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41st PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 264

CONTENTS

Thursday, June 6, 2013




House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 146 
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NUMBER 264 
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1st SESSION 
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41st PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1005)  

[English]

Privacy Commissioner

    I have the honour to lay upon the table the report of the Privacy Commissioner on the application of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act for the year 2012.

[Translation]

    Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(h), this document is deemed to have been permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner

    Pursuant to section 38 of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, I have the honour to lay upon the table the report of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner for the fiscal year ended March 23, 2013.

[English]

    This report is deemed to have been permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.
    I have the honour, pursuant to Section 38 of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, to lay upon the table the special report of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner concerning an investigation into a disclosure of wrongdoing.

[Translation]

    This report is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

[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 responses to 29 petitions.

Respect for Communities Act

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

[Translation]

Committees of the House

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics 

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics concerning Bill C-461, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act (disclosure of information).
    The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.

Petitions

Crown Corporations  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition in this House from over 2,600 people who oppose Bill C-60, particularly with respect to the Treasury Board's ability to interfere in the collective agreement negotiations of crown corporations. These people are extremely worried, even outraged, about this precedent. Crown corporations must be independent and able to negotiate their collective agreements on their own and at arms' length. This is known as freedom of negotiation and that is why I am presenting this petition today.

[English]

Impaired Driving  

    Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to present petitions on behalf of 171 Canadians from Alberta and British Columbia regarding impaired driving causing death. These citizens want to see tougher laws and the implementation of new mandatory minimum sentencing for those persons convicted of impaired driving causing death.
    These petitioners also want the Criminal Code of Canada to be changed to redefine the offence of impaired driving causing death as vehicular manslaughter.

National Parks  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition on behalf of several hundred petitioners concerning Rouge Park, the largest urban park in Canada.
    The petitioners point out that this is a great opportunity to save 100 square kilometres in a public land assembly. They want the government to strengthen and implement the ecological vision, to restore and protect the 600-metre-wide corridor, and to conduct a rational, scientific and transparent public planning process.

[Translation]

Employment Insurance  

    Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition that was drawn up in the wake of budget 2012. People in my riding are opposed to the measures in this budget, particularly the ones related to employment insurance reform. They are calling for these measures to be repealed immediately.
    I want to present this petition because I believe this budget is still having some very negative consequences for my riding.

[English]

Chief Firearms Officers  

    Mr. Speaker, petitioners wish to have the federal government replace the chief firearms officers from the provinces and territories with a single civilian agency so that firearms laws could be applied equally across Canada.

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition from constituents and others who are concerned about the possibility of an oil spill in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. They request the establishment of an immediate moratorium on oil and gas exploration and development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and they call on the government to commit to establishing an environmental assessment review panel, which would include representation from all gulf provinces and aboriginal leaders, to determine the impact of oil and gas exploration and development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

  (1010)  

Search and Rescue  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition on behalf of a number of residents of my constituency of St. John's East and other ridings in Newfoundland and Labrador. The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to reverse the decision to close the Canadian Coast Guard Maritime Rescue Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, to reinstate the staff and restore its full services.
    These residents and many others in Newfoundland and Labrador are still outraged and concerned that the Government of Canada has closed this very valuable rescue coordinating facility in St. John's that has participated actively in saving lives for many years.

[Translation]

Employment Insurance  

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present three petitions calling on the Government of Canada to reverse the devastating changes to employment insurance contained in its mammoth bill. The consequences of these changes have been felt since the spring of 2012.

[English]

Foreign Investment  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise this morning to present two petitions. The first is signed by literally hundreds and hundreds of people from Sidney, in my riding, Victoria, Vancouver, Prince George and many locations throughout British Columbia. The petitioners call on the Government of Canada to refuse to ratify the Canada-China investment treaty, based on the fact that it affects Canada's sovereignty and undermines our ability to pass domestic laws and regulations, municipally, provincially and federally, giving the People's Republic of China the right to challenge these laws and sue for billions.
    We certainly wish good luck to the Hupacasath First Nations, who are before the Federal Court in Vancouver today.

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from residents of Ottawa, Wallaceburg, Kingston and other locations in Ontario. I have two petitions to the same effect. Petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to cease and desist from promoting the Enbridge project and accept the wisdom of British Columbians that the project should not proceed.

[Translation]

Status of Women  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of presenting a petition asking that the Financial Administration Act be amended to encourage balanced representation. Canadian women are currently under-represented on boards of directors of crown corporations, where they hold 27% of upper management positions. Diversity—which includes the male-to-female ratio, geographic representation, ethnicity and even the age of directors—is an essential part of good organizational governance.

[English]

Impaired Driving  

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present two petitions. The first is a petition that highlights the sad fact that last year 22-year-old Kassandra Kaulius was killed by a drunk driver. A group of people who have also lost loved ones to impaired drivers, called Families for Justice, have put together this petition. They want to see tougher laws and the implementation of new mandatory minimum sentencing for those persons convicted of impaired driving causing death.

Sex Selection  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition regards gendercide. Petitioners highlight that there are 200 million missing girls in the world right now because of discrimination against girls. They are calling on Parliament to condemn discrimination against females through gendercide.

Mining Industry  

    Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure this morning to present two petitions. The first one is from residents of my riding of Nickel Belt. It concerns high-grade mining. Some miners, not all, will mine high-grade ore, leaving behind the lower grade ore. Then once the high-grade ore has been mined it is not profitable to go back and get the low-grade ore.
    The petitioners are calling on the House of Commons to establish legislation enforcing guidelines that guard against unchecked and irresponsible high-grade mining.

Pensions  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition, again from residents in my community, calls on the Conservative government to reverse the changes to the old age security program, which they say are a direct attack on the poorest seniors who rely on money for daily living expenses.
    As we know, the Conservative government has raised the age of OAS eligibility to 67 and these petitioners are calling on the government to return the age to 65 because a lot of seniors live in poverty.

  (1015)  

Search and Rescue  

    Mr. Speaker, I present a petition today on behalf of residents from Thunder Bay, northwestern Ontario and across Ontario protesting the closure of the Thunder Bay Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centre. This is a safety issue. The centre is crucial to the safety of boaters and marine traffic on all of the lakes and rivers all the way from Lake Winnipeg down through to Lake Huron.
    The petitioners are asking that this House reverse the government's decision to close this important safety centre, which has been an important institution in the northern marine community for over 100 years.

Questions on the Order Paper

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

Points of Order

Standing Committee on Finance--Speaker's Ruling  

[Speaker's Ruling]
    I am now prepared to rule on a point of order raised on May 29 by the hon. House leader of the official opposition regarding the process followed by the Standing Committee on Finance with respect to its consideration of Bill C-60, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures.

[Translation]

     I would like to thank the hon. House leader of the official opposition for having raised this issue, and the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the members for Winnipeg North, Richmond—Arthabaska and Saanich—Gulf Islands for their interventions.

[English]

    In raising this point of order, the opposition House leader claimed that the order adopted by the Standing Committee on Finance on May 7, respecting its consideration of Bill C-60, went beyond the committee's authority as conferred by the House. Specifically, he explained that the committee order invited certain other standing committees to study different parts of the bill and, along with independent members, to submit amendments to the Standing Committee on Finance.
    He explained further that the committee order also provided that such amendments would be deemed moved so that the committee could consider and vote on them. This, he argued, was an instance of a committee exceeding its prescribed authority, since the House had determined that the bill was sent to the finance committee only and since House rules dictate that committee membership is determined solely by the House and cannot include members of non-recognized parties. In addition, he noted that it contravened the rule that only committee members can move motions and that even they must, in fact, be present at the committee to do so.

[Translation]

    The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons contended that it was an established practice that one standing committee could invite other standing committees to consider the subject matter of relevant sections of a bill it is studying with a view to submitting amendments. Furthermore, he suggested that the inclusion of independent members in the committee’s proceedings was part of an evolutionary process, one that was in no way discriminatory since the deadline for submitting amendments was the same for all concerned: independent members, other committees and even members of the committee itself. He explained that, in effect, this process was simply an effort by the committee to respond directly to the suggestion that I had made in a ruling on December 12, 2012, on a similar matter.

[English]

    For her part, the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands questioned whether the committee process was in procedural conformity with my ruling, as well as whether, as a result of the committee order, her rights as a member had somehow been restricted, even put aside. The hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska made similar arguments, highlighting what he perceived to have been an erosion of his rights with regard to the submission of amendments at report stage.
    In the case before us, in many respects, is a logical evolution of procedural events that have unfolded in the last year, and indeed of events of over 10 years ago. In fact, to place the matter in its proper context, it is necessary to refer to the March 21, 2001, statement by Speaker Milliken, found at page 1991 of the Debates, which set us on a path to where we are today with respect to the committee and report stages of the legislative process. That statement clearly established the guidelines that the Chair now uses to discharge its responsibility with respect to the selection of amendments at report stage. Indeed, the very process of selection was born out of a need to return report stage to its original purpose, that is, the consideration of only those amendments that could not have been moved in committee.

[Translation]

    Speaker Milliken was clear in his intent when he urged:
...all members and all parties to avail themselves fully of the opportunity to propose amendments during committee stage so that the report stage can return to the purpose for which it was created, namely for the House to consider the committee report and the work the committee has done...

[English]

    These guiding principles are embodied in the interpretive notes attached to Standing Orders 76(5) and 76.1(5), which have allowed committees to a large extent to remain the central focus for the detailed study of bills, thereby ensuring that report stage not become a repetition of committee stage.

[Translation]

    House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, explains, at pages 783 and 784:
    As a general principle, the Speaker seeks to forestall debate on the floor of the House which is simply a repetition of the debate in committee…Furthermore, the Speaker will normally only select motions in amendment that could not have been presented in committee. A motion previously defeated in committee will only be selected if the Speaker judges it to be of such significance to Members as to warrant further consideration at report stage.

  (1020)  

[English]

    However, the strength of these guidelines has been tested in the recent past as the House faced voluminous report stage proceedings, first in June 2012 with Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, and then in November 2012 with C-45, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures.
    These two cases brought into sharp relief the difficulties faced by independent members with respect to committee proceedings on bills, specifically in reference to the provisions of Standing Order 119, which do not permit a member who is not a member of the committee to move any motion, nor to vote, nor to be part of any quorum. These circumstances cause some members to call into question the ability of the House's rules and practices to safeguard the intended purpose of report stage.

[Translation]

    They also gave rise to a ruling on December 12, 2012, in which I addressed the issue of the participation of independent members in the process of amending bills, particularly in committee. In that ruling, I suggested that, until committees found a way to enable independent members to have their amendments considered at the committee stage, the Chair would continue to allow them to do so at report stage. I stated at that time, at page 13224 of the House of Commons Debates:
    The Standing Orders currently in place offer committees wide latitude to deal with bills in an inclusive and thorough manner that would balance the rights of all members.
    and
…there is no doubt that any number of procedural arrangements could be developed that would ensure that the amendments that independent members wish to propose to legislation could be put in committee.

[English]

    To answer this fully would be to ask the Chair to reach into and adjudicate upon committee matters, a practice the House has long resisted, given that committees are masters of their own proceedings, as we are apt to say.
    In my ruling of November 29, 2012, on a similar case, consistent with these long-standing practices of the House, I informed members that in the absence of a report from the committee, the Chair would not delve further into committee matters. In doing so, I quoted Speaker Milliken, who on November 27, 2002, stated:
    As Speaker, I appreciate the responsibility that I have to defend the rights of all members and especially those of members who represent minority views in the House. At the same time, it is a long tradition in this place that committees are masters of their own proceedings. Ordinarily the House is only seized of a committee matter when the committee reports to the House outlining the situation that must be addressed.

[Translation]

    He then added:
    That being said, it is true as well that committees are permitted a greater latitude in the conduct of their proceedings than might be allowed in the House. It may not always be clear in a particular set of circumstances how best to proceed and so the ultimate decision is left to the committee itself.

[English]

    At the same time, the Chair is also cognizant of its responsibility for the selection of report stage motions and the fact that what happened in the finance committee in this instance has had a direct bearing on my selection decisions in the case of the report stage of Bill C-60 and on independent members. Accordingly, the Chair feels compelled to address some of the issues raised, particularly as they relate to their impact on independent members.
    As I understand it, the principal concern raised about the committee process was the committee's decision to deem moved any amendments submitted by independent members and certain other committees during the committee's clause-by-clause consideration. The main concern expressed by the opposition House leader with this manner of proceeding is that in his view it exceeded the committee's mandate. He argued that to deem motions to be moved is a clear violation of Standing Order 119, which stipulates that only permanent members of a standing committee can move motions. The opposition House leader stated that as a result, the process adopted by the finance committee was fundamentally flawed.
    It should come as no surprise to members that the House and its committees frequently resort to procedural motions to facilitate the flow of business. Procedure in committee is particularly fluid and varied, and many committees routinely use a wide array of processes to organize their work. Deeming things to have taken place is part of that body of precedent.
    In the House, this is often achieved by deciding to forgo the usual procedural steps and to assume that certain procedural transactions have taken place even if they have not. For example, it happens from time to time that the House will see fit to adopt a bill at all stages, deeming that each stage has been agreed to. No movers' names are attached to the motions for second reading, concurrence at report stage or third reading.
    Similarly, practically on a weekly basis, recorded divisions are deemed demanded and deferred. Again, no members' names are attached to the motions that make this possible. In fact, the House has even been known to tinker with the time-space continuum by deeming it to be a certain time, even when it is not, and by making, say, a Tuesday to be a Monday, as was done a few weeks ago on May 21. Again, no names of members are attached to the motions that make this possible.
    Our House and committee annals are rife with examples of this kind. These commonly used procedural instruments are even provided for in some of our Standing Orders. What may be causing difficulty in this case is that while the practice of “deeming” is most often achieved through unanimous consent, it can also occur by majority decision, but of course at greater cost in House or committee time.

  (1025)  

[Translation]

    In the case before us, it appears that this is the approach that was used by the finance committee. A motion setting out the process to be followed was proposed, debated and ultimately agreed to. As far as the Chair can see, in the absence of a report from the committee to the contrary, Standing Order 119 was not flouted in the process. Instead, it appears rather that a procedural instrument was devised to provide for the manner in which the committee would conduct its business.

[English]

    Turning to the issue of the rights of independent members, the Chair can only observe that the decision of the finance committee permitted them to do something they could not do before: namely, to have their amendments considered in the committee and, indeed, to be granted, pursuant to Standing Order 119, an opportunity to speak in committee. This is something that was not open to them before. In that sense, they succeeded in obtaining a form of participation in committee proceedings, as imperfect as it may have been in their eyes.
    As Speaker, I can only speculate on whether other committees will emulate or, dare I say, perhaps even expand on the spirit of inclusion witnessed in the Standing Committee on Finance.

[Translation]

    In summary then, while I am entirely sympathetic to the procedural consequence of this development for independent members at report stage, I must remind the House again of my obligation to ensure that report stage not become a repeat of the committee stage.

[English]

    As a guardian of the rights and privileges of all members, it is also my duty in this case to ensure that the rules, practices and expectations of the House are upheld and, in so doing, ensure that members are afforded an opportunity to participate in the legislative process. To protect the integrity of report stage, the Chair would have to know that there was no mechanism at all, not just an unsatisfactory one, for a member to move motions in committee.
    It is true that the rules of the House may result in varying degrees of participation for members, depending on the proceeding and depending on the status of that member for that proceeding. For instance, members of committees enjoy opportunities that non-committee members do not, and even committee members have varying opportunities to participate.
    What the Chair must protect is members' rights to have some mechanism to put forward their ideas.

[Translation]

    It is for these reasons that the Chair did not select any motions at report stage that could have been considered, or were considered, in committee.

[English]

    Accordingly, for all these reasons, I cannot conclude that the rights of independent members have been diminished as a result of the proceedings in the Standing Committee on Finance, particularly when scores of members who were not members of the finance committee, and thus not in a position to propose amendments there, are likewise subjected to the very same report stage restrictions.
    In addition, noting that this is a departure from the Chair's long-established practice of not commenting on committee proceedings, again in the absence of a report to the contrary on which to base its interventions, the Chair concludes that Bill C-60 is properly before the House and that it cannot find that a procedurally improper proceeding has taken place in the Standing Committee on Finance.
    I would like to thank all hon. members for their attention on this matter.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[Translation]

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act

Bill S-8—Time Allocation Motion   

    That, in relation to Bill S-8, An Act respecting the safety of drinking water on First Nation lands, not more than five further hours shall be allotted to the consideration of the third reading stage of the bill; and
that, at the expiry of the five hours provided for the consideration of 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 said stage of the bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

  (1030)  

[English]

    Pursuant to Standing Order 67.1, there will now be a 30-minute question period.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this is a sad moment in the history of this country and the Conservative government has a sorry record. In fact, it has broken a record by moving more than 40 time allocation motions in order to shut down debate and democracy. We on this side of the House think that Canadians deserve better. They deserve a government that listens.

[English]

    We heard from one Conservative member of Parliament yesterday, an ex-Conservative, who was willing to stand up for democracy and stand up for the Canadian House of Commons.
    The member for Edmonton—St. Albert talked about the ministerial “opulence” of the Conservatives and the fact that the ministers are spending on their limousines and five-star hotels. He talked about the myriad spending scandals of the Conservatives as well. He said, and I quote, “...my constituents are gravely disappointed”, and “My constituents demand better”.
    Canadians demand better than what we are seeing from this government.
    He also said, referring to the Conservatives, and I quote: “...we have morphed into what we once mocked”. He was referring to the spending scandals of the Liberals and their tendency to use closure to shut down the House of Commons.
    The member for Edmonton—St. Albert also said, and this is probably the saddest thing for those who voted Conservative in the last election, “I no longer recognize...the party that I joined”.
    This is how the Conservatives lead: shutting down democracy, and refusing accountability and transparency. Canadians deserve better.
     How many Conservative MPs are going to stand up against this motion for closure and stand up for their constituents in the House of Commons?
    Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the member is not very much concerned about the substance of the subject matter of this motion.
    The motion is about Bill S-8, safe drinking water for first nations. This bill is crucial to ensure that first nations have the same health and safety protections concerning drinking water and waste water treatment as are currently enjoyed by other Canadians.
    It has taken seven years for us to get to this point. It has taken seven years of continuous dialogue with first nations, including formal engagement sessions and implementing measures to accommodate the concerns of first nations.
    The proposed legislation before Parliament today is the result of hard work and collaboration. It is time to move forward.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, a 2011 report by Indian Affairs and Northern Development clearly states that a significant financial commitment to infrastructure development will be necessary, and that it will cost $4.7 billion over 10 years to ensure the needs of first nation communities regarding water and waste water systems are met.
    My question is for the minister. Why is the government refusing to invest in access to safe drinking water for first nation communities, despite the recommendations from its own group of experts?

  (1035)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member's claims are completely untrue and are not based on the facts.
    If she looked at the facts, she would see that, as part of the strategy the government has adopted in this bill to fix the situation, nearly $3 billion has been allocated between 2006 and 2014 to improve infrastructure on first nations reserves.
    Furthermore, more than $300 million was announced in budget 2012—and is being invested as we speak—to upgrade infrastructure on first nations reserves.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like my Conservative colleague to explain why his government insists on preventing us from speaking in the House of Commons and why he is in such a rush.
    Canadians and members of Parliament, including the former Conservative member for Edmonton—St. Albert, want to be able to debate and want to see more transparency on the part of this government.
    Why is this government not being more transparent with Canadians? That is what Canadians want to see.
    Mr. Speaker, we know that members of the New Democratic Party like to spin their wheels and waste time by talking instead of acting.
    This issue has been before Parliament in one form or another for seven years. First nations across the country are the only communities that do not have a regulatory system that sets standards for clean water and sewage treatment that are similar to standards in neighbouring communities.
    I understand that the NDP does not want to take action, which is why the motion is before the House. This country needs legislation that will treat first nations members like other Canadian citizens who enjoy rights that those living on reserve do not.
    Mr. Speaker, once again, it is sad to see that the government is cutting off debate by imposing a gag order reducing the time allocated to members.
    For those of us who are not on committees, the House is often where hear about these bills. The same is true for our constituents.
    I am aware that the minister was appointed to this position just a short while ago. Maybe he has not had the time to visit the aboriginal communities, which is perhaps unfortunate.
    I know that these communities need drinking water and that they live in dry areas. Often, people have to collect drinking water from rocky places between other bodies of water. It is very difficult. It is essential to take a close look at this because the technologies must be good, otherwise there will be problems. It is important that the members have a chance to discuss this.
    Will the minister reconsider his proposal to reduce the time for debate?
    Mr. Speaker, not to disagree with the member, but we think enough time has been allocated to discuss and debate views and concerns about this bill.
    The fact is that over 50 witnesses spoke on Bill S-11, the previous version, and on Bill S-8, the current version. Members heard from many organizations, including the Assembly of First Nations, the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs, the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, the Institute on Governance and the Indigenous Bar Association.
    Bill S-8 was introduced only after many hours of discussion. There has been enough debate. It is time to act.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for all the work he has done. This is a great day for first nations, as we have a government that is wanting to and will move forward. Access to drinking water and the effective treatment of waste water is a critical protection for first nations people.
    As mentioned by the minister, already over $3 billion in this budget and another over $330 million over two years is going toward helping sustain progress. It is not only for building but for renovating existing water and sewage treatment plant facilities on first nations reserves. We have to understand that this involves not only building them but training so that people are trained to operate these modern plants.
    I wonder if the minister would help us understand how these targeted investments our government has made are going to help move forward the three-pronged approach to improving water and waste water systems on reserve.

  (1040)  

    Mr. Speaker, in response to the 2011 national assessment, our government worked with first nations to build a long-term plan to improve on-reserve water and waste water. This is founded on three pillars, as the hon. member referred to. We are talking about enhanced capacity building and operating training, infrastructure investment and enforceable standards and protocols. When we say enforceable standards and protocols, this is what this enabling legislation would allow. We cannot move seriously, effectively and efficiently in addressing this gap on reserves throughout Canada without the proper legislative framework that would put the regulations in place to protect first nations members.
    I just cannot understand why the NDP and Liberals would oppose such a legislative framework. It is required and has been recommended by committee after committee. The first nations have called for it, yet they oppose it.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we, the members on this side of the House, are against the fact that there is no debate and democracy is being weakened. We are against the fact that we are not given the opportunity to analyze things. That is why we are against this. We are against the fact that democracy is suffering, to the point where members on the other side of the House are getting fed up.
    Does the minister think that we need to work together and restore a true, healthy democracy before criticizing everyone?
    Mr. Speaker, I am always amazed to hear members of the New Democratic Party lamenting the lack of democracy in our great and beautiful country. I have a bit of experience in the House, and I had the privilege of seeing the Constitution repatriated. I have seen and I am seeing—every week and every month, in every community—peoples' representatives, elected by Canadians, who are living up to their responsibilities.
    Here today, we have a mandate from Canadians. Improving the lives of first nations people is one of the objectives of that mandate. We know that there is a gap for first nations reserves in terms of the quality of drinking water and waste water treatment, yet when faced with a bill that all elected members are asked to vote on, they are voting no. We are asking them, urging them, to think for once about what is effective and best for the country, for first nations, and to vote in favour of this bill.
    Mr. Speaker, I find it sad that they keep breaking their own time allocation records. It is always the same story: it is oh-so-important, oh-so-urgent.
    My question for the minister is very simple. If it is so urgent, if it really is a priority for the government, why did the last two versions of this bill come from the Senate?

  (1045)  

    Mr. Speaker, I understand the ideological position of the member's party, which wants to make Canada the only western country and the only major democracy with a unicameral system. However, at present, we have a bicameral system, and this system empowers the Senate to introduce bills.
    In the end, what matters is not how the bicameral system functions, but the end result. What matters here is that first nations urgently need us to take action. The member should know this better than anyone.
    I understand that he likes to spin his wheels, but we want to take action and the motion is designed to do that.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I think there is new record-setting every single day for time allocation, on bill after bill. The subject matter before us in this debate is time allocation, not the substance of the bill itself.
     My question is for the hon. minister. Does the government, in which the minister serves on Privy Council, have any intention of ever allowing adequate debate on the bills before us?
     This is an affront to individual members. People in my position, who do not have automatic speaking slots in debates, lose them for sure every time there is time allocation. It never gets around to allowing full participation of all members of this House on issues of critical importance.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, that is the member's point of view, one that I can respect, but that I totally disagree with.
    Anyone who takes a hard look at the procedures will realize that any member who wants to do serious and reasonable work will have ample time to give his or her opinion on any bill before Parliament.
    When we look at the work of committees, we see that a great number of people are asked to appear and give their opinion. There is no time allocation there. The idea is that at some point decisions must be made. I understand that the NDP like to spin their wheels, but we want to move forward and it is time to rectify the situation.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to quote a former member of the expert panel on safe drinking water, Steve Hrudey, who testified in committee on May 23, 2013. He said:
    If those responsible for Walkerton's drinking water had simply satisfied the very limited guidance that was in place for treating Walkerton's water, that tragedy could have been averted. This disaster arose from a failure to do what needed to be done operationally...
    What is the minister going to do to prevent a Walkerton-like disaster from occurring in first nations communities?
    Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member is concerned about the Walkerton tragedy and its outcome, he should insist that all his NDP colleagues change their minds and support this regulation, which is essential to preventing such a situation. That is what this bill is trying to and will do. Once regulations are adopted throughout the country and once first nations are subject to regulations and standards, we will be able to ensure that the drinking water in those communities is safe.
    If he is serious about protecting the interests of first nations, he should be the first to vote in favour of this bill, since that is its primary objective.

  (1050)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the safe drinking water for first nations act is crucial to ensuring that first nations have the same health and safety precautions concerning drinking water and waste water treatment as are currently enjoyed by other Canadians.
    Our government has been engaging with first nations partners since first coming to government in 2006, and we continue to engage with first nations on the proposed legislation every step of the way. There have been seven years of continuous dialogue with first nations, including formal engagement sessions and measures to accommodate the first nations. The legislation before Parliament today is a result of hard work and collaboration.
    Would the minister please inform us as to whether the first nations will continue to be involved in the development and implementation of the regulations?
    Mr. Speaker, indeed, the government will work with first nations and other stakeholders to develop regulations and standards on a region-by-region basis. As a matter of fact, the preamble of the bill makes it clear that this is the intention.
    The government recognizes that many first nations communities face unique challenges, and their ability to meet federal regulatory requirements may vary from province to province and territory to territory. Developing federal regulations will take time. It will not happen overnight. These regulations will be implemented over a number of years, in full co-operation and collaboration with first nations and stakeholders.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the minister that, in French, the party's name is NPD, not NDP.
    They do not understand some very simple things. I spent two years on a reserve providing services to the community. For example, I drove the tanker truck to deliver water to all the homes. One well would have been enough to provide water to the entire reserve. The only thing the community was missing was the money to buy pipes. It had an excavator to do the work and everything else that was needed. The community was trying to get funding to pipe water to homes on the reserve, but it never got it. I lived there in the 1980s, and I am still not sure the situation has been resolved.
    There are many other similar cases. The people of Kitigan Zibi, a neighbouring reserve, solved 90% of their supply problems. Last I heard, they needed a half a kilometre of pipe to connect one neighbourhood to the water system.
    These communities do not need a law. They need resources. That is what the Conservatives do not understand. Proposing this at the last minute, one week before the end of the session, and imposing a gag order is not the proper attitude for a government that claims to act in the interests of first nations.
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member would have us believe that he is concerned about the resources invested in first nations.
    If he is so concerned, then how can he just stand there? Let him stand up and explain to aboriginals on the reserve he was just referring to why, in 2012, he and the other NDP members all voted against the government's budget, which invested $328 million in infrastructure.
    Mr. Speaker, honestly, to see what the government is doing makes me think of South Africa in days gone by. There is a tendency to generalize, as though every first nation were going through the same thing.
    The problem is that each community is unique. I am proud that members from all parties are able to talk about their own realities because it is something they care about. Unfortunately, this bill does not take communities' individual realities into account. The government did not bother to listen to these communities or even slightly address their needs.
    Why does the minister need to move a time allocation motion again when we are trying to share our ideas? I do not know any other hon. member who keeps using the same rhetoric over and over again. It takes some nerve to say that we are not serious. The word “honourable” is a title. Some have to work hard for it. He should know that. It is too bad.

  (1055)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am not shocked by the member's comments. It sounds like something the New Democratic Party would say.
    It is important to note that this bill is a response to various recommendations about drinking water on first nations land, including recommendations from the reports I mentioned earlier. These reports were from the Commissioner of the Environment, the expert panel on safe drinking water for first nations, the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, the national assessment of first nations water and waste water systems, and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.
    They call it muzzling. We say it is time to take action. I understand that members of the New Democratic Party would like to see us end up with the same record as the Liberals at the end of our mandate, which is to say no progress on this issue. On the contrary, we have a detailed three-pronged strategy that includes regulation. That is what this bill will be able to do.
    If they were seriously concerned about the issue, they would vote in favour of the bill so that it would pass.
    Mr. Speaker, the bill has to do with protecting sources of drinking water.
    Another bill passed by the government provides for environmental deregulation to allow pipelines to be installed. Furthermore, a provision of this bill stipulates that nothing in the bill should abrogate or derogate from any existing treaty rights.
    I have to wonder how the government will reconcile protecting sources of drinking water and making it easier for pipelines to cross first nations land. Is there not a contradiction there?
    Furthermore, I do not understand what the minister means when he says that NDP members are used to spinning their wheels. That deserves an explanation. What does he mean when he says that members of the NDP are spinning their wheels?
    Mr. Speaker, this is typical of the New Democratic Party, which is now questioning my French, likely because I am a simple Acadian from New Brunswick.
    To come back to the question, perhaps the member would be more likely to understand if I said it in English. I am sure he would understand that.
    I have to admit that aboriginal and treaty rights on first nation lands could be negatively affected if, for example, the land was used in a way that negatively affected the safety of the water. In that kind of circumstance, that could happen.
    However, people's health comes first, and that is the priority with this bill.
    Mr. Speaker, this government's actions are absolutely shameful. I am outraged that it would dare impose a 41st gag order on this Parliament, this time concerning Bill S-8, especially given that this bill contains significant flaws. In particular, these legislative measures will make first nations responsible for water supply systems, which have already proven to be inadequate, without giving them the funding and the means to construct systems that are better adapted to their needs.
    Last year, the NDP member for Timmins—James Bay told the government about the heartbreaking situation in the community of Attawapiskat. It is clear that first nations are not a priority for the government. Why are the Conservatives not taking action?

  (1100)  

    Mr. Speaker, they are upset because a similar motion has been moved 41 times. However, this proves that the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party were categorically opposed to passing bills in the House. Any reasonable Canadian would wonder why they are systematically opposed to anything and everything that is in the interests of Canadians and first nations.

[English]

     It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings at this time and put forthwith the question on the motion now before the House.
     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.

  (1140)  

[Translation]

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

(Division No. 740)

YEAS

Members

Adler
Aglukkaq
Albas
Albrecht
Alexander
Allen (Tobique—Mactaquac)
Allison
Ambler
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
Armstrong
Ashfield
Aspin
Baird
Bateman
Benoit
Bergen
Bernier
Bezan
Blaney
Block
Boughen
Braid
Breitkreuz
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Newmarket—Aurora)
Brown (Barrie)
Butt
Calandra
Calkins
Cannan
Carmichael
Carrie
Chisu
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Crockatt
Daniel
Davidson
Dechert
Del Mastro
Devolin
Dreeshen
Duncan (Vancouver Island North)
Dykstra
Fantino
Fast
Findlay (Delta—Richmond East)
Flaherty
Fletcher
Galipeau
Gallant
Gill
Glover
Goguen
Goodyear
Gosal
Gourde
Grewal
Harper
Harris (Cariboo—Prince George)
Hawn
Hayes
Hiebert
Hillyer
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)
Lauzon
Lebel
Leitch
Lemieux
Leung
Lizon
Lobb
Lukiwski
Lunney
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Mayes
McColeman
McLeod
Menegakis
Menzies
Merrifield
Miller
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Nicholson
Norlock
Obhrai
O'Connor
Oliver
O'Neill Gordon
Opitz
O'Toole
Paradis
Payne
Poilievre
Preston
Raitt
Rajotte
Reid
Rempel
Richards
Rickford
Ritz
Saxton
Seeback
Shea
Shipley
Shory
Smith
Sopuck
Stanton
Storseth
Strahl
Sweet
Toet
Toews
Trost
Trottier
Truppe
Tweed
Uppal
Valcourt
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Wallace
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country)
Weston (Saint John)
Wilks
Williamson
Wong
Woodworth
Yelich
Young (Oakville)
Zimmer

Total: -- 150

NAYS

Members

Allen (Welland)
Angus
Ashton
Atamanenko
Aubin
Ayala
Bélanger
Bellavance
Bennett
Blanchette
Blanchette-Lamothe
Borg
Boulerice
Boutin-Sweet
Brison
Brosseau
Byrne
Caron
Casey
Cash
Charlton
Chisholm
Choquette
Chow
Christopherson
Cleary
Côté
Crowder
Cullen
Cuzner
Davies (Vancouver Kingsway)
Davies (Vancouver East)
Day
Dewar
Dionne Labelle
Donnelly
Doré Lefebvre
Dubé
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona)
Dusseault
Easter
Eyking
Foote
Fortin
Freeman
Fry
Garneau
Garrison
Genest
Genest-Jourdain
Giguère
Godin
Gravelle
Groguhé
Harris (St. John's East)
Hsu
Hughes
Jacob
Jones
Julian
Kellway
Lapointe
Larose
Latendresse
Laverdière
LeBlanc (LaSalle—Émard)
Leslie
Liu
MacAulay
Mai
Marston
Martin
Mathyssen
May
McCallum
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
Michaud
Moore (Abitibi—Témiscamingue)
Morin (Chicoutimi—Le Fjord)
Morin (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine)
Morin (Laurentides—Labelle)
Mulcair
Nantel
Nash
Nicholls
Nunez-Melo
Pacetti
Papillon
Péclet
Perreault
Pilon
Quach
Rankin
Ravignat
Raynault
Regan
Rousseau
Saganash
Sandhu
Scarpaleggia
Scott
Sellah
Sgro
Simms (Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor)
Sims (Newton—North Delta)
Sitsabaiesan
St-Denis
Stewart
Stoffer
Sullivan
Toone
Tremblay
Turmel
Valeriote

Total: -- 115

PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion carried.

[English]

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act

Bill S-15—Time Allocation  

    That, in relation to Bill S-15, An Act to amend the Canada National Parks Act and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act and to make consequential amendments to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, not more than five further hours shall be allotted to the consideration of the second reading stage of the Bill; and
    That, at the expiry of the five hours provided for the consideration of the second 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 said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

  (1145)  

     Pursuant to Standing Order 67(1), there will now be a 30-minute question period.

[Translation]

    I invite all hon. members who wish to ask questions to rise in their places so the Chair has some idea of the number of members who wish to participate.
    The hon. member for Halifax.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I have about a minute for a question. Is that correct?
    I have been allotting a little bit of extra time for the first question, but after that, yes, I expect the questions and the answers to be approximately one minute.
    Mr. Speaker, often when time allocation is moved in the House, we, the NDP, the official opposition, stands. We are angry, because we find time allocation to be an abusive process for shutting down debate.
    However, I am not angry today. I am actually standing here with sadness, because there was a legitimate attempt by the NDP to work with the government on this bill to get it through the House. This is a really important piece of legislation about a park, Sable Island park, that will actually be in the riding of Halifax, and I want to support this bill--
    There is just far too much noise in the House. A number of you do not intend to stay for the full half hour. Those of you who are carrying on conversations, would you please take them outside the chamber? We are having a very hard time hearing the member.
    The member for Halifax.
    Mr. Speaker, as I said, I want to support this bill. I want this bill to get through. I want park protection for Sable Island. That is the thing I want most.
    We opened a door for the Conservatives to say, "Let us talk about how we can expedite this and how we can get it through the House together and work on some of the problems together". We opened that door, and now the Conservatives are slamming it in our faces.
    I am not angry standing here. I am profoundly sad. I apologize to the constituents of Halifax for thinking I could actually work with the Conservatives and that we could move something along together. I apologize for my naïveté.
    My question to the minister is this: Why are they doing this? What it says to me is that there are other things I cannot trust in this bill. It says to me that maybe I should not be supporting this bill, because I cannot trust what the Conservatives put forward when I cannot even trust them to work together to get this bill through the House. I think there are other things in this bill I cannot support.
    Why is the minister doing this? Why is he using time allocation?
    Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, and I have spoken to my colleague about this on a number of occasions, our government appreciates the support we have received from other parties, both in the House and in the Senate. There was an agreement with regard to the number of speakers we would put up for the bill, which is largely embraced not only by all parties in Parliament but by all parties in the Nova Scotia legislature and beyond. I am talking about first nations, environmental groups and others, who for two years have considered and celebrated the action that has finally been taken, after 50 years.
    This legislation, this protection of an iconic piece of Canadian nature, has been 50 years in the making. As we address many other bills in the final weeks of this session, the time has come for the House to vote.

  (1150)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is yet another sad day. This is not about Bill S-15. This is about a Conservative majority government under the Prime Minister and his attitude and his lack of respect for due parliamentary process.
    The Prime Minister, more than any other in the history of Canada, has demonstrated borderline contempt in not allowing members the opportunity to address important issues. Canadians have a right to know that parliamentarians have been afforded the opportunity to speak and the opportunity to see a bill go through a natural process. The Conservative government has incorporated in its standard process as a majority government something that is totally abhorrent and disrespectful toward democracy.
    My question is not to the minister. My question is to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons or to the Prime Minister. Why has the government decided to take such strong action with time allocation, unprecedented in the history of our country, to deny members the opportunity to debate?
    If there were an ounce of good-faith negotiation, that is what should be taking place. We should have negotiation through House leaders so that there is a proper procedure to pass legislation through the House of Commons. Why is the government not doing what it should be doing in terms of preserving democracy inside the House of Commons?
    Mr. Speaker, this government embraces the concept of parliamentary debate. Unfortunately, the agreement that existed among parties seems to have fallen apart, and the time has come to vote.
    I would remind my hon. colleagues that the passage of this legislation to protect Canada's 43rd national park reserve involves and requires mirrored legislation in the House and in the Nova Scotia legislature. Mirrored legislation was introduced there on April 24. It achieved second reading on April 25 and third reading on May 6. It received royal assent on May 10.
    There has been full debate in the Senate. We had an agreement for debate in the House, which, for opposition reasons, has fallen apart. We are prepared today to take questions about the material content of Bill S-15 and to proceed to the time allocation vote.
    Mr. Speaker, I would remind the minister that we are not in the Senate, and we have had no debate on this.
    I am motivated to remark on the comments by my colleague from Halifax, who asked what is really going on in relation to this bill.
    If we look at the preamble to the bill, it talks about amending it to ensure that, for the first time, I think, the Canada National Parks Act is subservient to any other legislation of Canada. Why is this being talked about in a bill that is supposed to set up a new reserve? Why would that vehicle be used to open a debate about the whole nature of how strong the commitment to national parks is in this country?
    Mr. Speaker, in fact, there has been debate. Debate began this past week. We were prepared to continue and conclude that debate today, until the opposition changed the terms of the agreement.
     This bill, as I have said, is mirrored in legislation passed in the Nova Scotia legislature. We agreed that there were some clarifications that needed to be made on the record, which I am quite prepared to make, regarding the low-impact activity that will still be allowed on the island after it becomes a national park reserve.
    Time is short in this legislative session. This has been well examined over the past two years, and it is time for the House to stand and vote.

  (1155)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative ministers have come up with a new argument for their time allocation motions. They say that the bill has been on track for years. When speaking about a bill on the railways, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities recently told us that we had already been discussing it for six or seven years. Now, the Minister of the Environment is telling us that we have been discussing this bill for two years.
    Then why now? The parliamentary session is winding down and now suddenly there is some pressing need to pass these bills even though the Conservatives have been in power since 2006. If it has been such a long time, then it seems to me that we should have had formal discussions and debate on all these bills sooner.
    In closing, I want to correct the Minister of the Environment. He said there was agreement among all parties about the number of speakers. I can assure you that he certainly did not talk to the Bloc Québécois to find out when we might speak. It is funny because when they need us they do not talk to us and we are a non-recognized party and when they do not need us then we no longer exist.
    I would remind the House and all parties that all 308 members here are legitimately and democratically elected, from the Prime Minister to the ministers, to every other member, regardless of where they sit.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, discussions with regard to procedures of this House should be conducted elsewhere. As you have informed the House, we are in this period to discuss the creation of Canada's 43rd national park.
    In the 2000 Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada made a commitment to create significant new protected areas. This legislation has been in the works for more than 50 years, starting with school children who wrote to protect the famous wild horses of Sable Island. In 1967, the government of the Rt. Hon. John Diefenbaker passed regulations protecting these horses, which planted the original seeds for the long-term protection of Sable Island.
    The importance of the conservation gains of creating this new national treasure, this new national park reserve, cannot be underestimated. Sable Island is home to 350 species of migratory birds, the breeding ground for virtually the world's entire population of the Ipswich sparrow, and turning Sable Island into a national park would ensure its protection for generations to come.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his comments today. I wonder if he could comment a bit on one of the oldest established national parks, that being Yoho National Park, and some of the regulatory changes in this bill that would affect Yoho, and explain to the people how it would be a positive impact.
    Mr. Speaker, this piece of legislation does extend beyond the headline news, the good news of the creation of a Sable Island national park, and deals with the contemporizing and updating of a number of the management plans with regard to some of our most historic national parks in the western mountains. These changes would all conform with the National Parks Act and with the need to regularly re-examine the various land management plans, the various protections of habitat for the wildlife, the flora and the fauna of these traditional national parks bases, as we will in the decades ahead regularly revisit the management practices the 43rd national park, Sable Island.

  (1200)  

    Mr. Speaker, I deeply regret that time allocation is being used on this bill. I sympathize enormously with the statement from the hon. member for Halifax. It is critical that we protect Sable Island properly. A Sable Island national park is something we all want, but not at the expense of undermining the integrity of the national parks system by allowing the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board to have rights to pass regulations that affect a national park. This is unprecedented.
    Contrary to what the minister just said, environmental groups have contacted me from Nova Scotia, deeply concerned. They do not want the bill to pass in its current form, and they want to protect the integrity of the national parks system.
     It requires full debate. Abbreviating that debate and pushing it through at the last minute is not only an affront to democracy. It is an affront to the integrity of the national parks system across this country.
    Mr. Speaker, I again thank my colleague for her input and her observations.
    However, I would remind her, again, that in the consideration of this bill, in the public consultations, including consultations with environmental NGOs and with first nations in Nova Scotia, there has been widespread consensus on exactly how and under what conditions, stipulations and regulations this new national park would be created.
    This bill was introduced in the Nova Scotia Legislature on April 24, second reading was on April 25, third reading was on May 6 and it received royal assent on May 10. In debate, the Liberal House leader said:
...we look forward to this bill moving on to the Law Amendments Committee and making its way through the House and...in conjunction with the federal government, we will soon see the official declaration of Sable Island as Canada's 43rd...park.
    The same was heard from the Progressive Conservatives, and of course from the NDP government, wishing us well and hoping this could be passed into law and proclaimed this year.
    With regard to the agreement with the oil and gas industry, this is in fact a protection of the island. We would not be in this House today considering the creation of Sable Island as a fully protected national park without the initiative and co-operation of the oil and gas sector. They have agreed to forego leases held for some years, potentially lucrative leases.
    The agreement provides for the park to extend to the beaches at low tide with a further one nautical mile buffer zone to prevent any offshore activity. The foremost expert on Sable Island, Zoe Lucas, has been very forthright in saying that the limited activity in the past and what will be permitted in the future is of very low impact and is not expected to disrupt either the habitat or any of the species on the island.
    Mr. Speaker, I am not very satisfied with the minister's answers. I am also not very satisfied with his characterization of what has been going on here.
    The minister knows full well that the NDP has been trying to work with government for the past two weeks to try to get this bill to committee today. We have not held up those discussions or those negotiations. That is not what the NDP has done.
    Today we walk in and find out that there is going to be time allocation on this bill. I am telling the minister that this completely undermines any trust we thought we had with the government. It makes me second-guess my own judgment here.
    How can the minister stand here and say that things have gone off the rails and that discussions have broken down, when he knows that is not true? Why is the government doing this? Why is it slamming an open door in our face? Why does the government refuse to negotiate and work co-operatively to actually get legislation through this House?
    Mr. Speaker, again I thank my colleague for her questions.
    I am not going to go into the mechanics of agreements that we thought had been made with regard to the number of speeches from all parties in the House. I will be very direct in saying that there are no surprises in this legislation. The legislation has been very well examined in a variety of fora over the past two years.
     It is time now to stand and either vote for the creation of another jewel in the crown of Canada's protected spaces or not.

  (1205)  

    Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is not about why the NDP would decide to delay this when the NDP Government of Nova Scotia has asked us to pass it as quickly as possible. That is a question the NDP members need to ask themselves.
    I am someone who has been on Sable Island at least a couple of dozen times. Other than the Minister of the Environment and the member for West Nova, I do not think any other members in this place have been on Sable Island.
    It is a unique part of the world. It is a unique part of Atlantic Canada. We are going to have some low-impact activity allowed on the island.
    Can the minister explain why this is unique to this agreement?
    Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a unique agreement. As I began to remark earlier, we would not be in a position to celebrate the creation of this new national park were it not for the co-operation and the initiative of the oil and gas sector.
    In decades past, there were a number of petroleum wells drilled on this island before the companies were moved to step back, to abandon their leases to the greater interest of conservation in our country. However, there are probably about 10 wellheads of capped-off wells on the island, which because of the constantly moving sands of the island, are from time to time exposed and require inspection.
    This is one of the definitions of the light activity that would be allowed. Again, as I said, Halifax researcher Zoe Lucas, who has spent decades on the island and is the foremost authority on the flora and fauna of the island, has said that she has experienced in the past only the absolutely best behaviour of the oil and gas sector, and she expects to in the future.
     I know some of my colleagues have expressed concern about this because of their historic definition of the word “seismic”, but there is also provision for the latest in seismic technology, again in conjunction with past wells drilled on the island, to use this new and non-intrusive technology. Again, Zoe Lucas has said that is not intrusive and does not present a threat to either the habitat or the species on the island.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives curtailed debate twice this morning, once again limiting members' speaking time. We want to talk. Enough is enough. There are problems with the manipulation of public opinion. The members opposite are saying we do not want to discuss this issue. Hold on a minute. We do. The minister and the teams are in the process of discussing this matter.
    Sable Island is a wonderful place. There was even a film made on this island, where birds come to nest. I think it is called Les oiseaux des prés or something like that. The island also has wild horses.
    Of course we completely agree that this island must be protected. Environmental groups and aboriginal people also agree.
    Where can we discuss this type of issue if not in the House? We must discuss it here, and the Conservatives must stop limiting members' speaking time.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question and her observations, and she is right that it is a magnificently unique piece of Canada. I had the great honour just last summer to make my first visit to the island in its entirety. Environment Canada has a major weather station on the island, which would remain on the island as it is transformed into a national park.
    There is some cleanup to do from decades past, with regard to an old fuel storage facility and old light towers no longer in use. However, it is indeed a very moving experience to wander the 42-kilometre-long sand spit, some 300 kilometres northeast of Halifax, and observe these wild horses. Whether from vessels coming to North America or Spanish vessels going to Latin America, the precise origin of these horses is unknown. It is amazing that they have survived, numbering several hundred, over these years in such a barren space along with, as my colleague observed, several hundred species of birds and, from time to time depending on extreme weather events, birds and butterflies carried by hurricanes to the island.

  (1210)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, I am amazed to hear the minister and many others before him talk about the beauty of the island and the beauty of his bill, when we should be spending the half-hour that we have talking about the Standing Orders and the 42nd time allocation motion—if I have counted correctly—that the government has imposed.
    Over the past several months and even years, we have become used to the fact that the government thinks that the laws and the rules are there for others to follow. When laws and rules do not fit in with the Conservatives' agenda, they change them.
    My question is very simple. Should we expect a bill to change the Standing Orders of the House to be introduced in the next few days or can we expect the Conservatives to one day follow the rules?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as I have remarked, a debate over procedure in the House is perhaps warranted, but not in this time space. Failing a question to the point, it may be worthwhile to recognize that Parks Canada, over the years, has been widely recognized as a world leader in conservation.
    We received the World Wildlife fund gift to the earth for inspiring leadership, conservation achievements. A couple of years ago we received the Royal Canadian Geographic Society gold medal award, with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and the Dehcho First Nation, for expansion of the great national park in the Northwest Territories, Nahanni.
    I was honoured to receive this year the Polar Bear International Champion of Polar Bears award for leadership and conservation work in Wapusk National Park in Manitoba. I am sure that in the decades to come, Parks Canada will receive any number of awards in recognition of this great conservation order.
    Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the Conservatives have botched a number of pieces of legislation by trying to ram them through the House. This is the 42nd time they have invoked closure. I do not think these excuses they have put forward constantly wash with the public anymore.
    The member for Edmonton—St. Albert was very accurate when he exposed the seamy underbelly of the corrupt and corrosive government. He talked about ministerial opulence. He talked about the spending scandal. He said that the Conservative Party had morphed into one it once mocked, referencing Liberal spending scandals, arrogance and sense of entitlement that we saw previously.
    He said as well, “My constituents are gravely disappointed. My constituents demand better. I no longer recognize the party I joined”. That is the member for Edmonton—St. Albert. There are a lot of Conservatives across the country are asking those same questions when they see the Senate spending scandal and the arrogance of the government invoking closure 42 times.
    My question for the minister is very simple. How does he think the government has any credibility to force now for the 42nd time, a sad record of Canadian history, closure in the House of Commons.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for making the effort, but I will speak to the point of this period of time and to the good news, the creation of Canada's 43rd national park.
    A number of people have asked me why the Government of Canada would protect such a remote, hard to access piece of sand, a 42-kilometre length of sand so far off of Nova Scotia's shores. The answer is that it is remote. A number of our protected spaces are not easy to get to, but every year, and under the new national parks administration, some 50 to 250 people will be able to visit the island for science, research, light touristic visits, as well as to service and support the Meteorological Service of Canada weather station, which is placed there.
    In the past seven years, our government has added over 50% to the land area of protected spaces in Canada. We have now protected about 10% of Canada's total land space. We are working in the months and the years ahead to protect even more of our unique natural spaces.

  (1215)  

    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 Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): In my opinion the yeas have it.
    And five or more members having risen:
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): Call in the members.

  (1255)  

[Translation]

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

(Division No. 741)

YEAS

Members

Adler
Aglukkaq
Albas
Albrecht
Alexander
Allen (Tobique—Mactaquac)
Allison
Ambler
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
Armstrong
Ashfield
Aspin
Baird
Bateman
Benoit
Bergen
Bernier
Bezan
Blaney
Block
Boughen
Braid
Breitkreuz
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Newmarket—Aurora)
Brown (Barrie)
Butt
Calandra
Calkins
Cannan
Carmichael
Carrie
Chisu
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Crockatt
Daniel
Davidson
Dechert
Del Mastro
Dreeshen
Duncan (Vancouver Island North)
Dykstra
Fantino
Fast
Findlay (Delta—Richmond East)
Fletcher
Galipeau
Gallant
Gill
Glover
Goguen
Goodyear
Gosal
Gourde
Grewal
Harper
Harris (Cariboo—Prince George)
Hawn
Hayes
Hiebert
Hillyer
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)
Lauzon
Lebel
Leitch
Lemieux
Leung
Lizon
Lobb
Lukiwski
Lunney
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Mayes
McColeman
McLeod
Menegakis
Menzies
Merrifield
Miller
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Nicholson
Norlock
Obhrai
O'Connor
Oliver
O'Neill Gordon
Opitz
O'Toole
Paradis
Payne
Poilievre
Preston
Raitt
Rajotte
Reid
Rempel
Richards
Rickford
Ritz
Saxton
Seeback
Shea
Shipley
Shory
Smith
Sopuck
Stanton
Storseth
Strahl
Sweet
Tilson
Toet
Toews
Trost
Trottier
Truppe
Tweed
Uppal
Valcourt
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Vellacott
Wallace
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country)
Weston (Saint John)
Wilks
Williamson
Wong
Woodworth
Yelich
Young (Oakville)
Zimmer

Total: -- 150

NAYS

Members

Allen (Welland)
Angus
Ashton
Atamanenko
Aubin
Ayala
Bellavance
Bennett
Blanchette
Blanchette-Lamothe
Borg
Boulerice
Boutin-Sweet
Brison
Brosseau
Byrne
Caron
Casey
Charlton
Chisholm
Choquette
Chow
Christopherson
Cleary
Comartin
Côté
Cotler
Crowder
Cullen
Cuzner
Davies (Vancouver Kingsway)
Day
Dewar
Dionne Labelle
Donnelly
Doré Lefebvre
Dubé
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona)
Dusseault
Easter
Eyking
Foote
Fortin
Freeman
Fry
Garneau
Garrison
Genest
Genest-Jourdain
Giguère
Godin
Gravelle
Groguhé
Harris (St. John's East)
Hsu
Hughes
Jacob
Jones
Julian
Karygiannis
Kellway
Lamoureux
Lapointe
Larose
Latendresse
Laverdière
LeBlanc (LaSalle—Émard)
Leslie
Liu
MacAulay
Mai
Marston
Masse
Mathyssen
May
McCallum
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
Michaud
Moore (Abitibi—Témiscamingue)
Morin (Chicoutimi—Le Fjord)
Morin (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine)
Morin (Laurentides—Labelle)
Mulcair
Nantel
Nash
Nicholls
Nunez-Melo
Pacetti
Papillon
Péclet
Perreault
Pilon
Quach
Ravignat
Raynault
Regan
Rousseau
Saganash
Sandhu
Scarpaleggia
Scott
Sellah
Sgro
Simms (Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor)
Sims (Newton—North Delta)
Sitsabaiesan
St-Denis
Stewart
Sullivan
Toone
Tremblay
Turmel
Valeriote

Total: -- 114

PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion carried.

[English]

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act

     The House resumed from June 4 consideration of the motion that Bill S-8, An Act respecting the safety of drinking water on First Nation lands, be read the third time and passed.
    Mr. Speaker, it is with very real frustration that I rise today to speak to Bill S-8, which is focused on federal regulations for water and waste water systems for first nations communities.
    In his speech on Bill S-8 earlier this week, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs said:
    It is time to move forward and create the regulations needed to safeguard drinking water in first nations communities.
     That is not what the government committed to when in 2011 it supported the Liberal Party motion:
...to address on an urgent basis the needs of those First Nations communities whose members have no access to clean, running water in their homes...
     The same motion provided that:
action to address this disparity begin no later than the spring of 2012.
    Simply passing a bill—a year late—to allow for water regulations to be imposed on first nations is not the action contemplated in that 2011 motion passed unanimously by the House of Commons. Bill S-8 is not going to fix the problem.
    People living in a large proportion of first nations communities do not have access to basic, clean, drinkable water. Lack of access to clean drinking water presents a serious health threat to first nations communities, creating a higher likelihood of disease and infection transmission and poorer overall health outcomes, as we saw with the H1N1 epidemic, particularly on the reserves in northern Manitoba. We are dealing with a crisis that needs much more than words from the government: it needs action.
    Unfortunately, this legislation shows just how out of touch the government is in terms of the appalling state of water and waste water systems in hundreds of first nations communities. It will not provide clean water to one more home or one more trained operator for a first nations water facility. The only thing the bill would do is distract from the government's inexcusable inaction on confronting the appalling capacity gaps in these communities in terms of water infrastructure and maintenance.
    The position of the Liberal Party has been crystal clear on this legislation since the beginning. In fact, I wrote to the then minister for aboriginal affairs in September 2011. In that letter I explained the Liberal position had two fundamental points.
    First, Liberals would not support any legislation on safe drinking water that was introduced without an implementation plan for additional resourcing that fully addresses the deficiencies identified in the national assessment on first nations water and waste water systems.
    Second, the government would have to collaborate with first nations and obtain their free, prior and informed consent on the range of regulatory options regarding safe drinking water, as identified by the expert panel on safe drinking water for first nations, before the reintroduction of legislation.
    The government has failed to address either of these critical points.
    Every report regarding the tragic on-reserve water situation states that the massive infrastructure and capacity gaps must be addressed before a legislative option is adopted.
    The Assembly of First Nations commented:
    Bill S-8 will not guarantee that First Nations have access to safe drinking water. Bill S-8 creates new regulations and standards but does not provide First Nations with any resources to meet those new standards. ... Safe drinking water requires more than writing new regulations. Safe drinking water requires infrastructure and facilities, skills, training and resources.
    The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs wrote to the committee, stating:
    AMC has stated several times the fundamental problem is a financial resource one.
    The Canadian Bar Association stated:
    From a policy perspective, what is still needed is a firm government commitment to provide resources to address water quality issues on reserves, not necessarily new legislation.
    In fact, witness after witness came before committee in opposition to this legislation and, among other problems, specifically identified the government's decision to move forward without addressing the capacity gap as the primary issue impacting the provision of safe water to first nations communities.

  (1300)  

    Grand Chief Roland Twinn of Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta reflected what the committee heard in general from first nations when he said:
...the Assembly of Treaty Chiefs of Treaties 6, 7, and 8 in Alberta has, from the very beginning, made significant efforts to work with the Harper government to fix the deplorable state of first nations' drinking water systems. Our efforts have been rewarded by the government with political spin, broken promises, and a meaningless piece of legislation that will do nothing to ensure safe drinking water for first nation people.
    The government's own expert panel found:
    Regulation alone will not be effective in ensuring safe drinking water.... Regulation without the investment needed to build capacity may even put drinking water safety at risk by diverting badly needed resources into regulatory frameworks and compliance costs.
    That is the key point. The government's own expert panel said that far from fixing the problem, this approach may even make matters worse.
    That report, on page 29, line 2, also said that:
...adequate resources for plants and piping, training and monitoring, and operations and maintenance...are more critical to ensuring safe drinking water than is regulation alone.
    The 2007 Senate report entitled Safe Drinking Water for First Nations, from the aboriginal peoples committee chaired by the Hon. Gerry St. Germain, a Conservative senator, stated in the conclusion:
    Sustained investment in the capacity of First Nations community water systems and of those running the systems is absolutely essential to ensure First Nations people on-reserve enjoy safe drinking water. Without this investment, we risk introducing a regulatory regime that burdens communities and does little to help them meet legislated standards.
    Given the recommendations of the expert panel and first nations about the need to deal with capacity and resourcing issues before, or at least in concert with, legislation, it is shocking that the government decided to introduce the bill in the Senate, where it is subject to increased restrictions on incorporating resources. As a Senate bill there is, and can be, no funding appropriation attached to Bill S-8.
    During his speech last week, the parliamentary secretary for aboriginal affairs bragged about the fact that his government “has made significant investments in water and waste water infrastructure....”
    Despite actually taking credit for money yet to be spent, the parliamentary secretary neglected to note that his government's own 2011 national assessment of first nations water and waste water systems identified an immediate funding shortfall of $1.2 million and indicated it would require $4.7 billion of new money spent over the next 10 years to deal with the first nations water and waste water capacity gap. This funding shortfall took into account the current funding levels, which have not been increased since that time.
    Let us be clear: the $330 million over two years the government points to in its 2012 budget is simply a temporary extension of temporary funding from 2010 and fails to address the capacity gap identified in the 2011 assessment.
    In fact, not only is the government content to impose standards and regulations on first nations without providing the required investment in physical assets or capacity-building to deal with the problem, it is actually cutting the money allocated to first nations health and safety-related infrastructure projects, such as water facilities.
    Budget 2011 proposed $7 billion over the next 10 years to continue to provide support for first nations, primarily for health and safety-related infrastructure projects. Given that over the past six years this program received an average of $1.2 billion annually, this “new” funding commitment actually represents a cut of approximately $345 million per year from the 2012 funding levels and $500 million from the six-year average. This is nothing short of shocking.
    The legislation would result in significant new costs and responsibilities being imposed on first nations without any commitment to transfer the necessary resources.
    Despite the Prime Minister's rhetoric at the Crown-First Nations Gathering about resetting the relationship, the Conservative government has shown a total disregard for the rights of indigenous people.

  (1305)  

    The Liberal Party has heard consistently in the Senate, in the House of Commons and in discussions outside Parliament that there were not appropriate consultations with first nations on this bill.
    Grand Chief Craig Makinaw summed up this issue for the House of Commons committee studying this bill, when he stated, “...we shouldn't have one-day consultations across the country and conference calls. That's not consultation.” Consultation requires both a substantive dialogue and for the government to listen and, when appropriate, incorporate what it hears into the approach. Many did not even get the courtesy of a one-way information session the government tries to pass off as consultation.
    Chief Charles Weaselhead of the Blood Tribe put it simply for the commons committee when he stated, “...there has been no consultation with the Blood Tribe”. Although first nations have a constitutional right to be consulted on matters like this, the Liberal Party believes it is also just good government to consult with all those impacted by decisions.
    At committee, a representative of Metro Vancouver pointed out:
    A lack of acknowledgement of local government interests and the absence of a meaningful consultation process, including opportunities for local government involvement and input, pose serious challenges for local communities in that public interests with respect to Bill S-8 are not being fully considered.
    Proper consultation leads to better policies and solutions that actually make sense. That has not happened regarding Bill S-8. The bill explicitly subjects existing aboriginal and treaty rights to a clause that suggests that such rights can be overridden. What is disguised as a non-derogation clause states, “to the extent necessary to ensure the safety of drinking water on First Nation lands”.
    When the Canadian Bar Association presented to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, it noted, “We believe that the qualification 'except to the extent necessary to ensure the safety of the drinking water on First Nation lands' is in itself an explicit abrogation or derogation of existing Aboriginal or treaty rights pursuant to section 35 of the Constitution Act...”.
    Mr. Christopher Devlin of the CBA also made it clear to the committee, “Our simple point to the committee is that we don't believe this is necessary and we don't believe it is required for the bill to be effective as it's drafted.”
    Despite evidence from legal and aboriginal experts about the serious problems with this clause, the government stubbornly refused all opposition amendments to fix it. This prompted National Chief Shawn Atleo of the AFN to write to the minister after the bill was reported back to the House, urging him to correct this flawed clause before the bill is passed into the House of Commons. He made it clear in that letter, which states, “First Nations will not accept the diminishment of Aboriginal and treaty rights in Bill S-8.” It is time for the government to listen.
    All Canadians, regardless of where in Canada they live, whether it is in the north, the south or elsewhere in the country, have a fundamental right to have access to drinking water and adequate water facilities. The Liberal Party will not be supporting this legislation because the government has decided to move forward in a way that not only ignores the fundamental issues at stake, but may actually make things worse.

  (1310)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the hon. member's speech.
    She spoke in particular about the consultation process. Conservatives often say that they held broad consultations that cost so many millions of dollars. Yet, oddly enough, first nations, among others, often say they were not consulted as they would have liked.
    In committee, while studying Bill S-2, for example, I heard the Conservatives say totally absurd things. They said they had talked to their husbands, their sons or their sisters. This was the kind of comment that kept cropping up. There seems to be a need to define what constitutes real consultation.
    I would like the member to talk about this. If she is saying that there has not been enough consultation while the Conservative Party says the opposite, there may be a misunderstanding. Could the member tell us more?
    Mr. Speaker, it is very important that we properly define the word “consultation”. The first nations have been clear: there was not enough consultation on this bill.
    What is more, how this government consults does not make it true consultation. The ability to listen goes hand in hand with true consultation. It is not simply an information session. That is very important.
    There was not enough consultation on this bill. Had the government listened, it would have found it impossible to introduce this bill in the House.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague speaking about this issue.
    The question of consultation, of course, has come up. We have had the current Conservative government impose closure time and time again. There have been a record number of closures now. Over 40 times, the government has basically used a sledgehammer to push legislation through Parliament.
    As we know, the Conservatives often botch it. They have one of the worst records in terms of actually getting the legislation right. The legislation is left subject to court challenges, or is hastily redrafted. The Conservatives seem to be doing their drafting on the back of a napkin somewhere in the PMO.
    The question I have is around the issue of consultation. There are chiefs in Ontario, the Assembly of Manitoba, Treaty 7 nations in Alberta, all raising concerns about this legislation that the government is now trying to ram through rather than put in place the infrastructure funding that is required and rather than putting in place the kinds of investments that are required.
    I would like to ask my colleague what she thinks about the government's drive to ram this legislation through and its lack of consultation.

  (1315)  

    Mr. Speaker, I think that the one committee hearing where we heard from Akwesasne, the Blood Tribe and Ermineskin Nation was enough to explain that these people clearly could not have been consulted.
    At Akwesasne, of course, with the jurisdictional straddle between Ontario, Quebec and the United States, it is absolutely impossible to actually think of applying provincial standards. There are such unique situations first nation by first nation, from the Blood Tribe that has a large population and would have to look after its own water system, to the smaller first nations that have to get their water from local communities, to the communities themselves that have asked what the bill would do to them if they are supplying water to a small band. It is so clear, again, if the Conservatives had listened to the committee hearing, that without the resources they cannot do the job.
     What the bill would do is transfer all the liability to the band, but the red light, green light and the ability to assign resources rests with the government. The first nations would be blamed and liable for what the Government of Canada has not provided.
    Mr. Speaker, the member has been a very strong advocate for many of our first nations communities across Canada. A while back, through her advocacy, we introduced an all-party motion in the form of an opposition day to try to deal with the issue of safe drinking water for all communities.
    Could the member comment on the expectation that was set by the leader of the Liberal Party when we had introduced that particular motion?
    Mr. Speaker, it was after the election of 2011, in July, when we realized that there had been this devastating report on the state of water and waste water across Canada, which was ready in April but was not released by the government until after the election.
    When we looked at the status, where two-thirds to three-quarters of first nations had water systems that were at moderate to high risk, we were very upset. Therefore, we proposed the motion in the House, which received unanimous consent, to do whatever it takes to get first nations the quality of drinking water to which they are entitled.
    It was very clear in the report that it would take $4.7 billion over the next ten years and $1.2 billion immediately. We have seen nothing coming from the government except cuts to the average expenditure on water and waste water across many years, and $330 million in last year's budget. It just goes absolutely nowhere to meet the needs of first nations.
    There are so many communities that I visited during the H1N1 pandemic that were without any running water. We cannot ask people to wash their hands if there is no running water. It is totally inexcusable that in a place like Wasagamack, only 20% of homes have running water and that this is third world Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments from the member. I find them kind of fanciful right now. She did spend considerable time with the previous Liberal government when they were in power. In 13 years, they settled somewhere around 8 treaties.
    This government has settled over 80 treaties since 2006. It certainly says something about the focus of our government. Something else that says it clearly is that since 2006, we have built over 30 new schools for aboriginals, renovated over 200 schools, built over 10,000 homes and renovated thousands more. We have invested in safe drinking water. The Liberals left around 300 reserves without safe drinking water when we took over in 2006. We have increased funding for child and family services by 25%. We have delivered on our promise for accountability and transparency in reserves. We have invested in over 700 projects that are linked to aboriginals and spent over $10 billion per year in 34 departments.
    Very clearly, the Liberals did absolutely zero during their time in office. They did zip. They did nada. I wonder what excuse she is using to suggest that we need to do more, even though we have done ten times more as far as treaty claims go, and in half the time.

  (1320)  

    Mr. Speaker, I find it a bit rich that the member can stand up with the talking points on treaties and schools, when we are talking about getting safe drinking water to the first nations.
    I want to see a plan. I want to see what, by when and how. Why can the government not let us know when 100% of first nations homes and communities will have access to safe drinking water?
    The government tore up the Kelowna accord. They had $5.1 billion there, including a first nations-led approach to infrastructure and waste water. They tore up that money and the money for education and used it in other places when it had been promised by the provinces, territories and first nations Inuit-Metis leadership. If that Kelowna accord had gone forward, we would not be in the situation we are in today.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Mississauga.
    Before I get into my remarks, I had better take a minute to help my hon. colleague across the floor, because unfortunately, she has the facts all fouled up. There are no facts in what she is talking about.
    Let us take a minute to look at the time frame. There was a comment made that nothing has been done on this file for years and years. The truth of the matter is that the file became very active in the summer of 2006. We are now in 2013. I respectfully suggest that there has been a fair time frame between 2006 and 2013.
    From February to March 2009, there was a series of engagement sessions with first nations communities to look at their problems and at anticipated solutions. In the fall and winter of 2009-10, government officials met with first nations chiefs to discuss their needs with respect to water and waste water on their reserves. From October 2010 to October 2011, without prejudice, first nations organizations addressed various concerns about water.
    I mention water, because the hon. member across the way seemed to think that we did not do anything with this file, and nothing could be further from the truth.
    There was also mention of there being no funding. Let us look at that for a minute.The government has committed $330.8 million over two years through economic action plan 2012. That plan runs, as members know, into 2013, as well. Therefore, there is indeed money for this project.
    As we go further into 2014, the Government of Canada will have invested $3 billion to support delivery of drinking water and waste water for first nations. I respectfully submit for members that this is a sizable piece of change. Obviously, the government is taking water and waste water very seriously.
    I stand today to declare my support for Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for first nations act. The proposed legislation would lead to further progress on the remarkable collaborative effort that has been under way for more than seven years to improve safe drinking water in first nations communities.
    As the members of the House recognize, although considerable progress has been made to date, much work remains to be done to ensure that the residents of first nations communities have access to safe, clean and reliable drinking water. I am convinced that the key to safeguarding drinking water is to develop regulations using the same type of collaborative approach that has produced so much progress in recent years.
    In 2006, the Government of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations agreed to a joint plan of action for first nations' drinking water. At that time, the parties committed to five specific action plans. They are, in no particular order, but all of them important, the following: implementing a clear protocol on water standards; ensuring that water systems operators are properly trained; making immediate fixes to water systems in 21 priority communities; establishing an expert panel to identify options for an effective regulatory regime for drinking water in first nations communities; and issuing regular updates on progress made through the plan of action. This collaborative plan inspired significant results and led to a further commitment of funds in an increased effort to make tangible, long-term progress.
    For example, thanks to the government's ongoing investment in the circuit rider training program, the number of trained and certified operators, between 2010 and 2012, increased from 51% to 60%. First nations' drinking water systems have enjoyed this increased certification. For first nations' waste water systems, the number has risen from 42% to 54%.
    The expert panel created under the plan of action staged a series of town hall sessions across Canada and identified three legislative options. We are talking about water and waste water, and as members in the House here this afternoon are aware, the focus is very much on targets.

  (1325)  

    One of these options, the delivery of regulations on a region-by-region basis, forms the basis of the legislative situation now before us. To improve the original version of that option, the Government of Canada has published a discussion paper and has met with representatives of first nations groups.
    The government has been accused of not consulting, but here we are, a year later, after holding a series of 13 engagement sessions and hearing from more than 500 members of first nations. Throughout these sessions, the participants agreed on the urgent need to address health, safety and environmental concerns related to drinking water in first nations communities.
    In 2010, the Government of Canada introduced a different version of Bill S-8, which died on the order paper at the dissolution of Parliament in March 2011.
    I respectfully submit that the government has indeed paid close attention to waste water and water management on reserves. It has supplied dollars for the development of the programs. It has supplied training for the development of the programs. It has put in action a plan that ensures that the government has made a commitment to first nations for water and waste water, and it will continue that commitment over a period of years until all first nations communities have the same water and waste water as all the rest of Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, it is quite interesting that in the debate we have had, what has emerged is that the federal Conservative government is not providing adequate funding for infrastructure to ensure that we have safe drinking water in first nations communities. That is the real debate.
    The fact is that the Conservative government is wholly inadequate in its funding of first nations to ensure that we have safe drinking water. We have had a number of comments from the opposition.
    The Conservatives have quickly realized the weakness of the legislation they have brought forward, which is that they are not attaching funding and are not providing for infrastructure. That is why they have moved closure. The Conservatives suddenly understand that in a debate in the House, with Canadians watching from coast to coast to coast, they are going to lose the debate, because they have not put their money where their mouths are. It is all well and good to say that first nations communities have to have safe drinking water, but they need to provide the funding and the infrastructure.
    Why have the Conservatives not done this? Why have they failed first nations yet again?

  (1330)  

    Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed my colleague's comments. They were rather amusing.
    He suggested that nothing has been done. Let me reiterate that there is $330.8 million over two years, a dedicated plan to deal with contaminated water and waste water and another plan to deal with potable water, all in partnership with the first nations.
    Speaking of consultation, there have been seven years of consultation with first nations people designed to help facilitate their initial water plan program and then add to it. The basic design gives them a chance to look at it, and it gives them a chance to expand it and make it their own. It is not one-size-fits-all. Each will be developed according to their own requirements.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank this member for his important contributions to all the work we have been doing, particularly with respect to this piece of legislation.
    What we just heard from the uninformed member across the way is the NDP's stand-pat solution to every problem: If in doubt, spend. Spend money on things without the critical pieces of the rest of the puzzle, such as training, such as actually taking the time to assess the amount of certification that is lacking in first nations communities across the country and to make those investments.
    The circuit rider program, Northern Waterworks, and Confederation College are ensuring that we have certified workers to actually operate that kind of infrastructure before the infrastructure comes.
    Can the member comment on the necessity of this legislation, in keeping with the other two pillars, which are capacity—reporting, monitoring and maintenance—and infrastructure? It is sort of a dialectical way of thinking about and developing policy.
    Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, the plan is in place. There have been six or seven years of consultation. Not all reserves will fit into the plan, so the plan will be modified to fit the reserve. That is a very important point.
    As my colleague said, training programs have been offered to people to learn how to handle waste water and potable water. Those programs are in place and working as we speak.
    I do not know what my colleague was referring to when he said that nothing was in place. Everything is in place, and it is all working.
    Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to the House about Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for first nations act, a piece of legislation that deserves the full support of this House.
    The proposed legislation is a crucial component of an integrated plan to resolve an issue that has persisted for far too many years and that threatens the health of tens of thousands of Canadians. Until regulations and standards are in place, the safety and quality of the water in first nations communities will remain at risk, posing a significant health risk.
    I call on the opposition to stop stalling and to vote in support of this important legislation.
     The long-term plan to improve the quality of drinking water in first nations communities is based on three pillars: capacity-building and operator training; investments in water and waste water infrastructure; and enforceable standards and protocols, which would be this legislation. Each of these pillars is designed to contribute in a specific way to the larger goal, which is access to safe drinking water for all first nations communities.
    Improving operator training and community capacity is a case in point. One of the key problems identified in several studies on drinking water in first nations communities was the lack of capacity to operate and maintain water and waste water treatment facilities. In many case, there are simply not enough trained operators available to keep facilities running properly. Without trained and certified operators, any water system, regardless of where it is located, is unlikely to produce safe drinking water over the long term. The challenge is even greater when the system is in a remote part of the country, as so many first nations communities are. It is notoriously difficult to attract qualified workers and to retain them in these remote communities. This is true for a wide range of occupations. The remoteness of a community also contributes to delays in obtaining supplies, replacement parts and qualified repair technicians, which in turn can cause the system components to wear out more quickly.
    The best way to address these challenges is to train and employ community residents, because they have a personal stake in ensuring the availability of safe, clean and reliable drinking water in their own communities. This is precisely what the circuit rider training program does.
    Under this highly successful program, trainers travel to first nations communities and provide system operators with on-site, hands-on training on how to operate, maintain and monitor water and waste water systems. To increase the number of trained and certified operators, our government invests approximately $10 million each year in this program. Thanks to the circuit rider training program, there are now more trained and certified system operators than ever before.
    In 2011, the national assessment determined that operators with the appropriate level of certification managed only 51% of first nations' water systems and 42% of first nations' waste water systems. One year later, annual performance inspections of the same systems concluded that these numbers had increased to 60% and 54% respectively.
    Obviously, systems operated by properly trained and certified staff are more likely to consistently produce safe drinking water.
    Less obvious, perhaps, are two other important benefits. First, properly trained operators are better able to ensure that facilities function effectively throughout their expected service life, maximizing the value of the infrastructure investments. Another benefit is that trained and certified operators will be better able to ensure that their systems can meet future regulatory standards.
    Even the best qualified operators would struggle to consistently produce safe drinking water if they had to work with outdated or unserviceable equipment. That is why investments in water system infrastructure represent the second pillar in the Government of Canada's strategy to improve the quality of drinking water in first nations communities. Between 2006 and 2014, our government will have invested approximately $3 billion in water and waste water infrastructure in first nations communities. Economic action plan 2012 included more than $330 million over two years to build and renovate water and waste water infrastructure.

  (1335)  

    In this 2012-13 fiscal year alone, this investment supported some 286 major water and waste water infrastructure projects in first nation communities across the country. The government would continue to provide funding so that first nations could improve the quality of their water system infrastructure.
    To get the full value of infrastructure investments, however, water systems must also be supported by enforceable regulations. That is what we are talking about today. These regulations would specify treatment standards, testing protocols, allowable levels of contaminants and all of the other factors that help define safe drinking water.
    Regulations would foster accountability and provide community residents with the assurance they need to trust the water that comes out of their tap. Delivering safe drinking water on a consistent basis would require a chain of interventions: sources must be protected, for instance; and water must be filtered, treated and tested. Although these processes may vary, based upon the quality of the source water and the size of the distribution network, they must all be solid. Also, like all chains, the one that safeguards drinking water is only as strong as its weakest link.
    Regulations would represent a key component of the overall process. They would specify science-based standards for quality testing, treatment protocols and other factors. Regulations would also assign responsibility for specific tasks. The organizations, such as municipal utilities, that supply water to the public must abide by these regulations.
    Without regulations, there could be no assurance of the safety of drinking water in first nation communities. Regulations would provide the overarching framework of a drinking water system and guide the efforts of everyone involved in the system.
    Bill S-8 would include a mechanism to establish regulatory regimes concerning the drinking water systems in first nation communities. This it the third pillar of the plan. The regimes would include rigorous standards and protocols and promote the accountability necessary to ensure that first nation communities have access to safe, clean and reliable drinking water.
    To develop regulations, the legislation calls for a collaborative, region-by-region approach. In each region, first nations, the Government of Canada and other stakeholder groups would, together, design a regulatory regime tailored to local circumstances. The regulations used in nearby communities, such as provincial regimes, would serve as valuable guidelines.
    I believe there is a tremendous value in this approach, because existing regulations are typically informed by the real-world challenges of producing water in a particular part of the country—challenges such as geography, weather and the quality and availability of water sources.
    All three pillars must be in place to ensure that residents of first nation communities can access safe drinking water on a consistent and reliable basis. Operators must be properly trained; facilities must be functional; and standards, guidelines and protocols must be backed by regulations that must be in place.
    Considerable progress has been made on all of these during the past seven years. The legislation now before us would support further progress.
    Bill S-8 would be an essential part of a sensible, practical and balanced plan to improve the quality of drinking water and protect the long-term health of tens of thousands of Canadians.
    Currently, laws are in place to protect the safety of drinking water accessed by every other Canadian, except for those living on reserve.
    I call upon the opposition to stand up for first nations across this country and support Bill S-8.

  (1340)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it is rather incredible for my colleague from Mississauga South to say that opposition members, including NDP members, must stand up in the house for the well-being of the first nations.
    She knows, and she mentioned it in her speech, that the Conservative government has only invested $330 million over two years to fix the water supply problem. A study commissioned by the government found that a $5-billion investment over 10 years is needed, including $1.2 billion immediately. Throwing $330 million at the problem is not enough to provide first nations with a safe drinking water supply.
    My question is for my Conservative colleague. When will the Conservative government stop treating first nations like second-class citizens?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am afraid the member opposite may not have heard all of my comments.
    The $330 million committed was simply over two years, and that was in budget 2012.
    Between 2006 and 2014, the Government of Canada will have invested approximately three billion—that is billion with a B—dollars to support delivery of drinking water and waste water systems in first nations.
    While there is no mention of funding in this legislation, that is simply because this is enabling legislation. It is about the regulations ensuring that those Canadians who live on first nations have access to the same standards that the rest of us Canadians know we can rely on for safe drinking water every day.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to pick up on the member's comments when she said $3 billion. She emphasized the letter B as opposed to M, meaning $3 billion.
     She said that the money has been spent in a very short time frame of a few years. I am sure Canadians, in particular our first nations, would want to know exactly where that $3 billion has been spent. Is there a list of specific projects? Has it gone in the form of bureaucracy? How has that $3 billion actually been disbursed over the last few years?
    Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question because it gives me an opportunity to say that the priority of this government is for that $3 billion to go into training and infrastructure. I mentioned the circuit rider training program in my remarks. This is so that operators on first nations can be trained to do what is necessary because, as we have found, if operators are trained elsewhere or come from off site, when they come to the reserve and try to fit in, it often does not work as well as if someone from the first nation community actually learns about the process and is able to do it himself or herself. Those are the kinds of investments we are making.
    I also talked about the 286 projects that are planned for 2013. These are new plans. I wish that the member had been at the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development when the Canadian Bar Association talked about the fact that funding was needed for this. In my question to the witness from the CBA I was able to outline, because I happened to have the numbers right in front of me, all of the funding that has gone into this topic for the last seven years. I am so proud of what this government has done to support clean water on first nations reserves.

  (1345)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today. For the second time in two days we will be addressing first nations issues. I would like to advise the Speaker that I will be sharing my time.
    Today I am speaking with the help of the MP for Nanaimo—Cowichan, who has done a tremendous amount of work on the first nations file. It almost seems to me that she does more work for the first nations than the entire Conservative caucus put together.
    The regulations the government wants to impose may incorporate by reference provincial regulations governing drinking and waste water in first nations communities. However, the expert panel on safe drinking water for first nations expressed concern about using provincial regulations, since that would result in a patchwork of regulations, leading to some first nations having more stringent standards than others.
    These regulations would overrule any laws or by-laws made by first nations and limit the liability of the government for certain acts or omissions that occur in the performance of its duties under regulations.
    New Democrats want to see safe, clean water and water systems that work for first nations communities, but imposing this legislation is not the solution. The federal government cannot simply unload its liability to first nations without providing the funding to bring the systems up to new standards.
    First nations oppose the act because of the new liability provisions for first nations governments and the language around the non-derogation clause that is formulated to possibly be a first step to erode the constitutionally protected rights.
    The delivery of safe drinking water to on-reserve first nations communities is critical to the health and safety of first nations Canadians, but for more than a decade, many first nations have lacked adequate access to safe drinking water. Bill S-8 is the second legislative initiative to address safe drinking water on reserve. Its predecessor, Bill S-11, did not proceed to third reading as a result of widespread concerns and subsequently died on the order paper when Parliament was dissolved on March 26, 2011.
    Bill S-8 retains several of the features of former Bill S-11, particularly in areas to be covered by eventual federal regulations. Non-derogation language is still included in the proposed legislation, expressly allowing for the abrogation or derogation of aboriginal and treaty rights in some circumstances.
    It also provides for the incorporation, by reference, of provincial regulations governing drinking water and waste water.
    The text of the bill would not, on its face, adequately address the needs of first nations to build capacity to develop and administer appropriate laws for the regulation of water and waste water systems on first nations lands.
    New Democrats agree that the poor standards of water systems in first nations communities are hampering people's health and well-being. They are also causing economic hardship.
    However, this legislation would make first nations liable for water systems that have already proven inadequate, without any funding to help them improve their water systems or give them the ability to build new ones more appropriate to their needs.
    In addition, although there is a slight wording change, there is a clause in this legislation that would give the government the ability to derogate from aboriginal rights.
    A provincial regime of regulations would not do enough to protect first nations communities. The patchwork system of provincial laws was rejected by the government's own expert panel on safe drinking water for first nations. We need a national regulatory system.
    Regulations alone will not help first nations people to develop and maintain safe on-reserve water systems. They need crucial investments in human resources and physical infrastructure, including drinking water and sewage systems and adequate housing.
    This is not a difficult problem to solve. It just requires political will and adequate investment.

  (1350)  

    The Assembly of First Nations submitted the following to the Senate committee:
    Bill S-8, as part of ongoing process started with Bill S-11 prior to the CFNG, continues a pattern of unilaterally imposed legislation and does not meet the standards of joint development and clear recognition of First Nation jurisdiction. The engagement of some First Nations and the modest changes made to the Bill do not respond to the commitment to mutual respect and partnership envisioned by the CFNG.
    The AFN also passed resolution no. 58/210 at its special chiefs assembly in December 2010 calling on the government to: ensure appropriate funds were available for any regulations implemented; support first nations in developing their own water management system; and work collaboratively with the AFN in developing an immediate plan on the lack of clean drinking water.
    This resolution also puts the government on notice that the AFN expects any new water legislation to comply with first nations constitutionally protected and inherent treaty and aboriginal rights, the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and the report of the expert panel on safe drinking water for first nations.
    Chiefs of Ontario, the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and Treaty 7 nations in Alberta have signalled continued concerns with the proposed legislation, citing, among other things, the need to address infrastructure and capacity issues before introducing federal regulations.
    In 2007, Dr. Harry Swain, chair of the expert panel on safe drinking water for first nations, told the Senate committee on aboriginal peoples that:
    This is not...one of those problems in Aboriginal Canada that will persist for ever and ever and ever. This is one that can be solved and it can be solved with the application of a good chunk of money for a limited period of time,
    The expert panel on safe drinking water for first nations argued that “Regulation alone will not be effective in ensuring safe drinking water unless the other requirements...are met...both human resources and physical assets”.
    In 2011, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada released its “National Assessment of First Nations Water and Wastewater Systems--Ontario Regional Roll-Up Report”. The results show that 1,880 first nations homes are reported to have no water service and 1,777 homes are reported to have no waste water service.
    In 2011, the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada commissioned an independent assessment on first nations water and waste water systems. The report clearly states that a significant financial commitment to infrastructure development will be necessary. It will cost $4.7 billion over 10 years to ensure that the needs of first nations communities in water and waste water systems are met. Instead, the Conservatives committed only $330 million over two years in 2010 and nothing in 2011.
    I would just remind members of the House that most of us take for granted the fact that we own homes. When we are not in our riding we either live in a hotel or have an apartment. Every day, if we need a drink of water, we just turn on the tap. We take it for granted. Some first nations communities just cannot do that. We had a fine example of that lately in Montreal when there was a boil water advisory. People were shocked that they had to boil their water. All we have to do is think about the first nations that have to do that day in, day out every day of the year and have done so for years.

  (1355)  

    We heard from the member for Burnaby—New Westminster what he and his party's policy solutions were, and that was, if in doubt, spend. Now that member has brought a new dimension to the debate.
    In his speech he said that we should have a national regulatory framework, the same across the board. Somebody who has lived in isolated remote first nations communities in northern Ontario, where the member is from, knows that the landscape is much different there than British Columbia or the Arctic.
     How can we establish those national frameworks when the instruments for measurement and for water treatment will be markedly different from one jurisdiction to another? Could he answer that question, or is he like the leader of the Liberal Party, just in over his head on this one?
    Mr. Speaker, I guess I was right when I said that the member from British Columbia and her staff had done more for first nations than the entire Conservative caucus put together, and the member just proved the point.
    When I was talking about turning on the tap, I was referring to him, his home, his hotel or apartment. When he wants safe drinking water, all he has to do is turn on the tap. Unfortunately, because of the Conservative government, first nations cannot turn on a tap, and that goes on for days and decades. Unfortunately, the Conservative government has done nothing to solve the problem.
    Mr. Speaker, shortly after the last federal election the leader of the Liberal Party introduced a motion through an opposition day dealing with the issue of clean drinking water.
    I think most Canadians would be quite surprised to hear that there is a significant percentage of the population that does not have some of the basic necessities, such as going to the kitchen, turning on the water and being able to drink the water from the tap. Given the resources that Canada has as a nation, we could do a whole lot more.
    Yes, we have legislation before us, but the real issue that needs to be addressed is working with our first nations.
    Is it not time that we start looking at enabling our first nations and working with them to resolve these issues? Many of the drinking and bathing water issues that we talk about today could be met in two ways: first, provide the financial means to have those resources; and second, enable the first nation leadership to play a role in assisting and resolving a good portion of the problem.
    Mr. Speaker, I find that question coming from a Liberal member ironic.
    The Liberals were in power for 13 years before the current government and they did nothing at all. In fact, in the last century, the Liberal Party had been in power longer than any other party and the needs of first nations did not improve, thanks to that party.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

  (1400)  

[Translation]

Environment Week

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to wish everyone a happy Environment Week.

[English]

    This is, indeed, Environment Week in Canada. Since 1985, there has been a requirement by statute for the Government of Canada to uphold and respect the first week in June encompassing World Environment Day, which was yesterday, and World Oceans Day, which is coming up.
    Initially, former prime minister Brian Mulroney ensured that there was a million dollars in funding distributed to environment groups across the country to ensure Environment Week was noticed. Initially, there were actions by government at all levels: announcements, new parks, new efforts to protect the environment. So far, all I can find to mark Environment Week this year is a press release on the Environment Canada website. Perhaps it misread the name of the act and thought it was “Environment W-E-A-K”. That would explain the action so far.

Syria

    Mr. Speaker, as we in Canada fret about an unreformed Senate or corruption in our cities, the people of Syria are living out a genuine nightmare, one of suffering and death. Bashar al-Assad, his army and secret police have abandoned every pretense of restraint. They have bombed their own schools and massacred entire families and village. By all available accounts, they have used chemical weapons.

[Translation]

    Up to 100,000 people have been killed, most of them civilians. What do we say to Abu Obeida, an opposition organizer in Aleppo, who organizes secret classes for 150 young girls in the basement of a mosque?

[English]

    How do we explain international inaction to those mourning women raped and killed in Homs? Only concerted international action can stop the conflict in Syria. Those blocking such action of the Security Council are accountable to the Syrian people for their mistakes. Those who would arm a brutal regime with sophisticated missiles or terrorists from Hezbollah or al Qaeda to wage proxy wars will have to account one day to us all for visiting such bloodshed, radicalization and repression on a proud and innocent people.

Bob Barlow

    Mr. Speaker, it was with great sadness on May 29 when I learned of the passing of my good friend Bob Barlow at the young age of 47.
    It is not widely known, but Bob was the primary reason I ran for the federal NDP in the 2006 election. Back in 2004, as president of our riding association, Bob asked me to consider running for the nomination and I declined. However, in 2005, I believe it was Bob who drew Jack Layton's attention to my community work and passion for human rights. Between Jack's persuasiveness and Bob's unrelenting support, I agreed.
    Few in NDP circles believed we could actually defeat the then government House leader Tony Valeri, but Bob never wavered. Bob set up my campaign office, got volunteers, even planned my days. Throughout that cold 54-day campaign, Bob was there with me day and night. I truly believe I would not be the MP for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek if it were not for the persistence and support of my friend Bob Barlow.
    May he rest in peace.

Gul Nawaz

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to a great Canadian and a dear friend, Mr. Gul Nawaz. Gul was an active volunteer and a resident of Mississauga, who, sadly, passed away recently. The prayer room at the Islamic Society of North America Mosque in Mississauga was filled to capacity with family and friends to say goodbye to Gul.
    Gul represented the best of our vibrant multicultural society. He was a proud and patriotic Canadian who never forgot the people of his native Pakistan, while constantly reaching out to befriend and assist people of every culture, especially newcomers to Canada. He was president of the Canada Pakistan Friendship Association and the Council of Pakistani Canadians. He was a founder and served as chair of the Heartland Creditview Neighbourhood Centre, which provides vital services to newcomers.
    Gul received many awards and recognitions, most notably from the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Mississauga Arts Council, Credit Valley Hospital, Sheridan College and the University of Toronto.
    Inna Lillahi wa Inna Ilayhi Rajioon.

  (1405)  

Humber River Regional Hospital

    Mr. Speaker, last month, the Humber River Regional Hospital was recognized for its efforts to become North America's first fully digital hospital. This formal recognition given out at the Partnership Awards, held at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge hotel in London, England, casts an international light on the hospital and validates what those in the hospital's catchment area have known for years: the new Humber River Regional Hospital will be a first-class facility and make the current hospital even better.
    Humber stands out in the global field and has received praise for marrying highly-complex and good-quality design with an innovative approach. As a local resident, I am lucky to have the Humber River Regional Hospital in my community and, as an MP, I am honoured to extend my congratulations to the hospital's management team, staff, volunteers and all those involved in the project for showing the world the great things they are capable of.

Wing of the Year Award

    Mr. Speaker, at the recent Ontario group general meeting in Peterborough for air force associations, 403 Wing Sarnia was honoured as the winner of the Wing of the Year award. Also, three members of 403 Wing, Pauline Reaney, Mark Seuibutis and Frieda Stewart, were given the award of merit for their community efforts on behalf of 403 Wing.
    403 Wing is very active in my community. The group made headlines for the decision to restore the famous Golden Hawk Sabre jet that has historically been located in Sarnia's Germain Park. The restored jet is a reflection of the pride in Canada's aviation history, as well as a reminder of the commitment that current members of 403 Wing have to their community and country.
    403 Wing has a large membership and also a ladies' auxiliary, the 403 Wingettes. Its members also work closely with air cadets from the community. Considering its members' efforts, I applaud 403 Wing for its success and congratulate the group for being named Wing of the Year in recognition of its continued excellence.

[Translation]

Normandy Invasion

    Mr. Speaker, today is the 69th anniversary of the Normandy invasion.
    On June 6, 1944, nearly 14,000 Canadians soldiers landed on the beaches of Normandy. Of those soldiers, 359 never returned to Canada. They gave their lives to defend their country, their families and other people's families.
    Last weekend I attended two ceremonies that were held in my riding. I participated in a ceremony held at the Royal Canadian Legion in Sherbrooke. There, I met Joan Thompson, the honorary president, who is 103. Then, along with a number of veterans and members of the Canadian Forces, I attended a ceremony at the cenotaph in Lennoxville, where we paid tribute to the courage of those who served our country during this historic event.
    As Canadians, we all have a duty to never forget the sacrifice they made. Lest we forget.

[English]

Recreation and Parks Month

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to give recognition to June as Recreation and Parks Month in Canada. As opposed to the fabulous work of Parks Canada at the federal level, this is about promoting the value of parks and recreation activities and services at the municipal level.
    Some of us have just returned from the FCM annual conference in Vancouver where municipal governments shone a light on national health and fitness. Canadians recognize the tremendous mental and physical health benefits from participating in parks and recreation activities, yet Canadians are increasingly sedentary. Most adults and children fail to meet the recommended level of activity in Canada's physical activity guidelines. Obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease rates are climbing.
    Parks and recreation facilities in Canada provide great opportunities for us all to get more physically active for the improvement of health of our citizens, communities and health care system. The Canadian Parks and Recreation Association partnered with MPs to declare the first Saturday in June as National Health and Fitness Day. I call upon all Canadians to proclaim National Health and Fitness Day and also to help celebrate that June is Recreation and Parks Month. Let us make Canada the fittest nation on earth.

National Adoption Action Plan

    Mr. Speaker, there are an estimated 30,000 adoptable children in Canada. That is why economic action plan 2013 takes action to expand the adoption expenses tax credit. However, there is more we can do.
    Following on my unanimous Motion No. 386 and a study of federal supports for adoptive parents and children in 2010, this fall I will table a motion for a national adoption action plan to do the following: accurately measure, not estimate, the problem; start a conversation, including provinces and territories, to boost annual domestic adoptions above 5,000; improve supports to adoptive parents and children; promote adoption, from infants to teens; and track our results regularly.
    Every Canadian child deserves loving permanence in a forever family. With that focus in mind and taking action together, we can make that happen.

  (1410)  

[Translation]

Quebec's Disability Awareness Week

    Mr. Speaker, the Semaine québécoise des personnes handicapées is on now and wraps up on June 7. The theme is “Living Life to the Fullest”.
    I would like to take this opportunity to renew my support for organizations in my riding, especially the Regroupement des organismes de promotion de personnes handicapées de Laval, a group of organizations that work with people with disabilities.
    Throughout the week, many activities will be held to encourage people with disabilities to get involved socially and to promote the idea of social participation. As usual, theme days have been organized throughout the week. Today is “pay day”, which is designed to raise awareness about the challenges people with disabilities face in the workforce.
    I therefore invite my colleagues here in the House of Commons to thank the organizations in their ridings that work with people with disabilities.

[English]

69th Anniversary of D-Day

    Mr. Speaker, D-Day was an offensive on a scale never seen before. As part of this massive surprise attack, Canadian soldiers of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion dropped in from behind enemy lines to stop German reinforcements, while the Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force laid the path. All of this made the way for over 14,000 brave Canadian soldiers landing at Juno Beach who defeated the enemy, despite heavy losses. In so doing, they marked a major turning point in World War II.
    D-Day is clearly one of Canada's most defining military achievements. Whether young or old, Canadians will never forget the sacrifice and bravery of those who were there. I stand with all members in this place today to mark the 69th anniversary of D-Day.

Second World War Bravery

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the incredible bravery of a recently deceased constituent, Mrs. Nathalia Petrovna Buchan, and her husband, William Muir Buchan, who were Allied prisoners during the Second World War. I also rise to recognize and honour the extraordinary humanitarian actions of Tomohiko Hayashi, a Japanese diplomat who was the commandant of the Lunghua concentration camp outside of Shanghai. His son, Sadayuki Hayashi, came from Japan to be here today.
    Mr. Hayashi ensured that prisoners received sufficient food, non-abusive treatment and medical care. He was the only commandant of a concentration camp who was acquitted of all charges following the war, due to his kind treatment of prisoners. His kind treatment included sending Mrs. Buchan to a hospital for treatment with his own car and driver. Her son, David, of Victoria, is also here today .
    We should honour these acts of compassion and recognize that beauty and humanity can emerge even in the darkest hours of war.

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, recently, former KGB captain Mikhail Lennikov marked his fourth year of illegally hiding out in a Vancouver church basement.
    Throughout its history, the KGB has committed untold atrocities against the people of eastern Europe. Rather than condemn this senior KGB official and call on him to immediately go back to where he came from, the NDP member for Burnaby—New Westminster has asked the government to show compassion and allow Lennikov to stay in Canada.
    Frankly, this is appalling. Unlike Mr. Lennikov's comrades in the NDP, our Conservative government stands with the victims of Communism. There are no safe havens where our laws do not apply. This individual must be removed as soon as possible.

  (1415)  

Sackville Rivers Association

    Mr. Speaker, this is a great day for the Sackville Rivers Association, which today celebrates 25 years of outstanding community service. Members of the association play a vital role in protecting the Sackville River, which happens to flow behind my constituency office. They have received a Canadian Environment Award for restoration and rehabilitation.
    Let me highlight just a few of the organization's many accomplishments. There have been over 250 cleanup projects, which help remove tons of garbage from the river. There has been construction of wild Atlantic salmon pools and the restoration of over 60,000 square metres of salmon habitat, something our Sergeant-at-Arms would appreciate. They have stocked the Sackville River with speckled trout and helped more than 6,000 elementary school kids participate in river rangers and fish friends programs.
    It is indeed a pleasure to say thanks to Sackville Rivers Association president, Walter Regan, and the countless volunteers who have been so generous with their time over the past 25 years.

Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Liberal Party has quite a track record when it comes to pitting one region against the other.
    In February, 2008, the leader of the Liberal Party said, “Speaking one language is 'lazy'”. In November, 2010, he said, “Canada isn't doing well right now because it's Albertans who control our community and socio-democratic agenda. It doesn't work.”
     When asked, he said he thought Canada was “better served when there are more Quebecers in charge than Albertans”. Most recently, the Leader of the Opposition said, “We have 24 senators from Quebec and there are only 6 for Alberta and British Columbia. That benefits us. To want to abolish it, that's just demagoguery...”
    These divisive comments from the leader of the Liberal Party are shameful and show poor judgment. We call on him to stop opposing Senate reform and championing the status quo.

Member for Edmonton—St. Albert

    Mr. Speaker, I look at the government benches and I see a party that has lost its way and betrayed its roots. The member for Edmonton—St. Albert writes:
    I joined the Reform/conservative movements because I thought we were somehow different, a band of Ottawa outsiders riding into town to clean the place up, promoting open government and accountability. I barely recognize ourselves, and worse I fear that we have morphed into what we once mocked.
    My constituents demand better.... For a government that was elected on a platform of accountability, my constituents are gravely disappointed.... If we are measuring our ethical performance against the Sponsorship Scandalized Liberals, perhaps we need to set our ethical bar a little higher....the Government’s lack of support for my transparency bill is tantamount to a lack of support for transparency and open government generally.
    I have debated with the member for Edmonton—St. Albert. We do not often agree, but what we do agree on is that MPs have a calling, an obligation to reject the politics of cynicism and manipulation and to stand up for the principles of transparency, accountability and open government.

New Democratic Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition misled Canadians when he stated that he stripped his official languages critic of his responsibilities the minute he heard of his outstanding tax debt.
    We know that this member's tax woes go back a decade. This was all laid out in public record, so the Leader of the Opposition cannot deny knowing of it. The leader of the NDP should explain to Canadians why the member was selected as a candidate for the NDP, why he was picked as a critic and more importantly, why he continues to sit as a member of the caucus of the NDP.
    The NDP has kept this hidden from Canadians for years. The NDP allows the member to continue to sitting. This underlines a complete disrespect for Canadian taxpayers by the NDP.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister admitted that he made his views on the Senate expense scandal “known to a range of our caucus and also my staff.”
    Why then did the Prime Minister, last week, repeatedly deny ever having given any instructions to his staff on the Senate scandal?
    Mr. Speaker, once again, my views on this have been clear from the outset.
    Our view is that all expenses have to be appropriate, and I mean by that not simply that they respect the rules but that they are defensible to any reasonable person and if there have been any inappropriate expenses, that those expenses should be repaid by anybody who took inappropriate expenses.
    I think those views are very clear. They were expressed regularly. I continue to express them.
    As I say, it is quite a contrast to the Leader of the Opposition who did not think for 17 years that it was appropriate to think that one does not offer politicians stuffed brown envelopes.

  (1420)  

    Mr. Speaker, was Nigel Wright present when the Prime Minister instructed Mike Duffy to repay his expenses?
    Mr. Speaker, once again, I have indicated to all who have asked me that my view is that all expenses have to be appropriate, and that if any expenses are inappropriate, they will have to be repaid.
    I have been very clear about that. I expected Mr. Duffy, if indeed he had inappropriate expenses, to repay those expenses. Indeed, I thought he had committed to do that and I thought he had announced publicly that he had done that.
    It turns out that is not the case, and there will be consequences for those actions.
    Mr. Speaker, the question was, “Was Nigel Wright present?”
    Canadians deserve an answer. They still have not had a clear answer.

[Translation]

    When the Prime Minister spoke with Mike Duffy on February 13, was Mike Duffy claiming that his expenses were not illegal?
    Mr. Speaker, it is up to Mr. Duffy to explain his own position and his actions in this matter.
    My view has been clear from the outset: expenses have to be appropriate. If a senator or a member has inappropriate expenses, they must be repaid to the taxpayers. There will obviously be consequences for Mr. Duffy's actions.
    Mr. Speaker, on February 13, the Prime Minister told his caucus and the members of his senior staff who were present that he wanted the Senate scandal dealt with.
    Just a few days later, the Prime Minister's chief of staff gave a senator $90,000 to make the Senate scandal disappear.
    Is the Prime Minister really trying to convince Canadians that that is just a coincidence?
    Mr. Speaker, Mr. Duffy promised Canadians he would repay his expenses. He stated publicly that he personally paid back his expenses.
    Now he must face the consequences of his actions.

[English]

    Once again, the facts in this matter are very clear. I do not pretend they are good. Mr. Wright wrote a cheque on his own personal account and gave it to Mr. Duffy so he could repay his expenses. He told me about it on May 15.
    He obviously regrets that action. He has said it was an error in judgment and he will face the consequences as a consequence.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Prime Minister again because he still has not answered, and Canadians deserve a clear answer to a clear question.
    On February 13, the Prime Minister told his caucus that he wanted the Senate scandal dealt with. Within a few days, the Prime Minister's chief of staff had given $90,000 to a sitting senator, Mike Duffy.
    Is the Prime Minister really trying to convince Canadians that it was just a coincidence?
    Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is this: I expected that if any member of the caucus, any senator, had expenses that were inappropriate, the member would repay those expenses.
    I was also informed, as all Canadians were, that in fact that was what had transpired. We now learn much later that it was not the case. As soon as I learned that was not the case, I made that information public, the very same day.
    I did not wait 17 years. The leader of the NDP knew of bribe attempts by the mayor of Laval. We did not wait 17 years for an entire culture of corruption in Quebec contracting to finally tell the truth.
    Mr. Speaker, the former Conservative caucus member, the member for Edmonton—St. Albert, said earlier today that the Prime Minister's Office “...doesn't seem to be accountable to anyone, not even the Prime Minister”.
    Is this why the Prime Minister contends that he knew nothing about the Nigel Wright-Mike Duffy situation?

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has been very clear on this matter, and my hon. colleague knows that there are independent authorities looking into this matter.
    That is very different from what the Liberal Party is doing with its own Liberal senators. We know of Senator Merchant, who has $1.7 million in an offshore account, avoiding paying taxes.
    Why is it that the Liberals are protecting the status quo and protecting their own millionaire senators from having to pay their taxes?
    Mr. Speaker, for three weeks now the Prime Minister's story about how he felt about Mr. Wright has sort of evolved.
    First he wanted Canadians to believe that Mr. Wright was a good Samaritan and did not have to resign. Then, as this thing blew up, Mr. Wright became Mr. Wrong and he had to go. Canadians do not buy it.
    My question for the Prime Minister is very simple, and he should answer. On May 15, when he received the information about this situation, did in fact Nigel Wright tender his resignation?
    Mr. Speaker, again, the Prime Minister was very clear on that matter. As soon as the information was made available to him, he made the information available publicly. Nigel Wright has taken sole responsibility for his personal behaviour, which is exactly as it should be.
    If the Liberal Party believes in getting to the bottom of these matters, it should make sure that it holds its own Senate colleagues accountable for their behaviour. Liberal millionaire senators are hiding their tax obligations from the Government of Canada, and they should cut it out.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, when the Prime Minister learned that Nigel Wright wrote a cheque for $90,000 to “protect taxpayers”, why did he not tell him that he absolutely should not have done that and that Mike Duffy had to pay his own fine the same as everyone else or have his pay docked?
    Why was that not his reaction? It was certainly the right thing to do. Is he afraid of Mr. Duffy?
    Mr. Speaker, that is what the Prime Minister said. It is very important that every senator and every MP be held accountable and show respect for taxpayers.
    The Liberal Party should also show this type of leadership with their Senate colleague who is currently avoiding her obligation to pay her taxes in Canada by hiding her money offshore.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister just said that he knows that the cheque was drawn “on Nigel Wright's personal account”.
    Has the Prime Minister seen the cheque to be able to affirm in the House that he is sure that the cheque was drawn on Nigel Wright's personal account?
    Mr. Speaker, once again, Mr. Wright has been extremely clear that he paid this out of his own personal funds. I can certainly assure the House that none of this money has come from the PMO or from any government account, nor, as the Leader of the Opposition has attempted to imply, has there been or will there be any attempt to reimburse Mr. Wright for those expenditures.
    Mr. Speaker, is a trust account a personal account?
    Mr. Speaker, I have answered these questions repeatedly. What is interesting is that the facts are clear. The people who did these things are before the appropriate authorities following further investigations and are being accountable for their actions.
    We have here the leader of the NDP, who has known for 17 years of the kinds of things that are behind the Charbonneau commission, has denied their existence publicly for three years and is now refusing to tell us anything in any way that would explain his actions.
    I think that is a pretty clear contrast.
    Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister refused to say whether he authorized his communications director, Andrew MacDougall, to state, “The prime minister has full confidence in Mr. Wright and Mr. Wright is staying on”.
    Why will the Prime Minister not just tell Canadians whether or not he authorized that statement?

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, as I have explained to the House many times, the facts of the matter are that Mr. Wright informed me of his actions on May 15. I immediately insisted that those facts be made public and that Mr. Wright consult the Ethics Commissioner.
    As is also known, I did accept Mr. Wright's resignation. He has accepted full responsibility for his actions. He admits it was an error in judgment and he is prepared and will be prepared to accept the full accountability and consequences with the Ethics Commissioner.
    Mr. Speaker, that was on May 15. However, on May 17, Andrew MacDougall made that statement.

[Translation]

    The question remains. Did the Prime Minister authorize Andrew MacDougall's May 17 statement or not? The question is clear and simple.
    Canadians deserve a clear answer from their Prime Minister, the only person who can answer the question.
    Mr. Speaker, the facts are clear.

[English]

    Of course, the other facts that are clear are these: In 1996, the leader of the NDP was apparently offered an envelope by the mayor of Laval that he, we are apparently led to believe, declined to look into. Fourteen years after that, when asked by the media if he knew anything about the activities of the mayor of Laval, he said he did not. He then admitted some time later that he was forced to admit certain facts to the RCMP, but he will not tell us the rest of the story.
    We have been very clear. It is time for the leader of the NDP to live by his own demand.
    Mr. Speaker, what happened between the time, which was also February 13, when the Prime Minister stood in this House to say that he had personally reviewed Pamela Wallin's expenses and that there were no problems? What happened between that same day—the same day of the caucus meeting, the same day he stood in this House—and the day he threw Pamela Wallin out of his caucus?
    What happened? Canadians want to know.
    Mr. Speaker, as I indicated at that time, the facts of the matter are that the Senate had ordered a comprehensive audit into Senator Wallin's expenses, and we said that all of those expenses would be examined carefully.
    We are now several moths later. That audit is ongoing. The issues are still not resolved. At this point, in our judgment, it is incumbent upon Senator Wallin to leave the caucus and explain those things on her own.
    Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister said that on May 15 he asked Nigel Wright whether any other payments were made to any other senators.
    What else did the Prime Minister ask Nigel Wright at that time?
    Mr. Speaker, on May 15, Mr. Wright informed me as to his actions. I have been very clear as to what action I took. First and foremost, of course I made sure that the public was informed about the facts of the situation.
    This, of course, is what the leader of the NDP should have done 17 years ago when he knew of the activities of the mayor of Laval and anything else he knew in between. Maybe if he and people like him had acted in that manner we would not have the Charbonneau commission today—
    Order. The hon. Leader of the Opposition.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, what was the date on the cheque that Nigel Wright wrote?
    Mr. Speaker, clearly, I was not the one who wrote the cheque. It was Mr. Wright. I do not know. An investigation is being conducted by the Ethics Commissioner.
    Mr. Wright agreed to take full responsibility for his actions. He is prepared to give the commissioner all of the information required and he will accept the consequences.

  (1435)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, on May 14, CTV reported that Mike Duffy wrote in an email that he, “...stayed silent on the orders of the PMO”.
    This is a simple question. Did the Prime Minister ever ask Nigel Wright if that were true?
    Mr. Speaker, the facts here are clear. Mr. Duffy actually said publicly, in late February, that he would repay and was willing to repay any inappropriate expenses. In the middle of April, Senator Duffy further said that he had in fact, himself, repaid those expenses. Those are his statements. They are on the record. Obviously, there is an investigation. He will be held accountable for those statements.
    Mr. Speaker, does the Prime Minister regret any of his actions, not Nigel Wright's actions, not Mike Duffy's actions? Does the Prime Minister regret any of his own actions in this affair?
    Mr. Speaker, we answered that question a couple of weeks ago.
    The fact of the matter is that, of course, as a result of accepting some responsibility, we insist that action be taken. That is what is being done.
    On the other hand, I do have to ask the leader of the NDP this. Does he accept any of his responsibility for not reporting on the actions of the mayor in Laval for more than a decade and a half?

41st General Election

    Mr. Speaker, the facts are clear. The Conservative Party pled guilty in a campaign finance scandal involving senior senators, the Federal Court declared that the Conservative Party's voter database was the source of campaign election fraud, and now Elections Canada has found that two more members of the Conservative government violated election laws.
    The people of Labrador finally got to hold Conservative Peter Penashue to account. When will other Canadians get to hold the current Prime Minister and the current government to account?
    Mr. Speaker, these two members of Parliament acted in good faith in the last election. In fact, the member has said that Elections Canada accepted one interpretation in the 2008 election and an entirely different one in the 2011 election.
    These are matters for the court to consider. Honest people can consider them in good faith, and I expect that will be done.

Government Appointments

    Mr. Speaker, despite an order to terminate from the commissioner of the public service, the defence minister's former right hand, Kevin MacAdam, still enjoys his $130,000-a-year salary at ACOA through outside influences.
    Insiders Allan Murphy and Nancy Baker enjoy inside access to jobs at ECBC, thanks to some influences and a little whitewashing.
    ECBC's president is under investigation, while ACOA's president has been cut in an investigation. They are the inside influences.
    Would the government admit the common denominator to the outside influences is the Minister of National Defence?
    Mr. Speaker, we cannot speak to details of an ongoing investigation. However, as soon as I became aware of these allegations, I directed ACOA officials to refer the matter to the Ethics Commissioner.

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, principled Conservatives are now fleeing the caucus—and I repeat, “principled Conservatives”.
    Here are some of the greatest hits: RCMP raid on party headquarters; the in-and-out scandal; $90,000 payoff to Mike Duffy; the Penashue election scandal; and one of our all-time favourites, Bev Oda's orange juice and limousines.
    Without changing the channel, why has the Prime Minister really left all this out there with so many questions to be answered?
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has been very clear on this matter. Indeed, it was our government, when we were first elected in 2006, that put forward Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act.
    The Liberal Party talks about principled Conservatives. The truth is that Canadians were looking for a principled government, and principled Canadian voters abandoned the Liberal Party.

  (1440)  

Food Safety

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday the report on the XL beef crisis made it clear that the largest beef recall in Canadian history was preventable.
    The report says the minister should read chapter 4 of the Weatherill report, called “How does Canada's food safety system work?”.
    Yet again, the minister has failed Canadian families. When will the minister stand up and take responsibility for his failures?
    Mr. Speaker, we welcome the panel report. We accept all of the recommendations. However, from that panel there are several quotes the member should read.
    One says, “The Panel noted that, generally, both the food safety governance and management of this incident were sound.”
    Another one says, “...the incident revealed some of the strengths of Canada's food safety system—from monitoring and surveillance, to recall and incident management...”.
    And, finally, this one says, “CFIA's documentation of the incident was both thorough and well organized”.
    Canadians expect nothing less.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this is the minister's failure. It is his responsibility. He should apologize.
    The issues raised in the report are the same as those identified in the report on the listeriosis crisis. Two crises, two reports and no action.
    His mismanagement is endangering people's lives, and that is to say nothing of the impact that the cuts in his department are having.
    What will it take for the minister to act? Another crisis?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as officials showed members of the agriculture committee this morning, there have been absolutely no cuts to anything to do with food safety from this government.
    We continue to vote, budget after budget, for hundreds of millions of dollars to make sure CFIA and Ag Canada have the capacity to continue to offer the best food safety system in the world. The opposition continues to vote against that. In the years we have been in government, we have added 20% to the personnel of CFIA to get that important job done. Again, they continue to vote against it.

[Translation]

Government Accountability

    Mr. Speaker, that kind of drivel is what we get in reply.
    This lack of transparency was the straw that broke the camel's back for our colleague from Edmonton—St. Albert. He chose to abandon ship rather than to continue being a cheerleader for the Prime Minister. Instead of acting like the Liberals in the sponsorship scandal, he became the spokesperson for thousands of Conservatives who are disgusted that, under this Prime Minister, their party has become everything that he condemned when he was in opposition.
    The Conservatives—who welcome with open arms members who cross the floor—compounded their hypocrisy by asking him to resign.
    Will the Conservatives heed this reformer's call and finally embrace transparency?
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has shown openness. We put forward our accountability act.
    He has answered questions very clearly here, in the House, day in and day out, as Canadians deserve.

[English]

    Equally, if the NDP is so strident about what it means when a member of the caucus leaves its party and what can be read into that, then what is to be read into the NDP leader's track record? There are three former NDP MPs who have left. One is the in the Liberal Party, one is an independent and one went back to the Bloc Québécois. Who else is going to go back and join the Bloc over there?
    Mr. Speaker, it seems for a Conservative MP to take a principled stance on transparency and accountability, he has to leave the Conservative caucus to do so.
    The moral of the story is that, when a political party abandons every principle on which it got elected, principled people will abandon it. What starts out as a trickle will turn into a torrent as more people realize that their party has come to most resemble that which they most condemned in their period of opposition.
    Can the Prime Minister tell us, for the sake of future historians, at exactly what point he decided to jettison all their principles for the sake of political expediency?
    Mr. Speaker, the principle and mandate on which we were elected was to build a stronger and healthier country, and look at where Canada is today: the best job record in the G7, lowest taxes in 50 years, violent crime rates down and the biggest infrastructure program in the history of this country.
    Again, the NDP should not be pointing at the government and what it means for someone to become an independent. It was an NDP member of Parliament who kept his word and stood with his constituents on the long gun registry, and the NDP leader's response was to throw him out of the party for keeping his word.

  (1445)  

Veterans Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, it was 69 years ago today that Canadian veterans stormed the beaches of Normandy and began the drive to end World War II.
    They fought with heroism and distinction to bring freedom and liberty to Europe.
    Would the Minister of Veterans Affairs please update this House on why today is such an important day for Canadian veterans?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Oakville for reminding us that the reason we are able to have debates in the House is that on June 6, 1944, 14,000 Canadians landed in Normandy.
    Five thousand of our Canadian soldiers never returned. There are still some surviving veterans of that campaign, and we can take this opportunity to thank them.
    Thank you for democracy. Thank you for freedom. Thank you for having fought against Nazism and the violation of human rights. Thank you to our veterans.

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, in an act of courage, Corporal Glen Kirkland testified yesterday in parliamentary committee about the post-traumatic stress he has experienced following his deployment to Afghanistan. He testified in spite of attempts to keep him quiet.
    Corporal Kirkland courageously served his country, but he does not have access to the health care he needs, and now he is worried he could lose his pension.
    How many veterans will have to testify in parliamentary committee before this government provides some assistance? How many? Shame on them.

[English]

    Indeed, Mr. Speaker, Corporal Kirkland gave compelling and courageous testimony yesterday, or this week, before a parliamentary committee. He is a true Canadian hero.
    I have sought and received assurances from the Department of National Defence, from our military, that he will receive every and all benefits to which he is entitled.
    I will go further and commit to him and his family that he will suffer no ramifications for his testimony. We need to hear from veterans like Corporal Kirkland, and as well he will not suffer any consequences from coming forward.
    In addition to that, he will continue to serve as long as he decides to serve in the Canadian Armed Forces.
    Mr. Speaker, the question would be, why would he? Corporal Glen Kirkland served his country in Afghanistan with great courage and great valour.
    Unfortunately, he came back with severe injuries. He was denied medical aid. He was told to keep quiet about his problems. He was also offered a dishonourable discharge if he came forward.
    The reality is that the Prime Minister owes Mr. Kirkland and all those other veterans out there an apology for that type of treatment.
    Will the minister put in writing that Mr. Kirkland will not suffer any retribution for his testimony yesterday?
    Putting aside the usual feigned outrage from the member opposite, Mr. Speaker, this is now in Hansard so it is in writing.
    I will repeat: Corporal Kirkland is a Canadian hero, is courageous for coming forward, but more important than that, he shed blood in the service of his country.
    He will of course receive the proper benefits. He will of course suffer no consequences, and will continue to serve in the Canadian Forces as long as he decides.
    We are incredibly grateful to him. We are incredibly grateful to all our veterans, all our serving members and their families, and this government as a consequence has increased their benefits and their protections, all of which the member voted against.

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, we hope the minister will actually follow through with his commitments, because there is a lack of trust that they will see those kinds of results.
    This Conservative government promised a new relationship with aboriginal peoples, but it was all just empty words.
    National aboriginal organizations are being warned that they will face more cuts, up to 40%, for next year's project funding. Organizations will now be pitted against each other, and they will be competing for the remaining dollars.
    Is this the minister's vision of a new relationship, cutting funds to projects in health, housing and education?

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, this is totally false. Housing will not be cut because of that, and no other social programs will be cut because of this. These are projects that are funded annually. What we want to ensure is that project funding for aboriginal organizations, not first nations, is focused on the delivery of essential services and programs in key areas, such as education, economic development and community infrastructure, and these are shared priorities with first nations.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives just lost another member of their caucus, but that has not stopped them from avoiding being held accountable.
    While the Conservatives just announced new cuts to funding for aboriginal organizations, which will affect health programs in particular, a study released today on suicide risk factors in Nunavut shows that the suicide rate there is 10 times higher than the Canadian average.
    How can the minister think these new cuts put him in a better position to deal with this crisis?
    Mr. Speaker, if the member did not rely on notes prepared by others, he would know that those announcements were made in September 2012, which was quite a while ago.
    The answer is the same. We want to ensure that project funding—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order. The hon. Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
    Mr. Speaker, we want to ensure that project funding for aboriginal organizations is focused on the delivery of essential services and programs in key areas such as education, economic development and community infrastructure. That is what we will continue to do.

[English]

Food Safety

    Mr. Speaker, since the outbreak of E. coli at Brooks, Alberta, Liberals have been telling the Minister of Agriculture that it was triggered by inadequately trained CFIA inspection staff, a failure to exercise CFIA oversight responsibility at the plant and inadequate inspection practices. These facts are now confirmed by the independent review of the XL crisis.
    Would the minister finally agree with these findings, and by when will he implement all the report's recommendations? Canadians deserve to know a date.
    Mr. Speaker, I welcome the question from the member opposite, because it gives me a chance, again, to say we accept all of the recommendations. We thank the panellists for the great work they did.
    We will continue to bolster the CFIA in its food safety regime. We continue to do that through budget after budget. We have added 20% to the personnel. Of course, we are focused on making sure that we improve the inspection regime with education. We strengthened food safety rules, and we improved the communication to Canadian consumers. We are getting the job done.
    Mr. Speaker, what date? This is the second major food outbreak on the minister's watch, and nobody believes food safety is his foremost priority. The report's primary finding was that the E. coli outbreak was entirely preventable and that it was a lack of a strong food safety culture at the CFIA that directly led to the outbreak.
     It is time for the minister to overcome his contempt for transparency. Does he finally have the decency to apologize to Canadians and immediately call for an independent, comprehensive audit of the CFIA's resources, which should have been done years ago?
    Mr. Speaker, of course, we welcome suggestions from everyone on how to bolster our food safety system. The panel also noted that generally, both food safety governance and management of this incident were sound.
    CFIA is doing its due diligence. It is continuing to work on lessons learned from this particular incident, but I am happy to tell Canadians that the incidence of this particular type of E. coli is down some 60% from what it was just a short time ago.

[Translation]

Access to Information

    Mr. Speaker, I have a very simple question for the Prime Minister.
    Why did the government amend Bill C-461 in order to hide information on salaries under $480,000?

  (1455)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, in fact, all salary ranges for public servants are already disclosed. That being said, we have expanded access to information to an additional 70 agencies and crown corporations, including the CBC.
    Nobody has done more for transparency than this government.

Democratic Reform

    Mr. Speaker, last night, the PMO spokesperson was making up new policy on Twitter. He said that by-elections are needed when a member leaves a caucus, even to become an independent, but when the Conservatives had an opportunity to support my bill to ban floor-crossers and force them to face by-elections, the Conservatives opposed it. They welcomed David Emerson and Wajid Khan when they betrayed their constituents to join the Conservative caucus.
    Let us try. Will the Conservatives now support the NDP's bill to ban the practice of floor-crossing, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Edmonton—St. Albert did resign from caucus, and the people of Edmonton—St. Albert did elect a Conservative MP. The member himself said just a month and a half ago on one of his blogs, “I'm elected as a Conservative Member of Parliament. My constituents expect me to support the prime minister and the cabinet”.
    We do think he should do the right thing by him and by his constituents: run in a by-election as an independent.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday Radio-Canada announced a rebranding campaign that would remove the word “Canada” from its name.
    Can the Minister of Canadian Heritage please tell the House what our government thinks of this change?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.
    I spoke with the president of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation today and made it very clear that Canada's public broadcaster should be obviously Canadian.

[English]

    In the Broadcasting Act, Canada's public broadcaster's name is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; in French, Société Radio-Canada.
    I said to Hubert Lacroix, the president of the CBC, today that Canadian taxpayers will support a Canadian public broadcaster only if it ensures that the Canadian public broadcaster is Canadian in content, in name, in both official languages, in every part of this country.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my question is on the same subject.
    We were very disappointed to learn that Radio-Canada, the CBC French-language service, will be dropping its traditional designation and rebranding itself as “ICI”. This institution, widely known to all francophones and francophiles across Canada and around the world, has been with us and informing us for decades.
    As the minister said, and we are very proud of it, will he stand by his position that this decision can be reversed?
    Mr. Speaker, I know it is always difficult to ask a question that was just answered, but I appreciate my colleague's support on this.
    As I just said in English, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Société Radio-Canada in French, is Canada's public broadcaster. It must carry clearly Canadian content in Canada's two official languages in every part of this country.
    It must be proudly Canadian in content and in name, period.

[English]

Agriculture and Agri-Food

    Mr. Speaker, the community pasture program is a 75-year-old success story of resource conservation that helped smaller western farmers thrive in the face of market uncertainty and that conserved threatened grasslands.
    Saskatchewan farmers want the pastures saved, and they fear the lands will fall into the hands of speculators. They just need time to pursue options. Will the Minister of Agriculture commit to stopping the sell-off and support farmer-led efforts to save these lands critical to their livelihood?
    Mr. Speaker, that is the exact procedure that is in play. It is a six-year transition. The land has always and will continue to belong to the Government of Saskatchewan and the Governments of Alberta and Manitoba.
    We have never owned that land. We simply managed it when those provinces did not have the resources to do it. They certainly do now in that they run their own pastures. They are now going to take over the management of these lands as well, and we welcome that.

  (1500)  

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, the previous Liberal government instituted a justice system that put a greater emphasis on the rights of criminals than on the rights of victims. Our government promised to change that.
    To further stand up for victims, I introduced Bill C-478, the respecting families of murdered and brutalized persons act. This bill would give judges the discretion to increase the parole ineligibility period for murderers who abduct, rape and brutally kill their victims. Unfortunately, the opposition refused to put victims first.
    Could the Minister of Justice please reiterate the government's position on my bill and its reaction to yesterday's vote?
    Mr. Speaker, the opposition parties are always trying to hide the fact that they are soft on crime. Over the years, there is no end to the excuses as to why they vote against legislation that would better protect victims. Yesterday was certainly no different.
    This legislation will end repeated parole hearings for Canada's most violent and dangerous criminals, ensuring that victims are not constantly re-victimized by their own criminal justice system. I am proud that our government always puts victims first. Why is it so impossible for the Liberals and the NDP to do the same thing?

[Translation]

Health

    Mr. Speaker, Quebec Stevedoring, the Port of Québec and the Minister of Transport are passing the buck in trying to find out who is to blame for the dust that is falling on Limoilou.
    Now Quebec City is to blame because its hydrants do not have enough pressure.
    When will the minister come to Quebec City to see how badly the port, for which he, as minister, is responsible—and I mean responsible—needs federal investment to update its facilities in order to protect public health?
    The hon. member absolutely does not understand how this works. Does he think we needed an invitation from an NDP MP to go to the Port of Québec? That happened a long time ago.
    He met with the representatives of the port in April and they explained everything to him. He said he was satisfied, but today he still does not get it. If he cannot figure this out, then let him come see me and I will explain it to him.

[English]

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, in 2001, the Prime Minister wrote a famous letter to the former premier of Alberta in which he urged him to act “to limit the extent to which an aggressive and hostile federal government can encroach upon legitimate provincial jurisdiction”. Six days ago, the provincial government of British Columbia said no to the Enbridge project. It said that Enbridge had completely failed to demonstrate any evidence that it knew how to clean up a spill or even knew what would happen with the bitumen and diluent.
    Will the Prime Minister confirm that under no circumstances will the federal government become the aggressive and hostile government that approves a project as long British Columbians say no?
    Mr. Speaker, the project in question, of course, is subject to a joint review panel process. Obviously, we believe in the rule of law and in adjudicating these things based on scientific and policy concerns. The government will obviously withhold its decision on the matter until we see the results of the panel and its work.

Presence in Gallery

    To commemorate the 69th anniversary of D-Day, I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of Mr. Ken Hanna, a veteran who was at Juno Beach on D-Day.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

  (1505)  

Points of Order

Elections Canada  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, we were told recently that the Chief Electoral Officer sent a letter through you to the House regarding the election filings of the member for Saint Boniface and the member for Selkirk—Interlake.
    I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to make that letter available to all members so the House can be informed of its contents.
    As the hon. member knows, this is currently the subject of a question of privilege, and I will be coming back to the House.
     In the meantime, my understanding is that these types of things are made public by Elections Canada and it is even up on some websites. I am sure the member will be able to obtain a copy of that if he so desires, or perhaps he could contact Elections Canada.

Business of the House

[Business of the House]

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Internet can be a confusing and confounding place, I suppose, for some friends.

[Translation]

    I have a simple and clear question for the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. Could he tell us what is on the agenda for the rest of the week and for the coming weeks?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I do want to start by reviewing what our House has accomplished over the preceding five days since I last answered the Thursday question.
    Bill C-51, the safer witnesses act, was passed at third reading. Bill C-52, the fair rail freight service act, was passed at third reading. Bill C-63 and Bill C-64, the appropriations laws, passed at all stages last night as part of the last supply day of the spring cycle.
    Bill S-2, the family homes on reserves and matrimonial interests or rights act, has been debated some more at third reading. Bill C-60, the economic action plan 2013 act, no. 1, was passed at report stage. Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for first nations act, was passed at report stage, was debated at third reading, and debate will continue.
    Bill S-14, the fighting foreign corruption act, was passed at second reading. Bill C-56, combating counterfeit products act, was debated at second reading. Bill S-15, the expansion and conservation of Canada’s national parks act, was debated at second reading. Bill S-17, the tax conventions implementation act, 2013, was debated at second reading.
    On Bill C-62, the Yale First Nation final agreement act, we adopted a ways and means motion, introduced the bill, passed it at second reading and it has since passed at committee. I anticipate we will be getting a report from the committee shortly.
    Bill S-16, the tackling contraband tobacco act, was given first reading yesterday after arriving from the Senate. Bill C-65, the respect for communities act, was introduced this morning.
    Substantive reports from four standing committees were adopted by the House.
     On the private members' business front, the House witnessed three bills getting third reading, one being passed at report stage, two being reported back from committee and one was just passed at second reading and sent to a committee.
    Last night was the replenishment of private members' business, with 15 hon. members bringing forward their ideas, which I am sure we will vigorously debate.
    The House will continue to deliver results for Canadians over the next week. Today, we will finish the third reading debate on Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for first nations act. Then we will turn our collective attention to Bill S-15, the expansion and conservation of Canada’s national parks act, at second reading, followed by Bill S-2, the family homes on reserves and matrimonial interests or rights act, at third reading.
    Tomorrow we will have the third reading debate on Bill C-60, the economic action plan 2013 act, no. 1. The final vote on this very important job creation and economic growth bill will be on Monday after question period.
    Before we rise for the weekend, we hope to start second reading debate on Bill C-61, the offshore health and safety act.
     On Monday, we will complete the debates on Bill S-15, the expansion and conservation of Canada’s national parks act, and Bill S-2, the family homes on reserves and matrimonial interests or rights act.

[Translation]

    Today and next week, I would like to see us tackle the bills left on the order paper, with priority going to any bills coming back from committee.
    As for the sequencing of the debates, I am certainly open to hearing the constructive proposals of my opposition counterparts on passing Bill S-6, the First Nations Elections Act, at second reading; Bill S-10, the Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act, at second reading; Bill S-12, the Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act, at second reading; Bill S-13, the Port State Measures Agreement Implementation Act, at second reading; Bill S-16, at second reading; Bill S-17, at second reading; Bill C-57, the Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act, at second reading; Bill C-61, at second reading; and Bill C-65, at second reading.
    Mr. Speaker, I am looking forward to having another list of accomplishments to share with you, and all honourable members, this time next Thursday.

  (1510)  

[English]

    Suffice it to say, we are being productive, hard-working and orderly in delivering on the commitments we have made to Canadians.
    There having been discussions among the parties that it will receive unanimous consent, I would like to propose a motion. I move:
     That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of this House, the member for Peace River be now permitted to table the Report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in relation to Bill C-62, An Act to give effect to the Yale First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
    Does the hon. minister have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]

[English]

Committees of the House

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, entitled “Bill C-62, An Act to give effect to the Yale First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts”.
     The committee has studied this bill and has decided to report this bill back to the House, without amendments.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order, just to clarify the record.
    Earlier this week, during question period, I unintentionally shared some information that was not correct when I accused the government of spending $90,000 for 30-second spots advertising the Canada jobs grant on the playoff hockey games each evening. The amount of $90,000 was not correct; it is the semi-finals now, and it is $110,000, so—
    Order, please. I would just remind the hon. member that correcting the record is rarely seen as a point of order by the Chair. If he would like to do so at a future question period or other times of debate, he is welcome to do it.
    The Chair also has a question of privilege from the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

Privilege

Comments by the Member for Wellington—Halton Hills  

[Privilege]
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of personal privilege that I think will have some relevance to my colleague across the way, the House leader for the government, as well as the House leader for the Liberal Party.
    I rise on a question arising from some troubling insinuations made last night over the course of debate. I have been reviewing yesterday's debate and I was surprised and not somewhat concerned but very concerned by some serious allegations that were made by one of my colleagues across the way. These statements call into question the integrity of the House and the House leaders, and I wanted to raise them with you today, Mr. Speaker, as soon as possible.
    During the debate on vote 1 on the main estimates, while referring to Bill C-290, an act to amend the Criminal Code sports betting, the MP for Wellington—Halton Hills mentioned:
    In fact, what transpired on Friday, March 2, 2012, was that the House leaders worked together to force debate to collapse before the full two hours of third reading had transpired, preventing members like me from “standing five” to request a full standing division on that piece of legislation.
    By saying that, the member for Wellington—Halton Hills is insinuating that the House leaders had come up with some kind of conspiracy to bypass the parliamentary process. Not only does this show a lack of understanding of the legislative process, it puts the credibility of the officers of the House into doubt. Moreover, Mr. Speaker, it puts your credibility into doubt by insinuating that you would allow such a conspiracy to take place.
    My friend across the way knows this place well and knows the rules that govern the House. He has been here for some time now, so I find it passing strange that he has gone so far as to suggest that there was a coordinated effort to trample his rights as a duly elected member of Parliament. Perhaps a brief review of what happened in this case can help clarify the situation for him and for all, and perhaps invoke some retraction or apology to both yourself, Mr. Speaker, and the House leaders.
    Bill C-290 was debated at second reading on November 1, 2011. During the debate, all MPs had the opportunity to express themselves on this bill. This opportunity was seized by the member of Parliament for Windsor—Tecumseh, the member for Windsor West, the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, the member for Edmonton—St. Albert and the member for Charlottetown. Following these interventions, because no other member rose to speak, the Speaker put the question to the House, as is proper.
    This is the normal procedure at any time when no further members rise to speak on a bill. If the debate collapses, the bill can be adopted or rejected at that point, or a recorded division can be requested by any five members in the House. In the case of this bill, there was not a single MP from any party who expressed their opposition to the bill being read a second time and referred to the committee.
    The member for Wellington—Halton Hills could have expressed his concerns at this time by simply standing up. He chose not to. During the committee study, any MP could have submitted their concerns on the bill or encouraged the committee members to recommend that the House not proceed with the bill at all. This is good legislation, so no member availed themselves of this opportunity and the bill was passed by the committee, once again without opposition.
    Members had a third opportunity to express themselves at the report stage on March 2, 2012. Indeed, as prescribed in the Standing Orders, when a bill comes back from the committee and there are no amendments, the Speaker automatically puts the question at report stage. Once again, the bill passed through this stage without any opposition whatsoever.
    The debate at third reading provided a fourth chance for the members to examine and debate the bill. Once again, representatives from all three recognized parties took the opportunity to address the bill. It was a lively debate. The member for Wellington—Halton Hills, as well as other MPs, had the chance to give a speech on the bill at that point, but they did not. For a fourth time, the bill was passed by members of the House, without opposition.
    The MP for Wellington—Halton Hills had all of these occasions to speak on Bill C-290 and to move any amendments or changes, but he chose not to. The order paper shows us well in advance when a bill is to be debated. It is not a secret. However, instead of standing to speak his voice, he chose to stay in his seat or not be present. Now he claims that there was somehow a conspiracy against him, blaming his House leader, myself and the House leader for the Liberal Party of having conspired to prevent him the opportunity to use his democratic voice.
    Moreover, the MP for Wellington—Halton Hills seems to think that it is unheard of for a private member's bill to go through all steps without a standing vote. Since the beginning of this Parliament, at least two bills from opposition MPs went through all stages in the House of Commons without a standing vote. This was the case for Bill C-278, An Act respecting a day to increase public awareness about epilepsy, as well as Bill S-201, An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day.

  (1515)  

    There was also Bill C-313, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (non-corrective contact lenses) and Motion No. 319 from the MP for Ottawa—Orléans.
    These four private members' business items all passed through the legislative process without a standing vote in the House. We heard no such cries of conspiracy or condemnation from the member who is raising the complaints now or from any other member because this is the practice of the House. My friend from Ottawa—Orléans knows this practice well and used it.
    These assertions that have been made are broad sweeping and undermine the integrity of the House officers of the various parties by calling into question the work that we undertake on behalf of our parties. The member for Wellington—Halton Hills is calling into question the integrity of this House and the legislative process, a process he knows well. I hope that this is not what the member was suggesting or insinuating last night. Maybe it is just that the member has misplaced certain rules of the House.
    If he feels that his rights to express himself in the House have somehow been violated, I also invite him to discuss this with his House leader or others who try to maintain an orderly and conducive debate in this place. He does not have to try and intimidate those of us in this House. We New Democrats, more often than anyone else in this place, believe in and defend the institution and the rights of members of Parliament to speak. We have opposed the 42 motions that have been moved by this government to shut down debate every single time. The insinuation that there is somehow a conspiracy to prevent certain members from speaking on a piece of legislation, simply because they are in opposition, is both offensive to myself and I would suggest to the other House leaders, although they will have their own positions and feelings about this.
    I would also argue that this assertion puts your credibility into doubt by insinuating that somehow you would allow such a conspiracy to take place. I believe that these allegations constitute a prima facie breach of privilege.
    If you come to the same conclusion that I have, I would be prepared to move the appropriate motion to have this studied by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
    I look forward to the interventions by my colleagues across the way.

  (1520)  

    I want to thank the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley for bringing this up. I know, having worked with him for the past few months since he has been made opposition House leader, that he does take these types of things very seriously in terms of procedure.
    I have had a chance to look at the passage that he referred to. I will say that there are many reasons why debate collapses from time to time. Sometimes there is agreement, sometimes there is not. However, I cannot see that anything that the member for Wellington—Halton Hills said, in terms of what his thoughts might have been about why debate collapsed, would rise to the threshold of becoming a prima facie breach. It seems to me to be more a matter of debate about how events came about and less an actual breach of someone's privilege. I appreciate his raising it. I know he takes these things seriously. I know the goodwill that exists between House leaders is very important and I hope that continues going into the future.

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[Government Orders]

[English]

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act

     The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-8, An Act respecting the safety of drinking water on First Nation lands, be read the third time and passed.
    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House to speak to a very important bill and a very important issue for the people I represent in northern Manitoba. I am honoured to represent the people of Churchill. That includes 33 first nations, first nations that are diverse, young with tremendous energy and tremendous opportunity. However, immense challenges exist on these first nations. Nowhere is that challenge more evident than the lack of access to safe drinking water, water services and sewage services on first nations.
    When the reference to third world conditions is made, it is made because of the lack of access to safe drinking water that exists on many first nations in northern Manitoba. I think of the Island Lake community, four first nations that are isolated on the east side of Lake Winnipeg. I think of St. Theresa Point, Garden Hill, Wasagamack and Red Sucker Lake. All of these communities are growing, like many first nations, at a high rate. There are a lot of young people and young families. Overcrowding and lack of housing are very serious issues.
    However, what is evident in these communities is the impact of the lack of safe drinking water in terms of health outcomes, in terms of broader indicators of quality of life, in terms of the mortality rate that unfortunately among first nations remains lower than the Canadian average. That mortality rate is connected to a number of factors, but the fundamental lack of access to safe drinking water is key.
    It is unacceptable that in the year 2013, in a country as wealthy as Canada, that first nations, simply because they are first nations, lack access to a basic right, the right of clean water and access to safe drinking water. They lack access to the kind of infrastructure that would ensure a healthier lifestyle in line with that which all Canadians enjoy.
    While members from the governing party have spoken to the disastrous indicators, what they fail to speak to is their own failure to uphold their fiduciary obligation to first nations, their own failure to live up to the treaties, to respect aboriginal and treaty rights in ensuring that first nations, no matter where they are, have access to safe drinking water.
    Instead of recognizing that failure and investing in the kind of infrastructure that is necessary, investing in the kind of training that is necessary for first nations to be able to provide access to safe drinking water, the government has chosen to uphold its pattern of imposing legislation on first nations. Not only has it imposed legislation in this case, Bill S-8, but it has done so without consultation, without recognizing the tremendous concerns that first nations have brought forward with respect to previous iterations of the bill. Fundamentally it is disrespecting its commitments under the treaties, under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which it signed. Even more reason for concern is the fact it is putting first nations in even greater danger than they are already in.
    We know that Bill S-8 provides no funding to improve water systems on reserve. This is shameful because, given the rhetoric that we hear from the government about commitments to first nations, the reality is that when it comes to making a difference for safe drinking water, the need for investment in infrastructure and investment in capacity building is extremely serious.
    I was there in February this year, but I remember being in Little Grand Rapids a couple of years back where the water treatment plant operator talked to us about how the chemicals he needed to be able to make sure that the water was safe for his community to drink were going to run out halfway through the year. I have spoken to water treatment plant operators who have talked about the lack of access to training programs so that they can improve their skills, so they can have the knowledge and skill set to be able to provide safe drinking water for their community members.

  (1525)  

    I have heard from water treatment plant operators, sewage treatment plant operators and leaders in communities who have expressed real concern about their inability, with the little they are given from this federal government, to provide what is a basic standard of living to their people. That onus falls entirely on the backs of the federal government.
    Unfortunately, this is a result of years of neglect by the previous Liberal government, the imposition of the 2% cap that was halted, and has frozen in many cases, the kind of funding that is necessary for first nations to operate, and has been very much continued by the Conservative government.
    We have seen that first nations that are continuing to grow, where their needs are continuing to grow, are turning to a federal government that is not only not prepared to make the investments in infrastructure, but is actually imposing its colonial agenda to boot.
    We are very concerned in the NDP that on Bill S-8, like previous bills, Bill S-2, and so many others that impact first nations, Bill C-27, the government has insisted on shutting down debate on these very important bills, preventing members of Parliament from speaking out on behalf of their constituents who would be negatively impacted as a result of this legislation. We believe that by doing so, it is also silencing the voice of the first nations in this House.
    This practice has unfortunately also been applied to committees where the facts have not been heard because of the government's attempt to muzzle those who oppose its agenda.
    We in the NDP also stand in solidarity with first nations that have decried the government's continued pattern in which bills affecting first nations also include a clause, and we see it in Bill S-8, that gives the government the ability to derogate from aboriginal rights. The clause says, “Except to the extent necessary to ensure the safety of drinking water on first nations land”.
    It is unconscionable that a federal government that is charged with a fiduciary obligation to first nations, that is there to honour the treaty relationships it is party to, would go so far as to derogate from aboriginal rights, to be able to break that very commitment it has to first nations. That is a failure on the part of the government. First nations have risen up against this failure, through the Idle No More movement, and through activism and leadership that first nations have consistently shown, saying that they are opposed to the government's agenda, and Bill S-8 is one of those reasons if we look at it clearly.
    We are also very concerned about the pattern of unilaterally imposing legislation. We recognize that the AFN, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, a series of representative organizations of first nations have been very clear in their opposition to Bill S-8.
    The reality is that the government is trying to change the channel on its own failed rhetoric around accountability and transparency, words that it cannot take to heart, given the recent scandals that have emerged. The government is trying to change the channel and put the blame on first nations.
    When it comes to something as serious as access to safe drinking water, there is no room for these kinds of political games. The government should stand up, and instead of changing the channel, instead of imposing legislation, instead of breaking its commitment under the treaties and disrespecting aboriginal rights, it should work with first nations in partnership to make the investments that are necessary and obvious to ensure that safe access to drinking water exists in first nations communities the way it exists in communities across the country.
    For the people of Island Lake, for first nations across this country, for all Canadians, we deserve better from the government.

  (1530)  

Points of Order

Elections Canada 

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, I have a point of order.
    The Speaker, in the chair that he or she occupies in this place, is a position that has to be beyond reproach. I have been a member of Parliament for nearly 20 years in this place, and by your ruling, my confidence in the Speaker has been thrown into jeopardy. Let me explain.
    My concern is based on the Speaker's response to a point of order raised by the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel immediately following question period about a letter from Elections Canada that referred to the member for Selkirk—Interlake and the member for Saint Boniface. The member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel asked that the Speaker table that letter.
    In my view, a letter to the Speaker with that kind of content is a letter to us in the House of Commons. The response from the Chair was that the letter is on the Elections Canada website. We have now looked. That letter is not there. The letter is on CBC's website.
    However, this concern goes far beyond whether the letter is available or not. A letter with that kind of content, referring to the ability of members to sit in this House of Commons and suggesting that two members should be suspended, is, I believe, a letter to all of us. That letter should be tabled, in my view, by the Chair.
    I am certainly willing to accept that in the heat of the moment, your office thought that it might be available through Elections Canada. Maybe you did not have time to consult with the desk and respond accordingly.
    However, Mr. Speaker, in all seriousness, this is a serious matter for our chamber and our confidence in the Speaker and how the Speaker operates.
    I respect the position. I respect the individual. I think an error has been made here in terms of the kind of response to that question.
    I am asking the Speaker to reconsider—maybe not right in this moment, but I am asking the Speaker to reconsider.

  (1535)  

    I appreciate the comments from the hon. member for Malpeque. I will take this matter further under advisement and ensure that the comments are considered carefully. I will get back to the House as may be the case.

[Translation]

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act

[Government Orders]
    The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-8, An Act respecting the safety of drinking water on First Nation lands, be read the third time and passed.
    Mr. Speaker, to begin, I would like to thank my colleague from Churchill for her wonderful speech and, above all, for her passion for her constituents. I know that she takes their rights and interests to heart. She demonstrates that day after day in the House.
    The member spoke about the government's obligation to consult and accommodate aboriginal peoples, and I would like hear her say more about that.
    Every time we raise the issue of fundamental aboriginal rights, as set out in the Constitution, it seems that the government has forgotten that aspect of its obligations. Each time, numerous aboriginal organizations, including the Assembly of First Nations, write to the government to complain about the lack of consultation and, in particular, the lack of accommodation. That obligation goes hand in hand with the obligation to consult.
    I would like to hear more from the member on that because I know that the Assembly of First Nations, for one, has complained about it.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague.
    I would like to say that it is truly a privilege to be able to work with him. He is a leader among Canada's aboriginal people. I am proud that, together, we can promote the NDP's vision, which is very supportive of aboriginal peoples. We will stand firm and fearless in opposition to this government. We will oppose its agenda, which is colonial in nature and paternalistic towards first nations.
    In answer to his question, I would like to quote the Assembly of First Nations. This text, which is only available in English, is about this bill and was submitted to the Senate committee.

[English]

    Bill S-8, as part of an ongoing process started with Bill S-11 prior to the CFNG, continues a pattern of unilaterally imposed legislation and does not meet the standards of joint development and clear recognition of First Nation jurisdiction. The engagement of some First Nations and the modest changes made to the Bill do not respond to the commitment to mutual respect and partnership envisioned by the CFNG.
    Not only is it against the duty to consult and not only is it against the Prime Minister's commitment to a new relationship during the Crown–First Nations Gathering; this bill also continues, unfortunately, a historical pattern of imposing a colonial view. As a piece of legislation on something as serious as safe drinking water, it is going to cause more damage, create the potential for tremendous liability and not actually live to up to any of the things that the government ought to be doing; in fact, it would further impoverish and marginalize first nations that need the federal government to act.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the hon. member for Churchill, who gives her all every day defending aboriginal peoples, among others. She is the NDP caucus leader at the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. We just came from our review of Bill S-2, and she was able to share her vast knowledge on the subject.
    Earlier, the hon. member talked about the importance of information. This concept was also raised this morning by the hon. member for Mississauga South. In her speech, she said that since we do not have enough trained people to do the work in the communities, such as installing sewers and water systems, which requires rather technical skills, we would train people there, either aboriginals or other people.
    One of the challenges we are dealing with in the committee studying Bill S-2 has to do with money. People on site are being given responsibilities, but not the means to carry out those responsibilities.
    I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about that.

  (1540)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for raising such an important point.
    I will begin by saying that I invite all the Conservative members, who are listening to me closely I am sure, to visit our region in northern Manitoba to see for themselves what it means not to have access to drinking water and related essential services. That is the reality for these first nation communities.
    They did not ask for this. This government and the previous Liberal governments did not invest enough money in infrastructure and training. The Harper government continues to marginalize the first nations. This is a national disgrace and it must change.
    It will change in future thanks to NDP leadership.

[English]

    I would remind all hon. members not to refer to other hon. members in the House by their given names, but, rather, by their titles or ridings.
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Peace River.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to stand this afternoon and speak to Bill S-8.
    I have the privilege of serving as the chair of the aboriginal affairs and northern development committee. I note, Mr. Speaker, that it is a role you undertook prior to your current position, and it is a privilege to succeed you in that role.
    It has been a privilege to serve as chair amid the relationships that have developed across party lines, and I believe our committee has been able to undertake some good work. We have been able to do that in a way that respects not only the desire to bring different perspectives together but to move things forward. It has been a privilege for me to serve in this capacity, and I owe a debt of gratitude to all committee members of all parties who have worked together.
    In the consultations and work we did in reviewing Bill S-8, that relationship was paramount, because we desired to hear from folks from different locations across the country. We desired to hear from first nations as well as experts, and from municipalities in addition to that. We desired to hear from people who could speak to the issue of drinking water on reserves specifically, and how we might move toward safe drinking water for all first nations communities and for all first nations people across the country.
    There has been much said already about the bill, some of which I agree with and some of which I do not. However, this piece of legislation is enabling legislation. It will allow for regulations to be created to ensure that the water every first nation is using and providing to their local grassroots members is safe.
    Clean, safe drinking water is something that we all, as Canadians, take for granted. Water in most municipalities and water systems is provincially regulated, and we know that the regulations that have been established do provide assurance of cleanliness and safety. However, this is not the case in first nations communities. I wanted to note that off the top.
    One of the privileges that I have had as well is to serve with the member for Medicine Hat on these important issues. I will be sharing my time today with the member from Medicine Hat.
    An important thing to note with regard to this legislation is that some people have asked for additional clarity or for provision of what the regulations would look like once they are done. We recognize as a government—and I think our minister and the minister before him have articulated it well—that it is important that we do not create, or try to create, a one-size-fits-all approach. First nations across the country were loud and clear that one size does not fit all. It never will and never has, for a number of reasons.
    Number one, there are differences in our geography in terms of where water comes from, in terms of the number of people it serves and in terms of the technologies available.
    There are also differences in what has been undertaken by different municipalities and different provinces. Often first nations communities depend on or collaborate with neighbouring municipalities, so if a set of regulations in one province is different from the regulations in another province, yet they both comply with their respective provincial regulations, then to try to manufacture a national, pan-Canadian regulation system would not take in the differences that we should all accommodate.
    Just because there are different regulations does not mean there are different levels of water quality. Different regulations are often required because of different hydrology or different sources of water that local people are drawing from, as well as a result of the number of people who live in certain areas. A water system that serves 100 people or 25 people is vastly different from a water system that supports tens of thousands of people.

  (1545)  

    That is the reality in municipalities. It is also the reality in first nations communities. That is why an enabling piece of legislation would allow flexibility to work with first nations, to respond to their desires and hopes but also to the realities within their communities. I think we all want a system that will work and provide assurance for clean drinking water into the future.
    Our government has invested significantly in providing clean drinking water. I can say that in my own constituency, we have seen significant amounts of money allocated toward water systems that provide water to first nation communities. In some cases, these water systems have been set up to be separate and only for first nation communities. In other cases, we have collaborative efforts that have been undertaken between first nations communities and neighbouring municipalities. The water systems that are built are different because the needs are different and because the water sources are different. However, I can say that with the money that has been leveraged into these systems, many first nations throughout my constituency are being better served with cleaner water and the assurance of that.
    However, if we build these systems without regulations, we know that there is a possibility we cannot be assured that the people who are running these systems are trained to run them, and we heard testimony of that at committee. We heard again and again of the necessity of ensuring that for the water systems. All the money in the world could be spent on a water system, but if there is no one running it who knows how to do so, there is a chance that these systems will fall into disrepair, or as a result of either flooding or some type of change in the source water, there may be contamination or problems in terms of the water. Therefore, it is important that we have trained folks, and that is what regulations would set out. Obviously they would ensure that the people who should be running these systems are doing so.
    As we look across this country, we see significant diversity. When we look at it region by region, we know we will have to be responsive not only to different realities in terms of population but also different realities in terms of the demographics, geography and distribution needs.
    We have heard some concern from the members opposite that maybe people were not consulted to the extent they should have been. I can say we heard person after person come to our committee and say they had been consulted but they still had some desire to see things articulated in the regulations, which is the exciting thing about this undertaking. This process would continue to be a consultation. It would continue to work with first nations to build a regulatory regime that would work for them in their region.
    We heard from first nations, some of which span between provinces where half the community is in one province and half in another. We heard from communities that live near urban centres and from some that are quite a distance from urban centres, from some that are in remote locations and from some that live where there is access to different technologies. However, the exciting thing about this process is that there would be a region-by-region recognition and implementation of different regulations.
    This goes back to the fact that we are not a government that believes that a one-size-fits-all approach is the right approach. We recognize that, with more than 630 first nations, there is diversity of opinion in terms of what should work but also practical differences in terms of geography and demographics, and these things need to be addressed with regulation. This is why we believe strongly that working in collaboration with the jurisdictions in which these communities are located, whether that be provincial jurisdictions or municipalities, we can come up with a regulation that is uniquely tailored to the communities that these regulations are intended to serve. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, it would be a more customized approach to ensure that people who are living in first nations are well served by the regulation.
    We know this is not a quick fix. We know it will take many years to ensure that all systems across this country are established to ensure everyone is receiving clean drinking water. However, we are well on our way, and this enabling legislation would ensure we continue to move in that direction.

  (1550)  

    

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it was a great honour to meet with the Algonquin people in my riding after being elected.
    There are two first nations in my riding, namely the Kitigan Zibi Algonquins and the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, or Rapid Lake. From the outset, they told me they faced a lot of challenges in regard to drinking water, especially tap water. At Kitigan Zibi, 60% of the people do not have drinkable tap water. In Barriere Lake, or Rapid Lake, the situation is even worse.
    This country is witnessing a water crisis on first nations lands, and this problem will not be solved by half measures or goodwill. A thorough consultation is badly needed, but the Algonquin people in my riding told me they do not think they were consulted.
    I appreciated my colleague's speech, but can he rise in the House today and honestly say that this bill will provide real solutions to this problem and the crisis affecting many of our aboriginal peoples in Canada?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I do sincerely believe that this legislation would lead to a lasting solution to the issues of challenges with clean drinking water in communities.
    What the government was told during consultations for this bill is that first nations do not need and would be hindered by a one-size-fits-all approach across this country. Therefore, our government recognized that there needed to be a region-by-region approach. That is why this is enabling legislation. It does not spell out every aspect of every water system that would be placed in every community across this country. It says that there would be basic standards that would be upheld and that, through region-by-region local regulation, we would ensure every community has a regulatory system that works for it.
    What we have heard is the hon. member saying that the necessity is still out there to engage first nations. Our government is saying that, through this legislation, we would be able to engage those first nations and address their concerns.
    Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that there is a legislative need out there. How the government ultimately brought this particular bill before the House is somewhat questionable in terms of what we hear from first nation leaders and the concerns they have expressed even in terms of the manner in which it was brought forward.
    Having said that, the other side is also the need for financial resources. One of the member's colleagues spoke a little earlier stating that the government has allocated and spent $3 billion on improving the quality of water on reserve or in our rural communities.
    The question I posed to her is the same question I pose to this member, which is this. If the government has spent $3 billion, can it provide to the House something that clearly shows where that $3 billion was spent? Was it on civil servants or on pipes? Where was the money actually spent?

  (1555)  

    Mr. Speaker, I can tell the hon. member that the money was spent on water systems for first nation communities across this country.
    We do know that the vast majority of that went into infrastructure. We know there is an infrastructure deficit across this country. Unfortunately, that was something our government inherited, something we take seriously. Therefore, we have implemented an aggressive strategy to build an infrastructure system to ensure there is clean drinking water.
    When we build these systems we also have to have a regulatory regime to ensure that we address the people who are running these systems, the protocols in terms of drawing source water and a number of other aspects. I am not a water expert, but I understand there is a whole complex necessity for regulation to ensure clean drinking water. I think the Canadian taxpayer needs to be assured that the $3 billion that has been placed into infrastructure thus far would not be compromised by a lack of regulation.
    We will be resuming debate, but there seems to be a lot of interest in questions and comments this afternoon. I will let hon. members know, as well as those who may be giving their 10-minute speech, that I will be watching during the period for questions and comments to try to keep those interventions to no more than one minute so that other members will have the opportunity to participate in that important part of the debate.
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Medicine Hat.
    Mr. Speaker, like my colleague, I had the privilege of sitting on the aboriginal and northern affairs committee under your tutelage as the committee chair, and also under my colleague from Peace River. That was an important part of an opportunity to learn a lot about the first nations.
    Now, of course, we have the safe drinking water act. I am really pleased to be able to stand here and speak to this. The legislation includes a mechanism that would allow for the development of these regulations. They are desperately needed to safeguard drinking water and allow for proper waste water treatment in first nations communities.
    It is time to move forward to create the regulations needed to safeguard drinking water in first nations communities. Bill S-8 addresses an urgent need, and I implore the opposition to support the government on this legislation.
    Currently, provincial and territorial regulations protect the safety of drinking water in the vast majority of communities across Canada. In first nations communities, however, no such regulations apply. The lack of regulations has been a major contributor to the poor state of drinking water in many first nations communities.
    A lengthy process of consultation did occur, and engagement and review contributed to the legislation now before us. The process began more than seven years ago, when the expert panel on safe drinking water for first nations considered a series of regulatory options. The panel hosted a series of public hearings in first nations communities across Canada. More than 110 people presented to the panel, and a total of more than two dozen individuals and organizations provided written submissions. This work helped identify that a region-by-region approach was needed to develop effective regulations, as stated by my colleague from Peace River. Bill S-8 proposes this approach and recognizes that no one-size-fits-all solutions exist.
    In 2010, the Government of Canada introduced Bill S-11, a different version of the legislation now before us, which also called for a region-by-region approach. Although this version died on the order paper, the review conducted by the standing committee of the other place clarified many of the issues that remained to be addressed. A key issue was that legislation on drinking water might abrogate or derogate from existing aboriginal and treaty rights of first nations. Most first nations representatives and many parliamentarians repeatedly raised concerns that the legislation and subsequent regulations on drinking water could infringe on existing aboriginal and treaty rights. Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, protects these rights.
    Between Bill S-11 and the introduction of Bill S-8 in February of last year, the Government of Canada continued to discuss legislative options with first nations groups. A breakthrough on the non-derogation issue came during the “without prejudice” discussions that the Government of Canada held with regional first nations organizations. During these discussions, first nations proposed that future legislation include a non-derogation clause, a provision clarifying the relationship between drinking water regulations and first nations rights. This was also a sentiment echoed by many witnesses who appeared to speak to Bill S-11. The clause now included in Bill S-8, clause 3, is virtually the same as the version proposed by the first nations as a result of those discussions.
    In essence, the non-derogation clause included in Bill S-8 would not prevent the government from justifying a derogation or abrogation of aboriginal and treaty rights if it is necessary to ensure the safety of first nations drinking water. The non-derogation clause in Bill S-8 would effectively balance the need to respect aboriginal and treaty rights under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the need to protect human health.
    It is a delicate balance to strike, but I believe the clause in Bill S-8 succeeds and would help achieve a larger goal. Consider the following example. Let us say that the only feasible water drinking source for the first nations community is on reserve lands. Under Bill S-8, regulations could be developed to protect this drinking water source, even if the regulations limited the ability of first nations individuals to use the land pursuant to their treaty rights.

  (1600)  

    Perhaps the first nation wanted to build a commercial development on the land. If the proposed land use threatened the viability of the water source, and by extension, the health and safety of community residents, derogating from a possible aboriginal treaty right to use the land could be justified.
    The inclusion of the non-derogation clause in Bill S-8 would immensely strengthen the proposed legislation. It would address a key concern of first nations and other groups while promoting the health and safety of members of first nations communities.
    Another important development that occurred with Bills S-11 and S-8 was the publication of the national assessment of first nations water and waste water management systems. It represents the most comprehensive study ever done of the facilities used to treat and distribute drinking water in first nations communities. The national assessment is valuable, because it provides not only an important point of reference but also an impetus for parties to work toward an effective solution.
    It is important to recognize that Bill S-8 proposes a collaborative process to establish regulations in each region of the country. The government will work with first nations and other stakeholders to draft effective regulations. These regulations could be crafted to meet the particular circumstances of the region and the needs of the first nations community.
    Much work remains to be done to ensure that residents of first nations communities can have the same level of confidence as other Canadians when it comes to their drinking water. Moving ahead with Bill S-8, complete with the non-derogation clause, represents an essential step forward in providing first nations with the regulations needed to safeguard drinking water in first nations communities. I encourage the members of the opposition to stop voting against Bill S-8 and to recognize the important health and safety issues at stake.
    Canadians across this land, in most communities we are aware of, have safe drinking water. It is really important that all Canadians have safe drinking water, including first nations, who have suffered for a long time, in certain circumstances, without it. It is incumbent upon our government to assist those first nations to make sure that, in fact, they have the same kind of safe drinking water that all other Canadians enjoy.
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative side is trying to say that its members heard at committee what first nations really want. I can tell the House that this is not what we heard. Over and over again, we heard that there was not proper consultation with first nations on this bill.
    The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs came to committee, and this is what it had to say:
    We have watched with dismay as legislation after legislation continues to be drafted and passed with little regard or participation from First Nations while resulting in significant impacts over our lives.
    They made some recommendations, including this one:
    It is also recommended that the Committee take a position in favour of First Nations that Bill S-8 be abandoned or tabled to establish a good faith and honourable process that explores the Custom Water Law option from the Expert Water Panel.
    How could Conservatives say that they did proper consultation, when chief after chief and first nation after first nation told us otherwise? Not only did they tell us otherwise, but I can say that the Metro Vancouver position paper and presentation said the exact same thing. Does he truly believe that they did the proper consultation for moving this bill forward?

  (1605)  

    Mr. Speaker, in terms of consultation, I would like to point out to the member that in 2006, the expert panel held hearings across Canada. It heard from over 110 participants and received more than two dozen submissions. In February and March 2009, a series of engagements was held with first nations communities, regional first nations organizations, and provincial and territorial officials. There were 700 participants, of which there were 544 first nations.
    I find it hard to believe that there was no consultation. We know that there was, in fact, consultation. We know that there were over 700 organizations and individuals, and of those, at least 544 were first nations. How can the member stand in her place and suggest that we did not have any kind of consultation? The member needs to go back and have another look.
    Mr. Speaker, I was not going to enter into this debate at this point, but I just have to remind my colleague that maybe he would like to take another look at the definition of “consultation” as it pertains to the legal context.
    Consultation means more than just asking what someone thinks of it; it means accommodating some of the legitimate concerns brought forward by those 500-some-odd first nations, most of whom gave the government and that panel an earful. They said that this piece of legislation would go nowhere near meeting the legitimate needs of their communities. Many were offended, in fact, that the only consideration of the urgent, crisis conditions in their communities would be this lip-service regulatory legislative piece of paper we have before us.
    Consultation is meaningless without the accommodation of the legitimate concerns brought forward by those they invite.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his comments on consultation. I find it hard to believe that he did not understand that as part of this consultation, we consulted with first nations. One of the big issues they had was derogation and what it would do in terms of treaty rights under the Constitution. We have taken that into consideration.
    My colleague from Peace River also said that in every region, we will be talking with each and every individual organization to help develop the regional requirements.
     I do not understand where this member is coming from in saying that we are not doing the consultation we need to do. It is important. As my previous colleague said, we are putting over $3 billion into infrastructure for first nations. I think we are going a long way, as opposed to what the Liberal government in 13 years under its watch.
    Mr. Speaker, maybe I will have an opportunity to expand somewhat on those thoughts and remind my colleague again of the legal meaning of the word “consultation” and all that it implies.
    Let me preface my remarks today with two opening comments. First of all, I am holding the bill we are debating today in my hand, an act respecting the safety of drinking water on first nation lands. There could be no more important subject for the House of Commons to be seized with, I would argue, given the state of the nation as it pertains to the right to safe drinking water in first nations communities. However, it also goes on to say “AS PASSED BY THE SENATE June 18, 2012”.
    There are two things about that. Where does the Senate get off dealing with a piece of legislation before the House of Commons gets its kick at the can on it? How do the senators pass legislation? Who gave them the right, the mandate, to generate legislation? Where does their legitimacy come from? I would argue that they have no legitimacy, have no right and have no mandate to generate legislation in the other place. They have things completely turned around backwards.
    Legislation is generated here by the duly elected representatives of the people of Canada, as chosen in a fair and free federal election, at least when it is not meddled with by the Conservative Party rigging elections. We are the representatives of the people. We deal with legislation. Senators have the constitutional right to review the legislation we pass. They even have a history of vetoing legislation in the Senate.
     In the early years of this country, fully 10% of all the legislation passed by the people's representatives was vetoed outright by the other place. Fully 25% was amended significantly. However, rarely, and in fact, I would argue never, in those days, as per the founding fathers of Confederation's vision of our federal system, did we see legislation generated in the Senate. This is a new phenomenon.
    Now senators are cranking bills out like there was no tomorrow. Bill after bill after bill comes to the House of Commons. We get the second shot at looking at something that has already achieved all the levels of debate, scrutiny and oversight in the Senate. It is fundamentally wrong. Every time they come to our door with another piece of Senate legislation, we should reject it. We should march it back down to the Senate, drop it on the doorstep and leave it there, because I argue that they have no right. It offends the sensibilities of anyone who would call themselves a democrat, in my view.
    The second thing I would point out is that in light of the importance of the subject matter we are dealing with, we should really take a moment today and reflect on the fact that the government has moved closure on this important bill, once again. If one asked how often the government uses the intrusive heavy hand of the tyranny of the majority to shut down debate and pull the shroud of its oppressive nature over our opportunity to deal with this matter, I would answer that it does it every time.
    It used to be a rare, infrequent thing. Only when there was a logjam on issues of national significance or national importance would the government of the day advance a bill in spite of it being against the will of the other chamber. They were issues such as the national pipeline debate, in the late fifties. They were huge issues of national significance. Now Conservatives do it at every stage on every piece of legislation, and they do not allow a single amendment to a single bill in the 41st Parliament.
    I would argue that our democracy is in tatters. This is only a facsimile of a democracy that is left here. It is kind of like a California strawberry. It has the look of a real strawberry, but when it is bitten into, it tastes like cardboard. This has the outward appearances of a democracy, but in actual fact, it falls short in every respect, because all the checks and balances have been stripped away. All the checks and balances that used to put some restraint on the absolute power of the Prime Minister's Office and the ruling party have been tossed aside. Again, that offends me.

  (1610)  

    I do not want to use my whole speech railing about those two items, but it makes my blood boil to watch the status of our great chamber deteriorate and be undermined and sabotaged by, what I would argue, some very insensitive people. We are dealing with an issue of grave concern and I want to give it the attention it deserves.
    I start my remarks by telling the House that the social conditions of our first nations, Metis and Inuit people are our country's greatest failure, our country's greatest shame.
    We live in the richest and most powerful civilization in the history of the world and we cannot provide basic needs to a family to survive in 2013.
    In Pikangikum, Ontario pipes are laying there with weeds growing over them because they have been there 5 to 15 years. There have been 100 false starts to its promised fresh water and sewage system and yet those first nations still have no running water in their homes and they are using a five gallon oil pail as a toilet. It is a national disgrace.
    I have been here 16 years and for 16 years we have been saying that very same thing. When Jim Prentice, a friend of mine, was made the minister of Indian affairs, he announced that this would be his number one priority. Then I watched other ministers of Indian affairs year after year adopt one theme. Andy Scott's number one priority was education. With Jim Prentice, it was going to be water, that most fundamental and basic human right and need. How many years has it been since we have seen Jim Prentice around here? His government is now imposing, and I use that word with all the weight that it implies, a pile of regulations instead of addressing the legitimate basic needs of first nations communities.
    Without fresh water and adequate housing, this permanent underclass in our society will continue. As elected representatives, it is our greatest failure. I find it hard to express how disappointed I am in us, and I say that collectively, that we have not been seized with the issue sufficiently to make significant progress on something that is so easy. We are talking about fresh water for communities. We can do this. This is not rocket science.
    The government says that it is all about money, that it cannot keep shovelling money at the problem as that is not the solution. I have news for the Conservatives. That is the solution. It is a complete paucity of money that causes those pipes in Pikangikum to lay there with weeds growing over them. The government's solution is to imply that all first nations leadership is either corrupt or incompetent.
    That was the government's big priority. It was not a government priority to address the basic needs of first nations people. The government wanted to clean up the act. It said that it gave them lots of money, but there was nothing to show for it. Let us do the math. With 1 million people and $7 billion in total project, $3 billion or $4 billion gets lost, what we call line loss in engineering, and $3 billion or $4 billion gets to an intended person. That amounts to $7,000 per person for their housing, education, health care and infrastructure. We pay $15,000 per student for just high school in Manitoba in non-aboriginal communities and the government allows $7,000 per person for everything. We wonder why we have a permanent underclass and we why children do not achieve their full potential.
    Children are growing up in chronic, long-term, multi-generational poverty and they are not being welcomed into the full economy, even though we have all of these skill shortages. The government will bring in 500,000 temporary foreign workers and allow an unemployment rate of 85% in communities in northern Manitoba, that is people between 16 and 25 years old. Who is failing to make this connection? We are, as elected representatives. It is an appalling situation.

  (1615)  

    The shortcomings of this legislation are legion and well-documented by all of the witnesses. Virtually all of the witnesses representing legitimate first nation organizations condemn this legislation, yet it is being imposed in the customary way for them.
    The Conservatives have been looking for validators. They have lost their number one stooge, Patrick Brazeau. They had to kick him out of their caucus. Therefore, they do not have a stooge anymore to support some of these initiatives, to say that this is exactly what first nations need, that the reason they are poor is because they are all corrupt. Therefore, they can pass some legislation to ram and impose some more accounting down their throats.
    If the Conservatives knew anything about the reality of life administering a first nation reserve these days, they would know, as the Auditor General pointed out, that first nations are over-audited. These people have to put in 160-some-odd financial reports per year, over three a week, to the five funding agencies. They are doing nothing but paperwork. If they file one of those 160 documents incorrectly, they are told that they will be put under trusteeship, third-party management, because they are not managing their money properly.
     Then the Conservatives impose, through the Indian Act, an instrument of oppression, if I ever heard one, an instrument of oppression unworthy of any western democracy. As per the Indian Act, they have to re-elect a new band council every two years, so nobody ever develops any expertise in doing this kind of thing.
    It is a paternalistic Eurocentric cluster something is what it is.
    I remind anybody who has any working knowledge of these things, and I have noticed some of the guys claiming they have spent some time on the aboriginal affairs committee, to read this penultimate Harvard study that took place a number of years ago. It noted that the degree of successful economic development in first nation communities all over North America, not just in Canada, was directly proportional to the degree of self-determination and independence. If they can get out from under the yoke of the paternalistic Eurocentric Indian Act and the meddling of naive people who are trying to impose some set of rules without any sensitivity to culture, heritage or anything else and starved for resources and finances, there would be a road forward.
    This bill represents the worst manifestation of that same paternalism that we have seen since the Indian Act was imposed on day one. There is pretty much a blanket condemnation here.
    This reminds me of the days of the first nations governance act, the Liberal version of imposing even more Eurocentric naivety on them. It had many of the same properties of some of the critics who came forward condemning this, after being consulted and not having any of their concerns accommodated. Some of them were blanket condemnation of which we should really take note.
    Jim Ransom, the director of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, said:
    The last concern we have with Bill S-8 is in the sense of how it confers to the provinces jurisdiction over first nation water systems.
    What a hodgepodge of overlapping jurisdictions that is sort of a recipe for paralyzing any progress. It is almost institutionalizing some long squabble over jurisdiction and obligations.
    In Manitoba, we have been dealing with this for years now when it comes to child and family services and health services. Even though the Conservatives adopted Jordan's principle, as put forward by our colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan to make the case that a child is a child is a child and deserves equal treatment whether it is under section 15 of the charter or section 35 or under first nations rights, we are not going to squabble about that. We are not going to wait for an air ambulance to take some kid to Winnipeg because nobody could figure out who is going to pay for the treatment of this child. We are going to do it now and we are going to fight with Ottawa later. That is what we are left doing.
    The same is true for education. We have kids in Thompson off reserve. The budget is $15,000 a year to keep a kid in high school there. The budget for educating a similar student in a reserve 100 miles away is $8,000 per year. That is almost a 50% difference.

  (1620)  

    Some would argue that it should cost more to provide a comparable level of education on reserve because of the isolation, all kinds of different costs, the economy of scale and so forth, but it is about 50%. Then we wonder why the outcomes are poor in the education system.
    No one can tell me that it is not about money and that in the richest and most powerful civilization in the history of the world we cannot provide for the basic needs of a child and indeed a family to survive, because that is an absolute myth.
    I heard a speech one time by the Reverend Jesse Jackson. He had a very poignant way of pointing things out. He said that if one had five children and only three pork chops the solution would not be to kill two of the children, but neither would it be a solution to divide those three pork chops into five equal pieces. The social democratic view of that problem is to challenge the basic assumption that there is only three pork chops because that is the big lie in a society and a civilization like this. There is enough money to provide for the basic needs of families in this society.
    Nobody worked with the communities, nobody worked in a respectful nation-to-nation relationship that we had all been promised for so many years when the government dedicated that $330 million to infrastructure in the first nations. It has become almost a meaningless cliché. People actually cringe when we use that term now because that commitment has been broken and compromised so many times that nobody believes it anymore. The relationship is so strained, the leadership is so challenged to keep a lid on that simmering pot of unrest that it is tempting fate.
    I am not here to speak for anyone, but I have nothing but admiration for the leadership in first nation communities to have kept the youth down as much as they have in terms of social unrest because it is a recipe for social unrest. A bunch of able-bodied young ambitious 18- to 25-year-old youth completely excluded from the economy yet seeing on television and on their iPads what the world is really like in western society and they have none of it is a recipe for social unrest and we had better get in front of that bus or we will get run over by it, in my view.
    Shawn Atleo has announced that the level of unrest this summer could be a concern. It is dependent on the level of accommodation that they get from the government. The leadership has to be able to tell the people that there is hope, that there is promise on the horizon. If it is the status quo and more of the same, it cannot keep a lid on it forever. I hate to say where I would be if I was a young aboriginal man today. I think I would have a very difficult time containing myself, given the injustice of it all, the social injustice of the social conditions of our first nations, Metis and Inuit youth.
    I have used much of my time criticizing the fact that this bill comes from the Senate when it should not. The government has invoked closure not once, not twice, but 41 times in this Parliament on every bill, every stage of every bill and has never accommodated a single amendment to a single piece of legislation in the entire 41st Parliament.
    Our democracy is in tatters. It has become a farce in three acts. The Conservatives are losing members. Principled MPs are walking out and I believe more will as they realize they have come to most resemble that which they used to most condemn, which was the corruption of the Liberal Party. It was the culture of secrecy in the Liberals that allowed corruption to flourish. The Conservatives are obsessed with secrecy and they are not making any progress on what I believe is the most pressing social emergency of our day, and that is the social conditions of our first nations, Inuit and Metis people.

  (1630)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is always entertaining when that member rises to his feet and speaks about just about anything but the bill in front of us. He did that again today.
    The member talked about lip service. He asked us to do the math. We have some math here. Between 2006 and 2014, approximately $3 billion will be invested to support first nations communities in managing their water and waste water infrastructure. In 2011-12 alone, there were 402 major and minor first nations water and waste water infrastructure projects, with 286 more planned for this fiscal year.
    The hon. member talked a lot, but not about Bill S-8. He talked about the lack of funding, when there has actually been $3 billion. He talked about a lack of projects, when there have been 600, approaching 700 projects.
    Perhaps the member could reconcile the facts with the rhetoric in his speech.
    Mr. Speaker, the fact is, $330 million was spent in 2011, we have a record of zero in 2012 and we do not know what the long-range plan is. We do know that these figures were arrived at without the necessary prerequisite consultation.
     We know the status quo, and the record has been abject failure. The conditions have not improved dramatically. If it was an urgent emergency in any other community in the country, if it was Selkirk or Plum Coulee, Manitoba, or any other community, people would be swooping in there and fixing the problem. It would be addressed.
    There would not be yet another panel struck, and yet another consultation asking 700 people if they have any water or if they have a toilet in their house. The answer is no, they still do not have toilets.
    Mr. Speaker, to make this personal, to make this real to people in this chamber, 82-year-old Mr. Taylor is diabetic. He requires dialysis every few days. He has no bathroom and no running water. He draws his water from a hole in the ice. He has an outhouse, but the temperatures drop to -40° C.
    Former auditor general Sheila Fraser reported that the government had failed time and again to take measures that would improve the quality of life for first nations. The basics of life, such as adequate housing, clean drinking water, child welfare and education, are persistently and dramatically substandard.
    Ms. Fraser said, in her parting words to Parliament, “a disproportionate number of First Nations people still lack the most basic services that other Canadians take for granted.... In a country as rich as Canada, this disparity is unacceptable.”
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for reminding us of the powerful words of one of the most respected auditors general Canada has ever seen, and the admonition that she expressed as one of her parting speeches.
    We just heard that Elijah Harper passed away, quite an iconic aboriginal leader. My colleague is right, in Red Sucker Lake, there is no running water and that is where he is from. There was a funeral service for him. My colleague, the member for Churchill attended. It is not that there is no running water, it is that a lot of the houses have no running water in Red Sucker Lake.
    Shamattawa, Pukatawagan, Poplar River, we have toured those communities. It is absurd. Not only are there 15 people living in a house designed for 5, but when we took off the drywall to observe, we found black fur mould. Kids were crawling around on the streets. They have mold in their houses, no running water and are using a five-gallon oil can as their toilet.
    We should not tolerate these conditions. Why do we? Desmond Tutu had it right when he visited Canada. He shook his head at our northern reserves and said, “Ah, yes, we have this, too, in my country. It is appalling”.
    Mr. Speaker, in all of our dealings with first nations, there is always the honour of the Crown that is involved. My colleague also rightly pointed out that the corresponding obligation with consultation is accommodation, in order to respond exactly to the concerns that were expressed in those consultations.
    In the Haida case, the Supreme Court stated that consultation may also involve full consent. Those are not my words, but the Supreme Court's. On very serious issues, that is what the Supreme Court said.
    Is it just me, or are we missing the point again here?

  (1635)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for reminding us, and I do acknowledge his long experience and expertise in this field as a well-respected leader of the James Bay Cree and the northern Quebec Cree people.
    We are missing the point collectively, but some people are missing the point by design and deliberately. It is very convenient when they keep changing ministers and they keep changing members of the aboriginal affairs committee, so that nothing ever happens. We are paralyzed. It is almost too important to be left in the hands of political discourse. It is just basic needs, and it should simply be done. We might have to book $5 billion, which is the estimate of the immediate shortfall just to provide running water, never mind adequate sewage treatment, et cetera, to the homes. We are missing the boat.
    I do not want my grandchildren to look up to me someday and say, “Grandpa, what did you do to address the appalling social conditions that used to exist in Canada? Were you part of the problem or part of the solution?” All of us in this chamber should be asking ourselves the same question.
    Mr. Speaker, the phony outrage from my friend opposite is almost too much for me to bear, having 10 reserves in my constituency and he having none.
    The contrast between the reserves in my constituency and the thriving agricultural communities around them is very stark. The agricultural communities are self-sufficient, thriving and have a very important difference from the reserve communities: people have property rights. When people have property rights, they generate property taxes. The comparison between how much money is spent by the federal government and students in general is an apples and oranges comparison, because those agricultural communities generate property taxes because they have property rights.
    One thing that my hon. friend said that I did agree with is that the Indian Act needs to be changed. I agree that the Indian Act should be changed, to allow private property rights on reserves. The great Peruvian economist, Hernando de Soto, says that the key first step in the development of poor and desperate communities is property rights.
    Would the member agree with a move by our government if we decide to do this, to allow private property rights on reserves?
    Mr. Speaker, that is what this debate really needs: more Eurocentric ignorance from a bunch of redneck hillbillies. That is really helpful.
    I once sat with a bunch of women from the Six Nations including Cayuga, Oneida and Mohawk. This is just an example of how insensitivity and naiveté are not helpful. They said that in their community women are not even allowed to run for chief. Everybody shook their heads and said that seemed terrible. However, she said that the men are not allowed to vote. Over thousands of years, they had arrived at a system that worked for them. It may not match the Human Rights Code of Canada, but over thousands of years the women were in charge of electing the chief, even if the women could not themselves run for chief. It worked for them.
    One does not impose one's Eurocentric ideas on traditional cultures with thousands of years of history. Home ownership is actually not part of the culture in many communities; more of a co-operative ownership is. Therefore, it is a simplistic example from my colleague who illegally mails into my riding far too often, using his MP's mailing privileges. I am saving all the envelopes to deliver back to him, in Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette someday, all of the propaganda that he fires into my riding, which is 20% first nations by their own self-identification in the last census. That would be 20,000 people who self-identify, so I guess I have quite a few first nations people in my riding too, probably more than he has.

  (1640)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to participate in this debate today. I want to say at the outset that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Edmonton Centre.
    Just this morning we saw the results of the good work of the Conservative government when it comes to working with first nations people. We were in the aboriginal affairs committee discussing the Yale First Nation Final Agreement, which involved Chief Robert Hope of the Yale First Nation, the Government of Canada and the Government of B.C. I am hopeful that will move ahead quickly. We saw how it can work when we work together. Certainly, I want to congratulate the Yale First Nation in my riding of Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon for all its hard work over 20 years at the table and finally getting the resolution they have been seeking with their treaty.
    I am here today to talk about Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for first nations act. I believe this is an act that fully deserves the support of all colleagues in the House. The proposed legislation would address the serious problem of chronic unsafe drinking water in many first nations through an innovative and collaborative process, which is the key. The proposed process would have first nations work alongside government officials to design and implement regulatory regimes.
    A starting point for this work would be the regulations that currently apply to communities adjacent to first nations, which is good common sense. More precisely, this means reviewing provincial or territorial regulations and adapting them to recognize the particular circumstances of first nations communities. We certainly recognize that an Ottawa-based, one-size-fits-all solution is not the solution that first nations need.
    Members of this House need to recognize that currently no legally enforceable drinking water and waste water regulations exist for first nations on reserve. This is simply unacceptable. Regulations provide the framework for safe drinking water and waste water systems. They are essential because they map out clear lines of responsibility for each of the many steps required to safeguard water quality, such as source protection, regular quality testing and close adherence to established standards and protocols for water treatment and distribution. This is why regulations are essential for first nations communities. We must safeguard the drinking water for first nations members.
    In essence, Bill S-8 is enabling legislation, as the member for Peace River, the chairman of the aboriginal affairs committee, stated earlier. It would authorize regulatory regimes developed through the collaborative process that I have just described. The proposed legislation does not dictate what the regimes must contain.
     Unfortunately, some critics have chosen to misinterpret this approach and portray the bill instead as an effort by the Government of Canada to offload some of its liabilities. A closer look at the issue, however, reveals that this is simply not the case.
    The truth is that collaboratively developed regulations would clarify the roles and responsibilities of all parties, including chiefs, band councils, water operators, and federal departments and agencies. The Government of Canada has no plan to offload or download its responsibilities to first nations, or to provinces and municipalities for that matter. Bill S-8 aims to engage as many stakeholders as possible in the design and implementation of regulatory regimes that protect the safety of drinking water.
    Collaboration has been a defining characteristic of our government's efforts to resolve the issue of first nations access to safe drinking water since the very beginning. Seven years ago, the Government of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations agreed upon a joint plan of action. For instance, both partners appointed members to the expert panel that reviewed regulatory options. Although the panel did not recommend a particular option, it did lay out the benefits and limitation of various options. The panel's final report repeatedly emphasized the need for ongoing collaboration.
    Here is an excerpt from that report:
    The federal government and First Nations partners should take steps to pare away bureaucracy, collaborate with provinces on tri-partite harmonization, and both simplify and update procurement procedures. Over time, First Nations should take on an increasing share of the activities directly related to planning, procuring and gaining approval for plants.

  (1645)  

    Bill S-8 proposes to follow the expert panel's advice by authorizing regulations developed with the direct input of first nations and designed to meet the particular needs and circumstances of their communities. The government's approach with Bill S-8 effectively rejects other options that have been considered in the past, such as imposing a single federal regime or merely incorporating provincial and territorial regulations without adaptation. These one-size-fits-all approaches are attractive because they should make it easier and faster to establish regulations and assign responsibilities, but these approaches could never reconcile the significant differences that exist among first nations communities. The truth is that we believe the best solution is to design and implement regulations by working directly with first nations and other stakeholders. This is a bottom-up rather than top-down exercise.
    To get a sense of what the process might look like, I draw the attention of the House to an effort led by the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat. Known as the APC, this advocacy and policy group comprises representatives from more than 30 first nations located in the Atlantic provinces. For the last few years, the APC has been studying regulatory options for drinking water.
     Representatives of the APC described this work to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development on May 23. Mr. John Paul, APC's executive director, said the organization appreciates that drinking water is ultimately a health and safety issue. Here is an excerpt of his testimony. He said:
    We need to own whatever regulations come out of this, and we need to believe that they're workable and to figure out exactly what we need to do on the human resources side, the governance, and all of those different things.
    In an effort to take ownership of regulations, the APC contracted one of Canada's most qualified experts in drinking water, Dr. Graham Gagnon, director of the Centre for Water Resources Studies at Dalhousie University. With Dr. Gagnon's help, the APC has developed a list of the technical benchmarks that could provide the basis for a regulatory regime. Perhaps more significantly, however, the APC and Dr. Gagnon have been working on a new approach to regulating the safety of first nations drinking water. The approach would involve a regional first nation water authority. The authority would be similar to those that other communities in Canada use to help govern public utilities and post-secondary education institutions.
    Here is how Dr. Gagnon described the proposed authority to the standing committee:
    Implementation of a first nations regional water authority would enable coordinated decision-making, maximize efficiencies of resource allocation, and establish a professionally based organization that would be in the best position to oversee activities related to drinking water and waste water disposal. This would, on a day-to-day basis, transfer liability away from chiefs and councils, and pass it to a technical group.
    That is very important. He said this would, on a day-to-day basis, transfer liability away from chiefs and councils and pass it to a technical group. As the quote indicates, the creation of a first nations-owned authority could be a valuable part of the solution, at least for Atlantic first nations. APC continues to investigate this option.
    It is impossible to say if all first nations would pursue such an approach, but the mechanism proposed in Bill S-8 would provide first nations with the opportunity to propose and develop solutions that best meet their needs and best protect their communities. As the APC's example indicated, liability would not be downloaded or offloaded to first nations but, rather, options would be developed to address the role and responsibilities of the various stakeholders by region. This collaborative approach is precisely why we should endorse the legislation before us.
    Our government fully supports Mr. Paul and the APC as they develop their regulations, and we hope the opposition will realize how important this is and support Bill S-8. The bill would help us move forward and work with first nations to develop regulations that serve them well and help provide safe drinking water for first nations right across the country.

  (1650)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his fine speech.
    Now there is something I would like to know: why did the government ignore the Assembly of First Nations' recommendation to address the issue of safe drinking water for everyone?
    Why is the government again calling for the incorporation by reference of provincial legislation, effectively transferring responsibility to the provinces?
    How much is this going to cost the provinces? Will the provinces turn to the federal government to ask for money to cover the costs of clean water in aboriginal communities?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as chance would have it—and I am not sure if the hon. member heard that speech—I did give a riveting speech on incorporation by reference of regulations just last week. I know she was there for that.
    We are working closely with first nations to develop these regulations. Certainly, we have been at the table with significant funding to ensure we are providing that infrastructure for first nations, as I mentioned earlier in the debate. Between 2006 and 2014, we will have provided $3 billion in infrastructure upgrades. Since just 2007, nearly 700 projects have been undertaken to provide that critical infrastructure for first nations who do not have it.
    We are going to work with the first nations. Again, the government has committed $330.8 million over two years through economic action plan 2012 to help sustain progress made to build and renovate water infrastructure on reserve.
    We continue to be there, both with a collaborative approach with first nations and with financial resources to ensure we are providing first nations with the infrastructure they need.
    Mr. Speaker, it is interesting. I have heard a number of the Conservative members make reference to the fact that they are going to work with first nations. I had the opportunity a number of months ago to meet with some members from our first nations community. There is a sense that the government is not working with them in dealing with the legislation itself.
    Now the government is passing through the legislation in a way that very much limits debate, opportunities for amendments and so forth, yet, once the legislation passes, we are being told not to worry because the government has set some money aside. It says it will have this legislation and now it will work with our first nations.
    My question is related to the credibility issue. In the minds of many first nations, in particular the leaders of first nations, there is this sense that the government has not been working with them in good faith to try to resolve this issue.
    How does the member envision his government will fix the damage that has been caused as a result of the bad faith that is there? It is very real. I have seen it first hand. We hear it in committees and so forth. Is there not an issue there that has to be dealt with to build up that trust?
    Mr. Speaker, let me just say that I will certainly put the record of this government on delivering results for grassroots first nations people up against the record of 13 years of inaction of the previous Liberal government.
    We have worked together. I mentioned that at the beginning of my speech. We worked together today and debated a treaty in committee, working together with three levels of government to deliver results. There is certainly no broken trust there.
    We have also been involved in an extensive engagement with first nations on this issue since we formed government. In the summer of 2006, the expert panel held public hearings across Canada. It heard from 110 presenters. In March 2009, there was a series of engagement sessions with more than 700 participants, of which 544 were first nations. In the winter of 2009-10, we met with first nations chiefs to discuss implementation and engagement during the earlier sessions. From October 2010 until October 2011, we held without prejudice discussions with first nations organizations to address their concerns.
    This is a collaborative approach. We are going to continue to work with first nations. We know that working with them will deliver results for first nations communities.

  (1655)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise to speak to and declare my support for Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for first nations act.
    The proposed legislation is based on a thorough review of the considerable amount of evidence available, including numerous reports and studies and testimony provided to parliamentary committees.
    I believe that anyone who consulted this material would reach the inescapable conclusion that Bill S-8 must be enacted for Canada to make lasting progress on the issue of safe drinking water in first nations communities.
    It is my hope that Canadians do not base their opinions of Bill S-8 on other sources of information, such as the popular media or views expressed by various interest and advocacy groups. Unfortunately, some of these sources present false or misleading information.
    In my remarks today, I will identify and disprove many common myths about Bill S-8. The first myth is that the Government of Canada did not consult first nations prior to introducing Bill S-8. This could not be further from the truth. When we examine the facts, we will see that an extensive engagement and consultation process has been under way for more than seven years. Furthermore, this effort would only continue once Bill S-8 has passed, as government and first nations officials would work together to design and implement regulations.
    Here are the relevant facts. In 2006, our government, working with the Assembly of First Nations, established an expert panel to hold public hearings to examine potential regulatory options. More than 110 individuals presented to the panel. Another two dozen submitted written reports. Almost all of the submissions and presentations came from first nations groups.
    In April 2007, we held a joint workshop together with the Assembly of First Nations and its technical water expert group to engage in the proposed options for regulations and identify any challenges or issues.
    In early 2009, we conducted a series of 13 engagement sessions with first nations communities and organizations and with provincial and territorial groups. Of the approximately 700 participants, more than 540 were members of first nations.
    In September 2009, government officials met with first nations chiefs and organizations to discuss some of the specific issues raised during the engagement sessions. Starting in October 2010, a series of without prejudice discussions continued for another full year with first nations organizations, and that collaboration continues today. Clearly, con