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41st PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 129

CONTENTS

Tuesday, May 29, 2012




House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 146 
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NUMBER 129 
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1st SESSION 
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41st PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers



Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1005)  

[English]

Government Response to Petitions

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 21 petitions.

Committees of the House

Government Operations and Estimates 

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates in relation to its study of the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013.

[Translation]

Committees of the House

Fisheries and Oceans  

    Mr. Speaker, I ask for the unanimous consent of the House for the following motion:
    That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, the remainder of the debate, pursuant to Standing Order 66, on the motion to concur in the First Report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, presented on Wednesday, October 19, 2011, be deemed to have taken place and the motion be deemed agreed to on division.
    Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    On a point of order, the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am not going to block this motion and I wish to give my consent, but I want to register that I am very unhappy that although I tried to speak to this issue, there just was not time in debate. However, I do not want to hold up the House, so I will consent.
    Does the hon. minister have the unanimous consent of the House for this motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

Petitions

Mining Industry  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by hundreds of Winnipeg residents who call upon the House of Commons to take note that as Canadians they are appalled by reports that Canadian mining, gas and oil companies are involved in human rights and environmental violations around the world. They are particularly embarrassed by the Canadian government's lack of action against such violations in the eastern Congo.
     The petitioners argue that the standards for Canadian extractive companies are much less stringent outside of Canada than in Canada, which is a policy that disadvantages people who are already poor and under-represented with their own governments.
    Therefore, the petitioners request that the House of Commons legislate that the standards for Canadian mining companies operating outside of Canada be the same as the standards they much reach when operating inside of Canada, which would include requiring the corporate social responsibility review process to be mandatory, not voluntary, and that Bill C-300 be reinvigorated to hold Canadian extractive companies to the standards of decency that Canadians expect of their government and of companies carrying the Canadian flag.
     I am proud to table this petition on behalf of the constituents in my riding.

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by people from all over Canada who are concerned with the proposed megaquarry in Melancthon Township in Dufferin County. At over 2,300 acres, this quarry would be the largest open-pit quarry in Canada.
    The petitioners are concerned with a great number of things. I will not list them all, but they are concerned that the megaquarry would delve more than 60 metres deep, which is more than 200 feet. It is well below the water table.
    The petitioners ask that the Government of Canada conduct an environmental assessment under the authority of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act on the proposed Highland Companies' megaquarry development.

[Translation]

Rights of the Unborn  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions on behalf of my constituents in Kingston and the Islands.

[English]

    The first petition calls on Parliament to amend section 223 of the Criminal Code so as to reflect 21st century medical evidence.

Citizenship and Immigration  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls upon the government to withdraw Bill C-31 because it is not fair to all refugees. It restricts appeals and gives too much discretion to the minister.

Environmental Sensitivities  

    Madam Speaker, it is my honour to present this petition signed by my constituents, specifically those from Morin Heights.
    The petition calls upon the government to declare May the month of awareness and education on environmental sensitivities and May 12 the environmental sensitivity day in Canada.

Suicide Prevention  

    Madam Speaker, today I rise to present a petition from my constituents of Okanagan--Shuswap.
    The petitioners call upon Parliament to adopt legislation to recognize suicide as a public health issue. They are asking Parliament to provide guidelines for suicide prevention, promote collaborative and knowledge exchange regarding suicide, promote evidence-based solutions and define best practices for the prevention of suicide.

Search and Rescue  

    Madam Speaker, I rise today to present a petition signed by 10,000 Canadians from coast to coast to coast. This petition has to do with the tragic death of Burton Winters in Labrador, something with which we are all familiar.
    The petitioners call upon the federal government to commit to full-time and fully operational search and rescue services to be placed in Labrador.
    Those of us who are familiar with Labrador know only too well the difficult terrain and the circumstances under which people can sometimes get lost. The reality is that this tragedy should never have happened. If search and rescue services were on the ground, if they had responded in the manner in which they should have responded, everyone who has signed this petition, all 10,000 people, fully believe that Burton Winters would be alive today.
    The petitioners call upon the federal government to commit to full-time, fully operational search and rescue services in Labrador.

  (1010)  

Pensions  

    Madam Speaker, I have a petition from a number of constituents who are calling on the government to end poverty among seniors.
    Almost a year ago in the House I presented a motion calling on the government to improve guaranteed income supplement benefits so that seniors could be lifted out of poverty. Here we are a year later, and the government has done nothing but give us bogus pension plans and a threat to reduce the old age security--
    I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member. The hon. Chief Government Whip is rising on a point of order.
    Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. People presenting petitions are not supposed to advocate for them and they are not supposed to comment on them. They are just supposed to read them.
    Is the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands rising on the same point of order?
    Yes, Madam Speaker. I just want to make sure I understand the rules clearly and what the hon. government whip has said.
    I understand that we are not supposed to read petitions and that we are supposed to summarize them. I agree we are not supposed to make long speeches about them. I do not believe it is appropriate to read petitions.
    I thank hon. members for their comments. Just to clarify, it is quite accurate that petitions should not be read verbatim. They should be summarized. The exercise is not to indicate either support or opposition, but simply to represent petitioners' ideas.
    I would ask the hon. member for London—Fanshawe to complete her petition so that others can speak.
    Madam Speaker, I will summarize the wishes of the people of Canada.
    The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to make the appropriate investments in guaranteed income supplement to lift every senior out of poverty.

Poverty  

    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Fleetwood--Port Kells to present a petition signed by a number of residents of my riding.
    The petitioners call upon Parliament to ensure the swift passage of Bill C-233, an act to eliminate poverty in Canada and develop and implement a strategy for poverty elimination.

[Translation]

Housing  

    Madam Speaker, the signatures keep flooding in. Once again today, I am very pleased to table in the House two stacks of petitions from FRAPRU. One is from Winnipeg and the other from places all over Quebec. These are to be added to the 27,000 other petitions that have already been submitted.
    It is therefore becoming ever clearer that Canadians are calling on the federal government to provide sufficient funding to renovate, upgrade and modernize all social housing units and to continue to fund the subsidies that mean that low-income tenants do not have to choose between paying the rent and paying to put food on the table.

[English]

41st General Election  

    Madam Speaker, I will attempt to live up to my interpretation of the rules.
    I am presenting petitions from residents of Halifax and Kingston. The first petition calls upon the government to take note of the reports of electoral fraud in the 2011 federal election and to appoint an independent inquiry to get to the bottom of the situation.

Human Rights  

    Madam Speaker, the second petition I am presenting is primarily from residents of Toronto. It speaks to an issue that I know concerns members on all sides of the House, which is the ongoing question of human rights in China. Specifically, petitioners wish to see the Government of Canada speak clearly to the People's Republic of China about our concern, shared on both sides of the House, for the fate of people practising Falun Dafa.
    I would also add we are also concerned for the fate of people in Tibet and for practising Christians in China.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Madam Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.
    The Deputy Speaker: Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[Translation]

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act

Bill C-31—Time allocation motion  

    That in relation to Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the report stage and one sitting day shall be allotted to the third reading stage of the said bill and, fifteen minutes before the expiry of the time provided for government business on the day allotted to the consideration of the report stage;
and on the day allotted to the third reading stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

  (1015)  

[English]

    Pursuant to Standing Order 67.1, there will now be a 30-minute question period. I invite all hon. members who wish to ask questions to rise in their places so that the Chair has some idea of the number of members who wish to participate in the question period.
    As is the custom, as Chair I will give preference to opposition members, although I will recognize some government members.
    The hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.
    Madam Speaker, to help translate what you just read into the record, this is a time allocation. This is another effort by a government seemingly pathologically addicted to shutting down debate. It is closing off debate into the investigation of the F-35 fiasco. Later this afternoon we will likely see closure from the government on the union-busting tactics with respect to the CP Rail strike.

[Translation]

    The government must justify why it is panicking and once again using such a brutal tool.
    Is the economy in such a state that the government has to panic and pass such a bill?

[English]

    I understand from previous experience that the government will not be moved by the words of the opposition or the words of the Canadian public who wonder why the government has grown so addicted to using measures like this one, more time allocation at all stages, in committee for any study, for any conversation and consultation with Canadians about critical legislation that will not just have an effect in the moment, but maybe even for a generation to come.
    Therefore, I will use the words of the Prime Minister when he used to have principles with respect to this brutal tool:
    We have closure today precisely because there is no deadline and there are no plans. Instead of having deadlines, plans and goals, we must insist on moving forward because the government is simply increasingly embarrassed by the state of the debate and it needs to move on.
    We see it with respect to the government's so-called budget implementation act and the pipeline implementation act. We see it with respect to the investigation that we are attempting on behalf of Canadians on the F-35 purchase, which is increasingly a sordid series of mis-truths, half-truths and outright lies. The government needs to justify the use of this particular and most brutal form on our democratic values and on the ability of members of Parliament from all sides to do their jobs.
    Can the government justify, in any measure, why today it is again shutting down debate, again shutting the door on Canadians and not listening to the democratic will of Canadians and allowing free and fair debate like the Conservative Party used to believe in before it came into power?

  (1020)  

    Madam Speaker, I can. In fact, there is a very clear and compelling deadline that we are rapidly approaching which requires the rapid adoption of Bill C-31, the protecting Canada's immigration system act.
    In the last Parliament, the 40th Parliament, this place adopted then Bill C-11, the balanced refugee reform act, that included major revisions to Canada's asylum system which are scheduled to come into force by June 29, 2012.
    Since that time, we have seen the growing problem of both human smuggling and a large and growing wave of unfounded asylum claims particularly coming from the European Union. Therefore, we have concluded that it is necessary to strengthen the asylum reforms and adopt measures to combat human smuggling. That is why we have had to delay the coming into force of the balanced refugee reform act from the last Parliament. To be blunt, we are not in a position to implement the new system contemplated in Bill C-11 in the 40th Parliament. If we do not adopt this legislation, if it does not receive royal assent by June 29 of this year, a new law will come into effect that the appropriate administrative agencies, such as the IRB, are not yet ready to put in place.
    I would point out to my hon. colleague that this bill has received 13 days of debate, 47.5 hours of debate and 130 speeches at second reading and report stage. It had 15 committee meetings with over 43 hours of committee study and 109 witnesses. It was preceded in a previous Parliament by Bill C-49,, which had many similar provisions including 3 days of debate, 10 hours of debate and 30 speeches.
    In fact, this bill and most of its provisions have received an enormous amount of debate and consideration both in this place and at committee. There is a deadline with a great deal of urgency that we adopt this by June 29.
    Because I saw quite a number of members rise, I would ask the hon. members to make their questions and the minister's responses brief.
    The hon. member for Hamilton Mountain.
    Madam Speaker, I listened to the minister with great interest as he tried to justify why yet again the government is bringing in draconian time allocation motions, stifling debate in this House.
    If the Conservatives were interested in allowing more debate, they could save some House time by not bringing in bills like back-to-work legislation for the striking workers at CP. There are other ways that we could use valuable House time rather than denying people the basic right of free collective bargaining.
    When the minister said that 130 members have participated in the debate, I wonder whether he could tell this House why he feels it is okay that the voices of the constituents represented by the 170 members in the House do not get to be heard on an issue that is of great concern to all Canadians and frankly an issue where the minister himself has benefited from extra time as he has had to amend his own bill because it was so flawed in the first instance. Debate in the House allows for that kind of reflection and for improvements to legislation. I would encourage the minister to continue to take advantage of that.
    I would honestly submit, Madam Speaker, that we have just heard the reason why occasionally provisions must be used to limit debate on bills in the House. The position of the hon. member opposite appears to be that every one of the 308 members should speak on every bill. I am not aware of a single Parliament in the democratic world where that is the normal practice because then nothing would ever get done. What she is really saying is that the rules should allow for endless filibusters.
    Let me be clear. I have been around this place for 15 years. This has, by any measure, received an extraordinary amount of debate, far more than normal for even contentious bills: 13 days of debate at second reading and report stage, 47.5 hours, 130 speeches and enormous lengthy consideration at committee. The government accepted amendments put forward by the opposition, demonstrating its good faith. What opposition members are really saying is not that they think this is a pre-emptory imposition of time allocation but, rather, they oppose the bill and never want to allow it to come to a vote because they know that the will of Canadians will be reflected in a vote adopting these sensible measures to rebalance our broken asylum system.
    We have a commitment to Canadians to keep our word, to fix the broken asylum system and to combat human smuggling, and that is what we will do.

  (1025)  

    Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. minister for his clarifications. We are all well aware that the bill has a time limit stemming from legislation passed in the previous Parliament. I would like to ask why time allocation in this instance must be rushed to such an extent that we will not have a proper discussion in this place of amendments that are now properly before the House. There should be the opportunity for members to speak to their own amendments in relation to Bill C-31.
    I want to thank the hon. minister for being more flexible and willing to take on changes to this legislation and other legislation in the 41st Parliament, but there is more that should be done on this bill before we are finished with it.
    Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's evident concern and the fact that she takes the deliberative legislative process very seriously.
    I would submit to her that there is a deadline of June 29. There has been an enormous amount of debate. To address her question, the reason why there will be more limited debate on report stage for consideration of amendments in this place is, I would argue, because there was so much debate at second reading and so much consideration at committee, which had 15 meetings, over 43 hours of study, heard from 109 witnesses and considered dozens of amendments.
    I know the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands is at a disadvantage because, as an independent member, she does not have a seat on committees. For her that is an unfortunate reality of the rules of this place. I can assure her that many of the amendments that she intends to propose at report stage were considered by the committee following its exhaustive study clause by clause. These ideas have been given full consideration.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, the minister mentioned that a similar bill was studied in a previous Parliament. There was agreement among the parties that the bill would have been passed quickly had it been introduced in the same Parliament.
    However, this is not the first time we have been told that it is urgent that we pass a bill quickly. Nevertheless, if the government knew this, and it controls the agenda, why did the government not make this bill a priority so that we could debate it fully and in its entirety? Why was this bill not given more priority?
    Madam Speaker, that is a reasonable question. The government did give priority to Bill C-31. Since the bill was introduced in the House, we have spent more hours debating this bill than almost any other bill. We made it a priority to send the bill to committee.
    As I just mentioned, the bill has been debated for 13 days or 47.5 hours. Members have given 130 speeches on this matter, which is a lot. There have also been questions and comments after almost every speech. The bill was studied in detail in committee.
    I must point out that the government made the substantial amendments suggested by the committee. The government agreed to the amendments proposed by the opposition.
    Quite frankly, I believe that this is an example of a process that works very well when it comes to the proceedings and the opposition interests.

  (1030)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, time allocation is a practice of the government no matter what the legislation. Every time I hear it being introduced I have to wonder what exactly the government is trying to hide.
    Clearly, MPs have questions with respect to this particular piece of legislation. We are here representing constituents. We are here representing their concerns. How is it the government can determine how much time is sufficient when we have questions of importance that need to be answered? Here we go again with time allocation on a piece of legislation that is of crucial importance to this country, and yet the government is introducing time allocation, preventing MPs from expressing the views of their constituents in the manner in which we have been asked to do.
    Madam Speaker, that question is just complete nonsense. The reality is that every member has had an opportunity to speak repeatedly on this bill. First of all, many of the elements of Bill C-31 were debated in the previous Parliament under the heading of Bill C-49. Second, in the earlier part of this Parliament most of the provisions of the bill were debated in the form of Bill C-4.
    Altogether in this Parliament there have been 47.5 hours of debate, 130 speeches, meaning 130 MPs have spoken to the bill, and 43 hours of committee study. If there are any questions that have not been posed, or any views that have not been expressed during those almost 50 hours of House debate and over 40 hours of committee debate, I would really like to know what they are. I do not know who has been asleep at the switch.
    I can say that I have followed this debate very closely. I have been in the House for almost every single hour of debate, and I do not hear new questions or new points of view. I just hear the same speeches being regurgitated over and over again. Eventually we must act in order to meet the deadline of June 29 and to keep our commitment to Canadians to fix the broken asylum system.
    Madam Speaker, several NDP MPs, including the past NDP immigration critic and the current NDP immigration critic, have said they support the goals of this bill which include providing protection more quickly to genuine refugees while allowing us to remove criminals and bogus refugees much faster.
    Can the minister please tell the House why he thinks the NDP has chosen to oppose a bill that would lead to a faster and fairer refugee system, and which includes reforms that the NDP members themselves agree are much needed?
    Madam Speaker, I cannot guess the motives of the NDP. I can however draw certain inferences about the motives of the Liberal Party. In 2002 when the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act was brought into effect it included a provision to create a refugee appeal division at the Immigration and Refugee Board. Failed claimants would have a fact-based appeal on a rejected claim. The Liberals then refused to bring that appeal into force. In 2002-2006 they refused to bring it into effect to add that additional procedural safeguard for failed asylum claimants.
    This bill brings in the refugee appeal division, a full fact-based appeal for failed asylum claimants, so I know why the Liberals are opposed to this. They have always been against the creation of a refugee appeal division, and that is why they are holding up its implementation. That is why they want to filibuster this. They do not want the appeal division that they refused to put in place when they had the chance in government.
    Madam Speaker, it was just this morning that I received more emails in my mail pouch dealing with the issue of Bill C-31 and the concerns--
    An hon. member: He is a marsupial.
    Mr. Dennis Bevington: That is the green book parliamentarians have for their mail. It is a very useful device, no doubt.
    This issue is not dead in the population. The minister has agreed that the bill he first presented needed amendments. All the amendments that have been proposed have not been accepted. We are still in a position where there is great concern about the bill.
    The minister has brought two arguments forward. He says we have had enough debate, but at the same time he says he has a deadline. I would really like to understand from the minister if his real motive is the deadline, or if his motive is that he has heard too much on the bill and just simply wants to get it done.

  (1035)  

    Madam Speaker, the real motive is the deadline. I am all for fulsome debate, but we need a clear and serious deadline.
    I will explain the consequences to people. If this bill does not receive royal assent by June 29, we will have a disaster because a system will come into effect that the administrative agencies, like the Immigration and Refugee Board and the Canada Border Services Agency, are not in a position to implement. People will be coming into a new legal system that is not supported operationally or with regulations or with staff. We will have a complete train wreck in our asylum system.
    I was in opposition for nine years, so I know opposition members have a very important duty to hold the government to account, to criticize legislation and to always want more rather than less debate, which is understandable and commendable, but sometimes opposition parties need to act responsibly, too. Sometimes they need to look at reality.
    The reality is that we need to get this bill adopted by June 29 to avoid a train wreck. The reality is that this has had fulsome debate and opposition amendments have been considered. What we are really hearing here today is that so many of the objections about time allocation are actually because the opposition wants to have endless filibusters which the rules of other Parliaments do not permit by always limiting the number of speeches. We have had 100 and—
    Order, please. I would like to allow other members to speak.
    Madam Speaker, the minister has a problem with reality. The reality is that the government has again moved time allocation which prevents individuals from being able to participate.
    This is not the first bill. We are talking about 20-plus bills. The government does not respect the need to have legitimate debate. That minister brought in fraud legislation that made detention mandatory for at least 12 months. It was because of due diligence by the opposition that we were able to get the minister to back down and make the change that took that 12 month detention down to 14 days in terms of judicial overview.
    The responsibility of opposition members is to hold the minister and other ministers accountable for the mistakes that they make. The minister is great at spin. He likes to talk and is critical of the Liberal Party. The minister has to take responsibility for his actions but he has a difficult time doing that. That includes issues such as this bill and that includes issues such as the backlogs. He is the minister who has caused the problem—
     Order, please. The hon. Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism.
    Madam Speaker, I am concerned for the hon. member opposite. His volume knob seems to be broken. I would submit that when he speaks about reasonable debate, we just saw an example of what is not reasonable debate.
    That member sat on the committee, which heard from 109 witnesses over 43 hours in 15 committee meetings. He knows that I have been present in this House for most of the 130 speeches over nearly 50 hours of debate at second reading and report stage.
    I know that member was never part of one of the Liberal governments but had he been he would have realized that time allocation was used much earlier on many bills than is the case on this—
    That is a lie. That is a lie.
    Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I will invite the member to retract that statement.
    I am sorry, but I did not hear the comment that was made. Is that a point of order that the minister is raising?

  (1040)  

    Madam Speaker, the member knows he just uttered an unparliamentary expression.
    On a point of order, Madam Speaker.
    The minister was rising on a point of order. I would like to allow him to complete his comments and then I will recognize the member.
    Madam Speaker, the member used a heckle on three occasions that was clearly unparliamentary, and I would invite him to retract it.
    Madam Speaker, that is the reason I stood up. I understand that the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism was offended by language I had used in heckling him. I would like to withdraw the word that I used. It was indeed unparliamentary and I will just leave it at that.
    I thank the hon. member.
    At this point I will recognize another member for questions and comments. The hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I want to begin by expressing how grateful I am to the government for allowing us to debate this bill for 13 days. Indeed, we have here a budget implementation bill that amends roughly 70 Canadian laws in 430 pages, and we debated it for only one week. I understand that to the government, 13 days is a long debate.
    The minister was talking about a filibuster. Apparently we had a filibuster during consideration of Bill C-31. I would like to know his definition of filibuster. Indeed, to him, holding a democratic debate in the House, listening to public opinion and studying bills are part and parcel of a filibuster.
    I would like the minister to rise and explain to us the meaning of filibuster and the difference between a filibuster and a democratic debate on amendments he made to his bill.
    Madam Speaker, that is a very good question. A filibuster is a parliamentary tactic that seeks to delay or prevent a vote on a motion by means of endless debates.
    We just heard the hon. opposition member say that she believes that every member should speak to the bill at every stage. If that applied to every bill, then it would be impossible for Parliament to take action, to make decisions and to get anything done.
    In a parliamentary context, we have to find a balance between democratic debates, deliberations, consideration of changes and actions. I believe we have found a good balance with, as I was saying, more than 130 speeches, almost 50 hours of debate and the adoption by the government of the motions moved by the opposition.
    At the end of the day, our deadline is June 29 and we have to fix the problems with our asylum system, which is the purpose of Bill C-31.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, countless people choose to pay criminal human smugglers tens of thousands of dollars to come to countries, including Canada, because they can afford to try to jump the queue instead of waiting in line like everyone else.
    As was the case in Nova Scotia, these trips often end in deadly tragedies.
    Bill C-31 includes measures to deter people from becoming part of a human smuggling event. Shamefully, the NDP and the Liberals are against these measures.
    Would the minister please comment on why he thinks the opposition is opposed to measures to crack down on criminal human smuggling events?
    Madam Speaker, it is an interesting question. I, frankly, have not been able to figure this out.
    By the way, according to the polling and all of the research, Canadians across the partisan spectrum, across the geographic spectrum, have said loud and clear that they expect Parliament to act to deter human smugglers from targeting Canada. That is what the bill seeks to do.
     We cannot deter human smugglers unless we also deter their would-be customers from paying criminal networks to come to Canada illegally. That is what the bill seeks to do.
    Having studied the practices in other democratic countries to see what works and what does not, having consulted with our police and intelligence agencies, we have constructed a bill that we believe would be effective in deterring smuggling networks from targeting Canada.
    My invitation, consistently, to the opposition parties has been that if they do not like our proposed remedy we want to know what their's is. We have had none. All of the motions we have heard from the opposition have sought to gut the most effective measures to deter human smugglers, from which I infer that they do not agree with Canadians that we should actually take firm action to combat human smuggling. I think the opposition--

  (1045)  

    Order, please. Questions and comments.
    The hon. member for Mount Royal a last brief question.
    Madam Speaker, I regret that we are once again having to debate the issue of time allocation because, to me, the real and significant issue is whether the bill is properly before this House to begin with. I say that because the government has a responsibility under section 4.1 of the Department of Justice Act to examine any prospective legislation in order to determine whether it comports with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to report any inconsistency to the House at the first convenient opportunity.
    Experts have said that this legislation is “littered with charter violations” and the government itself had to repeal one of the provisions regarding warrantless and unreviewable mandatory detention since it probably began to appreciate that was the case.
    How could this bill have been introduced with that provision to begin with? Did the government ever examine the constitutionality of this legislation and whether it comported with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? When will it report to the House at the first available opportunity the results of such an examination and whether it indeed is consistent with the charter?
    Madam Speaker, of course such an analysis was done. On legal advice received, the government has always been of the view that this bill complies with the charter and that it is a reasonable effort to achieve a necessary public policy objective, which is to deter human smugglers from targeting Canada.
    With respect to detention, I will just get this on the record, as there has been a lot of misunderstanding about it. Immigration detention is not imprisonment. It allows detainees to leave Canada at any time they choose. Most of the migrants who have come here through smuggling networks have passed through and, therefore, have visas for several countries to which they could freely return.
    It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings at this time and put forthwith the question on the motion now before the House. The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Deputy Speaker: In my opinion the yeas have it.
    And five or more members having risen:
    The Deputy Speaker: Call in the members.

  (1130)  

[Translation]

    (The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
 

(Division No. 228)

YEAS

Members

Ablonczy
Adams
Adler
Aglukkaq
Albas
Albrecht
Alexander
Allen (Tobique—Mactaquac)
Allison
Ambler
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
Armstrong
Ashfield
Aspin
Baird
Bateman
Benoit
Bernier
Bezan
Blaney
Block
Boughen
Braid
Breitkreuz
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Newmarket—Aurora)
Brown (Barrie)
Bruinooge
Butt
Calandra
Calkins
Cannan
Carmichael
Carrie
Chisu
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Daniel
Davidson
Dechert
Del Mastro
Devolin
Dreeshen
Duncan (Vancouver Island North)
Fantino
Fast
Findlay (Delta—Richmond East)
Finley (Haldimand—Norfolk)
Flaherty
Fletcher
Galipeau
Gill
Glover
Goguen
Goldring
Goodyear
Gosal
Gourde
Grewal
Harper
Harris (Cariboo—Prince George)
Hayes
Hiebert
Hillyer
Hoback
Hoeppner
Holder
James
Jean
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Kent
Kerr
Komarnicki
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Lake
Lauzon
Lebel
Leef
Leitch
Lemieux
Leung
Lizon
Lobb
Lukiwski
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Mayes
McColeman
McLeod
Menegakis
Menzies
Merrifield
Miller
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Nicholson
Norlock
O'Connor
O'Neill Gordon
Obhrai
Oda
Oliver
Opitz
Paradis
Payne
Penashue
Poilievre
Preston
Raitt
Rajotte
Reid
Rempel
Richards
Richardson
Rickford
Ritz
Saxton
Schellenberger
Seeback
Shea
Shipley
Shory
Smith
Sopuck
Sorenson
Stanton
Storseth
Strahl
Sweet
Tilson
Toet
Toews
Trost
Trottier
Truppe
Tweed
Uppal
Valcourt
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Vellacott
Wallace
Warkentin
Watson
Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country)
Weston (Saint John)
Wilks
Williamson
Yelich
Young (Oakville)
Young (Vancouver South)
Zimmer

Total: -- 157

NAYS

Members

Allen (Welland)
Andrews
Angus
Ashton
Aubin
Ayala
Bélanger
Benskin
Bevington
Blanchette
Blanchette-Lamothe
Boivin
Borg
Boulerice
Boutin-Sweet
Brahmi
Brison
Brosseau
Byrne
Caron
Casey
Cash
Charlton
Chicoine
Chisholm
Chow
Christopherson
Cleary
Coderre
Comartin
Côté
Cotler
Crowder
Cullen
Cuzner
Davies (Vancouver Kingsway)
Davies (Vancouver East)
Day
Dion
Dionne Labelle
Donnelly
Doré Lefebvre
Dubé
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona)
Dusseault
Easter
Foote
Fortin
Freeman
Fry
Garneau
Garrison
Genest
Genest-Jourdain
Giguère
Godin
Goodale
Gravelle
Groguhé
Harris (Scarborough Southwest)
Harris (St. John's East)
Hassainia
Hsu
Hughes
Jacob
Julian
Karygiannis
Kellway
Lamoureux
Lapointe
Latendresse
Laverdière
LeBlanc (Beauséjour)
LeBlanc (LaSalle—Émard)
Leslie
Mai
Marston
Martin
Masse
Mathyssen
May
McGuinty
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
Michaud
Morin (Chicoutimi—Le Fjord)
Morin (Laurentides—Labelle)
Morin (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot)
Mulcair
Murray
Nantel
Nash
Nicholls
Pacetti
Papillon
Patry
Péclet
Perreault
Pilon
Plamondon
Quach
Rafferty
Ravignat
Raynault
Regan
Rousseau
Saganash
Sandhu
Savoie
Scott
Sellah
Sgro
Simms (Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor)
Sims (Newton—North Delta)
Sitsabaiesan
St-Denis
Stewart
Stoffer
Sullivan
Thibeault
Toone
Tremblay
Trudeau
Turmel
Valeriote

Total: -- 125

PAIRED

Nil

     I declare the motion carried.

[English]

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACT

Hon. Ted Menzies (for the Minister of Finance)  
     moved that Bill C-25, An Act relating to pooled registered pension plans and making related amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed.
    Mr. Speaker, today it is my pleasure to speak to third reading of the pooled registered pension plans legislation in front of the House. This is not my first time speaking to this bill and I am glad it is moving through the House. It could have gone a little faster than it has, but I appreciate this opportunity.
    I want to talk a bit about the pension system in Canada to begin with, about the role this pooled registered pension plans act would play within that system and then about the different aspects of the pooled registered pension plan that are important and why I think everybody in the House should support it.
    I will first talk about pension plan retirement savings for Canadians overall. There are a number of vehicles that already exist. There are company pensions and, as many of us know, only about 40% of Canadians have a company pension plan that they can rely on and that they and their company pay into. They vary from company to company to what level they are contributing, but that is part of the pension savings program that many working Canadians have.
    Of course there is CPP, which I will come back to later in my dissertation this morning. CPP is a pension plan that—
    Order, please.
    There is too much noise in the House. I would ask members to take their conversations to their individual lobbies and allow the hon. member for Burlington the opportunity to speak.
    The hon. member for Burlington.
    Madam Speaker, part of the problem is that we have been dealing with this legislation for so long. If things would move faster around here we could get through this. People tend to talk about other issues because there are other things happening here today. However, this is an important piece.
    I am going to come back to the CPP, but it is a program where the employer and the employee pay in, and it goes to a Canadian pension program savings board that looks after the savings that go into that program. It does the investments. It invests in the stock market, which for some reason the opposition members in previous speeches indicated they did not realize. It invests in government bonds and in the stock market. It is a relatively safe investment portfolio. There is always risk in everything one invests in and even during the recession the board's numbers went down, but overall it is a very secure, well-managed program. It is part of the savings program. Of course, one has to be an employee; one has to work to qualify for CPP because it is an investment piece.
    A third piece is the registered retirement savings plans, which have been around for about 40 years or so, maybe a little longer. I believe they were introduced in the early 1960s. It is a program that is voluntary, which maybe the Liberal Party will want to talk about a bit. It is a voluntary program and does not have full take-up. Even in my own investment plans, I have not used all of the room available in my RRSP. There is still room for me to invest. However, it is a savings tool. I want to come back to that. It is a savings option. It is a savings tool for people to save for their retirement. There are RRSPs that are a lot more aggressive than others. It depends on one's level of tolerance for risk. That is why the vast majority of people have some sort of financial advice, whether through a bank or through an independent organization, on where they should invest their RRSP money, their savings, to help them in their retirement years.
    We have made some changes to the RRSP system to allow for people to invest for longer. Then when people come out of the RRSP it turns into an annuity so they can have an income stream, hopefully, for the rest of their life.
    We have also introduced a new savings tool, which is very popular. Even my own 21-year-old daughter has invested in it. It is a tax free savings account, which did not exist before our government took office. It is another savings tool where people can save money for retirement, and for other things, but it is also a retirement option where people save their money and hopefully it grows through the investments they choose for their TFSA. That growth is tax free. There is no tax on the money when they take it out. Therefore, if it is needed in the short term it can be used. A lot of people are considering the TFSA option as part of their retirement plan options.
    Of course, there are other savings vehicles, like straight savings and a number of other options that are available to most people. However, there is something missing for many of those who are working, whose employer does not have a registered retirement savings plan that they are involved with or a pension plan. There is nothing for them. If people are self-employed, there is really nothing for them.
    Our Minister of State for Finance has done an excellent job of consulting with the provinces and all Canadians on the pension system over the last number of years. In fact, the government is so concerned about the pension system in our country, and the retirement savings and ability of senior Canadians to have a quality of life after retirement, that we have a minister of state for finance, which did not exist before, to deal almost exclusively with the pension issue and seniors issue. This is a worldwide issue, but in the context of Canada we have taken it very seriously and added a cabinet position. This is a position at the table at cabinet to deal specifically with this issue.
    The pooled registered pension plan has a number of components. There is a bit of a gap of course in terms of the retirement piece, even though I have listed out all the options that are available. I want to talk about that gap.

  (1135)  

    One of the pieces is that it is accessible and straightforward, and it is a low-cost option. I will get into why that is important. It allows for individuals who currently do not participate in a pension plan, whether they are self-employed or employees of companies that do not have pension plans, to get involved in a registered pension plan. The key is that It is an opt-out plan and not an opt-in plan. This is very important, and it is different from what has been suggested by other parties.
    More people will benefit from its low-cost investment management, which will result in better returns. Whether it is an RRSP or other investments, part of the cost of the investment goes against what one would have in one's retirement. If we can lower the costs, which the pooled registered plan would do, it would mean more money in the pockets of the retirees.
    Another very important component is its portability. A pooled registered pension plan is portable. If a person leaves one company to go to another, that person could take the retirement savings in the plan and either move it to a new plan that the new employer has or just keep it in the existing plan. It would be the employee's decision, but it is portable. I have left jobs before, and the money that was invested in my pension plan had to be either put into a locked-in RRSP or taken in cash.
     Let us face it: in today's marketplace, my generation and generations after mine are not staying at the same company for 35 or 40 years. We are changing jobs every four or five years. My university friends have all had four or five careers in the 30 years since we graduated from university. I hate to say it, but it has been approximately 30 years, which is hard to be believe. I was only 12 when I graduated.
    However, we have all moved, and the portability of this new program is very important. The investment in the funds would be there for those who have invested in it.
    There is a company whose management I know very well. I will use it as an example of why this important, and I will start with the automatic enrolment piece.
    This company is in the high-tech medical business. It is very high end. There are about 30 employees in the company, and about half of them have a Ph.D. in chemistry. They are highly intellectual, highly skilled individuals.
    This company has a group RRSP program. The employer adds a certain percentage—up to 5% or 6%, I think—of whatever the employee puts in the plan. I talked to the owner and asked how it was going. He said that he had all of these highly skilled, highly educated individuals, but only 30% of the 30 people take advantage of the company's money. They are not investing on their own, even though there is an automatic 5% return in that system.
    That is an example of what happens across the country in company after company. Canadians often have an opportunity but do not take advantage of it. However, the advantage of the pooled registered pension plan, in my view, is that there is an automatic enrolment.

  (1140)  

    That means that when people join a company that has taken advantage of the pooled registered pension plan, they have, I think, three months or six months—off the top of my head, I cannot remember the timeframe—to decide not to be part of the program. Otherwise, they are automatically enrolled, which in my view makes a big difference.
    We often hear the opposition asking why we do not just increase the CPP role. There is no doubt that the advantage of the CPP is automatic enrolment, but this plan takes the positive aspect of the CPP and adds to it.
    There are two fundamental differences between the CPP and this plan. First, as we all know, we can talk to ourselves until we convince ourselves, but we need two-thirds of the provinces with two-thirds of the population to agree to make changes to the CPP. That is the law. We can see if we can change the law, but that is the law that runs the CPP program.
    The Minister of State (Finance) has worked very hard at discussing what options are available that the provinces will buy into in terms of changes. The response has been that some provinces are in favour and some are not, so we cannot proceed with CPP changes.
    The official opposition has said that we should just change the CPP and have et the employers and employees pay more. Of course it will take 18 to 20 years before anyone sees the benefit of that, but it is an option, and we have discussed that option with the premiers of the provinces. It is just not feasible, because they are not interested. Maybe we should just stand up for it and say so, but we like to take action on this side of the House. We like to make a difference in people's lives.
    When the previous leader, who has unfortunately passed away, was at the kitchen table, as he used to say, he was doing things and making things happen for Canadians. This is making things happen for Canadians. Is it the final answer on all the pension requirements for our future generations of seniors? Absolutely not. We are not saying it is the only or the final answer, but it is part of the puzzle and part of the options.
    As I listed from the beginning, there are four or five options that exist now. We are adding another one. We are adding an opportunity for Canadians to invest and to save for their future and their retirement. The automatic enrolment is a key element of making sure that in this registered system, Canadians will have to choose not to save for their retirement. In this case, with this plan, we are requiring them to do so. That is why I think there will be a huge take-up on this program.
    Even with this program, we can put the legislation into effect for nationally regulated industries, but we need the provinces on board too. We need each province to pass legislation so that they can recognize these pooled registered pension plans for employees at the provincial level, which we have no influence over.
     I am hearing that the vast majority of provinces are interested in doing this. They were supportive. Unfortunately, Ontario has now indicated that it is not interested. I do not think it is good for Ontarians if the province takes its ball home because it does not want to play.
    I am from Burlington, Ontario, and as a member of the Ontario caucus here, I want to see Ontario take advantage of this plan. It is of no cost to the province. It is an opportunity for the people of Ontario, as it is for every province. I think the province is being very short-sighted by not taking advantage of this plan. Ontario will say that it is not the final solution, and I agree with that. It is not the final solution. It is part of the puzzle of opportunity and options that should be available to all Canadians, regardless of what province they live in.
    The portability piece is very key to me. I had asked the minister and his team about that. What if employees are moving around? It is portable. My concern is that if we do not get all of the provinces on board, I do not know what would happen to portability if people move from one province to another. It does not make sense. I want it to be portable, not just within Ontario and not just within federal government-regulated industries, but also through every business, including self-employment businesses.

  (1145)  

    The self-employed work very hard every day. We all know those individuals in our ridings who are entrepreneurs, who are risk-takers, who are out trying to make a living and trying to better themselves, their livelihood, their family's livelihood and their community. There is nothing more satisfying than when a local entrepreneur is involved in community events.
    They have not had the same opportunities in the past to save for their retirement. Often they hope that their business is their retirement plan. Perhaps they own the real estate that their business is on, but they hope to have some value in it so that they can sell it at the end of the day and retire, or else pass it on to their children or whomever they wish to.
    Normally there is a cash-flow system that will help them with their retirement, but here is another opportunity for them. It will encourage entrepreneurship and self-employment and encourage people to create jobs and wealth in this country, and they will have an opportunity to save for their retirement. They themselves can sign up as individuals for the pooled registered pension plan.
    With the concept of low cost, the issue is that just as in anything else we do, the greater we spread the risk and have economies of scale, in normal circumstances the less the cost will be for individuals to take part. It is a simple concept that works. No matter what it is, it works. It is a simple concept, and that is what these pooled registered plans would do.
    There would be regulations about how much whoever is administering the plan would be able to charge, whether a bank or an insurance company. We would have some control over that level, so we would ensure it would be affordable. We have a large variety of people who have said positive things about this plan.
     We had an amendment at report stage yesterday that would have gutted the bill. The New Democratic Party, the official opposition, voted against it. I just do not understand.
    I can understand the opposition's argument that this is not the final answer—absolutely, we are not denying that—but why is the NDP denying Canadians an opportunity for another tool in the toolbox for their retirement? I can understand that the NDP members would like to see other things happen or that they have other suggestions. However, they had an amendment that would have gutted the bill completely. I do not understand denying the opportunity. The majority of provinces are on board and the majority of businesses are on board. I can go over quotes of different individuals and organizations saying that this is an important piece.
    We need to provide the tools for savings. In our view, part of people's retirement planning is their individual responsibility. I do not think the majority of people in this country are interested in having the government completely control their retirement plan. There needs to be opportunity. It looks like I—

  (1150)  

    Order, please. Questions and comments. The hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, as the hon. member knows, a better plan, although similar to the one being discussed here today, has already been tested in Australia. Australian institutions realized that, after 10 years, the plan was producing results that showed that it had very high fees and costs, but gave rather low returns on investments.
    Given that the Australian plan was mandatory and the one before us today would be voluntary, can the government provide any assurances that this will really work?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I appreciate the question from the member opposite. What we have done differently from the Australian plan is we have regulations about the administration and the costs that are involved with the plan.
    Is it voluntary? It is voluntary for the organization to sign up to start the program, but the voluntary aspect of this plan is that one has to opt out. One does not opt in. When ABC company is started and it has a pooled registered plan, one comes in and is signed up for it. Employees have to tell the company that they are not interested in saving for retirement through this program.
    We have looked at other programs around the world, including Australia. The indication was that the member believed the Australian plan was better. If so, why were there no amendments from the NDP to try to improve the plan rather than gut it? I do not understand how that works for Canadians.
    In my view, this plan has the safeguards on the administrative side, and the opt-out issue will help Canadians save for retirement.
    Madam Speaker, just last week I held a town hall in my riding on the subject of pensions and old age security. When the various options facing the country with respect to pension reform were presented, a lot of people in the room nodded their heads when one person said that this was all well and good, but he did not have money to set aside in this economy. He said that what was happening with old age security was not going to help him much.
    The question I have for the member, however, relates to a comment he made with respect to the enhancement of the Canada pension plan. The provincial treasurer in Prince Edward Island has been one of the champions in bringing finance ministers together to enhance the Canada pension plan. What I heard the hon. member say was that the CPP could not be enhanced because of some resistance from the province, which is the exact opposite of what I have been told in my conversations with the finance minister in Prince Edward Island. He says that the reason for not going forward with enhancements to the CPP is a flip-flop on the part of the federal government.
    Would the hon. member be able to enlighten me on his version of what is happening with regard to why are not going forward with this enhancement to the CPP, which makes a whole lot more sense than what is being put at the top of the priority list by the government?

  (1155)  

    Madam Speaker, I am happy to enlighten my colleague from the Liberal Party. What I actually said, and what is the actual truth, which he needs to know, is that we need two-thirds of the provinces with two-thirds of the population. I agree that P.E.I. has been in favour of changes to the CPP. The population of the whole province is the same as that in my riding. P.E.I. is part of a group, a federation. As he should know, we are in a federation of provinces. It is not just P.E.I. and Canada.
    What has happened is that other provinces, which I will not name, have been public about it and have told the minister that they are not in favour of changes to the CPP program. Therefore, we have no choice. It is not a flip-flop by the federal government. It has been on the table at the first ministers meetings and at the finance ministers meetings. I am talking about pensions, which have been on the agenda at every one of these meetings. The answer from some of the provinces with huge populations is that they are not interested in changes because they think their business communities will not be supportive of that change.
    Madam Speaker, I want to acknowledge the member for Burlington for all his hard work and his in-depth understanding of our retirement system. Indeed, we have focused a lot on it because we know the challenges that Canadians have faced. This has been reiterated in the report recently on the increasing number of seniors and the challenges they face.
    To clarify one point, when companies enrol individuals, the employees have 60 days to opt out.
    Referring to the previous question, there was unanimous support among all provincial finance ministers to pursue a framework for a pooled registered pension plan. Therefore, the hon. member for Burlington was exactly correct in his answer that there was not unanimous support for expansion of CPP.
    The hon. member for Burlington mentioned one business. Could he reflect on some of the other businesses that have looked at this as an opportunity to help their employees?
    Mr. Speaker, my riding is not all of Burlington. The Minister of Labour also represents a part of my city. In my city the largest employer employs just under 1,000 people. It has a pension plan. The city of Burlington has a pension plan.
    Other than that, of the small and medium-sized businesses that make up the vast majority of my riding, most do not have pension plans. This is an opportunity for all those entrepreneurs, job-creators and people who are looking for new employees. A pooled registered pension plan would be an employee attraction opportunity so employers could gain and retain good quality employees for future generations.

  (1200)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the speech given by my colleague from Burlington.
    This bill is an admission of weakness in the sense that the premise is that since people cannot change their pension plans, the Conservatives are merely falling back on something else, something smaller, for a small group.
    It seems to me that a government needs to show some leadership. If it is going to set out on a crusade, it must do so confidently and convincingly. I am sure that if the government had decided to try to convince the provinces that improving public pension plans was the way to go, it would have had the unanimous consent of the House.
    So is this bill not an admission of weakness?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, absolutely not. The bill is an opportunity for small and medium-sized businesses that do not have the capacity or the level of risk needed to have company pension plans. It is an opportunity for entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized businesses.
    We operate under the rule of law in our country. For any changes to CPP, we need an agreement of two-thirds of the provinces with two-thirds of the population. We do not have that agreement. We are looking at other available opportunities and options. This is a good one. All provinces have agreed, initially, that this framework is the right approach to take. This is not an admission of weakness; it is an admission of doing something for Canadians, which the opposition does not seem to want to do.
    Mr. Speaker, it is very important to continue in this debate because there is a real divergence of opinion, which has a great deal to do with the fact that the proposed pooled registered pension plan would do nothing to solve Canada's pension crisis.
    The pension crisis has been the subject of debate for the past several years. The issue is that more than 11 million Canadian workers do not have a workplace pension plan and the public pension plans, old age security and the Canada pension plan that everyone has, do not provide enough for people to live on in retirement. Even worse, the plan by the current government is to increase the age of retirement for OAS and seriously undermine the ability of workers who live with disabilities, or workers who have very stressful jobs to retire at an age that would allow them to have some quality of life in their senior years.
    To make matters worse, most Canadians are not making up for their lack of a pension plan by saving for retirement on their own. Less than one-third of the people entitled to contribute to RRSPs actually do so. There is now more than $600 billion in unused RRSP contribution room, all of that being carried forward. Only about one-third of Canadian households are currently saving at levels that would generate sufficient income to cover their non-discretionary expenses in their retirement.
    It also needs to be noted that the market is not a reliable place in which to gamble retirement security. Turmoil in financial markets has had, and will continue to have, a devastating impact on workplace pension plans. People who have saved for retirement through RRSPs have found all too often that the value of their investments has dropped so much that they are now faced with having to postpone their retirement or to struggle to replace retirement savings by attempting to find some kind of work.
    The reality is, however, that finding employment at ages 66, 67, 68 is profoundly difficult. The workplace has changed and the skills that retirees once brought to the job are no longer marketable.
    There is indeed a pension crisis, but this bill seems to have been simply thrown together hastily, in response to pressure from labour, seniors groups, political parties, notably the NDP, as a result of a national campaign to increase the CPP-QPP. There was no thought, just a knee-jerk response.
    According to the Conference Board of Canada, 1.6 million seniors live in poverty in Canada and 12 million Canadians lack a workplace pension plan. Statistics Canada tells us more than 14% of senior women on their own are living in poverty, according to standard LICO measurement.
    The sensible NDP proposal to increase the GIS enough to eliminate poverty among seniors would take care of this issue. Unfortunately the government is not interested.
    By OECD standards, Canada's CPP-QPP system is relatively miserly. We are not terribly generous at all. Other countries similar to Canada provide much more generous public and guaranteed pensions. For example, social security in the United States has a maximum benefit of about $30,000 a year. The maximum benefit in Canada is less, at $12,000 a year.
    Even if we add old age security to that, and that would be a maximum of just under $7,000 a year, the total is still far below social security and places seniors in that poverty range of which I spoke.
    As I indicated, most Canadian workers have no RRSP because they cannot afford it. Last year, only 31% of eligible Canadians contributed to their RRSPs and unused RRSP room is now about $600 billion, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

  (1205)  

    Meanwhile, the latest numbers for the return on the CPP investment show that it barely lost ground, less than 1% during this current downturn in the economy, while the stock market, which is where the government wants Canadians to park most of their retirement savings in this pooled private plan, fell by 11%. That is significant.
    The Australian experiment has been mentioned. Australia tried about 10 years ago to introduce a similar plan and had less than encouraging results. The Australian plan was mandatory with an opt-out provision. It was called the Australian superfund and it required employers to enrol their workers in one of many defined contribution plans offered by the private sector.
    A recent review of the Australian superfund was commissioned by the Australian government after 12 years of experience. The review shows that, while people were saving as a result of the mandatory contributions, the investment returns were no better than inflation. The report attributed the poor results to high fees and costs despite the presumed role that competition was supposed to play in keeping these fees at a reasonable level. I will speak to that again in regard to the pooled registered plan.
    There has been for several years a clear consensus among many experts that real pension reform was, and continues to be, critical. However, rather than intelligently and positively engaging in practical reform, the government has instead introduced its pooled registered pension plan, which, according to the federal Minister of Finance, is this incredible panacea. He said that it would make low-cost, private sector pension plans accessible to millions of Canadians who have, up to now, not had access to such plans.
    The legislation introduced in mid-November would allow employers to offer PRPPs to their employees. The scheme would be run by insurance companies and other financial institutions. According to the minister, they would pool the savings of workers whose employers sign up for the program. The financial institutions would run these programs on behalf of employers and, of course, will charge a fee for doing that. Employers would not need to contribute to the plan and workers' savings would be locked in, although if employees provide notice in writing they. apparently. would be allowed to opt-out.
    No pension would be guaranteed by this program. In effect, it is yet another voluntary savings scheme that would do nothing to address the pension crisis since very few people take advantage of existing voluntary retirement savings schemes now. It is not clear why officials are claiming that the proposed PRPPs will prove more attractive than anything that currently exists.
    So far, the only advantage being promoted for PRPPs is that management fees would apparently be lower than individual RRSPs because of the pooling. There would be no cap on the management fee and therefore no guarantee of lower fees, nor is there any certainty that this would be a big selling point for the plans.
    It is also worth noting that there is no evidence that people are not saving through RRSPs because of high management fees. It is far more likely that they are not saving because individuals are busy raising families, paying bills, trying to manage the cost of housing and trying to educate their kids. There is no money left at the end of the month for an RRSP.
    As I said, there are no guarantees for lower fees. The PRPP is not a defined benefit plan. It would not provide a secure retirement income with a set replacement rate of pre-retirement income and it would not be fully transferable. The plan would not be indexed to inflation and it would not increase with the increasing cost of living.
    Employers, not employees, would decide the contribution levels. As I indicated, it would not be mandatory for employers to contribute or even match employees' contributions. Without employers' contributions, it is not really a pension plan. In fact, employers who do not help their employees save for retirement could end up with a competitive advantage over employers who do.
    Canada does not need yet another voluntary tax-assisted retirement savings program. It needs public pensions that provide all Canadians with a basic guarantee of adequate income that will protect their standard of living in retirement.

  (1210)  

    Expanding the Canada pension plan would meet this objective. In fact, federal and provincial finance ministers seemed set to take this route when they assembled for their meeting in Alberta in December 2010. Only one province opted out. That gives us our 66%. Despite the fact that only one province opted out, the federal government decided to abandon talks and introduce this pooled registered pension plan scheme instead.
    Improving the replacement rate of the CPP retirement benefit would provide much better retirement pensions to virtually all Canadians. A relatively modest increase in contribution rates would be required but that could be phased in over a period of time, as the Canadian Labour Congress and others have proposed. The CPP covers all workers, including those who are self-employed, and its benefits would be guaranteed in relation to earnings and years of service. They would be indexed for inflation and fully portable from one job to another.
    This option would address the two key issues in the pension system that are currently causing concern: the lack of coverage of workplace pension plans and the fact that individuals are not saving for their retirement by themselves. As well, an expanded CPP, of course, could reduce federal expenditures on GIS because more people would have adequate retirement incomes. It would also benefit employers because it would be a clear pension plan and they need not be concerned about a private plan. It is a public plan and it has a lot of true and clear benefits.
    While the government says that CPP contribution rates cannot be increased when there is a fragile economy, it is worth noting that when the financing of CPP was changed at the end of the 1990s, combined employer-employee CPP contribution rates nearly doubled, from 5.6% of covered earnings to 9.9% over that five year period, but unemployment fell from 9.6% to 7.6%. So there are other side benefits.
    It should also be noted that PRPPs will do nothing to help the baby boom generation now coming up to retirement. It seems that this lost generation will remain lost as far as pension reform is concerned. As I said previously, it has been estimated that roughly one-third of Canadians now in the age group of 45 to 64 are likely to end up with incomes that fall far short of adequate minimum incomes and the kind of income that would allow them to maintain their standard of living in retirement. The adequacy of CPP benefits has been an issue for more than 30 years. It is time now for federal and provincial governments to set aside ideology and work together to solve the problem.

  (1215)  

    The study by the pension expert for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Monica Townson, provides a thorough analysis of the PRPP and argues that expanding the Canada pension plan would provide better retirement pensions for virtually all Canadians. Ms. Townsend found that the expansion of the CPP would provide a mandatory defined benefit pension to virtually all Canadians, giving them a basic retirement income that, for modest and middle-income earners, would preserve their standard of living in retirement.
    The government's PRPP proposal does not do this, not at all. It does not guarantee a pension, the benefits would depend on selection of investment and stock market performance and participation would depend on the employer deciding to take part. As I indicated before, the stock market took an 11% hit in the most recent economic downturn. People cannot afford an 11% economic hit.
    The pooled registered pension plan is basically a defined contribution pension plan. In defined contribution plans, there are no guarantees as to how much money will be left when people retire. The risks are borne entirely by the individual employees. In these types of plans, the amount of money available at retirement depends on the outcome of investment in the stock market and people cannot rely on it. I have indicated that very clearly. Defined contribution plans lack the security of defined benefit pension plans, like CPP and QPP, which pay guaranteed set amounts on retirement. This is important to remember.

  (1220)  

    Bill C-25 places no caps on administration fees. It merely assumes lower costs will emerge through competition. Financial institutions, like banks, insurance companies and trust companies, stand to profit substantially from these fees. If we look at all those recommending this pooled registered pension plan, it is those with a vested interest, like financial institutions.
    However, expanding the CPP-QPP would not cost the government any more than its proposed PRPP. Most important, expanding CPP-QPP would not entail transferring huge management fees to private financial institutions.
    How can I get through to the government that seniors need to be protected? The PRPP would not help families drowning in debt. It fails because it is a voluntary defined contribution plan run by wealthy institutions. With a tenuous economy and high rates of unemployment, families do not need more risk. They need the stability of the CPP and QPP. Economists and provincial leaders have said so for years, but the out of touch government has turned its back on families. We need effective and fair pension reform.
    We have validators for this. An editorial in the Calgary Herald of November 2010 stated:
    The CPP already covers almost all Canadian workers and thus spreads the risk and management fees. It is fully portable, offers guaranteed income to all retirees, and is the only risk-free investment broadly available to workers. Private RRSPs and employer pension plans have proven much riskier than initially billed. Those who are in company pension plans are likely in a defined contribution scheme, where the amount that goes in is predetermined, but the payout is based on how well the fund is invested and ultimately performs. Nortel workers know only too well how that worked.
    We know that Nortel employees in Canada have taken a beating because of the bankruptcy of Nortel. Many of those retirees are receiving a pension that is 40% less than they planned on and believed would be available. Anyone who was a disabled Nortel worker has lost all benefits. It is interesting to note, and the House should note it, that in the United States and Great Britain, when Nortel sold off its assets, there were billions of dollars in liquid assets. The Americans and the British protected their Nortel workers but in Canada there was nothing. Our government did not see fit to protect those pensioners. That is why it is so very important that we come up with a remedy that works.
    Seniors have worked hard all their lives and have played by the rules. Now they simply want access to programs and services that their hard-earned tax dollars helped to make. Every senior in Canada has the absolute right to pension and income security. This bill would not provide the pension security that seniors today want and need, nor would it help them in preparing for their retirement.
    It is time for real pension reform, not this sham perpetrated by the government. Bill C-25 would not accomplish any kind of security. Canadians do not need any more private voluntary savings schemes. They want real action to ensure they can retire in dignity.
     I will say this one last time. Expanding the CPP and QPP would not cost the government any more than its proposed pooled registered pension plan. It would simply mean that there would be real retirement security. People deserve that. They have earned it.
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. members says that stock markets are too risky for the retirement savings of Canadian people. She proposes as an alternative the Canada pension plan. How does she square those two statements when the Canada pension plan is overwhelmingly invested in the stock market?
    Mr. Speaker, as everyone in this House knows, the board of CPP is very responsive and responsible. The costs of investing amount to about 4% of fees, whereas the RRSP system is about 40% management fees on money saved over a 40-year period.
    As I indicated very clearly in my remarks, the CPP in this very difficult economic time experienced a 1% reduction in monetary assets. The stock market had an 11% decline. When we start to compare, people in this country cannot afford to take a hit of 11% on their savings. It is as simple as that.
    The pooled registered pension plan guarantees nothing.
    Mr. Speaker, I have been working for some time with my hon. colleague on issues of pensions and seniors. I applaud her comments and her interest in these issues.
    In her experience in dealing with the need for pension reform in Canada, what percentage of people across this country does the member think would benefit from this proposed answer from the government as to what pension reform is? We did not hear how it was a failure in Australia. How many people does the member think would take advantage of this plan?
    Mr. Speaker, it is hard to say. Only about 30% of Canadians are able to set aside any money in personal private plans. Only about 30% of Canadians have any kind of workplace pension. My guess is that will not improve. What the government is offering is another private vehicle. It would be optional for employers to make contributions. The employer would have to set it up. If the employer were not interested, nothing would happen.
    It makes far more sense to look at the CPP, because it is absolutely solid and it guarantees the workers of this country a substantive and reasonable retirement. We need to improve it, most certainly. I have been very clear about that. We cannot continue to let 70% of Canadians fall by the wayside.

  (1225)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I believe that we are at a historic crossroads, particularly with Canadian Pacific, whose retirement funds are back up for negotiation.
    These people have worked for a certain number of years for the company and they have many years of experience. Despite that, they are losing their pension fund and have to renegotiate it.
    I would like to congratulate the member on her excellent speech and ask her to explain what she would do to ensure a secure retirement fund for these people so that they can retire comfortably after working for a company for 35 years.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague has provided me with an opportunity to talk about legislation that has been proposed by New Democrats over a number of years. Basically it would be pension protection legislation. It would also protect workers in the case of bankruptcy or a company moving. We have seen a lot of companies, particularly in my riding, moving away and causing real disruption to families. This NDP bill would provide three levels of protection. It would provide vacation pay, it would provide pension protection, and it would ensure that if a company moved, there would be something there. We need to have that in place.
    In addition, it would be possible to set up an insurance plan where various pension contributors would make a small contribution and provide insurance so that when a plan went bust there would be this savings for Canadians.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on her excellent speech.
    She began by talking briefly about poverty among seniors. I would like her to expand on the fact that, for the past 35 years, workers throughout the industrialized world have been fighting for adequate pension plans, not just private pension plans but, most importantly, public ones. The government is dealing with an imaginary problem not with the real ones: poverty and job creation. What the government should be doing is creating a strong social fabric to enable communities to reach their full potential. This is about older people who want to continue contributing to society, but do not have an opportunity to do so. Can my colleague comment on that?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, there is a great deal in that question. It reminds me that an estimated 1.3 million seniors in this country live below the poverty line. They do not have an adequate amount to sustain themselves, whether it be for prescriptions, housing or food on the table. That is not acceptable. This is an incredibly wealthy country. We have resources that are the envy of the world. We should most definitely be looking after our seniors.
    I think a very valid point was made. Seniors tend to spend all of their earnings in their community and local neighbourhood. They are looking after themselves and occasionally perhaps doing a little shopping for their grandchildren. If they had adequate incomes, and they deserve adequate incomes, they would be generating jobs and stimulating their local economy.
    It is interesting and tragic that government members have spoken about seniors as being a drag on the economy. They keep talking about the deficit in terms of the seniors of the future. Seniors are contributors. They are not a drag on our economy or on our community. They are important members and they deserve to be treated in that respectful way.

  (1230)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her speech.
    In an earlier question for a government member, I said that this bill is the government's admission of weakness with respect to the pension plan problem. I would like her to comment on that.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am reminded of the hysteria that loomed about 30 or 35 years ago. I was just a child, but I do recall the hysteria that the CPP would not be there for my generation and that it was going to evaporate. We all had to run out to buy RRSPs if we did not want to live in penury.
     Well, the reality is that the CPP is absolutely solid and it will remain solid for the foreseeable future. Estimates have it remaining solid for the next 75 years at least. We need to make sure that it has the proper investment so that it can continue well beyond that time.
    The same is true regarding old age security. We have heard from the former actuary of OAS who has said that OAS is absolutely rock solid for the next 30 to 35 years. We do not have to worry about future generations. We have heard from the Parliamentary Budget Officer who has said that the cost of OAS is about 2.3% of GDP now, it would climb to about 3.3% in the next 20 years and then decline rapidly, but we can still afford it. We have also heard from the OECD. It said that Canada is blessed in terms of retirement security. We simply have to make sure that we do what is necessary now to secure it. This pooled registered pension plan scheme is not that.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have a chance to speak to Bill C-25, its inadequacies and the concerns that many of us continue to have here on this side of the House.
     I have often referred to Bill C-25 as being nothing more than bread crumbs to a starving person because in reality that is all it is. I doubt very much that it would help very many Canadians. From everything I am hearing from the provinces and from other people who have looked into the issue, there would be big management fees and little help for people when it comes to serious pension reform. It would simply be a mechanism for those who have money to save for their own retirement. The government tries to call that its answer to pension reform. I am sure we will hear its solution to pension reform was PRPPs for the next five years or so, until it realizes that as Australia's plan failed, so would this one. While I have no difficulties with creating savings vehicles for Canadians, we must also work to help those without the means to save. That is what pension reform is really all about. Bill C-25 is not pension reform. Anyone who makes that claim is misleading the public.
    Two years ago, I asked the government what it planned to do to protect and preserve pensions for all Canadians. The minister responded in this House by saying that pensions were provincial and should be left to provincial legislatures to deal with. He said pensions were not a federal problem. However, Canadians rightly found that notion to be wrong, short-sighted and clearly unacceptable. The Conservatives produced Bill C-25 which is a copy of an Australian proposal that, after 12 years, has been declared a failure. The government was sent into a scramble. It had to find something to satisfy the accusations that it was not doing anything so it came up with this idea.
    I will cast my vote, as will my party, with very deep concern and caution because it is nothing more than bread crumbs to a starving person. However, it is that small tool in a toolbox. It is not the answer but we will support it because it is one small step in the advancement of talking and recognizing the need for pension reform in Canada.
    In 1998, when the current Prime Minister was campaigning, he announced that he wanted to privatize the Canada pension plan. That is right, the Conservatives proposed the elimination of the public Canada pension plan. Just imagine where we would be today. Not only is the government talking about moving from age 65 to 67 in this current budget bill, and is clearly moving in that direction, imagine where Canadians would find themselves if we did not have the Canada pension plan or it had been privatized. All of a sudden their retirement plans would severely change.
    Who knows if that is not the next shoe to drop in the big plans that the government has? Will the Conservatives decide they are going to privatize the CPP? I am not fear mongering, but who knows what is going to be next on the agenda of the government?
    At the time, the government suggested that the CPP should be replaced with a super savings account that would allow Canadians to put all of their extra money into investments for their retirement. The government did not talk about the fact that most Canadians are not up to speed on how to invest in the stock market, that they can make poor choices and that their alternative would be to pay high management fees to people who have that expertise. This would be another way of discouraging Canadians from what they are trying to do. Canadians would have to become market experts. Their employer would be playing no administrative role in PRPPs. Canadians would have to bear 100% of that investment risk. A single market stumble could spell the end of any retirement hopes. We all know what happened with the investments a few years ago when the stock market crashed, and what happened to thousands of Canadians whose retirement income was lost.
    The Conservatives talk about people working later. They are going to have to work later because they lost a tremendous amount of their retirement income. They do not have the expertise needed. They would need the expertise with PRPPs, to be able to manage a certain degree of their investments. Employers would be forced to create administrative systems to enrol members. If the provinces made them mandatory, and that is highly unlikely, Ontario, the province I represent, has already indicated it is not going to have anything to do with PRPPs. It does not believe this is the answer to the pension issue.

  (1235)  

    The proposal for an enhancement of the Canada pension plan, which is what we have been proposing, along with the supplementary Canada pension plan, which I will talk about a little further, are much more reasonable methods for most Canadians out there.
    This PRPP will be of no help to homemakers unless they are contributing to employment income. One of the challenges facing many women today is that, when they are at home caring for children or elderly relatives, parents and so on, they are out of the workforce. When they are out of the workforce, they have a much more difficult time thinking about their pension and what will be in it for them. That is why unless they are in the workforce for 35 or 40 years, most women at 65, or 67 as the government is going to, end up with minimal income. They are living on $11,000 or $12,000. That is not the Canada I want to live in, and I do not think it is the Canada most people want to live in. Changing that age to 67 years old will certainly hurt a tremendous amount of people.
    I had a meeting in Kemptville last night. There were about 60 or 70 people. When I asked the people there, who were a non-partisan group, to raise their hand if they supported moving the age of retirement from 65 to 67, everyone in that room opposed the change, and there were many Conservatives in that room. They did not feel it was necessary, but that it was part of an ideology of the government or because the Conservatives are starving the government for revenue sources by removing the GST and lowering taxes. The government only has so much money. That is probably the real reason: they are starving the beast we call the government. They will not have the money to give people pensions at age 65, so they want to move it up and take $30,000 out of the pocket of every Canadian over that two-year period of time.
    As I indicated, the management fees are a big problem on PRPPs. We know that Canada has an F rating, according to the OECD. It says Canadians already pay some of the highest management fees in the world on their mutual funds. That is exactly where we are going with PRPPs, creating more vehicles for people to be able to do this.
    However, the government knows all of this. We raised all these issues at committee. Our Liberal finance critic moved a couple of amendments that would have strengthened and improved the PRPP, which went nowhere. The Conservative members put their heads in the sand and voted down the amendments rather than possibly thinking that maybe together, because we were prepared to work with the government on this, we could strengthen it and make it better, recognizing that we need some pension reform. However, the government members do not care what everybody else offers. If it is not their idea, it is not good enough.
     It is the same if we talk about some of the things in the budget. Look at the changes to EI and what impact they will have on Canadians all across the land. Never mind talking about where they are putting money into pensions. Many of these people will be forced to move away from their families to go out west, which is clearly where the jobs will be, starving other parts of Canada. Again, that is not the way we are supposed to be going. Canada needs to be a land where everybody is treated fairly and with a bit of respect and understanding.
    What happens to the seasonal workers who are being brought into the country? Many of those seasonal workers are the reason we have a thriving industry when it comes to fruits, vegetables and so on. Canadian employers need those temporary foreign workers to come over and be able to do those jobs. We should not kid ourselves. There are lots of Canadians who physically do not want to do those jobs. I think they are quite happy to see these temporary foreign workers come over and work for six months in the agriculture industry or other industries and then go back to their home countries with some very much needed money, because many of these people are coming from countries that are very poor. Will we deny them that opportunity, again with short-sightedness and some of those issues that are in the budget, in Bill C-38, that we will continue to deal with over these next few days that will hurt many Canadians and employers? It will hurt Canadians if that is the only work they have. It is not as if they do not want to work 12 months or 10 months of the year. They are seasonal workers. Who will be working the fisheries?
    I remember the amount of people who told me they would love to work longer but the season is only so long, when I visited the east coast last year with one of my colleagues. Where are they supposed to go at the end of that particular point? They have to collect EI because they have no other options.

  (1240)  

    Some of the changes at second reading, which the Liberal caucus said it would have liked to put forward, were raised by many witnesses as additional ideas. However, when it comes to voting at the committee level, government members vote down anything anybody else suggests, no matter how good it is. The Liberal finance critic put a very good amendment forward on the issue of controlling high management fees, because that is a major concern for Liberals, one that would cap the management fees. There was a bit of discussion with government members, but it did not matter. They voted it down as they do everything else because it was not their idea.
    Reducing government spending is a laudable goal, as we hear from the government. However, financial players offering PRPPs will need to offer annuities so that members may convert their accumulated balances into a stream of pension payments. Once that occurs, insurers are required by law to price in a profit margin and keep regulatory capital aside to underwrite those contracts. In simple language, this means that investors, the average Canadians the government is talking about, are legally required to pay fees that would guarantee a profit for the banks and insurance companies. This is a very inefficient way of delivering pensions, and once Canadians find out about all the small print, fewer and fewer of them and businesses will be interested in getting involved in all of this.
    Those requirements are the cornerstones of the PRPP we are talking about. With this in mind, I am left to wonder how the PRPPs could possibly yield any results for Canadian pensioners. The simple answer is that they are not going to help the average Canadian prepare for retirement, just as millions of Canadians have not been able to max out their RRSPs either. It is just a locked-in RRSP. That is what the PRPP is. Forcing seniors to work longer and harder to save for retirement on top of asking them to pay for $6 billion in giveaways to the largest corporations, $13 billion for new megaprisons and $40 billion for untendered stealth fighter jet deals is not a plan for pensions. However, the government is certainly spending a lot of money and clearly it is looking to pay for all of these on the backs of Canada's seniors.
    PRPPs will not work for those who need them the most. Instead of copying the failed work of others, why did the Prime Minister not seek to lift seniors out of poverty? The supplemental Canada pension plan already proposed by the Liberals would provide the best of both worlds. It would create a new retirement savings vehicle for Canadians who need it, while delivering the low overhead cost structure of the Canada pension plan.
    The supplementary Canada pension plan is a simple and cost-effective solution to the pension question. It is a defined benefit pension for everyone who has a social insurance number, even those who have left the workforce during their lives for child rearing, illness, seasonal employment and educational advancement. It would use proven and existing resources to give every Canadian man, woman and child a reliable and stable investment vehicle for the future.
    The supplementary Canada pension plan is a plan for real pension reform, and I offer it to the government at any time because it would benefit Canadians all across the board, no matter what their occupation. Even if they are home and not able to work, they could still contribute to the Canada pension plan. I could contribute to the supplementary plan. However, by steadfastly following their PRPP plan, by ignoring Liberal calls to improve the CPP, moving to slash the old age pension, slashing EI, cutting people off, making it difficult for farmers to be able to employ temporary foreign workers and all that goes with it, the Conservatives are really showing their true colours. Balancing the budget on the backs of seniors is nothing short of waging a war on the poor. It is unacceptable, and the government should be ashamed of that direction.
    The Prime Minister, who is the sixth highest paid political leader in the world, earning an annual salary of $296,000 U.S., is telling Canadians to put their extra money into the bank for their retirement, but he seems to forget that not everybody has extra money. What about the seniors who pay their taxes, raise their families and work hard but still do not have extra money to invest?

  (1245)  

    Let me tell members about a woman named Mary, whom I met last night. She is a single woman who talked to me about income splitting. Yes, the income splitting idea is a good idea for all those who have money and who have a partner, but for single men or women who do not have anyone to share their pension income with, what help is it to them? Mary has to take the hit for the taxes that others get to save. She asked me why the government would do that when it is clearly unfair. I said she would just have to look around and judge for herself. Government is all about choices.
    As a government, one makes choices every day and decides what is important and what is not. Clearly, this government's choices are far more interested in helping the rich and much less interested in helping the low-income or middle class Canadians, or in helping to build the Canada, Mr. Speaker, that you and I believe in.
    The Prime Minister is the same man who said that the Canada pension plan should be scrapped in 1998, which I referred to earlier, and that government involvement in the financial security of Canadians runs counter to the Conservative ideology of fending for oneself. If one cannot fend for oneself, there is no room in the Conservatives' Canada.
    That is very different from the Canada I want to live in. I believe we have an opportunity for a hand up, not a hand out. We can create an atmosphere where Canadians can thrive and do well. Canadians are a very independent, tough bunch of people. We are used to standing on our own feet, and we take great pride in that. I do not believe there are a whole lot of Canadians who are interested in living off the purse of the government.
    Given the fact that the Prime Minister has made the kind of comments he has made, I have to wonder if these changes are not the first bricks in the long-desired firewall that the Prime Minister indicated he wanted to create.
    I am very glad to have had the opportunity to speak for a bit today. The changes that are coming forward, both in Bill C-25, the PRPP legislation, and in Bill C-38, and all the things the government is moving are going in this direction, which is not an area to which I think we should be going.
    We need to be making some changes as well to the Bankruptcy Act. We all know about Nortel and what happened to the thousands of people who were working for Nortel and in other companies that go bankrupt where individuals lose their pension funds.
    There is no change. With all of the multitude of things in the omnibus Bill C-38, there is nothing in there about how to protect people's pensions when it comes to bankruptcy, how to better protect Canadians. It is all about creating crisis management and making people think that the country is in a major crisis situation when it is not, whether or not we are talking about immigration issues and creating a crisis, in order to justify the means at the end.
    It is unacceptable for us and it is unacceptable for Canadians.

  (1250)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. friend for her speech on the pension issue. She has been very involved in the question of pensions for a long time.
    I stand with the members of the opposition parties in general in believing that the CPP is our best and most reliable pension system and that it must be expanded. I am concerned about this new approach, because it is discretionary. It appears to create the greatest benefit for those people who buy and sell investment services.
    I would like to ask my hon. friend what can be done and whether we can put forward perhaps a private member's bill from this side of the House to ensure that we protect the pensions that are held in firms that go into bankruptcy. For such plans as that of Nortel or Catalyst Paper and others, can we make those secured creditors in bankruptcy?
    Mr. Speaker, we had many discussions and actually asked many questions of the government on this side of the House in that whole debacle with Nortel, calling on the government to make the kind of changes to the Bankruptcy Act that would eliminate the contribution holiday. The government did take some action on that part of the file, requiring a larger amount of surplus before they could take a contribution holiday, but there is much more to be done when we come to this whole issue of protecting individuals' pensions.
    We all believe that, when we put money into a pension fund, it is sacrosanct. Certainly, we Liberals believe it has to be protected 100%. We have to realize people are counting on that money to be there, and if a company goes bankrupt and leaves them as Nortel did, many have nowhere to go.
    We have examined many different options. The Province of Ontario has a fund, as does the U.S., which backs up to $1,000 per month some of the pensions of companies that go bankrupt, but that is under huge pressure and it is not necessarily the best answer either.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the hon. member a question regarding how she feels seniors are being treated now after six years of successive increases in the personal exemption, which helps seniors; an increase in the age exemption, which helps seniors; the enrichment of GIS greater than it has been in the past 25 years, which directly helps seniors and low income seniors as well; the tax-free savings account, which will help future seniors and has been heralded by many economists and accountants as being the biggest step since the RRSP; and pension splitting for seniors as well.
    These are successive innovations toward helping seniors have a better quality of life after they have retired. Now we are adding the pooled pension plan. This will be one more tool for them to have the best years of their life after they retire. Would the hon. member not agree with that?
    Mr. Speaker, the government has clearly made some moves. TFSAs were a recommendation in the red book under Paul Martin when he was the minister of finance. TFSAs were recommended as a good savings vehicle. I did not say there was anything wrong with that.
     I referred earlier to income splitting. The government has done a lot of things to help people who have a lot of money. What happens to those people who are living on $11,000? There was a bit of an increase to the GIS but was it enough?
    Why was the decision made to increase the age to 67? That clearly takes $15,000 a year out of the pockets of every Canadian. The government could have done lots of things rather than change the age to 67. It could have used the clawback amount. If someone is earning $60,000, does that person still need $540 a month in OAS, or would it be better to look at the whole system?
    There is a bigger issue. The government should have consulted with Canadians on the future plans of our social security safety net to find out what we could all do to better improve the lives of Canadians rather than deny Canadians and make them wait an extra two years.
    Mr. Speaker, I have listened with great interest to the debate and more particularly the recent exchange between the member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale and that member. I find it interesting that they are congratulating each other or wanting to take credit for the tax-free savings account, which to me misses the boat entirely for the vast majority of seniors.
    If a person could only put $5,000 into a TFSA that makes 2% interest right now, that person would get $100 a year in interest. Because it is tax-free that individual would save $30. That would be $1 a month for seniors, which would buy them exactly nothing.
    What we really need is a serious debate about doubling the CPP, about ensuring that we do not lose our defined benefit pension plans to defined contribution plans. Above all, we need to lift seniors out of poverty by increasing the GIS.
    Could the member comment on which of those three things she would make the number one priority in the next Liberal red book, or pink book, or whatever iteration we will see next?

  (1255)  

    Mr. Speaker, as soon as we have the book ready, I will ensure she gets the first copy.
    The government is expected to talk about a variety of different issues and how it can better help Canadians. That is what Canadians expect us to do. They do not expect us to be partisan all of the time. We are supposed to do what is in the best interests of Canadians throughout the country. I do not want to see seniors continuing to live in poverty. We know that at least 300,000 seniors live in poverty.
    Let me remind everyone that it was Mackenzie King, Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau who brought in everything from OAS to GIS to the spouses allowance. None of those programs were ever brought in by the Conservatives. All of them were brought in by Liberal governments because we saw how many people were living in poverty. The Conservative government is clearly going in the opposite direction.
    Mr. Speaker, I always appreciate my colleague's passion and caring attitude when it comes to dealing with seniors in Canada. I appreciate her comments with respect to why the House should deal with the issue of pensions, whether it is the GIS, OAS or CPP. These are good solid programs that are the cornerstone of our pensions going forward.
    With regard to the budget, the member knows that the government has increased the age of retirement from 65 to 67. She has spoken a great deal on this issue. Maybe she could provide comment on what responses she has received. Many of our colleagues in the House, particularly those on the opposition benches, have stood up on virtually a daily basis to bring forward petitions on this issue. Canadians are quite upset with this element of pensions. This bill is all about that.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to repeat an issue. I was at a meeting in rural Ontario last night. Of the 50 to 60 people who were in that room, probably 40% of them were in their sixties or maybe in their seventies and the rest were much younger.
    When I asked them whether they supported or rejected the idea of moving the age for old age security from 65 to 67, every person in that room was opposed to that issue. I think they all recognized that if the average age of retirement today was 62, we would be moving backward to increase it to age 67. At one time, we did have it at age 67. That is when a previous Liberal prime minister, recognizing there was a severe amount of poverty among seniors, moved the eligibility from 67 years of age to 65 years of age and started to introduce other programs in addition to the OAS.
    The current government is going in the exact opposite direction, back to where we were years ago, with seniors having to suffer in poverty, alone.
    Mr. Speaker, the member does herself a great discredit and undermines her own arguments and credibility with some of the demagogic and over-the-top rhetoric she uses to characterize the motives of the government, saying that it does not care about low-income people, that it only wants to help those who are wealthy and so forth.
    Would the member not agree with the objective, incontrovertible fact, that the Government of Canada is currently spending more on transfers to seniors than it ever has in the history of the Dominion? We are spending more on transfers on CPP, more in transfers on OAS, more in transfers for GIS, more per capita for seniors than ever in our history.
    If it is her view that this is inadequate, then what does that say about the government of which she was a member? If this government is too parsimonious with respect to transfers to seniors, then what was her government doing when it was spending less on these programs?

  (1300)  

    Mr. Speaker, we have an aging population. Every year we have an increased amount of seniors collecting OAS and GIS. Next year there will be even more money spent on OAS, GIS and so on, because of that aging seniors population. All we have to do is look at the numbers five years ago and look at the numbers today. It is not a difficult thing.
    To suggest that some of us are exaggerating things, we are actually taking lessons from those folks across the hall.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to some of the key measures in Bill C-25, An Act relating to pooled registered pension plans and making related amendments to other Acts.
    I will splitting my time with the member for Richmond Hill.
     First, I would like to thank the Minister of State for Finance, the member of Parliament from the great riding of Macleod, for bringing forth this great legislation.
    Our government understands that working Canadians and seniors want an effective and sustainable retirement income system that will help them achieve their retirement goals. Canadians who have worked hard, saved diligently and are relying on their pension and savings to support them once they retire should have full confidence that the system will serve them well when they need it.
    Canadians can rest assured that our government stands with hard-working Canadians who are counting on their pension plan for a stable retirement. As part of this commitment, we continue to take the steps necessary to ensure that Canada's pension framework remains strong. In doing so, we are building on all that has been accomplished so far.
    Let me offer a few examples of what we have achieved.
     In particular, since 2006, our government has increased the age credit amount by $1,000 in 2006 and by another $1,000 in 2009. We have doubled the maximum amount of income eligible for the pension income credit to $2,000.
     We have introduced pension income splitting. This single item was lobbied for very diligently for years by organizations like CARP and other organizations that represented seniors. It was well received when this came in.
     We have increased the age limit for maturing pensions and registered retirement savings plans to 71 from 69 years of age.
    Despite these advancements, there is always more to be done. That is why in December 2009, our government held a meeting with the provincial and territorial finance ministers in Whitehorse to discuss the retirement income system and, in going forward, how this system could be further improved.
    In June 2010, federal, provincial and territorial governments reviewed options to improve Canada's retirement income system after extensive consultations with Canadians. Many of the members of the opposition will be interested to know that among these proposals was a modest expansion to the CPP, the Canada pension plan.
    However, many employers, especially small and medium-sized businesses, something my riding has hundreds of, raised serious concerns about increasing the mandatory deductions that would come with an expanded CPP. Simply put, during these times of economic uncertainty and with Canada's economic recovery still fragile, it would have been reckless to impose a job-killing tax on job-creators.
    While there were strong objections to expanding the CPP, there was unanimous agreement to moving forward with pooled registered pension plans. This led to priority being given to the PRPP framework, the announcement of the initiative at the subsequent finance ministers' meeting in December 2010 and the legislation that is before us today.
    PRPPs mark a significant step forward in advancing our retirement income agenda by improving the range of retirement savings options available to Canadians. They will make well-regulated, low-cost private sector pension plans accessible to millions of Canadians who have up to now not had access to such plans. In fact, many employees of small and medium-sized businesses and self-employed workers will also now have access to a private pension plan for the very first time. This is groundbreaking. This will be a key improvement to Canada's retirement income system.
     PRPPs will also complement and support our government's overarching objective of creating and sustaining jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. Quite simply, the PRPP framework is the most effective and targeted way to help these modest and middle-income individuals save for their retirement. These individuals consist of the 60% of Canadians who do not have access to employer-sponsored pension plans.

  (1305)  

    PRPPs address this gap in the retirement system by first providing a new, accessible, straightforward and administratively low-cost retirement option for employers to offer their employees. It would allow individuals who currently may not participate in a pension plan, such as the self-employed and employees of companies that do not offer a pension plan, to make use of this new option. It would enable more people to benefit from the lower investment management costs that result from membership in a large pooled pension plan. It would allow for the portability of benefits and facilitate an easy transfer between plans, and it would ensure that funds are invested in the best interests of plan members.
    These are all important areas where the retirement income system can be improved. However, members need not take my word for it. Let us hear what others have to say.
    According to the Canadian Bankers Association:
    PRPPs will provide a new, accessible, large-scale and low-cost pension option to employers, employees and the self-employed. PRPPs will give all working Canadians the benefit of professionally-managed pension plans, and will be particularly beneficial to the self-employed and employees of small businesses.
    I can speak to that as someone who was a self-employed farmer before I came to this House. My only pension at that time was my land, or whatever I could accumulate over the years. It was the same with my parents. There are hundreds of thousands of Canadians in the same boat, and they are going to get a chance to benefit from this great initiative.
    The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says:
    PRPPs can give many businesses, individuals and the self-employed additional retirement options, and many millions of Canadians who currently lack adequate retirement savings will benefit.
    That is why our government, in coordination with the provincial and territorial governments, is working to implement PRPPs as soon as possible. These plans would help Canadians, including the self-employed, meet their retirement objectives by providing access to a new low-cost accessible pension option.
    I am sure that all the provinces will take the advice of the CFIB, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the CBA when they jointly said that the longer governments take to establish a system of PRPPs, the less time those employees will have to use this vehicle to save for their retirement. Simply put, we need to act now.
    Bringing the federal PRPP framework into force means Canadians can be confident about the long-term viability of their retirement system. We are listening, and we will continue to listen to their views on how we can strengthen the security of pension plan benefits and ensure that the framework is balanced and appropriate for the long term.
    Canada's retirement income system is recognized around the world by such experts as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, as a model that succeeds in reducing poverty among Canadian seniors. With Bill C-25, we are making it better by working toward a permanent long-term solution to encourage greater pension coverage among Canadians.
    I know that members on this side of the House will support Bill C-25 and vote to establish a pension plan that would help millions of Canadians save for their retirement. I encourage all the members of the opposition to support this very important bill and to vote to help the seniors of tomorrow provide for their retirement today.
    I remind all members that a lot of legislation, whether government legislation or private members' bills, comes before this House. Not all of us in this place like every aspect of every bill, but the potential of Bill C-25 to help people plan their retirement is something that is certainly needed and has been wanted for a long time. I think that all members in this House should look at the quality parts of the bill. It is an improvement to what we have today, and I think it will be very well received out there among seniors.

  (1310)  

    Mr. Speaker, I was interested in my colleague's comments respecting the degree of opposition to the enhancement of the Canada pension plan. I have three questions for him in connection with his characterization of the apparent opposition to the enhancement of the CPP.
    One, is the most vociferous opponent to the enhancement of the plan the Government of Canada? Two, is that a reversal of its earlier position? Three, who are the others?
    Mr. Speaker, when it comes to adding any new restrictions or taxes on small and medium-sized businesses, which are predominant in my riding and I think in most ridings across this country, these are entities that feed families and create jobs and economic activity in this country. This government is the only party in this House that supports them by not adding on those taxes.
    The member across the way belongs to a party that has never seen a tax it did not like. This government is philosophically opposed to that idea. We have reduced over 140 taxes in our six years here, and we are not done yet.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, a number of spokespeople came to talk about the Canadian system and about the fact that there are already a number of private savings plans on the market right now. Yet, it is no secret that the government is in the process of creating a new private savings plan when such plans already exist and are underused. Most Canadians do not contribute to such plans.
    Why create a new plan instead of investing in providing information to Canadians about the existing systems? Why not improve the existing systems instead of creating another one when we do not even know what effects it will have on Canada's private savings plan market?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague across the way is basically asking why we would act on something that hundreds of thousands of seniors across this country have been asking for.
     This government cares about the seniors of this country, and that is why we are doing this. The territories and provinces realize the importance of it. We sat down with those provinces and territories to come up with a solution; this was a consensus, and here today we have that culminated in Bill C-25.
    We listened to them, and I suggest that the member should listen to her seniors as well.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound. He very articulately explained the benefits.
     What I like best about the new pooled registered pension plan, and I would like the member to comment on it, is the flexibility it would have for workers and employers to participate. We know what is happening with the workforce. We know there is fluidity. We know that people are not staying at one job for 30 years any longer, but are moving around. This is one of those pension scheme systems that would allow employees to have a pension that would be portable to wherever they choose to work.
    Would the member comment on that and share some anecdotes about how it would specifically help businesses and residents in Owen Sound?

  (1315)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Mississauga—Streetsville. The constituents of that riding are very fortunate to have him as their representative here in Ottawa.
     In regard to some of the examples that he has about how it would help Owen Sound, it would help the same types of businesses and individuals in his riding of Mississauga—Streetsville. I talked about the self-employed, for example. I was in agriculture, but there are all kinds of small business owners across this country who do not have a pension plan they can contribute to; in the same way that the employees of those small businesses could contribute, those small business owners would also get a chance.
    Mr. Speaker, let me just take a moment to thank the hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound for sharing his time with me. The good people of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound are fortunate to have such a passionate and hard-working member of Parliament speaking here in the House on their behalf.
    I am pleased to have this opportunity to highlight some of the key measures in Bill C-25, an act that implements the federal framework for pooled registered pension plans, or PRPPs, as I will refer to them.
    Our Conservative government understands that hard-working Canadians want an effective and sustainable retirement income system in place to help them achieve their retirement goals. On this side of the House, we believe that Canadian seniors, after working hard, contributing to society and saving diligently, deserve nothing less. Members can rest assured that our Conservative government stands with these hard-working Canadians and that it will continue to take action to ensure that Canada's retirement income system remains among the strongest in the world. This is where pooled registered pension plans fit in.
    The PRPP will mark a significant step forward in advancing our retirement income system by improving the range of retirement savings options available to Canadians. It will make low-cost, broad-based private sector pension plans accessible to the millions of Canadians who up to now have not had access to such plans. In fact, it is important to note that currently 60% of Canadians do not have access to a workplace pension plan. Self-employed individuals do not have access to workplace pension plans at all. Introducing pooled registered pension plans means that many employees of small and medium-sized businesses, as well as self-employed workers, will finally have access to a workplace pension plan for the very first time in their lives.
    Let us take a look and see what features of the PRPPs might be found attractive by employees of small and medium-sized businesses and by the self-employed.
    A key feature of PRPPs is auto-enrolment. This means that if an employer offers a PRPP, employees will be automatically enrolled in a pension plan. This feature is expected to increase participation in PRPPs by promoting retirement savings specifically targeting those disengaged savers.
    Once plan members begin contributing to their PRPP, it is important that they use this money for what it was intended: their retirement. After all, the goal of the pooled registered pension plan is to help Canadians save for their own retirement. Unlike the funds in RRSPs, which can be accessed at any time, the funds in a PRPP would be locked in. This provision will help to ensure that plan members will in fact have savings when they retire.
    Another key feature is portability. Many employees will appreciate the ability to transfer funds between administrators when they change jobs. Not only will portability benefit employees of the plan; it will also increase competition among PRPP administrators, thereby encouraging lower costs.
    This leads me to my next point, and it is a very important one. One of the key benefits of PRPPs is that they will be low cost. By achieving lower costs, pooled registered pension plans will leave more money in the pockets of Canadians when they retire.
    Members might ask how this will work. Pooling pension savings means that the costs of administering the pension funds will be spread over a larger group of people. This will enable plan members to benefit from the lower investment management costs that are typically associated with an average mutual fund.
    Stakeholders across our nation are excited about the pooled registered pension plans and the prospect that millions of Canadians will now have access to a workplace pension for the very first time.
    However, let us not just take my word for it. Let us hear what others have to say.

  (1320)  

    Dan Kelly, Vice-President of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, stated, “A new voluntary, low-cost and administratively simple retirement savings mechanism will allow more employers, employees, and the self-employed to participate in a pension plan”.
    If we are not satisfied with that, let us hear what the Ontario Medical Association had to say. It stated, “The creation of pooled registered pension plans...levels the playing field by providing the self-employed, including physicians, with better access to additional savings opportunities that have up until now been unavailable”.
    The pool registered pension plan is not some patchwork scheme. It is an important program that would benefit millions of Canadians. Whether people work for or own small businesses, the pooled registered pension plan would be available to them.
    What are the next steps? The bill before us today, Bill C-25, the pooled registered pension plans act, represents the federal portion of the PRPP framework, which is a major step forward in making these available to Canadians. Our government has been collaborating closely with the provinces to implement pooled registered pension plans across our country. Once the provinces put in place their PRPP legislation, the legislative and regulatory framework for PRPPs would be up and running, allowing pooled registered pension plan administrators to develop and offer plans to Canadians and their employers.
    Canadians want their governments to act on their priorities and deliver results on a timely basis. The PRPP should be no exception. For this reason, I urge all of the provinces to follow the wise advice of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association when they collectively said that the longer governments take to establish a system of pooled registered pension plans, the less time those employees will have to use this vehicle to save for their retirements.
    Our government is confident that the provincial side of the framework will soon be in place so that millions of Canadians can reach their retirement objectives. We urge our provincial counterparts to take action and follow the lead of our Conservative government. By bringing the PRPP framework into force, Canadians can be confident about the long-term viability of their retirement system. We are listening and we will continue to listen to their views on how we can strengthen the security of pension plan benefits and ensure the framework is balanced and appropriate for the long term.
    Canada's retirement income system is recognized around the world by such experts as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development as a model that succeeds in reducing poverty among Canadian seniors. Our system is the envy of the world. With Bill C-25, we would be making it even better by working toward a permanent, long-term solution to encourage greater pension coverage among Canadians.
    Let me summarize this new defined pension plan. It would be available to employers, employees and the self-employed. The PRPP would improve the range of retirement savings options to Canadians in a number of ways. It would provide access to a straightforward retirement savings option for employees at administratively low cost and it would provide people who currently do not participate in a pension plan a retirement savings option. More people would benefit from the lower investment management costs that result from the economies of scale of membership in large pooled pension plans, employees would be able to move their accumulated benefits from job to job and the PRPP would ascertain that funds are invested in the best interests of the plan members.
    I urge all members of the House to support this very important bill. At this time, I move:
    That this question be now put.

  (1325)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, before this debate comes to an end—too quickly in my opinion—I would like to speak a little bit about the fact that, in my riding, retirees from Fraser Papers lost 40% of their pension fund when the parent company declared bankruptcy.
    How do the Conservatives think that this will help the Fraser Papers employees who lost 40% of their pension fund after working their entire lives? They had a good retirement fund that belonged to them. Then, all of a sudden, the company declares bankruptcy and all the money vanishes. I spoke to many employees who were about 60 years old and close to retirement.
    The NDP is proposing good options that would help to improve Canada's retirement system. For example, the NDP proposed that changes be made to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, a federal law. However, the Conservatives do not understand what is happening on the ground. They are so out of touch that they think their measure will really solve the problem.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, this is a new initiative that would respond to what hundreds of thousands of Canadians across this country have asked. It would assist them along the way.
    I would suggest to the hon. member from the New Democratic Party that if she feels as passionately as she spoke about seniors, perhaps she could urge some members in her party to finally vote for something that would benefit seniors rather than vote against every single positive measure that our government has put forward that would benefit seniors in this country from coast to coast to coast.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like my colleague to comment on the bigger picture of pensions.
    We recognize that this would assist very few Canadians. No doubt, it would be of great assistance to those few. However, there is a great deal of concern for the pensions of all Canadians; in particular, the government's decision to increase the age of retirement, through OAS payments, from 65 to 67.
    The member commented on the importance of pension issues. Surely to goodness he would recognize many of his constituents, some would argue most of his constituents, would still say we should provide the opportunity for people to retire at age 65 instead of at age 67. Would he agree with me that changing that retirement age from 65 to 67 would be the wrong direction?
    Mr. Speaker, I do not accept the premise with which my hon. colleague set up his question.
    The PRPP that would be implemented with Bill C-25 currently proposed in the House would not benefit only very few, as he says. Perhaps he did not listen to some of my speech. Sixty per cent of Canadians do not have a pension plan today. Sixty per cent of the country's population is not very few people.
    With respect to the age limit for OAS being increased from 65 to 67, we have said repeatedly in this House, and I know the hon. member has heard it, we are concerned about the sustainability of the program. We want to ensure that OAS is there, not only for people who are currently retiring today, but for our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren. It is just responsible government to ensure that our programs are well funded into the future for our families of all ages.

  (1330)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, like the other hon. members, I am going to give a speech on the pooled registered pension plans act. I am going to share my time with the member for Churchill.
    First, I would like extend my thanks to the member for London—Fanshawe, the NDP critic on this bill. Second, I would like to thank all the hon. members for their various comments on the government bill that we are debating today at third reading. This is a very important topic, one that Canadians are really concerned about.
    As we heard earlier, according to the Conference Board of Canada, 1.6 million seniors live in poverty in Canada, and, according to the Canadian Labour Congress, 12 million Canadians lack a workplace pension plan. This is food for thought.
    It is amazing to see how two events can be interrelated. Today we are going to debate a special bill tabled in this House by the Minister of Labour less than 24 hours ago. According to the representatives from Teamsters Canada, this special legislation infringes on the freedom to negotiate working conditions. You may wonder how this legislation is related to pooled registered pension plans. Well, the Canadian Pacific conflict basically has to do with pensions and management's wish to revise the system in order to keep up with its competitors.
    The vice-president of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference said the company “wants to take the money from our pension plan and give it to the shareholders”. In a democratic country like Canada, the right to retire in dignity after working your whole life is absolutely non-negotiable. So, yes, that is what we are talking about today.
    Since 2006, the Conservative government has been introducing measures to amend Canadians' retirement security; these measures have been highly criticized. Just look at the retirement age, which will go from 65 to 67 in 13 years, when people who are 54 now will be 67. Why introduce this measure when in 13 years there will be less demand? Fewer people will be taking their retirement in 13 years than now. The baby boomers will have already retired by then.
    Another measure they implemented was the tax-free savings account. The TFSA may be a good option for those who have the money to contribute to it. There is some debate as to whether the contribution limits should be increased from $5,000 to $10,000. Nonetheless, what is the purpose of this vehicle? According to a recent report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, an ING Direct survey found that only 41% of Canadians have a TFSA. Nearly half of them earn $100,000 or more a year and only 24% of those surveyed said that they were using their TFSA to save for their retirement.
    I have a TFSA. I was contributing to it bit by bit and it currently has $1,700. In fact, it is money I was saving for a rainy day: in case my washing machine or refrigerator broke down or something. I never considered using the TFSA for my retirement. I was earning a modest income and I never thought that $1,700 would go very far in providing me with a comfortable retirement.
    We cannot rely on such savings to provide a decent retirement. I often wondered why the government developed such a measure. The government collects less tax, which leaves less money for investing in repairing bridges, ports and airports, in research and development or even in transfers to the provinces in their areas of jurisdiction. After I thought about it, I remembered that, previously, taxing the savings of the rich and the not so rich resulted in the flight of capital and the use of tax havens. That is quite likely why TFSAs exist: to keep our currency in our banks.
    It is time for this government to take some real action to improve retirement security for the 12 million Canadians who do not currently have pension plans through their employers. Bill C-25 will not accomplish that goal. Canadians do not need another voluntary private savings plan. They need real measures that will ensure that they can retire with enough savings to live through their old age with the money they need to be able to dress, house and feed themselves. These are basic needs.

  (1335)  

    Canadians are wary, and rightly so. Pooled registered pension plans are risky. With this kind of plan, employees set aside funds throughout their entire working lives, and those funds are invested in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and so on. Investment income depends entirely on market fluctuations. Thus, employees are the ones who absorb all of the financial risk associated with stock market ups and downs.
    In addition, clause 30 of the bill states:
    
    30. An employer is not liable for the acts and omissions of the administrator.
    So, can someone tell me who is liable?
    On the one hand, workers are obliged to contribute, while employers, on the other hand, are not, and the funds are subject to stock market fluctuations.
    Can someone tell me who assumes the risk, if not the worker?
    Quebeckers remember all too well certain recent predators, the kind we call white collar criminals. Some institutions get bad press because they are making huge profits, which they give out as bonuses at the end of the fiscal year.
    The NDP wants to increase CPP contributions. We support a pension fund for all Canadians. It is time to get to work on that. However, we do not want a pension fund that fluctuates with the stock market and where workers' savings will diminish when it is time for them to retire.
    We are asking that the government secure Canadians' pension funds.
    Why does the government not want to study this solution even though seven provinces have agreed to expand the Canada pension plan?
    The NDP is being proactive and working on job creation so that Canadians can save. The more workers earn, the more they can save.
     The PRPP bill does not provide a fixed benefit, could run out of money if we live longer than expected and is not indexed. Employers and employees can withdraw from the plan, but companies are not required to contribute.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, my question for the member is in regard to pensions in general. In regard to the pool itself, we have all recognized, in particular those within our party, the importance of the CPP, the GIS and the OAS and how it is critically important that the federal government demonstrates some leadership that would ultimately see the level of money seniors receive increase, and that we continue to lobby to ensure we have a retirement option at age 65.
     Even though this bill is far from perfect, it is a tool that some seniors might be able to use. Many provincial governments are on side with this. Why would the member oppose this particular tool, albeit small, for some individuals who would be able to benefit from it? Why would the NDP oppose that?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his very pertinent question.
    We are not opposed to a pension fund for people who have worked their entire lives. The provinces support expanding the Canada pension plan. That is excellent. What I am saying is that we have to ensure that the risk of investing this money in the stock market must be secured. If we took the Canada pension plan—the employer contribution and the employee contribution—and sheltered it in trust, people would be much more inclined to contribute than if employers were entitled to withdraw funds at some point.
    At present, Canadian Pacific workers risk losing their life savings. They risk losing everything, or part of their pension fund, which is what happened to employees of White Birch Paper in Quebec.

  (1340)  

    Mr. Speaker, we know that a pension scheme like the one announced in the bill we are debating today clearly puts women at a disadvantage, unlike the NDP's solution of enhancing the public plan.
    Given the hon. member's remarkable commitment to causes that affect women specifically, I would ask her to briefly comment on this matter.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member.
    Of all seniors, women are among the poorest. In terms of pensions, we are well aware that women live longer than men. Currently, many of them have no pensions for their old age and they are pushing shopping carts with no idea of what they are going to put in them in order to survive.
    This is a huge phenomenon in our society. Women's salaries are lower. I am sure that most of the 20 million Canadians without a pension fund are women. Women will become poorer when they retire. And they live longer.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to my NDP colleagues' speeches and one of the things that has become clear to me is that the NDP is simply against providing choice to Canadians who want to look after their retirement income.
    The member asked who was responsible. I would ask the NDP member about personal responsibility. When we are looking at our retirement income, I think it behooves us all to have a balanced approach. The NDP wants to put all the eggs into one basket, that being the Canada pension plan, which, as my colleagues have said, is one of the best plans in the world.
    However, we are seeing problems in Greece and Europe. Canada is fortunate right now to have a Conservative government and an economy that is moving forward so well. However, things could happen in the future that Canadians could have no control over and an irresponsible government that could be in power.
    I would like to know what my colleague has against choice. What does she have against allowing Canadians to take responsibility for their own retirement income instead of rolling the dice and perhaps later on there could be an irresponsible government in power that could blow the whole deal?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's statement is completely false. This is about taking responsibility and managing risk. We have absolutely nothing against the fact that workers have a retirement fund and even that employers contribute to the fund if that is possible too. I feel that the hon. member's premise is completely false.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand here, along with members of my party, to express our opposition to Bill C-25 and speak to how this is a hasty attempt by the government to cobble together what the Conservatives say is an effort toward establishing retirement security.
    However, we see it as just that, a hasty attempt and one that deviates from the real issue here and the kind of lack of retirement security that Canadians are facing and the way in which the government is weakening the foundations of our retirement system in Canada. I will say a few words specifically on this bill today and get more into that later.
    The legislation would not guarantee an actual pension. We would like to refer to it more as a savings scheme. Among other things, the bill would create a type of savings scheme that would pool the funds in members' accounts to achieve lower costs in relation to investment management and plan administration. As we know, these savings schemes are being called pooled registered pension plans.
    The bill is designed to appeal to the self-employed and workers at small and mid-sized firms and also companies that often lack the means by which to administer a private sector plan. All of the things that have been said as being key goals of the government, we find the bill misses the mark.
    Our position is that Bill C-25 fails to protect retirement security because it encourages families to gamble even more of their retirement savings on failing stock markets. People who have watched their RRSPs plummet over the past year know how risky savings tied to the stock market can be. Telling families to double down on the same system that is already failing them shows how out of touch the government is.
    We know the Conservatives are not fond of learning from history, facts, science, et cetera, but we can simply look at the most recent history. We know that this attempt to establish retirement security would make Canadians and their savings more vulnerable. In today's global markets, that is an unacceptable proposition. We would like to see the government say no to encouraging greater vulnerability and yes to more stability when it comes to retirement savings.
    For the past three years, our party has championed a suite of retirement income security proposals. We have proposed doubling guaranteed Canada and Quebec pension plan benefits to a maximum of $1,920 each month. Growing the CPP and QPP is simply the best and lowest cost pension reform option available. Research has indicated that and advocacy groups that speak on behalf of seniors have indicated that. We have suggested that working with the provinces to build in the flexibility for individuals and their employers to make voluntary contributions to individual public pension accounts is also critical. The provinces have explicitly stated that they want to come to the table and work with the federal government in order to establish greater retirement security for Canadians.
    We have proposed amending the federal bankruptcy legislation to move pensioners and long-term disability recipients to the front of the line of creditors when their employers enter court protection or declare bankruptcy. Numerous times a year, we are seeing large employers just pick up and leave. It is all the workers, particularly the more vulnerable workers, who are ultimately paying the price by losing the investments they made into their pension system and facing a very challenging future.
    We have proposed increasing the annual guaranteed income supplement to a sufficient level to lift every senior in Canada out of poverty immediately.
     All of those measures have received incredible accolades from various organizations, from stakeholders, from seniors and from people who are looking ahead at their retirement prospects. They have said that they want to see these kinds of proposals put into action by the government.

  (1345)  

    I will read some of what has been said. Ms. Susan Eng, the vice president for advocacy at CARP, an organization that is outspoken when it comes to retirees in Canada, said:
    CARP remains committed to improving retirement benefits for the current crop of seniors, including increasing CPP, OAS and GIS payments, getting a moratorium on RRIF withdrawals, making access to Tax-Free Savings Accounts retroactive and lobbying to remove the HST on seniors’ energy bills.
    These are a number of very progressive measures. We have not seen the government take leadership when it comes to a variety of these measures.
    If we turn to what we are looking at more broadly, it is the way in which the government is weakening the foundations of our pension system. We do not have to look much further than the budget the government tabled some short weeks ago. In fact, the changes to OAS will have a direct impact on seniors, many of whom are already struggling.
    As the status of women critic, I know particularly the devastating impact that the changes to OAS will have on many women, for whom OAS is an income they are dependent on at a time when many of them face a situation of poverty. We are looking at that and the way in which the government is standing by and allowing corporations to pull out of Canada, pulling away from agreements they have made with Canadians.
     I think of Vale in my hometown of Thompson. It committed to the federal government to increase employment. However, instead of creating jobs, it is pulling out the value-added jobs in our community, and the government has done nothing to stop it.
    I think of Hamilton where the workers at Stelco, now U.S. Steel, were dealt the blow when their jobs were shipped away from Canada. The government went as far as to take U.S. Steel to court and then withdrew the case even though it had grounds to keep going.
    That is the way the government treats Canadians who are simply contributing to our economy, raising families and building communities. Many of them are investing in a pension system that the government is seeking to take away.
    On a host of measures, the government has stood by while jobs have been shipped out. It has taken direct action to attack our pension systems. It has gone so far as to say, actually a misnomer, that somehow our pension system, whether it is CPP or OAS, suffers from instability. This is something that researcher after researcher has indicated is simply not the case. In fact, the Parliamentary Budget Officer stated the very same thing on numerous occasions. Yet the government fails to accept the research, fails to accept the proof and instead further exposes Canadians to greater vulnerability, to a future where poverty and impoverishment at a senior age is a reality.
    Perhaps the saddest of impacts will be on my generation, a generation that is just a few years into the workplace, if people have been able to find a decent job, many of whom are unable to invest in a proper pension system and simply do not have the supports to do so.
    Instead of having a government that will stand by and seek to strengthen our public pension system, a universal pension system that supports all Canadians, it is standing by and making life more difficult for future generations, for seniors of today, for people who are looking at their retirement and hoping to see a government that is going to stand up for them. Unfortunately, that is not what we have in the Conservative government.
    I am proud to be part of a party, the NDP, that has always been at the forefront of fighting for true retirement security and dignity for all Canadians.

  (1350)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for a speech that was up to her usual standards of excellence.
    I would like to go back to a comment by a member opposite and give her an opportunity to respond.
    He said that he was proud of the fact that the Conservative government is not taking any risks, but the real threat is not an NDP government; the real threat is a government that does nothing to fix the problem. For example, one issue that comes up often when I talk to my constituents is Nortel. In that situation, there were no measures in place to protect what people had saved for their retirement. The government did nothing to punish a corporation that really put people in a difficult position.
    My colleague talked about the NDP's proposal for putting an end to that kind of injustice and ensuring people's financial security. Contrary to what the member opposite said, the NDP's agenda is retirement security, not risk-taking.
    I would like my colleague to expand further on that idea.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his hard work and the issues he raised in his question.
    Obviously, the messages the government is sending have nothing to do with the reality of Canada's pension system. Many experts have stated publicly that the public pension system and the supplement are very solid, that they are sustainable and that young Canadians can depend on them for their retirement down the road.
    Instead of listening to those experts, the government is trying to feed us its own line, which is not based on evidence or research. That is a fundamentally flawed way to govern in general and certainly for the future of our country.

  (1355)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the one thing I found quite surprising in the speech of my colleague was her suggestion that we should increase the guaranteed income supplement to seniors. This is rather troubling, because when we did make the largest increase in two decades to the guaranteed income supplement, she, and all of her party, voted against that.
    Has she now changed her mind?
    Mr. Speaker, if the member across had heard in more detail what I said, the point was about lifting every senior out of poverty. That is exactly what the government did not do. In fact, it continues to not do that every day.
    We hear the government's fury and feigned indignation. I would like to see that same kind of energy put toward the ultimate goal of ensuring that seniors live in dignity, and that young people, who are looking ahead to a pretty insecure situation when it comes to retirement down the line, are part of the solution. I would like to see the government seek to eradicate poverty among seniors and all Canadians and truly establish a strong foundation for all Canadians' retirement.
    Mr. Speaker, I have indicated in the past that the Liberal Party has acknowledged as a foundation of our pension programs CPP, OAS and GIS, the guaranteed income supplement, and we believe in those programs. We believe they need to be enhanced and protected.
    We consider this pool plan to be a very small tool that will assist some Canadians as a complement to their pension programs. I understand even NDP administrations in provincial governments have recognized the value of this as being a small tool. Why would the NDP oppose a small tool that would at least help some to supplement their pensions?
    Mr. Speaker, I would ask the member to listen to the speech I put forward and the various points that our caucus, our team, has put forward in the House and ultimately join us in asking the government to stand and present an act on a real retirement security action plan, one that will actually make a difference in the lives of all seniors, that will lift all seniors out of poverty and ensure the next generations of Canadian pensioners will have real pensions to look forward to.

Statements by Members

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Recreational Boating Industry

    Mr. Speaker, I am happy to stand today to welcome members of the National Marine Manufacturers Association who are in Ottawa today meeting with parliamentarians on the Hill.
     NMMA Canada is the nation's leading trade association representing boat, marine engine and accessory manufacturers. Collectively, NMMA members manufacture an estimated 80% of the marine products used in North America.
     NMMA is a unifying force and a powerful voice for the recreational boating industry, working to strengthen and grow boating in many regions and ridings across Canada.
     The recreational boating industry's economic impact is nearly $15 billion, generated through creating local jobs and enabling small businesses in regions across the country.
    I ask all parliamentarians to join me in recognizing the association's important contribution to economic growth and tourism in Canada. I would also like to remind members of the reception being held later today at 5:30 p.m. in room 256-S in the Centre Block.

  (1400)  

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, Canada has had many shining moments, but we have also had our dark chapters. Later, governments apologized and took responsibility for them. An example is the residential schools apology.
    Despite that apology, there are still survivors that have yet to have their cases addressed. This includes the experimental Eskimos. In the 1960s, seven Inuit children were removed from their homes and sent to live with families in Ottawa. The government wanted to see if Inuit children could succeed in a formal education system. They were removed from their families, communities and their culture, just as we residential school survivors were.
    When they came to make their claims under the residential school settlement, they were told that their experience was not within the criteria for claims. They were forced to turn to the courts, where they have been for four years. The government has fought them at every turn, denying them an apology and compensation that they are due.
    I call upon the government to stop its obstruction and give these survivors their basic dignity.

Volunteerism

    Mr. Speaker, back in 1953 when Barrie resident Albert Stein was 15 years old, he suffered a terrible spinal injury after diving off a boat into shallow water. With no feeling from the neck down, young Albert was told he would be a quadriplegic for the rest of his life.
    Albert worked tirelessly in rehab and started to regain mobility in his arms. He began to take steps with the help of crutches and then he began to walk short distances with leg braces. There was no slowing down Albert.
    Albert has served for six years on Barrie's accessibility committee and now sits on the accessibility committees for the county of Simcoe, the Simcoe county District School Board, the Royal Victoria Hospital and the March of Dimes. He is also a board director for the Independent Living Services for Simcoe Muskoka as well as chairman of the Simcoe County Accessibility Network.
    Earlier this month, I was incredibly honoured to announce to my riding of Barrie that Albert Stein was the recipient of the prestigious 2011 Robert Kerr Accessibility Award for his tireless volunteer work promoting better accessibility for disabled persons everywhere.

Conference Board of Canada President

    Mr. Speaker, next month, after 12 years on the job, Dr. Anne Golden will leave her post as president and CEO of the Conference Board of Canada.
    This, combined with her 14 years as president of Toronto's United Way, her past roles as special adviser to the provincial leader of the opposition and as research coordinator for the Bureau of Municipal Research, has solidified her reputation as a truly great Canadian.
    Anne's work on files such as homelessness and the cities agenda have made a real difference in Canada, something that has been recognized with an appointment to the Order of Canada, eight honorary doctorates, the Jane Jacobs Lifetime of Achievement Award, the Urban Leadership Award for City Engagement and the WXN's Most Powerful Women citation.
    Together, these honours say one important thing. I thank her for years of dedication to Canada. I wish her the best in the years ahead.

Cycling

    Mr. Speaker, on Sunday, Victorians celebrated as our own Ryder Hesjedal took the lead during a nail-biting final stage of the Giro d'Italia and won. It is the first Grand Tour victory for a Canadian athlete.
    Hesjedal knows the importance of hard work and determination. For years, he trained on the wealth of cycling routes in the Victoria area that make it one of the best places in the world to live, work and ride, with the highest per capita modal share of bike commuters in the country.
    Ryder has contributed tremendously to our community and has lent his name and his efforts to the Ryder Hesjedal Tour de Victoria, encouraging people of all fitness levels to get active by participating in a non-competitive cycling event. The thousands of us who participated two years ago were excited to see Ryder lead the ride.
    This is Bike to Work Week. I congratulate Ryder on behalf of all Victorians. We rejoice with him and his family.

Calgary Homeless Foundation

    Mr. Speaker, in 2008, the Calgary Homeless Foundation set out to end homelessness in Calgary within 10 years. It is year three, and the organization is well on its way to achieving its goal. The assistance to the homeless of Calgary has resulted in a reduction of 40% in the use of the public social system in Calgary, emergency room visits by the homeless have decreased by 50% and interactions with police are down by 60%.
    Of the individuals who are housed by the Calgary Homeless Foundation, 92% have retained their residence. The Calgary Homeless Foundation has increased its housing units to 323, with over 100 more under construction.
    The Calgary Homeless Foundation has also launched a housing plan to end youth homelessness, aboriginal housing programs and programs that track homelessness, and it has actively engaged the private sector for funding and leverage. These programs, the success of social organizations in co-operating, and funding from private and public sectors have helped 11 other Canadian cities come forward with their own plans to end homelessness.
    I would like to congratulate the staff and volunteers of the Calgary Homeless Foundation for their dedication and commitment to end homelessness.

  (1405)  

Cable Hall of Fame

    Mr. Speaker, today I stand to recognize yet another honour in a long list of accomplishments for a proud Canadian. Mr. Mr. Phil Lind, vice-chairman of Rogers Communications, was inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame on May 21. He joins his friend and mentor Mr. Ted Rogers and Mr. J.R. Shaw as the only Canadians in the Cable Hall of Fame.
    Mr. Lind was recognized for his key role in the growth and expansion of one of Canada's cable, broadcasting and telecommunications giants. His vision, foresight and determination were key to Rogers becoming a truly great Canadian success story.
    On October 18, 2001, Mr. Lind was awarded the Order of Canada for his work in championing the development of multilingual, multicultural and specialty programming, such as community channels and CPAC. He has dedicated his life to many public causes that have all led to the betterment of Canada.
    On behalf of this House, I salute, congratulate and thank Mr. Phil Lind, a truly great Canadian.

St. John's Rehabilitation Hospital

    Mr. Speaker, on May 22, 2012, I had the honour of attending the 75th anniversary of the St. John's Rehabilitation Hospital in my riding of Willowdale.
    For more than 75 years, St. John's Rehabilitation Hospital has offered rehabilitation programs for people recovering from amputations, traumatic injuries, burns, cardiovascular surgery, strokes, transplants, cancer and complex neurological and orthopedic conditions. The specialized treatment that is offered is possible because of the great staff at St. John's.
    St. John's has expanded from 64 to 160 beds and cares for about 2,700 in-patients annually, when it once only accommodated 716. This is truly indicative of the continuing service this facility proudly provides to the community.
     The spiritual care that is offered by the Sisters of St. John the Divine is exceptional and has proven to be effective in the healing of patients. Their vision of health care service is shared by the commitment of our government to a publicly funded, universally accessible health care system.
    I am proud to represent the community that is home to this extraordinary facility. I wish it a very happy 75th anniversary and continued success for another 75 years.

Poverty

    Mr. Speaker, next Thursday in my riding of Hamilton Centre, the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, the Hamilton Legal Clinic, and the McMaster Poverty Initiative will be co-sponsoring an event entitled Claiming and Enforcing the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living.
    Born from a sense of frustration with the continued cuts to services by both federal and provincial governments and of frustration with the diminishing ability of social programs to keep our most marginalized citizens from falling further into poverty, the event will also discuss the Conservative government's increasing trend of refusing to live up to its obligations under international agreements.
    This special evening will include a talk from international law and human rights expert Bruce Porter from the Social Rights and Advocacy Centre, as well as a panel that will include economist and McMaster University professor Dr. Atif Kubursi and poverty round table member Laura Cattari.
    I congratulate these groups, wish them a successful event, and thank them for their continued compassion and unrelenting efforts to eradicate the scourge of poverty in our community and in our country.

Jan de Vries

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today in memory of a great Canadian from my riding of Pickering—Scarborough East who passed away this past weekend. A veteran of the Second World War, Mr. Jan de Vries, an Order of Canada recipient, served with the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. He parachuted into Normandy on D-Day and later parachuted over the Rhine River into Germany in 1945.
    As a founding member of the Living History Speakers Bureau and as a member of the Memory Project, he has kept alive the stories of Canadian veterans by visiting schools, youth groups and cadet units.
    The 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion Association, the Juno Beach Centre Association and the Corporal Fred Topham Victoria Cross Fundraising campaign have all benefited from his determination and leadership. Under his leadership, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion Association installed memorial plaques in Europe to commemorate their battle areas.
    In June 2004, Mr. de Vries was presented with the French Legion of Honour medal by President Jacques Chirac.
    He was a distinguished soldier and an ardent keeper of the flame. Lest we forget.

  (1410)  

Forest Fire Emergency Crews

    Mr. Speaker, this past week the people of Timmins—James Bay saw heroism up close. Our region was under threat from numerous fires, and we had over 1,500 people evacuated from the various fire zones.
    In the case of Kirkland Lake 8, the fire reached within three kilometres of the town, and for nearly a week the emergency officials not only had to fight the fire but also had to prepare for the possible evacuation of an entire community. It was an enormous undertaking.
    In the case of Timmins 9, this was a major firestorm that drew on all the resources of our provincial MNR fire crews. It was touch and go for days.
    I had the great honour of working closely with the emergency teams, and their professionalism and dedication were beyond compare. I specifically want to thank the MNR crews, emergency measures, municipal officials, police, hydro, Red Cross and the many volunteers.
    It is going to be a long, hot summer. I would like to thank, on behalf of the New Democratic caucus, all of Canada's fire crews who put their lives on the line in the summer to make sure that our northern communities are safe.

Global Centre for Pluralism

    Mr. Speaker, last night His Highness the Aga Khan hosted Her Excellency Roza Otunbayeva for a speech at the Global Centre for Pluralism.
    Several Conservative ministers, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, were in attendance. They later joined Ms. Otunbayeva and the Aga Khan for dinner.
    In her public lecture, Ms. Otunbayeva spoke eloquently about the challenges of promoting pluralism in the Kyrgyz Republic. Following unrest in 2010, Ms. Otunbayeva provided strong, stable leadership in challenging times. In many ways, Ms. Otunbayeva is the Margaret Thatcher of central Asia. She helped usher in parliamentary elections and a peaceful transition of power following her interim presidency. A video of her lecture will be posted on the Global Centre for Pluralism website, and I encourage all Canadians to watch her speech.
    Our Conservative government has invested millions of dollars in the Global Centre for Pluralism and supports what His Highness is doing. Our Conservative government has also welcomed Ismaili refugees to Canada from central Asia, and our government looks forward to collaborating with His Highness the Aga Khan in the future.

Oslo Freedom Forum

    Mr. Speaker, I recently returned from the annual Oslo Freedom Forum, described as the Davos of human rights, an inspired and inspiring gathering of pioneers and leaders, from former presidents to grassroots activists, who are involved in advocacy, policy, media, business and technology. They came together to bring humanitarian causes to the forefront of the global agenda; to shine a spotlight on repressed societies that warrant exposure; and to to enlarge, enhance and empower the international struggle for freedom. This year the forum engaged in a series of compelling and interactive exchanges on the Arab uprising, one year later; lessons learned from case studies of emblematic political prisoners; slavery in the shadows; and the impact of new technologies and paradigms in the protection of human rights.
    We are witness to a growing criminalization of dissent, to systematic and systemic assaults on human rights and to a quarantining of human rights that is too often ignored, marginalized or sanitized.
    Oslo took us out of the shadows of repression into the sunshine and the struggle for freedom, reminding us all of our individual and collective responsibilities for the promotion and protection of human rights at home and abroad, and particularly in the shadows of repression.

Agriculture and Agri-Food

    Mr. Speaker, the NDP agriculture critic has made unacceptable accusations against Canadian meat producers, claiming that road kill and dead stock would be allowed into the processing system.
    Nothing could be further from the truth. The beef producers I represent have made Alberta beef the world standard.
     The NDP allegations have threatened our world-renowned reputation. Producers in Quebec are appalled that the NDP leaders would have the audacity to make such accusations against Quebec pork.
    This is the same New Democratic Party that is completely wrong in attacking Canada's energy and natural resource sector. It is now also recklessly hurting Canada's largest manufacturing sector with its wildly irresponsible and false claims.
    The number of food inspectors on the front line is still growing, with $51 million from the economic action plan 2012. Of course, the NDP voted against it.
    Our Conservative government is focused on protecting the economy, jobs and the quality—

  (1415)  

    Order. The hon. member for Vancouver East.

Prime Minister's Office

    Mr. Speaker, last Thursday during a meeting with his constituents, the member for Kootenay—Columbia offered Canadians a sobering glimpse into the life of a Conservative backbencher.
    He described how Conservative MPs were powerless to stand up for their constituents and admitted that he could not explain the details of the Conservative's Trojan Horse budget bill.
    I remember a time when Conservatives allowed dissent, a time when that Prime Minister promised to give backbenchers a real voice, back in the forgotten days when they claimed to stand for the grassroots and believed in democratic reform.
    Now the Conservative PMO silences dissenting voices—not just scientists and the media, but even their own members. Last week's heavy-handed overreaction by the PMO is bad for Canadian democracy.
    How can Canadians trust that this Prime Minister will listen to their concerns when he is not even willing to listen to the concerns of his own MPs?

Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, it seems these are lonely times for the Liberal MPs huddled in the far corner of the House of Commons. Apparently it is getting harder and harder to find friends.
    At the special committee our government created to study the responsible resource development section of the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, all parties had the opportunity to call witnesses.
    Can members guess who the Liberal Party called? Did it call an independent expert in the field? Did it call a friendly NGO to defend its carbon tax, which has already been rejected by Canadians? Did it call an industry representative or an academic to discuss how this budget would create jobs and growth?
    No, no, and no.
    The Liberals could have called anyone in Canada, and they chose to call the Liberal member for Ottawa South.
    That is right. When the Liberals were given a chance to hear from anyone they wanted regarding this important legislation, they chose to hear from themselves.
    I guess even--
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please.
    The hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands has a few seconds to finish his statement.
    Mr. Speaker, when the Liberals had a chance to hear from anyone they wanted, regarding this important legislation, they chose to hear from themselves.
    I guess even when they are talking to themselves, it is good have someone to listen.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Employment Insurance

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative EI cuts will not only devastate seasonal workers, they will also hit Canadians working on temporary contracts, hundreds of thousands of people, not seasonal workers but those in precarious term jobs, at least in their own fields. These people work hard, pay into EI and should be able to access EI when they need it. Now they will be forced by the Conservatives to either take a 30% permanent pay cut or be kicked off EI.
    Why is the Prime Minister going to force the most vulnerable workers into an even more precarious position?
    Mr. Speaker, of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that in many parts of the country, people have difficulty finding work, particularly in some parts of the country where much of the economy is seasonal and people have difficulty finding work off season. Of course, EI will be there for people who cannot find a job.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, what the Prime Minister does not seem to want to understand is that taking employment insurance benefits away from unemployed workers will not help them find jobs. This objective simply does not make any sense.
    According to what the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development said last week, the real objective is to provide the McDonald's restaurants of this world with cheap labour. She named McDonald's. These workers will be forced to abandon their careers and skills and take a 30% pay cut. That will be their only choice.
    Who is supposed to benefit from this reform—the workers or McDonald's?
    Mr. Speaker, since we are talking about jobs, I have to say that I just attended the G8 summit and Canada has the best track record for job creation of all G8 nations. It is this government's policies that are helping workers to find jobs. For those who are unable to do so, there will be employment insurance benefits.

  (1420)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, there is not a single aspect of this plan that will actually help anyone find a job. What unemployed Canadians can look forward to are threatening emails from the Conservative government telling them what low-paying jobs they must now apply for, at least until they get kicked off EI and then they will not even be able to pay for their Internet connections any more.
    Can the Prime Minister explain why the Conservatives want to force unemployed workers to choose between a 30% pay cut or the EI benefits they have paid for and they deserve?
    Once again, Mr. Speaker, of course, it is the policies of this government which are helping Canadians get jobs. We have 750,000 more people working today than we did during the recession. I just attended the G8, where we have the best job creation record among that group of countries. We will continue to do our best to try and put some resources into helping people find jobs. At the same time, for those who still cannot find work in their seasonal industries and seasonal parts of the economy where people have difficulty finding work, there will, of course, be employment insurance as a safety net for those people.

[Translation]

Pension

    Mr. Speaker, the truth is that the Conservatives are attacking not only the unemployed, but also seniors.
    The census data released this morning show that Canada is aging and that even more seniors are going to need old age security in the coming years. Seniors have followed the rules all their lives, but the Conservatives are now robbing them of $10 billion to make up for the F-35 budget deficit.
    Why are the Conservatives making tomorrow's seniors pay for their mismanagement?
    Mr. Speaker, it is true that the census shows that the population is aging faster than before, but it is also true that those numbers show that the old age security program is not sustainable in the long term.

[English]

    Furthermore, a number of organizations agree, for example the Fraser Institute; The Institute for Public Sector Accountability; David Dodge, economist and former governor of the Bank of Canada; Fred Vettese, chief actuary for the consulting firm Morneau Shepell; the Canadian Taxpayers Federation—
    The hon. member for Parkdale—High Park.

Government Policies

    Mr. Speaker, that is simply wrong. Expert after expert says that OAS is sustainable. A new report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer reveals that Conservative budget cuts are actually twice what they have admitted publicly, and now Conservatives are refusing to share even basic information with the PBO. Workers waiting to hear about the future of their jobs deserve the truth. The government has a legal obligation to provide information to the PBO.
    Why are Conservatives so hell-bent on keeping Canadians in the dark about their planned budget cuts? Why?
    Mr. Speaker, let me reiterate that we will continue to report to Parliament and through Parliament to Canadians through the normal means, which includes the quarterly financial reports, the estimates, the public accounts. All of these reports will be publicly available in due course.
    They will report that we are on track with budget 2012 to deliver jobs and opportunities to Canadians. We are on track to reduce the deficit to zero in a moderate fashion. We are on track with all of our promises in the campaign.

Employment Insurance

    Mr. Speaker, Premier Dunderdale of Newfoundland is quoted as having said this about the situation with respect to employment insurance, “What is it that we have to do down here to get your attention? We try to co-operate; it doesn't work. We vote for you; it doesn't work. We don't vote for you; it doesn't work. What is it?”
    The premier is expressing a frustration that is shared by other Atlantic premiers, indeed by premiers across the country, with respect to the lack of consultation by those jurisdictions that are going to have to pay the price for this downloading.
    Is the Prime Minister prepared to meet with Premier Dunderdale and the other premiers?
    Mr. Speaker, I meet with premiers all the time.
    In terms of the specifics here, no one is suggesting any downloading, quite on the contrary. We want to make sure the people who are getting EI or thinking of getting EI have the opportunity to work in the labour market. There are many cases where those labour market opportunities are not being taken advantage of and these reforms are part of a package to accomplish that. It is good for all parts of the country, including Newfoundland and Labrador.

  (1425)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the problem is that the Prime Minister is not prepared to recognize the reality of the situation. If people cannot get employment insurance benefits, they will turn to the provinces for welfare. History clearly shows that that is what happens. That is why the premiers are insisting on discussing the repercussions of these cuts on the provinces.
    I am asking the Prime Minister directly. Is he prepared to meet this country's premiers in order to deal with this problem, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, this government has one of the best job creation records in the entire developed world.
    We want to make it possible for Canadians to fill existing positions. For example, if people are not able to find work in areas where employment is seasonal, we will make sure that employment insurance is available to them.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is almost as if these changes are being put out on the back of an envelope.
    We still do not have the regulations that are in place. It is one of the reasons that we are hearing not just from employees who are concerned and not just from seasonal workers. We are hearing from farmers, from farm organizations right across the country, who are deeply concerned about the impact of these changes on their own employment practices with respect to temporary permits of people coming in from offshore.
    Could the Prime Minister tell us why he will not withdraw these suggestions until such time as he has established a stronger national consensus for the kind of changes that this requires?
    Mr. Speaker, these changes are widely supported by employers.
    Our philosophy here is different than that on the other side. We want to make sure people can get jobs when jobs are available rather than employment insurance. We want to make sure that when jobs are available Canadians get first crack at those jobs, not temporary foreign workers.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we all know what usually happens when there is a labour shortage: salaries increase. That is the principle of supply and demand.
    However, the Conservatives' plan to reform employment insurance will put downward pressure on the salaries of workers across Canada. This will be very bad for the economy. If EI is to be reformed, the changes should target accessibility and the processing of applications.
    Why are the Conservatives ignoring the real problems?
    Mr. Speaker, the real question is this: why does the opposition want to give jobs to foreign workers rather than to Canadians?
    The Conservatives want to help Canadians find jobs and apply for positions that exist in their regions and in their areas of expertise. This will help Canadians, before employers turn to foreign workers to fill those jobs.
    We want to help Canadians because that is the best thing to do.
    Mr. Speaker, last year, the Conservatives forced Mexican nationals wishing to work in Canada to obtain a visa in order to restrict their entry.
    The Conservatives want to connect people to jobs by sending emails and text messages, but they have yet to say what they will do about families living below the poverty line who do not have cell phones or Internet access.
    People in outlying regions have also been abandoned, whether they work in the fishery, tourism or forestry.
    Why is this government using EI reform to attack communities that make their living from tourism?
    Mr. Speaker, there is a labour shortage in many sectors and areas across Canada. In those regions, there are often unemployed workers who are unaware of the jobs that are available. We will help these people find these jobs. We will notify them so that they can have jobs that pay more than employment insurance. This will improve their well-being and that of their families and our country.

  (1430)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the government's attack on rural Canadians is shameful. In towns that rely on seasonal industries like the fisheries, agriculture, tourism—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. The hon. member for Hamilton Mountain has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, in towns that rely on seasonal industries like the fisheries, agriculture, tourism or forestry, Conservative EI changes would exacerbate the exodus of workers from their communities. The skills shortages left behind would be permanent and the minister will not even consult with the industries hardest hit.
     Why are the Conservatives so intent on pushing through these reckless changes that would hurt so many rural communities?
    Mr. Speaker, as I was explaining to the hon. member in the elevator just this afternoon, we are working on helping rural Canadians find jobs that they may not be aware of in their areas. We want to ensure that they know what jobs are there, in their local area within their skills range so they can access them so they and their families would be better off. If they cannot find jobs within their field in their area, EI would be there to support them.
    Mr. Speaker, one conversation with me in the elevator is not a public consultation. The Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development claims that there have been consultations and yet she could not name a single EI-specific consultation anywhere, any time. EI is not just a safety net—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. The hon. member for Hamilton Mountain still has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, EI is not just a safety net for workers. Entire industries rely on it.
    When will the minister hold public consultations with the workers, industries and communities affected? When will she follow the Minister of Finance's advice and talk to the provinces that would be hardest hit?
    Mr. Speaker, we are supporting those provinces. We would help their workers, particularly their seasonal workers, become aware of jobs that are available to them for which they are qualified in their local area in the off season. That way, they could have access to those jobs, earning more money for themselves and looking after their families better. We would make other changes to EI as well to make sure that part-time work is better than being on EI, because we know that part-time work often leads to full-time work. When that happens, the workers win, the employers win, the families win and so does our country.

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, once again Canadians see the abuses of entitlement that come from the lack of accountability of public boards and agencies. Let us look at the Old Port of Montreal, where the taxpayers were stiffed with the cost for a South Seas cruise and an extended vacation. What did we get for all of our money? A bunch of stock pictures they could have taken off Google.
    Canadians are tired of this excess. Will the government ask the Old Port to ensure that this $10,000 is not on the taxpayers' dime? What steps will the Conservatives take to rein in this system of buddy entitlement at these ports?
    Mr. Speaker, all of us in the House share our concern about these expenditures. We have asked the Auditor General to do an audit of these expenditures, and he has agreed to do so. In addition, at my request, the Old Port has agreed to put in place an independent third party member to oversee all expenditures going forward.
    Mr. Speaker, if the Conservatives were really interested in accountability, they would not be stuffing these boards with failed Tory candidates. They have the nerve to tell average Canadians that the cupboard is bare while creating the most audacious employment scheme for people who were deliberately rejected by the people of Canada. We have failed Tories at the Employment Insurance Board, the Parole Board, the Human Rights Tribunal, the port authorities and, of course, the cash-for-life senator. My God, it is like watching a proliferation of zombies in a Tory horror movie. Why are they using the same tired old pork-barrel, rum-bottle politics that Canadians rejected when they threw out the Liberals?
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's comments really miss the mark there. It is nothing of that type. We have ensured that appointments made to serve the public are from among Canadians who are very distinguished and capable. That does not disqualify people who, of course, have a political affiliation.
    That is certainly the case with the NDP. We can find a number of its former candidates employed in political jobs. For example, we could look at Alain Ackad, who ran for the NDP in Lac-Saint-Louis. He is now assisting the MP for Pierrefonds—Dollard in a political job. I am sure there are many more.

  (1435)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, if you want to see beautiful images from the four corners of the world, sign up for the Grands Explorateurs. A season ticket to attend six fascinating talks costs $83.50.
    That is quite a bit cheaper than the $10,000 it cost to send the president of the Old Port of Montreal Corporation on a trip. What is more, the president, upon her return, submitted a report consisting mainly of slides. Clearly, a fish rots from the top down.
    Conservative ministers have demonstrated that it is okay to live high off the hog at taxpayers' expense. It is not surprising that others are trying to take advantage.
    When are the Conservatives going to restore a responsible, ethical culture?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we all share the member's concern and partly his outrage, but at this point we have asked the Auditor General to do an audit and we appreciate that he has accepted to do that.
    Furthermore, at my request, the Old Port has agreed to take on a third party independent company to sit in at the Old Port to review and sign off on all expenditures going forward.

[Translation]

Labour Relations

    Mr. Speaker, impunity and hypocrisy are the Conservatives' trademark.
    When it came time to protect the economy of the Montreal region, protect jobs and enforce the Air Canada Act, the Conservatives sat on their hands. They did nothing. Aveos employees were not entitled to the special treatment received by CP, Air Canada and Canada Post management.
    Once again, the Conservatives have waded into a conflict involving a private company. Why this misplaced interventionism? The invisible hand of the Conservatives has once again got a stranglehold on workers and their rights.
    Why are the Conservatives so bent on repeatedly sabotaging negotiations?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, obviously the member did not watch the media on the weekend because, if he had, he would have realized that both parties have been unable to conclude a deal in the case of CP Rail, and, even though we have offered them 120 days of extra mediation, they have rejected that offer as well.
    There is not question that the economy is being affected, which is why our government has tabled legislation and why we will be debating it this evening.

Pensions

    Mr. Speaker, when will the Conservatives figure out that workers are the backbone of the economy. The Conservatives' back-to-work legislation also attacks workers' pensions. The CPP fund is at the heart of this dispute. The government is siding with a profitable company that has decided to go after employees' pensions just for more profit.
    Employees play by the rules and pay for their own pensions. Why are the Conservatives always picking winners and losers and why are workers' pensions always under attack?
    Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member would actually read the legislation she would see that it does not predetermine any issue. In fact, by introducing this legislation, we are acting on the side of the Canadian economy and the general Canadian public interest.
    We are not the ones taking sides. I do not think the opposition can say the same thing.

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government's passion for secrecy is legendary. First it deceived Canadians with a so-called $10 billion accounting error. Then it refused to release the statement of requirements. It then said that there was a contract and then said that there was no contract. Then, when MPs may wish to examine ministers and other witnesses about the F-35, it shuts down the committee.
    When will the Conservative government commit to govern with transparency rather than stealth?
    Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite knows, we have had a thorough study of the Auditor General's report. In fact, we have had the Auditor General come to committee on three separate occasions to discuss this chapter. We have had senior officials from the departments come to committee on two separate occasions. We have had the Parliamentary Budget Officer come to committee to discuss his calculations. We have had ministers also come before the committee of the whole for hours to answer all of the questions of the opposition.
    It is time to get going and for the opposition to quit playing political games and get this report written.

[Translation]

Search and Rescue

    Mr. Speaker, after so many years, we have learned there will finally be a competition to replace the search and rescue aircraft. The reason for this is clear: the operational needs for this aircraft were referred to the National Research Council for review and modification in order to guarantee an open and transparent competition.
    If the process is good enough for that kind of aircraft, then why not for the CF-18s? Will the operational needs for the aircraft to replace the CF-18s be referred to the National Research Council for review, and will there be an open and transparent competition?

  (1440)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, search and rescue is a critical aspect for Canadian society and our government recognizes this fact. Our plans include proceeding as expeditiously as possible on the project. We will continue responsible management of this file, including consultations with industry. We are exploring options that will result in the best outcomes for search and rescue and the best benefits for Canadian taxpayers.

Standing Committee on Public Accounts

    Mr. Speaker, my question is for the chair of the public accounts committee.
    In April, I moved motions to call for witnesses and to summon documents as part of the committee's study on the F-35 fiasco. Despite my motions having been previously called and still up for debate, the chair chose not to allow them to proceed.
    My question is about the agenda of the committee. Why has the chair not allowed my motions to be dealt with and will he commit that, before proceeding to other business, he will allow my motions to be properly debated and properly voted on?
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to answer the question.
    First, notwithstanding the fact that he is referring to matters that were dealt with in an in camera meeting and he understands the rules around that--
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Let me answer the question.
    The first part of the answer is that--
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. The hon. member for Hamilton Centre has the floor.
     Mr. Speaker, I will try again.
    The first part of the answer to his question is that his motion was out of order. The member does not want to accept that, but that is not my problem.
    On the second issue, there is another point of order. I committed to undertake to review that and come back with a determination that will happen on Thursday, and that is exactly what will take place.

RCMP

    Mr. Speaker, week after week, there are more and more revelations about sexual harassment in the RCMP.
    Despite the fact that federal ministers have a clear responsibility to show leadership to address this very real problem, successive governments have turned a blind eye. The current Minister of Public Safety is reluctant to even use the words “sexual harassment” when asked about this in the House.
    So many Conservative crime bills but nothing concrete to address the epidemic of sexual harassment in our own national police force.
    Unfortunately, Canadians are rapidly losing faith in the RCMP as the clock ticks.
    What is the minister's plan?
    Mr. Speaker, I think I have indicated in this House a number of times that I am extremely concerned about the troubling reports of sexual harassment in the RCMP.
    There are a number of measures that the RCMP are taking, the commissioner specifically. I am very supportive of the initiatives that the new commissioner is taking.
    In addition, we will be looking at the legislation that deals with issues of discipline. This is an issue that needs to be addressed through legislation. I hope, for once, I can count on that member's support when it comes to that type of legislation.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this is not a new problem, and there have already been countless promises made. It is now time to act rather than wait for there to be more victims.
    A high-ranking RCMP officer in Alberta was found guilty of repeated acts of sexual harassment. What was the outcome? He lost a few days' pay and was transferred. That is not a solution.
    When are the Conservatives going to get tough on crime when it comes to sexual harassment?

  (1445)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government is committed to giving the RCMP the tools it needs to keep Canadians safe and to ensure there is appropriate oversight and accountability mechanisms in place. We agree that changes are necessary to deal with what Commissioner Paulson called “dark hearted behaviour” displayed by a small minority of RCMP officers.
    We will be bringing forward legislation in respect to discipline in the RCMP and I hope the member will support these important initiatives.

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, from one failure to investigate to another.
    It is another day into the investigation into likely the single most expensive military procurement in Canadian history. What is new? It is a secret. The Conservatives say that they have nothing to hide. They say that there is not a cover-up, but if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and even swims like a duck, what does the minister think it is?
    Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, we have had a thorough study of the Auditor General's report. We have had ministers and senior officials from the departments come to committee of the whole and answer all of the opposition's questions. As a matter of fact, there were over 107 questions.
     We accept the Auditor General's recommendations and we look forward to the committee's report.
    Mr. Speaker, we have not heard the Minister of National Defence say why he refused to follow policy on life cycle costing. We have not heard the associate minister say why, for months, he misled Canadians in this House. We have not heard the Minister of Public Works say why her department signed off on sole sourcing the F-35. Instead, they are ducking public scrutiny.
    Why will they not let the committee do its job out in the open and get the answers Canadians deserve?
    Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, ministers did come before committee of the whole and answered 107 questions, all of the questions the opposition requested them to answer.
    In response to concerns raised by the Auditor General, we have undertaken a seven point plan to guide the replacement of Canada's aging CF-18s, led by a next generation fighter secretariat. We will ensure that Canadians have reliable and transparent costing that fits within our budget before signing any contracts to purchase a fighter aircraft.

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs reaffirmed Canada's horror at this weekend's attacks in the Syrian town of Houla in which nearly three dozen children under the age of 10 were viciously killed. Media reports today suggest that these killings were executions.
    Despite repeated calls for peace, Assad's reprehensible campaign of savage violence continues unabated.
    Would the Minister of Foreign Affairs please tell the House the most recent actions taken by the Canadian government in response to the violence in Syria?
    Mr. Speaker, I believe all Canadians were absolutely horrified with the events that took place in Syria this past weekend. Targeting civilians, especially executing children, is absolutely intolerable and inexcusable.
    Today, Canada, joined by many of its closest allies, has expelled Syrian diplomats from Canada. We are giving a very clear message to the Assad regime that his representatives are no longer welcome in our capital. We will continue to work very hard through the United Nations, the Arab League and our allies to bring much pressure to bear.
    Tomorrow we are calling on the Security Council to bring in tough economic sanctions against the Assad regime and join what Canada has already been doing for many months.

Fisheries and Oceans

    Mr. Speaker, sweeping cuts to fisheries will have a serious impact on the health of our waters, our fisheries and our coastal communities.
    In a rare showing of non-partisanship, four former fisheries ministers have come together to criticize Conservative changes to the Fisheries Act. Tom Siddon, fisheries minister under Brian Mulroney, called the changes “devious and scary” and accused the Conservatives of gutting the Fisheries Act.
    When will the fisheries minister recognize that this is a reckless road he is going down and stand up and defend coastal communities?
    Mr. Speaker, as I have said many times, we are focusing our fish and fish habitat protection rules on Canada's fisheries, not on farmers' fields.
    The opposition likes to ignore the many massive improvements we are making to the act, such as identifying ecological sensitive areas, making the Fisheries Act conditions enforceable and allowing higher maximum penalties, as well as allowing regulations around invasive species. We made a $17.5 million announcement just yesterday on invasive species to fight Asian carp.

  (1450)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, what the Conservatives are doing is endangering the very survival of the fishing industry and the economy of all coastal communities. That is why about 100 businessmen, academics and experts have signed a letter condemning the cuts.
    By eliminating scientist and researcher positions, they are destroying our capacity to understand how fish habitats function.
    Why are they attacking communities that make a living from fishing? Why are they abandoning sustainable management of the resource?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, this government has made and continues to make massive investments in science. We have invested $30 million to refit laboratories and science vessels, millions of dollars to complete ocean mapping for Canada's UNCLOS submission and $10 million to support emerging commercial fishing in the Arctic. Additionally, in Canada's 2012 budget there is another $30 million to support fishery science.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, to make matters worse, the Conservatives are eliminating the Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research, so last week, the Conservatives put one million hectares of our Arctic waters up for sale for oil and gas exploration, and this week, they are giving pink slips to the people who give us expert advice on how to deal with oil spills.
    Is the minister planning to base something as important as Canada's energy policy on a whim or a hunch, or is he happy just to do whatever his oil lobbyist friends suggest?
    Mr. Speaker, we announced over $20 million for the Beaufort regional environmental assessment process. That process is now ongoing to set benchmarks for future activities that may occur in the north, in the Arctic. Yes, indeed, we put out some exploration licences. There was take-up. This is good for the north; this is good for economic activity; this is part of our jobs and economic prosperity agenda.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives’ irresponsible cuts go even further than that. They are also scuttling Environment Canada’s group for monitoring smokestacks and thereby eliminating our ability to measure industrial emissions. This interferes with our efforts to control pollution and, in addition, jeopardizes the health of the entire population of Canada.
    Does the minister understand that slashing the monitoring of polluting emissions does not reduce atmospheric emissions?
    Why is the minister taking an axe to the important scientific work done by his department and closing his eyes to industrial pollution?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question, but it misrepresents and exaggerates what she is talking about.
    Information that is relevant to our government's development of industrial smoke stack emissions regulation is available through a variety of sources, including the provinces and industry itself. Environment Canada will continue to work with other jurisdictions and with other expert bodies to ensure high standards to protect human health and the environment.

The Budget

    Mr. Speaker, the government's ideological approach to budget cuts harms Canadians. A program that helps low-income Canadians access the Internet at libraries is gone; inspectors who ensure our food is safe to eat, gone; scientists who protect our oceans and environment, gone; the Coast Guard station in Kitsilano and search and rescue centres in St. John's and Quebec City, all gone.
    Why is the government intent on making budget cuts that defy common sense and endanger lives?
    Mr. Speaker, I can assure the hon. member that we have made some moderate decisions that are designed to get the budget back into balance in the medium term. This is part of our long-term jobs and growth strategy that the Minister of Finance ably put forward in budget 2012. That is what we are focused on. We are focused on jobs for Canadians from coast to coast to coast; we are focused on economic growth that can be shared by all Canadians; and we will continue to focus on that because that is the mandate the Canadian people gave to us.

  (1455)  

    Mr. Speaker, for some reason, the government is reluctant to fix a glaring problem with registered disability savings plans. To qualify for such a plan, people have to be seriously disabled right now, but those suffering a debilitating disease like MS, for example, which will result in serious disability at some future point but not right now, cannot get a registered disability savings plan. In other words, they cannot save now while they are still able to do so.
    For the third time, why will the government not fix this obvious problem?
    Mr. Speaker, the registered disability savings plan was brought in by the government several years ago. I am interested in the member opposite's question. It is unfortunate that he voted against the plan when we brought it before the House of Commons.
    There are some provisions in the budget this year, and I hope that the hon. member will look at the budget bill that is before the House now that addresses some of the revisions that the consultation we had in the past year indicated ought to be made to the registered disability savings plan. I hope the member will read it and then vote for the amendments.

Infrastructure

    Mr. Speaker, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities delivered a groundbreaking report today showing the Conservative government takes a lot more tax dollars out of municipalities, cities and towns than it puts in.
    To paraphrase a former city mayor from Toronto, “Where is the money? Show us our money”. Municipalities have difficulty fixing their crumbling bridges and have problems dealing with policing costs and building affordable housing.
    Will the Conservative government replace the build Canada fund by the fall of 2014 so that municipalities can deal with—
    Order. The hon. Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, never in the history of this country has a government invested as much as this government to support municipalities throughout the country.
     We implemented the rebate of the excise tax on gasoline. Not only have we continued to rebate it, but we have now incorporated this in legislation.

[English]

    Order. There is far too much cross dialogue going on. The hon. Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, municipalities in Canada do not have a more committed partner than our Conservative government, with $33 billion through the building Canada fund. This fund will expire in 2014. That is why the new plan we are working on will be ready for 2014.
    Mr. Speaker, that is a lot of talk but little comfort to Canadians who are stuck in traffic gridlocks and who have to boil water before they drink it. These are direct results of Conservative government neglect of cities and communities. To make matters worse, the green infrastructure fund has been cut.
     The municipalities need to know by the fall of next year whether there will be a permanent program. They need to know whether the gas tax will be indexed so that it will be protected from the ravages of inflation.
    Mr. Speaker, we are working with all our partners throughout the country. This afternoon, right after, we will continue to have discussions with provincial ministers about the new infrastructure plan.
    We are already at work to deliver. What is very difficult to understand is that the NDP voted against everything we set up for municipalities. I will be with them at the FCM. I will remind them what the party voted against.

Veterans Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, the men and women of the Canadian Forces are amongst the best soldiers in the world. Their service to our great nation is very much appreciated.
    For some in uniform, the service and sacrifices they make will stay with them for the rest of their lives in a form of physical or mental disability.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, order. The hon. member for Etobicoke Centre has the floor. We will have a little order.
    Mr. Speaker, could the minister please update this House on the status of long-term disability pension payments to injured veterans?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Etobicoke Centre for his work on this file and his long service in the Canadian Forces himself.
    This morning I had the opportunity to speak with Dennis Manuge, who was part of the class action. I informed him of our government's decision not to appeal the recent ruling regarding the long-term disability insurance plan.
    We sought the court's clarification. We agreed with the decision. We will act expeditiously to ensure that these benefits are provided to our veterans and our current members who need it as soon as possible. We will extend this approach, as well, to the earnings loss benefit program, as well as two other relevant programs in the Department of Veterans Affairs.
    We care for our veterans. This is the right thing to do.

  (1500)  

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, on April 23, RCMP Commissioner Paulson begged the status of women committee to update the 25-year-old disciplinary rule that ties his hands and allows officers convicted of sexual harassment to go free. Unfortunately, government committee members offered lip service and deaf ears, as my motion to address the problem did not pass. This inaction has now forced the commissioner to appeal directly to Canadian people.
    Victims are tired of being swept under the rug and want to know when the so-called minister of law and order is finally going to do his job, stop talking and start doing, and take some serious action on behalf of the thousands of victims out there in Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, those are amazing comments coming from a member who sat in a caucus that shut down the depot in Regina and stopped the training of RCMP officers.
    We absolutely did not.
    Order. The hon. Minister of Public Safety has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, as I indicated to my colleagues in the NDP, I have been working diligently with the commissioner—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order. The hon. Minister of Public Safety has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, Troop 4, 1998, was the last troop before the Liberals shut down the depot, and they know it.
    I have indicated we have worked with the commissioner—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order. The hon. Minister of Public Safety has the floor.
    Notwithstanding the comments by the member for Wascana, Mr. Speaker, we will work with the RCMP. We will not shut it down. We will ensure that the Canadian people are protected.

Poverty

    Mr. Speaker, today UNICEF released a report on rates of child poverty that ranks Canada in the bottom third of industrialized countries. The report pulls no punches and says that the child poverty rate shows up in stunted individual potential, higher social costs and dimmed economic prosperity for all.
    Will the government live up to its responsibilities under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and act now to end child and family poverty?
    Mr. Speaker, the government has done exactly that. In fact, the percentage of children in poverty is half under our government of what it was under the Liberals. Why is that? It is because we have done a lot of things that the NDP voted against, such as enhancing the national child benefit and the child tax benefit. This year we are investing $19 billion in support of children. Those members are voting against it. We introduced the universal child care benefit that has taken 55,000 children out of the low income bracket. Those members voted against that. We have improved that for single families. They are voting against it too.
     We are there. We are helping children get out of poverty. Too bad the NDP would not join us in that effort.

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, my top priority and that of our government is creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians.
    The over 751,000 net new jobs created since July 2009 are positive signs that our pro-trade plan is on the right track for London workers and Canadian workers. Economic action plan 2012 announced a commitment to refresh the global commerce strategy.
    Would the Minister of International Trade share with the House how our government is moving forward with what is the most comprehensive trade expansion plan in Canada's history?
    Mr. Speaker, today on International Trade Day our government is launching the next phase of our pro-trade plan for jobs, growth and economic prosperity.
    We have announced the start of formal consultations towards an updated global commerce strategy and also the appointment of an eminent panel of Canadian industry and business leaders who will provide advice on the next phase of the plan. This will demonstrate once again that Canadians can compete in the global marketplace against the best in the world and win.
    I do want to thank the member for London West for his great work on the trade committee and for the great question.

  (1505)  

Disaster Assistance

    Mr. Speaker, as the government knows, the people of northwestern Ontario are a strong and united people, but we are not immune from the forces of nature. A state of emergency has been declared in Thunder Bay and the surrounding areas due to flooding. When the damage to public infrastructure is fully assessed, it will be in the tens of millions of dollars.
    When the request for financial assistance comes from the municipalities and the province, is the Minister of Public Safety prepared to help the people of Thunder Bay and the surrounding areas rebuild after this unfortunate event?
    Mr. Speaker, our hearts go out to those affected by the flooding. Management of these situations rests primarily with the Province of Ontario, but there is room for federal involvement through the provisions of the disaster financial assistance agreement.
    I have also discussed this matter with the member for Kenora to ensure that the voices of northern Ontarians are being heard along with that member. The Government of Canada stands ready to assist should we be requested to do so.

[Translation]

Employment Insurance

    Mr. Speaker, in 2010 the Conservatives legalized the looting of $57 billion from the employment insurance fund. By 2016, another $16 billion will have been taken away from employers and employees. The government is now proposing a reform to reduce benefits for workers who lose their jobs. Let us be honest: the employment insurance program has become a cash cow for the government.
    Since the government is treating employment insurance as no more than a tax on working, why does it not transfer responsibility for it to Quebec, which former chief actuary Michel Bédard says would be better able to protect its workers, at a lower cost?
    Mr. Speaker, everything he has just said is absolutely false. The Liberals are the ones who looted the employment insurance fund, and we are the ones who have introduced a new system to make sure there is a balance between premiums paid and spending. Unfortunately, the Bloc voted against that effort to control spending and help the unemployed at the same time.

[English]

Presence in Gallery

    I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of a parliamentary delegation from Bosnia and Herzegovina, led by the Honourable Milorad Zivkovic, Speaker of the House of Representatives.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
    The Speaker: I would also like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the Honourable Ken Hughes, Minister of Energy for Alberta.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

Points of Order

Oral Questions  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, in response to a question about the changes to the long-term disability policy, I wanted to thank all members of the House for their support, particularly the Minister of Veterans Affairs for his hard work on this file.
    Mr. Speaker, those who were chanting “Peter” on this side were speaking of the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, although we do appreciate the minister's decision not to appeal the decision and we support it wholeheartedly.
    During question period, the member for Toronto Centre was kind enough to read a quotation by Premier Dunderdale, the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. Unfortunately, he called her “he” in his quotation. I would like to give him an opportunity to correct the record. Premier Dunderdale is actually a women. He may want to correct it in the blues, but perhaps he would want to correct it in the House as well.
    Mr. Speaker, the opposition House leader already tweeted on this subject, which is a thoroughly nice thing of him to do.
    I also appreciate the point from the member for St. John's East. I know Premier Dunderdale extremely well. We had a wonderful meeting not too long ago. In fact, we spent the regatta together on August 1. If I inadvertently referred to the premier as “he” when I should have referred to her as “she”, of course I apologize.

  (1510)  

    Order, please. I am not sure if any of those are actual points of orders, but I am sure the House appreciates the clarifications.

Government Orders

[S. O. 57]

[English]

Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations Legislation

Motion that debate be not further adjourned  

    Mr. Speaker, with respect to the consideration of Government Business No. 12, I move:
    That the debate be not further adjourned.
    Pursuant to Standing Order 67.1, there will now be a 30-minute question period. As has been done in the past, members should try to keep questions or comments to about a minute and the responses to a similar length of time.
    Once again, we will try to give preference to members of the opposition, although government members will be recognized in the rotation.
    The hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this is the second time today we are debating an attack on democracy.

[English]

    There has been a shutdown of the investigation into the F-35 hearings, as well as the refugee abuse bill earlier this morning. It is the 23rd time since being elected to a majority that the government has used this abusive tactic in Parliament, a tactic that it used to say was contemptuous of Parliament and against the democratic values of the House.

[Translation]

    The government has to justify using this brutal tool against democracy and against the interests of Canadians.

[English]

    Because I suggest that the minister may not be moved by my own words, I will repeat the words of the Prime Minister when he believed in the powers and supremacy of this place to actually have debate. He stated:
    We have closure today precisely because there is no deadline and there are no plans. Instead of having deadlines, plans and goals, we must insist on moving forward because the government is simply increasingly embarrassed by the state of the debate and it needs to move on.
    No more than 10 hours after negotiations began, the minister and the government indicated clearly that they would be introducing back-to-work legislation thereby siding with one side of the table.
    I cannot understand how the minister and the government do not realize that they poisoned the well of negotiations between employers and employees and have now poisoned the well of the democratic values of this place to have a fair and free debate by invoking closure and shutting down debate in the House for the 23rd time in just over a year.
    Where are the principles that Conservative members used to have for the supremacy of Parliament?
    Mr. Speaker, first, I do not think the hon. member meant to say that we had introduced the motion 10 hours after negotiations began. I think he meant 10 hours after the work stoppage began. Negotiations have been ongoing in this matter for many months, with many hours of help from Labour Canada. That is the point.
     During all of this time the parties have not been able to conclude an agreement. They have not been able to even agree to a process that they can voluntarily submit to. Now we have a strike that affects the national economy and we need to act because a prolonged strike has a great effect on the prosperity of our country.
    Mr. Speaker, what is clear is that a Conservative majority government does not support democracy within this chamber. We can talk about time allocation records dealing with issues like the Canadian Wheat Board, the pooled pension, copyright bill, gun registry, financial system reviews act, back-to-work legislation for CP Rail today, Canada Post in the past and Air Canada not once but twice. The minister in particular has introduced more time allocations and back-to-work legislation than any minister prior to her.
    To what degree does the minister believe that she has any credibility whatsoever when it comes to the issue of having a fair bargaining process? If we talk to the workers, whether of CP, Air Canada or Canada Post, there is great disappointment that the Conservative government does not believe in the free bargaining process.

  (1515)  

    Mr. Speaker, that is the opinion of the member and it is completely incorrect. We truly believe in free collective bargaining. It is a very important part of the Canada Labour Code. That is why we put so much work and effort into trying to help the parties before they actually get to an impasse. Indeed, labour officials, my deputy minister and I, in my role as Minister of Labour, worked many hours with the parties to try to get them to their own deal or to get them to a process. Instead, we have a work stoppage, which is affecting the national economy and the Canadian public interest.
    I understand the member has talked to workers. We as well have a greater audience and a greater universe we must talk to and consider. That is the Canadian public in general and it is being affected as well, in industries and in businesses, with possibilities of lay-offs coming in industries that are not CP Rail. That is why it is important to move it forward quickly today.
    Mr. Speaker, it seems strange for me hear the words “we believe in free collective bargaining” from the minister. If the Conservatives believed in free collective bargaining, they would allow that bargaining process to play out. Even before the workers had been on strike for more than a few days, the minister announced that there would be an intervention as soon as the House opened. That took away any incentive from the employer to bargain.
    My question for the minister is very simple. Did the minister meet with the employer and tell it that its demands to take away employees' pensions and take more money out of their pocket was contrary to the fact that it made millions and millions of dollars in profits last year?
    Mr. Speaker, this is where the opposition does not understand the role of government. The role of government is to be the third party to help the parties to a deal. We are not on one side of the deal or on the other side of the deal. I do not give explanations of management or labour to the other side. I am there to help them talk to each other. When they do not talk to each other and we end up with a strike that affects the national economy or the greater public interests, that when we indicated, which we did last Wednesday, that there would not be a prolonged strike and that we would move in this fashion.
    Mr. Speaker, having had an opportunity to read the legislation, it is completely different than past back-to-work legislation that we have seen in this chamber. We have seen it far more prescriptive and almost offensive.
     I would appreciate if the minister would explain the shift in the approach of the back-to-work legislation, where this one certainly would not put the same parameters around as did the past two pieces of back-to-work legislation. It allows allow more flexibility with the arbitrator.
     Could she explain the rationale as to why she followed this path at this time?
    Mr. Speaker, this legislation clearly would not predetermine any issue. That is still in dispute between the parties, to be a fair and balanced approach in interest-based arbitration. I will also point out that it is very similar, if not identical, to the legislation that was tabled in the House in 2009 with respect to CN Rail. It very much is, and was, the approach that we take with respect to the private companies associated with the railways.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I just heard the Minister of Labour say that the government was not on either side of the negotiations, but that it acted as a third party that intervened when the talks broke off or, it seems, when they were interrupted. It is funny, but this afternoon I really feel like I completely understand the position of the Canadian Pacific workers because in this very House, where there are two parties that should be able to discuss this new bill, the government tells us point-blank after just a few minutes that it will impose closure on us, the hon. members of this House, and that we will have a limited time to discuss an approach as significant as the one the government has now used repeatedly. The same thing happened with Air Canada and with Canada Post.
    Is this how the government intends to conduct negotiations in Canada's public and private sectors from now on?

  (1520)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I cannot speak for other matters with respect to time allocation, but I can speak to this specific case.
    In this case, we are on day seven of a work stoppage, a strike. We know from past precedents, from 60 years of history, that if the work stoppage is prolonged, rail strikes have dire and serious effects on the national economy.
     We have given space at the table for the two parties to negotiate with the help of our labour officials, mediators and ourselves within the ministry. Unfortunately, they have not come to a deal within that timeframe.
     We are looking at a situation in which companies are reporting to ministers of transport, agriculture, industry and natural resources that it is getting very tight for people who rely upon CP Rail for the transit of their goods and receipt of their materials. For the greater good of the economy, we feel that when the negotiations have stopped and the work stoppage continues, we really do need to make sure that CP Rail gets working on Thursday.
    Mr. Speaker, in my area we have a commuter rail system that is very important to commuters getting to and from work. I know the minister was involved early on in the conversation to resolve the commuter rail issue. Could she explain what she did there, and what the minister's role was? Overall, what is the role of the Minister of Labour in any dispute that has come to her attention?
    Mr. Speaker, in accordance with the Canada Labour Code, the Minister of Labour actually has no distinct powers to do anything about a work stoppage but to come to Parliament and ask for back-to-work legislation or to work with the parties to get a deal or find a process.
    In the case of the commuter portion of CP Rail, in the past, CP Rail and the Teamsters have not made an agreement to provide commuter rail services. What we saw in 1995 was the shutting down of commuter rail services in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto. At the time, 75,000 Canadians could not get to work or get home from work as a result.
    It was very important for us, as one of the first steps when the negotiations were coming to a close and the cooling-off period ended, to make sure that Canadians were provided with commuter services, and both parties did agree to it finally at the end.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this type of back-to-work legislation is far from unprecedented. Unfortunately, this has become common practice.
    Can the minister tell us why she is refusing to guarantee collective bargaining and why she has introduced yet another bill to erode workers' rights?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, this back-to-work legislation today is a fair and balanced approach. It does not predetermine any issue and it provides the parties with a resolution to their matter, but from our perspective it also provides something equally important: it provides resumption of the service. In this way the national economy can continue to prosper and grow and the Canadian public's interests are upheld.
    Collective bargaining is enshrined within the Canada Labour Code. We do all that we can in Labour Canada to support it, but there is a point in time when the greater balancing has to happen. As government, it is our obligation to ensure that we act on behalf of the entire nation and the economy on which we rely.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister, who has worked extremely hard on this file, not just this week. For several months, she has helped and encouraged the two parties to negotiate.
    I am personally concerned about the economic recovery here in Canada. We are all aware that this strike is hurting the economic recovery.
    For the sake of everyone in the House and all the Canadians watching us today, I would ask the minister to clearly explain the impact of this conflict on the Canadian economy. What will the impact be if we do not fix this problem?

  (1525)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her question specifically focusing on the economic aspect.
    A report in 2009 out of the Rotman School of Management indicated that just in terms of the four bulk carrier areas of oil, oilseeds and grains, pulp and paper products, and coal, a cessation of rail service that would cause these products not to move would entail a weekly cost to the economy of $540 million. That is the cost associated with just those four areas.
    Car parts come in through the port of Vancouver each and every day. They are needed for the assembly plants in southwestern Ontario. That is extremely important to our economy. The effect in 1995 is untold, but economists have put it very close to the $3 billion to $5 billion range.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Teamsters Union for bargaining in good faith. We can say they were bargaining in good faith because they did not disrupt commuter transportation.
    Unfortunately, the same thing cannot be said about CP Rail management. Why would they bargain in good faith when they know that the Minister of Labour is going to interfere with workers and bargaining rights?
    This is my question for the minister. Why does she not believe in collective bargaining?
    Mr. Speaker, I firmly believe in free collective bargaining. The bulk of my work as Minister of Labour is to support it and to help provide parties with the space to do that.
    That said, I have to commend both the Teamsters, who were first to offer to provide the commuter services—which was a very great gesture—and CP Rail, which at the end of the day also agreed to provide the commuter services.
    The parties did work diligently at the table and attempted to find a way, but they were unable to or did not want to. As a result, we are here today to introduce and debate back-to-work legislation so that the trains can commence on Thursday.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we have become accustomed to this government's gag orders and strong-arm tactics. Once again, as always, the Minister of Labour wants to use another strong-arm tactic. Here is my question. How far will they go in acting this way?
    During the Canada Post negotiations, the government's proposals were well below the salary levels discussed. Tomorrow, by passing the legislation, the minister is going to introduce her own right to strike or lock out.
    What is this country coming to? Where is our democracy? Where are the workers' rights?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, in 60 years of parliamentary precedent, rail strikes have occurred ten times, and ten times the government of the day either asked and ordered the workers to go back to work or the companies to end the lockout, the reason being that we balance the workers' right to strike. We recognize it in the Canada Labour Code and there are rules and regulations around it, but we need to balance that against the greater issues of the national economy and the Canadian public interest.
    That was measured in 1995. It was measured in 2007. It was measured in 2009, and prior to that in the 1960s and 1970s. It is the same set of circumstances that cause us to come to the conclusion that back-to-work legislation needs to be introduced. The effect on the national economy and the effect on the Canadian public interest is so great from a work stoppage that we have to balance it against the rights of the workers to strike. That is why we are announcing back-to-work legislation.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened to the minister mention a 60-year history, and she rhymed off some numbers. Can the minister can tell us when it was, during the last 60 years, that we passed back-to-work legislation three times consecutively in one year?
    In one year we have had postal workers, Air Canada and now Teamsters. I am wondering if the minister could answer that question. I am sure she does not have those figures.

  (1530)  

    Mr. Speaker, the year was 1995 and the government was Liberal.
    Mr. Speaker, we have heard the minister speak about meeting with the parties to try to facilitate a collective agreement. It was the Minister of Labour who assisted in the agreement between the parties to maintain commuter rail service during the strike.
    Could the minister further explain the role that she, as the Minister of Labour, plays in these labour relations?
    Mr. Speaker, in an ideal world everything would go as planned, as with what happened with respect to the BCMEA and the longshore in Vancouver. What happened in that case was that the parties remained at the table and were diligent in negotiating. It took two years for us to get to the point of a deal, but they did their own deal, with the help of Labour Canada and myself. They ended up with a fantastic deal. It was good for management and good for employees, and there was a great renewed sense of importance for the Asia-Pacific gateway. That is a true measure of success.
    Ending a process by having to introduce and pass back-to-work legislation is not a measure of success. What it indicates is that the parties could not find a deal at the table, and because the strike would have an effect on the national economy, the government needs to step in. That is not what is supposed to happen. We much prefer to be on the side of facilitating the parties in collective bargaining and making sure that they find their own way to a deal or, if they cannot, to a process.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I would like to know from the minister why back-to-work legislation is being imposed for the third time on a group of employees who have fought for recognition of their right of association and their bargaining rights.
     This is the third major union, the third major employer that they have disagreed with. This is even a repudiation of management's negotiators and shows a lack of confidence. They are taking away all the tools that both management and union sides use when bargaining without legal interference.
     What kind of labour climate does she think this will create for these three major businesses, these three major entrepreneurs? What will happen? Employees will wind up on unemployment and will be forced to work for 70% of their salary.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I too worry about the after-effects of a government imposing a process for the parties to find their own deal, because history will tell us that it does not help the employees and it does not help management. That is why it is their problem and their responsibility to get a deal at the table. However, if they cannot get a deal at the table, especially with respect to rail, there cannot be a prolonged work stoppage that affects the national economy.
    When I was at the table with the parties during the negotiations, we made it very clear that they knew the history of this sector. As a result, we indicated to them that if they were having difficult discussions on very important topics such as pensions, they needed to find a process of their own to go forward. We provided that to them on Sunday, prior to any kind of back-to-work legislation, and both of them rejected it outright.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I do not know what the Conservatives will be doing during the summer break because they have unfortunately gotten us used to their habit of using the guillotine in Parliament every week, for virtually anything, on every bill. We are in that situation once again.
     My question is in a way further to that of my colleague from Compton—Stanstead. I would like to ask the minister whether she is aware that her government's actions have given the employer the opportunity to simply sit back and wait for special legislation to be imposed on workers. Unfortunately, she has shown with Canada Post and Air Canada that this is what employers under federal jurisdiction now have to do: stop bargaining and simply wait for the sword of Damocles.
     That sword is not slow in coming. The minister announced in advance that there would be special legislation, which will no doubt be to the workers' disadvantage. So that is what is coming. That also somewhat answers the question by my colleague from Compton—Stanstead, who asked what was coming. What is coming is that, thanks to the Conservative government, there will be no more bargaining. The Conservatives have just stripped the workers of the right to fair and equitable bargaining. This is a scandal.

  (1535)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I would invite the member to look at the legislation. The legislation that we are proposing and will be debating this evening does not predetermine any issue that is in dispute with the parties. In fact, we have put in place a neutral process with an arbitrator who can listen to both sides and see what is still in dispute. If they still cannot come to an agreement themselves within those 90 days, the arbitrator will have the power to take part in or come up with his or her own way of establishing a collective agreement.
    What we are saying is that the rail strike cannot continue. It is having an effect on the national economy and it will get worse as each day goes by. We need to act this evening in order to ensure that Canadian Pacific and the teamsters can collectively go back to work on Thursday.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, the word bargaining necessarily involves big bucks. As we know, in a negotiation, the two parties sit down on either side of the table and calculate very accurately what they have to lose before agreeing on a settlement that can be transformed into a win-win situation.
     Is the minister aware that, by announcing days ahead of time that there will be special legislation, she is changing the calculations that the employer is doing at the bargaining table and that, consequently, if it concludes that it would be better to wait for special legislation than to really bargain, genuine bargaining as it should be done has just been completely short-circuited?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, from the government's perspective, we looked at the effect of a strike and work stoppage. We also calculate how its effect on the economy can be balanced against the right of workers to strike. Indeed, history has shown that when it gets to seven to nine days of a rail strike, it has a grossly disproportionate effect on the entire economy. We made it clear to the parties that history shows that they will probably be looking at a process forced upon them by the government if they do not agree.
    It was equally important to let businesses know that the government was aware of what was happening at the table and, indeed, the government would take out of the way procedural hurdles that would have to be undertaken prior to being able to introduce back-to-work legislation. All of those things were done because we want to protect the national economy and we stand on the side of Canadian public interest.
    Madam Speaker, why is it that when required legislation is put forward, like Senate reform that was promised, it takes ages and ages and weeks and years but when something like the HST or this legislation needs to be debated, it can be rammed through in hours? There are a number of abuses to democracy that we are seeing in the House these days. It could take hours to list them all.
     Why does the Conservative Party and the minister favour U.S.-controlled and owned large corporations over the rights of workers across Canada?
    Madam Speaker, if the member would like to look at the actual legislation, he will see that we have put together legislation that does not predetermine any issue, does not favour either side and, indeed, one could say that interest-based arbitration tends to favour the status quo.
    In the back-to-work legislation that we have introduced, each party will have an opportunity to present its case and the arbitrator will have the ability to combine the two to create a collective agreement or, indeed, help the parties reach their own collective agreement themselves.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, my question is for the minister.
    What kind of impact will imposing a collective agreement have? In this case, there is the issue of the pension fund, which the company wants to reduce by 40%. That is a big part of the collective agreement, and reducing it will penalize the workers.
    Do the Conservatives have a hidden agenda to set a precedent in Canada for reducing private sector pension funds in the future?

  (1540)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, the issue of pensions was a very divisive issue at the bargaining table. I guess the best way to put it is that they could not find their way forward as a result of it, which is why we have the strike that we have today.
    We believe that the process proposed in the back-to-work legislation is fair, neutral and allows both of the parties to put their issues on the table before an arbitrator. The arbitrator does not have to choose one over the other. He or she can put both of them together or come up with a collective agreement based upon what the parties submitted. It is the best way to approach this matter, especially when we are dealing with issues that are as important as people's pensions.
    It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings at this time and put forthwith the question on the motion now before the House.

[Translation]

    Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Deputy Speaker: Those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Deputy Speaker: In my opinion the yeas have it.
     And five or more members having risen:
     The Deputy Speaker: Call in the members.

  (1620)  

    (The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
 

(Division No. 229)

YEAS

Members

Ablonczy
Adams
Adler
Aglukkaq
Albas
Albrecht
Alexander
Allen (Tobique—Mactaquac)
Allison
Ambler
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
Armstrong
Ashfield
Aspin
Baird
Bateman
Benoit
Bernier
Bezan
Blaney
Block
Boughen
Braid
Breitkreuz
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Newmarket—Aurora)
Brown (Barrie)
Bruinooge
Butt
Calandra
Calkins
Cannan
Carmichael
Carrie
Chisu
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Daniel
Davidson
Dechert
Del Mastro
Devolin
Dreeshen
Duncan (Vancouver Island North)
Dykstra
Fantino
Findlay (Delta—Richmond East)
Finley (Haldimand—Norfolk)
Flaherty
Fletcher
Galipeau
Gallant
Gill
Glover
Goguen
Goldring
Goodyear
Gosal
Gourde
Grewal
Harris (Cariboo—Prince George)
Hawn
Hayes
Hiebert
Hillyer
Hoback
Hoeppner
Holder
James
Jean
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Kent
Kerr
Komarnicki
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Lake
Lauzon
Lebel
Leef
Leitch
Lemieux
Leung
Lizon
Lobb
Lukiwski
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Mayes
McColeman
McLeod
Menegakis
Menzies
Merrifield
Miller
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Nicholson
Norlock
O'Connor
O'Neill Gordon
Obhrai
Oda
Oliver
Opitz
Paradis
Payne
Penashue
Poilievre
Preston
Raitt
Rajotte
Rathgeber
Reid
Rempel
Richards
Richardson
Rickford
Ritz
Saxton
Schellenberger
Seeback
Shea
Shipley
Shory
Smith
Sopuck
Sorenson
Storseth
Strahl
Sweet
Tilson
Toet
Toews
Trost
Trottier
Truppe
Tweed
Uppal
Valcourt
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Wallace
Warkentin
Watson
Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country)
Weston (Saint John)
Wilks
Williamson
Yelich
Young (Oakville)
Young (Vancouver South)
Zimmer

Total: -- 157

NAYS

Members

Allen (Welland)
Andrews
Angus
Ashton
Atamanenko
Aubin
Ayala
Bélanger
Bellavance
Bennett
Benskin
Bevington
Blanchette
Blanchette-Lamothe
Boivin
Borg
Boulerice
Boutin-Sweet
Brahmi
Brison
Brosseau
Byrne
Caron
Casey
Cash
Charlton
Chicoine
Chisholm
Chow
Christopherson
Cleary
Coderre
Comartin
Côté
Cotler
Crowder
Cullen
Cuzner
Davies (Vancouver Kingsway)
Davies (Vancouver East)
Day
Dewar
Dion
Dionne Labelle
Donnelly
Doré Lefebvre
Dubé
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona)
Dusseault
Easter
Foote
Fortin
Freeman
Fry
Garneau
Garrison
Genest
Genest-Jourdain
Giguère
Godin
Goodale
Gravelle
Groguhé
Harris (Scarborough Southwest)
Harris (St. John's East)
Hassainia
Hsu
Hughes
Hyer
Jacob
Julian
Karygiannis
Kellway
Lamoureux
Lapointe
Larose
Latendresse
Laverdière
LeBlanc (Beauséjour)
LeBlanc (LaSalle—Émard)
Leslie
Mai
Marston
Martin
Masse
Mathyssen
May
McCallum
McGuinty
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
Michaud
Morin (Chicoutimi—Le Fjord)
Morin (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine)
Morin (Laurentides—Labelle)
Morin (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot)
Mulcair
Murray
Nantel