my riding, through to Windsor in the hon. member's riding. In principle I agree with this bill. Would the member please suggest and/or agree with me that, if this goes through, it is vital that those two main arteries remain open?

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, that is why we need this legislation. It creates a business plan and creates the opportunity to build that infrastructure.

That is why we look at the work by people like Jonathan Choquette. His work has been amazing for reptiles and snakes. We look at the support we are getting from the Wildlands League with Janet Sumner, Dave and all the people who have been looking at these obstacles and turning them into opportunities.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


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

Madam Speaker, I would like to know why the people of Ontario and the sponsor of this bill would place more trust in the federal government than in their own provincial government when it comes to this initiative.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, it is because national plans for this type of thing fold in quite well with this opportunity. Interestingly, we have over 300 years of francophone heritage in the area, and it is supporting this. The reason is that the national plan brings in the municipality, the federal government and the proper supports that connect on a larger level. That is why there is unified support behind this.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Lindsay Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for an incredible amount of work and a really great bill.

He talked a lot about endangered species and the protection of both plant life and wildlife. Could he talk about some of the protections of water in that area of Windsor, in southwestern Ontario, with the Great Lakes and all of the wetlands and water sources, and how the urban park within this bill would go on to protect the water, that vital resource, as well?

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, there are industries and unions involved in this too that are doing some of that work. I think of Rick St. Denis, Rick Labonte, Mark Butler and others who have done some of this. We even connect to the Detroit side with John Hartig of the Detroit River refuge.

Locally, our history goes back to cleaning this up. I think of the work Elaine Weeks has done from Walkerville Publishing with pushing forward the messaging lists, showing that in our history, with the pollution previously to our water sources, we are now turning that around and cleaning it up.

We have that historical lens on it. That is why, when we think about the support from Caldwell first nation and Chief Duckworth, we see the re-emergence of a group that has been part of the history of this place that is showing the way forward for what it wants in the future. That also includes cleaning up the water. That is so key.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Windsor—Tecumseh Ontario


Irek Kusmierczyk LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-248, an act to amend the Canada National Parks Act, Ojibway national urban park of Canada. I want to begin by acknowledging that the land I am speaking from today is the ancestral and unceded territory of the Three Fires confederacy of first nations: the Ojibwa, the Odawa and the Potawatomi.

The bill in front of us today was introduced by the member for Windsor West, and I share his enthusiasm for the creation of an Ojibway national urban park in Windsor. In fact mere days after my election in 2019, the MP for Windsor West invited me to his office one Friday evening to talk about my new role. Ojibway was one of the things we talked about. We both recognize that Ojibway is a precious gem unlike any other.

Compared to Rouge National Urban Park in Toronto, Ojibway is a postage stamp of land, but in its 300 hectares, Ojibway contains rare Carolinian forest and tall grass prairie. It also has the most biodiversity in all of Canada with hundreds of plants, reptiles and insects, and other wildlife. Eighteen months after my colleague from Windsor West and I met in his office, we joined Minister Karina Gould and dozens of local partners at Ojibway Park to announce our government’s—

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


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

I would remind the hon. member that we do not mention other members' names.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Irek Kusmierczyk Liberal Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, that is right.

We joined the minister and dozens of local partners at Ojibway Park to announce our government’s commitment to create seven new national urban parks, and Ojibway was among them. It was a historic day.

Since that day, we have been busy putting in the work to make Ojibway national urban park a reality. Just this past January, our federal government provided the City of Windsor with $600,000 to begin assessments and consultations and to carry out a joint work plan with Parks Canada.

In short, the first concrete steps toward Ojibway national urban park are already taking place, and that process is being led by the good people at Parks Canada, who have experience and expertise in leading good processes that create good parks. We are not alone in that process.

Windsor is one of five cities where we have signed agreements with municipal governments, and we are working with provincial governments, indigenous partners and stakeholders to develop national urban parks that will form part of a national network in Victoria, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Halifax and Windsor.

The key point is that each of these cities is unique. Each presents specific opportunities and specific challenges in establishing a national urban park. Last August, we announced $130 million to support the creation of national urban parks in the five cities mentioned. This is part of the $2.3 billion over five years committed to Canada’s nature legacy of budget 2021.

Like the Parks Canada process currently under way, Bill C-248 also seeks to create a new national urban park. However, Bill C-248 introduces a flawed process that is not based on public consultation. Instead, it would harm the authentic and organic relationships and engagement required in the successful creation of a new urban park.

Let me talk about the Parks Canada path we are currently on and note how Bill C-248 departs from it. The name Ojibway national urban park refers to parcels of land that, together, are known as the Ojibway Prairie Complex. The first thing one needs to know is that the Ojibway Prairie Complex is an assemblage of properties that includes four municipal parks, a provincial nature reserve and other natural areas in the western part of Windsor.

There is also a desire to include a federally owned parcel of land under the management of the Windsor Port Authority called Ojibway Shores, and potentially other private parcels of land in the surrounding area. As one can see, the area is complex with multiple partners. Bringing the municipal and provincial governments, indigenous partners and other stakeholders together is a complex undertaking, but we are confident Parks Canada has the expertise to bring that about through consultation and engagement.

Bill C-248 would have the effect of unilaterally transferring these parcels to the federal government without any engagement or dialogue. That is simply wrong, and it creates the possibility that constitutional, legal and other issues and challenges may arise.

The Parks Canada approach is different. Our approach is centred on public consultations. We are also exploring a range of governance models in the creation of national urban parks. We are working with other implicated federal departments for a whole-of-government approach to any transfers of land. As well, we are engaging in the breadth of consultation a project of this complexity demands.

First and foremost, that means engaging, in the spirit of reconciliation, in a nation-to-nation dialogue with indigenous partners. Thorough and open consultation with indigenous partners on this proposal is essential.

Bill C-248 presents indigenous partners with a finished design without any consultation. That is a serious omission and error. As one can see, public consultation is at the very heart of the Parks Canada process currently under way. Bill C-248 is a shortcut that skips public consultation in favour of a fait accompli.

Consultations are required not only with indigenous communities but also with many additional levels. At the Ojibway announcement, I talked about the fact the protection of Ojibway has always been a grassroots community effort led by many partners.

For example, the Essex County Field Naturalists' Club completed the first-ever bioblitz of Ojibway back in 2014, which gave us the first true sense of the biodiversity in Ojibway. There is also the Friends of Ojibway Prairie, the Citizens Environment Alliance, the Environment Committee at Unifor Local 444 and the Essex Region Conservation authority.

This also includes folks like Tom Henderson, chair of the Public Advisory Council of the Detroit River Canadian Cleanup, Nancy Panchesan of Save Ojibway, and Jonathan Choquette of Wildlife Preservation Canada.

The Parks Canada path we are currently on is rooted in community and makes sure these diverse voices will be at the centre of its design from the start. Let us remember that the creation of the Rouge National Urban Park, which was led by Parks Canada, only came about after major consultations that included input from over 20,000 Canadians.

This is a legacy project, not to be undertaken lightly. In that regard, we will engage closely with indigenous partners to ensure that national urban parks, wherever they may be, provide space for indigenous stewardship, for voices and stories and for connections to land and water based on indigenous knowledge and values. Together we will define the boundaries, the requirements and the objectives of the park. Together we will find consensus on mechanisms to operate the park.

While I appreciate my colleague’s desire to proceed quickly, process matters. Parks Canada staff are working actively on this as a top priority, moving from assessment to agreement to full designation of an Ojibway national urban park. Bill C-248 is a shortcut that pre-empts and undermines all of the important work that I have outlined. Furthermore, the governance regime it proposes may not be suitable for the Ojibway national urban park, nor for the other urban parks we are working to create for cities across Canada.

Flexibility in governance models is key. Some may end up being administered through Parks Canada. For others, third party administration may be more appropriate. Others may require a hybrid solution. This bill assumes a single governance model, the authority of the Canada National Parks Act, and I would remind the House that for the park to be established under this act, the federal Crown would need a property interest in all lands within the park’s boundaries. We simply do not have that at this point.

This may well be an option worth exploring, but without giving a full hearing to other possibilities, we cannot know whether another option would be more suitable. Reaching agreement on a governance model will require flexibility and compromise, and that selection must be made in a spirit of collaboration, communication and respect, and founded upon mutual interest. Parks Canada already has in place a process to create national urban parks. It is based on the expertise of Parks Canada.

In summary, this private member’s bill presents us with a competing path to creating an Ojibway national urban park and to creating similar urban parks across Canada, but it is a fundamentally flawed process. Let me tell members how the Parks Canada path that we are currently on is better.

First, whereas public consultation is at the heart of the Parks Canada process, Bill C-248 presents a finished product and, as such, is top-down and unilateral. Second, whereas indigenous communities will play a lead role in the design of the Ojibway national urban park through the Parks Canada process, Bill C-248 does harm to that relationship by establishing an urban park without dialogue and consultation with first nations. Third, whereas the Parks Canada process understands that there are different partnership models worth exploring in consultation with local stakeholders, Bill C-248 rejects a bottom-up made-in-Windsor solution.

In short, Bill C-248 is a unilateral declaration that ignores the partnerships and voices necessary for long-term success. I applaud the enthusiasm and initiative of the hon. member for Windsor West, but Bill C-248 leads us away from the Parks Canada process and away from the values of stewardship, collaboration and community that are the very essence of an Ojibway national urban park. I hope he will contribute these efforts to advancing the Parks Canada process.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Kyle Seeback Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the Ojibway national park bill, Bill C-248.

The Conservatives have a long history of supporting the development and expansion of national parks. Most recently, we can talk about Rouge National Urban Park, which is an urban park of 79 square kilometres that was championed by Conservative MPs Paul Calandra and Peter Kent. We recognize the need to preserve these types of urban environments, not just because they are good for the environment, but because they are good for community members, who can then enjoy the time they will spend in these beautiful parks. The Rouge National Urban Park has over 12 kilometres of hiking trails and there is camping. The park is also open year round and is free to access.

An Ojibway national urban park is looking, in some sense, to replicate this model. When we look at what is being discussed, we can see there are six current parks we are talking about, which are Spring Garden Natural Area, Tallgrass Prairie Heritage Park, Ojibway Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve, Ojibway Park, Black Oak Heritage Park and Ojibway Shores. Combining these six parcels into a national urban park is something we should be looking at and is something we should absolutely consider. I applaud the member for his hard work in trying to bring this to fruition.

I want to mention that this was pushed prior to the member's bill. This is a long-standing project, and the previous member for Essex, Jeff Watson, was also interested in trying to set up an Ojibway urban national park. I am happy to say that his vision is being incorporated into the current member's vision and that two parties, the Conservatives and the NDP, are working together to form this park.

The total land allotted for an Ojibway national park is approximately 900 acres. All the land is publicly owned, including the current port authority. There is support from the Windsor council and local politicians. I also understand that this is supported by indigenous people as well.

When we look at what this will ultimately become, and I have spoken to the member about this, we do have some concerns because there are major roadways that separate these parks. This is not six contiguous pieces of land that are easily formed together. They are separated by roadways, private land and other things. We do have some concerns about what that is going to mean. We know that one of the roadways is a large commuter roadway that allows people from LaSalle to move for employment to Windsor, and the closing of that roadway for a national urban park could have some unintended consequences. I know that is not fully within what we are debating today, but I have let the member know that it is something we are concerned about and something we would want to try to explore in committee.

I am surprised to hear the speech from the Liberals, who are saying, from what I heard, that they are not going to support this piece of legislation because it is doing something too quickly. From my understanding, the contemplation to proceed with this park goes back already perhaps a dozen to 14 years, so to suggest that this is premature or is moving too quickly does not make a lot of sense to me.

I think perhaps it is time to kick the tires. Let us get this to committee, let us study it and let us see if we can maybe push Parks Canada to accelerate its timetable. I do not think we want to wait another 15, 20 or 30 years for this to come to fruition.

Here on the Conservative side, we are in support of the bill so it can go to committee and be studied. Then everyone will have the full picture of what is going to take place here. I think the member should be commended for his activities to push this bill forward, and we look forward to seeing it, when it comes up, pass through second reading and come to committee, so we can see everything with respect to it.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

March 21st, 2022 / 11:30 a.m.


Mario Simard Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I did wonder why my party asked me to comment on this bill, and the hilarious member for Drummond replied that my mischievous nature might be the reason that I, as a sovereignist, was asked to speak to the creation of a park in Ontario. I do not really know.

Anyway, the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C‑248 in principle. My party also applauds the member for Windsor West's initiative and his commitment to conserving the Ojibway site.

I am told that the member for Windsor West has been championing this cause since 2013. That is certainly commendable. Clearly the member is engaged in his community. Furthermore, I have looked over the information provided by the member, and there seems to be no doubt as to the ecological value of this site and the justification for turning it into a park. I am confident the information provided is accurate, and I am certain this proposal is of significant ecological value. The Liberal government has actually pledged to work with cities to expand urban parks as part of its goal to protect 25% of the country's lands and waters, so this bill is consistent with government policy.

However, the Bloc Québécois's position regarding Bill C‑248 is neutral in the sense that we have no intention of telling Ontarians or the people of Windsor how best to preserve and develop their own territory. Quite frankly, if you ask me, this is another example of centralist federalism. However, one must not bite the hand that feeds. We are all ears, as the saying goes.

Still, this does raise some questions.

I realize that there is no question period for this bill, but perhaps we could discuss it later. I have to wonder why the federal government should be the one to own more and more of our urban spaces.

I think it goes without saying that if the government wants to get involved and be more invested, even though this does not come under its jurisdiction, perhaps the best solution is to offer unconditional funding to Ontario to support this proposal from my colleague from Windsor West.

I think this raises another question that has not yet been answered. I have been listening to my colleagues' speeches this morning. I am wondering why the people of Windsor, the people of Ontario and the member who is sponsoring the bill would trust the federal government more than their own provincial government to create an urban park. Why not leave this up to the body that is supposed to manage the territory, in other words, the Ontario government?

I was saying that we are not necessarily against the bill, but we should acknowledge that it is not the route a sovereignist party would take, nor is it a route for any party that stands up for the provinces. It is not a route that my Conservative friends, who claim to be champions of provincial jurisdictions, would take. I do not see why we would accept having more spaces protected by the federal government. The Bloc Québécois does not think it is the federal government's responsibility to manage urban parks.

Simply put, if my NDP colleague had made a similar proposal about a park in a city in Quebec, the Bloc Québécois would be strongly opposed to the idea and would argue for ownership of the site to be transferred to the Government of Quebec or to a Quebec municipality. That has been the Bloc Québécois's historic position on national parks.

What we are asking is for ownership of all federal parks in Quebec to be transferred to the Government of Quebec or to Quebec municipalities, because the Government of Quebec is solely responsible for land management on Quebec soil. It is not the federal government, but the Government of Quebec, and Quebec's environmental laws, that should protect and enhance our own environment. I would note that in the last Parliament, I introduced a bill on environmental sovereignty.

Take, for example, the Lachine Canal park, which, as we know, is in the heart of Montreal and is a big part of its history, particularly for historically working-class neighbourhoods like Saint‑Henri, Pointe‑Saint‑Charles and Griffintown.

It would be more than appropriate for the City of Montreal and the relevant districts to administer the Lachine Canal park. That way, they could manage and develop it in tandem with the other neighbouring urban development projects.

I feel that the federal government is a level of government that is far from local areas and communities, and its powers should be limited to the state's prerogative powers. In a context of federalism, where the government is responsible for managing borders and conducting foreign, defence and monetary policy, should it also manage the minutiae of day-to-day administration? Quite frankly, I do not see how this is useful. We believe that it is not the federal government's responsibility to manage parks.

I will close by stating that, for me, and this is a criticism that I can direct to my NDP colleagues, this is rather indicative of the centralizing reflex. It is an unfortunate reflex that has led to today's inadequate funding for the health sector. The expectations for this sector continue to rise without the government necessarily providing the resources. With respect to this centralizing reflex, I hope that my NDP colleagues will be aware of it and, above all, of the fact that this is mainly a provincial jurisdiction.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Lindsay Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I am so pleased and very grateful today to rise in this place to speak to Bill C-248, an act to amend the Canada National Parks Act and create the Ojibway national urban park of Canada.

I would like to sincerely thank my hon. colleague from Windsor West for introducing the legislation and for his tireless advocacy for the creation of this national urban park in the Windsor region.

Before becoming a member of Parliament, I had the honour of working for an NDP MP for Essex, and so I know about the regional community's desire for this park and the dedication with which the member for Windsor West has fought to create this special ecosystem. The introduction of this bill to establish Ojibway national park is the culmination of years, if not decades, of work by my colleague, but of course, we never do this work alone. Many residents in the Windsor and Essex region have spent years fighting to protect this unique urban park in one of the most heavily developed areas in the country.

The proposed Ojibway national park would include Ojibway Park, Spring Garden Natural Area, Black Oak Heritage Park, the Tallgrass Prairie Heritage Park, the Ojibway Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve and Ojibway Shores, which is a vital 33-acre green space and the last remaining undeveloped natural shoreline in Windsor-Detroit. It is home to hundreds of endangered species that rely on migration through surrounding local parks for survival.

If connected, this area of approximately 900 acres, including the Detroit River, would become truly significant. It serves not only as a home and larger ecosystem to several endangered species, but also provides mitigation of flooding due to climate change and provides natural heritage areas that the community can enjoy, appreciate and use for healthy living space and ecotourism.

As a member of Parliament, I am often approached by constituents in my riding who wish to preserve historical or environmentally sensitive areas. I support the member for Windsor West in doing just that. By establishing the Ojibway national urban park, the House can help him and his community protect a rare ecosystem within the city of Windsor and ensure that it remains unchanged by human development.

It is also worth noting here that our colleague spoke of the overwhelming consensus with which his community supports the creation of this urban park. For so many in Windsor to be in agreement on this issue is also unique. The creation of the park and the inclusion of Ojibway Shores speaks specifically to two issues that I am passionate about and am working on in my own riding of London—Fanshawe.

The first is about the protection of our fresh water in Canada. Twice now I have reintroduced an important piece of legislation in the House, which is now Bill C-217, an act respecting the development of a national strategy in relation to fresh water. l have worked with the former NDP MP for Essex on this legislation and again in the Windsor-Essex region. In all of our communities, people know the significant role fresh water plays in our lives and how important its preservation is. In my riding too, we are greatly impacted by the Great Lakes and the Thames River, which supply people with fresh drinking water but also provide all communities with environmental benefits that deserve targeted protection and sustainable planning.

While Canada has seemingly abundant freshwater resources, very little of it is actually renewable, and Bill C-217 works to modernize Canada's freshwater strategy. It has been over 20 years since the government established a policy on fresh water, and environmental conditions have dramatically changed since 1987.

My bill asks the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to study, review and adopt a national water policy. The review would work to establish national drinking water standards, ensure that water is protected in international agreements, protect groundwater, evaluate the readiness of water and wastewater infrastructure to handle climate change impacts and reduce eutrophication.

Fresh water is vital, whether for tourism, agriculture, recreational use, health or household needs. It plays an important role in all of our communities. Southwestern Ontario benefits significantly from numerous lakes, rivers, wetlands and tributaries. The health of our water is instrumental to our region's sustained growth, environmental stability and safety, and the safety of people.

I hope that all sides will support this important effort to protect our fresh water for generations to come and I believe my bill and this bill, Bill C-248, complement each other so well.

The second issue that I believe greatly aligns with both private member's bills is the protection of environmentally significant areas. The city of London has 12 designated environmentally significant areas, and three are in my riding of London—Fanshawe. I am so privileged to live between two of them, Westminster Ponds and Meadowlily Woods.

Today I wanted to talk specifically about Meadowlily, because this area is under threat of development. Meadowlily Woods is situated on the south side of the south branch of the Thames River. The area contains flood plain woods, deep ravines, mature woodlands and some active and retired agricultural fields that are now meadows.

Along the Thames, west of Meadowlily Road, is the Meadowlily Nature Preserve, owned by the Thames Talbot Land Trust. The public are allowed to hike the trail through these publicly owned lands, which cover 60 hectares. Meadowlily is unique due to its variety of rare trees, plants and wildlife. It also boasts a significant number of endangered species and almost 10,000 different species of plant and animal life. The site has a mix of wetland and upland forest species.

To paint a picture for members of how beautiful it is, along the river basswood, hackberry, willow and dogwood dominate. White cattails and marsh plants grow near the water. In the summer colourful wildflowers can be found, including the blue flag iris, turtlehead and great lobelia. The upland areas are dominated by sugar maple, American beech, black cherry and red oak. In the spring the woods are carpeted with varieties of flowers, including trilliums, trout lilies, bloodroot, violets and spring beauty, and the cool north-facing ravines are home to eastern hemlock, yellow birch and over a dozen fern species. The meadows and young woods are full of asters and goldenrod in the fall. Invasive species management and ecological restoration, carried out by volunteers, is funded by the City of London to protect the ecological integrity of this area.

Over 110 species of migratory and breeding birds have been observed in Meadowlily Woods. Due to its large size and location along the river, the forest supports the forest interior's sensitive species, such as the pileated woodpecker and ovenbird. We have red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, belted kingfishers and American goldfinches. We have animal life including coyotes, red foxes, white-tailed deer and beavers. We have so much in this area: leopard frogs, spring peepers, eastern redback salamanders and midland painted turtles. The list goes on and on.

I have to also mention that London is located in the traditional territory of the Attawandaron, Anishinabe, Haudenosaunee, and Lunaapeewak peoples. Over 60 archaeological sites are documented in the Meadowlily area, especially on the Ingersoll moraine. The sites span the entire 11,000 years of the prehistory of the area and include everything from indigenous camps to villages. The selling off and development of this land by settlers began in the early part of the 19th century. Private homes were built for commissioned officers of the military on land taken from indigenous people.

I am sure members can imagine that this area is gorgeous and peaceful and in an area of prime real estate—prime real estate in a time of a housing crisis. The land that surrounds this incredible area is currently planned for development. That is the reason a dedicated group of volunteers and community activists have formed a not-for-profit association called The Friends of Meadowlily Woods. They are fighting to protect against the further development and degradation of this larger natural area. Like the member for Windsor West and what he is trying to protect by creating a national urban park in his region to protect those endangered species and environmentally sensitive areas, these folks in my area are working to protect their environmental treasure. Ojibway Shores and Meadowlily are so similar in terms of what is needed to protect our future. We must do everything we can in this House to preserve precious natural habitats, water systems and ecologically delicate areas. We need to learn the balance between growing communities and our natural world for the sake of our future and the future of our children.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the member's bill. I appreciate the fact that he has brought forward this legislation, even though there is some concern with respect to it.

I do believe in the necessity of having these types of debates. It is not the first time I have had the opportunity to speak in regard to national and, in particular, urban parks and the many different benefits of them. We often underestimate the benefits of having that strategic plan that deals with national parks.

The member spent a great deal of his time, obviously, because of the area he represents, focusing on Windsor. The principles of an urban national park and the value of these parks could be universally applied throughout Canada, from coast to coast to coast. If we take a look at some of the natural beauty we have, we want to ensure that we do what we can to preserve it for future generations. We all have that responsibility.

It is also important that we take a look at the mechanisms and how we deliver these types of parks. I would like to give a specific example. Many years ago we had a railway at the junction of the Red River and the Assiniboine River in downtown Winnipeg. What we saw was the public talking about the redevelopment of the area and how we could bring it back to nature and allow the citizens of Winnipeg to be more engaged in it.

It is, by far, not a huge national park, but what it did was that it brought in different stakeholders, from community activists and individuals who live in the downtown to different levels of government. Through a great deal of consultations and environmental sensitivity, because at that time we did not have the same sorts of studies, and looking at what people had to say and bringing together private agencies and different levels of government, we now have the beautiful Forks development.

During the seventies and early eighties, there were very few people who ever went down to The Forks. People would go to Saint Boniface, on the other side of the river, because there was really nothing at The Forks but the rail yards and a lot of dangerous things, chemicals and so forth, that were having a negative impact there. I often wondered what kind of seepage was going into the Red River and the Assiniboine River. Through co-operation, today people can go down to The Forks. The last time I heard a number, it was almost two million visits a year. This is in downtown Winnipeg.

This is far from the type of park that the member made reference to in his introduction to the bill. However, whether it is an urban national park or a rural national park, Canadians value our wilderness and what we have, our natural assets. Where we can advance them and move forward, we should.

Riding Mountain National Park is a park in Manitoba that is exceptionally well developed. There is a very strong nature component to it. Thousands of people visit that park as a result of its designation. Through that designation, we have seen things able to continue on in their natural form. That is something I see as a very strong positive.

Let us look at the urban centres. Because not everyone is travelling out into our rural communities, we should look at whether there are urban centres where the national government can play a role in their development. Personally, I look at the City of Saskatoon and what it has done with its Saskatchewan River. In many ways, that is something that Winnipeg, as a community, would love to see. If we could develop a national urban park that is based, at least in good part, on our rivers, I would see that as a very strong thing. I know that what I am talking about would be widely supported by the different levels of government and, in particular, the citizens of Winnipeg. If we put the necessary investments into that in the future, they would be there for future generations and we would ultimately get more people to go down and visit our rivers while protecting that environment.

We can look at what the Government of Canada has done through this incredibly agency, Parks Canada. The manner in which it goes about designating national parks and the lead-up that is involved is not something that happens overnight. There is a fairly extensive process in the development of national parks. I would encourage those who are following the debate this morning to tap into the Parks Canada website to get a sense of the types of things they do and the parks that we have today.

We do not necessarily have to reinvent the wheel. For example, when we talk about the Windsor park, we can look at the Rouge National Urban Park in Toronto and how effective it has been at preserving nature and allowing urbanites to experience that sense of wilderness. We can talk about how it is that a city like Toronto is able to continue to grow while preserving that beautiful park. It is fairly extensive. I would like to think that same principle could be applied to many different urban centres, big and small, throughout Canada.

We have in place an agency in Parks Canada that is respected around the world with respect to the efforts and work it has done. As the parliamentary secretary pointed out earlier, the Government of Canada has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the area of park development to ensure that future generations will be able to have input and receive the benefits of investing in national parks.

When I think of why we need to do this, the most obvious reason for me is that it is the right thing for our environment. Our environment is something I am constantly reminded of, in particular by my daughter, as well as many others, such as constituents, who want the government to do what it can to protect it. Obviously, our national parks have to be high on the agenda.

Another issue with respect to our national parks is what is in those parks today. Whether insects, animals or mammals, particularly where there is the threat of extinction, they need to be taken into consideration, as well as how we can preserve them into the future.

Personally, my third priority is allowing people, whether from urban or rural areas, to be able to experience nature at its best. Canada has so much nature, not only to share with the citizens of Canada but to share with others around the world.

Opposition Motion—Cost of LivingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders



Jagmeet Singh NDP Burnaby South, BC


That, given that,

(i) as the cost of gas, groceries and housing continues to rise, most Canadians are struggling to make ends meet,

(ii) at the same time, wealth inequality is reaching a level not seen in generations as the super-rich continue to protect their wealth through a financial system with very little transparency,

(iii) over the course of the pandemic, large corporations in certain industries have made record profits, including big banks, oil companies and big-box stores,

(iv) the 2021 Liberal platform included a commitment to implement a 3% surtax on banks and insurers, as well as a publicly accessible beneficial ownership registry,

the House call upon the government to include in its next budget:

(a) its proposed 3% surtax on banks and insurance companies on profit over $1 billion, which should be expanded to profitable big oil companies and big-box stores;

(b) a plan to re-invest the billions of dollars recouped from these measures to help Canadians with the cost-of-living crisis; and

(c) a publicly accessible beneficial ownership registry.

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Elmwood—Transcona.

We know that the cost of living is going up and that Canadians are feeling the weight of it. They are being crushed by the cost of living. Whether it is the cost of groceries or gasoline going up, everyday families are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have spoken with families that, when they go into grocery stores, have to reconsider what they purchase. They put food back, and that phrase really hit me. A mom mentioned that she would go into the grocery store, pick up something and then have to put it back. It was something that her child likes to eat or her family makes when they cook together. They simply cannot afford it. I spoke to retail and grocery store workers, specifically a worker who works in a grocery store. He has not seen a raise in his salary. He also drives to make deliveries for his living and has seen the cost of gas go up, directly impacting how much he earns.

We saw inflation rise above 5% in January, a 30-year high, while people's wages only rose by 2.4%. Families cannot keep up. While we have heard promises from the Liberal government to do something, it has not acted. Any time the cost of living goes up, it certainly makes it harder for families and workers. Their cost of living goes up and this makes it harder for them to purchase what they need and to put food on the table. However, while it hurts many, it actually benefits some. While the cost of living goes up and hurts families and lots of people, it benefits the wealthiest corporations, which have made record profits.

Let us go into some of those profits. Walmart, in 2021, made $3.5 billion in profit. Canadian Tire made $1.26 billion in profit. Canadian Natural Resources made nearly $2 billion in net income in the fourth quarter alone. We are therefore seeing, on one hand, that people are having a hard time filling up their cars and buying groceries, but companies are seeing record profits. Huge grocery store chains, corporate grocery stores and big box stores have made record profits, and they are profiting off the backs of people. We also know that, in general, the ultrarich are getting richer while 60% of Canadians now say they are having a hard time simply making ends meet.

We believe it is the government's role to step up when we see companies exploiting people, exploiting difficult times and exploiting the pandemic, a war and inflation. It is government's role to stop them from doing that. We have heard some ideas being floated about maybe waiving taxes, but what would stop a corporation, if a tax was waived, from increasing the price of their goods to make up the loss and the difference?

What are we proposing? We have to get at the heart of the matter, which is wealth inequality. As wealth inequality goes up, it makes the quality of life for everyone worse. We know that societies that are the safest and healthiest and have the most civic engagement are those where there is less wealth inequality. However, what we have seen are policies brought in by successive Conservative and Liberal governments that have allowed the ultrarich to get richer. In this crisis, they have allowed certain wealthy corporations to make excess profits while everyday families are struggling, and we are saying enough is enough. Our proposal is to tax the excess profits made by profitable corporations and reinvest in people. That is a sustainable solution to get at corporate greed and a long-term solution to invest in people.

In the last election, the Liberals promised a surtax of 3% on big banks and insurance companies. We agreed that we should be taxing institutions that are making significant profits and should reinvest in people. We are saying the government should expand what it has already promised to do. It should first implement it and then expand it to also include big box stores and oil and gas companies. Then it should use that revenue to invest in people.

The status quo is doing nothing. The status quo is to let this continue without doing anything to help people, and for the New Democrats that is wrong. We believe it is wrong and that we have to act.

People are already feeling overwhelmed by the rising cost of housing and food. The cost of living is going up, and this increase is taking its toll. Canadian families are struggling to make ends meet. While families have seen their weekly grocery bill get more expensive, the CEOs of major grocery chains and big box stores posted record profits during the pandemic.

The ultrarich are prospering under the Liberals, while Canadian families are feeling abandoned. We think this is unacceptable, which is why we are proposing a solution. We are calling on the Liberals to commit to imposing a 3% surtax on the big banks and insurers and to expand this tax to the big oil companies and big box stores.

Instead of letting the rich get richer, we are calling on the government to tax these profits and to reinvest that revenue in measures that help make life more affordable for families. We will never stop fighting for ordinary Canadians, instead of protecting the profits of major corporations.

What we are proposing is that we act. When people tell us that it is harder and harder to make ends meet, we need to do something about it. When people are struggling to put food on the table, to buy groceries and to pay their bills, we need to do something. We have to acknowledge that people are hurting right now. We are proposing a solution that gets at the heart of the matter: the excess profit and greed of these large corporations. Let us impose a tax on that excess profit and reinvest it back into people.

People have asked what we can do. There is a lot we can do. We can invest in programs that will make life more affordable for people. We can invest in dealing with the costs that people deal with on a regular basis, like the cost of medication. Why not bring in a national pharmacare plan to help families save thousands of dollars on their medication?

We are proposing to put in place a program to help people with dental care. We know that many families are struggling with the cost of living and go without dentist visits. Kids are going without dentist visits. We can bring in social programs, universal social programs, that will help people out.

We can invest in programs that help those who are most in need and help with investments to directly support families that are most in need. We could send direct payments out to families like we did during the pandemic. We can support those families that need help the most.

We need to act. What we are proposing is a clear path to action: imposing a tax on companies that are making excess profits and reinvesting that back into people. The New Democrats will always be on the side of people, and we believe very strongly that our role is to stop companies from exploiting people and that the government's role is to stand up and provide real help when people need it most. That is exactly what our motion and plan are about, and it is exactly what we will continue to do.

Opposition Motion—Cost of LivingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

Madam Speaker, virtually from the very beginning, the government has been very much focused on the issue of equity. We saw this when, for example, we put in the special tax on Canada's wealthiest 1% and reallocated that revenue toward Canada's middle class, to which we gave a tax break.

As to the resolution today, one of the parts I want to highlight is what the member talked about regarding inflation. I am wondering if the leader of the New Democratic Party could provide his thoughts on this: When we talk about inflation, one of the things we have to take into consideration is what is happening around the world. Canada is doing reasonably well on that particular front.

Could the member provide his thoughts with regard to the notion that inflation is not just in Canada and that it goes beyond our borders?

Opposition Motion—Cost of LivingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Jagmeet Singh NDP Burnaby South, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to make something really clear. It is important that folks know we are not blaming government for global pressures that are causing our cost of living to go up. However, we are certainly blaming it for the inequality that is mounting, the fact that the ultrarich continue to make record profits while people struggle and the fact that the ultrarich do not pay their fair share. We are certainly blaming that on government, both Liberal and Conservative.

What we are proposing is a solution to that. It is a solution to the fact that wealth is being concentrated into the hands of fewer and fewer and that those at the very top continue to make record profits. We are proposing a real solution to say that we can do something about that: We can tax excess profits and can invest that back into people. We believe we can and should act when people are struggling, and the way to do that is to reinvest resources back into the people who need them most. That is what the motion is proposing.

Opposition Motion—Cost of LivingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Jeremy Patzer Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the leader of the NDP for bringing forward this opposition day motion. The constituents of my riding are also very concerned about the rampant cost-of-living issue that is happening in this country. One of the main issues people are concerned about is the government's imposition of the carbon tax, which his party has been happy to support.

Would the leader of the NDP be willing to ask the government to halt the increase of the carbon tax on April 1?

Opposition Motion—Cost of LivingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Jagmeet Singh NDP Burnaby South, BC

Madam Speaker, here is the problem with the approach of the Conservatives on this and a number of matters: If we were to have a tax holiday on the GST or on the carbon tax, nothing would prevent those very same companies from increasing costs even more. They would say there is a savings that people are enjoying, so let us increase the rates even more. That is the inherent problem with the Conservatives' approach. They think that somehow without government intervention, large, wealthy corporations are going to lower costs or allow people to earn a decent living. They are not. That is why we have to fight. That is why governments exist: to prevent that exploitation.

What we are proposing is to get at the heart of the matter. Let us tax the excess profits and reinvest that back into people, which is something we have done in the last. Profiteering happened in the world wars, and Canada, among other nations, decided that we needed to put in a profiteering tax to stop it and to invest in people. That is exactly what we are proposing.

Opposition Motion—Cost of LivingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, the banks continue to post profits, and their executives are rolling in money while families are struggling to access or purchase housing. Major corporations also keep making profits while small businesses are suffering. The oil companies are raking in the dough while everyone is paying more for oil and gas.

I am therefore in favour of a 3% surtax on those referred to in the motion as the “super‑rich”.

I do want to point out, though, that tax havens represent another anomaly. The government is totally complacent with respect to tax evasion. Is it right to take that attitude?

Opposition Motion—Cost of LivingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Jagmeet Singh NDP Burnaby South, BC

Madam Speaker, that is not right at all, and I am grateful to my colleague for his comments and support.

Tax havens pose a major challenge because the ultrarich are hiding their money and not paying their fair share. We definitely need to resolve that problem.

Today, our motion proposes to address the growing inequality in our society by imposing a 3% surtax on major corporations. Doing so will make it possible to restore justice and equality and to reinvest the money to meet Canadians' needs. We believe that this is a necessary measure.

Opposition Motion—Cost of LivingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure to be back in the chamber and speaking to an NDP motion.

There is no question. We do not have to go far or talk to many people to realize just what a challenging time it is for so many Canadians, for so many reasons. I think one of the things that compounds that sense of frustration, anxiety and fear that people are feeling as their household budgets tighten is the contradictory messages that they are hearing about why that is happening and what could be done about it.

If we listen to the government some days, when it suits their purposes, it tells us that the economy is doing great, that it has rebounded, that we are past the problems of COVID, that we have excellent job numbers and good growth, and that money is flowing in and things are good. At other times, the government gives a bit more of a realistic assessment, if it is in excuse-making mode.

This is hard for Canadians who are struggling so much in their households and at the grocery store, as our leader was just saying, putting things back on the shelf that their kids would be excited to eat or that would be a normal part of their family cook night. It is frustrating to hear that things are going well, that things are back to normal, because that is certainly not the experience that people are living at the pumps, at the grocery store and around their kitchen tables.

It is incumbent on us, as public policy-makers, to try to find a path through those contradictory messages to something concrete that can be done. For sure, there is a lot going on in the world right now, whether it is the continuing economic fallout of COVID and what that means for supply chains, or what climate change means for supply chains and is going to continue to mean for supply chains going into the future. There is what is happening in Ukraine right now, which of course has dramatically increased the price of gas at the pumps. There are all sorts of things happening that are hard to control, not just for individual Canadians, to be sure, but even for governments.

That makes it that much more important for governments to act on the things it can do something about. An important part of the story that we do not hear enough of, although we heard a little of it from the Parliamentary Budget Officer at the end of last year, and part of the reason why Canadians can be living such a difficult financial experience at home and in the personal experience of their families, their loved ones, their friends and their neighbours, in the midst of this apparently good economic news, lies in the fact that more and more of the wealth that is being created is going into fewer and fewer hands.

If we are just talking about the economy in general, if we are talking about GDP, if we are talking about how much money is being produced in the Canadian economy, if we are talking about the value of the exports that are leaving Canada, then we can hear good news. That is why, in corporate boardrooms and in the boardrooms of banks, they are celebrating. They hear that good news and they do not feel the pinch, because they are part of that 1% that is getting not only a good chunk of that but a bigger and bigger proportional piece of that pie.

As the pie grows, not only is their piece increasing relative to the size of the pie but the amount of the pie they get is also increasing. That is why we can hear about good news for the economy and big economic growth and all these things that, normally, Canadians would expect to mean that life would be a little better for them, in the midst of so many stories of hardship, people worried about losing their homes and, in fact, more people than ever losing their homes. Homelessness is going up in Canada since the pandemic. The cost of housing is getting ridiculous. It was already ridiculous and growing astronomically before the pandemic, and it has only gotten worse. Housing prices have almost doubled in the last two years. I apologize if I do not have that stat exactly right, but the fact that the number is even what would occur to someone who has been hearing these numbers day in and day out as likely close to the number is a sign of how bad things have gotten.

I wanted to put some of these thoughts on the record to help Canadians who might be listening understand how we could be presented with apparent good economic news again and again by the government, by certain economists and by large corporations in their presentations to shareholders, yet feel so helpless in the face of very difficult economic circumstances.

I said earlier, and I will repeat, this makes it all the more important, because some of the things driving inflation are outside the control of government, that the government zero in on the things it can do something about. Wealth inequality is something governments can do something about. It is something governments, at one time in the post-war period, did something about. Over the last 30 or 40 years we have seen successive Liberal and Conservative governments undoing the good work that was done in the post-war period.

That work made sure that, in a time of a sense of strong social bonds, when people went to fight for freedom and prosperity, they were owed a good life when they came back, and that their families, who sacrificed while they were away fighting, worked in factories producing munitions and supported the war effort in other ways, were owed a good life when they came back. That meant ensuring a small number of people at the top did not get to run away with all the wealth while everyone else suffered. That system, which was built when there was that strong sense of social solidarity, has been undermined now for a very long time.

It is about time, if we are going to do anything about the very real pinch Canadians are feeling now, we tackle this problem of wealth inequality. The Liberals have made promises to that effect, various kinds over the years, but they have not acted on them in the way that they need to if they are really going to fix the problem. One of their most recent promises was to have a surtax on banks, which made extraordinary profits during the pandemic, not their normal extraordinary profits but additional profits on top of their normal extraordinary profits. As such, asking them to pay a little more on that additional extraordinary profit is not at all unreasonable. In fact, I think it is something we are morally required to do and we have so far failed in our duty to do that.

The crisis in Ukraine has shown that the lack of financial transparency both in Canada and across the world is not benign. It is not even just about missing out on the opportunity to invest that extraordinary profit, which we might tax a portion of, back into programs, as we should, like dental care, pharmacare or supporting good public education. All of these are things we need to do, and I could go on with that list, but I only have so much time so I will not.

We have also seen the way that actors on the international stage who control this amount of wealth benefit and are able to support people like Vladimir Putin by hiding his wealth around the world. That is how the concentration of wealth and power can become very malignant indeed. We should not wait until a dictator feels so empowered and emboldened, not just by what is going on in his own country but what is going on in the international world of finance, that they can go ahead and do what Putin has done in Ukraine and still feel confident that they are going to be able to enjoy their yachts and palaces and that their buddies are going to continue to travel the world with impunity.

That is where the question of wealth inequality and what is going on in Ukraine and in other parts of the world come to get mixed together and show why it is important on an ongoing basis to make sure we are not encouraging the massive concentration of wealth in the hands of a very few people at the top. It is why I am proud that not only are we proposing what the Liberals proposed in the last election with a surtax on the profits of the banks, we are proposing it be expanded to other big corporate winners of the pandemic like big box stores and oil and gas companies that are now raking it in with prices that are really high at the pump.

We have also included the demand for a public beneficial ownership registry, because that is what we need on two fronts. We need it to take on the likes of Vladimir Putin and his oligarch cronies who are hiding his wealth across the world, and we also need a public beneficial ownership registry in order to be able to properly record the wealth of the top 1%, so that they can be taxed to pay a fair share of the services we need to provide so that all can benefit.

That is why this is such an important motion. I am looking forward to all members supporting it at the vote.

Opposition Motion—Cost of LivingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

Madam Speaker, to address the issue of wealth inequity, something NDP members often talk about, I made reference to the issue of the 1% wealthiest being taxed as one of the first initiatives this government took. I have also in the past made reference to substantial increases to the GIS and government investments.

Recently we made announcements across Canada of a national child care program for billions of dollars. That is, I would ultimately argue, a redistribution that is taking place. Therefore, there are different ways that we can tackle this problem.

One of the other ways, and I would ask for the member's comments in regard to this issue, is that there are a lot of people who avoid paying taxes. Over the last five years, we have invested close to $1 billion in going after those people because there is a lot of wealth that is being avoided in taxes. Could the member provide his thoughts in terms of providing Revenue Canada with the proper tools to ensure that we are collecting fair taxes?