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41st PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 104

CONTENTS

Monday, June 16, 2014




House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 147 
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NUMBER 104 
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2nd SESSION 
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41st PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer

    The House met at 11 a.m.

Prayers



PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS

[Private Members' Business]

  (1105)  

[English]

Georgian Bay Channel to Lock 45 – Port Severn

    That, in the opinion of the House, the government should consider the advisability of measures to deepen and straighten the vessel navigation channel which provides access between Georgian Bay and the westerly limit of the Trent-Severn Waterway, at Port Severn.
     He said: Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege to address the House this morning, on the kind of rare occasion for a chair occupant to have the opportunity to address the House. As many members may know, I have the privilege of having chair occupancy, along with the great team that does work in this area, the hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh, and the hon. member for Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock. It is a great team to be part of, but it does not accord us with the time to address the House, except on rare occasions such as this.
    As the motion was read, members can tell that this is about improving a very specific part of the navigable waterway, just below Lock 45 at the village of Port Severn. That may not be all that familiar to a lot of members, so I will describe exactly where that is.
    Before I go on, I want to mention that my seconder today, the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London, is greatly familiar with this area that we speak of. Of course, he is very close to a part of the Great Lakes himself, representing his riding in southwestern Ontario. He is intimately familiar with the kinds of benefits that are derived from the recreational boating economy that is a central part of job creation and wealth creation in our part of Ontario.
    Georgian Bay is a part of my riding. As members might know, it is almost as large as Lake Ontario itself. It sits on the northeastern corner of Lake Huron. Lake Huron and Lake Michigan are the two lakes that actually compose slightly over 50% of the total area of the Great Lakes in their entirety.
    In my part of the riding, there are several communities along the south shore of Georgian Bay. This is the southernmost portion of the bay where, for many recreational boating activists and participants from the GTA and southern Ontario, it is the closest point at which they can meet with Georgian Bay.
    In my riding alone, there are no less than 4,000 recreational boat slips. There is also all of the economy that ensues from that, whether from repair shops to marine services to sales to retail, all of the things that derive from that basic economic activity.
    Georgian Bay connects many towns and villages, of which members may be well aware, and we all have a great stake in that recreational boating economy. These are places like Owen Sound and Parry Sound. In my riding, there are Midland and Penetanguishene; places like Collingwood, Tobermory, Manitoulin Island, the North Channel. However, this being a binational waterway, it also connects with the recreational boating traffic from the United States, especially in our corner, from the State of Michigan.
    All of the boaters who frequent Canada during the fair weather months make their routes from the northeastern parts of the United States up to the Great Lakes, and then find their way through the Trent-Severn Waterway from Georgian Bay back down to Lake Ontario. They can then reconnect with the Erie Canal, and right back down south along the eastern seaboard, all the way to Florida.
    I mentioned the Trent-Severn Waterway. Many members are familiar with this wonderful waterway. There are members in the House who have familiarity with it because they have cottages or real estate on it. It is part of southern Ontario's cottage country community, which has no less than $23.6 billion worth of residential property. This is a waterway that was built by the Government of Canada in the late 19th century and early into the 20th century, comprising, as I said, $23.6 billion in residential property, with an annual economic influx to our region of about $1 billion annually and all of the different economic activities that ensue from it.
    It is a waterway that is 386 kilometres long, connecting Georgian Bay at the village of Port Severn, all the way down through central Ontario, Lake Simcoe, through the Kawartha Lakes, and out to Lake Ontario on the north shore, around the town of Trenton.
    There is a total of 160 dams, 44 locks, one marine railway, and some 50,000 residences on the waterway itself. There are another 16,500 residences on what are called the reservoir lakes. They are the lakes that were created to provide water to the Trent-Severn Waterway over the course of the summer, so that the navigation operation could continue.
    That brings us to the little village of Port Severn itself. Port Severn is at the mouth of the Severn River. Where the Severn River flows, the river itself drains an area of approximately 5,500 square kilometres of our part of the area just east of the shoreline of Georgian Bay. It flows down through there, including the Lake Simcoe watershed, which goes as far south as the Oak Ridges Moraine, as those in the Toronto and southern Ontario will know . It is the high ground just above the city of Toronto. Everything north of that moraine drains northward initially, through Lake Simcoe, and eventually into the Severn River. It flows out to Georgian Bay through the Severn River.
    During the time of early settlement in Ontario, that river was critical to the local economy involving the lumber industry. It was the main route to get fallen logs from their part of the watershed to the mills. Port Severn was established for the lumber industry, and it took its path from those early routes. For the case of today's discussion, it is also the point at which all of the navigable waterways and recreational boating activity that occurs both on Georgian Bay and the inland waterway up the Trent-Severn connect. There could be anywhere up to 40,000 vessels across the waterway itself. The ability to connect between the two waterways is through a very narrow channel, which is right below Lock 45 on its way to Georgian Bay.
    We do not have the ability to show members any graphs, pictures, posters, or anything of that sort, so I will do my best. I would ask members to imagine the eastern shore of Georgian Bay as being fairly shallow. Along the approaches to the shoreline, there are very few areas where there is enough water depth to allow larger vessels to get close to shore. Therefore, when the canal was built in the late 19th century to early 20th century, and the navigation channel was essentially excavated out of the rock to allow more vessels to come through, it was done in a way that would allow them passage between the two waterways. As I said, most parts of the Trent-Severn were built around 1880, and finished in 1920, with the final link between Lake Couchiching and Sparrow Lake. It has largely been the same from the early days when the canal was created.
    I know that many members have travelled the incredible expressway that we have to cottage country in Ontario, called Highway 400. It starts right in Toronto, and there are four lanes all the way to Sudbury. There are only a few narrow spots, along the French River area and south of it, that are still two lanes, but the Province of Ontario continues to build it. That highway crosses the canal right at Port Severn. Of course, the canal in question here existed well before that highway was created.
    When the canal was built, they built it for the vessels of the day. They also built it for the amount of traffic that existed at that time. As one can imagine, both have grown over the decades. Vessels have become larger and there is more traffic. In fact, we see upward of 6,200 passages through Lock 45 in a given season. In the summer, up to 82 vessels per day pass through the canal, one way or the other.
    What has created a problem for the canal since the year 2000 is that we have had a persistent low water condition in the upper Great Lakes, on Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and on Georgian Bay. As that has persisted, the difficulty in navigating the canal has become worse.

  (1110)  

    Members may know that the water levels on Georgian Bay fluctuate about a metre and a half from top to bottom, and that happens on about a 15 to 20-year cycle. However, recently, particularly because of climatic conditions, we have had a persistent low period of water levels. We have seen that come back and recover a little this past year, but the low water conditions have made the channel that much more treacherous for larger boats to navigate.
    What exactly is wrong with it?
    Those of you who have piloted vessels like this would know that when there are onshore winds or currents that are sometimes unexpected and one is navigating a 32 or 34-foot vessel through a channel like that, the sudden change in conditions can move one into a spot that is not so easy to deal with. The risk of collision, either with shoals or other vessels, becomes very real. This is exactly what has happened in this little canal below Lock 45. In fact, pilots of various vessels have spread the word that this is a very treacherous canal.
    The community of pilots of these vessels is very close knit. These people all talk with each other, and they have simply stayed away. We have also heard from operators of marinas all across my region, and they are the ones who originally brought this issue to my attention. They want to know what can be done to make the canal more safe.
     Therefore, over the last year, I undertook to see exactly what could be done. We talked to local contractors to find out what it would take to make the canal safe. They are in the business of doing this kind of work, and they know what they are doing.
     We had one project estimate to remove approximately 1,200 cubic metres of rock from this particular channel, to widen, deepen, and straighten it, to make sure that vessels could get through even if a low water condition existed. The cost of this project is in the range of $650,000, which is not a huge amount of money. It is removing rock, but once it is done, it would stay done, just as the existing channel has from its early days. This is not an area that will continue to be silted in, and so on.
    This is a project that needs to be done. It is a very specific channel, and it would make a mountain of difference for our operators of retail navigation, marine navigation, and all of the various businesses and employees who rely on this kind of employment. It would allow much more traffic between the Trent-Severn Waterway and the Georgian Bay destination.
    I should say, by the way, that Georgian Bay is the very best inland waterway that Ontario has to offer. The member for Elgin—Middlesex—London may disagree because he is on beautiful Lake Erie, and of course all the members who are situated around the Great Lakes would know what great boating our Great Lakes offer. However, for those who have had the chance to visit the Georgian Bay coastline, it is stunning. There are fantastic services and communities along it, which provide great services for boaters.
    I am presenting a proposition to the House for consideration. I have asked in the motion for the government to consider the advisability of the measures it would take to make this channel more safe and take away the deterrents to boating in this region of the country. I realize that we do not know what may follow in terms of the water level conditions that may persist. However, if it is anything like the last 13 years or so, if not addressed, it would conceivably still represent problems.
    I seek the support of the House to pass this motion and take one next step toward getting those measures complete.

  (1115)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Simcoe North for his speech and for bringing this motion forward to the House.
    Having visited that area, I concur that the northern part of the Trent-Severn Waterway, up around Port Severn, is indeed stunning. I think that all MPs who represent people along the 380 kilometres of the Trent-Severn Waterway would agree that it is quite stunning, with each part of the waterway offering its own particular landscape and engineering marvels.
    In light of the member's description of the waterway as a whole and the complexity of the watershed and interests that are involved along the Trent-Severn Waterway, from the different types of recreational use to the natural environment, can he tell the House what kind of assessments and consultations have been done to support the motion? For example, have economic and environmental assessments been done? Have first nations been consulted?
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Beaches—East York asked a pertinent question.
    There is no doubt that the nature of in-water works in our part of the world requires a rigorous examination in terms of the environmental impact. Several regulatory authorities would become involved in that process, and regardless of whether a private or public enterprise undertook the work, all of those permits would have to be satisfied. The lead agency in this case would be the provincial ministry of the environment and natural resources, which would provide the necessary permitting. That is a public process that one would have to go through.
    In terms of other consultations because of the nature and scope of the work, this is a very specific rock excavation that would not be a lot different from any other remedial types of excavations in the area. Not having a broad application in the local community, consultations have been really restricted to the local economic interests in our area.

  (1120)  

    Mr. Speaker, I was paying close attention to the hon. member's speech, because he and I share a reservoir lake, so we are both keen about what happens on the Trent–Severn Waterway.
    There is no question that we are broadly supportive of the motion and agree completely with the whole argument of the economic multiplier that is the Trent-Severn Waterway writ large, not only from Georgian Bay but right through to Kingston and on to Ottawa, for that matter.
    I am sure the member would agree with me that there have been a number of years of low water, as he mentioned in his speech. This is just the natural effect of climate change. We are into a situation where climate is disrupting normal patterns, whether it is rain or whatever.
    I am given to understand that not only to adapt to climate change but also for other impacts on the waterway, there is somewhere in the order of $350 million worth of deferred maintenance for the entire system. I am wondering whether this is part of this, whether this is a special one-off, or whether the whole system needs a complete rebuild.
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Scarborough—Guildwood would know well that the ageing infrastructure of the Trent-Severn does need regular attention. That was one of the reasons I was glad to see in budget 2014 a commitment of $391.5 million for Parks Canada to complete many projects involving dams, bridges, and roads on properties that are under Parks Canada. To answer my colleague's specific question, though, this would be a one-off, as he described, and would not be contemplated within the existing Parks Canada budget.
    It is actually just outside the Trent-Severn Waterway jurisdiction. It goes as far as the dock on the low side of Lock 45, so the government would have to authorize additional funds. The government would have to consider how that might be accommodated, but it would not exist on the current list of deferred maintenance affecting the Trent-Severn Waterway.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in the House today and speak to Motion No. 502, which calls on the government to consider the advisability of measures to strengthen and deepen the vessel navigation channel that provides access from Georgian Bay to the westerly limit of the Trent-Severn Waterway at Port Severn. What the motion is attempting to address is a bit of a hazardous part of the trip through the 386 kilometre waterway. The channel these folks are having to go through is rock-faced, quite narrow, and subject to swift currents from the operation of the locks and also from winds. The boats that travel through that narrow channel often get shifted around by both the currents and winds into rock faces and experience problems.
    I am very pleased to speak to the motion for a couple of reasons. First, I spent three happy summers on the Trent-Severn Waterway as a summer student and another year on the Rideau Canal, again as a summer student. These were great jobs. Students, frankly, could not ask for better work. It was outside. It was well paid. That work went a long way in helping me through those years of university.
    I have to acknowledge that I was not lock staff. I was an interpretive guide. On the Trent-Severn, I spent most of my time in Peterborough at the lift lock, the highest lift lock in the world, as I am sure all of us in the House know. However, I did get the opportunity to see the full length of the waterway, sometimes dressed as Boomer the beaver, sometimes just in my Parks Canada uniform. It was amazing.
    I got to see the Kirkfield lift lock too, which is the second highest lift lock in the world. Who knew? I also got to see the marine railway up at Big Chute. These are engineering marvels, top to bottom, on the Trent-Severn.
    My time on the Rideau was similarly spent as an interpretive guide and split between the blockhouse at Kingston Mills and the blacksmith shop up at Jones Falls, where, by the end of the summer, I became pretty handy at bashing out a few standard household items over the forge.
    Neither of these jobs had the cool factor of lock staff, it goes without saying, since I had to dress as Boomer the beaver from time to time and run around in militia uniform firing off muskets in the dark. However, they did afford me the opportunity as a young person to get some insight into the history of our country, and indeed, into the history of the first nations and how they lived on these lands and used the natural waterways before the canals actually linked them. There are a couple of lessons in all of this that stand out for me.
    We have before us a relatively modest motion. I think the member has priced it at $600,000 and change. Of course, given the numbers we deal with in the House, that strikes us as relatively small.
    What I want to talk about is the issue of ambition, and this is why I support even this smaller proposal in the motion. It is the ambition required of nation builders and the ambition Canada once had to build the infrastructure that makes a nation. These waterways were carved out of some very difficult and unforgiving land, and they remain marvels, national historic sites, both the Rideau and the Trent-Severn. Of course, the Rideau has the UNESCO World Heritage Site designation as well. They remain, among other things, marvels of engineering. The lift locks along the Trent-Severn still captivate and perplex people. It is so simple, yet people stand at the bottom wondering how these things work and how they were built.
    The waterways are but two examples, albeit outstanding ones, of an infrastructure that built our country. Laying railroad track across the country, across beautiful but hostile territory, through equally difficult and often deadly summers and winters, was no less a feat of course.

  (1125)  

    It is not just about the rural and remote infrastructure that built this country; it is also about urban infrastructure in Toronto. One need only look at the Bloor Street viaduct built almost 100 years ago. It was designed to facilitate mass transit at the beginning of the 20th century, long before we needed mass transit. Its upper deck was built to accommodate streetcars while the lower deck was built for rail transportation. It was controversial at the time because of the high additional costs. However, the bridge's designer and the commissioner of public works for Toronto at the time, R.C. Harris, were able to have their way, and the lower deck on that Bloor Street viaduct proved to save millions upon millions of dollars when the TTC, the Toronto Transit Commission, ultimately opened the Bloor-Danforth subway almost half a century later and they were able to use that bridge with no major structural changes.
    Just down the road from my home in Toronto, and ever so slightly outside my riding, unfortunately, because I would like to call it my own, is the R.C. Harris water filtration plant. It tells a similar story. Early in the 20th century, Toronto was plagued with water shortages and unclean drinking water, so a plant was built in the 1930s to purify water. That is the R.C. Harris water filtration plant. It still functions today, providing almost half the water to Toronto and York Region all these years later.
    It is interesting that Michael Ondaatje's novel In the Skin of a Lion tells the story of how in the 1930s water intakes were built more than 2.5 kilometres out under the lake, offshore, in 15 metres of water, and connected to the plant through pipes running under the bed of the lake. These were the kinds of ambitions we had at one time to build the infrastructure upon which we built great cities and a great country. It is forward looking, it is courageous, and it understands that infrastructure needs to be built now to serve as the foundation for a prosperous future. We are falling short on this. I talk all the time in this House about the impact of the lack of ambition of successive federal governments on our cities, but here let me restrict my comments to our waterways.
    Recent estimates suggest that Parks Canada is letting our cultural, economic, and environmental assets go. Recent reports on Parks Canada and its assets suggests that there has been poor stewardship of its vast holdings, estimated in 2012 to require some $2.9 billion in deferred repairs. Deferred work on the Trent-Severn Waterway alone is estimated to be worth almost $700 million.
    In a recent letter made public by retired managers of both the Trent-Severn and the Rideau Canal, they point to many problems emerging from the cuts made in the 2012 budget. Some of those cuts have been restored, but they have left a devastating impact on these two canals. The managers speak to the natural and cultural resources of the two waterways. They speak to all the complexity of uses of these waterways and the complexity of the watershed the waterways run through, and all the recreational uses. They challenge the government to ask itself whether it is really paying attention and respecting the heritage we have here.
    The second point, just to conclude, is a more modern one. This letter points to this issue that these waterways are not remote anymore. They serve many functions and many people and fall under the jurisdiction of more than one government. That is to say that management is always a complex issue, and many important interests need to be served. The cuts to the hours of operation of these canals that flowed from the 2012 budget have had a devastating impact. As someone who worked on the waterway at one point in time, I know that the rolling crews through these locks is devastating to the economies along the waterway.
    To support the motion, one thing I would like to see come out of it is greater consultation with all the competing and many complementary interests that exist along the waterway.

  (1130)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Simcoe North for bringing forward this important motion. It is one that we will be supporting.
    It is a local issue about which his community clearly cares. The member for Simcoe North has kindly shared with me support letters from arenas and other businesses, as well as property owners in his riding. As he rightly points out, this about is $24 billion worth of property, 160 dams, 50,000 residences and property owners, and more.
    By way of background for those who are not as familiar with Ontario as I and the member, we are talking about the channel that links the Trent-Severn Waterway to Georgian Bay. It is a winding, narrow passage chiselled from the rock floor of Georgian Bay, immediately south of Lock 45 in Port Severn, Ontario. It is a hazard for recreational vessels because it is, first, rock-faced. Second, it requires fairly sharp turns. Third, it is not wide enough for larger vessels to pass each other. Finally, it suffers from unexpected swift currents from the release of water from the locks.
    The channel becomes even more difficult to navigate safely during low water level conditions on Georgian Bay, a condition that has now prevailed since 1999. The bay is currently 35 centimetres below its long-term average for this time of year. The hazardous nature of the channel has deterred boaters from using it, resulting in lost business for services, arenas, retail sector, food services and more on Georgian Bay.
    As an environmental lawyer, I fully understand that water resources support Canada's social fabric, underpin our biodiversity and are central to our economic prosperity.
    Now, while I support the motion, I also think the government has a responsibility to take action when environmental challenges pose threats to our environment and our economy. This is a perfect demonstration project or case of how we should hand the realities we will face over the next 50 to 100 years.
    For the past 20 years, I have been calling for a detailed national climate change strategy for Canada, a strategy to both mitigate and help adapt to climate change.
    Just last weekend, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released some numbers showing that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was now well over 400 parts per million and holding. Why is that important? It is important because we are trying to maintain the projected temperature increases to 2°C going forward. If we continue to climb in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it will be very difficult to contemplate holding that temperature increase to 2°C.
     Why is this so important? It is important because we now know that the Great Lakes are in long-term decline because we have seen an ever-increasing temperature increase in them for a few reasons, mostly evaporation because of temperature increases.
    We have also the effects of the dredging of the St. Clair River, and we have seen other effects of climate change right across Canadian society: storms, flooding, and the frequency and severity of these are going to continue.
    If we had a national climate change strategy for Canada, it would help address the low water levels. It would help many waterways in Canada become safer and easier to navigate, without having to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece for dredging.
    That makes it all the more difficult to understand why the Prime Minister, last week, with the Prime Minister of Australia, once again, positioned the economy and the environment in isolation from each other, saying that we could not afford to address the climate change challenge. He could not be more wrong.
    Last year, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan hit their lowest January water levels since record-keeping began in 1918, following more than a decade of below normal rain and snowfall, and higher temperatures that increased evaporation.
    Furthermore, at a time when we need more and better science, one would think we would want to know, for the 50,000 property owners along this waterway, what might be coming.

  (1135)  

    At that very time, we found out that the Conservative government was cutting funding for environmental science. It has cut funding to the International Joint Commission, leading to Lana Pollack, the U.S. co-chair of the IJC, commenting, “We have always depended on good collaboration with agencies in both the governments. When those agencies get cut, we feel it, the lakes feel it.”
    For the Conservative members who might want to listen, in the report on plans and priorities over the next two years, the government plans to decrease Environment Canada's budget by one-third, 30%. That is $300 million cut from a $1 billion budget.
     In 2014-15, again in the report on plans and priorities, climate change and clean air programs are being cut 70% between now and 2017. I would think the member, in this important motion, would want to work internally in his own caucus to remind the Prime Minister that we need to help these property owners. We need to help companies in the private sector to adjust to these new realities.
    Instead of embracing the economic opportunities that are inherent in the adaptation mitigation that is to come, the government continues to divide the two. International climate change and clean air funding will be cut 45% and staffing level will be cut by over 80% by 2017. That hardly sounds like a country getting ready to adjust to the realities of climate change and all of the economic opportunities that are inherent in addressing climate change going forward.
     We will continue to put pressure on the government to also drive forward on a national water resources strategy, a comprehensive water strategy, working with the provinces, municipalities, territories and beyond, and, when necessary, with the government of the United States. Our waterways are interconnected, our land masses are connected, our oceans are contiguous. We are going to have to work together.
    Finally, this is a wonderful opportunity, a wonderful case, where if the government had not eliminated the national round table on the environment and the economy, the national round table could have worked with the member, with private businesses, with aboriginal groups, with environmental NGOs and with orders of government to come together with a better, more comprehensive approach to deal with the watershed management challenge.
     It is unfortunate, but it is an important moment for the government to stop, drop the rhetoric, drop the partisanship, drop the ideology on climate change, and understand that we can, as one person once said, do a lot of damage to the planet by running down its capital. Imagine how much more money we could make by actually replenishing it.

  (1140)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to the motion at hand, sponsored by the member for Simcoe North. I want to thank him for bringing it forward, as well as the interventions already by the member for Beaches—East York and Ottawa South in the debate today. I hope to explain a bit about Transport Canada's role under the motion in front of us today.
    I am pleased to speak about Transport Canada's mandate under the Navigation Protection Act in relation to proposed dredging projects, such as deepening and straightening the navigation channel between Georgian Bay and the westerly limit of the Trent-Severn Waterway at Port Severn.
    The high current in the channel makes it a difficult and challenging channel to navigate. The government recognizes the benefits of improving access within this waterway and supports, in principle, the initiative to widen and straighten the navigation channel to improve navigation through this busy recreational waterway.
    However, it is important to note that Transport Canada does not dredge for the purposes of enhancing recreational boating. Rather, when a proponent brings forward a submission for a proposed dredging project, Transport Canada undertakes a regulatory review of the navigation safety of the project under the Navigation Protection Act, formally known as the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
    As members are aware, the Navigable Waters Protection Act was amended in December 2012 as part of budget Bill C-45 in order to modernize the regulatory process that oversees our navigable waters.
    The NWPA was one of Canada's oldest pieces of legislation, dating from a time when our waterways were Canada's primary transportation routes. A key purpose of the act was the protection of navigation in the context of allowing the construction and placement of works in, on, over, under, through, or across navigable waters in Canada.
    A significant change to the act was the change in name to the Navigation Protection Act, correctly aligning the name of the act with its navigation safety mandate. Another key change was the addition of a schedule of specific navigable waters, focusing efforts on the regulation of those works that had the biggest impact on navigation in Canada. The schedule is focused on those waters that support busy commercial or recreation-related navigation, that are accessible by ports and marinas, and that are often in close proximity to heavily populated areas.
    Nautical charts compiled by the Canadian Hydrographic Service, reliance on departmental historic data, and information acquired through Statistics Canada related to freight movement on Canadian waterways were used to compile the list.
    Canadians have a public right of navigation; that is, the right to free and unobstructed passage over navigable waters. The new Navigation Protection Act operates as a statutory exception to the common law, allowing interferences with the public right of navigation.
    In this day and age, where economic stimulus remains a top priority for Canada, I believe the amendments to the act have seized the opportunity to create a modern, robust, and flexible legislative regime that can effectively respond to current and future needs of Canadians. Ultimately, these amendments will facilitate better economic growth.
    For years provincial, territorial, and municipal governments expressed a desire for the Government of Canada to overhaul the legislation and reduce the red tape. The amendments to the act respond to this demand, making it easier for communities to build important infrastructure like roads, bridges, and wharves, which create jobs and economic development.
    For the purposes of our discussion today, the navigation channel that provides access between Georgian Bay and the westerly limit of the Trent-Severn Waterway at Port Severn is included in the schedule of waters.
    The Trent-Severn Waterway is an important Canadian navigation and environmental resource, dating back to the 19th century transportation systems in Ontario, and continues to contribute to Canadian society today as part of our proud heritage. Thousands of boaters use the Trent-Severn each year, millions visit and enjoy the lock stations and other public sites along the canals, many local community businesses provide services to both residents and tourists, and, in addition, communities have been built around the lifestyles associated with this waterway.
    In summary, this waterway continues to be a substantial boost to the economy of the region.

  (1145)  

    As I mentioned earlier, the navigation channel that provides access between Georgian Bay and the westerly limit of the Trent-Severn Waterway is on the schedule. This means that any proposed work on this navigable water may require a review and authorization by Transport Canada's officials under the Navigation Protection Act.
    Transport Canada's role in any proposed dredging project on any navigable waterway listed on the schedule is to continue to support a safe and efficient transportation system through the regulatory review process, thereby minimizing risks to navigation.
    It should be noted that some works, including dredging, may fall under the category of designated or minor works. Works in this category do not require review and authorization by Transport Canada's officials if the works meet the criteria set out in the minor works order.
    Should a dredging project not meet the minor works criteria, Transport Canada's officials would work closely with their clients, usually the owners of the works, and with federal and provincial partners throughout the process of assessing the potential impacts of proposed works. They are directly involved in activities and operations that can impact navigation, and they serve clients in Canada's industrial sectors, all levels of government, stakeholders in the tourism and recreation sector, private property owners, and the general public.
    To reiterate, a primary purpose of the Navigation Protection Act is to regulate works that risk interfering with navigation in waters listed in the schedule to the act. A proponent's submission requirements are determined by Transport Canada's officials and include important and relevant project information, such as final design and construction details. This detailed information is required for Transport Canada's officials to identify likely interferences with shipping and boating activities.
    In the case of a proposed project for dredging within the Trent-Severn Waterway, the proponent would have to comply with the process for a regulatory submission. It is the owner's responsibility to submit a notice and receive confirmation from Transport Canada's officials prior to any construction. Specifically for this case, the proponent would be responsible for contacting the Transport Canada navigation protection program for the Ontario region. Transport Canada regional officials will provide the proponent with the relevant submission requirements.
    In closing, Transport Canada's responsibility regarding this initiative is to review any proposed works in scheduled navigable waters to ensure they are constructed in a manner that considers the impacts to navigation and supports a safe and efficient transportation system. Transport Canada works closely with clients to assist them with a smooth and transparent regulatory review and authorization process.

  (1150)  

    Mr. Speaker, as always it is an honour to speak in this House on behalf of my constituents from Surrey North. I am glad to speak to this motion in particular, Motion No. 503, introduced by the member for Simcoe North. It is an important piece of legislation, and I will try to connect its importance to B.C.
    Basically, the motion calls for the government to consider the advisability of an investment to improve the navigability of the Trent-Severn Waterway near Lock 45. My colleagues in the NDP have conducted some consultations with the stakeholders and rights holders and first nations to look at this project, and most of the people who would be affected by this improvement seem to be open to the idea. However, there are some concerns as to what the next steps are. I hope the member for Simcoe North will keep the community informed and get it involved in the consultations in regard to moving forward with this project.
    The Trent-Severn Waterway is a canal route traversing southern Ontario cottage country and is a linear historic site of Canada administered by Parks Canada. It was formerly used for industrial and transportation services and is now maintained for recreational and tourism purposes. I will tie this to how important tourism is not only to people in southern Ontario but also to waterways that are off British Columbia and in British Columbia.
    There are numerous issues contributing to the need for this to be done. The channel has many rocks, it requires relatively sharp turns, it is not wide enough for bigger vessels, and it is subject to unexpected currents seasonally. For these reasons, it is difficult for boaters to navigate through these waterways.
    This project would help local communities. It would be of economic benefit. It is a small project, a small infrastructure investment in our local communities, and I commend the member for bringing this motion forward.
    The bigger question is the lack of infrastructure development and lack of infrastructure funding allocation by the current government throughout the last six or seven years. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities estimates a deficit of hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure development in this country, yet we have seen budget after budget wherein infrastructure development has been cut in our communities and our cities.
    As an example, Pattullo Bridge in Surrey, British Columbia, is 76 years old. The bridge was only to last 50 years, so it is already 25 or 26 years beyond its lifespan. The bridge is going to be built soon. We already have a bridge on the other side of Surrey, the Port Mann Bridge, which is tolled. As far as I know, that is the only toll bridge west of Ontario, and it is in British Columbia and goes directly into my riding.
    The only proposals for the new bridge so far propose tolls, so both of the bridges going into my constituency will be toll bridges. In some of the other municipalities in the Lower Mainland, people are able to take another bridge that is not tolled, but we do not have that option. Those are the sorts of infrastructure investments that are required from the current government. I am talking about my constituency because my constituents are telling me that we cannot afford another toll bridge.

  (1155)  

    The minimum wage has not risen often in the last number of years. If people commute to work and have to go over the bridge, they have to pay between $6 and $8, depending on which bridge they take, and that cuts into making a living. It is hard on my constituents in Surrey North, because they basically depend on those bridges to go to municipalities north of the Fraser River.
    Infrastructure investments are important because they help our communities grow. I would ask the government to look at projects like Pattullo Bridge, come to the table, and help communities invest in local jobs and local economies so that communities can grow.
    This project is going to be good for the economy of southern Ontario because of the money that will be received from tourism. It will benefit the entire cottage community. These are the kinds of investments that we need to make not only in Ontario but right across the country, but the government is lacking when it comes to putting dollars into our communities.
    Dredging and widening this particular channel will make it more navigable for boats and the movement of goods. This would certainly help the tourism industry and spur on other economic activity. These are the kinds of investments we need in British Columbia. These are the investments we need in order to facilitate tourism and the movement of goods.
    Tourism plays a huge role in British Columbia. Millions of tourists come into Vancouver to take cruise ships to Alaska. Tourism dollars drive a lot of the local businesses in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. For that matter, many of my constituents work in the tourism industry.
    Investments are needed not only in our waterways but in our small craft harbours as well. We need better facilities for local British Columbians and for tourists coming into British Columbia, but the government has not made sufficient investment in them. We have seen that many times in many budgets over many years. These small investments would spur on job growth in local communities.
    The NDP always supports reasonable and responsible infrastructure investments that balance the economic, environmental, social, and legal concerns of our communities. We support infrastructure investment. I am hopeful that the government will step up in my community with regard to the Pattullo Bridge.
    It is equally important when making these investments that we make sure local communities and first nations are consulted. We need to look at the impact of these investments in infrastructure on local communities.
    I could talk about investing in our communities for hours, because I hear the concerns from my constituents. I want to bring to the House's attention the urgent need for investments in new infrastructure, whether it is in canals or bridges in my community or whether it is in the transportation needs of my community.
    I urge the government to look seriously at these issues and make these important investments in our communities so that our communities can prosper.

  (1200)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am standing in support of this motion, mainly because I think it is time for us to seriously look at sensible, environmentally safe investments in our infrastructure. Here, we are talking about a lock that is going to have economic gains for the region. Not only will it benefit the cottage industry, it will benefit tourists. Industrialists around that area have no problem with this.
    When I think about infrastructure, I think of the massive infusion of money that is needed in order to address transit, especially in Surrey, where we are in dire need of these additional resources, not only for environmental reasons, but for quality of life reasons. We have serious issues. I would also say that when we are talking about dredging and getting this lock ready, it reminds me of the Fraser River, which goes through the edge of my riding, and the need that we have and that I hear about of the desalting that needs to take place.
    The current government really believes in economic growth. If it was really committed, the number one thing that it could do right now would be to invest in infrastructure from coast to coast to coast. Every region has different needs. That is where the government needs to work with provincial and municipal governments as a team, because jobs are not plentiful. We have very high unemployment, and we know that the best stimulus to get the economy going is to invest in our infrastructure. The infrastructure then boosts our economy in other ways. In this case, it might be for tourism, and we know how much money tourism brings into our country.
    In my riding, Surrey and the Newton area, as I mentioned earlier, investment in infrastructure might result in an effective public transit system. It would be a public transit system that makes life so much easier for people living in Surrey. They face traffic gridlock every morning and every evening. Do not only think about the number of hours that are wasted that people spend sitting in a car; think about how much damage is being done to the environment as well.
    It makes good environmental sense. It makes good economic sense, because all of those hours sitting in the car could be spent being more productive at work. Those hours would also add to the quality of life. Just think of the joy on people's faces when they get to spend more time playing with their children or visiting their elderly grandmother.
    The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.
    The hon. member for Newton—North Delta will have seven minutes remaining when the matter returns before the House.

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[Government Orders]

[English]

Agricultural Growth Act

    The House resumed from June 13 consideration of the motion that Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts relating to agriculture and agri-food, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour, as always, to rise in this House, representing the people of Timmins—James Bay. I am very interested in speaking to Bill C-18, an act to amend certain acts relating to agriculture and agri-food.
    There are many elements in the bill, some to do with plant breeders' rights and some to do with payments for farmers. There are a number of elements I think need to be looked at. It is good for us to have a discussion in the House of Commons about agricultural policy. How do we support our producers, and how do we reassure consumers in the 21st century of the quality of foods that are being created in Canada?
    I will start off by talking about my region of Timmins—James Bay. It is known for being mining country. Some of the greatest gold mines in the history of North America are founded in my region. That is why my family came to Timmins. They were immigrant gold miners. We had diamond mines in James Bay. The deepest base metal mine in the world is in Timmins backyard at Kidd Mine. It continues 50 years into production still, below 10,000 feet, which is an extraordinary feat of engineering. It shows that we have seen enormous changes in mining in the region.
     We were always told that mining was a sunset industry. In the nineties, the common wisdom was that we cannot compete with lax regulations and we cannot compete with the third world. However, in Canada we have the highest trained professional workforce in the world. Canadians miners are at the forefront of all manner of mining exploration and development, certainly in terms of financial input. The other element is the regulatory regime that we have in Canada to ensure environmental standards and safety has created an environment where it is worth investing in Canada.
    There are a number of issues to be dealt with in terms of mining, but the days when men were killed in the mines of Cobalt and Timmins, dying on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, have changed dramatically. It still has not changed enough, but we are seeing the use of technology and innovation that have allowed us not just to continue to hold our own, but to become, once again, the world leader in terms of development. We are balancing the incredible resource wealth that we have with the need to always be innovative and find new ways to get deeper at the ore.
    We have some similar issues in terms of agriculture. Agriculture in Timiskaming--Cochrane region is fundamentally different, because we have not had the boom-bust cycle that we have seen in mining. That is a very good thing in terms of building a long-term economy.
    The northern end of the Timmins—James Bay region is known as the great clay belt. There is enormous potential for farmland in the great clay belt. The problem is, when it was opened up in the early part of the 20th century, many families attempted to make a living there and found it was just too cold, the seasons were too short, and the crop yields were not sufficient to allow these farms to succeed in the way they should have succeeded. As a result, many of the farmlands in the upper part of the Timmins—James Bay region began to atrophy and go back to dogwood and poplars. One by one the farmers started to leave. We maintained somewhat of a beef economy, but the overall balance in agriculture did not exist.
    That was not so much the case in the southern part of my region, the little clay belt, which is Timiskaming. Témiscaming region in Quebec and Ontario shares an enormously wealthy farm belt that has given incredible balance in terms of the economic development in our region.
    For many years the basis of this economy was dairy. The supply management system on the Quebec and Ontario sides has certainly anchor communities like Earlton, Englehart, and New Liskeard area. With a dairy economy, we know year to year what we will get. We have seen ups and downs in the beef industry. I was first elected in 2004 during that really difficult period that our beef industry was undergoing. It was a shock to the system of individual beef farmers when they could not get their cattle to market, could not get it to the United States because of the BSE crisis. It certainly created major problems for the development of the region.

  (1205)  

    In terms of cash crops, Timiskaming has always had a mixed-grain economy, but over the last 15 years we have seen a transformation in the regional food economy because we are getting better yields, such as with soybeans. We are seeing corn production in areas where corn was never seen before. This has started to create a potential for development in the north that people had previously written off.
    The acreages down in southern Ontario are becoming more expensive and more difficult to farm, especially as rural butts up against suburban. There is pressure on the rural with land prices in the south being so extraordinary. It is very difficult to maintain the traditional notion of the family farm when there are opportunities to sell that land and move north, which is what we have been seeing.
     However, it is now not just in the Timiskaming region, but once again, because of better crop yields, we are starting to see agriculture moving back into the areas up around Val Gagné, Black River-Matheson, up toward Cochrane and over through Timmins, which had been atrophying for years. We are now seeing a large potential new growth of mixed crops, barley, grain, soybeans, canola, and corn. This is an important anchor for development in our region.
    In terms of what is happening agriculturally, we have had two important transformations. In the upper Black River-Matheson area, a number of Amish and Old Order Mennonite communities are starting to establish themselves. We are seeing barns being built where there were no barns before. We are seeing tile drainage on land that did not have tile drainage. Once tile drainage is put onto a northern farm, the crop yields are going to increase exponentially.
    The other really important element is that we have seen in so many of our rural regions the loss of the value added, such as the local operations that did the canning and such.
     For years, we had the Thornloe Cheese plant, run by Parmalat. People used to stop off the highway. I remember that it was around 2005 or 2006 when I got a call from the Parmalat owners who said that they were pulling out. They were done with our little community. I thought, fair enough, they had to make a business decision. I called John Vanthof, who is now a provincial member of Parliament, but he was the head of the Board of Dairy Farmers then. I asked John if we could win this fight, and he said that, yes, we could win. We called the Parmalat owners back and said that they could leave, but we wanted the dairy cheese quota to stay here. Of course, they laughed and thought it was an absurd concept. However, we said that we wanted the dairy quota to stay. If it could be run by a local conglomerate, then we wanted to buy into that cheese quota so that we could run the plant. After much negotiation, Thornloe was reopened as a local regional cheese producer.
    What happened out of that is indicative of a need to balance between very large corporate interests and the need for local interests. Thornloe began to innovate and create all manner of new and local cheeses, and get a new market share. The products are now being sold in halal and kosher markets in Toronto. This has been a real success story for us. I think these are the things that we need to learn when we look at agriculture.
    There are a number of elements in Bill C-18 that speak to the issue of patent rights as we create new crop yields and the need for regulatory changes to cover breeding animals under the advance payments program. These are things, if we ensure that they are done right, that will provide security for innovation, new research, and for the producers who are buying seeds and animals, and wanting to try the new yields that are coming forward.
    There are number of concerns out there that are important to raise in Parliament. This is about consumer confidence. Some of them have to do with the notion of plant breeders' rights. There is a sense out there in the general public that they do not trust what is happening in terms of GMOs. They do not trust what is happening in terms of the larger food economy.
    Just this past month, I was in Timmins at a rally against Monsanto and GMOs. Now, Monsanto certainly does not have a good reputation with its history with Agent Orange and creating PCBs. However, I think what brought this issue initially to the public's attention in terms of the scientific manipulation of gene matter to create new varieties was the effort to create the terminator seed. The terminator seed was a solution it came up with as a way of not having to argue with farmers about having to buy seed the next year. One would just simply put a so-called suicide gene into the seed, which would give one yield and then die.

  (1210)  

    That might have seemed like a smart idea at corporate headquarters, but it has hit ordinary citizens not just in Canada and North America, but across the world as something that is fundamentally flawed, that one could mess with genetics to create a so-called suicide gene. There was a huge pushback against this effort. It scared the public away. People said, “Wait a minute. What is happening with our food?”
    We are seeing, especially across North America, a growing awareness about the food economy and the need to ensure some manner of security for food so that we are getting good quality food and there is a sense of the importance of the local economy. Over the years, we have seen a move to this larger and larger sense of agribusiness, but consumers want food that is safe, food that is good. They like the notion of locally grown food. Consumers want to be heard on these issues.
    When we talk about new crop varieties, we need to reassure the public that we are looking at these issues seriously, that we are looking at them from the point of view of what creates innovation in order to create better yields, so that our communities can be fed, but also ensuring an overall balance. Nowhere is this more important than with what is happening with the bee population around the world.
    We know that there has been a massive die-off of bees. We have seen a 35% decline in bees in Ontario alone. What does that mean for us? I do not think people have any idea what it would mean if there was a substantial die-off of bees, especially with the role bees play in pollination. They are the fundamental players in the entire food cycle. Protecting bees really has to be job one. It does not matter what we do with our food economy; it does not matter how much tile drainage we put in; it does not matter how many plans we put forward. If we do not have God's little creatures actually making this all possible, we are going to be in for a serious shock in our ability to feed ourselves and the world.
    We have seen studies done by the American Journal of Science, the American Chemical Society's Environmental Science & Technology Journal, and the Harvard School of Public Health that identified neonics, the form of pesticide that is being used on about 142 million acres of corn, wheat, soybeans, and cotton seeds. This is a corporate construction that was seen as a way of improving crop yields by putting these pesticides on corn, wheat, and soy, which is certainly the backbone of the U.S. agricultural economy and much of Canada's agricultural economy.
    It is not that this was done out of malice; side effects sometimes happen. If this leads to the death of the bee population, there have to be measures to deal with these pesticides, because it is not good for the long-term economy. There will certainly be corporate interests and lobbyists who will say that we should hold off and study this in another three or five years. Consumers and citizens want clear action. They want to know that parliamentarians hear these things. There is a sense out there that big agriculture has the ear of government, and the average person does not. There is a real uncertainty.
    What we need to do as parliamentarians is say that we hear the public's concerns. We also understand the need to have regularity and certainty in the agricultural development of our economy. Agriculture is not a yesterday economy. Increasingly, with climate change and global uncertainty, the role of Canada as the world's breadbasket, as we used to call ourselves, the ability to create food to sustain our population is going to become increasingly important.
    There are a number of elements in Bill C-18 which are timely, but there are also a number of elements in the bill, particularly on the issue of plant breeders' rights, how seeds are saved, and what it actually means in terms of establishing some manner of certainty for producers, patent holders, and also for the people who have the God-given right to plant and grow and should be able to maintain that right, that we can raise in Parliament that they need to be identified at committee as to how they will actually play out on the ground.
    We are certainly willing to move this bill to committee. We think there is some merit.

  (1215)  

    The issue of farmers' privilege is certainly a big question. Farmers' privilege is interesting because it allows farmers to save seeds for the purpose of reproduction, but it is not clear whether or not they have to pay to store it, which would effectively negate that privilege. That would seem to be an odd element. Also, there is the question of where the resale is. Is it on the original purchase of the seeds, or on the resale value of what is actually produced as a crop? These are things we feel need to be looked at.
    In terms of the advance payments program, there are a number of elements. Again, it is odd that we jump from plant breeders' rights to the advance payments program. The government has thrown in a whole manner of elements to deal with agriculture in one bill. It is sort of a mini omnibus bill. We are dealing with a whole bunch of different elements.
    There are new allowances under Bill C-18 that would allow multi-year agreements to reduce the administrative burden for those applying to the advance payments program in consecutive years. That would certainly make the program more efficient. If we had similar provisions in other areas I know it would certainly help.
    The bill allows for regulatory changes to cover the breeding animals under the advance payments program, which could result in more opportunities for farmers to access the program. It increases flexibility for producers on a number of fronts, including security arrangements and proof of sale for repayment. All of this would certainly make this program more accessible to producers.
     It would also allow program administrators to advance on any commodity in any region, which would provide more opportunities for producers to access the advance payments program. It would also allow repayments without proof of sale, better reflecting the fact that there is a perishable life to non-storable crops. Producers would be able to avoid having to sell products at an inopportune time, for example, at very low prices, in order just to meet their repayment requirements.
    There is flexibility built into the mechanisms that we think are very interesting and respond to what we are hearing from the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and a number of other farm organizations.
    Bill C-18 also grants the government the ability to define new means of repayment. This could provide greater flexibility for producers, including in situations like farm liquidation.
    These are all very good elements.
    I want to go back to the international protocols that have been put in place through the World Trade Organization, through international agreements. What we need to do is ensure that these are not simply there to benefit very large corporate interests, like Monsanto, but also respect the variety of agricultural experience across the world, including the third world.
    We know there has been a huge issue about genetic contamination, the possibility that GMO crops could reach into other crops and affect them. Since 2005, there has been a GM contamination register in the United Kingdom.
    The other issue is in India there has been a huge local fight back among farmers about what their plant rights are, and the fact that they have grown the kinds of crops they have for decades and centuries, and corporate control over them has led to a huge pushback. Some of these issues were raised.
    Many of the Indian companies are locked into joint ventures and licensing agreements, and concentration over the seeds sector was the result. It has been said that Monsanto now controls 95% of the cotton seed market through its genetically modified organisms in India; that seed which had been the farmers' common resource suddenly has now become, as is being accused by a number of Indian farmers, the intellectual property of Monsanto; that the open pollenated cotton seeds have been displaced by hybrids, including genetically modified hybrids. Cotton used to be grown as a mixture with food crops and other crops, but pressure has been put on to do mono-cropping. That certainly may have restored some measure of yields in India, but on the issue of mixed crops and how farmers grow their crops, particularly cotton, local farmers feel larger corporate control has taken over their ability to control their own land.

  (1220)  

    These are questions about economics, but they are also about agriculture and the basic issue of civil society and where we go. We are certainly interested in seeing this issue being brought forward and more closely examined at committee.
    Mr. Speaker, I did enjoy the member's remarks. He touched on a lot of very valid points.
     If we could sum up this bill with three or four words, we could call it the good, the bad and the ugly. There are some good points in it, and there are some worrisome points as well. The biggest overall concern with this bill is the global corporations having so much control over the family farmers around the world.
    One of the areas that I am concerned with in the bill is the plant breeders' rights aspect of it. I have not actually determined in my own mind where we can go on it.
    The minister talks about farmers' privilege, and the member mentioned that as well. I believe it should be farmers' right to retain and reproduce their seed. What implications will that have on the international agreement we have already signed as a country? I do think it needs to be discussed a lot more. How does the member see, or is there any way of getting around, ensuring that farmers have rights and not just privileges? It should be their rights. They are the ones who are doing the producing. How does the member see getting around that in the context of the international agreement?

  (1225)  

    Mr. Speaker, that was an excellent question. I have worked with the member on agriculture and he has a wide background on this.
    The hon. member has touched on the issue of the rights being afforded in this bill are corporate rights. Everybody knows that a privilege is something that can be taken away. A right is something that one fundamentally has.
     I would argue that since time immemorial there has been the fundamental right of the farmer working with nature itself. This is the most fundamental relationship that has existed since humans first stopped hunting mastodons, and maybe even back then. It is that relationship between the grower and what is grown.
    Now that there are limits or an ability through international trade agreements to determine how that is done is very disturbing. We know that around the world there has been a pushback against the larger bodies that tell us at the local levels what we can and cannot do.
    That is why we need to get this bill to committee, so we can actually look at the legislation and determine whether or not we are actually trading away the God-given rights that farmers have had since time immemorial. That has to be protected.
    The devil is in the details, and the devil will certainly be in the details of this bill.
    Mr. Speaker, the member, as usual, has widened the scope of his speech to talk about his constituency and about the rights and interests of all of our agricultural producers in Canada.
    The member made a very important point. Typical of the legislation the government has been bringing forward is a law which includes provisions for the possibility of regulations to be promulgated.
    A more open and transparent process would be to table the legislation and at the same time reveal what those regulations may say so that members of Parliament, the agricultural producers who are impacted, and the breeders could know what the government proposes.
    I wonder if the member could expand a bit more on the fact that it is nice the bill is being tabled, but there are two significant areas where there will be regulations, and one could potentially severely limit these privileges to the producers.
    Mr. Speaker, I do not want to sound like I am getting all biblical but it does say in the Book of Luke that what is done in the dark shall be seen in the light and shouted from the rooftops.
    This is the problem with regulation. We have a few hours of debate on something as substantive as the issue of plant breeders' rights and how the rights of farmers and the rights of an ecological system for growth balances off the larger corporate interests and larger international trade interests. Then it goes to committee, and then it is voted on. Then all the little booby traps can be brought in through regulation, which the public will have no ability to hear.
    When we deal with these issues, the public looks to us as parliamentarians to try to find a reasonable solution. Do I know how to balance off plant breeders' rights with what is called the farmers' privilege? I think it should be the farmers' rights. No, because it is in those details. They are very complicated.
    The issue that it can be dealt with in regulation after the fact means there can also be the problem of certain interests that will have the ear of the people writing the regulations while the public is sitting on the outside. I do not think that is in the interests of the public.
    Mr. Speaker, we do indeed have an omnibus bill on agriculture here of 108 pages, with very small font. It is unbelievably important stuff.
     To again join my hon. member for Timmins—James Bay, and to get biblical, the part that particularly worries me is that the Creator put these genes on the planet. For us to be saying that a large corporation can control them, monopolize them, and modify them in ways that cause serious potential problems is worrisome to me.
    In terms of process, what worries me is that with a bill of this scope, we have five hours to discuss this in a House where the number of people with a scientific background is in the single digits. We desperately need to have expert testimony. We need to have more information.
     I would like the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay to give us his thoughts on the process of ramming and cramming this bill through in such a last-minute, draconian fashion.

  (1230)  

    Mr. Speaker, there are very profound questions here. Internationally, we see the whole fight of indigenous cultures who have had their traditional medicines for years, and suddenly they are patented. Maybe it is okay to patent something that was used for hundreds of thousands of years that can benefit all of humankind. There is a public good there. The question is whether the original people who created and used those natural resources should not be disenfranchised, in the same way farmers should not be disenfranchised, in the same way the consumer should not be disenfranchised if Monsanto decides that it will start sticking fish genes into tomatoes and does not want the public to know. These are all issues that as human society we need to be deeply involved in.
    To take all these elements of an agricultural bill, some of which are very positive and will help our producers, and throw them all together, ram them through, and not have sufficient time to do the review, when we need technical experts and people of scientific and cultural backgrounds who can talk about what will work and what will not, is not what the Canadian public sends us here to do.
    We see in this House the idea that debate is always being called stalling and filibustering. Debate is about raising these issues so the people back home who are listening can say, “I understand what's going on. I see that there are questions that need to be answered.” Then they look to us to be able to provide those answers at the end of the day. If we as parliamentarians are not able to do our job, if we are not able to do the due diligence, how then do we go back to the public and say, “Be reassured, the Parliament of Canada did the right thing with this legislation?”
    Mr. Speaker, I have talked a lot in the House about the different areas of expertise we have as members of Parliament. We come here with different backgrounds. Some of us are experts in academic issues or technical issues. Some of us are just experts in what it is like to come from our regions. We are very much like Canada in that way, and like Canadians, we have different backgrounds.
    My background is not agriculture, and so the bill has been a real learning experience for me. I want to share with the House where my learning experience on the bill actually started, because I will be honest, the bill was not on my radar when it was first tabled. Look at the fact that I am a member of Parliament for Halifax, an urban centre. There are a few fishing villages in my riding, but I really do not represent any agricultural areas.
    I talk often in the House about how important it is for us to talk to constituents to tap into their expertise but also to hear about their hopes or dreams or to hear about their fears about different pieces of legislation. That is exactly what happened to me when the bill came up. I looked in my calendar one day and saw that members of the Food Action Committee, which is a committee of the Ecology Action Centre, had scheduled a meeting with me to talk about Bill C-18. I am not one to even remember bill numbers very quickly, so I had to look it up. I realized that it made sense that the Food Action Committee wanted to talk to me about the bill, which is called an act to amend certain acts relating to agriculture and agri-food, but I wondered why they wanted to talk to me about it.
    I immediately contacted my friend and colleague, the member for Welland, who is our agriculture critic, and he forwarded a lot of material about what Bill C-18 sought to do or purported to do. He walked me through some of the key issues for him as our critic and also very likely for the Food Action Committee.
    I went ahead with the meeting and met with Jonathan Kornelsen and Mary Ellen Sullivan, and it was a typical MP meeting, where folks say that these are the issues with the bill and ask what the NDP's position is on it. They presented me with a petition entitled “The Right to Save Seeds”. It had 145 signatures on behalf of the Food Action Committee. They explained that their friend had three pages of petitions and could not keep up. He was at a grocery store in downtown Halifax and quickly ran out of pages because people were so passionate about this.
    The petition addresses the agricultural growth act portion of Bill C-18. It has raised serious concerns among farmers and consumers. They put together the text of the petition with the help of the National Farmers Union website.
    Before I get to the content of the meeting or of the bill, I want to read something from a blog Mary Ellen Sullivan contributes to called “Adventures in Local Food”. I want to read it because if there is any message I have tried to communicate during my time as a member of Parliament, it is that politicians are just members of our communities. We are not experts. We rely on the expertise of our communities. We want to talk to people and have our constituents shape our views on policy and legislation, even if we are going to disagree in the end. It is so important to be in touch, and I am always thankful when people do that.
    On the blog, “Adventures in Local Food”, Ms. Sullivan wrote about our meeting. She wrote:
    Our meeting was a relaxed exchange of information, questions and discussion, with [our MP] advising us of the position of the NDP and the workings of the political process. Because we received more than 25 signatures she can present our petition in Parliament!
    It was a great learning and rewarding experience for Jonathan and me. [She] instilled confidence in us that grassroots actions such as petitions, demonstrations, and meeting with your MP do have an impact. Politicians do take note of these actions.
    I found that the NFU website provided excellent educational and action resources including background information on C-18 and other issues--just use the search box for issues you’re interested in. It gives advocacy suggestions including how to meet with your MP, and information sheets that can be given to them. NFU works in collaboration with such organizations as the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) on issues affecting farmers and consumers.
    Meeting with [our MP] was a great education for us and gave us confidence to continue to take food action! I was delighted to have Jonathan join me--a fledgling FAC member with two meetings under his belt, a background in biology, experience working on a farm in BC, and lots of knowledge and passion. Glad he decided to see what’s going on in NS. We hope you’d be inspired to meet with your MP too. Learn about the issue and relax--our MP’s are working for us.

  (1235)  

    That is pretty inspiring. I am really glad that Mary Ellen Sullivan took the time to lay out that it is not difficult, that people can meet with their MPs, and that we are working for them. Let us sit down and relax. She actually says “relax”. I thought that was a great message.
    Let us move on to the content. As members heard from Ms. Sullivan, we talked about the issues in this bill, including an issue that was very important to them. This was probably the main issue they wanted to communicate to me, and it was about the ability to save seeds. Members heard my colleague from Timmins—James Bay go into this quite a bit.
    When people come and meet with us, they want to explain their perspective on different issues. They also want to hear what our perspective is, and they want to know what our party will do. Is it going to support this bill? Is it going to vote against it? What are people saying about it? They asked me my position. I explained to them, as I will explain to the House now, that this bill is problematic. It is another omnibus piece of legislation that would make changes to nine different pieces of legislation. Looking at them and breaking down what these changes are, and they are extensive, there are some we do support. There are other parts that, on their face, we oppose and find problematic.
    What do we do when we are faced with this kind of situation? What do we do when we like some parts but think that other parts would do damage?
    I think that our critic, the member for Welland, and his deputy critic, the member for Berthier—Maskinongé, have put a lot of thought into this. They have consulted with stakeholders, and they have done an excellent job of dissecting all the points in this bill to bring them to a balanced conclusion.
    My colleague from Malpeque posed a question to my colleague from Timmins—James Bay and asked what the solution is. He has great expertise in this area. He said that we are not sure where we are with farmers' privilege. How do we balance that? How do we figure out farmers' rights versus farmers' privilege? That is a great question to ask. We do not always have all of those answers when we are here at second reading just fleshing out the ideas of a bill. It is so important that we bring this to committee and study it, listen to experts, and maybe try to come up with those solutions. I do not have some of the solutions before me right now, but I am eager to hear from my colleagues what some of those solutions might be.
    I told Ms. Sullivan and Mr. Kornelsen that I was prepared to support the bill at second reading and that at committee we plan to work on making the problematic aspects of this bill better. We plan to try to fix the problems. I have to admit that I am not overly optimistic that the Conservatives will listen to our proposal, but I refuse to be cynical about this and just give in. I do think we have to try.
    What are the problematic aspects of this bill? I have received a number of postcards from constituents speaking out against the bill. In particular, I have received a lot of postcards from a postcard campaign on the issue of farmers' privilege. On the front of the postcard, it says:
    Save our Seed
     Stop Bill C-18! Farmers’ age-old practices of saving, reusing, exchanging, and selling seed are in jeopardy.
    The postcard has some really compelling language in it. It says:
    [The bill], now before the House of Commons, would allow the biggest seed companies in the world to exercise almost total control over seed in Canada. These companies would also be able to charge royalties on a farmer’s entire crop. The Bill includes power to make regulations that would quickly undo or severely limit the so-called “Farmers Privilege” to save seed. This means Canadian farmers would pay giant corporations hundreds of millions each year for the right to grow a crop.
    Canadians do not want multinational seed and chemical companies like Bayer, Monsanto, DuPont, Dow and Syngenta to control our seed, and ultimately, our food system.
    I am asking you, as my democratically elected representative, to safeguard Canadian farmers’ right to save, reuse, exchange and sell seed by taking all actions necessary to stop Bill C-18.

  (1240)  

    That is pretty passionate. They are not asking for a rewrite here; they are saying to stop.
    I want to thank some of my constituents who have reached out to me on this, including Tessa Gold Smith, Jim Guild, Herb and Ruth Gamborg, Steve Burns, Aaron Eisses, Mark McKenna, Josh Smith, Elisabeth Gold and Peter Gravel. All these folks have signed onto this, saying that we should stop Bill C-18.
     I sympathize with their demand to stop this bill, even though I will support it at second reading. This is one of these balancing acts that we have to play from time to time. When I sat down with Jonathan and Mary Ellen and said that there were some aspects of this bill that we would support, they asked me which parts.
    I believe there are some pieces of this bill, like putting stronger controls for products that are being imported or exported. There are new strengthening of record keeping requirements, whether for plants, for feed or for fertilizer. There are some safety measures in there to prevent risks to human, animal and environmental health. One big part that everybody could support is prohibiting the sale of products that would be a subject of a recall order from the CFIA. That is a great step toward strengthening our food safety system. It makes me wonder why that has not been there all along.
     It is a balancing act to figure it out, so we will try to get it to committee.
    I agree with constituents of mine who have written to me in this postcard campaign about the farmers' privilege piece. I have two more letters that I received from some constituents about this issue.
    One is from Margaret Murray, who says:
    No doubt you have done some investigation on Bill C-18. I'm wondering what the NDP issue is on this important issue. Multi-nationals like Monsanto MUST be curtailed in their attempts to 'own' what ought to be in the public domain. Taking a renewable common resource an turning it into a non-renewable patented commodity is simply wrong!
    I have also heard from Cynthia O'Connell, who asked me to oppose Bill C-18 as it would harm organic farmers on whom she depended for organic food.
     Even though the bill is ostensibly about agriculture, it really would impact consumers, including consumers in urban centres like Halifax, which I represent. It is capturing the hearts and minds of people. They are writing to me.
    As I said, there is a balance that has to be met here. There would be some benefits of the changes found in the bill, like enhancing public accessibility and transparency when it comes to plant breeding and, for example, protecting researchers from infringement of plant breeders' rights. However, the issue of farmers' privilege is significant, and that is the number one issue about which people have written to me.
    Let us get to farmers' privilege and what the NDP would see as very problematic.
     Farmers' privilege does not include the stocking of propagating material for any use. What does that mean? Even if farmers are able to save seed for the purpose of reproduction, it looks like they may have to pay to store it, which would effectively negate that privilege. Earlier, when I said that we did not necessarily have all the answers when we came here at second reading to debate the bill, I am very clear when I say it looks as if farmers would have to pay to store it. I would want to explore this issue and find out from the minister if that was actually the intention. If it is not the intention, then maybe that could be fixed with a simple wording change.
    The farmers' privilege also would not extend to the sale of harvested material. This means that farmers would likely still be required to pay for the sale of the crops grown from farm-saved seed. It also means that plant breeders could potentially generate revenue on a farmer's entire production rather than just on the seed purchased to grow the crop. This could have significant impacts on the profit margins of farmers.

  (1245)  

    Some farmers say that paying a royalty base on what they produce instead of on the seed that they buy actually reduces their risk. If they harvest a poor crop, they pay less with an end-point royalty compared to paying upfront when they buy seed. Even in what I am presenting to the House right now, I am a bit unsure, so this is something we would need to explore further as well.
    Bill C-18 includes amendments that would allow the CFIA to make changes to farmers' privileges through regulation, not through legislation, and that is an important distinction. This means that the government could significantly hinder these rights at any time without parliamentary oversight.
    Not a lot of people understand the difference between regulation and legislation. Legislation would have to come before the House where we would debate it and vote on it. There is a process involved. Regulation is just an order in council. What does that mean? Effectively it means that the Prime Minister's Office has written something down and given notice, but it is not democratic. It is an interpretation of the legislation, and who knows where that comes from. In theory it is the Governor in Council, but in reality I doubt that is the case. There is no parliamentary oversight, and these rights could be changed at any time, at least that is my reading of the bill.
    Allowing for farm saved seeds is an optional exemption under UPOV 091, the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants that we signed in 1991. That means Canada could disallow farm saved seed and still fulfill its international obligations under the agreement.
    Bill C-18 goes so far as to define what is meant by a document, so that is good because there is some detail there. However, it does not give a definition of farmer, which is problematic. This would have some important implications for the enforcement of farmers' privilege. It goes to the root of the issue here, especially given that Bill C-18 would allow the government to make significant changes to the farmers' privilege provisions through regulation. There we are again. Changes could actually be made, without any parliamentary oversight, through regulation, and there is no definition of what a farmer is.
    Given the government's recent changes in Bill C-4 that limit farm loss deductions to people whose primary income is from farming, this is an area where more clarity is needed. Do I count as a farmer if I am participating in a community garden in downtown Halifax? I am not sure.
    To prevent the privatization of existing varieties, we have to ensure a variety registration system that would ensure that new crop varieties would be as good or better than existing ones. We also have to ensure that farmers will continue to have access to existing cereal varieties that are developed by public plant breeders.
    I will finish up with a couple of other concerns about the potential legal burden for producers.
     The Canadian Federation of Agriculture has called for protections for producers from claims of patent infringement with respect to natural or accidental spreading of patented plant genetic material, but they are not included in Bill C-18.
    Given that the expansion of breeders' rights under Bill C-18 would be so significant, it is likely that farmers would face increased and expensive litigation. There is no provision in the bill to ensure that legal fees do not impede farmers' defence in these cases.
    That is the overview of what my constituents in downtown Halifax have written to me about. There are other issues in the bill which I am sure members will hear about from other members of Parliament, but that is the big one for the folks who I represent.
    While I will be supporting this legislation at second reading, as I have pointed out, we have to watch this closely. We really have to push to change this, to make amendments to the bill to protect farmers. I look forward to being able to do that at committee.

  (1250)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased the New Democrats have not adjourned the House, or attempted to adjourn the House. That is a positive thing.
    Next thing is that we have good pieces of legislation. When I say “good”, I should qualify that. This legislation attempts to make changes to nine other pieces of legislation. The government's track record in making changes to legislation that impacts our farmers is not very encouraging. In fact, there are many other things the government could have done to work with a number of the changes that it would put into place through Bill C-18.
    The member highlights that in certain areas there are some aspects of the legislation that are positive and would receive fairly decent support from our stakeholders, in particular our farmers. We within the Liberal Party are very grateful for that. However, there are other aspects that are not.
    The concern has to be that we have, yet again, this large bill before us that that would change to several pieces of legislation.
    Would the member not agree that it would have been far better off had the government done its homework and worked with our different communities and stakeholders to come up with what should have been several pieces of legislation? This way we probably would have had better and easier passage on some of the more positive aspects of Bill C-18.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for qualifying the word “good”, because we still have not said that this is good legislation. Yes, there are some good pieces here, but there are some problematic pieces.
    I am holding in my hand some notes that my colleague from Welland has put together for folks like me because this is not our area of expertise. These notes are really quite incredible, because they outline each act that would be amended. As we heard, there are nine different acts. This is omnibus legislation, so we have to look at it that way. There are amendments to the Feeds Act, the Fertilizers Act, the Seeds Act, the Health of Animals Act, and the Plant Protection Act. The notes set out what is good about it and what is problematic about it. There are amendments to the Agricultural Marketing Programs Act and the advance payments program. Again, the notes state what is positive about it and what is problematic about it. This is too much.
    I go back to 2012 when we had two omnibus budget bills. The first one touched over 70 pieces of legislation, completely rewrote our environmental legislation and there were changes to the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, which is the law that governs whether we can sell or trade eggs or what we do with eggs, with sperm. This act was changed. I searched Hansard to see who debated it. I raised it once and one of my colleagues from Hamilton also raised it. It was just a mention. This is whether women can be surrogate mothers. The law was changed and it was buried in omnibus legislation.
    God willing, there are no changes to our reproduction rights in this bill, but who knows? We will see.

  (1255)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her excellent speech.
    Along those same lines, we are wondering why the Conservative government is making all these small changes and amending a number of different laws when they have yet to convince us that these changes are warranted and that they are in the interests of Canadians. Today we are speaking on behalf of Canadians, and farmers in particular.
    What does my colleague think about the fact that Bill C-18 goes so far as to define what is meant by a document but does not give a definition of farmer? There will be a significant impact on farmers' privilege.
    Does she think it is reasonable for the government to be amending one definition but not defining the term “farmer” when this bill touches on the importance of farmers' privilege? I am concerned that this will create loopholes in the system.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the advocacy that he does on behalf of his constituents here in the House. He is here talking about the bill. He is always here raising issues that impact his constituents, and I think he should be commended for it.
    He should not take my word for it. He should take the word of some of the experts out there. For example, there is Ann Slater, first vice-president of the National Farmers Union, and an Ontario farmer. She argues that the government's changes to plant breeders' rights will turn the customary practice of farmers saving and reusing seeds as part of normal farm activity into privilege, and that privilege could easily be revoked in the future.
    Dominique Bernier, from AmiEs de la Terre de Québec, said that the bill significantly weakens farmers' ancestral rights, by forcing them to pay allowances to agro-industrial giants on the entirety of their harvest. However, the marketing of new crop varieties by the big breeders rests on a world heritage, the patient selection over a thousand years of crops by the succeeding generations of farmers.
    There are people raising problems with the bill who have expertise.
    The member mentioned the omnibus nature of the bill. To get back to that, there are people saying positive things about the bill. However, it is not a dispute. It is not, “I think that this policy x is good; I think this policy x is bad.” There are so many x, y, and zs in one piece of legislation that there are, I want to say competing points of view, but that is not it at all. People are saying they want x, but they do not want y.
    It is quite amazing, when there are this many pieces of legislation that are being touched. I think that something needs to be done to stop this ramming through of so many changes.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the speech by the member for Halifax on the bill. It is good to see people who have urban ridings talk about their concerns, and I think we all agree that it needs to go to a committee to be discussed.
    My question relates mainly to her constituents' opinions on this. Where would those people who buy the food products that farmers produce rather they come from? The bill, as many of the bills that the government has put before this House, has transferred a lot of control away from primary producers to the corporate sector.
    We have seen the results of the changes to the Canadian Wheat Board this winter. Farmers used to receive about 87% of the export price; now they are receiving about 48% of the export price. The corporate sector is gaining there.
    I would point out to the member that, in 2002, Canada ratified the United Nations International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for food and agriculture. Canada was a signatory to that. In that agreement, it was agreed not to limit any rights that farmers have to save, use, exchange, and sell farm saved seed and propagating material, subject to national law that is appropriate.
    My question for the member, because she does represent a lot of urban constituents, is on their views. Where would her constituents rather see that their produce comes from? Who would they like to see in control of that produce, family farmers, or the big corporations like Monsanto?

  (1300)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member for Malpeque pointed out that I am from an urban riding. We are the consumers. One might not think that we are necessarily connected to the land, but in fact we are quite connected to the land. We can see that in the incredible popularity of our farmers market, the Halifax Seaport market. We can see that with the incredible popularity of a store called Local Source, which only sells local products.
    At the farmers market in Halifax, we will not find oranges. There are farmers, producers, meatmongers, and fishermen selling their local products.
    Absolutely, without a doubt, my constituents want to see those rights and privileges kept with the local family farm. It is incredibly important to us as urban consumers.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.
    Unfortunately, I have only 10 minutes to talk about this omnibus bill. Obviously, I am not going to have enough time to say everything I want to say about it. However, I will still try to explain to those watching at home how Bill C-18 will affect them. Farmers and those who depend on this industry will want to listen closely so that they can hear the details of the bill.
    The government will boast about this bill, saying that it is good for Canada's economy and the agricultural sector, but like every other omnibus bill, it has some good points and some bad points. The NDP feels it is important that this bill go to committee. Although everyone has concerns, as do I, we will still be voting to send this bill to committee so that some consideration is given to the worthwhile suggestions and good amendments that we will be proposing in order to fill in the gaps.
    As I said to my colleague from Halifax earlier, Bill C-18 defines what is meant by “document”, but it does not give a definition of “farmer” even though it is a bill about farmers' privilege. We just cannot understand why the government introduced such a badly written bill.
    Maybe the government ran out of time. We know it is a little panicky these days, so much so that it decided the House would have to sit until midnight to discuss more bills. That is fine by me. I spent three nights here debating bills until midnight, and I am happy to be debating this one this morning.
    My colleague from Halifax is from a lovely, more urban part of the country that I have visited several times. I myself am from Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, a rural part of Quebec. Saguenay, the largest city in the region, is the seventh-largest city in Quebec. It is a small urban centre. Many or our industries are based on resource regions, including forestry, tourism and agriculture.
    I myself have a proud family history of farming. My paternal grandfather was a farmer, and we still have our family land, which is now shared by my many uncles, aunts and cousins. Even my brother, who got the farming bug when he was very young, spends a lot of time on the family land. It is not so much a place for growing grain. The grain grown there is used for the cows. The family farm is mainly about dairy production with a little beef cattle on the side.
    I therefore have some expertise to offer to this debate. The Conservatives would have us believe that the NDP is out of touch with reality, but I would say that the Conservatives are the ones who are not listening to the public. People in farming in particular have some concerns about this. A number of them have sent letters or emails to our constituency offices. Today, we are pleased, as New Democrats, to help them make their voices heard here in Ottawa.
    Bill C-18 is another Conservative omnibus bill. This time, the Conservatives are proposing amendments to nine different laws. We support some of those amendments, but have some serious concerns about others. It is important to note, however, that unlike the omnibus budget bill, which is a hodgepodge of legislative measures, the proposed amendments in Bill C-18 all have to do with agriculture and, in many cases, make the same changes to different laws. The Plant Breeders’ Rights Act is the first law to be amended. I will list the main amendments proposed in this bill then explain the pros and cons of each.

  (1305)  

    One of the key changes is to move toward ratifying the 1991 Act of the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants.
    Then there is the amendment to extend the scope of breeders' rights for the varieties that they develop, and to increase the opportunities for breeders to collect royalties for their new varieties throughout the value chain.
    Essentially, Bill C-18 includes the following new exclusive rights for breeders: the right to reproduce material, the right to condition, sell, export or import material, the right to use any other plant variety whose production requires the repeated use of the plant variety, and the right to stock propagating material for the purpose of exercising other plant breeders’ rights.
    The bill also extends the term of the grant of plant breeders’ rights from 18 years to 20 years, except in the case of a tree, a vine or any category specified in the regulations, in which case the term is extended to 25 years.
    There are also new provisions that grant farmers' privilege, enabling them to keep, condition and reuse the plant seed on their own land. It should be noted that this privilege is not extended to the storing of seed or to the sale of harvested material from protected seed.
    Bill C-18 also grants the Canadian Food Inspection Agency the ability to make changes, through regulation, under which the classes of farmers and plant varieties would no longer be covered by farmers' privilege. I was talking about farmers' privilege a little earlier and it is at the heart of this bill.
    There is also the amendment that seeks to protect the rights of researchers to use patented materials as the basis for developing new varieties or for other types of research.
    Then there is an amendment to give the public greater access to the registry of plant varieties, which is a major change from the previous act.
    There is also an amendment that seeks to maintain the ability of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to grant compulsory licences to ensure that, in certain situations, plant varieties are available at reasonable prices, widely distributed, and of good quality.
    However, Bill C-18 also includes an amendment that allows plant breeders to request that their plant breeders' rights be exempt from a compulsory licence.
    The final amendment that this bill makes to the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act is that it gives the government the authority to make changes governing exemptions from compulsory licensing through regulations, without legislative change.
    One of the benefits of this bill is that variety developers would be able to see a return on investment for their plant breeding research efforts, providing incentives for an important sector of Canadian agribusiness.
    The bill would also grant farmers' privilege to allow farmers to save the conditioned seed for use on their own farms. It would promote access for Canadian farmers to the results of private breeding research from Canada and other countries through more effective intellectual property rights.
    It would protect researchers from infringement of plant breeders' rights.
    It would enhance public accessibility and transparency when it comes to plant breeding.
    Finally, the bill would maintain the existing compulsory licence system, providing some assurance that varieties can be made available at reasonable prices, widely distributed, and kept at a high quality.
    However, we also have some concerns. Farmers' privilege does not include the stocking of propagating material for any use. As a result, even if farmers are able to save seed for the purpose of reproduction, they may have to pay to store it, which would effectively negate that privilege. I hope that the Conservatives will agree to compromise a little in committee.
     Privilege also does not extend to the sale of harvested material. This means that farmers will probably have to pay for the sale of crops from farm-saved seed. That is a problem. It also means that plant breeders could generate revenue on a farmer's entire production, rather than just on the seed purchased to grow the crop. There will be an amendment in that regard. This could have a significant impact on farmers' profit margins.
    In closing, Bill C-18 is an omnibus bill, and I disapprove of this type of tactic.
    With respect to plant breeders' rights, the NDP believes that a balanced approach is essential. We will protect farmers, researchers and all Canadians. Although we understand the role that intellectual property rights play in fostering innovation, we want to ensure that Canadians can access and benefit from our agricultural heritage.

  (1310)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to highlight one aspect of the proposed legislation that I think it is important.
    We all know that farm debt is a serious issue. A good part of that, at least out in the Prairies, occurred because of the humongous wheat piles that accumulated during the springtime and even as early as January from last year's harvest. We had excessive wheat, but the government was unable to ensure its adequate transportation to the B.C. coast, where empty ships were waiting. The government just dropped the ball on this issue, and it is related to farm debt.
    The proposed legislation would affect the Farm Debt Mediation Act. The idea is try to provide more mediation processes or better clarity on the whole issue of the mediation process for farmers' debt. This is something that has potential, but one would like to think that the government did some consulting with the farmers to take on the issue in a more serious fashion. We know that the government was not able to deal with the situation of the wheat and the rail lines and so forth.
    My question for the member is this: does he believe that this provision in the bill would assist in dealing with farm debt?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague has certainly asked a good question. However, I am a little skeptical about the measures established by the government. The Conservative government has shown on a number of occasions that it is rather incompetent, not just with respect to the home delivery of mail, but also with respect to the delivery of wheat to the different regions of Canada, as my colleague mentioned.
    The Conservative government would obviously like us to believe that this measure will make the system stronger, but I have serious doubts about that. I am not an expert on wheat. My expertise and knowledge are more in the area of dairy production and livestock production for processed meats.
    I would like to give the government the benefit of the doubt, but since we are dealing with the Conservative government, I think that it is very likely that it will shirk its responsibilities rather than carry them through.

  (1315)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague.
    I represent an urban riding that has a farmer's market, the Atwater Market. I also shop at the Jean-Talon Market, in Montreal. A number of farmers produce very special products. There are blueberries from the Lac Saint-Jean area and strawberries from Quebec. One of my favourites is an heirloom tomato farmer.
    The changes to the wording of the act make it sound as though it is a privilege for farmers to be able to keep their own seeds and use them every year.
    Does my colleague think that the change in terminology is worrisome for local farmers?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. NDP colleague.
    His point of view is one of a consumer, which is just as important to hear in this debate on this agri-food bill.
    Intellectual property over seeds is one of our primary concerns. This concern, which I share, has been raised by a number of my colleagues.
    The New Democratic Party is in favour of respecting the rights of the people who create these seeds. However, when we take a look at international news, we can see that giants like Monsanto have created genetically modified seeds that are spread in fields—sometimes organic ones—and on private farms, and these seeds contaminate other fields. This is doubly worrisome because non-genetically modified seeds are not protected and also because Monsanto and other companies could sue a farmer whose land is contaminated against his will.
    Furthermore, consumers are increasingly looking for organic products and good products that taste like real food. That is why I think that this bill does not necessarily fix the problem.
    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this bill.
    There have been several time allocation motions lately, and they have affected our speaking time. It is always nice to be able to talk about an issue regardless of what that issue is because that gives our constituents a chance to hear us talking about it. If we cannot talk about an issue, they will not hear about it because nobody is going to be running ads about agriculture in Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles. I would be really surprised if that happened.
    My riding is primarily urban. We have lots of bungalows and apartment buildings. Like everywhere else in the country, much of the new construction is condos, and we have about 250 or 300 of those. Most of the people who live in these condos are older, middle- or upper middle-class people who sell their houses and decide to stay in Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.
    One of the first speeches I gave in the House in 2011 was about the abolition of the Canadian Wheat Board. That is why I am so glad to be here today to talk about agriculture once again. The NDP strongly opposed the abolition of the wheat board, which included mandatory consultations with farmers. The Conservative Party told us that consultation had been done because it had won the election with about 40% of the vote. That was my first experience in terms of votes, and it seems to be coming full circle in one of the last discussions we will have about agriculture before the next election.
    I would like to talk about various issues. Talking about agriculture means talking about production, processing, markets, farmers' economic and financial situation, and research and development. We have to look at all of those elements. These are not things to be taken lightly.
    In Quebec, 14% of our receipts are from agricultural land. There are 14,000 agricultural businesses across the province, and the crop production area is about 925,000 acres. Products are sold primarily on the food and animal feed markets. Quebec is Canada's second-largest producer of corn and soy, with 28% and 17%, respectively. These figures are from Statistics Canada.
    To be more specific, corn is the number one crop, at 41%. Next comes soy at 29%, oats at 11%, barley at 9% and wheat at 6%. There are some other crops here and there that represent 2%. Production is increasingly specialized. There are 4,196 specialized farms in Quebec, which is a 23% increase over 1995. That means that there are 3,403 more specialized farms than there were in 1995. Specialized farms account for more than 50% of the cultivated acreage. The average farm size is increasing. Quebec very seldom turns to foreign markets because it is somewhat self-sufficient.
    Production is the most significant market. In fact, animal feed makes up 90% of the market. The most popular crops are corn, barley and wheat. The main crop for human consumption is wheat, and the domestic market sits at one million tonnes. Next comes soybean production. As in the western provinces, a portion of production—320,000 tonnes—also goes to industrial processing, mainly for ethanol. Soy and canola are sometimes used as well.
    Nearly 695 establishments process grain for human consumption, including 41 flour mills and malting plants, 617 companies that produce baked goods and tortillas, and seven companies that make breakfast cereals.

  (1320)  

    It is important to point that out because there is a connection between food production and the well-being of the public.
    I focused mainly on one aspect of the bill: the amendment to the Agricultural Marketing Programs Act and the advance payments program.
    The advance payments program is a loan guarantee program that gives producers easier access to credit through cash advances. For a business owner, often the hardest part is having cashflow.
    The advance payments program provides producers with a cash advance on the value of their agricultural products during a specified period. This helps them meet their financial obligations and benefit from the best market conditions and improves their cashflow throughout the year. This part of the bill is rather interesting.
    The key changes in Bill C-18 are that it expands access to the program and, with the new provisions on multi-year agreements, will reduce the administrative burden for those—including the growing number of women working in agriculture—who apply to the advance payments program in consecutive years. This will make the program more accessible to producers and make program delivery more efficient.
     Eligibility for the program will no longer be limited to those principally occupied in farming, so that farmers with significant off-farm income will also be able to access the program. For those working in agriculture, the season is very short and income is not very high. Therefore, it is often important for people working on a farm to have two jobs. This will allow farmers to work off farm as well, which is advantageous for producers.
    Raising breeding animals will also be eligible for the advance payments program, and thus more farmers will be eligible. This is new, and it is fairly important, especially for young people graduating from an agricultural college. There are some very good schools in Quebec. Young people do not have access to credit or financing. What was excluded will now be included in the bill. I think that is an excellent idea.
    Bill C-18 also increases flexibility for producers on a number of fronts, including security arrangements. It also provides more flexible means of repayment. That is also positive.
     Program administrators will be able to provide advances for any type of commodity and in any region, which will provide more opportunities for producers to access the program.
    Despite all of the good things I have mentioned, I also have some concerns. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture, among others, has been calling for an increase to the maximum amounts of advances, in order to address rising farm expenses, but unfortunately that was not covered in Bill C-18.
    The changes also include a new licensing and registration regime for animal feed and fertilizer establishments; put in place stronger controls for products being imported or exported; strengthen record-keeping requirements for feed, fertilizer and seed establishments and animal producers. The bill would also strengthen the record-keeping requirements for plants and potential risks from pests.
    I am going to wrap this up. There is something important that has not yet been mentioned. There are three basic aspects that need to be considered when we are talking about development, namely the social, economic and environmental aspects. As we know, there has been a public outcry with respect to farmers saving seed. People claimed that bees have disappeared and that only certain companies could sell this specialized seed. This worries the population. For the time being, these concerns are not shared by the market in Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles because it is not an agricultural market. I am pleased to have had the opportunity to speak to this bill.

  (1325)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am very surprised to hear Liberal and NDP members say this is a pretty good bill, with some flawed parts. I read all 108 pages of it quite carefully. It seems to me to be a very worrisome bill, bordering on a very bad bill, with a few token good parts. The inability to save and store seed, the GMO aspects of it, and the way it runs contrary to the interests of small farmers in favour of large multinational corporations, I would expect from the Conservatives, but I am surprised that these people want to send it to committee where, as we know, nothing will really get fixed.
    Therefore, my question for the hon. member is this: why in heaven's name are they not just voting “no” for this very bad bill?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am disappointed that the member is no longer part of our party, but we cannot change the past.
    In Quebec, the UPA has spoken out about the social, environmental and development aspects of this bill. We must all ensure that we consider what impact and consequences this bill will have on sustainable development.
    As the member pointed out, there are some good parts in this bill. That is what I wanted to focus on this morning.

  (1330)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, one of the issues that was raised earlier is what is happening with the corporate development of seeds and pesticides. We know of the threat it is posing now to bees with the neonicotinoids. We are seeing a 30% drop in bee populations in Ontario alone and similar drops in Quebec. This is one of the fundamental bases for ensuring agriculture and food security, yet it would be going up against a corporate interest that has enormous amounts of capital put into pesticides, plus going up against the soybean and corn industry.
    I know Bill C-18 talks about the corporate rights, which are supposed to be balanced with the so-called privileges of the average farmers, but within that there needs to be a balance for the basic ecological sustainability of our agricultural system that the citizens of our country, and the citizens of the world, have a stake in as well.
    I would like to ask my hon. colleague how she feels, that if we just push the bill with regulations and we do not have the time to look through it, that these larger questions are left unanswered.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, that is why I spoke about some of the social, environmental and economic aspects of this issue. We are wondering where the bees are. Without them, there will be no fertilization and farming will suffer. Apple growers will suffer. Clearly, we have to find a way to successfully manage the environmental, economic, social and sustainable development aspects of this issue. It is extremely important to the future of our society.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, part of the legislation authorizes the minister of agriculture and agri-food to issue certificates setting out any information he or she considers necessary to facilitate certain exports. I wonder if the member might want to provide some thoughts on that issue.
    Obviously, it has raised a great deal of concern among many farmers, wanting to getting clarification. We did not get the clarification because, again, there is so much within this one piece of legislation that could have actually been taken aside and debated separately. Could she comment on that aspect?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, Quebec is basically self-sufficient in that regard. The crops remain in the province. There are very few exports. If, on occasion, these products are shipped, they are sent to various parts of Canada. That is not a problem for Quebec.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.
    I have to say that I am absolutely stunned that thus far, and perhaps it will happen but perhaps not before we recess for the summer, we have not heard any Conservative members speaking to this bill. It is clearly a very important bill. We often hear those on the other side talking about how they are the party that represents agricultural producers. We would welcome hearing from them, and hearing the perspectives of the farmers they allegedly represent.
    There is not enough discussion in this place about the contribution made by agricultural producers to this country, particularly to the Canadian economy. I am proud to share that my ancestors were fishers and farmers. My great-grandma Sarah Duncan moved to Alberta from Saskatchewan when her husband died. She ran two homesteads, raised four kids, and got them all university educated.
    The Steeves family, who I come from, emigrated from Germany, first to the United States and then to New Brunswick, in the mid-1700s. One of them became a Father of Confederation. They farmed since that date. My ancestors then moved to North Dakota and then, by wagon at the turn of the last century, up to Alberta.
    My grandfather Pike, who came from a family of fishers in Newfoundland emigrated to this country in 1898. When he was relocated with the bank to Alberta, he was a person who liked to get his hands dirty in the soil and started a ranch in northern Alberta. Sadly, he lost that ranch in the 1930s. I did not discover that ranch until my uncle wrote a history about that.
    I have very proud agricultural roots. I spent many childhood days visiting farmers with my father. I was in tears frequently because I could not have a lamb or a baby pig. I am also proud to share that I am an honorary member of the Preservation of Agricultural Land Association, based on the years that I worked with Alberta farm producers who fought long and hard for stronger protections for our prime agricultural lands.
    This is a shout-out to the Prairie producers. I certainly value their contribution to this country. I would like to give particular thanks to Lynn Jacobson, who is with the Alberta Wheat Commission, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, and the Alberta Federation of Agriculture. He has been very generous with his time, in sharing his knowledge with me when I go through proposed legislation.
    Bill C-18, as has been shared previously, is yet another omnibus bill. It is a very important bill. As I understand it, it changes nine laws. It is regrettable that the time allocated to us in this House does not give us the time to review the entire bill. My concern is that when this omnibus bill goes to committee, there will not be time to review the changes to all nine laws in detail.
    Mr. Jacobson thinks that it would be useful for this bill to be taken out to the fields. Here we are tabling this law in this place, and discussing it, when many farmers are still seeding, weeding, and so forth, and are going to be harvesting right up until late fall. Let us hope that this bill is not rushed through, and that the farmers have an opportunity to genuinely participate.
    Mr. Jacobson and others have expressed concerns to me that there has not been sufficient consultation to date. There has certainly not been any consultation on the regulations proposed under this bill.
    In the brief time I am allotted, I intend to speak to the plant breeders' rights section. It is an issue where we are hearing the most concerns.
    In order for Canada to ratify the convention, Bill C-18 must actually enact legislation. That is precisely what is intended by Bill C-18. The legislation as it sits right now was put in place because Canada intended to ratify the previous convention on the protection of plant varieties. That was in 1978.
    In 1991, a new convention, which extended greater protections to plant breeders, was signed by many nations. Since that date, Canada has not brought forward legislation. That was 13 years ago. Finally, the government, in its wisdom after being in power for six or seven years, has decided it will bring forward legislation. Let us hope it does not rush it through, because it is a very complex bill.

  (1335)  

    The difference between the previous convention and the current legislation of the proposed bill is it expands the rights of those who develop and essentially “copyright” seeds to include the exclusive right to produce, reproduce, condition, sell, export, import, or stock other propagating material. It is much more extensive than the previous rights, which were simply the copyrighted right to produce or sell the seed.
    It is really important to recognize that debate has gone on around the world for many decades about whether or not there would be greater rights accorded to plant breeders—who, generally speaking, tend to be large corporations like Monsanto. It is absolutely critical for those extended rights to be balanced off with the rights of farm producers. It is generally recognized that saving, reusing, selecting, exchanging, and selling seeds have been understood to be a traditional practice and an inalienable right of farmers.
    The concern with this bill, which extends greater rights to the plant breeders, is that the farmers' rights will be cut back. I am advised by the farmers who have been looking at this proposed legislation that there will be even deeper concerns if the Canada-EU comprehensive economic trade agreement is signed, because that bill could potentially extend the plant breeders' rights even further and thereby limit the farmers' rights.
    I want to share what some of the issues are. In the bill are accorded certain of what are called “farmers' privileges”. The only provisions in the bill on plant breeders that are accorded to farmers are the rights of the plant breeder, which are enforceable in civil law. As I understand this new legislation, the government will assume responsibility for enforcing these laws, with additional costs assumed by Canadians, including farm producers.
    Privileges only—in other words, not really enforceable rights—are extended to the farmers, but they are very limited rights. They include allowing the farmer to use those seeds for the purpose of propagation, but the farmer then cannot sell the crop or the seeds. Many have suggested this is a very hollow privilege.
     In addition, the law allows for even further limiting of this privilege by regulation, but the government has not yet revealed what it intends to do by regulation. There are concerns about that.
    As I mentioned, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture submitted a brief on the bill. It is presumed that members of this group will be key witnesses at committee, and we encourage them to do so. They are concerned about claims of infringement. There are scenarios in which, for example, there can be drift of seed onto a farmer's land; if the farmer then collects that seed and replants it, and it happens to include some of the seed that is patented, under this law the plant breeder can go after the farmers and sue them.
    Additional concerns have been raised, including some raised by Mr. Jacobson in the case of organic farmers. We have had a number of situations of complaints being brought forward by Canadian producers over GMO seeds drifting into organic farmlands, causing their crops to become contaminated and to diminish in value. It reduces their ability to market, certainly overseas.
    There are concerns with the free trade agreement that would potentially allow for the seizure of a farmer's assets upon infringement. There is concern about costs imposed on the government, including farmers, to enforce this new law, and issues about compulsory licensing.
    Right now, under law there is a provision for compulsory licensing. The plant breeder must ensure that the seeds are made available at a reasonable price and are widely distributed. There is a provision in this new law that would allow them to apply for exemption. What is the problem there? As with the other regulations under the act, there are no provisions to require consultation with the agricultural producers.
    With that, I will close my comments. I look forward to questions on the bill. I look forward to the government opening up this dialogue to producers across our country.

  (1340)  

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague made a comment that no Conservatives have spoken to the bill. She must not be following the debate. The minister himself introduced the bill in Parliament and spoke to it. I, as the parliamentary secretary, stood in the House and spoke to it, as did a number of other Conservative MPs.
    We are the biggest proponents of the bill. It is the NDP members who seem to be conflicted on the bill. They are weighing one side, weighing the other, and then trying to walk straight up the middle to please both sides of their base.
    This is an important bill for agriculture. It is an important bill for farmers. I call on the NDP to support the bill, wholeheartedly and 100%.
    Mr. Speaker, I guess I have smoked them out of the weeds. I am glad to see some members on the other side commenting on the debate today. It is very welcome.
    I am not going to apologize for the fact that on this side of the House, we actually reach out to those who are impacted by the bills and find out what their issues and concerns are, which is precisely what my colleagues and I have done. Agricultural producers are telling me there are some significant issues with this bill, and they look forward not only to the opportunity to come to committee to discuss the bill but also to be consulted on the planned regulations.
    There is nothing stopping the government, frankly, from distributing proposed regulations right now, even before the bill goes to committee. That would then mean that we could vote from a fully informed standpoint in representing the interests of our constituents.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to emphasize that the most significant concern the critic of the Liberal Party has brought to the floor is in regard to the size of the legislation. There are a number of pieces of legislation in one bill. We question why the government has taken this approach, given the importance of the farming community and the number of pieces of legislation that the bill would change. Many of those changes, in fact, could have been stand-alone pieces of legislation.
    My question for the member is this: does she not agree that there are too many pieces of legislation being brought as a single piece of legislation? By doing that, are we not preventing the different stakeholders and others from participating in a more detailed discussion on the issues facing our farmers today?

  (1345)  

    Mr. Speaker, as the member is aware, at the outset of my speech I raised concerns over the manner in which this bill has been brought forward. I repeat this concern over and over again when the government brings forward legislation in this way.
    My particular concern is with legislation that allows for regulations that could deeply constrain even the privilege accorded to agriculture producers. As I mentioned, the law provides certain privileges for farmers to do certain things with seeds, subject to regulations, yet nobody knows what those regulations will say. A good number of measures in this bill allow for that.
    Indeed, something as significant as plant breeders' rights merited debate on its own, let alone the eight other laws that would be amended by this legislation. Let us hope that the consultation in committee is extensive, and again I recommend that this bill be taken out to the fields of Canada.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk to the member about the licensing and registration system. This could require additional funding since measures will be implemented.
    Do we have those additional funds? Could there be delays in granting licences and registrations to facilities because those funds are not available?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that unlike current legislation, this legislation introduces an increased role for the Government of Canada, and that means further expenditures. I have not had the time to check to see if the budget provides for these additional funds should this bill become law this year. It is important for that to be revealed. It certainly needs to be revealed at committee.
    I am deeply troubled that we are going to use public resources to protect the rights of plant breeders but not necessarily public resources to protect what should be the rights of farmers. That is the area where we need more discussion. I am told by the producers themselves that they are discouraged that the government keeps cutting back on agricultural research funds. It certainly cut the funds for the research based in Saskatchewan and Alberta and it cut back on the community pastures. That is a sad day for the small producers of Canada.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, today, I have the pleasure of rising in the House to speak to Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts relating to agriculture and agri-food. I am also proud to say that the NDP has decided to support the bill so that it can be studied more thoroughly in committee.
    In our opinion, many aspects of the bill constitute progress for farmers and the agricultural community. However, we are concerned about certain other aspects of the bill. We will examine the bill in committee and propose amendments. We will see how we can work with the government to advance the cause of the agriculture and agri-food sector.
    The NDP feels that this bill is massive and is basically an omnibus bill. It amends nine different laws. Certainly, this government has introduced even bigger omnibus bills in the past. One of our concerns is our inability to study each item separately. The Conservatives have been introducing massive bills from the outset.
    As parliamentarians, we cannot oppose certain parts of bill if there is no clause-by-clause study. We are supposed to vote in a block, either in support of or in opposition to the bill. If we vote in favour of the bill, we cannot oppose the negative items. However, if we vote in opposition, the government will say that we do not support farmers. That tells me that we are unable to clearly express our opinion on government bills.
    Today I will be looking at all of the proposed changes, and I will be stating which ones we support and which ones concern us. I hope that the Conservatives will be open to certain changes and amendments in committee. That is what legislators do.
    The NDP went to talk to farmers and those affected, including small and large businesses, in order to gather their comments. We feel it is important to hear everyone's views. Although I live in a very urban area, I visited community and allotment gardens in my riding. The people there have concerns about what is happening in our agri-food and agricultural sector. It is very worthwhile for an MP to travel in her riding and talk to people about what is happening in the House of Commons.
    The first amendment was about the Plant Breeders' Rights Act. What this is about is moving toward ratification of the 1991 Act of the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. This is good: it expands the rights afforded to plant breeders for the varieties they develop and increases the places along the value chain where plant breeders can collect royalties. A new provision allows farmers to save and condition seed for purposes of plant production and reproduction on their own farm. It protects researchers' right to use patented materials as the basis for developing a new variety or for another research use. It enhances public accessibility to the registry of plant varieties, which is a major change from the previous act. It maintains the ability of CFIA to grant compulsory licences to ensure that in certain situations, plant varieties are available at reasonable prices, widely distributed and of good quality. There are a lot of good things in here.
    As written, the bill would ensure that variety developers are able to see a return on investment for their plant breeding research efforts, which is very important. It grants farmers the privilege to save and condition their own seed. This is another big step in the right direction. It promotes access for Canadian farmers to the results of private breeding research from Canada and other countries through an intellectual property rights regime. It protects researchers from infringement of plant breeders' rights.

  (1350)  

    We also have some concerns, and I hope that we can address them by working effectively in committee with all our colleagues from all parties. The Liberals also said they are supporting this bill. At least we are all on the same page. From that point, it will be important to agree on the few amendments that will have to be made. I believe that it is important for a government to have objective criticism of its legislative measures. Working together as a team provides us with the opportunity to address and correct any flaws in the ideas being proposed.
    Our concerns have to do with the provisions on the privileges granted to farmers and the fact that those privileges do not extend to the stocking of propagating material. The consequence of these provisions is that even if farmers are able to save seed for the purpose of reproduction, they may have to pay to store it, which would effectively negate that privilege. The privilege also does not extend to the sale of harvested material. This means that farmers will probably have to pay for the sale of the crops grown from farm-saved seed. It also means that plant breeders could potentially generate revenue on a farmer’s entire production, rather than just on the seed purchased to grow the crop. That is another one of our concerns.
    We also have concerns about the potential legal burden for producers. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture has called for protections for producers from claims of patent infringement with respect to natural or accidental spreading of a patented plant genetic material. These protections were not included in Bill C-18. Perhaps the Conservatives will be open to adding that protection.
    I now want to talk about the amendment to the Agricultural Marketing Programs Act and the advance payments program. Both of these are also affected by this bill. The advance payments program is a financial loan guarantee program that gives producers easier access to credit through cash advances. Bill C-18 expands access to the advance payments program in a number of ways. There are new allowances for multi-year agreements. This expands producer eligibility beyond those “principally occupied” in the farming operation, which will mean that farmers with significant off-farm employment will also be able to access the program. Furthermore, breeding animals will now be included in the advance payments program.
    Our concerns are shared by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, which has been calling for an increase to the maximum amounts of advances in order to address rising farm expenses. The Conservatives did not include these increases in Bill C-18.
    Unfortunately, I do not have time to talk about all of the amendments because, as I was saying, there are so many of them. There are amendments to the Feeds Act, the Fertilizers Act, the Seeds Act, the Health of Animals Act and the Plant Protection Act. We have some concerns in this regard. There is a new licensing and registration system that will require Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to allocate additional resources to the CFIA.
    That is too bad because, once again, the government has not provided for additional funding for the CFIA. With the crises that have occurred in the past, I think that the Conservatives are again imposing additional obligations on an agency without giving it the means to fulfill them. That is something that we have seen the government do repeatedly. It imposes new laws and regulations that are worthwhile and help our country progress but it does not give the agencies or departments responsible the means to carry them out. This is once again a weakness in the bill. I hope that together we will be able to remedy that problem.
    As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, we are going to support this bill because it nonetheless does have some benefits. However, the government must be open to some changes and amendments. The usual democratic process for a bill is to send it to committee. Recently there have been some problems with committees. I hope that with this bill, the government will note that we are open to changes being made.

  (1355)  

    I hope we will be able to improve the bill so that it is good for our farmers.
    I hope to answer some questions, even if we do not have much time.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to make reference to the facilitation of certificates for export. This is something which the Conservatives have talked about within the legislation. I want to highlight that there are concerns. There are so many changes in the legislation, but we heard very little, if anything at all, from the minister in regard to this particular issue. It is an important issue.
    Imagine all the contracts that have been put under this huge question mark because of the government's inability to get, for example, wheat from our Prairies to the west coast where there were empty ships in the Pacific Ocean, and contracts that were never filled because of government incompetence.
    I wonder if the member might want to provide some comment in regard to why we have to tread ever so carefully when it comes to Conservatives and the export of our farm commodities.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question, which touched on a number of aspects.
    We do have concerns about the powers being given to the minister. In their bills, the Conservatives are granting more and more powers. Although I have faith in the current minister, we do not know who the next minister will be. That is a concern for me.
     Bill C-18 grants the Governor in Council the ability to make changes to the governing of various products. The Governor in Council's new powers include making regulations respecting the manufacturing, sale and shipping of products between provinces. Furthermore, there is no requirement for the government to consult with the provinces on these regulations. As my colleague mentioned, this is one aspect that concerns us.
    I hope that in committee we will have the opportunity to hear effective witnesses speak about the consequences and the benefits of this bill, so that we can make amendments that will satisfy everyone.

  (1400)  

    The time provided for government business has expired. Therefore, the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine will have three minutes to conclude questions and comments.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Richmond Hill Horticultural Society

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the 100th anniversary of the Richmond Hill Horticultural Society.
    One hundred years ago today, a group of community-minded people got together to help make the village of Richmond Hill more attractive. They were so successful that Richmond Hill came to be known as the Rose Capital of Canada.
    Each year the society ensures that baskets and barrels around the town are brimming over with colourful blossoms. Garden tours, workshops, planting projects, flower shows, front garden recognition programs, and an annual award celebration are just some of the activities that it organizes each and every year.
    This vibrant volunteer community group has roots that are deeply intertwined with those of the town.
     The great town of Richmond Hill is celebrating 140 years this year.
    Congratulations to the Richmond Hill Horticultural Society on 100 years of making Richmond Hill so beautiful.

[Translation]

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

    Mr. Speaker, I represent a rural riding. Many people in Laurentides—Labelle do not have access to a wide range of media options.
    We rely on our public broadcaster for news, entertainment, and culture. CBC/Radio-Canada is a major part of our cultural fabric. It is an institution that serves us well. In such a large country, access to national media is key. Our public broadcaster plays a vital role in the exchange of knowledge and information.
    Cuts to CBC/Radio-Canada are hitting my riding and the rest of the country hard. The Conservatives have demonstrated that they see no future for CBC/Radio-Canada or for public broadcasting in Canada. That is shameful.
    I join with my constituents in saying that I too support CBC/Radio-Canada.

[English]

African Institute for Mathematical Sciences

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to highlight the works of AIMS, the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, also known as the Next Einstein Initiative.
    AIMS has already set up education centres in South Africa, Senegal, Cameroon, and Ghana, and the next centre will be in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
    I had the privilege of meeting with the AIMS team made up of Professor Neil Turok, founder and chairman of AIMS; Mr. Thierry Zomahoun, Dr. Habiba Chakir; Mr. Sam Awuku; and His Excellency Jakaya Kikwete, the president of Tanzania, to discuss the Tanzanian centre, due to open in September 2014. The Government of Tanzania has committed a historic building for this purpose.
    AIMS is a recipient of funds that our government has provided for the purpose of higher education in Africa. These centres are providing masters and doctorate degrees in mathematics and science. I hope that the funding for this outstanding program will be renewed.

Veterans

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize five veterans in my riding.
     Stanley Stepaniak, Joseph Meagher, Joseph Petrie, Marshall Desveaux, and Horace Lovell were recently awarded the highest medal of honour by the French government in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. This honour is bestowed upon all those who helped liberate France in World War II between June 6 and August 31, 1944.
    I had the honour of attending the D-Day celebrations in Normandy earlier this month and witnessed first-hand the outpouring of support from French citizens. I also took part in the ceremony on Juno beach where French schoolchildren gave us sand to take back home to this Parliament.
    Many of those killed in that invasion were Cape Breton Highlanders.
    As Canadians and Cape Bretoners, we are very proud of what these young men did for us and our country.
    I ask the House to join me in giving thanks to all those who served. We will be forever grateful to them.

  (1405)  

Member for Oak Ridges—Markham

    Mr. Speaker, when this session started, I had the opportunity to inform the House about my two beautiful daughters, Natalie and Olivia. As yesterday was Father's Day, I thought this would be a good opportunity to give the House an update. As a proud father, I received a bracelet from my daughter Natalie yesterday. My daughter Olivia gave me a pot of grass, but I can assure the House and the Minister of Justice that it is Kentucky blue grass and it has no medicinal impact.
    I would say to all of my friends, if they find themselves in Oak Ridges—Markham this summer, please drop by my daughters' lemonade stand.
    I would also like to tell all of my wonderful friends in the Press Gallery who were so helpful and so reassuring to me in the fall that if they are thirsty for lemonade and they find themselves in Oak Ridges—Markham this summer, keep driving.

[Translation]

Laval Relay for Life

    Mr. Speaker, on Saturday, I participated in the Laval Relay for Life at Leblanc school.
    The event, which brings together thousands of people—volunteers, people fighting cancer and survivors—for one night each year, is very meaningful to me. This year, the relay raised over $184,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society.
    Congratulations to the organizers, participants, and volunteers for working to make this year's fundraiser a memorable success. Let us remain hopeful and keep fighting.
    On another note, during its annual general meeting, the Association lavalloise pour le transport adapté stated that the Canada Post cuts will have serious consequences, particularly for people with reduced mobility.
    The association's executive director, Louise Audet, and its president, Monique Brazeau, along with its members, stand with the NDP in opposing the Conservative cuts and supporting continued home mail delivery, and I thank them.

[English]

National Health and Fitness Day

    Mr. Speaker, I thank citizens in my riding and across the country and fellow members for working together to increase health and fitness and reduce health care costs.
    In 2011, I was honoured to receive unanimous support to pass my first private member's bill, combatting crystal meth and Ecstasy.
    I thank the Ministers of Public Safety and Health for supporting my second private member's initiative to create a national prescription drug drop-off day.
    Just last Thursday, Bill S-211, creating a national health and fitness day, introduced by Senator Nancy Greene Raine, won unanimous support in the Senate. Having worked on this third initiative for years, I am proud today to be giving the first reading of Bill S-211 as its sponsor in this House. As we head toward Canada's 150th anniversary, it is amazing that over 150 cities have already proclaimed national health and fitness day even before the bill becomes law. We are on the brink of major change that will reverse trends of inactivity, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. By Canada's 150th, we will be on the trail to make Canada the fittest nation on earth.

Tourism Week

    Mr. Speaker, this being tourism week, we celebrate the continued success of this key industry, which brings jobs and economic growth to every single region of this country.
    The year 2013 was outstanding for all of the industry's key partners, from the Tourism Industry Association of Canada and the Canadian Tourism Commission, to private sector hospitality and tourism operators. All major tourism indicators for Canada are positive, with solid growth in tourism revenue, GDP, arrivals, and employment. Canada's tourism sector generates almost $85 billion in revenues annually and supports over 600,000 jobs.
    The good news does not end there. Rendez-vous Canada, the CTC's premier international tourism marketplace, saw record-breaking attendance. These international buyers are our partners in the trillion-dollar global tourism industry, where every 1% increase in Canadian arrivals is equivalent to $817 million in growth in Canadian exports.
    On behalf of our government and all members of this House, my congratulations to the Canadian tourism sector on yet another successful year.

Youth Employment

    Mr. Speaker, increasingly, my generation is being referred to as a “lost generation”. There are 27% of young Canadians who are now unemployed or underemployed, and up to 300,000 are working as unpaid interns. Of all the OECD nations, Canada now has the most university grads earning less than the national median income.
    Too many young workers live in a climate of uncertainty and fear.

  (1410)  

[Translation]

    Many young Canadians have to take unstable jobs or unpaid internships. They currently have no protection under federal law.
    Today, I am pleased to introduce a private member's bill in order to give unpaid interns the same protections as paid employees. The bill would also prevent paid jobs from being converted to unpaid internships.
    I urge my colleagues to support this important initiative to help young workers.

[English]

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, June 15, was World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, an important day to recognize that this very unfortunate situation exists and must be stopped. Our government, under the leadership of the Minister of State for Seniors, has made elder abuse awareness and prevention a top priority. We have enacted landmark legislation to recognize elder abuse in the Criminal Code of Canada.
    Local organizations like the Peel Elder Abuse Prevention Network in my community, supported by a new horizons for seniors grant, are making a difference and hosting a seniors healthy living expo tomorrow in Mississauga.
    We must all work together to prevent the financial, physical, and psychological abuse of the women and men who have built this country and deserve to live their lives in dignity and respect. I encourage all Canadians to go to seniors.gc.ca to learn more.

Roderick Macdonald

    Mr. Speaker, McGill law professor Roderick Macdonald passed away on June 13 after battling cancer. We have lost one of our greatest scholars and most passionate humanitarians.

[Translation]

     Roderick Macdonald was the first president of the Law Commission of Canada, an Officer of the Order of Canada, and the president of the Royal Society of Canada. He distinguished himself as a generous teacher revered by his students, a visionary dean of McGill's Faculty of Law, a staunch defender of justice, a world-renowned academic, and an author of public reports that have transformed a number of areas of law.

[English]

    As his McGill colleague Richard Janda put it, Rod's most wonderful gift to others was the “myriad ways he enabled others to become their better selves”.
    Rod filled the room while allowing others to fill it too. He was a force of nature who was on earth to nurture others. UBC law professor Joel Bakan captures Rod perfectly when he writes that Rod was “A remarkable human being—heart, soul, and intellect beautifully in synch.” He will be sorely missed.

Yad Vashem

    Mr. Speaker, 2013 marked the 60th anniversary of Yad Vashem, Israel's official living memorial to Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and the world centre for documentation, research, education, and commemoration of the Holocaust. To recognize this notable occasion, Yad Vashem is leading an international mission through Poland and Israel to educate participants on the horrors Jews faced at the hands of German Nazis during the Holocaust. We are proud to have our Minister for Multiculturalism participating in part of this mission on behalf of all Canadians.
    Today and every day we must never forget. We must realize how pernicious anti-Semitism is, and continue to be vigilant against anti-Semitism in all its insidious forms.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday was World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, a day on which we bring attention to this very serious problem that often goes ignored.
    Elder abuse can take many forms, from physical and emotional harm to financial abuse. It can be perpetrated by those closest to us, family members or trusted caregivers. Sadly, victims are often ashamed and afraid to report the abuse to the proper authorities, allowing the cycle of abuse to continue unabated. The goal of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is to bring an end to this cycle of silence and shine a light on an issue that lingers in darkness.
    We all have a role in recognizing and preventing elder abuse and empowering victims to speak out and seek assistance. We must work together to recognize and celebrate the valuable role our seniors play in our communities and to ensure that they enjoy their lives free from abuse and exploitation.

  (1415)  

Immigration and Citizenship

    Mr. Speaker, this past weekend the radical leftist group No One is Illegal held a small protest to call for the end of detention for illegal immigrants. Even though Canada generously accepts 250,000 legal immigrants every year, these radicals would prefer to let those who abuse the generosity of Canadians roam our streets.
     This is the same group that has said on repeated occasions that they do not believe that the Canadian state is a legitimate entity. It is shocking to see the President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers say that “The labour movement is united behind...an end to...[immigration] detentions”.
    The left-wing ideology of big union bosses knows no end when they tie themselves to the illegal immigrants who often take jobs away from hard-working, law-abiding members.
    Our Conservative government makes no apologies for the fact that we have removed more than 115,000 illegal immigrants since 2006.

New Democratic Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have devoted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars in an attempt to rebrand Canadian history in their own image. The Conservatives have failed. A government public opinion survey shows that Canadians regard some of the Prime Minister's least favourite people as the greatest Canadian heroes, people like Tommy Douglas, the father of medicare and of the NDP, and Jack Layton, a tireless worker on behalf of ordinary Canadians and the most proud New Democrat.
    The minister responded by saying Canadians don't regard Tommy Douglas as a New Democrat.
    What are Canada's greatest accomplishments as selected by Canadians? Medicare, peacekeeping, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, things consistently undermined and under attack by the Prime Minister.
    Instead of spending millions trying to convince Canadians to adopt Conservative values, the government should heed the message of Canadians like Tommy Douglas and Jack Layton, proud New Democrats who truly embody great Canadian values.

New Democratic Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, the NDP insists that it will not pay back money that it misspent to send out inappropriate and partisan mail-outs. This is unacceptable to us and the taxpayers. The rules have always been clear. It is not acceptable to use House of Commons resources to fund party offices or send party mail-outs.
    Last week, the all-party Board of Internal Economy received and accepted the non-partisan House official's recommendations, showing that the total cost of the NDP's partisan mail-outs was $1.17 million. Of that, $36,000 is owed to the House and $1.13 million is associated with the use of franking privileges through Canada Post.
    The verdict is clear. The NDP broke the rules, and Canadians now expect that it will pay it back. Should the NDP continue its campaign to evade accountability, we fully support House administration and Canada Post taking every step necessary to recoup every penny for Canadian taxpayers.
    We say, “Pay it back.”

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, six months ago, New Democrats put forward a motion calling upon the government to immediately address “the mental health crisis facing Canadian soldiers and veterans”. Conservatives defeated that motion. Now we learn that the Conservative government actually ignored advice from the military's director of special inquiries on how to improve investigations of suicides in order to learn how to avoid even more.
    How can the Prime Minister possibly justify such alarming and unconscionable neglect of the mental health of our soldiers and veterans?
    Mr. Speaker, we are doing no such thing. Again, our thoughts and prayers are with the families who are dealing with this loss.
    Last year, I asked the military to account for delays in some cases, because these delays were preventing families from getting the closure they need and deserve. Since then, the Chief of the Defence Staff has taken action to clear up the backlog of cases. As a matter of fact, more than 80% of them have been cleared up. There are fewer than 10 outstanding.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, here are the real numbers. For the past two years, the Department of National Defence has been grappling with a serious delay in investigations into the suicides of 75 of our soldiers. These investigations could uncover vital information about the causes and warning signs of suicide. This would prevent future suicides.
    The Conservatives are showing reckless negligence. Why did they not follow the director's recommendations? How can they justify disregarding the tools that would prevent more suicides? How can they do that?

  (1420)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition is completely wrong. The Chief of the Defence Staff has taken action to clear up the backlog in cases. As a matter of fact, more than 80% of them have been cleared up, from 54 to fewer than 10. I am encouraged by this progress, and so should he be.

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has just named a Federal Court judge to the Quebec Court of Appeal in what seems to be an obvious attempt to get around the rules for appointing Quebec judges to the Supreme Court. That newest appointment is now being challenged by Rocco Galati, the same lawyer who had the Nadon appointment thrown out.
    Why is the Prime Minister once again trying to get around the rules? Why is he defying both the letter and the spirit of the Nadon decision?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, our government is always guided by the principles of merit and legal excellence in the selection and appointment of judges to the Canadian courts. Justice Mainville is an expert in public sector law negotiations, and in administrative, constitutional, energy, and environmental law. He also lectured at McGill. He is the author of a university textbook on aboriginal law. This shows that he has considerable expertise.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I think he is reading from his notes from Nadon.

[Translation]

    Let us be clear. The Conservatives are trying to use the Quebec Court of Appeal as a springboard for circumventing the rules for Supreme Court appointments. After dishonouring the Supreme Court, they are now preparing to stand in the way of the good work that is done by the highest court in Quebec. This is becoming a worrisome habit of the Conservatives. Why did they openly defy the Supreme Court's decision in the unfortunate Nadon affair?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it appears the Leader of the Opposition is reading from one of his illegal handouts that came from one of his illegal offices.
    As I said in French, our government is guided by merit and legal excellence. Mr. Mainville is an expert in public sector law negotiations, administrative law, and constitutional law. He lectured at McGill. He has been a member of the Quebec bar for 33 years and sat as a Federal Court judge for five years.
    I believe his wealth of legal knowledge will be welcome at the Supreme Court and will be of significant benefit to the Quebec Court of Appeal.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this is not the first time that the Conservatives have tried to use trickery when appointing judges. After having been reprimanded and contradicted by the Supreme Court, they did the only thing they know how to do, and that is to publicly attack the Chief Justice. Now, they are violating the Supreme Court's ruling by failing to abide by the Constitution of Canada when appointing Quebec judges to the Supreme Court. Why is the Prime Minister once again attacking the highest court in our country? Why do the Conservatives want to undermine the integrity of the Supreme Court?
    Mr. Speaker, once again, we are not attacking anyone. We made a decision based on merit and legal excellence.

[English]

    These appointments are vetted. These appointments come on application from individuals. The intention is always to have the best minds, those with the best ability, sitting in Quebec, as in all the superior courts of our country, and that includes the Supreme Court of Canada.
    It is unfortunate that the Leader of the Opposition chooses to constantly try to politicize these issues.

[Translation]

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, the government is soon going to announce its decision on the northern gateway pipeline.
    Meanwhile, even the Prime Minister's special envoy has said that the Conservatives have ignored aboriginal communities and that this project could violate their constitutional rights.
    This government is incapable of protecting our environment and defending aboriginal communities.
    Will it make the right decision and reject this project?

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, the review panel has submitted its report and the projects will only be approved if they are safe for Canadians and for the environment.
    We are carefully studying the report and a decision will be made soon.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the joint review panel on the northern gateway warned that this project would cause adverse effects on a number of valued ecosystems. Obviously the environment is not a priority for this government. Because of gross Conservative mismanagement, this proposal faces a battery of legal challenges and even threats of civil disobedience.
    Why are they pandering to the Prime Minister's pals instead of protecting the environment and defending the rights of aboriginal and B.C. communities? Just say no.
    Mr. Speaker, I think what the Liberal Party is saying is no to responsible resource development, and that is unfortunate for Albertans and British Columbians.
    We are thoroughly reviewing the joint panel recommendations prior to making any decision on this project. We are proud of the action we have taken to ensure that Canada has a world-class regulatory framework and the means for the safest form of transportation for our energy products.
    We have been clear. Projects will only proceed if they are safe for Canadians and safe for the environment.

Public Works and Government Services

    Mr. Speaker, great news today from the Department of National Defence, which announced that an RFP to replace the aging CF-18s will be coming out between 2017 and 2019 with a decision to come between 2018 and 2020.
    Can the government confirm that the Prime Minister's Office will not overrule DND's timelines, that an RFP will go out in 2017 to 2019, and that that request for proposals will be open to all airplane manufacturers?
    Mr. Speaker, I should reaffirm that no decision has been made yet on how to replace the CF-18s.
    To make the decision, we did embark on an ambitious seven-point plan. We had an independent panel of outside experts review the assessment that was done by the RCAF. Over the next several weeks we will be carefully reviewing a number of reports on this subject so that we can make sure that we get the equipment our men and women in uniform need to do the job.

[Translation]

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, in the Nadon affair, the Supreme Court told the Conservatives that they could not appoint a Federal Court judge to represent Quebec on the highest court.
    Instead of acknowledging that ruling, they are trying to get around it by appointing Justice Mainville to the Quebec Court of Appeal, likely so that they can later appoint him to the Supreme Court. They are not fooling anyone with this trick. What is more, Justice Mainville's appointment is now being challenged in court.
    Why is the Prime Minister using Quebec's courts to thumb his nose yet again at the Supreme Court and our Constitution?
    Mr. Speaker, once again, the member is wrong.

[English]

    It is in fact the reality that this individual is not only highly qualified but applied for this position.
    It would be interesting for Quebecers to know that this member and her party seem to be continually taking the side of a Toronto defence lawyer who is standing up for Quebec.
    Mr. Speaker, maybe he should read all the comments that came out in French over the weekend.

[Translation]

    Judicial appointments should not be a process of trial and error to satisfy the Prime Minister's ego. Like Justice Nadon, Justice Mainville sat on the Federal Court. The Supreme Court clearly stated that this makes them ineligible to represent Quebec on the Supreme Court. It is a matter of complying with the Constitution and the civil law tradition.
    Could the Minister of Justice confirm whether his government plans on appointing Justice Mainville to the Supreme Court? He almost implied it earlier.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, insinuation and speculation is the mainstay of the NDP. Clearly this is an individual of outstanding legal merit, similar to Mr. Justice Nadon, who I remind the hon. member she referred to as an excellent jurist and a brilliant man.
    This individual is the same. In fact, clearly, he is someone who was a member of the Quebec bar association for 33 years, in addition to sitting five years as a judge. She should get behind this individual and support him and his good work as a new appeal court judge in the province of Quebec.

  (1430)  

[Translation]

Natural Resources

    Mr. Speaker, the National Energy Board, the organization that is responsible for overseeing the safety of oil pipelines, estimates that it will have to spend $21 million to move from Calgary to Calgary. They must be doing business with the Andrew Leslie moving company. Twenty-one million dollars is unbelievable. That is more than the additional $13.5 million the board received to increase pipeline inspections and improve safety across Canada. Why are the Conservatives spending more money on this move than on pipeline safety?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we are proud of the work the National Energy Board does. Their decisions are driven by science and facts, contrary to the ideological position the NDP takes over responsible resource development. We have every bit of confidence they will continue to do their good work.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, not only have the Conservatives spent twice as much money on the National Energy Board move as they have on pipeline safety, but they are also hiding the details of this expense. The only information on the board's website is that it has moved three blocks over. How did they manage to spend $21 million on that? Why hide the details of that expense?
    Mr. Speaker, we know that the NDP is opposed to scientific regulatory review of projects for ideological reasons. We on this side of the House are proud of the National Energy Board, which is mandated to listen to those who are directly affected and can choose to hear from those who have relevant information or knowledge in that domain. We will allow the independent scientific review committee to draft its recommendations on projects.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, speaking about ideology, they take $21 million to move a few blocks, and that is almost double the amount of funding they announced for pipeline safety. It is no wonder people are getting fed up with the Conservative government.
    Now, with no consultation, they choose someone straight from the Alberta Conservatives as the new head of the National Energy Board. From Keystone to northern gateway, Conservatives have gutted reviews and have taken a radical and unbalanced approach to pipelines. Will the Conservatives at least agree to call the new NEB chair to committee?
    Mr. Speaker, the candidate for the chair has impeccable credentials. Shame on her for not acknowledging that.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, then he should bring those credentials to committee.

[Translation]

    While we are waiting for the decision on the northern gateway pipeline, the Prime Minister's special envoy for aboriginal affairs criticized the Conservatives' public relations job. However, the problem is more serious than public relations. The problem is the construction of an oil terminal in a fragile ecosystem like the north coast of British Columbia. Even Enbridge has indicated that the project cannot be 100% safe. An oil spill is therefore inevitable. Will the Conservatives say no to northern gateway?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, first nations form a significant part of the natural resource sector in terms of their contribution for jobs and the employment opportunities it offers them. Success of this sector, in fact, depends on their full participation, from environmental stewardship to the economic benefits of responsible resource development.
    Mr. Speaker, British Columbians want this pipeline proposal rejected. The multi-million dollar promotion campaign has completely failed. People know the pipeline proposal is short-sighted and will pose significant risks. Waiting will not make it any better, waiting will not make it any more popular, waiting will not make it any safer, and waiting will not make anyone better prepared to deal with the inevitable oil spill.
    Why will the government not end the uncertainty and just say “no” to northern gateway?
    Mr. Speaker, the Joint Review Panel has submitted its recommendation to the government. We are carefully reviewing this recommendation and the decision will be forthcoming.
    There is another report out there, and this comes from the Board of Internal Economy. It has one recommendation: that the NDP pay back the $1.17 million it bilked the taxpayers out of. When is it going to pay careful attention to this decision and pay it back?

  (1435)  

Natural Resources

    Mr. Speaker, someone has an unpopular decision to make, I guess.
     It is 24 hours until the Conservative government makes its decision—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. The hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley now the floor. Members need to come to order.
    The hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.
    Mr. Speaker, it is just 24 hours until Conservatives have the chance to make a decision on Enbridge northern gateway, 24 hours for 21 B.C. Conservatives to decide who they really work for.
     On this side, we believe in working for British Columbians; on that side, it is the oil lobby. On this side, we respect first nations; on that side, they try to bully first nations. On this side, we believe in value-added jobs; on that side, they cannot ship them out fast enough.
    With just 24 hours left to go, let us see who B.C. Conservatives really work for.
    Mr. Speaker, we have been clear that projects will only proceed if they are safe for Canadians and safe for the environment. We are proud of the action we have taken to ensure Canada has a world-class regulatory framework and a means for the safest form of transportation for our energy products.
     Our government is currently reviewing the independent Joint Review Panel prior to making any decisions on this project.
    Mr. Speaker, they claim they believe in science, but it was the Conservatives who gutted the Fisheries Act. It was the Conservatives who wiped the Environmental Assessment Act. It is Conservatives who muzzled their own scientists from telling Canadians the truth.
     Enbridge northern gateway represents that rare Holy Trinity of bad ideas. Environmentally, it is a disaster waiting to happen. Economically, it is a sellout of good Canadians jobs. Politically, it is a nightmare for a tired, out-of-date, arrogant government that just cannot listen to the people who put it here.
    Finally, will B.C. Conservatives stand up for British Columbians and reject this bad proposal?
    Mr. Speaker, as I said, a process is currently under way. The joint panel has provided the government its recommendation and we are carefully considering it prior to making any decision on this project. Once again, projects will only be approved if they are safe for Canadians and safe for the environment.
    Mr. Speaker, I think the minister is getting a bit uncomfortable with his weak excuses.
    Doug Eyford, the government's own special envoy, reported that the northern gateway pipeline approval process lacked proper governmental oversight, lacked consultation with first nations. In fact, Eyford asserts that the Prime Minister mismanaged the whole process, being wilfully blind to the project's risks.
     One major oil tanker spill and the Pacific north coast would never be the same again, and the people of B.C. understand this. They understand that the risks are real and that they are not worth the benefits.
    Why will the minister and Prime Minister not listen to British Columbians?
    Mr. Speaker, we have received the report by Mr. Eyford. We appreciate its recommendations and we have already acted on two of them. They have been very well received by first nations leadership.
    Obviously, there are elements here of world-class and world-leading liability regimes, safety preparedness and spill response, and a very remote chance that would even occur. With more than 73,000 kilometres of pipeline in Canada and a 99.999% safety record, we are confident that record and Mr. Eyford's suggestions will help build the kind of framework for us to move forward with respect to transportation of our energy products.

Employment

    Mr. Speaker, the temporary foreign worker program seems to be run by three unwise ministers. They will not hear complaints about Canadians losing their jobs. They will not speak to the provinces about enforcement. Now we know they have not seen any useful labour market data.
    The government decided to slash spending on labour market spending to the point where labour market opinions have become labour market guesses. How can the Conservatives defend this decision?
    Mr. Speaker, to begin with, we will not take any lessons from the Liberals when it comes the temporary foreign worker program, which it used to bring in strippers. We will not take any lessons from the Liberals when it comes to the labour market or skills training, because they did nothing on that.
    What we will do is follow the leadership of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Employment and Social Development, who are making necessary reforms to the temporary foreign worker program, who have introduced the Canada job grant, getting Canadians back to work with the jobs that are available.

  (1440)  

Citizenship and Immigration

    Mr. Speaker, today I join thousands of medical professionals and other concerned Canadians who have come together in 16 cities in a national day of action to demand that government reverse its short-sighted and mean-spirited cuts to refugee health care.
    The minister is misleading Canadians. He is not only rejecting failed claimants, he is shamefully refusing health care to refugees as they arrive in Canada.
    The minister has said that refugees are a federal responsibility. The doctors are asking when he will accept his responsibility, exhibit Canadian values and reverse these cuts.
    Mr. Speaker, the member is wrong. The member and these few activists are actually misleading Canadians. They are not helping refugees. They are trying to help failed and bogus claimants and they are trying to undo taxpayer benefits from a very successful reform, one that has reduced, by 87%, the number of claimants from safe countries and that has saved Canadian taxpayers $600 million in one year.
    All of that threatens to be undone if either the Liberals or the NDP have their way on refugee policy.
    Mr. Speaker, leaving refugees without health care is an appalling fact that the government has perpetrated on our country. We are talking about pregnant women and children, and because they have no access to preventative medicine, when they get severely ill, they go to the hospital. The hospitals in the provinces have to pick up a much more costly tab for this.
    Will the minister then finally do the right thing and reinstate the health care coverage for refugee claimants in Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, the member has again misspoken.
    He is not calling for help for refugees. Refugees are protected and helped by the interim federal health program, by Canada's generous programs that resettle one out of ten refugees who come from all over the world every year.
    What the member is asking for is to make decisions himself on who deserves taxpayer money through the health care system. He is asking doctors to decide who a refugee is, to take that power away from the Immigration and Refugee Board.
     It undermines the rule of law and it is unfair to taxpayers. We will not let it happen.
    Mr. Speaker, since the minister brings up the government's record on refugees, let us talk about that then.
    Three million people have been displaced in Syria, half of them women and children, and yet the minister stubbornly refuses to tell us how many have actually come to Canada. He cannot now use the excuse that he has to run to QP to excuse the question.
    This is a simple question. Will the minister tell us, exactly, of the 200 Syrian refugees that the government has committed to sponsoring in Canada, how many of them are in Canada? Is 10, is it 20 or is it 100? How many?
    Mr. Speaker, the member would do well to get his facts straight.
    We have committed to helping 1,300; 1,150 have received Canada's protection and are inside Canada. Moreover, on a day when terrorists are unfortunately threatening the stability of Iraq, it is important to remind the House that Canada's commitment from 2009 to resettle 20,000 Iraqis, many of whom took refuge in Syria in recent years, has almost been met.
    That is action. That is action for refugees. That is this government's record, and we are proud of it.

[Translation]

     Mr. Speaker, once again the minister is choosing to create confusion rather than to provide a clear answer to a simple question.
    Perhaps he is not aware of his own figures or perhaps he is not very proud of them and so he would prefer not to share them. Either way, it is not very reassuring.
    The civil war in Syria continues to wreak havoc. Canadians want Canada to meet its international commitments.
    We do not want to know how many refugees have received Canada's protection. What we want to know is exactly how many of the 200 refugees that the government promised to sponsor last year are actually in Canada. How many of those 200 refugees are in Canada?

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, we promised to help those refugees before the end of this year and we are already in the process of exceeding that number.
    A total of 1,150 Syrians have already received Canada's protection and are currently in Canada. It is the NDP that is causing confusion by insisting that the refugees are failed refugee claimants. That is not fair to Canadian taxpayers.
    Why does the NDP not want temporary foreign workers, tourists, and students to receive health care in Canada when failed refugee claimants have access to it? That is unfair.
    We do not agree with that policy or with the confusion the NDP is creating.
    Mr. Speaker, we still do not have any figures on the number of government-sponsored refugees.
    In addition to the confusion over the issue of Syrian refugees and a reform that denies pregnant women and children the health care that they desperately need, the minister wants to pass his citizenship bill, which attacks the fundamental rights of Canadians. A growing number of experts say that the bill could end up in court because it does not comply with the Constitution.
    Why does the minister want to rush through a bill that will inevitably end up in court instead of truly addressing the problems with our immigration and citizenship system?
    Mr. Speaker, we are very proud of our bill on Canadian citizenship, which will pass at third reading after question period today.
    We are proud to strengthen the value of Canadian citizenship and to talk about terrorism, treason and espionage, which should not be accepted as foundations of our citizenship. Indeed, we will revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens who commit serious crimes.
    We would like the NDP to think about that on a day when terrorists are causing panic in Iraq.

[English]

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, the ongoing situation in Iraq is deeply troubling. Recent reports indicate that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has taken the city of Tal Afar. This news follows the capture of Tikrit and Mosul last week by this brutal terrorist organization. This organization's activities are not simply limited to Iraq but extend into Syria as well, where it is responsible for untold numbers of deaths as well as destruction.
    Could the Minister of Foreign Affairs please comment on this developing situation Iraq?
    Mr. Speaker, Canada and our government are very concerned by the rise in terrorism in Iraq, and we extend our sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who have been killed.
     Since 2012, the ISIL has been a listed terrorist entity in Canada. We are committed to working with the Iraqi leadership. I should point out that Canada has not been asked to participate in any military effort, nor is it something we are considering.

[Translation]

Social Development

    Mr. Speaker, the Social Security Tribunal, which hears Canadians' appeals concerning employment insurance and old age security, is overwhelmed because of a lack of umpires.
    For example, the income security section has only 35 umpires to hear 3,700 cases. At this rate it will take nine and a half years to hear these cases, provided that there are no new cases, which is light years from reality.
    Does the minister believe that it is normal for it to take this long for Canadians to obtain justice?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Social Security Tribunal started its operations on April 1, 2013, just over a year ago. It received higher than anticipated caseloads from the legacy tribunal.
     That said, this tribunal is ready now to look at all these cases, and we expect it to get caught up. It is an arm's-length tribunal, but we do expect it to catch up with these cases.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are trying to justify their mismanagement by telling us that the problem is the backlog created by the former tribunals. They should stop insulting people. The Conservatives have been in power for eight years.
    If the system still poses problems, it is because of the Conservatives' incompetence. The Conservatives mismanaged the transition to the Social Security Tribunal, and they are not hiring enough umpires. Thousands of unemployed workers, disabled people, and seniors must wait months without income before their cases are heard.
    Why is the government once again trying to save money at the expense of the poorest Canadians?

  (1450)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, currently there are two vacancies, and we expect those to be filled very soon. The Social Security Tribunal is an independent administrative tribunal that operates at arm's length from the department. It is committed to providing fair, credible, and impartial appeal processes in a timely manner, and that is what we expect it to do.
    Mr. Speaker, a new system and no transition plan leaves thousands of Canadians waiting years for a hearing. That is nothing to be proud of.
    Last year, the income security section of the Social Security Tribunal held only 178 hearings. It will take nine and a half years just to hear all of the current cases. These are senior citizens, people with disabilities, our most vulnerable, heartlessly being left behind by the government.
    Where is the minister's plan for fixing the mess that Conservatives have made of the Social Security Tribunal?
    Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that the NDP has never been in government and does not understand how some of these processes work.
    Here are the facts. On April 1, 2013, the Social Security Tribunal was established. A year later, the members were ready. They are moving forward. We expect them to catch up with the backlog. We care about the people who are waiting for their hearings to be heard. We are not going to take lessons from the NDP, who do not understand that these processes are how they move forward.
    Mr. Speaker, that minister should hang her head in shame. A woman in London suffering from a terminal medical condition requested an urgent hearing, in December 2012. A year and a half went by with no reply. She finally did hear back, but the tribunal will not see her before next fall.
    Thousands of Canadians are being put in similar precarious situations. Why are the Conservatives refusing to fix the mess that they created with the Social Security Tribunal?
    Mr. Speaker, the colleagues who should be hanging their heads in shame are every single one of the NDP who owe $1.17 million for the—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Hon. Candice Bergen: The Social Security Tribunal is giving top priority to these legacy cases. It has committed to providing fair, credible, and impartial appeal processes in a timely manner.
    If New Democrats want to hang their heads in shame, I think now is the time.

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, for Conservatives, $32 million to National Defence commemorating military history is a priority, while hiring additional mental health workers and acting on a backlog of investigations into suicides is not. For Conservatives, $50 million from Veterans Affairs on commemorations is a priority, but $5 million on regional offices and programs for veterans is not.
    Has the minister not heard them? Veterans are pleading for more services, not more ceremonies. Why will the Conservative government not listen to them?
    Mr. Speaker, all of the needs of the members of our armed forces and our veterans are our concern and priority. This is in complete contrast to the Liberals. Their idea of a major military expenditure was the $500 million that they paid in penalties when they cancelled the helicopter contract. We will continue to make this a priority. That is the difference between us and them.

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, earlier in question period, the Minister of Justice was asked a question with respect to the appointment of Justice Mainville. He said that he believes his wealth of legal knowledge will be welcome at the Supreme Court and will be of significant benefit to the Quebec Court of Appeal.
    Will the Minister of Justice confirm that the government intends to appoint Justice Mainville to fill the upcoming Quebec vacancy on the Supreme Court, and thereby do indirectly what it cannot do directly?
    Mr. Speaker, I did not follow those mental gymnastics because the Superior Court of Quebec is a Supreme Court in the province. I would ask the member to go back and maybe read Hansard.
    The reality is that we have a very capable individual here, who applied for and has now been appointed to the appeal court of the Superior Court of Quebec. I know he will provide tremendous service to our country, as he has through the Federal Court. I do not know why the opposition members spend so much time attacking the judiciary these days.

  (1455)  

[Translation]

Tourism

    Mr. Speaker, the price of gas has reached a record high as we head into Tourism Week in Canada. This is another factor that has a negative impact on tourism. The Tourism Industry Association of Canada is calling for stable funding over three years to monitor the U.S. tourism market. More than 600,000 Canadian jobs depend on this market. Will the minister stop making budget cuts to the Canadian Tourism Commission and take meaningful action to attract visitors to Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. The tourism industry appears to be important to the NDP, but what really disappoints me is that the New Democrats want to impose a $21 billion tax that will hurt the tourism industry. Their words are not consistent with their actions.
    We will not impose additional taxes on the tourism industry. We will welcome tourists across Canada. This is an $84 billion industry that creates more than 608,000 jobs in Canada. This industry is important to us, unlike the NDP.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, Tourism Week is off to a difficult start, with record high gas prices adding to the many challenges that the industry is already facing, like falling numbers of American visitors. Maybe the minister should learn that. There are radical Conservative cuts to the Canadian Tourism Commission as well.
    The Tourism Industry Association of Canada is demanding that the government stop cutting and start investing in a strategy to attract tourists back to Canada. Tourism generates $84 billion in communities across the country, but due to neglect, this industry is suffering under the Conservatives.
    Will the minister act now to help revitalize tourism in this country?
    Mr. Speaker, as everybody knows, the Canadian tourism industry is on the right track. This year is one of the best. That is a fact. Visitors coming from outside the country are spending more money this year than they did last year.
    We have created more jobs in this industry. When I say “we”, I mean that the industry and the small entrepreneurs—the real entrepreneurs—are creating jobs.
    We continue to have more travellers coming from China, India, Brazil, and America to visit our country. It is a great year for the tourism industry.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, June 16 to 20 is Tourism Week in Canada. This week we will take a moment to honour the hard work of entrepreneurs who help make the tourism industry successful by creating jobs and spurring economic growth. Can the Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism, and Agriculture tells us about Canada's commitment to the tourism sector?
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say that we have a federal tourism strategy. The opposition did not support this strategy, even though it was well received by the tourism industry. It is a major industry, worth $84 billion. We are not like the NDP, which wants to impose a $21 billion carbon tax that will harm the tourism industry. We will not do that. We will continue to support this industry.

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, I was a member of the first parliamentary delegation to visit Madagascar after the 2013 presidential elections. In 2009, most countries suspended their relations to and programs in this country. However, they have now re-established them. That is also the case for the International Monetary Fund.
    Can the Minister of Foreign Affairs confirm that Canada also intends to fully restore its ties to Madagascar in order to help the Malagasy people?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for the question and for his interest in African issues.
    Obviously, we think the time has come to review the status of our relationship with Madagascar, with a view to normalizing relations. We do think it is important to have some consultations before we do so, and I would be very pleased to take the member's suggestion under advisement.

  (1500)  

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, the community of Marten Falls has been on a boiled water advisory for 10 years. This past winter, a filter broke at the plant so that the water in the taps is not even safe to bathe babies. The reserve does not have the $70,000 to replace the filter, nor the expertise.
    Bathing children in contaminated water would not be tolerated in any non-native community. Will the minister work with the community, recognize that this is an emergency, and ensure that the people of Marten Falls have what every other Canadian citizen takes for granted, which is safe water for their children?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to reassure the hon. member that indeed we are working with the first nation to address the problem of safe drinking water on this reserve.
    I want to point out to the House that we take action for first nations across Canada so that they have the same quality of drinking water as all Canadians. It is surprising that the hon. member questions this. In the last budget, we planned on investing over $300 million for safe water on reserves, and he voted against it.

Social Development

    Mr. Speaker, our government has done more to support persons with disabilities than any previous government.
    I was pleased when the House unanimously supported my motion, Motion No. 430, which called for continued and increased support for employment opportunities for persons with disabilities.
    Would the Minister of State for Social Development please update this House on how our government is supporting the lives of persons with disabilities?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the great work he has done on behalf of persons with disabilities.
    The legacy of the late Jim Flaherty lives on through the programs we have created to help persons with disabilities, whether it is the registered disabilities savings plan, the first of its kind, and the only one in the world, and which helps parents save for their children who have disabilities; our enabling accessibility fund, which has helped over 1,400 projects across Canada; or our opportunities fund, which helps Canadians with disabilities to get back to work.
    We are proud of what we have done.

[Translation]

Infrastructure

    Mr. Speaker, construction of Quebec City's ice oval has been delayed.
    The federal government promised to pay one-third of the cost of this infrastructure, but the promised money from the Building Canada fund may no longer be available. Last Friday, in response to our question, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services responded by talking about shipbuilding.
    Can the Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs take this more seriously and clearly indicate whether the federal government will keep its promise even if there are delays?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for that question, the second time.
    I am very pleased to take this opportunity to confirm that the federal government's commitment to the ice oval rink in Quebec City remains firm and is absolutely crystal clear. We await the municipality of Quebec City and the Province of Quebec with respect to the construction of this project. That is clear.
    What is less clear is whether the NDP will pay back taxpayers the money it owes for inappropriate mailings and office expenses.

Natural Resources

    Mr. Speaker, the British Columbia government testified that Enbridge had not fulfilled its responsibilities in evidence to make it acceptable to British Columbians to build the risky pipeline and tanker scheme. The Union of British Columbia Municipalities opposes the project. Every first nation along the pipeline and tanker routes opposes the project. The majority of British Columbians oppose the project, including the residents of Kitimat, who rejected it in a plebiscite.
    The Prime Minister once urged the province of Alberta to resist heavy-handed tactics from a hostile federal government. Will he ensure that the project does not go ahead unless British Columbians accept it?
    Mr. Speaker, the joint review panel has submitted its recommendation to the government. Projects will only be approved if they are safe for Canadians and safe for the environment. We are carefully reviewing this recommendation and a response will be forthcoming.

[Translation]

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, people are saying that Bill C-36, as it stands, will not make prostitution illegal. This is an important aspect because the legal nature of prostitution was a fundamental element that, for the Supreme Court justices, justified their ruling in the Bedford case.
    Will the Minister of Justice clearly state in Bill C-36 that prostitution is illegal in Canada?

  (1505)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her long-standing interest in this subject, to protect vulnerable Canadians and to protect communities. Those are the two goals, certainly among others, found in Bill C-36.
    We intend to meet the deadlines that have been set by the Supreme Court in the Bedford decision and to do so in a way that we believe will improve the lives of those who choose to leave prostitution. We have put parameters in place designed specifically to protect the community, children in particular.
    We hope that all members will support this effort, which will make Canadians safer.

Natural Resources

    Mr. Speaker, everyday Canadians are struggling with the rapidly increasing price of energy. Recent events in places like Iraq remind us that the world's dependency on conflict oil can have serious financial consequences on Canadian families and businesses.
    While the world is progressing toward greater efficiency and new technologies, current events demonstrate why Canadian oil must have sustainable, efficient, and secure access to Canadian as well as global markets.
    I was pleased to read the comments made by our Minister of Natural Resources in his recent meetings in New York. Could the minister share his message with the House and speak to his commitment to Canadian energy, Canadian jobs, and Canadian families?
    Mr. Speaker, there have been tough questions today, particularly this one. I want to thank the member for Peterborough for that timely question.
    Last week I promoted Canada as a reliable and safe energy partner at the North American Energy Summit, and in fact I pre-empted that in Rome.
    Recent international events remind us that Canada has an important role to play in assisting our partners, countries around the world, in achieving energy security. Our energy products will remain a significant part of the global energy mix.
    Our government remains committed to responsible resource development.
    I thank my peer for that important question.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[English]

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act

    The House resumed from June 12 consideration of the motion that Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Criminal Code in response to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Attorney General of Canada v. Bedford and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
    Pursuant to an order made on Wednesday, May 27, 2014, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the second reading stage of Bill C-36.
    Call in the members.

  (1515)  

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

(Division No. 209)

YEAS

Members

Ablonczy
Adams
Adler
Aglukkaq
Albas
Albrecht
Alexander
Allen (Tobique—Mactaquac)
Allison
Ambler
Anderson
Armstrong
Ashfield
Aspin
Baird
Bateman
Benoit
Bergen
Bernier
Bezan
Blaney
Block
Boughen
Braid
Breitkreuz
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Newmarket—Aurora)
Bruinooge
Butt
Calandra
Calkins
Cannan
Carmichael
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Crockatt
Daniel
Davidson
Dechert
Del Mastro
Devolin
Dreeshen
Duncan (Vancouver Island North)
Dykstra
Falk
Fast
Findlay (Delta—Richmond East)
Finley (Haldimand—Norfolk)
Fletcher
Galipeau
Gallant
Gill
Glover
Goguen
Goldring
Goodyear
Gosal
Gourde
Grewal
Harris (Cariboo—Prince George)
Hawn
Hayes
Hiebert
Hillyer
Hoback
Holder
James
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kerr
Komarnicki
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Lake
Lauzon
Leef
Lemieux
Leung
Lizon
Lobb
Lukiwski
Lunney
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Maguire
McColeman
McLeod
Menegakis
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Mourani
Nicholson
Norlock
O'Connor
O'Neill Gordon
Opitz
O'Toole
Paradis
Payne
Poilievre
Preston
Rajotte
Reid
Rempel
Richards
Rickford
Saxton
Schellenberger
Seeback
Shea
Shipley
Shory
Smith
Sopuck
Stanton
Strahl
Sweet
Tilson
Toet
Trost
Trottier
Truppe
Valcourt
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Vellacott
Wallace
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country)
Weston (Saint John)
Wilks
Wong
Woodworth
Yelich
Young (Oakville)
Young (Vancouver South)
Zimmer

Total: -- 139

NAYS

Members

Allen (Welland)
Andrews
Angus
Ashton
Atamanenko
Aubin
Bélanger
Bennett
Benskin
Blanchette
Blanchette-Lamothe
Boivin
Borg
Boulerice
Boutin-Sweet
Brahmi
Brosseau
Caron
Casey
Cash
Chicoine
Chisholm
Choquette
Christopherson
Cleary
Comartin
Côté
Crowder
Cullen
Davies (Vancouver Kingsway)
Day
Dewar
Dion
Dionne Labelle
Doré Lefebvre
Dubé
Dubourg
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona)
Dusseault
Easter
Eyking
Freeland
Freeman
Garneau
Garrison
Genest
Genest-Jourdain
Giguère
Godin
Goodale
Gravelle
Groguhé
Harris (Scarborough Southwest)
Harris (St. John's East)
Hassainia
Hsu
Hughes
Hyer
Jacob
Jones
Julian
Kellway
Lamoureux
Lapointe
Larose
Latendresse
Laverdière
LeBlanc (Beauséjour)
LeBlanc (LaSalle—Émard)
Leslie
Liu
MacAulay
Mai
Marston
Martin
Masse
Mathyssen
May
McCallum
McGuinty
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
Michaud
Morin (Chicoutimi—Le Fjord)
Morin (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine)
Morin (Laurentides—Labelle)
Morin (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot)
Mulcair
Murray
Nantel
Nash
Nicholls
Nunez-Melo
Pacetti
Papillon
Pilon
Quach
Rafferty
Rankin
Ravignat
Raynault
Regan
Rousseau
Saganash
Sandhu
Scarpaleggia
Scott
Sellah
Sgro
Simms (Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor)
Sims (Newton—North Delta)
Sitsabaiesan
Sullivan
Thibeault
Tremblay
Turmel
Valeriote

Total: -- 117

PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

    (Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act

     The House resumed from June 12 consideration of the motion that Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed.
    Pursuant to an order made on Tuesday, May 27, 2014, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the third reading stage of Bill C-24.

  (1520)  

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

(Division No. 210)

YEAS

Members

Ablonczy
Adams
Adler
Aglukkaq
Albas
Albrecht
Alexander
Allen (Tobique—Mactaquac)
Allison
Ambler
Ambrose
Anderson
Armstrong
Ashfield
Aspin
Baird
Bateman
Benoit
Bergen
Bernier
Bezan
Blaney
Block
Boughen
Braid
Breitkreuz
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Newmarket—Aurora)
Bruinooge
Butt
Calandra
Calkins
Cannan
Carmichael
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Crockatt
Daniel
Davidson
Dechert
Del Mastro
Devolin
Dreeshen
Duncan (Vancouver Island North)
Dykstra
Falk
Fast
Findlay (Delta—Richmond East)
Finley (Haldimand—Norfolk)
Fletcher
Gallant
Gill
Glover
Goguen
Goldring
Goodyear
Gosal
Gourde
Grewal
Harris (Cariboo—Prince George)
Hawn
Hayes
Hiebert
Hillyer
Hoback
Holder
James
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kerr
Komarnicki
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Lake
Lauzon
Leef
Lemieux
Leung
Lizon
Lobb
Lukiwski
Lunney
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Maguire
McColeman
McLeod
Menegakis
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Nicholson
Norlock
O'Neill Gordon
Opitz
O'Toole
Paradis
Payne
Poilievre
Preston
Rajotte
Reid
Rempel
Richards
Rickford
Saxton
Schellenberger
Seeback
Shea
Shipley
Shory
Smith
Sopuck
Stanton
Strahl
Sweet
Tilson
Toet
Trost
Trottier
Truppe
Valcourt
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Vellacott
Wallace
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country)
Weston (Saint John)
Wilks
Wong
Woodworth
Yelich
Young (Oakville)
Young (Vancouver South)
Zimmer

Total: -- 137

NAYS

Members

Allen (Welland)
Andrews
Angus
Ashton
Atamanenko
Aubin
Bélanger
Bennett
Benskin
Blanchette
Blanchette-Lamothe
Boivin
Borg
Boulerice
Boutin-Sweet
Brahmi
Brosseau
Caron
Casey
Cash
Chicoine
Chisholm
Choquette
Christopherson
Cleary
Comartin
Côté
Crowder
Cullen
Davies (Vancouver Kingsway)
Day
Dewar
Dion
Dionne Labelle
Doré Lefebvre
Dubé
Dubourg
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona)
Dusseault
Easter
Eyking
Freeland
Freeman
Garneau
Garrison
Genest
Genest-Jourdain
Giguère
Godin
Goodale
Gravelle
Groguhé
Harris (Scarborough Southwest)
Harris (St. John's East)
Hassainia
Hsu
Hughes
Hyer
Jacob
Jones
Julian
Kellway
Lamoureux
Lapointe
Larose
Latendresse
Laverdière
LeBlanc (Beauséjour)
LeBlanc (LaSalle—Émard)
Leslie
Liu
MacAulay
Mai
Marston
Martin
Masse
Mathyssen
May
McCallum
McGuinty
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
Michaud
Morin (Chicoutimi—Le Fjord)
Morin (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine)
Morin (Laurentides—Labelle)
Morin (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot)
Mourani
Mulcair
Murray
Nantel
Nash
Nicholls
Nunez-Melo
Pacetti
Papillon
Pilon
Quach
Rafferty
Rankin
Ravignat
Raynault
Regan
Rousseau
Saganash
Sandhu
Scarpaleggia
Scott
Sellah
Sgro
Simms (Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor)
Sims (Newton—North Delta)
Sitsabaiesan
Sullivan
Thibeault
Tremblay
Turmel
Valeriote

Total: -- 118

PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion carried.

     (Bill read the third time and passed)


Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]

[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 18 petitions.

Interparliamentary Delegations

     Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian Delegation of the Canada-Japan Inter-parliamentary Group, respecting its participation at the co-chair's annual visit to Japan held in Tokyo, Japan, April 7-12, 2013.
    Also, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canada-China Legislative Association and the Canada-Japan Inter-parliamentary Group, respecting its participation at the 34th annual assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, held in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam, September 23, 2013.

[Translation]

Committees of the House

Government Operations and Estimates  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates in relation to its study of the government's open data practices.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order with regard to this subject. Just over one year ago, the foreign affairs committee agreed with my request to do a study on corporate social responsibility. That was after the tragic collapse of the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh.
    The committee held an additional follow-up study this year. Unfortunately, the committee decided not to produce an official report.
    However, I have some good news. We have compiled a report that I would like to table now so all MPs can take a look at the findings of the foreign affairs committee as it relates to the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh.
    I therefore seek unanimous consent to table, in both official languages, the report on foreign affairs committee hearings on corporate social responsibility.

  (1525)  

    Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to table this document?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.

Climate Change Accountability Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, it is my great privilege to reintroduce into the House, seconded by the Leader of the Opposition, a bill originally put forward by Jack Layton, the climate change accountability act.
    Every day in this place we put ideas and different visions of our future in opposition to each other, and that is fair enough. We imagine and hope for very different things on either side of this aisle. However, on this issue, at this time in our history, it must be different.
    We have before us the challenge of climate change, a challenge that calls upon us to look beyond ourselves, beyond this time and place.
    Arresting climate change is the world's struggle. Everybody must play their part. However, we in here must lead. To fail to do so would be a failing beyond us as politicians and ours as a political system, a failing more fundamental.
    All of us are entrusted with the care of the earth we inhabit and the well-being of all those who inhabit it. We need, now, to act upon that responsibility.

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

Intern Protection Act

    She said: Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to introduce a bill that would offer the same workplace protections to unpaid interns under the Canada Labour Code that are already provided to paid employees.
    I would like to note my colleague from Davenport's exceptional work on this issue and I thank him for seconding this bill.
    Youth unemployment is currently double the national average, and many companies are replacing entry-level positions with unpaid internships. In the absence of federal laws to protect them, unpaid interns are often at risk of being exploited.
     In 2011, 22-year-old Edmontonian Andy Ferguson died in a head-on collision when he fell asleep at the wheel after working excessive hours, some of which were as an unpaid intern. Unfortunately, protections such as the ones in this bill were not in place when this accident occurred.

[Translation]

    This bill will establish clear rules, particularly in relation to reasonable hours of work and protection against sexual harassment and unsafe working conditions. It will also prevent companies from turning paid jobs into unpaid internships.
    I urge all of the members of the House to support my bill. It is time we put an end to the exploitation of interns and started protecting young workers.

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

[English]

Income Tax Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker I rise to introduce an act to amend the Income Tax Act. This enactment would enable the government and courts to more effectively identify, pursue and convict tax cheats.
     The amendment would require the minister or the court to take into consideration the economic substance of a transaction in determining whether it constituted an avoidance transaction and whether it resulted in a misuse or abuse of the Income Tax Act. Further, it would establish the presumption that an avoidance transaction that did not have a substantial economic substance in relation to its anticipated tax benefit resulted in a misuse or abuse of the act.
    I would like to thank Dr. Robert McMechan for his expertise in proposing these legislative changes in his acclaimed book, entitled Economic Substance and Tax Avoidance: An International Perspective. Dr. McMechan is a former general counsel in the tax litigation section of the Department of Justice and is with us today.
    Recognizing the role that these transactions play in tax avoidance and recognizing that Canada is now out of step with many other jurisdictions, this bill would help bring tax avoidance laws in Canada into closer harmony with tax avoidance measures already in place elsewhere.

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

  (1530)  

National Health and Fitness Day Act

    He said: Mr. Speaker, in a moment that I think will bring all members of the House together, it is a great honour to give first reading to Bill S-211.
    Bill S-211 promises to create a national health and fitness day. The bill received unanimous support in the Senate last week, and it promises to help Canadians achieve higher levels of healthy physical activity, reversing trends of depression, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and mounting health care costs. Having worked on this initiative for years, I am pleased to report that over 150 cities have already proclaimed National Health and Fitness Day.
    I would like to thank the seconder, the member for Burlington; Senator Nancy Greene Raine, who brought this bill through the Senate; members all around the House who support it, including the members for Sackville—Eastern Shore, Etobicoke North, and Saanich—Gulf Islands; the Minister of Health; and the Minister of State for Sport; and the incredible volunteer parliamentary fitness coaches, Pierre Lafontaine and Phil Marsh. Together, we will make Canada the fittest nation on Earth.

     (Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)

Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa's Law)

    (Bill C-17. On the Order: Government Orders:)

    June 13, 2014—Report stage of Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act—the Minister of Health.
    Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations with respect to the final stages of Bill C-17, Vanessa's law, and I believe you would find the unanimous consent of the House for the following motion. I move:
    That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of this House, Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, shall be deemed concurred in at the report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.
    Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

     (Motion agreed to, bill reported, concurred in, read the third time and passed)

Committees of the House

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics  

     Mr. Speaker, I move that the first report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, presented to the House on Wednesday, February 5, 2014, be concurred in.
    I always say what an honour it is to rise in this institution, but as I reflect on the government's response to the report on the Conflict of Interest Act, I have to say that I am not proud of what has been taking place in this Parliament.
    We have what is being presented to the Canadian people as a Potemkin democracy. It is a false democracy. Democracy does not really happen here anymore. It is a sideshow that Canadians are being exposed to on a daily basis in a House that has become a circus, an ugly circus, a vicious circus.
    What we see here is an overall attack by the government against the institutions that are supposed to maintain the credibility of the Westminster tradition, a continued unmitigated attack on the various institutions that are supposed to bring accountability to this place. As Canadians watch the daily circus show and the silliness and the way the government has dumbed down important issues into little buttons that it can press at a given moment, what we see is the bigger issue that is being deflected that the Canadian public is not seeing, which is the attack on the credibility of the institutions that would hold some level of accountability.
    Let us go through the standards that are supposed to be there to ensure a functioning democracy.
    We hear of MPs who go back to their ridings and when people ask about the circus that they watch on TV, they will say, “Oh, yes, but committees are where the good work is done.” When I was elected 10 years ago I used to think that. I used to think that maybe on a given day it may be fairly mediocre in the House, but in committees, by and large we were there to do relatively good work, even if it was sometimes very partisan. Sometimes it was not the brightest. This is a democratic system after all, and it is what it is, depending on who is elected. However, the notion of the committee had a place. That is not true anymore. Committees have become circuses. They have become kangaroo courts. It is all done in camera or it is done to use the notion of majority to undermine even legislative positions that have existed since the Westminster tradition.
    In England, in the U.K. Parliament, it is considered a failure of the committee if there is not unanimity, if one has to bring forward a minority report. Unfortunately, we are having to bring forward minority reports all the time.
    Nowhere is that clearer than in the circus of what happened at the ethics committee with the review of the conflict of interest guidelines. We heard from witnesses from across the political spectrum about the need to develop a coherent set of conflict of interest guidelines to hold government and the public office holders to account. What was delivered to the Canadian people in this report was an absolute democratic fraud.
     The recommendations that were brought supposedly through the committee were never even raised by a single witness. I will get to the key recommendation, the number one recommendation that the government found in dealing with issues of conflict of interest. The conflict of interest review had raised all manner of issues, such as the need for administrative monetary penalties of a substantive nature, to ensure compliance with basic due diligence so that people were not just doing things for their friends or their pals, that there were clear rules to ensure that insiders did not have access, and that public office holders were acting in the public interest.
    The number one recommendation that came out of this committee, and I want to say again it appeared in the report when we were examining it without a single witness having brought it forward, was that the definition of “public office holder” be changed. The government's notion of who will now be under the Conflict of Interest Act are the members who collectively bargain with the Government of Canada. They will now be public office holders.
    What is a public office holder? A public office holder, according to the act, is a minister of the crown, a minister of state, or a parliamentary secretary. They will now have the same provisions around their conflict of interest as someone who does the vacuuming in a public office building for the federal government. Someone in Scarborough who works in a call centre for the federal government answering the phones is now going to have the same legal obligations as a minister of the crown.

  (1535)  

    Members of ministerial staff, all the little boys in short pants who write all those notes so the marionettes in the front row do not look so slow on a given day, and someone working in a secretarial function in an office in Calgary for the federal government will be treated as having to have the same responsibility for reporting their behaviour as the men in the little short pants who work for the Prime Minister's Office. A ministerial appointee under the Governor in Council will be treated the same as someone working at a Service Canada outlet in Moose Jaw, Kenora, or Timmins. That means there would now be between 240,000 and 300,000 people who are under the Conflict of Interest Act, whom the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner has to oversee.
    The government approved this. Members of the government thought this was a good recommendation. They are laughing at us. They are laughing at the Canadian people. This is an absolute fraud of democracy when they decide that a minister of the crown, who can be bought and sold if there are not clear rules for lobbying and for conflict of interest, would be held to the same code as a person who goes into a government office in Winnipeg in the evenings and sweeps and cleans.
    The Conflict of Interest Act was one of the key provisions of the Conservatives' commitment to have themselves elected in 2006. It is notable that the Conservatives made this promise that they were going to clean up the corruption of the Liberals in 2006. Their electoral platform was to give the ethics commissioner the power to fine violators—wrong; to enshrine the conflict of interest code into law—wrong; to allow members of the public, not just politicians, to make complaints to the ethics commissioner, which did not happen; to make part-time or non-remunerated ministerial advisers subject to the ethics code. It does not say anything about making 250,000 Canadians apply under the same code, a code that has no provisions for holding these ministers to account.
     There is another fascinating recommendation that the government has brought in. If one of its ministers is under investigation, it has to be kept secret. It has to be kept secret to protect their reputation. It is a government that believes in maximum secrecy for its members while insisting on maximum transparency for average Canadians. That is a fundamental failure of accountability.
    We had a Conservative member from London the other day who said that if people go to a public demonstration, why should the government not be able to keep tabs on them? The Conservatives believe that being able to spy on Canadians is their right, but if their ministers are under investigation, good luck investigating them because the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner would be absolutely swamped with the 250,000 civil servants she would have to deal with. We asked the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner what she thinks of this report and she said she is extremely disappointed. Of course she is, because it is making a mockery of her position.
    The conflict of interest office is just one of the attacks the Conservatives have been making. Let us look at a few others.
     We saw what they did with Marc Mayrand and Elections Canada and the attack on him personally. The insinuation was that Marc Mayrand in doing his job was doing it for partisan reasons. They wanted to make it illegal in Canada for Elections Canada to be able to tell Canadians about their rights to vote. International observers said that if Canada went down this route, it would fundamentally undermine the basic notion of democratic accountability.
     We saw how they attacked the Parliamentary Budget Officer. Kevin Page, one of the most respected civil servants I have met in my career, was regularly ridiculed and undermined and attacked. His job, which was to provide members of Parliament with basic financial data, was interfered with every step of the way. I have to tell people back home that the House of Commons does not oversee the spending that is going on. It is a shell game that happens here. Billions of dollars are spent in all manner of categories, and yet the government makes sure that they keep members in the House of Commons in the dark. It's as though they were raising mushrooms on what they are feeding the House of Commons when it comes to actual information.

  (1540)  

    The one office to provide basic financial accountability, the Parliamentary Budget Office, was considered a threat and Mr. Page had to go. That is another one of the officers of Parliament that has been undermined.
    There was the latest appointment of the Privacy Commissioner. The Prime Minister ignored the recommendations of all the experts and picked Mr. Therrien, a lifelong civil servant, but one with no expertise in the privacy field. He was appointed over all the qualified people. Mr. Therrien was given a poison chalice with this appointment. As soon as Mr. Therrien was approved, the government attacked his credibility, because even Mr. Therrien, without the necessary expertise, recognized that the government's bills, Bills C-13 and S-4, on warrantless access and snooping on Canadians, were very problematic and probably were not legal.
    The Privacy Commissioner was undermined. The Parliamentary Budget Officer was undermined. The Elections Canada office was undermined. Now with this report, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner's office is being turned basically into a farce. She said that she has no ability to keep track of the 244,000 civil servants across this country when her job is supposed to be keeping an eye on a government that is mired in corruption.
     These are respected institutions that provide accountability to Canadians when government does not want to be accountable. There is another key element, and that is the access to information office. The government now routinely tells the access to information officer that it will not comply with requests. It will give delays of 300, 600, 900 and 1,000 days on basic rights to access to information. Canada was a world leader on access to information 15 years ago. Now it is behind tin-pot dictatorships and third world countries in terms of providing information to citizens. The President of the Treasury Board runs around like some two-bit flim-flam artist talking about data sets and open government on his Twitter account. It is a farce. The Conservatives are making sure that the real key information that Canadians need is not being made available to them.
    The Department of National Defence, the CRA, the justice department, and Indian affairs routinely stonewall and shut down the attempts of citizens and journalists to find out why decisions are made. If we do not know who was in the room when a decision was made or what source provided the information, we have no idea whether or not we are getting accountable government.
    The government undermined the other institutions. We can talk about Rights and Democracy. We can talk about the round table on the environment. We can talk about Census Canada. I do not know what he is the minister of now, but he was the minister of immigration, and he is now running around trying to explain why he blew it so badly on the foreign worker program and saying he did not really have any data to go on and is having to look it up on Facebook and Kijiji. It is the same party that ridiculed and laughed at the Census Canada information that was considered the gold standard for information around the world.
    There is another institution that the Conservatives attacked and undermined, and it is the one institution that so far has stood up to them. That is the Supreme Court.
     I will not mention the Senate. We were taught in school that legislation goes from the House to the so-called chamber of sober second thought, but it is full of hacks, partisans, and friends of the party who rubber stamp bills again and again. They are not doing their legislative oversight. What ends up happening is the Supreme Court has to address bills.
    Before I get to the issue of the Supreme Court, let us talk about the justice department. The justice department has a job to review legislation to ensure that it is charter compliant, that it meets the overall legal framework of this country. We see time and time again the advice that is given is ignored, or perhaps the Conservatives decide to favour their political masters, because this is a government that runs and butts its head again and again on the basic issues of the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They are beginning to look increasingly ridiculous. Rather than the Conservatives stepping back and saying that they have to respect the Supreme Court, even though they will respect no other institution in this country, the Prime Minister personally led an attack on the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

  (1545)  

    The Conservatives attempted to bring in a judge who was not able to sit on the Supreme Court. They had legal advice on this. They ignored it. They created an unnecessary crisis.
    We saw the Conservatives' prostitution law thrown out by the Supreme Court. The Conservatives have gone right back at the Supreme Court, banging their heads against it with a bill that will also be found unconstitutional, because it ignored the fundamental issues in the Bedford decision.
    Nowhere is this more obvious than on the Spencer decision last Friday that talked about the fundamental legal obligation to get a warrant to get access to IP information and cellphone information. I heard one of the parliamentary secretaries the other day saying, “Oh my God, this is going to mean a four- to six-week delay in police investigations.” Nonsense. It is a one-day turnaround.
    We also have, within the legal system in Canada, the right the police have, if they believe a crime is being committed, to get that information without a warrant. The proviso is that they have to be able to show to a judge later on that there was the urgency. There is still judicial oversight.
    The government believes that there is no need for judicial oversight. We have a situation now where 1.2 million times a year, government agencies are grabbing information on private citizens without any apparent warrant. The government says that it is only being done in cases of extreme threat, terrorism, or violence. Obviously that is not true, given that there are 1.2 million requests a year.
    All that being said, we had Vic Toews, who tried to bring in his warrantless snooping bill, who stood up in this House and told ordinary Canadians that they were on the side of child pornographers if they wanted to defend privacy rights. They put the run on Vic Toews pretty quickly.
    The Conservatives then came back with Bill C-13, which would create the provisions to give legal cover for the telecoms to hand over this information, and Bill S-4, which would allow corporate interests to get at Canadians' information without warrant or disclosure to people.
    The other provision, the absolutely bizarre one, is that the Conservatives are now going to allow personal tax information to be transferred without warrant or oversight. They somehow think this is going to get past the Supreme Court. Since Friday's ruling, it is clear that it is not.
    Rather than use this institution for the benefit of all Canadians to ensure that we have clear, definable rules in this country, we are going to see the government running and butting its head against the Supreme Court and then howling like a victim when the Supreme Court does what its job is to do, which is to maintain legislative and constitutional obligations.
    This brings me back to the Conflict of Interest Act. The government's response and its recommendations, which will protect its ministers, will dilute the act and turn the office of accountability into an unmanageable and unenforceable branch. It has completely broken the commitment it made in 2006 to Canadians.
    It was very interesting when we heard from Ms. Dawson, the commissioner, the other day. We asked her about one of the most serious cases we have had in memory in terms of a breach of the act, which was the secret payment made out of the Prime Minister's Office to a sitting senator.
     I am not a lawyer, but when I read section 16 of the Parliament of Canada Act, it says to make a payment to a sitting senator to make a political problem go away is an indictable offence. The RCMP chose not to follow through. The RCMP said that there was nothing to see here, ladies and gentlemen, move on, yet when we looked at Corporal Horton's ITO, there were serious questions about who was involved in that $90,000, and it was clearly an issue of quid pro quo.
    If the RCMP is not going to follow through, and the RCMP said that it had received all the legal advice necessary but did not appear to have talked to the Department of Public Prosecutions, which has oversight in this, then the issue goes back to Mary Dawson. Mary Dawson has no ability to go after the senators. The senators are in a closed world unto themselves. However, Mary Dawson does have the authority to investigate Nigel Wright. She says that she is not investigating Nigel Wright, because she is under the impression that the $90,000 was still under investigation by the RCMP. I find that surprising, because I do not know how it could be illegal to receive the money but not illegal to pay the money. I am not exactly sure. I think Ms. Dawson would do us all a favour if she could explain.

  (1550)  

    This is the kind of work Ms. Dawson is intended to do. It is to ensure that secret payments are not made to insiders, that backroom pals do not have access that ordinary Canadians do not have. This is why we were supposed to have the Federal Accountability Act. Unfortunately, with the motion and the report, the government has signalled that it has no intention of following through on those commitments.
    Mr. Speaker, I hate to bring it up, but when it comes to ethical issues, the NDP has a lot to answer for. There is the over $1 million in mailings. We have a situation where the NDP has used parliamentary office space for political purposes. We all know that this is a big no-no.
     I am not sure if Mary Dawson has the jurisdiction to check those items out, but certainly those who do have the jurisdiction have condemned the NDP for doing something that every member of the House knows not to do. We do not use third-party printers. We do not do clandestine mailings. We do not use parliamentary resources for political purposes.
    I wonder if the member could reflect on all the ethical breaches the NDP has undertaken in the last little while.
    Mr. Speaker, I think that is a great question, because it shows people the kind of circus Parliament has become. We have a report on the legal obligations of an officer of Parliament, and they turn it into a clown show, just the way they have with parliamentary committees. I do not know if the member was here when I was speaking about how the committees have become a functional joke of the House. They are going to take that and run a kangaroo court. The hon. member cannot even get his story straight, that the NDP used parliamentary office space.

  (1555)  

    That is idiotic.
    Why not say that, Mr. Speaker? This has become the circus they run, where they get everyone running after some false thing, while they are ignoring the fact that they are stripping the basic obligation to hold government to account.
    My hon. colleague will no doubt come out next and say that the NDP sank the lost continent of Atlantis and should have to pay it back. I am sure they will say that. The fact is, we are dealing with a report that is undermining the basic legitimacy of this parliamentary tradition, yet we see Bozo the clowns on the back bench jumping up and down and cheering whenever the government throws red meat at them.
    Mr. Speaker, it was the House administration that ruled that the NDP was breaking the rules in regard to the satellite office and the mailings. Canadians need to be concerned about the unethical behaviour of the NDP leader and members of its caucus on this issue.
    That said, when we think of wasting time, the member knows full well that we have been looking toward debating legislation as we wind down to what will likely be the end of the session by Friday. He has chosen to present this motion, which will no doubt precipitate yet another half hour of bell ringing. We have lost the opportunity to bring forward petitions today. For example, I was wanting to bring forward my petition on the OAS and CPP, which our pensioners treat as very important. Then we would get on to government bills and working hard, as opposed to what we see with the New Democrats, which on three separate occasions has moved for adjournment.
    Why is the NDP and its leader choosing to be lazy and to not do the work Canadians expect us to do here in the House of Commons?
    Lazy, Mr. Speaker, I love that from a guy whose leader does not show up for work except once a week. I get a kick out of my friend. He is sort of like the Ezra Levant of the Liberal Party. We have heard of ethical oil. Now we hear of ethical Liberals.
    I have never seen a man who complains more when he is asked to show up and actually debate substantive issues. We are debating the undermining of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. That is what we are debating here, and he is outraged. He thinks this is an impediment to the work of democracy because he wants to go home. He can go home any time he wants. His leader left ages ago, so I am sure no one will notice. However, our job is to look at conflict of interest.
    When the Conflict of Interest Act was first brought in, it was to deal with the corruption of the Liberal Party. I know that they do not want to ever have any rules on it, but I would like to think that he would start looking across the bench to his dear friends on the corruption that is going on under them as they dismantle the Federal Accountability Act.
    I thank my colleague, Ezra. Any time he wants to discuss laziness in the House of Commons, I think it is a great issue, and I would certainly love to meet his temporary boss at some point on the issue as well.
    Mr. Speaker, I certainly enjoyed the remarks of the member for Timmins—James Bay, who has been doggedly determined in pushing the government on a whole range of ethical issues, ethical lapses, and misspending. No government in history, even worse than the Liberals, has been so appallingly bad at public accountability. The Conservatives are just awful. What they have also done is just destroy due process. They have destroyed the BOIE, which used to function according to consensus. They have destroyed that, and now they believe that they can just rule by partisan Conservative decree.
    I ask my colleague from Timmins—James Bay, who has been extraordinary in this House and has more credibility than the entire Conservative caucus put together on issues of conflict of interest and issues of ethics, how come the government thinks it can get away with anything? The Conservatives have attacked viciously the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. They attacked the Chief Electoral Officer. They attacked the Parliamentary Budget Officer. They simply have no shame. How can they get away with it, and what can Canadians do who want to get rid of the government in 2015?

  (1600)  

    Mr. Speaker, this is a fundamentally important issue we are debating. We see that the Conservatives have turned the House of Commons into a circus. We have seen that they have taken the traditional work of committees and turned them into trained marionettes or soft puppets, but what holds Parliament to account are the officers of Parliament.
    This report we are debating is a serious report. We can look at all the recommendations that were brought forward by men and women of all political stripes who believe in accountable government, regardless of what political party one is from.
    We see the Conservatives turning this into a circus, and we see the Liberals not wanting to discuss it. We are talking about an act that was put in place to hold government leaders to account. Instead, and this is the ultimate circus and fraud we are seeing, 244,000 civil servants will now be treated, under this act, the same as key ministers, key deputy ministers, political partisan staff of the Prime Minister's Office, and the person cleaning the office in Winnipeg. They will be treated the same as one of the Prime Minister's insider friends, like Bruce Carson. It is a joke.
    Mr. Speaker, the member opposite talked about different things that undermine this Parliament. There are a number of things, and he happens to be one of them. He has criticized every party and anyone who has not agreed with him. He has refused to answer any questions that have been put to him in this entire debate.
    The question that needs to be asked and continually will not be answered by the member is when the NDP will repay what they took from taxpayers that was against the rules. It has been ruled by the non-partisan staff of this place that the NDP broke the rules, took the $1.7 million, and took off with it. We are talking also about the revelations of the scandal that saw the House of Commons staff, taxpayer-paid staff, now housed in partisan--
    Mr. Don Davies: What about your mailings? Look at the Liberal mailings. Come on. Hypocrite.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order. The member is running out of time. We have less than 30 seconds.
    The member for Timmins—James Bay.
    Mr. Speaker, I would ask the folks back home, what kind of mailings have they received from the Conservative Party? Those ridiculous, crazy attack mailings about the NDP and its carbon tax, the NDP breaking up the country, and how the NDP is a threat to life itself. The folks back home should think of all the crap they have received from the Conservative Party paid for by the taxpayer and then look at the members on the other side. Do they trust them? I would not.
    Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order. During the last question exchange, I do not know if you heard it, but I did, the use of unparliamentary language by the member for Vancouver Kingsway.
    Mr. Speaker, there was no unparliamentary language used whatsoever. I used the word “hypocrisy” in the House and if I did use the word “hypocrite”, I stand by it.
    The member knows that the use of the term “hypocrite” is unparliamentary. The term “hypocrisy” is permitted within the context. I would have to ask the member to withdraw the comment.
    Mr. Speaker, I happily withdraw the comment “hypocrite” and stand by my comment that the government is marked by hypocrisy.
    That the debate be now adjourned.

  (1605)  

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

  (1640)  

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

(Division No. 211)

YEAS

Members

Ablonczy
Adams
Adler
Aglukkaq
Albas
Albrecht
Alexander
Allen (Tobique—Mactaquac)
Allison
Ambler
Anders
Anderson
Armstrong
Ashfield
Aspin
Baird
Bateman
Bergen
Bernier
Bezan
Blaney
Block
Boughen
Braid
Breitkreuz
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Newmarket—Aurora)
Bruinooge
Butt
Calandra
Calkins
Cannan
Carmichael
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Crockatt
Daniel
Davidson
Dechert
Del Mastro
Dreeshen
Duncan (Vancouver Island North)
Dykstra
Falk
Fast
Findlay (Delta—Richmond East)
Finley (Haldimand—Norfolk)
Fletcher
Galipeau
Gallant
Gill
Glover
Goguen
Goldring
Goodyear
Gosal
Gourde
Grewal
Harper
Harris (Cariboo—Prince George)
Hawn
Hayes
Hillyer
Hoback
Holder
James
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kerr
Komarnicki
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Lake
Lauzon
Leef
Lemieux
Leung
Lizon
Lobb
Lukiwski
Lunney
MacKay (Central Nova)
Maguire
McColeman
McLeod
Menegakis
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Nicholson
Norlock
O'Connor
Oliver
O'Neill Gordon
Opitz
O'Toole
Paradis
Payne
Poilievre
Preston
Rajotte
Reid
Rempel
Richards
Rickford
Saxton
Schellenberger
Seeback
Shea
Shipley
Shory
Smith
Sopuck
Sorenson
Stanton
Strahl
Sweet
Tilson
Toet
Trost
Trottier
Truppe
Valcourt
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Wallace
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country)
Weston (Saint John)
Wilks
Wong
Woodworth
Yelich
Young (Oakville)
Young (Vancouver South)
Zimmer

Total: -- 137

NAYS

Members

Allen (Welland)
Andrews
Angus
Ashton
Atamanenko
Aubin
Bélanger
Bennett
Benskin
Blanchette
Blanchette-Lamothe
Boivin
Borg
Boulerice
Boutin-Sweet
Brahmi
Brosseau
Caron
Casey
Cash
Chicoine
Chisholm
Choquette
Christopherson
Cleary
Côté
Crowder
Cullen
Davies (Vancouver Kingsway)
Day
Dewar
Dion
Dionne Labelle
Doré Lefebvre
Dubé
Dubourg
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona)
Dusseault
Easter
Eyking
Freeland
Freeman
Garneau
Garrison
Genest
Giguère
Godin
Goodale
Gravelle
Harris (St. John's East)
Hsu
Hughes
Jones
Julian
Kellway
Lamoureux
Lapointe
Larose
Latendresse
Laverdière
LeBlanc (Beauséjour)
LeBlanc (LaSalle—Émard)
Leslie
Liu
MacAulay
Mai
Marston
Masse
Mathyssen
May
McCallum
McGuinty
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
Michaud
Morin (Chicoutimi—Le Fjord)
Morin (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine)
Morin (Laurentides—Labelle)
Morin (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot)
Murray
Nantel
Nicholls
Nunez-Melo
Pacetti
Papillon
Pilon
Quach
Rafferty
Rankin
Raynault
Regan
Rousseau
Saganash
Sandhu
Scarpaleggia
Scott
Sellah
Sgro
Simms (Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor)
Sims (Newton—North Delta)
Sitsabaiesan
Sullivan
Tremblay
Turmel
Valeriote

Total: -- 105

PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion carried.

[Translation]

    It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Etobicoke North, Foreign Affairs; the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis, The Environment.

Petitions

Canada Post  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition concerning the cuts to Canada Post, including the elimination of door-to-door delivery, which will have a significant impact on the people of LaSalle—Émard. I can assure you that this is just the first of many petitions.
    Hundreds of people in LaSalle—Émard have signed this petition, which addresses the elimination of door-to-door delivery, as I mentioned, the reduction in services and the loss of 6,000 to 8,000 jobs. People are worried that this will lead to the privatization of Canada Post.
    The petitioners are suggesting that the government review its cuts and consider other options.

  (1645)  

[English]

Anaphylaxis  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to present a petition on behalf of Canadians residing in Ontario.
    It was recognized by this House, by adopting Motion No. 230, that anaphylaxis is a serious concern for an increasing number of Canadians. Therefore, the petitioners request that Parliament enact a policy to reduce the risk for anaphylactic passengers that would be applicable to all forms of passenger transportation falling within its jurisdiction.

Canada Post  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of several Prince Edward Islanders who are concerned about the cuts at Canada Post. They are concerned that 6,000 to 8,000 workers will lose their jobs and that this will disproportionately affect the disabled and seniors. These petitioners are saying that Canada Post offers a public service that needs to be protected, and they call upon the government to reverse the cuts to services and to look for ways to innovate in areas such as postal banking.

Criminal Code  

    Mr. Speaker, I have 3,709 signatures on a petition today asking the government to amend the Criminal Code to target the johns and give support to those who desire to leave prostitution. It is a shame that a few minutes ago, opposition parties voted against Bill C-36.

Asbestos  

    Mr. Speaker, I am proud to present a petition, signed by literally tens of thousands of Canadians, who call upon Parliament and the House of Commons to ban asbestos in all of its forms. They point out that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer that the world has ever known, and that more Canadians now die from asbestos than all other industrial and occupational causes combined. They call upon the government to also stop blocking international health and safety conventions designed to help protect workers from asbestos, such as the Rotterdam Convention.

Pensions  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to table a petition from my constituents with regard to the old age security program, in opposition to the government's and the Prime Minister's decision to increase the age of retirement from 65 to 67. They believe that people should continue to have the option to retire at the age of 65 and ask that the government not in any way diminish the importance and value of Canada's three major seniors programs: OAS, GIS, and CPP.

Criminal Code  

    Mr. Speaker, I have several hundred signatures on this petition, which calls upon the government and Parliament to criminalize the purchase of sex with a woman, man, or child, and to criminalize pimps, madams, and others who profit from the sex trade.

[Translation]

Canada Post  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition that is protesting the cuts at Canada Post. The petitioners, from my riding of Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, are protesting the elimination of door-to-door delivery and higher stamp prices.
    This petition is in addition to the hundreds of signatures that have already been collected. The petitioners are calling on the Conservatives to take action and force Canada Post to serve rural regions and the regions that need it.

[English]

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present two very timely petitions.
    The first is from residents in Vancouver and my riding calling on the government to refuse to approve the Enbridge risky pipeline and tanker scheme.

Agriculture  

    Mr. Speaker, my second petition relates to the bill we are debating today, Bill C-18. The petitioners, from Killaloe in Ontario, Edmonton, Victoria, Mill Bay, Salt Spring Island, and other areas in my riding, are calling on the House to ensure we protect plant breeders' rights, not erode them into a mere privilege, and ensure the right of farmers to continue to save, reuse, select, and exchange seeds.

Falun Gong  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition with over 60 signatures. The petitioners are requesting that the Canadian Parliament pass a resolution to establish measures to stop the crimes of the Chinese communist regime of systematically murdering Falun Gong practitioners for their organs, and maintain Canadian legislation to combat forced organ harvesting. They publicly call for an end to the persecution of Falun Gong in China.

  (1650)  

Employment Insurance  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition in support of fair employment insurance. The petitioners, most of them from my riding of St. John's East, say that Canadians pay into the insurance plan throughout their working lives because they believe the benefits will be available if they lose their jobs. It was designed to strengthen the workforce by helping jobless Canadians resume careers that take advantage of their education and training. However, with six out of 10 workers already disqualified from EI, the government is further restricting access, requiring Canadians to accept any jobs it deems suitable, even if it takes them off their career paths and comes with a 30% pay cut and an hour-long commute.
    Therefore, the petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to reverse the devastating changes made to EI and restore fair access to decent EI benefits for jobless workers.

[Translation]

Wetland Protection  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present four petitions.
    The first petition calls on the government to decontaminate the former Saint-Maurice shooting range as soon as possible and to ensure that the wetland and the imperilled flora and fauna in the ecosystem are protected and preserved. This area is in my riding, in the city of Terrebonne. People really care about wetland protection. All of the petitioners are from Terrebonne.

Canada Post  

    Mr. Speaker, the other three petitions are all on the same subject. The petitioners are asking the Government of Canada to reject Canada Post's proposed service cuts and explore other options to modernize the crown corporation's business plan.
    They are especially worried about the plan to cut home mail delivery and the impact this will have on seniors and people with reduced mobility in the community.

[English]

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions to the House.
    The first is with respect to the proposal to reverse the flow of the 40-year-old pipeline that runs between Sarnia and Montreal, known as line 9. The petitioners consider this pipeline and the reversal of that flow to be an urgent threat to the city of Toronto and its watershed, and call upon the Government of Canada to intervene immediately to stop the development of the Sarnia-Montreal line 9 pipeline.

Federal Lands in Durham Region  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition has to do with the government's proposal to build an airport on the federal lands in Durham region, which are class one farmlands. The petitioners call upon the government to rescind all plans for an airport and non-agricultural uses on the federal lands in Durham region, and to act instead to preserve the watersheds and agricultural land of this irreplaceable natural resource for the long-term benefit of all Canadians.

Rail Transportation  

    Mr. Speaker, I have tabled many petitions with respect to the ACR passenger service. I am pleased to table 18 of those petitions today, with hundreds of names. Most of the petitioners are from the riding of Sault Ste. Marie, and rightly so. They would like to have their voices heard here in the House of Commons.
    These petitions are about the fact that people were not broadly consulted as stakeholders in the decision by the government to remove funding to the ACR passenger service. Although the government has reinstated some funding, only for another year, the petitioners remain concerned that the current government is not committed to tourism in northern Ontario, nor is it committed to the health and safety and the accessibility of these areas.
    Again, I am pleased to table these petitions on behalf of people who are mostly from the Sault Ste. Marie riding and my riding, and from Ottawa and Toronto, and from a variety of people who have signed these petitions.

[Translation]

Mining Industry  

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present a petition from citizens who believe that the mandate of the Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor, which was created in 2009 to provide constructive solutions to conflicts between affected communities and Canadian mining companies operating abroad, is too weak to resolve conflicts and has not provided useful solutions to communities. The petitioners are asking the government to create a legislated extractive sector ombudsman mechanism in Canada.

  (1655)  

[English]

Employment  

    Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to table this afternoon.
    We heard the story today of Andy Ferguson who, as an unpaid intern, worked an incredibly long shift, drove home, fell asleep at the wheel, and crashed and tragically died. This is why so many people have signed the national urban worker strategy petition. It calls on the government to take the issues of unpaid interns seriously, to build more protection, to encourage provinces to crack down on and enforce the rules that are already in place, and to close the gaps where they exist. The folks who signed this petition want the government to take that issue very seriously.

Citizenship and Immigration  

    Mr. Speaker, the other petition I have is also very pertinent to issues we are discussing in the House these days, and this is the case of Oscar Vigil. Oscar came to Canada as a refugee from El Salvador. His wife and children gained Canadian citizenship, and now the government wants to send him back to El Salvador. This petition urges the government to reconsider that decision and to keep Oscar Vigil with his family here in Canada.

Genetically Modified Alfalfa  

    Mr. Speaker, constituents have sent me two sets of petitions calling for a moratorium on the release of genetically modified alfalfa in order to allow for a review of the impact on Canadian farmers.

Agriculture  

    Mr. Speaker, I am also tabling a petition on Bill C-18, calling on Parliament to refrain from making changes that would restrict farmers' rights or add to farmers' costs in the context of saving, reusing, selectively exchanging, and selling seeds.

Canada Pension Plan  

    Mr. Speaker, I also have a petition from the Municipal Pension Retirees' Association on the Canada Pension Plan death benefits.

Mining Industry  

    Mr. Speaker, lastly I have a petition calling for the creation of a legislative extractive sector ombudsman.

[Translation]

Grenville Canal  

    Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise in the House today to present this petition on behalf of my constituents in Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel. They are asking the government to help them with the cost of repairing and restoring the shoreline and the walls of the Grenville Canal.
    This petition was signed by people from all over the RCM of Argenteuil and several municipalities, including Saint-André-d'Argenteuil, Lachute and Brownsburg-Chatham. They know that the Grenville Canal in Grenville has implications for tourism throughout the Argenteuil region. That is why they are asking the government to help with this project.

[English]

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns

    Mr. Speaker, if Questions Nos. 485 to 488 could be made orders for return, these returns would be tabled immediately.
    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Text]

Question No. 485--
Mr. Charlie Angus:
     With regard to access to information requests to government departments, institutions and agencies for each year from 2003 to 2013: (a) how many requests were made in total, broken down by department, institution, or agency, (i) what was the average number of days taken to process these requests, (ii) what was the method by which a delay to a request was determined, (iii) is there a formula by which the number of days of delay is quantitatively determined, (iv) what was the number of requests signed by the Minister before being sent out, (v) what was the number of days delayed per request waiting for the Minister’s signature, (vi) what was the number of requests that ministerial staff questioned, requested or demanded modifications to to the Access to Information and Privacy Directorate (ATIP), (vii) what was the number of requests modified after questions, requests, or demands by staff in the Minister’s office, (viii) what was the average delay per request due to questions, requests, or demands by staff in the Minister's office; (b) of those requests identified in (v) and (vi), how many have been reported to the Office of the Information Commissioner, broken down by department, institution or agency; (c) do policies exist to minimize delays, broken down by (i) department, institution, or agency, (ii) are they formal or informal policies, (iii) were there cases where these policies could not be applied and, if so, how many, (iv) of those times in (iii), what was the reason, (v) of those in (iii), what was the length of delay; and (d) did weekly meetings organized by the ATIP Directorate occur, broken down by department, institution, or agency and, if so, (i) did staff from the Minister’s office attend, (ii) did staff from the Minister’s office play an active role, (iii) did staff from the Minister’s office flag files in any capacity and, if so, on what basis, (iv) did staff from the Minister’s office ask questions, make requests or demands to the ATIP Directorate?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 486--
Mr. Charlie Angus:
    With regard to on-reserve educational facilities for First Nations in Canada: (a) what requests for capital building expenditure funding for the purposes of acquiring, building, expanding, improving or replacing educational facilities have been made from 2008 to the present; (b) which of these requests have been granted by the government and why; (c) which of these requests were denied and why; (d) which of these requests were delayed, by whom (i.e. government or band council), by how long, and why; (e) what funds have been committed by the government for capital building expenditure for the purposes of acquiring, building, expanding, improving or replacing educational facilities on-reserve in each fiscal year from 2008-2009 to 2013-2014; (f) what on-reserve educational facilities projects are currently underway; (g) in each year since 2008, what projects have been delayed or postponed, and, if any, what were the justifications for and lengths of these delays; (h) what projects are slated to begin work in the 2014-2015 fiscal year; (i) what portion of the total cost of these projects is being funded by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) through capital building infrastructure; (j) how many projects included additional money from a First Nation to complete the construction or for the equipping of an educational facility; (k) what on-reserve educational facilities projects are slated to begin work beyond the 2014-2015 fiscal year; (l) how many communities with projects identified by INAC as priority capital projects have had letters of approval issued to them; (m) since 2008, what amounts from the "Community Infrastructure" line item have been reallocated either within INAC or to other government departments; (n) with regard to capital building expenditure funding for the purposes of acquiring, building, expanding, improving or replacing educational facilities built on First Nations Reserves for each year from 2008 to the present, broken down by (i) year and (ii) community, how much money was planned but not spent on schools and why?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 487--
Mr. Justin Trudeau:
    With regard to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, since 2011 inclusive: (a) for each province or territory, and for each Census Metropolitan Area or Economic Region, what is (i) the total number of applications for a Labour Market Opinion, (ii) the number of applications approved, (iii) the number of applications denied, (iv) the average length of time between the receipt of an application and the issuance of the decision; and (b) for each province or territory, what is (i) the total number of applications for an Accelerated Labour Market Opinion, (ii) the number of applications approved, (iii) the number of applications denied, (iv) the average length of time between the receipt of an application and the issuance of the decision?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 488--
Mr. Justin Trudeau:
     With regard to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program: (a) what oversight mechanisms are in place to monitor compliance; (b) who conducts workplace inspections; (c) how many persons responsible for inspection have been employed each year since 2006 inclusive; and (d) how many workplace inspections have been carried out each year since 2006, broken down by (i) province or territory of workplace, (ii) Census Metropolitan Area or Economic Region?
    (Return tabled)

[English]

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

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[Government Orders]

[English]

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act

Bill C-6—Time Allocation Motion  

    That, in relation to Bill C-6, An Act to implement the convention on cluster munitions, not more than five further hours shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage of the Bill and five hours shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill; and
that, at the expiry of the five hours provided for the consideration at report stage and the five hours provided for the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the said stages of the Bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

  (1700)  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to first of all underline a number that was just mentioned, and that is number 73. This is the 73rd time that the government has decided to shut down debate and put time allocation on something as important as our international obligations on a treaty that the government, frankly, has bungled.
     I say that with great sadness, because this was a treaty that was negotiated years ago. The first attempt that the government made to actually implement the treaty came from the other place, which was another snub to democracy. The government, at one time when it was in opposition, talked about the importance of debate and the importance of having engaged parliamentarians to make sure that everyone was well informed.
    What the Conservatives are actually doing is shutting down debate for their own members on something as important as our international obligations. If members from the Conservative Party wanted to debate this and be on the record for how they support the government's own legislation, they are shut down. It is not just about this side. It is about their side.
    I remember very well the minister, who is looking over here with great big eyes open, arguing in opposition how important it was that they would have debate. I remember they were so aghast with Mr. Chrétien shutting down debate at the time.
    I want to ask the government why it is shutting down debate on a bill. We are talking about report-stage amendments. This is a bill that is so flawed that the International Red Cross, which never speaks publicly on bills, has said it is a flawed bill. The former prime minister of Australia said the same.
    How can Conservatives shut down debate on something as important as our obligations? By design, they are muzzling and shutting down debate for their own members to bring up their points of view for this important legislation.
    Mr. Speaker, what we have seen from the opposition, particularly the official opposition, is members want to debate things forever. They never want things to come to a vote. Their objective is to be able to rail in the House and say we have 77 bills that have had time allocated.
    Seventy-three.
    The reality is that is what they want. I would ask the member for Ottawa Centre how long he would like to debate the bill.
    The government listened very closely to the debate on the bill at committee. We brought forward thoughtful and considered amendments. We tried to work with the opposition. We came forward with a substantial amendment. The member opposite pooh-poohs it and that is unfortunate.
    The motion calls for 10 hours more of debate. The first time the member had an opportunity to question the minister, all he did was rant about not having enough time to debate it. He did not even use the time available that he had to debate the bill. It is all about process. It is all a big sham.
    Mr. Speaker, currently the debate is about process. We are talking about time allocation being used as a tool to prevent members from being able to engage on important pieces of legislation.
    Never before has a government used time allocation in the fashion in which the majority Conservative government has. Ironically, I have been saying that for the 25-plus times that the government has brought in time allocation. Time allocation is a normal part of the process of a majority government attitude in terms of pushing things through.
    I want to be sensitive to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in terms of his assertions. Yes, the NDP is almost gleeful every time the government brings forward time allocation for different reasons than us. There are some non-controversial pieces of legislation that should be able to pass without time allocation. There are other pieces for which the government needs to recognize the value of having more time allocated. Some legislation is more controversial than other legislation. I wonder if the member would like to provide comment on that aspect of House negotiations.

  (1705)  

    Before the minister responds, I would remind all members and perhaps those people watching that what is relevant in this half-hour debate is both the procedural motion that is before us and the bill itself that is also before us.
    The hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs.
    Mr. Speaker, thank you for your very thoughtful intervention. Once again, you have distinguished yourself as a wise helmsman of this place.
    I am surprised by my friend from Winnipeg on his thoughtful intervention. What we should be able to do is have the different parties in this place sit down and say, “This bill is a really consequential and important bill. We have a lot of members who want to contribute and participate in the debate. Could we have five days of debate on it?”
    This bill is not quite as consequential. It is shorter. It had good hearings. The government came forward and amended the bill to make it better when we listened and heard what we did at hearings. However, we do not see that. What we see from the official opposition is it just wants to be able to put one more notch on its desk with another time allocation motion, rather than standing up and entertaining a reasonable discussion about what we can do. That is really unfortunate.
    When I was the opposition house leader in the Province of Ontario, we sat down with the government and developed a programming motion with the Liberal government of the day. We said, “Here are our 10 bills that we debated this fall. We will have so much time for all the bills.” Then we could negotiate. “We want five days of debate on this one. This one is inconsequential. We are happy to debate it in two hours.” However, we do not see that from this official opposition.
    Mr. Speaker, my friend, the hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs, seems to be mistaken. He seems to think that the official opposition is imposing these closures and taking pleasure in them. Clearly, it is, of course, the Conservative administration that is breaking all records. The reason that the process of speeding bills through and closing debate comes up in debate is that we are now in the half-hour period, during which, Mr. Speaker, you have reminded us, both the content of the legislation and the fact that we are once again being forced to abridge the debate to pass it quickly are relevant points to make.
    For a smaller party, such as the Green Party, the Bloc, and for any independent members here, every time that bills are moved to time allocation, and this is the 73rd time, it guarantees that no one in our position will have a chance to speak in debate. This is a small matter for the rest of the House, but it matters consequentially to my constituents because they want to hear what I have to say about the cluster munitions bill. I worked very hard going before committee, without being a member of committee, to put forward multiple amendments that were rejected. We can do better as a country. We can do better and not be one of those countries that is dragged into the cluster munitions treaty with the weakest implementing legislation of any of our allies. We can do better.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for her comments, but she had the opportunity to go to committee. She had the opportunity to spend as much time as she wanted at committee presenting amendments, having those amendments debated and then committee members actually had a vote on those amendments. How much time would she like to see us debate the bill in this place: 10 hours, 20 hours, a million hours?
    What the official opposition wants to do, and it seems to me that it is a green-orange coalition in this regard, is to drag the debate out over every single piece of legislation and invite the government to bring in a motion to allocate time for further debate. It is 10 more hours of further debate. It is five hours at report stage and five hours at third reading. That is a heck of a lot more than most legislatures and most parliaments would give to report stage.

  (1710)  

    Mr. Speaker, first, I thought I was the minister's friend from Winnipeg. If the minister decides that he wants to be friends with the third party, I guess that is his prerogative, although I must object. I feel slighted.
    I would like the minister to comment on the process. Why is the opposition delaying our time here with concurrence motions when we could be debating? Why are they filibustering so we cannot debate until midnight and get things done for Canadians? Also, perhaps the minister could also tell us how his portfolio is going in general.
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia is not my friend, he is my brother, my brother from another mother. He is my brother in the cause of peace, prosperity, and freedom, my Conservative brother from Winnipeg.
    What we have seen is discussions in this place are becoming absurd. The opposition does not want the legislative process. Part of the legislative process is having a vote, standing up and being counted.
     If the opposition members disagree or are not thrilled with a piece of legislation, they just do not want a vote to ever happen. They are so convinced that they are right on every issue that they feel that if they can just drag it out, eventually people will see the wisdom of their views.
    If opposition members want to debate something consequential, they could say, “Let us work with the government. We will have less debate on this bill and more debate on that bill. This one has had really good committee hearings. It has been robust.” Unfortunately, that is not what we have seen.
     I would be very pleased to say to the member from Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia that we could talk about other issues after this debate.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I have a simple question for my hon. colleague and Conservative friend.
    Why does my colleague not want me to express my opinion on this bill? It is especially important that I express my views, considering I represent a riding that has a Canadian Forces base.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord to know that debate is welcome.
    In the resolution we just presented in the House, we are proposing 10 more hours of debate. I am sure that a member with considerable influence can talk to his whip so that he can speak to the debate at report stage or at third reading.
    Since the NDP whip, the hon. member for Hull—Aylmer is here, I would like her to know that our colleague from Chicoutimi—Le