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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was public.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as NDP MP for Dartmouth (Nova Scotia)

Won her last election, in 2000, with 36% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act February 27th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be sharing my time with the member for Acadie—Bathurst. Together we are going to be talking about the impact that the equalization program has on Atlantic Canada.

I wanted to start by saying it is a pleasure to speak to this bill but I find that any optimism I once had that the Liberal government was willing to be fair in its dealings on equalization has been sorely shaken by the latest figures on equalization released by Treasury Board. Unfortunately, since November 2003, when I last spoke in the House on equalization and the effects on the Atlantic provinces, the situation has become much worse. I will outline what I mean by that.

Between 2000-01 and 2004-05 total major transfers to the provinces, and that includes the Canada health and social transfer, equalization and tax points, increased by almost 18%. That is up from 15% in October 2003. That is the good news and that sounds not bad. However, in Atlantic Canada, total major transfers dropped by almost 4% during the same period, so the news only gets worse for the poorest provinces.

When I spoke to this issue in November 2003, the Treasury Board estimates indicated that of the $6.4 billion increase in major federal transfers, the Atlantic provinces received minus $200 million. The latest estimates show that out of a $7.6 billion increase in total major federal transfers, the Atlantic provinces received minus $240 million. What a difference four months makes. The have less provinces continue to get even less.

Since Bill C-18 seeks to maintain the status quo on equalization from one year to another, I have to wonder how the government believes it is helping the have less provinces. Apologists for the government will say that the Atlantic provinces should not complain, that we have offshore oil and gas and that our ship has come in. There may be those who say that we should be proud because we are less dependent on federal transfers.

First of all, there is no oil and gas off the shores of New Brunswick and P.E.I. Why have they seen increases in federal transfers that are just one-quarter and one-sixth, respectively, of the national increase? I will tell members why. It has nothing to do with oil and gas. It is that the system of federal transfers is defective. The system is based on population and our region is losing population.

Federal policies are driving people out of our region so our provincial governments are losing hundreds of millions, even billions, in federal transfer money. That is a great system, is it not? Federal economic policies, or lack thereof, drive people out of those have less regions and the government responsible pockets a windfall.

Take equalization payments to Nova Scotia as an example. Last February the Department of Finance estimated that between 2001-02 and 2003-04 Nova Scotia would get $3.72 billion in equalization payments. This February we found that Nova Scotia would only get $3.55 billion. This is a shortfall for Nova Scotia of $170 million, but a windfall of $179 million for the Liberals, almost enough to pay for another Groupaction fiasco.

With an unexpected shortfall of $170 million, there is not enough revenue left to meet the needs of the remaining population in Nova Scotia, let alone to bring forward the economic and social policies we need so that our people will not have to go down the road. It might not be so bad if the Liberals put the money they are clawing back from the Atlantic provinces into the policies we need in order to turn around our outmigration, but they are not doing that. If they are not wasting it on some boondoggle, they are recycling it and claiming it is new.

Over the last two years the government has saved over $3 billion in equalization payments to the provinces. That is roughly half of the “new money” that has gone into health care over that period.

More money for health care, even though it is nowhere near enough, is a good thing, but when half of it is clawed back in equalization, it is like robbing a bunch of Peters, Johns and Garys to pay Paul. When we consider that most of the new health money will go to the provinces with the larger populations, the have provinces, then we have something worse. It is Robin Hood in reverse, taking from the have less to give to the have mores.

The Minister of Natural Resources talked this week about changes to the offshore energy agreement with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Please let me emphasize that P.E.I. and New Brunswick do not benefit from offshore energy agreements at all. I am pleased to hear that the Liberals are finally ready to consider that the offshore agreements were not fair to begin with. I recognize that it was the Mulroney Tories who came up with the original deal.

The news about this offshore industry has not been good and many doubt that we will ever have a production boom such as Alberta had. The fact is that getting oil or gas from below the ocean floor is more expensive, more dangerous for workers and the environment, and more uncertain in its values than any land based operation.

People in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland should not be penalized through an equalization program that expects a payoff in the future. Until the offshore industry is guaranteed and long term, instead of a series of underproducing operations, potential offshore royalties should not affect the equalization formula at all.

I want to echo something my colleague, the member for Halifax, said in a previous debate on equalization. The provinces have asked for a 10 province plan, one that considers all the provinces, not the middle five that the federal government uses now.

That would make the payments more equitable and would better reflect the economic situation of the majority of provinces. It would also prevent a huge loss in equalization when one province has a bad year, as was the case last year with Ontario.

The status quo simply is not adequate when it comes to the equalization plan. I fear that giving the federal government another year's grace to renegotiate equalization will result in an even less equitable program as provinces get more desperate for funds. In the end it is not the provinces that suffer, it is Canadians.

I will now turn to the second part of the bill, the payment of an extra $2 billion to the provinces for health care. The intent of the equalization program is to allow every province to offer reasonably comparable services to other provinces and to their citizens.

I was horrified to hear Lorne Calvert, the premier of Saskatchewan, quoted in the papers this week as saying that without immediate aid from the federal government, we can expect to see the Canadian health care system as we know it disappear within 10 years. What is going on for one of our premiers to be saying that?

When I look around, I see how the wealth of Canada has increased many times since medicare was first proposed and implemented. We have more money now than at any other time in our history, but the government chooses not to spend that money where Canadians want to see it spent. Canadians want a health care system that they can depend on. We want the money to be there and we know the money is there with the federal surplus, $7 billion to $8 billion this year.

Why are the Liberals letting the health care system fail when there is money available to sustain and improve it? It is like a homeowner who decides never to repair the leaks or pay for upkeep so that the mortgage can be paid down sooner, but when the mortgage is finally paid off, there is only a pile of wood and tar that can never be put back together.

A payment of $2 billion is a small start in helping the provinces improve health care. However, the way the Liberal government agreed to provide the money was stingy in the first place. It put debt management ahead of sustaining our health care system. Then it did not offer more money when it became clear that there would be a much larger surplus than was expected. This does not give much hope that the Liberal government takes Canadians' concerns seriously.

In conclusion, the NDP will support this bill to ensure the provinces continue to receive their money, but the system itself is flawed. There needs to be a more equitable equalization formula. The NDP will continue to push the government to work with the provinces for a formula that benefits Canadians in all provinces.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act February 26th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today to Bill C-451, a bill that would prohibit psychological harassment at work. It comes to the House at a time when we are hearing daily about senior managers abusing the public trust when it comes to sponsorship programs.

The public service integrity office, or PSIO, has the task of being a neutral entity to encourage the disclosure of wrongdoing in the public sector. That office found that few employees were willing to come forward with stories of wrongdoing activities. I have a quote from the public service integrity office that I think is very important to this debate, and I will quote it at length. I think it explains the need for this legislation, which I support the legislation. The PSIO report states:

These activities have great implications for the public service because they are serious in nature, often have a detrimental effect on the interests and functions of a group of public servants or a whole department, and subvert the delivery of programs or services to the public. Some cases brought to the PSIO during the past year involved alleged conduct that was obviously within that category. All involved long and complicated investigations, whether or not wrongdoing was found. These cases most clearly fall within the mandate of the PSIO.

Yet, relatively few such disclosures were made to the PSIO. As was noted earlier, it is impossible to know how much serious wrongdoing actually takes places in the Public Service. We do know that serious instances have been uncovered by the police and the Auditor General. Also, serious instances of wrongdoing have been alleged by Parliamentary Committees. And many accounts of serious governmental wrongdoing have been widely reported and discussed in the media and other public forums. The question is: Why did the employees who presumably know about these activities not go to the PSIO?

While some may believe that such disclosures are being made by internal departmental channels, this does not always appear to be the case. In fact, departmental Senior Officers designated to review disclosures of wrongdoing say they seldom receive reports of serious wrongdoing.

In my view, much of it has to do with balancing the likelihood of job reprisal with the hope of personal benefit. For example, if I believe I am the victim of an employment-related wrong, I may be willing to risk reprisal in the reasonable hope of personal benefit if the problem is addressed and fixed. But if I am not the victim of the actual wrongdoing, I am unlikely to benefit if the wrongdoing is fixed. Therefore, I may be less likely to risk reprisal by reporting the wrongdoing. Also, many do not want to risk being labelled a squealer, a rat or a disloyal employee by superiors or colleagues.

Clearly, it requires greater courage and commitment to the public interest on the part of public servants to report serious wrongdoing, especially in light of the fact that they may risk real or perceived reprisals without chance of personal benefit. Surely, the institution concerned has a duty to provide incentives and recognition for the public service being rendered, including effective protection against job reprisals.

Clearly, skepticism about the ability of this Office to provide effective protection is directly related to doubts about the effectiveness of policy versus legislation, as well as uncertainty about the independence and powers of the PSIO. As such, the fears of reprisal--and doubts that a policy-based agency can withstand those determined to practise reprisal--may constitute yet another reason to recommend a legislatively supported agency.

This is a long quote but I think it is a telling quote in terms of why the legislation is imperative at this time and why I believe the House should support it. As the quote from the public service integrity officer explains, public service employees do not believe that sufficient support or protection for them to risk disclosing wrongdoing is in place.

I think the kind of comments that were made by the minister across the way on this issue only fuels the belief that they are not being protected at this point in time by the government in office.

Our public servants deserve better support from us than they have received. Who can forget the pictures of the privacy commissioner employees standing outside the office last summer wearing gags as a symbol of how they felt silenced by a culture of intimidation in their department? If they had felt more secure, we may have learned of George Radwanski's excesses much sooner. This bill moves us in the right direction to support public servants at this point.

By laying out an explicit definition of psychological harassment and its implications on public service employees, the bill clearly supports and protects the workers who have had to implement decisions made by managers right up to the ministers of the Crown. The bill states that hostile, inappropriate and unwanted conduct, comments, actions and gestures are all psychological harassment. It also goes on to talk about the abuse of authority, including intimidation, threats, blackmail or coercion that a person in a position of power might use to endanger an employee's job, undermine their performance or interfere with an employee's career, as another form of psychological harassment. It makes clear that just one incident of this behaviour that had long term effects on an employee would in fact be considered harassment.

This legislation is a small step toward some protection for whistleblowers since it would penalize an employer or manager who retaliates against an employee disclosing incidents of psychological harassment.

The NDP has called for protection for whistleblowers for years. Any time employees come forward, like the veterinarian at Health Canada who talked about pressure from managers to fast track drug approvals, they risk not just their current jobs but also any future employment, especially if their career happens to be linked to the public service.

Surveys of public service employees show that over 21% of employees report experiencing psychological harassment at work. That is just an unbelievable figure. Over 20% of people are identifying with this problem right now in our public service. Overwhelmingly, the harassment came from people in positions of authority. Seventy-four per cent of employees who reported being harassed identified their supervisors as the people responsible for the harassment.

We clearly need legislation at this point to protect our public service employees from intimidation and coercion from their supervisors, managers and others. The fact that the government at this point is saying that it is not necessary speaks volumes about the people who are in charge of the government.

In closing, this bill, while protecting employees, will also protect the interests of Canadians by ensuring public service employees are protected from job loss and censure if they make a disclosure of wrongdoing. I am pleased to support the bill at this time.

Freedom to Read February 26th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, February 22 to 28 is Freedom to Read Week organized by the Canadian Book and Periodical Council. This is the 20th year for this celebration of intellectual freedom in Canada. Each year, books and periodicals are challenged in our public schools, in our public libraries, at our borders and in our bookstores.

This week reminds everyone that our right to read cannot be taken for granted. Censorship of books is only one issue. In June 2003 the Haycock report on funding for school libraries asked, if children are denied books, are they not deprived of the freedom to read?

As National Librarian Roch Carrier has said, the library is the heart of a school. Too often, school libraries and the librarians who staff them are considered a luxury instead of a necessity. The result is reduced student achievement in reading, literacy and use of information.

To celebrate Freedom to Read Week, there are events happening all over Canada, including a reading that just finished here on Parliament Hill.

I ask all parliamentarians to join with me in supporting intellectual freedom in Canada, especially the freedom our children should enjoy to discover books in their schools.

Supply February 24th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I was very interested by the comments that my colleague has made.

I just returned from Nova Scotia where there was an enormous blizzard. They refer to it as white Juan, in parallel to the hurricane Nova Scotia experienced in September. It was very clear that what was required during the last five days was that people work together. There was very much a sense that the public good, the welfare of everyone would only be increased and improved if people worked together, planned together and dug out together.

It is very interesting to hear that the Canada pension plan was put in place for that very purpose, to raise the horizons and the quality of life certainly for persons with disabilities, but also for people who reach an age where they need a pension plan. In the late 1990s there were cuts to the Canada pension plan.

As the critic for persons with disabilities, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how we can get money back into the plan for the people it was meant for. What we are hearing now is not only is the plan not working, that it is broken at the operational level, but the money that should be going to vulnerable Canadians is going into some very unethical investments offshore, with tobacco, with arms and with privatization of hospitals.

What is the process that allowed this incredible reversal, this distortion of what the plan was all about to begin with?

Homeless February 13th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, homelessness is a national crisis in Canada, yet the attitude of the government has been to turn a blind eye.

In Dartmouth and Halifax almost 31,000, or 8% of the population, are on the brink of homelessness. A Halifax study has found many of these people are under 24 and many have disabilities.

High housing costs often mean choosing between paying the rent, buying food or getting prescriptions. Why are any of our citizens being forced to make such choices? Being homeless means thinking, “How can I get through the day?”, instead of, “How can I contribute to the society that I live in?”

These are some of our most vulnerable citizens, yet the callous attitude of the Prime Minister has been to cut the national housing program as finance minister and not appoint a secretary of state for housing.

I call on the Prime Minister to immediately put forth a national housing strategy and to devote 1% of the budget to housing.

Broadcasting Industry February 12th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the new Minister of Canadian Heritage.

The heritage committee just completed a two year study on broadcasting. It made strong recommendations to protect the cultural sovereignty of our broadcasting industry by maintaining the present foreign ownership restrictions.

With a former president of Rogers AT&T now in the PMO and scandal and corporate cronyism at an all-time high in the Liberal government, will the minister assure us that she will put the interests of Canadians above corporate profits and leave the present foreign ownership rules unchanged?

Portia White February 11th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today and acknowledge a remarkable Nova Scotian, Portia White. She was a black woman who defied the stereotypes of the time to become an internationally renowned soloist and music teacher in the 1940s. Her interpretations of black spirituals were audience favourites wherever she performed.

A singer in her father's church since she was six, Portia White trained at the Halifax Conservatory in her twenties. There she met Ernesto Vinci, who would help Portia develop the amazing voice that took her to stages in Toronto and New York.

Dartmouth's Eastern Front Theatre, in honour of Black History Month, will premiere a new musical play, Portia White--First You Dream , by playwright Lance Woolaver. The title comes from a story about the singer.

When asked by an American reporter how does a young woman from Nova Scotia become so famous, Portia replied, “First, you dream”. Her dream ended too soon, especially for us, since there are no recordings of her wonderful voice, but her example of hard work and determination continues to inspire us all.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act November 6th, 2003

And offensive, as my colleague has just said.

There is no provision for regional representation. There is no provision that the minister must even consult to make his appointments.

There is also the question of “double harmony”. How can we have the great diversity among first nations culturally, geographically and politically when, according to clause 27, a key purpose of the commission is to harmonize the tax system for first nations in Canada by promoting “a common approach”? How can we have diversity when in fact the overall goal is homogeneity and the levelling of all of these communities into one cookie cutter approach?

Not only must first nations local tax laws generally be the same, but those taxation laws must be integrated into the broader municipal and provincial tax framework. There is also the requirement that the needs of the first nation members must be reconciled with the interests of taxpayers. This is a most unusual requirement, which basically says, “You can do anything you want, but only if you do it our way”.

There is the further prescription that first nations must take into consideration what the taxpayers want the tax money to be used for, rather than giving priority to the needs, interests and wishes of the first nations members. This is still another reason why first nations oppose Bill C-19. There seems to be a more significant role for the ratepayers than there is for the members of the first nations.

I could go on all day with reasons given by first nations as to why they oppose this bill. Let me conclude with this one. Bill C-19 would give the financial management board the authority to assume third party management of the first nation in order to force it to remedy any situation it feels should be remedied. The manager sent in would have the power to amend or make taxation laws and to “assume control of service delivery of programs and services”.

There is no right of appeal, no time limit as to how long the imposed manager can stay, and no requirement to consult with the people of the first nation. Can anyone in this chamber imagine this? What Canadian would accept this kind of regime?

I join the vast majority of first nations people in opposing Bill C-19 and so do my colleagues in the New Democratic Party. I respectfully urge my colleagues in all parties in the House to do the same.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act November 6th, 2003

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak tonight to the amendments to Bill C-19 at this stage of the proceedings.

The current fiscal relationship between first nations and the federal government is still much like that of a parent and child: that is the heritage of colonialism.

The development of a new fiscal relationship between first nations and Canada has been an ongoing subject of discussion. In 1983, the report of the House of Commons Special Committee on Indian Self-Government, the Penner report, agreed that this kind of fiscal relationship was not appropriate for governments relating to governments. It recommended the restructuring of fiscal relationships between Canada and first nations, as did the final report of the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the RCAP report.

As well, the move to restructure fiscal relationships for first nations has remained part of a broader movement toward aboriginal self-government.

All that leads us to Bill C-19, which has been presented under the banner of a new fiscal relationship.

Unfortunately, Bill C-19 falls far short of that mark. It leaves in place the current relationship and suggests that first nations should start meeting their own needs by taxation and selling bonds to raise money for critically needed infrastructure.

Bill C-19 cannot distract us from the real needs of the first nations people.

The institutions proposed by Bill C-19 are not the problem. The problem is that they are being established by legislation rather than by the inherent right of self-government of any first nation that wants to be involved, but it cannot be a substitute for real change in the fiscal relationship, for real political autonomy, for real self-government.

The NDP is vehemently opposed to Bill C-19 because the Assembly of First Nations is against Bill C-19. I cannot in fair conscience impose on the first nations people something they do not want, and neither can my colleagues.

The AFN states that proposed legislation violates the historic nation to nation relationship, infringes upon aboriginal and treaty rights, and is otherwise so flawed that it cannot be corrected by mere amendments.

Although the preamble to the bill says that it is not intended to define the nature of self-government, the majority of first nations criticizes it because it takes a strong municipal approach, a very narrow approach to the rights of first nations.

A majority of first nations sees Bill C-19 as being overly prescriptive. It dictates, it limits and it restricts. It insists that any taxation revenues must be directed strictly to certain purposes rather than letting first nations decide how they will use their tax money, just as any other governments do. This kind of restriction violates the principle of the inherent right to self-government.

The Chiefs of Ontario stated:

...all significant matters dealing with taxation and taxation revenue expenditure, particularly as they affect non-Indians, are beyond the independent capacity of individual First Nations.

Passage of the FNFSMA means that the inherent right does not include local revenue collection for local purposes.

That is a remarkably restrictive interpretation of the inherent right, and one that is prejudicial to all First Nations, whether or not they later participate actively in the mechanisms of the fiscal institutions.

Therefore, even though the bill is said to be totally voluntary, this is an example of where it will impact on all first nations whether they participate or do not participate.

A majority of first nations also is unhappy that the legislation does not make it clear what the financial administration laws of a first nation will be required to be in order to obtain approval. No explicit criteria or requirements are set out in the proposed legislation. The worry is that the system required will be just like those of surrounding municipalities.

First nations would go from being signatories to treaties to having the status of a small quasi-municipality. They argue there is no guarantee that the criteria to be applied will take into consideration the priorities of individual first nation governments.

First nations also point out that the proposed legislation provides that first nations must take into account the interests, concerns and protection of the non-native taxpayers. This provision and other related provisions in the bill have been criticized as a further limitation on the authority of first nations to enact local property tax laws based on their priorities and is a provision that is not even in the Indian Act.

There are so many pieces of this bill that are problematic that it is hard even to consider this as something the government wants to pass into law.

There is also a statutory requirement forbidding a first nation from running an operating deficit. Can members imagine imposing that requirement on all governments in Canada? Just imagine what that would mean. Maybe it would be a good thing, but why do we impose upon first nations people something that we do not impose on anyone else? How do we expect first nations to have economic success with these kinds of restrictions unique to them?

There is also the question of whether the institutions such as the taxation commission are really first nations institutions when the members of the boards are appointed by the ministers.

For example, subclause 18(5) stipulates that commissioners should include some first nation members “who are committed to the development of a system of first nations real property taxation”, but there is not even a requirement that the majority be first nations people. I find that astounding and incredibly insulting.

Statistics Act November 6th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to again speak to Bill S-13, an act to amend the Statistics Act. The NDP supports the bill because we believe in information exchange, the preservation of information and the extension of our collective knowledge of the past. Bill S-13 would move us in that direction.

We appreciate that there has been non-partisan support on this issue and a real desire among senators to find a compromise between the parties involved.

We support the Senate's work on the bill and the amount of collegiality there has been. We also support the work of the expert panel from Industry Canada that recommended the transfer of census information to the National Archives after 92 years.

Each one of us has heard from constituents on this issue who are dismayed at the delay in releasing the data from the 1911 census. They are also concerned that in the future, census data will not be available for various kinds of research.

I would like to inform the House of one interesting submission that was made to the expert panel, which will be enlightening to this discussion. It was a submission by Gordon Watts who quoted from the journal Archivaria 45 of the fall of 1998. The article, entitled “Counting Archives In: The Appraisal of the 1991 Census of Canada”, was written by Jean-Stéphen Piché and Sheila Powell. It is an excellent explanation of why the census is so important to historians and to all of us.

The article states:

Macro-appraisal analysis of other data collected by the federal and provincial governments led us to determine that the census was the single most complete and uniform body of demographic data in Canada. The provinces are responsible for maintaining records of births, marriages, deaths, adoptions, divorces, and changes of names. These records contain much of the data on individuals that has been traditionally sought by genealogical researchers: date of birth, date of death, names of parents, occupation of parents, residence, place of birth, cause of death, religious denomination, and date and place of marriage.

The crucial difference between provincial vital statistics and the census records is that the provincial data is event-driven and thus recorded only at certain points in an individual's life when these events occur, while the census collects data at regular intervals throughout the course of a person's life. For example, provincial vital statistics on an individual who never married and who had no children would be limited to those collected during registration of their birth and death.

End of story.

The articles goes on to state:

On the other hand, census questionnaire forms would provide information at regular five-year intervals on other aspects of a person's life, such as address, marital status, language, and the identity of the person who pays the rent or the mortgage in the family. This information is collected on all individuals, and even more is collected on twenty per cent of the population through the long census form (Form 2B). This data is extensive, including information on ethnic origin and immigration data, aboriginal status, education, religion, labour force participation, income, housing, and disabilities.

In the last census that was taken there was an extensive survey on disabilities and the extent and range of disabilities within the Canadian public and the impact that has on people's abilities to work and function in society and their mobility.

So many important issues were raised in that study that will go into the public record and will be available four or five years down the line to do more comparisons. We will see legislation come out of that. That is a good example of why the census is so critical for us to value and to support.

Data is also collected by a number of other federal government programs. Taxation records and records maintained for the purposes of administering federal income security programs such as the Canada pension plan, old age security, and the disability tax credit contain information on the date of birth, the place of residence, income, marital status and other individual characteristics, depending on the type of program. There is, however, no federal government system that contains all the types of data that are captured through the census.

For the departmental systems, specific data elements are collected for the purposes of administering and delivering specific programs within a limited period of time. The data is relevant only to those programs and the more limited needs of those citizens interacting with them. It is maintained only so long as is necessary to deliver those programs. The census, on the other hand, by definition covers all Canadians.

In an increasingly mobile society, children may not see their older relatives for years at a time. Having access to historical records for genealogical purposes becomes more vital than ever. We know that oral history is being lost. We are not seeing the same level of transfer of information from one generation to another.

We also need to acknowledge that Canada's history, even in the previous century, included orphan children being moved around the country, first nations children adopted off reserves, and the movement of millions of immigrants from one population centre to another. The record of the census provides some information on where these people were at different times in their lives and allows relatives to track their history.

The census has become more intrusive over the years as Statistics Canada collects more information. However, the provision in this bill to allow citizens in a future census to opt in for the release of their information after 92 years is a positive step. It allows a measure of control for individuals, which we all agree is important.

Some people have suggested that this opt in measure would negate any potential value of a future census. Statistics Canada has asked people in the past if they would be willing to allow their private information to be shared and 95% of the population who were polled responded favourably on that. Since participation in our census is already very high, at almost 97%, we can be certain that most people will opt in to sharing that information in the future.

In closing, I want to emphasize how important this information will be to the continuance of our collective knowledge. As we know more about our past through genealogical studies and our understanding of our ancestors, we will know more about how we should be moving into the future. Many historians are already raising the alarm on how little of our daily information will survive into even the next decade. By turning to electronic forms of communication, we are choosing a temporary medium and cannot be certain that materials in today's hard drives will be accessible in decades to come.

The information in census records may be the most complete picture of a person's life that his or her ancestors may have or historians can access. We want to ensure that the fair access to records moves ahead and we will be supporting this bill.