Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me to take part in the debate to reinstate some of the bills the House of Commons had been working on through its committees, et cetera, prior to prorogation and the start of the new session of Parliament.
We have had the Speech from the Throne. There were many new initiatives outlined in the throne speech. There was also a lot of work that had been done in the previous session on many important bills. The government thinks it is very important that the work not be lost.
In times when Canadian taxpayers are being asked to be prudent, certainly it is an opportunity for Parliament to behave that way. It is somewhat disappointing but not surprising that we were not able to obtain consent from all parties in the House to reintroduce and reinstate certain bills at the stage they were at at the time of prorogation.
In particular, we have been hearing comments today from members of the Canadian Alliance dealing with Bill C-5, the species at risk bill. I believe from their comments today it is the one that has caused them to withhold their consent. They want changes to that bill.
From what I have heard of the debate, there seems to be an issue around the definition of compensation that would be paid to landowners who would lose land or would have restrictions placed on their land in consequence of the bill. The dispute is over whether that is described as reasonable compensation or whether it is called fair market value.
Prior to entering politics, I practised law for 22 years. I did quite a bit of real estate and real property law. The argument being put forward by the Canadian Alliance is that fair market value is a much more precise term than is the reasonable compensation that is in the bill.
Frankly, from my experience, fair market value can vary significantly from appraiser to appraiser. When I was trying to be flippant with my clients, my definition of fair market value was what some sucker was willing to pay. A person could have many qualified appraisers with all the initials behind their names say that a piece of property was worth a certain amount of money, but if there was not a willing purchaser at the time when the vendor wanted to sell, the vendor would not fetch that price.
I have to admit I am a little confused over the reluctance of the members but perhaps there are other agendas at play. I know in this place it is considered bad form to impute motive to hon. members, but it seems that the reference to Bill C-68 and gun control does come up quite a bit in the discussions around Bill C-5.
I would like to concentrate my remarks this evening on one of the other bills that is subject to the motion. The bill would be reinstated at the Senate. The bill had passed the House of Commons prior to the adjournment in June. I am referring to Bill C-54, the physical activity and sport bill which I had the privilege of introducing.
Bill C-54 had received all party consent. No party had voted against the bill at third reading in June. Bill C-54 had gone through committee stage. Considerable work was done on the bill. My friend from Bras d'Or—Cape Breton was one of the members of the committee who did stellar work in getting that bill through the committee.
We also made significant amendments to Bill C-54 at committee stage, following the concerns voiced by the Commissioner of Official Languages, the Bloc Quebecois and our own caucus regarding the bill.
We made changes to ensure that services in our sports system are available in both official languages. If this motion does not get the support of the House this evening, all this work will have be for nothing, and this is definitely something that we are trying to avoid.
Getting back to some of the particulars of Bill C-54, it replaces the Fitness and Amateur Sport Act, legislation which was passed in 1961. Our new physical activity and sport bill is a modernization of our entire sports system. By changing the title to physical activity we are describing the work that it takes to become fit. We previously referred to fitness, which was the result of physical activity. By changing the wording from amateur sport to sport, we are reflecting the realities of our present system.
As members know, there are professionals at the Olympic Games. The NHL players who were in Salt Lake City and who won the gold medal are actually professionals.
Many of our athletes in Canada do not play in professional leagues, but they have contracts and sponsors. A number of them earn a fair bit of money but, technically speaking, they qualify as amateurs. The reality is such that we can no longer refer to amateur sport or professional sport. We simply refer to sport, and this is one of the goals of this new bill.
Bill C-54 on physical activity and sport was brought in after extensive consultations. Meetings and consultations were held regionally throughout the country and culminated in a summit on sport that was held here in Ottawa over which the Prime Minister presided. As a result of that consultation we ended up with a new Canadian sport policy that was endorsed by all 14 jurisdictions in the country.
The provinces, territories and the Government of Canada all endorsed the new Canadian sports policy. For the first time we now have one sports policy from coast to coast to coast in all jurisdictions. It is that policy we are entrenching in legislation with Bill C-54, this very important bill that we are trying to get brought back at the stage it was at prior to prorogation, which was after third reading. It had finished in the House of Commons and was in the Senate.
The Canadian sports policy entrenched in the bill has four pillars. One is the pursuit of excellence by improving our results in high performance sports. Another is increased participation. That is where we get to the physical activity side of it. By having a more physically active population we are sure to have a more healthy population. Obviously, there would be savings that we would obtain in future health care costs by having a very active and healthier population. The other two remaining principles in the policy entrenched in the bill are building capacity in our sports system and improving interaction among the partners in our Canadian sports system.
We have the support of all levels, the provinces, the territories, the municipalities and the federal government. We have the support of sports organizations, the national sports organizations and provincial sports organizations. We have the support of the volunteers. Our entire sports system operates primarily on a volunteer basis.
Volunteers do most of the work in our sports system here in Canada. They are truly partners, and we must ensure that they remain involved. There are also the athletes for whom our system is designed.
Last April, when we welcomed to Parliament Hill the Salt Lake City Olympic and Paralympic medallists, I pointed out in my comments that without athletes, there would be no sports system, no national organizations and no Secretary of State for Amateur Sport.
Our sports system depends on our athletes, and we must work together with all our partners.
There is the involvement of schools. I had occasion last Friday to be in Banff to meet and speak with the Canadian School Sports Federation which is the national organization of sports in our school system. It is an important partner. These are the teachers, volunteers and coaches who are involved with our young people in the high school sport system that will lead them to some of our national provincial teams and to other developments.
That is a significant portion of our Canadian sports system at the development stage where students from our high schools are exposed and coached in the relevant sports. The federation is an important partner in our entire sports system. It is looking for recognition and it is something we need to take into account. We need to consult with the Canadian School Sports Federation when we are looking at policy and sports policy in our system.
There is also in the Canadian sports policy the provision to ensure that underrepresented groups become more represented in our Canadian sports system. The groups identified were: aboriginal peoples, people with disabilities, visible minorities and women. In the case of women, I had the privilege last week to launch the Women's History Month along with my colleague, the secretary of state responsible for women's issues. This year the theme of Women's History Month is “Women in sports”. I was in Montreal, she was in London, and we were able to launch it in the high schools, along with the ESTEEM team which is a group of former athletes who speak to students and encourage them to become involved in athletics to develop the personal esteem that they will need to perform well.
This is all part of the Canadian sports policy that is being entrenched and is for the benefit of my friend who is asking what is the relevance to the motion that we are debating. We would lose the time put into the bill if we are not able to get this motion to reintroduce it at the present stage in the Senate.
If we are able to get this motion, we will be able to carry on with the bill at this stage and all of that time and effort would be saved.
That is why I find it very important. Our colleagues across the way do not seem to understand what we are trying to accomplish here. They want to continue the old fight about former Bill C-15B, and they are not going to give up easily.
We on this side, however, believe it is very important to continue trying to build on the work already done and the expenses already incurred in considering these bills.
Many of these bills are important. I go back to my concern about the time that would be lost and the expense if we had to start over on Bill C-54. Again, there are provisions in that bill that are relevant and significant, and that we need to get into place sooner rather than later.
This weekend I was in Vancouver speaking at a seminar put on by PacificSport Group, which is a coalition of the national sports centres in Vancouver and Victoria and the British Columbia provincial sports centres. PacificSport Group puts on a series of seminars for young, developing athletes and their parents to teach them about some of the processes within our Canadian sports system, which they will need to take advantage of the entire system. Bill C-54 deals with that and would set up the framework for that important work from which these young developing athletes would benefit to develop into some of the world class athletes that we are all so proud of in this country.
We cannot just support them every four years when the Olympics are taking place, we see our flag being raised and O Canada is being sung. We must be prepared to step up and support these developing athletes all the time, between Olympic games. That is what Bill C-54 would help do. It would provide the framework that would let us do that.
We must also be prepared to step up to the plate with our partners in the private sector and in the provinces, and commit the necessary resources. From the work that I have been doing in the short time that I have been in the position of Secretary of State responsible for Amateur Sport I have seen a fairly healthy appetite within the Canadian population to step forward and be prepared to dedicate more resources to our athletes.
It is very important to be there for our athletes. We can best support them by voting in favour of the motion before the House this evening. This is a motion to reintroduce bills, and Bill C-54 in particular, at the same stage they were at before prorogation, which would mean it would be referred immediately to the Senate.
For these reasons, we seek the support of all members of the House for this motion.