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41st PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 216

CONTENTS

Monday, May 25, 2015




House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 147 
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NUMBER 216 
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2nd SESSION 
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41st PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer

    The House met at 11 a.m.

Prayers



PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS

[Private Members' Business]

  (1105)  

[English]

An Act to amend the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act (Sambro Island Lighthouse)

     moved that Bill C-588, An Act to amend the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act (Sambro Island Lighthouse), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
     She said: Mr. Speaker, this past year, one day before Remembrance Day, November 10, 2014, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore and I held a press conference about a lighthouse and its link to Remembrance Day. With us was veteran Earl Corn. Mr. Corn is a retired sailor of 38 years, and he talked about how the light from the Sambro Island Lighthouse was so important to Canada's men and women serving in the military. As Mr. Corn stated, “This was the last thing we saw [leaving port], and the first thing we saw arriving home.... It's probably one of the most important pieces of real estate we have”.
    Also at our press conference was George Zwaagstra, who immigrated to Canada in the 1950s. Mr. Zwaagstra told us a heartwarming story of immigrating to Canada by boat, crammed together with others who were seeking a new life in Canada, and how they spent a couple of weeks in rough seas. He told us about one passenger who suffered a horrible case of seasickness, and how after days and days of no relief this man begged his friends to help him. He said he did not think he could go on being on the ship. That is when someone saw a light on the horizon, a small pinprick of light. It would probably not be very interesting to us, but news of that light spread across the ship in an instant. Mr. Zwaagstra and others went below and found the poor man with seasickness who felt he could not go on, and they hauled him to the deck above to see that light. That light was the first that they saw of Canada, and that light was from the Sambro Island lighthouse.
    People have called the Sambro Island lighthouse Canada's Statue of Liberty. It was the first light that newcomers arriving by boat could see. They saw that light before they even saw land. As we heard from Mr. Corn, that light was not only the first light that new immigrants saw, but it was the last light that Canadians saw when they went off to war. For those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and did not return, sometimes it was the last memory that they had of Canada.
    Those stories demonstrate how important this lighthouse is. That light is a part of our history, yet it continues to shine today. The Sambro Island lighthouse is an iconic structure. In fact, at a recent funding announcement to repair the lighthouse, the Minister of Justice called this lighthouse one of the most iconic structures, not only in Nova Scotia but across the country.
    This iconic lighthouse, Canada's Statue of Liberty, is at risk. A number of years ago, the government embarked on a community consultation to draft a new piece of legislation that would be called the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act. This was a very good consultation process. I have talked to people in Nova Scotia who were part of this process, and they were proud to be a part of it. After a period of robust consultation, the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act was written and it passed through Parliament. Those in the Nova Scotia lighthouse preservation community felt a real sense of accomplishment, that they were a part of something good that would preserve and protect our lighthouses.
    Then, in 2010, in the old bait and switch, the federal government made an announcement. Conservatives announced that since lighthouses were not really used as navigational aids anymore, lighthouses across the country would be declared surplus. They were delisted. Essentially, government would not take care of them anymore.
    In the lighthouse protection community, there was an incredible feeling of betrayal. There was all of this work to save our lighthouses, and then the government announced in 2010 that 976 lighthouses across Canada were surplus. In the words of Barry MacDonald, then president of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society:
    I'm very, very disappointed. Although the aid to navigation that's on that location is not declared surplus, what they're coming at here is the fact that they can maintain a steel tower on that site with a solar light a whole lot cheaper than they can maintain a heritage structure.
    The 976 lighthouses across Canada were declared surplus, and Sambro Island lighthouse was on that list. Once a lighthouse is delisted, the community does have an option to take over that lighthouse.
    However, under the new Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, the public was given two years to petition and to nominate historic lighthouses. In order to qualify for this designation, the group or an individual had to submit a business plan for its upkeep. We have seen this happen in different communities across Canada where communities have applied to take over their local lighthouse.
    Shortly after the announcement in 2010, I met with members of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society to talk about options. We discussed this option: Could we rally the community to come together to take over this lighthouse?
    A community group began the heritage designation process. However, it does not have the resources required to maintain this structure, not to mention the fact that trust has been lost. Why would they engage with a process when they had spent years in a process that only led to their community lighthouse being put at risk? Trust was lost.
    Also, in the case of the Sambro Island lighthouse, which stands roughly 24 metres tall, the lighthouse is located on a granite island at the entrance to Halifax Harbour. It is not as easily accessed as if it were on land or located on the end of a pier.
    Second, the financial cost associated with maintaining the structure is very high. For example, in 2008, when the Coast Guard repainted the lighthouse, it had to use a helicopter to ferry in supplies, including a large web of scaffolding. The total cost came in at about $80,000 for a simple repainting.
    It is not possible for the community to take over this lighthouse. The Sambro Island lighthouse is not on a pier or a wharf. It is not on the shores of Sambro or on Crystal Crescent Beach. It is on an island: essentially a piece of rock in the ocean.
     Sue Paul, secretary for the Sambro Island Lighthouse Heritage Society put it well:
     This is on an island. It's not easy to get to. It's also an 80-foot tower. It's not something that you can just put painting scaffolding on to do a quick fix-up.... It requires more work than our community can give it safely.
    The community is not able to take care of this lighthouse. It is dangerous. It is not easy to get to. Every summer, there is a community celebration called Sou' Wester Days. Boat tours are organized to the island, and I cannot tell members how many of those tours have been cancelled due to rain, fog, wind, big swells. It is not like it is a hop, skip, and jump.
    When I met with the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society members in 2010, another thing was apparent. They were tired. They had put all of these resources into a consultation process and no one had any energy left. Eventually the two-year time for the community to register its intent to take over that lighthouse passed by.
    In 2013, the local community in Sambro started to organize. It started as a meeting of friends, including Sue Paul, Stephanie Smith, and Brendan McGuire, who would later go on to represent this area as MLA. They came together and talked about one goal: to save the Sambro lighthouse. In October 2013, they established the not-for-profit organization called Sambro Island Lighthouse Heritage Society, and relied heavily upon Barry MacDonald for his expertise on lighthouses and working with government.
    Barry mentored this group, and the group grew in size and determination. They put together a petition and asked people to sign if they supported saving the Sambro Island lighthouse. With 5,000 signatures from across Canada, they asked MPs to present those petitions in Parliament.
    Working with this group of citizens, we came up with a solution. If Parks Canada took over responsibility for this park, actually took it away from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans or the Coast Guard, we could preserve this lighthouse and piece of our history.
    That is what we did. Working with community and the wonderful legislative drafters at the House of Commons, I was able to put together Bill C-588, an act to amend the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act (Sambro Island lighthouse). With the passing of the act, we could save the Sambro Island lighthouse and this piece of our history.
    Why should Parks Canada take over the lighthouse? Let me tell members some of the historical facts about the lighthouse.

  (1110)  

    It was built during the Seven Years' War, in 1758, by the first act passed in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly. That was the first bill passed in our legislature in Nova Scotia. It was about this lighthouse. It is the oldest operational lighthouse in the Americas, and the federal government has already recognized the historic significance of this structure.
    In 1937, Sambro lighthouse was designated as a national historic site and a plaque was placed in the village of Sambro. The construction of this lighthouse was also commemorated as a national historic event in 1937.
    In 1996, the lighthouse received federal heritage review board classified status, which is the highest-ranking status for Canadian government heritage buildings. The heritage character of the Sambro Island lighthouse was described in the Parks Canada website of federal heritage designations as the following:
    One of the most historically important lighthouses in Canada due to its age and its association with Halifax Harbour's marine traffic for over 235 years, this stone and concrete tower is considered the oldest operating lighthouse in North America.
    Recently I attended a funding announcement with the Minister of Justice and the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's, who announced $1.5 million to go toward the repair of this lighthouse. This is our chance to fix the lighthouse and restore it to its former glory, and then preserve and protect it for generations to come. Why spend $1.5 million to prevent this lighthouse from tumbling into the sea now, only to have it tumble into the sea 40 years from now? We need to act to protect this lighthouse.
    In my last few minutes, I would like to thank some people. I do recognize that if one starts a list of thanks, one is bound to forget someone, but I will take that risk because there are people who deserve recognition in this House.
    I thank Sue Paul and Stephanie Smith who spearheaded the community, bringing us all together as the Sambro Island Lighthouse Heritage Society. They credit their nanny, Minnie Gilkie Smith, because without her admiration for and stories of the lighthouse, which she passed down to them and the rest of their family, they may not have felt so deeply rooted to that island and lighthouse.
    I thank Barry MacDonald for his support and mentoring of this group. I know he recently retired from the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society, and that is a well-deserved retirement, but I also know that lighthouses are in his heart and we are bound to see him at a meeting or two.
    This lighthouse transcends party lines, and I would like to thank a few politicians across those party lines. Brendan Maguire, the Liberal MLA for Halifax Atlantic, has been steadfast in his commitment to this lighthouse. The member for Halifax West has also worked on this issue and brought attention to it in the House, as has my colleague, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. Members of the community of Sambro have named the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's as a champion for lighthouses, and I agree with them. I thank Senators Munson and Cordy for also being lighthouse supporters, as well as local councillor Steve Adams.
    I thank the schoolchildren and the school of Sambro who supported this cause by selling bracelets and having awareness projects at school. The entire school drew pictures of the lighthouse and made a video of the children singing the lighthouse song. They sent the video to the Prime Minister—I am sure he has it marked in his favourites list—and they have asked him to save their lighthouse.
    I thank The Chebucto News, which always made space in its publication for another story on the Sambro Island lighthouse. I thank the community members of Sambro for throwing themselves wholeheartedly into this project and gathering so many names for the petition, including Mishoo's store in Sambro, and Now We're Cookin' in Herring Cove. They had plenty of signatures for the petitions. I thank each and every person who took the time to gather names for this petition.
    I also want to thank lighthouse advocates Chris Mills and Rip Irwin. Rip was a founding member of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society, which started after a trip to Sambro Island lighthouse.
    As members can see, this is not just a lighthouse; this is part of our hearts, part of our community locally, but also part of the fabric of our history as Canadians. It is incredibly important to us. I agree with the Minister of Justice that this is an iconic structure for Canada. It is time to protect this lighthouse, and it is time for this lighthouse to shine on.

  (1115)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her speech today. Her work and the work of my colleague, the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's, on preserving lighthouses, not just in Nova Scotia but across the country, is exemplary.
    I wonder if the member can comment on steps that need to be taken moving forward to ensure that this lighthouse is protected.
    Mr. Speaker, I am going to give credit where credit is due. It was just a couple of weeks ago that there was an announcement in Sambro, as I mentioned, that the government is giving $1.5 million to the restoration of the lighthouse. That was seen as such an incredible win for the community. Everybody has been walking on air since that announcement.
    That announcement for the restoration is important. The stairs are falling apart, there are broken windows. Structurally, it is not safe. People are not even supposed to go up to it any more. Therefore, the restoration is vital if we are going to protect this lighthouse. But then what?
    I really believe that the step that would protect this lighthouse properly would be to transfer it from the Coast Guard or the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to Parks Canada. Parks Canada has a mandate to preserve and protect these structures. It is a national historic site. It has been celebrated with a stamp, a coin and acts in legislature. It really needs protection, not just the designation of a heritage site. I see bringing it under the inventory of Parks Canada as the next step.

  (1120)  

    Mr. Speaker, there are several lighthouses in my riding as well and some of them are struggling because they were declared surplus. They are finding innovative ways through agencies such as ACOA, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
    One of the biggest complaints is that when these assets are transferred through Environment Canada to commemorations, they come with a commemoration. They come with the distinction of being what it is, but they never come with the money to help them jumpstart in a particular way.
    Would her bill provide for any type of operating funds or capital money to be available for these groups?
    Mr. Speaker, Fisheries and Oceans has custody of three lighthouses in Newfoundland: Cape Race, Cape Pine and Cape Spear. Therefore, he is pretty close to this issue.
    My bill would not include funding, and that is for a procedural reason. This is a private member's bill. I am not in government yet, so if money is attached to private members' bills, they require royal recommendation from government to do that and I was not expecting to get it.
    For a step in a private member's bill, I see a straight transfer to Parks Canada so that it is in the Parks Canada inventory. As the member heard earlier, there is a commitment of funds, $1.5 million, to restore the lighthouse, bring it back to its previous glory, and that is a fantastic step.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Halifax for her very thoughtful speech. I am sure that what she said resonates with many people in coastal communities.
    I would like to talk about the cultural aspect of lighthouses. Communities have depended heavily on lighthouses as a link that kept them safe. Many families have lived in very remote regions to operate lighthouses and in Halifax too. Maritime communities, including fishers and sailors, have depended heavily on lighthouses.
    Many cultural communities have an interest in the work we are doing today to save not only the lighthouse in my colleague's riding, but those in all of Canada.
    Can my colleague comment on the cultural aspect of lighthouses?
    Mr. Speaker, the cultural aspect is very important. My colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore organized a press conference with veterans and immigrants.

[English]

    I, frankly, did not understand the connection. I did not even know those stories about the light being the last light that our military servicemen and women would see as they went off to war or the first light that newcomers would see on the horizon when they were coming to Canada to start a new life. Those stories are as important as that structure, but those stories are tied to that structure.
    Mr. Speaker, let us imagine people travelling across the ocean, from the old world to the new world, 200 years ago, and living through storms and the violence that can be the Atlantic Ocean, both in summer and in winter but particularly in winter.
    After four or five days on a boat, not really knowing exactly where they were, at the other end of the night, they would see a light, a beacon of hope that symbolizes not only land but a future for them and their family who are travelling to immigrate to a new world. That would be the story of many of my ancestors, the MacDonalds and the Armstrongs and the Tuckers and the Haymans, coming across from Europe to the new world.
    Fast forward 100 years or so to just after the turn of the century, when literally thousands and thousands of soldiers left Canada to travel to fight against the Germans in World War I. For many of them, the last thing they would have seen, looking back at their homeland, not ever knowing if they were going to return safely, would have been that light.
    Fast forward again another 50 years, when we had many settlers come from Europe post-World War II, people like my mother-in-law, who came over as a Dutch settler at the age of four, travelling with her family, a family with hope in their hearts, looking for a new, better life, escaping the ravages that were realized during World War II. Travelling across that ocean, literally millions of immigrants coming to Canada over the years, for many the first thing they would have seen of North America, the first thing they would have seen of this new life, would have been that light.
    That is what we are really here to talk about today, and I congratulate the member across for her diligence in working towards this particular piece of legislation.
    We have a rich lighthouse heritage. Canadians passionately want to see this heritage protected for the benefit and enjoyment of not only past generations like the ones I have spoken about but for future generations of Canadians. Lighthouses speak to who we are and where we have been. We are one of the world's great maritime nations and lighthouses are a part of that historic nature of our country.
     This is why this House adopted the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act in 2008. My colleague, the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's has been a strong advocate for this legislation and continues to be, for lighthouses across the country. Although he is retiring this year, one of his legacies will be the Lighthouse Protection Act. I congratulate him for that.
    This is why Canadians nominated nearly 350 lighthouses to be considered for designation and protection as heritage lighthouses. Our government is determined to designate and protect as many of our lighthouses as possible under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act. To date already, 74 heritage lighthouses have been designated under the act. A good number of these, 42 are still required as aids to navigation on our coasts and inland waterways and will remain under the custodianship of the Government of Canada.
    They include some of Canada's most significant symbols of our maritime heritage. Some examples are the Cape Spear lighthouse on the Atlantic Coast near St. John's, built in 1835; as well as the Fisgard Lighthouse on the Pacific coast near Victoria, built in 1860. There is also the Triple Island lighthouse on the North Pacific in British Columbia, recognized nationally for the logistical challenges involved with its construction, and the Cape Race lighthouse on the southern Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland and Labrador.
    However, in many places in Canada, historic lighthouses are no longer needed to deliver Canada's extensive marine aid and navigation program. In these cases, our government has in place mechanisms to facilitate the acquisition of treasured historic lighthouses by community groups, other levels of government and, in rare cases, individuals. These different people, organizations and levels of government can breathe new life into these symbols of our nation by giving them a new use.

  (1125)  

    Identifying new owners for historic lighthouses that are no longer needed by the federal government is not just sound fiscal policy. We all know that the best protection for any heritage building is its continued use, and this is no less true for lighthouses than it is for houses, banks, schools, churches or other built markers of our shared heritage, our shared national identity.
    Through the implementation of the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, viable, responsible new owners have been invited to submit proposals to acquire historic lighthouses that are no longer needed by the federal government, and to commit to protect their heritage character on behalf of all Canadians. The response from Canadians to this challenge has been nothing short of extraordinary. To date, community groups and other levels of government have submitted proposals to acquire more than 150 of Canada's historic lighthouses and to protect their heritage character. The majority of these proposals are considered viable, sustainable plans following review by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, which is a testament to the commitment of Canadians to conserve their heritage.
    Currently, of the 150 proposals we have received, there are 32 heritage lighthouses that have been designated, which will ensure the protection and conservation of the heritage character of these historic lighthouses on behalf of Canadians and for the benefit and enjoyment of generations of Canadians yet to come. Some of these 32 heritage lighthouses that will be managed by new owners are symbols of our small but proud and indomitable maritime communities that line our coasts and inland waterways.
    Yes, lighthouses such as the ones I have mentioned have economic value as well, as anchors for local and regional tourism, but the spirit that drives their conservation is more than economic. Canadians want to protect these properties because they speak to who we are. They are tangible, evocative markers of our maritime heritage.
    Other designated heritage lighthouses that will be managed by new owners are symbols of larger maritime communities. The Brighton Beach Range Front lighthouse, acquired by the City of Charlottetown, is but one example.
    These are some of the great examples of Canada's lighthouse heritage. The Government of Canada and Canadians are grateful to the new owners of these and other heritage lighthouses. They have embarked with the Government of Canada on a great project to secure a bright future for Canada's lighthouse heritage. Their commitment to conserve their local heritage and determination to identify and implement sustainable long-term plans for their lighthouses are inspirations for us all.
    The government is committed to work with these community organizations and other levels of government to bring these visions to reality so that they too can join this great family of designated heritage lighthouses that the Government of Canada and Canadians are building together.
    This is hallowed history of the oldest operating lighthouse in the Americas and part of Nova Scotia's heritage, and I am referring, of course, to the Sambro lighthouse. For generations, this sentinel of the sea has helped illuminate the safe passage of countless mariners off the treacherous waters of Chebucto Head. The Sambro Island lighthouse has been in operation for over 250 years.
    Over the years, members of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society, the Sambro Island Lighthouse Heritage Society and the local community have worked diligently to preserve, protect and promote this storied structure and educate people about its historical significance. In recognition of its importance, the Sambro Island lighthouse was declared a classified federal heritage building. In more recent years, it has also been commemorated by Canada Post and the Royal Canadian Mint.
    Our government wholeheartedly agrees that the Sambro Island lighthouse merits designation as a heritage lighthouse under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, but we want to do more than just designate the lighthouse. We need to do more. The Sambro Island lighthouse deserves a bright, secure future so that Canadians can enjoy and appreciate our very own heritage for generations to come.
    To do this, the Government of Canada must continue in its quest to find a viable, responsible new owner for the lighthouse who can articulate and implement a solid plan that will set this proud symbol of our shared maritime heritage on a course for another two and a half centuries of marking one of Canada's greatest harbours. Hopefully, it will stand strong for much longer than that.
    The Sambro Island lighthouse has derived strong local, regional and provincial support from across Canada. It relishes the benefits of a valuable custodian in Fisheries and Oceans Canada and of a government that recognizes and acknowledges its immeasurable historical importance. The government is committed to working with Canadians to create an enduring, sustainable future for the Sambro Island lighthouse and for many lighthouses across this country.

  (1130)  

    I thank the member for this legislation, and I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to speak to it today.
    Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak to Bill C-588, an act to designate the Sambro Island lighthouse as a heritage lighthouse.
    I thank all my colleagues in the House and in the Senate who are supporting the bill, but especially my colleagues from Nova Scotia, who are all working together to make this happen.
    The Liberal Party of Canada believes in the value of protecting Canada's story through the preservation of our historic lighthouses for the education and enjoyment of present and future generations. We understand the need for federal stewardship on this issue and urge the government to work collaboratively with local leaders to develop an effective strategy to ensure the survival of the Sambro Island lighthouse.
    The Liberal Halifax-area member of Parliament has represented his constituents in the House of Commons regarding the preservation of the Sambro Lighthouse since 2013, and the Liberal Party of Canada has long advocated for recognition of the historical, cultural, and economic significance of Canada's lighthouses; we voted in support of the Heritage Lighthouse Protect Act.
    We support the bill but are concerned that it does not fully accomplish what the sponsoring member claims it does. Designating the Sambro Lighthouse a "designated heritage lighthouse" creates no obligation stemming from the bill for the federal government to operate the site in the future. She explained that earlier.
    We recommend sending the bill to committee to so that the committee can determine whether the scope is sufficient for its stated goal as well as examine custodial responsibilities for the preservation, maintenance, and operation of this iconic structure.
     Sambro Island is located, as was mentioned before, off the coast of Nova Scotia near the entrance of Halifax Harbour. In 1758, the earliest lighthouse in North America was built on the island. Today, the lighthouse is operated by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
    The lighthouse is the oldest standing and operating lighthouse in the Americas. Its construction was commemorated as a National Historic Event in 1937, and in 1996 the lighthouse was recognized as a federal heritage building.
     Earlier this month, the government announced a two-year investment to rehabilitate the Sambro Island lighthouse. The project is estimated at more than $1.5 million. The lighthouse will be transferred to local community leaders under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act.
    These are a few facts I would like to share regarding this historic lighthouse.
    Legislation to establish the lighthouse was passed on the first day of the first session of the legislative assembly of Nova Scotia in 1758. As the member mentioned, I believe, it was one of the first pieces of legislation. Construction was completed in 1759.
     The light is located at the southern entrance to Halifax harbour. It was the first sight of the city for members of the Royal Canadian Navy returning to Halifax, and for new immigrants entering through Pier 21. I am proud to say that my parents came through that same pier.
     Sambro served as the departure point from North America for Joshua Slocum's famous solo navigation around the world in 1895.
     In 1996 the lighthouse received Federal Heritage Review Board “classified” status, the highest-ranking status for Canadian government heritage buildings.
     It is still an active aid to navigation. The beacon is being maintained by the federal government. After an outpouring of support from the community, Fisheries and Oceans Canada recently committed to replacing a broken window and repairing the staircase inside to ensure the light can remain operational.
    The lighthouse was repainted by the Coast Guard in 2008 at a cost of $80,000. The light was also solarized in 2008.
     The Sambro Island Lighthouse Heritage Society, represented by Rena Maguire and Susan Paul, has organized petitions, public meetings, and visits to the lighthouse.
     The Province of Nova Scotia recently awarded a $10,000 grant to the Sambro Island Lighthouse Heritage Society. I heard it was also through the hard work of MLA Brendan Maguire. The society is currently developing a business plan for the lighthouse with the hope of encouraging more tourism to the site and to help in maintaining the lighthouse as an historic site.
     A petition was tabled in 2013 with more than 5,000 signatures in support of preserving the lighthouse.

  (1135)  

    There are also a great number of lighthouses that I would like to mention in my riding of Sydney—Victoria as well. I will talk about a couple in particular, because lighthouses are important. We have been very fortunate that some community groups recognize the cultural and historic importance of these lighthouses and have put a great deal of work into sharing their knowledge, and I would like to take this opportunity to commend the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society. It is a great group.
    I believe that the province of Nova Scotia has more lighthouses than any other province because of length of shoreline and its rugged coast.
     The St. Paul Island Historical Society worked for close to a decade to have a lighthouse relocated next to the St. Paul Island Museum. For 30 years or so, the lighthouse was at the Canadian Coast Guard jetty in Dartmouth. The lighthouse was dismantled in order to transport it by flatbed truck. The total cost of restoring, transporting, and erecting the lighthouse was $120,000. The federal government invested $108,000 in the project through Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation.
    Dingwall, which is a northern community in my riding, has a long maritime tradition and close ties to St. Paul Island. A lighthouse has operated on the island since 1839. The original southwest light was established in 1839, burned in 1916, and was replaced by a cast iron cylindrical lighthouse in 1917. The 1917 light was then replaced with an automatic system in 1962. This is what has happened to many lighthouses over the years.
    There has also been a community connection with St. Paul Island. Boats transported people and supplies to the island. Many people have relatives who worked on the island, so there is a close emotional and historic bond with the island. There were as many as 50 people living on the island at one time. There were life-saving stations, radio operators, and so on, and the museum is dedicated to that history.
    Canada's ocean shoreline is at least 250,000 kilometres in length. It is the longest shoreline in the world. Just minutes off the world-famous Cabot Trail, we can find Canada's first and only federally designated heritage lighthouse on any of Canada's three oceans. Built in 1915 and relocated in Dingwall, the St. Paul Southwest Lighthouse is also the first cast iron lighthouse constructed in Canada.
    An old map of St. Paul Island shows 40 shipwrecks, ranging from square-rigged ships to steam-powered vessels. This is described as only a partial list of wrecks in these dangerous waters off northern Cape Breton. Other sources say that as many as 350 ships went to the bottom of the sea there.
    The first lighthouse in Canada, and the second in North America, was constructed in Louisbourg in 1730. Its purpose was to protect ships by lighting their way into the harbour of the great French fortress of Louisbourg, perched on the far southeastern rocky coast of Cape Breton Island. In the years after Louisbourg was captured by the British, the fortress was levelled and the land was left desolate. There was no longer a need for a light, so it fell into ruin.
     No other lighthouse existed or was necessary along the vast expanse of Nova Scotia's almost empty coastline until 1758, when the Sambro light was built at the far outer reaches of Halifax Harbour. A government lottery raised the necessary money for it. Thereafter, as pockets of settlements began to develop along the shoreline, the need for navigational aids became increasingly important. The development of hydrographic charts, printed sailing directions, and navigational markers and buoys facilitated daylight and fair-weather marine activities. Lighthouses, lightships, and fog alarms provided a measure of the security needed for nighttime and very bad weather.
    Lightkeeping was a hazardous and demanding career. In the 1930s, it was critical in Nova Scotia for a large, well-developed network to be in place. As I mentioned earlier, in the decades after World War II, changing patterns in coastal and international trade, the advent of radar and sophisticated navigational technology, and the ravages of wind, water, and time all combined to put an end to the Nova Scotia lighthouse world.
    Canada is built on many heritage buildings, and lighthouses are very important. We agree with this bill. It is indeed an important bill because of the historical importance, the cultural importance, and the impact that lighthouses have on the tourism industry in coastal communities.

  (1140)  

    It is important that we continue to protect these landmarks. I hope my colleagues will support Bill C-588, which designates Sambro Island lighthouse as a true heritage lighthouse.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour for me to support the bill introduced by my colleague from Halifax, and I am very pleased to do so.
    Canada's heritage assets need our support. The Government of Canada has an obligation and a duty to do that, but unfortunately, it is not stepping up. Heritage assets are being allowed to disintegrate little by little to the point where the very foundation of this great country's heritage is in jeopardy.
    I would like to emphasize that my support extends beyond this bill for the Sambro Island lighthouse. Many lighthouses in Canada have been declared surplus by the departments that own them. Most of the time, that is Fisheries and Oceans Canada. We must have the means to protect these pearls of Canada's heritage.
    Ads placed around the world to encourage people to visit Canada feature lighthouses. When we sing O Canada and watch the videos that go with it, we see images of lighthouses. These buildings are part of Canada's history, and we absolutely have to protect them. The bill before us is one step among many. It is one step toward protection.
    I would like to talk about the Sambro Island lighthouse, but I will also draw parallels with other lighthouses in Canada, particularly in my riding, which is a maritime riding with a lot of lighthouses. The people in my riding are very worried about the state of these lighthouses. We know that the Sambro Island lighthouse in particular is located just off the coast of Halifax. It is a major part of our heritage and history since it was likely one of the most important lighthouses in Canada. It was built during the Seven Years' War and established by the very first act passed by the Nova Scotia House of Assembly in 1758. Construction took place from 1758 to 1760.
    Let us remember that lighthouses were the gateway to many areas of Canada, not just Halifax. The Sambro Island lighthouse was the first lighthouse that people saw when they immigrated to our maritime provinces. As our Liberal Party colleague pointed out, people had to pass right by it to get to Pier 21 in Halifax.
    I would like to point out that in my riding of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, the first lighthouse that was seen when Canada was made up of only Ontario and Quebec was the Cap-des-Rosiers lighthouse, which is located just outside Gaspé. It is the tallest lighthouse in Canada, and it was the first lighthouse that immigrants saw when they came to Canada before Confederation. Of course, after Confederation, our neighbours in the Maritimes also had lighthouses, but while Canada was made up of only Ontario and Quebec, the gateway was Gaspé and the point of entry was the Cap-des-Rosiers lighthouse. These lighthouses are part of our heritage. They are part of our history and our wealth.
    There are also a number of lighthouses in the Magdalen Islands. Without those lighthouses, the shipwrecks that plagued the Magdalen Islands for hundreds of years would have continued. There are hundreds of shipwrecks off the coast of the Magdalen Islands. These ships sank because years ago, people did not have the proper equipment and there were no lighthouses. Lighthouses were mainly built in the 1800s.
    Lighthouses are slowly being dismantled, particularly in the Magdalen Islands. Climate change has resulted in an increasing number of major storms. Those storms cause erosion, which is jeopardizing all of the lighthouses in the Magdalen Islands. It is a major concern. We have already had to move some lighthouses in order to save them.
    The government brought in legislation to preserve lighthouses. I would like to point out, however, that the legislation that the Conservatives passed in 2010, quite frankly, does nothing to preserve the lighthouses in the Magdalen Islands and the Gaspé, and it will not preserve the Sambro Island lighthouse. The act provides for a divestiture program for lighthouses. Once again, the government has plans to divest itself of lighthouses, wharves and other kinds of infrastructure, but it is unwilling to invest any money in repairs prior to their divestiture. Those who take over these lighthouses will be left with some nasty surprises.

  (1145)  

    We find it very hard to get behind a government that refuses to recognize that it failed in its responsibility. The government has a duty to maintain its facilities, assets and property, and this includes lighthouses.
    For instance, there has been no maintenance done on the Cap-des-Rosiers lighthouse in the past 20 years. This causes serious problems, such as water leaks and damage to the structure. Because of the many winter storms, these water leaks exacerbate the situation.
    The government needs to update its facilities and infrastructure long before even considering their divestiture. Very few organizations have the resources to take over responsibility for these kinds of infrastructure, since the annual maintenance is very costly. That is why we hope that the government will be prepared to maintain its assets and property.
    In the Gaspé, some poorly maintained lighthouses have had to be taken over by municipalities and private organizations. In her speech on the bill, my colleague pointed out that some community groups in Halifax would be willing to take over at least the management of the lighthouse, but they would be unable to pay for long-term maintenance. Only governments are in a position to do so.
     I hope the government will grasp the multiplier effect of investing in lighthouses. When tourists are drawn to our beautiful regions by the lighthouses they see in ads, they expect those lighthouses to be not only there and in good shape, but also accessible. When lighthouses are in the sorry state that they are in now, they get shuttered and no one is allowed to enter them. People are only allowed to look at them. Truth be told, even that may no longer be possible since lighthouses are located in coastal regions where they are exposed to erosion and their potential demise in a storm.
    Let us not forget that through the divestiture process, the federal government offers to transfer the asset to the province first. If the province refuses, then it is offered to the municipality. Finally, if neither party is prepared to take it, it will be offered to individuals. That is how our lighthouses could become privatized. That is what happened in the Magdalen Islands, where a lighthouse became the property of a single individual. Today, that lighthouse is no longer accessible and can no longer be part of an historic trail or route for tourists.
    Even though some organizations have plans to take advantage of lighthouses as tourist attractions, the lighthouses that were handed over to individuals are not necessarily accessible to the public. The privatization of our heritage and historical infrastructure is very concerning.
    Five to six lighthouses in the Magdalen Islands and a number of lighthouses in the Gaspé have been declared surplus. However, they have been recognized as being heritage lighthouses. I would like to remind members that the Cap-des-Rosiers lighthouse was designated a national historic site in 1974. In 1994, it was recognized as a heritage lighthouse.
    However, the enactment of the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act in 2010 shows that the government wants to get rid of these lighthouses. That means it does not keep its promises. The government absolutely has to take its responsibilities seriously and invest in our infrastructure. There is no denying the multiplier effect of investments, which must be made in order to keep regional economies going. Lighthouses are an integral part of that.

  (1150)  

    This is not just about the economy; it is also about culture. The lives of mariners and fishers have been saved because of these lighthouses. Families living in coastal communities are still there because the lighthouses protected their ancestors. We must respect our ancestors and our coastal communities. We must invest in our lighthouses.

  (1155)  

[English]

    Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture. I will advise the parliamentary secretary that he will have approximately seven minutes before we have to end this debate.
    Mr. Speaker, seven minutes is not nearly long enough to speak on the Sambro Island lighthouse, but I will take what time I have. I want to echo the words of my colleagues who have spoken on this issue before me in the House. Canadians have spoken clearly. Our lighthouse heritage matters and needs to be protected.
    Like Bill C-588, the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act originated as a private member's bill, and its principles resonated so clearly with parliamentarians that it was enacted unopposed. I would say, just to clarify the record, that it had a couple of opportunities to move first from the Senate and then to the House of Commons before it actually was approved, and I do not believe that anyone has recognized late Senator Mike Forrestall's support of that bill. It really was his idea and dream. Unfortunately, he did not live long enough to see it fulfilled, but he was certainly the keystone for that private member's legislation.
     When the act finally came into force, Canadians responded by nominating nearly 350 lighthouses for designation through a petition process established by the act, and our government is proud of the progress that has been made over the five years since the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act came into force. Today there are 74 designated heritage lighthouses that are protected for the future. As impressive as these results are, it is gratifying to know that many more lighthouses will be considered for designation in the months and years ahead as Fisheries and Oceans Canada concludes agreements to transfer historic lighthouses to responsible new owners who have demonstrated their ability and desire to implement a sustainable, long-term plan for the conservation of their local lighthouses.
    Sambro Island lighthouse is one of those lighthouses that occupies a special place in Canada's maritime heritage. It was established in 1758 and is the oldest operating lighthouse in the Americas. It is located on Sambro Island, at the entrance to Halifax Harbour, and is surrounded by a dangerous maze of rocks and shoals. This lighthouse has guided countless people to safety while also being a silent witness to numerous shipwrecks and sea battles. For generations this lighthouse has served its purpose well by guiding mariners into and out of one of the largest, most impressive natural harbours in the world.
    Its construction was designated by the Government of Canada as an event of national historical significance way back in 1937, so its special heritage value has long been recognized. More recently, the Sambro Island lighthouse was designated a classified federal heritage building in 1996, and through that designation it enjoys the highest level of heritage protection accorded to federal buildings. It should be reassuring for all to know that the heritage character of this important lighthouse already enjoys strong protection under the custodianship of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Since 2008 we have invested nearly $40,000 in the lighthouse, which includes repairing concrete, painting the tower base, and sealing a concrete walkway.
    As reassuring as this is, it is important to note that the heritage character of the Sambro Island lighthouse is currently protected. Our government also wants to see it designated and protected under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act and join the growing family of heritage lighthouses being created by the Government of Canada in partnership with community groups and other levels of government all across Canada. Sambro Island lighthouse merits designation under this act.
    It is also important to note that Sambro Island lighthouse is not under any imminent threat of neglect or demolition. As a classified federal heritage building, the Sambro Island lighthouse is currently afforded the same level of protection as would be offered under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act. Nevertheless, our government is determined to find a viable, responsible owner for the Sambro Island lighthouse, a new owner who has a vision for a sustainable new use for Sambro Island, with its iconic lighthouse and related light station buildings, and the wherewithal, of course, to make that vision a reality. Our government will help make this happen.

  (1200)  

    We recently announced that we are making a significant investment of more than $1.5 million in the lighthouse over the next two years. It should be said that this funding will go toward rehabilitating the foundation, floor, walls, beams, and lantern deck; fixing issues related to erosion, cracking, and stone work; rehabilitating the original lantern; installing a heating system; and painting the lighthouse.
    We are pleased to make these important investments in the Sambro Island lighthouse to serve its more than 250-year history and to continue to ensure that Canadian waters are kept safe and that Canadian heritage remains strong.
    I was able to participate in that announcement along with the Minister of Justice, and the day we made the announcement, stakeholders applauded the new investment.
    I would like to quote Stephanie Smith, president of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society, who said:
    We're extremely excited about this announcement today. It's an important first step in the long-term preservation of our historic lighthouse. We look forward to continuing to work with all levels of government and our community to make sure that this national treasure is taken care of for generations to come.
    I would like to add a few more comments about the Sambro Island lighthouse. I commend the member for Halifax for bringing this piece of legislation forth, and I want to recognize my colleague who quarterbacked the original lighthouse preservation bill to give community groups the opportunity to actually have some say and control over the future of the lighthouses in their communities.
    I want to recognize the Sambro Island group that has put a business plan together and is continuing to work on a business plan for the future of the lighthouse as it takes the lighthouse over. I want to recognize the past-president of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society, Barry MacDonald, for not only his hard work over the years but for his ongoing interest in making sure that the oldest lighthouse in the Americas continues to be protected.

[Translation]

    Order. 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.

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[Government Orders]

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act

    The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-6, An Act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

[English]

Speaker's Ruling 

    There are 10 motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill S-6.

[Translation]

    The Chair has notice that the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands will not be present to move Motions Nos. 2, 3, 8 and 9.

[English]

    Motion Nos. 1, 4 to 7, and 10 will be regrouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the table.

[Translation]

    I will now put Motions Nos. 1, 4 to 7, and 10 to the House.

  (1205)  

[English]

Motions in Amendment  

Motion No. 1
    That Bill S-6 be amended by deleting the long title.
Motion No. 4
    That Bill S-6 be amended by deleting Clause 14.
Motion No. 5
    That Bill S-6 be amended by deleting Clause 16.
Motion No. 6
    That Bill S-6 be amended by deleting Clause 17.
Motion No. 7
    That Bill S-6 be amended by deleting Clause 21.
Motion No. 10
    That Bill S-6 be amended by deleting Clause 34.
    He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to put forward these amendments to Bill S-6, a bill that has the ability to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act. It contains many clauses that cannot be amended. Why? They came out of a five-year review of the Yukon Environmental Assessment Act and were agreed to. Many changes to the Environmental Assessment Act were worked out through a process of collaboration, understanding and collaboration between the government and the people of Yukon.
    After that process, four very controversial items were added to this bill and then arbitrarily put to the people of Yukon.
    The first would provide the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development the authority to provide binding policy direction to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, to which Yukoners are opposed. They had no chance to work with anyone to mitigate that.
    The second would legislate time limits for assessments in the face of the fact that the assessment process was working just fine in Yukon, and that people had learned how to deal with very complex issues in an orderly fashion.
    The third would allow the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to delegate any or all responsibilities to the Yukon government without consultation with and approval from the first nations who were party to the whole deal that was set up in the first place.
    The fourth would create broad exemptions with respect to the Yukon environmental assessment process for renewals, amendments and permits authorizations, which were in the hands of the boards already.
    We can see that the devolution process in the northern territories, which in Yukon started 10 years ago, has been curtailed by this legislation. It has been rolled back in a very significant and deliberate fashion by the government. That is not appropriate.
    The other amendments proposed to the act dealt with things that people could see and agree to. They were designed to help move the act forward in a proper fashion so the environmental assessment process could be well-respected and understood.
    We have had the same problem in the Northwest Territories. The government agreed to a devolution process and then forced changes to our environmental assessment process. That has now gone to court and there have been injunctions put in place by the court over the actions taken by the government in the Northwest Territories.
    We are likely to see the same thing in Yukon, where the first nations will once again have to take the government to court to deal with issues that should have been dealt with in a proper fashion.
    Therefore, we have identified four issues and are asking that they be removed from the act through these amendments. It is a request that goes back to the people of Yukon, who have asked for this.
    We took the committee to Yukon and had a one-day hearing, which went from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The room was filled with hundreds of people who attended the committee hearing from 8:30 a.m. until it finished in the evening. They were not pleased with the bill.

  (1210)  

    The support for the bill was almost nil. People were speaking out on it. The Government of Yukon, which will face its own electors over this very shortly, will find out how those people feel about the bill. This will also be the case for the Conservative government very soon.
    After the election, which is likely to be in October unless the government decides to try to delay it even more, the new NDP government will be ready to put forward amendments to deal with these contentious issues for the people of the north.
    There is no reason at all for this to have happened in the fashion it did. The government has created uncertainty in the environmental assessment process for the companies, people and the first nations of Yukon. It has messed it up.
    Let me quote Ms. Allison Rippin Armstrong, vice president Lands and Environment, Kaminak Gold Corporation, which has just invested substantial sums of money in the Yukon. She said:
    Kaminak is concerned that the process through which YESAA is being amended is creating increased distrust between governments and uncertainty in the assessment and regulatory process for current and future projects in Yukon.
    These are the people who are investing in the Yukon.
    This is what Ruth Massie, Grand Chief, Council of Yukon First Nations, has to say:
    CYFN and all 11 self-governing first nations are unanimously opposed to four provisions that are part of Bill S-6.
    Here we have it. On the one hand, we have industry saying that it will not work for them, that it does not need it and do not even understand why it is being done. On the other hand, first nations are saying that things are being done against all their agreements and that are really throwing the process, which they worked so hard to set up, off the back of the cart. They want to know why the government has done it and what the purpose is of this kind of action by the government. They want to know if it is simply because the party of one over in the Langevin Block has decided that this is the way it will go, that no one can interfere with that kind of decision making, that no one from the grassroots up can make a difference.
    The government is making rules for territories that actually need devolution. They need to control their own affairs. The government has actually thrown that particular process off the back of the cart. It is heading off in a different direction. People in the territories, my territory, Yukon, who have been influenced by these bills, now face the prospect of suing the government, of going forward with litigation in order to get rid of some of these contentious clauses, which nobody really wants, which do not make any sense and which are not part of any reduction of colonialism or changing the way these territories can govern themselves.
    We have put forward a number of amendments which deal with the four contentious issues. We would hope that the government, in the end, would come to its senses and would actually listen to the people of Yukon, industry and those who are involved in the actual work of Yukon, rather than sitting over on Langevin Block, and come to an understanding that these need to be removed to make this bill work. Then we could go ahead and all support it.

  (1215)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to hear the member for Northwest Territories speak. Even if I do not agree with him, we spent that day together in Yukon and certainly survived the charter flight as well.
    I want to talk about the difference of philosophy. Our government believes that northerners are best placed to make decisions affecting their legislation and their lands. That is why we propose to devolve powers to the local government, to the government closer to the people, to the territorial government. We did it in the Northwest Territories with Bill C-15. We have proposed that provision in Bill S-6 as well, to allow the federal minister to delegate powers to the territorial minister.
    I would like a clear answer from the member as to why he believes power should remain concentrated in Ottawa instead of devolved to the people in the north, closer to where they live.
    Mr. Speaker, the simplistic idea that has been proposed by the government is really one that goes against what people have worked very hard on throughout the north, and that is the relationship between aboriginal governments and public governments. This will be the determining factor in our ability to work together.
    Northerners have come to the decision that first nations governments have complete relevance in everything that goes on in our territories. In the minds of northerners, we do not separate first nations governance as a lesser force. We accept that these forces have to work together. We accept that the decision making has to involve that kind of jurisdictional sharing.
    What the government would do with this amendment is take it away from first nations and impact that kind of delegation of authority. I am sure there would be many things first nations could work very well with the public government in Yukon in this regard, but they need to be there at the table.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I find it troubling that the Conservative government, with the full support of its members and its senators, did not consult the people of the Yukon and did not strive for social acceptability with these significant changes. However, it had no problem talking to the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada, the Mining Association of Canada and Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, among others.
    Does my colleague think that we can improve the situation in the Yukon by showing contempt for aboriginal peoples and by only supporting the big mining companies? I am very concerned about the government's contempt for aboriginal peoples.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is a problem with the government. It came up with these four amendments after a complete process of years when it could have introduced them. It could have put them forward over that time. It could have talked about them. It could have tried to find some kind of accommodation within the system. It had the time. It had people dedicated to do that work. These are highly trained individuals. They do not miss these types of items. They do not say that they forgot about these four concerns and that they will throw them into the bill at a later date. This was a fairly carefully crafted little effort to avoid talking about the things that were controversial and then shoving them into the bill later. This is really not the way to do devolution in our territories. It is not the way to come up with agreements that can work for people.

  (1220)  

    Mr. Speaker, since 2006, our government has been pursuing the most ambitious northern agenda in the history of this country. From promoting prosperity and development through Bill C-47, the Northern Jobs and Growth Act, to devolving powers to the Government of the Northwest Territories through Bill C-15, the Northwest Territories Devolution Act, to the vision and implementation of the Canadian High Arctic research station, no other government in Canadian history has done more than ours to increase health, prosperity and economic development in the north.
    The initiative before the House today, the Yukon and Nunavut regulatory improvement act, or Bill S-6, would represent yet another key deliverable of our government's northern strategy and would be the final legislative step in our government's action plan to improve northern regulatory regimes.
    In total, our government has created or amended eight different pieces of legislation in order to ensure that northern regulatory regimes across the north are nimble and responsive to the increased economic activity taking place across the north. This is no small feat. These legislative changes will allow Canada's north to compete for investment in an increasingly global marketplace which, in turn, will lead to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for northerners. Bill S-6 would continue in this vein.
    The introduction of beginning-to-end time limits for environmental assessments included in the bill would align the Yukon regime with the time limits in similar acts within the north, as well as south of 60, and would provide predictability and consistency to first nations, municipalities and industry alike.
    This is an incredibly important aspect of Bill S-6 and one that would act to drive economic development across the territory. Unfortunately, the NDP wants to remove these time limits. I take particular exception to Motions Nos. 5, 6 and 7, which would cause the portions of the bill related to time limits to be deleted. This would prevent regulatory predictability and actually hinder growth and prosperity in the Yukon.
    Some have argued that the time limits would affect the thoroughness of the assessment process. However, as the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board's own statistics show, the proposed time limits are either consistent with or more favourable than the board's current practice. In addition, Bill S-6 would include provisions to allow for extensions, recognizing that there may be situations when more time is warranted to carry out a function or power.
    A different provision in the act, specifically, the proposed amendment to section 49.1 of YESAA, would ensure that, going forward, reassessments would only be required in the event that the project has been significantly changed.
    This is another integral piece of Bill S-6 that the opposition would eliminate. That is why I oppose Motion No. 4. The passage of the motion and the elimination of the clause would prevent the elimination of unnecessary delays and red tape in the approval process.
    In the past, projects that have already been approved and permitted could be subject to a new environmental assessment simply because of a renewal or a minor change in the project. The amendment would help to streamline the process and reduce unnecessary red tape where it is not warranted.
    The amendment would also make it clear that if there is more than one decision body, which could be a federal, territorial or first nations government or agency that regulates and permits the proposed activity, they must consult with one another before determining whether a new assessment is required. Further still, the legislation would specify that in the event of a disagreement, if only one decision body determines that a significant change has occurred, it must be subject to a reassessment. This would also be consistent with the UFA, the Umbrella Final Agreement, which states in section 12.4.1.1 that projects and significant changes to existing projects are subject to the development assessment process.
    Another proposed change would be the ability for the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to provide policy direction to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board.
    This is another amendment that the opposition would like to remove from the bill. Motion No. 10 would remove the ability of the minister to issue policy direction.

  (1225)  

    It is important to remember that the ability to provide policy direction is not a heavy-handed attempt by the government to interfere in the assessment process nor does it undermine the neutrality of the board. Quite the contrary, it is intended to ensure a common understanding between the government and the board, helping to reduce uncertainty in environmental assessment decision-making and helping to ensure the proper implementation of the board's powers in fulfilling its role in the assessment process.
    Moreover, this power exists in the Northwest Territories where it has only been used four times, and in each case it was used to clearly communicate expectations on how to address first nations' rights or agreements. For example, it was used in order to ensure that notification was provided to both the Manitoba and Saskatchewan Deline regarding licences and permits in a given region.
    By supporting this motion, the opposition would actually remove a tool that the minister could use to ensure that aboriginal rights are protected. Perhaps not surprisingly, during our committee study when we were in the Yukon, the NDP member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing said it was paternalistic for the minister to try to protect aboriginal rights through policy direction. The NDP obviously does not want the minister to exercise the duty he has been given to protect aboriginal rights in Canada, calling that paternalistic. It is completely bizarre.
    I want to assure members that this power in no way detracts from the board's independence. YESAB will remain an impartial and independent arm's-length entity responsible for making recommendations to decision bodies.
    The legislative amendment also makes it clear that policy directions cannot be used to influence a specific project or change the environmental assessment process itself.
    It is for these reasons that I oppose the passage of Motion No. 10, and encourage other members to do the same.
    Another amendment of concern is the minister's ability to delegate certain powers in the act to a territorial minister. Some have suggested that this amendment is an attempt by this government to shirk its responsibilities to the Yukon first nations and is inconsistent with the tripartite nature of the land claim agreement.
     I want to be very clear that these concerns are completely unfounded. First of all, any delegation must be consistent with the UFA. Second, the Umbrella Final Agreement permits delegation. Specifically, the definition of “government” includes both the federal and territorial governments, depending on which government or governments have responsibility from time to time for the matter in question. Section 2.11.8 of the agreement states that “Government may determine, from time to time, how and by whom any power or authority of Government or a Minister set out in a Settlement Agreement...shall be exercised”.
    Not least of all, this measure is in keeping with our government's objective of devolving responsibility to the territories and moving decision-making closer to home. That is, away from Ottawa bureaucracy and right into the hands of Yukoners themselves.
    This legislation is clearly both needed and wanted north of 60. It satisfies calls to modernize northern regulatory regimes and ensure consistency with other regulatory regimes across the north and in the rest of Canada, while protecting the environment and strengthening northern governance.
    For all these reasons, I urge all-party support for this worthy act as it stands, and to reject all of the amendments to Bill S-6 that are before the House today.
    Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, who I have spent time with on committee.
    When the government put these four amendments in after the fact, after its major consultation process that took place over a considerable period of time, there was such an outcry from first nations. The fact is that first nations have now requested, and have requested over the previous number of months, that the minister sit down with them and see how they can work to come to some kind of agreement on these four amendments. Where has the minister been? Where has the government been in trying to work this out with the first nations?
    Why have the Conservatives been so intransigent about these four amendments, which are quite obviously not supported by the first nations who are an important and vital part of any process that takes place in the Yukon?

  (1230)  

    Mr. Speaker, of course the minister takes very seriously his obligation and his duty to consult with first nations. That is why, in the case of the Yukon first nations, there have been dozens of documented meetings where the four contentious amendments, as the member categorizes them, were discussed. In fact, nearly $100,000 was provided to the first nations to help them engage in that consultation process. They submitted receipts to the Government of Canada, which were paid based on their engagement with us on those particular measures.
    Obviously, we do not agree with their interpretation of those measures. The minister has met with the first nations and has repeatedly asked them to show him where these amendments contravene the Umbrella Final Agreement. To date, they have not done so.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate many of the comments the member has put on the record. I do not necessarily agree with them, especially when it comes to trying to give the impression that the current government has been very strong in developing and assisting in setting the social framework up north. To try to give the impression that it is the strongest in the history of Canada is somewhat fictitious at best, I would suggest.
    When we look at Bill S-6, we see there has been a great deal of resistance. A lot of that resistance is in the community itself that has raised a number of concerns, and the government has not responded to those concerns. It was not that long ago that I was talking to Larry Bagnell and other members who came to our northwestern caucus, in essence saying that they have strong reservations that the government is not being sensitive to the needs of the north, nor is it listening.
    Can the member explain to the constituents up north why the government has obviously not listened to our first nations, people of aboriginal heritage or many of our local communities who are trying to get the government to listen and make amendments that would make it better legislation?
    Mr. Speaker, I am happy that the hon. member brought up Larry Bagnell. When Larry Bagnell was speaking to constituents when he was the member for Yukon, he said he would go to Ottawa and vote against the long gun registry. What did he do? He came into this House and voted to maintain the long gun registry. Talk about not listening to constituents. That is why he is unemployed and why the member for Yukon now is a strong advocate for gun owners right across the north, a strong advocate for the aboriginal people in his community and the strongest representative that Yukon has had in 25 years.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the time I have been given today as we speak about this very important issue. I am not from the north; I am from Newfoundland and Labrador, but I proudly stand here to discuss this particular bill simply because it is very important to people in a land that is so vast and so rich in natural resources. There is a lot to talk about indeed, and it is a very important part of who we are as Canadians.
    This particular piece of legislation is the third in a suite of bills aimed at improving the regulatory regime in Canada's northern territories. Unfortunately, like most legislation the government introduces, the bill is being rammed through the House with only a limited debate. It was brought in without proper consultation with local communities and first nations, as has been discussed here in the past and certainly since debate started about 35 minutes ago.
    There is a growing feeling in the north that the changes being imposed by the Conservatives through Bill S-6 will endanger the independence and effectiveness of environmental assessments and that it will eventually end up before the courts.
    The objective of Bill S-6 is to update the regulatory regime in Yukon and Nunavut and align it with other regulatory regimes throughout Canada.
     Among other things, this legislation would introduce legislated time limits for environmental assessments. It would provide the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development with the authority to give binding policy directions to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board. It would also allow the delegation of any of the minister's powers, duties, and functions to the territorial minister by way of devolution; enable the government to develop cost-recovery regulatory measures; and reduce regulatory burdens by clarifying that a project need not undergo another assessment when a project authorization is to be renewed or amended, unless there is a significant change in the project. It would also introduce time limits for water licence reviews and allow for life-of-project water licences. It would also require the Nunavut Water Board to take into consideration agreements between Canada, regional Inuit associations, and proponents regarding posting of security to address the issue of over-bonding when more than one regulatory agency requires financial security for the same project.
    Unlike Bill C-47 and Bill C-15, the two other bills aimed at improving the regulatory regime in Canada's northern territories, this legislation was introduced in the Senate on June 3, 2014, by Yukon Senator Dan Lang.
    Some media reports indicate this particular piece of legislation may become a major issue in the next election, and some pundits question why the member of Parliament for Yukon was not the bill's sponsor. I am sure that over the next four or five months, he will have plenty of opportunity to answer that question and explain why the legislation was not amended when flaws were exposed and why there were no proper consultations with first nations, as many of my colleagues alluded to earlier in this debate.
    Unfortunately, one of the strongest criticisms of Bill S-6 was on the absence of any meaningful consultation. For instance, the Council of Yukon First Nations, which represents eleven self-governing first nations, has made it clear that the Conservative government's consultations for the bill were not adequate to merit its support.
    That is no surprise, as this particular government has a history of pushing through unwelcome changes in the territories.
    For instance, with Bill C-15 the Conservatives passed the Northwest Territories Devolution Act. While devolution was started under a Liberal government, and we strongly supported that process, the much larger second part of the bill included the introduction of the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, which shortened assessment timelines, reduced the role of first nations, and made it easier to approve projects that lacked local support. That was certainly a shame to many of the stakeholders involved and a shame to us here in this House.
    The proposed changes in Bill S-6, which we debate today, follow this path of a top-down, Ottawa-centred approach to dealing with the territories. That is the opposite of how Liberals approach northern development.

  (1235)  

    The Liberal Party of Canada believes that a sustainably developed resource sector is essential to the success of our economy and, if we get it right, will serve as an important foundation for future economic growth and job creation for middle-class Canadians. Our party supports developing resources in the north in a sustainable manner.
    Unlike the Conservatives, we recognize that unlocking this economic engine is contingent on environmental sustainability and on impacted aboriginal communities being treated as equal partners. That approach has not been followed in this case. Many people in Yukon and Nunavut believe that Bill S-6 would have a negative impact on their lives and their communities, and they are upset with what the government is trying to pass off as what it considers to be meaningful consultation.
    Here is what Grand Chief Ruth Massie of the Council of Yukon First Nations told the committee when it held hearings on the legislation in the north. She said:
    The federal government's approach on Bill S-6 is a roadblock to reconciliation. Participants in mining, tourism, and other industries are concerned about how Bill S-6 might adversely affect the future for resource development in Yukon.
    Grand Chief Massie went on to say that all eleven self-governing nations on the council unanimously oppose four provisions in the legislation. She said:
    We oppose giving the minister full power to issue binding policy direction to the YESAB as proposed in clause 34 of Bill S-6....
    On timelines, we oppose the establishment of beginning-to-end timelines for assessments conducted under YESAA.
    On exemption from assessment for project renewals and amendments, we oppose the proposed exemption from assessment for renewals and amendments of licences and permits as proposed in clause 14 of Bill S-6.
    Clearly there are issues with this legislation and clearly it is not just first nations communities that are concerned. Allison Rippin Armstrong, vice-president of lands and environment at Kaminak Gold Corporation, is worried that Bill S-6 may put a chill on investment in the north. Kaminak, a Canadian exploration company that has owned and explored mineral properties in all three territories, wants an accessible and stable regulatory regime. However, Ms. Rippin Armstrong told the committee that her company is worried that the process through which YESAA would be amended is creating increased distrust and the potential for legal action.
    Here is her testimony. She said:
    Kaminak is very concerned about this development, because court cases create assessment and regulatory uncertainty in addition to extraordinary delay, all of which erodes investor confidence.
    She went on to tell the committee once again that:
    Our Coffee gold project has yet to enter the YESAA process. If Bill S-6 is passed and challenged in court, the Coffee gold project and our presence in Yukon is uncertain. Kaminak urges the federal government to resume discussions with the first nations to work collectively toward reaching consensus on the proposed amendments to YESAA and avoid a court challenge.
    That is good advice, but it went unheard. Why is the Conservative government not listening to what it is being told and fixing the flaws in this bill? It is obvious that members on the opposite side believe they can unilaterally impose the government's will on the north.
    As my colleague from Labrador said when she spoke on Bill S-6, history has already demonstrated that resource development can be environmentally conscious, while also finding trilateral support among aboriginal governments, territorial and federal governments, and the local communities. This, indeed, is the only way to move forward with resource development. It is not just a moral obligation; it is, truly, a legal one.
    The member for Labrador was correct when she said:
    Unfortunately, despite spending years of working with Yukon first nations on a comprehensive review of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, the federal government blindsided them earlier this year with a number of key changes that are contained in this bill and were not discussed throughout the process.
    If the Conservative government persists in ramming these changes through, many observers believe that they will only create more local uncertainty and jeopardize development of the north.

  (1240)  

    Samson Hartland, the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines, noted his organization enjoys a positive, constructive relationship. He told the committee that the chamber's 400 members want all levels of government to move toward a more respectful dialogue.
    We must return to the original, respectful, and collaborative partnership with all aboriginal communities, including recognition of their inherent and treaty rights.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member reading his speech which, I am assuming, had some input from the member for Labrador, who was actually at the committee hearings in Yukon.
    I am a little perplexed, though. He represented the Liberals' report stage lead speech, and Liberals expressed a number of concerns, but they did not move any amendments at report stage. In fact, amendments were moved by the official opposition and the leader of the Green Party, but those did go forward.
    My question is this: why did the Liberals not move any amendments? In committee, they were okay with the ideas of time limits and significant change, two of the four amendments that he referenced.

  (1245)  

    Mr. Speaker, the irony is that the member asks his question under the assumption that these amendments are normally approved by the current majority government. Unfortunately, that is not the case. We talked about consultation in the committee process that took place and, of course, about the lack of consultation. There is a duty to consult, which has not been sufficient, by any stretch of the imagination, over the past number of years. Since the Conservatives came into power in 2006, we have seen scant evidence that this was actually happening. Here is yet another case.
    I quoted several individuals from the private sector who are quite concerned about this in terms of investor confidence. That is in addition to first nations leaders, who also talked about the environmental regulatory regime that is being undermined. It goes on and on.
    Again I go back to the point that if we think about this, what ails all of the people involved in the committee process really could have been dealt with up front. It could have been dealt with in a meaningful conversation or, in this case, consultation could have taken place to justify some of the changes that could have been made.
    Mr. Speaker, New Democrats share the concerns that my friend has raised about consultation or the lack of it, but what is a little surprising to me is that the people of the north were asking for the Senate committee to go there for consultations, but the Liberals in the Senate did not support it. I am wondering if the member could enlighten us as to why.
    Mr. Speaker, the member will have to ask those particular senators.
    Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Liberal Party has been a very strong advocate for the economic and social development in northern Canada. My question to my colleague is with regard to the importance of having that development, the impact it would have not only on today's generation but on future generations, and how important it is that we not only work with people who live in the community but actually listen to what they are saying, because they have the first-hand experience and are on the ground. If we do the job right the first time, everyone in Canada would win.
    I wonder if the member would like to comment on the importance of working with people.
    Mr. Speaker, there has been some talk lately about devolution, not only in Bill S-6 but also in Bill C-15. We talked about the devolution of powers to communities. In order to truly devolve powers so that it is fundamentally good for the communities, the communities have to be involved and feel that they are part of the process, whether it is government to government or trilaterally, as the member for Labrador pointed out.
    Finally, I would like to point out a statement from Mr. Hartland, of whom I spoke earlier and who is with the Yukon Chamber of Mines. He said:
...as an industry organization we would be remiss if we did not articulate a concern from industry that the erosion of intergovernmental relations among parties...over Bill S-6 is creating a level of uncertainty that affects the attractiveness of Yukon as a jurisdiction to invest in.
    This particular individual is on the ground. He is in the chamber in Yukon and knows whereof he speaks.
    Therefore, as my colleague points out, if we are devolving powers to a group of people, we should probably do it in a manner that suits the people receiving the devolution.
    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak to this legislation. After years of review and consultation with first nations and other northerners, with the legislation proposed in Bill S-6 we can now move forward with improvements to northern regulatory regimes. These improvements will yield long-term benefits for individuals and businesses in Yukon and Nunavut.
    I am a strong believer that northerners should benefit from the tremendous natural resources found in their region. Bill S-6 contains critical amendments to northern regulatory regimes that would ensure that northerners benefit from their resources. These amendments would bring both Yukon and Nunavut's regulatory systems in line with that of the Northwest Territories and the rest of Canada. This would ensure that the territories remained a competitive and attractive place to work, live, and invest for generations to come and that northern families had opportunities to grow and prosper.
    I want to focus on several changes in Bill S-6 that would modernize the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, called YESAA for short, which would enable us to make progress on both fronts.
    The goal of the proposed legislation is to consider the potential effects that proposed development could have on Yukon's environment, people, communities, and economy.
    The Honourable Darrell Pasloski, Premier of Yukon, said:
...it is becoming increasingly clear that changes to this legislation before you today are essential in order for Yukon to remain a competitive place to do business.
    This work is overseen by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, whose mission is to protect the environmental and social integrity of Yukon while fostering responsible development in the territory, responsible development that reflects the values of Yukoners and respects the contributions of first nations.
     I would like to focus my remarks today on one portion of the bill. It is the provision that would allow the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to issue policy direction to the YESAA board.
    The proposed legislation would enable the minister, following consultation with the board, to provide binding policy direction with respect to the exercise or performance of its powers, duties, or functions. This has raised concerns in some quarters that it would give the federal government authority to impose its own policies on projects on first nation settlement land. I can assure members that this is not the intention of the amendment nor the way it has been used in practice. In reality, policy directions have been used to add clarity and to ensure that all parties are on the same page with respect to existing laws.
    The reason the change is being proposed is to ensure a common understanding between the Government of Canada and the board. For example, the minister could use policy direction to communicate expectations regarding the use of new technologies to mitigate environmental impacts or expectations regarding roles and responsibilities related to aboriginal consultation. This clarification would reduce uncertainty and delays in environmental assessment decision-making.
    In recognition of the board's independence, there would be strict limits on the minister's ability to provide policy direction. To be precise, policy direction would have to be consistent with YESAA and with the Umbrella Final Agreement. In fact, YESAA states that first nations' final agreements will prevail in the event of an inconsistency or conflict. Furthermore, policy direction could not interfere with active or completed reviews, again because the board operates at arm's length from government.
    To be clear, policy direction could not change the environmental assessment process itself. In fact, Bill S-6 explicitly states that policy directions do not apply to project proposals that have already been submitted to the board.
     It is also important to note that the ability to issue policy direction is not without precedent. In fact, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development already holds the ability to issue policy direction to the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board in the Northwest Territories. With respect to this board, policy direction has only ever been used four times, and each time it was to ensure that the board respected and upheld interim agreements the Government of Canada held with aboriginal groups.

  (1250)  

    In short, policy direction has only been used to provide additional protection for aboriginals.
    Clearly, this is an important amendment to Bill S-6. The ability to ensure a common understanding by the government and the YESAA board, particularly with respect to aboriginal rights, is essential. Unfortunately, the opposition would remove this power from the bill.
    This government understands the importance of protecting aboriginal rights, which is why I strongly oppose Motion No. 10, and I would encourage the rest of the House to join me in rejecting it.
    A second, related feature of this proposed legislation I want to comment on is the delegation of federal powers to the Government of Yukon. The Umbrella Final Agreement defines government as:
    Canada or the Yukon, or both, depending upon which government or governments have responsibility, from time to time, for the matter in question.
     The delegation of federal powers to the Government of Yukon is consistent with the final agreements and with the governance regime in Yukon post-devolution. In fact, section 2.11.8 of the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement states:
     Government may determine, from time to time, how and by whom any power or authority of Government or a Minister set out in a Settlement Agreement...shall be exercised.
    Moreover, the principle behind this delegation, that decisions about northern governance are best made in the north, is consistent with our government's northern strategy. In fact, just last year, our government brought into force Bill C-15, which devolved all responsibility for lands and resources out of Ottawa and back to the territorial governments.
    This, in short, is why I believe that the ability to delegate authority to the Government of Yukon is an integral component of Bill S-6 and why I am so disappointed to see the Green Party oppose this clause. I strongly oppose the passage of that motion, and I hope that all members of the House join me in voting against it.
    The opposition actually supported that initiative when it was before the House, but now they are opposing the very same principle when implemented in the Yukon.
    I remind my hon. colleagues that the amendments to YESAA proposed in Bill S-6 address agreed upon recommendations from the five-year review or have been directly requested by the Government of Yukon so that the act can better serve all residents of Yukon, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike. As well, the proposed amendments incorporate suggestions made during the various rounds of review and consultation.
     I also want to underline that all parties have improved the legislation before us during the years of consultation and I want to reinforce that the legislation in no way compromises the integrity of YESAA or conflicts with the provisions or nature of the Umbrella Final Agreement.
     For these reasons, government members are confident that Bill S-6, including the carefully constructed amendments to introduce policy direction and delegation in YESAA, fully considers the needs and interests of all northerners.
    I strongly believe that the ability of the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to issue policy direction to YESAB and to delegate authority to the Government of Yukon is an essential portion of this bill. Unfortunately, the opposition would like to see both clauses removed. I am asking all hon. colleagues to join me in defeating the motions and moving Bill S-6 forward as it stands.

  (1255)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Red Deer for his speech, for everything he is doing on aboriginal affairs, and for how he is moving this file forward.
    I wonder if the member could explain to the House how this will improve economic development in Yukon as this bill moves through the House.
    Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity a number of years ago, when I was first on the aboriginal affairs and northern development committee, to go to the north. We were in Iqaluit, Yellowknife, and Whitehorse. I had a chance to speak to different groups and different organizations.
    The study was on barriers to development in the north. While we were there, this was one of the key, important features people were talking about. They said to give them that opportunity. They said that they had great entrepreneurs there and did not want to be held back. They wanted to be able to have the same advantages as the people south of 60. It was so important for them to be able to do that to help their families.
    When we were talking to folks about what these barriers were, these were some of the key components that were being brought forward.
    Mr. Speaker, we recognize the importance of economic development. I have made reference to that in previous questions. It is something we want to see. However, we also recognize the important role the community itself plays.
    Can the member provide some thoughts on the importance of trying to build consensus and whether he genuinely believes that consensus was achieved, given the amount of resistance coming from the community, from what I understand, at the ground level and the many stakeholders being somewhat critical? The aboriginal people and other communities have been very vocal about a number of concerns in regard to the legislation. To what degree does the member believe that the government was able to achieve an actual consensus?

  (1300)  

    Mr. Speaker, of course, as the member knows, the consultations were all consistent with the Umbrella Final Agreement, so all of the discussions were taking place within that framework.
    I remember earlier that the parliamentary secretary was speaking of the $100,000 that was there to help the consultations take place. Critical to this, as well, is recognizing that the Government of Canada, as far as policy directives are concerned, has been in support of our aboriginal groups in the north. That is a critical component. Sometimes we hear that we are giving this opportunity for other things and for negative things to occur, because it is easier to talk that way. However, when we look at the practicality and the actual things the government has been doing with the northerners, it has been to protect. Whether it has been environmental issues or aboriginal wishes and concerns to help their communities, there has been great support from our government.
    Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure and a certain amount of emotion that I speak to Bill S-6. My heart has a soft spot for Yukon and its people.
    In 1976, I first went to Yukon to undertake a study on the feasibility of expanding youth hostels. For those of us who remember the late 1970s, it was a time of youth migration across this great country. My task was to see if we could set up a network of centres or hostels to accommodate these young people. That was my first opportunity to visit this magnificent area of Canada. I went for a few months and stayed for five years, perhaps the happiest and most rewarding of my life.
    My next job involved working with the Yukon recreation branch, which at that time came under the Department of Education. The minister at the time, a current senator for Yukon, was Senator Dan Lang. I fondly remember spending time in his office trying to get support for various initiatives that our branch was working on. Now we see each other occasionally on flights to and from Ottawa. However, unfortunately we do not agree on Bill S-6.
    One of the initiatives that I had the pleasure of working on, an idea that came from the director of recreation at that time, Barry Robb, was that of implementing a network of territory-wide recreation and advisory boards that would be all inclusive. We tried and were successful in involving all communities, with first nation participation as equals, helping to break down some of the barriers that existed at that time.
    What is puzzling is that this type of consultation process has apparently been lacking in regard to the bill before us. As I read my notes, I find it very troubling that the Conservative government is once again attempting to ram its ideologically driven agenda through without taking into account the needs of all citizens of Yukon.
    Yukon is a majestic area with an extraordinary landscape, wide open spaces unequalled anywhere in the world, and with a dynamic proud people. While there, I spent many hours visiting various communities, from Dawson City to Watson Lake. I even had the pleasure of flying into Old Crow in the Arctic Circle. At that time, we had functioning mines in Elsa and Faro. I even spent a few months working as recreation direction in Elsa.
    Bill S-6 would unilaterally rework Yukon's environmental and socio-economic evaluation system, a system which is a product of the Umbrella Final Agreement, which settled most of the first nations land claims in the territory. The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, YESAA, is a made-in-Yukon solution to the unique environmental and social circumstances of the territory.
     It is clear to see that the changes proposed in Bill S-6 are being driven by what I would call the corporate agenda of southern resource development companies. The bill would dismantle the environmental and socio-economic assessment process developed in Yukon, by Yukoners for Yukon.
    In my opinion, it is part of the Conservative ideologically driven agenda to systematically weaken environmental protection legislation, with no public consultation, little or no parliamentary security, and often being buried in omnibus budget legislation. Some examples of weakened environmental laws include the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Fisheries Act, navigable waters protection act, and Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.
    It is interesting to note that four former fisheries ministers, three of them Conservative, have been highly critical of the gutting of the Fisheries Act by the current Conservative government. I would like to recognize one of these individuals, the hon. Tom Siddon, who continues to serve his constituents as a director with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.
    As I mentioned earlier, there was incomplete consultation with Yukon first nations before these amendments were made. I find it hard to believe that there was no public process while developing these amendments. At the same time, non-Yukon stakeholders, including the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, Mining Association of Canada, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, and the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association were allowed input.
    It appears as if the Yukon government, with support from the Conservative MP and senator, pushed this deal through in spite of considerable opposition to the changes from Yukoners and the Council of Yukon First Nations. In other words, these amendments favour the Yukon government over the Yukon first nations, the other partner in the YESAA process.

  (1305)  

    There should not be this kind of division. What is more, the Council of Yukon First Nations has threatened legal action should the bill become law. Ironically, instead of favouring development, Bill S-6 could wind up slowing it down.
    Let us listen to what Allison Rippin Armstrong, vice-president of lands and environment at Kaminak Gold Corporation has to say:
...Kaminak is concerned that the process through which YESAA is being amended is creating distrust between governments and uncertainty in the assessment and regulatory process for current and future projects in Yukon.
    Specifically, the YESAA five-year review resulted in a number of recommendations, most of which were supported by the parties involved in the review, including Yukon first nations. We understand that some of the proposed amendments do not accurately reflect comments and recommendations raised during the five-year review, and as a result, instead of celebrating a historic alignment between the governments and the Yukon first nations on most of the proposed amendments to YESAA, Yukon first nations have expressed a common position that they intend to take the federal government to court, if Bill S-6 is passed as proposed.
    Kaminak is very concerned about this development, because court cases create assessments and regulatory uncertainty in addition to extraordinary delay, all of which erodes investor confidence.
    In these difficult economic times, why would any government even consider implementing measures that would encourage economic uncertainty? It would seem to me that a stable environment supported by first nations should be a necessary prerequisite to any shift in policy.
    Former Yukon MP Larry Bagnell spoke in the House to the original bill creating YESAA on October 21, 2002. He said:
     Much of that time has been spent in consultation with stakeholder groups and, as a result, we have a much better bill and much better process than might otherwise be the case. First nations in particular will have a more meaningful role in assessments in Yukon.
    It is safe to say that virtually everyone in Yukon had an opportunity to comment on the bill and many did.
    Larry talked about how the department released drafts of the legislation in 1998 and 2001 for public review and undertook two separate tours to meet with first nations and other residents to review and discuss these drafts. He went on to say:
     This took time, but it was time well spent. Those in Yukon who participated believe the process was inclusive, transparent and worthwhile.
    Why is it that a former Liberal majority government made an effort to adequately consult prior to introducing legislation where our current conservative regime has chosen to disregard the democratic process?
    Speaking of the lack of respect for democracy, one only has to look at how the Canadian Wheat Board was gutted in spite of support for the single desk by over 60% of farmers, or the complete rejection of over 20 amendments proposed by the NDP and Liberals to strengthen the food safety act, Bill S-11, or most recently the way that Bill C-51 was rammed through, in spite of the fact that knowledgeable witnesses spoke out against these draconian measures. Clearly Canadians are asking for a change. This will happen in October, but sorry for that digression.
    Ruth Massie, Grand Chief, Council of Yukon First Nations said this when appearing before the Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources:
     Pursuant to the UFA, the CYFN, including Yukon First Nations, Canada and Yukon undertook a comprehensive review of YESAA. Initially, CYFN, Yukon First Nations, Canada and Yukon worked collaboratively to prepare the interim YESAA review report. In the end, Canada unilaterally finalized the report and systematically rejected the input from the CYFN and Yukon First Nations.
    The proposed amendments in front of the Senate today were not discussed in the five-year review process with Canada and the Yukon government.

  (1310)  

    Mary Jane Jim, councillor, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, said:
...it is our view that YESAA has been operating effectively and efficiently since its enactment in 2003. The federal government now works to unilaterally make additional amendments to the YESAA. We did not request these amendments, nor do we support them. These amendments are not necessary.
    Let me close by saying that I believe this is not a good precedent in these difficult times. I urge all members of the House to reject this flawed piece of legislation.
    Mr. Speaker, I think we can all agree in this House about the beauty of the Yukon and the potential opportunity for the people who live there, and for economic development, if it is done the right way. What we are proposing in the bill are ways to make that happen.
    One of the issues that the member mentioned was policy direction, and I want to hone in on that specifically. The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs has the right to set binding policy direction in the Northwest Territories. This minister has never used it; previous ministers have used it to protect aboriginal rights.
    When we were in Yukon, the member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing said protecting aboriginal rights, though the minister did it through binding policy direction, was actually “paternalistic”.
    Does the member agree that protecting aboriginal rights is paternalistic? Why does he want to take away the minister's ability to protect aboriginal rights by supporting Motion No. 10, which would take away policy direction?
    Mr. Speaker, that is a logical question. However, if we look at the process and see that one group of people, namely the first nations in Yukon, do not agree with that, then in my mind that should trigger that there is something wrong. It then becomes another top-heavy federal government decision that people are not supporting. There is something wrong with it.
    Obviously the protection should be there, but it should be worked out and agreed upon by all stakeholders. In reading my notes and discussing the bill, my conclusion is that has not happened, and that is one of the flaws of the amendments on this piece of legislation.

  (1315)  

    Mr. Speaker, I suspect the member's assessment that it has not happened is quite correct. I posed a question to the former Conservative speaker in terms of whether he felt that the government was successful at achieving a consensus, and he did not indicate that the government had achieved that consensus.
    Given the importance of the legislation we are debating here today, would he not agree—and in listening to his comments, I am sure he would, so it would allow him to embellish on some of his earlier comments—on how important this is when we are dealing with regional economic type of bills that would affect the lives of all northerners, and the environment, economic development, and so forth? Has the government missed an opportunity to bring forward legislation in which there could have been a much broader consensus so that everyone would be feeling part of something, as opposed to it coming down from Ottawa?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my Liberal colleague for his excellent question. I have notes here that I have not had a chance to talk about, such as various stakeholders who believe that this consensus, this consultation, did not take place. One of them is Mr. Felix Geithner, director, Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon. He said:
     The most pertinent question isn't why Bill S-6 should be prevented from being passed but why was it ever put forward in the first place, in its current form?
    He goes on to say:
    The reason he provided for introducing a bill that proposes sweeping changes to a fundamental part of this regulatory regime was the need to involve and maintain a competitive and predictable regulatory system.
    However, this is not what is taking place. In fact, it is just the opposite.
    We have already heard what Ms. Allison Rippin Armstrong of Kaminak Gold Corporation said. I did not have a chance to talk about Chief Steve Smith of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, or Ms. Wendy Randall, chair and executive committee member of the Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Assessment Board, or Chief Angela Demit, and we could go on and on.
    There is a groundswell of opposition to these amendments and this bill, so why on earth would the current government even consider putting this legislation forward?
    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today. As chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, it is particularly important for me to have the opportunity to speak to Bill S-6 today at report stage.
    As chair of the committee, I had the privilege of travelling to Whitehorse with the committee to hear directly from Yukoners about the legislation. From this experience, it is clear to me that Bill S-6 certainly has the potential to have a profound impact on the economic development in Yukon and Nunavut. I am proud to have a chance to explain to the House why I believe this to be the case.
    Our Conservative government takes great pride in our commitment to Canada's north. In fact, our northern strategy has increased funding for infrastructure, protected Canada's Arctic sovereignty and had ensured that we remain a world leader in northern science and technology. A large part of this strategy involves our work to improve northern regulatory regimes.
    Improving the regulatory process in the north is something that our government has been working on and accomplishing since we came into office. Improvements began through the Northern Jobs and Growth Act, continued in the Northwest Territories through the Northwest Territories Devolution Act, and will be completed by strengthening regulatory regimes in Yukon and Nunavut.
     Bill S-6 would strengthen these regimes by making effected regulatory frameworks strong, effective, efficient and predictable.
    Let me quote the Hon. Darrell Pasloski, the Premier of Yukon, who said:
    The amended legislation will be more consistent with other Canadian jurisdictions and will put Yukon in a stronger competitive position to achieve more economic growth, jobs and prosperity for all Yukoners.
    That is a clear statement.
     The changes proposed in this bill will encourage resource development and ensure sound environmental stewardship. In the case of Yukon, Bill S-6 would make a number of improvements to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, commonly referred to as YESAA.
     The first of these changes I will discuss is the implementation of the principle of “one project, one assessment”. If passed, Bill S-6 will ensure that a new assessment of an existing project will only be required if there has been a significant modification to the project as it was originally assessed. This will certainly reduce duplication of work for proponents and evaluators, while retaining the integrity of the environmental assessment. This is the sort of practical approach that demonstrates our government is protecting Canada's environmental heritage.
     It is for this reason that I strongly oppose Motion No. 4. I encourage other members to do the same. The member for the Northwest Territories who proposes to remove this principle from Bill S-6 only provides further proof that a New Democratic government would hinder future economic development in Yukon and all across the North. .
    In addition to the introduction of the “one project, one assessment” principle, I would like to take this opportunity to discuss how the bill would further improve the regulatory system and drive economic development in Yukon.
    Bill S-6 would introduce to YESAA beginning-to-end legislative timelines for environmental assessments. This would align the territory's regime with other federal environmental assessment laws across the north and in the rest of Canada.
     Regulations under YESAA already set out certain time limits for decision time making, and Bill S-6 would enshrine these in legislation. These legislated time limits are an effective way to provide predictability and certainty for proponents, regulators, governments and first nations, without sacrificing the integrity of the evaluation process and safeguarding environmental protection.
    I believe the motions regarding the removal of timelines in Bill S-6, specifically Motions Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 8 proposed by the member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories, would actually hinder economic development and growth in Yukon. Passing these motions and removing the associated clauses will prevent important regulatory improvements from coming into force.
    Our government understands that timelines will improve proponent and investor confidence, provide certainty and consistency to the regulatory process and will ensure efficiency at all stages.

  (1320)  

    The time limits introduced in Bill S-6 would improve proponent and investor confidence, provide consistency and transparency to the process and gain efficiency at all stages of the process. We know from other jurisdictions that these are all vital pieces of an effective regulatory regime and that they will help to drive economic development in Yukon. Ensuring timely decision making can have a significant impact on the well-being of northern communities.
     In a highly competitive global marketplace, businesses need assurance of when their projects will move from approvals to the construction phase, and not be delayed unnecessarily by the duplication of regulatory processes. Too many delays may make a proponent look elsewhere, which means a community or first nation could see an opportunity pass by.
    The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources heard these same arguments last fall from industry and territorial government witnesses commenting on Bill S-6. For example, Samson Hartland, executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines, described the introduction of time limits as:
—probably the most important aspect of this bill to our membership. The definitive beginning-to-end timelines create certainty and allow for consistency from coast to coast to coast for proponents, regardless of where they are doing business — in the Yukon or N.W.T. It is so important for proponents to have consistency and regularity when dealing with and preparing for their project activities.
    The time limits contained in Bill S-6 would provide proponents with that consistency, which would lay the ground work for economic growth and development in Yukon. This is why I strongly oppose the passage of Motions Nos. 5, 6, 7, and 8. Despite being well aware that this legislation would benefit Yukon, the opposition continues to ignore residents in Canada's westernmost territory. Fortunately, the member of Parliament for Yukon is working hard to provide Yukoners with the best representation they have had in years.
    While I object to all of the motions that the opposition has brought forward today, I take particular exception to Motion No. 5, which would remove time limits for designated office assessments. Moreover, it would also prevent the inclusion of the concept of reasonably foreseeable activities in the scope of cumulative effects of projects. While this may appear to be a very technical point, it is important to remember that this concept was actually a recommendation from the YESAA five-year review that was agreed to by Canada, the Government of Yukon and Yukon first nations. Removing provisions of the bill that have been jointly agreed to by all three parties to the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement represents a step backward in Canada's relationship with the first nations of Yukon.
    These regulatory improvements would create the certainty and predictability needed for responsible resource development projects to proceed. Our government is committed to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity in the north. The legislation before the House today would play a large role in achieving these outcomes by simultaneously driving economic development and protecting Canada's environmental heritage.
    I urge members from all parties to support Bill S-6 as it stands now, and to reject Motions Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 8.

  (1325)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member talked about support from the people of Yukon, but the director of the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon is on record objecting to this legislation, saying that the existing rules have been a model for the country and now we have something going on, which would change the arrangements that have existed for some time. He says:
    From TIA Yukon's perspective, Bill S-6 is a shoddy piece of legislation that sows discord rather than the certainty it sets out to create. More than this, the proponents of this bill have set an adversarial tone in Yukon with Yukon first nations and a number of key organizations and businesses through their attempt to ram it through without adequate consultation. Consultation requires twoway communication. If one party doesn't believe that there was adequate consultation, then there was not adequate consultation.
    I could read other quotes from industry players from mining operations, people who are quite dissatisfied with this process, that the certainty the bill claims will not arrive and will, in fact, make things worse and not better. What does the member have to say to that?
    Mr. Speaker, the best response I could provide the member would certainly be to ask him the question. What do he and his party have against the idea of greater powers and certainty in the processes and devolution of the ability to make these decisions at the local level? I cannot possibly imagine what opposition they would have to that. Certainly, in my mind, creating better predictability, better certainty and proper timelines around this would give proper confidence to industry and also to Yukoners and first nations alike, an opportunity to make the decisions about what should move forward in their territory at the local level.
    Since he wants to throw quotes around, I want to remind him of a quote I have already read in the House, a very important one in my mind, by the premier of Yukon, who was very clear when he stated:
    The amended legislation will be more consistent with other Canadian jurisdictions and will put Yukon in a stronger competitive position to achieve more economic growth, jobs and prosperity for all Yukoners
    It is a very clear statement and I cannot imagine what the NDP could possibly have against the idea of more economic growth, more jobs and more prosperity for Yukoners.

  (1330)  

    Mr. Speaker, those were interesting comments from the member. He tried to turn the question around. If he wants to talk about the issue of devolution, Jean Chrétien did far more in working with the different stakeholders in trying to build consensus toward devolution.
    My question for the member is the one that was just posed for the member with regard to consensus. In fact, the government has been unable to achieve a consensus within the community, which would have enabled better legislation. Why has the government been unable to achieve the consensus?
    I will give a two-part response to that, Mr. Speaker.
    First, the member made some assertion about the previous Liberal government and what it had done for the north. I know all northerners are quite well aware of the fact that no government in Canadian history has done more for the north than this government under our Prime Minister. This legislation is further proof of that. We are talking about creating conditions that would encourage investment, that would lead to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for Yukoners, those in Nunavut, and northerners alike.
    I find it really troublesome to hear those kinds of claims from the other side, that they oppose the ability for northerners to see that kind of certainty, predictability, and the opportunities for jobs and growth. It obviously concerns me that all opposition parties would oppose something that would do so much for the north. It is further proof that this government will do what is necessary to ensure the north has the opportunity to have jobs, growth and prosperity.
    The member attempted to cast some kind of doubt on the fact that a lot of consultation took place. As the chair of the committee, a considerable amount of time was spent by the committee hearing from witnesses and people through Yukon, a large number of witnesses, and had all kinds of opportunities to consult. A lot of consultation took place prior to that. Therefore, to indicate there was no consultation is an absolute farce.
    Our government will continue to work to ensure jobs, growth and economic prosperity for all Yukoners and all across the north.
    It is a bill that arises out of fulfilment of the obligation of the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement on the one hand and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement on the other hand, because two acts are amended in this legislation. The Nunavut one is less controversial. In fact, there is no serious objection to it, but the Yukon one is quite different.
    Let me say first, there is a bad history of the Government of Canada, both Liberal and Conservative, in dealing with agreements that had been signed with aboriginal peoples in the Northwest Territories, in the north in general. The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement was signed in 1993 by the Liberal government. In very short order, a failure to actually carry out the terms of the agreement ultimately led to a court case that went on for years and years and was only settled in the last month or two by the present government, which had resisted settling that since it has been around in 2006.
    We have a history of not honouring the agreements that have been signed. In this case, the Yukon umbrella agreement was signed and part of it was put into place under the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement. The five-year review was scheduled to be held, initiated in 2007 and completed in 2012. The agreement was never made public because of a disagreement. The final consultations took place on this, but the amendments that are put forth to establish an assessment process were never discussed with the people of the Yukon.
    We now have what is being called by Yukoners an imposed agreement dismantling the environment and socio-economic assessment process, which was developed in the Yukon by Yukoners for the Yukon. The message we are getting from the people of the Yukon is that the Conservative government, with the full assistance of the Yukon MP and the senator for Yukon, is forcing a pro-southern resource company agenda unilaterally down the throats of Yukoners.
    That is the assessment that we have, based on what we are hearing from the people of the Yukon in terms of the level of consultation, the failure to listen to what they were told, the failure to actually consult them and actually running roughshod over the arrangements that had been made between the aboriginal peoples of the Yukon and the Government of Canada in the establishment of this process.
    There are significant concerns about the following amendments that are being imposed here, one which would provide the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development with the authority to provide binding policy direction to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board. This is a supposedly independent board that came about as a result of discussions and negotiations out of the land claims agreement and the Final Umbrella Agreement, and now we would have the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development make binding policy directives.
    How does that maintain the relationship between the aboriginal people, the Yukon government and the Government of Canada in this particular process?
    It has been said here that it is only to ensure that the aboriginal rights are being protected, but that is not what the legislation says. It says that the minister is given this unilateral power to make this decision.
    There is also a provision to introduce legislative time limits for assessments. There is no real necessity for that. In fact, as has been expressed by people who are very familiar with the process, that kind of approach of applying a beginning-to-end timeline was objected to, which is interesting, because we would think that a timeline would actually speed up the consultation and assessment process.

  (1335)  

    For example, Millie Olsen, Deputy Chief of First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun, said:
    YESAA currently has timelines for assessors to review each iteration. This approach encourages proponents to prepare comprehensive applications that minimize iterations. Proponents who prepare adequate applications quickly are rewarded under the current process because they can proceed quickly.
    On the other hand, the Bill S-6 approach of applying a beginning-to-end timeline will reward proponents who prolong the adequacy review phase by using up time with multiple iterations. The approach will penalize assessors and reviewers like first nations because it will shorten the most important public review phase, infringing on our right for comprehensive reviews of projects.
    That is how the distortion and arguments occur, where the proponents of Bill S-6 say there will be timelines for certainty but the timelines actually serve to choke off public consultation and prevent the actual meat of the review process, which is consultation with the aboriginal people. That is obviously nefarious. In fact, Mr. Felix Geithner, Director of the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon, called Bill S-6 “a shoddy piece of legislation”. He said it:
...sows discord rather than the certainty it sets out to create. More than this, the proponents of this bill have set an adversarial tone in Yukon with Yukon first nations and a number of key organizations and businesses....
    Therefore, when we are talking about legislation that is supposed to be designed to improve things, actually going the other way, which comes from Ottawa, not from Yukoners themselves, then we know there is a problem with Bill S-6.
    Why is it called Bill S-6? It is because it originated in the other place. I do not know why the legislation is coming here from the Senate. Why is it not coming from the House of Commons? It is appalling that we have a system where the Senate of Canada is initiating legislation and we get it afterward. It has done the sober second thought first. I am not sure how that works. What are we doing? We are doing the sober second thought on the Senate.

  (1340)  

    Who elected them?
    Who elected them, Mr. Speaker? That is a very good question. I think one person elected all of them, or 59 of them anyway. There were various other people who elected the others.
    I will not dwell on that, but I just wanted to point out that what we are dealing with here is Senate legislation.
    We have heard objections. We had this from Chief Angela Demit, chief of the White River First Nation, who said:
    We participated in meetings with Canada about the changes to YESAA. Through that experience we have understood that the changes being proposed by Canada have much more to do with an agenda made in Ottawa than with the recommendations that came out of the YESAA five-year review process.
    These are the kinds of comments we are getting.
    Chief Doris Bill, chief of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation said:
     Providing a single party with authority to direct the board is fundamentally inconsistent with any legislation that stems from our tripartite treaties. While the treaties obligate Canada to enact YESAA, it does not own YESAA and cannot choose to dictate its own policies on the independent assessment body.
    Why is this being done? It is obviously being done to control the board and the process, not to ensure that the agreement has been fulfilled. It would create broad exemptions from YESAA for renewals and amendments of permits of authorizations. Once a permit exemption is granted it cannot be amended, fixed or changed. That is tying people's hands and not giving them the authority they have.
    I note that my time is quickly up, but I am prepared to entertain any questions.
    If those four provisions were removed from the bill I am told by the critic responsible we would pass the bill. Therefore, it can be fixed. Why do we not just fix it here and pass the bill with the amendments?
    Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House we are interested in economic development and certainly the Yukon has vast mineral resources. We saw a report that came out this year that Yukon has slipped in terms of its competitiveness among the worldwide mining attractiveness jurisdictions. It was first when devolution occurred and is down to ninth now. The report cited that because of an unpredictable regulatory regime, it had fallen behind the rest of Canada even, in terms of competitiveness.
    Is that something that concerns the member and if so would he not agree that this bill addresses that and we should pass it as soon as possible?
    Mr. Speaker, of course we agree with having a proper process, but one that allows for development and proper assessment. The problem we have here is that the Government of Canada is taking an approach that overrides the participation of the aboriginal people in this process over their objections, creating uncertainty. It does not solve the problem because it creates further uncertainty. We have representatives of the Yukon industry and communities in general saying that this would create more uncertainty and in fact would hurt what is happening.
    The proper solution here is to have adequate consultation to ensure that the process is fixed. If the Conservatives are not willing to do that, then they should not be imposing this against the rights of the aboriginal people who participated in the process to create this board in the first place.
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Wild Rose raised the issue about the significance of any adverse community, environmental or socio-economic effects that have occurred or might occur in conjunction with the project, and that this section was removed by our amendments. However, that is actually clause 9 in the bill and it still remains.
    Could my colleague comment on why the Conservative government might be trying to create some kind of doubt about the nature of our amendments at this time and trying to mislead the House about what we have taken out in these amendments?

  (1345)  

    Mr. Speaker, obviously that is a common tactic that we hear, one of creating confusion about what is going on. However, we need to know that the common thread of argument in the Yukon is best expressed by Ms. Allison Armstrong who is vice-president of lands and environment for the Kaminak Gold Corporation. She said:
    We believe the bill should be held back until there is agreement. We would like to see the federal government come back to the table, talk to the first nations, and resolve these four outstanding contentious amendments.... Our position is that if the government isn't going to come back to the table to address the four contentious amendments with the first nations, they should be removed from the bill.
    That answers what the concern is. That is a very clear position. That is the position that we support.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to touch briefly on one of the quotes that the member has used throughout the debate this morning. I do not remember the gentleman's name from the tourism association. He said that if one party says the consultation has not been adequate, then adequate consultation has not occurred.
    In the absence of considering the evidence, perhaps that sounds okay. However, when we consider that there were dozens of meetings and $100,000 provided to first nations to participate in the consultation process, I am wondering this. Is the NDP position that there should be a veto given to anyone, any group and any legislative process that says consultation has not been adequate, and that would throw a wrench into it indefinitely? That is what that stakeholder, that witness, said. The member has positively quoted it today.
    Does the member really believe that we should examine the evidence of what consultation has occurred, or simply allow one group to say that consultation has not been adequate? Canadians deserve that answer.
    Mr. Speaker, I do not think these amendments were a part of that consultation. The consultation was about the five-year review. These were not part of that. Mr. Geithner is the name of the director of the Tourism Industry Association. He started off in his remarks talking about the praise that Senator Lang had given for the assessment process, saying that it was a model for certainty, implementing responsible environmental and social balance while providing certainty to investors. If that was already there, why did it need to be changed?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-6 today because we are dealing with a process, and this is extremely important, no matter what members on the other side are saying. In this case, the people who will be affected by these decisions have not been adequately consulted. The government unfortunately has a habit of not consulting people on a number of issues.
    It is even more troubling in the case of the Yukon, which we are discussing today. Not too long ago, Bill C-15, if I am not mistaken, gave more powers to the territories, which was in line with what was done in the Northwest Territories a few years ago. We recently adopted the same type of approach with the Yukon.
    It appears as though the pendulum is swinging the other way now. The government is bringing the power back to Ottawa and is giving itself more discretionary powers. This bill is a way to push through some natural resource development projects and to once again gut our environmental protection laws, which is another worrisome trend from this government.
     Since we started the debate this afternoon, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development has been telling us that everyone in the Yukon agrees that the existing rules only delay the process, since it is unpredictable. However, as my colleague from St. John's East just pointed out, the rules proposed by the Conservatives make the situation even more unpredictable, since they simply say that if any communities in the Yukon are unhappy with the result they will have to go to court.
    Speaking of trends, that is another one we are seeing more and more of all the time. Instead of being proactive and proposing legislation and an approach to governance that does not require legal proceedings, the government seems to be saying that this is not so bad because these people can turn to the courts. The focus is on the cure instead of prevention. If the government wants to have a real dialogue, then it has to prevent these conflicts where people, particularly first nations, feel that their rights are being trampled. Dragging things through the courts prolongs and encumbers the process, which makes the situation even harder for businesses that want to propose a project.
    The interesting thing in the debates on the environment and the economy is the matter of environmental assessments. That came up again today, through this bill. If we took this responsibility seriously, we would not be obstructing those who advocate sustainable and responsible development. However, the government seems to believe that such legislation always gets in the way of development. Instead of trying to come up with better assessments, the government simply wants to get rid of them all. Words like social acceptability often come up when we talk about natural resource development projects.
    It is clear that Bill S-6 has failed when it comes to social acceptability. The federal government might say that the territories are different from the provinces, but we must not play political games with the rights of the people of the Yukon and of the Yukon's first nations.
    The parliamentary secretary talked about funding that was offered to the first nations, but that is not enough. The dialogue cannot be driven by money alone. There has to be a proactive attitude, a willingness to reach out and some openness.
    We can have all the tools and resources in the world, but if we do not believe that they will be useful and that this dialogue will improve things, then it is hard to bring two or more partners to the table.

  (1350)  

    The parliamentary secretary also said there were many meetings, but that is precisely one of the things that people, including first nations, are upset about. Closed-door meetings do not count as public consultation. It is pretty easy to sit down with select stakeholders, then say that consultations were held and people should be satisfied with that. The problem, once again, is what people are feeling. I want to respond again to the parliamentary secretary's remarks. He just asked if the NDP will be challenging all of the legislation about which witnesses say they were not adequately consulted.
    We all know that in politics it is impossible to please everyone, but when it comes to Bill S-6, everything we heard in committee and in the Yukon points to agreement among members of the public and first nations: the consultations were inadequate. That is why the Yukon NDP moved a motion in the legislature there to condemn this bill. Sure, they can pull out quotes here and there to support the argument that this is a step forward, but I am not talking about an exception; I am saying that most people think this.
    Consequently, I believe that it is important to recognize that the government's approach is problematic. All too often, people condemn its bills and its approach and the government views them as exceptions. Very often these people are voicing the concerns of the majority, and therefore it is all the more important for the government to listen.
    In matters affecting first nations especially, this is happening more and more frequently. One of my colleagues spoke about the government's paternalistic approach in its relations with first nations. That is the problem, more than the bill's outcome. When the government is considering making such a fundamental change to the way a territory is managed—a change that could call into question some rights enjoyed by first nations—telling them to just go to court reflects a paternalistic approach. There is no doubt about that, and we see it all too often with this government.
    I made a mistake at the beginning of my speech. I said Bill C-6, but I meant Bill S-6. There again, Senate bills are increasingly common, and that is a problem. This is not a Senate bill, but a government bill that is proposing to make a very important, even draconian change to how the Yukon conducts its environmental assessments. The bill would also give discretionary powers to the minister.
    The fact that the Senate passed such a bill and sent us such a fundamental change is very problematic in terms of how our two chambers operate, and it is especially problematic when we consider how long it takes for the Senate to pass private members' bills originating in the House of Commons. Consider, for example, the bill introduced by the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca on the rights of transgendered people. The Senate is dragging its feet on passing it. Unfortunately, at this rate, it will not even pass before the election is called. I am using this as an example because Bill S-6 is a government bill, and we know how quickly senators pass government bills and how long it takes them to pass private members' bills. I think this clearly illustrates the problems that arise as a result of how the system works, and this only adds to public cynicism.
    I touched on this earlier, but the issue of ministers' discretionary powers is becoming more and more common in government-sponsored bills. This government likes to govern in such a way that ministers are too often allowed to use discretionary powers to adopt certain policies. This is extremely troubling and worrisome when it comes to environmental assessments.
    The government prides itself on having a system of checks and balances in place, but those checks and balances are the courts. Everyone knows that the courts are a good tool for protecting fundamental rights, but at the same time, a good government should not settle for getting to that point. I realize I am repeating myself, but this is really what stands out the most on this particular issue.

  (1355)  

    In closing, I would like to reiterate that we are prepared to work with the people of Yukon. The Yukon NDP is doing a terrific job. The member for the Northwest Territories knows what managing a territory actually involves and how to work with the federal government. We can do this job properly.
    Unfortunately, all too often, the federal government is content to just centralize and impose its way of doing things on others. That is not how we believe that things should be done. There must be an open dialogue among the various nations, particularly the first nations. That is the approach that we advocate and this would be an opportunity to implement that approach. That is why we are opposed to this bill.
    That concludes the debate for now. The member for Chambly—Borduas will have five minutes for questions and comments when we resume debate.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Abortion

    Mr. Speaker, the most important issues I have dealt with in my 22 years as a member of Parliament are pro-life issues.
     These are the issues dealing with abortion and end of life, such as physician-assisted suicide. They have been the most important but also the most difficult, and sometimes frustrating, to deal with. Often it seems that progress is too slow, but on the other hand, we do need to recognize that progress is being made.
     On May 14, the annual pro-life rally was held on Parliament Hill. The turnout was very encouraging, with a huge crowd of about 25,000 people, the largest on record.
    As usual, the approach was extremely positive with a focus on helping young women and men who were struggling with the decision to possibly abort their unborn child, to find the support they needed to decide to have the child. Barring serious health concerns, this is always the right decision. Information and help are offered to parents to decide what to do after that.
    Progress is being made and pro-lifers here and across Canada should be proud and thankful for this.

  (1400)  

Thalidomide

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge the historic steps taken by Parliament and the Government of Canada in addressing the suffering caused to mothers, children and families by the drug thalidomide.

[Translation]

    Thalidomide survivors and their families have waited a long time for this day to come.

[English]

    It bears repeating in this chamber that the survivors and their families waited more than 50 years for the Canadian government to acknowledge the hardships they endured as the result of using a drug approved by our government.
    Finally, on December 1 of last year, parliamentarians united to urge the government to provide the survivors with the support they needed to live out their lives with dignity and respect.

[Translation]

    I would like to thank all of the members for coming together to correct this injustice, and I want to thank the minister for the work she did to set up a program for survivors that provides them the ongoing assistance they need.

[English]

    On behalf of the New Democratic Party, I want to thank the survivors and their families, and the organizations they worked with, the Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada and the task force for their tireless efforts, in particular to pay tribute to Mercedes Benegbi, who is as graceful as she is tenacious. It was a true honour to get to know Mercedes and work with her for these past few months.
    In closing, it has been said many times that no amount of financial support can ever undo what happened, but it is our hope that going forward they are able to live the rest of their lives with dignity and respect.

Sports

    Mr. Speaker, I stand to recognize three people from my riding of Macleod who have been honoured for their incredible achievements in sport.
    Chris Koch of Nanton and Jim “Bearcat” Murray of Okotoks will be inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame on Friday, Meanwhile, Olympian Jason Parker of Millarville was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame earlier this month.
     Born without limbs, Chris has lived by the motto “Be more afraid of regret than failure”, and he has little to regret. A renowned motivational speaker, Chris golfs, snowboards and, of course, most important, works the family farm in Nanton.
     Bearcat Murray, the iconic former trainer of the Calgary Flames, was inducted into the National Hockey League hall in 2009 and described being named to Okotoks Hall of Fame as the “most heart-warming honour ever” even more than the 1989 Stanley Cup.
     I would like to congratulate these outstanding Albertans, these outstanding Canadians, a Foothills municipal councillor, a determined farmer from Nanton, and a bald-headed little potlicker from Okotoks for all they have achieved. They are an inspiration to us all.

Human Rights

    Mr. Speaker, Maryam Shafipour is a 28-year old Iranian student who was sentenced to seven years in prison by the Iranian regime in 2014 for daring to promote change from within.
     Maryam Shafipour's case is emblematic of thousands of who have fallen victim to the Iranian state's brutality. More people than ever have been executed since President Rohani took over. The regime is particularly harsh on female students. It monitors for proper behaviour and dress. Violations can result in expulsions and even beatings.
     Since being imprisoned, the Iranian regime has refused the Shafipour family's repeated requests for her transfer to a hospital to seek treatment for heart, stomach and dental problems that she developed in prison. The Iranian authorities should know that the world is watching how it treats Maryam Shafipour. That treatment makes a cruel joke of their claim to be a defender of the oppressed.

Maternal, Newborn and Child Health

    Mr. Speaker, our government is providing strong leadership in the global effort to end the preventable deaths of mothers, newborns and young children.
    I am pleased to report to the House that, thanks to our Prime Minister's principled leadership and partnering with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, maternal mortality rates in developing countries are declining and millions more children are celebrating their fifth birthday.
    I also want to thank Senator Asha Seth, who worked tirelessly to establish the international maternal, newborn and child health week. This week will provide an annual opportunity for Canadians, private partners and governments to focus on promoting the health and well-being of mothers and children around the world.
    I invite all members in the House to attend tomorrow's reception in Room 256-S, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., to celebrate our government's initiative that is saving lives.

  (1405)  

Veterans Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, in my first statement in the House almost four years ago, I pointed out how privileged the Conservative members opposite were to sit across from such raw and rugged beauty. Of course, I was speaking about the stained glass window above me and to the left of the pitcher plant, the official flower of Newfoundland and Labrador.
     I told Conservative MPs to look to the pitcher plant when they spoke of my province. They faced the pitcher plant when they closed the Veterans Affairs office in Corner Brook, when they failed Labrador's Burton Winters, when they defended the actions of a minister in using a search and rescue helicopter as a taxi, when they refused to revisit policies that threatened our rural communities, when they broke promises in trade deals, and, most recently, when they deviated from policy at the expense of Newfoundland and Labrador fishermen.
    Almost four years ago, I stood in this place and warned Conservative MPs that the pitcher plant was carnivorous and would devour its prey whole. I look forward to standing in the House on the government's side after the election and showing the pitcher plant the respect that it deserves.

Royal Canadian Dental Corps

    Mr. Speaker, the year 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Dental Corps.
    Since the formation of the Canadian army dental corps on May 13, 1915, Canada's military dental services have served overseas in both world wars, Korea and Afghanistan, and many other peacemaking and peacekeeping humanitarian and forensic operations. They have cared for the oral health needs of Canada's troops, both at home and abroad.
    As a dentist myself, and on behalf of all members of the House, I would like to thank these brave men and women for their service, and I wish them all the best as they embark on the next 100 years of providing a very important service, helping to ensure the optimum health of our men and women in uniform.

Cadets

    Mr. Speaker, last weekend I had the opportunity to attend three ceremonial review programs for the cadet program in Cumberland Colchester and the Musquodoboit Valley. I cannot tell members how impressed I was with the level of discipline and decorum displayed by these young ladies and gentlemen.
    I was particularly proud that both the Truro navy league cadets and RCSCC 88 sea cadets were recognized as the most improved cadet corps in Nova Scotia. I congratulate to them all, and well done.
    Cadets invite all youth from ages 12 to 18. The program focuses on citizenship, leadership and fitness. Cadets, of course, are proud citizens of Canada. They are healthy in mind and body, and they are the leaders of tomorrow. What is more important is that when they engage in cadets, they have a lot of fun.
    Cadets is one of the few remaining youth activities in our country that people and young people can participate in free of charge. To all of the staff, parents and others involved in cadets, I express my thanks.

Poverty

    Mr. Speaker, I offer a glimpse into the successes and struggles in my riding of York South—Weston.
    Hammer Heads is an apprenticeship training program paid for by unions and operated by the Central Ontario Building Trades in my community. Over the past five years, Hammer Heads has launched a career for 194 young adults, focusing on disadvantaged and first nations youth. It has saved over $1 million in welfare costs alone. It is so successful that 20 of these young adults have been able to buy their own homes. It is a remarkable example of a homegrown solution, but it is only 194 people.
    Meanwhile, George Harvey Collegiate Institute in York South—Weston has run a breakfast program for 12 years, feeding children who would otherwise not get to eat. Over 150,000 breakfasts have been served. Program sponsors estimate that in my riding, 38% of children go to school hungry each day. On my visit there this morning, I met the volunteers, like Vince and Imad and his family, who do this to help kids be able to learn.
    While the success of the Hammer Heads program is something to celebrate, the grip of poverty in my riding shows that we have much more work to do.

  (1410)  

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, the universal child care benefit and family tax cut will benefit all families with children in my riding of Etobicoke—Lakeshore and across Canada.
     Last week, I met with hundreds of constituents who were grateful for our government's track record of helping families make ends meet. They know they have a government that respects taxpayers and their hard-earned tax dollars.
    Unlike the Liberal leader who wants to take all of this away, our government wants to keep taxes low and focus on economic growth. We want to ensure that all Canadians benefit and save for their priorities. It was the Liberal leader himself who said that “benefiting every single family is not what is fair”.
    We will continue to work hard for all Canadians so they can keep more of their money in their pockets.

Employment

    Mr. Speaker, over 50% of workers in Toronto cannot access full-time employment; that is work that comes with a pension, benefits or job security. Even those who thought they were full-time employees today can wake up tomorrow to find they have been reclassified as independent contractors.
    On behalf of all the temp workers in my riding, all of those in Davenport not knowing whether their short-term contract will be renewed, to the freelancers and self-employed I meet at the Common, to all of them holding down multiple part-time jobs and squeezing into a packed Dufferin bus to pick up their kids from expensive child care, to new Canadians and new young workers from Queen Street to Eglinton working for free as unpaid interns, I want to thank United Way Toronto and researchers at McMaster University for their incredibly important report tabled last week on the outrageous growth of precarious work in the greater Toronto and Hamilton area.
    We must bring Canada's labour laws and policies into the 21st century to reflect the reality of work today.

World Trade Organization

    Mr. Speaker, last week Canadian farmers, supported by our Conservative government, celebrated a great victory over American protectionism when the World Trade Organization ruled against the United States mandatory country of origin labelling policy.
    This is the fourth time the WTO has ruled in Canada's favour and denounced this protectionist policy that has been costing our meat industry billions of dollars on an annual basis.
    Let me be clear that this decision is final. There are no further appeals for the Obama administration.
    Canada's allies in the U.S. Congress have begun to take steps toward repealing COOL. However, until this policy is reversed, our government will be seeking authority from the WTO to impose retaliatory measures against U.S. exports.
    Unlike the opposition parties, which have been mute on the issue of COOL for years now, our Conservative government continues to stand on the side of Canadian farmers and ranchers, and we will continue to protect all hard-working Canadians throughout the retaliatory process.

Thalidomide

    Mr. Speaker, over the past five decades untold numbers of Canadian women and children have endured terrible and debilitating long-term effects from the morning sickness drug thalidomide.
    The irresponsible distribution of this drug during the late 1950s and early 1960s and the subsequent mistreatment of those who suffered its terrible side effects is a shameful chapter in Canadian history. This is an injustice that has spanned many decades and many governments of all political stripes.
    I would like to take this opportunity to thank the government for finally coming forward with an appropriate compensation package for the 92 surviving thalidomide victims in Canada.
    We welcome Mercedes and a number of victims to Parliament Hill today and I know all parliamentarians pay tribute to their courage and tenacity in the pursuit of this belated justice.
    This compensation, while long overdue, will allow victims to live with dignity and ensure their medical needs are met.
    We would also like to pay tribute to journalist Ingrid Peritz who ensured victims' stories were heard and their plight could no longer be ignored.

Islamic State

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, CNN reported that ISIS fighters murdered nearly 100 people, including a dozen children. This same death cult has called for attacks in Canada, against Canadians. We cannot protect Canada by simply choosing to ignore this threat.
    On behalf of my riding of Etobicoke Centre, I want to thank the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces who are standing up to this threat head-on. In the last week alone, Canadian CF-18 Hornets have struck multiple ISIS fighting positions in both Iraq and Syria. These strikes are part of our continued mission to degrade ISIS until it no longer represents a threat to Canada.

  (1415)  

New Democratic Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, like many of us, I watched with excitement as thousands of Albertans gathered in front of the Alberta legislature to cheer on Premier Notley as she was sworn in.

[Translation]

    It was great to see the size of the crowd and the enthusiasm. It reminded me of how excited the other NDP members and I were when we formed the official opposition for the first time.
    Since then we have worked hard on behalf of our constituents to come up with concrete measures that will make their day-to-day lives easier, such as providing affordable day care spaces, cutting taxes for SMEs and restoring door-to-door mail delivery. We stood up for our principles even when it was not popular, such as when we opposed Bill C-51, because the NDP does politics differently.
     Next October, people across the country will follow Alberta's lead and finally be able to elect a government that works for them and with them, an NDP government.

[English]

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, we are directing money into the pockets of moms and dads across the country. We have increased the universal child care benefit to almost $2,000 for kids under six and to $720 for kids six to 17.
     We know the Liberals want to take that money away. That is why they do not want Canadians to know about it in the first place. The Liberal leader said, “...benefiting every single family isn't what is fair.” We believe it is fair to benefit every single family and we will make sure that families reap those benefits.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[Translation]

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government has finally made public its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. What a disappointment. They are the least ambitious targets of all the G7 countries. The government knows very well that it will not be able to meet its new targets or even keep its old promises.
    Why is the Conservative government not doing its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, our government has announced a fair and ambitious target for Canada that is in line with other major industrialized countries. Unlike the opposition, we want to take a responsible and balanced sector-by-sector approach to reducing emissions to protect the economy and Canadian jobs. We will do this without forcing a job-killing carbon tax on Canadian families.
    Mr. Speaker, this climate target is late and does not deliver Canada's fair share of emissions reductions. To top it off, the Conservatives want to use questionable accounting and offsets to reach the targets, something they used to call “hot air credits”.
     Speaking of hot air, Environment Canada has said that the government has little hope of reaching its old target, and without regulations for the oil and gas sector Canada will not reach the new target either. Why are the Conservatives setting Canada up to fail in the global fight against climate change?
    Mr. Speaker, we are playing a leadership role on the international stage. We have helped more than 65 developing countries to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. We are doing our part by contributing to the Green Climate Fund. We are a founding member and major financial contributor to the Climate and Clean Air Coalition. We are also addressing short-lived climate pollutants under the chairmanship of the Arctic Council. We will continue to protect our environment while keeping our economy strong.

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, credibility matters, as the Conservatives are learning.
    According to an RCMP court document, the Prime Minister's Office played a “key role” in altering and falsifying the 2013 audit of Mike Duffy's expenses. Other documents show that the Deloitte audit report was changed a total of seven times to remove criticisms of expense claims, including references to the Ottawa home of Mike Duffy.
    Does the Prime Minister deny that his office intervened to falsify the findings of the audit into the expenses of Conservative Senator Mike Duffy?

  (1420)  

    Mr. Speaker, as was highlighted, the Prime Minister's Office participated and provided a great deal of assistance, turning over thousands of documents and ensuring that we assisted the RCMP and the crown in its case against Senator Duffy. As members know, this is before the courts, and we will allow the courts to do their job.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister will have to give an answer sooner or later, no matter how much he wants to avoid it.
    Canadians learned from the police that the Prime Minister's Office actively helped Senator Tkachuk and Senator Olsen alter the report on Senator Mike Duffy's expenses. They altered it seven times. For example, they erased passages that prove that Senator Duffy's residence was, in fact, in Ottawa.
    How does the Prime Minister explain that his office altered such important passages in the Mike Duffy report?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, again, as I just said, it is quite clear that the Prime Minister's Office provided a great deal of assistance to both the crown and the RCMP in their case against Senator Duffy.
    At the same time, I would hope that the opposition would provide that same level of co-operation and assistance to the Canadian taxpayer. As members know, there are some 68 members of the NDP caucus who owe Canadian taxpayers some $2.7 million because they paid for some illegal offices in Montreal. I certainly hope they will do the right thing for Canadian taxpayers and insist on returning that $2.7 million to them.
    Mr. Speaker, we are not talking about kangaroo courts. We are talking about real courts with real police investigating the Conservatives.
    The Prime Minister's Office cut a $90,000 cheque to keep Duffy quiet on residency issues and doctored an expense audit to avoid political and legal fallout. The Auditor General has sent 10 new cases of improper Senate spending to the RCMP, and 30 more senators will be forced to pay for improper expense claims. There are 44 cases of apparent abuse of the public trust. That is more than half the Senate. The Prime Minister's Office is involved up to its eyeballs.
     Will the Prime Minister stop defending the unelected, unaccountable, and under investigation Senate?
    Mr. Speaker, as you know, it was the Senate that invited the Auditor General, and of course we expect that the senators will assist the Auditor General in this examination.
    However, there are 68 members of the NDP who owe a total of $2.7 million to the Canadian taxpayer. There are another 23 of them who owe $1.1 million back to the Canadian taxpayer. By my count, that is three-quarters of the NDP caucus. In fact, the Leader of the Opposition owes $400,000 to the taxpayers of Canada. It is New Democrats who are in front of the courts. It is they who are refusing to co-operate. It is real money. They should do the right thing for the taxpayer and pay it all back.

[Translation]

The economy

    Mr. Speaker, the Canadian economy is doing very poorly, and everyone can sense it.
    We have just returned from a week in our ridings, but the Conservatives do not even seem to have gone back to theirs. More and more Canadians are looking for jobs. The youth unemployment rate is hovering around 15%. Canadians are in debt and they are struggling to make ends meet. They certainly do not have $10,000 to put into a TFSA.
    Why do the Conservatives oppose the Liberals' plan to give back to the middle class and stimulate economic growth?
    Mr. Speaker, our economy has already generated over 1.2 million new jobs, and 80% of them are full-time, 80% are in the private sector and two-thirds are in high-wage sectors.
    We are continuing to train our workers, lower taxes for employers and workers, and finalize free trade agreements in order to create good jobs for all Canadians.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, here is the reality of the government's policies: a no-growth economy that has actually been shrinking; poor job creation, down 50% or 60% from two years ago; big job losses at GM, Bombardier, and across the energy sector; job quality at a 25-year low. The recession, which the Conservatives blame for everything, ended six years ago, but there are still 200,000 more jobless Canadians today than before the recession began.
    Why is the government so unsuccessful on growth, jobs, and fairness?
    Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have exactly one idea for the economy, and that is to raise taxes. They want to raise taxes on businesses and raise taxes on Canadian workers. We are taking the opposite approach. Our plan for tax cuts, training, and trade has helped create 1.2 million net new jobs, 80% of them full time and two-thirds in high-wage sectors.
    The last thing those hard-working Canadians need is a Liberal tax hike, which would hit the middle class, send shockwaves through the economy, and put people out of work.

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, when the economy is so weak, the risk of worsening inequality becomes more severe. By everyone from the Parliamentary Budget Officer to the late Jim Flaherty, the government has been warned about disparities getting worse, but still it is giving a $2,000 tax break to those making a quarter of a million dollars, with no break at all for single moms. It insists on paying benefits to the highest 1% of income earners, and that means the typical middle-class family gets $2,500 less.
    How is that fair?
    Mr. Speaker, just about every fact bullet in the member's talking points is wrong. In fact, the Parliamentary Budget Officer looked at the $30 billion in annual tax relief we have provided as of last year and confirmed that the overwhelming majority of benefits went to medium- and low-income Canadians.
    Since that time, we have brought forward the family tax cut and benefits, which give up to $2,000 for families through income splitting, and an additional $2,000 for kids under six and $720 for kids six through 17. That puts money directly in the pockets of parents.

[Translation]

Ethics

     Mr. Speaker, it is sad to think that one of the biggest scandals involving the Prime Minister's Office is happening just a few metres from here.
    Almost half of the members of the Senate are now under investigation for breach of trust or illegitimate expenses. What is more, most of those senators were hand-picked by the Prime Minister.
    Is the Prime Minister finally willing to admit that there is a problem in the Senate?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, she is quite right. Just happening a few feet from here is a big scandal. The scandal is that $2.7 million of taxpayer money was used illegally to support a partisan NDP office in Montreal. In fact, the member, who is only a few feet away from me, owes close to $30,000 to the taxpayers. What the member did was, instead of using money meant for her riding, she funnelled it, illegally, to an office in Montreal that should not have been paid for. Now the NDP is refusing to pay back to taxpayers the $2.7 million it owes. Pay it back.
    More nonsense, Mr. Speaker.
    The Prime Minister has broken every promise he ever made on Senate reform, and look where it has got us. The Auditor General's findings will reportedly include Senate trips that did not appear to involve parliamentary business, indications of widespread spending abuses, and 10 new senators potentially under police investigation.
    Canadians have had enough. The Prime Minister once said an appointed Senate is a relic of the 19th century. Why is he using this relic for partisan fundraising and to kill democratically passed legislation?
    Mr. Speaker, let us be very clear. Any senator who has broken the law should face the severest of consequences. It is this side of the House that has been fighting for that for two years. I contrast that to the opposition, which thinks it is funny to have used $2.7 million of Canadian taxpayer resources, illegally, to support partisan offices in Montreal and in parts of the country where it has no members of Parliament. That is not funny. Canadians work hard for the money they earn, and when they send it to us, they expect it to be used wisely, not for partisan purposes like the NDP did.

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, Conservative cuts are forcing the RCMP to make impossible choices when it comes to protecting public safety. Faced with the skyrocketing resource demands of counterterrorism, the RCMP is dismantling Project Condor, its very successful program for finding offenders unlawfully at large. This project recaptured over 600 escaped criminals. We are talking about people convicted of murder, bank robbery, and sexual assault.
    Why are the Conservatives putting public safety at risk by ending this program that tracks these people down when they escape?

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member knows full well that the RCMP is responsible for its operational choices and priorities. However, what the member and his colleagues can do is stand up in this House for the additional funding announced by the Prime Minister last week in Montreal. I invite the member to open his copy of the budget to page 325. Then he can invest in the RCMP and do as he should have done the seven times he missed it, which is support our budget for more resources for the RCMP.
    Mr. Speaker, if we look at that page, we find that four years from now, the RCMP would still be below where it was in 2012.
    The reality is that the Conservatives are all talk when it comes to public safety. They are hoping Canadians will not notice that the programs and resources that actually keep communities safe are disappearing. What is worse, the current government tries to hide its failures. Just take the defence minister's comments that funding de-radicalization programs is “unrealistic” and could be counterproductive. Tell that to our allies who are funding these efforts as a front line against terrorism.
    Why is the minister trying to cover up his government's incompetence instead of acting to counter terrorism?
    Mr. Speaker, here is what the NDP has to say about terrorism in this country. Let me quote the member for Brome—Missisquoi:
     I am confused about what motivated the government to introduce [the Combating Terrorism Act]...because since 2007 nothing has happened in Canada. The country has not been subject to terrorist attacks.
    When will the NDP be serious about terrorism in this country? When will it support our initiative?
    We have four pillars, the first one is prevention, and we are standing up to protect Canadians every step of the way.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, apparently the Minister of National Defence believes that it would be counterproductive to allocate federal resources to combat radicalization. Now, in the name of combatting terrorism, the RCMP has to cut Project Condor, which allowed us to track down dangerous fugitives unlawfully at large.
    Why is the Conservative government putting an end to Project Condor, which was one of the RCMP's most effective programs?
    Mr. Speaker, I have complete confidence that the RCMP will continue to carry out its operations and make strategic choices. That is why budget 2015 allocates additional resources to the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
    If my colleague wants to do more than express her half-hearted support, then she should vote in favour of the budget so that the RCMP has the resources it needs to protect us.
    Mr. Speaker, the dismantling of Project Condor is not the only example of the Conservative government's incompetence. We have learned that an individual charged with sexual assault was able to cross our border even though there was a warrant for his arrest. That is unacceptable. Canadians expect this government to manage our borders effectively and securely.
    Will the minister take immediate action to address this major flaw that puts Canadians at risk?
     Mr. Speaker, our government takes border security very seriously. That is why our Prime Minister signed the beyond the border agreement with President Obama, and that is why we have also invested additional resources.
     Last week, our Prime Minister was at Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport to announce additional funding for Canada Border Services Agency officers. It is important to remember that these measures are in addition to the nearly 26% increase in the number of front-line officers across our border crossings and our major investment in border infrastructure. One meaningful way to support our border officers is to support our budget.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have never made up for the massive cuts they made to CBSA, cuts that have seriously impacted front-line security. Canadians have a right to ask how an individual charged with sexual assault was allowed into Canada, despite having an outstanding warrant for his arrest.
    Our border needs to be efficient and effective in keeping those who pose a threat to public safety out of Canada. What is the minister doing to immediately address this serious deficiency in our border security? Your cuts are not working. What next?
    I remind the hon. member to address his questions to the Chair and not directly to his colleagues.
    The hon. Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to remind the House that our government has increased the number of border service officers by 26%.
    In the last budget, there were additional resources to make sure that CBSA is able to tackle the challenges it faces at the frontier and to meet our requirement to fulfill our engagement and commitment to the beyond the border agreement signed between our Prime Minister and President Obama.
    We are serious when it comes time to protect our border from criminals, and we will ensure that CBSA is fully complying with its mandate by giving them the resources they need. Why is the NDP opposing the budget in support of our officers?

  (1435)  

Citizenship and Immigration

    Mr. Speaker, the question really should be why the minister is unable to tell the honest truth about cuts to CBSA.
    The government is also turning away people who are actually legally permanent residents in Canada. Families are being torn apart simply over an expired I.D. card. In 2013 alone, well over 5,000 permanent residents were denied travel documents to re-enter Canada. People are losing their permanent resident status because their card expired and they have not renewed it yet.
    When will the Conservatives stop their campaign to make life harder and harder for immigrant families in Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, just because the date has expired on a PR card does not mean that someone loses their status in Canada. We issue thousands of these new cards every year, but applicants, those permanent residents who qualify, have to put in the application, and they have to meet the requirements of permanent residence. That is two years out of five inside the country, and they need all the documentation to prove that.
    We will continue giving good service to Canadian immigrants, to new Canadian citizens, and to all those visiting our country.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the minister talks about good service, but frankly, we still do not know why he says that. He makes it sound like the only problem is permanent residents themselves.
    Does he realize that processing times for renewing ID cards are much too long? In 2013, 5,000 permanent residents were not allowed to re-enter Canada. There is a problem. Another 14,000 people were forced to apply for temporary travel documents.
    Does the minister realize that administrative obstacles, and particularly processing delays, are a major impediment that is penalizing permanent residents?
    Mr. Speaker, the best way for permanent residents to travel freely is to become Canadian citizens. That is why our government is so proud that 260,000 permanent residents became Canadian citizens last year. That is the highest number in Canadian history.
    We are providing good service to permanent residents who stay here for two years out of five and meet the program criteria. We will continue to do so, because we know how important immigration is to Canada's future.

[English]

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, the government's performance on trade continues to fall far short of its rhetoric. The most recent example is a breakdown in bilateral negotiations with Japan. Talks have been stalled for months, with Canadian officials citing Japan's focus on the trans-Pacific partnership as their excuse for the slowdown. However, Japan has continued bilateral negotiations with other countries, so this excuse rings hollow.
     Will the Conservatives redouble efforts to schedule a round of negotiations with Japan before we fall behind our foreign competitors, as we did with South Korea, costing Canada billions of dollars and thousands of middle-class jobs?
    Mr. Speaker, we will not take any lessons from the Liberals over there when it comes to trade.
    Canada continues to engage with our Japanese partners to advance our trade interests through both bilateral talks and the TPP. The TPP negotiations are at an advanced stage, with all TPP countries focused on concluding a comprehensive and high-standard agreement as soon as possible. We will continue to negotiate with an eye to concluding the best possible agreement for Canadian businesses, workers, and their families.
    Mr. Speaker, a $3-billion trade deficit in March, a historic record, suggests the trade agenda is not working. This is not the first time the government has touted an imminent deal without showing any results. As CETA winds its way through EU institutions, it is facing mounting criticism from European officials. There is growing talk that portions of the text may even need to be changed to assuage these concerns, even though Canadians have been told that this is a done deal and have had hundreds of thousands of their dollars already spent to celebrate it.
    Will the minister finally forego his smoke-and-mirrors act and tell us when CETA, which we have already celebrated, will finally be ratified?

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, when they were in government, trade was simply not a priority for the Liberals. During their 13 long years in office, the Liberals signed only three trade agreements. Our Conservative government has reached agreements with 38 countries. We are even expanding and improving on the three agreements reached under the Liberals to maximize the benefits they produce for hard-working Canadians and families. When it comes to creating jobs and economic opportunities through trade, the Liberal Party has proven it cannot get the job done.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, not only does Japan no longer want to talk to us about free trade, but the European Union free trade agreement the Prime Minister has been talking about for the past 20 months seems to be up in the air.
    We hear that as it negotiates with the U.S., the European Union wants to reopen certain clauses of the agreement with Canada and that nothing will be resolved before the upcoming election.
    Is this another example where this government promises great things and boasts about its economic management but is unable to keep those promises?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, this is the most comprehensive trade agreement Canada has ever signed. It is expected to create 80,000 new jobs for Canadians and open up a market of half a billion new consumers for Canadian businesses. We are confident that the EU will bring this agreement into force. The Liberals have been completely absent on the trade file. In fact, when they had to negotiate free trade agreements, they only got three done. We have signed agreements with 38 different countries. We will not take any lessons from the Liberal Party over there.

Canada Post

    Mr. Speaker, almost 600 municipalities have serious concerns about Canada Post's decision to end door-to-door mail delivery, and residents in my community are upset, because they know how difficult the end of home delivery will be for seniors, for small businesses, for people with mobility challenges, and for people living in poverty. When will the minister tell Canada Post to go back to the drawing board and start listening to Canadians and communities?
    Mr. Speaker, the member will know that in 2014 Canada Post delivered 1.4 billion fewer letters then it did in 2006. He should also know that two-thirds of Canadians currently do not receive door-to-door mail delivery.
    Canada Post must balance its finances and not be a burden on taxpayers. We expect it to do that.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the frustration with Canada Post's decision to terminate door-to-door delivery continues to grow.
    Nearly 600 municipalities, including Terrebonne, have expressed their displeasure. On the weekend, the president of the Union of Quebec Municipalities spoke out against Canada Post's attitude and called for a moratorium.
    Will the minister finally listen to the public and municipal officials and put the brakes on this reckless decision?
    Mr. Speaker, in 2014, Canada Post delivered 1.4 billion fewer letters than it did in 2006. Two-thirds of Canadians do not receive their mail at home, and Canada Post has to balance its finances without being a burden to Canadian taxpayers.

Canadian Heritage

    Mr. Speaker, first the Conservatives changed the museum's name. It was called the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and it is now called the Canadian Museum of History.
    Today we learned that an important exhibit on the history of the union movement is being eliminated. Whether the Conservatives like it or not, the labour movement, that noble and courageous movement, built our society by improving Canadians' working and living conditions.
    Why does the minister want to erase workers' contribution to Canadian history?

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, as the member knows full well, our national museums are crown corporations that operate independently. They are responsible for creating and managing their content.
    That said, I am extremely surprised to hear an NDP member talk about our Canadian Museum of History because when we decided to give it more money in order to create more jobs for Canadians, the NDP voted against that. What hypocrisy.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, if members believe the minister's last answer, I have some real estate they might be interested in.
    In actual fact, this move has the stink of political interference all over it. First the Conservatives change the name of the museum, then they change the mandate of the museum and then they try and sanitize Canadian history to eliminate any reference to things they do not like.
    In actual fact, the Winnipeg general strike was a turning point in the rights of Canadian working people. It is up for its 100th anniversary in four short years.
    Why does the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages not butt out of the museum business and let curators curate?
     I hate to suggest this, Mr. Speaker, but I think the member's underwear is tight again, because he has forgotten that he actually voted against additional funding for this museum.
     I might add my own two cents' worth with regards to the Winnipeg general strike. We are proud of the accomplishments of our past. That is why we are going to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday and we are going to do it with pride and dignity, with or without the NDP.

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, unlike the Liberal leader, we think it is fair to help all Canadian families. Our efforts are making a difference in communities across the country. Can the Minister of Employment and Social Development please update this House and Canadians on how we are helping all middle-class families in Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, we are doing it by putting money directly into their pockets.
    I want to thank the opposition and others who brought attention to some videos that I have made to inform Canadian families about the benefits to which they are entitled. Almost $2,000 for kids under 6 and $720 for kids through 6 through 17. We are looking for 200,000 families. My videos have reached 15,000 of them.
    We are very excited about the opportunity to reach out to parents and put money directly in their pockets so that they can make the decision as to what is best in how they raise their children.

[Translation]

CBC/Radio-Canada

    Mr. Speaker, if I may, I would like to get back to the important matters.
    In the wake of the Conservatives' cuts to CBC/Radio-Canada, a new study by the Quebec and Ontario governments concluded that the public broadcaster simply does not have the means to fulfill its mandate. The Quebec and Ontario ministers are calling for increased funding to CBC/Radio-Canada.
    If there is still a minister of Canadian Heritage in the House, will she listen to the demands made by Quebec and Ontario? Will she once again ignore them, or will she finally listen to the public and reallocate the money that Radio-Canada and CBC need?
    Mr. Speaker, as I have said many times, we already give CBC/Radio-Canada more than $1 billion a year to fulfill its mandate.
    The CRTC has the necessary authority to ensure that CBC/Radio-Canada is fulfilling its mandate in accordance with the act. We fully recognize the important role that CBC/Radio-Canada plays in minority communities and in our remote communities, and that is why we give it $1 million a year.
    Mr. Speaker, the minister keeps repeating that big number, but it amounts to just $29 per Canadian per year. Lots of Canadians pay up to $108 for Netflix. CBC is a fantastic bargain.
    Does the minister realize that the study by the governments of Ontario and Quebec clearly states that in the past 25 years, under the Liberals and the Conservatives, funding for CBC has dropped by 50%? Is that why the Conservative MPs are not meeting with the ministers? Are they ashamed of their record?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, what was just said by that member is absolutely false. I might remind the member that it was in the 1990s that the Liberals, when they were in power, cut the CBC by over $400 million.
    On this side of the room, we are providing over $1 billion a year to the CBC. It is independent of government in its decision-making. Of course we have seen a change, a drastic change in the media environment to which no broadcaster is immune. It is adjusting and adapting. We will let it do that.

  (1450)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives clearly have a hard time listening to the people. A recent EKOS poll shows that the vast majority of Canadians, even their own supporters, think that the memorial to victims of Communism is a very bad idea, particularly once they see the design plans for the monument.
    When will the government finally listen to the people and the City of Ottawa and change its ill-advised plans?
    Mr. Speaker, as we all know, 100 million lives have been lost because of Communism. We will build this monument to honour the victims of these atrocities and their families. I would like to name some of the organizations that support our plan.

[English]

    Markus Hess, president of the Estonian Central Council, said this about the location of the monument:
    By undermining this memorial with shallow, improvised rationalizations that sacrifice principle for insensitive political gamesmanship, you diminish and devalue the victims’ contribution to Canada and disrespect their memory.
    There is misinformation out there spread by the political parties opposite. We will build this monument.
    Mr. Speaker, 82% of residents in the national capital region and almost two-thirds of Conservative supporters oppose the memorial in its current form.
    The minister is ignoring the national capital plan, the mayor of Ottawa, the chief justice of the Supreme Court and local citizens. What kind of government and party ignores the opinion of 82% of the population? I will give a hint; the first letter is “c”, the second letter is “o”, and people can figure it out from there.
    Why will the government not actually listen to the community and change the location of this monument?
    Mr. Speaker, this allows me to provide some information about the misinformation about the location.
    Of course, it is not going to be constructed in front of the Supreme Court of Canada, like the opposition parties are suggesting, but rather on a completely different plot of land, further west on Wellington Street.
    Having said that, we promised in the Speech from the Throne to honour the 100 million lives lost. We just spent some moments of reflection on the journey to freedom day and the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. With hundreds and hundreds from communities that support the monument and its location, we will build this monument.

Infrastructure

    Mr. Speaker, spring has arrived in Cape Breton and in many communities across Canada. This is when our construction season normally is getting into high gear, but the Conservative government stalled infrastructure spending last year and it looks like this year will be another repeat. This past weekend I was speaking with many councillors in my riding and they are concerned that there is going to be another year lost.
    Is the Conservative government willing to commit to the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and other municipalities to get the job done and get our people back to work?
    Mr. Speaker, we have delivered the most important plan in Canadian history for infrastructure. We transferred last year, in July and November, two tranches of the gas tax fund to all provinces in Canada. Projects are ready to be announced. Some have been announced in Nova Scotia and other parts of the country, and we will continue to work very hard with municipalities and provinces in respect of jurisdictions and what they did not have in the past.

Canadian Heritage

    Mr. Speaker, Canada's 150th birthday seems to have caught the government by surprise. The Prime Minister has now cobbled together some sort of a scheme to fund community projects to sort of mark the date, sort of. The deadlines differ from city to city. Some towns have a few days, others a few months or a few weeks to apply. From region to region, the criteria are different and, of course, they have no idea how much anyone can actually apply for because the Conservatives are making this up as they go along.
    If anyone is actually in charge of this program, could someone please explain why the process is so complicated, why it is so rushed and why the criteria are so flimsy, or will the Prime Minister just admit it is a slush fund for the upcoming campaign?

  (1455)  

    Mr. Speaker, in addition to our support for the festivities for the 150th anniversary of our country, we will support renovation, expansion and improvement of existing community infrastructure. In communities across the country, in addition to these new investments we will support the implementation of projects that celebrate our shared heritage, create jobs and improve the quality of life of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, residents in Surrey are worried about their safety and gang violence continues to reach crisis levels. It is time for the government to stop stalling. Photo ops and recycled re-announcements will not cut it. The Conservatives' re-announcement will have no immediate impact. The community needs boots on the ground now. Surrey residents are waiting to hear clear timelines from the government about when additional boots will be on the ground.
    Will the minister please tell us how soon the new RCMP officers will arrive in Surrey?
    Mr. Speaker, I am proud that our Minister of National Revenue was in Surrey last week to stand up and deliver for safer streets in communities in Surrey. The Government of British Columbia has asked for $200,000 to prevent gang violence. We are coming up with $3.5 million because we take this issue very seriously. More than that, we are saying yes. We are standing by the people of Surrey and I accept the request of the minister of justice of British Columbia to put more boots on the ground. We are standing up, providing more resources, and we will continue to support the people of Surrey.
    Yes, Mr. Speaker, resources promised over the next five years, not now.
    People are scared and the community is devastated. They need answers and a clear timeline. The community has been waiting for too long and is tired of empty promises. It is time for a real commitment. Surrey needs help now.
    Will the minister give Surrey the answer it is waiting for? When will the RCMP arrive on the ground, on our streets in Surrey?
    Mr. Speaker, I agree that the people of Surrey need much more than the lip service of the NDP. Why? It is because we adopted tough measures, especially on gang violence, such as new prison sentences for drive-by shootings. We are putting gang members behind bars. Why? It is because we have passed over 30 new tough-on-crime measures.
    Where were the New Democrats? They were giving lip service with no action. We are standing up for the people of Surrey.

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, the death cult ISIS and jihadi terrorism pose a real threat to Canada. They have made it clear that they target by name Canada and Canadians. Thankfully, Canada is not sitting on the sidelines and is facing this threat head on.
    Can the Minister of National Defence update the House on the mission to degrade ISIS?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question and I thank the brilliant work of the Royal Canadian Air Force, much of which is situated in his constituency at CFB Trenton.
    I can report that since the beginning of our Operation Impact as part of the multinational coalition against this genocidal terrorist organization, Air Task Force-Iraq has conducted 953 sorties, including 620 from our CF-18 Hornet fighters, 160 refuelling sorties by our Polaris aerial refuellers, and 173 reconnaissance missions by our CF-140 Aurora modernized aircraft.
    Thanks in part to the coalition air campaign, ISIS controls 25% less territory than it did last September, but we must continue in the fight.

Veterans Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, soldiers like Master Corporal Collin Fitzgerald, a man decorated for his incredible courage under fire, are returning home only to have to keep fighting, this time with the Conservative government. He was medically released with severe PTSD, yet when he applied to Veterans Affairs for benefits he had earned, VAC re-diagnosed him with simple anxiety, denying him help he needed.
    It is unacceptable to be told one thing by National Defence doctors for release and the opposite by Veterans Affairs, and denied.
    When will the minister compel VAC to accept National Defence doctors' diagnoses?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for that question.
    As he knows, we are closing the seam with the Canadian Armed Forces to make sure that Veterans Affairs is involved more quickly with an injured or ill veteran.
    We do accept the medical evaluations of the Canadian Armed Forces. More importantly, we are reducing the stigma, asking men or women to come forward sooner to get the treatment they need. By the end of this year, we will have opened up 26 operational stress injury clinics. There were just a couple open under that government. This is a priority for us.

  (1500)  

[Translation]

Housing

    Mr. Speaker, thousands of Canadians already cannot pay the rent, and yet the Conservatives plan to stop funding another 116,000 social housing units between now and 2018. This includes 21,500 units in Quebec alone. Asking thousands of Canadians to choose between paying the rent and putting food on the table is just wrong.
    What measures is the government committed to taking to protect the existing social housing stock and uphold everyone's right to adequate housing?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely wrong. There are no cuts to housing investments. In fact, our government has renewed housing investments, whether it is our investment in affordable housing of $1.25 billion or our homelessness partnering strategy of over $600 million across the country.
    We are helping in terms of building houses. We are helping in terms of supporting those who are homeless. We are helping vulnerable Canadians by giving them benefits such as the universal child care benefit and tax cuts. These are direct benefits that reduce poverty and help those who are vulnerable.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, more than 50 years ago, thalidomide was prescribed to treat morning sickness in expectant mothers. Tragically, thalidomide caused serious and permanent physical and emotional damage to mothers, infants, and families.
    Canada's drug safety system has come a long way since the days when thalidomide was approved. I have been proud to be part of that change. I was pleased to support the call for full support to be provided to thalidomide survivors. I ask the Minister of Health to please update the House on the government's support for survivors.
    Mr. Speaker, survivors have exhibited great courage in overcoming daily challenges throughout their lives. I was very pleased on Friday to announce that the government will be providing survivors with tax-free payments every single year, up to $100,000, for the rest of their lives to make sure that they are able to live in dignity. In addition, they will have access to an extraordinary medical assistance fund.
    We are very pleased to be able to support the survivors. In particular, I would like to thank Mercédes Benegbi, who is the head of the Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada, for working so closely with me, with the entire House, and with the government. I want to congratulate her on a great victory.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

Rail Transportation

    Mr. Speaker, on May 14, the government tabled VIA Rail's troubling annual report. Ridership and on-time performance are down and costs and losses are up, but there may be hope. VIA is off track, but Amtrak is on track.
    There are two unfilled positions on the VIA board. Will the Minister of Transport consider appointing former Amtrak president and Cape Breton resident David Gunn to our VIA board?
    Mr. Speaker, I will let the minister make the appropriate appointments in due course, but the member will know that VIA Rail is an independent arm's-length crown corporation responsible for its operational decisions. Its primary objective is to provide safe and efficient passenger service. In keeping with this, VIA is responsible for providing services in as cost-effective a manner as possible. It must work to ensure it is not a burden to taxpayers.

[Translation]

Citizenship and Immigration

    Mr. Speaker, people who want to apply for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds have until June 1 of this year. That date was set jointly with the Government of Quebec, but only 20% of the people involved have been able to take advantage of the measures in place. That is why Quebec asked the federal government to extend the deadline, but that request has been ignored.
    Once again, federal neglect of humanitarian issues is putting thousands of Haitian families in Quebec in jeopardy. Will the government accommodate Quebec's request to extend the deadline until August 31, or will it respond with cold, callous bureaucracy?

  (1505)  

    Mr. Speaker, far from being bureaucratic and cold, Canada still has the fairest and most generous immigration system in the world. That is why we gave Haitians the opportunity to stay in Canada without becoming permanent residents for 10 years after the earthquake and political instability in Haiti. Everyone affected by these measures was informed of the option to apply for permanent residence. We encouraged them to do so. Over one thousand applications have been received.
    The figures mentioned by the member opposite are completely inaccurate. A large number of Haitians have taken advantage of this opportunity to become permanent residents of Canada.

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, this morning, key stakeholders of Quebec's agri-food industry, along with Quebec's agriculture minister, expressed their concern to the federal government about the trans-Pacific partnership negotiations. They are concerned about the pressure applied by trading partners with regard to supply management. That is the program that ensures fair incomes for our dairy, egg, and poultry producers, and generates 92,000 jobs in Quebec.
    Can the Prime Minister promise that Canada will not give up its supply managed markets and will refuse to make any concessions in these sectors, as spelled out in the Bloc Québécois motion unanimously adopted by the House?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell my colleague that we will continue to defend the trade interests of every industrial sector in Canada, including the agriculture sector, through the negotiations of this free trade agreement.
    I would like my colleague to know that our government's past actions bode well for the future, since we have signed free trade agreements with the European Union and South Korea and have been able to protect supply management and the agriculture industry.
    As always, our government will only sign a free trade agreement if it benefits every sector in Canada.

Employment

    Mr. Speaker, this winter highly qualified Canadian pilots were unemployed because of a reduction in flights associated with the oil and mining sectors. Now Sunwing Airlines has hired more than 100 foreign pilots while ignoring qualified and available Canadian pilots.
    When will the Minister of Immigration tell companies like Sunwing Airlines that they must at all times give priority to hiring qualified, available Canadian pilots?
    Mr. Speaker, before hiring foreign workers, the company must prove that it attempted to advertise the job in question to determine whether or not Canadians were available. We have put in place harsh penalties for those who break the rules. Our policy seeks to ensure that Canadians are given priority for jobs in Canada. Any company that breaks the rules will be punished.

[English]

Presence in Gallery

    I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of His Excellency Galust Sahakyan, President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

[English]

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the treaties entitled: “Modifications to Canada's Government Procurement Market Access Schedule in the Revised Agreement on Government Procurement, pursuant to Article XIX of that Agreement” done in Geneva on March 30, 2012; “Modifications to Canada's Government Procurement Market Access Schedule in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), pursuant to Article 1022 of that Agreement” done at Ottawa on December 11 and 17, 1992, at Mexico on December 14 and 17, 1992, and at Washington on December 8 and 17, 1992; “Modifications to Canada's Government Procurement Market Access Schedule in the Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement pursuant to article KBIS-14 of that Agreement” done at Santiago on December 5, 1996; “Modifications to Canada's Government Procurement Market Access Schedule in the Canada-Columbia Free Trade Agreement pursuant to article 1413 of that Agreement” done at Bogota on May 27, 2010;

  (1510)  

[Translation]

     “Modifications to Canada's Government Procurement Market Access Schedule in the Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement, pursuant to article 17.16 of that Agreement” done at Ottawa on November 5, 2013; “Modifications to Canada's Government Procurement Market Access Schedule in the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement, pursuant to article 14.4 of that Agreement” done at Ottawa on September 22, 2014; “Modifications to Canada's Government Procurement Market Access Schedule in the Canada-Panama Free Trade Agreement, pursuant to article 16.14 of that Agreement” done at Ottawa on May 14, 2010; and “Modifications to Canada's Government Procurement Market Access Schedule in the Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement, pursuant to article 1413 of that Agreement” done at Lima on May 28, 2008.
    Explanatory memoranda accompany the treaties.

Committees of the House

Veterans  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs in relation to its study of the main estimates for 2015-16.

[English]

Foreign Affairs and International Development  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development entitled, “The Aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide – A Study of the Crisis of Children Born of Rape Committed during the Genocide”; and the tenth report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development entitled, “Main Estimates 2015-16: Votes 1, 5, 10, 15, 20 and L25 under Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, vote 1 under International Development Research Centre and vote 1 under International Joint Commission (Canadian Section)”.
    Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to the ninth report.

Business of Supply

    Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties, and I believe that if you were to seek it, you would find unanimous consent for the following motion.
     I move:
    That, during the debate today on the Business of Supply pursuant to Standing Order 81(4), no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be received by the Chair and, within each 15-minute period, each party may allocate time to one or more of its Members for speeches or for questions and answers, provided that, in the case of questions and answers, the Minister's answer approximately reflect the time taken by the question, and provided that, in the case of speeches, Members of the party to which the period is allocated may speak one after the other.
    Does the hon. government House leader have unanimous consent 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)

Petitions

Species at Risk Act  

    Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to present.
    This is another one of the dozens that I have already presented in terms of the Species at Risk Act.
    Constituents across southern Alberta as well as Saskatchewan ask that the House of Commons rescind the Species at Risk Act and replace it with an act that encourages voluntary implementation.

  (1515)  

Protection of the Sage Grouse  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition is similar. It is on the sage grouse.
    The petitioners ask the House of Commons to rescind the strategy that has been in place and create something that is more palatable to the constituents of southeast Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan.
    Mr. Speaker, my final petition is on emergency protection order for the sage grouse.
    The petitioners are asking the government to rescind the emergency protection order and replace it with an order that encourages voluntary implementation.

[Translation]

Agriculture  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House on behalf of hundreds of people from Drummond who signed a petition calling on the government to respect the rights of small family farms to store, trade and use seed.
    The petitioners are calling on the House of Commons to adopt international aid policies that support small farmers, and especially women, and recognize their vital role in the struggle against hunger and poverty, to ensure that Canada's policies and programs are developed in consultation with small farmers and that those policies protect the rights of small farmers in the global south to save, use and freely trade their seed.

[English]

Impaired Driving  

    Mr. Speaker, my petition informs the House that a young person who was 18 years of age was tragically killed by a drunk driver who chose to drive while impaired. Obviously the family has been devastated by the loss of their son.
    Families For Justice, a group of Canadians who have had a loved one killed by an impaired driver, believes that Canada's impaired driving laws are much too lenient. They would like the crime to be called vehicular homicide.
    It is the number one cause of criminal death in Canada. Over 1,200 Canadians are killed every year by drunk drivers. Families For Justice is calling for mandatory sentencing for vehicular homicide, and for Parliament to support Bill C-652, Kassandra's law.

Taxation  

    Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions.
    The first petition is from Canadian Menstruators, who are concerned that there is a disproportionate financial burden on women because they pay GST on feminine hygiene products. They ask the Government of Canada to extend a 0% GST rate to menstrual hygiene products.

Canada Post  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from Canadians from across my community.
    Last week, we had a town hall in regard to the ending of door-to-door postal services: the delivery of mail. The many people who were there were very clear that this would cause the loss of 6,000 to 8,000 jobs. It would hurt seniors and disabled Canadians. It would have a negative effect on communities.
    The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to reverse the cuts proposed by Canada Post and to find innovative ways to ensure that door-to-door service is continued. They suggest postal banking.

Agriculture  

    Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions.
    The first petition is in regard to respect for the rights of small-scale family farmers.
    The petitioners are asking that the government ensure that Canadian policies and programs are developed in consultation with small family farmers and that it protect the rights of small family farmers in the global south to preserve the use and free exchange of seeds.

Human Rights in Venezuela  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition is with regard to the diminishing human rights situation in Venezuela.
    The petitioners are asking that the House direct the Subcommittee on International Human Rights to revisit the situation in Venezuela and update its previous report that was adopted on June 18, 2012.

Komagata Maru  

    Mr. Speaker, I bring forward a petition today signed by many constituents of mine in regard to what happened in the Punjab assembly in India where they unanimously passed the resolution calling on the Canadian Parliament to apologize for the Komagata Maru incident.
    The Komagata Maru incident was a dark moment in Canada's past. In 1914, 352 passengers aboard a steamship were denied entry into Canada based on discriminatory immigration policy.
    The petitioners are requesting that the Prime Minister and Government of Canada provide a formal apology in Parliament with respect to the Komagata Maru incident of 1914.

  (1520)  

[Translation]

Taxation  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to present to the House a petition signed by hundreds of women and men across the country who are calling on the Government of Canada to eliminate the federal tax on feminine hygiene products. This tax is completely unfair and must be eliminated immediately.

[English]

Autism Spectrum Disorders  

    Mr. Speaker, I have petitions on autism spectrum disorders. Autism spectrum disorders are characterized by social and communication challenges and a pattern of repetitive behaviours and interests. They are lifelong disorders, affect development and life experiences, and exert emotional and financial pressures on families. The petitioners call on the government to work with the provinces, territories, and all stakeholders to develop a pan-Canadian strategy for autism spectrum disorder.

Child Care  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present to this House two petitions on behalf of my constituents of Parkdale—High Park.
    The first petition is concerning child care. My constituents are thrilled that the Leader of the Opposition has put forward a plan to ensure that there is quality affordable child care available for every Canadian child who needs it, with the goal of limiting costs to $15 a day or less. The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to work with the provinces and territories to implement this plan for affordable child care.

Rail Safety  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition concerns rail safety. Canadians want the government to bring in more stringent requirements for railway safety. Among those requirements are to strengthen the oversight of rail safety management systems and to increase the number of rail inspectors who audit our rail systems, trains, and rail infrastructure.
    The petitioners also want the industry to invest in ways to reduce the volatility of Bakken crude, including the possibility of partial refinement at source, and to require shippers and railways to carry sufficient insurance to cover the true cost of an accident, spill, or derailment through densely populated neighbourhoods.

Health  

    Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions today.
    The first is supporting my Motion No. 501, a national strategy for innovation effectiveness and cost effectiveness for sustainable health care. The petitioners note that the strategy would be open to new models of care, delivery and discovery; be holistic in character and patient-centred; emphasize the importance of wellness promotion and disease prevention; and empower the patient with information and choice.

Sex Selection  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition is calling that the House condemn discrimination against females occurring through selective pregnancy termination. The petitioners note that the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada vehemently opposes sex selection. Millions of girls have been lost through sex-selective pregnancy termination, causing gender imbalance, and contributing to trafficking and prostitution around the world.

[Translation]

Agriculture  

    Mr. Speaker, today, I am presenting a petition on behalf of small family farmers. It is signed by 247 people from the riding of Bourassa, which I represent. The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada and the House of Commons to commit to ensuring that Canada's policies and programs respect the rights of small family farms to store, trade and use their seed and their right to be consulted in this regard. The petitioners are also calling on the government to commit to adopting policies that support small farmers, and especially women, and recognize their vital role in the struggle against hunger and poverty.

[English]

Canada Post  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from a number of citizens from St. Paul's on the issue of door-to-door mail delivery by Canada Post. The petitioners particularly point out the need to provide assistance to the most vulnerable Canadians, which can be both physical and mental; our harsh winters; and the fact that Canadians need Canada Post to continue door-to-door mail delivery.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 1076, 1137, 1142, and 1144.

[Text]

Question No. 1076--
Ms. Linda Duncan:
     With regard to Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) activity category “Economic Growth Acceleration Opportunities for Aboriginal Peoples (First Nations, Inuit and Métis)”: (a) how does WD define this category for the purposes of a project application; (b) which sectors does WD deem to be included or excluded in this category; (c) how many applicants were successful under this category and what are the details concerning these applicants; and (d) have applicants under this category faced any particular challenges in submitting successful applications and, if so, what are the details of these challenges?
Hon. Michelle Rempel (Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification), CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), aboriginal economic growth projects must address one or more of the following: supporting greater aboriginal participation in natural resource development opportunities and increasing capacity to capitalize on these opportunities; strengthening aboriginal business development and entrepreneurship; and involving aboriginal groups and partners to increase skills development, technical training and trades training.
    With regard to (b), WD does not exclude any industry sector in this category.
    With regard to (c), six aboriginal economic growth projects were approved in the initial call for proposals intake. The successful applicants include not-for-profit organizations, aboriginal community-led organizations and educational institutions.
    With regard to (d), WD reached out to aboriginal communities regarding the program availability and was not made aware of any particular application-related challenges faced by aboriginal economic growth project applicants.
Question No. 1137--
Mr. Pierre Dionne Labelle:
     With regard to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA): which are the 52 charitable organizations currently being audited by the CRA concerning the spending of more than 10% of their resources on political activities?
Hon. Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay (Minister of National Revenue, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, the confidentiality provisions under subsection 241(1) of the Income Tax Act prevent the CRA from discussing the affairs of a particular organization without the consent of an authorized representative. For this reason, the CRA cannot comment on the identity of charities currently under audit.
Question No. 1142--
Ms. Rathika Sitsabaiesan:
     With regard to government spending on women's rights and sexual and reproductive health as part of its development assistance: (a) As part of the 2010-2015 Muskoka Initiative (the Initiative), how much funding was disbursed specifically (i) for family planning, (ii) for reproductive health, (iii) to women's rights organizations; (b) what percentage of the recently announced $3.5 billion in new funding for the “Saving Every Woman, Every Child” Initiative 2015-2020 will be directed towards family planning and reproductive health care; (c) how will the government meet its commitment to devote at least 10% of official development assistance to sexual and reproductive health, as agreed to during the 2012 International Parliamentarians Conference on the Implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development; (d) what has been the total amount disbursed specifically for family planning and reproductive health care under the auspices of government spending intended to address sexual violence in conflict-affected areas; and (e) what has been the total amount disbursed specifically for family planning and reproductive health care under the auspices of government spending intended to address child marriage, early marriage, and forced marriage?
Hon. Christian Paradis (Minister of International Development and Minister for La Francophonie, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), as part of the 2010-15 Muskoka Initiative, $103.3 million was disbursed for family planning, of which $85.4 million was for reproductive health specifically. The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, DFATD, does not report using the women’s rights organization Development Assistance Committee code since it is too broad.
    With regard to (b), Canada recognizes the need to focus on improving maternal and child health outcomes from pre-pregnancy through childhood as evidenced by the $3.5 billion in new funding disbursed for the Saving Every Woman, Every Child initiative. Specific allocations for family planning and reproductive health care have not yet been determined.
    With regard to (c), Canada endorses and remains committed to advance collective action on a diverse range of population and development goals, such as universal access to education and comprehensive reproductive health, including voluntary family planning services, and the reduction of maternal, newborn and child mortality.
    DFATD supports this through promoting safe pregnancies and maternal health; providing access to family planning services; reducing the burden of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS; preventing child, early and forced marriage; preventing female genital mutilation; and promoting women’s and girls’ rights. Departmental spending in the health sector is based on the priorities identified in the national health plans of recipient countries. Family planning activities are only one component of a broader strategy in maternal, newborn and child health.
    With regard to (d), Canada supports an array of family planning and reproductive health care initiatives, some of which may be undertaken in areas of conflict. However, DFATD does not track disbursements in the specific manner requested.
    With regard to (e), Canada supports an array of family planning and reproductive health care initiatives, many of which aid in global efforts to stop the practice of child marriage, early marriage and forced marriage. However, DFATD does not track disbursements in the specific manner requested.
Question No. 1144--
Ms. Isabelle Morin:
     With respect to the appointment of board members to the Canadian Airport Authorities board of directors: why is the government not allowing a civilian representative or an elected local representative to be appointed on the administrative boards of Canadian Airport Authorities for all nationally-significant airports?
Hon. Lisa Raitt (Minister of Transport, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, Canadian airport authorities, CAAs, are not-for-profit, non-share capital corporations governed by boards of directors drawn from the local/regional population. The majority of the directors are nominated or appointed directly by municipalities in the region served by the airport, as well as local and regional business or other socio-economic organizations, such as boards of trade, chambers of commerce and consumers associations. The federal and provincial governments also nominate or appoint individuals to airport authority boards of directors.
    No elected officials, whether from the municipal, provincial or federal level of government, are eligible for appointment to CAA boards of directors. This practice ensures that public confidence and trust in the integrity and impartiality of shared governance organizations is conserved, and removes any actual or perceived conflict of interest.

[English]

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns

    Mr. Speaker, furthermore, if Questions Nos. 1075, 1138 to 1141, 1143, and 1145 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.
    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Text]

Question No. 1075--
Ms. Linda Duncan:
     With regard to the Western Diversification Program (WDP) for each fiscal year from 2012-2013 to 2014-2015, year-to-date: (a) how many companies, non-profits or other eligible organizations applied for funding; (b) what is the total amount of funding that has been awarded, broken down by (i) fiscal year, (ii) federal electoral riding, (iii) date the funding was approved, (iv) date the funding was actually provided to each approved project; (c) what outreach activities were used to acquire potential applicants and what are the details of individuals or entities invited to briefings organized by Western Economic Diversification (WD); (d) what is the success rate of funding applications, broken down by (i) fiscal year, (ii) federal electoral riding; (e) what is the average amount of funding granted, broken down by (i) fiscal year, (ii) federal electoral riding; and (f) what are the requirements imposed by WD for financial commitments by other sources in order to qualify for a WDP award?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1138--
Mr. Robert Chisholm:
    With regard to Employment Insurance (EI) for fiscal year 2014-15: (a) what was the volume of EI applications in total and broken down by (i) region or province where the claim originated, (ii) the number of claims accepted and the number of claims rejected, (iii) month; (b) what was the average processing time for EI applications in total and broken down by (i) region or province where the claim originated, (ii) month; (c) how many applications waited more than 28 days for a decision and, for these applications, what was the average wait time for a decision, in total and broken down by (i) region or province where the claim originated, (ii) month; (d) what was the volume of calls to EI call centres in total and broken down by (i) month, (ii) region or province; (e) how many calls were made to EI call centres that received a “high volume“ message, in total and broken down by (i) month, (ii) region or province; (f) what were the national service level standards for calls answered by an agent at EI call centres, broken down by month; (g) what were the actual service level standards achieved by EI call centres for calls answered by an agent, broken down by (i) month, (ii) region or province; (h) what were the service standards for call backs from EI processing staff, broken down by month; (i) what were the service standards achieved by EI processing staff for call backs, broken down by (i) month, (ii) region or province; (j) what was the average number of days for a call back by EI processing staff, broken down by (i) month, (ii) region or province; (k) what was the number and percentage of term employees, and the number and percentage of indeterminate employees, working at EI call centres and processing centres; (l) what was the rate of sick leave use among EI call centre and processing centre employees; (m) what was the number of EI call centre and processing centre employees on long term disability; (n) what was the number of overtime hours worked by call centre employees; (o) how many of the additional 300 staff in EI processing have been hired, in total and broken down by (i) month, (ii) location; (p) how many of the 100 additional staff in EI call centres have been hired, in total and broken down by (i) month, (ii) location; (q) who authored the report on EI processing; (r) what is the Table of Contents for the report; (s) will the government make the report public; (t) how many complaints did the Office of Client Satisfaction receive, broken down by (i) month, (ii) region or province where the complaint originated; (u) how long, on average, did a complaint take to investigate and resolve, broken down by month; and (v) what were the major themes of the complaints received?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1139--
Ms. Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe:
     With regard to the government’s commitment on January 7, 2015, to resettle 3 000 Iraqi refugees in 2015: (a) how many government-assisted Iraqi refugees have been resettled in Canada since January 1, 2015, in total and broken down by month; (b) how many applications for privately-sponsored Iraqi refugees have been accepted since January 1, 2015, in total and broken down by month; (c) how many privately-sponsored Iraqi refugees have arrived in Canada since January 1, 2015, in total and broken down by month; (d) how many Iraqi refugees have made inland claims for refugee status at the Immigration and Refugee Board since January 1, 2015, in total and broken down by month; (e) how many Iraqi refugees have received a positive decision at the Immigration and Refugee Board since January 1, 2015, in total and broken down by month; (f) how many applications for private sponsorship of Iraqi refugees have been received since January 1, 2015, in total and broken down by month; and (g) how many applications for private sponsorship of Iraqi refugees are waiting to be processed?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1140--
Ms. Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe:
     With regard to the government’s commitment on January 7, 2015 to resettle 10 000 Syrian refugees by 2017: (a) how many Syrian refugees does the government plan to resettle each year, broken down by government-assisted and privately-sponsored refugees; (b) will the government be fast-tracking applications for privately-sponsored Syrian refugees; (c) what criteria has the government enumerated for prioritizing resettlement on the basis of religion or ethnicity; (d) what instructions have been given to processing officers regarding religion or ethnicity of Syrian refugees; (e) how many government assisted Syrian refugees have been resettled in Canada since January 1, 2015, in total and broken down by month; (f) how many applications for privately-sponsored Syrian refugees have been accepted since January 1, 2015, in total and broken down by month; (g) how many privately-sponsored Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada since January 1, 2015, in total and broken down by month; (h) how many Syrian refugees have made inland claims for refugee status at the Immigration and Refugee Board since July 2013, in total and broken down by (i) year, (ii) month; (i) how many Syrian refugees have received a positive decision at the Immigration and Refugee Board since July 2013, in total and broken down by (i) year, (ii) month; (j) how many applications for private sponsorship of Syrian refugees have been received since July 2013, in total and broken down by (i) year, (ii) month; and (k) how many applications for private sponsorship of Syrian refugees are waiting to be processed?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1141--
Ms. Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe:
     With regard to Express Entry: (a) how much has the government spent on advertising-to-date, broken down by (i) medium, including name of publication, website, or media outlet where appropriate, (ii) dates of advertisement, (iii) cost; (b) what is the budget for future advertising, broken down by (i) medium, including name of publication, website, or media outlet where appropriate, (ii) expected dates of advertisement, (iii) cost; and (c) what analysis is being conducted to ensure that advertising is achieving its intended goals?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1143--
Ms. Isabelle Morin:
     With respect to the allocation of federal funding: what is the total amount of government funding, for each fiscal year 2010-2011, 2011-2012, 2012-2013, 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 to date, allocated within the constituency of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, specifying each (i) department or agency, (ii) initiative, (iii) amount?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1145--
Mr. Scott Simms:
     With regard to the following cases pursued by the Attorney General of Canada and or the following federally initiated reference question, what have been the associated costs (internal and external) and internal tracking numbers of all documents, communications or briefing notes for each of the following cases: (a) Federation of Law Societies of Canada v. Canada (Attorney General), 2013 BCCA 147. SCC Docket No. 35399.; (b) R. v. Smickle, 2013 ONCA 678;(c) R. v. Nur, 2013 ONCA 677z;(d) R. v. Charles, 2013 ONCA 681.; (e) R. v. Hill, 2012 ONSC 5050; (f) Canada (Attorney General) v. Whaling, 2014 SCC 20.; (g) CUPW v. A.G. Canada, 2013 ONSC 7532.; (h) Tabingo v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2013 FC 377; (i) Reference re Supreme Court Act, ss. 5 and 6, 2014 SCC 21.; (j) Canada (Attorney General) v. PHS Community Services Society, 2011 SCC 44.; (k) Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, et al v Canada (Attorney General), et al (Federal Court File No T 356-13).; (l) Mounted Police Association of Ontario v. Canada (Attorney General) - 2015 SCC 1; (m) Reference re Supreme Court Act, - 2014 SCC 21; (n) Canada (Attorney General) v. Whaling - 2014 SCC 20; (o) SENATE REFORM, 2014 SCC 32, [2014] 1 S.C.R. 704; and (p) R. v. Tse - 2012 SCC 16?
    (Return tabled)

  (1525)  

[English]

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

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[Translation]

Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act

    The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code and to make a related amendment and a consequential amendment to other Acts, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.
    There being no motions at report stage, the House will now proceed without debate to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

[English]

Hon. Candice Bergen (for the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness)  
     moved that the bill be concurred in.
    The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
     Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: On division.
     The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

    (Motion agreed to)

     When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?
     Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Translation]

Hon. Candice Bergen (for the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness)  
     moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-42, the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act. This is an important legislative measure, since, for the first time in 20 years, it will make a significant change to the way in which firearms licences are awarded in Canada.

[English]

    There are eight important measures in this common-sense legislation that highlight the clear approach our Conservative government is taking to firearms' policies, namely it is that policies should promote safety but that they must also be sensible.
    I served in the Canadian Armed Forces for 20 years, and in doing so acquired professional knowledge regarding firearms, firearms safety and firearms responsibilities. Now as a civilian, I have gone through the process of obtaining my possession and acquisition licence. As a firearm owner myself and as a sport shooter, I can say that the important changes contained in the bill are needed and much appreciated by law-abiding Canadian gun owners.

[Translation]

     I can also say that these policies and, more generally, this bill, have the support of a large number of Canadians from coast to coast.
    Before I get into the details, I would like to start by explaining where I stand on this debate. This is a debate about culture. Hunting, fishing, trapping and sport shooting are all proud parts of our Canadian heritage.

[English]

    Were it not for these activities, the brave men and women who settled Canada would simply never have been able to undertake and sustain the exploration that has grown into the greatest country in the world. Not only that, many young Canadians can look back fondly on hunting excursions with their family.

[Translation]

    We need to encourage this type of activity.

[English]

    However, the firearms policies crafted by the previous Liberal government often served to dissuade people from engaging in these Canadian heritage activities. Policies that criminalize the ownership of firearms will simply discourage individuals from becoming involved. The same can be said for increased needless paperwork.
    Former Liberal justice minister and father of the long gun registry, Allan Rock, said that he that he came to Ottawa with the firm belief that only police and the military should have firearms. On this side of the House, we could not disagree more.

[Translation]

    That is exactly why we introduced the bill before us today.

[English]

    As I said a moment ago, the bill continues to deliver on our record of safe and sensible firearms policies. These two themes run throughout the bill.
     First, I would like to touch on how the bill would keep us safe.
     Our Conservative government has a strong record in tackling the criminal use of firearms. We have passed a series of new measures to ensure that criminals who use firearms go to prison for a very long time. For example, we created a new offence to criminalize drive-by and other reckless shootings. The bill before us today builds on this with three key measures.
     First, we will establish mandatory firearms safety training for first-time firearms owners. This is a very important change because, in the past, individuals were able to simply challenge the test, which did not ensure any level of consistency in knowledge of how to safely operate a firearm. This change is widely supported. For example, Pierre Latraverse of the Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs said, “This bill...simplifies the procedures for awarding a permit for users who follow the law, while strengthening safety and education”.
     Second, in the area of public safety, the bill before us today would amend the Criminal Code to strengthen the provisions relating to order prohibiting the possession of firearms where a person would be convicted of an offence involving domestic violence.

  (1530)  

[Translation]

    That is very important. I will repeat for emphasis. It will be mandatory to prohibit the possession of firearms in cases of serious offences involving domestic violence. In fact, nearly two-thirds of all those convicted of spousal homicide had a history of domestic violence. This change makes perfect sense.

[English]

    Tony Rodgers, executive director of the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters, had this to say:
    The amended Criminal Code to strengthen the provision relating to orders prohibiting possession of firearms where a person is convicted of an offence involving domestic violence is a step in the right direction.
    The last public safety measure in this legislation that I would to address is the authorization of firearms import information sharing for restricted and prohibited firearms imported by business.

[Translation]

    I would like to expand on this important point if I may. When a business imports a restricted or prohibited firearm, it has to complete forms and the merchandise has to be examined by the Canada Border Services Agency at the border. The business also has to register the firearms when they are received in the shop before they can be sold.
    However, the two agencies are operating in silos. If a business tells the Canada Border Services Agency that it has 5,000 units but registers just 3,000 with the RCMP, nobody compares those numbers. Consequently, 2,000 units could end up on the black market. That is a big problem, especially in British Columbia. That is why this was raised during federal, provincial and territorial meetings, and that is why we are pleased to be taking action on this important issue.

[English]

    I now would like to touch on our five measures to make our firearms policies more sensible.
     First, we would create a six-month grace period at the end of the five-year licence. This would stop otherwise law-abiding individuals from being criminalized overnight for a simple error in paperwork.

[Translation]

    Some people have wrongly claimed that this change was made just to satisfy the firearms lobby because no other permit has a grace period after it expires.

[English]

    However, I would like to counter that argument with this point. If I let my driver's licence, my dog licence, my fishing licence or any other licence lapse, I may have to pay a fine or be subject to another regulatory punishment. If I let my firearms licence lapse, I could go to prison for a significant length of time. It is clear that the threat of prison time for administrative oversight deserves special attention for leniency.
    However, we do not want this new measure to be abused. That is why, under the legislation, an individual would not be allowed to purchase new firearms or ammunition or even use their firearms during that time. However, a person would not become an overnight criminal as the result of a simple, honest mistake. That is common sense policy. No one who is not simply ideologically opposed to the civilian possession of firearms can disagree with this measure.
     Even the NDP member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca had to agree that this was common sense in committee. What did he have to say about the grace period? He said, “I do agree with some of our other presenters is that perhaps a failure to renew shouldn't result in an immediate criminal charge”.
    The next measure to make our firearms policies more sensible is the merger of the possession-only licence and the possession and acquisition licence. Again, this makes good sense.
     The possession-only licence was created by the previous Liberal government as a grandfathering system. Those who did not want to engage in the new bureaucratic regime would not have their firearms taken away, but they would not be able to purchase any new ones, either. This group of firearms owners averages approximately 60 years of age and has owned firearms in excess of 20 years. This group is clearly experienced in the safe handling and use of firearms. That is why this legislative change would give purchasing rights to nearly 600,000 individuals.
    Let me again quote Pierre Latraverse of the Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs, who said:
    It's a very positive measure, given that there will only be a single licence under these conditions. This is much more representative of what owning a firearm is like. Currently, there are two licences: a possession licence and a possession and acquisition licence. If you only have a possession licence, you cannot purchase firearms. You have to go back through the system to buy a possession and acquisition licence.
    With the merger, a hunter won't have to go through the whole administrative process again to purchase another firearm.

  (1535)  

[Translation]

    The next sensible measure is the elimination of useless paperwork for authorization to transport restricted and prohibited weapons. Currently, an individual who wants to do target practice with a restricted weapon has to fill out forms when he wants to go to a firing range.

[English]

    Sometimes provincial chief firearms officers, or CFOs, will allow for broader authorizations, but I will touch on that and on their discretion later.
     This paperwork is then sent to the CFO, or the chief firearms officer, where it is filed in a drawer and never seen again. It is not shared with law enforcement and it is not searchable. Aside from the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry, which our Conservative government proudly destroyed, this is yet another significant waste of taxpayer dollars within the entire firearms regime. It makes no sense to require all of this needless paperwork.
    I would like to quote from a National Post editorial from earlier this month. It said:
    The aims of our gun control system...are worthwhile and important. Our approach to achieving these ends, however, leaves much to be desired, and inflicts burdensome red tape on citizens well beyond what is necessary.
    Take, for instance, the current system controlling the lawful transport of restricted firearms...The prospective buyer of a handgun most have a restricted-class licence, and must show he has a valid reason to buy it...The firearm must be stored, unloaded, inside a securely locked container or safe. And it must be equipped with a secondary trigger lock even when so secured. The only place the handgun may be legally transported is from the owner’s home to a firing range, or a gun repair shop, and back, by a “reasonably direct route.”
    And that’s not the end of it. The gun owner must then apply for an entirely separate piece of paperwork — an authorization to transport, or ATT. This permit repeats what the firearms licence already establishes: that the lawful possessor of a registered gun can only transport it via a direct route from home to certain authorized locations.
    What good is this? Anyone who qualifies to own a handgun clearly already meets the legal requirements of using it at a certified facility, and anyone who cannot legally qualify to transport a gun back and forth should not be authorized to possess one in the first place. The entire ATT system is redundant.
    It simply does not make sense and it does not protect the public. These are two strong reasons to support this important legislation.
    What else would this legislation do?
    As I mentioned earlier, it would end the arbitrary powers of the chief firearms officers. Elected officials would take their appropriate place overseeing the decisions of CFOs that directly affect law-abiding gun owners.
    The current rules and procedures have resulted in a nonsensical patchwork across the country. It is ridiculous that these would differ vastly between Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. There have to be harmonized standards across the country.

[Translation]

    The final measure I would like to discuss is, in my opinion, one of the most important ones in the whole bill. We will enable a duly elected government to have the final say in classification decisions.
    Why make such a big change? As many have pointed out, the government already has the power to further restrict the classification of a firearm, but it does not have the power to relax restrictions.
    That problem became all too apparent on February 25, 2014. That was the day that tens of thousands of Canadians woke up to find that the Canadian firearms program had turned them into criminals with the stroke of a pen. Unilaterally, a change had been made to the Firearms Reference Table. The minister was not consulted, nor was any other Canadian.

  (1540)  

[English]

    There was no legislation, no regulation, not even an order-in-council that authorized this change.

[Translation]

    Even more worrisome, there was no way to correct the mistake. That is why this bill is so important.

[English]

    I can reconfirm, as the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness has said numerous times, as soon as the legislation receives royal assent, we will restore the non-restricted classification of the Swiss arms and the CZ858 families of rifles.
    It is clear that our Conservative government is standing up for law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters. However, what about the other political parties? Well, I expect that we will hear for the remainder of this debate how awful firearms are and how they ought to be further restricted. That should come as no surprise, given that both the Liberals and the NDP have committed to bringing back a wasteful and ineffective long gun registry should they ever get the chance.

[Translation]

    What has struck me, however, is the degree of contempt for gun owners. The member for Trinity—Spadina alluded to some sort of moral equivalence between hunters and terrorists. That is the same member who said in the past that emotional arguments from hunters were not enough to justify not banning the sale of ammunition.

[English]

    In case anyone thinks this is a rogue junior member, let us listen to the words of the Liberal leader. He said that this bill:
would allow handguns and assault weapons to be freely transported in a trunk anywhere within a province, even left parked outside a Canadian Tire or a local hockey arena.
     He even put out a fundraising advertisement with the same comments. This is patently ridiculous. The Liberal leader is either trying to fearmonger or he simply does not have a clue about how firearms are regulated in Canada, or it could be both.
    I was pleased to see Conservative members of the public safety committee ask Tony Bernardo, one of Canada's foremost firearms experts, about this advertisement and whether it was accurate. Here is what he had to say: “I've seen the advertisements and they are incorrect”.
    What is more, the question was also put to non-partisan public servants. The assistant deputy minister of public safety answered with a simple “no” when asked by committee members if the advertisements were accurate.
    The facts are these. Despite the claims of the Liberal Party, firearms issues are serious issues. Any serious leader must stand up for these rights, and it is clear that the only leader who will do so is the Prime Minister.

[Translation]

    In closing, I would like to remind the members of the House that we are talking about Canada's hunting, fishing and sport shooting culture. We are talking about important outdoor activities that are enjoyed by over 4 million Canadians. We should be promoting those activities, not making them less accessible.

[English]

    Before my colleagues opposite rise to ask questions about why the so-called gun lobby has so influenced the bill, I would like to remind them of something. There are simply ordinary Canadians who enjoy these activities.
     I would like to remind my colleagues of the words of Greg Farrant, from the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, who said the following:
    Firearms owners in Canada are judges, lawyers, farmers, electricians, mechanics, plumbers, accountants, even federal politicians...who live in and represent urban ridings. They are not criminals. They are not gang members. Rather, they are lawful firearms owners who obey the law.
    I hope that members heed those words when they vote on this important legislation, because I know that the individuals who care about firearms issues and property rights issues will be watching this debate closely.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his speech, but it mystifies me why Conservatives continue to stand and say that the NDP will bring back the gun registry, when we very clearly said we will not. It is gone. The data is destroyed, and it is not coming back.
    He cited a quotation from me in committee, and as the Conservatives are very fond of doing, he cited the first half of what I had to say and not the second half. While I did agree that getting an automatic criminal record for inadvertently failing to renew one's licence is probably too harsh, I did not say that there should be a complete get-out-of-jail-free card for everyone who does not renew his or her licence. I said that those who inadvertently forget should probably have a lesser penalty than a criminal record. I think that is common sense.
    The bill would take away the ability to challenge the gun licensing exam, and it says that everyone must do a gun safety course. The member talked about representing rural Canadians and those who live in remote areas. How are people in rural or remote areas supposed to access those courses when they are not really available on a practical basis? They require travel. They require overnight stays. Therefore, we moved an amendment at committee asking that we maintain the ability, for those who legitimately cannot do a course because they cannot legitimately access one, because we think courses are valuable, to challenge the gun licence exam. Why are they taking away that ability for rural and northern residents?

  (1545)  

    Mr. Speaker, just to go back to my quote from the member, I did not disparage him in any way. I simply quoted what he said at committee, which he agreed to here in the House, which is that gun owners, should their licence inadvertently expire due to some administrative oversight, should not be threatened with criminal prosecution. He and I agree on that, and I think that is where common sense comes into this legislation. That is why I appeal to his common sense and the common sense of his colleagues to stand and vote on this important bill.
    When it comes to the idea of challenging the exam or having to take a firearms safety course, we feel that it is also good common sense that new gun owners take a gun safety course.
    I live in a rural area. I am an MP for a rural riding. I have a gun licence, and I acquired it by attending a course. They are not as inaccessible as my colleague would have people believe, and it is not an onerous matter. The courses are very simple. They are very time effective. All new gun owners would be raised to the same standard of understanding regarding gun safety and gun responsibility. That is something I think Canadians support. It is something gun owners support, and it is something my colleagues in the opposition should definitely support.
    Mr. Speaker, one cannot help but notice how the member really torques up the Conservative spin that comes out of the Prime Minister's Office with respect to the gun registry.
    It is very interesting. If the member were to reflect upon reality and be truthful with Canadians, the member should acknowledge that it was actually Kim Campbell, the Progressive Conservative prime minister, in co-operation with Conservative senators, and I know, because I was a member of the Manitoba legislature when the issue first came up, who actually started the whole movement toward a gun registry.
    Does the member feel that it is the reform element that has actually completely overcome the progressive element of Kim Campbell, the former prime minister, to say absolutely no to the gun registry?
     I wonder if he would also provide an honest answer, for people who might be viewing, in recognizing that the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada has been very clear. We are not going to be bringing back the gun registry. He knows that. Why would he espouse something that is just not true?
    Mr. Speaker, it was very fanciful skating over there to somehow attribute the gun registry to Conservatives. Everyone knows in Canada that the long gun registry came from the Liberal Party. Talk to any gun owner in Canada, and they will tell us about the loathing they have for the Liberal Party for having brought it in and defended it to its last dying gasp. When that bill to end the long gun registry was in front of Parliament, how did that member vote, I wonder. I will tell members. He voted to keep it. There is no question that the long gun registry is very close and dear to the hearts of Liberal members. That is why they have lost the support of law-abiding gun owners all across Canada, gun owners who respect our laws. They should not be treated in such shameful ways as the Liberals have treated them.
    I want to thank the member for having allowed me to highlight this marked difference between the Liberal position and the Conservative position and Conservative leadership on this critical matter.
    Mr. Speaker, part of the changes we are bringing forward in this particular legislation has to do with the authorization to transport. When I hear the Liberal member across the way get up to talk about spin, the Liberal spin was that the bill was somehow going to allow firearms to be brought to supermarkets, and in fact, there was fundraising on that, which is very shameful.
    The issue at hand is that it is producing red tape for law-abiding, legal firearm owners across this country. In fact, we had a number of credible witnesses who came to committee and talked about the fact that in their provinces, their ATTs are actually valid for longer periods of time anyway.
    I wonder if the hon. member would comment on the fact that the Liberals are using this to fearmonger and to raise funds for the upcoming election.

  (1550)  

    Mr. Speaker, I think that question highlights how I just responded to the last question. The Liberals are in favour of incredible bureaucracy that constrains law-abiding Canadian gun owners. A good example is the ATT. Just so I get the quote right, this is a direct quote from the Liberal leader. He said:
     Bill C-42 would allow handguns and assault weapons to be freely transported in a trunk anywhere within a province, even left parked outside a Canadian Tire or local hockey arena.
    That quote shows a remarkable lack of understanding, first about the issue and what an ATT is, and second what the bill would do to correct this issue for law-abiding gun owners. That quote was refuted by witness after witness at committee. The Liberal members should really back away from that, perhaps have a look at their policy with respect to law-abiding gun owners, and take this opportunity to stand up and defend law-abiding gun owners by supporting the legislation.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, out of the many problematic aspects of this bill, there is one aspect in particular that I want to ask my colleague about.
    For as long as I can remember, the RCMP has been the body that determines which guns are prohibited and which ones are not. However, under this bill, the Minister of Public Safety would make those decisions.
    Does my colleague think it is okay to give this responsibility, which was the RCMP's, to the minister, regardless of his party affiliation? To hand this responsibility over to a politician who—with all due respect to all my colleagues—has no expertise in the matter would be to politicize it.
    Furthermore, my colleague referred to Gary Mauser as a leading expert on firearms, when really, he is more like an expert in manipulating public opinion. That is even the title of one of his books. I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on that.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to hear what my colleague thinks about bureaucrats deciding with the stroke of a pen that thousands upon thousands of law-abiding gun owners would immediately become criminals, illegal gun owners, overnight, with no consultation. What does she think about that? How does she answer to her farmers and to sports shooters about that? That is really the issue.
    The minister, of course, is free to consult, and I am sure that he will consult before undertaking such a decision.
     The other important aspect of what we are debating here is what I mentioned in my remarks, and that is that the decision made by bureaucrats to basically render thousands of Canadians criminals could not be undone in the current legislative or regulatory form. That is important, because an error was made. The error needs to be corrected, and this bill provides the mechanism, the tool, for such errors to be corrected.
    I do not know what the member would have against that.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak against Bill C-42, the government's so-called common sense firearms licensing act, at third reading.
    After introducing the bill in October and letting it languish on the order paper, in April the government suddenly found it urgent to press ahead with the bill. I still wonder why that was the case. However, the result clearly is that we now have a bill before us that has received very rushed consideration here in Parliament.
    The government used time allocation to push Bill C-42 through second reading and then gave very severe limits on the time to be spent in committee, guaranteeing we would have poor consideration. We ended up having only two days for witnesses, April 28 and April 30, and a very short window of opportunity to even invite witnesses. It was just three days from when time allocation was proposed to when the first witnesses appeared.
    As a result, we have Bill C-42 back in front of us without hearing from many important potential witnesses, including front-line law enforcement officers or law enforcement officials of any kind.
    This is particularly disturbing, as there does not seem to have been any consultation with the law enforcement community before the introduction of the bill. Any consultations that did take place took place well after the bill had been introduced and took place in private. No one else was consulted, and clearly not any of the victim groups that the government always claims to keep top of mind when it comes to crime.
    The parliamentary secretary has tried to characterize this poor consideration as somehow a failure of the opposition to do our job, which is a curious charge that implicitly admits that the bill has not received the consideration it should have. However, that is disingenuous for many reasons, foremost among them the limited and rapid timeframe that the government imposed for consideration of the bill in committee, resulting in a single week, take it or leave it, for witnesses to appear.
    We are now faced with another troubling phenomenon, and that is a reluctance of witnesses to appear before the public safety committee. Perhaps that is a result of the experience of some of the witnesses on the hearings for Bill C-51, where they were insulted and had their integrity challenged by government members. Perhaps it is a concern over funding, since we have seen groups that have opposed the government find that funding for their programming has been chopped. Perhaps it is a concern over charitable status, because if the witnesses happen to represent a charity, their organization may end up being audited by the Conservative government. Whatever the cause, the result is that we have Bill C-42 back from the public safety committee unchanged, apart from a technical amendment regarding the number of sections.
    Turning back to the content of Bill C-42 more directly, some on the government side have taken issue with a statement I made in debate at second reading when I said that the bill before us only looks like common sense when viewed from the point of view of the gun lobby. I stand by that statement, but I would point out that the Conservatives have tried to ascribe a very broad meaning to the term “gun lobby” that few others would actually use.
    What we on this side of the House mean when we use the term is not all gun owners, not all hunters and fishers, but a small group of people, including some gun dealers and manufacturers and some paid lobbyists, who spend their time hanging around at Parliament to promote a very narrow agenda. That agenda is to remove all restrictions on guns in Canada.
    The first target of this narrow lobby was the gun registry, which is now gone and will not be coming back. However, they have now moved on to other goals, and this bill is a part of that lobby effort. It is an agenda that very few gun owners would actually know anything about, and the shorter the time we spend on it in Parliament, the less they will know.
    The Conservatives continue to promote the dangerous ideas of this gun lobby. They represent a small minority of Canadians, and, I would argue, a minority even among gun owners. This is the idea that any regulations at all on firearms are so-called red tape that pit the interests of law-abiding gun owners against the government and police and amount to nothing more than restrictions on rights or freedoms.
    As I have pointed out before, and like his gun lobby allies, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness has fallen into the habit of using U.S. rhetoric in his comments on firearms. This was never so clear than on July 23 of last year, when the minister said, “To possess a firearm is a right, and it's a right that comes with responsibilities.”
    Here we have a minister of the crown, one of the government's chief legal ministers, directly contradicting the Supreme Court of Canada. In 1993, the Supreme Court found in the case of R. v. Hasselwander that:
    Canadians, unlike Americans do not have a constitutional right to bear arms. Indeed, most Canadians prefer the peace of mind and sense of security derived from the knowledge that the possession of automatic weapons is prohibited.
    Therefore, what the minister's comments last July clearly indicate is that we unfortunately have a government that likes to pander to this narrow gun lobby, and in this case the government does so fairly transparently in order to generate political support from their base.

  (1555)  

    The Conservatives like to talk about the Liberals doing mailings on gun registry and gun regulations, and they themselves do exactly the same. However, let me remind the House of a few of these initiatives regarding specific firearms regulations wherein the influence of the gun lobby is quite apparent.
    In 2011 the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness drafted new regulations for gun shows that would have required things most Canadians would actually see as common sense, such as notifying local police of gun shows to be held in their jurisdiction and requiring tethering of guns on display just as is done with cellphones in sales kiosks. These gun show regulations would have been brought into force in 2012, but no, that did not happen. Instead, the Conservatives junked the proposed regulations altogether after complaints from the gun lobby that the new requirements would be too onerous. I guess we should have seen this coming when the gun-lobby-dominated firearms advisory committee called for the scrapping of gun show regulations in its March 2012 report.
    Regulations were also due to come into force in December 2012 to require each gun manufactured in Canada to have an individual serial number, something actually required by international treaties to which Canada is a party and again something that seems like common sense when it comes to police being able to trace guns used in crimes or in the fight to combat the illegal international trade in small arms. In November 2013, and for a second time, the Conservatives quietly implemented a regulation delaying the coming into force of this requirement until December 2015, after the next election.
    When it comes to Bill C-42, I guess we should be glad that the government abandoned the most extreme recommendations of its firearms advisory committee. These were the proposals for 10-year licences and proposals to allow the resale of seized weapons by police forces. We know that the police community very strongly opposed both of those measures, but now we are seeing complaints in the media from the narrow gun lobby that Bill C-42 does not go far enough in that direction.
    New Democrats have a different view, one that clearly puts public safety first. New Democrats believe that public safety must always trump politics when it comes to firearms licensing and regulation. The Conservatives like to pose as the ones who understand rural Canadians, but let me say that many MPs on our side also come from rural backgrounds—I am one of those—and many represent rural ridings. I myself represent a riding that stretches from downtown Victoria all the way out to the West Coast Trail trailhead at Port Renfrew, so I do know something about law-abiding gun owners for whom hunting is much more than just a prop to use in arguments about gun registration and licensing.
    Most curious, from a government that claims to put the interests of rural areas first when it comes to gun regulations, was the rejection of the NDP amendment proposed in the public safety committee to preserve the right of those in rural and remote areas to challenge the firearms exam without completing a safety course.
    Let us make no mistake about it: New Democrats support the requirement for completing a safety course. However, we acknowledge that there are vast areas of this country where these courses are simply not available on a practical basis. We are glad to see that the bill would preserve the exemption for aboriginal people, but we ask why the government rejected our proposals to accommodate other remote rural residents with a similar exemption.
    Let me turn back once again to the contents of the bill we have before us and make some of the arguments I made at second reading.
     For me, despite the short title of the bill, there is nothing common sense about the bill's two major provisions: making gun classification a political process and removing the requirement for a transportation permit for restricted firearms to be present in any vehicle carrying them. These two proposals have no public safety purpose and instead respond to explicit complaints from the narrow gun lobby. All the other things the Conservatives want to address in this bill could have been accomplished without these two provisions.
     Let me discuss the first change proposed, a change in the way weapons are classified as either non-restricted, restricted, or prohibited.
    Right now, recommendations on classification, under the definitions contained in law, are made by firearms experts from the RCMP. The minister's signature is required, but there is no discretion for the minister, providing the recommendations he receives fall within the scope of the existing legislative definitions. What is interesting is to hear the members on the other side say that bureaucrats made this decision and that bureaucrats could not be overruled by the minister. However, the existing legislative definition actually does allow the minister to overrule that recommendation for weapons that have a legitimate hunting or sporting purpose.

  (1600)  

    Why was the minister unable to overrule this reclassification? It was clearly because the Swiss Arms Classic Green does not have a legitimate hunting or sporting purpose once it is modified to be a semi-automatic weapon.
    What Bill C-42 suggests is that cabinet should be able to ignore classification recommendations from the experts charged with keeping the public safe, the RCMP, and substitute its own wisdom about how weapons should be classified. The members on the other side say yes, the minister would be allowed to consult whomever he wants, and some Conservatives have even suggested that the proper people to consult would be gun manufacturers, who could advise cabinet on the classification of the weapons they are trying to sell.
    Bill C-42 goes even further by allowing cabinet to grant exemptions for guns and ammunition that would otherwise be prohibited weapons.
    Where did this perceived need for change come from? It came from that single case that has been referred to, the reclassification of a single weapon, the Swiss Arms Classic Green, as it is sometimes called. These are military-style weapons that had originally been sold in Canada as a semi-automatic weapon limited to firing five rounds. Before 2013, there were approximately 2,000 of these in Canada, worth about $4,000 each. Why, then, were they reclassified?
    It came about because the RCMP found that so-called refurbished models were showing up in gun shops in Calgary, but they were now operating as automatic weapons. This meant these weapons were now being converted to automatic weapons capable of firing a long series of shots from a single trigger pull, exactly what the designation of “prohibited” was designed to keep off the streets in Canada.
    When an outcry resulted from this reclassification, the Conservatives were quick to grant a two-year amnesty in March 2014, an amnesty for which I believe the legal authority is doubtful at best. Now we have Bill C-42 before us as the longer-term solution, since this bill would give the current Conservative cabinet the power to decide if these dangerous weapons should remain on our streets.
    Quite apart from the danger of ending up with automatic weapons on the street, there is another important principle at stake here. When we make laws, we make them in public, after public debate, and they stay in force until there is another public debate about changing them. In fact, what we have in this bill is the creation of a process whereby cabinet can in effect change our gun classification system and the classification of individual weapons and ammunition by making decisions behind closed doors and without any public debate.
    Who knows who will be serving in cabinet after the next election? Whoever that is, I know I do not want decisions to be based on political considerations, but instead on the professional recommendations of public officials charged with keeping Canadians safe.
    The other major change in Bill C-42 is removing the requirement that exists in most provinces to have a permit in any vehicle transporting restricted firearms and prohibiting any province from reimposing such a requirement. Currently, permits must specify a reason for transporting a restricted firearm and specify that the travel must be from a specific point A to a specific point B. This makes it relatively easy for police to enforce the prohibition on the illegal transportation of firearms.
    Bill C-42 rolls transportation permits into the licence to own firearms. This would automatically allow the transportation of firearms between the owner's home and a list of five categories of places: to any gun range, to any gun shop, to any gun show, to any police station, and to any border post for exiting Canada. In my riding alone, this would create hundreds of possibilities for those who wish to violate the law to make excuses for having the weapons in their vehicles, and this change would make the prohibition on the illegal transportation of weapons virtually impossible for police to enforce. Unfortunately, the committee did not hear from the law enforcement community, for a variety of reasons that I addressed earlier.
    There are other provisions in the bill about which New Democrats have questions. Members on the other side have raised the question of the grace period. I want to state once again that New Democrats have said that inadvertently forgetting to renew one's licence should not always result in a criminal record. However, the government has gone whole hog the other way and removed any penalties for people failing to renew their gun licences. We have suggested that if it is truly inadvertent, a lesser penalty than a criminal record could be imposed, but a penalty should still exist.
    Does anything in this bill look good to New Democrats? Certainly measures that make prohibitions on gun ownership easier in cases of domestic violence are welcome, as are the expanded requirements for gun safety courses.

  (1605)  

    Clearly, public safety is not the central priority for the Conservatives in Bill C-42. In fact, its two main provisions seem to pose new threats to public safety.
    Media interviews with the government's friends in the gun lobby have made several things clear. One is the close links between this narrow gun lobby and the Conservative Party, especially in terms of fundraising, as I mentioned, the other is that they will not be satisfied to stop with Bill C-42, and they intend to demand more in the future. This close relationship between the Conservatives and the gun lobby is why no one should trust the Conservatives any longer when it comes to putting public safety first on licensing gun owners and the regulations of guns. In the end, that really is the reason why we will be voting against this bill.
    We had a chance to have a full and fair debate here in Parliament. We had a chance to hear a full range of witnesses. The government had already decided that neither of those things was going to happen with this bill. As I said, it sat on the order paper from October and it is inexcusable to me that the government should then suddenly whip the bill through in such a short time. It needs full consideration. We need to hear from the law enforcement community about the impacts of this bill, and we need to hear from more Canadians and from disparate kinds of groups. The government did a good job in bringing hunting and fishing groups before the committee. They are legitimate stakeholders and we were glad to hear from them. However, hearing from just one side in this debate does not make for the best legislation.
    The government accuses us on this side of fearmongering, and I guess we throw the same charge back at it. The fearmongering we are talking about is based on real concerns about public safety, so I would argue that fearmongering is not the right word. We are talking about what happens in many municipalities, in many cities around the country. We have the example of Surrey, B.C. where we have had a number of murders in that community, which I believe is now up to 25 in two months. There are very high levels of gun violence, so we have to make sure that any of the changes we make to a bill like Bill C-42 do not inadvertently contribute to these high levels of violence. We have seen similar problems with gun violence in downtown Toronto. We see now in British Columbia the gun violence extending to the community of Abbotsford. It is like a cancer that spreads throughout the community. We have to do all we can to ensure that reasonable regulations, and the things that I talked about, such as having serial numbers on guns manufactured in Canada, are in place to help police officers do the work they need to do to keep our communities safe from gun violence. This is not just about hunters and fishers, although we do have to make sure that we have a law in place that is practical and reasonable for them. It is also about safety in our main communities. In this case, I would argue that the government has not found a balance, instead it has gone for one side of the debate only.
    What will the government say to families in Surrey? What will it say about the need to attack gun violence there? We heard the minister say in question period today that sometime in the future the government will provide more RCMP. He could not say exactly when, but that there would be money in the future. We have the government saying that the budget has been increased for the RCMP, for CBSA and for CSIS. However, when we actually look at the budget, as the minister invited me to do, we find that the level of cuts since 2012 will not even be made up for another four years. How do our law enforcement agencies cope with these epidemics of gun violence that are happening in urban areas?
    Because of the high level of resources required to meet terrorist threats, we have seen just this week that the RCMP has been forced to cut such programs as the Condor program, which targeted those offenders who left a halfway house or escaped custody and were illegally at large. There was a special task force to make sure that those people who belong behind bars end up back behind bars. However, the RCMP had to cut that due to a lack of funding.
    Once again we have come around full circle here for a government that likes to talk tough on crime but not provide the resources needed and, inadvertently, through its ideological approach to gun licensing and regulation, may actually make things worse in our urban areas.
     Therefore, once again, the New Democrats will stand up and call for a gun licensing and regulation regime that puts public safety first, and that is not Bill C-42.

  (1610)  

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member, in the latter part of his speech, tried to link Bill C-42 to gun violence in Surrey. As a retired member of the force, I am pretty sure there is not a gangbanger out there who has a PAL or an ATT. I am sure they do not even know how to spell it. That is a fair stretch on that part.
    My question is with regard to the ATT. As he well knows from committee and elsewhere, the ATT has been formed so that a person can take it from their residence to a gun range and return it in that fashion. I believe that is the most appropriate way. Therefore, I would like to clearly understand where he was trying to go with gun violence in Surrey, specific to a PAL, a POL and an ATT, in which gangbangers do not apply to any of these rules, none.
    Mr. Speaker, I think it applies most directly to the transportation of weapons. What we are talking about here is that when the police stop someone, under Bill C-42 that person would not have to have an authorization to transport the weapon in the car, but they could automatically talk about five different categories of places they could be transporting that gun to.
    We are not talking about the law-abiding sport shooter. We are talking about the ability of the RCMP to enforce the laws against illegal transportation of guns on those who are in fact interested in gun violence and crime.
    I talked to my local police chiefs about this. I talked to a local member of the RCMP and they acknowledged that they felt this could potentially make enforcing the regulations against illegal transportation of guns very difficult for them. That would have an impact on gun violence in urban areas.

  (1615)  

    Mr. Speaker, I will get a chance to address the House shortly on Bill C-42, but I have a fairly specific question for the member. It is related to the issue of the gun registry.
    As we have already witnessed here, within the first hour of debate it has come up on several occasions. I think there is some merit in posing the question straightforward to the member. What is the official position of the New Democratic Party in regard to gun registry? Is it something it would support and would it reinstate it?
    Mr. Speaker, I am a little puzzled by the member's question because he knows good and well. We have said it repeatedly here. When we become the government after the next election we have no intention of bringing back the gun registry. The registry is dead. The data has been destroyed.
    What we have said is, having done that, we have to take care to make sure that the licensing and regulations we have in place do everything they can to promote public safety and community safety at the local level. As I stressed in my speech, we do not think that Bill C-42 meets this standard.
    Mr. Speaker, I come from the riding of Surrey—Newton and North Delta. As we know, Surrey—Newton is a part of Surrey, B.C. The residents of Surrey are very disturbed that restricted weapons could be moved around so easily with this legislation. Not only that, we are also very concerned that despite a commitment to provide an extra 100 RCMP we are not seeing any clear timelines or commitments.
    From a government that talks about public safety and fighting crime, we feel the government is failing to deliver for the citizens of Surrey—Newton, as well as for other Canadians from coast to coast. My question for my colleague is, do you believe that this particular bill would ensure public safety or would it be much easier to move restricted weapons around and add to the gang violence we are seeing in Surrey, where we have had close to 30 incidents of shooting in the last two months?
    Before I go to the member, I would remind all hon. members to direct their questions to the chair, rather than directly to their colleagues.
    The hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.
    Mr. Speaker, this is a government that likes to talk tough on crime and point to all its legislation of increased mandatory minimums and all the deterrents that are supposed to happen, even though we all know that there is absolutely no evidence that these tougher penalties have an impact on the crime rate. At the same time, it does things that make it much more difficult for municipal police and the RCMP to do their jobs.
    One of those is the government has continued to cut the budgets available since 2012. The Conservatives like to point back a decade ago to 2006 and talk about things they did 10 years ago, but in fact for the last three years, until this year, they have been cutting the budgets. This year, they are holding them relatively steady at a level much lower than they were in 2012, which makes it much more difficult for police to do their jobs. It also makes it much more difficult for the RCMP to do things like provide the 100 RCMP members that have been promised, with no timeframe, to address the concerns in Surrey.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to quote the Leader of the NDP from early December 2014 to point out what the member said in terms of his party's view on registering firearms. He said:
    A New Democrat government would ensure police are able to track every firearm in Canada.
    He went on to say he:
....disputed the Conservative government's contention that gun registration is an unfair, onerous requirement....
    Clearly, the NDP wants to bring the long gun registry back. I am somewhat offended by his use of the term gun lobby. Firearms owners in Canada represent a wide cross-section of society. Millions of Canadians own and use firearms safely and in a law-abiding way.
    As the chair of the Conservative hunting and angling caucus, I asked for people's views on Bill C-42, and I received petitions from all across the country. Thousands of people from all walks of life urged us to pass Bill C-42.
    It is quite clear that the NDP wants to bring the long gun registry back. Quite honestly, I think it is an NDP goal to eliminate the private ownership of firearms in this country.
    Will the member come clean and admit the real goal is to eliminate firearms ownership?

  (1620)  

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette will have to pardon me if I actually laugh at his question. It is absurd.
    What we have said, and he quoted our leader saying something that I have just said, is that we think we should be able to track guns. What does that mean? We think there should be a serial number on guns, every gun manufactured in Canada, so that when the police find a weapon they can find sales records. Having sales records of guns and a discrete number, which we have openly called for, through regulation on every gun manufactured in Canada, would be a good start for police being able to solve gun crimes.
    We are not bringing back the registry, which registers individual guns to individual owners, but being able to track the sale of guns, which is actually a very good idea which the police very much support in this country.
    Mr. Speaker, I, too, had to chuckle at that last question.
    It seems ironic to me that the government that hails on spending more money than anybody in the entire universe, on one thing or another, is still so hell bent on not having a responsible program for guns.
     We are not talking about gun owners; we are talking about guns. We expect people to register their cars. There are serial numbers on cars. Automobiles are things that are used for useful, peaceful purposes. Guns are made to kill. Whether they are made to kill animals in hunting for pleasure or they are made to kill humans, they are made to kill. The government seems resistant to track that.
    Could my hon. colleague comment on the irony of the government that talks about law and order, and responsibility, and how irresponsible this bill is in regard to guns?
    Mr. Speaker, I will leave checking the irony to the hon. member.
    I want to go back to the previous question from the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette. He did mention his offence at the use of the term gun lobby. I said it clearly in my speech, and I have said it many times; the gun lobby is a narrow group. It is not all gun owners in Canada. It is the hon. member who is trying to change the definition of gun lobby.
    The gun lobby is those who work here, who are paid lobbyists, and those who work for the manufacturers as paid lobbyists, those who make their living off lobbying for gun changes.
     It is not every gun owner or hunter in the country. Most of those people have no idea what has been proposed by the extremists who have been represented by the gun lobby here in Ottawa.
    Mr. Speaker, over the weekend, I had the opportunity to hold a town hall in my riding of Winnipeg North, and no one raised the issue of the gun registry, or gun control or Bill C-42. In fact, I could probably count on one hand the number of my constituents who, over the last number of years, have raised this issue.
    However, something that is consistently raised is the issue of crime and safety. Crime and safety affect all of us, whether we are in urban or rural areas. It is an area about which there is a great deal of discussion. I suspect I am not the only member of Parliament who has been approached by their constituents. Our constituents want to hear from the government about what it is prepared to do to try to improve the safety conditions of our communities, regardless of the region in which they live.
    Certain aspects within Bill C-42 are positive and would make a difference, and I will go into that. However, other aspects of the legislation raise a great deal of concern regarding the issue of public safety. Again, I will get into that issue shortly.
    Unfortunately, when I look at Bill C-42, I wonder why we have it before us today. What is the motivation behind the government bringing forward this bill?
     It is interesting to note that back in 2014 the RCMP firearms program made a relatively quiet change to the status of the Swiss Arms brand rifles and certain Czech-made CZ858 rifles from non-restricted to prohibited. The guns had been legal in Canada for many years. A headline in the Montreal Gazette on August 30, 2014, read, “Conservatives restrict RCMP’s ability to reclassify firearms; Tories aim to woo gun enthusiasts”. There is a great deal of merit in what the article reported, which is one of the biggest flaws within the legislation proposed by the government today. It is politically motivated legislation, with which the government is trying to woo gun owners.
    The government has been fairly successful in trying to keep the issue of the gun registry alive, because it believes it is in its best political interest to do so. What seems to play second fiddle is the issue of crime and safety within our own communities. When Conservatives speak out on this issue, we often hear about the hunting, trapping and fishing industries, sport firing and things of this nature, and that is great. Again, I will provide some additional comment on that. However, we do not necessarily hear the other side. We do not hear about the importance of safety. There are aspects of the legislation that would touch upon that, but that is not necessarily what the government likes to highlight.
    Let me go through what the legislation proposes to do. It creates a six-month grace period at the end of that five-year licence period to stop people from immediately becoming criminalized for paperwork delays in licence renewals. That has already been talked about, and it has a great deal of merit.
     The legislation would streamline the licencing system by eliminating the possession-only licence, known as the POL, and converting all existing POLs to possession and acquisition licences.

  (1625)  

    The legislation would make classroom participation in firearms safety training mandatory for first-time licence applicants.
     On a couple of these points, I had the opportunity to not only to talk to a couple of individuals, because I anticipated I would be speaking to this legislation, but I also took advantage of visiting a hunting store to get a better sense of its take on the legislation. There are certain aspects of the legislation, especially around safety, in which there is a great deal of support, even from gun enthusiasts who want more gun control. Aspects of the legislation are supported from all sides.
    It would amend the Criminal Code to strengthen the provisions relating to orders prohibiting the possession of firearms where a person would be convicted of an offence involving domestic violence.
     It would decrease needless paperwork around authorizations to transport by making them a condition of a licence for certain routine and lawful activities. Again, concerns have been raised in regard to that issue.
     It would provide for discretionary authority of the chief firearms officer to be limited by regulation. Again, it is of great concern and I will provide further comment.
    The legislation would authorize firearms import information sharing when restricted and prohibited firearms were imported into Canada by business.
    Finally, from what I understand, it would also allow the government to have the final say on the classification decisions following the receipt of an independent expert's advice.
    It is very important at the beginning of the debate to state clearly that the Liberal Party cannot support the legislation as proposed. I think the government was already somewhat aware of the fact that opposition parties, particularly the Liberal Party, would have a great deal of difficulty in supporting the legislation. It is questionable whether it would make our communities safer. Certain aspects of the legislation do not make our communities safer. Therefore, it is very difficult for me as an individual and for the Liberal Party, if we put the safety of Canadians first and foremost, to support Bill C-42.
    The Liberal Party, through our critic, has been very vocal in recognizing that if the government truly wanted to do something positive with Bill C-42, it should have been prepared to allow the legislation to be broken into two parts. I suspect certain parts of the legislation would pass unanimously. It could have been passed quite a while ago. By not recognizing that, the government now finds itself in a position, as we have seen with a lot of legislation, where it continues to pass legislation through time allocation, or closure, to get its legislative agenda passed.
    Unfortunately, that limits debate for members of Parliament to contribute and share concerns of their constituents with regard to important legislation that ultimately impacts our communities, such as Winnipeg North and all regions of Canada.
    It would eliminate the need for owners of prohibited and restricted firearms to have a transportation licence to carry those guns in their vehicles. This means they could freely transport handguns or automatic weapons anywhere within their province, whether it is to a grocery store or a soccer field. Members have made reference to the leader of the Liberal Party talking about a Canadian Tire store.

  (1630)  

    The government is trying to give the impression that an automatic weapon would be carried from a home, from a locked situation, to a vehicle and to the shooting range, with no stops in between. That is ridiculous. I do not believe there is any true merit for that.
     I used to be the justice critic in Manitoba a number of years back. If we take a look at the amount of automobile thefts in the province of Manitoba, either in 2003 or 2004, I believe 14,000 vehicles were stolen in one year. That means we could take the total number of vehicles in any other province, on a per capita basis, and we would still find that Manitoba had double the rate of stolen cars than any other province.
    We aggressively pursued that issue and found that a large number of youth were stealing these vehicles. It was not uncommon to have one youth steal 30 vehicles in one year. We are not talking about a dozen; we are talking probably somewhere in the neighbourhood of a couple of hundred youth. It had a very profound impact.
    If we checked with people, and it did not matter which region of a province, there was a great deal of concern, but there was a bit more concern in certain areas. When we get those kinds of numbers and hear why cars are being stolen, it is a concern. To be a member of a gang, youth had to steal a certain number of vehicles as an initiation. The number of individuals getting involved in gang activities skyrocketed during the 2002-03 period. To get hard numbers is very difficult. I speculated that it could range anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000, which is a very high number considering the population base. Imagine the number of vehicles being stolen. Where are they being stolen from? Throughout all communities.
     If we relax certain rules that allow for easier transportation of prohibited weapons, we should be concerned. I should express the concerns my constituents have on this legislation. They should be asking me and the Prime Minister whether we are making our communities safer by passing the legislation that would allow easier transportation of automatic weapons and restricted weapons. That is one of the primary reasons why I am very grateful the Liberal Party has taken this position on the legislation.
     Often we will hear the Conservatives say that police officers or law enforcement officers are on their side. I have worked with community police officers. I sat as a chair of a youth justice committee for many years. The issues involved with respect to gangs are very serious in nature. Also, I suspect that Winnipeg is not alone, that we would find there are other pockets in other communities where there is a higher element of risk. I think all communities are very much concerned with this.
    I do not think we should take it as lightly as we have. Members say that it is just the “transportation of” or that people are are law-abiding citizens. Of course, they are law-abiding. Gun owners are law-abiding, wonderful citizens and they come from many different professions. However, they are not the ones who concern me and my constituents when it comes to violence or the potential risk of violence in our community.

  (1635)  

    It is also important to recognize that Bill C-42 would take the power to classify firearms out of the hands of police, the experts in keeping Canada safe, and would put it in the hands of politicians. I am surprised that there has not been more comment on that issue. I know that the Liberal Party critic has had the opportunity to raise it on a number of occasions. This is a very serious issue. We have a government that likes to think that it knows better with respect to what should be a restricted or prohibited weapon. It wants to make this a political decision as opposed to relying on experts.
    I can recall having interviews on the changes in security here on the Hill and what the RCMP, local constables, and the fantastic security guards should be doing to ensure that we can protect the public, the staff, and members of Parliament.
    When I asked about security, it was a fairly straightforward response. In dealing with security, we should be turning to and relying on the experts. They bring something to the table that we do not have as elected officials. If there are issues in terms of certain decisions, there are ministerial departments. The opposition parties have critics. Nothing prevents them from picking up the phone, sending emails, or writing letters. There are many different avenues they can use to get a better understanding of why a decision was made. Who knows? It could ultimately end up with the reversal of a decision.
    Instead, what do we have? We have a Prime Minister who sees this as a win-win issue for him if he can bring in legislation and tell gun owners and lobbyists that the Conservatives stood tall for them. The government has not stood tall for us. It has disrespected the professional organizations, like the civil service, that understand. Will they make mistakes? At times, yes, but I can assure members that they will be fewer than the government's. Why would the government bring in legislation that would politicize it and allow the Prime Minister or the minister responsible to make decisions? I think that is wrong.
    Let me conclude by recognizing that law-abiding gun owners are in all different professions. Liberals recognize that. We recognize the valuable contributions of hunters, trappers, fishers, and sport shooters. These things create economic activity. It is a wonderful lifestyle.
    However, I will leave something with the government, and that is that there is another side to the debate. There is a safety element that needs to be talked about. Even though there are certain aspects of the legislation that are positive, if the government had brought them in as stand-alone legislation, they would have received the support of the Liberal Party of Canada. However, because of its attitude in trying to push the envelope and politicize the system, making our communities a little less safe in some ways, we cannot, in good conscience, support this legislation.

  (1640)  

    Before we go to questions and comments, 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 Trinity—Spadina, Infrastructure; the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North, Infrastructure.
    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale.
    Mr. Speaker, I suspect that the hon. member has never been through the rigorous training involved in getting a possession and acquisition licence. He probably is not aware that for any club one joins subsequent to that, one has to go through another safety course as well and pass it. He probably is not aware that the authorization to transport is already in effect. The only change we are talking about is that rather than having a permit for every kind of trip one needed to make, in other words for each individual club, there would just be one permit if a person decided to go to different clubs.
    However, what really troubled me is that he went on ad infinitum about a crime spree that happened in Manitoba, which was preceded by his notion that people would be driving around with their legal, locked firearms in their trunks and leaving their cars somewhere to be stolen. The reason this misrepresentation bothers me is that he mentioned all these cars that were stolen but never linked them to even one case of a legal firearm in any one of these cars that was stolen along with the car. The reason is that the vast majority, if not all, of the legal gun owners in this country understand the importance of making sure that they are with the vehicle all the time when they have an ATT, and they only drive it from home to a club.

  (1645)  

    Mr. Speaker, to quote a colleague, that is stretching it.
    First, I can assure the member that I do have some experience. I had the opportunity and the privilege to serve in the Canadian Forces, so I am familiar with the process. Also, as I pointed out, I took the initiative to engage constituents and in fact visited a hunting store prior to debating the bill before us.
    I