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39th PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 043

CONTENTS

Monday, June 19, 2006





CANADA

House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 141 
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NUMBER 043 
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1st SESSION 
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39th PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Monday, June 19, 2006

Speaker: The Honourable Peter Milliken

Image

    The House met at 11 a.m.

Prayers



PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS

[Private Members' Business]

  (1100)  

[English]

Canadian Wheat Board Act

     moved that Bill C-300, An Act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act (direct sale of grain), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
     He said: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to start off the week with a great private member's bill.
     The genesis of the bill goes back a number of years. When I first started farming in the early 1970s and attended some of the Canadian Wheat Board meetings, and of course there were its allies in the NFU, a lot of the excuses and arguments they are using now were used then, such as the argument that we cannot have this type of thing, that it would weaken the core of the Canadian Wheat Board, and of course that it could not survive if it had any kind of competition, even from the producers that it purports to save.
    Let us set the stage. Why this private member's bill and why now?
     I guess what it comes down to is the strength and viability of rural Canada, especially in western Canada. We see the statistics. A third of all Canadians live in rural Canada. Twenty-five per cent of our jobs are anchored in rural Canada and that number is sliding. Some 22% of our gross domestic product and some 40% of our exports and trade are generated out of rural Canada, and we are a trading nation. At the same time, 75% of the farmers within the Canadian Wheat Board area must have an off farm job in order to support that nasty habit we call farming.
    What the bill seeks to do is add to the options, so to speak, for Canadian primary producers in the Canadian Wheat Board area only, because that is who is feeling the hurt at this point. The bill seeks to add to the options those producers will have to add value to their own product.
    At this particular time and place under the Canadian Wheat Board Act, any product in grains, durum or malt barley that is designated for the foodstuffs line has to go through what is called the buyback procedure. That sounds innocuous enough, but what it entails is not just a percentage by the Canadian Wheat Board, in order to administer the fact that it goes in and out of its books, but the freight and elevation charges. In many cases now, these charges are horrendous and add some $30 to $50 per tonne to the basic cost of a product that has not yet left the farmer's yard.
    That takes the feedstocks and puts them out of sight as far as getting any kind of positive bottom line is concerned when we are talking about a risky venture, let us say, in the eyes of the financial institutions. Now let us add to that the fact that the board likes to collect the world price at any given time on that buyback as well and again the problem is exacerbated in making those feedstocks for producer processing completely out of line.
    We have seen groups come and go. We saw a group of 650 farmers from southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and even into North Dakota, who were wanting to build and supply with their own product a durum facility, a pasta plant attached to the Weyburn Inland Terminal. That idea bubbled and percolated along for four or five years, but the group could never get a deal with the Canadian Wheat Board to do away with this buyback provision, which made their feedstocks drive the viability of that system into jeopardy. It never did happen.
    We have to address those types of things. We are seeing the advent of the value added side of agriculture, the agrifood side, and it is doing very well. It has seen huge increases. It is controlling the vast majority of the exports and domestic use in this country now. Over the last 15 years there has been a paradigm shift. The primary producer, as a hewer of wood and drawer of water, has been left behind. That is where we are seeing all of the trade injury hurt, with the market costs, the input costs and of course all of these extra charges on their product taking the primary producers away from any segment of viability.
    This bill seeks to rectify some of that. Certainly we have to address this in the near future.
    We do have some naysayers with regard to this particular perspective. I had lunch a week ago with some of the Canadian Wheat Board officials. I was pleased to buy lunch for Ken Ritter, the chair of the board, Adrien Measner, the CEO and president, and Victor Jarjour, the Ottawa coordinator for the Canadian Wheat Board. We discussed this particular issue along with others that are very pertinent to primary producers at this time.
    They are not against the premise of the bill. They are not against the idea. In fact, their own polling numbers, which they just got back, show that some 80% of respondents said that the board needs to move this way. That is 80%, with 67% in that same survey saying the board is not doing its job and 49% saying they just want out from under the board so they can do this. So we know this is percolating out there, and while a lot of folks say that producers must have the final say, I would say this polling number just did that.

  (1105)  

    We can go back and argue that when we campaigned on a dual market in the last election, a lot of us were elected on January 23. In fact, other than the former minister of the Wheat Board who was elected within that trading area and another member from northern Saskatchewan, there is no one in this House who speaks for farmers. Also, we all know about the problems the former minister of the Wheat Board had in ordering farmers arrested, and in having a complete revamp of the Canadian Wheat Board Act, that saw farmers jailed, shackled and strip-searched, all for running an auger over the international boundary.
     That particular farmer in that case farms on both sides of that line. It is an arbitrary line on his farm. He augered a barley that the Wheat Board was not handling and would not sell for him because it was a niche market. The officials arrested this fellow. They impounded his trucks. They went further than that under the Customs Act. They impounded the trucks of a lot of farmers who took a bag of something across the line, donated it to a 4-H club or dumped it because it was wood shavings. No one ever checked what it was they were hauling, but the minister, in his exuberance, came down with a heavy hand. He changed some of the rules arbitrarily and retroactively so that he could go ahead and do that, all to save this wonderful government operation, because it is controlled by the Canadian Wheat Board Act.
     That goes to the next group of naysayers. The only other real voice out there against this type of provision is the voice of the grassroots farmers, the National Farmers Union, which says it speaks for those grassroots farmers. I am just amazed at how the NFU could be against this. Those farmers are taking the side of the multinationals they hate because of the profit margins for their shareholders and they are saying that farmers would then partner with these terrible bastions of enterprise in this country and start to circumvent the board.
    This bill does not really allow that, because the bill says that a majority of any processing facility has to be producer owned and Canadian based. So unless the Cargills of the world are going to sell a flour mill to farmers, which is not necessarily a bad thing, that could not happen.
    The NFU members have some specious arguments. They made three or four points in a letter that they circulated, none of which have any validity. I think the flat earth society that is running the NFU had better look in the rear-view mirror because the free marketers are overtaking them. It is just not going to happen in the way they are talking about.
    There are other people who speak against this type of thing but at the same time put forward a report. I am talking about the former parliamentary secretary from Malpeque. I know he is the House today. He is very interested in agricultural issues. Again, he is probably going to talk against this bill because of the Canadian Wheat Board and how he wants to see that solidified in the fortress that it is, but in his report he made several recommendations from the airport tour he did in 2005.
     Let us talk about those four recommendations. I want to get them on the record so that when he stands and speaks against this, he will have to tell us why he is being a hypocrite. The first recommendation, which is a general one, states: “That all governments place a priority on measures that will enhance farmers' economic returns from the marketplace”. That is what this private member's bill seeks to do.
     Another point is on consolidation and market power: “That governments work with farmers to support, develop and maintain collective marketing initiatives, particularly through assisting New Generation Cooperatives and other farmer-owned corporate structures”.
    Those are great points. I tend to agree with them.
    The third point is on international trade. The member for Malpeque talks about “recognizing the legitimacy of the right of primary producers to market their products how they want”. That goes a long way to supporting this particular private member's bill. I am happy to see this.
    The last point is on innovative marketing and product development. He talks about “addressing issues that restrict the production, distribution and retailing of organic agricultural products”. This group of producers is one that has a terrible time out there right now. We have one member of this group on the board of advisers of the Canadian Wheat Board, a fellow named Rod Flaman from southern Saskatchewan, an organic producer who says the board does a tremendous job for him, but he is the only one who says that.
    There are some 50 members of a co-op based in Maymont, which is just outside my riding, who have built themselves a little mill. They clean and process to international standards, but they are forced to do this buyback. They have identified the markets. They have developed a niche market and have developed the product to fit it, through innovation and tenacity more than anything, and they are being punished with an extra $50 or $60 per tonne, or whatever it is, added to their commodity for absolutely zero services rendered by the Wheat Board, or by anyone else, for that matter. They have done it themselves. Good for them. That speaks to the future viability of rural Canada. It speaks to innovativeness and the niche markets that are available to us.

  (1110)  

    There is another group called FarmPure. It talks about making some positive changes like this. It is a group of certified seed growers who have become involved in processing because they felt it was in their best interests. The group is based in Regina, Saskatchewan, which is the heartland and centre of the Wheat Board, but it will not build within the Wheat Board area. It is building facilities outside that area, even if it is a malt plant. It is very big into the beverage industry, with products such as non-alcoholic beers and beverages like that, using Canadian cereal grains and so forth for malt plants.
    Jim Venn, who works for the group, made a presentation at committee the other day. Jim spent 15 years with Dominion Malting, one of the largest maltsters in this country. He is very well versed in buying, selling, and the operation of the board and how he can deal directly with producers.
    In my own farming operation in my past life, there was a maltster about 40 to 45 miles just north of us in Biggar. It was Prairie Malt. Cargill is now the major shareholder. At that time, it was a private sector initiative. The Saskatchewan Wheat Pool was involved in it. Cargill has now bought out Saskatchewan Wheat Pool. It supplies malt to a lot of the smaller breweries, including some in Mexico and even in China. Saskatoon's Great Western Brewing Company and companies like that buy from Biggar maltsters.
     I grew a lot of malt barley as a certified seed grower. When I wanted to sell that malt, I found my market in Biggar or in Alix, Alberta, or at Calgary Brewing and Malting or wherever it was, and I trucked it there. There is no railway between Rosetown and Biggar. It had to go through Thunder Bay at that time because of the Crow rate. When I trucked it up there with the B-train or my own trucks, I paid freight and elevation charges to tidewater at either Thunder Bay or Vancouver. Guess what? I had never used either system. I was out $40 to $50 a tonne already, plus I had the cost of trucking it myself to Biggar.
    I used to sit and have coffee with the fellow who happened to run that plant at that time. He is a great guy. He is a good operator and is now in Alix, Alberta. He said the reality is that he can buy cheap barley through the board, but he would just as soon pay farmers $10 a bushel for it as opposed the $3 it was going for at that time. He was not allowed to do that.
     Now there are some changes. The board has tinkered with it a bit and will allow some incentives. It speaks more to trucking so that we are not double paying, but not so much to the price of the commodity. If a buyer gets offside and tends to distort the buying power of the Wheat Board, it comes down on the buyer very hard.
    A good friend of mine, a fellow named Bob Nunweiler, took over a portion of an abandoned armed forces base in Alsask, Saskatchewan. He actually farms at Rosetown and Eston. He grinds every bushel of wheat that he produces. He creates his own flour. He goes through the buyback, this arcane punitive system, because he has to do that. He buys it back from the board and runs it through his mills. He has created Grandma Nunweiler's pancake mix, bread mix and so on. He exports worldwide. He went out there and found the markets.
    However, in the meantime he is harassed on an almost monthly basis by the board going through his books and checking his plant to make sure he is not slipping in a bushel from somebody else. That is ridiculous. Alsask needs every job it can get. Bob needs to be able to buy from other producers because his markets are growing. He can no longer supply them on a quantity basis because he cannot get enough grain and he is not allowed to buy it from anybody else. Those types of things have to change.
    My time is flying by, but I am just scratching the surface. There is a lot of concern being pumped up by certain groups that my bill, which is very short and succinct, does not have a proper definition of the word “producer”. The word “producer” is very well defined in the Canadian Wheat Board Act and that is what we are seeking to do. If people think it is too broad, I note that it is the same definition used for the voters list, which a lot of us think is too broad. Let us change that. I am willing to make those changes at committee.
    As well, what exactly do we mean by processing and percentage of ownership the producers must have? Let us talk about those things in committee and get on with this.
    Tremendous numbers of folks are waiting for this type of thing to happen. Rural Canada, as I said, is on the cusp of change. We must have this. Our farm safety nets are nowhere near able to keep up with the hurt at the primary production level. Allowing producers to value add and to seek out all of the niche markets and the innovation they so badly need is all addressed in this particular private member's bill.
     I will close with a quote from the Wheat Board itself, in its own production called Grain Matters: “The only way farmers could get more for their wheat and barley in a multiple-seller environment is if end users like millers and maltsters would pay more for grain”. If primary producers own those mills and malt houses, they will certainly pay more for the grain.

  (1115)  

    It has been raised again by the NFU, the Flat Earth Society, that somehow it could circumvent this by buying extra, producing it and sending it out. That would not be in the best interest of producers. The bill seeks to backstop producers. I look forward to its speedy passage and movement on to committee.
    Mr. Speaker, the member used a lot of strange names during his remarks but I will keep my question to the subject at hand.
    The bill states that while a purchasing firm has to be “engaged in the processing of grain”, which would allow for the bypassing of the Canadian Wheat Board, it does not state that the firm has to process the grain itself. What would prevent a group of producers from establishing a milling or processing operation, purchasing more grain than it requires and exporting the balance of any unprocessed grain to the United States, in other words, using it as a vehicle to bypass the Canadian Wheat Board and its single desk selling agency operation which is used to maximize returns to primary producers?
    The bill is not very specific and it is very short, which opens it up to a lot of problems. What is to prevent a group of Canadian farmers from setting up a processing facility in the United States and using that facility as an operation to transport the grain to the United States?
    Mr. Speaker, the member opposite answered his questions in his own report that was tabled here a year ago, which his government never saw fit to implement or even discuss. It is sitting on the shelves of the Library of Parliament gathering dust. The report contains some good things. The genesis of this private member's bill could lead back to those four recommendations that I talked about.
    The member is quite concerned that somehow farmers will make extra money. What he read was right out of the dogma of the National Farmers Union, which is his background and he will remain anchored there, but I cannot for the life of me understand why he would be concerned with producers making an extra dollar on their product. The bill seeks to address production and producers based in Canada.
    He also talks about--
    Hon. Wayne Easter: Answer the question, Gerry. It is a simple question.
    Mr. Gerry Ritz: He will get his time. He will make it seem like a half hour but it will only be 10 minutes.
    The member says that we should not be allowed to open facilities in any other part of the world. That is actually done now. The Canadian Wheat Board just invested $1 million of farmers' money in China. If he believes in the Canadian Wheat Board, it already has a facility over there. There is no reason in the world to stop Canadian producers from owning facilities anywhere in the world. If there is a niche market out there and a way to get the product there, then let us do it.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member said that the report was gathering dust in the Library of Parliament. In fact, it is on the minister's website as a discussion and consultation document. The member should keep his information straight.

  (1120)  

    That appears to be a point of debate and not a point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Wheat Board is a democratically elected group that is 100% controlled by farmers. If this change is so important for farmers, I would imagine all farmers would make the decision through an election or plebiscite.
    The hon. member probably would not want a top down solution from the federal government if he is of the firm belief that farmers should control their own destiny. What part of democracy are we afraid of? Why would we not let the Canadian Wheat Board make its own decision, instead of this top down, we know better kind of approach?
    Mr. Speaker, the one thing we hate worse than a farmer from Prince Edward Island telling us what we should do in Saskatchewan is someone from Toronto telling us the same thing.
    The Canadian Wheat Board purports to be farmer controlled. The unfortunate part is that we could elect all 15 members of the board, which I am sure is the way we will move, but they are still confined. Under the definition of the Canadian Wheat Board Act it does not allow this type of thing.
    As I said at the beginning of my speech, the Canadian Wheat Board's own poll is saying that 80% of producers want this, while 67% said that the board was not moving there fast enough. I guess that would speak to the answer that the member is looking for.
    Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat saddened by the last remarks of the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster. This is a serious issue and it is serious legislation. It is pathetic and it is wrong to try to disqualify myself or the member opposite from entering the debate because of where we reside. I spent 17 years of my life in western Canada as a farm leader.
    Mr. David Anderson: You did not. Tell the truth, Wayne.
    Hon. Wayne Easter: I did too. I spent 17 years of my life in western Canada as a farm leader, travelling across western Canada, indeed, all of Canada. I have great familiarity with that area. It is disgraceful for a member to cast aspersions on people in terms of the debate because of where they live.
    Let me get to the issue. As the agriculture critic for the official opposition, I do have serious concerns about Bill C-300. During my remarks I will outline those concerns. I might say as well that quite a number of prairie farmers are notifying our office and raising their concerns as well. I will mention a few of those concerns later.
    In my opinion and, I would submit, the opinion of the majority of grain farmers in western Canada, through a plebiscite approved by the board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board, the grain farmers should be the ones who determine if a bill, such as the one before the House now, is acceptable and should be acted upon.
    If the member opposite and the government were certain that the provisions of Bill C-300 were acceptable to producers, why has the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food not proposed such a measure to the board of directors for their approval and through the board a vote by producers?
    The reason is evident. This measure is an attempt by the government, through the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster, to begin the process the Conservative Party has long advocated: the dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board and with the objecting being that the single best selling feature of the board is eliminated. That is the real objective of the members opposite.
    The Canadian Wheat Board Act is very specific with respect to the measures required by which the activities and the mandate of the board can be altered. The minister, according to the provisions of the act, must first consult with the board of directors and, subsequent to that, any significant initiative must demonstrate by a vote support for those changes.
    The other course is that changes to the board, changes that I would submit have not been voted upon by the farmers affected, is through a private member's bill, such as the one before the House.
    I would challenge the member who introduced the bill to withdraw the legislation and have its contents submitted by the minister to the board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board and, through them, to the grain producers of western Canada. If he supports the democratic right of the majority of producers to address his proposal he would do so.
    With respect to the contents of Bill C-300, I have three areas of concern. First, the bill states that while a purchasing firm has to be engaged in the processing of grain, which would allow for the bypassing of the Canadian Wheat Board, it does not state that the firm has to process the grain itself. It should be noted that the member opposite would not answer that question.
    The question was: What would prevent a group of producers from establishing a milling or a processing operation, purchasing more grain that they require and exporting the balance of any unprocessed grain to the United States? This could be a way of circumventing the board.
    Second, what is to prevent a group of Canadian farmers from setting up a processing facility in the United States? The bill states that Canadian based producers must hold the majority interest in the purchasing firm and its facilities. It does not specify where those facilities must be located. There is nothing to assure western grain producers that the processing facilities must be located in western Canada, eliminating any claim this bill will increase western processing facilities.

  (1125)  

    The provisions of Bill C-300 may extend legislative advantages to some processors while excluding others which could result in trade challenges. The Library of Parliament's assessment of Bill C-300 made this point:
    Currently, Part IV of the Canadian Wheat Board Act expressly prohibits the export and interprovincial or international sale and purchase of wheat and barley, as well as wheat and barley products, by any person except the Canadian Wheat Board. The scheme of the Act is that all wheat and barley entering interprovincial or foreign trade is to be purchased and marketed by the CWB.
    The act is designed that way for a good reason. In order to be a single desk seller and thereby maximize the returns back to primary producers, the board must retain control over those products that it will be marketing. As well, the Library of Parliament makes this argument:
    Some might argue that under the Bill, it would be possible for a producer to sell grain to a processing plant in the United States, if the majority interest of the plant is held by producers in Canada. The processing plant in the United States may then process to the grain or may even sell it in bulk to a third party. The Bill does not specify what the end use of the directly sold grain should be. This problem is further compounded by the fact that the Bill allows for the transportation of grain for the direct sale specified in the Act. The bill does not impose any territorial limits on such transportation.
    I would make that argument. The bill also seeks to encourage value added processing in Canada, notably in the biofuel sector, and I agree that we should be increasing it. The member opposite mentioned the four recommendations in the report that I drafted. The Canadian Wheat Board is looking into that area. The board of directors is reviewing its value added policies in light of the importance which farmers have told them they attach to creating more value added processing in the prairies. The board, in its survey, states that 85% of farmers want the Canadian Wheat Board to work with producers to create more value added processing in the prairies. That is a good thing.
    The board, in its remarks on the bill, say that it is looking at that, that it is willing to work with the farm communities and that it is willing to find solutions. The board also believes “that all decisions that affect the CWB's marketing mandate, whether overall as a single desk selling marketing agency, in the value added or the organic sectors, should be made by farmers”. That is what should be happening. Farmers should be making the decision by a plebiscite and then recommending changes to Parliament. However, the member and the government opposition is trying to circumvent that process by not giving producers their democratic rights. They are trying to do what they can to undermine the single desk selling agency concept of the Canadian Wheat Board.
    I would like to quote Reg and Beverly Stow, producers from Manitoba. In a letter directed to Mr. Ritz and copied to myself, they state:
    If passed into law, this short and seemingly innocuous piece of legislation would gut the CWB mandate and eliminate any remaining trace of Western farmers' power in the transnational-owned marketplace.
    They conclude by giving a message to members opposite:
    It is alarming to us that a party which owes its mandate to the rural vote evidently can't wait to erode further the economic power of the very group whose historic...support brought it to government.
    I strongly urge to defeat Bill C-300.

  (1130)  

     I will be urging members of this House to think about the impact of this legislation clearly, and yes, to defeat the bill at the end of the day. Let us see what producers have to say rather than, as the government opposite is trying to do, undermine the single desk selling concept of the Canadian Wheat Board.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in today's debate on Bill C-300, which was introduced by the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster, who is also the chair of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, and with whom I truly enjoy working.
    That said, today we are talking about a different issue. We will not necessarily be on the same wavelength about his bill, which is no doubt the product of his very serious and thorough effort. He truly believes in the arguments he has put forward. However, it is not because one believes in something that one is right. We, the Bloc Québécois, have some concerns about this bill that I will discuss during the time I have been given.
    The purpose of this bill is to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act (direct sale of grain). If this bill were to be adopted, it would authorize grain producers to sell grain directly to certain specified associations or firms engaged in the processing of grain, and transport grain for the purposes of those sales, without having to pay a fee to the Canadian Wheat Board.
    As I said earlier, we cannot support this bill because we have concerns about some things we found out. Many people were involved in this file, but that does not mean there was unanimity. I agree with the member who introduced the bill that there are major differences of opinion. The Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food studied the issue. We have concerns that prevent us from moving ahead with this bill. I believe that it would weaken a collective marketing tool used by 85,000 barley and wheat producers in the west.
    As the Bloc Québécois agriculture and agrifood critic and a defender of the interests of Quebec farmers, I am afraid to see the Conservative government go after another collective marketing tool. Hon. members will have guessed that I am talking about supply management, which Quebec holds dear and which, as we know, accounts for 40% of farm income in Quebec. I mention this because every time people attack the Canadian Wheat Board at the World Trade Organization, they are also attacking supply management. If we open the door to dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board, I am really afraid that the federal government will prompt other countries—and will itself decide—to dismantle the supply management system. If that happens, the Bloc Québécois will fight tooth and nail to prevent the supply management system in Quebec from ever being modified.
    I will talk very briefly about what the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food said about this issue. When he appeared recently before the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, he said that in the end, Canada stands alone on supply management. It was even implied that there had been a vote of 148 to 1. In fact, there was no vote.
    Clearly, the other countries have always tried to challenge the supply management system. To me, the fact that Canada was alone did not mean that it should give up and get rid of a system it has always defended. The minister implied that he planned to be flexible, because Canada would have to get along with the other countries and eventually sign an agreement.
    I was once a union president, and I have also been a grievance officer. When I am not happy with an agreement, I do not sign it. If an agreement is bad, we do not sign it. We have to stand up for what we believe, and we have to defend our farmers. In this case, we have to defend supply management. That is what the minister should be saying.
    There were also the comments by the WTO director general, Pascal Lamy. He came to Montreal to bring pressure to bear, saying that we need to start looking at what is going on with the Canadian Wheat Board and supply management, and that concessions need to be made. I do not think we have any lessons to learn from Mr. Lamy. I do not know whose interests he is serving, but he wants an agreement in the end. In any event, he wants Canada to bow to the dictates of the other countries, the United States and the European Union in particular.
    He talks about market access and says we need to be increasingly open. That is the goal of every market. When we do business, we want other markets to be open, just as we are prepared to open ours. But in this case, there needs to be a level playing field before this happens. Five percent of the entire market in Canada is already open to foreign products, while on average 2.5% of the markets in the U.S., the European Union and the other countries are open. As far as hatching eggs are concerned, we already allow 20% of the product to come from other countries.

  (1135)  

    At some point, before holding discussions and making concessions, everyone needs to realize that these figures do indeed exist and that other countries still are not as open as we are when it comes to market access.
    Let us also talk about the attitude of Canada's chief negotiator at the WTO. He is still having a hard time living with the motion on supply management passed unanimously on November 22 by the House of Commons. Fortunately, the Bloc Québécois had this motion passed to protect our supply management system.
    All these concerns make me worry about a domino effect if this type of bill is passed and the Canadian Wheat Board is dismantled. I fear that the next target will be the supply management system.
     Collective marketing is very important in Quebec. I have spoken at some length about supply management. In addition, there are the joint plans and the cooperatives. All of this serves to protect farmers’ income. This is a unique instrument of governments, and is not comparable to a subsidy. There are even some emerging countries, notably in Africa, that are beginning to take great interest in this. It is a very good thing, given the income stability for farm producers, as I was saying earlier, and also because it ensures a fair price for consumers.
     Furthermore, farmers have an absolute right to organize the marketing of their products, and that includes organizing to join forces to obtain the fairest possible market. That is what producers have done with the Canadian Wheat Board. That is also what the members of the cash crop producers, the Fédération des producteurs de cultures commerciales du Québec, did last year, when they created the wheat sales agency called the Agence de vente de blé à consommation humaine du Québec. With this new agency, the federation becomes the only agent authorized to market wheat for human consumption in Quebec. This is modelled on the way other products operate in Quebec, such as milk, maple syrup, pork and the cattle industry. Such selling agencies are emerging through a democratic process. The producers are called upon to make a decision on their product. That is what the cash crop producers have done. They have asked themselves by what means could they get a fair return in selling their wheat for human consumption. Their interest was drawn by examples in other kinds of crops, and they created this compulsory selling agency.
     Unlike the Canadian Wheat Board, the Federation of Quebec Producers of Cash Crops does not own the crop and has no government affiliation. All the same, the Quebec wheat sales agency is disturbed that it is being associated with the criticism directed against the Canadian Wheat Board at the WTO.
     To challenge the agency is to attack not only the collective wheat marketing instrument that has just been created, but also the Quebec act respecting the marketing of agricultural, food and fish products. That act permits our producers to join forces to create a collective marketing agency.
     Therefore, our position is to defend at all costs the existence of publicly-owned corporations as discussed at the WTO negotiations, for if the government abandons the Canadian Wheat Board, the entire collective marketing system may be weakened. I spoke earlier about the domino effect. This bill opens the door to attacks on all fronts, on all sides, against our collective marketing system.
    With this bill, as with all of its policies concerning the Canadian Wheat Board, the Conservative government's intention is to offer farmers the freedom of choice. This might appear entirely democratic. In fact, we are talking about varied opportunities to sell their grain. In 2002, the current Prime Minister proposed a motion to eliminate the Canadian Wheat Board. Voluntary marketing is being proposed. However, that does not work, which is unfortunate for the member who is presenting the bill. A few people have tried this and experience has shown that the balance of power between sellers and buyers does not exist if the selling agency is not compulsory. Yet, some western producers want changes made to the Canadian Wheat Board, as we have heard. However, a great deal of contradictory information is circulating about this, specifically concerning what producers really want. Here are some results from a National Farmers' Union survey, which was criticized earlier by the Conservative member behind this bill, although the survey is nevertheless entirely scientific: 76% of producers support the Canadian Wheat Board and 88% want to have the final say in deciding the future of the Canadian Wheat Board.
    In my opinion, before we agree to vote for such a bill, we should do what was decided in parliamentary committee, namely, allow producers to decide through a referendum, by plebiscite, and hear what they really think.

  (1140)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to comment on Bill C-300 as well as on some other important issues facing agriculture in Canada today.
    Although this amendment may appear logical on the surface, it raises a number of questions and could in the long term undermine the Canadian Wheat Board as a single desk seller of wheat, barley and durum in Canada. Conservatives have a platform commitment to introduce a dual marketing system where farmers would have a choice to sell through the Canadian Wheat Board or seek their own markets. Bill C-300 is the first step in this direction.
    The core of Bill C-300 is it would give farmers the right to sell grain produced by the producer directly to an association or firm engaged in the processing of grain if a majority of interests in the association or firm was held by a producer or producers in Canada. This terminology is wide open. For example, if a Japanese mill took on a Canadian farmer partner, that mill could circumvent the Canadian Wheat Board. If a group of farmers set up a milling operation, bought several times more grain than they needed, and then exported the balance unprocessed to the U.S., they would be bypassing the Canadian Wheat Board. If a group of Canadian farmers set up a cleaning facility in Canada, Bill C-300 might give those farmers the right to circumvent the CWB and then re-export the grain again.
    This bill is an attempt to impose a very neat solution to a complex problem. It could trigger massive unintended consequences and set the stage for a raft of trade challenges. It could create a huge number of problems, all to solve a problem that to a significant extent does not really exist.
    The Canadian Wheat Board is a self-sustaining democratic organization of farmers with a mandate to act in the best interests of farmers in the world marketplace. It is not a crown corporation, although it was created through legislation after World War II. The majority of members, 88%, believe that any changes made to the Wheat Board must be made by farmers themselves.
    These are challenging times for the agriculture industry in Canada. There is tremendous pressure from major world players to modify or to get rid of not only the Canadian Wheat Board, but also our supply management system. It is my personal belief and the belief of my party that we must as a nation resist this temptation in the interests of our own food security.

[Translation]

    For example, our supply management system works very well in Quebec and in the rest of Canada. The government does not give subsidies and producers, for the most part, can make ends meet. Tremendous pressure is being applied at the WTO on Canada to modify its supply management system. The objective of the negotiations is to remove customs barriers and other obstacles to trade, to the advantage of the poorest countries.
    Developing or emerging countries, with Brazil and India at the top of the list, are calling for large reductions in American agricultural subsidies and European customs duties. Americans and Europeans, while passing the buck for the impasse from one to the other, are applying pressure on poor countries to open their markets to their industrial goods and services. For its part, Canada wants the United States to reduce its agricultural subsidies. Here in Canada, there are those who believe that by adjusting the supply management system we will have even greater access to world markets.
    In a sense, our supply management system, which protects primarily the dairy, egg and poultry sectors, is closely tied to the Canadian Wheat Board. These are two Canadian-style solutions to problems faced by our farmers. There will be an enormous price to pay if we begin dismantling them.
    I would like to thank our Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food for his willingness to defend our supply management system at the WTO.

  (1145)  

[English]

    There are other positive signs that the government is taking an active role to assist those in the agricultural sector. One is the willingness of the minister to participate in tobacco industry-led forum to discuss an exit strategy that is fair and equitable for Canadian farmers.
    I also urge the minister not to abandon farmers in the grain and oilseed sector. The Americans are looking after their farmers and they are making money. We must have a short and long term strategy to level the playing field until such time as we can convince other countries to reduce their subsidies.
    This should involve an immediate injection of sufficient funds for disaster relief for farmers hit hard in northeastern Saskatchewan. Let us not forget that what is at sake here is the survival of our rural communities and our way of life.
    The negotiating position of the Government of Canada at the WTO talks has been to defend the democratic right of Canadian farmers to choose the kind of marketing institutions that will best serve their interest. For western Canadian farmers, this means defending the Canadian Wheat Board, with its statutory authority as a single desk seller.
    If farmers want to change the board's mandate, they must be able to do this through their own democratic elections or through a plebiscite. It their decision and it should not be interfered with by the WTO or by us in the federal government.
    The U.S. and the European Union want us to remove that decision from our farmers. At the World Trade Organization talks, their negotiators have been clear that they want an end to our single desk authority of organizations like the Canadian Wheat Board, which in their terminology are called state trading enterprises. The WTO position of the U.S. and the European Union, which represents the position of large grain companies, would basically outlaw the ability of farmers to have an effective organization able to compete with these companies.

[Translation]

    This bill mirrors the debate surrounding the Canadian Wheat Board. It would result in a series of undesirable consequences and would open the door to a multitude of commercial disputes.
    Let us review one scenario. A group of Canadian farmers establishes a processing plant in North Dakota. Bill C-300 seems to grant to these farmers, and to all western Canadian farmers, the right to transport their grain across the border to the plant. Bill C-300 states that producers established in Canada must have a majority interest in the company that purchases these facilities.

[English]

    The bill could unleash a number of trade challenges because it gives legislative advantages to some processors and not others. For example, a farmer owns a co-op pasta mill, buys durum and pays farmers a price equal to what other farmers in the region receive from the Canadian Wheat Board. Corporate owned pasta plants, which are barred by their ownership structure from accessing durum at this lower price, then decide to sue under chapter 11 of NAFTA.
    Another possibility could be that U.S. farmers want to set up a pasta plant in Manitoba and take advantage of the ability to buy grain at the Canadian Wheat Board price. If they are refused, they may have a case under the national treatment clauses of trade agreements, which stipulate that nations cannot discriminate between enterprises in their own countries or foreign countries.
    The Canadian Wheat Board has on occasion been inaccurately portrayed as an impediment to value added processing in Canada. There is a belief in parts of the farming community and in some government quarters that an exemption for the domestic processing market is workable, if not for the entire domestic, certainly for processing operations owned by farmers.
    Let us ask some questions. Would an exemption for farmer owned processing plants provide farmers with increasing marketing choice? It would only do so if the exemption results in producer owned plants coming into existence either through new construction or purchase of existing processing capacity. Would this exemption increase value added economic activity in western Canada by attracting local investment and creating jobs in rural areas? Western Canada, with its small population, is not considered a particularly advantageous location for producer processors.
    Bill C-300 does not specify or dictate where producer owned facilities must be located and does not alter the existing comparative advantages. Therefore, it is not likely to promote growth specifically in western Canada over elsewhere.
    I believe we have to defeat the bill. We must let the producers, themselves, decide the future of the Canadian Wheat Board. It is my hope that today we will make that decision.

  (1150)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is great to be here today to speak to the bill. I would like to congratulate the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster for being so forward-thinking in presenting a great and progressive alternative for farmers on the prairies.
    As we have listened to the other parties this morning, it is interesting to hear all the reasons why farmers cannot succeed, why they cannot have this and why that would not be good for them. Those are the same people, particularly on the other side, who for 13 years left farmers without hope in their industry. Farmers have turned to us for that hope. The member for Battlefords—Lloydminster has shown courage and leadership in coming forward with this bill.
    I want to take a couple of minutes to go over the bill. If we listened to the opposition, we would think that there is an awful lot to this, but it is very short. It is only a couple of paragraphs. It says:
     (1) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act or the regulations, a producer may
(a) sell grain produced by the producer directly to an association or firm engaged in the processing of grain if a majority interest in the association or firm is held by a producer or producers based in Canada; and
(b) transport grain for the purposes of any such sale.
    That would be logical, and:
    (2) No fee shall be imposed under this Act in respect of the sale or transportation of grain in accordance with subsection (1).
    It seems fairly simple. As producers, we can take our own grain and sell it directly to a processor as long as that processor is controlled by a majority of Canadian producers. One would think this would be something which would already be permitted, but unfortunately in a designated area in western Canada it is not. That is the only part of the country where producers are not free to process their own grains.
    There has been a long history in our country. When I thought about the bill, I wondered why our ancestors had come here, why did my grandfather and my great-uncle settle adjacent quarters on the Prairies. There were a number of reasons. They wanted to go there because there was a whole world of opportunity for them to finally have some success and move ahead with their lives. They wanted the freedom to make their own choices, to set up their own little farms and to market their own grain. They wanted an opportunity to succeed. After all these years, those are the things farmers still want. They still want those opportunities. They still want a solid return for the work they do.
    It is mainly because of the Canadian Wheat Board and the system in western Canada that western Canadian producers have been unable to maximize their returns. That is why the bill has been brought forward. It gives farmers one more option. It is a huge step in a positive direction for producers.
    I am encouraged also by the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster's willingness to consider amendments. He said that if there were some things in the bill that were not as strong as they should be, he would be willing to strengthen them. We wish the opposition would have the willingness to have an open like the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster.
    Because the bill is simple and straightforward, we would have expected support for it. Farmers are excited about it. A lot of calls have come in in support of it.
    Hon. Wayne Easter: There sure are, but the wrong way.
    Mr. David Anderson: The member for Malpeque wants to heckle me about that. It is interesting to listen to the people who are not excited about this bill. The first people who stepped forward were the huge grain companies. They were not sure whether they liked it because it was not exactly a level playing field, that producers would be given too much of an opportunity. The member for Malpeque would love to stand up with those grain companies against farmers. However, we will stand up for the producers themselves.
    It is interesting, as well, that a lot of producer groups have supported it, except for some of the extreme, radical left-wing groups. Those groups have decided that they will take the bill on. They are going to join with the grain companies in opposing it.
    I do not think they have read the legislation, and that is disturbing. Both the member from the Liberals and the member from the NDP have taken that letter, which I do not know if they had a part in writing it, and have decided to use it as their main arguments. There are just a couple of strange arguments in it.
    They say that Bill C-300 purports to give an advantage to farmer owned Canadian plants. We would say it certainly does. They are going to try to find some extreme example that might not work to try to prove the whole bill is bad. How about if we take, for example, a corporate controlled joint venture flour mill in Japan? That is something we would not want, so it must be what the bill provides. The argument is we cannot allow corporate controlled joint venture flour mills in Japan to take advantage of this bill. The bill states that any plants have to be owned by a majority of producers. We are not talking about Canadian producers. Nor are not talking about corporate controlled entities.

  (1155)  

    Then it goes on to say that Bill-300 would create legislated cost advantages for some producers but not others. We say that it would create some advantage for producers, and we are more than willing to do that.
     I am a little disturbed that these left-wing farm groups are defending the big companies against the small producers. I am even more disappointed that the member for Malpeque has chosen to join in that and to oppose Canadian farmers. He made an airport tour and came up a small report in which he made some recommendations. I would like to read a couple of things from that. It says in the conclusion:
--Canada 's farmers, who work hard and efficiently, want to make their living from the marketplace, and the policies undertaken by our governments must provide the conditions allowing that to happen.
    The bill tries to do that.
    We need policies that help farmers earn a decent living and that create economic stability in rural Canada.
    The bill also tries to do that.
    The first two recommendations of his report are: that all governments place a priority on measures that will enhance farmers' economic returns from the marketplace; and second, that ministers and ministries of agriculture see their primary role as advocating on behalf of primary producers. The bill does that.
    He should be supporting it, but he is not and that is unfortunate. I find it ironic that he supports our position on child care, but he will not support our position on farmers to give producers some return in the marketplace. He was the one who suggested we should give child care choice to parents. He also supported our budget, and we thank him for that. However, perhaps he should step forward and support an initiative such as.
    I am very disappointed with him. He claims to have been a farm leader for years, wanting to step forward and defend farmers. However, for some reason, he has insisted that his party take a position in opposition to the bill. We think he should reconsider that. He needs to support the bill and to give producers what they need enable them to make the return from the marketplace.
    The member for Battlefords—Lloydminster made a very legitimate point when he said that the member did not live in the designated area. He is not from anywhere near there, but he feels he has an obligation to try to interfere with my ability to do business in the part of the world in which I operate. That is a huge concern for me. The last thing we need is people from other areas, who do not understand our systems, explaining to us what they have.
    The ball is back in the official opposition's court. We look forward to its support on it.

  (1200)  

    The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper. When the item comes back for debate, there will be two and a half minutes left for the hon. parliamentary secretary.

Government Orders

[Business of Supply]

[English]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Aboriginal Affairs 

    That the House recognize the urgent need to improve the quality of life of Canada’s Aboriginals, First Nations, Inuit and Métis, living both on and off reserve, which requires focused and immediate initiatives by the government in areas such as health, water, housing, education, and economic opportunities and, especially, immediately moving forward with the implementation of the Kelowna Accord with its full funding commitments.
    She said: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a motion on behalf of the official opposition, a motion that most in the House wish would not have been necessary.
     It is a resolution that reflects a course of action that I believe again that most in the House wish was now well underway.
    It is a resolution that promises hope and opportunity for a large number of aboriginal Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
    It is a resolution that acknowledges the responsibility that flows from historic claims and relationships between aboriginal people and the non-aboriginal majority.
    It is a resolution that speaks to the future of our country, to social justice and to economic prosperity.
    It is a resolution that speaks to the potential of loss: the loss of opportunity, the loss of growth and the cost of doing nothing.
    It is a resolution that speaks of the loss of international reputation.
    It is a resolution that acknowledges the magnitude of an agreement of this kind with so many participants after so many aborted attempts.
    It is a resolution that speaks to relationships and trust.
    And it is a resolution that speaks to the honour of the Crown, to the integrity of the processes of the negotiations between governments themselves and between governments and aboriginal leadership across this country.
    I speak of the Kelowna accord.
    This past November, a solidly crafted and visionary agreement was concluded by a committed group of leaders in this country. Those present at that memorable meeting included the leadership of the five aboriginal organizations in the country, the AFN, ITK, Métis National Council, NWAC and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, the former Prime Minister of Canada, and the first ministers of all of Canada's provinces and territories.
    It is important to reiterate here what the Kelowna accord was about. It was about an integrated, far-reaching plan to achieve a clear set of targets and goals to ensure that aboriginal Canadians throughout this abundant and inclusive country of ours have the prospects and opportunities of all Canadians.
    The Kelowna accord was a clear plan to address the historic social and economic disparities that exist between aboriginal Canadians and others.
    It was about eradicating the poverty and loss of opportunity that plagues aboriginal peoples.
    It was about improving educational outcomes and opportunities for aboriginal young people and sometimes their parents as well.
    It was about addressing an enormous housing challenge that haunts so many communities and contributes to profound social unrest. I
    It was about providing the resources to improve water systems and train those who maintain them.
    It was about ensuring that health care is available for aboriginal people, not just reducing waiting times. What is required is available services, so that infants do not die, so that teenagers do not commit suicide, so that diabetes is addressed, and so that tuberculosis is dealt with and becomes obsolete in this country.
    The Kelowna accord was about creating economic opportunities.
    It was about a commitment to aboriginal women for a stand alone summit to address their particular issues, including violence and matrimonial real property as addressed by Bill C-31 in 1985.
    The Kelowna accord was a recognition that what is required in the far north may be different from what is required on reserve, which may in turn be different from what is required in the cities.
    And it was the recognition that the needs of first nations, Inuit and Métis are themselves different, and that within these communities disparities exist.
    The Kelowna accord was a plan that was developed by all the partners, very much a ground up approach, based on plans developed by the aboriginal organizations. As National Chief Phil Fontaine said at the aboriginal affairs committee last week:
We were able to convince the 14 jurisdictions of the validity and legitimacy of this plan--a plan that was considered by all as reasonable, doable, and achievable.
    There were 18 months of consultation and collaboration that took place. Meetings were held, plans refined, memorandums to cabinet prepared, and memorandums to cabinet approved. Moneys were identified and moneys were allocated. Consultations were held between premiers, with each other and with aboriginal leaders. The consultations were held between aboriginal leaders, and between leaders and their constituent communities.
    There were 18 months of discussion and dialogue, of give and take, of compromise and concession.

  (1205)  

    The agreement was concluded at a full meeting last November 24 and 25 with all the participants and all the players, before the television cameras and the media of the country, and with Canadians from coast to coast to coast observing a truly transparent and open process which all in the House support.
    A comprehensive 10 year plan was in place to achieve a clear set of goals and targets, $5.1 billion was provided for the first five years of this plan, and $700 million was allocated under earlier agreements. The remainder was booked and allocated in the unallocated surplus of the economic and fiscal update of November 2005 as confirmed by the finance department officials at the meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance on May 10, 2006 in the sources and uses table.
    Public statements and acknowledgments were made of what had been accomplished and handshakes by all the leaders were undertaken.
    Yet, we hear from members opposite that either it was written on a napkin, it was a so-called accord, or comments that it was only a single piece of paper, or that there were issues concerning whether it was really an agreement or just a press release.
    What has been described by colleagues opposite as a single piece of paper or written on a napkin was understood by all present as a firm agreement, a major achievement, a strong commitment, and a decision to proceed.
    Let me advise the House of what the leaders present from all political parties and from all the aboriginal communities said of the agreement at the time and since.
    Mr. Campbell, Premier of British Columbia said:
    It has taken us 138 years as a nation to arrive at this moment. It has taken decades of dialogue and a tortured path of frustration and failure to bring us to this moment of clarity and commitment.
    Conservative Premier Ralph Klein of Alberta said:
    To make those improvements happen we need the federal government to live up to its constitutional responsibilities for aboriginal people, and it has been indicated here that you are indeed going to do that.
    The NDP premier of my own province of Manitoba said, “This is the most significant contribution to aboriginals made by any Prime Minister in the last 30 years”.
    In Ontario, Premier Dalton McGuinty said
    For the first time ever, first ministers have agreed to targets and time frames on improving aboriginal lives and there exists a strong consensus to act immediately.
    From Quebec, Premier Charest said, “Failure is not an option. The time has come to move ahead”.
    Assemblies of First Nations Grand Chief Phil Fontaine said:
    The country is watching us here. The commitments that are made are significant and it's going to be very, very difficult for any government to retreat from those commitments here.
    We heard from Chief Ed John from the First Nations Summit who said, “We're off and running with this agreement. This is a great day”.
    Jose Kusugak from the ITK said: “Everything we wanted to achieve, we achieved. We are very happy”.
    When the government first brought in its budget, it contained an 80% cut in promised funding for aboriginal Canadians and their leaders were profoundly disappointed.
    The Kelowna accord designated $5.1 billion toward issues such as health, education, economic opportunity, housing, accountability and relationships.
    The Conservative budget committed $450 million toward on-reserve programs with the money being contingent upon there being a federal surplus. The government did not make a firm commitment. At the same time that it killed the Kelowna accord, it attached an asterisk to the limited amounts that it did commit.
    Here are some of the reactions from the aboriginal leaders, the country over, to the budget.
     Bev Jacobs, President of the Native Women's Association of Canada said, “I do not believe that the amount in this budget will be able to deal with complex and deep issues that face aboriginal communities and aboriginal women today. The issue of health was not addressed, and that is very discouraging”.
    Grand Council Chief Beaucage from the Union of Ontario Indians said: “This budget is a far cry from what was committed by the first ministers. Once again we've been left out in the cold”.

  (1210)  

    Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said:
    Our fear, suspicion and mistrust of the [Conservative] government to support the historic Kelowna Accord were well placed. I had hoped, however, that the [Conservative] government would have the integrity and political will to fully implement the historic Kelowna Accord representing a $5.1 billion dollar investment in Aboriginal communities.
    Clément Chartier, President of the Métis National Council said:
    Despite years of hard work and great progress as we experienced with the previous government, Conservatives have not stood up for the Métis Nation.
    David Chartrand from Manitoba said:
    The Kelowna Accord would have helped the Métis People educate our youth and provide the necessary financial supports for sustainable housing and to combat diabetes in our communities.
    Again we heard from National Chief Phil Fontaine when he said:
    The approaches developed in Kelowna were developed with and supported by Aboriginal leaders, provinces and territories. These were not commitments from a particular party, but by the federal and all provincial and territorial governments.
    The disingenuous of the minister, whom I have great respect for I might add, speaking on this issue is breathtaking. In reply to the private member's bill introduced by my colleague, the former Prime Minister, he said:
    Aboriginal poverty is deep rooted. It is a complex issue. I say, with all due respect, that I do not think anyone can table a single page at the close of a first ministers' meeting as a compilation of numbers, issue a press release and believe aboriginal poverty has been solved.
     What a profound lack of respect, courtesy and regard for the processes undertaken to get to that day and an even greater lack of respect for those people involved in getting there. The minister then went on to say:
     The problems in this country are much deeper than that. They require a long term commitment, structural reform and renovation in consultation with first nations. Unless that is done, we will not succeed in the eradication of aboriginal poverty.
    I believe that everyone that day in November believed that was exactly what Kelowna was about.
    Let me tell the House what the loss of Kelowna means in concrete terms. It means that capital projects for education are being delayed for years as moneys are being reallocated or are not available. There are no funds for aboriginal health care identified in the budget while the tuberculosis outbreak continues to grow at Garden Hill First Nation, now 27 identified cases and 86 identified contacts. All perpetuated by many crowded, mouldy houses.
    The Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick has a detailed plan to address an ongoing substance abuse problem in their community. There has been no response and no funds.
    The Shamattawa First Nation in northern Manitoba has a desperate need for new homes. Often 26 people live in one house. Again there was no response.
    A large number of young people I met in Winnipeg will not be able to go on to post-secondary education, and yet we talk about skill shortages in Canada. The list goes on.
    We have heard little commitment from the government to aboriginal peoples. We have heard some empty rhetoric, often a deafening silence, a frequent attempt to change the channel, and talk of more studies and little action. But there was a glimmer of hope.
    When first appointed to the portfolio, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development said:
    Aboriginal Canadians are nosk as long as I am the mt going to live at riinister.
    I would like to remind the minister and his colleagues of one of the many wise comments by the late Martin Luther King Jr. when he said:
     Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
     It is indeed time for members of the government to sit down and listen to the aboriginal leadership throughout this country, to listen to their colleagues in the House of Commons, to listen to the provincial and territorial leaders, and most important, to listen to Canadians across this country who understand the loss for them and their neighbours by not proceeding with the Kelowna accord.
    It is time for that ray of sunshine to shine on Canada's aboriginal people and it is time to let the wheels of Kelowna move forward.

  (1215)  

    We have heard much about accountability from the government. We all support accountability, but accountability is not just about dollars. It is also about a government's accountability, or lack thereof, to its citizens and its partners in Confederation. Accountability is indeed a two-way street.
    This is the opportunity to ensure that the Kelowna agreement is not added to the record of injustices and failures that have plagued aboriginal peoples over the decades in this country.
    Let me close with a statement by Richard Paton from ITK when he appeared before the aboriginal affairs committee on June 7, 2006. His statement sums up the feelings of many across this great land. He said:
    In my view, and as stated by our president recently in Gimli at the western premiers meeting, acting honourably means at a minimum keeping your word. The word that was pledged to the first ministers meeting on the federal side was not the word of a particular individual or political party; it was the word of the Prime Minister of Canada, the highest-level servant of the Crown and the people and an important custodian of the honour of the Crown and, by extension, the honour of the people of Canada. We cannot run federalism, indeed we cannot run Canada, on the basis that high-level multi-governmental commitments to tackle fundamental societal ills that are the product of mature deliberation can be summarily discarded because one of the signatories doesn't find it expedient on partisan grounds.
    I implore colleagues opposite to listen to the speakers here today, to reconsider and to look at the far-reaching impact of the Kelowna accord across this land of ours. I urge all in this House to unanimously adopt the motion.
    Mr. Speaker, I have had the pleasure of serving with my hon. colleague on the aboriginal affairs committee. I believe she is genuinely interested in moving forward on the issues concerning aboriginal Canadians.
    I would like to ask her about one area that was not involved in the Kelowna process, and that is in relation to structural reform. It is quite clear based on the commentary of many of the people who were at the table at the first ministers meeting, that was not an item that was unanimously agreed upon.
    More important, how can she refer to empty rhetoric when we look back at the 13 years of inaction, where opportunities were missed and aboriginal Canadians saw the outcomes continue to be deplorable? How can she say that empty rhetoric is not most reflective upon her and her party?

  (1220)  

    Mr. Speaker, I was anticipating the member's comment on structural reform. There is no question that structural reform is required. Legislative changes must be made and we have to move forward. To wait for structural reform is to do a huge disservice to the communities that we are speaking about. Structural reform has to move forward incrementally in consultation with first nation communities across the land. The member knows as well as I do that structural reform is a substantial undertaking. It will take years to move forward. While I acknowledge the necessity of it, I do not believe it is in any way an impediment to implementing the Kelowna accord.
     I speak of empty rhetoric because we see very little happening from members opposite, while I know that many of them are committed to this issue. The previous government had moved on this agenda. The Kelowna accord came about as a result of this agenda.
    It is really important that the previous government built relationships with aboriginal communities. This is not a situation where one tells; rather, one asks. One works with; one does not dictate. Relationship building is the essence of Kelowna and what the previous government was about. With respect to the successes and failures that were there, the successes came about by working together and the failures of the past came about by not listening to and not working with.
    While I accept my colleague's comments about structural reform, I believe that the previous government made tremendous strides in dealing with first nations, aboriginal peoples, Inuit peoples, Métis peoples, and we are very proud of it.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my hon. colleague. I will have the opportunity a little later today to explain the Bloc Québécois' position regarding the motion proposed by the Liberal Party. However, I can say right away that we will support this motion.
    Later today, I will hold a press conference along with my hon. colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, who will rise in a few minutes, to denounce the current government's attitude regarding discussions on the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples currently taking place in New York.
    That said, I would like to ask my hon. colleague a question. The members of this House must understand that the Kelowna agreement was not negotiated between the Liberal government and aboriginal peoples or between the Conservative government and aboriginal peoples. It was negotiated nation to nation—it is on this particular topic that I would like my hon. colleague to address the House. The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard, who was Prime Minister at the time, signed as the leader of a nation, just as Phil Fontaine signed as the leader of a nation.
    I would like to ask my hon. colleague the following questions: What happens when two nations that have signed an agreement do not respect that agreement? What will happen in the years to come?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, if I understood the question correctly, the previous government understood, recognized and acknowledged the nationhood of aboriginal peoples in this country. As such, we worked with them on a nation to nation basis acknowledging, listening, cooperating and collaborating so that there was not fragmentation, so that we were able to come in with a holistic response.
    The key to the success of the previous government's dealings with aboriginal peoples was its willingness and ability to listen, to operate as equals, to understand the relationship and the historic context in which we were operating to ensure that aboriginal peoples have the best opportunities as they move forward.

  (1225)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her comments and certainly her commitment to this very important issue. However, I have to say that the current government has not demonstrated a commitment to solve some of the serious problems facing aboriginal communities. The previous government had an opportunity and the Kelowna accord also failed to meet its commitments. There have been decades of neglect.
    I want to specifically ask the member about the amount of money that was in the Kelowna accord. My understanding is that part of that money was not new money. It was actually funding that came partially through Bill C-48 to do with housing and education and other money had already been committed around health care. I would like the member to comment specifically on the exact amount of new money that was in the Kelowna agreement.
    Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the member's support of this motion.
    The money from Bill C-48 was not part of the money established under the Kelowna accord. Some $700 million was allocated under previous agreements leading up to Kelowna and $4.5 billion was new money allocated under the agreement. The money was booked, available and documented by the government in a fashion that only the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance could remove the funds.
    Mr. Speaker, I come from Kelowna—Lake Country. Kelowna has been referred to on numerous occasions during this session of the House. It is obviously of great concern to the Conservative government. I am proud that the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has done a great job of addressing the issues in the short period that he has been in the position of minister compared to the Liberals who were in government for 13 years.
    I was a member of Kelowna city council at the time. I was in Kelowna standing outside the Grand Hotel while the talks were taking place and watched the protesters. The off reserve members were absolutely frustrated. They were shut out from the accord, as it is called.
    As recently as Friday afternoon I had a face to face meeting with Premier Campbell and discussed this specific issue. There are all kinds of flaws in the proposal. Since I was elected on January 23 I have been trying to get a hold of the Kelowna accord, the document everyone keeps referring to. If the member opposite has such a document, I would like her to table it because it is a real mystery.
     I asked Premier Campbell, as I mentioned, and I have spoken with all kinds of other people who were at the event. There are a lot of laudable goals in the discussion paper, as we have referred to it, and principles that we agreed to as a government and acted on. I would ask the member opposite to please table the Kelowna accord if she has such a document.
    Mr. Speaker, I am astounded by a question like that. Leadership takes courage. When one speaks of the Kelowna accord, there is not one member who would say it is perfect. It was a series of concessions, compromises, discussions, negotiations and it was important.
    I am very surprised that the member opposite has not seen the transformative change accord between the government and the province of British Columbia that has been signed. If he says that he has spoken to Gordon Campbell and the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs, he will know that it was Mr. Campbell who indeed led the charge across this country to ensure that the Kelowna accord was ratified. It was massaged to ensure that it was agreed to by all involved.

  (1230)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to tell the House how the current government is working to improve the quality of life of first nations, the Inuit and the Métis.

[English]

     I agree with many of the things that have been said in the House and some of the comments put forward by the member for Winnipeg South Centre. I do not doubt her sincerity and I acknowledge the work she has done in the past on behalf of aboriginal people in the area of education. I do, however, disagree quite vehemently with her in terms of the way forward and I intend to speak to that without, in any way, disparaging her as a member of Parliament.
    The approach we have tried to follow involves working together with other parties in the House. We have had good dialogue with the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan and the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue. We will continue to approach this in a constructive and thoughtful way.
     I would also like to speak definitively in the House to the fine work that has been carried out by the member for Winnipeg South, who is my parliamentary secretary. He is one of the youngest parliamentary secretaries in the new Government of Canada. He has done an extraordinary job. He is a Canadian of aboriginal ancestry. I can say unequivocally in the House that I am proud to have him as a colleague. I think the people of Winnipeg should be extraordinarily proud to have a young Canadian of this quality in the government.
    The motion put forward speaks to the need for action in the areas of health, water, education and economic opportunities. Each and every one of us in the House recognizes the importance of moving forward on an agenda that deals with aboriginal issues and addresses the real issues of aboriginal poverty.

[Translation]

    I worked on land claims for many years. My work gave me the opportunity to visit a number of aboriginal communities long before I came to Parliament. As a member of the opposition, I was my party's critic for Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

[English]

    I have come face to face with the conditions aboriginal Canadians experience. I have been to many of the Indian reserves in this country, perhaps as many as half of the Indian reserves across Canada. It has led me to believe that the eradication of aboriginal poverty is one of the greatest social issues that the country faces. There is a willingness on my part to proceed, to be thoughtful and to work in collaboration with aboriginal Canadians to deal with these difficult issues.
    While I agree with the member opposite that we need to work together to improve the quality of life for aboriginal Canadians, we disagree on the methodology.
    The first speech I gave in the House of Commons 18 months ago related to what we see inscribed in stone on the front portal of the House of Commons as we come through the door. It is inscribed, “Where there is no vision, the people perish”. I use that inscription on the front door of the House of Commons, which can be seen several stories up in large letters, to talk about the Liberal record in dealing with aboriginal issues in this country. It is a record that is shameful. History will judge the Liberal government harshly on what it has done on aboriginal policy and how it has dealt with aboriginal poverty. It will be judged on a 13 year period of empty promises and dark poverty for aboriginal Canadians.
    This government is committed to taking real steps to deal with these issues. We are committed to dealing with some of the tough questions, the structural issues which underlie aboriginal poverty and we are committed to moving forward in a way that the Liberal government did not and never would.
    Where we differ with the Liberals is in how to approach these problems. Over the last 13 years, Canadians have seen one approach, the Liberal approach. This approach was recently judged harshly by the Auditor General of Canada, who said essentially that on every major indicator of the quality of life of aboriginal Canadians, 13 years of Liberal government had been a failure. That is shameful. What Canadians have seen is rhetoric and what Canadians no longer want to see, whether aboriginal or non-aboriginal Canadians, is a continuation of that kind of approach to dealing with aboriginal poverty.
    Does anybody in this House still remember the promises put forward by the Liberals in the 1993 campaign platform, the famous red book? There were promises regarding unemployment, health problems, poor housing, unequal education opportunities and unsafe drinking water. I have been through all the Liberal throne speeches and all of the Liberal red books during the time we were in opposition and they contained more and more Liberal empty rhetoric to aboriginal Canadians.
    Finally, in 2004, after 12 years, the last Liberal throne speech admitted that “The conditions in far too many aboriginal communities can only be described as shameful”, an epitaph offered to 12 years of Liberal government by the Liberal government itself. That is the situation the new Government of Canada, a Conservative government, has inherited.
    My friend spoke about the issue of water. This government took action within 45 days of coming into office to deal with the water situation. What were we left with by the members opposite, by the Liberal government? We were left with a situation where 21 communities in this country were living as communities at risk in terms of their water system, situations such as Kashechewan where e-coli was migrating into drinking water. Beyond that, 170 communities were living at high risk, which is a lower standard than a community at risk.
    We took action. We instituted a system to get to the bottom of it. We introduced a certain amount of science. We have empowered a water panel to take the national standards, which this government announced, and implement them in law. That is the kind of approach this government will follow. We will take real action. We will deal with national standards. We will advance funds to deal with issues, with the assurance that there will be accountability and action. We are not interested in a continuation of Liberal rhetoric.

  (1235)  

    My friend spoke about the $700 million that the Liberals promised for aboriginal health care. I am astounded that the member would come to this chamber and have the audacity to even raise the Liberal record of this $700 million. The $700 million was promised to aboriginal Canadians during the fix for a generation, the 2003 health care discussions. At that meeting the previous prime minister of Canada said that he had fixed health care for a generation and part of the fix was that $700 million would be paid to aboriginal Canadians to deal with health issues.
    The premiers met again in 2004. Not one penny of the $700 million had ever been spent, not a cent, not a farthing. The Liberals repromised the $700 million in the 2004 June election. Still none of the money had been spent. After the election they promised the money again in the House of Commons in the context of the minority Parliament.
    When the Conservative government took office two years after those promises were put on the table, none of the $700 million had ever been spent. It was fiction. It was rhetoric. It was nonsense. The money was never advanced to deal with the difficult issues of aboriginal Canadians. It is one of the most shameful records that exists in recent years in the House of Commons.
    Finally, in the last days of the last government there was another grand gesture, another grand promise.

[Translation]

    The Kelowna agreement never really reflected reality. The Kelowna process did not include all of Canada.
    The province of Quebec, represented by Ghislain Picard, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, did not participate in the process or in the Kelowna conference. Therefore, there was no Canada-wide consensus as such.

  (1240)  

[English]

    Mr. Picard was not even there and the aboriginal people of Quebec did not even participate in the process of Kelowna. In that sense a national consensus was not captured at all.
    I was in Kelowna. There was no signed agreement. There was no consensus on funding. There was no shared financial commitment binding all the governments. If there were, I would say so in the House of Commons.
     In the closing moments after the Kelowna accord conference finished, I met with the aboriginal leaders and I talked to many of the premiers. There was no consensus. There was confusion on what the prime minister had tabled, the single page compilation of numbers totalling $5.085 billion. There was no understanding on how that money would be spent, who would receive it, how much of it would be advanced to the provinces, how much would be advanced to the territories, what portion would go to the Inuit, what portion would go to the public governments in the north, what portion would go to go to the Assembly of First Nations and how much the Native Women's Association would get. None of those questions was answered.
    Some of the first nation leaders, about which my friend speaks, had never seen those numbers. Anyone who stands in the House of Commons and tells Canadians that there was an 18 month negotiation process, leading to that single page compilation of numbers, is facetious. It never happened. If we asked the aboriginal people, who were there, they had never seen the numbers when they were tabled.
    My friend from the riding of Kelowna—Lake Country properly mentions this. If there is a motion in the House to implement the Kelowna accord, perhaps someone at least could table the accord, put it in front of us so we could consider it. The point is they cannot because it does not exist. There is no such document.
    Prior to the conference, a 20 page document described the circumstances of aboriginal poverty. It talked about targets, about the importance of five and ten year plans. I have never disagreed that it is a useful document and provides some guidance on the way forward, but there was no financial plan built around that document at Kelowna. It just did not happen.
    Today we are discussing what was essentially a unilateral press release with the pre-campaign promise of money, no point by point plan, no budget for the year ahead, something that was tabled essentially three days before an election was called. As the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, I am talking about a different approach. We have to seriously address the underlying issues of aboriginal poverty and it will take more than a press release.
    I said this previously, when the former prime minister tabled his private member's bill in the House, and I say it again today. Anyone who believes we can deal with the most pressing social justice issue in our country, namely aboriginal poverty, by tabling a one page document at the close of a meeting, does not appreciate the scope and the nature of the problem.
    I believe everyone in the House is well-meaning in terms of tackling the problem and dealing with the issue, but this is not the way to do it. It reflects the lack of understanding, which the Liberals have shown for 13 years, about what the fundamental problems are. For 13 years, the Liberals never took any action to provide water standards. Why were registered status Indian people the only Canadians living without water standards until the Conservative government arrived? It has nothing to do with Kelowna. It has everything to do with a government that was not prepared to act.
    Why are aboriginal first nation children the only kids who do not have the protection of an education statute that defines curriculum, classroom sizes, certification, teacher-student ratios? The only children in Canada who do not have that protection are Indian registered status Indian children. This is after 13 years of Liberal ineptitude. This is the situation that we inherited.
    It is said that a goal without a plan is just a wish, just a promise in the case of the Liberals.

  (1245)  

    I said before that I supported the targets discussed by the first ministers and the national aboriginal leaders. However, we will have a different approach to getting there. We are setting goals. We are taking concrete steps to meet them. We are budgeting properly and we are bringing financial plans before Parliament. We will deal with the structural issues.
    Again, we have rhetoric from the Liberals. Why, after 13 years of Liberal government, is there still no matrimonial property rights for aboriginal women? How can the Liberals stand in the House of Commons and seriously argue, on behalf of aboriginal people, when for 13 years they were not prepared to deal with one of the most fundamental wrongs that exists in Canada today? That is the fact that aboriginal women do not have matrimonial property rights. Promises, rhetoric, red books, throne speeches, all of that, but never any action, just a continuation of rhetoric.
    One of the other issues we need to discuss is how we will make the system work better for aboriginal Canadians. What do we have to do to give individuals a better sense of empowerment? How do we match job training to take advantage of the changing economy and the opportunities so some of our economic growth stories benefit aboriginal people?
     How do we move beyond the Indian Act, the most outdated piece of legislation in Canada? How do we give first nations the tools to get beyond the Indian Act? The Indian Act was a compilation of pre-confederation statutes. It should be no wonder to the Liberals why many things are not working for aboriginal Canadians when the basic governance structure, which applies to everything that happens on reserve, is legislation that was developed 150 years ago. There was no action from the former government to deal with that reality.
    These are tough, fundamental questions and they have gone unanswered for too long. The government intends to move forward. We intend to deal with these issues and we will work in collaboration and in consultation with national and regional organizations to do so.
    I am optimistic. As Winston Churchill once said, “For myself, I am an optimist, because I don't see much use in being anything else”. We can move forward on these issues and we have already in the budget.
    My friend said, I think quite unfairly, and I want the record of the House of Commons corrected on this, that the government had put forward a budget that cut 80% of the funding to aboriginal Canadians. The budget put forward by the Conservative government contains more dollar expenditures for aboriginal Canadians than any budget that has ever been put forward in the history of the House of Commons and, for sure, more money than the Liberals ever put forward.
    At this point, the Government of Canada is spending something close to $9 billion on aboriginal programs and services. Our budget contained a number of extraordinary measures, totalling $3.7 billion. We budgeted $2.2 billion to deal with the residential school agreement. We included $300 million for northern housing; $300 million for off reserve housing, $125 million additional in the budget this year, $450 million in the budget in the following; and a $325 million increase in the department's estimates. The total additional funds in that sense are $1.075 billion. When we add that to the $2.2 billion set aside for the residential school agreement, this is a very generous budget. As aboriginal leaders across Canada have said, it does more for aboriginal Canadians than the Liberals ever did.
    Yet what we hear is a continuation from the other side of the House about Liberal rhetoric, about promises and about moving forward. All of this disrespects the House of Commons. The money in terms of Kelowna was never budgeted for by the House of Commons. It was open to the Liberals, as a government, to bring forward a budget that included that money, to have it approved by the Parliament of Canada and to move forward. They never did. They are carrying on today with the same approach. The private member's bill that has been put forward, again, provides no money. There are more promises or regurgitation of previous promises, but no money.

  (1250)  

    What aboriginal Canadians have come to believe and come to see is that for real results they are going to see action from our government. The government has the courage to move forward and bring forward a vision that is different from where we have been.
    Mr. Speaker, I have a very quick question. He talks about the over $1.2 billion. I find that hard to believe when $300 million of it will go to provinces and $300 million to northern territories. It is not going to aboriginal people. We have $150 million this year going to aboriginal people, period.
    Very clearly, I see the rubber hitting the road with the lack of understanding the Conservatives have with what the aboriginal people of Canada want. Their criticism that the Kelowna accord was a one page document is absurd. Do they not understand that the plans were to be developed jointly with the aboriginal people of Canada? The government is being prescriptive and telling them that it knows what is good for them.
    What process of consultation will be utilized? Is it the one where there was none when the accountability act was introduced? Is it one where the aboriginal procurement provision in contracts was cut? Is it one where school projects were cut without consultation or where the Deh Cho negotiations were short-circuited by being told that they would not block this Supreme Court of Canada recognition of the duty to consult. Therefore, what is the consultation process, hit and run?
    Mr. Speaker, the member is a new member. Therefore, at the risk of repetition, I would like to take him back to how the budget process works. When he talks about the dollars being an illusion, he needs to look at the budget. These are real dollars.
    The Government of Canada this year will spend $9 billion on programs and services for aboriginal Canadians, primarily on approximately 600,000 status Indian Canadians. There will be $300 million for northern housing, which will be real money leading to real results. That is $300 million for off reserve housing. Surely the member does not contend that those moneys are not moneys from which aboriginal Canadians will see no benefit. There are $475 million of additional increases in terms of the budgetary allocation to the department and $2.2 billion for the residential school agreement. These are real funds.
    On the consultation process, I think I have made it very clear that we will continue to consult with first nations and with the leaders of the Inuit and the Métis organizations. I have had meetings with every one of the national aboriginal organizations. In fact, I have had extensive meetings with all of them. We work very closely with the Native Women's Association of Canada, with the Assembly of First Nations, ITK on behalf of the Inuit people, with the National Métis Council and with the Congress of Aboriginal People. These are all groups with which we have a very solid relationship and we are developing a constructive way forward. No one should suggest in the House that it does not exist.
    If we listen to the comments, which the aboriginal leaders have put on the public record, they say that they have a respectful and a positive working relationship with the new government.
    We will be mindful of Haida v. Taku and the sorts of decisions that have been issued previously by the Supreme Court of Canada. We are mindful of the obligation to consult.
    I have been around long enough to know that imposed solutions do not work. At the same time, there is a fundamental difference between the Conservative approach and the Liberal approach on consultation. For the Liberals, consultation was a gridlock because it essentially amounted to a process where they would consult endlessly and they would never take any action.
    In the case of the Conservative Party, we will consult on the road to results. We will consult on the road to making decisions. Consultation will be part of a decision making process. It will not be a dead end route, the way it was with the Liberals.

  (1255)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the hon. minister, and one question immediately came to mind.
    I like it when two parties take turns wielding power. It means that one of the parties can say that although it was forced to rejig a few things because of the other party's 13 years of inaction, it will fix everything up because it is the best party. That said, I have a question for the minister. Under Mr. Mulroney's government, with which he is no doubt familiar, the Erasmus-Dussault commission was created. This commission cost Canadians over $55 million and was supposed to set up a new structure and new organizations for Canada's aboriginal, Inuit and Métis people.
    My question is very simple: if he does not believe that an agreement was reached in Kelowna, will the minister commit to the immediate implementation of the conclusions in the Erasmus-Dussault report, which has already been written, which already exists, which was thoroughly documented, and which his government has had in its possession for more than 14 years?
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from the hon. member opposite. It has already been mentioned that I respected the work of this commission. I have even discussed this with the hon. member. But now we have a new government and we will develop our own strategies to protect aboriginal people.

[English]

    The commission of which my friend speaks is an important commission. He is quite right that it has contributed enormously to this country and to an understanding of aboriginal issues. Many ideas were put forward. Frankly, the final report would fill the table in front of the Speaker of the House. There were good ideas in the report. There were ideas relating to housing, education and economic development. We will consider these ideas. I look forward to working together with my friend to do so. At the end of the day, this government is prepared to look at those ideas and move forward to make the structural changes in consultation with aboriginal Canadians, first nation, Métis and Inuit people, but to deal with the real issues.
    My friend spoke about the history of previous governments in this country. If we look at what has transpired in Canada over the last 13 years, we have seen no significant improvement in the lives of aboriginal Canadians. All of the structural changes that were made in this country that have benefited aboriginal Canadians were made by previous Conservative governments.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister and the member for Winnipeg South Centre for the tone and the content of their remarks. I want to thank the member for Winnipeg South Centre for giving us the opportunity to be seized with this issue today. It is the most compelling social issue that we have in this country.
    It is helpful if we all start this important debate from the same base level of facts and do away with some of the misinformation. I too was at Kelowna and I was there for the whole event. I know the minister was there as well because we sat together for much of that gathering.
    It would do all of us a service as we spend the rest of the day discussing this issue to get some clarity from the minister to see if he understands the numbers the same way I do. If we subtract $700 million, which was the health care money that was announced and re-announced many times in the most cynical of ways, from $5.1 billion that brings it down to $4.4 billion. If we take $550 million for housing, which was money in the NDP Bill C-48, that leaves $3.85 billion over five years. This is where the member for Winnipeg South Centre and I have some disagreement. We negotiated $1.6 billion for housing of which we said one-third should go toward aboriginal housing which would be $550 million. Perhaps the minister could confirm that if that $550 million was not tied to Kelowna it would have been spent, but because it was tied to Kelowna, it was never rolled out.
    First nations have asked me what happened to the money in Bill C-48. They want to know why their housing budgets have not doubled because of the money that the NDP negotiated on their behalf. They want to know where that money is. We said it was tied to Kelowna. Is that true or not? Since 1992, $261 million was fixed and it never changed in the 13 years the Liberals were in government. That was the total housing budget.
    Can the minister confirm or deny my understanding of the figures?

  (1300)  

    The minister for a short response.
    Mr. Speaker, it is always difficult to provide a short response to my colleague from Winnipeg Centre. I acknowledge the work that he has done and that we did together in the previous Parliament on residential schools and other issues. It is difficult to give a short response, but I would be pleased to talk to the hon. member later.
    The single page document that was put forward at Kelowna talked about $300 million for northern housing over five years. The Conservative budget deals with $300 million for northern housing in one budget right now. We are committed to real results. In cases where we believe that we can move forward today, namely, northern housing and off reserve housing where the institutional arrangements are in place to make sure that money is delivered to aboriginal Canadians, we have moved forward immediately. We do not need the Liberals and their discussion about Kelowna to get results on northern housing. This government has delivered it.
    My friend referred to Bill C-48. There is a lot of history that goes back to that legislation, but the point is made that this government is focused on accountability, real results, directed and targeted expenditures, and making sure that we improve the lives of aboriginal Canadians in a real way.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, today we are debating a motion on the Kelowna accord, a rather unorthodox accord from the point of view of a non-aboriginal who has never dealt with any aboriginals whatsoever and who probably never has had any extended contact with aboriginals.
    I want to remind hon. members that for an aboriginal, a handshake, especially in front of witnesses, is still stronger than a signature from certain people. We are talking about the Kelowna accord, entitled, “Strengthening Relationships and Closing the Gap”. The motion reads as follows:
    That the House recognize the urgent need to improve the quality of life of Canada’s Aboriginals, First Nations, Inuit and Métis, living both on and off reserve, which requires focused and immediate initiatives by the government in areas such as health, water, housing, education, and economic opportunities and, especially, immediately moving forward with the implementation of the Kelowna Accord with its full funding commitments.
    The Bloc Québécois is in favour of this motion in principle, as am I. However, allow me to be skeptical about the real intentions of the leader of the previous government. Please remind me of a single time when he respected a single promise to the middle class or people who are struggling. We could even go back to his employees, both those on his ships and in his offices, to the days of the Voyageur bus line, for example. I think it has been well over 20 years. These employees, mostly women, are still waiting for their modest pension, which this former prime minister had the indecency to refuse to pay.
    I believe the former government would indeed have had the opportunity to negotiate and implement such an agreement. Members of the government also would have had enough time to extend the peace of the braves for the James Bay Cree, but they were in the government. And just like the Conservatives today, they prefer to be surrounded by lobbyists, which is much more profitable politically than being surrounded by Indians who, in any event, will still continue to vote for them. They have always done so and I hope one day they will see the error of their ways and that we will finally see change in Canada.
    I would like to remind hon. members that, in my opinion, the previous government was the main architect of the disastrous situation in which the vast majority of first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples are mired today, both on and off reserve. In fact, I wonder whether, if that party had been re-elected, we would be discussing the same motion today, only this time introduced by the Conservative Party.
    In its platform, the Conservative Party claims that it wants to achieve the objectives of the Kelowna accord. How does it hope to reduce the education gaps between aboriginal secondary school graduates and other Canadian graduates and the health gap between non-native and native Canadians? The government's 2006 budget does not provide a lot of money for aboriginal education and health. How does the government hope to know all the needs of aboriginal people without consulting the communities concerned?
    This shows the opinion I have of both these parties when it comes to the power or the will to take tangible measures to address this issue or issues such as equalization, the fiscal imbalance, the softwood lumber dispute, Quebec's place at UNESCO, tax breaks for taxpayers and global warming, whether it is dealt with through the Kyoto protocol or something better. I have no more faith in one party than the other. If we were to put the two of them into a bag, shake it and pull one out, we would get exactly what we have always had: a dominating government that centralizes all the powers and assets of what is still this confederation.
    Like all the fine promises made to Quebeckers, whether by the previous government or this one, that have turned out to be blatant intellectual dishonesty, this agreement could very well be used as a trap during the next election campaign.
    How can the government go to first nations chiefs, negotiators or representatives today and claim that the agreement does not exist because it was not signed? Were all the provincial premiers not there? And what do they have to say?
    All governments and all politicians worthy of the name, although very few remain, know full well what it means to shake hands with an aboriginal leader, or with his or her negotiators in certain circumstances.

  (1305)  

    We acknowledge that this agreement is still far from what the first nations could have hoped for. However, waiting to conclude the agreement required to achieve equality among the nations could seriously compromise this objective, which, we believe, could not be otherwise achieved, nor could the current situation be stabilized given the sums that were set aside for that purpose.
    At least this agreement could slow the constant widening of the gap between aboriginals and Quebeckers and other Canadians.
    We must face the facts and, for now, hope that the accord is implemented because, although it may be imperfect and insufficient, it can at least bring some relief to the gap that continues to grow between aboriginals, Quebeckers and other Canadians. I would remind the House that on November 25, 2005, despite the disagreement of the first nations peoples of Quebec and Labrador, this agreement was sealed by first nations peoples from the rest of Canada, the provincial premiers and the Prime Minister of Canada. If the accord is not respected, the provinces could find themselves in a very difficult situation, both financially and politically.
    It does not matter how this agreement was sealed. From the moment each of the participants shook hands, according to the custom of one or more of the nations present, this accord was accepted. Various witnesses in this House, during the debates or question periods, have indicated that a number of personalities from the current government attended these negotiations. I raise this point because nowhere is there any mention of disagreement or anything else at the time and it would not be right to claim today that a handshake does not have the same value as a signature. We must consider that there was agreement, despite my skepticism about the will of the main signatory, to implement the accord.
    How can billions of dollars be invested in companies that have never indicated any need, like the oil companies? How can there be such an open and intense search for manpower through immigration, given the cost this represents, when no effort is made to include our own citizens in a constructive and fulfilling system? It might be a good idea to plan for, even encourage, the establishment of industry in these communities, thereby rewarding the efforts made toward independence and self-government by all these nations for a number of years now.
    We must consider these persons. Indeed, they are persons, just like the Quebec nation, which, by the way, is celebrating its national holiday this coming Saturday, June 24. Aboriginals are celebrating their holiday a few days earlier on June 21. All these persons cherish their languages and cultures. It is their fundamental right. They want to adapt at their own rhythm to another language and culture, while maintaining their own. It is not necessarily by choice that they are doing so and they do not necessarily have the motivation we would have hoped for in adapting to these other languages and cultures.
    The Government of Quebec has understood this and it is in constant negotiation with most of the communities. One of the best successes was the peace of the braves that most of the other communities, in Quebec in any case, would like to achieve even though the intended purpose has not been reached yet because of the previous federal government, which the current government seems to want to imitate when it comes to the lack of motivation to achieve the same existing recognition in Quebec. The signatories of this agreement nonetheless gained self-government and very good economic strength in the Cree communities in northern Quebec.
    As is the case in Quebec, the aboriginal and Inuit peoples are founding peoples of Canada and should have all the rights of other Canadians, including the right to self-government, to their own culture, language and traditions, the right to property, the right to participate in and to profit from economic development and the right to healthy housing.
    The first nations must have the foundation on which to build the social equilibrium required to forge a true alliance with the nations of Quebec and Canada. To this end, it is vital that the Kelowna accord be implemented while continuing to make every effort to negotiate complementary agreements needed to achieve true relations in a spirit of equality for all nations.
    I was in northern Quebec, in Nunavik, not long ago.

  (1310)  

    At four in the morning I heard children talking outside. I looked out the window and saw six young people between eight and eleven years old, at the most. These children had to leave their home because their parents were fighting. The houses are overcrowded: between 10 and 14 people live in one unit. Young couples with four or five children live with their grandparents, brothers or sisters. They do not have time to look after their children. The tension becomes so intense that when the arguing breaks out, the grandparents and the young ones leave the house to avoid the fighting.
    And it is not true that the children in the streets at four in the morning will be in school the next day. Those who do attend school find themselves, when they return home in the evening, without the parental support to help them advance in their studies.
    For this reason, no matter the amount of money involved, the programs must be reviewed with each of the interested communities, in order to establish programs that meet their individual needs.
    We will support this agreement in the hope that the government will continue to improve existing conditions.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague and I sit on the aboriginal affairs committee. He has had many years of experience in parliamentary affairs.
    I would like to ask him a question in relation to the Quebec aboriginal groups that were not involved in the Kelowna process and how they did not proceed in extending their agreement.
    The member does have considerable parliamentary experience and history going back to the 1980s. I would ask him whether that type of logic which he has extended today, where agreement was taken, should also apply to past agreements that Quebec was not a part of. Does that same logic extend when Quebec is not at the table and does not agree?
    I would ask him to clarify the logic that he is using.

  (1315)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to correct something my colleague said. I do not think I have much more parliamentary experience than him, but I may have more experience with human relations and human behaviour.
    Quebeckers have always been proud of their interaction with other communities, native and non-native alike. Even though aboriginal and Inuit peoples in northern Quebec were excluded from the Kelowna accord—they were quite forgotten both in the government's budget and in the Kelowna accord negotiated by the former government—Quebeckers are pleased that some people can benefit from improved quality of life.
    Not to worry: aboriginal peoples in Quebec have always managed to reach agreements with the Government of Quebec, and if the federal government were to transfer the necessary funds and powers to Quebec so that the province could negotiate with all its aboriginal peoples, they would be even better served.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as we have this debate about the Kelowna accord, we all bring different kinds of experiences and stories from our own provinces and across the country.
    My first and probably most serious concern about the Kelowna accord, or the support that is planned for aboriginal people, Inuit and Métis is that it be extremely focused and that it have agreed upon goals between aboriginal people, Métis and Inuit about the progress that is being made.
    We have heard stories about aboriginal communities where there has been economic success, but we have also heard stories of other places where it has greatly reduced. I think of two towns in British Columbia, one about which many stories have been told in the House today and at other times, and one where violence in general has dropped, graduation rates have gone up, sexual abuse of children has gone down, and learning of their first language has gone up. Why? Because it is economically successful and that leads to those other things.
     The dollars that are going to go into those communities have to be focused. I understand that we want and need to focus everywhere, but without economic success in a community, none of those other things will happen with either the speed or the efficacy that we would like to see. They also need to happen in a modally coherent way where it is done in the way the community wants it done. These are not our communities. These are communities that belong to the Métis, Inuit and aboriginal people.
    When I look at census data, I see that more babies in aboriginal communities suffocate because of the use of family beds. Aboriginal people believe in the “family bed”, where babies sleep with other people. A lot of the deaths are tied to alcohol use where somebody has rolled over on the baby and the baby suffocated. Does that mean that somebody loves their baby less? Of course not. It means they do not have the supports that we are talking about here, but they have to get there.
    We have to know if the supports are working. We have to have agreed upon goals and ways of measuring whether they are successful. In other instances when resources have gone into communities, it has not been modally coherent. It has not been comfortable for the aboriginal communities. We have spent a lot of money, and while it has been well intentioned, we are almost totally unable to measure the success.
    As the question asked by the opposition about the money for the community--

  (1320)  

    Order. I hesitate to interrupt the hon. member but it is a time for questions and comments. The comments have gone for a long time now and we do need to give the hon. member some time to respond.
    The hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her comments.
    If I understood correctly, she spoke primarily about how to better plan the assistance that communities need and how to target that assistance. In my opinion, the previous government identified all of those priorities through the Kelowna accord.
    This all looks like a vicious circle. In order to become autonomous, aboriginals need education to be able to manage their own affairs. In order to achieve such a level of education, they also need houses and homes that are healthy and safe. Thus, they could live comfortably; their children would have normal nights and could study in their own language, at their own pace, and based on their culture. They would then be much more motivated to receive the education needed to evolve.
    Instead of giving them fish, why not give them the tools to fish for themselves? Why not give them businesses that will allow them to identify with their village and their community? This is the best form of motivation to ensure that the youth in these communities have a bright future ahead.
    It is only normal that people struggle with alcohol and drug use when they see no prospects ahead. What kind of future can they expect to have?
    Let us begin by providing them with decent housing that will allow them to rest properly. They must also be consulted to ensure that their education system harmonizes with their culture, language and preferences. It is at that point that we will see rather rapid progress among all Canadian aboriginal peoples, Inuit and Métis.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am speaking today on behalf of the New Democratic Party in support of the motion.
    However, it is with some frustration that I speak to this matter. We are having this debate today because the former Liberal government did nothing for 13 years to address some of the crises facing the first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples across the country. It is sad to say that what galvanized the Liberals to action was a previous minority government.
    Unfortunately, the current minority government has not yet been galvanized to the same kind of action. In fact, the current minority government has turned its back on a very important agreement that had support from the federal government, provincial governments and first nations, Inuit and Métis leaderships across the country.
    I want to set a bit of context for this. I will go back to a press release put out after the first ministers and national aboriginal leaders met in Kelowna back in November 2005. In a document called, “Strengthening Relationships and Closing the Gap”, it talks about some of the important issues around housing, education and economic development that were critical for first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples to join the rest of Canadians in a quality of life that many of us take for granted.
    Much has been said about the fact that there was no signed agreement. People have talked about it being written on the back of a napkin. None of that is true. The agreement came about after extensive meetings and discussions were held over a number of months. In our country people's verbal commitment to things is considered binding. This agreement, in many people's minds, when we talk about the honour of the Crown, reflects the honour of the Crown.
    The previous federal government said that it was committed to improving the quality of life for first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, that it was committed to putting money on the table and that it was committed to having discussions with leaderships across Canada. People understood this agreement to be a meaningful commitment and that it was directly tied to the honour of the Crown.
    I want to talk about the conclusion in the document, “Strengthening Relationships and Closing the Gap”, because it sets out some of the principles and the agreement that people understood. It states:
    This document represents a shared commitment to action by all parties. The initiatives set out in this document are the first step in a 10-year dedicated effort to improve the quality of life of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada. Based on their shared commitment, First Ministers and National Aboriginal Leaders agree to take immediate action, to build on their commitments over time, wherever possible, and to move forward in a manner that will achieve the maximum results for the Aboriginal peoples of Canada which include the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.
    Two of the important words in this document are “shared commitment”. It is that shared commitment that people are quite disappointed with in the current government's approach.
    In case anyone thinks there is no reality around some of the conditions on first nations reserves and for Inuit and Métis people, I have a copy of the Economic and Social Council's report from May 2006. Canada is being cited on an international stage for its handling of indigenous issues. I will not read the whole report because I am sure most members of the House have paid attention to this report with a great deal of interest, but the committee noted, with particular concern, that poverty rates remained very high among disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups, such as aboriginal peoples.

  (1325)  

    Also in the report the committee talks about disparities. It states:
    The disparities that still persist between Aboriginal peoples and the rest of the Canadian population in the enjoyment of Covenant rights, as well as the discrimination still experienced by Aboriginal women in matters of matrimonial property.
    The report goes on to deal with things such as water, health and housing, which are the fundamental elements in the agreement that was struck back in the fall in Kelowna around closing the poverty gap. The report states:
    The Committee is also concerned by the significant disparities still remaining between Aboriginal people and the rest of the population in areas of employment, access to water, health, housing and education,
    The Committee, while noting that the State party has withdrawn, since 1998, the requirement for an express reference to extinguishment of Aboriginal rights and titles either in a comprehensive claim agreement or in the settlement legislation ratifying the agreement, remains concerned that the new approaches, namely the “modified rights model” and the “non-assertion model”, do not differ much from the extinguishment and surrender approach.
    It further regrets not having received detailed information on other approaches based on recognition and coexistence of rights, which are currently under study.
    A little later on I will link the treaty rights back to closing the poverty gap because it is a fundamental principle. Not only is it not in the motion before the House today, it also was not part of the Kelowna agreement.
    The report goes on to actually talk about a variety of programs. Again, culture, language and education are fundamental in terms of having people move forward with education and with economic development. The United Nations committee states:
    The Committee, while noting the numerous programmes adopted to preserve Aboriginal languages in the State party, as well as the studies conducted in the area of the protection of traditional knowledge, regrets that no time frame has been set up for the consideration and implementation of the recommendations of the Task Force on Aboriginal Languages and Cultures, and that no concrete measures have been adopted in the area of intellectual property for the protection and promotion of ancestral rights and traditional knowledge of Aboriginal peoples.
    Those are serious problems that have been identified in the international community and are directly related to self-sufficiency and to addressing the poverty gap.
    The last piece that I just talked about was around culture and language. Part of what was in the original Kelowna agreement around closing the poverty gap was a very substantial commitment to education and that education needs to be culturally relevant. It needs to include access to language. That important commitment has been lost by not having the Conservative government agree to proceed with those matters.
    I mentioned earlier that much has been said about not having a signed agreement and the honour of the Crown. The premier in my province of British Columbia took it at face value that the federal government was committed to moving forward with this. The provincial government and the first nations leadership in British Columbia signed something called the transformative change accord. When people move forward by signing other documents they feel that it will happen. They thought this was a deal.
    In a letter dated May 4, 2006 and addressed to the current Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Summit and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said that they had thought that the current minister had made public commitments to put wheels on the Kelowna accord.
    However, the government has chosen not to uphold the honour of the Crown. The government has reneged on this historic, multi-government agreement and has proceeded to unilaterally implement its own plan to address our issues without any consultations.
    The consultation that led to that agreement in Kelowna was an integral part of what happened. The verbal agreement was destroyed without any consultation with aboriginal people. The leadership goes on to say:
    The funds announced in your budget will do very little to remedy chronic under-fundincrushing poverty and appg or the alling socio-economic conditions of First Nations communities. True recognition, reconciliation and social justice with respect to lands, territories and resources, as well as social and economic programs, are becoming even more distant goals.

  (1330)  

    Part of closing that poverty gap was a commitment to four key areas. It was also a commitment to funding, so I am going to turn my attention to funding.
     In the letter that the first nations leadership in British Columbia wrote to the Prime Minister and the Ministers of Finance and Indian and Northern Affairs, they talked about the funding. They said:
    Your government has abandoned this Accord and your budget reflects only a fraction of the financial commitments already committed by the Government of Canada to help improve the quality of life for First Nations and Aboriginal Canadians.
     Your government has committed to addressing the fiscal imbalance with the provinces, yet this budget does nothing to address the fiscal imbalance faced by First Nations governments. Spending on First Nations programs has been kept at 2% for the past 10 years and is far outpaced by rapid population growth and rising costs.
    When we are talking about money, I think it is really important that we talk about how much money is actually available and about some of the realities in first nations, Métis and Inuit communities. In a recent report by the Auditor General, she herself talks about the fact that funding has not kept pace with population growth. In the Auditor General's report, she says that between 1999 and 2004 funding increased by only 1.6% and yet population growth in first nations communities was at 11.2%. That is quite a significant difference.
    As well, when we are talking about funding we have to actually talk about where money is spent and how it is allocated. In the department's own facts, it says that between 2005 and 2006 the government is forecasted to spend $9.1 billion directly on aboriginal programs, policies and initiatives. It is important to note that 80% of this spending is directed toward basic province-like services such as infrastructure, housing and education.
    I want to turn briefly to a report put out by the Assembly of First Nations in 2004, “Federal Government Funding to First Nations: The Facts, the Myths and the Way Forward”. The reason I specifically wanted to reference that report is that, using the department's own figures, it talks about the fact that funding has actually decreased and says that funding for core services such as education, economic and social development, capital facilities and maintenance has decreased by almost 13% since 1999-2000.
    We have a crisis happening with first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. We have a population that is growing and we have an infrastructure deficit. Many first nations communities do not have access to clean drinking water. They do not have access to sewer systems. They do not have access to adequate housing. We talk about the fact that the federal government actually has an obligation to provide “comparable services”. Comparable services means services that are similar to those that people who live in provinces and municipalities have access to. I would argue that many first nations, Métis and Inuit communities not only do not have comparable services, but their services are so substandard that most Canadians would not even dream of living there.
    This Kelowna agreement, this closing of the poverty gap, was a step, a significant step. It would not be the answer to all of the problems, but it was a significant step in moving forward and addressing some of those issues.
    In addition, in her report the Auditor General talked about the fact that the failures she was outlining were mostly to do with quality of life issues, well-being issues, and much of what she addressed actually falls squarely in the laps of the previous Liberal government. Her report was a condemnation of past policies and programs that are still failing to meet some of those very critical issues around housing, education and land claims.
    Earlier I mentioned that I was going to touch briefly on land claims. This is not mentioned in the current motion and was not part of the agreement in Kelowna. Specifically, I am bringing up land claims in this context because treaties, comprehensive land claims and specific land claims are all part of paving the way for first nations communities to move forward, paving the way for first nations communities to have meaningful economic development, and paving the way for first nations communities to actually be able to take charge of some of the infrastructure programs and the educational aspects that are very important in that economic survival and the community.

  (1335)  

    I am going to come back to the United Nations report that I was quoting from earlier because it made a couple of recommendations that tie directly to this. Recommendation 37 states:
    The Committee urges the State party to re-examine its policies and practices towards the inherent rights and titles of Aboriginal peoples to ensure that policies and practices do not result in extinguishment of those rights and titles.
    Recommendation 38 states:
    The Committee strongly recommends that the State party resume negotiations with the Lubicon Lake Band, with a view to finding a solution to the claims of the Band that ensures the enjoyment of their rights under the Covenant. The Committee also strongly recommends the State party to conduct effective consultation with the Band prior to the grant of licences for economic purposes in the disputed land, and to ensure that such activities do not jeopardize the rights recognized under the Covenant.
    I specifically quoted the recommendation on the Lubicon Lake Band because I think it is a microcosm of a fact that many first nations communities are faced with. Because they cannot get adequate treaties or comprehensive land claims or specific land claims, they are unable to move forward with the economic development that is so critical to their survival and well-being.
    I want to turn just for a moment to my home riding of Nanaimo--Cowichan. For a number of years, the Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group has been in negotiations with the government. Part of the reason for their lack of community well-being they attribute to the lack of movement on the treaty.
     Again, tying it back to the Kelowna accord and the Auditor General's comments around economic well-being, there is an index called the community well-being index. This was used to examine the well-being of Canadian communities. In my riding, six Hul'qumi'num communities scored between 448 and 482 out of 486 communities surveyed in B.C. Those are grim numbers. We are talking about poverty, unemployment, poor health, lack of access to education, and the list goes on. In the province of British Columbia, when six of these Hul'qumi'num communities score at the very bottom, that is of grave concern.
    Part of what the Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group is calling for is for the government to move forward on treaty and land claims so that people can take control of their lives, so that they can move forward and stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of Canadians.
    In an article in the Cultural Survival Quarterly of March 27, 2006, Robert Morales talks about Canada's own royal commission. He states:
    Canada's own Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recognized that “Aboriginal peoples need much more territory to become economically, culturally and politically self-sufficient. If they cannot obtain a greater share of the land and resources in this country, their institutions of self-government will fail”. This is, they said, “the most pressing human rights issue facing Canadians, and failure to obtain a more global solution can only continue to tarnish Canada's reputation and accomplishments”.
    What we know is that without meaningful movement on land claims, on specific comprehensive land claims and treaties, it is going to be very difficult for first nations communities to take charge of their economic self-sufficiency, as Robert Morales points out in his article.
     It has been a long haul. I was speaking to one of the chiefs on Vancouver Island. He told me that at the age of nine, at his grandfather's knee, he listened to his grandfather talk to him about land claims and treaties. He talked about the fact that “soon it would be settled”. This chief is now 63 and his band still does not have a treaty.
    In conclusion, I would like to urge each and every member of the House to support this very important initiative brought forward by the official opposition. We would like to be in a situation in 10 years' time where the United Nations is talking about the great progress Canada has made in terms of closing this poverty gap, in terms of enshrining the cultural and language rights, and in terms of economic self-sufficiency for first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.
    I urge all members of the House to support the motion and I urge the government to then actually allocate the funds to make sure that we can truly close the poverty gap in this country in this day and age.

  (1340)  

    Mr. Speaker, the thrust of the motion before the House today is to improve the quality of life of Canadian aboriginals, first nations, Inuit and Métis, both on and off reserve.
    The member knows that the government has already indicated it will vote against this motion, which I think is somewhat telling of its attitude toward our first nations peoples. Indeed, the Conservative member for Prince Albert attacked Canada's policy on first nations by referring to them as a Marxist paradise. Also, the member for Nepean—Carleton--and much has been said about his words in this place--rebuked the Assembly of First Nations national chief, Phil Fontaine, saying that native reserve governments were not real governments. This is quite outrageous for a government that is supposed to govern on behalf of all Canadians.
    Has the member other examples of where this government has made indications that it has no respect whatsoever for Canada's first nations people?

  (1345)  

    Mr. Speaker, I will say to the member for Mississauga South that although I do not want to go into a laundry list of shortcomings, the very fact that the Conservatives did not put the wheels on the Kelowna accord, as the minister has been quoted as saying he would commit to, is enough of an indictment in itself. Given the idea of consultation, how we talk about consultation and how a number of court decisions talked about how important it is and about the government having a duty to consult, just the very fact that the Kelowna accord was taken apart without consultation is enough of an indictment.
    I do not need to get into the various misdemeanours that people may or may not have committed, but I would urge the Conservative government to reconsider its position and to take a look at all of the work that went into the Kelowna accord.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague, with whom I also sit on the aboriginal affairs committee. She has clearly shown her diligence on issues related to aboriginal people and I think all Canadians should be appreciative of that.
    One of the issues that has permeated this debate, not only today but throughout the last few months, is the fact that the system through which services are delivered to aboriginal people is itself broken. That was not considered as part of the process. I would like to know if the hon. member thinks the current system in fact does need that improvement, or if perhaps that need not be considered as part of these ongoing discussions.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the parliamentary secretary's question and the work he has done on committee as well.
    I would agree that there are some fundamental problems with the existing system. We have had 12 reports from the Auditor General over the last number of years that have quoted chapter and verse all the problems with the system.
    I would argue, though, that if we are going to look at taking apart the system what we in effect need to do is the consultation that I talked about earlier. We need to include first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples in looking at what changes need to be made in the system, setting out some concrete timelines and a concrete action plan with no more missed deadlines. We currently have an education plan being developed with the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. Already it has missed its first deadline of June 2006. That is not acceptable. We have critical issues facing first nations, Métis and Inuit communities. We cannot wait to fix a system that may not be working. We must move forward.
    I would argue that we need to do some investment, short term and immediate, and then we need to do the medium and long term planning to make sure things are fixed, but it must be done in consultation with first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.
    Mr. Speaker, I as well want to thank my colleague for her comments regarding aboriginal issues. I certainly believe that she has a real desire to have aboriginal issues advanced and to have addressed those issues that are concerning us.
    One of my concerns with her speech was that she seemed to focus most heavily on the issue of communities. Right now, roughly 80% of aboriginal people live off reserve. I wonder if she could address how we could address those issues for the aboriginal people who are not on reserve so that we do not let them fall between the cracks. My understanding is that right now roughly $8 is spent for every aboriginal person on reserve compared to $1 for those off reserve. We find aboriginal people dealing with poverty and despair living in urban centres. Could she address that?
    Mr. Speaker, the member raises a very good issue. I do not want to get into a dispute about the numbers. We had this conversation at the aboriginal affairs committee that sometimes we are talking about aboriginal people and sometimes we are talking about first nations, Métis and Inuit. One of the things we have asked for is better information around who lives on reserve and who lives off reserve.
    It is a very valid point that we cannot just look at funding and closing the poverty gap on reserve. We must also look at off reserve. That is where we enter that very thorny ground of provincial jurisdiction. We need to bring together, as happened with the Kelowna accord, the federal government, the provincial governments and the first nations, Métis and Inuit leadership across the country to ensure that we are looking at closing that poverty gap on reserve and off reserve.

  (1350)  

    Mr. Speaker, with respect to the previous question regarding on reserve and off reserve spending, is it not a bigger question to ask about the jurisdiction and the actual mechanism to fairly provide services on reserve and off reserve as opposed to the actual dollar value itself?
    Mr. Speaker, jurisdiction is a very important issue to tackle. Recently we heard that $300 million was going to the north for housing, and we discovered that it is being funnelled through the territory. Much of this money is going to be funnelled through territorial and provincial governments and may not actually result in building houses for first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
    When we talk about jurisdiction over people who live off reserve, it is something in which we need to include first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples in terms of discussing what the solutions may be. Currently the federal government says that off reserve is not its problem, that the provinces need to deal with it. We have seen an increased widening of that poverty gap for first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples who do not live on reserve.
    The jurisdictional issue is a tough one, but we must come together with first nations, Métis and Inuit leadership, the provinces and the federal government to tackle this issue. Otherwise we will be having this conversation again in 10 years' time.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with the member for Toronto Centre.

  (1355)  

[English]

    The motion states:
    That the House recognize the urgent need to improve the quality of life of Canada's Aboriginals, First Nations, Inuit and Métis, living both on and off reserve, which requires focused and immediate initiatives by the government in areas such as health, water, housing, education, and economic opportunities and, especially, immediately moving forward with the implementation of the Kelowna Accord with its full funding commitments.
    If we talked to Canadians from coast to coast to coast, we would find that they support this motion. If Canadians went to Métis communities, Inuit communities, and first nations communities throughout this land and saw the shortcomings in those communities they would ask why governments are not getting together and working with these people to address their concerns. They would ask why we do not see the shortcomings in these communities, why we do not see the potential in these communities. Canadians would ask why we are not addressing these problems together rather than all levels of government taking individual initiatives. When each level of government has its own initiative, they are often disjointed and seldom reach what we would like to achieve.
    What was the Kelowna accord? It was not a deal done on a napkin prior to a press release. The Kelowna accord was the result of a lot of lobbying done by people in those communities talking to the federal government, the provincial government and local municipalities. Negotiations were held among federal and provincial officials and first nations. An agreement was reached.
    To cancel the accord sends the wrong message. It does not recognize our responsibilities as Canadians. It does not look at the errors we have made in the past and provide solutions for the future. The Kelowna accord was a very good initiative. It was very well supported. To be able to get the provinces, the territories and communities together to come to an understanding took a lot of work, a good plan and a lot of compromise. Now it has been cancelled.
    What are we telling those communities? What are we telling the young people who have dreams and aspirations? We are telling them that they cannot look to governments for help. We are telling them that they cannot trust the Government of Canada to enter into an agreement with them because a minority government on a whim might renege on it and remove federal participation.

[Translation]

    The situation in which these communities find themselves is unfortunate and regrettable.
    People are losing their faith and see no future in using the institutions available to them. They use means that I completely disapprove of.
    Nevertheless, they see no other solutions. The burgeoning difficulties and the lack of partnership make them feel that they have to barricade roads, hunt and fish illegally—hence poach—and use illegal means to boost the economy of their community.
    Canadians and the federal government should recognize that they have an obligation to guarantee to them that when a document is signed or a verbal agreement is made, the agreement is honourable and will be honoured.

[English]

    We hear often from members on the opposite side who tend to be very, very right wing that if we do a special agreement, it is race based. We have to recognize the specific needs of these communities. We have to work together.
    Sometimes I hear it said that the court is ruling Canada. Sometimes it is because sometimes these decisions are forced by the court. Sometimes the court forces us into action only when we do not recognize our responsibilities. Generation after generation do not see what the treaties really mean and do not recognize that perhaps we have some liabilities and some responsibilities as Canadians toward those treaties. I remember a member of another opposition party saying that when we buy the dog, we get the fleas. With those treaties came some responsibilities and we have not always met them. For the first nations in most cases, it all has not worked to their advantage.
    We should go to the communities and see the lands that they have lost. They were forced to live on reserves, their resources stripped from them, their potential stripped from them and they were reduced to a mere existence. That is not acceptable. We cross oceans so that does not apply to other nations, to other countries, to other peoples. We send our military. We send our aid. This is what we have to do in Canada, but not in the same way. We have to recognize the majority.
    I had the opportunity to work with Bob Nault, as well as the member for Fredericton, when each was the Minister of Indian Affairs. We would want to work with the communities, to look at the fundamental problems in the governance and the administration, to look at the role of women, to look at the possibilities, to look at the shortcomings and how we can address them.
    When we look at an agreement like Kelowna that gave such a sense of hope, that looked at those elements, at health care, at education, at infrastructure, at water and sewers, how can we back out of that? How can we go home and tell our people that our government has led us down this path?
    I regret to interrupt the hon. member, but we have reached an order of the day. The hon. member has approximately three minutes left in his 10 minutes. We will proceed now to statements by members.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Millennium Excellence Award

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize and congratulate two accomplished young people in my riding: Amy Florian and Jillian Kaulbach.
    Amy and Jillian are recipients of the prestigious Millennium Excellence Award. This honour recognizes their academic achievement, community involvement, and their demonstrated leadership abilities.
    As they begin their post-secondary studies this fall, they should be proud of their accomplishments and know that we stand beside them to offer our support as they dream big and realize their potential.
    I would ask my hon. colleagues to join me in congratulating Amy and Jillian, as well as all the recipients of the Millennium Excellence Award for this important honour.

  (1400)  

[Translation]

John Horman

     Mr. Speaker, I was saddened to hear of the passing of Mr. John Horman, who was born in Matane and helped found the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.He was also the league manager and statistician from 1969 to 1975.
     Mr. Horman was the discipline prefect, vice-president and even interim president in 1983. He also helped found the Canadian Hockey League, which heads up the three major junior leagues. John Horman was inducted into the Quebec Amateur Hockey Hall of Fame and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Hall of Fame, which honours him by naming its executive of the year trophy after him.
     I offer my sincerest condolences to Mr. Horman’s family and the fans of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, who are mourning his loss. A great hockey man has passed away, but his fame and teachings will live on.

[English]

Inter Tribal Health Authority

    Mr. Speaker, the Inter Tribal Health Authority serves 28 first nations communities on Vancouver Island and the surrounding areas.
    First nations are challenged by health issues, such as the legacy of residential schools and the epidemic of diabetes and heart disease.
    The ITHA works with first nations leaders and community health staff to ensure culturally appropriate services are available even in the smallest communities. This includes state-of-the-art health information technology that will ensure modern services and programs are available that are second to none.
    The ITHA is among the first in the country to work closely with first nations and Health Canada to develop comprehensive community-based pandemic plans.
    ITHA is on the leading edge of health care in Canada, based on first nations initiatives and leadership through self-determination and proactive programming.
    I salute its hard work and look forward to seeing even more innovation in its health care services.

[Translation]

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to take advantage of the opportunity this afternoon to thank the Minister of Finance who, in his budget of May 2, 2006, changed the excise tax on beer produced by microbreweries.
     This tax adjustment had been requested for more than five years and will help these brewers take their rightful place on the highly competitive beer market.
     Among other things, this tax holiday will enable them to create more than 2,500 jobs all across Canada. The microbrewery proprietors in my region, who helped me become very familiar with this issue, asked me to insist on its inclusion in our budget and have shown their appreciation and asked me to thank the House for resolving this.
     These sentiments have been echoed all across Canada through their association. I therefore thank the Minister of Finance.

[English]

Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, recently I have heard several members of the Liberal Party try to position themselves as defenders of Atlantic Canada. We are not holding our breath waiting for that to happen because the Liberal record speaks for itself.
    Take for instance the member for Kings—Hants, a candidate for the Liberal leadership, who on May 17, 2003 told the Ottawa Citizen:
    I believe we need to replace failed regional economic development programs and corporate welfare with dramatic corporate-tax reductions--
    Or another leadership hopeful, the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore, who in Maclean's magazine, on December 8, 2005 implied that Maritimers were dependent on employment insurance by saying:
    In the Martimes recently, I was struck by the number of people who find the rhetoric of equalization condescending, as if the only way to keep the Maritimes in Confederation is to maintain EI--
    Or how about the Liberal finance critic from Markham—Unionville who suggested in Hansard, on February 9 that Atlantic Canada and equalization-receiving provinces are “mired in the world of have not clamouring for subventions”.
    No, we do not need Liberals pontificating about what they would do. In Atlantic Canada we know all too well what they have done. The track record of nothing speaks for itself.

Child Care

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government successfully negotiated early learning and child care agreements with all of the 10 provinces last year.
    Early childhood education is critical for the development of social and intellectual skills.
    Canada's children need quality early childhood education to prepare them for the future, as in this global economy, Canadians must compete with the rest of the world for the best jobs and the best opportunities.
    Giving parents a tiny taxable allowance will not contribute to a child's healthy development and future education through early learning.
    The Conservative government is failing Canadians by denying our children the opportunity for early childhood education. This is just another example of the difference between the Liberals and the Conservatives.
    The Liberals invest in opportunities for our children while the Conservatives are busy building jails.
     I am proud to be a Liberal. I am proud of the plan that the Liberal government put forward and I look forward to us having the opportunity, when Liberals form the next government, to produce a national child care program.

  (1405)  

Human Trafficking

    Mr. Speaker, on June 10 of this year I hosted a forum in Winnipeg entitled “Stop the Slavery”, a forum on the growing crime of human trafficking.
    Her Excellency Abina Dann, the Canadian ambassador to Ukraine, Victor Malarek, the author of the book The Natashas, Laura Lederer from the U.S. State Department, Irena Soltys from Help Us Help the Children organization, Sonja Bejzyk of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and myself made up the list of presenters.
    Over 2,000 women and children were trafficked through Canada last year alone. This is a growing crime that trafficks nearly a million women and children across the globe into the sex trade every year. Human rights groups, women and children's advocates, and police are applauding our government for announcing measures that will protect these vulnerable victims.
    This is a crime our government is addressing. This is a crime we will not tolerate on Canadian soil.

[Translation]

Lebanese Festival

     Mr. Speaker, last weekend the Lebanese community of greater Montreal held their annual festival in the riding of Ahuntsic, which I have the honour of representing.
     All of Montreal was invited for three days of discovery. Tens of thousands of people had an opportunity to experience and appreciate Lebanese culture, through music and song. This year, the theme was the family.
     Since I am of Lebanese origin, I can tell you that this festival gave Quebeckers an opportunity to get to know the beauty of the fundamental values that unite the Lebanese people, with their extraordinary diversity of ideas, traditions and religions.
     The festival was a chance to get together and to renew acquaintances, and it was a great success. I offer my warm congratulations to all of the organizers from the Saint-Maron and Saint-Antoine churches and their 300 volunteers.
     Bravo. I am looking forward to next year.

[English]

Tibet

    Mr. Speaker, around the world, political conflicts are rife with violence, but the Tibetan people, under the guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, continue their strict adherence to the principles of non-violent conflict resolution as they seek to resolve the half century old Tibetan issue.
    With five rounds of dialogue completed since 2002 between his envoys and Beijing, there is renewed optimism that a resolution on the Tibetan issue is finally possible.
    Tibet represents the ultimate test for the future of peaceful dialogue and reconciliation. A peaceful resolution to the Tibetan issue prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics would, therefore, be the perfect gift to His Holiness, to the Tibetan people, but also to the Chinese people and the world community.
    Non-violent conflict resolution is or should be a core value for Canadians. Therefore, it is essential for Canada to play a role.
    His Holiness, who is now 71 years old, has had to spend the majority of his life in exile. He deserves our support to return home, along with the exiled Tibetan community.

Employment Insurance

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell a story about a woman in my riding who recently became a mother of two, two standard poodle puppies.
    That will have to satisfy her maternal urge for the moment as having human babies and being an entrepreneur does not seem to be attainable given the current lack of government support for parental leave for business owners and entrepreneurs.

[Translation]

     Under the employment insurance rules, self-employed workers may not pay EI premiums. They are therefore not eligible for parental leave. Without that safety net, many entrepreneurs do not have the resources to have children.
     It is somewhat hypocritical to encourage people to go into business and then deny them the opportunity to start a family and benefit from the same social programs as other Canadian families.

[English]

    I call on the government to take immediate action on the issue of parental benefits and EI for entrepreneurs. Let us extend the opportunity to have children with full social support systems to all Canadians, not just a select few.

  (1410)  

Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, recently Liberal leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy continued the Liberal attack on hard-working rural Canadians. He suggested that they pay even more tax on the vehicles that they depend on for their livelihoods.
    In saying this, Kennedy took another low blow at our struggling farmers and our rural communities. I would like to say that Mr. Kennedy, like the Liberal Party, is simply out of touch with rural Canada.
    Does he not understand that our construction trades, oil and forestry workers, and our farmers need these methods of transport to support their families?
    Do Liberals believe that rural Canadians should bear a greater burden for choosing an honest and essential Canadian profession?
    Mr. Kennedy has criticized the Liberal Party and even stated that “Western Canada has to stop being the afterthought when it comes to Liberal policy”. In true Liberal fashion, Mr. Kennedy is contradicting himself. Canada needs policies that respect all Canadians, including rural western constituents like my own.

Community Events

    Mr. Speaker, this past weekend, I was honoured to be invited to march and participate in events celebrating two diverse communities.
    The Sikh community gathered and I marched five kilometres with it to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the martyrdom of one of its most beloved gurus, Arjan Dev.
    Guru Arjan Dev laid the foundation for the Golden Temple in Amritsar and is celebrated for his work in writing The Guru Granth Sahib, which compiled the writings of past gurus into one book.
    I also joined several hundred friends and members of the Hamilton area gay, lesbian and transgendered community in a march celebrating our community's diversity through downtown Hamilton.
    Once again, members of the downtown business community showed its support for Pride events and there were a series of successful events including a gala awards reception recognizing important community leaders.
    This weekend's events served to remind that diversity and equality, core Canadian values, are alive and well in our community and we are one step closer to ensuring it is free of racism and hate.

Veterans

    Mr. Speaker, recently two outstanding volunteers in my riding, Mr. Andy Block and Mr. Marc Searle, saw their efforts to commemorate war veterans meet with great success in a ceremony to mark veterans graves in Surrey.
    The Lieutenant Governor of B.C. along with MLA Gord Hogg were on hand to commemorate the 36 brave soldiers who fought for our freedoms.
     I am pleased to see today in Ottawa another B.C. MLA and parliamentary secretary, Dave Hayer and his wife, Isabelle.
    There are an estimated 3,000 veterans in unmarked graves across British Columbia, and who knows how many across this country? I urge this government to implement a national program to mark the graves of these unsung heroes who gave so much for us.

[Translation]

Tashi Wangdi

    Mr. Speaker, today we welcome Mr. Tashi Wangdi, the representative of the Dalai Lama in America, to Parliament Hill.
     He is a member of the negotiating group in the secretariat of the extended Kashag—the cabinet of the government of Tibet in exile—which plays an advisory and support role in negotiations between the Dalai Lama’s emissaries and China.
     Mr. Wangdi is a senior official in the government of Tibet in exile; he joined that government in 1966, and since that time he has held office numerous times as a kalon, the equivalent of minister.
     He has headed a number of ministries, including Religion and Culture, Interior, Education, Information and International Relations, as well as Security and Health. For many years, he was also the Dalai Lama’s representative in New Delhi.
     The Bloc Québécois welcomes him to Parliament Hill and wishes him a productive visit among us.

[English]

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, on the heels of abrogating on the Kelowna accord, the government now intends to eliminate the aboriginal standing offers on government contracts.
    This aboriginal business strategy was created in order to increase the number of aboriginal suppliers bidding for and winning federal contacts. Many aboriginal businesses, large and small, rely on the Procurement Strategy for Aboriginal Business. Each year the livelihoods of many aboriginal entrepreneurs depend on these opportunities.
    The previous Liberal government recognized that when it came to federal government procurement, aboriginal businesses pursuing and winning contracts were underrepresented. This government must realize that when it comes to fostering better opportunities for hard-working aboriginals, it must look beyond the bottom line and consider what is just.
    The government should do what is right. It should honour and maintain the aboriginal standing offers on government contracts.

  (1415)  

Member for Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, ageism is a very real prejudice that exists in our country and is in fact being fostered within the Liberal Party. In a recent interview, the hon. member for Kings—Hants, who wants to be leader of the Liberal Party, clearly showed his disdain for seniors.
    He dismissed former external affairs minister Barbara McDougall's role in representing the federal government in the Caledonia situation and actually suggested that she had no role to play because of her age, calling her a “wax museum figure”.
    These comments are not only insulting to Ms. McDougall, but they are also an insult to Canadian seniors. We should be applauding Ms. McDougall and considering ourselves fortunate to have someone with her expertise and experience so committed to this cause.
    The member owes Ms. McDougall an immediate and full apology. He should also apologize to all Canadian seniors for his insulting and demeaning comments and boorish behaviour.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, today in the House we call on the House to direct the attention of Canadians to the need improve the quality of life of our aboriginal peoples, the quality of their housing, health, clean water, education and economic opportunity, our daily reproach to Canadians who live in one of the most fortunate and prosperous countries in the world.
    The Kelowna accord represented an opportunity to break out of this situation, to turn the page, to start a new non-confrontational approach to our dealings with our aboriginal peoples.
    Why has the Prime Minister turned his back on this historic opportunity for our aboriginal peoples and for Canadian society?
    Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition talks about opportunity. He had an opportunity while he sat on this side of the House for 13 years to act on the problems faced by our aboriginal people and for 13 years the Liberals failed to meet that opportunity.
    At the last minute, days before an election, they made commitments that they never funded over 13 years and that they did not even put in their budgets. Whereas our minister of aboriginal affairs and the Prime Minister have committed $3.7 billion in new investments, for water, for aboriginals who do not live on reserves, to help improve their living conditions. They talked, we are acting.
    Mr. Speaker, it may have taken the Liberal government 13 years to put together an historic accord for the aboriginal peoples of Canada and for Canadians. It took that government 13 days to turn its back on the possibility of an aboriginal accord. It is disgraceful. It is not acceptable in the House to continually throw out historic agreements.
    In that precedent, a mood was set, a new mood for our aboriginal peoples. It was a commitment of all levels of government. Every premier across the country called upon it as a great move forward. This was no Liberal commitment. It was Canada's commitment. The Conservatives turned their back on Canada. They turned their back on the commitment of Canadians for our aboriginal people. It is not acceptable.
    Mr. Speaker, every one of those words is a word of self-condemnation. For 13 years the Liberals had an opportunity to deal productively and concretely with the problems faced by our first nations people and for 13 years they offered platitudes and rhetoric and no action.
    However, in the very first budget of this new government, there was $3.7 billion in new investments to help improve the living quality of aboriginal people, to help improve the quality of water on reserves, of housing off reserves. They talked. We are acting and we will continue to act.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, in contrast to the absolutely disdainful attitude of this government and this member, the parties to the Kelowna accord—the leaders of our aboriginal communities and the provincial and territorial first ministers—agree on one thing: this accord established a framework for addressing the serious problems of our aboriginal communities in a consistent and practical way. This government scrapped the accord without coming up with an alternate plan.
    Why did the Prime Minister break this historic agreement between the Canadian government and Canada's aboriginal peoples and citizens?

  (1420)  

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development was very clear about this: the Kelowna accord had valid points, objectives and targets. The government is aware of these. But we want to act. We do not simply want to send out press releases and give speeches. That is why we have made a major investment in housing for aboriginal people. We have also invested in quality drinking water for first nations people. We will continue to act under the leadership of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

[English]

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, the report card is in and the government has failed Canadians on the environment. The Sierra Club of Canada has issued its annual assessment and the Conservative government has been given a great big fat F: F for having failed Canadians on environmental responsibility; F for having forgotten that the environment is a priority for Canadians; and F for foolishly abandoning Kyoto because it was afraid to do the heavy lifting.
    Giving this stinging condemnation of the government's inaction on the environment, will the Prime Minister apologize to Canadians for abandoning the fight against global warming?
    Mr. Speaker, this is a fight that the previous Liberal government abandoned before it even began. The Liberals cynically signed on to targets in 1997 that they had no intention, whatsoever, of keeping in 1997.
    For seven years, the Liberals gave speeches and delivered rhetoric, but not results. This is why we saw greenhouse gas emissions increase by 35% over that period. The Liberals missed their targets by 26%. That is the Liberal record.
    The Conservative government is going to act with a made in Canada plan, which it has already begun to do.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, in her recent speech to the Canadian Club of Ottawa, the Minister of the Environment—and not the parliamentary secretary—stated that it was ridiculous to think that her government was abandoning the Kyoto protocol. According to the minister, the problem was not the Kyoto protocol but the fact that Canada's objectives were unattainable.
    Can the Minister of the Environment tell this House what attainable objectives the government will set for Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, we have a very clear objective, which is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Liberals' real objective was to do nothing for 13 years.
    This was not enough for Canadians or for a number of the candidates in the race for the leadership of the Liberal Party, including the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore, who criticized the Liberal government for having no plan.
    In this government, we are developing a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
    Mr. Speaker, we learned today that the Minister of Transport, the Prime Minister’s Quebec lieutenant, has serious reservations regarding the transfer of funds to the Government of Quebec so that it can implement its plan for the Kyoto protocol, a plan that, I would point out, has been very well received by environmental groups and the opposition in Quebec City.
     How can the Prime Minister explain his stubborn refusal to work with the Government of Quebec, when that government has a plan for achieving the objectives of the Kyoto protocol? Where is the problem?
    Mr. Speaker, there is no problem. I find it somewhat curious for the leader of the Bloc Québécois to be asking questions about things that are under provincial jurisdiction. In this government, obviously, we respect the division of powers and provincial areas of jurisdiction. We are following the efforts of the Government of Quebec to improve the quality of the environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions closely. We are going to work with all the provinces, including Quebec, to achieve those objectives.
    Mr. Speaker, we are not asking them to do anything in any areas that are under Quebec’s jurisdiction. We are telling them, when they are supposed to be the ones who recognize the fiscal imbalance, that there is too much money in Ottawa for what its responsibilities are. If they started by giving back $328 million to Quebec, that would be one step on the road to solving the fiscal imbalance. That is what we are very clearly telling them and that is what the previous government committed to doing, particularly when there is a real plan in Quebec and there is none here.
     I am therefore asking why they would not support Quebec in achieving the objectives of the Kyoto protocol, when that would also make it possible for Canada to take a step forward.

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, once again, we congratulate any provincial government on its own efforts in areas that are under provincial jurisdiction. At the federal level, we are going to pursue concrete policies to achieve results so that we reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, that is why we included a tax credit in our first budget to increase the use of public transit, and that is why we have expanded the renewable energy regulations. We are going to continue on that same path.
    Mr. Speaker, the Sierra Club released its report card grading the federal, provincial and territorial governments on their action for the environment. Executive director Stephen Hazell said, and I quote, “While some improvements are being made at the provincial and territorial level, the federal government is sliding in almost all subjects”.
    Why does the federal government insist on standing by a position that nobody else supports when the experts tell us that it is heading in the wrong direction away from the 162 countries around the world that ratified the Kyoto protocol?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, after 13 years of Liberal rule, the Government of Canada now ranks 28 out of 29 in OECD countries on pollution control.
    Compared to the United States on air pollution requirements, the U.S. requirements are either more stringent than ours or ours do not exist at all in comparison to the U.S.
    We do have a lot of work to do and that is exactly what the government is doing.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, Canada is in no position to preach to members of the international community today.
    The plan the minister intends to introduce to reduce greenhouse gases looks a lot more like an Alberta oil company plan than a real environmental plan.
    Given that the minister was until recently an advisor to the Government of Alberta on environmental issues, does she not think that the only decent thing to do is distance herself from Alberta oil companies and make decisions that are in line with international environmental values?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I will not engage in politics with the opposition party when it comes to the environment. I will not jeopardize the long term opportunity for the government to put a good plan in place for short term political gain. That is exactly what the last party did for 13 years and not only did it get an F, it was kicked out of class.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, last week, we learned that there was no official communication between the Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec about the environment. However, today, the Minister of Transport, the Quebec lieutenant, is saying that the federal government cannot tell the Charest government whether or not there will be any money for Kyoto.
    My question for the Prime Minister is this: will there or will there not be any money?
    Mr. Speaker, our first budget provides for significant investment in public transit, infrastructure and municipalities. Clearly, we are keeping our promise to correct the fiscal imbalance by holding talks with the provinces.
    This government is therefore working closely with the provinces and municipalities to ensure that they have the tax resources they need to do their work.

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, after years of Liberal inaction, we forced the Liberal Party to invest in public transit and the environment. This House voted this money and adopted a motion calling on Canada to honour its Kyoto commitments.
    Why is the government refusing to respect the democratic will of the elected members of this House? And why is it refusing to give the provinces the money earmarked for combating greenhouse gas emissions?
    Mr. Speaker, I would remind the leader of the NDP that, in its first budget, this government immediately made $94.4 million available to Quebec for public transit.
    Any surplus in excess of $2 billion in 2005-06 will be used to pay Quebec up to $210 million for the Public Transit Capital Trust, rapid transit and urban buses.
    Mr. Speaker, in the matter of climate change, we have seen the government savagely cut programs established by the former government. We have also seen the government renege on Canada's commitments under the Kyoto protocol. And now the Minister of Transport is closing the door on collaborating with Quebec.
    I am not very happy that they are ripping out so many programs. I even want to help them. In this regard, I have tabled a made in Canada private member's bill. Will they support it?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, what the member introduced has no relevance to what this government will put forward in terms of a realistic, achievable and affordable plan to reduce greenhouse gases and pollution.
    In terms of working with the Quebec government, my office is in constant contact with the environment minister in Quebec. I would reiterate, and the minister from Quebec has said the same thing, that the number one cause of greenhouse gases in Quebec is transportation. The most important thing we can do is invest in public transit and to find ways to get people out of their cars and on to public transit, which is exactly what the federal government has done.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, they will do a lot of things.
    We have read it: all the Quebec lieutenant is proposing is to look into the possibility of talks with the provinces and territories about equipping heavy vehicles with speed regulators. That is impressive. Except that Quebec's plan already includes this measure. I invite my colleague from the Pontiac to read about it on page 24 of a very interesting document.
    Once he has perused this action plan will he attempt to convince his colleague, the Minister of the Environment, not to abandon Quebec? Will he tell her that we have had enough of this policy of abandonment?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, far from it. One of the key things in the Government of Quebec's plan is investment in public transit. Another key thing is it is trying to increase ridership to get people out of their cars and on to public transportation, which is is one of the incentives that this government has put in place.

EnerGuide Program

    Mr. Speaker, the EnerGuide program for retrofitting houses was popular with Canadians and very effective, cutting greenhouse gas emissions at a cost of a mere $20 per tonne, about the best value in the world.
    By contrast, the Conservative bus pass program will cost about $2,000 per tonne, 100 times more expensive. The Conservative government has trashed programs like EnerGuide only to shift the money to bus passes, meaning there will be less action on climate change but a higher cost.
    Why is the government making such a fundamentally perverse decision?
    Mr. Speaker, as I have explained many times in the House before, only 50¢ of every $1 in that program went into doing anything for the environment. Those are the facts. Those programs were introduced by previous Liberal governments.
     It should be no surprise to Canadians that there were a number of programs introduced by the previous Liberal government that just did not deliver. The Liberal record on greenhouse gas reductions was an unmitigated disaster. This government will not follow the Liberal government's record.
    Mr. Speaker, the government has killed all federal programs to help Canadians upgrade the energy efficiency of their homes, including those aimed at low income families. Such programs helped cut greenhouse gas emissions while saving Canadian families on average more than $400 each and every year on their energy bills. That one savings alone would be bigger than all of the benefits the average family may receive from the government's convoluted hodgepodge of tax credits.
    Why is the government abandoning the policies that worked, abandoning Canadians and trashing the environment?

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would remind the hon. member that of some 120 programs, 95 are still currently in place. It should be no surprise to the hon. member that their programs did not work. If their programs worked, why are greenhouse gases 35% above Liberal targets? That is not a record that I would be proud of.

[Translation]

Securities

    Mr. Speaker, the finance minister announced this morning that he intends to create a Canadian securities commission. In doing so, he will be going against the wishes of Quebec and most of the provinces, catering only to Toronto's point of view.
    After so often repeating that it will respect the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces, does the government endorse the finance minister's plan, which goes completely against its commitment?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

[English]

    I believe the question relates to the speech I gave in Halifax this morning relating to a potential common securities regulator for Canada.
    This is an important issue with respect to making sense of our economic union and in ensuring the provincial and federal governments work out a system whereby we have strong, effective and efficient capital markets in Canada so we can get away from a situation.
    We are the only western industrialized society that has multiple securities regulators. We want to work on that in cooperation with the provinces toward a common national securities regulator.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, what the minister is talking about has already been done. Quebec and the provinces have undertaken to harmonize their practices in the area of securities and have not needed any form of federal intervention in their areas of jurisdiction.
    Does the finance minister realize that, by proposing such a commission, not only is he reneging on his government's commitment and going against the Canadian constitution, but he is directly contributing to a major shift of 6,000 jobs, as well as financial and trading activities out of Quebec, for the sole benefit of Toronto?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we acknowledge the work that has been done by the provinces and the territories with the passport system as they have tried to move toward harmonization. Unfortunately, it means harmonization with pages and pages of exceptions.
    The reality is that the Ontario Securities Commission is now regulating something like 83% of the business and that is hardly paying respect to the regions across Canada and the involvement of the various provinces.
     A number of good suggestions are on the table, including the report by Purdy Crawford's committee last week. I hope we will have some informed and constructive discussions next week moving toward a common securities regulator, not necessarily a federal regulator in Canada.

[Translation]

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister was much clearer last December 19 when he came to Quebec and promised to correct the fiscal imbalance. Since then, statements made by the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister have become ambiguous. On the one hand, they say that the provinces should not expect much, and on the other, that the fiscal imbalance will sort itself out.
    Do these statements not prove that the Prime Minister is about to renege on another promise, just like all previous governments have done with promises made to Quebec in the past?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we want to move toward fiscal balance in Canada. A great deal has been accomplished already with respect to discussions concerning core responsibilities of the provincial and territorial governments on the one hand and the federal government on the other and progress with respect to health care issues. We need to work more on infrastructure issues and particularly on the issue of post-secondary education. I look forward to those discussions next week with the provincial and territorial ministers of finance.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the fiscal imbalance is far from working itself out. Instead, it is getting worse. For example, post-secondary education transfers are much lower than they were 10 years ago. Two reports have concluded that the equalization formula needs to be reviewed. Daycare funding has been slashed. Yet the government expects a $12 billion surplus next fall.
    Will the Prime Minister admit that all of these elements are making the fiscal imbalance worse rather than improving it?

  (1440)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the fiscal situation of the governments in Canada is better today than it was several years ago. Most of the provinces are in balance now. The federal government will not have surprise surpluses as we saw opposite. We are accurately reporting to the people of Canada.
    As I say, we only have two governments in Canada now that are not operating in surplus and those are the Government of Ontario and the Government of Prince Edward Island. Substantial progress has been made already moving toward the fiscal balance of the federation.

[Translation]

Natural Resources

    Mr. Speaker, a recent report by the National Energy Board clearly states that with the development of Alberta's tar sands gaining momentum, there will be an increasing demand for environmental and community resources.
    Canadians would like some assurance that this development will be managed sustainably and in an environmentally respectful way.
    What will the government do in response to the National Energy Board's report? When will the government act?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we are looking at that specific report. We are actually looking at areas where we do need to respond. Officials at our department are looking at it. Incredible strains are being put on the systems from the increased expansion and our demand on energy.
    As we face those challenges we are doing the research. For example, the amount of water that is used in the recovery of the oil sands is very high and we are looking at ways of reducing that. We are working together with our scientists to find solutions.
    Mr. Speaker, studying is good and talking is good, but we need action. Right now Fort McMurray is facing a crisis and the Athabasca River basin is being severely strained by the speed of these development projects.
    The government has a duty to protect the interests of all Canadians, especially those directly impacted in Fort McMurray and the surrounding communities.
    A recent Pembina Institute study showed that 91% of Albertans want their environment protected. Why is the government abandoning the environment, the residents of Fort McMurray and indeed all Canadians? Why?
    Mr. Speaker, that may have been what happened in the 13 years of the old Liberal government.
    I have been up there. I have visited these projects. The work they are doing in the environment department on the reclamation of their lands, on the replanting of their forests has been very successful. On the recovery of water, they are going through extensive science and have been very successful at recovering almost 100% of the water, recycling it, re-purifying it and putting it back through the systems. There are a lot of resources being put on that, as well as on the scientific community. Natural Resources Canada is working with the industry to find solutions that work for Albertans and for all of Canada.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, no place is facing greater disaster due to global warming than my riding of Nunavut. The ice cap and permafrost are melting. Southern vegetation and insect life are migrating northward.
    As a result of the actions of the Conservative government, not one penny will be spent on fighting climate change until 2007. Will the Minister of the Environment immediately restart the programs that her government cancelled?
    Mr. Speaker, I would remind the party opposite that this did not become an issue on January 23. This has been an issue for Canadians for years and years and finally there is a government in power that is actually addressing it through action.
    I can assure the hon. member that the issue is adaptation, which definitely is what is occurring in terms of mitigation of adaptation in her area. We are looking at it very closely and we are working with the government in her region.
    Mr. Speaker, it is one thing to say that we have to do things differently, but the government has quit the fight on climate change by cancelling programs.
    Our national sovereignty in the north is threatened by global warming. As the ice cap melts, more international vessels will try to sail the Northwest Passage without Canada's consent. It is crucial that we fight global warming to protect Canada's control over the north.
    The minister has proven that she cannot even save one program to fight global warming. Will she resign and allow someone with more credibility to take over?

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Resources has tried to get this point across to the opposite party. There is not one program that has been cancelled by this government that was not on the chopping block of the previous government. The review process that was undertaken by the Privy Council Office was begun by the Liberal Party of Canada. Any program that is not being continued was either terminated or had fulfilled its obligations. We are not cancelling any program other than those.

[Translation]

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, last Thursday, the Montreal police reported that crimes committed with guns increased by 25% between 2004 and 2005, in Montreal—25%.
    Can the hon. Minister of Justice explain to this House why the Liberals and the Bloc are against the bill on mandatory minimum sentences and why they insist on defending criminals who use guns instead of protecting honest people from criminals?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his unwavering support for mandatory minimum penalties for gun crimes.
    Those statistics out of Montreal are shocking to Canadians and yet the Liberals and the Bloc fail to recognize the clear evidence on gun crime in Montreal.
    The Liberals and the Bloc can continue to defend criminals with guns. This party will defend law-abiding Canadian citizens and their hard-working families. We will protect them from criminals with guns.

Mining Industry

    Mr. Speaker, regulatory delays in Europe and the U.S. are blocking an Inco-Falconbridge merger proposal, putting many Canadian miners at risk and their families in a status of limbo. Three weeks ago the industry committee put forth a unanimous recommendation calling upon the industry minister to actually delay the Xstrata hostile takeover of Falconbridge until at least the foreign bodies have ruled on the Inco favourable takeover.
    Will the Minister of Industry commit to the House today to protect Canadian jobs, the industry and fair due process by ensuring that this hostile takeover does not take place because of bureaucrats in Brussels holding up the process?
    Mr. Speaker, as my hon. colleague knows, the provisions under the Investment Canada Act do not allow me to comment on any questions like that. As usual, we will act in the best interests of all Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, it is pretty clear the only thing more toothless than our foreign investment review act is the minister when it comes to standing up for Canadian mining and smelting jobs.
    Let us paint a picture here. These are national resources and the government is sitting back while they are picked off by some company set up in an unaccountable Swiss canton. Meanwhile the futures of Sudbury, Timmins, Rouyn-Noranda and Bathurst are being traded away like chips in a card game.
    When is the minister going to stand up for the rights of our communities and put them ahead of the interests of the financiers, the money-changers and the speculators?
    Mr. Speaker, this government is standing up for Canadians. Also, we are going to act according to the Investment Canada Act.
    There is a test and the test is when we have an investment like that, it is to act on a balance of net benefits for Canada. We will do that for the net benefit for Canada and all Canadians. That is what we are going to follow.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, in 2002 Mr. Justice O'Connor released his report on the Walkerton tragedy. His conclusions were stark. He noted that the Harris government failed to put proper safeguards into place after privatizing the water supply and that a weakened ministry of environment failed to detect the problem.
    We are heading down that same path. Global warming is a real problem that will have devastating effects on our climate. Left unchecked, it will cost lives. Yet the government has chosen to cut or eliminate programs that fight global warming.
    Will the Minister of the Environment announce today that she will reinstate those programs?

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, let me reiterate that after 13 years of Liberal rule, Canada now ranks 28 out of 29 OECD countries on air pollution and we are 35% above target.
    I am reviewing all the programs related to climate change. I can assure this House that any of the programs that are effective and affordable and that will reduce air pollution and reduce greenhouse gases will be kept on by this government.
    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Health and the President of the Treasury Board were at the cabinet table in Ontario that made decisions which directly led to Walkerton. They have personal experience with the effects of bad management on the environment.
    My question is for the Minister of Health. As the true guardian of our national public health and given the fact that he had a very real tragedy under his watch in Ontario, did it not concern him when he heard that the government was cutting programs that fight global warming? Did he not warn his government?
    Mr. Speaker, I can assure members that the Minister of Health and I work very closely on a number of health impacts on Canadians, particularly air pollution. One thing I learned this week that made me very concerned is that not only has Canada fallen behind in every industry sector on air pollution compared to the United States, but there are areas where we do not even have regulation for air pollution because the last government completely ignored the issue of air pollution in Canada.
    The Minister of Health and I will be working with provincial health authorities consulting on this. We will also be bringing forward regulation to curb air pollution.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health continues to be embroiled in one conflict after another.
    At first it was the minister's 25% ownership in a drug company. Then on the weekend we learned that the minister has hired his political crony and paid him $25,000 for 33 days of work. Then today we learned that this political crony, Mr. Gordon Haugh, a long-time friend of the Conservative Party, is the general manager of the Canadian International Pharmacy Association and is responsible for lobbying on behalf of drug companies.
    Why does the minister continue to put his and his friends' profits ahead of the health care needs of Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. As with all other members of this House, I hire people I have confidence in. I certainly was pleased with the work of the individual involved. Much as this was not the case when the hon. member and her colleagues were in power, I followed all the rules.
    Mr. Speaker, it is nice that the Minister of Health has finally stood up and spoken to the House.
     Let me give Canadians the real facts about this political crony. In 1995 Mr. Gordon Haugh was a tour director for Mike Harris. In 2000 he served as tour director for the Canadian Alliance. In 2002 he was hired by the minister as the minister created two tier health in Ontario. He was paid $300,000 then and his $25,000 a year contract adds up to $300,000 now.
    The minister has paid him $25,000 for 33 days of work. This is absolutely not acceptable to Canadians. What does the minister have to say to Canadians who are paying the bill for his political cronies?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for itemizing some of the experience that the individual has. It shows that he knows about government. He has been a chief of staff. He has been active in government in the past. I hire people that I have confidence in. I am pleased with the work. I followed all the rules.
    I would say once again that “Liberal” and “research” are two mutually exclusive terms.

[Translation]

International Aid

    Mr. Speaker, the Reality of Aid Network report denounced the misappropriation of funds intended for international assistance to finance military operations. The report formally denounced the United States and suggested, without naming names, that Canada and Australia did this as well.
    Since Canada is increasingly modeling its foreign policy on that of the U.S., can the Minister responsible for international assistance guarantee that this is not what Canada does with money intended for international assistance?
    Mr. Speaker, this government is a great defender of the international development assistance program. We make sure this assistance is sent to the least fortunate.
    That said, in all our development assistance programs, we fully respect the definitions established by the international community for public development assistance.

  (1455)  

Small Arms

    Mr. Speaker, the proliferation of small arms is another concern. In the past 10 years, 2 million children have died, 6 million have been disabled and 10 million have been left with psychological trauma because of conflicts involving small arms.
    Forty-five countries are in favour of ratifying a treaty to limit the proliferation of these weapons. Canada still has not taken a stand. Does the Minister of Foreign Affairs plan to support such a treaty?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, contrary to what the member has said, this government in fact is very concerned about the flow of small arms, their potential to harm lives and to destabilize conflict situations.
    Canada is committed to looking at entering into a treaty and forwarding discussions in that regard. Canada has historically been a leader in disarmament measures. We will continue to be on this issue as well.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, if the minister said that the individual has so much experience, where are the results? Where is the action on the health care file?
    The bottom line is that Mr. Haugh is paid to lobby on behalf of Internet pharmacies in this country. The Minister of Health is responsible for regulating the drug industry and protecting the drug supply on behalf of Canadians.
    The government claimed that it was going to stop the revolving door for lobbyists, but there appears to be an open door policy in the Minister of Health's office.
    After all the huffing and puffing about accountability, I would like to ask the minister, where is Mr. Haugh's five year cooling off period?
    Mr. Speaker, once again the hon. member has her facts completely wrong. The individual involved is not a lobbyist. He is not registered as a lobbyist. He would not be welcome in my office to do any lobbying. He has to follow every rule and guideline in place.
    I would say to the hon. member that I have followed the rules. Why did her party not follow the rules as a caucus when it was in government?

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, after 13 years of Liberal government, Canada's aboriginal peoples continue to face the same needs, such as adequate housing and safe drinking water.
    Liberals would like to brag about their record, but if we can believe it, even one of their own candidates has said that the Liberals have “a devastating record on aboriginal issues”.
    Would the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development share his thoughts on 13 years of Liberal neglect and how the Conservative government will take action to improve the lives of aboriginal Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, a devastating record is precisely what the Liberals have left after 13 years in office. It is shameful the way the former Liberal government failed aboriginal Canadians.
    I hear a lot of noise on the other side. I think members are having trouble digesting the words of their own leadership candidate, the reference to a devastating record. Perhaps it is the 13 years of Liberal ineptitude, incompetence, mismanagement, 13 years of ducking, dodging, dithering, delaying, leaving behind aboriginal Canadians. We will not do that.

Income Trusts

    Mr. Speaker, forensic accountant Al Rosen recently published a report saying that income trusts could be overvalued in our country by more than 28%. In fact, he called it the $20 billion deception. The problems are abuses in financial reporting, the marketing of business trusts and no laws to protect consumers. The Liberals totally bungled this issue through haphazard announcements and leaks.
    When will the government get serious about cleaning up the Liberal income trust mess and when will income trust investors finally get the protection they need?
    Mr. Speaker, indeed, there was a bit of a mess that occurred during the last government, relating to income trusts. That is still a matter of some police investigation in Canada.
    The question relates to a question I was asked earlier in question period about securities regulation in Canada. The regulation of income trusts presently is with the provincial securities regulators. It is an issue that I know they are reviewing with the income trusts and it is an issue that probably we should discuss further when the finance ministers meet next week.
    Mr. Speaker, no, this question is about what the federal government can do now to ensure markets have confidence by giving investors protection.
    Many promotional materials on income trusts are intentionally misleading, but the agency with responsibility for this simply does not care. The Accounting Standards Board has refused to defend consumers even though it talks about misleading promotional practices. The government can fix this by changing the Income Tax Act with higher standards.
    Will the minister recognize that it is his responsibility to clean up the mess or will he allow more investors to be misled on income trusts?

  (1500)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member talks about the interests of investors. Indeed, that is one of the reasons why we need a common securities regulator in Canada. We need to protect Canadians who invest through RRSPs, through pension plans, those who invest in mutual funds, those who invest directly through the market, pensioners and others in Canada, not only with respect to the issue raised by the hon. member but also more broadly with respect to enforcement issues in Canada.
    I look forward to having those discussions with the securities ministers next week, particularly with a view to establishing national standards and a national securities regulator in Canada.

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, recent attacks on civilians by the Sri Lankan armed forces have reached a level of atrocity. In Mannar, navy troops lobbed hand grenades into a Catholic church where hundreds of refugees were huddled. Last week the Sri Lankan army raided a Tamil home, leaving the family hacked to death, with their seven and nine year old children hanged and disembowelled in a manner aimed to terrorize the local population.
    When will the government protest the latest wave of military atrocities in Sri Lanka?
    Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada is extremely concerned with the breakup of ceasefire and peace talks between the warring parties in Sri Lanka. We are calling on both parties to come back to the table, to come back to a truce and adhere to the ceasefire. We are going, with our likeminded nations, to put pressure on bringing both parties to the table.

Finance

    Mr. Speaker, this weekend Liberal leadership wannabe, the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore, said that he would cancel all the tax credits the government introduced. That means getting rid of the transit pass tax credit in favour of higher emissions, getting rid of the sports tax credit for families enrolling their kids in sports and physical activities, and the former professor will end tax credits for students. I guess that is the Harvard way. It is certainly not the Canadian way.
    Could the finance minister tell us why taking away these tax credits is simply the wrong way to go?
    Mr. Speaker, we are in favour of helping the environment. That is why we want a transit pass that will allow people to take public transit, with about two months of free transit per year. We also want to help children be more physically fit. What could be more important for the next generation? We also want to help students and apprentices with tools and textbooks.
    We are for public transit. We are for students. We are for our young people.

Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]

[English]

Criminal Code

  (1505)  

Committees of the House

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development regarding the findings contained in the fifth report in the first session of the 38th Parliament.

Public Safety and National Security  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. This report is with regard to the gun registry. It was supported at committee by all opposition parties.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, the riding that I represent, Cambridge, Ontario, is actually more than just the city of Cambridge. Just to the southwest of us is a huge, expansive land, with rolling hills, that include a number of small villages, including the village of Ayr. That area is more commonly referred to as North Dumfries.
    I propose that the name of the riding be changed from Cambridge to Cambridge—North Dumfries.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canadian Human Rights Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, I am proud to table a private member's bill which would add gender identity or gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act, adding explicit protection for transgender and transsexual Canadians from discrimination in all areas of federal jurisdiction.
    Trans Canadians face significant prejudice in their daily lives, whether it is job discrimination, access to housing and public services, especially health care, problems with identity documents, difficulties with law enforcements officials, a high suicide rate or the increased likelihood that they will be victims of violence. The situation trans peoples face demands our attention.
    The bill would give trans Canadians direct access to the protections provided for in the Canadian Human Rights Act , which they so urgently need.
    This should be a non-partisan issue. I would encourage the government to take the initiative to add gender identity or expression in the Human Rights Act. I would be prepared to work with any member from any corner of the House who is willing to give this legislation priority in their private member's legislation time.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

[Translation]

Broadcasting Act

    He said: Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to introduce a bill to reduce television violence, particularly during peak viewing hours for children.
    A recent study by Laval University showed that acts of violence shown on television have tripled since 1994. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Broadcasting Act to create a regulation governing television violence. The CRTC would be responsible for monitoring how large broadcasters apply the regulation that would be created by the bill I am introducing today.

    (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

  (1510)  

[English]

Food and Drugs Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, trans fats are deadly manufactured fats that cause obesity, heart disease and diabetes. All are on the rise in Canada. However, when I asked the Liberal health minister to eliminate trans fats from our diets, she replied that it was all right to have these poisons in our food as long as they were properly labeled.
    We are putting forward this bill today to ensure that labelling is not considered to be adequate. We want these things to be eliminated. If it comes to it being between the shelf life of a human being and the shelf life of a doughnut, we want to err on the side of the human being.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Referendum Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, the bill would change the Referendum Act to contemplate a nationwide referendum on the electoral system by which we elect our governments.
    People would know that our first past the post system has been patently unfair to smaller parties and that we are not represented to reflect the popular vote which we receive.
     We believe the Referendum Act should be amended to enable, if and when this Parliament chooses, a nationwide referendum to take place, to see if Canadians want to change their electoral system to envision some form of proportional representation at such time of their choosing.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Business Development Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, I felt compelled to introduce this bill to try to do something on behalf of the student debt crisis faced by post-secondary students today, students who graduate with a debt the size of a small mortgage.
    The bill seeks to amend the Business Development Bank of Canada Act to put in place a regime of student loans that would enable more students to access capital at reasonable rates and repatriate the Canada student loans system to be the responsibility of the federal government rather than the private sector lenders. We all know that the experience through the main charter banks has been catastrophic in terms of providing students with the loans they need.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal Code

     He said: Mr. Speaker, Canada broke new ground when it extended the Criminal Code in the matter of exploiting children for sexual purposes of Canadians when travelling abroad. The bill seeks to expand on that same policy. Corporations, when operating abroad, would be bound and governed by the same codes of ethics, codes of practice, codes of health and safety and codes of environmental stewardship that we stipulate them to in our country.
    In the case of the Westray bill, in which we were all very proud to take part in the 37th Parliament, we believe there is such a concept as corporate murder when workers die on the job due to poor health and safety conditions. This would also extend that same concept to corporations, the mining companies, et cetera, operating abroad.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

  (1515)  

Canada Business Corporations Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, white collar crime is a blue collar issue in that all of us need to trust the annual financial statements of the companies where our pension plans are invested. Annual financial statements lack clarity and there is a mystique associated with them that makes it impossible for trustees on employee benefit plans to fulfill their fiduciary obligations adequately.
    The bill calls for plain language. It calls for an expensing of stock options. For instance, when corporation executives are paid through stock options there should be a clear column in those financial statements to indicate the liability of the company associated with those stock options. This is about making annual financial statements user friendly for working people.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal Code

     He said: Mr. Speaker, the Criminal Code deals with the failure to stop at the scene of an accident but recent events have given light to the fact that the Criminal Code penalties are woefully inadequate to act as a proper deterrent in the event of the abuse of this clause of the code.
    The bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code so that failure to stop at the scene of an accident will be a much more serious offence and would be punished more in keeping with the public condemnation of such an act.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

First Nations Veterans Compensation Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, I put the bill forward because first nations veterans were not treated in the same way as other veterans who returned from the war. They had no settlement benefits, no educational opportunities and no housing allowances like the ones offered to people like my father.
    The bill seeks to make first nations veterans whole on a comparable basis as any other veteran by recognizing their service in the war.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Bank Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, many of us feel that Canadians are not well served by the mergers of our large charter banks. The charter banks were given the rights to certain financial practices, very lucrative ones such as credit card transactions, in exchange for providing basic services to Canadians in whatever part of the country they live.
    These megamergers in the Canadian financial sector, which seem to be about to take place again, do not serve Canadians well. We want to put forward legislation to put specific guidelines, rigid criteria under which we may allow the charter banks to merge. They do not deserve their charter if they are not living up to their end of their charter which is to provide good service to Canadians in the financial services sector.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

  (1520)  

Business of the House

    Mr. Speaker, there has been considerable discussion between all four parties and I think if you seek it you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:
    That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, beginning at 6 p.m. and ending at the end of government orders, the Speaker shall not receive any amendments, dilatory motions or quorum calls; when no member rises to speak during debate on the opposition motion today, or no later than 9 p.m., whichever is earlier, the question be deemed put and the recorded division be deemed requested and deferred to Tuesday, June 20, at 3 p.m.; when debate on the opposition motion has concluded, the government may call Bill C-3, an act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another act, and C-5, An Act respecting the establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada and amending certain Acts; and if any recorded division is requested for Bill C-3 or Bill C-5, they shall stand deferred to Tuesday, June 20 at 3 p.m.; and when no member rises to speak to Bill C-3 and Bill C-5, or at the end of government orders, whichever is earlier, the House shall adjourn to the next sitting day.
    Mr. Speaker, there have been negotiations and we are supportive of the motion. I believe you would also find unanimous consent that if the last speaker has begun his or her speech before 9 o'clock that the member be allowed to finish his or her speech, which will be a 10 minute speech at that point in time.
    Does the chief government whip have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: Subject to the caveat from the chief opposition whip, is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

Committees of the House

Agriculture and Agri-Food  

    Mr. Speaker, there have been other discussions and I think you find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:
    That, in relation to its study on biofuel strategy, 12 members of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food be authorized to travel to Ville Ste. Catherine, Quebec on June 20 and that the necessary staff do accompany the committee.

    (Motion agreed to)

Library of Parliament  

    Mr. Speaker, I move that the first report of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament, presented on Wednesday, June 14, be concurred in.

    (Motion agreed to)

  (1525)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a motion to help the poorest in our country. It calls on the Government of Canada to introduce a low income tax free supplement of $2,000 for all Canadians who have gross earnings of less or equal to $20,000 a year. For those whose gross income is above $20,000 a year, a supplement would be 10% of gross earnings, less $4,000. If that amount is negative, they receive the grant in that amount to a maximum of $2,000. If the amount is positive, they do not.
    Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to propose the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.

Petitions

Child Care  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table this petition on behalf of the University Women's Club of North York.
    The petitioners, residents of my riding of York West and elsewhere in Ontario, specifically note that child care is an everyday necessity in this country and that there is an urgent and immediate need for assistance in child care spaces.
    The Liberal government signed a full funding agreement with the Province of Ontario in November 2005 and the petitioners are calling upon the Prime Minister to honour the early learning and child care agreement.
    Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to submit three more petitions from people in my community who are concerned about the government's killing of national child care.
    The petitioners call upon the government to honour the early learning and child care agreement and to fund it for five years.
    A number of these people met with myself and the Leader of the Opposition on Friday and they can assure us and I can assure this House that the fight for real child care is not dead in Canada.

Income Tax Act  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition signed by more than 50 of my constituents from Hanna, Alberta.
    The petitioners call upon Parliament to enact legislation to include exercise gym fees as a deductible tax exemption under the medical expense tax credit section of the Income Tax Act. They feel that this would be an incentive for Canadians to get fit, to prevent disease and to improve their quality of life.

Canada Post  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a few petitions to present to the House today.
    The first petition is a very important one from my riding of Skeena--Bulkley Valley.
    As the government has been closing down a number of rural post offices without justification, the petitioners call upon the government to instruct Canada Post to maintain and improve the network of rural post offices in particular as they serve rural Canada exceptionally well.

Employment Insurance  

    Mr. Speaker, after $45 billion has been swiped out of the employment insurance fund over the last number of years, the second petition calls upon Parliament to introduce a fairer employment insurance system by first enacting the legislative reforms that came from a House of Commons committee on February 15, 2005 and which were unanimously adopted.

Hockey  

    Mr. Speaker, the last petition, which has been supported by all members in the House, calls for a national day of hockey to commemorate, in particular, the summit in 1972 when Paul Henderson gave all of us, from coast to coast to coast, a defining moment in hockey.

Fisheries  

    Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to introduce a petition on behalf of my constituents in Forteau and L'Anse au Clair on the south coast of Labrador concerning the fishing industry which is going through a very difficult time and many people are facing an uncertain future.
    The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to immediately institute fisheries adjustment measures, including early retirement benefits, economic diversification and other appropriate measures to help coastal communities and fisheries workers through this adjustment period.

Child Care  

    Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure but also with considerable frustration that I present a petition to the House today signed by people in my own riding of Halifax and all over Nova Scotia.
    The petitioners call upon the Prime Minister and the Conservative government to honour the early learning and child care agreement signed between the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia in May 2005.
    During the recent election in Nova Scotia this issue arose many times. I think it is fair to say that momentum has increased, not waned, because people have waited 13 years for such a policy to be delivered by the previous Liberal government which failed to do so, and the present government is stalling on this extremely important investment in the future of our children and the future of this nation.

  (1530)  

Motor Vehicle Safety Act  

    Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to present a petition today containing 60 names.
    As a result of large trucks being involved in the deaths of two cyclists in Toronto in 2006, three cyclists in 2005 and one cyclist in 2004, the coroner's report in 1998 into the death of a Toronto cyclist found that these large vehicles were involved in 37% of these collisions resulting in cyclist fatalities.
    As side guards are a legal requirement in the U.K. and in Europe to reduce injuries to pedestrians and cyclists, the petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to introduce a regulation under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act requiring side guards for large trucks and trailers to prevent cyclists and pedestrians from being pulled under the wheels of these vehicles.

Canada Revenue Agency  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by what I believe to be thousands of Canadians regarding the client service counters at the Canada Revenue Agency. What is interesting is that the bulk of the work was done by the union representing the workers there. This is not a job issue and it is not about the union. It is the about public service, so the petition is signed both by constituents of mine and by petitioners in ridings across Canada, as well as and most important, by the employees who work there and who understand that this plan is wrong. It was devised by the Liberals and now is being implemented by the Conservatives and it means that Canadians will have less service at these public counter desks. The petitioners wish to call the government to account and ask it to halt this Liberal plan that the Conservatives are implementing to cut down on services that Canadians expect and are entitled to.

Child Care  

    Mr. Speaker, I have one last petition signed by a number of my constituents in the Prince Rupert area of British Columbia that puts the truth to the lie of the Conservative child care support program. The petitioners call upon Parliament to re-enact the $1.2 billion in spending to provide high quality, accessible, affordable and community based child care systems in this country. We have waited too long. Let us get on with actually doing something for families.

Questions on the Order paper

    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer): Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Government Orders

[Business of Supply]

[English]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal Affairs  

    The House resumed consideration of the motion.
    Before he was interrupted by question period, the hon. member for West Nova had three minutes remaining for his speech.
    Mr. Speaker, about one hundred minutes ago I stood in the House to address this motion by the member for Winnipeg South Centre, a very good motion, and it is a little difficult one hundred minutes later to resume with exactly the same tone and at the same place.
    I ask the House to imagine what it would be like should the government find the maturity to resume the discussions on Kelowna. The longer it waits the more difficult it is. I would ask the government to reconsider this seriously. I would ask all members of the House to look at the motion and support it, because we are at an opportune time in our country, in our nation, in our federation, where the economy is the best that it has ever been. For eight years we have had surplus budgets. We have resources. We can look toward financial resources for the future.
    I believe it is incumbent upon us as a people to make sure that nobody is left behind, that we work together to make sure that those who are suffering the most or have the most difficulties get the assistance that is necessary, not welfare and not charity, but real and reasonable investments in the form of partnerships, in the form of a mature relationship, government to government to government. To me that is what Kelowna represents. Kelowna represents a chance for these communities to look to the future.
    When I sat on the government side of the House and listened to the members in opposition speaking about their concerns and what they would do, it was completely different from what we have seen. The minute the government came into power the first thing it did was cancel that historic agreement. I would ask the government to return to it.
     I see aboriginal communities, native communities and the Mi'kmaq community in my neighbourhood doing very well. Based on the resources, we have to go further than that. We have pitted people against people in a fight for a limited resource. Who is going to get the biggest amount of a finite resource? We have the fight in fisheries. We are looking at forestry now.
     I think those communities deserve, as we do, to be able to participate in all sectors of our economy. They deserve, as we do, to know that their children are growing up in a healthy environment where they have safe water, good waste water treatment, adequate housing and not too many people per house, and where they need not be fearful of pandemics or diseases such as tuberculosis.
    In my little community of Yarmouth, we have the risk of an outbreak of tuberculosis, with 700 people having to be tested a couple of times. I can tell members that this puts fear into the community.
     First nations communities are facing that daily. They do not see any change. They must be very frustrated and disappointed. For once there was an agreement with them, the federal government and the provincial governments, an agreement that shone a light, gave them potential and was a place to start.

[Translation]

    I encourage all House members to support this motion, to reassure these people and all Canadians, by proving that we are working together to ensure a better future for all of our citizens.

  (1535)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to the comments that the member for West Nova made in the seven minutes before question period broke up his speaking time. He was speaking in relation to the troubling situation that this new government has inherited. He spoke to the last period of time and having issues associated with it specifically for aboriginal people. There is no denying that there are many issues that we as a government have inherited.
    He made reference to the phrase “when you buy the dog you get the fleas” in relation to the issues we have inherited. It seems to me that referring to these issues as fleas is very offensive. Perhaps his first language is not English, so maybe he would want take a look at that statement one more time and further clarify it for me.
    Mr. Speaker, I was quoting a member of another opposition party who used that comment in the House once to say that there are some very difficult problems. There are some problems that are not going to be easy to resolve. The worst thing we can do is hide from them or stand back from them. I think we have to look at them in a serious manner.
    I would ask the member to first consider that the Conservatives should not say that “they” have inherited this problem. This is our problem. All Canadians have participated for over 135 years in creating the problems that are out there in those communities. It is time to participate in the solution and to do that in an honest manner.
    The question that has not been raised here today is about what we should have seen at the last federal election. The people in these communities are underrepresented at the ballot box. They tend not to vote in the same numbers as the non-aboriginal community. If we wonder why, let me say it seems to me that they do not have any confidence. They do not have any confidence that Parliament and the government are going to have the proper effect, although the potential is there. The cancellation of this historic accord I think shows that they have reason to be apprehensive.
    We had the provincial governments and the federal government getting together for years of negotiations and discussions on how this was going to be addressed. Finally we had one step in the right direction, not the solution to all problems, but a good step in the right direction, which was summarily cancelled after an election. Contrary to all the statements that I heard from the Conservative side of the House prior to the election on their desire to work with the first nations of this land, the Conservatives cancelled this agreement. This is the root of and the foundation for solutions to our many problems that we jointly share.

  (1540)  

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talked about the aboriginal community not having confidence in government. We cannot really blame them. There have been so many empty promises. There have been endless consultations. There have been commissions. There have been promises. There have been red books. There have been discussions. There have been announcements and press conferences. Yet we have seen over and over again that announcements have been made but the money has not been spent.
    We are here today considering a motion that I hope will pass, but I do not know whether it is empty rhetoric or not. I think what we need to do is come together and not look at the past, because we are all guilty. It does not matter which party.
    The NDP has been very clear on what we would do, but as we have heard, so many times there have been broken promises. The discussion has been going around in circles. I would like to ask the hon. member a question. If the motion passes, what does he think would be one of the top priorities that can be done immediately by the Conservative government? Other than the Kelowna accord, what concrete action can be taken immediately?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for this excellent question. I do not necessarily have an answer to it and perhaps it is not up to me to have one. This was the beauty of the Kelowna accord. In fact, no single person or specific level of government was expected to have all of the answers.
    First nations communities are very diverse. Such communities have all kinds of differences. They have different capabilities and different challenges to overcome.
    This accord facilitated a partnership between the communities and the federal, provincial and territorial governments in order to work on the various problems, using the various qualities that exist from one community to the next. We were getting closer to reaching our goal, but only the bigger challenges were addressed. The motion mentioned health care, housing, education and economic opportunities.
    In our communities, whether in Toronto or Baie Sainte-Marie, Nova Scotia, as Canadians, we all deserve the same opportunities, the same solutions and the same security. I believe it is entirely legitimate that these communities want the same thing and it is only reasonable to admit that the existing structures and systems are inadequate. We have seen some success, but there were many shortcomings. I therefore believe that we should go back to the Kelowna accord.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise in the House today to join my colleagues in discussing this extraordinarily important resolution and follow on the wise words of my colleague and friend, the member for West Nova. As he put it well to the House, this is an issue and a matter which far transcends in many ways the nature of the resolution itself. It is about Canada and our future.
    It is not just about a province like Saskatchewan where some 50% of the population is made up of aboriginal people. It is not just about British Columbia, which is undergoing enormous social problems of adjusting on how to manage this extraordinary issue. It is not just about the member for West Nova's own province where we have seen picket lines in fisheries and disputes that pit neighbours against one another. It is not just about the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon where aboriginal people are controlling their own destinies now in a way which makes us proud as Canadians.
    It is also about my riding of Toronto Centre where there is a large aboriginal community. I go to the council fire and attend aboriginal events, and find people living in despair, in conditions that we would really find unacceptable.
    Basically, it is about us as Canadians finding a way in which we can deal with a challenge that is basically unacceptable, an embarrassment to Canada and Canadians, and an international concern for people around the world as they look at one of the wealthiest countries in the world and ask themselves how it can be that Canada, with all its success, resources, goodwill and ability to work on issues, has not been able to find in its long history a way of resolving this extraordinary issue.
    My own formation is as a lawyer and colleagues in the House might find that an unfortunate background to come to such an important issue as this, but it is rather remarkable that in fact it has been the courts of our country that have been dealing with this issue rather than the politicians over the years. It has been the adversarial nature of the life of our aboriginal leaders that I have spoken about so many times that they have found so difficult.
    In fact, in order to get justice in the world, instead of being able to turn to and get understanding from our political institutions, they have had to turn to the courts. I am proud of the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada in the Sparrow case established the special trust relationship that we owe to our aboriginal people.
    In Delgamuukw, section 35 of the Constitution was interpreted and guaranteed the aboriginal use of land. Marshall was a case which troubled my colleague from West Nova's own province so much, but which gave a wise solution to something that was creating huge social disorder. The Calder case resulted ultimately in the Nisga'a agreement, an agreement of which all of us are extremely proud.
    My friends on the opposite side of the House may not recall, but I was in the House some years ago when we debated the Nisga'a agreement until the middle of the night. It was an agreement which was revolutionary in the sense that it gave people a sense of control over their own destiny. It was nothing more, really, than a sophisticated municipal government level of control over themselves, but it enabled them to control their resources and how their population would survive in the 21st century in a way that made us so proud.
    That was fought so hard by so many in the House but, in turning the page, if we look back those who opposed that with such ferocity would today say it was the right thing to do. It was the right thing to do, as I think it is the right thing to do today, not to turn our back on the Kelowna accord for the same reasons.
    These have been complex cases. I have had the opportunity to argue some of them. They pit treaty people against non-treaty people. They pit aboriginal rights against extinguishment. They drag in the jurisprudence from the United States of America, South Africa, Australia, and other countries with a common law tradition about what is the responsibility that the Crown owes to people of aboriginal origin in their countries.
    They even bring in international cases. Everyone may recall the Lovelace case, a case that went to the international commission on human rights and which determined that women were being discriminated against by virtue of our Indian Act in a way that forced this country to change our own Indian Act because we were required to do so by international law and international pressure.

  (1545)  

    In my view, Kelowna turned the page. It created a new framework for discussing the settlement. As was eloquently said this morning by the member for Winnipeg South Centre, in her opening statement in this House, she referred to the remarks of the premier of British Columbia, for whom this is so important, the premier of Saskatchewan, and the premier of Quebec, who said that failure was not an option, the time had come to move ahead.
    That was the message I got when I travelled across the country recently, meeting the Manitoba chiefs in Winnipeg and Saskatchewan, going with my colleague, the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, attending with him in his riding, and meeting people on the ground who said that we changed the tone, we changed an attitude.

[Translation]

    We replaced this confrontation with cooperation. We created new hope. We had an opportunity to change things. But we are now wasting this opportunity.

[English]

    I think that is a difficulty that we have as we speak in the House because when we contrast the past and the adversarial nature, look at what we can do when in fact there is political leadership. Look at it domestically. Look at what happened when we had the Yukon and the Northwest Territories agreements. Look at the cooperation that now takes place over our resources, the Mackenzie pipeline. When Mr. Justice Thomas Berger did his report, he said there would never be any cooperation among people, but today people are coming together because they have a buy-in. They have a sense that it is their problem; it is a common problem.
    That is what Kelowna was about. It was not just about the money, but for heaven's sake, the money was there, $5 billion, it was booked. It was more than the money. It was the sense that the communities had come together, the premiers had come together, and the Prime Minister of Canada had come together with all of the various communities represented. Money was committed, but we ourselves were committed to solving these problems.
    I have seen what we can do when we work together. I have been to the riding of the member for Nunavut of whom we are very proud in what she does in her riding. I have seen what is happening up there and the challenges that are in our north and our arctic as climate change takes place. However, people are meeting these challenges. We can only deal with that in cooperation.
    If members could have attended, like I did when I was the foreign minister, the Arctic Council, with representatives of our aboriginal people, the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, and the Athabasca Nation. They sat there at the table, they looked at our Russian colleagues, American colleagues and Norwegian colleagues. They talked of the Sami nations across the pole. They spoke of what their future was at the pole. They spoke about climate change. They told us the way ahead. This is what our aboriginal people do for us internationally.
    The same thing was true in Quebec City at the Summit of the Council of the Americas where we had our aboriginal people present. I had the Mexican foreign minister say to me, “Send us some of your aboriginal people. Help us solve the problem of Chiapas. You can help us”. I have talked to our aboriginal leaders who have been in Mexico helping the Mexicans with their problems. I was in Chile with the leader of the Nisga'a nation when he spoke to the Chilean authorities and he went to islands there and helped negotiate with native people in their country, showing them how we can solve problems.
    This is what cooperation leads to, as opposed to the adversarial system which we lived for so long in this country.
    In conclusion, if we read the cases, and I would urge any member to read these cases, some of them are dry, boring legal cases. All cases tend to be dry and boring, but these tend to be the least dry and boring, if I may say. I read one, the Gitksan case, in which one of the chiefs said to the court, “The land, the plants, the animals and the people all have spirit, they all must be shown respect”.
    That is what we would like in this House today, respect for an attempt to find a solution to this; not an approach that is partisan; not an approach that seeks to divide Canadians one from the other; and not to say, “Hey, we're doing something. You didn't do anything over 13 years”. We got somewhere. We had a new opportunity.
    I beg of members, as the member for West Nova did, to say we learn from one another. Let us strengthen our country and our society. Let us work together for our environment, for the traditional roles of our aboriginal people on reserves or in nature, and for the new challenges in our urban spaces. We can also learn that the starting point is, as the chief said in Gitksan, respect; respect for one another and respect for an ability as Canadians to come together to find a solution which is not tolerable in a 21st century country as wealthy, prosperous, privileged and blessed as we are.

  (1550)  

    Mr. Speaker, in 1997 I came to this House with the Reform Party as the official opposition. In 1993 we came as the third party, but then we made official opposition under the leadership of Preston Manning. He asked me in 1997 to do some work across the country with aboriginal communities, dealing with grassroots natives from coast to coast.
    In 1997, 1998 and 1999, I spent nearly two and a half years travelling the country, locating people in every province from the grassroots level, calling for accountability. The hon. Leader of the Opposition may remember such names as Leona Freid, the leader from a Manitoba grassroots community, the work on Aboriginals for Financial Accountability with Roy Littlechief, and a whole bunch of names I could bring up from every province.
    At the end of that period of time, all of the grassroots people got together and filled out a very huge report about the problems on the reserves and the squalor. I want this leader to know that I went into their homes. I spent time sharing bread with people living in squalor. What little they had, they were willing to share.
    We begged the government at that time. I asked questions numerous times, as did many of my colleagues, explaining the situation and asking the Liberals to take that report, look at it, and really start dealing with the down to earth problems. In every election, four of them in a row, there was a promise in every throne speech that the Liberals were going to address the squalor that was so terrible and they were going to do it in their budgets, and it only got worse. From 1993 to 2006, it got worse.
    Could the member explain to me why they ignored the grassroots people across this country and that beautiful report they put together, which the minister in this party has finally taken down, blown the dust from it and had a look at?

  (1555)  

    Mr. Speaker, perhaps one of the reasons, with all due respect, has a little to do with the tone of the member's question that it is our fault, pointing the finger, looking across the House and saying that we have not done this, they did that, and everything else.
    What the member for West Nova and I were saying earlier, and what all members have said in the House, is that if we are going to solve this problem, we have to come together as Canadians.
    Kelowna, whatever the faults of the past, was an opportunity to turn the page.
    Mr. Myron Thompson: So was that report.
    Hon. Bill Graham: I recognize there were merits in that report.
    There was a great deal of talk, the member for Wild Rose will recall, about responsibility and accountability, but there was a lot of accusations about inadequacies in aboriginal governance structures. Inadequacies which the aboriginal people themselves have recognized. Phil Fontaine, the present chief, has come to us and said that they recognize they have to make changes. They have brought in accountability changes in their own governance structures in a way that frankly recognizes problems of the past and looks forward to a brighter future as we resolve those sorts of problems.
    I ask the hon. member for Wild Rose to put aside those differences of the past. I believe him when he says he went into homes. I know he is an honest person who works hard in his effort to be a member of Parliament, but let us work hard on bringing ourselves together as much as we work hard at tearing ourselves apart and dividing us. That is what I would ask the House to do.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the comments and the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. I also heard the question from the hon. Conservative Party colleague a few moments ago.
    I agree with the leader of the Liberal Party. We should stop trying to pass the buck by saying that the Liberals were in power for over 13 years and did nothing. We could say the same thing about the Conservative party, which did not implement the Erasmus-Dussault report. So let us stop blaming one another.
    I have a question for the Leader of the Opposition. We know that some of Canada's first nations are far, very far, from living in the 21st century. I think they are living in the 17th or 18th century.
    What does the Leader of the Opposition believe is the main obstacle preventing the native peoples, the first nations, the Inuit or Métis from joining the rest of us in the 21st century?
    Mr. Speaker, that is a key question. I thank the member for asking it. It might, of course, be more appropriate to ask this question of my colleagues from Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, Churchill, Labrador, Nunavut and Yukon who are grappling with these situations and problems in their communities.
    From my standpoint—if I dared give a simple answer to such a complex question—I would say that it boils down to education. It is the lack of access to education that prevents individuals from realizing their full potential. This does not apply exclusively to our aboriginal peoples; it also holds true for our urban dwellers and the population at large.
    What is critical on our reserves is education. I travelled with my colleague, the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, in his riding. There are problems there with secondary schools and teacher's colleges: there are none. Never mind university, which is absolutely essential in this 21st century. There are no primary and secondary schools that are acceptable.
    Therefore, let us provide these people with access to education. They will survive and, in my opinion, they will solve their own problems. Education is the key.

  (1600)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Westlock—St. Paul.
    In my riding of Sarnia—Lambton there is one aboriginal community. There are two aboriginal communities directly adjacent to my riding. I am happy to acknowledge the three communities in the House of Commons today, the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, the Walpole Island First Nation and the Kettle Point and Stony Point community. I have worked with members of these aboriginal reserves extensively over the years as warden and I look forward to working with them in my new capacity as their member of Parliament.
    In fact I am happy to announce a new native craft and gift store in the village of Point Edward that will feature merchandise from vendors who reside at Aamjiwnaang, Walpole Island and Kettle Point. Native culture in the village of Point Edward is especially important because of the remarkable archaeological sites that continue to be found in the area.
     I am happy to rise in the House today to talk about this government's early actions to improve the quality of life of aboriginal people in Canada. These early actions that we have taken stand in evident contrast to the last 13 years of Liberal rule during which very little was done for aboriginal Canadians.
    We recognize that many aboriginal people face pressing challenges in their communities every day. This government is committed to improving the quality of life and reducing aboriginal poverty across Canada. Our government has taken concrete steps to develop real solutions to the problems facing aboriginal people. Indeed, in our few short months as government, we have moved swiftly to implement carefully structured, targeted investments that will reduce the level of aboriginal poverty and bring about tangible, measurable results.
    This government did not wait 13 years to address this situation on the eve of an election three days before a non-confidence vote. Since taking office, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians has been meeting with aboriginal leaders. These ongoing discussions contribute to setting the stage for initiatives and programs that will address key aboriginal issues.
    Backing words with the necessary resources, this government put forward a federal budget that allocates $3.7 billion to fund programs and initiatives to improve the quality of life of aboriginal people living both on and off reserve, in the north and in urban settings. The budget unveiled last month includes targeted investments in key areas such as aboriginal housing, clean water, education, and women, children and families. The returns on these investments will deliver real improvements by eliminating poverty in aboriginal communities, strengthened relationships with the provinces and territories and aboriginal leaders and organizations, and a more promising future for all Canadians.
    The government has allocated $300 million to go directly to affordable housing programs in the territories benefiting both aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples. Nunavut, where the problem is most pressing, will receive $200 million. Yukon and the Northwest Territories will receive $50 million each. Another $300 million will be targeted for aboriginal housing in the provinces.
    Furthermore, $450 million has been set aside to fund initiatives for water and housing on reserve, education, and women, children and families. Through education aboriginal communities can successfully battle poverty, while women's initiatives will nurture healthy children and families and communities.
    Aboriginal people deserve no less than the same opportunities we all seek for our families, our communities and our country. We are committed to securing these opportunities for aboriginal people.

  (1605)  

    Of the $3.7 billion earmarked for aboriginal peoples and northerners, $500 million will promote community development in areas potentially impacted by the Mackenzie gas project.
    A settlement agreement was signed on May 10 to launch an advanced payment program for seniors who suffered abuse in residential schools. There has been $2.2 billion set aside in the budget for common experience payments and for other programmatic elements such as healing and commemoration.
    Please do not misunderstand me. I do not believe that just the money in the recent budget and the actions we have taken so far to resolve the challenges facing aboriginal people are enough. This is just the beginning. We must take on the hard work of renovating laws and institutions. This government is working collaboratively and respectfully with partners to identify and implement effective and lasting solutions through collaboration and mutual respect, as witnessed by the government's recent settlement offer to the Dehcho First Nations.
    There have been other significant achievements. On March 9 an agreement in principle was signed with the Yale First Nation in the province of British Columbia.
    Upon coming into office, this government launched an action plan to address drinking water concerns in first nations communities. This comprehensive plan consists of measures to identify communities at risk from unsafe water; to ensure treatment plant facilities are managed by certified operators; to implement standards for the design, construction, operation, maintenance and monitoring of treatment facilities; and to institute a framework to regulate water systems in first nations communities.
    Last month the Government of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations announced the establishment of an independent three member panel of experts to examine the regulatory framework for water in first nations communities. The expert panel will hold public hearings across Canada in the coming months to obtain suggestions and advice from people with technical expertise and experience in the operation and management of water systems. At these hearings, participants will have the opportunity to provide their views and suggestions on what should be regulated and what legal framework should be used.
    The panel's interim report on regulatory options will be submitted to the minister by September 2006. A progress report on the panel's findings to date will be submitted to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development also in September 2006.
    The initiatives this government has undertaken so far to improve the quality of life of aboriginal people are an example of the way we intend to do business. We will work with aboriginal partners, provinces and territories to develop viable and effective solutions to the challenges in first nations, Inuit and Métis communities.
    The government's approach to resolving aboriginal issues, including water, education, housing, and women and children is focused on tangible results and clear accountability.
    We believe aboriginals deserve the same standards as non-aboriginal Canadians and we will not let 13 years go by without action. We have already taken action as I have just described. Our record already shows our commitment to improving the lives of first nations, Inuit and Métis Canadians. This is just the beginning. We all know there are many, many issues that need to be addressed, not only the issues that we have already started to address, but others as well. There are environmental issues, health care, education, women's issues, including matrimonial property rights.
    At this time I would like to give recognition to the member for Winnipeg South Centre, the mover of today's motion, for her work on native women's issues. I have the privilege of sitting on committee with the member and I know how diligent she is and how hard she has worked to improve conditions.

  (1610)  

    The reality still exists. We have had 20 years of consultation on this and other issues and little or no action. The time for action is now. The Conservative government is committed to real action as we move forward in a positive and beneficial manner.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for her kind words. I have a number of questions coming out of her presentation.
    I am glad she restrained herself in terms of the blame game. It is time we moved on from the blame game. There is a common objective and goal, and it is important that we stop blaming one another and move on with it.
    Is my colleague is aware that currently money is being drained from school projects in order to fund water facilities and the training of water technicians to run the facilities? School projects are being stopped because moneys are not sufficient.
    When we talk about what has not been done, is the member opposite familiar with the First Nations Land Management Act? Is she familiar with the First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act, the oil and gas and moneys management act, the commercial and industrial development act? These issues were front and centre on the agenda of the previous government, and will have a profound economic impact on aboriginal people.
    I have one final question which relates to matrimonial real property. I sit on two committees, the status of women and the aboriginal affairs committee. She and I serve on a committee which is addressing this issue. I have been really puzzled about why members opposite on the aboriginal affairs committee have been very reluctant to re-submit to the government the report done by that committee on matrimonial real property. It was a comprehensive report--
    My apologies to the member, but I have to allow enough time for a response.
     The hon. member for Sarnia--Lambton.
    Mr. Speaker, I would just like to reiterate the fact that the member opposite has a great understanding of aboriginal issues and has worked very hard to improve the status of aboriginal, Inuit and Métis in our great country. I would like to commend her for the work she has done.
    We all know that a tremendous number of issues face us when it comes to aboriginal peoples and we have talked about a few of them. We have talked about environmental and water issues. What could be more important to our communities than having clean drinking water? We have talked about health care and women's issues with respect to matrimonial property rights. These issues are important to all aboriginals.
    The member opposite asked about different projects. These projects are continuing and progress has been made. The residential school agreement is one example of that progress. There have been Improvements in drinking water. Commitments have been made to that as has money. The member opposite also--
    I do want to allow some other members to participate in the question and comment process.
     The hon. member for Trinity--Spadina.
    Mr. Speaker, we all know what needs to take place. We know we need to resolve the lands claim dispute through an independent claims commission. We know we need to invest in infrastructure, health, housing and water. We know aboriginal people need to have good healing circles and self-governance. We know what we need because of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the 1983 Penner report on Indian self-government.
    We know that 50% of aboriginal children live in poverty. Why did her government's budget cut $25 million to child care, specifically to aboriginal children to help them take care of their kids? That seems to be missing in the budget. If we are so concerned about children, especially aboriginal children, would she restore that funding so their kids could also get some support?

  (1615)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am glad to hear the member say that we all know what needs to be done. She addressed several of the issues we have talked about today. I think we are all in agreement that there has to be action taken. I am really heartened when I hear agreement from members of all parties that we need work in cooperation. That is extremely important.
    The previous member asked about some of the acts that were in place and whether we were aware of those. Of course we are aware of those acts. They are all part of the negotiating process. The minister is dealing with all these issues. He is dealing with poverty, with women's issues and with environmental issues.
    I am heartened when I hear members from all parties say that we need to cooperate and work together, rather than blame. That is wonderful news. If we all throw our support behind the minister, we can get this job done.
    Mr. Speaker, as this is my first time standing to give a formal address to the House, I want to say what a privilege it is to speak on such an important issue as our aboriginal people. I am pleased to speak in response to the motion of the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre.
     Aboriginal Canadians contribute a great deal to Westlock—St. Paul, the riding I represent, and to Canada as a whole. We owe it to them and to Canada to find real solutions to poverty many aboriginals face.
    The government has consistently recognized the need to improve the quality of life experienced by first nations, Inuit and Métis. We are keenly aware of the importance of reducing aboriginal poverty. We are taking action in a targeted, tightly focused fashion on priorities, action that will yield prompt, visible and measurable results. We are also laying the foundations for sustainable long term improvements to make life better for aboriginal people in Canada.
    Past policies, as all members of the House should recognize, have produced dependency, hopelessness and despair in many of our aboriginal communities. That is why the government will not follow the practice of throwing money at the problems. Success is not and should not be determined by how many billions of dollars the Government of Canada spends. That is not a new approach. That should be a thoroughly discredited approach. The government is committed to finding real solutions, as its actions since taking office can attest.
    I would like to speak specifically to our actions in the area of drinking water on reserves. We have designed and are implementing a plan of action that will make real improvements in people's lives. It is universally acknowledged that safe drinking water is a fundamental need. Within weeks of coming into office, the government launched an action plan to address long-standing drinking water concerns in first nations communities.
    This comprehensive plan consists of four immediate measures: first, identify the first nations communities most at risk from unsafe drinking water and complete and implement detailed remediation plans to fix the specific problems of water treatment and distribution systems in these communities; second, ensure that certified operators oversee all treatment plant facilities and require mandatory training for all treatment plant operators; third, implement the protocol for safe drinking water for first nations communities, a series of benchmarks for local operators that establish clear standards for the design, construction, operation, maintenance and monitoring of treatment facilities; and fourth, determine options for a regulatory framework for water in first nations communities as the basis for sustainable solutions. Together these four actions will inject much needed improvements into the current system, but the actions are only the centrepiece of a much larger effort.
     To appreciate the impact of these actions, though, it is important to point out that under the current system the leaders of a first nations community, typically a band's chief and council, are responsible for the operation and maintenance of water treatment facilities and for the delivery of safe drinking water to residents.
    Our plan of action means that the government will ensure that first nations community leaders have access to the tools and resources they need to deliver clean water to their residents. We are working with those communities most at risk to develop remedial plans to reduce their risk level and assess what resources are required for long term solutions.
    This collaborative effort will help address the most serious water quality problems, to establish national standards for the operation of treatment facilities and to institute clear rules for the people responsible for water quality. The ultimate goal is to ensure that residents of first nations communities enjoy the same protection afforded other Canadians when it comes to drinking water.
    More recent, the Government of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations announced the establishment of an independent three member panel of experts to examine options for this regulatory framework. The expert panel will host public hearings in the coming months across Canada to obtain suggestions and advice from people with technical expertise and experience in the operations and management of water systems. At these hearings, participants will have the opportunity to provide their views and suggestions on what should be regulated and what legal framework should be used. I am pleased to note that the hearings are starting tomorrow in Yukon.
    The panel's interim report on regulatory options will be submitted to the minister by September 2006. A report on the panel's findings to date will be submitted to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development in September of 2006.

  (1620)  

    The establishment of the independent expert panel is definitely a step in the right direction. It is in keeping with the tone and direction of our action plan to address drinking water concerns in first nations communities. It fulfills a commitment made in the recent federal budget to improve water supplies in first nations communities. It is demonstrable proof that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Indian Affairs are steadfast in their resolve to continue to work with our aboriginal partners to establish clear priorities and develop effective, sustainable approaches to overcome pressing challenges in our aboriginal communities.
    A focused effective approach to addressing challenges is exactly what my constituents have asked for. They ask and expect their government to find practical common sense solutions. They want to know is it practical, is it affordable, and does it achieve results?
    The people of my riding of Westlock—St. Paul know that past policies toward native people have not worked. This government is taking action that is practical, affordable and will achieve real results.
    The government's action plan on water is focused on tangible results and clear accountability. It is a sterling example of this government's determination to effect positive change in aboriginal communities and to bring about the change in a focused effective manner.
    To make everything a priority is to make nothing a priority. Our priorities have been and will continue to be set according to the most important and urgent needs. Moreover, our priorities will change because action will have been taken to address those needs, not because a new opinion poll will have been taken.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's description of what the government proposes to do to improve water supply. In fact, it is a ringing endorsement of what the previous government was planning to do and had under way.
     I would like the member opposite to comment on the appropriateness of draining money from school projects to fund water projects. I would ask him to comment on what he would say to the people of Big Horn and Sunchild in Alberta whose funding for their school capital projects is being deferred so that the water work can be done. We know that condensation has been causing leaks. We know that the carpets are torn and need replacing. We know that the schools do not have a gymnasium.
    We talk about education as a priority here. It is a real concern. The government has not lived up to the commitment of the $400 million that had been allocated under Kelowna for water which would not result in the draining of funds from education projects to water projects.

  (1625)  

    Mr. Speaker, I recognize my colleague's devotion to this subject.
    It is important to realize that this government is taking a new approach. We are taking an approach that is focused on working with our aboriginal, Inuit and Métis people. We are taking an approach that is focused on getting effective results, not simply making promises, not simply committing to things prior to an election and then never actually putting them into a real budget.
    It is very important to recognize the $450 million that we have put into this and which is actually being utilized to help with things such as education and water treatment facilities on reserve.
    I respect the hon. member's question because it is a simple fact that the best way to get any area of our population out of poverty is by continuing and advancing the educational levels of those people. That has to be a priority for everyone and it is a priority for this government.
    Mr. Speaker, perhaps water and education are not mutually exclusive. We know there is a need for the education and training of children, young people and adults. Much of that can be done through employment projects and training programs. If we are to put in water treatment programs and plants, et cetera, I wonder if the hon. member could consider how many jobs and how many training programs could be provided for young people on the reserves. They could learn and build their skills in order to find jobs for themselves which would build respect. They could learn these skills on one reserve and then use those skills to help other reserves to deal with their water situation. This is a whole question of community empowerment and community development.
    Does the hon. member see that as a possibility in order to move forward? No matter what is done on these reserves should be done by the local people themselves.
    Mr. Speaker, when we talk about this issue, it is very important that we talk about accountability. It is very important that we talk about giving the money to the people who need it most. That is something that has been lacking for far more than 13 years.
    My riding of Westlock—St. Paul has a large number of first nations people. My riding also has an unemployment rate of under 3%. What we need to do and what we are doing in the town of Bonnyville is working at creating a first nations training centre, one of the largest first nations training centre in all of Canada to help employ more people and to help educate the first nations people so that we can continue to help with the infrastructure needs of Alberta and Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the well-regarded member for Labrador.
    I am very pleased to speak to the motion which has been brought before the House by our distinguished colleague from Winnipeg South Centre. Certainly I and many others, as evidenced by some of the comments this afternoon, were aware of the hon. member's long-standing interest in and sensitivity to issues that affect our aboriginal population. I am grateful to her for having the opportunity to speak to her motion.
    My riding of Brant in Ontario contains the most populated aboriginal community in Canada, the Six Nations of the Grand River and New Credit reserves. Approximately 12,000 individuals reside on Six Nations of the Grand, and there is an equivalent number who reside off reserve, many of whom reside in the city of Brantford.
    Since being elected in June 2004, I have had the privilege of getting to know many members of the Six Nations of the Grand and New Credit reserves. I can say unequivocally that they are people of generosity, people of dignity and people possessed of a deep spirituality.
    I had heard from many individuals, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, from the latter part of November 2005 up to several weeks ago. All spoke positively about the Kelowna accord and that at last, long term, creative solutions had been proposed for the difficulties faced by so many of our first nations, Inuit and Métis persons.
    It is recognized by anyone who has any solid knowledge of the history of Canada that our aboriginal peoples have been treated at various times with a lack of respect, with a lack of honour and quite frankly, with a lack of morality. Previous governments have been complicit with certain churches in attempting to effect cultural genocide. Not so many decades ago it was the deliberate intention of government in concert with some churches to prohibit aboriginals from speaking their language, from following their traditions, from maintaining their culture. The history of residential schools is not a shining example of the much vaunted Canadian values of tolerance, generosity and respect for all persons, for their beliefs and for their traditions.
    The Kelowna accord was a recognition that our aboriginal citizens require long term assistance and that the plight in which so many of them now find themselves is not of their own doing. Hence there was the recognition within the Kelowna accord that unique solutions necessarily had to be implemented once and for all to improve the living conditions of our aboriginal peoples, their health, their education, their economies and their very way of life.
    Renowned journalist and social activist June Callwood and many others have said that each person wishes intuitively to lead a productive meaningful life, but each person needs to know how to do so and must be provided with the tools to lead such a life. In my estimation, the Kelowna accord was going to accomplish exactly that: to provide our aboriginal peoples with the tools, on a long term basis, that they and their communities require to eventually acquire living conditions which would be equivalent to those enjoyed by non-aboriginals.
    The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development was correct this morning. He described aboriginal poverty as the most pressing social problem in Canada. He is right. How dreadfully disappointing it has been then for first nations, Inuit and Métis in this country to have their pressing needs described by the minister himself as the most pressing social need in Canada and to not have their needs recognized as one of the government's five priorities.

  (1630)  

    The government seems to be about management, not about leadership. Management is uncreative and is reduced to unimaginative steps such as reducing the GST by 1%, or handing out to some parents a few extra dollars a day to care for their children.
    With respect to aboriginal issues, and I say this with respect, the government is abdicating its responsibility to demonstrate leadership. Failing to recognize aboriginal issues as a top priority, reflects on the management style of the government and further reflects the vacuum of leadership on aboriginal issues. Needless to say, the scuttling of the Kelowna accord has served to further disappoint and frankly dismay aboriginals who were so full of hope after the accord was signed.
    The first visit, which was made by our former prime minister, the member for LaSalle--Émard, after the election in June 2004, was to an aboriginal community in Canada's far north. He understood the importance of reaching out to our aboriginal brothers and sisters. He understood the importance of the federal government taking a leadership role with respect to our aboriginal communities. He understood and still understands that the difficulty which aboriginal peoples face needs to be seen as a top priority, that no international body or community will assist us here in Canada with a problem or a set of issues which are uniquely Canadian and require a Canadian response.
    In my riding, Jim Windle is a non-aboriginal journalist who writes for a weekly newspaper on the Six Nations of the Grand. He has written, speaking about his experience as a non-aboriginal with aboriginals. He has said:
    To work among the most misunderstood and marginalized people of North America has been a life-changing experience. I have been blessed and privileged to have earned the trust and friendship of many, but certainly not all, citizens of the Six Nations.
     My journey into their world comes into collision with my own world every day when I return to my home in Brantford and am confronted with people just like I was—arrogantly ignorant of the true history of the greatest society this continent has known.
    Mr. Windle and so many others in my riding understand that the federal government must play a leadership role with respect to aboriginal issues, including land claims disputes, such as the current dispute outside of but adjacent to my riding in the town of Caledonia, a dispute which has been going on for close to four months.
    As Mr. Windle also states:
    Treaties made with the Six Nations are no less important, or no less binding than those made with any other Nation in the world. They cannot just be ignored. New treaties must be signed by both parties to replace old ones.
    I have some concern that the Prime Minister and the government feel that the solution to the problems, which beset our first nations, Inuit and Métis communities, can be resolved by simply inviting them into a non-aboriginal world, in the naive expectation that their cultural differences, their unique traditions and their life experiences can be parked or set aside. Such an approach will not work, as our aboriginal citizens will not and should not allow their history to be ignored, their culture and traditions to be overturned.
    The Kelowna accord was about narrowing gaps in health care, education, housing, drinking water and economic opportunities that existed between aboriginals and the rest of Canadians. It recognized that these issues were interwoven, one with the other. The accord had the full support of 10 premiers, representing all political stripes. The premiers continue to call upon the government to implement the Kelowna accord, an accord which included $1.8 billion for education, $1.6 billion for housing and infrastructure, $1.3 billion for health, and millions more for economic opportunities.
    Approximately 1.5 million persons in Canada are first nations, Inuit or Métis. For the most part, thousands and thousands of these individuals live in conditions which are substandard and approach third world status in many instances. It is impossible to understand how the needs of 1.5 million people would not be viewed as a priority for the Prime Minister and the government

  (1635)  

     In the view of many Canadians, and I am speaking of non-aboriginals, helping our aboriginal citizens is a top priority. It is beyond the comprehension of many people with whom I have spoken as to why the Prime Minister and the government are not seriously dealing with aboriginal issues, why they have seen fit to dismantle the Kelowna accord.
    A close observer of the government's pronouncements on aboriginal issues and the performance in dealing with aboriginal issues would surely conclude that such issues are not a priority, that the Kelowna accord will not be respected or honoured by the government, certainly not in letter and unhappily perhaps not even in spirit.
    Mr. Speaker, I find the comments disturbing by not only my hon. colleague, who has just completed his speech, but by many members of the opposition who spoke earlier today. They continue to allude to the fact that they believe that all native organizations and all native leaders are firmly in support of what the opposition members call the Kelowna accord.
    I want to give an example to my hon. colleague of a well known, well respected aboriginal leader who holds a differing view. The gentleman's name is Jim Sinclair. For the benefit of my hon. colleague, should he not be familiar with Mr. Jim Sinclair, I will give a brief synopsis of his history and his contribution to Canada.
    Mr. Sinclair has been a leader of two aboriginal national organizations. Mr. Sinclair has advised prime ministers. Mr. Sinclair has spoken at the United Nations on aboriginal issues and has dined with the Queen. Mr. Sinclair sat at the constitutional table for five years. In fact, he is widely acclaimed as being the individual most responsible for ensuring that aboriginal rights were recognized in the Constitution.
    I hear comments from my colleagues opposite and I would love to engage them in a debate about the contribution Mr. Sinclair has made to aboriginal rights in Canada.
    My point is, Mr. Sinclair is highly critical of what he calls a joke, the Kelowna accord.
    How does my hon. colleague respond to leaders like Mr. Sinclair, who are critical and hold a completely different opinion of what benefits if any would come out of that so-called accord?

  (1640)  

    Mr. Speaker, whether it comes to one's personal development, one's performance in work or, frankly, a community or country at large, as others have said, “If you're not moving forward, you're standing still”. We need to move forward as a country. The Kelowna accord would have moved us forward.
    If my hon. colleague opposite is suggesting that we should do nothing until there is unanimity with respect to what we should do, we will be waiting until the proverbial cows come home. Quite apart from what Mr. Sinclair has said, and I have no doubt that what the member opposite has said is true vis-à-vis Mr. Sinclair's comments, I know of Phil Fontaine and so many others in the aboriginal community. I know that tens and hundreds of individuals in my riding were effusive in their praise of Kelowna. Of course the then prime minister and the 10 provincial premiers signed on after two days of negotiating.
    It was not unanimous perhaps, but it was still acclaimed loud and long by so many people.
    Mr. Speaker, we have seen reports, commissions, accords and round tables that go round and round and do not go anywhere. The record by the government has been dismal. Would the hon. member support a suggestion that Parliament recommend or appoint a commissioner who would use the international and mutually acceptable standards as the basis for regular public report cards on government conduct and would keep the government honest? The commissioner would investigate complaints and report to Parliament when recommendations or promises, made in the House or during election time, are not implemented. The public and the House of Commons could then see what actually gets done.
    Would the member support this kind of recommendation that Parliament appoint a person to ensure that what is promised is delivered?
    Mr. Speaker, I am not exactly sure what the member opposite is asking. Perhaps it was my interpretation of her question, but it is general to the point of being vague. Frankly, without seeing more specifics, it would be irresponsible for me to comment yea or nay on such a proposal.

  (1645)  

    Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to the motion brought forward by my colleague from Winnipeg South Centre. I thank her for raising this matter and bringing it before the House for a full day's debate.
    It is an issue that is very close to my heart, having served aboriginal people for 10 years in Labrador. Labrador is very much like Canada, in a smaller geographical context, in the sense that we have Métis, first nations and Inuit people. We have land claims that are resolved and unresolved. We have on reserve and off reserve people still looking for resolution of the outstanding, what we call Métis question in Canada, which is before us today as well as others.
    The motion speaks to the need to be urgent, the need to move now on issues that are important to aboriginal people such as housing, education, water, sewer systems and health care.
    To begin, I want to raise a particular issue which is urgent and it may apply more to the Minister of Health than it does to the minister of education. It is about an HIV-AIDS Labrador project that has been going now for some six years. We have learned in the last couple of months that the funding for this project has been cut.
     I do not believe I have to give a lecture on how important health promotion and prevention of these types of sexually transmitted diseases are, not only in our country and in aboriginal communities, but world-wide. It is amazing to see the government cutting the funding. I have raised this with the minister three times and there still has been no action on this file. If I could be so bold, I would appeal, through this forum, to the Minister of Health or the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to deal with the issue now. I would hope this is not indicative of the government's plans or attitude toward aboriginal health programs. If it is, it is a sorry state of how we will go forward.
     I do not believe Canadians will stand for a government which ignores the most social and needy people in our society. I do not say that in the sense of them being inferior. I say that because it is a reality that exists in Canada, and we have to deal with that reality.
    Many aboriginal people in Labrador and elsewhere in the country see ourselves as contributors. Sometimes during debate there is a sense of minimizing aboriginal people, that somehow aboriginal people are a problem that needs to be dealt with. We are Canadians. There are issues that need to be addressed and the Kelowna accord was one of those interventions that would have helped aboriginal people.
    It is also interesting that the Kelowna accord invested money over and above the other initiatives that had already been announced by the Liberal government. It had $1.3 billion to address health care issues among Canada's aboriginal communities. That was on top of the $700 million we were investing. That was on top of the $1.3 billion for the first nations and Inuit health program in 2003.
    I and my colleagues on the Liberal side are concerned and certainly Canadians are concerned about the short-sighted decision of the Conservatives to turn their backs on Kelowna. I believe that means we are turning our back on progress and setting back the clock. It is one thing to claim to support the objectives of the Kelowna accord, but it is another thing if that support does not come with any meaningful financial commitment.
    The Kelowna accord had the support of provincial and territorial leaders and aboriginal leadership across Canada. The Kelowna accord was going to work for people in Labrador and for people throughout our great country. We were not only looking forward to the elements of Kelowna to help in terms of health care funding, but in all the other areas that were mentioned.

  (1650)  

    For instance, Kelowna had budgeted $1.6 billion for housing and infrastructure. It is depressing to think that this commitment will not be honoured by the current government.
    I think about the Métis community of Black Tickle, which still needs water and sewer systems. I would challenge the ministers on the opposite side of the House, the Conservative ministers, to go to a place like Black Tickle and say that Kelowna was just a press release, that it did not mean anything.
     There was hope in that accord. It meant something tangible for aboriginal people, not only in Black Tickle, because there are many Black Tickles in this country, but for all aboriginal people in all their communities.
    As well, we made some advancements in terms of housing and infrastructure under the Liberal government, but more was needed. Kelowna offered that to people, such as those in Nain and in Hopedale on the north coast of Labrador.
    Truly, I do worry about aboriginal policy under the government. Not only did we have the unfortunate episode earlier in this session with the statements made by the member that the Prime Minister appointed to the chair of the aboriginal affairs committee, we also had the comments from another government caucus member who described first nations reserves as “Marxist paradises”. This is a disturbing symptom of the Conservative Party of Canada.
    Reserves, or Marxist paradises, as the hon. member described them, are so bad that the Innu First Nation of Sheshatshiu wants to expedite its process of establishing a reserve for its community. These Marxist paradises are so bad that the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, during the election, called on the federal parties to expedite that process as well. Indeed, even the Prime Minister, to some credit, promised to proceed in a timely fashion on establishing the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation. Unfortunately, this process has not been expedited in any way. It would put the Innu on the same legal footing as other first nations in Canada.
    Friday before last, I attended the high school graduation in Sheshatshiu. It was a very special occasion. Too often we hear only negative news about aboriginal communities, but this was a good news story. It was one of the largest graduating classes in recent memory. Nearly the whole community joined in the celebration. There is a new emphasis on education in aboriginal communities like Sheshatshiu and it is paying dividends. Labrador Innu, Inuit and Métis youth are graduating from high school and going on to post-secondary education in growing numbers.
    The Kelowna accord would have provided a further $1.8 billion in funding for education programs for aboriginal peoples in Canada. This was a commitment from the government and the people of Canada, not just a Liberal commitment. This is a commitment that the Conservatives have reneged on.
    I worry as well about what this might mean for future graduating classes in the Innu communities of Sheshatshiu and Natuashish, in Inuit communities such as Rigolet or Makkovik, and in Métis communities like Cartwright, North West River or St. Lewis. We have to ask the question: will aboriginal students have the resources they need in the years to come under the Conservative government?
    Last year, my first major speech in the House of Commons was on the bill to implement the Labrador Inuit land claim and self-government agreement. This agreement was over three decades in the making. Some people might think there is no progress, but I have seen progress and certainly have been a party to some of the progress made under the Liberal government. I am proud to stand here, I might add, as a Liberal and an aboriginal person. Not everything was right and not everything was perfect, but I am proud to stand here as a Liberal and an aboriginal person.
    Three decades ago, it would have been unthinkable that aboriginal peoples would have had such a direct hand in resource development such as Voisey's Bay. It would have been unthinkable. We have been making some progress. It is foolish to think that all the hard work we have all put in has been for naught. It has not. We have made progress, we make to make more, and Kelowna offered that.
    That is why it is so important that we move forward with this historic agreement. It is so important because the honour of the Crown, the honour of the Government of Canada and, I believe, the honour of the people of Canada is at stake.
     It is almost like an intangible. Real progress comes when there is honour of the Crown and when the fiduciary obligation of the federal government and other levels of government is lived up to. Kelowna is important because of what was real and tangible to people at the community level, but this intangible of the honour of the Crown is also important.

  (1655)  

     I believe the honour of the Crown was breached by the Conservative government. Not only is it going to take some money for housing or water and sewers, it is going to take relationship building in order to achieve the real progress we need to make in aboriginal communities.
    Mr. Speaker, I am a bit puzzled because the hon. member's colleague, just a few minutes ago, talked about how we should be getting away from blaming each other and how we should move constructively forward in addressing the issues that are present in our aboriginal communities, and then all I heard was “blame, blame, blame”.
    I would like to focus a little more on the agreement itself. I think the hon. member will agree that there are flaws within the Kelowna accord. In my mind, one of the most serious flaws is the relative omission of resources for off reserve aboriginals and non-status aboriginals.
    As a preface to my question, I would like to quote Patrick Brasseau, the national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. He said that they “asked this current government to revisit the agreement because it excluded the majority of the aboriginal population in this country”. He said that “you have to target the entire aboriginal population”, not one specific group. He concluded by saying, “We are most encouraged by the Conservative government's recognition of the need” to accommodate off reserve aboriginals.
    I have a question for the member. Given the fact that the accord does have these serious flaws, why is the member still insisting on supporting this motion to implement the Kelowna accord?
    Mr. Speaker, I was not blaming. In fact, the opposition often talks about accountability and responsibility. Those members talk about it in the context of aboriginal people. If they make a decision, they have to be accountable for the decision they make. They have to be responsible for the decision they make.
    Interestingly enough, I was sitting at the board table of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples for 10 years. It is quite interesting that the chief and president of Congress of Aboriginal Peoples at the time was at Kelowna. The president and chief of that organization signed on to Kelowna. I cannot speak to why the leadership of that particular organization would have a change of mind in just a few short months.
    It seems rather speculative. Even the Minister of Indian Affairs was supporting Kelowna during the election, but could not find the money, the will and the determination to bring it over, so he changed his mind in a few months. Other leadership sometimes change its mind in a few months, but I cannot speak to the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. All I know is that Kelowna was moving forward and we were building and making progress.
    Mr. Speaker, we know that a lot of the language has been lost in first nations, Métis and Inuit communities. Losing our language is like losing our past, our history and our heritage, so it is critically important that the language be regained.
    I am wondering whether the hon. member would support an NDP idea or suggestion that we need to help train second language teachers so they could provide the education and the opportunity for this generation of first nations, Métis and Inuit children to again learn their own language and reconnect with their culture and the pride of their history and heritage.
    Would that be a good direction in which to move forward? Whether they are on reserve or off reserve in big cities, language is critically important.
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member raises a very good and valid point. I do know that under the previous Liberal government there were investments in culture and language programs and in the aboriginal languages and culture centre. I believe that a 10 year commitment to the aboriginal languages centre was made previous to that. There is no doubt that more needs to be done, because we are losing the battle. Even though we have made some interventions and have some programs in place, the speed at which aboriginal languages are being lost certainly exceeds any gains we are making.
     I know of language nesting programs in Labrador involving preschool kids, which seem to work quite well in that particular context. That is something we should be looking at. Headstart programs also are very important for the preservation of the language and culture of aboriginal peoples.
    I believe Kelowna also addressed this in some part, because it contained an element that talked about capacity building. When we talk about capacity building in aboriginal communities, we have to understand that it means the preservation of one's language and one's culture as well.
     There is one thing about language that I would like to say. The tone that I sometimes hear from the opposite side is so different from what I hear from my Liberal colleagues. Our tone is one that shows we have listened to aboriginal people about where they are at. I believe the Conservatives also will have to overcome this language issue in the weeks and months ahead.
     I urge them to listen very closely to what aboriginal people have to say. I urge them to change their minds on Kelowna. There is no harm in changing one's mind when a mistake has been made. That is an honourable thing to do. I would urge the Conservatives to change their minds on Kelowna and move in the right direction, the direction that is good for aboriginal people and good for the rest of Canadians.

  (1700)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on the motion made by my Liberal colleagues. As the Bloc Québécois critic, I will give my party's position on the Liberal motion. I would therefore like to inform this House that the Bloc Québécois supports this motion.
    I am not the only one wondering how many bills, motions and interventions in the House it will take before the government endorses the Kelowna accord. I wonder what tone members will have to take and what language they will have to use so that this government stops turning a deaf ear and finally adopts this accord.
    Since the House of Commons resumed sitting, we have made every effort to be heard. Moreover, on Monday, May 8, 2006, in support of the accord, I made a motion on behalf of my party before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, recommending that the Kelowna accord concluded between the representatives of Ottawa, Quebec and the provinces and the national aboriginal leaders be implemented. That motion, Bill C-292 and the motion we are debating today are reminders that once again, Ottawa has neither kept its promises, nor assumed its responsibilities to our aboriginal peoples.
    We are talking here about an accord between nations: Canada, representing all the provinces, and the aboriginal nation, represented by its chief. When the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard signed the Kelowna accord, he did not do so on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada, but as the head of the Government of Canada. He signed this accord with Phil Fontaine, who was then the chief of the first nations. The accord was reached between nations, and these nations owe each other respect. That is not what we are seeing with the current government, which does not want to respect this accord.
    We should not kid ourselves. The Kelowna accord is just a temporary measure that will do nothing to improve aboriginal peoples' living conditions in the long term. It addresses the growing gap between aboriginal peoples' quality of life and that of Quebeckers and Canadians. The accord would represent $5.1 billion over five years for education, health, housing and economic opportunities for aboriginal peoples. We have to understand how urgent it is to improve aboriginal peoples' quality of life. We are not talking about improving their quality of life, but about the urgency of improving it.
    We must take into account the fact that the $5.1 billion will be shared among the federal government, the provinces and Quebec, the territories and their own administrations before the money gets to where the needs are: to the first nations, the Inuit and the Métis. This is precious little to address the quality of life gap between Canadians and aboriginals. There are desperate needs. For example, first nations in Quebec have urgent housing needs. It would take well over $700 million to provide the 7,000 units needed and this number is growing by the hundreds every year.

  (1705)  

    This lack of housing has very serious human and social consequences. Aboriginal people are the ones paying the price every day.
    Closely linked to the lack of housing is health. It is urgent that we put a stop to the increasing incidences of poisonings, infection, tuberculosis—yes, I said tuberculosis—and so on.
    Just as worrisome are the incidences of diabetes, fetal alcohol syndrome and suicide. Unfortunately, these too are realities that aboriginal people live with. Suicide is another serious problem. Although suicide rates vary considerably from one community to another, they are unacceptably high overall. Suicide rates are five to seven times higher among first nations youth than among non-aboriginal youth. Suicide rates among Inuit youth are among the highest in the world—eleven times higher than the Canadian average. We must invest time and money now.
    As for education, if and when the government finally makes up its mind to address the issue, it would take 27 to 28 years to close the gap between aboriginals and Quebeckers and Canadians, according to the Auditor General's 2004 report. That is an understatement.
    Several reports from the Auditor General, observations by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and, more recently, the final report of the UN committee on economic, social and cultural rights, concerning the living conditions of first nations people in Canada, have been alarming. Many recommendations, supported by aboriginals, Quebeckers and Canadians, have already been made to Ottawa. These have fallen on deaf ears. What we are doing here again today is reminding this government that urgent action is needed.
    On the eve of the first ministers' conference, the Bloc Québécois publicly supported the opinion shared by the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and Quebec Native Women, who rejected the government's plans. The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and Quebec Native Women criticized the fact that the approach, designed to “narrow the gap” between the living conditions of first nations and those of Quebeckers and other Canadians, did not tackle the real causes behind the first nations' situation, namely, a lack of equal access to land and resources, and a lack of respect for their rights.
    The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and Quebec Native Women also criticized the fact that the objective of the Kelowna accord, due to its pan-aboriginal approach and lack of consultation with communities to target the real issues, will only maintain the first nations' cycle of dependence and will not sufficiently narrow the gap to improve the quality of life for aboriginals. Essentially, this means that the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and Quebec Native Women were not present in Kelowna. The reason is simple: they found that the accord did not go far enough. Later, they accepted the conclusions of the accord.
    The Bloc Québécois believes that concrete solutions are needed, solutions that are adapted to the realities of the various first nations peoples in order to correct the inequalities that affect their communities. Furthermore, these measures must stem from discussions with the various nations, because money alone will not solve the problems.

  (1710)  

     On the contrary, it perpetuates the paternalistic approach of the federal government toward aboriginals.
     Now we all know, here in this House, that the federal government has an obligation to meet the great needs of the aboriginal people, among other things those related to housing, infrastructure, education and health care. The Bloc Québécois continues to make sure that Ottawa does not shirk its obligations as a trustee. The federal government should assume its responsibilities as long as all aboriginal nations do not have the tools for self-government.
     The first indications of the current government's handling of the aboriginal issue are not very reassuring. For example, the initiative for a protocol for safe drinking water for first nations communities is commendable in and of itself. However, when the initiative sets aside communities with the greatest needs, those that still do not have a drinking water system and are still today hauling their water in buckets, is that quality of life?
     This same protocol explains the following:
     First nations are responsible for the construction, design, operation and maintenance of their water systems. INAC provides funding to First Nations for these activities, subject to the appropriate technical review and funding approval process.
     With this new initiative, the current government is telling communities not only that no new money is being committed to implement the protocol, but that the communities in the greatest need could have their funding withdrawn if they fail to obtain approval from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. Is that quality of life?
     The first budget is another indicator of the “new approach”, to use the words of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Aboriginal communities have critical socio-economic problems. In some cases, the situation is intolerable, and the Bloc Québécois does not believe that $450 million over two years, as announced in the budget, will be enough to properly address the problems.
     Also, in its budget, the new government is giving considerable prominence to the accountability of communities in managing the funding they are given. It is important to emphasize that aboriginal peoples wholeheartedly support the principle of accountability. The same principle should also apply to the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to make sure that it is accountable not only to its minister, but also to the community it serves.
    The present government, in its search for a new approach to handling aboriginal affairs, should start by reviewing the findings of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the Erasmus-Dussault commission. This royal commission was established when the Conservatives were in power and after the report was published its findings were forgotten. It cost Quebec and Canadian taxpayers $58 million.
    I will close by saying that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of the motion presented today, a motion on implementing the Kelowna accord.
    The commitments made by the federal government in Kelowna represent a first step in closing the gap between native peoples and Quebeckers and Canadians. However, the causes of this inequality have not yet been addressed. It is not about catching up; it is about addressing the roots of the inequality with a sense of urgency.

  (1715)  

    Native peoples must have all the tools to develop their own identity, namely the right to self-government and recognition of their rights.
    The Bloc Québécois wants the amounts promised at the Kelowna conference to be delivered. For the future of relations between the government and aboriginal peoples, we recommend a more global approach that meets the aspirations of native peoples and promotes the negotiation of nation-to-nation agreements.
    I would like to note that in this House we believe in the right of native peoples to self-government. In more general terms, we are dealing with the claims for autonomy of aboriginals. We recognize that native peoples, just like distinct peoples, have the right to their own culture, their own language, their own customs and traditions as well as the right to control the development of their own identity.
    We can no longer tolerate that native peoples live in conditions that are harmful to their health development and autonomy.
    In closing, I would like to remind the House that the Bloc Québécois will keep urging the government to respect the Kelowna accord. The Bloc Québécois will keep rising in this House to ensure that the accord is respected. The Bloc supports the motion introduced today because one can only turn a blind eye for so long to such basic needs as health, access to clean drinking water and adequate education, as well as economic opportunities that will enable aboriginal peoples to become autonomous.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member if he has had any more comments back from first nations leaders in Quebec.
    I want to go on record with what one of our chiefs said. James Allen, Chief of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations stated, “The Kelowna accord was an historic agreement between the Government of Canada, the premiers of the provinces and the first nations of Canada. It was historic because it was the first meeting that dealt exclusively with first nations' issues. The accord was developed after many high level talks with Canada. The accord was a plan to start eradicating poverty in first nations communities by improving housing and infrastructure, to improve the education of first nations students and encourage first nations to take over control of education in their communities. The accord also had plans to improve health services and programs for first nations to improve their living standards”.
    “So far, this government has not issued a clear statement on whether or not they embrace the Kelowna accord. The failure of the federal government to implement the accord would set back the relationship and trust that was established in Kelowna, B.C. between first nations and Canada.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the hon. member for Yukon. I almost said “Your Honour” because I am so used to addressing a judge. Once again, I apologize for having given you a raise.
    That said, I listened carefully to the member for Yukon's remarks. I agree with him, and so does the Quebec Assembly of First Nations through its Regional Chief, Mr. Picard, and everyone in fact.
    Nobody in this House can convince me otherwise. On November 25, everyone thought that there was a written accord signed by all parties. Shortly thereafter, we were told that there was not. The Assembly of First Nations, as well as several provinces, said there was. The only party saying that there was not is the current government.
    Maybe this government thinks that the accord is too closely associated with the previous government. This government can take back the accord if it wants, it can even rewrite it, but it must provide the funds that are vital to the survival—and I am choosing my words carefully—of many aboriginal communities.

  (1720)  

    Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
    I would like to ask the hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue if he does not feel it is time to stop playing politics at the expense of aboriginals and first nations peoples. Does he not feel it is time to rise above all this?
    Certainly, the day that we achieve a dialogue with first nations peoples, when we can listen to them and grant them the right to full self-government, the right to fully manage their own affairs, only then will first nations peoples truly form a nation within Canada. Aboriginals, within first nations, will be able to assume their full stature. At present, we are not giving them the opportunity to live their lives as a people and as a nation.
    I would therefore like the hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue to indicate whether he sees the Kelowna accord as an end in and of itself or as a stepping stone to something else, and why do we continue to play politics at the expense of first nations peoples?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.
    Last November, an accord was reached between two nations: Canada, then represented by the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard, and Canada's first nations, then represented by Mr. Fontaine. They signed an accord between two nations. I do not see why that should be called into question.
    I feel it is important to realize today that this goes further than respecting the Kelowna accord. All the first nations I have met with in recent months as the Bloc Québécois critic for Indian affairs and northern development have told me that the Kelowna accord was a step in the right direction, but that more was needed. It is clear that the first nations want to move toward self-government and that efforts will have to be made.
    Canada's 640 aboriginal, Métis and Inuit communities are not all the same, and they will have to make an effort. But the Kelowna accord is a step in the right direction that has to be respected and that could enable the first nations to start taking charge of their lives.
     What is missing is a government that keeps its word. Aboriginal people generally do not give their word in writing; they shake hands and respect each other. I can tell this House today that I am not sure that Canada's first nations have much respect for the current government.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I could not agree more with the hon. member's statement about respect and the importance of self-government. Land claim settlements are the most important and we need an independent, effective system to resolve land claim disputes.
    The NDP has been pushing for an independent claims commission that respects treaty based settlements so Canada can meet its legal obligations. Is that something we could collectively work toward? Is that something the hon. member would support?

  (1725)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I want my hon. colleague to know that I agree with her. The land claims negotiations are different than the Kelowna accord negotiation, but should be dealt with at the same time as the implementation of the Kelowna accord.
    I will draw a parallel, for what it is worth. You can feed a person fish, or anything else, but if you never teach him to fish or hunt, he will never grow. We can take care of education, health, infrastructure and empowerment of first nations, but at the same time, the first nations have to settle their land claims. There are currently more than 700 of them. This will go on for hundreds of years if the government, which is judge and judged in these negotiations, does not sit down and decide to settle them. Nonetheless, this has to be done in parallel with education and health.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in the House today in support of the motion. It is an issue with which I am closely associated.
    I grew up on the reserve community of Pelican Narrows and I have experienced firsthand many of those issues that aboriginal leaders raised in Kelowna and which they spoke extremely passionately about.
    It is difficult for anyone to understand what those leaders were talking about unless one has actually lived it. It is difficult to understand what poverty can do to one's health, how overcrowded housing diminishes self-esteem and how a lack of education can hold back the hopes and aspirations of a people and of a community. What is perhaps worse is being kept from being a part of the solution building and having the government ignore people's plight and not helping them to help themselves.
    I want to stress the point that far too often people confuse the culture of poverty with the culture of aboriginal people. I see evidence in this House, especially across the aisle, of this lack of understanding between these two very critical issues. I implore the members opposite to begin to understand this.
    The Kelowna accord needs to be understood from an aboriginal perspective and I will attempt to briefly provide a bit of a context so we can all better understand what Kelowna represented.
    I will summarize the modern aboriginal-state relations into three distinct phases.
    From approximately the 1950s to 1969, the federal government's approach to dealing with aboriginal people was basically ad hoc responses to a crisis occurring in an aboriginal community. It was not until a crisis occurred that a response was raised at the government level and, unfortunately, the nature of that response was usually ad hoc. There was no long, medium or short term planning. It was all predicated upon crisis management.
    Aboriginal people grew tired of being ignored and not having their issues taken very seriously. This changed in 1969 with the introduction of the white paper. It was the spark that enraged aboriginal Canadians and caused them to rise up, and rise up they did. Thus began the next phase of aboriginal-state relations. In the period beginning in approximately 1970 to the early 1990s, aboriginal people demanded that their rights be recognized, respected and protected.
    When I was first elected chief six years ago, one of the people I look up to the most in this world, Carole Sanderson, said, “Gary, never apologize for the rights that we have as a people. Never ask permission to use them. Instead, work with governments to respect them, to build our people stronger, to build Canada stronger”.
    Aboriginal people, as a result, began to utilize the courts to advance and protect their rights. Over more than two decades, many landmark court battles were won in favour of aboriginal people: Lovelace, Sparrow, Calder and others. It was also a time marked with protests and conflicts, such as those we have seen at Oka, Ipperwash and others across the country, and that phase can best be described as an adversarial phase where relationships were strained between aboriginal Canadians and Canadians in general.
    Finally the courts said that enough was enough and implored governments to use the political fora to address and deal with aboriginal issues and to use the court decisions as a framework to move forward and address these outstanding issues and grievances. So began the next phase of aboriginal-state relationships, from about the early to mid-nineties to what we have today, and that phase we can best describe as relationship-building.
    That phase saw self-government negotiations spring up across the country. We saw an acceleration of programs being devolved to aboriginal first nations' control. We saw a series of round tables being established to deal with socio-economic issues of critical importance to the people in our communities.

  (1730)  

    The basis of these developments were the court decisions, but also other things, such as the Penner report on education and numerous justice inquiries and the like. We began to see improvements, contrary to what we have heard. Improvements in that period of time have been made.
    The problem is we have difficulty identifying them. It is easier to see a glass half full than to see a glass half empty. We politicize that perspective to the negative consequences upon our people.
    Despite that growth and prosperity there still remain gaps to be addressed. There is one key ingredient missing throughout those three phases that Kelowna began to put in place. That was to include the aboriginal people in the building of the solutions to the issues that they wanted to take ownership of, instead of having governments saying, “we know what's good for you. Here's a policy, you react to it”.
    No. Kelowna represented a high water mark in a new relationship between aboriginal people and Canadians. It established a new consensus. It established a relationship where the previous government, the provincial governments and the aboriginal people of Canada would work together to build the solutions necessary to address all these issues that we have talked about today. A new consensus is what I call Kelowna. That is the context within which Kelowna evolved over three phases.
    It was not written on a napkin on the eve of an election. It was not done in the 18 months before that. It was 50-plus years of blood, sweat and tears of the aboriginal people, first nations, Métis and Inuit, working toward being included in the policy development of the issues that affected them on a daily basis.
    The Conservatives may think they are punishing the Liberals by not honouring the Kelowna accord. They are wrong, very wrong. It is the aboriginal people of Canada that are being punished. It is the aboriginal people who built Kelowna. To have the Prime Minister and the Minister of Indian Affairs play petty politics with this accord is insulting to the House and to aboriginal people.
    First, the government pretended the money was not there. The proof was there. The money was identified and the government chose to use other priorities to move forward. The government says there was no agreement. The accord was broadcast to millions of people across the country and to the aboriginal leaders in the room, it was very real.
    The Conservatives said there were no plans. Here is where the greatest exposure of a lack of understanding of what Kelowna represented presents itself when it comes to the Conservative government. No plans? Of course there were no plans. It was not the intention of Kelowna and the previous government to go and hide on a hill somewhere and design policies in isolation and then tell the aboriginal people what they were. This was about working together collaboratively to build the solution to address the issues that the first nations people wanted to take ownership of.
    To build complex solutions requires the involvement of those that were reached in the new consensus with the provinces, the federal government and all national aboriginal groups.
    Now we hear that the government has disregarded this new consensus. The government will go it on its own. It knows best. Instead the government will decide what is right and that is condescending.
    The agreement was not a partisan effort as many have said. It was an effort to deal with one of Canada's most embarrassing legacies.
    I have not been left with a feeling of confidence with the so-called Conservative approach to dealing with aboriginal issues. We have had members opposite stand and say ridiculous things.

  (1735)  

    They have suggested that first nations and Inuit people are not real people living in real towns. They have suggested that first nations and Inuit people traffic prescription drugs on the streets, and that first nations and Inuit people are not real governments. They have cancelled the aboriginal procurement initiative, the critical school projects, and completely ignoring the Métis in the budget.
    They have stalled on many more issues like self-government and have not proactively tried to resolve issues like Caledonia. In my riding specifically, they have reneged on the Isle à la Crosse boarding school compensation, among others.
    I just learned that the Prime Minister is in Vancouver today and he made a statement that in just under four centuries Canada passed from an unsettled wilderness to what it is today. That is blatant ignorance. This was not an unsettled land 400 years ago. The aboriginal people of this country were here. They inhabited the land. This demonstrates the lack of understanding the Prime Minister has with respect to aboriginal issues.
    I am not sure, but this does not inspire confidence in me or the vast majority of aboriginal Canadians. I did not hear first nations, Métis and Inuit people calling for the Kelowna accord to be killed. I did not hear premiers say that the accord was bad. In fact, I heard pleas from all Canadians for the Prime Minister and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to honour the Kelowna accord.
    This was a common goal that would have benefited all Canadians. I believe the government is moving backwards toward that adversarial phase that I talked about earlier. I see efforts to break apart this unprecedented unity and new consensus among aboriginal organizations, provincial and federal governments. I see one off discussions to fragment aboriginal people, communities and leaders. I see wedge issues being introduced to split on and off reserve aboriginal people. I see efforts to introduce difficulties between aboriginal leaders and provinces. This is not healthy. This is not good for aboriginal people and it is not good for Canada.
    I would like to cite some passages from a speech that was made by Georges Erasmus in 1990. He stated:
    We have come to a fork in the road, where if we are going to continue to be immersed in a status quo, we're just not going to be together very much longer. Or else we are going to be so disgruntled across this country, we're not going to be able to live with each other. We have the ability in this country to create a country that will be envied. We have the potential but we also have the potential to fragment and create many smaller states, and that's absolutely not necessary.
    He goes on to say:
    This country was not settled like United States. l'm a Dene. No conquering army came to the Dene and defeated us. No conquering army came to the Mohawks and defeated them, or any other of the people across this country. We willingly, consciously with our eyes open, thought we had enough resources. Being a peaceful people we arrived at an agreement that provided for our institutions to continue on part of our land and for the institutions of the people coming in to also be placed on our lands. Never in our worst nightmares, did we ever imagine what was going to take place. That for nearly 100 years, from 1867 until 1960, we would be so limited in our activity that we would need passes to get off reserves. We couldn't own businesses. We couldn't run for office. We couldn't vote. We never reached the age of majority. We weren't human beings really.
    Mr. Erasmus had the foresight to understand what needed to happen. He added:
    The time is here. We must now be sincere. Native people are not a threat to this country. We are not a threat to the sovereignty of Canada. We actually want to reinforce the sovereignty of Canada. We want to walk away from the negotiating table with an agreement that Canada feels good about and native people feel good about, where we can say that we have strengthened the sovereignty of Canada. So not only will Canada talk about how the Crown brought a version of sovereignty here, based in one family that continues to have it forever and ever and ever, but in addition to the original sovereignty, the sovereignty of the people that were here for tens of thousands of years is now also another source of the sovereignty for Canada.
    So we're not a threat. We are only a threat if we continue to be ignored and taken lightly. We are only a threat if people don't understand that it is impossible for people to maintain the frustration level without the kind of actions that we've seen this summer.
    He was referring to Oka of course.
    What was visionary in his speech was the wisdom in calling for a new agreement, a new Canada. We all walked away from Kelowna feeling good about what was agreed to. Unfortunately, the Conservative government does not have the same vision.

  (1740)  

     I was at a powwow this past weekend in the great reserve community of Witchekan Lake. In attendance were first nations World War II veterans. They enlisted in war efforts in higher numbers than any other cultural group in this country despite many of them having to disenfranchise and give up their treaty rights. Why? Ironically enough, to protect their treaty rights.
    It was their belief that because of the nation to nation treaty relationship, that when Canada went to war, they as warriors in their proudest tradition would stand shoulder to shoulder with other Canadians against those who threatened our great country. That is what they fought for.
    [Member spoke in Cree]
    [English]
    Basically what I said in Cree was that these veterans came back and they said they fought as equals on the front lines and yet they are not equals in this country. These treaties and this new relationship must move us forward. These men and women lived through these aboriginal-state relationships that I just described. They invested with their lives.
    I can never find the words to express how profoundly affected I am by the government's inaction and petty tricks of denial and delay with respect to the Kelowna accord. If the minister and the Conservative government simply think they can deny or delay Kelowna and other aboriginal initiatives, they are wrong. Their meagre, weak efforts to toss aside Kelowna are no match for the will of a people, the premiers, and the people of Canada.
    Everyone long ago accepted our shared path and the tremendous opportunities that Canada's aboriginal population had to offer. For too long our shared history, once one of cooperation and nation to nation status, has been marked by a breaking of faith.
    The Supreme Court has established that the honour of the Crown is enshrined in the Constitution. Kelowna was a commitment by the Crown to aboriginal people, a new consensus that signalled a new relationship and a new future. Our path is one.
    Mr. Speaker, I have great respect for the member's background, but we came into this debate with a commitment to work together and to speak on compassionate grounds to figure something out. In my entire time here I have never heard anything so divisive and aggressive as that speech. The member should be completely ashamed of himself.
    He talked about aboriginal veterans. What did the Liberal Party do for aboriginal veterans? It did zip. The worst thing that could happen to the aboriginal community of Canada is to have that party back in power. Where were those members for 13 years?
    I would like to ask the hon. member if he was not paying attention when this government, unlike the past Liberal government, spoke about education for aboriginal students, about women, children and families? How about water on the reserves? Does that member know that the minister of the past government ignored Kashechewan for eight weeks? During their 13 years, 100 reservations still had polluted water.
    I would like to ask that member, when did he think the previous government was going to get around to anything? Canadians decided they had 13 years of blah, blah, blah and dithering, and decided to elect a government that gave two thousand, two hundred million dollars toward a residential school commitment, something that group never did. I would like that member to confirm what his government did for aboriginal communities. What did that old, tired, dithering crew do for aboriginal communities? They did nothing.

  (1745)  

    Mr. Speaker, our government must have done a great job because the Conservative government has copied everything that we did with respect to aboriginal issues. What have you done for the veterans since you have come to power? I have heard commitments--
    Order, please. It is okay to have a spirited debate but we do not want to start using the second person. This is not the Ontario legislature. We do not want tempers to rise. Let us refer to each other in the third person as it helps to keep things a little more parliamentary.
    Mr. Speaker, we can ask the question as well, what has the government done for Kashechewan? Nothing has happened yet. Have the Conservatives put any money into water? No. Instead, money has been taken from building new schools and put into supposed water infrastructures, $150 million this year. The provinces and the northern territories received more money than aboriginal people did from the current government, and so did the pine beetle in B.C.
    The main point of the speech was the relationship. We can get hung up on specifics, but Kelowna created a new consensus to work together.
    Mr. Speaker, I am glad that the hon. member opposite gave us such a wonderful history lesson which he knows very well because his family probably has been part of that history for many generations. I would also like to thank him for reminding us of the commitments and the contributions of aboriginal people as veterans and the work they did in looking after us.
     I am going to touch on something that the former leader of the Liberal Party said in a speech in this House in May 2005. He said that it was in Newfoundland and Labrador that the start of North American history began to take shape. He said that it was no exaggeration to say that the story of North America in many ways began with the story of Newfoundland and Labrador.
    I am curious to know how the member feels about the former leader of his party saying that, when we know very well that this country's history began with the first nations.
    Mr. Speaker, the history of this country is certainly rich and steeped in tradition. The history books that are used in the schools of this great nation do not properly reflect the realities and the true history of this country over the last hundreds of years. Having spoken with the previous leader on this issue, he understands that very clearly. That is why it is incumbent upon our education system to teach what is historically true about the history of this country.

  (1750)  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the commentary of my hon. colleague with whom I have the pleasure of sitting on the aboriginal affairs committee. He has definitely brought great insight to that committee.
    I would also like to thank him for indicating that there were no plans. Of course there were not. Those plans were in fact going to be brought out over the next few years. It is in direct contrast to the member for LaSalle—Émard who did talk about how plans were substantially in place. It is nice to hear my aboriginal colleague talk about the truth and that is appreciated.
    The member talked about the investment, the money, and how it is going to improve lives, but I need to ask about the system. The system itself is flawed. He must agree that the only way we are going to truly improve the lives of aboriginal Canadians is to look at the system itself. I would ask him to bring forward his ideas on that.
    Mr. Speaker, the member is right regarding the first question on the plans. On this side of the House we understand that when it comes to the exact planning for policies to deal with some of the issues on the reserves, it would not be done in isolation here. The plans that the member for LaSalle—Émard talked about were the plans on how to get together to begin that relationship and move forward on achieving what everyone wants.
    The new consensus that Kelowna reached would have given us the tools to begin to address those complex issues. If current government members think that they can fix many of these issues in isolation by breaking apart the aboriginal groups and not talking with the provinces and not working with the federal government, it is not going to happen. Kelowna represented a new consensus to actually tackle these very complex issues. The member is right in that they are complex. It requires many people in the room to solve them.
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague spoke at length about the nature and importance of the relationships. I wonder if he would expand on the importance of the relationships in establishing the Kelowna accord.
    Mr. Speaker, in talking with aboriginal leaders across the country, many of whom are my friends, we all understand that prior to moving forward to address these complex issues, as the member opposite talked about, we must establish those relationships of trust and respect and recognize that there are nation to nation discussions that need to happen.
    These leaders and the leaders before them expended a lot of time to cultivate a relationship with the federal and provincial governments to address these complex issues. I reiterate that when Kelowna was bashed and so unfairly tainted that it was not a good agreement by the government opposite, it is actually a disrespectful blow to the aboriginal people who worked so hard to get to that point. It was not partisan. It was focused on relationships and addressing what we all have in common.
    As I mentioned, it is a path that we all share, regardless of whether we are first nations, Métis, Inuit or non-aboriginal Canadian. Improving the socio-economic levels of our people in aboriginal communities would benefit all of Canada. Aboriginal people feel that has taken a blow but they are not going to give up.

Government Orders

[Business of Supply]

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[English]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal Affairs  

    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Timmins—James Bay.
     I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre for recognizing the need to improve the quality of life for first nations, Inuit and Métis, and for including off reserve as well as on reserve people. I congratulate her for bringing this motion before the House so that we can highlight the urgency of the issue and tell the Canadian people how important it is to honour our commitments and fully implement the Kelowna accord.
    For the past 13 years her party was in government with many years in a majority situation and all the while conditions for aboriginal people were no better than they are today. I have to wonder why, with such power, her party did not do more to improve the quality of life for first nations, Inuit and Métis people in Canada. It seems there was a lot of talk but not enough action on the part of the previous government.
    Now we have a situation where the current government is not honouring an agreement made with first nations, Métis and Inuit people, an agreement that was years in the making and was signed onto by the provincial governments and the Government of Canada. The Conservatives may say they are honouring that agreement, but the budget speaks for itself. The Native Women's Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations have expressed their disappointment with the federal budget. They predict a continuation of the imbalance, fiscal and otherwise, between first nations and other Canadians.
    It is important to me to speak to this motion because in my riding of Vancouver Island North I have the honour of representing more than 20 different first nations bands with over 7,000 members. It is for them that I support any measures to improve living conditions, to improve health, social and economic opportunities both on and off reserve. As I travel around the riding and meet with first nations on and off reserve, I see overcrowding in housing, with sometimes two or more entire families living together, inadequate sewage treatment resulting in pollution of shellfish, and an overall sense of frustration on the lack of movement in resolving these and other long-standing complaints.
    A few weeks ago I spoke about the need for a road in the village of Kingcome, one of the most remote first nation villages in my riding. The children of that village wrote to me about the dangers of travelling by boat down the river to get to services that we all take for granted. They told me about the deaths of many of their relatives and friends who had to travel the river in winter, which is the only way out of the community if one cannot afford the airplane ticket, or if the weather is too bad to fly. They have been asking for this road for many years. There are land ownership issues around it, but I have to wonder, is it because they are isolated, out of sight and out of mind, or is it because they are a first nation community that our governments have never figured out a way to build a road into this village, a road that would provide safe access to health care and other services?
    In Port Hardy at the very tip of Vancouver Island the Gwa'Sala-'Nakwaxda'Xw on the Tsulquate reserve have been asking for improvements to their social and housing situation. They are a very proud people who have been relocated to this area and although they have been there for many years, they still do not call it home. They were relocated from their remote ancestral communities, a move that was in the best interests of the Canadian government. This move took away much of their identity and connection to their heritage. At the time of the relocation, housing was built, but it is now inadequate and some of the homes are deteriorating. This is leading to health issues as well as overcrowding.
    As we learn more about the effects of the loss of heritage on a group of people, we find that it goes hand in hand with social and health issues. The Gwa'Sala-'Nakwaxda'Xw are learning how to live together in a small community, but they need us to recognize that it is a struggle for them.
    Another first nation band near Port Hardy, the Kwakiutl, used to eat the shellfish right off the beach in front of their homes. When I visited them a few months ago, they told me that because of inadequate sewage treatment facilities in the town nearby, they had to travel by boat to one of the small islands to get the clams we were eating .

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    While the situation might not be thought to be an on reserve issue, there is a negative effect on the shellfish which is part of their food supply. There are also negative impacts on their health and the social impacts of not being able to use a beach that is right outside their front door. If this were happening in our communities, I am sure we would be outraged and demand funding from the federal government for clean up and infrastructure to ensure adequate sewage treatment.
    Again, I have to ask why this is allowed to happen. Why, with surpluses in so many budgets, does the government, as did previous ones, allow this to continue?
    As I think of other first nations communities, such as 'Namgis at Alert Bay on Cormorant Island, I am reminded of the social impacts of the residential school that still stands next to the Umista Cultural Centre in their community. It is a grim reminder of a time when they and many other children were forced into abusive situations in an attempt to assimilate them.
    Some members of that community want the old school torn down, while others want to find a way to turn it into a healing centre or another appropriate venue.
    The effects of the residential school on so many first nations women and men is playing itself out in a loss of self-respect, alcohol and drug abuse and an inability to be proper parents.
    I was glad to hear about the money the federal government was giving to victims of the residential schools across the country. I know the money will be put to good use. However, with a lack of healing facilities for survivors, the effects of the abuse will continue and are continuing. The effects do not stop with the survivors. They continue through generations. The government needs to consult with first nations and to invest in services and programs to end the cycle of abuse.
    On Guilford Island the Moosgamaw First Nation is finally getting a new water treatment facility. The chief told me that it would be the first time in nine years that they will be able to drink fresh, clean water from the tap. Once they have taken care of the water issue, they will be working on building some new homes. Many of the houses that were built cheap are now uninhabitable due to mould. This also causes health problems for a community that has to travel by boat or plane for health services.
    According to the chief, once they have the water and housing issues resolved they can then move on to economic development and the creation of jobs that are sorely needed in their community. They need our support.
    I have talked about some of the more remote first nations communities on Vancouver Island North and now I would like to talk about the first nations in the Campbell River area. Campbell River is a small city and home to two first nations bands. In fact, it is difficult to tell when we are on reserve as we drive through town because of commercial and residential development.
    The Campbell River Indian Band is working hard to create opportunities for its people but it is difficult because it has to balance the competing demands of so many issues: residential school abuse, education, housing, health care and many members living off reserve, which is why they, too, need our support. This growing community is trying hard to become economically self-sufficient but it is difficult with limited resources to meet all the needs of the people.
    The same is true for the Cape Mudge Band in Campbell River. Unresolved treaty issues use up much of its financial resources with legal and research costs, leaving precious little for social services, health care, housing and infrastructure, but they persevere. The band's determination is evidence as it prepares to open a cultural centre which will attract visitors and provide employment and opportunities to its community.
    Many issues face aboriginal people living off reserve, such as housing, education, health, child care and access to other services. There is a great need for these services since off reserve aboriginal people often face isolation, discrimination and alienation while they are far from home attending school or trying to earn a living.
    There is a network of Friendship Centres in this country that are providing many of those services to first nations people living off reserve. Alternative, culturally appropriate education, support groups for young parents, teens and elders are bridging the gaps and helping make connections.
    Last, I would like to also honour a group of people working hard on Vancouver Island to address the health needs of first nations in my riding, as well as others. The Inter Tribal Health Authority, which my hon. colleague talked about earlier today, is located in Nanaimo and serves 28 member nations.

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    First Nations are challenged by serious health issues well beyond what we experience. The Inter Tribal Health Authority works with first nations leaders and community health staff to ensure culturally appropriate services are available.
    Yes, this House should support the motion and recognize the need for improvements in the quality of life of first nations, Métis and Inuit people in Canada and, once recognized, we must honour our commitment to aboriginal peoples by settling land claims, building trust and fully funding and implementing the Kelowna accord.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her eloquence and her long list of needs that are apparent to all in the opposition parties. The list of needs would no doubt take in part of $5.2 billion that was promised in the Kelowna accord.
    I have to wonder why the NDP pulled the plug on the Liberal government and did not allow Kelowna to go ahead. However, I have a real question for the member. Is she beginning to see that the three pillars of the Conservative government's attitude toward aboriginal affairs are patneralism, patriarchal and patronizing?
    When the hearings on Bill C-2 took place in the accountability committee all opposition parties banded together to prevent the government from treating aboriginal resources and money as its own. Comments were made that the money belonged to the taxpayers of Canada. It does not. It belongs to the first nations.
    Do you see the patronizing, patriarchal and patneralistic ways of the government in the way it is, in just dribs and drabs, doling out minuscule amounts of money compared to the $5.2 billion promised by Kelowna?
    Order, please. I do not know how many times the Chair has to intervene, and the member for Winnipeg South Centre did it after I mentioned it the last time, but the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe again used the second person. I appeal to members not to use the second person. The Standing Orders say that we will refer to each other in the third person and speak to each other through the Chair. It is not that hard. Just pay attention and do not do it again.
    The hon. member for Vancouver Island North.
    Mr. Speaker, I would remind the hon. member that it was the previous government, his government that was in power for the last 13 years, that did not live up to many of the commitments that it made to first nations in this country, which is why we are in the predicament we are in today.
    As members know, the New Democratic Party was happy to support the Kelowna accord and we did. The previous Liberal government went to the polls and, frankly, it was up to the people of this country to decide what happened to it. It was not the NDP that made the difference there.
    The hon. member needs to remember some of those points when he asks the questions. It is important for all of us to remember that we need to ensure we live up to our commitments to first nations, rebuild that trust and that we honour our agreements.