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41st PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 269

CONTENTS

Thursday, June 13, 2013




House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 146 
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NUMBER 269 
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1st SESSION 
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41st PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1005)  

[English]

Government Response to Petitions

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

Committees of the House

International Trade 

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 109, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, copies of the government's response to the report of the Standing Committee on International Trade entitled “Report on an Economic Partnership Agreement Between Canada and Japan”.

Interparliamentary Delegations

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the following report on the Canadian Delegation to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly respecting its participation at the 12th winter meeting held in Vienna, Austria, February 21-22, 2013.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the reports of the Canadian delegation of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie (APF) respecting its participation at the meeting of the Political Committee of the APF, held in Rabat, Morocco, on April 10 and 11, 2013; and its participation at the meeting of the Executive Committee and at the first intersessional meeting of the Network of Women Parliamentarians of the APF, held in Dakar, Senegal, on April 25 and 26, 2013.

[English]

Committees of the House

Government Operations and Estimates  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 12th report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates in relation to our study of energy efficiency in government buildings, structures and public works. On behalf of the co-chairs of my committee and the committee members, we would like to recognize and pay tribute to the outstanding contribution and extraordinary support we received from our Library of Parliament research analysts, Lindsay McGlashan and Raphaelle Deraspe, and the very competent and capable stewardship of our clerk, Marc-Olivier Girard. Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.
    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of tabling the supplementary report submitted by the New Democratic Party to the June 2013 report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates on energy efficiency in buildings. Our report is entitled “Empowering Energy Efficiency”. Our objective in calling for this study by the committee was to showcase the potential for substantial savings to the public purse through strategic and dedicated up-front funding. We support the report, but we are making a number of additional recommendations, including legally prescribed targets, public reporting on energy savings and dedicated budget allocations for energy efficiency.

Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 12th report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities entitled “Exploring Employment Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities”. Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

Justice and Human Rights  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 25th report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in relation to Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (mental disorder).

[Translation]

    The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments

Navigable Waters Protection Act

    She said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce my navigable waters protection bill, which is seconded by my colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou. We represent neighbouring ridings, so he clearly has had the opportunity to visit my riding a number of times, and he knows the lakes and rivers in my riding well.
    I would like to point out that there are more than 20,000 lakes and rivers in my region. It is impossible to count them all. We do not know the exact number, but we know that there are more than 20,000. I am asking that fewer than 50 of these lakes and rivers be added to the Navigable Waters Protection Act because they were mistakenly overlooked in the bad budget bill introduced by the Conservatives.
    I would like to stress that the number of lakes and rivers I am asking to have added represents less than 0.25% of the lakes and rivers in my riding. I believe it is a very reasonable request. I would also like to state that these lakes and rivers have been navigated by aboriginal communities and truly are navigable waters. Many aboriginal people in various communities in my riding can speak to the past and future of these lakes.

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

  (1010)  

Navigable Waters Protection Act

    He said: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today to introduce Bill C-535, An Act to amend the Navigable Waters Protection Act (Vallée-de-l’Or, Anishinabe Aki and Eeyou Istchee regions). I want to thank my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue for seconding the bill.
    As everyone knows, in northern Quebec we are quite attached to our lakes and rivers. We know that we cannot take them for granted. They are an integral part of our lives: our work, our play, our economy, our social well-being, our history and our common future.
    In the previous budget bills, the Conservatives took away the protection of these important sources of water and life. With this bill, I am proposing a way to start repairing the damage. I am calling on my colleagues from all parties to support this bill and to help us, as members of the official opposition, right the wrongs this government has done to us.

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

[English]

Navigable Waters Protection Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, it certainly is a pleasure for me to introduce this private members' bill today, which would amend the Navigable Waters Protection Act in order to protect Trout Lake in the beautiful community of North Bay, the gateway to northern Ontario.
    I want to thank my colleague from Timmins—James Bay for seconding this motion.
    There are some reasons I want to protect this lake. First, Samuel de Champlain, the famous explorer, paddled Trout Lake 400 years ago. It is historic. Also, the pristine waters are another source of the drinking water for the residents of North Bay. A natural gas pipeline that borders both sides of Trout Lake is being considered for a switch to bitumen, and that worries the people of North Bay.
    Another reason I want to present this private member's bill is that, unfortunately, when the Conservatives changed the Navigable Waters Protection Act, they did not include North Bay and Trout Lake. As we know, Trout Lake, as I said a while ago, is the drinking-water source for the community of North Bay. I do not know where the MP for Nipissing—Timiskaming was when this decision was taken. However, I want to assure the people of North Bay that even though their MP, my good friend sitting over there, was not looking after their best interests, they do not have to worry, because the NDP will look after their interests.

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

Petitions

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation  

    Mr. Speaker, I actually have four petitions to present, all on the same topic, so let me just read it once.
    The undersigned Canadians, the members of the Roman Catholic faith, feel that we have been negatively targeted, disproportionately misrepresented and have had one of our most sacred sacraments maliciously ridiculed by the CBC and/or its programming.
    Recently, we were appalled by the CBC program This Hour Has 22 Minutes on which our most sacred sacrament, the Holy Communion, was the object of an offensive and disrespectful attack, an attack to the very core of our faith, the Holy Eucharist.
    We draw to the attention of the House of Commons and the minister of the Crown that as taxpayers, as well as members of the Roman Catholic faith following the principles of Canadian values, we believe that we should not be forced to finance a crown corporation such as the CBC that acts in a discriminatory manner and disrespects our religion, or any religion.
    Therefore, we ask the House of Commons to stop--

  (1015)  

    Order, please. I will just stop the hon. member there. He may know that he is not supposed to read the petition, just present it in a very succinct manner. We have many members rising, so I encourage members to be judicious with their time.
    Mr. Speaker, I have four of them.
    Oh, he has four of them.
    Mr. Speaker, I thought I was being brief.

Gasoline Pricing  

    Mr. Speaker, I am rising to present three petitions, and I will be brief on each.
    The first petition is signed by hundreds of constituents of my great city of Sudbury. The petitioners wish to protect consumers from gas-price gouging. They would like the Minister of Industry to act on this petition. They are calling for justice for one of my constituents, Paul Temelini, who has been fighting a case for 30 years.

Prison Chaplain Program  

    Mr. Speaker, the other petition is asking the government to reverse cuts to the prison chaplain program.

Impaired Driving  

    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on behalf of the constituents of Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon to present three petitions.
    The first petition calls for increased penalties for impaired driving.

Cluster Munitions  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition is regarding cluster munitions.

Sex Selection  

    Mr. Speaker, I also have hundreds of signatories to a petition calling on this House to condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination.

Kettle Island  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the privilege of presenting a petition signed by citizens of Manor Park, which is in the riding I have the privilege of representing in this House.
    The petition calls on the House of Commons to encourage the government not to fund the proposed interprovincial crossing at Kettle Island.

Asbestos  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by literally tens of thousands of Canadians who call upon the House of Commons and Parliament to recognize that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer the world has ever known. In fact, they point out that more Canadians now die from asbestos than all other industrial or occupational causes combined.
    Therefore, these petitioners are calling upon the Government of Canada to ban asbestos in all its forms; to begin a nationwide abatement program for homeowners and property owners who may have asbestos in their properties; and to stop blocking international health and safety conventions designed to protect workers from asbestos, such as the Rotterdam Convention.

Sex Selection  

    Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions from my riding of Yellowhead. They are all the same, so I will just describe one.
    They are about the termination of sex-selected individuals who are females and say that pregnancy termination is abhorred by obstetricians and gynecologists across Canada as well as the majority of the people of Canada, 92% or more. The petitioners are calling on the House to act on this issue.

[Translation]

Labour-Sponsored Funds  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour and privilege of presenting a petition signed by a number of my constituents, who are calling on the Conservative government to reverse its decision to abolish the 15% tax credit for savings invested in labour-sponsored funds.

[English]

Chief Firearms Officers  

    Mr. Speaker, the petitioners ask that the chief firearms officers appointed federally, territorially and provincially be replaced with a civilian agency, which would be service oriented, to prevent the introduction of draconian and impractical regulations.

Shark Finning  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present two petitions from thousands of Canadians.
    The first petition calls on the government to ban shark fin imports. The petitioners say that measures must be taken to stop the global practice of shark finning and to ensure the responsible conservation and management of sharks. The petitioners call on the Government of Canada to immediately legislate a ban on the importation of shark fins.

  (1020)  

Search and Rescue  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls on the government to save the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. The petitioners say that the recent decision by the federal government to close the station is a grave mistake that will undoubtedly cost the lives of those in peril on the shores and waters near Vancouver Harbour.
     The petitioners call on the Government of Canada to rescind the decision and to reinstate full funding to maintain the Kitsilano Coast Guard station.

[Translation]

International Development  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by many of my constituents.
    The petition concerns the amalgamation of the Canadian International Development Agency with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The petitioners are concerned about the amalgamation, particularly the possible realignment of international development assistance programs. They are calling on the government to uphold international aid principles. Also, to ensure the integrity of assistance programs, they want the minister to be given the same status as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

[English]

Sex Selection  

    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise on behalf of my constituents in the beautiful riding of Kelowna—Lake Country. I have to two petitions.
    The first calls upon Parliament to condemn discrimination against girls through sex selection.
    The second is from another part of the beautiful province of British Columbia. Folks in Kamloops are supporting Motion No. 408 condemning sex selection.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 1333, 1334, 1341 and 1342.

[Text]

Question No. 1333--
Mr. Jack Harris:
     With regard to page 40 of the 2013-2014 Report on Plans and Priorities, which states, “the minister of national defence has provided direction for the targeted divestment of certain infrastructure holdings”: (a) which infrastructure holdings has the Minister of National Defence provided for targeted divestment; (b) on what basis has the Minister decided to divest certain infrastructure holdings; (c) what are the associated costs of these targeted divestments; (d) what are the expected savings of these targeted divestments; (e) how are the expected costs and savings of these targeted divestments calculated; (f) what are the impacts on the Canadian Forces of these targeted divestments; and (g) what are the impacts on the local communities of these targeted divestments?
Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), the following buildings were selected for targeted divestment: Area Support Unit Chilliwack, British Columbia, building B1041; Area Support Unit Calgary, Alberta, Northeast Armoury; Area Support Unit London, Ontario, buildings B53, B55, B56, B57, B91, B92, B130, O Block and P Block; Area Support Unit Northern Ontario, North Bay, Ontario, building B45 and Timmins Garage; Area Support Group Detachment Moncton, New Brunswick, buildings B1, B2, B35, B41, B42, B60, B60A, B66 and B70, and 70 residential housing units.
    With regard to (b), this divestment is linked to the transfer of functions from the area support units in Chilliwack, Calgary, London and northern Ontario and Area Support Group Detachment Moncton to major bases. This will allow the Canadian Army to reduce administrative overhead. This will also increase overall efficiency and allow investment in key priorities, such as training and equipment.
    With regard to (c), the preliminary estimated disposal costs are provided below. These costs include demolitions, renovations, environmental assessments and appraisals, as well as any activities required to address the findings of these assessments and appraisals, such as the removal of contaminants. These estimates are subject to service cost fluctuations.
    In the case of Area Support Unit Chilliwack in British Columbia, the potential transfer of building B1041 to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is under consideration. This transfer is estimated to cost approximately $300,000.
    In the case of Area Support Unit Calgary in Alberta, the Mewata Armouries and Currie Barracks will be renovated to accommodate units. These renovations are expected to cost approximately $500,000. The disposal of the facility is expected to cost approximately $500,000. In addition, moving these units is expected to cost approximately $161,000.
    In the case of Area Support Unit London in Ontario and Area Support Unit Northern Ontario in North Bay, Ontario, the targeted divestments of Area Support Unit London and Area Support Unit Northern Ontario are expected to have a combined cost of approximately $3.12 million.
    In the case of Area Support Group Detachment Moncton in New Brunswick, the targeted divestment of these buildings and residential housing units is expected to cost approximately $9.6 million.
    With regard to (d), the expected savings of these targeted divestments are as follows:
    In the case of Area Support Unit Chilliwack in British Columbia, the divestment of building B1041 is expected to generate savings of approximately $62,000 annually.
    In the case of Area Support Unit Calgary in Alberta, the targeted divestment of the Northeast Armoury is expected to generate savings of approximately $631,000 annually. The sale of the building is also expected to generate revenue. The building does not currently have an estimated value, as an appraisal of its value has not been conducted yet.
    In the case of Area Support Unit London in Ontario and Area Support Unit Northern Ontario in North Bay, Ontario, the targeted divestments of Area Support Unit London and Area Support Unit Northern Ontario are expected to generate savings of approximately $500,000 annually.
    In the case of Area Support Group Detachment Moncton in New Brunswick, the targeted divestment of these buildings and residential housing units is expected to generate approximately $1.16 million annually.
    With regard to (e), the expected savings are calculated by using payment in lieu of taxes, utilities costs and operations and maintenance costs, and facilities maintenance costs. The expected costs are calculated by using management fees until disposal, as well as payments to other government departments.
    With regard to (f), as a result of targeted divestments, lines of communication between the remaining supported dependencies and their new support bases will be longer. However, the savings generated by reducing infrastructure holdings will be used to support operational readiness or other areas of higher priority.
    With regard to (g), the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces are not in a position to determine the impact of these targeted divestments on local communities.
Question No. 1334--
Mr. Jack Harris:
     With regard to the target for the performance indicator “the total average reserve force paid strength by FY (determined by Director Reserves) compared to the target planned strength as published in annual RPP as %”, as cited on page 33 of the 2013-2014 Report on Plans and Priorities: (a) why is the government’s target “to be determined”; (b) how does the government calculate this target; (c) what information is the government missing in order to calculate this target; (d) what government decisions have not been made in calculating this target; and (e) what has changed since the last target so that the government is not capable of having a target until spring 2014?
Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), the government target should read 100% of the target planned reserve strength of 27,000. This information was omitted in error and is intended to reconcile with the information found in the human resources full-time equivalent table on page 22 of the report on plans and priorities for fiscal year 2013-14.
     With regard to (b), the target is a result of government direction in budget 2012 to maintain reserve strength at 27,000. The response to (c), (d) and (e) is provided in the answer to (a).
Question No. 1341--
Mr. Glenn Thibeault:
     With regard to the importation of music devices, broken down by fiscal year since 2006-2007: (a) what is the total value of music devices imported into Canada under tariff codes (i) 8519.81.29, (ii) 8521.90.90, (iii) 8521.13.90, (iv) 9948.00.00); and (b) how much was paid in tariffs for the importation into Canada of music devices under tariff code (i) 8519.81.29, (ii) 8521.90.90, (iii) 8521.13.90, (iv) 9948.00.00?
Mrs. Shelly Glover (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, the tariff items listed in (a)(i), (a)(ii) and (a)(iv) and (b)(i), (b)(ii) and (b)(iv) are broad tariff categories that encompass several different types of products. These categories do not distinguish music players from the other goods covered, and it is impossible to distinguish the total value of imported music devices from other products in the category with data that can be made public. However, music devices, irrespective of their origin, are eligible for duty-free treatment under the long-standing tariff exemption 9948.00.00.
     The tariff item listed in (a)(iii) and (b)(iii) is not a valid tariff item in the Customs Tariff--i.e., this item number does not exist.
Question No. 1342--
Mr. Glenn Thibeault:
     With regard to the changes to the Customs Tariffs on page 433 of Budget 2013 and the removal of the General Preferential Tariff regime on pages 134-5 of Budget 2013: (a) what monitoring will be carried out in relation to changes in (i) consumer prices, (ii) the total GST collected by the government, (iii) the total revenue collected by the government; and (b) what are the benchmarks that these changes need to meet in order to be considered successful?
Mrs. Shelly Glover (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, economic action plan 2013 announced the elimination of tariffs on babies’ clothing and certain sports and athletic equipment, providing $79 million annually in tariff relief. This measure comes with the expectation that wholesalers, distributors and retailers will fully pass these tariff savings on to Canadian consumers in the form of lower retail prices on the products covered by the measure. The government will be monitoring the impact of tariff reductions on the retail prices for these items over the coming months and is working with the Retail Council of Canada, consumer groups and other independent sources. This initiative will allow the government to assess whether tariff elimination can help narrow the price gap for consumers.
    With respect to the general preferential tariff, the changes announced in economic action plan 2013 will be effective January 1, 2015. The modernized GPT will continue to promote economic growth and export diversification in the countries most in need of this type of assistance by providing tariff-based incentives for Canadian importers to source their goods from the remaining 103 eligible countries. GPT changes announced in economic action plan 2013 will accomplish the goal of better aligning the program to the current global economic reality.
    The government’s monitoring of revenue is ongoing and will continue.

[English]

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns

    Mr. Speaker, if Questions Nos. 1335, 1339 and 1346 could be made orders for return, these returns would be tabled immediately.
    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Text]

Question No. 1335--
Mr. Sean Casey:
     With regard to the presence of foreign governments in Canada, specifically the operation or presence of any security, intelligence or law enforcement agencies: (a) what are the names of all law agencies operating with the permission and consent of the government within the sovereign territory of Canada, broken down by country; (b) is the government aware of any law enforcement agency present or operating without the consent and permission of the government; (c) what are the police powers of foreign law enforcement within Canada; (d) does the government allow any foreign law enforcement agency the power to act alone without the presence of a designated Canadian police or peace office present; (e) does the government grant power on a case-by-case basis to an agent of foreign law enforcement to stop any resident of Canada for questioning; (f) does the government allow agents of foreign law enforcement the power to present identification or a badge within Canada for the purpose of investigating within Canada; (g) does the government currently allow agents of foreign law enforcement agency the power to cross a Canadian border either by air, sea or land in possession of a weapon; (h) does the government intend to allow agents of a foreign law enforcement agency the power to enter, leave and operate in Canada with the power to enforce Canadian law, including the power to detain, questions and arrest a citizen or permanent resident of Canada; (i) does the government intend to extend the power to agents of a foreign government law enforcement agency the right of pre-emptive arrest or pre-emptive detention without warrant, as provided in Bill S-7; (j) does the government currently have a cap on the number of agents from a foreign law enforcement agency assigned to Canada and, if so, what is the maximum number of agents allowed; and (k) does the government allow agents of a foreign law enforcement agency the authority to operate their own police vehicles, including police boats, airplanes, or any motor vehicle, within Canada, including the use of sirens or other identifiable police markings?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1339--
Mr. Matthew Kellway:
     With regard to military procurement projects, since 2001: (a) how many projects have been sole-sourced as opposed to following a competitive process; (b) which of these have been sole-sourced; (c) what was the rationale for each project being sole-sourced; (d) what is the Industrial and Regional Benefits (IRB) value for each sole-sourced procurement project; (e) does the IRB value for each sole-sourced project represent 100% of the project value (acquisition and in-service support); (f) what percentage of military procurement projects have been sole-sourced since 2001; (g) how many procurement projects have been sole-sourced each year between 2001 and the present year; and (h) which specific projects in each year have been sole-sourced between 2001 and the present?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1346--
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux:
     With regard to the Canadian Armed Forces, what was the breakdown of strength by rank for each Regular Force Unit of the Royal 22nd Regiment as of (i) January 1, 1995, (ii) January 1, 2000, (iii) January 1, 2005, (iv) January 1, 2010?
    (Return tabled)

[English]

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

[Translation]

Request for Emergency Debate

Communications Security Establishment Canada  

[Standing Order 52]
    The Chair has notice of a request for an emergency debate from the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville.
    Mr. Speaker, following the letter that was sent to your office dated yesterday and pursuant to Standing Order 52, I am requesting that an emergency debate on the Communications Security Establishment Canada's metadata collection program be held as soon as possible.
    An emergency debate is needed so that parliamentarians can take an in-depth look at the extent to which Canadians' personal information, metadata and other information are collected by the police, law enforcement agencies and national security agencies. This debate is also needed so that we can look at measures that will lead to appropriate parliamentary oversight and ways to balance public and national security interests with Canadians' privacy rights.
    On Monday, it was announced that the Communications Security Establishment Canada was potentially collecting metadata on Canadians. Since then, Canadians have been very concerned. They want to ensure that a parliamentary oversight system is in place.
    We know that, right now, just one judge, with the help of a small team, is responsible for examining this office's operations. He has testified in committee only three times since he has been in office. I think it is our duty to reassure Canadians by holding a debate here.
    I can also say that, since that announcement was made, there have been online campaigns and petitions signed by tens of thousands of Canadians. They are very concerned about this news and about the possibility that their privacy is being violated. Canadians are not alone in this campaign. They have been joined by Amnesty International, Alternative Québec, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Council of Canadians and 10 other civil society groups. OpenMedia is also playing an important role in this situation. Thank you for taking the time to carefully consider my request.
    I hope that we can work together as parliamentarians to respond to Canadians' questions in this regard.
    I thank the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville for raising this issue. Although it may be very important to some members, I am not convinced that it merits an emergency debate.

  (1025)  

[English]

Privilege

Elections Canada  

[Privilege]
    Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege.
    This is the first opportunity I have had to do so since the member for Avalon asked a question yesterday, where he stated:
    It has been one year since the member for Peterborough dared to show up to an ethics committee because of his unethical and illegal returns....
    Over the past several months, there have been charges made against my character, which have served to impact on my functions as a member of this place, charges that I entirely reject.
    I had hoped that the most recent report of the Chief Electoral Officer would set these allegations aside, exonerating me of any allegations, but it was instead silent on the matter.
    On March 22, 1983, Speaker Jeanne Sauvé ruled that there was in fact a prima facie question of privilege with respect to allegations brought against the hon. member for Lincoln, Mr. Bryce Mackasey by the Montreal Gazette.
    In reaching her conclusion, Speaker Sauvé determined that:
    Not only do defamatory allegations about Members place the entire institution of Parliament under a cloud, they also prevent Members from performing their duties as long as the matter remains unresolved, since, as one authority states, such allegations bring Members into “hatred, contempt or ridicule”. Moreover authorities and precedents agree that even though a Member can “seek remedy in the courts, he cannot function effectively as a Member while the slur upon his reputation remains.” Since there is no way of knowing how long litigation would take, the Member must be allowed to re-establish his reputation as speedily as possible by referring the matter to the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections.
    I can attest that since Wednesday, June 6, 2012, I have been subjected to unfounded hatred, contempt and ridicule as the result of a leaked document belonging to Elections Canada. It was on that day that I was first contacted by a Hill reporter seeking comment on the Elections Canada investigation into my 2008 campaign filing.
    The reporter in question had in his possession a sealed court document related to an ex parte proceeding that was entirely unknown to me, and it contained allegations and statements that I categorically deny.
    Despite the fact that this reporter had this complete document, nobody else, not even I or my lawyer, was able to obtain a copy. Indeed, dozens of reporters, including CBC's Laura Payton were having the same problem as I was. This was a leaked document, not obtained through lawful public means. It should have only been in the possession of Elections Canada at that point in time.
    The obvious question I had at the time was whether it was true. What was going on? Why did a reporter know about this before I did?
    I believe this is a question of importance for all members of this place, given that the functions I perform on behalf of my constituents require that my privilege as a member of this place be upheld. As an agency of Parliament, Elections Canada has specific responsibilities that it must maintain, responsibilities I would argue it has failed to keep.
    I would think any reasonable Canadian and, indeed, any member of this place would expect that when allegations are brought against them, they would be given an opportunity to respond to them before any legal proceedings or court options are undertaken. However, this was sadly not the case.
    Certainly one would think that, with these rumours and accusations that were circulating in the press, I would have heard from Elections Canada but, again, even my calls to it seeking clarification went unreturned. This continued even as more false allegations were being leaked and then ultimately officially released. Indeed, it would not even confirm to me whether or not there was an investigation.
    On Wednesday, June 13, my lawyer sent a letter electronically to Elections Canada. In the letter he made it clear I was seeking to have a meeting with Elections Canada to discuss any questions or concerns it might have and to address specific allegations that had been made by a single party with a motive.
    Additionally, we requested that, prior to Elections Canada presenting any additional information, we be given notice and an opportunity to be present for my input and the opportunity to answer questions at the same time. Quite simply, I wanted to talk to them and I wanted them to make me aware of any other statements or proceedings before they were made public.
    No member of this place should have to learn details about themselves from the press, as I did beginning on June 6. These serve to incapacitate members in their duty and responsibility to the tens of thousands that each of us represents in this place.
    Sadly, once again, on the evening of June 14 I was contacted by the same journalist who had obtained the original leaked sealed document and was informed that he was in possession of an Elections Canada return to the Information to Obtain order, and he was once again asking questions related to allegations of which I had no knowledge.
    I read in the press that my personal banking records had been sought, and that a document included in our audited return was unexplained by the person who had brought these allegations against me in the first place. These brought new allegations of forged or false documents in the return, allegations based on assertions made by the Elections Canada investigator, which I would later tell him were absolutely preposterous.

  (1030)  

    Upon learning these details, I was shocked. I felt violated, and it was clear that Elections Canada acted upon the allegations of a single person with malice and contempt toward me and my family. These ex parte statements and actions, which is Latin for one side only, were and continue to be hurtful, but I believe they achieved the objective they were seeking, which was to create a media firestorm. How does a member of this place respond when others are in possession of ex parte allegations and actions and he or she has no knowledge, none whatsoever, that they have taken place?
    On Friday, June 15, nine days after I was initially contacted by a member of the press, I was able to obtain a copy of these now public documents. For the first time I had an opportunity to read what was actually being alleged and what actions had been taken against me. What struck me is that, throughout these ex parte statements, there was no attempt to provide full and frank disclosure of all of the material facts related to the investigation. Certainly, there are many statements and erroneous conclusions, but where is the legal obligation, as stated by the Supreme Court of Canada, to be transparent and complete and to provide all material facts before the court?
    I believe these actions firmly represent a violation of my rights under section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The justice of the peace, prior to making a decision to issue production orders, including for my own personal financial records, had the right to know all of the details the investigator had learned, and the investigator had the legal obligation to provide them, according to the Supreme Court of Canada, but he did not.
    I quote Supreme Court precedence. An analysis of the principles on which Hunter et al. v. Southam Inc. was based shows that:
    The exercise of a judicial discretion in the decision to grant or withhold authorization for a warrant of search was fundamental to the scheme of prior authorization...
    —which Dickson prescribed as “an indispensable requirement for compliance with s. 8” in that case.
    The decision to grant or withhold the warrant requires the balancing of two interests: that of the individual to be free of intrusions of the state and that of the state to intrude on the privacy of the individual for the purpose of law enforcement. The circumstances on which these conflicting interests must be balanced will vary greatly.... In order to take account of the various factors affecting the balancing of the two interests, the authorizing judge must be empowered to consider all the circumstances.
    Additionally, the following propositions have been accepted by the Supreme Court in R. v. Debot and R. v. Greffe. First, hearsay statements of an informant can provide reasonable and probable grounds to justify a search; however, evidence of a “tip” from an informer, by itself, is insufficient to establish reasonable and probable grounds. Second, the reliability of the tip is to be assessed by recourse to the “totality of the circumstances”. There is no formulaic test as to what this entails. Rather, the court must look to a variety of factors including the degree of detail of the tip; the informer's source of knowledge; and indicia of the informer's reliability such as past performance or confirmation from other investigative sources. Third, the result of the search cannot, ex post facto, provide evidence of reliability of the information.
    In the 2010 case of R. v. Morelli, the Supreme Court of Canada stated:
    In reviewing the sufficiency of a warrant application...“the test is whether there was reliable evidence that might reasonably be believed on the basis of which the authorization could have been issued”....
    In this case, the information to obtain included erroneous statements and omissions that violated the legal obligation to make full and frank disclosure of material facts. I assert that, had full and frank disclosure been provided and had the Elections Canada investigator met his obligation under the law regarding ex parte proceedings, then no such court orders would have been granted. To cite precedence, the judge in this matter was clearly not empowered by the statement of the investigator under oath to consider all of the circumstances or, at the very least, full disclosure about who was making these allegations about me and why.
    The presiding justice had the right to know and the investigator had the legal obligation to disclose to him that the allegations were being brought by an individual who had brought legal proceedings against me in civil court and that these proceedings were dismissed. He further should have been told that the very same investigator, who swore the oath that all facts were known to the case before him, had in fact spoken to me in person whereby he assured me that they were simply undertaking a routine review and indicated that, should they have any further questions or concerns, they would contact me.
    In fact, I made two things clear to Thomas Ritchie during that November 2011 phone conversation: first, that if he had any questions regarding my 2008 campaign, I would happily meet with him; and, second, that I would provide any documentation that he may wish to review.
    Sadly, if one reads the court documents, one can see they fail to indicate that the conversation between them and me took place or that I offered my full co-operation. The failure to disclose these critical details represents a serious violation of the legal obligations on Elections Canada to be full and frank in its disclosure to the courts in seeking a warrant.

  (1035)  

    Given that the justice was being asked to override the section 8 charter rights of a member of Parliament based on the allegations of one person, it is inconceivable that the presiding justice in this matter would not have asked the investigator quite simply, “What do we know about Frank Hall?” He is the person who has levelled all of these allegations against me.
    Had Elections Canada considered this question, it would have found some concerning details, facts that I was able to assemble in a matter of a couple of hours, facts that are in some cases public record, facts that I provided to Elections Canada for its consideration many months ago.
    Elections Canada could have and should have researched these facts, and they were required to be included in the full and frank disclosure before the court.
    In ex parte or one-sided proceedings, the justice places trust in the investigator, in this case the Elections Canada investigator, who has sworn an oath before him that all the facts related to the investigation are before him.
    Clearly, Mr. Speaker, when you read the submission, you will note that you cannot find anything that demonstrates that contradictory accounts were in the possession of the investigator. Perhaps even more important, as a result you will not learn that I stand accused by a person who has admitted to falsifying records and reports, has failed to deliver on contracts time and time again, and has been involved in other civil disputes with public officials.
    I feel violated and betrayed by an agency in which I and every other member of this place, indeed in which all Canadians, must place their trust. As I indicated earlier, I feel strongly that this process has been conducted with malice and contempt for me as a member and for my family's well-being. I cannot describe the pain that this unnecessary and contemptuous process has put those closest to me through, my wife Kelly, my mother, my three brothers in business, all in Peterborough, and their families.
    Why, Mr. Speaker? Why? Ultimately I am alleged to have donated too much money to myself and to have used those funds to exceed my campaign spending limit. These are allegations that I outright and completely reject.
    Elections Canada has been in possession of evidence that I have provided to it freely since last summer which very clearly demonstrates I did not exceed my personal donation limit, that I did in fact adhere to my election spending limit and that all public declarations related to my campaign are entirely accurate.
    Sadly, as opposed to acting on this information and dropping the investigation, select details of that meeting were instead leaked to further provoke the press to attack me. The story which ran on September 19, 2012 states that I “vigorously asserted my innocence”, which is absolutely true and accurate, but the details of the meeting, in fact even that there was a meeting, were only known by Elections Canada. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, how else, other than through a leak directly from Elections Canada, could they have known these details?
    Mr. Speaker, I ask you, are the actions that have been undertaken, these extreme actions by Elections Canada that I have outlined, against a member of this place, appropriate? Are leaks to the press how members should expect to learn of allegations or actions brought against them by an agency of this place? Does Elections Canada not have a moral if not an ethical responsibility to at least speak to a member and seek clarification before it goes to court seeking an order to obtain information that would have been freely provided to it? Is Elections Canada not responsible to uphold its responsibility in law as dictated by the Supreme Court of Canada and provide a full and frank disclosure in ex parte proceedings concerning members of this place?
    Mr. Speaker, in considering this question of privilege, I again refer you to the findings of Speaker Sauvé, who on March 22, 1983 stated:
...it is clear to me that while the Hon. Member could seek a remedy in the courts, he cannot function effectively as a Member while this slur upon his reputation remains. The process of litigation would probably be very lengthy and there is no knowing how long it would take before the issue was finally resolved.
    Mr. Speaker, I believe firmly that it is in the interest of each and every member of this place that you find the actions that I have outlined do constitute a prima facie question of privilege, at which time I will move that the matter be referred to the Standing committee on Procedure and House Affairs. I want to assure members that I will answer any questions they may have related to my 2008 campaign at that time.
    What has happened to me could happen to any member of this place unless we take action today to ensure that it stops.

  (1040)  

    Unless we take action to ensure that each and every person in this place is afforded the basic respect, process and rights that we all swore to uphold for each and every one of the people we collectively represent in this great country, my fear is that this will once again play out in the not too distant future and another member will find himself or herself a victim in the process I have just described.
    We must draw a line in the sand here on a matter that transcends party affiliation and state clearly and collectively that members of this place are entitled to equal, fair and unbiased treatment, treatment without prejudice and in keeping with the laws of this land, and when we clearly do not receive that treatment, that a finding of violation against the privilege of a member is found and declared.
    Mr. Speaker, first off, there is the personal, the political and the parliamentary in this matter. I consider my colleague from Peterborough to be a friend, so I feel some honest compassion for the strain that he and his family have been under. That was obvious in his speech to us here today.
    We are going to take a look at all that he said here and we would like to reserve the right to come back on the substance and the merits of the question of privilege.
    From my hearing of what the member said, there are two pieces to it. One was on the comments by the member for Avalon yesterday in question period toward the member for Peterborough. The second one, which perhaps is a privilege, is with regard to the treatment my colleague has received from Elections Canada and throughout the court process that he is now engaged in.
    Let me address the first one briefly. I did listen to the comments that were made in question period yesterday. While question period sometimes can be quite a heated affair, and I myself perhaps have made numerous mistakes in crossing over certain lines that are sometimes not clearly laid down, I think yesterday my friend from Avalon did cross the line in terms of the personal nature of the attack on the member for Peterborough. We pass that to you, Mr. Speaker. I suspect my colleague from Avalon would want to come back to the House and perhaps retract his statements.
    On the second piece, with regard to Elections Canada and a question of privilege, this perhaps will be a more difficult question to answer for you, Mr. Speaker, as often things that occur outside this place and the effects they have on the privilege of members of Parliament can be a difficult thing to ascertain.
    I would offer to my friend that my colleague from Timmins—James Bay has posed questions in the House during question period previously. We were just discussing them as my friend was speaking and looking over the text that was used. We try to ask direct questions. For various reasons on that side, the member for Peterborough was unable to answer or prevented from answering questions about this particular case. I can understand there are some tensions that go on within any party. The Prime Minister's Office is obviously involved in something of this important nature.
    The context of that is important, that questions have been put and the member has been unable or unwilling to answer. I am not going to pass judgment as to why he has chosen not to answer and other members have answered instead.
    The further challenge for my friend, if I honestly reflect on the situation, is there are so many cases right now of, particularly, Conservative members of Parliament dealing with Elections Canada in a difficult way. We had a recent court ruling on the robocall event. It was quite condemning. I have not read a ruling like this before. The judge found that the Conservative Party lawyer had acted in such a way that the judge awarded penalties to the side that lost because of the contact of the solicitor.
    The cloud, in general, with the robocalls, the in and out scheme, and the former member for Labrador, Mr. Penashue, creates a certain context in which my friend is arguing from and that has to be recognized. It creates a difficulty in understanding the clarity of his own case. I think context is everything in politics, as my friend knows.
    We will reserve the right to come back to the House as soon as we can, once we have looked over what my friend has offered.
    I would say that the fairness of our election process, that our electoral system is sustained and that Canadians have confidence in what happens at the polls, has taken a real hit. This is not an aspersion on my friend in this particular case, but in general, it has taken a real hit from some actions of either members or others in his party. Canadians' confidence has been shaken and that is an unfortunate thing. Whatever our political nature or orientation is in this place, the idea that Canadians can go to a ballot box and register their opinion in a free and fair vote obviously is something that is essential to our democracy. The weakening of that has unintended consequences to others across the spectrum.
    Canadians cannot lose any more faith in this place. Cynicism is already at an all-time high. In order for us to do better, we all must do better. Therefore, I urge all those involved in the court cases that are going on right now, and right now there are two other Conservative members who are before the courts with Elections Canada, to deal with it, to settle it, to come forward and not do what happened in the robocall case and others, which was to drag it on.
    I realize that is out of context for the privilege that we are dealing with, Mr. Speaker. Context is everything.

  (1045)  

    I will end on a personal note. This obviously has had great impact on my friend from Peterborough and his family. We live a very public life and those who are related to us, married to us, our kids, oftentimes are also impacted by the things that go on in that public life. I am sure all members in the House understand that. I hope that my friend's own case can be resolved quickly and that the courts decide what in fact occurred.
    We will return to the House, and I thank the Speaker for that consideration.
    I thank both hon. members for their contributions. I will await further submissions before coming back to the House.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[English]

Tackling Contraband Tobacco Act

Bill S-16--Time Allocation Motion  

    That, in relation to Bill S-16, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in contraband tobacco), not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and
that, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at 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.
    There will now be a 30-minute question period. The hon. member for Skeena--Bulkley Valley.
    Here we are again, Mr. Speaker. It is incredible. I am amazed by the fact that the government House leader has to actually read these orders. He has said them so many times that certainly, they must be put to memory by now.
    We are just checking with the Table, but we think this is the 48th time the government has invoked time allocation, which is a way of shutting down debate. It does not really matter whether the official opposition agrees with a bill or whether we have negotiated a timely and orderly fashion for the bill to pass through the House, it is irrelevant. The facts do not interfere with the government's ideology when it comes to Parliament and debating legislation.
    This is an important piece of legislation. We had a grand total of 15 minutes of debate last night on this one. Fifteen minutes seems to be sufficient time for the government to understand that something so controversial as this issue is enough for the House to make its decision and pass it on to committee.
    This is the way that mistakes are made. When legislation is rammed through Parliament, particularly legislation that would seriously impact Canadians and the communities we represent, big mistakes are made. We know that the Conservative government is not open to amendments, but we go through the process and we hear from witnesses.
    I have a simple question for the minister. This is the very tail end of the session. If this were some sort of priority, if this were somehow important for the government, certainly it would have moved something a little sooner than this. Certainly if it were important, the government would also think that the debate on making it better was also important. Why the rush? Why push the panic button? Why is the government shutting down debate for the 48th time over something as critical as this?
    Mr. Speaker, in answer to the last part of the member's question about why we are doing this now for this legislation, the House knows we have a very extensive justice agenda, and all of these bills are very important. People might ask why we addressed elder abuse, or why we cracked down on the sexual exploitation of children. They might ask why we are doing these things. All of these things are very important.
    Certainly this bill is important. This bill would crack down on contraband tobacco.
    That being said, the hon. member made comments about the debate. My understanding is that there were discussions with members. The bill is straightforward. It would get the job done. It is focused on what it is we are supposed to do. A couple of members of the Liberal Party and a couple of members of the Conservative Party were to talk to the bill. The NDP was offered 10 spots but apparently that was not satisfactory. When I was asked if I was surprised that 10 speakers for the NDP were not enough, I said that when it comes to justice legislation for those members 100 or 1,000 speeches would not be enough.
    I am pleased that we are moving forward on this legislation, and I think most Canadians would agree with me.

  (1050)  

    Before we carry on as we customarily do, I will ask for the number of members who wish to participate in this 30-minute question period so I can gauge how much time should be allotted.
    A minute and a half is probably going to work well for each intervention.
    The hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst.
    Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, why do we go through elections? Why do we have a Parliament, and why is it that the Conservatives decide how many members will speak on a bill? Why is it that the Conservatives get to decide that 10 is enough?
    We belong to a party. The citizens know which party we belong to. They have sent us here to be able to debate and vote on bills.
    Well, for the NDP, 10 is not enough. I am sorry, but it is none of his business. It is the business of the member who is elected by the citizens to speak here on their behalf. Who are they to take away my right to speak on a bill? That is the problem. They have used time allocation 48 times to take our democratic rights away to get up in the House and argue on a bill that we want and that we have been elected to speak on.
    That is the problem with the Conservative government. They should be ashamed of themselves.
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has misunderstood what I was saying. Again, when there were discussions as to how many speeches there would be from each party, I was the one who said—and my colleagues will attest to this—that I was not surprised that 10 speakers would be unacceptable to the NDP. I believe that 100 or 1,000 speakers would be completely unacceptable to the NDP. It would want to delay all justice bills and all the bills that stand up for victims and law-abiding Canadians. The New Democrats would want to talk about it forever.
    I stood up for the NDP, in that sense. I said that I am not surprised at all. They would want to go on for years and debate all our justice legislation.
    Why do we have elections? It is because Canadians have the opportunity to say very clearly that they want us to get tough on crime. They want us to stand up for victims. That is why I am pleased. In each of the last four elections, more and more Canadians have made that point. They want exactly what it is that were are doing in Parliament, and I am very proud to be associated with that.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the minister and his government colleagues clearly do not understand the message the official opposition is trying to get across.
    The minister is targeting the symptoms of something he considers to be a problem: thoroughly debating important bills. We are not denying that Bill S-16 is an important bill.
    However, instead of trying to understand why we are hesitant and why we want to have thorough, comprehensive debates in which a large number of MPs can speak, the government is systematically refusing to listen to recommendations from the opposition. That is a very serious problem.
    We will therefore not stop putting pressure on the government. As long as it keeps refusing to listen to our recommendations and our amendments in committee, we will keep up the pressure. As soon as the government is open to our suggestions, as the Prime Minister claimed he would be in previous years, it might see less heated debates or, at the very least, debates could come to a natural end because of a lack of speakers.
    Why does the minister refuse to consider the real reason behind our resistance?

  (1055)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I disagree with the member. I thoroughly understand the NDP, and I know exactly where it is coming from. When we bring forward pieces of legislation to crack down on crime in this country, to better represent the interests of victims, they are against it. I understand that, and I completely disagree with it. If that is what he is saying, I do disagree with the positions that the NDP take, but I certainly understand where they are coming from.
    The member for Selkirk—Interlake brought a bill here to increase the sentences for those individuals involved in kidnapping, sexual assault and murder. The NDP sat on its hands. It did not want that bill to go forward. It did not want to get on its feet to support the member for Selkirk—Interlake.
     I completely disagree with the New Democrats, but I want to have it on the record that I thoroughly understand where they are coming from. Again, I completely disagree with them.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, all we ever see from the Minister of Justice are bills with minimum sentences. If he is in such a rush, why did he not introduce a more complete bill? The Bloc Québécois, the industry in general and police officers have been calling for stricter measures for a long time. In particular, we have been calling for police officers to have the ability to seize smugglers' vehicles.That is not included in this bill.
    Why did the minister not include this type of offence in Bill S-16 to enable police officers to be more aggressive and do their job better?
    In addition, there is no increase in the cost of factory permits for tobacco manufacturers. It only costs $5,000 for a permit to manufacture cigarettes, which, in many cases, go directly to smugglers. Why not increase that amount to $5 million?
    Those are only a few examples, and here is one more. Why is the government making cuts to border services when it claims to want to put an end to contraband tobacco?
    In my own riding, I have worked with the Association des marchands dépanneurs et épiciers du Québec. That is what people want to see and that is not in this bill. I would like the minister to explain why.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member says the Minister of Justice always wants the same thing. Yes, we want to better represent victims in this country and we want to crack down on crime. That is exactly what my colleagues and I want. We have been very consistent in that regard.
    If the hon. member wants to have a look at some of the details and accompanying announcements, my colleague, the Minister of Public Safety, made it clear that there is going to be a 50-person unit within the RCMP devoted to cracking down on contraband tobacco. Again, this is a step in the right direction. There are now more border guards. More resources have been directed toward that since this government took office. As well, we have updated the laws.
    The member talked about car thefts. Again, with no help from opposition parties, we have brought in separate laws with respect to automobile theft and the gangs and organized crime that get involved with chop shops. This is by no means the only bill we have put forward that tackles this area, and I would ask him to look at our overall record. I hope he will finally come onside and start supporting these important efforts.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, once again, we are being muzzled. This is not surprising, coming from a government that was found to be in contempt of Parliament, which was a first in Canadian history. This shows the extent of the government's contempt—not just lack of understanding—for what we call democracy here in Canada. We are talking about a 48th gag order. The government is shutting down debate on a bill that is important to us.
    The minister said that if the NDP had the choice, it would talk about the bill forever, but this is because this bill affects so many ridings and so many people. We have questions, and it is only natural we would want to discuss them, for our constituents. I remember that when I ran in 2008, people came to talk to me about contraband tobacco. This issue is very important, not only in terms of public safety, of course, but also in terms of health.
    Democracy implies consultation. We know that the minister did not hold consultations, particularly with first nations. I would like to know why not.

  (1100)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, he asked about how democracy works, and he said he spoke with individuals in his own constituency about the problems with respect to contraband tobacco. We heard the same thing. I would put it back to him. What is he going to say to the people after he tells them that when the government brought in legislation directed at cracking down on contraband tobacco and dedicating greater resources to it that the NDP did not want to move forward and wanted to delay it?
    I think he is going to have some challenges when speaking with those people. We have heard from those individuals. I have heard from individuals who have described what a problem this is. We want to help everyone across this country crack down on this issue. This is exactly what this country needs. These are specific provisions that would deal with contraband. This is how democracy works. When he goes back to tell his constituents what the government is doing, they are going to applaud and say this is exactly what needs to be done in this country. That is what democracy is all about.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the minister speaking on these very important matters. I must be frank. I am a little disappointed, particularly with the members of Parliament from Quebec. When it came to our megatrials legislation, they quickly came on board because they saw that the government was taking comprehensive action on dealing with organized crime.
    This bill also cracks down on organized crime. In fact, law enforcement officials tell us that this has been a long-standing problem that creates a threat to public safety. I want to see this legislation brought to committee so we can start discussing it and bring in experts to have a full vetting on this.
    Could the Minister of Justice again explain why this is not only in our economic interests but also in the interests of having safer streets, and why this needs to go forward to committee?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his continued interest in all our efforts to better protect Canadians. It is a public safety issue. It is an issue that is related to criminal activity. As we know, tobacco use continues to be the most preventable cause of premature death in this country. Cracking down on tobacco in this country is a health issue as well.
    I think the bill addresses all those areas. We do not want contraband tobacco being distributed or brought into this country. We want to get the message out that this is a preventable form of death for many individuals.
     We want to make sure the message about tobacco and its use gets out to people. This is exactly what we need. We have expanded the provisions, and not just from the Excise Act. By putting it directly in the Criminal Code, it now sends a message to organized crime about the seriousness with which this government takes this matter. I want to say again how much I appreciate the member's support on this, and indeed all the measures we have brought forward in the justice field.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, given that we live in a glass house, I will not be throwing stones at anyone. However, I would like the Minister of Justice to realize that we need a law to fight organized crime and contraband cigarettes. We want the law to be effective. Therein lies the problem.
    All too often, this Parliament has passed laws that had good intentions, but were not used by prosecutors because they felt that the burden of proof imposed by the laws in question was too onerous and they were not more effective than the old laws. The prosecutors preferred to continue using the old provisions of the Criminal Code rather than the new ones because they got better results.
    Attorneys do not like to have laws that will be deemed ultra vires by all judges because they cannot be enforced. That is a major problem.
    When we want to fight organized crime, it is not enough to say that we want to fight it. We have to actually do it. Unfortunately, all too often, the Conservatives listen to no one, not even us or the experts. What is more, their laws are not used.
    For example, they want to play hardball when someone is convicted of kidnapping and murder. However, the Criminal Code already provides for a life sentence without eligibility for parole for 25 years. They cannot impose a longer sentence. Nevertheless, they talk tough and put out propaganda. That has to stop.
    In closing, I will say that we want a law to fight organized crime, not just an advertising flyer.

  (1105)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, this is typical of the NDP members. They say they want to do something in the area of crime, but then they oppose all the measures that do exactly that. It is like a trade deal. They say they do not have a problem with trade deals, but they have opposed all the trade deals over the last 40 or 50 years because they are all wrong. This is the problem with the NDP.
    What we are doing is actually implementing legislation and moving forward. The member asks whether people can be prosecuted under the old law. Guess what? I have some wonderful news on this piece of legislation. He will notice when it gets before the committee that we are keeping the provisions of the Excise Tax Act. If there is a decision to proceed under the act, all those provisions are right there. That is the way it is in Canada. In addition, we have also now put it in the Criminal Code, to have this alternate avenue by which these offences can be prosecuted. If the member likes the old law, then he will be very happy and pleased when it gets to the committee. In order to crack down on organized crime we need new provisions, and that is exactly why we have put it in the Criminal Code.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the Conservatives for bringing in measures to deal with contraband tobacco. That is a positive thing.
    When I was first elected in 2008, this issue was being discussed. When I was a member of the public safety committee in 2009, we had a study on contraband tobacco. Every member in this House realizes that there is a serious problem, both for the health of Canadians and in dealing with criminal law.
    However, the real issue that we are talking about is the proper way to pass those laws. We on this side of the House think that we should not rush a bill through, that every bill deserves proper scrutiny, not only to ensure that it does what it is set out to do, but also because every member of this House can make a contribution to improving a bill like this.
    What have been the statistics on contraband tobacco entering our country over the last five years? Can the minister give us information in this House about whether we are seeing increases in contraband tobacco entering our communities, or have we had some success?
     One thing I will point out is that the current government has closed certain border crossings over the last three years. I am sometimes concerned that we have made the border a bit more porous and allowed entry points for contraband tobacco to enter our communities.
    Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. member that this is a growing problem. In terms of dealing with this piece of legislation, this is a great opportunity to move this bill into the committee where members can hear from individuals who are on the ground, people with knowledge in this area. That would work very well.
    The member makes a good point in terms of what we have to be doing, in moving forward. As I indicated to one of his colleagues, the RCMP will have a special unit composed of 50 representatives of the RCMP completely devoted to cracking down on contraband tobacco.
    I agree, and he has made the point directly or indirectly, that this is becoming an increasing challenge for law enforcement. This is why we have expanded the provisions to the Criminal Code, and why my colleague, the Minister of Public Safety has come forward with that initiative within the RCMP. It is a comprehensive approach. Again when we go back to our constituents and we hear what is happening on the ground, it is exactly what this country needs at this time.

  (1110)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would first like to say that I find the whole situation pretty sad. It is sad that the government has moved so many time allocation motions—in fact, the most in the whole history of Parliament. I would remind the House that we are not in a time of war, at least, not as far as I know. I do not understand what is so pressing.
    It is also particularly unfortunate that, this time, this is coming from the Minister of Justice, someone who is supposed to be one of this country's leading authorities on justice. You could say that this individual is supposed to lead by example. When we talk about justice, that automatically means talking about democracy and upholding people's rights. It is really sad that the government is behaving like this. When the government does such things, it leaves the entire country with a certain impression. It is basically like saying that there is no point in taking the time to negotiate and let people express their opinions, because the government will pass whatever it wants using a gag order. This is truly unfortunate.
    I would like to hear what the minister thinks about this. Is he comfortable with the impression this gives the entire country, all Canadians? Is this the message he wants to send to Canadians—that the government does not listen to people, that it passes bills using gag orders and steamrolls everyone in order to get its way, instead of coming up with strong arguments? Does it have to ram everything down our throats?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, that is one of the great things about the democratic process in this country and one of the things in which I take a great deal of satisfaction.
    I can tell members that in the 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2011 elections, those four elections, we were very clear with the Canadian public. We said that we would move forward with cracking down on crime, ensuring that individuals found guilty of crime are accountable for what they have done; that we would make it a priority to stand up for victims; and that we would look at efficiencies within the criminal justice system to make it work better.
    One of the things of which I am particularly proud, and the record will bear me out on this, is that in each of those four elections more and more Canadians responded to what we were saying. Our justice agenda is only part of what we are doing, but an important part, nonetheless.
    The hon. member, on five occasions, said how sad she is. She can take some comfort, and I hope it will make her happier, when she looks at the provisions of the bill because we are cracking down on a big problem in this country, which is contraband tobacco.
    I would suggest this is a way of reinvigorating her. I hope she feels much better about this when she has a look at the provisions of this, because this is on the right track.
    Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to hear the Minister of Justice speaking on this.
    I would like to address the suggestion that this issue has not been debated. Having been on the public safety committee for the last seven years and having been on the justice committee, I know these committees have studied this subject of contraband tobacco and have heard from countless witnesses. If members in this House stand to say we have not studied it enough, they are exactly, 100% wrong.
    We know that contraband cigarettes are now being sold to our children, in schoolyards, at about 5¢ apiece. We know that the Ontario provincial police and other police agencies have made huge seizures of contraband cigarettes, actually tractor-trailer loads. We have, in this country, stepped up our enforcement. However, we need additional tools for the law enforcement agencies to be able to do their jobs. They have been asking us for this.
    I wonder if the minister would talk about those issues.

  (1115)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for all his interest in all the issues related to better protecting Canadians and better protecting children in this country. He is quite correct, in terms of the challenges in this area. One of the things that particularly pleases me is that not only would we keep this in the Excise Tax Act, which is under federal prosecution and related to the RCMP, for the most part, but we would have this alternative within the Criminal Code that would get all police forces across this country and provincially appointed crown attorneys involved. This would be one more option to crack down on this.
    Again, as I pointed out, this would send the right message to organized crime, that the government takes this issue seriously, as this is exactly what we would be doing when we move forward. I urge all members to get this into committee, as is the right thing to do.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank everyone for their impassioned speeches today. I have a couple of questions for the minister. This is where we come up with new, unforeseen circumstances and situations when we are ramming through all these bills.
    This bill seeks to tackle contraband tobacco and also to stop contraband coming across the border. Yesterday, through time allocation, we rammed through Bill C-56 that would actually add ex officio powers to CBSA officers to stop counterfeit and trademark-infringed goods from coming across the border.
    We have multiple bills going through at the same time that would add more responsibilities and put more strain on our border officers. At the same time, the government last year brought in over $143 million in cuts to CBSA. CBSA's own numbers say that it is going to lose 550 full-time staff between now and 2015.
    I would like to ask the minister how he squares that circle. We are thrusting all these responsibilities upon CBSA while, at the same time, cutting its budgets. How is the CBSA supposed to continue to do the job of keeping Canadians safe?
    Mr. Speaker, this government has a record of putting more resources into this area, and it is not just confined to that. As I indicated to the House, there would be a special unit within the RCMP. There would be 50 RCMP officers devoted to that, in addition to all other federal resources in this area.
    We are getting the job done on every level. We are changing the laws. We are making sure that the resources and the support are there. We get support from local law enforcement agencies as well. The OPP and Sûreté du Québec are involved with this. That is why this piece of legislation will be so welcomed.
    That will bring the 30-minute question period to a close. I note that members for Laurentides—Labelle, Chicoutimi—Le Fjord and Fort McMurray—Athabasca did not get a chance to participate, but we will take pains to ensure that they get a chance in questions and comments when the bill comes before the House.
    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. Bruce Stanton): All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton): All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton): In my opinion the yeas have it.
    And five or more members having risen:
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton): Call in the members.

  (1200)  

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

(Division No. 755)

YEAS

Members

Ablonczy
Adams
Adler
Aglukkaq
Albas
Albrecht
Alexander
Allen (Tobique—Mactaquac)
Allison
Ambler
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
Armstrong
Aspin
Bateman
Benoit
Bergen
Bernier
Bezan
Block
Boughen
Braid
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Newmarket—Aurora)
Brown (Barrie)
Butt
Calandra
Calkins
Cannan
Carmichael
Carrie
Chisu
Chong
Clarke
Crockatt
Daniel
Davidson
Dechert
Del Mastro
Devolin
Dreeshen
Duncan (Vancouver Island North)
Dykstra
Fantino
Findlay (Delta—Richmond East)
Flaherty
Fletcher
Galipeau
Gallant
Gill
Goguen
Goldring
Gosal
Gourde
Grewal
Harris (Cariboo—Prince George)
Hawn
Hayes
Hiebert
Hillyer
Hoback
James
Jean
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Kent
Komarnicki
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Lake
Lauzon
Leef
Lemieux
Leung
Lizon
Lobb
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
O'Neill Gordon
Opitz
O'Toole
Payne
Poilievre
Preston
Raitt
Rajotte
Reid
Rempel
Richards
Rickford
Saxton
Schellenberger
Seeback
Shea
Shipley
Shory
Smith
Sopuck
Storseth
Strahl
Sweet
Toet
Trost
Trottier
Truppe
Tweed
Uppal
Valcourt
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Vellacott
Wallace
Warkentin
Watson
Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country)
Weston (Saint John)
Wilks
Williamson
Wong
Woodworth
Yelich
Young (Oakville)
Young (Vancouver South)
Zimmer

Total: -- 139

NAYS

Members

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

Total: -- 118

PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion carried.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I stand to be corrected, but I believe a vote was incorrectly attributed to the member for Crowfoot, who is not voting at this time.
    I appreciate the hon. member's comments, and we have taken that into account.

[Translation]

Second reading  

    The House resumed from June 11 consideration of the motion that Bill S-16, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in contraband tobacco), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
    Order. I wish to inform the House that, because of the proceedings on the time allocation motion, government orders will be extended by 30 minutes.
    Resuming debate. The hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis.
    Mr. Speaker, we are looking at the issue of tobacco use, which is a scourge on our society. This issue looms over our society on many levels, and has been doing so for decades. Over the years, significant financial resources have been put into the fight against smoking.
    Tobacco use is a fairly complicated issue, as is contraband tobacco. This is clearly a health issue. We know that smoking is bad for people's health. Over the years, we have come to realize that not only do smokers suffer serious consequences, but those around them can also suffer. Years of research led to those conclusions.
    Just as an aside, it is very telling to look at how tobacco and its health effects were dealt with during studies in the 1960s and 1970s. A similar approach is being used now with respect to other products that can be harmful to humans. For example, when a manufacturer of a potentially harmful product states that there is no proof that the product is harmful, reference is often made to tobacco and the fact that in the 1960s and 1970s, tobacco manufacturers said that studies were inconclusive. To an extent, that experience shaped how we look at things.
    This issue has health consequences. Tobacco, especially contraband tobacco, also has a significant economic impact, especially on aboriginal reserves. We know that criminals are involved in trafficking contraband tobacco, but we also see that on reserves, more and more ordinary people are working in tobacco plants. It does not matter to them if the plant is operating within the law or is hidden in the woods. These people are not criminals. They just want to earn a living. They may not give much thought to all the legal aspects surrounding the tobacco operation they are working for.
    Aboriginal reserves are very involved in manufacturing tobacco products, whether legally or otherwise. The problem is that these reserves are becoming more and more dependent on selling tobacco and manufacturing tobacco products, which makes them somewhat vulnerable. It is obvious to most people here the House that in the long run, tobacco consumption will decline. If an aboriginal reserve becomes dependent on the tobacco industry, what will people there do when the industry collapses, if it comes to that?
    There are health-related questions and an economic aspect to consider. There is also a financial aspect for the government because the tobacco industry, in general, generates significant tax revenues for the government.

  (1205)  

    When a black market expands, it eats into government revenues. According to some experts, the black market accounts for almost one-third of the Canadian tobacco market.
    For example, there are reportedly 300 smoke shacks in Canada. At these shacks, which we sometimes see on the roadside in aboriginal reserves, cigarettes are sold to aboriginal peoples, who have the right to purchase them without paying taxes, and also to other people passing through the reserve to buy these products tax-free. Furthermore, there are approximately 50 illegal cigarette factories, and some of them are quite large.
    There is also organized crime. Trafficking in contraband tobacco is an activity that attracts organized crime, which is involved in trafficking in many other goods, including drugs and illegal arms. It is a scourge on several accounts.
    Another important aspect with regard to our federation, one of the most advanced in the world in terms of the fight against trafficking in contraband tobacco, is that this involves at least two levels of government. The federal government must work with the provinces, and especially with provincial police forces, to try to address this problem.

[English]

    This brings us to Bill S-16. Let us talk a bit about what Bill S-16 would do.
     First, it would bring the issue of contraband tobacco into the Criminal Code. A lot of people listening at home are probably surprised that selling contraband tobacco is not a Criminal Code offence at this time. People know that they should not be doing this and that there are legal consequences, but those consequences currently are not under the Criminal Code. They are under the Excise Act. There are fines under the Excise Act for engaging in the illegal sale of contraband tobacco.
    Bill S-16 would add offences under the Criminal Code. It would add as offences selling, offering for sale, transporting, delivering, distributing or possessing for the purpose of sale a tobacco product or raw-leaf tobacco that is not packaged, unless it is stamped. These are the new offences that would be created under the Criminal Code.
    The point is that it would allow the government to make it a more serious offence to engage in the sale of contraband tobacco, but it would also give prosecutors flexibility. A prosecutor would be able to decide whether to prosecute under the Excise Act, which would mean, I would imagine, that the burden of proof may not be as high, or whether to prosecute under the Criminal Code, which carries more severe offences. Therefore, the bill would provide more flexibility for prosecutors.
    It would also empower all police forces to combat tobacco smuggling. Currently, only the RCMP can get involved under the Excise Act, but if the offence is under the Criminal Code, provincial and municipal police forces would be able to enforce the act. Of course, the bill would make consequential amendments to the definition of “attorney general” so that both the federal government and the provinces could prosecute offences through their Attorneys General.
    The act would introduce minimum sentences for repeat offenders where there is a high volume of contraband tobacco involved. When we talk about a high volume, we mean, under Bill S-16, over 10,000 cigarettes or over 10 kilograms of other tobacco products.

  (1210)  

    These minimum sentences would apply only where prosecution was on indictment versus summary conviction. What is interesting is that the minimum sentence would only kick in on the second conviction. The sentence would be 90 days on a second conviction, 180 days on a third conviction and two years less a day on subsequent convictions. I imagine that this means that the time served would be not in a federal penitentiary but in a provincial jail. The minimum sentences would apply only when the first offence was under the Criminal Code, not under the Excise Act, for example.
    The Liberal Party is generally reticent to support legislation that has minimum sentences, because experts have told us that these simply do not work in terms of making society safer. In this case, we are willing to consider the minimum sentence, because it would not apply on a first Criminal Code offence. However, we want to study the matter a little more closely in committee and bring in the experts to tell us what the impact of these minimum sentences would be.
    We have to be careful that these minimum sentences catch the serious criminals and not, for example, a young aboriginal person who is perhaps not 100% aware of what he or she is doing and is acting as a mule, transporting cigarettes, maybe even without his or her knowledge. Obviously, we want to keep aboriginal youth out of jail. We do not want to see them go down that road if it can be avoided. The fact that the minimum sentence does not apply on the first offence is something that allows us to consider supporting the bill throughout the process and certainly allows us to vote for it to send it to committee.
    We also want to study the fact that we are basically, in some ways, duplicating offences, because there are fines under the Excise Act. Are we just duplicating for the sake of a public relations effect, or will the bill really be effective? We can only tell once we bring in the experts.
    I would also point out that there is an interesting contradiction in the bill, because usually, under the Criminal Code, if someone commits an offence and had committed a prior offence, but the prior offence was committed more than 10 years earlier—in other words, 10 years has elapsed between offences—generally, the court does not consider the first offence in its decision. This is not the case with Bill S-16. First offences, even if committed 10 years prior, would still enter into the consideration of the court's decision. We want to look at that, and we would want to know why the contradiction exists in this case.

  (1215)  

[Translation]

    The government sometimes prefers easy solutions or symbolic gestures that make the public believe that the government is acting decisively, even though the proposed solutions are sometimes ill-conceived and simplistic whereas the issues require more complex and nuanced responses.
    We must do more than just rely on Bill S-16. For example, there are at least three things we must do in addition to introducing, debating and passing this bill.
    First, an ongoing advertising campaign that is well funded by the federal government or other levels of government is required. I believe that the Conservative government has already made a commitment in that regard. The advertising campaign is needed to raise awareness because a fair number people stop by smoke shacks on reserves to buy cartons of tax-free cigarettes. As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, the sale of these cigarettes is connected to organized crime in a number of ways.
    If we tell most people that that is the case, they might think twice before buying tax-free cigarettes, even though it may be more expensive for them. I think that most people do not want to contribute to the problem of organized crime. If we explain to them that they are contributing to the rise of organized crime by buying contraband cigarettes, many people will not buy cigarettes at these sales outlets.
    Second, we need to invest in enforcing the act. I know that the government announced that it was going to create a special unit within the RCMP to combat trafficking in contraband tobacco. I hope that an appropriate amount of long-term funding will be allocated to this.
    There is also the problem of the border crossing between Massena and Cornwall. This border crossing, which was located on Cornwall Island, was moved to Cornwall, on the Canadian side of the St. Lawrence River. Right now, the government is considering moving the border crossing again, this time from Cornwall to Massena, which is on the American side of the river. The government is supposedly negotiating with the United States in this regard. Many observers and stakeholders, including the tobacco industry and the Government of Ontario, have reservations about moving this border crossing.
    I am therefore asking the government to think carefully about what it is trying to accomplish by moving this border crossing and to leave it on the Canadian side of the river. The Government of Ontario and Minister Madeleine Meilleur in particular are asking the government not to move the border crossing.
    This matter requires the co-operation of the federal and provincial governments. The government will also have to work with the provinces, particularly Ontario. Ontario is currently not monitoring farms that grow tobacco leaf, which opens the door to using raw materials for the production of illegal cigarettes and other tobacco products.
    That being said, dear colleagues from the other parties, we are going to support this bill at second reading. I expect that we will be examining the issue in the fall, if Parliament is not prorogued. I hope that we will be able to ask the experts who come to testify in committee some fairly detailed questions.

  (1220)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his thoughtful perspective on this piece of legislation.
    One of the aspects of contraband tobacco is the health issue related to tobacco as a whole. Not only are individuals buying tobacco that has been produced illegally, but many times, other illegal activity surrounds it.
    My colleague serves with me and other members on the public safety committee. Even though we are talking right now about the legal issues related to contraband tobacco and organized crime, as a mother, I am concerned about young people who start smoking at an early age. Part of what feeds that is the ability to get cheap cigarettes. I am wondering if my colleague could comment on that.
    Mr. Speaker, what is interesting is that I have been told that the problem is becoming so widespread—and I do not know if the word is blasé—that people can now receive contraband cigarettes by mail order and they will be deposited in their mailbox. This is a problem. It brings contraband cigarettes even closer to being accessible to our young people. Obviously we do not want them to ever start smoking, and certainly not at a young age.
    An additional problem with illegal tobacco is that its production is not regulated. There have been impurities and all kinds of things put into contraband tobacco that people would not want to inhale into their system.
    It is a serious problem. We have to get a better handle on it. I hope we will see some success in the years ahead.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very enlightening speech.
    I think the crux of the debate here is not whether we need to tackle contraband tobacco. The bill makes a lot of sense. I think the debate should focus more on what we need to do before we pass such a bill.
    I would like to know what my colleague thinks about the role that aboriginal communities should play in designing and passing this kind of bill. This will surely affect many aboriginal communities.
    A number of reports, experts and studies have all said that the first nations should have a key role in tackling contraband tobacco in Canada.
    Since my colleague is a member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, and since this bill, if it is passed at second reading, will be sent to this committee for study, I would like to know what he would like to see in terms of consultation and collaboration with the first nations before such a bill is passed?
    Since he will have to speak to this bill in committee, what would he be prepared to accept or not accept?

  (1225)  

    Mr. Speaker, indeed, we will need to consult a whole range of experts, including those who are most familiar with aboriginal reserves. We will have to hear from band councils, especially those of the reserves involved. We will need to examine all aspects of this matter thoroughly in committee when witnesses come to give their testimony.
    As I said in my speech, although this is a federal act, co-operation among the different levels of government is crucial. I mentioned the federal and provincial levels, but perhaps I should have also emphasized how important it is that band councils and aboriginal police forces be involved. Many aboriginal communities have their own police forces.
    These people must be consulted at the committee stage of the bill. Furthermore, when it comes time to enforce the bill, it will be important to work with all stakeholders.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very insightful and thoughtful speech. This is a huge problem for the greater community of Ottawa–Gatineau. I have had retail store operators, local RCMP detachment officers, the Ottawa Police and beyond, make representations on the question of contraband cigarettes.
    I was struck by one of the issues that was raised by my colleague in his speech, that being the question of effective outreach, communication, publicity and advertising. We need to impress upon Canadians that we need to continue what is really a very dramatic success story in Canada in terms of the number of people in Canada who do not smoke.
    The government seems to have an awful lot of revenue for its economic action plan. We are seeing numbers now at about $100 million a year. I saw the ads again last night during the playoff hockey game. It did not spoil the game. It was a great game.
    On a serious note, I want to ask my colleague if he could talk a bit about what he would envisage in terms of outreach and engagement, to make sure those powerful weapons are deployed against contraband tobacco products so that people do not smoke or we basically prevent them from starting to smoke. It is a terrible addiction. It would be very helpful to have my colleague speak to that.
    Mr. Speaker, as I was saying before, I think most Canadians would shun contraband tobacco if they understood what was going on in the background when they purchased a cigarette. If one understood that one is unwittingly participating or feeding a multi-layered system of organized crime that touches on all kinds of issues, like gun smuggling, drug smuggling and human trafficking, I think people would think twice. The government needs to explain to Canadians the linkages between illegal tobacco and other crime problems in our society.
    Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with Heidi Rathjen, who was one of the spearheads, with Wendy Cukier, behind the push for the long gun registry. I do not want to mix the two issues. However, after working on that issue for a number of years, Heidi went to work for the Coalition québécoise pour le contrôle du tabac. She has been speaking to me over the years, wishing that the government would do more and would be more receptive to suggestions and recommendations. I hope the Minister of Health will take Heidi and her group seriously in terms of further developing a strategy against tobacco use.

  (1230)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis for his speech.
    I had the privilege of being a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Dura lex, as the expression goes; the law is strict. While the law may be strict on paper, if we do not have the means to enforce it, then what good is it? Instead of being a real deterrent for criminals and traffickers of all kinds, it would merely be an idle threat.
    During our deliberations in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, members have repeatedly pointed out that the government often likes to hide behind harsh sentences and laws that are strict on paper, but does not provide sufficient resources. That is something we in the NDP are very concerned about.
    Does my colleague share the same concern?
    Mr. Speaker, I absolutely do. When a government puts a budget together, there are choices to be made. Sometimes these are difficult choices, but they have to be made. We are dealing with some rather significant public safety challenges, so perhaps now is not the time to be reducing public safety budgets, including the RCMP's, among others.
    This takes more than legislation. It takes means. I know that my colleague opposite supported Bill S-2. The fact remains that there are no resources for creating women's shelters on reserves for victims of spousal abuse.
    Having legislation is one thing, but at some point we need to have the necessary resources to ensure that the legislation produces positive, tangible results.

[English]

    I want to begin my comments by saying that I agree with my colleagues across the way. When it comes to contraband tobacco, there are a number of challenges that have to be addressed. Certainly there is the issue of young people or individuals who smoke, the demand for tobacco and an increased demand for contraband tobacco, and the whole aspect of crime prevention.
     However, up to this point the challenge has been the legislative gap. Law enforcement has only been able to charge individuals who are involved in this kind of illegal activity under the Excise Act. As legislators, we have a responsibility to look at issues like this and address them in their totality. That is why this piece of legislation is important and vital. However, it is not the only piece to combat the problem of contraband tobacco.
     We do not want to target individuals, such as a young person who has contraband tobacco on their person. That is not what we are talking about. As my colleague from the Liberal Party mentioned, we are talking about organized crime and very serious traffickers who are involved in all kinds of other illegal trafficking.
    I will begin by talking about the technical parts of this bill and some of the changes that would occur. I also want to talk about what Public Safety and the RCMP are doing in terms of the new unit we committed to in 2011, which is being formed right now.
    Bill S-16 is another part of our government's plan for safe streets and communities. It focuses on tackling crime and putting victims' rights ahead of criminals. We are setting the conditions for fair and efficient justice.
    The bill proposes to amend the Criminal Code to create a new offence of trafficking in contraband tobacco. This new offence would carry penalties that would better reflect the harm caused by the trade in contraband tobacco. Specifically, the bill would impose mandatory minimum penalties of imprisonment for persons who are convicted of this offence for a second or subsequent time. It would not be for the very first criminal offence, and it certainly would not be an offence charged under the Excise Act. A second offence would be under Criminal Code charges.
    The proposed new offence against dealing in contraband tobacco would prohibit the sale, possession for the purpose of sale, offer for sale, as well as the transportation, delivery or distribution of a tobacco product or raw leaf tobacco that is not packaged unless it is stamped. The terms “tobacco product”, “raw leaf tobacco”, “package” and “stamps”, would have the same meaning as they have in section 2 of the Excise Act, 2001.
    A first-time offender convicted under the new offence would face a maximum penalty of six months' imprisonment on summary conviction, and up to five years' imprisonment if prosecuted on indictment. Repeat offenders convicted of this new offence involving large amounts would face mandatory minimum penalties. In cases involving 10,000 cigarettes or more, or 10 kilograms or more of any other tobacco product or raw leaf tobacco, a second-time offender would face a mandatory minimum penalty of 90 days' imprisonment. A third-time offender would face a mandatory minimum penalty of 180 days, and a person convicted of a fourth offence or more would face a mandatory minimum penalty of two years less a day.
    We believe this provides a very balanced approach. It is not an overly harsh approach, but one that certainly provides new legislation and tools that law enforcement need in order to combat contraband tobacco trafficking.
    Bill S-16 would also amend the definition of Attorney General in the Criminal Code so as to give the Attorney General of Canada concurrent jurisdiction within the provinces to prosecute this new offence. Again, the Excise Act only applies federally. This would give provincial police the ability to lay these same types of charges under the Criminal Code.
    I believe these proposals represent a tailored approach to the imposition of mandatory minimum penalties for serious contraband tobacco activities. The bill proposes minimum penalties only in cases where there is a specific aggravating factor, and that would be the quantity of tobacco product.
    Contraband tobacco threatens the public safety of all Canadians, our communities and our economy. Many people think it is a victimless crime, that it is individuals wanting to buy cigarettes for less money. However, that could not be further from the truth.

  (1235)  

    There is a huge organized crime aspect to contraband tobacco, and it threatens all of us, certainly our children and our young people. It also has implications for relationships with our international partners, especially the United States. The trade in contraband tobacco fuels the growth of organized criminal networks and is attacking the health of our Canadian youth.
    We only need to look at the closest schoolyard to see that impact. When we look at areas where schools have designated a smoking area, it is sad to say that there was a time when that was going down, but it is evident that more and more young people are starting to smoke. We even see smoking in the media and in Hollywood movies, even though smoking is taboo. Sadly it seems that more and more young people are smoking, and contraband tobacco only feeds that.
    A study conducted in 2007, 2008 and 2009 on the proliferation of contraband tobacco at high schools in Ontario and Quebec reveals that nearly one-third of the cigarettes found at Ontario high schools and over 40% of those at Quebec high schools were contraband products. That speaks volumes about the problem that contraband is tobacco is causing and the impact it is having as far as young people beginning to smoke.
    We also know that studies show if young people begin smoking at an early age, it is much harder for them to quit. It is much harder for them, even as adults who may want to stop smoking. It becomes very difficult. We can see by the evidence that contraband tobacco is certainly fueling the proliferation of our young people who are smoking.
    Obviously a problem of this magnitude requires a comprehensive set of responses, as I said at the beginning of my speech. Bill S-16 contributes to this response by strengthening our criminal law framework's response to trafficking in contraband tobacco. Bill S-16 is only a part of the government's broader response to combat the trafficking and cross-border smuggling of contraband tobacco.
    Another key element of our response is the establishment of a 50-officer RCMP anti-contraband tobacco force. This was the commitment we made in 2011 and we are following through on this commitment. This new force builds on the existing RCMP strategy, which focuses on reducing the availability of and demands for contraband tobacco, and again, the involvement of organized crime that plays such a big role in the contraband tobacco problem in Canada.
    Another critical part of our broader, law enforcement response is the fact that the RCMP and Canada Customs have seized record quantities of contraband tobacco.
    As I mentioned earlier, organized crime plays a central role in Canada's contraband tobacco trade, with the result that most of the organized crime groups across the country involved in illicit tobacco markets are also involved in a number of other forms of criminality. It is never just one contraband product that they are trafficking; they are usually involved as well in other banned illegal substances, guns, and the smuggling and trafficking of humans.
    The problem is further complicated by the international aspect of the illicit tobacco trade. On this issue, it is important to recall that Canada and the United States share a long history of law enforcement co-operation. Recent and ongoing threat assessments have identified organized crime as the most prevalent threat encountered at our shared borders. As we work together with our partners and with our friends to the south of us, we recognize that the problems that we have at the borders, and indeed smuggling of guns, tobacco or whatever might be smuggled, is primarily done by organized criminals in Canada and the U.S.
    This includes significant levels of contraband trafficking, as I said, ranging from illicit drugs and tobacco to firearms, primarily handguns. Handguns are the primary firearm that is being trafficked and used in organized crime activities. I mentioned human smuggling, which is sadly becoming a greater problem. Our government is certainly addressing human smuggling and even human trafficking.

  (1240)  

    Recognizing our mutual interest in the security of our shared waters on the coasts, the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway, Canada and the United States explored the concept of integrated cross-border maritime law enforcement operations. Commonly, this has been referred to as the shiprider agreement. It would permit marine law enforcement vessels to be jointly crewed by specially trained and designated Canadian and American law enforcement officers who are authorized to enforce the law on both sides of the international boundary line in the course of integrated cross-border operations.
    Again, this represents a very practical and efficient solution to illegal activity at our borders, especially in our waterways. It would give law enforcement authorization in America but primarily in Canada. We are obviously looking to the Canadian side, where we would be able to work together with our partners to combat this problem, as well as other organized illegal activity that could happen at the border. Designated law enforcement officers from the RCMP and the United States Coast Guard, and other law enforcement agencies from Canada and the U.S., would now be able to conduct seamless policing operations to disrupt organized crime and criminal activity at the border.
    Canada and the United States piloted a project between the RCMP and the U.S. Coast Guard that authorized integrated cross-border maritime law enforcement between these two organizations.
    The shiprider pilot project had immeasurable impact upon cross-border criminal activity, including removing the border as an impediment to effective border policing. Again, this is a very practical and very efficient way of border policing. For example, during the 2007 pilot project, the RCMP and the U.S. Coast Guard officers participated in more than 187 boardings, which resulted in the seizure of 1,420,000 contraband cigarettes.That is a huge number of cigarettes that were intercepted and stopped because of the pilot project, which has been very effective.
    A framework agreement to govern deployment of regularized shiprider operations was signed in May 2009, following the successful pilot project. Legislation seeking to implement the agreement was enacted in 2012.
    Today, the contraband tobacco market is largely driven by illegal operations in both Canada and the U.S. Ontario and Quebec have the highest concentration of contraband tobacco manufacturing operations, the majority of the high-volume smuggling points, and the largest number of consumers of contraband tobacco. Certainly, members of Parliament from both Ontario and Quebec will be recognizing this as a problem in each of their provinces. However, we do recognize that it is a national problem to be addressed at the national level.
     Locally, there is so much that can be done. We are working together with law enforcement in both provinces, the RCMP team as well as other integrated teams but, legislatively, we have to address it at the national level in order to be able to look at the areas where it is growing and address those problems.
    The 2012 national threat assessment on organized and serious crime, prepared by Criminal Intelligence Service Canada, has identified 58 organized crime groups which are involved in the contraband tobacco network. We are not just talking about somebody going across to the United States, buying cheap cigarettes and bringing them back for their relatives or selling them to neighbours. We are talking about a very serious problem. If we do not deal with it as a criminal activity, it will continue to grow.
    I know we appreciate the involvement of stakeholders that also recognize this problem. That is why we have introduced this legislation.
    These criminal networks reinvest profits from the manufacture and distribution of contraband tobacco into other forms of criminality, including the trafficking of illicit drugs, firearms and human smuggling.
    Furthermore, and again this is a key part of this issue, the RCMP reports that violence and intimidation tactics continue to be associated with the contraband tobacco trade. As any organized criminal activity will prove, there is an increase in violence, in the threat to public safety and other criminal activity associated with this.

  (1245)  

    The federal government launched the RCMP's contraband tobacco enforcement strategy in 2008. They worked together.The contraband tobacco enforcement strategy focuses on reducing the ability of, and demand for, contraband tobacco, and the involvement of organized crime.
     In addition to the enforcement measures of this strategy, the task force on illicit tobacco products was formed to identify concrete measures to disrupt and reduce the trade in contraband tobacco. We worked together with our partners and other agencies throughout the country. This task force brought together a number of different facets and stakeholders, and law enforcement to look at how we reduce the demand for, stop the production of, and disrupt the illegal activity surrounding contraband tobacco.
    Based on the recommendations of the task force, the Government of Canada announced in May 2010 an investment of $20 million for a series of measures to disrupt the supply of and demand for contraband tobacco. Again, I know the opposition talked about resources to do this. We are really taking a very strong, measured approach where we have the legislation that we need but we are also providing resources to tackle this problem. That is the way we have to look at it; we cannot just come at it from one angle but from a number of levels.
    These measures are paying off. Since the inception of the contraband tobacco enforcement strategy in 2008 and up to May 2012, the RCMP has laid approximately 4,925 charges under the Excise Act, 2001, and disrupted approximately 66 organized crime groups involved in the contraband tobacco trade throughout Canada. Again, this is paying off.
     There is still more work to be done, but we can see that the RCMP is able to target, intercept and stop this activity. What they need now is an ability to charge under the Criminal Code and to have mandatory minimum sentences for repeat offenders and those who are trading in large quantities of tobacco.
    During that time period that I mentioned, approximately 3.5 million cartons or unmarked bags of cigarettes were seized nationally by the RCMP, along with numerous vehicles, vessels and property. Those numbers are staggering, when we think that that number of cigarettes is being sold illegally, getting into the hands of our children, sometimes tainted with who knows what, as my colleague has mentioned. There are so many problems surrounding contraband tobacco. We can just look at the numbers: 3.5 million cartons sized by the RCMP.
    We are proud that the strategy is having an effect. Again, we believe that this bill will just add another layer of strength to the contraband tobacco enforcement strategy.
    Taken together, these initiatives are having a measurable and positive impact on reducing the contraband tobacco market. It is clear that the illicit tobacco market is dominated by criminal organizations, motivated by the lure of significant profits and relatively low risk.
    Enforcement actions are therefore directed at increasing the risks associated with contraband tobacco activities, dismantling illegal manufacturing facilities, disrupting the supply lines, apprehending key figures, confiscating conveyances such as trucks and boats, and seizing the proceeds of crime. Again, it is a whole strategy where, piece by piece, law enforcement can take apart the organized crime element of the contraband tobacco activity. These actions will achieve a disruption in the flow of illicit tobacco and weaken the organized crime groups involved in the production, distribution, smuggling and trafficking of contraband tobacco.
    To achieve these goals, the RCMP has engaged in joint targeted initiatives with law enforcement partners and other stakeholders across Canada and even, as mentioned earlier, internationally. These initiatives range from short-term to long-term investigations, from simple to complex, and include varying awareness campaigns.
    While we do recognize we have made gains, we also do realize that as legislators we need to do more. We need to make sure that Bill S-16 passes, that criminal activity is indeed targeted, and that there are mandatory minimum sentences associated with organized crime for individuals who are trafficking large quantities of contraband tobacco.
     I move:
    That this question be now put.

  (1250)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the parliamentary secretary for her speech.
    The NDP and I recognize that cigarettes and contraband cigarettes are a scourge. We have seen some disturbing statistics on the rise in this type of trafficking.
    However, the Excise Act, 2001, and the Criminal Code already cover all these offences. Bill S-16 seems to be redundant.
    I would like to know why the government decided to introduce Bill S-16 instead of reviewing and enforcing the comprehensive laws that are in effect, such as the Excise Act, 2001, and the Criminal Code. What is the motivation behind Bill S-16?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, currently under the Excise Act, there are limitations whereby charges can be laid and penalties can be imposed. When Bill S-16 passes, for example, even if there were 10 Excise Act convictions in an accused person's past, if there were no prior Criminal Code convictions, a mandatory minimum penalty could not be sought.
    That is why this law is important. If somebody is trafficking or in possession of not just small amounts, but large quantities of tobacco, as I laid out in my speech, and it is clear that they are trafficking large quantities, under the new law a new provision would be within the Criminal Code that would allow for further penalty.
    I want to let my hon. colleague know about the other thing it would do. The Excise Act right now is a federal act, so it could be implemented federally, but the provinces are limited and provincial law enforcement has limitations. When we have this specific and very tailored offence and we make sure that it is not an overly draconian penalty, it gives provincial law enforcement officials an extra tool. They can still charge under the Excise Act if they see it is fitting, but they would now have the Criminal Code as well.

  (1255)  

    Mr. Speaker, I think all of us in the House have had contact with people, whether family, friends or co-workers, who have struggled with or are struggling with an addiction to tobacco. I think all of us want to do what we can to minimize the possibility of that addiction.
    It is obvious from the research that many times the people who are addicted, some of whom have overcome it and some of whom have not, have been caught very early in life. I felt that one statistic that my colleague shared was very important, and I would just like her to repeat the percentage of cigarettes that are found on high school grounds. A very high percentage of the butts there are from contraband tobacco.
    I wonder if she could just repeat that statistic, because I think it indicates the seriousness of the situation and the importance of our taking action on this matter.
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague makes a very valid point. I know this from my own family experience. I actually lost a sister to lung cancer. She smoked for 35 years and she started as a young teenager. Sadly, the majority of people who are addicted to cigarettes today and want so badly to quit started as very young teenagers. They probably thought they would just try it our and never really continue, but as we know, it is an incredibly addictive substance.
    The statistic that my colleague was referring to was a study that was done in Ontario and Quebec. In Ontario a full third and in Quebec 40% of all cigarette products used in high schools were contraband tobacco. Again, we are not talking about adults; we are talking about people in high school.
    This is not just an issue of young people buying cheap cigarettes or, as I said, family members buying other family members cheap cigarettes when they go across the border or getting them within Canada. This is a much larger problem.
    The other issue, which is something we are finding out more about, is that because these cigarettes are produced illegally, we do not even know what is in them. We already know just how poisonous and harmful basic cigarettes are when they are produced legally; illegally produced tobacco products are laced with all kinds of additional dangerous things that we have absolutely no way of controlling.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to follow up on the member's speech and pick up on a line of questioning I put to my colleague from Montreal earlier. This is an important bill because it would deal with a very serious problem. In my community, I have been lobbied, as I have said before, by retailers, the local RCMP detachment and community policing, but, from our perspective, it is important to remember that this has to be in concert with other activities.
    I would like to ask the member if she could explain to the House a few things. How does the government contemplate messaging out to Canadians? We have seen very serious cuts in anti-smoking and smoking cessation campaigns and publicity in Canada since the arrival of the government. We have seen cuts in support for a number of community activities to engage our kids when it really counts, between the ages of 8 and 12, before they start to smoke or perhaps make even worse choices.
    How does the government foresee going forward on dealing with a contraband issue, which is serious? How is it going to message out and increase the understanding and information in Canadian society so folks do not begin to smoke in the first place and do not participate in the purchase of contraband materials?

  (1300)  

    Mr. Speaker, although I appreciate the question, there are a number of facts that the member has wrong.
    Let me begin with the basics. Our government has increased and sustained the transfers to the provinces. The provinces are primarily responsible for health care, as well as education. When we talk about young people being educated at the local level, we are the government that did not cut transfers to the provinces but increased them.
    On another level, our government introduced new warning labels on packages of cigarettes and little cigars, which contain a quit line phone number and a website for people who want help to quit smoking. It was also our government that banned flavoured little cigars, which were clearly targeting young people.
    Again, this is a multilevel approach and strategy that we have endeavoured to take. Our government has provided $20 million for the contraband tobacco strategy and increased funding to the provinces so they can do their work in terms of health care and education. Legislatively we are providing this bill, as well as other measures, to combat contraband tobacco, as well as a 50-member RCMP task force.
    Today, we are talking about the issue of smoking, but this bill definitely targets contraband tobacco and organized crime activity. As much as I appreciate the member's questions, our federal government has taken the strongest leadership position in legislation, funding and real measures that help people know the dangers of smoking.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for her speech. We agree that contraband tobacco is a scourge that must be addressed. The parliamentary secretary mentioned certain issues related to public safety and the health of young people.
    I would like to raise the following point. The National Assembly of Quebec conducted a study and in its February 2012 report recommended that the Government of Quebec create a joint commission involving five parties, namely the governments of Quebec, Ontario, Canada and the United States as well as the Mohawk nation, to fight contraband tobacco. The report also called for an action plan that would deal with, among other things, a win-win agreement between the government and aboriginal governments to stop the large-scale tax-exempt sale of tobacco to non-aboriginal people. I would like to know whether the government is consulting with first nations, among others, and with aboriginal people, to tackle this problem.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, when we established the task force for combatting contraband tobacco, we engaged all sectors such as aboriginal communities, law enforcement and convenience store owners. I met with a number of them just the other day. On first nations reserves, contraband tobacco is a problem, the organized criminal activity aspect of it, as well as what I just mentioned, the health part with regard to addiction to cigarettes.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard.
    Unfortunately, time is short. I will not make use of the privilege of making a 20-minute speech. That way, any of my colleagues who so desire will have the opportunity to talk about this bill by expressing their concerns about or their support for the positive aspects of Bill S-16.
    The use of time allocation motions has been a real tragedy in our democracy during the 41st Parliament. This bill addresses a very important issue that affects society in many ways. It is a public health, tax collection and major crime issue. It is truly appalling that the government is so foolishly restricting our attempts to put forward constructive proposals in order to stimulate debate and potentially improve this bill, if needed.
    This debate is all the more necessary because Bill S-16 is designed to amend sections of the Criminal Code, which is not a bad thing in and of itself. Quite the opposite, actually.
    This bill comes to us from the Senate, not from the Minister of Justice, which would have been logical and certainly preferable. The government's approach is very questionable and does not help us in our work. It raises questions about the government's motivation and about what it is hoping to achieve by introducing this bill.
    I am not denying that it is good to be able to use this bill to discuss this issue. However, is Bill S-16 the best way to fight contraband tobacco? Unfortunately, this bill raises more questions than it answers.
    Just a few weeks ago, we celebrated the two-year anniversary of my short career here in the House. During my time here, I have had the privilege of being the critic for small business and tourism, for one.
    There is no denying that contraband tobacco, in addition to being a criminal activity and a real threat to our society, is a very serious problem that threatens the profitability of many small businesses.
    Often, these businesses are owned by just one person who has a similar status to an employee. These business owners, who may have one to three employees, are just trying to earn an honest living.
    These small business owners shoulder almost all of the responsibility for the business and they often do not make very much money, particularly in the first few years after they start or acquire the business. Absolutely anything that reduces their profit margin poses a very serious threat to their business. It can make the difference between earning an honest living or the business failing or going bankrupt. We hope that many of those businesses avoid bankruptcy, but there are motivated entrepreneurs who are prepared to enter the business world whose businesses fail and disappear. That is just how it works.
    All small convenience-store-type businesses make a lot of money from tobacco sales. They can make a bigger profit from tobacco than they can from many other products. A significant drop in the sale of tobacco products seriously cuts into the profits of these types of businesses.

  (1305)  

    I think that we can quite easily reach a consensus with the government on this issue. In fact, we are in favour of any measures that support small businesses, as long as the government gives us the opportunity to present our arguments and suggest improvements that will allow us to address the challenges associated with the fight against contraband tobacco.
    I would like to focus on a very questionable aspect of this bill. I had the great privilege of being a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for a time and helping the committee examine bills, particularly private members' bills that amended provisions of the Criminal Code. Unfortunately, these private members' bills too often failed to meet their objectives. As part of the study of these bills, we often heard witnesses strongly declare that the proposed measures, despite their good intentions, would not help the situation and could even make it worse.
    The aspect of the bill that I seriously question is the mandatory minimum sentencing for various types of offences. I hope that this will be examined in more detail by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
    I would like to talk about the testimony of former Supreme Court justice John C. Major, who appeared before the committee. As a very experienced and learned legal expert and a former member of the Supreme Court, Justice Major was in a position to correctly assess the pertinence, usefulness and effects of mandatory minimum sentences. I do not wish to repeat everything he said, but he did conclude that there was no conclusive evidence that mandatory minimum sentences are a deterrent and of any real use.
    In fact, Justice Major, and other witnesses as well, said that, in the complex and subtle mechanism of court proceedings, the fact that there are mandatory minimum sentences could even be an incentive for the parties in question. In fact, the prosecutors and the defence attorneys could come to an agreement to avoid this type of measure with the judge's agreement, simply because it would not allow for any room to manoeuvre in a criminal case.
    It does go quite far. In the end, it would be detrimental to the work done in the justice system to enforce the Criminal Code. This will become apparent in the coming years, if we are not already seeing it in certain cases. This very serious consequence deserves to be studied in depth. In my opinion, it is the most debatable aspect of this bill.
    I urge government members to seriously consider, question, or at least take the time to assess the adverse effects of mandatory minimum sentences. If we should continue down this road, we will at least understand how this can usefully be applied to fighting crime related to the illegal trafficking of tobacco.

  (1310)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. He touched on some very interesting points that are important to me as well.
    He spoke about mandatory minimum sentences and the impact they have, and he also spoke about the impact that contraband tobacco has on small and medium-sized businesses. We are actually talking about small and very small businesses. I am sure he has those in his riding.
    Could he speak more about those two points he raised in his speech?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from LaSalle—Émard for her question.
    Starting up a business is always a challenge. However, competition is very tough for small businesses in this type of traditional sector. There are also a large number of factors that can cut into profitability. My colleague from Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup can attest to that. He is currently working on the issue of fees associated with credit card reward programs.
    The huge fees prevent these small businesses from predicting costs and profits. Their sales figures can be undermined by lower revenues from the sale of tobacco products, which still has a good profit margin. There are two very different types of risks here, which makes things extremely complicated for small business owners.

  (1315)  

    Mr. Speaker, the government boasts about wanting to combat organized crime involved in contraband cigarettes. It may want to pass a law to punish people who are caught smuggling cigarettes, but in general, the leaders of organized crime groups do not get their hands dirty. We would have liked to know what this government, which boasts about being tough on crime, will do about the Mafia leaders who are currently praying in church for this government to be re-elected, since the government is making their lives so much easier by making cuts to the budgets of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canada's correctional services.
    I would like to know how this bill will protect us from these major criminals, the people who lead organized crime groups. What would be appropriate measures and budgets to go after these people who have created a state within a state?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin for his heartfelt speech, which echoes the words of our colleague from Compton—Stanstead. This member spoke about the border services' lack of resources to combat contraband tobacco.
    To answer my colleague, quite frankly, I really do not see how this bill would enable us to touch those famous Mafia bosses.
     The other thing that bothers me is that the government is vastly undermining our capabilities. For example, I spend a lot of time on the road travelling to the Hill. The trip takes me 4 hours and 30 minutes. The best way to combat speeding on our roads is not to enact tougher laws, but rather to station patrol cars on the side of the road. This is when everyone starts hitting the brakes.
    In short, it is obvious that the problems are not primarily related to legislation. Legislation can result in significant progress in regard to the bosses and large-scale organized crime. However, the much bigger problem lies with the resources allocated to carry out investigations in order to enforce the law as it is.
    Mr. Speaker, cigarettes are a scourge. There is no doubt about that. They are a health hazard and lead to serious addiction.
    Over the years, measures have been taken to control tobacco as much as possible and to dissuade people from taking up smoking. As some of my colleagues mentioned, very young people will start smoking despite all of the warnings, and they will often be far more affected by their dependence on cigarettes.
    The NDP also recognizes that contraband cigarettes—the illegal sale of cigarettes—is also a scourge because they are often sold for less and can encourage new smokers and young smokers. Contraband cigarettes help perpetuate the negative impact of smoking.
    I have the honour and privilege of representing the riding of LaSalle—Émard, which is on the Island of Montreal, in Quebec. There are a large number of convenience store owners in my riding. I had the opportunity to meet with the convenience store association, whose members are feeling the economic impact of contraband cigarettes. That is what is so paradoxical about this product, which is such a health hazard. The government is making money off it and trying to control it at the same time. Convenience store owners are feeling the economic impact of contraband cigarettes. Quebec and Ontario are often affected.
    Documents provided by the Library of Parliament indicate that, under current laws, namely the Excise Act, 2001 and the Criminal Code, cigarette seizures by the RCMP have been increasing over time. There has been a tremendous increase. The number of seizures was quite low between 2001 and 2004, and then it suddenly skyrocketed.
    The legislative summary suggests that law enforcement priorities may have played a role as well. Trafficking in contraband cigarettes has increased significantly and not just Canadian cigarettes, but imported cigarettes as well. Under the current regime, the RCMP can already make major seizures. We can see that in the statistics in the chart, which is very clear and quite graphic. Dealing with this scourge was a priority.
    We must debate Bill S-16, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in contraband tobacco), which is also called the Tackling Contraband Tobacco Act. This bill originated in the Senate and seeks to create a special provision on contraband tobacco. Again, I am not denying the fact that this is a scourge and that we must deal with it here in the House. However, I want to talk about the laws currently in effect to deal with this problem. Under the current legislative regime, RCMP seizures have gone up.

  (1320)  

    We saw that tackling contraband cigarettes may have been made a priority. That is why I am puzzled. I am not saying that I do not support Bill S-16, but I am wondering about the measures already in place that seem to be doing the job.
    As I mentioned, the Excise Act, 2001, is in effect and we also have the Criminal Code.
    Charges under the Criminal Code may include, but are not limited to: fraud, conspiracy, conspiracy to commit offences, participation in activities of criminal organization, and possession of property obtained by crime.
    Under the Excise Act, 2001, the offences are:
...selling, offering for sale, purchasing or possessing unpackaged or non-stamped raw leaf tobacco (section 30) and the possession, sale or offering for sale of tobacco products that are not stamped (section 32), both of which are “hybrid offences”.
    The Excise Act, 2001, already provides specifics that truly tackle the illegal sale of tobacco.
    We are still talking about the enforcement and impact of Bill S-16. The legislative summary goes on to say:
    Criminal enforcement under the Excise Act, 2001 may be carried out by “any police force in Canada” that is designated according to certain conditions. It appears that the RCMP is the force designated as such. In comparison, all police forces may enforce Criminal Code provisions.
    This covers quite a bit in terms of the enforcement and impact of existing legislation.
    The parliamentary secretary also talked about something mentioned in the legislative summary:
    The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs submitted observations with its report on the bill, suggesting that the government consider providing provincial police with enforcement powers under the Excise Act, 2001, as well as under the Customs Act.
    Once again, this is about problems related to enforcing the law.
    I would like to share an interesting example. It is important to understand that a number of stakeholders are involved in enforcing this law. However, a number of stakeholders also find themselves on the other side of the law, that is, breaking the law.
    Coming back to the legislative summary, it states:
    For example, in the Cornwall area, there are various efforts such as joint investigative units and a task force to encourage collaboration between various enforcement organizations such as the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Cornwall Community Police Service and the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service.
    In my opinion, that is a good example of co-operation between all stakeholders in order to enforce various laws that fight contraband.
    In conclusion, I would like to point out that the NDP takes the problem of tobacco contraband in Canada seriously. I mentioned this in my introduction and I am saying it again now.
    Tobacco contraband is a problem that affects health and public safety, tax revenues and the profitability of small businesses, as I already pointed out. For that reason, the NDP has asked the federal government to take action on this issue and to co-operate with the communities affected the most. That is very important.

  (1325)  

    The government must provide the necessary resources to the Canada Border Services Agency and the RCMP in order to properly deal with the problem because it is also an international issue.
    Unfortunately, as we saw in the most recent budget, the government did not. The cuts will hinder the fight against counterfeiting and contraband.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague's speech. I would really like to thank her for the wonderful work she does leading us in industry committee and as our NDP industry critic.
    We on the west coast have some real concerns about counterfeiting, mainly because the port of Vancouver is the top entryway for contraband cigarettes in Canada and we have just eliminated the Coast Guard station there. Now we have no Coast Guard presence at all monitoring these ships that are coming in.
    We are supporting sending the bill to committee to look at this issue. I would like to ask my colleague how, in light of these facts, we might expand our investigation here to include issues like Coast Guard presence on the west coast.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, who does an excellent job as our science and technology critic. He raised a very important point about good intentions. Having good intentions is commendable.
    However, we have questions about how the bill will be enforced. My colleague raised the point that contraband cigarettes are no longer a local issue, but that they have become national and international issues. How can we successfully tackle contraband?
    I want to point out that it will be the same thing with Bill C-56, which deals with counterfeit goods, if we do not come up with measures to back up our plans.

  (1330)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her speech. She began by calling tobacco use a real scourge. I have been a smoker for a very long time, many years in fact, and I regret ever starting. Right now, I have not had a cigarette in 10 days, and I hope to successfully quit.
    I studied the bill and did not see any measures to address the issue of demand. When we talk about contraband, it is a question of supply and demand. If people continue to demand these products, others will produce them.
    I would like to know if my colleague thinks the bill includes any specific measures to stop people from smoking or at least to ensure that there is no demand for contraband products. Does the bill contain any measures of a more social nature related to health, or is it a strictly justice-related or technical bill?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question.
    She raised the issue of prevention. I agree that one of the problems is indeed supply and demand. She also mentioned the health aspect. As another member mentioned earlier, the federal government cut funding for anti-smoking programs.
    This bill is more about simply amending the Criminal Code. However, we need to take a holistic approach in order to determine who is involved in this market on both ends—both the buying and selling. That is a very good point, and it also relates to our economy.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am sharing my time with the very hard-working member for Wetaskiwin.
    I am pleased to say a few words about Bill S-16, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in contraband tobacco)
    This bill contains a number of very important amendments to the Criminal Code aimed directly at the criminals who are flooding Canada with illicit tobacco products that undermine the Canadian economy, fuel addiction, and add to the already serious long-term health issues associated with smoking.
    As we have heard, this is not the first time that Canada has faced the challenge of contraband tobacco. When the problem first arose some two decades ago, it had to do with our own legally manufactured and exported tobacco products being smuggled back into our domestic market at greatly reduced prices. Through a combination of tax policy and enforcement measures, we were able to stem the tide of this early onslaught of contraband tobacco.
    Since then, the primary legislative vehicle for controlling this illegal trade has been the Excise Act. This legislation combines fines, jail terms and forfeitures to enforce the prohibition against selling tobacco products that have not been stamped. Stamping indicates that the excise tax has been paid. Unfortunately, despite this legislation and despite the efforts of dedicated law enforcement officials, contraband tobacco remains a serious threat to the public safety of Canadians, their communities and the Canadian economy.
     Although there are several sources for the contraband tobacco products that are entering Canada, the illicit trade is driven largely by illegal operations run by criminal organizations in both Canada and the United States. In this regard, the provinces of Ontario and Quebec have the highest concentration of illegal manufacturing operations, the majority of the high-volume smuggling points and the largest number of consumers of contraband tobacco.
    In response, the government launched the RCMP contraband tobacco enforcement strategy in 2008 with a focus on reducing the availability and demand for contraband tobacco and on weakening the involvement of organized crime in this illegal industry. At the same time, the task force on illicit tobacco products was formed to identify concrete measures to disrupt or reduce the trade in contraband tobacco. The next year, the task force presented a lengthy report to the Minister of Public Safety in which it noted that at least 30% of Canadian tobacco purchases involved contraband tobacco.
    One of the primary drivers of this illicit trade, aside from the willingness of consumers to pay markedly reduced prices, has been the shift from single individuals or small groups conducting sporadic smuggling to organized crime groups doing the smuggling and distributing the illicit tobacco through their criminal networks.
    Clearly, the time has come to take steps to come to grips with the growing nature of this illegal activity and the growing involvement of criminal organizations whose related activities include the smuggling of other items into Canada using the same networks, which is particularly alarming.
    This is the context in which we must evaluate Bill S-16.
     Briefly, the bill is one part of a two-part response to the issue I have described. The first part is the bill itself. It proposes to amend the Criminal Code to create a new hybrid offence of trafficking in contraband tobacco, with mandatory minimum penalties for repeat offenders. The second part of the response is the implementation of a strengthened anti-contraband enforcement strategy that includes the establishment of an anti-contraband force made up of 50 RCMP officers. Both of these proposals respond to the 2011 election platform commitments of this government.
    I will go into a bit more detail on exactly what is contained in Bill S-16.
    First, the bill would create a new offence in the Criminal Code to deal with contraband tobacco trafficking. Indeed, the bill would prohibit the possession for the purpose of sale, offer for sale, or the transportation, delivery or distribution of a tobacco product, or raw leaf tobacco that is not packaged unless it is stamped. The terms “tobacco product”, “raw leaf tobacco”, “package” and “stamped” have the same meaning as in section 2 of the Excise Act, 2001. This would ensure consistency in our national enforcement efforts.
    Pursuant to these proposed amendments, the maximum penalty for a first offence would be up to six months' imprisonment on a summary conviction and up to five years' imprisonment if prosecuted on an indictment.

  (1335)  

    Repeat offenders, convicted of this new offence in cases involving 10,000 cigarettes or more, 10 kilograms or more of any other tobacco product or 10 kilograms or more of any raw leaf tobacco would be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 90 days on a second conviction, a mandatory minimum of 180 days on a third conviction and a mandatory minimum of 2 years less a day on subsequent convictions.
    The amendments proposed in the, appropriately titled, tackling contraband tobacco act would not only respond to our domestic problems but would equally respond to the broader international efforts to combat trafficking in tobacco. Let us recall in this context that tobacco smuggling by definition means the illegal movement of goods over national frontiers. Tobacco smuggling is a particularly widespread illegal activity and has an impact on a great number of countries. Thus, Canada is not alone in wanting to put an end to this illicit commerce.
    In any attempt to combat organized crime's involvement in tobacco smuggling, one must recognize that organized crime adopts all forms of corruption to infiltrate political, economic and social levels all over the world. This issue has been addressed at both global and regional levels and continues to receive substantial domestic and international attention.
     The international community has adopted many international instruments dealing with criminal law. These international agreements attest to a country's recognition of the need for international co-operation to tackle international crime. One aspect of international co-operation that is repeatedly found in these instruments deals with mutual legal assistance. This form of international co-operation is one of the most powerful tools employed by governments to reduce the incidence of international crime.
    Therefore, not only does tobacco smuggling necessarily contain an international dimension, one that sometimes involves several countries and the crossing of several borders; it also involves, as our own law enforcement representatives have informed us, significant organized crime group participation. Bill S-16 would not exist in isolation. While this new legislation would help Canada combat tobacco smuggling, it would also help us combat tobacco smuggling and organized crime outside our own borders, not just in Canada alone.
    In closing, I thank hon. members for their attention and urge them to consider the broad context in which Bill S-16 must be assessed. Once they have done that, I am convinced they will agree with me that this bill ought to be passed and implemented without delay.

  (1340)  

    Mr. Speaker, in the context of contraband tobacco, forgive me, but every time someone mentions organized crime I tend to think of the tobacco industry as organized crime, having lost my grandfather to lung cancer at a time when cigarette companies advertised tobacco as safe and recommended by doctors despite the U.S. surgeon general's warning.
    However, in this case, we know we are fighting contraband tobacco, and the bill would be helpful. However, I am concerned about some aspects of it, and I wonder whether the hon. member thinks there will be room for amendments in committee.
    Mr. Speaker, I am not on the committee dealing with this bill, but I know these bills get looked at very seriously in committee.
    I would agree with the hon. member on her concern about the importance of combating the dangers associated with tobacco. That is why, with the five-year renewal of the federal tobacco strategy in 2012, Health Canada will continue its very dedicated work on tobacco control initiatives that are aimed to preserve the gains we have made in the last 10 years, which are quite significant.
    Mr. Speaker, I am glad to rise in my place today and speak to this legislation. I would like to thank my colleague the member of Parliament for Barrie for sharing his time with me, for his excellent speech and for his support of the bill.
    I rise to speak in favour of Bill S-16, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in contraband tobacco). This enactment proposes amendments to the Criminal Code to create new offences for trafficking in contraband tobacco and to provide minimum penalties of imprisonment for persons who are convicted of a second or a subsequent time for this offence.
    This legislation would prohibit possession for the purpose of sale or offer to sale, the transportation of or the delivery or distribution of a tobacco product or raw leaf tobacco that is not packaged, unless it is officially stamped. The terms “tobacco product”, “raw leaf tobacco”, “packaged” and “stamped” have the same meanings as in section 2 of the Excise Act, 2001.
    The maximum penalty for a first offence would be up to six months' imprisonment on summary conviction and up to five years' imprisonment if prosecuted by way of indictment. Repeat offenders convicted of this new offence in cases involving 10,000 cigarettes or more, 10 kilograms or more of any other tobacco product, or 10 kilograms or more of raw leaf tobacco would be sentenced to a minimum of 90 days on second conviction, a minimum of 180 days on a third conviction and a minimum of two years less a day on all subsequent convictions.
    Overall, the proposals represent a tailored approach to the imposition of mandatory minimum penalties for serious contraband tobacco activities. The bill proposes mandatory minimum penalties only in cases where there are certain aggravating factors present.
    Trafficking in contraband tobacco is a serious problem that requires serious remedies. As some members will recall, a contraband tobacco market became a significant issue in Canada in the late 1980s. During that period, more and more legally manufactured Canadian cigarettes destined for the duty-free market began making their way back into the Canadian underground economy. The high retail price of legitimate cigarettes made the smuggling of cigarettes across the border a striving and lucrative illicit business.
    The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canadian customs seized large quantities of contraband tobacco. The RCMP was also engaged in investigating this illegal activity at its source. These investigations eventually led to several tobacco companies having to pay more than $1.5 billion in criminal fines and civil restitution.
    While this type of smuggling activity largely has subsided, the illicit tobacco market in Canada has rebounded in recent years, involving contraband tobacco that is primarily connected not to the diversion of legally manufactured products but to the illegal manufacture, distribution and selling of contraband tobacco products. It also includes to a lesser degree the illegal importation of counterfeit cigarettes and other forms of illicit tobacco from abroad.
    Organized crime groups play a central role in the contraband tobacco trade in Canada, and this means that this illegal activity is linked with other kinds of crime. Most of the organized crime gangs that are involved in the illicit tobacco market are also active in other forms of criminal behaviour.
    The problem is further complicated and exacerbated by the fact that some of the illegal manufacturers that supply the Canadian market are on the U.S. side of the Akwesasne Mohawk territory, which spans the border between Quebec, Ontario and New York state.
    Members should know that transnational crime of the type found in contraband tobacco smuggling is considered a threat to public safety and national security and has a direct impact on individual Canadian businesses and our economy. It also has implications for relationships with our international partners, especially the United States. In this regard, however, Canada and the U.S. share a long history of law enforcement co-operation across our shared border.
    Contraband tobacco is driven largely by illegal operations on both sides of the border. The provinces of Ontario and Quebec have the highest concentration of contraband tobacco manufacturing operations, the majority of high volume smuggling points and the largest number of consumers of contraband tobacco.

  (1345)  

    Criminal organizations are motivated by the lure of significant profits and relatively low risks in this sphere of illegal activity. Enforcement actions are, therefore, directed at increasing the risks associated with contraband tobacco activities: dismantling illegal manufacturing facilities, disrupting distribution supply lines, apprehending key figures and individuals, confiscating conveyances such as trucks and boats, and seizing the proceeds of crime. These actions have the dual goals of disrupting the illicit flow of tobacco and weakening the organized crime groups involved in the production, distribution, smuggling and trafficking of contraband tobacco.
    To achieve these goals, the RCMP has engaged in joint targeted initiatives with law enforcement partners and other stakeholders across Canada and even, as mentioned earlier, internationally. These initiatives, varying in their degree of complexity, include short- and long-term joint investigations, outreach and awareness campaigns and active participation in inter-agency contraband tobacco task forces and groups. Unfortunately, contraband tobacco remains a serious threat to our communities, and if left unchecked, organized crime will continue to profit at the expense of the health and safety of Canadians.
    Recent intelligence indicates a rise in counterfeit tobacco products entering the Canadian market. These illegal products are then transported through nationwide networks for sale to consumers as a cheaper alternative to legitimate tobacco products, thereby making them more accessible to Canadian youth.
    Protecting society from criminals is a responsibility our government takes very seriously. Overall, the proposals represent a tailored approach to the imposition of mandatory minimum penalties for serious contraband tobacco activities. This bill proposes minimum penalties only in cases where there are certain aggravating factors present.
    This bill is part of the government's continued commitment to take steps to protect Canadians and to make our streets and communities safer. Canadians want a justice system that has clear and strong laws that denounce and deter serious crimes, including illicit activities involving contraband tobacco. They want laws that impose penalties that adequately reflect the serious nature of these crimes, and this bill would achieve that.
    I encourage all of my colleagues and members on each side of the House to fully support Bill C-16. It is high time we made this the law of the land.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech, and I commend him for it. As was already mentioned, the NDP will support this bill at second reading.
    I am still wondering about how effective the bill will be and what impact it will have on the tax evasion associated with contraband cigarettes in Canada, which deprives the government of over $2 billion in tax revenue a year.
    I would like my colleague to share his thoughts on that.

  (1350)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question that is being asked. In my riding, there are a lot of great folks who live on first nations territory. Some time ago, a seizure was made at one of the bands, where 14 million contraband cigarettes were seized on that reserve. This particular group of reserves is quite notorious across Canada, sometimes for good reasons but also sometimes for bad reasons, with its links to organized crime. The Alberta government stepped in and confiscated this illegal tobacco due to the fact that it did not have a provincial stamp, which resulted in a loss of revenue in just that shipment alone of several million dollars of taxes that should have been collected.
    This is a very serious issue. We cannot have a situation where there are two different streams, one of contraband and one of a legal flow of goods and services in this country. Not only is the contraband not a healthy choice and not inspected by the appropriate authorities, but it evades the taxes that are duly imposed upon these goods in order to address the serious issues that we have as a nation.
    Mr. Speaker, the member addressed some of the issues relating to contraband tobacco—the criminal element, the tax evasion element and the negative health aspect—but the one aspect that I am sure my colleague is even more familiar with than most of us in the House, because of his former occupation in the education field, is the impact on youth. Many of us have witnessed the addictive qualities of tobacco. The earlier youth are introduced to tobacco, the greater the likelihood they will not be able to get rid of this addiction later in life. Research clearly shows that the large majority of tobacco that is smoked on college and high school campuses is of a contraband nature.
    I am wondering if my colleague could comment on how serious it is that we take action on this now.
    Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada and the Minister of Health and others have taken several measures on this side of the House, in particular, to deal with these issues. For example, when it came to clarifying the tobacco laws on adding flavours or other types of things that would be an enhancement or an inducement to young people, or making the packaging look like gum or candy cigarettes, these were dealt with on this side of the House.
    We have had active education campaigns to ensure that Canadians understand the risks to health and the dangers from smoking. These are some of the initiatives we have done. We have also changed the labelling on cigarette packaging to clearly indicate the health concerns, making it less attractive for Canadians, especially young Canadians, to go down the road of even starting smoking.
    Mr. Speaker, I am opposed to tobacco addiction as much as anybody else, and I appreciate the member's comments.
     However, are we into the new normal here now? The Senate passes legislation. It has the whole process, then it comes here. We have one hour of debate, and then closure is called. We are the rubber stamp for the other place. Is that the new normal the government is taking on?
    Mr. Speaker, the fact that the member stood and asked me a question in the House is a clear indication that the member has an opportunity to voice his opinion on the bill.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would first like to indicate that I will be sharing my time with the excellent member for Churchill, who is a great MP, by the way.
    At first glance, this bill, which seeks to amend the Criminal Code and tackle contraband tobacco, appears to be a small bill that amends a provision of the Criminal Code. However, rather than addressing the real problem and focusing on prevention, the bill once again amends the Criminal Code in order to make the justice system stronger. This is a very noble cause or objective. However, the problem is that every time the government wants to address a problem, rather than allocating more financial, material and human resources to the organizations that are actually doing the work in order to address the real problem, it amends one or two sections of the Criminal Code and leads people to believe that these measures will solve all of the problems and that everything will be fine as a result.
    I do not believe that solving the problem of contraband tobacco is that easy. We are talking about first nations, but contraband tobacco is a problem all across the country. Illegal cigarettes are flooding the market, and our young people are being shamelessly targeted by false Internet advertising. Why do we not pass similar legislation to deal with these ads?
    It is so easy to go online and order illegal cigarettes, which come from all over the world and are often made by children who work in atrocious conditions. The cigarettes end up on the market. What impact will this have on the health of our young people?
    Most of the provinces have extremely effective programs to combat smoking among young people. The federal government is trying, once again, to follow suit by investing in prevention. Prevention should take place at schools and in the schoolyards, but it also requires leadership. Our leaders need to take charge of the situation and send a clear message to the public that tobacco use is harmful to health.
    Illegal tobacco is harmful to our health and also to our economy. Every year, contraband in Canada causes us to lose more than $2 billion in taxes. We must set aside financial and physical resources, since smuggling is going on in our waters, such as Lake Champlain, Lac Memphrémagog, the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes. The Canada Border Services Agency and the RCMP do not have the physical resources they need to catch smugglers. They need resources on the ground or else they will not be able to fight crime.
    The Canada Border Services Agency is not inspecting packages because of an apparent lack of resources, time and personnel. How is that possible? It is unacceptable in a society like ours. This government brags about creating 1 million jobs. Give me a break. It cannot have created 1 million jobs, because we see no real evidence of that. Instead, what we see is that this government is ineffective and does not take action. Day after day, it makes investments in the wrong places.
    Prevention starts with our young people. We need to encourage them to play sports, read books and visit libraries and museums. Not museums that the Conservatives have modelled around their own ideology, but museums that provide an accurate portrayal of history. We must get them interested in things that will help develop their minds and that will open them up to the amazing opportunities and possibilities available to them as citizens of a country as rich and developed as ours.

  (1355)  

    As I said, we must take action and show leadership, and this leadership must start at the top.
    The time provided for government orders has expired. The member for Compton—Stanstead will have five minutes remaining after oral question period.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Portugal Week

    Mr. Speaker, this week Canadians of Portuguese heritage all across the country are celebrating Portugal Week. From coast to coast to coast, there will be festivals, parades, folk dances, sporting events and many community gatherings.
    This is a week to celebrate and recognize Portuguese cultural and historical heritage, which has been a part of Canada since the discovery of Labrador by Portuguese explorers more than 500 years ago. Making this year's festival even more special is the fact that this is the 60th year of large-scale Portuguese immigration to Canada.
    The Portuguese community is well established and well integrated across the country, particularly in my hometown of Toronto, and in Montreal.
    On behalf of our Conservative caucus, I want to thank all Canadians of Portuguese heritage for their contribution to our country. I wish them all a happy Portugal Week.
    [Member spoke in Portuguese]

  (1400)  

Student Civic Engagement

    Mr. Speaker, as the school year comes to a close, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the wonderful work being done by students in my constituency.
    These bright and promising young minds are discussing and promoting action on a vast array of important issues at both the local and federal levels, issues ranging from traffic congestion in my community to the Conservative government's inaction at the UN on the issue of violence against women, on the environment and all.
    I want to personally thank the students of Princess Margaret Secondary, North Delta Secondary, Tamanawis High School, Seaquam Secondary School, Delview Secondary School and many others for their civic engagement.
    I believe that our democracy is enriched by their participation and involvement in the political process.
     It is my pleasure to be the representative of these wonderful young people in Parliament and to have discussed these prominent issues with the students in my constituency. I want to thank them.

Human Trafficking

    Mr. Speaker, I am proud of Canada's leadership in combatting human trafficking.
    Yesterday, I returned from leading the Canadian delegation, on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, at a high-level conference focused on anti-human trafficking efforts in Kiev, Ukraine.
    I would like to thank Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe for hosting this conference. Canada commends Ukraine for making the fight against human trafficking one of its priority areas in 2013.
    The OSCE's area of work that covers human rights, democratic development and rule of law is a key priority for Canada. I was pleased to represent Canada and collaborate with experts from across the OSCE region and to share Canada's best practices in the fight against modern day slavery.
    In fact, I was delighted to share that one year ago our government launched its national action plan to combat human trafficking. Our government will continue to lead by example and take comprehensive measures to end slavery in our country and abroad.

Craft Sector in Cape Breton

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize Ms. Carol Beaton from Cape Breton.
    Her contribution to the growth of the craft sector of our island cannot be overstated. She has been contributing to the growth of this industry for well over a decade. Her work ethic and success are truly inspiring.
    Carol has spent many years as the executive director of the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design, and under her guidance the centre has grown tremendously.
    In her time as director, the centre has expanded from two employees to ten employees. She brought the funds together to construct a 14,000 square foot building to allow artists to showcase and sell their work year round.
    More than 78,000 people have visited this new centre since its opening in 2007. Carol's efforts have ensured the craft sector is a significant contributor to Cape Breton's economic and cultural infrastructure.
    I urge all members to join me in congratulating Carol Beaton for her great work and wishing her all the best in her retirement.

Parliamentary Precinct Security

    Mr. Speaker, on May 23, 1873, in this place, an act establishing what would be referred to as the North West Mounted Police was passed.
    Sir John A. Macdonald had a vision that a national police force would be used to calm tensions in the west.
    Today, the RCMP was called on to calm tensions in the east.
    Safety on Parliament Hill is paramount. The Leader of the Opposition apparently does not think so.
    When a police officer turns on their vehicle's emergency lights, it means stop, not to go through stop signs.
    Police officers are asked to do many things. One of the things they are not asked to be is be mind readers. If I were still a police officer and the Leader of the Opposition said, “Do you know who I am?” My reply to him would be, “As soon as you give me your driver's licence I will.”

  (1405)  

    Order. Before we continue with members' statements, I would remind all hon. members that the use of props is not acceptable in this House at any time. If members choose to use one, they will forfeit that speaking slot or possibly a question during question period.
    The hon. member for Scarborough Southwest.

Father's Day

    Mr. Speaker, Sunday is Father's Day.
     I rise with great pride to honour my father, David Harris, a French teacher at Donwood Park Junior Public School in Scarborough.
    Thanks to the great staff at Donwood, the school is also watching us here today.
    Being a single dad was challenging, especially with a kid like me. When I was growing up, he was always there, a stable rock who supported me through thick and thin. He showed me the value of hard work and following one's dreams when he went back to school to become a teacher.
    My love of French, passion for politics, and my values all come from my dad.
    He went the extra mile to make sure I had a relationship with my mom's family and a lot of time with our family, too. I could not have asked for a better dad.
    His support through my five election campaigns cannot be measured. I am standing here in this House because of him.
    I love him and want to say “thanks” to him.
    I ask all members to join me in thanking my dad and all dads who have made such meaningful contributions to all our lives.
    Happy Father's Day.

Human Rights

    Mr. Speaker, Canada is a tolerant and accepting nation, but the one thing that must never be tolerated is religious and cultural discrimination.
    The decision by the Quebec Soccer Federation to ban Sikh kids from taking part in soccer for wearing a turban is outrageous and contrary to the values of equality that our nation holds dear.
    Directly because of this ban, over 200 Sikh kids are banned from playing organized soccer in Quebec.
    The Canadian Soccer Association has suspended the Quebec Soccer Federation from all national games because of this ban.
    I applaud those who have voiced their opposition to this unfair and offensive policy in the interest of fairness and equality, including the Dollard Soccer Club, the Pierrefonds Soccer Association, and the under-14 Brossard soccer team.
    I would like to call upon all of my hon. colleagues to join with me in condemning this discriminatory policy by the Quebec Soccer Federation.

Fiesta Week

    Mr. Speaker, this week, in my home riding of Oshawa, we are celebrating the 39th annual Fiesta Week.
    Over the past 39 years, Fiesta Week has been, and continues to be, one of the most popular summer events in Oshawa for people of all ages. It is a colourful celebration of the cultural diversity of Durham region and the city of Oshawa.
    Fiesta Week allows Durham and Oshawa residents to experience European, Asian, and Caribbean cultures. Not only is it a great opportunity to experience these cultures, but it is also an opportunity to taste the wonderful cuisines from these regions. That is my favourite part.
    This Sunday is the kick-off for Fiesta Week and the festivities will start with a parade.
    Each year Fiesta Week continues to be an inspiring celebration of the cultural diversity of Oshawa.
    I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers and the Oshawa Folk Arts Council for making this wonderful celebration possible.
    I invite everyone to come and enjoy the fun and festivities.

[Translation]

Saint-Yves de Québec Parish

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to the 30 or so volunteers in the parish of Saint-Yves de Québec who form the refugee outreach committee.
    The committee was established in July 1979 during the dramatic events surrounding the boat people from Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Since 1979, the Saint-Yves de Québec parish has welcomed 344 newcomers, including 64 who arrived in the last year.
    Over the years, the Saint-Yves parish refugee outreach committee has sponsored refugees in distress, helped reunite families scattered by war and facilitated the integration of sponsored newcomers into Quebec society.
    I want to sincerely thank and commend the volunteers with the refugee outreach committee of the Saint-Yves parish for their immense generosity and the impressive quality of their outreach work, which has changed and continues to change life for the better for people in distress.

  (1410)  

[English]

Citizenship and Immigration

    Mr. Speaker, the NDP has reached a new low. It is defending the interests of terrorists rather than protecting law-abiding Canadians. The NDP has been instructed to try to block my private member's bill, Bill C-425, in committee and prevent it from moving forward.
    Bill C-425 would strip convicted terrorists of their Canadian citizenship. Eighty per cent of Canadians support strong measures like this to combat terrorism.
    The leader of the NDP and his party are completely out of touch with Canadians.
    Our Conservative government is committed to strengthening the value of Canadian citizenship. We do not think convicted terrorists deserve the privilege of calling themselves Canadians.
    I urge the leader of the NDP to stop trying to dilute the values of Canadian citizenship and standing up for the interests of terrorists, and let us move forward with my bill.

Thunder Pride

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate Thunder Pride on their 2013 community celebration that is taking place this weekend in Thunder Bay. Thunder Pride is the annual community celebration of diversity rights in northwestern Ontario and celebrates the history, courage, diversity and future of Thunder Bay's LBGTQ community.
    Some great events are still to come this weekend, including the Pride Parade and Pride in the Park, a music festival taking place this Saturday. More information can be found on the web at thunderpride.ca. This event, along with the city of Thunder Bay's respect campaign, is a demonstration of the fact that a respectful community means that we see the value in different perspectives, histories and journeys.
    I would like to thank and acknowledge the efforts of this year's co-chairs, Cynthia Olson and Scott Gale, who along with the countless number of volunteers and supporters, make this event such a great success each year.
     In closing, I would like to wish Cynthia, Scott and the volunteers of Thunder Pride all the best for their great week of events.
    I am sure I speak for all members of this place when I say that we are indeed proud to stand with them.

Citizenship and Immigration

    Mr. Speaker, when the leader of the NDP was not running stop signs and putting pedestrians at risk, he instructed his MPs to filibuster a private member's bill at the immigration committee for a third day now, potentially placing CF members at risk.
    What could be so important that the NDP has decided to spend almost three days filibustering? The answer is that they are fighting so that convicted terrorists can keep their Canadian citizenship.
    People heard me correctly. The NDP is fighting tooth and nail against stripping convicted terrorists of Canadian citizenship. The NDP is ignoring over 80% of Canadians who support the member for Calgary Northeast's bill, and instead is choosing to dilute the value of Canadian citizenship. The NDP has reached a new low and is showing yet again how out of touch its members are about what matters to Canadians.
    I call on the leader of the NDP to stop these games, and at stop signs, and to let the immigration committee move forward with this bill so that we can strip Canadian citizenship from convicted terrorists. We know who he is.

Governor General's Academic Medal

    Mr. Speaker, the Governor General's Academic Medal, created in 1873 by Lord Dufferin to encourage and celebrate academic greatness by a student in a Canadian school, is awarded to the best and brightest, scholars such as Pierre Trudeau, Kim Campbell and Tommy Douglas. Award winners have gone on to be leaders in industry, science, and yes, government.
    Today, Guelph proudly celebrates that its own Dr. Adriano Senatore will be awarded a gold medal for his Ph.D. graduate work. Dr. Senatore's work at the University of Waterloo on the evolutionary analysis of ion channels provided unexpected insights into their fundamental properties, and sheds more light on how neurons, muscle and other excitable cells function and how abnormal function can lead to disease in humans.
    Adriano's brilliant work will no doubt contribute not only to Guelph, but to Canada's reputation as a great incubator for important research and researchers.
    On behalf of all members in the House, I wish to extend my congratulations on his remarkable achievement.

Parliamentary Precinct Security

    Mr. Speaker, the nation's capital is not vice city , and the leader of the official opposition is not a Tara Reid, Reese Witherspoon, Rihanna, David Hasselhoff, or even Miley Cyrus, but maybe he is.
    Despite his affection for Grand Theft Auto, the bearded bandit of Parliament Hill is not above the law. He can run, but he cannot hide. Perhaps the next time he arrives on Parliament Hill, he will yell out “You can't tell me what to do. I'm Snooki.”

  (1415)  

[Translation]

The Senate

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberals can openly plan a welcome back party for Mac Harb, who will single-handedly allow the Minister of Finance to eliminate the deficit a year sooner than planned, and the Conservatives can keep beating around the bush by carefully avoiding answering the real questions on the shenanigans of Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy, but what makes the NDP hopping mad is seeing these greedy people get rich on the backs of Canadians. We share in their anger when we see the old parties racking up scandals, just like the senators are racking up secondary residences. To make matters worse, they defend their unelected, unaccountable senator friends and cut them cheques for $90,000.
    Unlike the Conservatives, we will not leave our principles at home when we form the government. Instead of stacking the Senate with fundraisers, we will close its doors for good. Canadians deserve better. They deserve—

[English]

    Order, please.
    The hon. member for Peace River.

Canadian Vallues

    Mr. Speaker, our government will not stop creating jobs for Canadians. We will not stop building a safer Canada. We will not stop promoting Canadian values around the world. We will not stop respecting law-abiding hunters and farmers. We will not stop standing up for Canada's north. We will not stop putting more money into the back pockets of hard-working Canadian families, but we will stop at stop signs.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, the government claims—
    Some hon. members: Tom, Tom, Tom.
    Order. We are going to put this to a stop very quickly.
     We do not have time for this. Parties will be losing questions if they do not come to order immediately.
    The hon. member for Hamilton Centre has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, thank you. I appreciate the green light.
    The government claims it does not have the $90,000 cheque Nigel Wright gave to Senator Mike Duffy. They said it is not in the public interest to release it. They have also said they know this was a personal cheque. How do they know this was a personal cheque if they have not seen it?
    After Nigel Wright told him about this payout, did the Prime Minister ask him for the cheque, and if not, why not?
    Mr. Speaker, I hate when the real NDP leader gets caught in traffic, but I guess that is the situation here today.
    I would like to answer the NDP leader's real question from today. He asked the question, “Do you know who I am?” It turns out we do know who the leader of the NDP is. He ran through five stops signs today, as reported. He refused to pull over to the RCMP when they asked him to pull over. Then when he was finally confronted by an RCMP officer, he said to her, “Do you know who I am?”
    From not paying their taxes to not pulling over for the RCMP, why is it that the New Democrats think they are above the law?
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has said that what Nigel Wright did was wrong. Considering this incredible lack of judgment by Nigel Wright, why are the Conservatives simply taking his word that this was a personal cheque? Does anyone over there have any evidence, any document, any proof at all that shows this was a personal cheque?
    Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate my colleague from Hamilton raising the question of bad judgment and breaking the law. The NDP have demonstrated day in and day out in this House that they do not have the policies to govern Canada. Today, yet again, the leader of the NDP has made it very clear that he does not have the temperament to be the Prime Minister of Canada. He does not have that temperament.
    Again, the simple answer to the member opposite's question is that if the NDP believes in accountability and responsibility, the leader should show up in the House and explain himself and why he broke the law today.

  (1420)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I have one simple question.
    The cheque is the centrepiece of this scandal—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order. The hon. member for Halifax has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, I have a very simple question.
    The cheque is the centrepiece of this scandal. It is possible that the money was paid into a trust account. It is also possible that the cheque came with conditions attached. However, the Conservatives say they do not have a copy of the cheque.
    We want answers. If Nigel Wright made a mistake and no one noticed, why are the Conservatives taking his word for it?
    Why not ask him for a copy of the cheque?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we have been wondering for a while why it is the NDP opposed our street racing bill. I guess we now have the answer.
    On matters like this, it really would be appropriate for the leader of the NDP to show up and explain why he broke the law.
    Mr. Speaker, I would appreciate it if the Conservatives would take question period seriously.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order. The hon. member for Halifax has the floor.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, Nigel Wright has accepted responsibility, but he never said he had acted alone. Since Nigel Wright seems to have gone behind their backs, how can the Conservatives take him at his word?
    The Prime Minister has told the media that he does not want to answer any more questions on this issue. If he wants the questions to stop, why is he not doing everything he can to clear up this matter of the cheque?
    Mr. Speaker, we take the questions asked by the NDP very seriously. That is why the Prime Minister answered those questions. However, what is really serious is the fact that the Leader of the Opposition does not obey the rules or the laws on Parliament Hill. That is very important.

[English]

    Again, if the NDP believes that it is appropriate for the leader of the NDP to break the laws of Parliament Hill, to not pull over when an RCMP asks him to, and, when an RCMP gets in his face, to actually ask, “Do you know who I am?”, the leader of the NDP is making it crystal clear to Canadians why he should never be the prime minister of this country.
    Mr. Speaker, speaking of breaking the law, Mary Dawson, the House Ethics Commissioner, has confirmed that she is suspending her investigation into the potentially illegal cheque written by the Prime Minister's adviser, Nigel Wright.
    The government has refused to come clean about the nature of this deal, because it claims that both the Senate and the House ethics officers were investigating, but this is no longer the case. Now that we are dealing with a police investigation of the Prime Minister's Office, will they stop hiding? Will they show us the cheque and tell Canadians the terms of the secret deal and who in the Prime Minister's Office was involved in this deal?
    Mr. Speaker, as my colleague knows very well, the Ethics Commissioner operates independently and is following the rules and following the RCMP investigation into this matter, but what is equally important for the NDP members, if they want to be so self-righteous, as they are every day, about the importance of following the rules, respecting the law and demonstrating leadership by example, it would be great if the leader of the NDP would actually show up in Parliament.
    We know he is on the Hill. He was in a real hurry to get here today--
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister refuses to answer questions about the management of his office. He says that he has nothing more to say. Canadians have the right to know if they can still have confidence in him.
    Can the government explain why the chief of staff cut a cheque to thwart an investigation?

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, an investigation is being conducted into this matter and we will certainly respect this process. As we said yesterday in the House of Commons, it was Mr. Wright's personal cheque and that is why we do not have access to that cheque.
    However, we have a real question for the leader of the Liberal party concerning Senator Mac Harb. He wants to talk about the Senate, Senate reform and senators' accountability. Why is it all right for the leader of the Liberal Party to protect Mac Harb, who has to pay back $231,000 to taxpayers? The Leader said that if Senator Harb reimburses that money, he can return to the Liberal Party. What standards are we talking about here?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, can the Minister of Public Safety confirm whether the RCMP's investigation into Nigel Wright falls under sections 119 and 121 of the Criminal Code for bribery and frauds on the government?
    Mr. Speaker, of course, the RCMP is independent. The RCMP can speak to the RCMP's investigation, just as only the Liberal leader can speak to the Liberal senators. Indeed, Liberal Senator Mac Harb took $231,000.
    I hear the leader of the Liberal Party say that he is not a Liberal senator. He was sure a Liberal when he stole the money. Again, if the leader of the Liberal Party believes in accountability and responsibility, perhaps he should answer this simple question: How much money does a Liberal senator have to steal before they are not welcome in the Liberal Party?
    Mr. Speaker, the fact remains that a $90,000 payment was made by the Prime Minister's chief of staff to a sitting legislator. According to that legislator, he was then ordered by the PMO not to co-operate with the Deloitte audit. The PM actually said that Nigel Wright made the payment while acting in his capacity as chief of staff.
    Therefore, can the Minister of Public Safety confirm that the RCMP's investigation includes the Prime Minister's Office?
    Mr. Speaker, again, as we have said, we do not direct the RCMP. The RCMP is independent and its members can answer whatever questions the member opposite has with regard to the nature in which they are approaching this very question.
    Just as the Liberal Party can only answer the questions that taxpayers have about the money that was taken from them and given to their friends, the Liberal senators.
    The very central question is $231,000 taken from taxpayers by Liberal Senator Mac Harb and the leader of the Liberal Party says, “As long as he pays the money, he is perfectly welcome to come back as a Liberal”. He stole the money and the Liberal leader should—
    The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.
    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal leader said that he would welcome Mac Harb back with open arms if he paid back the money. Perhaps he should read the court decision on disgraced Senator Raymond Lavigne. The court found, “when Lavigne made false claims for a reimbursement of travel expenses of $10,120.50...he committed dishonest acts”. He was found guilty of fraud. Mac Harb, on the other hand, owes the taxpayers over $230,000.
     What is the government doing to ensure that Liberal and Conservative senators who rip off the taxpayers pay the money back and are held accountable for breaking the laws of our country?
    Mr. Speaker, it is an important question and those who break the law should be held accountable, which is why the RCMP is looking into the matter of Senate expenses. That is why the Auditor General is looking into this matter as well.
    It is also why we, as a House, should be asking and getting serious answers from the NDP about why the NDP leader thinks he can flaunt the law, confront RCMP officers, ignore them when they try to pull him over and then not show up in the House of Commons to be accountable.
    I want to remind the hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage that it is unparliamentary to point out the presence or absence of other members. I hope he keeps that in mind for the rest of the question period.
    The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.
    Mr. Speaker, speaking of stop signs, the RCMP has now confirmed that it is investigating the illegal cheque of $90,000 that was written in the Prime Minister's Office.
    We now have the Prime Minister being investigated by the RCMP for an indictable offence that happened in his office.
    I am sure the Conservative caucus might want to sing Lovely Rita Meter Maid all day, but what will it do about coming clean with Canadians about a potentially illegal and indictable offence that happened under the Prime Minister's watch?

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am afraid that the leader of the Liberal Party beat the member to this very question, and I answered that.
    If the member for Timmins—James Bay wants to live by that standard, perhaps he could answer this question. Is the leader of the NDP being investigated for running five stop signs? Is the leader of the NDP being investigated for not listening to an RCMP officer? Is the leader of the NDP, at some point, going to show up in the House and apologize to Canadians for breaking the law?
    The minister has to be very careful about pointing up the presence and absence of members. It is the second time. He should be very careful.
    The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it takes a lot of nerve for the Minister of Canadian Heritage to say such things in the House when it was the Conservative Party that paid a fine for its in and out scheme, that was implicated in telephone calls to keep people from voting and that has senators mired in a scandal over false expense claims. We just learned that the RCMP believes there are grounds to launch a criminal investigation into the $90,000 cheque that the Prime Minister's former chief of staff gave to Mike Duffy.
    Will the Conservatives obey the law? Will they be up front with Canadians and Quebeckers? Can they show us that it was a personal cheque or tell us what really happened in the Prime Minister's Office, before the RCMP get involved?
    Mr. Speaker, we have already answered these questions very clearly: it was a personal cheque. We do not have access to a personal cheque from one individual to another. This is an independent process, and the RCMP is independent of the government. It will certainly look into this matter, and it will have access to any documents it requires.
    Mr. Speaker, one thing is certain: the noose is tightening around the Prime Minister.
    That said, the Conservatives have quite the logic. Nigel Wright was too crooked to stay in the PMO, so he was shown the door, yet, at the same time, the Conservatives are ready to take him at his word. What would be even better is if someone who saw this infamous cheque were to rise in the House and finally put these questions to rest.
    It seems to me it would not be too hard for the Prime Minister to pick up the telephone, call his former right-hand man and ask him to make a copy of the cheque because it is needed for business in the House.
    Has the Prime Minister done that, or will he do it? Will he do the right thing?
    Mr. Speaker, as I just said, an independent process is under way, and the RCMP will look into the matter and examine all of the relevant documents.

[English]

    However, this is a very interesting day for the New Democrats to ask the government to respect the RCMP. It is not the Conservative leader who behaves that way on Parliament Hill. It is not the Conservative leader who behaves that way when he drives. It is not the NDP leader who should lecture anybody about respecting the decency of the RCMP.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the expense scandal is so fascinating that it deserves its own Heritage Minute.
    At first the Conservatives told us how honourable Nigel Wright was and said he saved taxpayers money. That was before they changed their minds and admitted that what he did was wrong.
    We are talking about a man who masterminded an attempt to cover up a scandal using a secret cheque and his position as the Prime Minister's chief of staff. They are saying that Nigel Wright, who supposedly went behind their backs, wrote a personal cheque.
    How can they be so sure, since no one has seen the cheque?
    Mr. Speaker, that is the same question. For the fourth time, here is the same answer.
    As I told her colleague, an investigation is under way and the RCMP will have access to all the information and documents it needs. The government did not have access to a personal cheque written by Mr. Wright.
    The process will continue and we will respect it. Thank you.
    Mr. Speaker, these excuses do not pass muster. Enough is enough. People want answers.
    When I say “answers”, I am talking about real, clear, honest answers. Canadians are fed up with this string of scandals. This is as bad as the 1990s. I hope the Conservatives do not think that all these scandals will just magically disappear over the summer. People want answers.
    Has the RCMP contacted the Prime Minister's Office regarding the $90,000 cheque?

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, the RCMP is conducting an independent investigation and can certainly answer those questions. We have been very clear from the beginning: the RCMP will of course have access to all the information and documents it needs to do its job.
    The NDP leader should show us how he plans to respect the RCMP. Clearly, he failed to do so earlier today on Parliament Hill.

Democratic Reform

    Mr. Speaker, while the Conservatives avoid answering questions, the Minister of State for Democratic Reform avoids doing his job.
    On Tuesday, April 16, 2013, which was 58 days ago, the Minister of State for Democratic Reform said, “our government is pleased to announce that it will introduce comprehensive legislation on Thursday”.
    Could he tell us which Thursday he was referring to?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we have already committed that we would bring forward legislation to change our election laws. However, the real question is this. Will the New Democrats actually follow those laws? We know today that the leader of the NDP blew by stop signs and did not stop for the RCMP. Also, the NDP accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal union donations.
    Mr. Speaker, the New Democrats have tried in vain to get answers from the minister about when he will table the amendments to the Elections Act. More and more it seems like he does not even know what is happening with his own bill. However, it is his bill, so surely he must want to know where it is.
    I hear on good authority that the bill was actually hijacked by the gang in the PMO. What has the minister done to track down his missing bill and when will he share it with Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, as I have said before, we take election reforms very seriously and that is why we are ensuring that we take the time to get it right. There are reports that need to be considered, including recommendations by the Chief Electoral Officer and recommendations by the procedure and House affairs committee. We committed to introducing legislation and we will introduce that legislation.

Parliamentary Budget Officer

    Mr. Speaker, it was the culture of secrecy that allowed corruption to flourish under the Liberal years, but the Conservatives are so obsessed with secrecy, they are even trying to sabotage the selection committee to replace the parliamentary budget officer. They have assigned their chief henchman to the government House leader to ensure they wind up with a lapdog instead of a watchdog.
    I argue that Kevin Page was about the best friend the Canadian taxpayers ever had. Canadians have a right to know what their government is doing with their money. Why are the Conservatives so fundamentally afraid of having a truly independent parliamentary budget officer?
    Mr. Speaker, the process that is being used to appoint a new parliamentary budget officer is one that completely follows and respects the law. We are looking forward to the time when the NDP actually demonstrates a similar interest in respecting and following the law.

41st General Election

    Mr. Speaker, from the in-and-out scandal to overspending to fraudulent expense claims, Canadians are appalled at the continuous abuse of Canada's—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. The hon. member for Vancouver Quadra now has the floor. We need a little order.
    The hon. member for Vancouver Quadra.
    Mr. Speaker, I think the truth hurts over there.
    From the in-and-out scandal to overspending to fraudulent expense claims, Canadians are really appalled at the continuous abuse of our election laws. We know the members for Mississauga—Brampton South, Selkirk—Interlake, and Saint Boniface are not complying with Elections Canada laws for the 2011 election.
    Could the government please tell us how many more Conservative MPs are lined up and fighting Elections Canada over their campaign overspending?
    Mr. Speaker, the question is how many Liberals are defending their over billing to taxpayers? We have at least two Liberal MPs who billed false housing expenses so they could fill their pockets with taxpayer money illegally. They have Mac Harb, the Liberal senator, who owes almost one-quarter of a million dollars in money that he stole from the expense system, and his leader wants to welcome him back into the Liberal caucus with open arms.
    That is the same leader, by the way, who has filled his pockets with money from charities to give speeches when he is already paid a salary by this place to give speeches and to reach out to Canadians. Shame on all of them.

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is straight out of the Karl Rove evasion playbook I see. This pattern of election spending abuses runs deep in the Conservative Party. Even the Conservative House leader in 2008 exceeded election spending limits and was actually caught and eventually penalized.
    Speaking of 2008, the Conservative member for Peterborough still is not compliant for overspending during that election.
    Does the Prime Minister really believe that he, his members and his parliamentary secretary are above the law?
    Mr. Speaker, the member across is wrong and very wrong. The Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary had his expenses signed off by Elections Canada years ago. I believe he has handled himself with grace and dignity throughout this entire process.
    That is in sharp contrast to the Liberal leadership candidates who have half a million dollars in past due loans that have become illegal donations. They have not stepped forward to explain themselves. They have not shown the courage of the Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary to stand in the House of Commons and defend his actions.
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative election overspending is not a series of disconnected accounting errors. There is too much of a pattern here. No, these are calculated violations of election laws with a view to gaining an edge.
     The Prime Minister sets the tone. He breaks all the rules, so his MPs feel they can break the rules too. He cannot balance a budget, so his MPs do not feel the need to balance their campaign budget. The rot starts at the top. When is it going to stop?
    Mr. Speaker, the member is quite right that the rot does start at the top of his very own party. It is his leader who said that he would welcome with open arms a Liberal senator who stole almost one-quarter million dollars in expenses from the Canadian taxpayer. It is his leader, while accepting a salary to give speeches to community groups across the country, who then asked those same community groups to reach into their meagre resources and fill his pockets with that money. The member is right. The rot does start at the top.

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, our country depends on the hard work and patriotism of our diplomats who take on personal risk and hardship, yet our foreign service officers have been working without a contract for two years. Today in London, they are forced to take job action to get the attention of the Prime Minister. Why? Because Conservatives refuse to negotiate with their own diplomats.
    When will the Conservatives return to the bargaining table?
    Mr. Speaker, our government has put forward a fair offer. It is fair to employees and fair to taxpayers. The foreign service is a highly sought-after and well-paid posting. It is unfortunate that the union is attempting to take out its labour demands on Canadians. We expect that any job action will respect the bounds of the law.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, our foreign service officers deserve better answers than that. These are people who faithfully serve our country every day. All they are asking for is equal pay for equal work.
    Our foreign service officers represent our commercial interests and our diplomatic and consular presence around the world. Canada's presence on the world stage depends in large part on them.
    Will the government finally agree to negotiate in good faith to end this labour dispute quickly and ensure that these employees are paid what they are worth?
    Mr. Speaker, our government has put forward a fair offer. It is fair to employees and fair to taxpayers. Foreign service postings are highly sought after. It is unfortunate that the union is taking out its labour demands on Canadians. We expect that any job action will respect the bounds of the law.

  (1445)  

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to stay on the topic of the government's poor negotiating strategies.
    The Prime Minister is in Europe right now, desperately trying to sign a trade agreement, and he is making big compromises in order to do so. He has already announced that he will make it easier for Europeans to buy Canadian companies and challenge our laws.
    The government is feeling desperate, and desperation is a very bad adviser when it comes to negotiations. Who is going to have to pay for the government's new compromises: beef producers or dairy and cheese producers?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should be well aware from the Prime Minister's own words, his own press release from London, that negotiations are ongoing. We continue to negotiate in good faith, and both sides continue to move closer together. We expect to be able to finish these negotiations at some point, but we will not be stuck to a timetable. We will negotiate an agreement that is in the best interests of all Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, New Democrats support negotiations with Europe, but Conservative incompetence is stunning.
    The first rule of negotiating is to never convey that one is desperate for a deal, and yet that is exactly what the Prime Minister is conveying to the EU. Panicking to get a deal at any cost, the Conservatives are now offering concessions to reduce the reviews of foreign takeovers, increase the sell-off of public utilities and decrease Canadian control of telecommunications.
    Which sectors of the Canadian economy will pay the price for Conservative desperation?
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should just stop and think it over. It is pretty clear. I will put it out in point form. Stop signs are stop signs and everyone stops at them.
    We have made a lot of progress in discussions. Negotiations are ongoing. There is no fixed date and there is no timetable. We are driven by the content of the agreement.
    We will only sign an agreement that is in the best interests of all Canadians.

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, I and many of my colleagues in the Conservative caucus have served in law enforcement across this entire nation. We went into this line of business because of our deep commitment to defending the rule of law. We on this side of the House know first-hand that our men and women in uniform face difficulties in ensuring our common security, yet it seems that not all members of the House respect the rule of law nor follow it.
    Could the Minister of International Cooperation, a former Ontario police chief, please tell the House why it is important for all members to not just stand for law enforcement but stand with our men and women who enforce the law?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his service and indeed all members of the House and police officers across the country who have put their lives on the line to serve and protect our communities and our families.
    As a former police chief, I am personally insulted by the leader of the NDP's arrogance and disrespect for those who serve on the front lines. His actions today are an insult to every man and woman who puts on the uniform to defend our basic freedoms and rule of law. The leader of the NDP should stop denigrating those who serve, stop opposing our efforts to get tough on crime and stop acting as if he is above the law.

Canadian Heritage

    Mr. Speaker, the Museum of Civilization spent $70,000 to cancel a historical undergarment exhibit, but reports say this was due to the mandate change. However, in truth, the decision was made before the government announced any changes to the museum.
    I know Conservatives do not like to reveal a lot, and I suppose we should not be surprised that prudishness is now part of the new mandate, but can the minister tell us whether he or any of his staff had conversations about this international exhibit with museum staff before it was cancelled?
    Mr. Speaker, the answer is no. Neither I nor anybody on my staff had any comments or discussions with the Museum of Civilization on its exhibit on underwear. No, we did not. To be clear to my friend opposite, I do not now, nor have I ever, had an official public position on the public displaying of underwear.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the minister's slip is showing. He is responsible for the change in the museum's mandate—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

  (1450)  

    Order please. The hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher.
    Mr. Speaker, these children need to calm down a little.
    The Museum of Civilization or the museum of Canadian history—we do not know what to call it anymore—cancelled an exhibit on Victorian underwear because its mandate has been changed. That is clear.
    Regardless of the excuses he makes, this is ultimately the Minister of Canadian Heritage's responsibility. The minister's decision cost taxpayers $70,000. Come on. That is unbelievable.
    Mr. Speaker, I just answered a similar question. No, the museum operates independently.

[English]

    I would point this out to Canadians, and actually, this is an interesting comparison. The NDP asked me whether I interfered with the public display of underwear at the civilization museum and we have, of course, the leader of the NDP having his drive-by today in front of the Parliament of Canada. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of this country is fighting for Canadian jobs in Europe, speaking in the Westminster parliament for the first time since 1944. For the first time since the week before D-Day, the Prime Minister of this country is fighting for Canadians jobs, building our alliances with Europe—
    The hon. member for Western Arctic.

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' nutrition north program has done nothing but increase the cost of groceries across northern Canada. It costs $17 for a box of cereal in Iqaluit, $19 for a bag of rice in Pangnirtung and $25 for baby formula in Clyde River. The Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut legislatures have voted unanimously to have the Auditor General investigate this program, but the Yukon and Nunavut MPs are very silent.
    Will the Minister of Health heed the demands of the territorial governments and call in the Auditor General to investigate this boondoggle?
    Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that the hon. member should pay close attention to what is happening in his home. Northerners have asked for greater access to healthy foods at lower cost and we have responded to their request. The results are clear: the program is working. As a result of the nutrition north program, they now have access to high-quality nutritious foods at a lower cost. I saw the results of the advisory committee just last week. It was again reporting lower costs for northerners and—
    The hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the cost of food in northern Canada is so outrageous that the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut are all calling for the Auditor General to investigate the nutrition north Canada program.
    The minister seems to be indifferent to their calls. Will the government listen to northerners for once? Will it respond to their concerns?
    Families up north are paying $8.99 for two litres of orange juice, while around here it costs only $2.99. These families need a government that supports them.
    Mr. Speaker, what northerners are calling for is improved access to inexpensive, healthy foods. That is the point of the program.
    Northerners have no appetite for the NDP's carbon tax, which will increase the cost of their food.

[English]

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, we have the leader of the NDP running from the RCMP. We have the Prime Minister running from Elections Canada, and we know that there are numerous election spending violations. They have a certain pattern. They break the rules, they get caught and then they call it an accounting dispute until they are eventually found guilty.
    Canadians are not buying it. My question is very simple. Why does the Prime Minister not simply instruct his members of Parliament to abide by the Canadian election laws?
    Mr. Speaker, the member makes a factual error when he refers to an accounting dispute. The Liberal leadership candidates who have $500,000 in debts owing back almost seven years are not in an accounting dispute. Those are past due. That makes them donations over the limit, which the law calls illegal.
    His party is in flagrant violation of election finance laws, as we speak. The right thing for him to do instead of throwing mud at this side would be to stand up and explain what his party is doing about its own law-breaking.

  (1455)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is pretty simple. An election is like a competition, a democratic competition. Candidates compete for the privilege to serve. There are rules. Candidates must abide by the rules, but obviously the Conservatives do not think the rules apply to them.
    I would like to ask the government this. When did it adopt the new credo, “If you ain't cheatin', you ain't competin'?”
    Mr. Speaker, he is right when he says elections are like a competition, and Canadians deserve to decide who is the winner. In this case, they have also decided who to put way over there in that corner. They did that after years of Liberal corruption and theft. This is the party that still cannot tell us where the missing $40 million has gone, that has half a million dollars in illegal leadership debt, whose current leader took a salary from this place and then went around at the same time, during the same workdays, to fill his pockets with money from charities.
    On this side of the House, we are proud of our leader.

[Translation]

Regional Economic Development

    Mr. Speaker, the Ring of Fire provides a unique opportunity for the economic development of northern Ontario.
    If this project comes to fruition, it will help contribute to the sustainable improvement of our economy and have a positive impact on first nations and local communities. However, the Conservatives are dragging their feet and unable to establish clear rules for the proper management of the project, which is now faltering.
    What will the minister do to get the project back on track?

[English]

    That notwithstanding, this was a decision made by a private company. Our government is committed and focused on working with stakeholders to ensure the enormous potential of the Ring of Fire becomes a reality. We will continue to work with all levels of government, especially first nations, and other stakeholders to help maximize those economic opportunities for northern Ontario.
    Mr. Speaker, under the Conservatives, in the span of five months, the Ring of Fire project has gone from stalled to completely suspended. The minister's inaction means end runs on environmental assessments, needless court challenges and sidelining first nations.
    The minister needs to step up and take responsibility for leaving the Ring of Fire project mired in uncertainty. How is he going to fix this mess?
    Mr. Speaker, it was our government that was proactive in working hand in hand, in full co-operation with communities implicated in the Ring of Fire. In fact, I visit Webequie First Nation with the Minister of the Environment. We saw a small business centre there. We saw first nations elders and youth and a college-diploma first nations person doing cultural mapping for the development of the Ring of Fire. We saw a busy base supplying materials for the Ring of Fire activity.
    Every time we try to create better conditions for first nations communities, the NDP members consistently vote against those and make those challenges even more difficult. Shame on them.

Citizenship and Immigration

    Mr. Speaker, recently there have been disturbing reports about Canadian citizenship being used as a flag of convenience for terrorists to commit violent acts against innocent civilians.
    Our Conservative government believes that Canadian citizenship should be stripped from convicted terrorists. Although the NDP leader does not stop at stop signs, the NDP is trying to stop my bill by filibustering at committee.
    Can the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism inform this House where our government stands on my private member's bill, and the NDP's attempt to destroy it?
    Mr. Speaker, I commend the member for Calgary Northeast for his bill that would strip citizenship from convicted terrorists and traitors.
    Eighty percent of Canadians agree that if someone violently demonstrates their disloyalty to Canada by committing a serious act of terrorism, this should be understood as a renunciation of their loyalty to Canada and their citizenship.
    Only 6% of Canadians strongly disagree with that proposition. Regrettably, that includes 100% of the NDP caucus who are leading a bizarre filibuster against Bill C-425 at the immigration committee. We call on them to listen to Canadians, let the bill go to a vote so there are consequences—

  (1500)  

    The hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, I rise again today to speak about a potential disaster in Notre Dame Bay in Newfoundland.
    It deals with the Manolis L. which is a sunken large ship off the coast. It was leaking oil. The Coast Guard has done a patch job on it to make sure no more oil is getting out. However, it a very serious issue. There are over 520 tons of fuel oil still in that ship on the ocean floor. This could be a large-scale environmental disaster for the northeast of Newfoundland.
    I beg this government, I beg this minister, what is the next step to get that oil out of the water?
    Mr. Speaker, our government continues to monitor the situation very closely.
    Divers have been down on the vessel. A program of containment and remediation is under way. When conditions permit, action will be taken to contain this spill.

[Translation]

Air Transportation

    Mr. Speaker, for two years I pressured the Conservatives and the people in my region kept up their demands until it was no longer possible for the member from Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean to ignore them. A customs office at Bagotville airport was needed.
    Unfortunately, the work is not finished because limited customs services can accommodate only small business planes.
    Can the member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean tell us when the Bagotville airport will finally welcome a real planeload of tourists, or will he continue to oppose the project for another two years?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the decisions that are made by CBSA officers and administration are not made by politicians. They are made with strict criteria. They are made within the guidelines that are set out.
    I have met with that member. I think we have had some good conversations. As we work together, we can see that area served. Again, it is not political interference that determines those matters.

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, “Don't you know who I am?” That was the shocking outburst from the Leader of the Opposition when he finally pulled over for the RCMP after going through—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order. The hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia has the floor.
    After going through several stop signs and, worse, failing to stop for a police officer.
    Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety tell the House about the importance of obeying the laws of Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, I do want to thank that member for his service to our country as a member of the RCMP.
    The Leader of the Opposition's actions today show a complete lack of judgment, and they show a complete lack of respect for law enforcement. It is no surprise that that leader and his party vote against every piece of legislation we have to get tough on criminals.
    Today, while we stand proudly as our Prime Minister, our leader is abroad making Canadians proud, the NDP know that their leader is running through stop signs and displaying disrespect for the RCMP who serve us on the Hill.

[Translation]

Telecommunications

    Mr. Speaker, at a time when the Conservatives are making cuts to our public services, the people of Laurentides—Labelle are too often forced to rely on poor-quality online services. For example, completing an application for employment insurance is becoming increasingly difficult.
    The lack of reliable access to high-speed Internet is hampering social and economic development in my area, and it is the people who are suffering the consequences.
    Will the government enact legislation to ensure that all citizens have access to high-quality Internet services, regardless of where they live?

  (1505)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite knows, Service Canada provides options for Canadians in many different ways, whether that is accessing one of the Service Canada offices within 50 kilometres of their home, accessing it through the Internet or accessing opportunities through outreach postings throughout the country.
    We provide service across Canada. Canadians can even call in at 1-800 O Canada.

[Translation]

Intergovernmental Relations

    Mr. Speaker, this past January, the Minister of Industry told Quebeckers that his government was open to negotiating pragmatic agreements to optimize the management of public funds. This was nothing but lip service. His colleague, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, just refused to transfer infrastructure funding in full to Quebec. If the government transferred the money in full, it would help reduce bureaucracy and shorten the time it takes to complete projects.
    What happened to the government's openness, and why will it not transfer Quebec's full share of the money?
    Mr. Speaker, the answer is simple. We respect the Constitution of Canada and we signed administrative agreements with the Government of Quebec a few years ago regarding the management of this money.
    I remind my colleague that Ms. Marois, the Premier of Quebec, was a member of the Landry and Bouchard governments when we signed these agreements. These agreements are in accordance with the Constitution. They were in accordance with the Constitution at the time and they are in accordance with the Constitution now. We will continue to sign agreements along these lines.

[English]

Points of Order

Royal Canadian Mounted Police  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
    I think if you seek it, you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:
    That the House commend and thank the RCMP for the excellent work that they do protecting Parliamentarians and all staff who work in the Parliamentary Precinct, recognize that traffic regulations and signage are important for the safety of those working on the Hill including construction personnel and visitors, and that the House reminds all members, and staff that their full compliance and cooperation is required.
    Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent to propose this motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

Elections Canada--Speaker's Ruling  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
    I am aware of your ruling about the tabling of letters from Elections Canada, regarding the member for Selkirk—Interlake and the member for Saint Boniface, so this is not a request to table anything.
    However, Mr. Speaker, could you inform the House if you have received any information from Elections Canada about any other members of Parliament who are not currently in compliance with the Elections Act, please?
    If the hon. member for Winnipeg North examines the statement that I made last week, there is a very important question of privilege that the Chair is currently seized with. Pending the comprehensive ruling on all aspects of the question before me, I do not want to get into anything that would presuppose what would be in that ruling.
    I ask the hon. member to be patient. The ruling will come and any additional information or any other context that might be put into the ruling, I trust, will satisfy the hon. member. If he can be patient, we will soon get it.

Oral Questions  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
    I am not sure if I heard correctly or not, so I wonder if I could have a point of clarification from the member for Timmins—James Bay.
    Did he say in his statement that the female RCMP officer who puts her life on the line every single day was a meter maid? If so, I think he should apologize.
    I am not sure that is a point of order.

Petitions  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
    During routine proceedings today, I was presenting a petition and it was indicated to me that I was a little bit snippy with the Speaker. I just want to stand and apologize for that.

  (1510)  

    All is forgiven.

Business of the House

[Business of the House]
    Mr. Speaker, it is nice to have that level of civility. I congratulate my friend across the way.
    Before asking the usual Thursday question and before the government House leader across the way starts to talk about how he has been able to abuse Parliament over the past week, I would like to make a small observation for all those listening.
    Of all the bills I am sure he is about to mention that are important, not a single bill passed through this legislative process in anything resembling a normal fashion. Bills S-8, S-15, S-17, S-2, S-6, S-10, S-16, C-56 and C-60, every single bill we have debated in the past week, operated under time allocation. I might parenthetically add that seven of them came from the Senate. It seems like a strange place for the government to get its agenda: a bunch of unelected, under-investigation senators, but so be it. It is the government's choice.
    We tried to work with the government to find ways to allow the House to debate bills and to do so expediently. A good example is the Sable Island as a national park bill. For example, we offered up about five or six speakers who wanted to address the merits of the bill, which would have allowed the passage of that bill after they had spoken. The reaction from the leader from the other side was to move time allocation, which in fact ended up taking up more time in the House than the offer the NDP had made would have taken.

[Translation]

    The Conservatives' strategy is sometimes bizarre. In fact, it is hard to figure out whether it is a strategy or not. I would like the Conservative member to enlighten me on this, even though the Conservatives' responses have no merit.
    We have spent more than 14 hours debating and voting on time allocation motions in the past two weeks alone. I find it ironic that the government allots only five hours of debate to the content of the bill under time allocation, when the vast majority of our time is spent debating and voting on the time allocation motions and not on the bills. That is the Conservatives' way of doing business.
    When will the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons learn that a hammer is not the only tool available for getting the work done?

[English]

    Could the leader of the government tell us what his plans are for this week and the week following?
    Mr. Speaker, this time last week, I said that I hoped to have a substantial list of accomplishments to report to the House. Indeed, I do.
    In just the last five days, thanks to a lot of members of Parliament who have been here sitting late at night, working until past midnight, we have accomplished a lot. Bill C-60, the economic action plan 2013 act, no. 1, the important job-creating bill, which was the cornerstone of our government's spring agenda, passed at third reading. Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for first nations act, passed at third reading. Bill S-2, the family homes on reserves and matrimonial interests or rights act, passed at third reading. Bill C-62, the Yale First Nation final agreement act, was reported back from committee and was passed at report stage and passed at third reading. Bill C-49, the Canadian museum of history act, was reported back from committee. Bill C-54, the not criminally responsible reform act, was reported back from committee this morning with amendments from all three parties. Bill S-14, the fighting foreign corruption act, has been passed at committee, and I understand that the House should get a report soon. Bill S-15, the expansion and conservation of Canada’s national parks act, passed at second reading. Bill S-17, the tax conventions implementation act, 2013, passed at second reading. Bill S-10, the prohibiting cluster munitions act, passed at second reading. Bill S-6, the first nations elections act, has been debated at second reading. Bill C-61, the offshore health and safety act, has been debated at second reading. Bill S-16, the tackling contraband tobacco act, has been debated at second reading. Finally, Bill C-65, the respect for communities act, was also debated at second reading.
    On the private members' business front, one bill passed at third reading and another at second reading. Of course, that reflects the unprecedented success of private members advancing their ideas and proposals through Parliament under this government, something that is a record under this Parliament. This includes 21 bills put forward by members of the Conservative caucus that have been passed by the House. Twelve of those have already received royal assent or are awaiting the next ceremony. Never before have we seen so many members of Parliament successfully advance so many causes of great importance to them. Never in Canadian history have individual MPs had so much input into changing Canada's laws through their own private members' bills in any session of Parliament as has happened under this government.

  (1515)  

[Translation]

    Hard-working members of Parliament are reporting the results of their spring labours in our committee rooms. Since last week, we have got substantive reports from the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Standing Committee on Health, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, and the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.
    We are now into the home stretch of the spring sitting. Since I would like to give priority to any bills which come back from committee, I expect that the business for the coming days may need to be juggled as we endeavour to do that.

[English]

    I will continue to make constructive proposals to my colleagues for the orderly management of House business. For example, last night, I was able to bring forward a reasonable proposal for today's business, a proposal that had the backing of four of the five political parties that elected MPs. Unfortunately, one party objected, despite the very generous provision made for it with respect to the number of speakers it specifically told us it wanted to have. Nonetheless, I would like to thank those who did work constructively toward it.
    I would point out that the night before, I made a similar offer, again, based on our efforts to accommodate the needs of all the parties.
    Today we will complete second reading of Bill S-16, the tackling contraband tobacco act. Then we will start second reading of Bill C-57, the safeguarding Canada's seas and skies act.
    Tomorrow morning we will start report stage of Bill C-49, the Canadian museum of history act. Following question period, we will return to the second reading debate on Bill S-6, the first nations elections act.
    On Monday, before question period, we will start report stage and hopefully third reading of Bill C-54, the not criminally responsible reform act. After question period Monday, we will return to Bill C-49, followed by Bill C-65, the respect for communities act.
    On Tuesday, we will also continue any unfinished business from Friday and Monday. We could also start report stage, and ideally, third reading of Bill S-14, the fighting foreign corruption act that day.
    Wednesday, after tidying up what is left over from Tuesday, we will take up any additional bills that might be reported from committee. I understand that we could get reports from the hard-working finance and environment committees on Bill S-17 and Bill S-15 respectively.
    Thereafter, the House could finish the four outstanding second-reading debates on the order paper: Bill C-57; Bill C-61; Bill S-12, the incorporation by reference in regulations act; and Bill S-13, the port state measures agreement implementation act.
    I am looking forward to several more productive days as we get things done for Canadians here in Ottawa.
    The hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley is rising.

Privilege

Data used by government with respect to Bill C-54  

[Privilege]
    Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to respond to the question of privilege brought by my friend from Kingston and the Islands. He brought a question of privilege regarding data, and more importantly, data the government was using that was not correct in terms of constructing its argument for a bill. He took that as a question of privilege, an invocation that I think is quite serious.
    Our research team prepared a report for the justice department entitled “Description and Processing of Individuals Found Not Criminally Responsible on Account of Mental Disorder Accused of 'Serious Violent Offences'”. This report was central to the discussions on Bill C-54, the not criminally responsible reform act, both in the House, where the report was tabled, and at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human rights, which studied the legislation.
     The report was given to the Department of Justice in November 2012. On March 14, 2013, the department was notified that there was an error in this report. The government was provided with a corrected version on March 18 of that same year. We know this as a sure fact from a committee witness who said:
    That error was discovered on March 14th and immediately communicated to the Minister's office, and a revised report was provided on March 18th with that data corrected
    There was also a note attached to the report when it was tabled, saying that a significantly amended version of this report was provided to the Department of Justice on March 18, 2013, so that is not in dispute. Whether there was an incorrect report that was then corrected and given to the government has all been established as fact.
    However, the Conservatives nonetheless continued to cite from the old report and even tabled the old report on March 27, thus providing misleading information to the House and all members of Parliament. The numbers between the two reports varied significantly and have had an impact on how we have been studying and debating legislation and making decisions on policy concerns.
     A small example is that the original report said that 38.1% of sex offenders found not criminally responsible and accused of a sex offence had at least one prior NCR finding. That number was changed in the report to 9.5%. When MPs were debating, the information they had given to them by the government said that almost 40% were true in these cases. The actual number was less than 10%.
    It also said that 27.7% of those accused of attempted murder had one NCR finding. That number was then changed to 4.6%, and the figure of 19% accused of murder or homicide with one prior NCR was changed to 5.2%. There was a dramatic one-fifth, one-quarter and one-tenth difference in the numbers. These are not small or trivial. They are significant.

  (1520)  

[Translation]

    According to O'Brien and Bosc, contempt of Parliament is
“any action which...tends to obstruct or impede the House in the performance of its functions; obstructs or impedes any member or officer of the House in the discharge of their duties; or is an offence against the authority or dignity of the House”.
    According to the same authors, “deliberately attempting to mislead the House or a committee” is a form of contempt.

[English]

    The 22nd edition of Erskine May: Parliamentary Practice also states on page 63:
it is of paramount importance that ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity
    This would not be the first time the Chair has found a prima facie case of contempt of the House related to misleading the House and committees.
     In 2003, the former privacy commissioner, George Radwanski, was found in contempt of the House for providing deliberately misleading testimony during hearings of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates on the financial management and staffing of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, November 6.
    In 2008, the RCMP deputy commissioner, Barbara George, was found in contempt of this House for providing misleading testimony during the Standing Committee on Public Accounts hearings into allegations of mishandling of the RCMP pension and insurance plans.
    This, sadly, is not the first time we have discussed instances of the Conservative government misleading the House and Canadians. In this case, the Conservatives purposely used the old and incorrect numbers, because they made a better case for their version of the legislation. They used the numbers that pleased them instead of using the facts that were true. This was detrimental to members of all parties and to the members of the committee studying the bill based on incorrect data.
     Correct numbers give us the ability to develop good policy, but the current government members, we have seen far too often, are not interested in science-based policy-making.
    Misleading the House and Canadians is a very serious breach of the rules of governing both our democracy and this institution.
    I therefore support the request from the member for Kingston and the Islands that the proper measures be taken.
    I thank the hon. member for his further contribution.

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[ Government Orders]

[Translation]

Tackling Contraband Tobacco Act

    The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-16, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in contraband tobacco), be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.
    Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, I will be sharing my speaking time—that is, the five minutes I have left—with the excellent member for Churchill.
    Earlier, I spoke about how tobacco is a substance that is extremely hazardous to peoples' health. I also spoke about the lack of resources, and not just financial resources. Sometimes it is just material or human resources that are needed. It may be that all that is needed is a little time.
    Not only is contraband a serious public safety and health problem, but it also results in a loss of tax revenue for various levels of government. The majority of tobacco manufacturers are located in Ontario and Quebec, and that is also where most contraband tobacco enters the country. That is where most tobacco is manufactured and where most contraband tobacco enters and leaves the country. Why? This happens by land and by water. Why is that?
    As I said earlier, it is unacceptable that the resources are not being allocated to really fight this.
    I found myself wondering about that earlier. I was also thinking that the RCMP recognizes that the increase in organized crime linked to contraband tobacco boosts other crimes. Contraband tobacco funds other criminal activities, such as weapons and drug trafficking.
    Introducing mandatory minimum sentences of 90 days, 180 days and two years less a day will not resolve the situation. We know that in organized crime, when a person, a candidate, a soldier—excuse my language—is no longer needed or must be retired, he is replaced. There are pools of recruits who will commit all kinds of crimes. Increasing minimum sentences or further criminalizing contraband tobacco by making a small change to the Criminal Code will not reduce this crime.
    There was a seizure in the Eastern Townships the day before yesterday. Unfortunately, 16 troublemakers were involved and they were all repeat offenders connected in some way to organized crime groups. These groups are increasingly organized in terms of technology, computer resources and vehicles.
    I would like to tell you a story about something that happened in my riding. A package fell from the sky and all of a sudden a jet boat appeared to pick up the package and quickly take it across the border. The RCMP and the Sûreté du Québec had not done maintenance on their patrol boats in the previous two years and were therefore unable to reach the destination or the target. That is an example of the lack of resources I was talking about and the very serious consequences it can have.
    Organized crime has the resources to easily transfer groups, vehicles and goods from one place to another. Why? Because the current government is not doing its job on the ground. It is not looking after the safety of communities or, more importantly, Canadians' health.
    As I said before, provincial governments have worked hard to discourage the use of tobacco and drugs and even to prevent young people from suffering the serious consequences of membership in a criminal organization. A great deal of preventive work has been done with young people, and that work must continue. Young people need support. The government must allocate enough money for the youth centres that are located throughout Quebec, so they can hire leaders in the summer. The leaders are often young university students or other community members who help the municipalities and supervise young people during sports activities.

  (1525)  

    For example, in my riding, in Rock Forest in Deauville, there is a skateboard park. Young people love this sport. They are happy, they are outside and they are developing.
    Needlessly exposing them to crime will do nothing to protect the future of our society and the safety of our people.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments provided by the member. Does he recognize the important role that different provinces play with respect to this? We find there is an increase, for example, in illegal cigarettes when the tax on a package goes up. It is important that we tax cigarettes. The costs of health care as a direct result of people who smoke and of second-hand smoke far exceed the revenue that government collects in tobacco taxes.
     When are we going to see more co-operation with some of the provinces in coming to grips with this issue? Not only is this a question of health and government revenue, but it also feeds into gang activity and other forms of illegal activities.
    Would the member not agree that if we want to deal with this issue in an aggressive fashion where there will be direct results, we need to start working with some of the departments at the provincial level so there is a higher sense of co-operation so we see more results?

  (1530)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it is not very often that I agree with my colleague.
    Indeed, there is a very significant lack of co-operation and synergy between all governments and between the different levels and departments of government. In fact, no one has been able to connect the dots between the tax hikes, the costs of health care and the impacts on consumption.
    When taxes on legal cigarettes are increased, there is more and more contraband tobacco. Even if taxes were substantially increased, the resulting benefits would never be enough to counteract the impact and effects of smoking on health.
    As I said, prevention and good co-operation are the way to go.
    I am really quite surprised and amazed to agree with my colleague. Obviously, the focus should be on promoting a relationship of synergy and co-operation.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues.
    I would like to ask my colleague's opinion on the fact that we are members elected by the people. We are here to legislate. We were elected as legislators, but the last word goes to the other chamber, the Senate, which was not elected but can make the final decisions.
    This bill, which would amend the Criminal Code, comes from the unelected other place.
    What does he think of that?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my excellent colleague for her question.
    I took notes about why this came from the Senate.
    I spoke about leadership earlier. Once again, the government is not showing any leadership in protecting the health and safety of Canadians. It just repeals a little section of the Criminal Code here in the House, no problem. It adopts a time allocation motion for this bill.
    This bill originated in the Senate. How many bills have we seen from the Senate this week and last? This shows that the government is running out of steam and has no respect for the chambers. Members of the House of Commons are elected. This is the chamber that should be introducing bills that affect the lives of Canadians, especially when we are talking about protecting health and safety.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill S-16, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in contraband tobacco). As has been stated very clearly, the NDP is in support of sending this bill to committee and having a closer look at it, a bill that aims to address a very serious issue. Contraband tobacco is an extremely serious problem, both in public health and safety and of the lost revenue for the various levels of government.
    However, the bill raises certain issues that need to be clarified in relation to the government's chosen approach. Another issue that is very important to address is the need for consultation with the provinces, territories and first nations communities. We are also concerned about the issue of minimum mandatory sentences that are provided in the legislation. Therefore, we believe this requires further study in committee.
    In its 2008 report, the RCMP stated that its:
—key concern is the increased involvement of organized crime implicated in illegal tobacco activities for monetary gain. The public needs to be aware that profits from illegal tobacco products are also funding other criminal activities, such as drug and gun trafficking.
    In terms of public health, contraband tobacco and the use of tobacco products are interconnected. We know tobacco seriously harms the health of Canadians. Because contraband cigarettes are available at a lower cost than cigarettes sold in stores, they can encourage consumption, especially for young people who might find it more difficult to obtain legal tobacco products. Furthermore, because the quality of illegal tobacco products goes unchecked, these products may have an even more harmful impact on the health of consumers.
    In understanding the bill, and it is very clear to us that it requires more study, the NDP believes that various key aspects of this need to be examined further. A key aspect that must be examined is the need for the government to invest resources in policing and in the Canada Border Services Agency to properly address this issue. Unfortunately, all we have seen from the government are reckless border cuts and a refusal to renew the funding that allows for more police officers on our streets.
    I recognize that cuts to policing and investigative resources began under the Liberal government, when the port of Vancouver, for example, and other entry ports lost policing and investigative capacities as a result of the Liberals' budget cuts. Unfortunately, the Conservative government has very much continued this trend. We know of cuts, certainly in the last year, to the Canada Border Services Agency. This affects the capacity Canadians have in ensuring that what is coming through the border is not contraband tobacco and the serious stopgap to the kind of illegal trafficking in general that we know takes place across our borders.
    It is absolutely critical for the Conservative government to go back on the kinds of cuts we have seen and seek to invest in policing capacity, both in terms of the CBSA and more broadly in terms of police services.
    I want to speak briefly to what it means to have a lack of policing services in communities that wrestle with contraband and broader security issues.
     As the MP for Churchill, I represent one of the largest ridings in Canada in terms of geography and size. What that means is we have massive expanses of territory and an RCMP and police force that are stretched to provide critical policing services.
    I have had the pleasure of meeting women and men who are part of the RCMP working in communities across the north. I have great admiration for the work they do, but I recognize they often do it for longer periods of time, putting in overtime and sometimes exposing themselves to risk because they do not have the kind of staffing complement they need.

  (1535)  

    I also know in the investigative capacity they are often overstretched. I will use the example of a recent murder in one of the northern first nations I represent. It is an isolated community and the ability to get in and conduct a proper investigation was hampered by the fact that the RCMP could not send the right people in at that time. There was a waiting list for the specialists who needed to come in, owing to the fact that the RCMP was short-staffed, especially when it came to the north.
    I also want to note that first nations communities often struggle with social challenges and some very difficult situations. They want to better police their communities. Band constables are often the go-to people in this case.
    Unfortunately, the Government of Canada has pulled away from the kind of commitment first nations want to see when it comes to band and aboriginal policing. Certainly in our province of Manitoba, I know first-hand that RCMP officers often depend on band constables to go out and do that initial investigative work and build those relationships that need to be had to get to the bottom of what has happened and to begin the process of seeking justice.
    Unfortunately, I have been in many communities where band constables have had to be laid off because the funding has dried up. I know most recently that the Island Lake communities, the Island Lake First Nation, and particularly in Garden Hill, were very concerned about their loss of band constable funding coming into this fiscal year.
    I heard from leaders and community members who wanted to ensure that the violations of public unrest, incidents of vandalism or abuse were dealt with properly. The issues they raised were the fact that in Garden Hill, for example, the RCMP had to fly over the lake in a helicopter when the lake was not frozen to undertake its policing duties.
    Without band constables, that takes a long time. RCMP officers are not always able to make it over the lake in a helicopter. Therefore, instead of depending on band constables who are on-site in the community, the community is being put further at risk as a result of the government's failure to come to the table and find a solution to policing issues that work for communities like Garden Hill.
    First nations and northern communities want to make a difference, whether it is on issues of contraband or criminal behaviour. However, the reality is that policing needs support from the federal government. Communities deserve to have support from the federal government in bolstering the police presence in their communities, whether it be the RCMP or band policing.
    It is of grave concern that despite the government's rhetoric of being tough on crime, when we actually look at the figures and the reality in northern regions like the one I come from and I represent, this has not translated into a difference of supporting first nations, hiring band constables, ensuring that the RCMP has the support and the investigative capacity required in northern regions when something as serious as a murder takes place. They need to speedily react and start a longer term investigative process.
    I also want to speak to the need to support our border service agents. That, to me is an important point that unfortunately is missed in Bill S-16, and we hope to raise it at committee. Anybody who has gone through the border, and I had the opportunity to travel to the states through the Manitoba border crossing at Emerson, would have seen CBSA agents doing very important work, ensuring that our provinces and all Canadians are being looked after as people travel back and forth through the border.

  (1540)  

    It is unfortunate that the government has not recognized the need to keep CBSA agents safe, to make sure they have the staff complement and backup they need in order to truly react to issues of contraband and other aspects of illegal trafficking.
    With that, I am open to questions and comments.
    Mr. Speaker, I guess I should start by saying that I have been a member of the public safety committee for approximately seven years now. We are looking into the economics of policing. I wonder if the hon. member is aware that there has actually been a significant increase in first nations policing over the last several years. As a matter of fact, it is somewhere close to 30%. Also, I wonder if the hon. member is familiar with some of the statistics surrounding first nations policing.
    Having served in the north of Ontario, I understand completely that there is a difference in policing in those remote communities and that the cost of providing policing is significantly higher than that of almost any other police department in Canada.
    If the hon. member wants to tell Canadians the facts, she might want to revisit the fact that we have not cut back on first nations policing. As a matter of fact, the federal government has increased its commitment by somewhere in the vicinity of $600 million.
    The hon. member might want to consider rephrasing some of the information she has just given to the country.

  (1545)  

    Mr. Speaker, I struggle with the member's tone because I actually know the facts. I live in the north and I see the reality. I have been to communities where band constables have been laid off. I have spoken to leaders who, at the last minute, at the eleventh hour, have been trying to get the federal government to the table to support their band constable program.
    I will share a little anecdote. I used to teach for the University College of the North. It used to offer a policing program for band constables. As a result of a lack of government funding, funding that was cut off by the Conservative government, the program was eliminated. People who wanted to be band constables could no longer get the training to provide that service. People could not get the kind of expertise and could not be recognized as band constables as a result.
    What ended up happening is that in communities like Lac Brochet, the RCMP had to shut down the trailer that was used as a holding cell because there was no band constable trained in the community to provide safety to the person in the holding cell, but more importantly to the people in the community. What ended up happening was an isolated community had to wait for a plane, if the weather was good, to come and pick up someone who had been accused of a crime, however long that might take, which put the community into a very vulnerable position.
    I would welcome the member, and certainly ministers of the Crown, and members of the government to spend some time in our north and in isolated communities that depend on an RCMP service and need that support, first nations that depend on support for the band constable program. That support is clearly not there from the federal government.
    If the government truly believed in building safer communities, it would invest in policing in the north the way it should be.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Churchill for her very accurate, though unfortunately disappointing, account of the reality on the ground.
    How ironic that we are in the middle of National Public Service Week. Look at how poorly the government treats our public service and our public servants. There is a complete disconnect between the government's intentions and what actually goes on on the ground.
    I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about how the government does not value its human resources and even has contempt for them.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question.
    It is ironic that the government is talking about the importance of security and the importance of the police and telling Canadians that it is in control of the situation, when the reality on the ground is quite different. Police officers are asking for more support and the leaders of aboriginal and rural communities are saying they need more security and more police officers. These people want to change things and work with their fellow citizens to create better communities for everyone.
    The reality is that despite what the federal government thinks and says, it is just not at the table to offer any support and co-operate with these communities.

  (1550)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be sharing my time with the member for Northumberland—Quinte West. It is particularly apropos to be doing so. He is a former police officer who has served in remote northern communities, as many members in the Conservative caucus have. I believe there are 14 former police officers in our caucus, among them are the member for Northumberland—Quinte West, the member for Kootenay—Columbia, the member for Yukon, the Minister of International Cooperation. All of them have served this country well. They have put their lives on the line to protect ours. They certainly have the on-the-ground experience which the member for Churchill was just referring to, so I will certainly take my lead from the member for Northumberland—Quinte West and look forward to his speech.
    I appreciate the opportunity to talk about this important issue. This is a piece of legislation that concerns cracking down on the illegal trafficking of contraband tobacco. Like most Canadians, unfortunately, members of my family have been touched by cancer as a result of smoking tobacco. My grandfather died at the age of 57 after having taken up smoking when he joined the air force in World War II. He smoked for 40 years and he was taken away from my family far too soon. My wife's aunt just passed away this last year. It was the same situation. For 40 years she was addicted to cigarettes. It took her from our family far sooner than we would have liked.
    We need to continue our efforts to convince Canadians that smoking is a bad thing in all its forms and that contraband tobacco is particularly nefarious. Not only does it contain all the negative factors associated with smoking, but it also deprives the government, which has to look after people who become ill from smoking cigarettes, of tax revenue. I heard a colleague in the NDP mention the figure of $2 billion a year. The member for Churchill, another NDP member, also mentioned the lack of revenue being a key concern when dealing with contraband tobacco. That is where I am going to focus my speech.
    Contraband tobacco is not only illegal, but it is detrimental to the health and safety of Canadians. In addition, as I said, the trafficking of contraband tobacco deprives the government of important revenue that is earned through the sale of legal tobacco products, revenue that helps fund programs aimed at stopping the use of tobacco, particularly among youth, and that funds health care for those who need it.
    As I said, I am going to focus my comments today on what our government is doing to protect government revenues and the Canadian tax base. Since coming to office in 2006, our government has taken a number of steps to improve the integrity of the Canadian tax system and make it stronger and fairer for all Canadians. In an uncertain global environment, the most important contribution the government can make to help create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity is to maintain a sound fiscal position. Managing tax dollars wisely ensures sustainable public services and low taxes for Canadian families and businesses.
    Our government is committed to responsible fiscal management, which includes returning to balanced budgets in the medium term. Also, we are controlling spending. It also includes continuing to enhance the integrity of the tax system to ensure that everyone pays their fair share of taxes. Such actions help keep taxes low for Canadian families and businesses, thereby improving incentives to work, save and invest right here in Canada.
    In past budgets, our government adopted tough rules to close tax loopholes and prevent a select few businesses and individuals from avoiding taxes. Since 2006, including measures proposed in economic action plan 2013, the government has introduced over 75 measures to improve the integrity of the tax system. Economic action plan 2013, in fact, takes several important steps to improve the integrity of our tax system and to close tax loopholes. The measures include strengthening compliance with the law, and fighting international tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance.
    In economic action plan 2013, our government announced a new stop international tax evasion program, which would enable the Canada Revenue Agency to pay individuals with knowledge of major international tax non-compliance a percentage of tax collected as a result of information they provide.

  (1555)  

    We would require certain financial intermediaries, including banks, to report their clients' international electronic fund transfers of $10,000 or more to the CRA. In addition, we propose new reporting requirements for Canadian taxpayers with foreign income or properties and have streamlined the process for obtaining information concerning unnamed persons from third parties, such as banks.
    Again, this speaks to our desire to make sure that everyone is paying a fair share and not skipping out on tax bills or using aggressive tax avoidance schemes. We are doing our best as part of our effort to get back to a balanced budget in the medium term, and this is part of our plan to do that. Fighting things like contraband tobacco and the loss of revenues through contraband tobacco will help us meet that goal.
    In May of this year, our government announced a $30 million investment to target international tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance.
    This investment includes new resources of $15 million through economic action plan 2013 to establish the necessary systems for the CRA to receive reports from banks and other financial intermediaries on international electronic fund transfers of $10,000 or more, and an additional $15 million in reallocated CRA funds that will be used to bring in new audit and compliance resources dedicated exclusively to issues of international compliance and revenue collection that were identified as a result of measures outlined in our last budget.
    To ensure that these activities move forward quickly, the government announced the creation of a dedicated team of CRA experts responsible for the implementation of the international tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance measures announced in that budget. It would ensure that the full force of the agency's international compliance and auditing resources are brought to bear on individuals or businesses seeking to hide money or assets offshore.
    Again, a key part of this bill is to ensure that are we cracking down on the organized crime that uses contraband tobacco as a revenue source and deprives the Government of Canada of a revenue source as well.
    I will give a bit more background on what Bill S-16 does.
    First of all, the bill fulfills a platform commitment. In 2011, our government made a commitment to establish a mandatory jail time for repeat offenders. Bill S-16 would bring amendments to the Criminal Code to establish a new offence of trafficking in contraband tobacco, with mandatory jail time for second and subsequent convictions.
    It is important that we send the message that if one is going to break the law, one would not get repeated slaps on the wrist and be allowed to walk away and treat the justice system as a joke. There will be real penalties. The primary target of this new offence is organized crime and those who are involved in the trafficking of contraband tobacco in large volumes.
    The definition of trafficking would include sale, offer for sale, possession for the purposes of sale, transportation, distribution and delivery of contraband tobacco. The penalty for the first offence would be up to six months of imprisonment on summary conviction and up to five years of imprisonment if prosecuted on indictment.
    The bill also proposes that repeat offenders convicted of this new offence on indictment would be sentenced to a mandatory minimum penalty of 90 days on a second conviction, 180 days on a third conviction and two years less a day for any subsequent convictions.
    We are taking action and fulfilling our campaign promises. We are targeting organized crime and working to ensure that the revenues would be going into government coffers at all levels to promote smoking cessation programs, reach out to our youth and fund health care and other services that we have grown to rely on. An important part of maintaining those important services is passing this bill and cracking down on contraband tobacco.
    I urge all members of this House to support the bill.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would point out to my hon. colleague that an increasingly large proportion of contraband tobacco is coming in from other countries, but maybe he already knows that.
    Was that taken into consideration in the drafting of this bill? If so, exactly which clauses refer to that fact?

  (1600)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, obviously we work not only with our partners at all levels of government but also with the RCMP and our international partners as well to tackle this important issue.
     If the member refers to the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety, she will see that the parliamentary secretary gave a comprehensive analysis of the work we have done with the cross-border group and U.S. authorities to ensure that we are able to respond when there is suspicion of smuggling of goods or suspicion that contraband tobacco may be crossing an international border.
     Certainly that is something we are aware of and something we are working on proactively. I hope we can count on the hon. member's support when we bring forward measures to tackle that sort of activity.
    Mr. Speaker, as I indicated earlier, illegal importation of cigarettes is very costly in different ways. The most obvious ones would be the potential loss of revenue, the health care impacts of having cheap cigarettes on the market and the activities of gangs in selling illegal cigarettes.
    One of the issues that is really important for us to recognize is that the government needs to be more proactive in dealing with the number of people who take up smoking.
    I see that $90,000 can be spent on just one economic action plan ad. That 30-second ad could be put into our high schools to promote and encourage young people against even taking up smoking in the first place. That would have an impact on illegal cigarettes and the demand for illegal cigarettes.
    I am wondering if the member would agree that the government could be doing more and could even use some of the resources it is currently using in the exploitation of tax dollars to finance advertising for its economic action plan. Does he not agree that there is some benefit in reallocating those dollars and putting them into ways to decrease the demand for cigarettes in general?
    Mr. Speaker, our spending to promote government initiatives is much lower than the last year of Liberal government. We have also increased our spending on health transfers. It will be up to $40 billion by the end of this decade. Members can contrast that with the Liberal Party record of cutting $25 billion in health and social transfers.
    Young Canadians know the dangers of smoking, but we need to reach out to them where they live. The way we could do that is at the local, provincial and local school board levels. Those are the levels that are going to reach out with an individual plan that will work best for those communities. To have a one-size-fits-all approach from Ottawa is not the best way to do it.
    We have given an unprecedented level of resources to the provinces to deal with education and health care. They are in the best position to direct those dollars.
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague has pointed out some personal stories of people who have been impacted by addictions to tobacco. All of us could share too many of those, unfortunately, and too often the stories start with an introduction to tobacco at a very young age.
    I would like my colleague to comment again on the importance of dealing with contraband tobacco as it relates to high school students and even younger students becoming addicted to tobacco because it is so readily available through the contraband route.
    Mr. Speaker, when we were talking about young people, both of the individuals I referred to started smoking early in their teens, and it led to tragically shortened lives. One of the things that we know affects youth smoking rates is the cost of cigarettes and whether they are available at a cheap rate.
    The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety pointed out that one-third of the cigarette butts found at Ontario high schools are contraband. The reason is that young people generally cannot afford to pay for regulated tobacco products, so they look to a cheaper product.
    Contraband tobacco is actually targeting our young people. It makes it easier for them to get into this highly addictive and deadly habit. We need to stop the supply of contraband tobacco, which will reduce youth smoking going forward.

  (1605)  

    Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to offer my support of Bill S-16, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in contraband tobacco). It is another example of the commitment of this government to the safety and security of Canadians.
    I am pleased to speak to the merits of the bill for two main reasons. First, by creating a new Criminal Code offence regarding the sale and distribution of contraband tobacco with mandatory minimum penalties for repeat offenders and by establishing a 50-officer RCMP anti-contraband force, the government is fulfilling the commitment it made to Canadians in its 2011 election platform.
    Second, by carefully tailoring the measures in the bill, especially those related to the penalties provisions, the government has created an effective vehicle to stem the tide of illicit tobacco that is washing over Canadian society.
    As I will discuss, this tide of large-scale criminal activity raises serious concerns not only for Canada's fiscal health but also for the physical health of Canadians.
    Before I describe in more detail the measures proposed by Bill S-16, allow me to provide a bit of context for hon. members that may help them to appreciate the gravity of the problem that Bill S-16 seeks to address as well as the careful way in which the bill has been drafted to accomplish its goal.
    At the outset, it should be noted that according to Health Canada figures, in 2011 Canada's approximately five million declared smokers consumed between 125 million and 150 million cartons of legal cigarettes. Given the illegal nature of the manufacture and distribution of contraband tobacco, it is very difficult to estimate how much market share is occupied by these illegally produced tobacco products in Canada. Studies of the issue provide figures ranging from as low as 12% to as high as 33%, with significant provincial variations.
    Some of the human costs associated with illicit tobacco trade have already been mentioned. The first and most obvious is the serious health risk associated with smoking, which is exacerbated by the fact that much of the contraband tobacco is of very poor quality and contains harmful contaminants.
    In the 1980s and 1990s, the trafficking problem resulted from our own legally produced and less harmful tobacco products being smuggled back into Canada after they had been exported to the United States. While this still happens, although on a smaller scale than 20 years ago, the present problem is that much of the illicit tobacco being consumed in Canada was either illegally manufactured in Canada for the United States in less than ideal conditions or is made up of counterfeit tobacco products imported from abroad.
    We know that smoking legally produced tobacco products is dangerous; it is even more dangerous to smoke the adulterated or contaminated products that are provided by illegal sources.
    Who is smoking contraband tobacco? Here we come to another of the human costs to which I referred.
    At a time in Canadian history when smoking is declining, we find that two of the groups most likely to purchase illicit tobacco products are teenagers and young adults. These, of course, are the very people we wish to most discourage from smoking at all.
    In short, the illicit tobacco industry is not only supplying an existing clientele; it is also cultivating a new clientele base that will enable it to flourish into the future.
    This leads me to another and more dangerous human cost associated with contraband tobacco that I wish to mention. It has to do with the respect for the law and the attitudes that allow illicit tobacco sales to thrive in this country.
    In a 2009 report to the Minister of Public Safety, the task force on illicit tobacco products pointed to four reasons that illegal tobacco products are in such demand in Canada: first, the motivation of smokers of all ages to find low-cost options to satisfy their tobacco cravings and addictions; second, low public appreciation for the harmful consequences of illegal tobacco markets; third, the ease of access to illegal tobacco products; and fourth, the fact that illicit manufacturing and sale of tobacco products was not only tolerated on first nations reserves, but was an important source of revenue there.

  (1610)  

    There is something wrong when Canadians think it is acceptable to purchase an illegal product, especially when its production and distribution is so intimately connected to organized crime activity in Canada and abroad.
    One of the benefits of Bill S-16, aside from curbing the illicit production and sale of contraband tobacco would be to help raise public awareness that these are crimes that will not go unpunished.
    To date, law enforcement in this area has relied on the Excise Tax Act with its focus on fines and seizure of illegal tobacco products and vehicles. While there have been some high-profile seizures, I think it is fair to say that it has not stemmed the illegal trade in any significant way. Sterner measures are clearly called for.
    This is especially so in light of the known involvement of organized crime groups in this illicit trade and the fact that tobacco smuggling is often accompanied by human, drug and weapons smuggling.
    In this regard, it is well accepted that the effectiveness of sanctions depends on their severity, their swiftness and their certainty. Bill S-16 would ensure severity by making the trade in illicit tobacco a criminal offence. A new Criminal Code provision would therefore outlaw possession of tobacco for sale, and the sale, the offer for sale, the transport, the delivery or distribution of a tobacco product that has not been stamped in accordance with the Excise Act.
    Criminal law is a powerful tool. It would be utilized by federal prosecutors who would have concurrent jurisdiction with provincial Crown prosecutors to enforce this new sanction. The swiftness of criminal sanctions would be enhanced by the creation of a special 50-officer RCMP task force that would focus on the eradication of illicit tobacco trade.
    As we know, better and swifter enforcement begins with the investigation and the arrest stage of criminal proceedings. With these new ressourses, the authorities should be able to make a real dent in the illicit tobacco industry. Mandatory minimum penalties for repeat offenders would ensure the certainty of punishment, the third criterion for effective law enforcement.
    The maximum penalty for a first offence would be up to six months' imprisonment on summary conviction or up to five years' imprisonment in the case of an indictment. However, repeat offenders in cases involving 10,000 cigarettes or more, 10 kilograms or more of another tobacco product, or 10 kilograms or more of raw leaf tobacco would be sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 90 days' imprisonment on a second conviction, a mandatory minimum of 180 days on the third conviction and a mandatory minimum of 2 years less a day on any subsequent conviction.
    These are serious offences. Let us recall that they are minimums. Sentencing judges are free to go beyond them on a second, third or subsequent conviction, depending on the circumstances of any individual case.
    In closing, Bill S-16 deserves the support of this House and of Canadian society in general. It would tackle a serious and growing problem that deserves our immediate and focused attention. I therefore urge all hon. members to join me in supporting this worthwhile and carefully crafted legislation.
    I remain ready, willing and most desirous to answer any questions members may wish to pose.

  (1615)  

    Mr. Speaker, I found it most interesting, listening to this member speak on this particular subject.
    As far as all caucus members on this side know, this member knows a lot about this issue. In fact, he has been raising it, time and time again, with all of us in different meetings. I am sure he is very pleased that we are finally moving forward on this.
     It is a challenge, and he has shared the challenges in his region of Canada. We all share this; even in my riding of Macleod we face this challenge. I will never forget one evening, walking down one of the main streets here in Ottawa, walking home and seeing the trade in plastic Ziploc bags of contraband tobacco. It was in full sight.
    I wonder if the hon. member can provide some of what is in this piece of legislation that would perhaps help us stop this illicit trade in contraband tobacco.
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member from Macleod is very right. I have been pushing, shoving and stomping my feet with regard to our government taking some action in this regard. I know we have taken many steps, but to me this is one of the most significant steps because it now makes it a criminal offence to be engaged in the sale, delivery, distribution, transportation and possession of these illicit cigarettes.
    Representatives of the confectionery industry have, I am sure, come to most of the members in this place and told us of many of their members having to close their doors because the sale of legal tobacco has now ended or been significantly reduced in their particular area because of illicit tobacco, most of which is distributed by and has been backed by organized crime.
    We have outlined this and we have had questions. Children in primary and secondary school are buying cigarettes at five cents apiece, being hooked on illegal tobacco. I wish the government received zero dollars from the sale of legal tobacco. That would be a huge benefit to this country in the health care costs. However, it is a legal drug, this nicotine that we are stuck with, and we need to at least curtail its growth. We have been somewhat successful. By this illicit trade in illegal tobacco, we are now hooking children—I say “we” because we have not done enough. Our government is doing as much as it can, and this legislation would push that, but we need to do more.
    With this legislation, my constituents would begin to see that they are pushing their member of Parliament, and this government has gotten somewhere.
    Mr. Speaker, of course I work with the hon. member for Northumberland—Quinte West on the public safety committee, and I have enormous respect for his experience in this field.
    I think the member knows from being in policing that one of the best ways to make progress is through knowledge of the community and consultations with members of the community. What this looks like to me is the same old Conservative playbook on contraband tobacco. I wonder how many consultations were done with first nations, with the provinces and with others involved in this area, before producing this bill.
    Mr. Speaker, the first area of consultations is with our own constituents. In the last seven years, almost every second month someone has come to me and asked what I am going to do about the people who are selling illegal cigarettes out the back door and closing legal businesses, in particular the corner stores that we all go to on a Sunday afternoon when most of the big stores are closed, where we go to buy our chocolate bars or lottery tickets or whatever we are going to buy. These stores are drying up around my area, especially the little “mom and dad” operations that are not associated with the big chains. They are the people being put out of business by the sale of illegal cigarettes.
    We all know where most of them are emanating from, and I have to say it in this House that they are emanating from mostly first nations territories where somehow, some way, these illegal cigarettes are being sold. What is more, they are now being sold in our schoolyards.
    This very House, in a previous Parliament, did an exhaustive study on the sale of illegal and illicit cigarettes. It is out of that study that this legislation emanates. I mentioned in my speech that there was a panel that advised the Minister of Public Safety on it; so we have done those consultations.
    The time for consultations is over, and the time for action is now. That is why we ask that Bill S-16 be supported.

  (1620)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to start with a bit of personal history. Many lives were saved in my family by my grandfather. In 1964, there was the release of the report of the U.S. surgeon general on smoking and health. It was a U.S. report, yes, but a very influential one throughout North America. That report really changed opinion on smoking in North America. Before that report, there was still a debate about the dangers of smoking, which was fuelled by the propaganda of the tobacco companies against the research that was beginning to show the