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42nd PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 135

CONTENTS

Tuesday, February 7, 2017




House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 148 
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NUMBER 135 
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1st SESSION 
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42nd PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Speaker: The Honourable Geoff Regan

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayer



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1000)  

[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 treaty entitled “Strategic Partnership Agreement between Canada, of the One Part, and the European Union and its Member States, of the Other Part”, done at Brussels on October 30, 2016. An explanatory memorandum is included with this treaty.

[Translation]

Right to Know Act

    He said: Mr. Speaker, Canadians have the right to know if the everyday products they buy for themselves, their families, and their homes could harm their health or the environment. That is why I am introducing the right to know act.

[English]

    Protection begins with knowledge, and this is why I am tabling a bill that should provide consumers with the right to access that information, the right to know act. This bill would require that all products, especially foods, household cleaners, and cosmetics, carry clearly marked labels specifying their toxic contents.
    Environmental Defence and others support the objectives of this bill. I hope that all members of Parliament will support this important legislation.

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

Petitions

Small Business 

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by campers who stayed at the Elm River RV Park in Glenholme, Nova Scotia, located in the riding of Cumberland—Colchester. The petitioners call on the government to ensure that campgrounds with fewer than five full-time employees continue to be recognized and taxed as small businesses.

Food Waste  

    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to present a petition on behalf of my constituents from Revelstoke, who really are leaders in preventing food waste. This petition asks that we declare October 20 of each year to be national food waste awareness day; determine solutions to food waste through a national awareness campaign; make it easier for businesses to donate unsold food products; and reduce the environmental impact of producing food that is not consumed by encouraging more sustainable food production methods.

  (1005)  

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present two petitions this morning.
    The first is from residents of the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, pointing to the very significant risk of tankers carrying bitumen mixed with diluent. It is a substance that science says cannot be cleaned up. The petitioners call for a permanent tanker ban on not just the northern coast of B.C. but the whole west coast of B.C.

Insecticides  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition relates to the ongoing threat to pollinators, particularly from neonicotinoid insecticides. The petitioners are from Victoria, B.C., and a large number are from the Montreal area.

International Development  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present two petitions from my constituents in Victoria this morning.
    The first calls on the government to meet the target set more than four decades ago and increase Canada's official development assistance to 0.7% of GDP over the next three years.

Government Priorities  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls on the government to acknowledge the security challenges posed by climate change and poverty and to shift spending away from military defence and toward environmental and social priorities, including poverty elimination and greenhouse gas reduction.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns

    Mr. Speaker, if Questions No. 648, 706, and 735, originally tabled on January 30, 2017, could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.
    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Text]

Question No. 648--
Mr. Bob Saroya:
     With regard to appointments to federal boards, agencies, and associations since November 4, 2015, for each appointment: what is the name, province, and position of the appointee?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 706--
Mr. Bob Zimmer:
     With regard to materials prepared for Ministers since May 4, 2016: for every briefing document, memorandum or docket prepared, what is (i) the date, (ii) the title or subject matter, (iii) the department’s internal tracking number, (iv) the recipient?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 735--
Mr. Tom Lukiwski:
     With regard to government expenditures on travel by non-public servants (Financial Object Code 026), broken down by department and agency, since November 4, 2015: (a) what is the total amount spent; (b) what is the total amount spent which was approved by a Minister or exempt staff member; (c) what are the details of each expenditure related to (b), including the (i) date, (ii) travellers, (iii) origin, (iv) destination, (v) total cost of trip, (vi) itemized breakdown of costs; and (d) what are the details of each individual expenditure made by the either the Privy Council Office or Prime Minister’s Office, including (i) date, (ii) traveller, (iii) origin, (iv) destination, (v) total cost of trip, (vi) itemized breakdown of costs?
    (Return tabled)

[English]

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

Business of the House

    The Chair would like to take a moment to provide some information to the House regarding the management of private members' business.

[Translation]

     As members know, after the order of precedence is replenished, the Chair reviews the new items so as to alert the House to bills which at first glance appear to infringe on the financial prerogative of the Crown. This allows members the opportunity to intervene in a timely fashion to present their views about the need for those bills to be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

[English]

    Accordingly, following the December 6, 2016, replenishment of the order of precedence with 15 new items, I wish to inform the House that there are two bills that give the Chair some concern as to the spending provisions they contemplate.
    They are Bill C-322, an act to amend the Railway Safety Act with respect to road crossings, standing in the name of the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie; and Bill C-308, an act to provide for the incorporation of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and to make consequential amendments to other acts, standing in the name of the member for Saskatoon—University.
    I encourage hon. members who would like to make arguments regarding the need for royal recommendations to accompany these bills, or any of the other bills now on the order of precedence, to do so at an early opportunity.

[Translation]

    I thank honourable members for their attention.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[Translation]

Statistics Act

    The House resumed from January 30 consideration of the motion that Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Statistics Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
    Mr. Speaker, as an economist by training, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-36, which deals with amendments to the Statistics Act and of course pertains to the operations of Statistics Canada.
    This House will recall that, when the Conservatives were in power, the decision to eliminate the long-form census provoked quite a public outcry, which came from nearly every sector of civil society. The scientific community was particularly vocal, including social scientists and economists in general.
    Eliminating the long-form census created problems with respect to the analysis of demographic data. Even though the long-form census is being restored, the disruption means that, ultimately, vital information will not be available to study societal changes.
    Just as we had done during the election campaign, the Liberals also promised to bring back the long-form census. We have to credit them for that. They have done so, and we must thank them for that, at least. The scientific community is also very grateful.
    However, this bill is not about the long-form census as such. According to the Liberal government, this bill seeks to strengthen the independence of Statistics Canada, and make changes and modernize it. We will not oppose the measures that are included in the bill. They are good. Unfortunately, they do only half of what was promised during the election campaign. Hon. members will certainly remember that during the election campaign the Liberal Party promised to give Statistics Canada full independence.
    When the then Conservative government cancelled the long-form census, the chief statistician resigned in protest of this interference. In September, many Canadians were surprised to see his successor, Wayne Smith, also resign, this time over the Liberal government's decision to force Statistics Canada to used Shared Services Canada's information technology services.
    The government did not waver despite the fact that for three months there were intense discussions between the government, Shared Services, and Statistics Canada. During those discussions, Statistics Canada clearly demonstrated that being forced to use the agency's IT services would compromise not only its independence, but also the efficiency of data collection.
    Although the bill makes public the cabinet decisions or ministerial orders that the statistician is opposed to and removes the possibility of imprisonment for those who refuse to fill out the mandatory survey, it still falls short. It does not make Statistics Canada independent, particularly when it comes to the process for selecting the chief statistician. In that regard, I would like to point out the work that has been done by my colleague from Windsor West, who introduced a bill to address that issue.
    The bill also does not make it mandatory to complete the long-form census; does not make it possible to modernize the Statistics Act so that information can be better disseminated to the public; and does not, as I mentioned, do anything to prevent the interference of Shared Services Canada, which compromises Statistics Canada's independence and is the reason why Wayne Smith resigned.
    In September 2016, La Presse published an interview with the chief statistician, which clearly demonstrates the importance of this issue. The article states that:
     In a June report [so three months before the chief statistician resigned] obtained by the Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, the [National Statistics] Council wrote that the Liberals' intent to have Statistics Canada find new ways of collecting, analyzing, and disseminating data was inconsistent with their insistence that the federal agency use the new centralized platform...
    On one hand, the Liberal government is asking Statistics Canada to do a better job of collecting the data it needs to better inform the public, as well as the federal and provincial governments, on what measures ought to be taken. On the other hand, the Liberal government is trying to force Statistics Canada to use the Shared Services Canada computer system, which will prevent Statistics Canada from doing what the government asked it to do in the first place.

  (1010)  

[English]

    If there is one element that needs to be included in Bill C-36, it is independence and the ability of Statistics Canada to make its own decisions, because it knows best what it actually needs, in terms of data collection, to report and to inform the population better, and not only the population, but all levels of government.
    Did the government actually listen to the chief statistician? Of course not. That is why he resigned.
    We have, at this point, a process to replace him. He was actually replaced by his assistant, but to fully replace him, we have a process that still involves the government, so it is still not independent and autonomous. This means, by extension, that the process remains politicized.

  (1015)  

[Translation]

    Given all the upheaval that Statistics Canada has gone through since 2011 or 2012, the government should have addressed directly the serious promise it made during the election campaign. It was to make Statistics Canada fully and not just partly independent, give it a few more powers, and provide direction for the rest.
    The Liberals promised to make Statistics Canada fully independent. Bill C-36 does not do that and the government has not yet indicated that it is willing to do it after this bill is passed.
    I would like the various Liberal members to tell us, in their speeches, what the government intends to do with Statistics Canada. This is a fundamental issue that affects the fabric of our society.

[English]

    As I said before, I would like to commend the member for Windsor West, who has presented a bill that would address the issue of the selection of the chief statistician at Statistics Canada. The reason he did so is that he felt there was reluctance by the government to abandon some of the powers it currently has over a service that is traditionally viewed as independent and whose services are critical for the elaboration and analysis of the policies government puts forth. It is also of use to provincial and municipal governments, because they need to have information on the composition of their societies and the evolution of their societies and communities.
    The member for Windsor West saw this very important element that was, once again, promised by the Liberals. He felt that the government was not going in that direction.
    I have the feeling that other members on this side of the House will actually do the exact same thing on other commitments regarding Statistics Canada, and general commitments made by the government, on which it does not seem to be willing to deliver.

[Translation]

    The issue of the long-form census received a lot more public attention, but the independence of Statistics Canada is also deemed important by scientific communities.
    I believe that this type of half measure brought forward by the government not only fuels the cynicism of Canadians, but also the cynicism of the people whose work relies on these government organizations.

[English]

     Statistics Canada has gone through all the decisions.

[Translation]

    Considering all the turmoil that Statistics Canada has been through, we would have expected the government to address this issue immediately, but it refuses to do so.
    We will be voting in favour of this bill at second reading. In committee, of course, we will try to ensure that the commitments dealing with Statistics Canada that the Liberals made during the election campaign are included in the bill. That would be an improvement and, in that sense, we could help the government meet the commitments it made during the election campaign.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, what we have seen in Bill C-36 is a positive piece of legislation that would reinforce Statistics Canada's independence. It takes a number of initiatives, such as assigning to the chief statistician authorities for decisions on several things: statistical procedures; methods and professional standards employed for the production of statistics; the content of statistical releases and publications; the timing, methods, and dissemination of the statistics compiled; and the operations and staff of Statistics Canada.
    This government has recognized the important role Statistics Canada plays in Canada. We understand the importance of science and statistical information, not only for the national government but for all levels of government, along with many non-profit organizations and the private sector, that use and rely on Statistics Canada. In fact, this party and this government have been very supportive of Statistics Canada and its independence. It is something that we recognize is administered through excellent civil servants.
    I would ask the member if the professional standards we have seen at Statistics Canada over the years have elevated it to being second to no other data collection agency, not only here in Canada but abroad. Would the member not agree?

  (1020)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I have acknowledged that this is a step forward. That is why we will be voting in favour of the bill at second reading. My speech was more about the fact that this is only a half measure compared to what the Liberal Party promised.

[English]

    If I look at the Liberal platform from the last election, on page 37, it says, “We will make Statistics Canada fully independent”.
    Fully independent also means ensuring that the process of selecting the chief statistician is actually an independent process. It also means that if there are some problems, such as the intrusion of Shared Services Canada into the ways of collecting data within the system Statistics Canada deems essential for its work, the government will actually not go in that direction. Neither of those measures is in the bill. Shared Services Canada is of primary concern, especially since StatsCan is saying that it will impede its ability to do its work currently.
    If the Liberals really wanted to respect the independence of Statistics Canada, as they promised, they would have listened to the chief statistician. They did not, and he had to resign in protest. That is why Bill C-36 is a step forward. That is why we will vote for it at second reading, but it is far from fulfilling the commitment made during the election.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank and congratulate my colleague on his very accurate speech. I would like to broaden the debate, because I think it is pretty serious when the head of Statistics Canada has to resign under the Liberal government to protest the constraints that are still there. It is just like under the Harper government.
    This is just one more in a long line of broken Liberal promises. They were supposed to restore home mail delivery for those who had lost it. They were supposed to change our electoral system. That promise was also broken. They were supposed to make Statistics Canada independent. That promise is also being broken. I ask my colleague, what does this say about the new Liberal government?
    Mr. Speaker, they break promises. It is as simple as that.
    My colleague is right. If we look at the election campaign and the big promises such as democratic reform, promises that everyone knew about, such as being against Bill C-51 and pledging to amend it, which, as far as I know, has not yet been brought up in the House, it sure seems as though the government is coasting on the fact that the difference between it and the Conservatives is that it is not Conservative. Considering everything the Conservatives did in the 41st Parliament and the fact that the Liberals seem to be sticking to that playbook, we have reason to be worried. People will figure it out sooner or later.
    This government is basically following in its predecessor's footsteps. It says those measures are progressive. It signed a free trade agreement that the Conservatives negotiated with Europe, which is fine, apparently, because it is supposedly a progressive agreement. The government is on board with the Conservatives' climate change targets, which it says are progressive targets. One of these days, the illusion will shatter and people will see what is really going on.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-36, an act to amend the Statistics Act.
     First, I would like to thank my hon. colleague, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, for working so hard on drafting this very important bill. The main objective of this bill is to strengthen the independence of Statistics Canada. The bill strikes the right balance between strengthening the agency’s independence and ensuring that the statistical information it produces continues to be of the highest quality.
    Statistics play an essential role in democratic societies. They serve governments, businesses, non-profit organizations, the research community, and the public. Statistics provide Canadians with information about our society, economy, and environment. They help various stakeholders identify the challenges and opportunities we face as a society, design and implement policies and actions, and hold our governments to account. There is widespread agreement internationally that national statistical offices must have a high degree of independence from political intervention.
    Decisions on statistical matters must be based strictly on professional considerations. That is how statistical agencies can preserve the integrity, impartiality, and quality of their data. This independence is essential if Canadians are to have confidence in official statistics.

  (1025)  

[English]

    That said, the quality of statistical data must be balanced with other important considerations, including the fact that statistical information must be relevant.
    As the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, I have the important privilege of implementing measures that have a major impact on the lives of our families. That includes finding efficient and inclusive ways to support early learning and child care, supporting the development of affordable housing, and helping the most vulnerable citizens in our society exit poverty and live better. To meet these responsibilities, my department and I require data that is accurate, reliable, accessible, impartial, timely, and relevant. High-quality data is critical for making informed decisions about all the programs and services that affect the daily lives of our citizens. Therefore, our government made a commitment to decision-making that is informed by sound evidence. That is why our government moved quickly last year to reinstate the mandatory long-form census in time for the 2016 census of our population.
    The decision made by the previous government to replace the 2011 mandatory long-form census with a voluntary survey compromised the quality of information that is essential to responsible public policy-making. In my earlier life, I had, unfortunately, the opportunity to see the bad impact of that in the lives and work of many of my colleagues. As a result, Statistics Canada was unable to release accurate and detailed census information about some communities, particularly in rural areas of our country.
    The government's decision to replace the mandatory long-form census with a voluntary questionnaire also highlighted vulnerabilities in the Statistics Act, which we will now solve.

[Translation]

     In particular, the legislation allowed the previous government to make decisions on a statistical matter in an arbitrary and non-transparent way. Bill C-36 will ensure that our government can continue to make decisions on behalf of all Canadians that are evidence-based. The bill will also ensure that Statistics Canada can continue to deliver high-quality, reliable and relevant information.
    There are three ways in which Bill C-36 strikes the right balance between strengthening the independence of Statistics Canada and safeguarding the relevance of the information it produces.
    First, the bill formally assigns to the chief statistician the authority to make decisions about the methods and operations of Statistics Canada. This will limit the potential for political intervention in the data-gathering methods and other technical matters directly related to the operations of Statistics Canada.
    The bill also recognizes the overall responsibility of the minister and the Government for ensuring that the statistical system remains relevant and responsive to Canadians.
    For example, if the minister decides it is in the national interest to issue directives related to the data-gathering methods and other statistical operations of Statistics Canada, he or she can make a recommendation through the Governor in Council.
    Any directives issued by the Governor in Council would be tabled in both Houses of Parliament to ensure full transparency and accountability.

  (1030)  

[English]

    Second, Bill C-36 would strengthen the independence of the chief statistician. Under the current Statistics Act, the chief statistician holds office at the pleasure of the government without set terms. He or she can be removed at any time without explanation by the Governor in Council. Bill C-36 would amend the act so that the chief statistician would hold office on good behaviour. He or she would be appointed to the position for a renewable term of not more than five years. That means the Governor in Council could only dismiss a chief statistician for cause. In addition, the chief statistician would be appointed through an open, transparent, and merit-based selection process, as should be the case. This process would be in line with the government's new approach to Governor in Council appointments.
    Third, the bill calls for the creation of a new Canadian statistics advisory council. This group would advise both the minister and the chief statistician on the overall quality of the statistical system. That includes providing recommendations to ensure the continued development, accuracy, accessibility, and timeliness of the information produced by Statistics Canada. In the interests of openness and transparency, the advisory council would publish an annual report on the state of the national statistical system.

[Translation]

     Taken together, these three amendments to the Statistics Act will strengthen the independence of Statistics Canada. They will increase the transparency and accountability of this important agency. They will also ensure that statistical information produced on behalf of all Canadians continues to be reliable and relevant.
    The bill contains three other amendments to the Statistics Act that I would like to note. First, there is general consensus that imprisonment is a disproportionate penalty for Canadians who refuse to provide information for mandatory surveys. The bill removes this penalty from the act. Fines will remain to ensure compliance with certain provisions of the act.
    Second, the bill removes the requirement for consent to transfer census records to Library and Archives Canada after 92 years, beginning with the 2021 census of population. This change responds to the needs of historians and genealogists who require this important data for research purposes.
    Finally, the bill amends the Statistics Act to modernize some of the language in the act. These language changes reflect technological advances in data-gathering methods. That includes the use of electronic surveys in place of paper questionnaires.
    Taken together, the amendments safeguard the independence of Statistics Canada and enable it to continue to produce high-quality information, while ensuring that the agency we are so proud of is better aligned with international standards.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the overview of the bill.
    As the private information is made public after 92 years, what provisions are in place for the privacy of the family and the spouses in terms of releasing private information to the general public?
    Mr. Speaker, this is an important question. As we all know, in an open and transparent society and democracy, particularly an open and transparent agency as is the case of Statistics Canada, there are serious rules to follow to protect the privacy of families and Canadians. All appropriate rules will be followed by Statistics Canada to protect the integrity of such information.
    Mr. Speaker, I generally favour Bill C-36, but I would like to see more independence for Statistics Canada, and I am concerned about the sharing of data with Shared Services Canada.
    I have a specific proposal and I hope it is not inappropriate. We know there is an opening for chief statistician and we also know that one of the bravest people who ever served this country in its civil service is the former director at Statistics Canada, Dr. Munir Sheikh. It may be unorthodox, but I would urge the minister to request cabinet to find a way to replace our chief statistician with someone who deserves our thanks and is entirely trustworthy to every Canadian. That person would be Munir Sheikh.

  (1035)  

    Mr. Speaker, I had the privilege in my earlier life to see how committed the earlier chief statistician was to collecting appropriate information and making that information serve the interests of Canadians. We all regret what took place in the past. We look forward to working with future chief statisticians in the context of this new law to make sure that Statistics Canada, in the manner that was just mentioned, makes its work even more supportive of growing our society, growing our economy, and making our democratic system as valuable as it can be to all Canadians.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. I would like to ask him a question that ordinary Canadians are wondering about.
    If the two chief statisticians resigned because of issues related to independence and interference, why is the government choosing to work with Shared Services Canada? I imagine it will save some money, but how can the government justify that decision?
    Mr. Speaker, again, I thank my colleagues, especially my colleague from Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, for the question.
    Obviously this relates to the previous question about the confidentiality and security of the information produced and used by the government, particularly by Statistics Canada. The bill responds to some of these concerns by ensuring that Shared Services Canada works together with Statistics Canada so that in an open and democratic society like ours, information is accessible and used to serve Canadians, and that the confidentiality and security of Canadians are guaranteed by these mechanisms of intra-governmental and inter-organizational collaboration.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the minister could provide some thoughts with regard to how important Statistics Canada is for allowing good sound policy decisions to be made. I am not just talking about at the national level. Statistics Canada provides so much valuable information that assists, for example, our local municipal governments to set up community profiles. It assists the provinces and Ottawa in working through issues such as equalization payments and all sorts of transfers, and even assists non-profit organizations and the private sector. There is a great dependency on Stats Canada. Generally speaking, Stats Canada as a whole has done an overwhelmingly positive job, and that is a reflection on the civil servants who provide the information we need in order to move forward.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I will build on what my colleague just said, by reiterating that in my former life, I had the privilege on many occasions to hear high praise for Statistics Canada from international experts and national statistics agencies around the world.
    We can be proud of Statistics Canada, not just for what it does in Canada, but also for its reputation beyond our borders. The agency has a reputation for its independence, quality, and professionalism. It supports our communities and municipalities, especially the smaller ones, which have limited means for investigation and research. It supports our community organizations that work so hard to support community development. It also supports the relationships between the different levels of government. The Canadian government needs sound and reliable data if it is to work effectively with the other governments.
    We can be proud of Statistics Canada for all these reasons, but especially for the quality and rigour of its work and the reputation it has afforded us around the world.

  (1040)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to use this opportunity to give a shout-out to a former colleague in this place, the former member for Kingston and the Islands, Ted Hsu, who led the charge in the previous Parliament to drive the government to reinstate the long-form census. One of the arguments he made at the time was on the critical importance of collecting data in the interest of all Canadians and the broad national public interest.
    I have been listening to the concerns raised on the other side, particularly from the official opposition as they relate to the issue of privacy, which gets to my question about why this bill purports to work with Shared Services Canada to share data between agencies. Does the minister have a reason that this is taking place? For example, with respect to the collecting of income data from the Canada Revenue Agency, is there a particular reason that we would adopt that particular methodology in the interest of collecting better information?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his obvious understanding of the importance of good data in our society.
    In the government context where there can be dozens or perhaps hundreds of different systems across institutions and organizations, protecting the privacy and security of information gathered on Canadians is a serious challenge. Shared Services Canada has been created, and to be fair and transparent, I think it had been created by the previous government for that purpose, to try to increase the ability of the government to protect the sensitivity of all of those pieces of information that need to circulate across departments.
    Not only is it a difficult challenge, but it is also a very important challenge to do exactly what my colleague has mentioned, which is to ensure that departments can work together, and even outside of the government, while protecting the safety and security of important data on our families and communities.
    Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand today to speak to these changes as proposed in Bill C-36 to the Statistics Canada Act.
    There is no doubt that in our society we rely on information. All sectors of business rely on good data, good information to guide their decisions, and on this side of the aisle, we have always stressed the importance of that good work that Statistics Canada does.
    However, the private lives of Canadians should never be put in jeopardy. It is a concern of ours that some of the changes as suggested, if not amended, to this piece of legislation could strike an improper balance between the privacy of Canadians and what Canadians feel is their private information being infringed upon and what the government uses that data for.
    This is a redesign and a re-engineering of how statistics would be gathered in an effort to make them more independent, make the chief statistician more independent, but it also has to come back to what is balancing the rights of Canadians while good data is collected.
    I will give examples of some of the intrusive questions that we have heard from Canadians that some have said just go beyond, perhaps, questions they are comfortable answering. That would be, “How many bathrooms do you have in your home? When do you leave for work, and when do you arrive at work?” and other questions that delve into their personal lives on the basis that somehow this data would be useful to the government for the purposes of disseminating that information for good policy-making and for good decision-making.
    It is proposed in the changes to give the chief statistician total control over those questions with no ministerial control or accountability by the minister. What this means in the new set-up, in the new engineered or redesigned way of collecting data and the supervision and the management of collecting data, is that the chief statistician would, on his or her own, be able to make those decisions, not have to vet them through the minister or through the ministry or through Parliament, where we would decide perhaps on certain, larger issues, whether they are appropriate or not appropriate.
    What happens when a Canadian down the road decides that, although it is mandatory to complete it, it is too intrusive into his or her personal life? How do they ask the questions? To whom do they ask the questions to find out more about why this question is being asked? It will not come back to the minister. It will not come through the regular channels of parliamentary procedure as currently exist. It will be the chief statistician having the lone decision-making and not having to be accountable to this place for the decisions on those questions.
    The other issue that has been mentioned this morning already is the storage of data. The chief statistician could decide, having been given sole authority to create this independence as put forward, where this data could be stored. We talked about the importance of where it is being stored today and maintaining that integrity, but at any point in time, the chief statistician could decide to deliver that data to a third party for storage.
    In fact, we saw the most recent resignation, I believe his name was Wayne Smith, over this very issue. Former chief statistician Wayne Smith resigned over the push to use Shared Services Canada to store the information. Unfortunately his concerns, which were made clear to the Liberal government, were not looked upon and it took his resignation before they would listen. We are talking again about security of Canadians, and this should be the top priority of any government.
    Let us talk about the overriding governance portion of the changes that are being made and why we have concerns with that on this side. What is happening is that the governance body, the overseeing body, is changing to the Canadian statistics advisory council, a new name, from the National Statistics Council.

  (1045)  

    The key concern here is, this was put in place in 1985 by the Mulroney government as an oversight body with 13 members, representing all provinces and territories, while the new one, as proposed in this legislation, reduces that to 10 members. Why is that a concern? It is because we cannot understand why the government would want to change from representation of all provinces and territories, in terms of their input into the data that is collected. What is the reason for eliminating three spots? That means three areas of the country would not be represented.
    Here is an example. If Atlantic Canada, by chance, does not have an appointee to that board, it could miss out on specific data being included and received by Statistics Canada that is specific to Atlantic Canada, because the oversight board would see all of the information being asked for as it is done. The 13-person national board that currently exists, the National Statistics Council, has representation from all parts of the country. It has worked well, frankly, since 1985. It strikes the right balance. It decides what is working and what is not working. This is a body that is working very effectively, representing all parts of the country, yet we see it would change to a smaller number.
    The other concern is it perhaps could become another place for patronage appointments. It could be speculated that the 10 who would be appointed would be political appointments. They could well be people who perhaps have knowledge and background in the area of statistics, but perhaps not, because it may be someone who is looking for a board appointment, who is favourable to this government, who could be put on that board. Therefore, it brings up questions, as we have seen being asked in the House most recently, about access for fundraising. Could it be Liberal supporters who go to events and pay $1,500 and hang out with Chinese billionaires? Could it be other people who have worked through the years on the Liberal front who are put on the board? This is a big concern.
    Of course, if it was left as it is, as we think it possibly should be, and some of our amendments may deal with this going forward, then it is working, it is working well, and representing the complete country.
    It begs the question, why would the government want to redesign it so that all Canadians are not represented? It could be said on this front that this shows incredible disrespect for the provinces and territories. Instead of revising the mandate of the current statistics council and keeping it in full provincial and territorial representation, as it currently provides, the Liberals have chosen to construct a new council to eliminate the feedback from three provinces or territories.
    The redesign of the board to create independence brings up other concerns of promises made by the government, which as we have seen lately have basically been altered, either thrown in the garbage bin or arbitrarily overrun, such as the overrun on the promise of $10-billion deficits, now currently sitting at $25 billion.
    We question today, as we debate the bill, what really is the purpose of the bill? What is the purpose when we see some of these changes?

  (1050)  

    Again, it is all about balance. It is all about striking the right balance between collecting data and privacy of Canadians. I will underscore that because there is no doubt about the information that it receives and the importance of work done by Statistics Canada, however, the private lives of Canadians should never be put in jeopardy.
    Mr. Speaker, perhaps my contribution is more a comment than it is a question. I would just like to say that I take exception to the fact that the member suggests that somehow the set of questions that Statistics Canada uses should be coming back to the political world in order to be decided upon, whether or not they are appropriate.
    In fact, in order to ensure that that independence exists within Statistics Canada, it needs to be afforded the opportunity to come up with those questions and to make sure that they are crafted in a non-political environment.
    The direction as it relates to the independence of Statistics Canada is on the right course. I would argue that what the member is saying is in fact going to create more problems and more issues within Statistics Canada, in making sure that it has the independence it requires to bring back solid, sound data.

  (1055)  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's intervention. When we start to, as a Parliament, hand over sole responsibility without any ministerial oversight, in terms of what an independent chief statistician could create, I am not suggesting here that Parliament should craft the questions. Absolutely not, we should not craft the questions.
    What we should be doing is what we are currently doing under the design of the program, and that is ministerial oversight of those questions to be sure they are appropriate. Let me give some other examples of constituents who have brought to us their concerns, saying that when they receive the questionnaires, the ag questionnaires specifically, they are looking at the questions and asking, “Am I comfortable answering some of these very personal questions?”
    What I spoke about in my speech was absolutely accurate about some of the questions they are being asked. They are very personal questions about how they live their lives. It is mandatory to fill it out. I do not know the numbers, but we have had examples in our party of constituents who are saying to us in our ridings, “Well, I will just lie, and I will give false information on that particular one.”
    There are consequences for giving false information that are outlined in the legislation. However, frankly, who is going to enforce that? Who is going to dig deep enough to find out that people lied about the number of bathrooms in their house, or the fact that they get up in five in the morning to go to work but they lied and said that they got up at nine in the morning, giving false information.
    If we are to make sure the questions are relevant, the minister involved here should have that oversight. We need to have these people be as independent as possible, but there is a place for the minister to be involved and there is a place, if necessary, for Parliament to be involved.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the hon. member for Brantford—Brant is not responsible for any of the disastrous attacks on Statistics Canada that occurred under the previous government. Those decisions were made in the Prime Minister's Office.
    However, the reaction of Canadians strongly in support of a long-form census that is mandatory is because we want sound information for evidence-based policy so that policy-makers have information that is not tainted by political interference. That is why there is a lot of strong public support for more independence in the office of Statistics Canada.
    We will never make up the lost years when information was not collected. Researchers are at a loss. There will be this gap in terms of knowing what happened with the gap between the rich and the poor. What was going on in terms of health outcomes? For policy, we need reliable research.
     What the previous government did, with all due respect to this individual member, was shameful, must never occur again, and I do not think this bill goes far enough to ensure the independence of Statistics Canada from political interference. With all due respect, I disagree with the essence of the member's presentation this morning.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member respectfully disagreeing, but I respectfully disagree with the member.
    It has always been a core belief of our side that the privacy of Canadians must be protected at all costs. It must be protected in terms of what they choose or do not choose. Hence, the short-form census, which continues to exist, plus the voluntary information that we sought from Canadians was a way to express that and for them to say that they would not be put in jail for doing this, that they would not be penalized excessively. There is this balance and that has to come into play.
    Some people would choose the balance that was just described to us by the member, which is a balance that totally outweighs any relevance from this body where Canadians should be able to have that accountability. It takes them out of the equation. It makes this a completely independent body, let it do as it may, with no real accountability through the minister or for us as individual members to take our concerns to the minister and then for the minister to adequately address them. Because of the independence of this individual, he or she could say, “I don't have the time of day for this” or “I'm just doing what I think is best for gathering data and asking questions”. That is improper balance.

  (1100)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is not really surprising to me, and the hon. member for Brantford—Brant referred to this in his speech, that we are moving into this top-down approach, and we are seeing on a lot of levels that the government knows best. There is seemingly a contempt for the provinces and territories.
    This legislation was introduced by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, who happens to be the minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, based out of Mississauga and seemingly knows what is best for Atlantic Canada.
    One of the concerns the member raised was the fact that we were going to get away from this representation of the provinces and territories and moving to this 10-member council, which again potentially lends itself to the fact that there would be Liberal supporters on this rather than fair representation across the country, as is currently the case.
    Could the member comment further on that and on some of the concerns he has?
    Mr. Speaker, I tried to articulate in my speech the large concern for the fact that this was an oversight body that currently represented every province and every territory, with 13 individuals. That is part of what goes into bringing in the right data from all parts of the country in terms of advising the chief statistician.
    When we move to what the legislation proposes, it opens it up to all kinds of potential for abuse. The potential for abuse largely is that the Liberals have a list of friendly people they would like to see put on a board so they can reward them.
    People might say that is very cynical and that never happens. After my almost nine years here and watching all types of governments, this happens. Look at provincial governments where this is happening today. Look at Ontario, my province, and the kind of outright patronage that is going on through the Wynne government and the kind of abuses of power that we are witnessing. This should be one of the most prosperous, best run, most resourceful provinces in the country and instead has been turned upside down, accepting transfer payments and looking as being the poor brother or poor sister.
    I digress, but the reality is that when we change something as fundamental as the governance structure as proposed in the bill, that is what happens. It opens it up to that. Will it happen? I do not know. Does it happen? Absolutely. Ask any member here and he or she would have to reply that in all honesty it does happen. That is why we should not change this.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock.
    I am pleased to speak to Bill C-36, an act to amend the Statistics Act.
     The legislation aims to provide more independence to Canada's chief statistician. It would update penalties for Canadians who failed to complete their short-form census. It would replace the National Statistics Council with the new Canada statistics advisory council. There would no longer be a requirement to obtain the consent of Canadians to transfer their personal information from Statistics Canada to Library and Archives Canada.
    I would like to address each one of these changes. Some of them are supportable and some are not.
     Let me first begin with the increased independence of the chief statistician.
    Under the legislation, Canada's chief statistician would have sole responsibility to decide the methods, procedures, and operations of all statistical programs under Statistics Canada. It would also mean that he or she would have full authority over the collection, compilation, analysis, abstraction, and publication of all statistical information. The chief statistician would also have control of the content released and publicized, and how and when this information would be circulated.
    While some aspects of the legislation make sense, and the chief statistician should be able to decide the best way to gather data and what the process should look like, we also need to ensure that he or she remains accountable to the minister and Canadians. Moreover, the new powers granted are such that he or she will have the final say on where information is stored, as well as the type of information being collected, as he or she will have powers to decide what questions are asked and which ones are not.
    I will acknowledge that this will likely be good news to the former chief statistician, Wayne Smith, who resigned recently over the Liberal government's push to use Shared Services Canada to store statistical information. While there may be a need to use a different method to protect Canada's data, we need to ensure we have a system of checks and balances and ensure that this information does not fall to a third party to store and potentially undermine the security of Canadians.
    We have seen many examples of the hacking of systems worldwide. We have seen the manipulation of information, the selling and trading of information, and our own systems have been subject to these same practices. The Liberal government is now reopening the process to allow a Chinese company to buy a Canadian IT firm against the recommendations and warnings from CSIS. We need to ensure the minister and all departments under Statistics Canada's purview are held accountable to Canadians. Giving the chief statistician the final say without any accountability really undermines that process.
    The second change would remove the penalty of imprisonment for Canadians who failed to fill out census forms. I think we can all fully support this change. In fact, it was the previous Conservative government that removed this penalty from every survey, except the short-form census.
    The third change is the bill would create the Canadian statistics advisory council. This council would replace the National Statistics Council, which has been in place since the 1980s. This new council would reduce the membership of the current council to just 10 members. In addition to advising the chief statistician, the new council would also advise the minister and would be required to produce an annual report.

  (1105)  

    Again, the issues with this section have to do with accountability. In particular, I am concerned with the new membership structure.
    The current council has representation from every province and every territory in Canada. However, the new council will only include 10 members and will not include representation from every province and territory. In fact, three provinces and territories will not be represented. What is even more troubling is that we will not know the makeup or representation of the council until the Prime Minister and his cabinet appoint the members.
    It is inappropriate for cabinet to decide which regions are important enough to have a voice at the table and which ones are not.
    We collect data from Canadians in every province and every territory across the country. Not to have representation from three provinces and territories is unacceptable. This change needs to be rectified.
    The fourth change is one that gives myself and my colleagues on this side of the House the most concern. The government will no longer require the explicit consent of Canadians to transfer their personal census information from Statistics Canada to Library and Archives Canada after a period of 92 years. Once the information has been transferred to Library and Archives Canada, it will be public and available for anyone to view and use at will.
    The privacy and security of Canadians should be of the utmost priority for any government. The work that Statistics Canada does is so important, not only for policy-makers in crafting our legislation, but also for helping Canadian research and academia sectors, business sectors, environmental sectors, and for future historians who will be looking to understand the evolution of Canadian society.
    However, regardless of all the great work Statistics Canada does, the right of Canadians to privacy over their own information cannot be compromised. Canadians should have the right to consent to the transfer of any personal information obtained through the census.
    In today's digital age of easy and instant information sharing, we cannot forget how easy it is for information to be shared and used without our permission. We should not be giving anyone the power to transfer some of our most personal data to a public domain without our explicit permission.
    Even though the legislation has a delay period of 92 years for transferring and publishing our personal information, the type of information collected by Statistics Canada will often include or impact not only those individuals, but also their spouses, their children, and other family members. The argument that 92 years is a sufficient length of time to cancel out any worry about invasion of privacy assumes that the data looks at the individual in a vacuum.
    We need to be aware that sharing and transferring this information to Library and Archives Canada will impact not only the individual, but also those who are, or were, connected to that individual. This is the most problematic piece of the legislation. An amendment that requires the explicit consent of the individual should be included.
    The bill has potential. The work that Statistics Canada does is extremely important, but the collection and storage of data cannot come at the expense of the privacy of individuals or their families.
    We also need to ensure that Canadians from all regions are represented equally and fairly, and that Canadians can be confident that the personal data they provide to the government is stored securely and is not shared without their consent.

  (1110)  

    Mr. Speaker, this legislation is a strong positive step forward for StatsCan. I was a bit surprised at the member's argument about the release of information. She can correct me if I am wrong, but she seems to be of the opinion that it is the only way the census information that is collected could ever be released to Library and Archives Canada. I appreciate that she noted that the government said that, after 92 years it should be released, but the member is suggesting that it be qualified. Does that mean, for example, that before the information that had been collected from millions of Canadians 92 years ago could be released to Library and Archives Canada, their descendants would have to give consent? Could the member expand on how the Conservative Party would see that actually work? Should we try to trace the descendants of those people from 92 years ago through genealogy, and if we cannot trace them, then it would never be given to Library and Archives Canada? I am not quite clear exactly how it would be implemented.

  (1115)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is not as involved as the member is making it out to be. It would be a simple question on any census sheet that asks, “Do you give consent to have this information released in a period of 92 years?” Anyone who fills out a census form can sign it. It would not be necessary to go through the whole process of trying to track down descendants. I think that is just hogwash. It is merely adding a question on any census form for people to give their consent to have it released, pure and simple.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we all have a lot of questions. I am glad to see that my colleague seems to think Statistics Canada and the long-form census are so important.
    The Conservative Party seems to be more open-minded about some issues than before. Do I detect a schism in the Conservative Party line on these issues, on the long-form census and the party's deliberate scientific blindness regarding demographic data that are so important to industry? Are they becoming more open-minded, or have I misinterpreted?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would think that the Conservatives have always been open-minded. I would also say that it is not about being fractured; it is about common sense. The collection of data is very important for Stats Canada, and for research right across the board for many organizations and many sectors. It is the anonymization of that data that becomes useful. When it is attached to a name or a family and can be traced back, that is where the problem comes in. Data is collected and used in many cases, but is anonymized, and it gives researchers a tool to gather information and do the research they need to do. Therefore, how this could be done is very simple.
    Mr. Speaker, going back to the discussion we were having about the 92 years and the requirement for that data to become accessible to the public, the fact that the member is suggesting we need to consent to that in advance underscores the disregard for how important it is for the data to be a requirement. Requiring people to fill out the long-form census is what makes the data relevant. If we do it in a fashion that lets people make the decision as to whether or not they want to do it, the data will be skewed. Likewise, if the only people whose data we are giving out 92 years from now are those who consent to it, the data would be skewed because it would only be representative of the people who are interested in giving it out. Therefore, it underscores the fact that I believe the former Conservative government did not understand the benefit in having the data be a requirement.
    Mr. Speaker, all data could be used. People would be giving their consent to have their information put out there and their name used. If they do not give consent, and I go back to the anonymization of the data, they do not have their name attached to it. We still have the exact information and exactly what is there, but one's name is not attached to it. People should have the choice to do that. I think it is disrespectful to just put the data out there without consulting Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-36, an act to amend the Statistics Act, an act with the stated purpose of strengthening the independence of Statistics Canada.
    I would like to begin by thanking my hon. colleague the member for Haldimand—Norfolk for her leadership on this file, and I would like to start by stating my support and the support of my colleagues for Stats Canada and its staff for the great work they do. Whether Canadians realize it or not, we use that information provided by Stats Canada quite frequently, and it has done and continues to do some very good work.
    To be completely honest, I did not know much about the Statistics Act prior to reading Bill C-36, but the changes proposed in Bill C-36 would have a direct and significant impact not only on Stats Canada but also on the way data is recorded, stored, and used here in Canada.
     The Liberals have touted themselves as the party of transparency and accountability, and they would also argue that the bill is a continuation of this pledge. Yet, when reading the bill, I find it becomes clear that instead of increasing accountability and transparency, the bill does the exact opposite.
    I should say that the bill is not all bad. In fact, at this moment there are many sections with which I do agree, but I plan to break the bill down into four major components and discuss each one separately.
     First, the bill would appoint the chief statistician during good behaviour for a fixed, renewable term of five years, removable only for cause by the Governor in Council. It would also assign the chief statistician, or CS, the powers related to methods, procedures, and operations of Stats Canada.
    Section 4 of the act would be replaced by subclause 4(1), which I will read:
     The Governor in Council shall appoint the Chief Statistician of Canada to be the deputy head of Statistics Canada.
    What my colleagues opposite would argue is that they would be giving the CS more independence and making him or her more accountable. Yet, as this above subclause states, the CS is appointed by the minister. This could easily be used as a partisan appointment, and we would be essentially assigning this person power related to methods, procedures, and operations of Stats Canada.
    My point here is that the Liberals' pledge openness and transparency, yet there are other instances including just a year ago when parliamentary oversight of federal spy agencies was brought before this place. The Prime Minister unilaterally appointed my friend from Ottawa South as the committee chair, not to mention the PM's power to direct the committee to revise its annual and special reports to him if he believes the disclosure would injure international security, defence, or international relations.
    Further, while it may not have been intended by the bill we are debating today, as it is currently written, the CS would be authorized to decide where Stats Canada data is stored. It is my understanding that there is an agreement to house the data with Shared Services Canada, but under the bill, the CS would be authorized to move it, or could be authorized, which might result in some security concerns.
    This data is about Canadians from coast to coast to coast, and it is our job to ensure that any information they provide is kept private. After the most recent census, many concerned citizens reached out to me regarding the invasive questions they were forced to answer for fear of prosecution.
    Under Bill C-36, the CS would have the authority to develop questioning within those surveys. We could potentially have a partisan appointee developing the questions within those surveys. It seems to me that this could potentially skew the important data collected by Stats Canada.
    The second issue is that Bill C-36 would establish the Canadian statistics advisory council, which would be composed of 10 members and would replace the National Statistics Council, the NSC. The council would advise the CS and minister and focus on the quality of the national statistical system, including the relevance, accuracy, accessibility, and timelines of that information produced. The council would be required to make a public annual report on the state of the system.
    Much like with my previous concerns, let us take a look directly at Bill C-36, regarding membership:
    The Council is composed of, in addition to the Chief Statistician, not more than 10 other members appointed by the Governor in Council to hold office during pleasure, including one Chairperson.
     The chief statistician would be an ex-officio member of that council. Therefore, we now have a CS appointed by the minister and an advisory council appointed by the minister. This is just another opportunity for members to give their Liberal friends appointments.

  (1120)  

    Why does the government require a new council when there is already one in place, which has been working very well since the 1980s? It seems like a waste of taxpayer dollars just to replace one council with a new one. Perhaps the government should consider the taxpayer in this instance.
    Another problem with the new Canadian statistics advisory council is the lack of proper representation. The current council has representation from all provinces and territories, but under the new council, there would be only 10 representatives. Therefore, my question is this. Which provinces or territories is the government planning to leave without representation on this council?
    The third issue I have is that the bill would no longer require the consent of respondents to transfer their census information to Library and Archives Canada, and would repeal imprisonment as a penalty for any offence committed by a respondent. This suggested change in Bill C-36 is full of potential issues. I understand that the transfer of Canadians' data after 92 years might seem insignificant, but at the end of the day, this information is about Canadians and what belongs to them.
     The government should not be deciding what can and cannot be transferred without the consent of respondents. This is the exact opposite of the transparency that the government is hiding behind. It is our previous government that was responsible for repealing the penalty of imprisonment for every survey except the mandatory short-form census.
    Finally, the bill would amend certain provisions by modernizing the language of the act to better reflect current methods of collecting statistical information. Ensuring that our acts use language that is appropriate to reflect new and upcoming methods of collecting statistical information is important to keep Statistics Canada up to date. In this quickly changing global environment, I would note that the bill would do nothing to change the fact that the long-form census and census of agriculture are both mandatory, which leads me to my next issue: the mandatory long-form census.
    It was our previous government that introduced the voluntary national household survey, which replaced the mandatory long-form census. When the Liberal government reinstituted the long-form census, I was surprised by the number of constituents who expressed their concerns about the invasive questions that they were forced to answer. This is something on which I strongly disagree with members opposite. I do not believe that we should be forcing Canadians to give out this personal information under threat of prosecution.
    As an MP, I have always given top priority to the privacy and security of Canadian citizens, as does everyone in the House, I am sure. I would like to quote my colleague the member for Haldimand—Norfolk, who said:
     In closing, there is no doubt our society relies on information that it receives from the work done by Statistics Canada. It is important work, but the private lives of Canadians should never be put in jeopardy. Canadians, in their personal and business affairs, need to be able to trust the data that they give and get from Statistics Canada, and betraying that trust does not promote a stable environment where quality data can be obtained.
    As I said at the beginning, I find myself supportive of a number of clauses of the bill, but I am also concerned about others. I seriously hope that the government will take into account some of the issues I have raised as we move forward to enhance Statistics Canada and the Statistics Act.
    I would like to reiterate my robust support for the employees of Statistics Canada for the job they do each and every day on our behalf.

  (1125)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a number of questions, but I think the most pertinent to the member is in regard to the resignation of the former chief statistician of Statistics Canada, Mr. Wayne Smith. We know that he was a dedicated public servant who very clearly had every intention to make sure Statistics Canada was doing its job.
     My question is on the reason for his resignation. What does my colleague believe in regard to this, and should the Liberal government be embarrassed by the fact that Mr. Smith felt so compelled to leave his post?
    Mr. Speaker, based on my speech, that is what my point was. We need to ensure that changes are made to the bill to strengthen it. The governing party is putting forward the bill, and hopefully it is listening to what we have been saying today.
    However, there are two most important things that stick out, to me. One is the release of information and taking away Canadians' ability to make a choice. I have said many times in the House that the more options we give Canadians, the more choices they will give based on their personal situation. Therefore, taking away that choice is a very concerning part to me.
    The other is taking away regional representation. I do not think it is right to take the current council down from 40 to 10 members, leaving some provinces or territories without representation. I hope the government does take a look at that and hopefully makes some changes if it feels they are necessary.

  (1130)  

    Mr. Speaker, members may agree to disagree on certain points, but all in all, there is some agreement and I appreciate the words that have been expressed so far this morning. I believe there is a consensus in the House that the information Statistics Canada provides is of great value. This legislation is moving more toward an independent Statistics Canada, which I would argue would be a healthier situation.
    There is something that has not been referred to much in this discussion and that is the dropping of the penalty of imprisonment, which was often used when individuals said negative things toward Stats Canada. It really was not justified. I do not think anyone was ever put into prison. There might have been one individual who was, but it was more out of a protest and a willingness to want to go to prison.
    I wonder if the member could provide some comments in regard to getting rid of that particular requirement, which we think is a positive thing, and anything else he might see fit to comment on.
    Mr. Speaker, I do not disagree with everything in the bill. There are some parts I agree with.
    I cannot speak for my friend and his riding, but a number of my constituents approached me who were frustrated with that threat of imprisonment. That was their main concern. Everyone was going to fill out their census form anyway, but it was the wording and the threat that it could happen that concerned them. They felt that the government was being heavy-handed and would throw them in jail if they did not fill out the form. I do not know if that issue was raised in the member's riding, but it was raised with me many times, and rightfully so. The government should not be threatening people with jail time if they do not fill out the census form. As I said, my constituents were going to do it anyway, but the threat just seemed a little heavy-handed.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate having the opportunity to speak this morning. I will be sharing my time with the member for Richmond Centre.
    Like the members who have already spoken today, I want to talk about Bill C-36, which is meant to strengthen Statistics Canada's independence. Together, we will look at whether this bill can achieve that official objective because it might also have unofficial objectives.
    I think it would be useful to explain to our constituents, including the wonderful people of Beauport—Limoilou, that Statistics Canada was created in 1971 because the federal government has a duty to collect and compile statistics on Canada and its people. Its duty is right there in the law that sets out the federal government's responsibilities. Statistics are therefore under federal jurisdiction. Even provincial statistics are within the agency's purview.
    Statistics Canada has been serving Canadians for 40 years. It has produced many studies that I am sure have formed the basis for many of Canada's public policies. Those studies have led to positive outcomes for all Canadians.
    In our Liberal democracy, data are extremely important. I used data when I was studying political science, and I use them now in my day-to-day work.
    Statistics Canada seeks to produce statistics on the country's populations, resources, economy, society, and culture. Statistics Canada is currently conducting over 300 studies, which will provide us with objective information that will help us make informed decisions while ensuring that the source of that information, the everyday lives of our fellow Canadians, is kept confidential.
    I use these data in my capacity as an MP and so do my employees. The data are also used by businesses, universities, and scientists. They are used by the parties to determine their political platforms so that, when a party wins the election and takes office, it can develop informed public policies.
    What does Bill C-36 do exactly? After reading the bill, my understanding is that it makes changes to four key areas.
    First, the chief statistician would be appointed for a fixed term of five years, renewable for good behaviour and removable only for cause by the Governor in Council. That seems commendable. Although it is not the bill's intention, the chief statistician would nonetheless be authorized to choose where the statistical data would be stored. We think that could be problematic since the government gave the new Canadian statistics advisory council its name and so it obviously expects that council to advise the chief statistician.
    Second, the bill provides for the creation of a new Canadian statistics advisory council made up of 10 members. It would replace the National Statistics Council, which currently has 13 members. I will come back to this later since it seems that this change will negatively impact provincial and territorial representation.
    Third, under the bill, the consent of Canadians will no longer be required to transfer their census information to Library and Archives Canada.
    Fourth, the bill will remove the penalty of imprisonment for Canadians who fail to fill out the census forms, a change that we strongly support.
    I would like to say that one of our Conservative colleagues in the previous Parliament, Mr. Preston, had brought forward a bill to repeal the penalty of imprisonment for all surveys. Unfortunately, the bill did not receive royal assent before the writ was dropped.

  (1135)  

    Obviously, we support this aspect of the bill given that we wanted to make this change.
    I will now speak to our position on this bill. We want to debate it in the House and vote to send it to committee for more in-depth study in order to make some amendments. In particular, we find that it is very important to amend the provisions of the bill that would change the National Statistics Council to the Canadians Statistics Advisory Council, a body with 10 members instead of 13.
    We believe that this new advisory council would give the Liberals another opportunity to appoint their cronies. We have another concern. Since the council will provide advice about relevance, the surveys could be biased towards the Liberals and even friends of the council.
    We find it hard to understand why the government must establish a new council rather than just revising the mandate of the current National Statistics Council, which currently has 13 members representing the 10 provinces and three territories.
    Much like we did during the debate on the selection of the next Supreme Court of Canada justice, we voiced our grave concerns regarding the importance of ensuring strong representation from all regions of Canada on the Supreme Court.
    Because the council is going to have only 10 members instead of 13, we find ourselves debating the issue through the lens of defending the federation. Obviously, the representation of three jurisdictions in Canada will have to be cut from the council. Does this mean that three of the 10 provinces will no longer be represented on the new council, or have the Liberals decided that the three Canadian territories, that is, Nunavut, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories, will no longer be represented? In either case, whether representation on the council is taken away from three provinces or the three territories, we think it is appalling.
    As I said earlier, the mission of Canada's statistics agency is to provide information to Canadians, particularly for the development of sound public policies with objectives based on reliable hard facts. At present, the council that is supposed to support the work of the chief statistician so that he can effectively run the agency will not have the support of people who understand the realities of the provinces and territories.
    Furthermore, the bill does nothing to address the concerns raised by Mr. Smith, the former chief statistician. He resigned last summer after voicing his concerns, which are being ignored. When he appeared before the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates on November 16, 2016, Mr. Smith shared his three main concerns with us. This first was this:

  (1140)  

[English]

...Shared Services Canada represented a major and unacceptable intrusion on the independence of Statistics Canada.

[Translation]

    His second concern was as follows:

[English]

...the arrangement with Shared Services Canada imposed on Statistics Canada was inconsistent with the confidentiality guarantees given by the Statistics Act to persons and organizations providing information to Statistics Canada for statistical purposes.

[Translation]

    His third concern was:

[English]

...dependence on Shared Services Canada was hobbling Statistics Canada in its day-to-day operations, reducing effectiveness, increasing costs, and creating unacceptable levels of risk to the delivery of Statistics Canada's programs.

[Translation]

    The former chief statistician says he was not satisfied with the government's response to his concerns. I get the impression that this new bill does not fare much better.
    For all these reasons, we hope that during review in committee, the government will accept our key amendments.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my colleague on his speech. He is clearly fascinated with how important these statistics are. I also want to thank him for the documentation he provided this morning.
    However, given that the last part of his speech was pre-empted a bit for lack of time, I would ask him to say a bit more on what he believes to be the government's motivation for insisting on using Shared Services Canada, which will create independence issues, according to chief statistician Wayne Smith.
    Is it possible that, after throwing so much money out the window in so little time, the government is now looking to make cuts even in areas that would require investment?
    Mr. Speaker, when I saw my colleague here today, I knew he would be the first to ask a question.
    The bill states right there in black and white that its purpose is to strengthen the independence of Statistics Canada and give the chief statistician more tools with which to exercise that independence. We should, however, look at the Liberal Party's record on this issue so far. Its chief statistician resigned last summer, and its bill does not address Mr. Smith's concerns.
    Mr. Smith would appear to be in a better position than the government to ascertain what Statistics Canada needs. The government's response to the needs he expressed is inadequate. I would like the government to explain how its bill will address the chief statistician's concerns.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am sure the member can appreciate that there are many Canadians who were somewhat disappointed about the cancellation of the mandatory long-form census. As a party, we made a commitment to reinstate the mandatory usage of the long-form census.
    I wonder if the member could provide some insight on the current thinking regarding this form today by the Conservative Party. Do the Conservatives recognize the long-form census as a positive thing and that it would be good to keep it mandatory?

  (1145)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, all surveys are very important to our democratic society. They provide basic information, real objective data that enable members of society, such as academics, political parties, and departments, to design public policy that meets Canadians' needs.
    I myself have always been proud to respond to Statistics Canada surveys. I think they are essential to our democracy.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I wonder if my colleague could answer this question. Do you believe that Statistics Canada should be independent from any government meddling? How would the Conservatives work to ensure that independence, and would they be committed to that independence in the case of, perhaps, a distant Conservative government following through to maintain that independence?
    Just to clarify for the member, I am sure when she said “Do you believe”, she meant the hon. member, not the Speaker.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, Statistics Canada must absolutely be independent.
    In passing, when we were in government, Canadian agencies and all crown corporations had the privilege of having a government that absolutely respected their independence. We see quite the opposite with this government.
    For example, I participated in the study on the future of Canada Post. Government members issued an extremely intrusive report in which they brazenly told the crown corporation what it was to do instead of telling it to carry out its mandate and provide proper service to all Canadians.
    The independence of our crown corporations and government agencies is very important. I will repeat that, ultimately, the former chief statistician was not pleased with the government. That may be a sign that the current government does not respect Statistic Canada's independence.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, today I wish to join my colleagues in the discussion regarding Bill C-36 and the proposed changes to the Statistics Act. Although many changes are proposed in the bill, ranging from minor language updates to creating a new Canadian statistics advisory council, the broader intent of the bill is to provide greater independence to Statistics Canada, or StatsCan, as I will be referring to it in my speech.
    As many of my colleagues have already mentioned, the work done by StatsCan is very important in ensuring the appropriate protection of Canadians' personal information. Moreover, I recognize that the information stored and produced by StatsCan is crucial for wise and evidence-based decision-making by governments and that it provides important information for research and academic institutions.
    As a former researcher myself, I think we can all agree that this information must be accurate and trustworthy to be relevant. However, what is even more important is that the privacy of Canadians is protected and that the collected information is kept secure.
    I have three primary concerns regarding the proposed changes in Bill C-36. I will begin by speaking about the intended independence of Statistics Canada and the individual serving as the chief statistician, the CS. I will also comment on the proposed Canadian statistics advisory council, and I will finish my debate with the concern about information-sharing and the importance of privacy for Canadians.
    I wish to state that the independence of StatsCan and the chief statistician is not inherently a poor decision. However, it is of great importance that should independence be given, there would be sufficient guidelines on what the chief statistician's role would be in how information would be handled. Guidelines regarding where information is stored, how it is regulated, and what information is gathered from Canadians must be considered.
    As Bill C-36 proposes, the minister would no longer have direct control or influence over the methods, procedures, and operations of StatsCan. Instead, all of those decisions and processes would be determined by the chief statistician.
     We must remember that it is elected officials who are accountable to Canadians, and when we give too much independence to departments, such as StatsCan, we are limiting the accountability of that organization to Canadians.
    We answer to the people, and when the people are those involved, as they are in the circumstance of personal information and data, there must be a source of accountability. This notion of accountability extends further to those who oversee the programs and activities of the organization. This leads to my next concern.
    Currently, the National Statistics Council serves as an overarching advisory committee. It was established in 1985, with members from all territories and provinces. The council provides insight and advice to the chief statistician regarding StatsCan's activities and programs, as described on StatsCan's website. The proposed Canadian statistics advisory council would not include representation from across the country. Instead, the new council would have only 10 members. They would report to both the chief statistician and the minister and would be tasked with producing an annual public report on the current statistical system.

  (1150)  

    It is simple math. Three territories or provinces would not be represented on the new council. Their feedback would be eliminated. This shows incredible disrespect for the provinces and territories.
    I understand that the government enjoys creating new boards as a means to appoint its friends to new positions. I cannot understand why it could not have simply altered the current council to incorporate new responsibilities. This would help maintain equal representation from across the country.
     When we are dealing with Canadians' personal information, we must ensure that those interacting with the data at StatsCan, as a whole, are not seeking to further the government's agenda. This would not only fly in the face of independence but would also undermine the government's accountability to Canadians.
    As I previously mentioned, the protection of Canadians' security is of utmost importance. Furthermore, the information collected must be appropriate and not viewed as invasive and too personal. With the independence of the chief statistician, he or she would be required to generate the questions included in the census or survey. It is important that there be accountability and that the questions generated are not deemed to be invasive, as that could skew results should individuals feel the need to inaccurately represent themselves. I understand that this is not the intent of the bill, but it is one of the concerns I have.
    One last point on privacy is that Bill C-36 would remove the requirement for consent to transfer and store information records after 92 years. When information has been stored at StatsCan for 92 years, the data would be moved to Library and Archives Canada, where it would be accessible by all Canadians. I think many of my colleagues would agree that in the case of StatsCan data, it is not the place of the government to determine what personal information is kept private or made public without the consent of Canadians. When we are discussing private information, it is always the right of citizens to give their consent. It is not for the government to determine at what point consent for information-sharing should be waived.
    As a former professor and self-proclaimed lifelong learner, I value the academic and research communities and the importance of having relevant, quality data. For this reason, I understand the importance of Statistics Canada and all the work it does. However, I too have participated in research and believe in the respect for and protection of citizen information. The government must strike the appropriate balance between protecting the privacy rights of Canadians and collecting good-quality data.
    I look forward to continued debate on the bill, and I hope the concerns I have highlighted throughout my speech will be considered.

  (1155)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her speech and for her constructive suggestions. I am sure some of them will be examined.
    One thing we do not hear a lot coming from our friends across the way is praise for the independent work of Statistics Canada. We do not have to go very far to have a Conservative admit privately that the decision to go to the national household survey and upend our previous long-from census was perhaps something they paid too high a price for, given the outcome of that debate.
     I wonder if the hon. member could reflect on the expertise of Statistics Canada and on the decision made to go to the national household survey and not make it mandatory.
    Mr. Speaker, in my speech I mentioned more than three or four times the importance of the work of Stats Canada and recognized the usefulness of collecting quality data. The most important thing to remember when collecting any data is the protection of privacy and the assurance that the data is reliable. I also mentioned in my speech that it is important to have accurate and relevant data in decision-making. That is why, although I have some concerns with the bill, I believe there are good measures in it that will help keep our research data relevant.
    What is most important is that the people who are asked to answer the questions do not feel that the questions are too invasive or too personal. Otherwise they would probably give us wrong data, and that data would not be useful.
    Mr. Speaker, there have been debates and arguments that the independence of Statistics Canada cannot be achieved when the government is trying to impose on it an information technology system through Shared Services Canada. On the one hand, Statistics Canada is asked to collect important data and to do it in a way that would be the most efficient, according to its own standards, but on the other hand, we are telling Stats Canada to do it while imposing on it methodology and technology that would impede this ability.
    I would like to hear the comments and views of my colleague on this seemingly difference of opinion, and difference in perception on the independence of Statistics Canada.

  (1200)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is important that the independence of Stats Canada be maintained so that a government would not be able to meddle with the data.
    However, there should be guidelines as well regarding how the data is stored, the reach of the chief statistician, how the information is collected, and also how the questions are designed. All these are concerns that I have regarding the independence of StatsCan. Of course, I believe that it should be independent, but also there should be guidelines.
    Mr. Speaker, as my colleague has already mentioned, she is a doctor and a professor and understands research and data. I just want her to comment on the National Statistics Council, its diversity and experience, and what her thoughts are on reducing the size of the council.
    Mr. Speaker, this is one of the concerns I mentioned in my speech. That portion of the bill is my major concern, because we have 13 provinces and territories, but in the new council the Liberals are proposing, there are only 10 members. This means that three provinces and territories will not be represented. If we want to have feedback from all the provinces and territories, this part must be amended. We should always include all representation, and their feedback should not be eliminated. This is one of the parts which the government needs to look at to make sure that the respect for all provinces and territories is there so that we will have collected data and feedback from the whole nation.
    Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today in the debate on Bill C-36, an act to amend the Statistics Act.
    My understanding is that this bill was introduced by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development on December 7 of last year. It proposes amendments to the Statistics Act with the purpose of strengthening the independence of Statistics Canada. That truly is the rub in this bill. Will this bill actually achieve that?
     What this bill purports to do is it would appoint the chief statistician during good behaviour for a fixed renewable term of five years, removable only for cause by the Governor in Council. It would also assign the chief statistician powers related to methods, procedures, and operations of Statistics Canada. What does this change in the bill practically do and where do some of my concerns lie?
    First of all, while the minister would still have the ability to issue directives on statistical programs, which means being able to have some ministerial or government oversight on various statistical programs, he would no longer be able to issue directives on methods, procedures, and operations.
    It is incumbent on the government to provide more information to Parliament on why it feels that change needs to be made. To me, I think there is actually a functionality of Parliament that could be lost in that particular change. Certainly the minister and his department would, from time to time, require some directive on those particular issues, and making this change might impede their progress on certain efforts there. I would be interested in hearing from the government specific examples or cases which it felt led to the necessary precipitation of this particular change.
    The chief statistician may require any directive given to be made public and in writing before acting on the directive. I am not a statistician. My background is in economics. However, for anybody who is doing any sort of research methodology, there might be a survey bias or sample bias or failings in statistical methods if that publicity happens in the wrong format. Certainly the minister might have some interest in that particular component of it as well. Again, I would like to hear from the government about why it is making this particular change, and if there were cases presented to the minister that precipitated this change proposed by the bill.
    It is also my understanding that even though this might not be the specific intent of this change in the bill, the chief statistician could now have authorization to choose where data is housed. That is a big concern. I know that privacy and data management are concerns for many Canadians. We have been talking about cybersecurity in various forms and shapes in parliamentary committees and through different pieces of legislation here in the House of Commons.
    The government needs to clarify whether or not through this bill the chief statistician would have the authorization to change the data storage locations. My understanding right now is that there is an agreement that much of our data will be stored at Shared Services Canada. There is a broader policy discussion around Shared Services Canada and data management.
    I think there would be agreement on all sides of this House that any decision to be made on the warehousing of very sensitive data that Statistics Canada might decide to collect should be informed by ministerial oversight. Prior to this bill passing, the government needs to clarify whether or not it would amend the portion of the bill that might allow that to happen. I certainly would not want to see the chief statistician, who is essentially not accountable to anyone, make an overarching decision on where that level of sensitive data would be housed, especially when there has been parliamentary direction to the housing of data made to date. I might add, just to contextualize this, let us say that the chief statistician chose to use a third party to house some or part of the data. There could be security concerns.

  (1205)  

    While the whole privacy component sounds sort of dry, it is quite valid. Again, it is incumbent upon the government to ensure that component is clarified and perhaps removed from this bill. I do not think that is an appropriate power for the chief statistician to have.
    The chief statistician, under this change, would also have authority to develop questioning within surveys. There is a whole debate around that. We could spend hours talking about how sensitive or how invasive a survey from Statistics Canada should be and what the requirements are to that effect.
    I was talking to a colleague at one point about how certain data collection around agricultural activities on farms could be used by businesses to form monopolies and price gouge and all these sorts of things. Many Canadians are very sensitive about the types of information that they share.
    Again, I almost feel like the bill is a solution in search of a problem. The government has not really explained why it would give this power to the chief statistician. If there have been particular instances that the Liberals feel that removal of ministerial oversight on this particular issue is beneficial, I think they need to explain that to Canadians. Again, this is within a bill that might seem benign in so many different ways, but this is very impactful on the lives of Canadians. My question on that point is why? I do not understand.
    Many of my colleagues have talked about the fact that the bill would create the Canadian statistics advisory council. It would be comprised of 10 members and would replace the National Statistics Council. The council would advise the chief statistician and the minister and would focus on the “quality of the national statistical system, including the relevance, accuracy, accessibility and timeliness” of the statistical information produced. Under this bill, the council would be required to “make public an annual report on the state of the national statistical system”.
    The government has produced no evidence as to why it would make this change. This seems crazy. We are replacing a board. I want to refer to a quote on this. The National Statistics Council, which this bill is trying to dissolve, has been in place to advise the chief statistician since the 1980s. It is made up of 40 experts and has been described by the UN as, “a bulwark in defence of the objectivity, integrity, and long-term soundness of Canada's national statistical system”.
    With this bill, the Liberals are trying to replace a body that has been described by the United Nations, which the government is quite fond of, as something that is fantastic and working great with a council that is appointed by the government. Given the powers that this council is going to have and the fact that the government is changing it from something that is quite objective and working well, it begs the question, why are the Liberals doing this? Why would they replace this council with political appointees?
    Again, there is no evidence in the bill and there has not been any evidence with concrete examples presented in speeches by my colleagues opposite as to why something that is functioning well needs to be replaced. I feel like this is almost something that somebody who wants to be appointed to this new board cooked up and gave to the minister and it was put in this bill. It just makes no sense.
    Even so, if the government wants to come forward and say that the NSC is not functional in five or six different areas, then why not just give it a revised mandate? Look at the terms of reference under which the NSC operates and revise them.
    I want to park that point for a moment, because in the latter half of my speech, I want to talk about why we are even spending parliamentary time with this bill as a priority. However, to continue on, my colleague who spoke earlier talked about how the NSC has representation from all corners of Canada. My understanding is that with the reduction in numbers, there will definitely be regions of this country that will lose their representation on this board.

  (1210)  

    That is important, because when looking at the priorities of Statistics Canada and the scope that is currently there, representation from each corner of the country is important. This is why we have Statistics Canada. It looks at regional differences in different types of datasets, which inform us on the best public policy options to take. I am concerned that the reduction in membership will remove the breadth of representation on the board right now.
    The bill would no longer require “the consent of respondents to transfer their Census information to Library and Archives Canada and repeals imprisonment as a penalty for any offence committed by a respondent.”
    We often talk about consent rights in this place in a wide variety of contexts but consent on information sharing is a topic that Parliament should be seized with. I would suggest that the bill perhaps violates the consent rights of Canadians in this regard. That is certainly not transparency. That would be the opposite of transparency. It is incumbent upon the government to talk about something that is not in the bill right now and that is how it plans to safeguard the consent rights of Canadians as to their information being shared before the bill is passed.
    The bill would amend “certain provisions by modernizing the language of the Act to better reflect current methods of collecting statistical information”. That seems reasonable to me. Our legislation in this regard should not be static. We should make sure that our legislation reflects technological advancements and new methodology. That does seem reasonable to me.
    The bill will head to industry committee should it pass the House. Industry committee will be seized with hearing witnesses on some of the points that I just raised.
    Why is this legislation a priority? This is going to be the third bill that comes through the House of Commons and goes to industry committee and yet none of the bills have had any sort of reference to a jobs plan, innovation strategies, or anything that could particularly help Canada. My question is just simply: why? Why is this a legislative priority of the government? Why is this a priority of the House of Commons, which could be debating issues of much greater importance?
    We are talking about statistics and the importance of statistics and I would like to give the House some statistics. Right now, my province has seen a change in unemployment rates in roughly an 18-month period from essentially the natural rate of unemployment in my home city of Calgary to over 10%. This is a sobering statistic.
    When I think about what industry committee and the House should be seized with as opposed to changing the structure of the National Statistics Council and spending hours of debate on this, I have to wonder why are we not talking about how Canada's trade policy could be bolstered in light of some of the decisions that are being made in the United States right now. I would love to spend hours debating some strategy in terms of how we can take advantage of the opportunities created by the Canada-European free trade agreement. These are the things that industry committee should be seized with. The fact that the government wants to send this legislation to industry committee seems like it is filibustering that committee. It is very strange.
    There are some other things I would like to see come out of industry committee as opposed to this legislation.
    We talk about economic diversification in Alberta, which is something I have been interested in during the course of my parliamentary career. Why is industry committee not talking about a jobs plan that could create broader economic conditions for growth? I am speaking of things like a lower tax climate, especially when we look at the changes being made in the United States.
    I hear colleagues in the United States saying that the new administration is going to be lowering taxes in several key areas that are going to render investment opportunities in Canada unattractive. Why is industry committee not studying the Canadian tax system, especially the proposed tax increases by the government, and how that will affect the competitiveness of our industries and our investment climate? That would be a great study for industry committee to look at. It could refer some recommendations back to the House. Instead, we have before us a bill that would change the National Statistics Council from 13 members to 10 who are now appointed. It makes no sense.

  (1215)  

    Something else I would like the industry committee to study that would use statistical data provided by Statistics Canada is how to spur innovation in a country where we have traditionally seen very high publication rates and we have focused on academic research. I fully support academic research and a strong academic research system, but that is where a lot of our investments over successive governments have gone. Why do we not see more industry-sponsored R and D, and why are some of our key strategies for the commercialization of research and development simply licensing technology out of the country? In some of our new and up-and-coming industrial sectors like the competitiveness and the opportunities we have with clean tech, why do we see such low adoption rates of technology that is grown in Canada into Canadian industry? Why is that happening? Is there a policy that the government could undertake that could incent adoption of Canadian clean tech?
    I have great respect for the current president of Sustainable Development Technology Canada. I just spent an hour talking to her about these sorts of things. Yet, I am coming into the House of Commons to debate the National Statistics Council when the government has shown no evidence that this needs to be changed.
    If I were sitting on the industry committee, I would love to see the government study whether the impact of the carbon price affects mid-size energy sector companies at perhaps disproportionate ways to larger-sector companies; and whether this is the best public policy option to ensure the growth and development of the energy sector. That would be something that I know people in my riding would be very interested in because perhaps that could lead to a revocation of what I think is a very bad piece of public policy. It would not be tangential for the industry committee to even look at topics around price elasticity assumptions related to the carbon tax and potential impacts on the energy sector and various other industrial sectors as they relate to either job growth or job decline. I think that would be in the committee's scope. These are the things that parliamentarians on the industry committee could be studying.
    What the government has prioritized in this bill is essentially reducing accountability from Statistics Canada to Parliament. I do not understand it. It seems bizarre to me.
    Something I have heard over and over again from people in my community is that they are wondering why the government has not talked about how to retain skilled labour in Alberta during this downturn. I would love to see the industry committee spend some time in Alberta and go and talk to some of the key trade associations and professional groups like geologists and geophysicists and accountants and lawyers, and our whole services industry that we have taken decades to build up in Alberta. I would love the committee members to talk to those groups of people and ask what changes they are facing in terms of their decision to stay in Alberta or not; and then what public policy options the government can look at in terms of keeping them there, so that if there is an opportunity for further investment down the road, labour is not a deterrent to growth.
    In fact, the industry committee could even look at the impacts of skilled labour availability in western Canada in terms of how that impacts jobs and growth in the energy sector. That would be such a relevant, interesting study. I have a hope that it would even get national media attention because that is something that parliamentarians could use their time on that would certainly help jobs and growth in Canada, which I would hope would be the mandate of the industry committee. Indeed, I hope it would be the mandate of Parliament.
    I have significant concerns with this bill. To re-emphasize, I do not understand why the government has put this forward. More important, the government really owes an explanation to Canadians as to why it has chosen to spend the industry committee's time looking at this when there are so many other pressing concerns that the committee members could be using, and then reporting back to the House with concrete recommendations that could produce a jobs plan for Canada.
    In conclusion, outside of explaining some of the key components that I had at the front end of the speech as to why these changes are being made, I hope that the government will also use the time of this House in a more effective way when it comes to creating jobs and economic growth for Canadians.

  (1220)  

    Mr. Speaker, in listening to the member, I think she underestimates the importance of Statistics Canada and the work that it does. This is important legislation, contrary to what she might believe. We, as a party, have talked about bringing in legislation to allow for a more independent Statistics Canada. We have done that through this legislation. Therefore, it is the fulfillment of a commitment that was made. It is important to recognize that it is not only Ottawa but many other stakeholders that use the statistical information that is gathered.
     The member asked what the legislation does and why we are debating it. It provides for that more independent Statistics Canada. One example of it reinforcing that independence is by assigning authority to the chief statistician to make decisions on several things, such as statistical procedures, methods and professional standards employed for the production of statistics, the content of statistical releases and publications, the timing and methods of dissemination of statistics compiled, and the operations and staff of Statistics Canada. Therefore, I hope the member will recognize that this is important legislation, and will vote accordingly.
    Mr. Speaker, the member opposite made an implication that I did not refer to in my speech. I do not think anyone here is underestimating or trying to diminish the importance of Statistics Canada to the work that we do in this place. In fact, it is vital. I am constantly asking for statistical analyses from the Library of Parliament when I am doing research that pertains to debating legislation in this House. There are so many people in this country who rely on this data.
     However, this is a procedural bill. It changes the functionality of how Statistics Canada operates. It is not about diminishing its importance. Rather, the member opposite did nothing to say why this is a burning, pressing issue that the House of Commons should be seized with. Anybody who is watching this debate today will be saying, “Wait. What are they talking about? Why is this a problem?” This is not an issue for the front page of the newspapers. I have never had an email written to my office about the need to change the National Statistics Council from 13 members to 10 Liberal-appointed members. I would be hard-pressed to find anyone in this place who has received an email from a constituent to that effect. Therefore, the member opposite has unfortunately done a woefully inadequate job of trying to convince the House that this is a matter of significant burning import for Canadians.

  (1225)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech and comments.
    There is one thing bothering me about this whole business of Statistics Canada. I believe we all agree on the importance of having reliable and objective data that can be compared over time. However, I am rather troubled by the fact that the chief statistician resigned in most vehement protest over the Liberals not keeping their promise about the independence of Statistics Canada.
    Does my colleague share this concern? What does this say about Liberal promises?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I certainly share the deep concern of my colleague about the ability of the current government to keep its promises. When we are talking in the context of what is important to Canadians, the government has really shown Canadians a lack of care and concern with respect to fulfilling anything.
     In terms of what my colleague is saying about independence, oversight, and the like, my colleagues across the way could have an opportunity by using their time in this place to deal with such things as the job crisis in Alberta, but are not. Rather, they are raising taxes, and changing the National Statistics Council. On behalf of everyone in the House, I thank the employees of Statistics Canada and the chief statistician for the work that they do to inform us. However, if they were in our shoes, I think that they would also be asking why we are debating this. I would love to see the statistical analysis on the number of Canadians who think this is a matter of import that should be raised, first and foremost, in the House of Commons.
    Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned how thin the legislative agenda of the government was when we were spending this much time debating the redesign and re-engineering of a few procedural things for Statistics Canada to help it be more independent.
    We have some concerns with the fact that certain regions of the country will not be represented in the oversight in governance and that there would be no ministerial accountability, hence, nothing from the House of Commons that could hold the government to account on these changes.
    I come from Ontario, a province that is suffering from an energy expense crisis. Premier Wynne has taken it upon herself to redesign and re-engineer how we deliver and pay for our electricity. This means people right now, in the coldest weather of the year, are having a hard time just paying their electricity bills. I bring that to this debate simply because we know the government has imposed a carbon tax, but the analysis of who it affects the most has been redacted on the documents we have given to show the effect on some of the middle and low-income earners and how they are trying to cope with that expense.
    I ask my colleague again to not only comment on how thin this legislative agenda is, but on some of the more pressing issues, especially from my province.
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague brings forward such an important issue at which the industry committee could be looking, the issue of energy prices in Canada as it relates to Canada's competitiveness to attract industries and the concern we see with in the Canadian public.
     I hear concerns from people across the country on Canada's ability to keep manufacturing jobs in Canada. Therefore, if we look at electricity and energy as a key input cost to our manufacturing sector, regardless of where they are located, but certainly those in Ontario, especially with what the American government is about to do in reducing regulatory burden and taxation on these types of sectors, why would the industry committee not be looking at things like energy costs in Ontario and coming up with public policy options to perhaps counteract the woefully inept and morally bankrupt Wynne government? We should be looking at how we can help save Ontario from the clutches of Kathleen Wynne. The industry committee could definitely be seized with that.
    Beyond that, we also could be looking at the impact on confidence when we have such a detrimental policy that seems like something with which the industry committee could be entirely seized. Yet, we get changing the National Statistics Council from 13 members to 10 as a priority of the current Liberal government.

  (1230)  

    Mr. Speaker, I must concur that the situation in Ontario is beyond conscience in as much as the people of Ontario are being gouged in their energy costs and people are being driven from their homes. That is just not acceptable.
    In regard to the bill before us, I have listened carefully, and my question for the member is this. In light of all she has said about the importance of statistics and how they are utilized, do the Conservatives still believe the long-form census should be eliminated, or would they keep it? As well, do they believe that access to Statistics Canada should be unrestricted by fees and copyright constraints?
    Mr. Speaker, I am a Conservative, so one of my first questions is on the sustainability in cost-of-government programming as it relates to our fiduciary responsibility to the handling of taxpayer dollars.
     The question my colleague raises about fees, etc. to obtain Statistics Canada data would be a fantastic study for the industry committee. We could look to see if there are any barriers to access, how it affects jobs and the creation of growth, public policy, the ability of NGOs or average Canadians to access that data, and how that could impact the economy one way or another. What a fantastic study for the industry committee. Yet, the industry committee will be talking about the National Statistics Council and changing it from 13 members to 10 Liberal-appointed members. I would love for my colleague to stand in the industry committee and say something about that.
     I am a Conservative, so my first question would be how much it would cost the government, how much revenue would be created by those types of fees, and what would be the opportunity cost of removing it. That seems like a perfectly reasonable discussion to have in the industry committee. Yet, we have Bill C-36 as the Liberals' legislative priority.
    Mr. Speaker, before the House rose in December, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development introduced Bill C-36, an act to amend the Statistics Act. This proposes a number of amendments to the Statistics Act that are intended to provide more independence to Statistics Canada and the chief statistician. However, in order for members of the House to properly debate these changes, it is important to first list all of the sections of the act that will be amended or added.
    First, these changes will give sole responsibility to the chief statistician to decide, based on his or her professional opinion, how to carry out the methods and procedures of all statistical programs. This includes the collection, compilation, analysis, abstraction, and publication of all statistical information.
    This last sentence is extremely important, because it touches on the issue of sampling theory. There is an old saying in computer science, and we all know it, “garbage in, garbage out”. I am happy to say that my understanding of Statistics Canada, and I am old enough to remember when it was called the Dominion Bureau of Statistics, is that it has developed a worldwide reputation for competence. The phrase by Mark Twain certainly does not apply to it and Twain, quite wisely, said there are “lies, damned lies and statistics”. I think Statistics Canada has proved Mark Twain wrong.
    My sampling theory is very important. This is how we get the information we need to largely run society. What we are trying to do is determine the characteristics of a population. The population, one could say, are all of the voters in Canada. That is the population. We would never be able to sample all of the voters in Canada. The essence of statistics is to draw a sample of, in this case, the voters of Canada.
    We are all familiar with political polls. The first thing I look at in polls is what the sample size is, what the distribution is across the country, what the distribution is by gender and age, and what the distribution is by education level. Each of those is a parameter. When the parameters change, the results change. In terms of what Statistics Canada does, it is critically important that it gets the sample size and the distribution of the sample correctly. In order to be a good sample, it must be random and independent from all other samples of this population. That is how we get accurate information.
    Under this bill, the chief statistician would have full authority over the content within statistical releases and publications issued by Statistics Canada, and how and when this information would be circulated. Furthermore, the chief statistician would be responsible for all operations and staff at Statistics Canada, and would be appointed for a fixed renewable term of five years.
    In addition, the bill would establish the Canadian statistics advisory council, which would be comprised of 10 members and would replace the National Statistics Council that has been functioning since the mid-1980s. Why the Liberal government wants to replace the National Statistics Council, a model that has worked for almost 40 years, with a new 10-member Liberal-appointed council is beyond me, but this is in the bill. The new council would advise the chief statistician and minister, whereas the National Statistics Council solely advises the chief statistician. This is obviously a distinction without a difference.
    In terms of the sample of the statistical experts in Canada, one would think that a council with more members on it, more representation from across the country, and more representative of disciplines, scientific, technical, and industrial disciplines, would be better in advising the chief statistician. I, for one, will be looking very closely at the qualifications of the new statistics council.

  (1235)  

     Within its mandate, the Canadian statistics advisory council would focus on the quality of the national statistical system, including the relevance, accuracy, accessibility, and timeliness of the statistical information produced by Statistic Canada. This obviously means that these individuals had better be experts in statistics. Statistics is a very complex field. It is very difficult to generate accurate information without doing exhaustive analyses. This council would also be required to make a public annual report on the state of the statistical system.
    I am going to segue into the area of education. I think this is a positive suggestion for the new council and indeed Stats Canada as a whole.
     Not every Canadian is fortunate to have been trained or partially trained in statistics and few are actually exposed to the discipline itself, how it creates the information we all need. However, every Canadian is affected by statistical analysis. Whether we vote, or purchase industrial products, or we farm, statistical analysis is extremely important. We often hear poll results that are accurate to 19 times out of 20. Again, there is a very complex theory behind that. Therefore, I would make a recommendation for the new statistics advisory council that it graft on a public education program in statistics, given how vital statistics are to any industrialized country.
    I am a very strong supporter of data that is gathered accurately. It is this data and the subsequent analysis that guide much of industrial policy, economic development, and also guide decision-makers as to ways they can make proper decisions for their companies, their constituents, or indeed their country.
    As well, Bill C-36 would allow for the transfers of census information from Statistics Canada to Library and Archives Canada after 92 years, without the consent of Canadians. We said that Canadians had to consent to do this. This is a change. Once transferred to Library and Archives Canada, this information would be made available to all Canadians.
     Finally, it would repeal imprisonment as a penalty for any offence committed by a respondent. Additionally, it would amend certain sections to make the language more modern and eliminate discrepancies between the English and French versions of the act.
    After reading the bill at length, it has become evident that many aspects could be of concern to Canada and will need further discussion. It is our duty as opposition to critique and highlight any issues that we find evident in all legislation put forth by the government. As such, I will shed light on some of the concerns I have regarding Bill C-36.
    Our Conservative Party strongly supports the work that Statistics Canada does and the key statistical data it provides. The Conservative Party of Canada is clearly the party of working people and economic development. Much of the economic development in our country is guided by good statistical work, much of that provided by Stats Canada. Indeed, Statistics Canada, as evolved from the former Dominion Bureau of Statistics, has developed a global reputation for competence.
    We know how important this information is for governments, public policy-makers, the research and academic communities, the agricultural communities, the fishing community, the industrial community, the energy community, and it is vital to anyone who uses Stats Canada data for any purpose. In other words, they need to know they can trust its accuracy and quality.
    However, the privacy of Canadians is most important, and fostering an environment that builds trust between Canadians and Statistics Canada is crucial. The Liberal government must ensure that the right balance is struck between protecting the privacy rights of Canadians while collecting good quality data.

  (1240)  

    As we saw in the last U.S. election, the issue of the security of electronic information was front and centre. Canadians have to trust, implicitly and explicitly, that the data they provide to Statistics Canada will be kept secure. This is absolutely crucial.
    If Canadians do not trust Statistics Canada, they may be tempted to provide the wrong information or segue out of the program as best they can to avoid any hint of their information getting into the wrong hands. The privacy of Canadians has to be a primary objective of Statistics Canada.
    In the past, Canadians have expressed concern about the questions asked of them in the census and in surveys conducted by Statistics Canada. They found questions, such as the number of bedrooms in their home, what time of day they leave for work and return, and how long it takes them to get there, to be an intrusion on their privacy.
    With the changes the Liberal government has proposed in this bill, the minister would no longer be able to issue directives to the chief statistician on methods, procedures, and operations. This means that the chief statistician would have sole authority to ask any questions he or she deemed fit on a census or survey, including those Canadians found intrusive.
    The independence of scientists and technical people is very important, because without that independence, they are not able to conduct the objective research that determines the correct approach on many issues. Having said that, as this is a public agency, I have as a principle, and I think it is a principle for all Conservatives, that at the very end of the chain, there needs to be an elected official at some point. There can be all the safeguards so that the elected official does not interfere with professional and technical projects that are clearly apolitical, although it is very difficult in this day and age to find anything that is apolitical.
    To have an unelected staff person, no matter how conscientious, completely out of any chain of command with an elected official would mean that citizens would have no redress if they found a census form to be offensive. They would have no way to talk to an accountable elected official and express their concerns. Obviously, not every citizen gets his or her way when talking to an elected official. However, someone who is elected listens in a different way than someone who is appointed.
     Again, if this occurs, this could potentially result in the creation of distrust and cynicism towards Statistics Canada by the public and hinder the quality of data it oversees. Moreover, with the abdication of responsibility by the minister to the chief statistician, who would be responsible for answering to Canadians when they raised concerns regarding the methods used? This is an important question that, quite frankly, seems to me to be the opposite of an open and transparent government.
    As well, I would like to touch a bit more on the section of this bill that amends the responsibilities of the chief statistician. The current changes state that he or she will “decide, based strictly on professional statistical standards that he or she considers appropriate, the methods and procedures for carrying out statistical programs regarding the collection, compilation, analysis, abstraction and publication of statistical information that is produced or is to be produced by Statistics Canada”.
    One would hope, as well, that there will be an ongoing evolution within Statistics Canada, because statistical methods do change from time to time as new research develops new methods of statistical analysis. A research and development component would be important.
    It is our job, as the opposition party, to highlight any implications a bill may have, regardless of intent. Even though it may not be the intent, this bill authorizes Statistics Canada to house all of its data wherever it chooses. If the chief statistician would like to move the private information of Canadians to a third party, he or she would have the ability to do so if this bill becomes law.
    Again, this is quite concerning. The security and safety of Canadians and their private information should be the top priority of any government. Any use of a third party to house this data could create security concerns, and again, damage the view Canadians have of Statistics Canada. If they do not have faith in Statistics Canada, as I said earlier, they will be reluctant to provide the information the country needs.

  (1245)  

    The Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development has also suggested that a Canadian statistics advisory council be created to replace the National Statistics Council. The new council would comprise 10 members. For those who do not know much about the National Statistics Council, it is already in place. According to Statistics Canada, the National Statistics Council advises the chief statistician of Canada on the full range of StatsCan's activities, particularly on overall program priorities. The council was created in 1985 under the Mulroney government and currently has representatives from all 13 provinces and territories. This is very important.
    While the new council would provide insight to the chief statistician and the minister, as opposed to only the former, and would produce annual reports on the state of our statistical system, it would not have full representation from across Canada. This could result in one area of the country being favoured over the other, which is not fair to Canadians in those parts of the country.
    I am going to talk a little about agriculture. I represent Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, a primarily agricultural constituency. In my time studying statistics, most of our textbooks actually came from agricultural colleges. Agriculture, and agricultural researchers, developed much of statistical theory. In fact, my third year statistical textbook was from Iowa State University and was written by two agricultural professors. They developed techniques like the Latin square and other methods for doing crop research. The research developed by agriculture has been used in all other disciplines that use statistical analysis. If I had my druthers about this particular new body the Liberals are proposing, I would strongly recommend that agriculture have a significant presence on the council, given the history agriculture has had with the development of statistical theory.
    There is also fisheries. As a fisheries biologist myself, back in the days when I was doing fisheries research, everything we did was based on statistical analysis. For example, we would do things like age-length regression, where we would look at the size of a fish and determine its age and determine the growth rate. Those statistics were extremely important in developing fisheries management policy.
    The natural resources industries, which include agriculture, fisheries, and energy, need to be represented on the council. Actually, I would say they need to be overrepresented. We need academics who are professors of statistics, for sure. Again, large organizations and agricultural institutions all employ statisticians. Having practical, on-the-ground people who have experience in the real world doing real-world analyses the public needs, would be very important.
    In closing, we are extremely fortunate to live in our democratic society, where the rights of citizens and the protection of those rights are treated with the utmost importance, so we need to maintain the right of privacy under the new Statistics Act, Bill C-36.
    One cannot overestimate the importance of statistical analysis in our everyday lives, much of which we do not see in our day-to-day lives. The decisions that governments, institutions, industries, and universities make, by and large, are based on statistical theory. Under Bill C-36, it had better be good statistical theory.

  (1250)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have to say that I am a bit confused. I was confused by the bill, and now I am a bit confused by the debates in front of us. I was confused by the bill, because the Liberals promised that they would bring back the mandatory long-form census, and that is not actually in the bill, and they promised in their platform that they would make Statistics Canada fully independent, and of course, that is not in the bill either. I do not think my confusion is just because it took me 48 hours to get back to Ottawa from a snowy Victoria in February. However, now I have listened to the debate on the bill, and one thing I can agree with the Conservatives on is the fact that the bill before us shows a paucity of proposals, on the Liberal side, for significant legislation.
    I just heard the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa talking about the fact that Conservatives believe in the importance of data, but it was the Conservative government that eliminated the long-form census and interrupted the long chain of very important data that was important to researchers across the country. He say that he believes that privacy is really important and seems to be opposed to the fact that after 92 years, information from the census might be made public. He seems inordinately concerned that people are being asked about the amount of time it takes them to commute, which I think is important information for transportation. Finally, he is concerned about the protection of privacy through Shared Services, when it was the Conservative government that came up with the idea of Shared Services, which might result in the improper storage of data.
    Maybe the member can explain to me how his position is consistent with what the Conservative government did before.

  (1255)  

    Mr. Speaker, we Manitobans, who are often laughed at because of our very fine weather, do so much appreciate when it snows in Victoria.
    Regarding the long-form census, this has truly become a red herring. Most statistics is not mandatory. When voters are sampled, it is not mandatory for them to reply. When I was a fisheries biologist and took the fish out of the net, I did not have to ask them. We did it.
    The point is that with proper sampling design, a proper sample size, and a proper project design, we can get equally good, if not better, information.
    I would recommend that my hon. friend pick up a statistics textbook and look up sampling theory. If sampling is done right, it is astonishingly accurate. Much of what we do in this country, as I said earlier, in terms of decision-making, is based on non-coercive, sound sampling theory.
    Mr. Speaker, I have to disagree with my colleague's last comment, in the sense that the member is trying to give an impression that we can take any sample, and as long as it is thorough enough, in terms of size, and we get the information we require, we can get a good sense of exactly what is happening in a broader population.
    The mandatory long-form census and the results that came from it, and this is what we heard from our science community, the professionals and individuals who know what it takes to get the job done, is one of the reasons we are making Statistics Canada more independent. That is one of the reasons for this legislation.
    Like the member across the way, I went to university and studied some statistics. However, I recognize that there are individuals who have far superior expertise on the issues, and they would say that the mandatory form, for example, was absolutely necessary to validate the type of statistics we need to collect from Canadians.
    I wonder if the member would provide his thoughts on the importance of professionals, those who have the expertise, and their ability to contribute to the bigger picture and make sure we get it right.
    Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague opposite is making the assumption that to be professional it has to be a mandatory long-form census, which is clearly nonsense.
    Again, to go back to sampling theory, it is extremely complex. If we consider all the members of Parliament in this House as a population, and we ask every one of them a question about something, that is not a sample. We are talking to the entire population, and what we get out of that is accurate.
    However, in most cases, we are not able to ask an entire population a question or look at the population of the crop of wheat, for example, in western Canada, so we have to do a sample.
    Of course, the qualifications of the statisticians and the type of sampling program they initiate is absolutely critical, but that has actually nothing to do with the mandatory long-form census.
    I go back to the point that there are innumerable statistical studies in Canada, in North America, and around the world, that are not mandatory and that provide equally accurate information, assuming the sampling program is done competently.
    Mr. Speaker, there has been a lot of comment, during debate on the bill, about the issue of independence. I will give my hon. colleague a moment to expand on one of the points he made in his speech around independence versus accountability. We indeed brought expert advisers to government to have independence to execute their tasks to the best of their professional ability, but accountability to Parliament and accountability to the voters are also important considerations that we cannot lose track of.
    The ultimate independent government agency, independent from an elected Parliament, is a dictatorship where there is not actual accountability to the voters, so I would like him to comment on the chain of accountability as well.

  (1300)  

    Mr. Speaker, again, this is a matter of policy. The minister and the government of the day can make a policy statement that they absolutely will not interfere in the work that the chief statistician does, unless there is gross negligence or enough Canadians find a certain program so deeply offensive that they petition Parliament.
    We could set the bar quite high in terms of when a minister would make a comment on a study that the chief statistician was doing. Having said that, if one looks at the history of the Dominion Bureau of Statistics and then StatsCan, one would find that issue rarely came up, unless I am mistaken. That organization, starting with the Dominion Bureau of Statistics, was a group of dedicated, professional statisticians, and I think they have done exemplary work over the years and continue to do so.
    It is only us Conservatives who have the principles to actually think citizens are sovereign in their own country, and this is why I am so very pleased to be one of those Conservatives.
    Mr. Speaker, for my good friend from Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, one of the questions that has come up is about accuracy and the point that we get so much more accuracy if we have the long-form census.
    I wonder if he could comment on the Jedi religion that seemed to really spike up when people were forced to put their religious affiliations on the mandatory long-form census.
    Mr. Speaker, I am part of that religion myself. No, that is not quite true. When we make something mandatory, there are people in our society—good, solid, headstrong, independent people who value their privacy, their personal liberties—who will make a mockery of it, the census.
    I go back to the point about the long-form census. If the sample size is 20 people in the country, so it is mandatory, so what? That is a lousy sample. We could have a voluntary census. If we sampled 10,000 people in the country, we would have a much higher rate of compliance, and at the same time, accuracy would be so much higher.
    I want to thank my hon. friend for the question, I want to make the point that never in my parliamentary career or when I was contemplating one did I ever think I would be making a speech on statistical sampling theory.

[Translation]

    Before resuming debate, I would like to inform hon. members that there have been more than five hours of debate on this motion during this first round. Consequently, all subsequent interventions shall be 10 minutes for speeches and five minutes for questions and comments.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I was so looking forward to giving a 20-minute speech on this bill. It really pains me to be limited to 10 minutes, but again I appreciate the opportunity to speak.
    The government prides itself on evidence-based policy. Statistics Canada is a critically important institution because it provides the evidence for that evidence-based policy. The independence of Statistics Canada is crucial because, without it, we might end up with policy-based evidence; we might end up with Statistics Canada producing information or failing to produce information in response to political directives. Therefore, if we are concerned about having good governance and evidence-based policy, it is really important that we have an independent professional statistics agency such as Statistics Canada. That is why this is an important piece of legislation.
    Why is it a timely topic? It is a timely topic because, just in the past few years, we have had two chief statisticians resign in protest of a lack of independence for Statistics Canada.
    The first one of these resignations was Munir Sheikh, who resigned in protest of the previous government's very strange decision to eliminate the mandatory long-form census. This was a decision that was objected to by almost every sector of society. It was a very odd decision. I do not know if it was an attempt to pander to certain libertarian elements, but there was never a big groundswell of Canadians who objected to having to fill out the census. It was once every decade in terms of the full census; or once every five years, if we include the partial census. Therefore, it was a very odd decision, and the chief statistician resigned to protest it.
    We actually just had an interesting discussion in this House about the necessity for a mandatory long-form census. My colleague from Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa said we do not actually need to make it mandatory because we can just rely on sampling and proper sampling techniques. However, in order to design the sample, they need to know what the whole population is. In order to know that the sample is representative, they have to at some point have done a census of the entire population. Therefore a mandatory complete census is really the necessary foundation for all of the good sampling work that my colleague was mentioning. He used the analogy of this Parliament, and he stated that if we asked all 338 MPs to respond to something, that would not be a sample; that would be the entire population. That is true enough.
     However, let us try to imagine constructing a representative sample of the House of Commons. In order to do that, we would need to know something about the whole population. For example, we would need to know how many MPs are in each party caucus if we wanted our sample to have the right number of people from each party. We would need to know how many seats there are from each province in order to make sure our sample was regionally representative. Just using that rudimentary analogy, it is easy to see that people can do a lot of good research and statistical work based on sampling, but in order to construct those samples, they do periodically need to have some census of the entire population. That is why almost all advanced industrialized countries have these mandatory census practices periodically. It is a common-sense thing, and we are glad to have it back in Canada, although certainly, as some of my colleagues have pointed out, this legislation falls somewhat short in terms of making it truly mandatory.
    The second chief statistician who resigned was Wayne Smith. He resigned quite recently, just in the past few months, to protest the way in which Statistics Canada's arrangement with Shared Services Canada had impaired the agency's independence. This is the real motivation for this bill being brought before the House.

  (1305)  

    The government, in response to this controversy of Wayne Smith's resignation, wants to be able to say that it is doing something to protect the independence of Statistics Canada, that it is taking action and dealing with the problem.
    The odd thing is that this bill does not say anything about Statistics Canada's relationship with Shared Services Canada. It does not propose any sort of alternative model for Statistics Canada to get the IT services on which its important work depends.
    While in terms of chronology and perhaps in terms of political positioning, the bill is a response to Mr. Smith's resignation, the content of the bill actually would not do anything to address the problems that motivated Mr. Smith's resignation.
    We in the NDP are going to support this bill in order to get it before committee so we can try to make some improvements to it and so we can perhaps address some of these problems. However, it is important to note that in its current form this legislation would fall far short of dealing with what precipitated this crisis in Statistics Canada.
    It is worth talking a bit about Shared Services Canada. This was really an attempt by the previous Conservative government to cut corners and to cut costs a bit and to say that, because it had IT services in many different departments and agencies, it would be more efficient to centralize them into one IT agency. There is some logic to that. One can imagine how it might have worked, but as with so many of these efforts in the federal government to centralize functions between departments and agencies, there were huge problems in the implementation and in the execution.
    One issue with Shared Services Canada is that all departments and agencies were ordered to transfer their IT staff to the new Shared Services Canada, which made sense. However, Shared Services Canada needs more than IT professionals. It needs administrative assistants. It needs financial people. It needs other types of managers. The way those people were put in place was that all the other departments and agencies were told that they needed to send x number of administrative assistants, x number of accountants, etc., to Shared Services Canada.
    What did the managers in these other departments and agencies do? Did they send their best and most reliable employees away? No, they used it as an opportunity to perhaps send people whom they were trying to remove from their organizations anyway. In that sense, Shared Services Canada was really set up to fail through bad implementation and bad execution.

  (1310)  

    However, even if we are able to fix Shared Services Canada and get it functioning properly, there is still a huge problem with making Statistics Canada totally reliant on this other entity. By definition, that impinges upon the independence of Statistics Canada. In setting up Shared Services Canada, the government did recognize that there were some agencies in government that were so sensitive they had to have control of their own IT. This Parliament that we are in right now is an example of that. Other countries such as Britain, Australia, and New Zealand also manage to exempt their statistical agencies from their centralized government-wide IT structures.
    Mr. Smith has a valid point in suggesting that Statistics Canada could be exempt from Shared Services Canada, and I am really hoping that is something we can look at in committee after passing the bill in the current reading.
    There is definitely room to consider other arrangements. Statistics Canada maybe could have its own IT capacity. Failing that, if we do want Statistics Canada to work with Shared Services Canada, maybe Statistics Canada could at least have the option of sometimes going to other suppliers if Shared Services Canada cannot provide the required support. However, one way or another, we need to find a way to give Statistics Canada the kind of technical support and the kind of IT infrastructure it needs to do this critically important research and to provide this critically important information and evidence. I am disappointed that the bill we are considering today really fails to address that problem at all.

  (1315)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a question with respect to making the information public after 92 years. Albeit that is looking at an individual in a vacuum, I am wondering what impact the member feels that would have on family members, children, and grandchildren?
    Mr. Speaker, it is a reasonable compromise to say that, although we need to have confidentiality, after a period as long as 92 years it is reasonable to make information and records public. It is extremely unlikely that would compromise the privacy of a living person, so I think that part of the legislation is appropriate. It will help with research and genealogy. Obviously, there are trade-offs that need to be made sometimes between making information available for research and protecting privacy. However, I do think that the 92-year guarantee of confidentiality is a reasonable balance to strike.
    Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that the new Canadian statistics advisory council will be appointed through Governor in Council appointments. At this point, it is unclear what the application process will look like. My concern is that this is another opportunity for the government to appoint its buddies. Does the member opposite also share these concerns?
    Mr. Speaker, indeed I do share those concerns. Statistics Canada had a long-standing advisory board that was much larger and represented virtually every sector of society and every region of the country. Of course there are many benefits to that. In an effort to be as charitable as possible to the government, the idea may be that having a smaller body can be a more effective decision-making group, rather than a large body of appointees where it almost becomes an honorific. The devil here is in the details, and we need to know that the government will actually appoint well-qualified, independent people. Therefore, I think there is every reason to be suspicious that may not happen, and is a reason for us, as opposition MPs, to keep a careful watch on those appointments and that process.
    Mr. Speaker, there have been some comments from the official opposition today with respect to the manner in which the questions would be created, and the fact that there is a lack of political influence over whether that would come back to the minister or this House. Can the member comment as to what his feelings are with respect to whether the crafting of individual questions should be done with the independent agency or if that is something that should have some political influence?
    Mr. Speaker, I would agree with the member across the way that the crafting of questions should be left to the independent agency. The agency would not be operating in some sort of vacuum but crafting questions based on what is happening in the country, and what sort of data all of the stakeholders want, including the government. However, the final decision about drafting the questions needs to be made by the agency itself in order to preserve its independence, which is what we are trying to do here today.
    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak today on Bill C-36. As someone who was in a classroom for 34 years teaching statistics, I really do wish that I had 20 minutes to be able to speak on this particular topic. My former students would recognize that it would have been a very short lesson.
    The definition of statistics is “The branch of mathematics that deals with the collection, organization, analysis, and interpretation of numerical data. Statistics is especially useful in drawing general conclusions about a set of data from a sample of the data.” Therefore, when we consider this as the main focus for the Statistics Act, I think it becomes important that we look at how all of that data is collected and the rationale behind it.
     The member for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa spoke earlier of many of the different procedures that are there, such as the sampling theory, and the 95% confidence intervals that we hear so often when people talk about a particular survey being accurate within plus or minus 3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Well, that is where the 95% comes in. People have to understand how the standard deviation and variance are developed from all of that, the Gaussian curves or the bell curves that people are put on, and then how we start to analyze it. This is not simply for questions of politics, but business uses this as well. It is very important, which is one of the reasons why the statistics and numbers we look at are so important for everyone in all walks of life.
    Some of the commentary we heard earlier was such that as long as we make sure it is mandatory, then obviously we are going to get the best answers and everything is going to work out just fine. However, having sat on committees where we have had opportunities to speak with people from Statistics Canada, yes, they would have preferred that nothing changed so that the process would have been there, but as they mentioned, there are many ways to look at statistical analysis and sample theory to get the same type of results that we had from before. Therefore, it was a political decision to change it, and it is also a political decision to go back. It does not necessarily mean that the data we are going to have in order to do the analysis is going to be any more accurate.
    One of the questions I posed earlier to a member had to do with some of the results that we get from the mandatory form, such as the fact that there is a great growth in the Jedi religion, as the question of religion was on the form and people had to write down what their religion was. Some people suggested that result might not have been accurate. Again, it is a position that has been presented.
    People will look at some of these questions and wonder what kind of mob approach they can use for them. As we have social media and everything that is going on now, people can pick a question and completely throw it out by putting extra pressure on it. Therefore, these are the kinds of things that have to be weeded out. The point is, Statistics Canada knows how to do that. It has different sampling processes that can manage some of those situations.
    Of course, the other thing that has been mentioned is the concept of a 92-year span. If we look at that at this point in time, it would be 2109 before anybody here who has done a census when they were 18 would even have to worry about it. However, over the last 100 years, we have had life expectancies that have gone from the 60s up to the mid-80s. We saw statistical data just today that indicates it was a mistake for the government to take the OAS from 67 back down to 65. Many countries throughout the world are recognizing the fact that people are living longer and they are going to be supported by taxpayers for a longer length of time.
    These are the kinds of things that statistics and mathematics certainly talk about, but we sometimes have political influence or a political expediency such that, “Well, that's what they said, and so if we say something different, then obviously we are going to be on the side of angels.” However, it does not necessarily work that way.
     When we look at somebody who lives to be 110 years old, then 92 years after they did a survey at 18, they would be subject to the exposure of their data to the public. All we are saying is that there should be an opportunity for people to be able to opt out of that. We can say that 92 years sounds good, but maybe 120 years would be the number we would need.

  (1320)  

    However, we should be aware of the realities that exist and take a look at the consequences of some of the decisions that are included there.
    The other question is, who should be making up these questions as we go and poll the public to find out what their thoughts are. I think back to MyDemocracy.ca and its questions. Of course, there was no political influence there because this was given to an outside group that would be able to come up with answers that Canadians would want to present to the government to make decisions on. That was fortunate. There is a possibility that maybe some of those were moving in the wrong direction. I still have people who have taken the Vote Compass surveys. I do not know if they are still in therapy, but they were told that they were Liberals and this has hurt them immensely. We recognize how some of these things happen and we realize that it is not always going to be a 100% accurate result.
    My point goes back to the fact that the people at Statistics Canada know how to do this. I am extremely honoured that one of my former students had worked at Statistics Canada. I understand the process and everything that is tied into it, recognizing how important it is that it has different procedures to be able to take bias out of its information. It is really an amazing science and I have been proud to work with that for many years.
    While the Conservative Party supports and respects the work that Stats Canada does, we do not agree with some of the provisions in Bill C-36. It is our position that any changes to the Statistics Act should reflect our commitment to accountability and the privacy and security of Canadian citizens.
    To further illustrate the issues of the bill, let us look at the proposed amendments that would modify the Statistics Act. With the amendments proposed, the bill would enable the minister responsible for Statistics Canada the ability to appoint a chief statistician for a fixed renewable term of five years, removable only “for cause by the Governor in Council”. The chief statistician would have full authority over the content within statistical releases and publications issued by Statistics Canada and how and when this information is circulated, and furthermore, the CS would be responsible for all operations and staff at Statistics Canada.
    The bill would also assign the CS with “powers related to methods, procedures, and operations of Statistics Canada”. This means that while the minister would still be able to issue directives on statistical programs, the minister would no longer be able to issue directives on methods, procedures, and operations. The power would now be delegated solely to the chief statistician.
    Here is the first red flag. These new powers would enable the CS to issue directives without it being made public. Bill C-36 provisions state that the chief statistician may publicize directives before acting on them, but does not make that mandatory. This speaks to another provision of the bill. It would no longer require “consent of respondents to transfer their Census information to Library and Archives Canada”. This is also very troubling because this amendment to the Statistics Act could actually violate the consent rights of Canadians and is opposite to transparency. Additionally, with the chief statistician's ability to issue directives on methods, procedures, and operations, the CS would also be authorized to choose where it is housed. This is the second red flag.
    I had the opportunity a few months ago to go to Belgium for the Blue Sky Free Forum on Science and Innovation Indicators through the OECD. There was discussion on metadata, research, and analysis and we saw how important it is to be able to take information, the massive number of data points that are there and to be able to funnel them. We have to recognize the issues that are surrounding that, the cybersecurity side of that as well, and these become critical points that should be looked at as we talk about statistics and how the world is going to deal with them. There is an interaction between our country and other countries as we have universities that do research back and forth, so the whole concept of statistics and the analysis of statistics is extremely important.

  (1325)  

    I would like Bill C-36 to go to committee so that parliamentarians can propose some much-needed amendments to the bill. Based on that, I am sure that we can work to make sure that accountability to Canadians is not lost by making the chief statistician more independent. It is our duty to make sure the changes to the Statistics Act encourage Canadians to provide full, complete, and accurate data so that when the time comes, they in turn would have access to quality data that is relevant, reliable, and accurate.

  (1330)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would ask my colleague the same question. I know that the information would be made public after 92 years; however, individuals have families, children, and grandchildren. Does the member foresee any issues or impact it would have on families as a whole?
    Mr. Speaker, certainly people believe there is going to be privacy. I mentioned earlier that some people could actually still be alive when this occurs, as medical procedures advance, and so on, but it is critical to realize that all we are saying is there should be an option based on this. Some people may look at it and say it is fine, and they do not really care, but we do not know what the ramifications would be. There is a law that says if people provide inaccurate information, they could be fined. They would not go to jail, but they could be fined.
    It opens up so many new avenues that are certainly not worth going into when all it takes is providing an option for people to say that they would just as soon not have the data made public.
    Mr. Speaker, again and again I heard the Conservatives refer to the protection of privacy with the 92-year rule for the disclosure of data, that it is not like it is going to be published.
    I come from a family that had various twists and turns. My mother spent years of her retirement trying to trace our family history and one of the important sources for that information was the census. I wonder if the Conservatives have really thought about the impacts on families in the future who want to resource their origins and find out where they came from. The census has certainly been an important part of that.
    Again, I do not understand how, after 92 years, it would affect anybody's privacy, but it may, in fact, affect the ability of future descendants to find out where they came from and who they are as Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, I respect the position that the member has put forward. I suppose when we look at it there may be particular reasons that people choose not to have their data presented. Some people will simply look at it and say they will do it because they are forced to do it, but will wonder who needs to know how many bathrooms are in their house or what their religion is. Those things are helpful for knowing the makeup of communities, but there has to be a place for people to say that what they say and do should be private.
    Mr. Speaker, the legislation would enable the chief statistician to determine the types of questions that would be asked. I have had the opportunity, and perhaps the member across the way has also, to look at community profiles, something that allows for all sorts of potential development and different types of programs to go into communities. The needs will vary, and I suspect the questions were discussed well in advance. It is not just one person sitting in a room deciding what will be the 25, 50, 60, or 70 questions. Rather, it is based on consultation with many different stakeholders.
    The member made reference to the fact that he is somewhat familiar with statistics. It is a complicated area. I have trust in Canada's chief statistician to make sure the questions are important for all sorts of analyses being done.
     Does the member believe there is a need to have more independence within that office? That is something this legislation would provide.
    Mr. Speaker, I agree that it is very important to have that type of information for community profiles, and there are ways of expanding it so one recognizes what takes place there.
    The question is about getting input so we know we have the right questions. This is the point we have been making about the provinces and representation on the advisory committee that is going to be making decisions.
    One of the comments earlier had to do with agriculture and how significant it is. This is a mandatory form. Maybe they should be paying attention, though, so they are not demanding that all of the information be entered while farmers are driving a tractor, or seeding, or harvesting, or out calving. These are the harassment sides of it. People look at that and the next time it comes up, they say they will get it done, but it will be done in five minutes' time, and they will be out the door.
    If the government really wants accurate information, it has to make sure there is input from everyone, including the public, not just a group of statisticians that are trying to make that perfect model work.

  (1335)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an honour to rise today to speak to Bill C-36, regarding some changes to Statistics Canada and some of the reporting mechanisms, as well as the council that provides advice to the minister and to Statistics Canada as a whole.
    As I have looked across the aisle throughout the last 16 months, I have seen a government that has been slow to action on bills. In fact, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development has tabled three bills in this House. The first was regarding copyrighted works for persons with disabilities. I know that was something that was worked on prior to the government taking office. The second one was the disclosure of corporate boards, which is actually at the industry committee right now. The third one is Bill C-36, which is on the floor of the House right now.
    What we have not seen to date is legislation from the government that is going to tackle the issues that Canadians are dealing with. It actually does not matter what part of the country they are in. For Canadians who are out west, in Alberta, there are obviously many issues with natural resources, with the oil sector, etc. For those in Ontario, manufacturing had a very tough time last year and, quite frankly, it has had a tough time for the last decade. What we would like to see from the government is some action on what it outlined there would be action on in its own throne speech on December 4, 2015.
    Turning to this bill, which is obviously hiring a new Statistics Canada director, as well as the 10-person committee that is going to be reporting to Statistics Canada and to the minister, it is interesting that we see a change from 13 persons down to 10. That means there is inevitably going to be territories or provinces that will not be included in this reporting structure. We also see a disbanding of this council without a change in focus, if that is what was being asked for, which essentially gives the opportunity for the government to put its own appointees on this board.
    It is interesting. When I was looking through the throne speech, I found an entire paragraph regarding open and transparent government. In it, it says:
    Also notable are the things the Government will not do: it will not use government ads for partisan purposes; it will not interfere with the work of parliamentary officers; and it will not resort to devices like prorogation and omnibus bills to avoid scrutiny.
    I found interesting that what was not in there was the appointing of cronies, the appointing of friends. What this bill is doing is it is eliminating 13 people who have been appointed in the past and it is appointing what I can only guess will be 10 Liberal friends. The minister appointed 10 other friends previously to the innovation council, which has travelled across the country. They have tabled a report, yet nothing has actually come to Parliament from that report.
    What I would really like to see going forward from the government is a change in focus. There are certainly these bills and things we need to be working on, but it is not just what is being proposed by the government, it is also what is not being proposed by the government. The Liberals said in their own throne speech, in the opening paragraph, that Canadians:
....want to be able to trust their government.
     And they want leadership that is focused on the things that matter most to them.
     Things like growing the economy; creating jobs; strengthening the middle class, and helping those working hard to join it.
     Through careful consideration and respectful conduct, the Government can meet these challenges, and all others brought before it.
    I will admit that in the last year there have been some movements the government has tried. I disagree with its philosophy and the ways in which it is proposing changes for our country in terms of tax structures, but it has tried to meet a couple of these in terms of strengthening the middle class.
    However, what the Liberals have not done is they have not focused on jobs. They have not focused on opportunity for Canadians. They have not focused on those who are working hard to join the middle class, because what those people need more than anything else is a job. What they need is an opportunity to be prosperous. That just is not being talked about.

  (1340)  

    We have had the minister in this place at question period. We have had him at committee, speaking about a plan and a strategy that is to come. We have waited and waited. It is now 16 months after the last election and we still do not have a plan to create jobs in our country. Nothing has been put forward by the minister, no bill, no strategy, no plan that delineates what the Government of Canada would do to create an environment where jobs could be created.
    It does not matter whether we are talking about the natural resources sector, which lost over 29,000 jobs last year, or the manufacturing sector, which lost 53,000 jobs last year, or entrepreneurs, over 70,000 of whom closed their doors last year, or even agriculture, which lost over 19,000 last year. The government has failed to put a plan or strategy before Canadians.
    The three bills brought forward by the minister are things that need to be worked on, but two out of the three of them were on the shelf from the previous government. Two out of three of them were started under the previous Conservative government. What has the minister been doing for the last 16 months? Why has a strategy not been tabled before the House? Why do we not, as an assembly of the people, know what the targets are for the government? What is it trying to achieve? How many jobs is it trying to create? What sectors is it seeking to grow? What businesses, what associations is it working with?
    Right now we have zero information on this front, and the longer I sit on the industry, science and technology committee, depending on who we talk to, the more I realize nothing is coming forward. There is no plan. There is no opportunity being created for Canadians. There is no strategy to get those who are out of work, whose jobs have left the country, back to work.
    We need to focus on this going forward. It will not be enough to deal with bills, like appointing a new chief statistician. It will not be enough to put a bill that was on the shelf from the previous government regarding copyrighted works before the House. It is not enough to talk about the disclosure of boards. What the people of Canada were expecting from the government was leadership, and what they were expecting from the minister in particular was a strategy to put Canadians back to work, a strategy to ensure that our natural resource sector would rebound, a strategy to ensure that our manufacturing and agricultural sectors would be able to move forward.
    What we have is the opposite. We have a minister for jobs, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, who has not put a plan forward at all to create jobs in our country. We have a Minister of Finance who is raising taxes all over the place. It does not matter whether it carbon taxes, or payroll taxes, or eliminating tax credits, what we have seen is not a jobs minister looking at a strategy to create jobs, but a finance minister looking at a strategy to take money away from businesses that would otherwise be invested in jobs.
    The industry committee has had many opportunities to talk about things like carbon tax. Unfortunately it is not something my friends on the other side of the aisle want to speak about. We have had many opportunities to talk about a plethora of items that we could use to at least determine the future of how the Canadian job market would look like. We have not gone down that road. Instead we are dealing with these three bills that are really operational matters.
    I would ask today that the minister do his job, that the minister bring forward a strategy, that he follow through on his words that he spoke in this great chamber and put forward a plan for job growth in Canada, a plan to create an environment where Canadians will be prosperous and successful, earn their livings and provide for their families.

  (1345)  

    Mr. Speaker, I totally disagree with, but appreciate, a number of comments the member has put on the record. We are talking about Statistics Canada and hopefully we will see the bill pass. It is important for Statistics Canada.
    However, I take a great deal of exception to this. The member talks about this plan and how he wants it. The plan is there. All one has to do is read the budget. All one has to do is listen to what the Minister of Natural Resources has been talking about. There has been more of a proactive approach to dealing with the creation of jobs and supporting Canada's middle class since the last election than in the previous 10 years under the Harper administration. The Conservatives demonstrated they had lost touch with Canadians, and that is one of the reasons why we have been reaching out to Canadians and explaining the plan to them.
    Will the member not agree that in due time Statistics Canada, doing what it does best, will continue to provide us the information that is necessary so we can continue to make plans, and better plans, to grow Canada's economy?
    Mr. Speaker, certainly I would like to thank the member for his passionate words beforehand. The member may take exception to what I am saying in the House, but everything I am saying is true. There is no plan. We have not seen a single plan put forward with a single measurable thing to put Canadians back to work.
    If there is a plan, could the member please stand and tell us how many jobs the Liberals are looking to create with the private sector in the natural resources industry? How many jobs are they looking to create in manufacturing? How are they going to stop those jobs from going to the United States? How many jobs are going to be lost because of payroll taxes?
    The reality is that there is no plan. In fact, I will go further than that. Not only is there no plan to create jobs, the Liberals' plan is killing jobs. Quite frankly, the member needs—
    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Longueuil—Saint-Hubert.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the debate seems to be getting a little heated. As we draw closer to question period, everyone is getting a little excited.
    In any case, I noticed this morning that the Conservatives seem to have changed their minds regarding the importance of statistics, which I am glad to see.
    Is my colleague comfortable with the provisions of the bill that would eliminate the threat of jail time associated with the survey while still making participation mandatory?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, nothing excites me more than standing and responding to the hon. member's question. As we have been going through the bill, there are certainly some changes we would like to see going into committee. I happen to be honoured enough to sit on the industry committee, and we will address those at the committee as they come forward.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for his passion and his work on the industry committee. I know, being in a neighbouring riding, we talk a lot about jobs and job creation.
    Could my colleague tell us what he would do if he were in government?
    Mr. Speaker, we have made no attempt to hide the fact that we would cancel the carbon tax. We have made no attempt to hide the fact that we believe the payroll tax increase is going to hurt job creation. We have made it very clear that we would like to reduce the small business taxes. In fact, the governing Liberal Party also made it clear it was going to reduce small business taxes, but unfortunately it never followed through on that.
    There are a lot of things we could talk about, but I am out of time at this point. I would love to meet with the member outside and we could discuss that further.

  (1350)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is always a privilege for me to stand in the House to speak. Today, I would like to address the House as the member of Parliament for the riding of Bow River and to speak to Bill C-36, an act to amend the Statistics Act.
    Back in a previous lifetime, I remember taking a statistics class and the professor saying that statistics were very interesting. The professor told us that if we wanted to tell the professor what we wanted to prove with our statistics, it would be proven both ways. We were thinking this was a political science class, not statistics class. However, statistics can be very interesting. I have heard many comments made here today, which are enlightening and very interesting.
    This legislation would do a number things, as all legislation brought before us would. There are positives, but not being perfect, there is always room for differing opinions on parts of the proposed legislation. I will share some of those opinions on the pieces I feel should be redressed.
    The legislation would appoint the chief statistician for a fixed term of five years, which can be renewable on good behaviour, and the chief statistician would only be able to be removed by the Governor in Council, if absolutely necessary. That is positive.
    The minister would be able to issue directives on statistical programs. What the minister would no longer be able to do would be to issue directives on methods, procedures, and operations. That could be limited to the elected MP and minister, and that is just a thought.
    The bill would allow the chief statistician to make decisions on where all the data would be housed. This brings up major potential security concerns. Should the chief statistician choose to use a third party to store data, this could mean that Canadian statistical data could be at more risk of being breached. This is clearly not an ideal situation. We need to address this loophole. We live in a world that is fraught with cybersecurity risks. In fact, in the recent U.S. electoral campaign, one of the biggest issues discussed during the foreign policy debates was whether international hacking played a part in influencing some of their presidential and congressional elections.
    There are a number of threats. We live in a time where big data is being used for many purposes. It is important that we, as federal legislators, take seriously our role in protecting the private information and data of our constituents. This will be an ever-evolving matter that will require close attention. I hope the chief statistician will be diligent in deciding where the data is stored.
     Now, I understand it is with Shared Services Canada, which is an agency of the Government of Canada. Shared Services itself has a number of challenges and issues with which to deal. The question of security is an ongoing concern and one that must not be ignored when dealing with such crucial data.
    Another facet of the bill is that it would allow the chief statistician to have the final say on survey questions. This, to me, would be a cause of potential problems that the government may not have considered in drafting the legislation.
    Many people across Canada already feel as though survey questions are too invasive as it is. Due to this fact, a number of people will be untruthful on their surveys, and I may have been one of those. This leads to badly skewed data, which is every statistician's worst nightmare, no doubt.
    One survey that is very pertinent in my riding is the census of agriculture. There are often complaints from those in the agricultural sector that these censuses are far too encroaching and prying.
    The last one I will mention is where the talks about the change in membership. Subsection 8.1(2) states:
    The Council is composed of, in addition to the Chief Statistician, not more than 10 other members appointed by the Governor in Council to hold office during pleasure, 20 including one Chairperson.
    As the council exists now, up to 40 members representing all provinces and territories in the country have a view of the survey. They work with it. Now it will be changed to 10 members. Those 10 may not be regional in representation. They may be from just one province or one city area, or they may all be urban, with no rural. We should look into that.
    I do have concerns about potential issues with the legislation mentioned above. That being said, I have enjoyed hearing what colleagues have had to add to this debate.
    Mr. Speaker, we have certainly had an interesting exchange of views on this important legislation concerning the independence and, indeed, the excellence of Statistics Canada. It reinforces our government's commitment to building data and informing good decisions.
    I have heard all of the points that the member and some of his colleagues have made. Would the member not admit that really what this all comes down to is the fact that on this side of the House, we like evidence-based policy and on that side of the House, they seem to really like policy-based evidence?

  (1355)  

    Mr. Speaker, having been involved in a lot of science in my career, I absolutely believe in a lot of science data.
    One of the things I did not have time to mention was the 92-year limit the government put in the legislation. That is not acceptable. No means no if one is dead or alive, and no to data is important. There is science and there is data, and that one should stay dead as long as someone says no.
    Mr. Speaker, I find it fascinating to hear the Liberal side talk about evidence-based policy. My question is a direct one to the member who just gave a speech. Would he agree with me that Liberals like evidence-based policy in science until any sort of evidence or science does not agree with their position? Would the member agree with that, because we have certainly seen a history of that around here in the last year and six months.
    Mr. Speaker, in my past career, I was in situations where we had surveys and information, and whatever the results were, those were the results. We took that information and dealt with it, always believing that what had been said was what we needed to deal with, not make up something else afterward to justify the results. We take the results we are given and then we deal with that information.
    Is the House ready for the question?
    Some hon. members: Question.
    The Deputy Speaker: 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 Deputy Speaker: I declare the motion carried..
    Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

    (Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)


STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Chronicle Herald

    Mr. Speaker, on January 23 of this year, the striking workers at the Chronicle Herald hit their one-year mark in a strike where it can only be described that management was operating in bad faith in not coming to the bargaining table.
    Canadian media and real journalism is in crisis in Canada. The Chronicle Herald is the oldest independently owned newspaper in the country. I spent a lot of my life growing up in Nova Scotia. I read the Chronicle Herald for years, and it is shocking that more than a year has gone by while journalists who believe in their craft and their obligation to the public have stayed out on the picket lines and management has ignored their many flexible responses, including agreeing to a wage cut.
    I mark the one-year anniversary with regret and urge both sides to get back to the bargaining table.

Marmora SnoFest

    Mr. Speaker, there is “snow” place like Marmora, Ontario this weekend for the 39th annual SnoFest. This festival has the record as the oldest sled dog race in Canada. As Richard Lowery, one of the organizers, has said, SnoFest was started to help pull Marmora out of economic depression when the mines had closed and they were looking for something to inspire the community and bring everyone together.
    It all starts this Friday night with the little nippers race for kids at the Marmora Public School, followed by the Marmora's Got Talent contest. Then we are in for the main event on Saturday morning at the fairgrounds for a 10-mile Nordic six-dog, pure Siberian husky race. There are plenty more races throughout Saturday and Sunday, along with a dance, public skating, curling, food, an artisan show, and more.
    There is something for everyone, so mush on down to the races. It is easy to get there from Ottawa. “Gee” onto Highway 7, then “haw” into Marmora.

  (1400)  

Dementia

    Mr. Speaker, last week my staff and I completed training with the Alzheimer Society of Cornwall and District to better understand dementia, to recognize its symptoms, and to learn some tips on how to more effectively communicate with those who are living with this disease. I am proud to say that my office is the first MP office in Canada to be certified as a dementia-friendly community.
     Becoming a dementia-friendly community is a simple task and will go a long way in dispelling myths about dementia and helping to eliminate the stigma that many of the over half-million Canadians living with dementia feel every day. Three out of four Canadians have been touched by dementia, be it a family member, a friend, or a neighbour.
    I urge my colleagues to contact their local Alzheimer Society and tell them they want to become a dementia-friendly community. Together we can become leaders and help offer better service to those in our community who are living with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

Tom Cameron

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today with a heavy heart to celebrate the life of a remarkable man from my riding of Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge.
    Tom “Git er Done” Cameron is the stuff where legends come from. Tom became synonymous with Country Fest, Cops for Cancer, and the Royal Canadian Legion, just to name a few. Even while battling leukemia, and against doctors' orders, he insisted on giving his time to his community.
    He lost his battle on December 17, but refused to pass until being able to watch children shop for Christmas gifts one last time through his beloved Christmas hamper program. Before he passed, Tom willed to me this tie as a reminder.
    He loved his community, his friends, and his family, and he loved his country. In his own words, “if you have time in your life to volunteer, then pay it forward. That's something I've done all my life, and I'm richer for it.”
    We are all richer because Tom has been a part of our lives.

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Awards

    Mr. Speaker, I wish to recognize the presence on the Hill today of pre-eminent Canadians who are this year's recipients of Canada's top research awards.
    It is my particular honour to recognize Edmonton Strathcona constituent, Dr. Darren Grant, Canada research chair in astroparticle physics at the University of Alberta. He is receiving the E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship award. This award will support his continued world-leading research at IceCube, the world's largest particle detector. Located at the South Pole, it records nearly massless subatomic particles called neutrinos by mining deep, ancient, pure, glacier ice. I am told the study of these contributes to the knowledge of how the universe evolved.
    I invite all members of the House to join me in a round of applause for Dr. Grant and all of the award winners.

Taber Family

    Mr. Speaker, our community suffered a terrible loss on Christmas Eve when a fire broke out at a family cottage on Stoney Lake, taking the lives of Jacquie Gardner, Geoff Taber, their sons, Scott and Andrew, and their family dogs, Shelby and Haley.
     We met when Andrew started JK with my daughter at Frankland Community School. Jacquie volunteered in the classroom and was an active member of the parent community at Frankland, and later at Moncrest School. Jacquie was a founding member of the Danforth Hunger Squad for Second Harvest and was always there to lend a helping hand.
    Geoff was a partner at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt and worked to support entrepreneurs. Active in the community, he was a cyclist, a leader of the Riverdale Riders, and a coach for Withrow Park ball hockey.
     Geoff and Jacquie were dedicated to Scott and Andrew and supported their love of hockey. They were growing up to be wonderful young men. We grieve for their loss but also celebrate all that they helped us build in our community.

  (1405)  

Donald S. Affleck

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Donald S. Affleck, Q.C., who passed away on January 25. Don was a graduate of Victoria College and a member of its football team. He graduated from the University of Toronto's law school and practised law for more than 50 years. He acted as a NAFTA arbitrator, as counsel to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, and as chief counsel to the Royal Commission on Newspapers.
     Don acted in many notable competition law cases. He also co-authored Canadian Competition Law, a widely recognized authority. He was not only an architect of competition law in Canada, he was also instrumental in establishing one of the first boutique litigation law firms in Toronto, having co-founded Affleck Greene McMurtry 25 years ago.
     I had the honour of working with him for many years. He was a mentor and a friend, not only to me but to all who had the privilege of knowing him. The entire legal community has suffered a grave loss.
    To his colleagues at the firm, to his entire family, and most importantly, to his wife Shannon, I offer my deepest sympathies.
    I will miss Don. May he rest in peace.

[Translation]

Dairy Farmers

    Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House today to recognize the presence of many dairy producers from across Canada currently in Ottawa to raise awareness among elected representatives of the importance of their industry and milk that is 100% Canadian.
    I am proud because my riding is a rural riding that is home to many job-creating dairy farms. These are businesses, often family businesses, that contribute to a key sector in our economy and our society.
    I am proud because ever since I was elected, I never miss an opportunity to stand up in the House and defend the issues that matter to me the most, most particularly milk protein imports and supply management.
    It is time for the government to take action. The Liberals kept repeating over and over that if they were elected, they would resolve this issue. Now, over a year and a half later, they have done nothing.
    With $3.6 billion in annual tax revenues and the 215,000 full-time jobs the industry maintains, I want to thank our dairy farmers for their hard work and assure them that I will continue to fight on their behalf, now and in the future.

[English]

Anniedale School

    Mr. Speaker, this past Friday I had the opportunity to announce over $800,000 in Government of Canada funding for heritage projects in the city of Surrey. This funding will not only allow the Surrey Museum to begin its expansion but to also restore the historic Anniedale School, Surrey's only remaining one-room schoolhouse.
     Anniedale is Surrey's oldest surviving school building. Built in 1899, it was one of the first schools in the city and was used until 1954. Anniedale School is among a diverse collection of heritage sites in Cloverdale—Langley City, and it reminds us of our community's rich history.
    Like many heritage buildings across Canada, the Anniedale School was, until recently, at risk due to neglect or demolition. I am proud to have announced the Government of Canada's involvement in the preservation of Cloverdale—Langley City's unique history.
    With Canada's 150th year just beginning, I would encourage all Canadians, and every member in this House, to promote the preservation of our country's remarkable built heritage.

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians should be able to expect that the Criminal Code accurately reflects the state of the law. There are multiple sections of the Criminal Code that have been found unconstitutional and, yet, remain in the Criminal Code. These zombie laws can have serious consequences. That was illustrated last fall when Travis Vader's conviction for two counts of second-degree murder of Lyle and Marie McCann was vacated after the trial judge based his conviction on a zombie section of the Criminal Code.
    Fortunately, there is something that the government can do to prevent the serious miscarriage of justice that the McCann family endured from happening again. The government can introduce legislation to repeal zombie sections of the Criminal Code. It is time for the government act. It is time for the government to repeal zombie laws.

Veterans Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, this weekend I had the privilege of joining school children in my riding as they prepared valentines for veterans. I also received a large envelope of valentines from W. Erskine Johnston Public School in Kanata, filled with gorgeous valentines for veterans.

  (1410)  

[Translation]

    Every year, Canadian schools and organizations are invited to make valentines for veterans.

[English]

    These valentines are then distributed to veterans in long-term care facilities across the country in time for February 14. I want to make everyone aware of this great initiative, and I would like to inform members that I would gladly accept any valentines for veterans and make sure they get to our veterans, because they deserve our thanks and gratitude.

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Awards

    Mr. Speaker, today we are joined on Parliament Hill by the recipients of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada's top research award. It is my distinct pleasure to note that this year's winner of our country's highest award for science and engineering research, the Herzberg Canada Gold Medal, is from my riding, the great city of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
    Dr. Jeff Dahn of Dalhousie University is Canada's leader in battery research. Over the course of his career, he has helped pioneer the lithium-ion battery that is used in mobile technologies around the world. However, it gets better. In June of 2016, Dr. Dahn entered into a collaboration with Tesla, where he will use his expertise to improve electric vehicle performance. I would like to mention that this is the first time Tesla has ever collaborated with a university researcher.
    I proudly invite all members of the House to join me in applauding Dr. Dahn on this special occasion, and to once again congratulate all of the talented NSERC award recipients we have with us today.

WestJet

    Mr. Speaker, today I would like to pay tribute to WestJet airlines for a truly remarkable Christmas surprise and for its heroic evacuation efforts during the Fort McMurray fire.
    WestJet's generosity and compassion is amazing. On November 26, at the Snowflake Soiree in Fort McMurray, WestJet hosted 1,000 local residents at an exciting party. Hundreds of gift boxes containing personalized family portraits and WestJet flight vouchers had arrived by parachute from the sky.
    In the words of CEO Gregg Saretsky, “WestJet is deeply connected to the community, which is why we wanted to show them how much we care”. The event was filmed to create the 2016 WestJet Christmas miracle video. In addition, WestJet has been working with partners to boost tourism. I encourage all members to visit Fort McMurray and experience the boreal forest and everything our multicultural community has to offer.
    Thanks to WestJet for being an incredible corporate partner and bringing us some much-needed cheer. Once again, thanks to WestJet.

[Translation]

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Awards

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to invite my colleagues to join me in celebrating the success of the talented recipients of the awards for Canada's best natural sciences and engineering researchers. Today, I am honoured to pay tribute to three Laval University researchers who are among this year's winners.
    Christian Landry was awarded an E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship for his outstanding achievements early on in his career.
    Laurent Drissen won the Synergy Award for Innovation for the partnership he established with ABB Inc. to develop a new instrument that significantly enhances the capabilities of the world's most powerful telescopes.
    Finally, Sylvain Moineau received the John C. Polanyi Award for his work, which resulted in important international advances in genome research.
    I invite all members of the House to join me in applauding these talented individuals and all other honourees in the field of natural sciences and engineering research in Canada.

[English]

Human Rights

    Mr. Speaker, in sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, we are seeing a tragic outbreak of hatred in this country and in the United States. We must speak out and denounce hatred in all of its forms, whether it comes as an anonymous tract left outside a church door, as happened recently in my riding, or whether it comes as a statement or action from the new President of the United States, all of us have the responsibility to speak out against hatred.

[Translation]

    Nine days ago, the vicious murders at a Quebec City mosque showed us where hatred can lead. That must never happen again, and that is why we need to talk about it.

[English]

    People are speaking out and speaking up. Canadians and Americans are marching, talking, and reacting on social media, because we all understand that hatred is wrong, that love should govern all of what we do in our lives.
    Jack Layton's final words were clear:
    My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

  (1415)  

Queen Elizabeth II

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, Canadians across the country joined with all the people of the Commonwealth in celebrating and congratulating Her Majesty the Queen on her Sapphire Jubilee, marking 65 years since her accession to the throne.
    Her Majesty has dedicated her entire life to service. As the Queen of Canada, she unites Canadians and gives us a shared sense of identity and belonging to our country.
    Remarkably, Her Majesty has witnessed more than half of our country's history over her lifetime, and it is reflected in her admiration for how Canada has grown and matured while remaining true to its history, distinctive character, and values.
    As we enter the 150th anniversary of our Confederation, we will continue our loyal dedication to the crown in Canada.
    God save the Queen.

World Interfaith Harmony Week

    Mr. Speaker, today is the last day of celebrations of World Interfaith Harmony Week, as adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2010 to promote better understanding of different cultures and faiths.
     In Canada, there were celebrations across the country including harmony through music, culture, and dialogue.
    In light of the recent events in Canada and across the globe, the work of World Interfaith Harmony Week is crucial.
    I encourage all members to reach out to people of different traditions and backgrounds to build bridges across all faiths.
    Canada has long been a diverse and accepting nation, and we must never allow a minority of people to spread hate and create intolerance. Let us all embrace and practise the motto of WIHW: love of the good and love of thy neighbour.
     Peace, om shanti, salaam, shalom.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, on the evening of July 30, 2008, Vincent Li boarded a Greyhound bus and beheaded 22-year-old Tim McLean.
    Today he walks the streets like a free man, and he has even legally changed his name to Will Baker. I think I speak for a lot of Canadians when I say this does not seem right.
    Can the Prime Minister assure Canadians he will look for ways to close loopholes that allow killers to change their names and even walk our streets only a few short years after their heinous crimes?
    Mr. Speaker, Canadians need to know that they are safe in their communities, and that is why one of the most important priorities of any government is to keep Canadians and their communities safe.
    We have a very strong justice system, which we are working hard to continually improve. I am very confident that our Minister of Justice is doing everything she can to make sure that Canadians are safe and that the right framework of laws and justice is in place to protect all of us.
    Mr. Speaker, we know that the Minister of Justice is looking to reform the law in a different way, so when I hear the Prime Minister's response, I cannot help but think that he is more concerned with the well-being of Vincent Li, the man who actually beheaded Tim McLean in the middle of a bus, than he is with Tim's family.
    The concern here is that Vincent Li is going to be living not far from Tim McLean's mother. Can the Prime Minister, once again, reassure me that he is going to start putting the rights of victims above criminals?
    Mr. Speaker, our hearts go out to the McLean family, and specifically to his mother. I cannot imagine the grief and anguish that she had to go through and that she must continue to experience.
    It is the responsibility of all of us in this House to protect Canadians' rights, to protect victims, to make sure that every Canadian's rights are being respected. That is something we take very seriously.

[Translation]

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, today, I hope the House will vote to block the Liberal plan to tax health and dental insurance benefits.
    Now it looks like the Prime Minister wants to target seniors. He will not rule out the possibility of reducing the age amount and cancelling pension income splitting.
    Will the Prime Minister abandon this plan to empty seniors' pockets?
    Mr. Speaker, the members opposite are the ones who raised the retirement age to 67 when they were in power. We promised to lower it to 65, and we kept that promise.
    We also increased the guaranteed income supplement by $1,000 for the most vulnerable seniors. We reformed and strengthened the CPP to ensure that everyone can collect a pension in the years to come. We pledged to protect seniors and help the most vulnerable, and that is exactly what we are going to do.

  (1420)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, that is not the answer to the question I asked.
    The tax breaks that I am referring to for seniors could be worth, on average, over $1,000 per senior. Most seniors are already on a fixed income, and they cannot afford to lose this kind of money.
    Is the Prime Minister seriously considering this kind of a cash grab on seniors to pay for his out-of-control spending?
    Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, this government takes very seriously the well-being of seniors.
     That is why we increased the guaranteed income supplement by $1,000 for the lowest-income seniors. That is why we committed and actually followed through on our commitment to lower the retirement age from 67 to 65. That is why we have strengthened the CPP, which will help seniors but also everyone as they approach retirement.
    The fact is that this government is focused on helping our seniors, our vulnerable, low-income, and middle-income seniors. We will continue to do just that.

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, we still do not have an answer.
    With over three-quarters of our exports going to the U.S., thousands of jobs are riding on the Prime Minister's plan to renegotiate NAFTA. So far, his track record is not so great. The softwood lumber talks have gone so badly that the Prime Minister did not even include them in the mandate letters to his new Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of International Trade.
     Since the Prime Minister has abandoned softwood workers, why should Canadians have any faith in his ability to protect their jobs when he renegotiates NAFTA?
    Mr. Speaker, since we formed government, we have been working very closely with the American administration, both the last one and this one, to deal with the softwood lumber issue that means jobs for thousands of Canadians, indeed jobs in communities right across the country.
    We need to make sure we are preserving market access to the United States. That is exactly what we are focused on.
    We continue to engage with the highest levels of the new American administration to emphasize how many Canadian jobs and American jobs depend on a close working relationship between our two countries and smooth flows across the border.

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister broke the law on conflict of interest during his exclusive vacation for him and a few friends. When the Prime Minister was forced to admit this fact, he said, “we don't see an issue on that”.
    My question for the Prime Minister is this. Has he personally met with the Ethics Commissioner, and what excuse did he provide her for breaking the law?
    Mr. Speaker, as I have said many times, this was a personal family vacation. I am working with the Ethics Commissioner to respond to any of her questions, and I look forward to continuing to engage with her as questions arise.
    Sorry, Mr. Speaker, but knowing a billionaire for a long time does not excuse the Prime Minister of breaking the law.

[Translation]

    The Prime Minister can do what he wants to try to distract us and blame others, but the fact remains that this is the first time the Ethics Commissioner has decided to investigate a sitting Prime Minister.
    What message does it send to Canadians when the Prime Minister breaks the law and does not think he should face the consequences?
    Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, this is a victory for transparency, openness, and accountability. I am very happy to answer any questions the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner might have. It is important for all of us to answer the commissioner's questions on matters that are important to Canadians.

[English]

Pensions

    Mr. Speaker, the billionaire class and those hoping to join the billionaire class.

[Translation]

    Yesterday, the Minister of Finance's economic advisory panel suggested increasing the retirement age.
    When the minister was asked about this recommendation, he said that the government would, and I quote, “take that into consideration”. Increasing the retirement age when seniors are already suffering is a bad idea.
    Can the Prime Minister reject this recommendation and confirm that Canada will not increase the retirement age?
    Mr. Speaker, we were elected on a promise to lower the retirement age from 67 to 65 and that is exactly what we did. We will uphold that promise.

  (1425)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the finance minister's panel recommended an increase to the retirement age. When asked about this proposal, the Liberal finance minister would not rule it out. Instead, he said, “we'll take that into consideration”. Therefore, the government is considering forcing seniors to work longer.
    I do not remember seeing that in the Liberal election platform. Will the Prime Minister stand up and dismiss this recommendation, and will he tell his finance minister that raising the retirement age is out of the question?
    Mr. Speaker, I invite the member opposite to consult liberal.ca where that promise is still written down. We lowered the age of retirement from 67 to 65, the way we promised to do it. That is what Canadians expect of us and that is what we are going to keep to.

[Translation]

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, over half of Canada's manufacturing output is exported, and 75% of our exports go to the United States.
    How should Canada respond given the new American administration's protectionist bent and apparent desire to keep jobs in the U.S.? It could adopt a plan with clear objectives to support our businesses. Such a plan has yet to be announced, however.
    What is the plan, then?
    Mr. Speaker, our government is working hard to grow the middle class and to support those making significant efforts to join it.
    We are working closely with manufacturers, suppliers, and union leaders in Canada. We need to take a team Canada approach. We need to work together, and that is what we are doing. We will vigorously defend our national interests and remain faithful to Canadian values.

Soft Wood Lumber

    Mr. Speaker, that is not very reassuring.
    Yesterday, ministers from across the country came to Ottawa to talk about the future of softwood lumber. Today, dairy producers from across Canada are here in Ottawa to voice their concerns. On June 29, I was here with all of our colleagues when the government said that it would resolve the softwood lumber issue within 100 days. However, this has not happened yet.
    Do we not have reason to be worried? There is a lot of talk but no action. What is the plan?
    Mr. Speaker, the softwood lumber agreement expired under the previous government.
    Our government will stand up and defend the interests of workers and producers in Canada's softwood lumber industry. We will continue to work closely with softwood lumber workers and producers. We do not want to reach just any deal. We want a good deal for Canada.

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Minister of Finance once again succeeded in not giving a clear answer to Canadians when I asked him whether his government intended to attack pension splitting.
    Our fears were justified. Today, the National Post referred to another revenue-hungry strategy of the Minister of Finance, which this time concerns the age amount tax credit. The Leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minister twice about this. The Prime Minister did not answer him.
    Can the Minister of Finance tell us, yes or no, whether he intends to correct the errors in administration that his government has made at the expense of seniors?
    Mr. Speaker, what I can say is that we will continue our plan to help Canadians across the country, especially the middle class and the most vulnerable.
    We started by introducing measures that have really helped the middle class: we cut taxes and increased income with the Canada child benefit. We will continue to implement measures to improve their situation in the future.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, there he goes again. He cannot answer the question. This is bad. If there is really a dodger-in-chief of the government, he must be the MVP of the year.
    The reality is that today the National Post took another shot against him, talking about an even bigger pot of money for the Liberals, which is the age amount tax credit.
    Can we have just once a crystal-clear answer, yes or no, does his government intend to attack his bad judgment and inadequacy to address the issue of finance and public money against the—

  (1430)  

    The hon. Minister of Finance.
    Mr. Speaker, just to remind the House, this is the government that has moved forward on measures to help the most vulnerable with the Canada child benefit, to help the middle class with reductions in taxes, to help seniors who are most vulnerable. We are going to continue to move forward in this regard.
     All of the measures that we put in the upcoming budget and budgets to come will be intended to improve Canadians' situations. That is our goal, because we recognize that it is important for the future of this country.

Infrastructure

    Mr. Speaker, on the Government of Canada's website it clearly states that 1,202 infrastructure projects have not started construction. That means that 96% of the projects that the Liberals have announced are not being built and are not creating jobs. Announcements do not create jobs.
    For three days I have asked the minister to flow the remaining $9 billion before the next construction season. He has refused to commit each and every time. When will the minister finally commit to flowing the $9 billion to communities for infrastructure projects?
    Mr. Speaker, we are doubling our infrastructure investments to create long-term growth and jobs for the middle class, to build a low-carbon economy, as well as strong, inclusive, and welcoming communities.
    We have approved more than 1,200 projects. I would like to tell the member that more than 60% of those projects are currently under way, creating opportunities for Canadians.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, mayors in every part of Canada are worried. The government promised them $13.6 billion for infrastructure projects. However, according to the parliamentary budget officer's report, only $4.6 billion have been approved.
    How can these elected officials, who work hard every day, prepare their budgets without knowing whether the government will release the required funds?
    Will the minister stop repeating the same list of projects that he has already approved and finally release the $9 billion that all our communities need?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, let me tell the House what the president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities had to say about our program, “These unprecedented infrastructure investments will mean more growth, more jobs and stronger communities.” Let me tell the House what my mayor had to say about our plans, “Across the board, today's announcement is a big acknowledgement that cities are critical partners in nation building.” Let me tell the House what the mayor of Surrey has to say, “The city of Surrey applauds the Federal Government's commitment to providing—”
    The hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

Democratic Reform

    Mr. Speaker, do you know how cynicism grows in our politics? First, we ask Canadians to get engaged on reforming our democracy. Next, we have MPs hold town halls right across the country. Then we spend millions of dollars going back and forth asking Canadians, and in good faith they respond and in droves. They get excited about their democracy, but then Liberals say, “Sorry, Canada, not good enough. That is not the answer that Liberals were looking for.” That is how cynicism grows in our politics.
    The Prime Minister campaigned on being an antidote to cynicism, not a brand new source of it, so at the very least, will he find the decency to apologize to Canadians who took him in good faith?
    Mr. Speaker, I sincerely hope that is not the road that anyone in this House would go down.
    It is incumbent upon all of us as Canadians, as leaders, as political leaders in our communities to continue to encourage all Canadians to engage, whether or not they pursue policies that they are championing.
    Engagement in our political process is so crucial and so fundamental, and I look forward to working with all members in this House to ensure we continue to encourage all Canadians to engage in politics.

[Translation]

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

    Mr. Speaker, we just learned that a Muslim Canadian family was denied entry into the United States. Worse yet, the family members were questioned about their religious beliefs. This is a direct consequence of Donald Trump's discriminatory policy.
    Will the government finally join the NDP in vigorously denouncing this shameful treatment of Canadian citizens?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, our government is clear on continuing the progressive tradition of Canada as being an open and compassionate society. We have been assured by the White House that Canadian citizens and holders of permanent resident cards that are valid continue to have access to the United States.
    We will assist anyone with difficulties. We remain an open society that is open to people and ideas.

  (1435)  

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, a high-level finance department memo predicted of the Liberal carbon tax that it will “cascade through the economy in the form of high prices, thus leading all firms and consumers to pay more for goods and services”.
    This memo focuses on the potential impact of a carbon tax on households. Key findings are blanked out. The government knows the cost to average Canadians of its carbon tax. Why is it hiding it?
    Mr. Speaker, unlike the party opposite, we understand that taking action on climate change will make us more competitive, not less.
    With respect to the document—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order. I know members want to hear the answer. We need to hear the answer. No interruptions are allowed, as members know.
    The hon. minister of the environment has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite well knows, the document to which he refers was actually created in 2015 under the previous government. He may know what is in the document.
    I would like to also remind the member that it is non-partisan public servants who manage the access to information requests.
    The member is quite right, Mr. Speaker. It was produced the day after the last election when public servants were scrambling to find out how expensive this new party would be to the average Canadian.
    In fact, they very dutifully produced a report that said that these costs would cascade down on to middle-class and working-class Canadians.
    If that member is so confident in the findings that were produced in that document, she would uncensor it and release it for all Canadians to see. Why will she not?
    Mr. Speaker, I would encourage the member to visit the Government of Canada website where he could actually find the findings of our provincial and federal working group on carbon pricing. I assume that the member has not gone there yet. I would be happy to direct the member to that website.
    With respect to access to information requests, those are handled by non-partisan public servants. That is why the document was produced the way it was.
    Mr. Speaker, the cost of transport is built into every single good and service. When we increase the cost of transporting goods and services with a new carbon tax, we increase the price of everything, making Canadian products uncompetitive. When asked about the economic impact of the carbon tax, the Minister of Transport's response, “it depends”, does not inspire confidence.
    Could the transport minister tell Canadians if his department has conducted any analysis of the impact the carbon tax will have on Canada's transportation sector?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, our government recognizes that the economy and the environment go hand in hand. That is why we are working with the provinces and territories on addressing greenhouse gas emissions and growing our economy. The information the hon. member is looking for can also be found on the Environment and Climate Change Canada website.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, Conservative members on the natural resources committee demanded that we do an emergency study on the economic impact the carbon tax would have on our energy industry. The Liberals on that committee refused. Now we are asking for data that shows the impact the tax will have on our most vulnerable: seniors and young families. Again the Liberals have refused.
    If the carbon tax is supposed to be some sort of job creation revelation, why are the Liberals hiding the facts? Will the facts show that thanks to the carbon tax, all Canadians will pay absolutely more for absolutely everything?
    Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to remind the House that we all have a duty to meet the needs of our most vulnerable population.
     This government has taken historic steps to reduce poverty. We have taken 40% of all children living in poverty out of poverty. We have taken 13,000 seniors out of poverty. We are looking forward to increasing the income security of our seniors. That is a package which we would invite our colleagues opposite to support very strongly.

  (1440)  

Youth

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday the minister of youth told a room full of young people that their skill set is the reason their generation faces precarious work. Unfortunately, this is only one of the many comments made by the government that shows just how out of touch it is. Low-wage, precarious work is not the fault of the millennial generation.
    When will the government stop blaming young people, show leadership, and build good, stable jobs for millennials and all Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, we are proud of the investments that we are making after 10 years of inaction by the previous government. We are proud of the fact that we are investing $1.5 billion in our bursaries program, so that more students can go to university. We are proud of the fact that we are doubling the number of summer jobs by doubling the funding for the summer jobs program. We are also proud of the fact that we are investing record amounts in science, technology, and innovation, so that when those students graduate, they will have jobs waiting for them.
    There is one more thing. Youth can be proud of the fact that for the first time, the Prime Minister also took on the role of minister of youth and is taking a hands-on approach to making sure they have all that they need to realize their full potential.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, once again, the minister of youth has nothing to say.
     The Prime Minister and minister of youth issued mandate letters to all of his ministers, but he has not yet written one for himself. That might explain why he is so out of touch with his file and gets heckled by young people during his forums. It might also explain why he never answers my questions, which results in ludicrous situations like what happened last December when the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources answered my question. How is that for accountability?
    Will the minister of youth stop hiding behind his ministers, release his mandate letter, and explain what he is supposed to achieve?
    Mr. Speaker, in addition to all of the investments I just talked about, our government is constantly engaged with youth. We created the very first Prime Minister's youth council. We created an expert panel to analyze the situation and talk to young people to help them see that we can improve their chances of getting the jobs they want.
    We are working hard for youth, and that is what we will continue to do.

[English]

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister gave the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada mandate letter instructions to reinstate a modernized court challenges program. Could the Minister of Canadian Heritage give this House an update on the government's progress on this file?
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce, along with my colleague the Minister of Justice, the reinstatement and modernization of the court challenges program.

[Translation]

     This program has helped to hold successive governments accountable for defending the rights and freedoms of all Canadians.

[English]

    It has given groups and individuals a strong voice to argue for language rights and equality rights in all spheres of life.

[Translation]

    This is good news, and I am very happy to announce it here today.

[English]

Public Services

    Mr. Speaker, we have learned that two-thirds of the Super Hornets in the U.S. navy have been grounded and are awaiting parts due to high costs. The Super Hornet now costs more to buy than the F-35. This is what happens when one buys a fighter jet at the end of its production life: higher costs and lower performance.
    Will the Liberals proceed immediately to an open and transparent competition, and stop this dangerous and costly sole-source purchase of Super Hornets?
    Mr. Speaker, we are committed to making sure that our women and men of the Canadian Forces, including our air force, have the right equipment. That is why we have committed to an open competition that we will be launching. Also, we are committed to making sure that we have the right equipment now to fill all the gaps. That is the reason we are having the interim purchase which the Minister of Public Services and Procurement is currently discussing with Boeing.
    Mr. Speaker, that is the main point: it is not the right equipment.

  (1445)  

[Translation]

    The Super Hornets will be operational for about 12 years, at most, and will cost Canadian taxpayers over $300 million per plane. Worse still, there are no significant industrial benefits on the horizon for Canadian workers or businesses. The Minister of Public Services and Procurement has a duty to manage taxpayers' money prudently, while also supporting Canadian industries.
    How far is the minister willing to go to promote the Liberal Party's political interests rather than the interests of all Canadians in this great federation?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, if the previous government had looked after the Canadian Armed Forces and made the purchase, we would not be in this situation, but we are, and decisions have to be made.
    We are committed to making sure that we have the right equipment. That is why we are moving very rapidly in making sure that we fill the gaps that have been created, and we are committed to making sure that we do that not just for our air force but for the entire Canadian Armed Forces. That is why we are conducting a very thorough defence review that I look forward to launching with our government in the early new year.

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, it is a manufactured, make-believe capability gap the minister speaks of.
    The Prime Minister has been campaigning on the backs of our men and women in uniform in the Canadian Armed Forces to earn himself a temporary seat on the UN Security Council. The defence minister has refused to say where in Africa our troops will be going, and he knows our troops will be in combat against child soldiers. Clearly, this is not a peacekeeping mission.
    Before the Prime Minister sends our troops into combat against child soldiers in Africa, will he bring this UN combat mission to the House for a full debate and a vote?
    Mr. Speaker, I have said right from the beginning that when it comes to conflict, we need to understand the situation on the ground. That is why we are taking the time to look at all the various factors. We are talking to experts, including former General Roméo Dallaire.
    When it comes to the issue of child soldiers, my chief of the defence staff has done considerable work on this. Any decision that we make we'll be making sure our troops have the right equipment and the right rules of engagement to make sure they have the right impact on the ground.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberals, who are nostalgic for Canada's peacekeeping missions from a bygone era, have always said that any deployment in Africa would not be a combat mission, and yet the army is working on developing guidelines with respect to child soldiers, including one measure that involves authorizing the use of force to kill them if necessary.
    Considering how common the use of child soldiers is by Boko Haram, we have to expect that our troops will exchange fire with those child soldiers frequently. That looks a lot like a combat mission.
    Why are the Liberals so determined to drag us into this African quagmire, while still refusing to talk about it and debate it in the House?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, many times I have stated that Canada has a responsible place in the world. As we look at the various threats that we need to deal with, we need to reduce conflict as well. We need to reduce the recruitment into the violent extremist organizations so that we can prevent situations like child soldiers.
    We have an extremely competent Canadian Armed Forces. Our chief of the defence staff is looking at these issues. With any mission that we send our troops on, we are making sure we are going to have the right impact on the ground. That is why we are taking the time to make this very important decision.

[Translation]

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, in each of our ridings there are small business owners, farmers, and fishers who want to retire and sell their business to the next generation. The problem is that a farmer who wants to sell his farm to his children must pay hundreds of thousands of dollars more in taxes than if he sold it to a stranger.

[English]

    My bill, Bill C-274, would level the playing field while minimizing tax avoidance opportunities. Amendments could be made to minimize them even more, but instead of working with me, the government will clearly whip the vote to defeat this bill without even proposing an alternative. Why will the Liberals not allow a free vote?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by saying that we recognize the importance of farmers and small businesses across our country. We recognize the importance of ensuring that they have an opportunity to pass their businesses to their next family member. The bill in question unfortunately would have the unintended consequence of opening up a tax loophole of up to $1.2 billion for the richest of Canadians, so it is for that reason we believe this is not something that we can move forward on.

[Translation]

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, the survival of our family farms is a very important issue. I thank my colleague for all his work on this file and for his bill.
    There are many dairy producers on the Hill today. They are asking the Prime Minister to protect family farms by voting for this bill, and they also want him to respond to their concerns about supply management in the context of the renegotiation of NAFTA.
    Can the Prime Minister confirm for us today that he will protect every aspect of our supply management system when NAFTA is renegotiated?

  (1450)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as I have said many times in the House, our government truly supports our Canadian dairy farmers and the supply management system. We are the party that fought hard to put the supply management system in place and we will continue to protect and defend it. Canada's supply management system is a model for the world, and our government will continue to work closely with farmers to make sure that our agricultural programs remain in place.

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, let us take a deeper look at the Prime Minister's close friends who run the Liberal Party think tank, Canada 2020. Tom Pitfield worked on the Prime Minister's leadership campaign and the federal election. He is also married to the president of the Liberal Party of Canada. Tim Barber of Bluesky Strategy co-founded Canada 2020 and his bio brags about his experience in defence procurement. Susan Smith, another Canada 2020 co-founder, is registered to lobby the government. She is also president of the Ottawa Laurier Club for Liberal donors.
    Will the Prime Minister commit today to quit giving taxpayer funds to his close Liberal friends at Canada 2020?
    Mr. Speaker, our government values science and scientists and the important work they do. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council has a mandate to share and promote research with Canadians. As I said, the council is an arm's-length organization that is able to issue contracts below a certain threshold. The amount was below the threshold and the decision was made by the council. As I have said before, we will not politicize science the way the previous government did.
    Mr. Speaker, Liberals have certainly turned ethical lapses into a science.
    Canada 2020 has its hands all over the Liberal government. It is even out bragging about its new office space in the parliamentary precinct. We already know of the close relationship its president Tom Pitfield has with the Prime Minister, but what about Susan Smith? She is the co-founder of Canada 2020, principal of the lobby agency Bluesky Strategy, and president of the Liberal fundraising Laurier Club. The Prime Minister has given his friends at Canada 2020 and Bluesky Strategy unprecedented access.
    Will the Prime Minister promise to quit giving taxpayer funds to his close Liberal friends at Canada 2020?
    Mr. Speaker, as I have said, our government values science and scientists and the important work they do. As I have said, the granting council is an arm's-length organization. It has the ability to issue contracts below a certain value. This contract fell below that value and the decision was made by the council. I cannot repeat it enough. Our government will not politicize science the way the previous government did.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, at a time when thousands of Canadians are looking for work, the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Justice are giving patronage jobs to their cronies.
    As if finding jobs for their friends were not enough, the Liberals are also giving them money. They are also giving truckloads of it to Canada 2020, an organization made up of well-known friends of the Liberal family.
    Rather than constantly rewarding his friends, will the Prime Minister take his job seriously and stop with this poor show of elastic ethics?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we are so proud in this government that we value research, science, scientists, and the important work they do.
    As I have repeated many times in the House, the granting council is an arm's-length organization. It has the ability to issue contracts below a certain value. This contract fell below that threshold and the council took a decision.
    We are proud of our commitment to science.

Transport

    Mr. Speaker, recently, the Minister of Transport made an announcement in my riding of Sault Ste. Marie about our government's investments in regional airports. In my region of northern Ontario alone, the airports of Sault Ste. Marie, Bearskin Lake, Fort Albany, Deer Lake, Lansdowne House, Moosonee, and Sachigo Lake all received important investments this year.
    Would the Minister of Transport please update the House on how he is helping to improve connectivity in rural Canadian communities?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hard-working member from the Sioux. We deeply care about transport connectivity in our regions.

[Translation]

    That is why we are investing $58 million in our regional airports, including the Rouyn-Noranda airport in Quebec, the Gods River airport in Manitoba, the Points North Landing airport in Saskatchewan, the Terrace-Kitimat airport in British Columbia, the Red Sucker Lake airport in Manitoba, the Magdalen Island airport in Quebec, the Wabush airport in Labrador, and the Yellowknife airport in the Northwest Territories. It is a long list.

  (1455)  

[English]

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice has lamely tried to justify the Liberals' opposition to Wynn's law on the basis that it was not recommended in the Alberta bail review. Jonathan Denis, Alberta's former justice minister who ordered the review, says that Wynn's law actually complements the review, a review that was limited to provincial jurisdiction.
    Now that the minister's lame excuse has clearly been debunked by the very minister who ordered the review, will she do the right thing and support Wynn's law?
    Mr. Speaker, I am happy to stand to again underscore that we are doing a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system, including bail reform. The report of the study that the member opposite is referring to was conducted or put in place after the tragic death of Constable Wynn. None of the 31 recommendations from the report spoke to the legislative changes that are proposed in the private member's bill.
    Having said that, I will continue to work with my counterparts in the provinces and territories to ensure that we provide safety to Canadians, through the justice system, and ensure that we move forward with the comprehensive reform that has not occurred in over 20 years.

Status of Women

    Mr. Speaker, one in five sexual assault allegations is dismissed by the police as unfounded. Rape victims are being told that their experiences did not happen. In some places, the unfounded dismissal rate is as high as 30%. This is the result of a culture that continues to spread sexist myths about rape. It is exactly why many women are reluctant to report sexual assault in the first place. We need a system that believes survivors.
    When will the government ensure rape victims get the support they deserve?
    Mr. Speaker, one in five unfounded cases of sexual assault is too many. One is too many. People should not live in fear of violence, regardless of their gender, where they live, or who they love.
    We have heard the call for federal leadership. That is why I am looking forward to releasing the federal strategy on gender-based violence in the coming weeks.

Housing

    Mr. Speaker, Canada is growing and as we grow, the needs of Canadians also grow. The increased cost of rent in our larger cities is squeezing lower-income Canadians out of urban areas.
    Would the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development please update the House on the progress of the government's national housing strategy, and how it will benefit low-income Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Guelph for his hard work on behalf of his constituents.
    Our government believes that all Canadians deserve access to housing that meets their needs and that they can afford. Budget 2016 invested an additional $2.3 billion over two years, which will directly help 200,000 Canadian families.
     We will also be launching this year the first national housing strategy in four decades. This strategy will give our communities and our housing partners the long-term support they seek to meet the housing needs of our families.

Democratic Reform

    Mr. Speaker, last weekend not one but several anonymous sources reported details of the cabinet meeting in which it was decided to change course on electoral reform. Any cabinet leak is prohibited by the policy on security of cabinet confidences. By law, such breaches require immediate investigation.
     Given the existence of two anonymous sources, this does look a bit like a coordinated effort to allow the Prime Minister to spread the blame for changing course to the entire cabinet. However, I could be wrong about the source of leaks. Therefore, has a PCO investigation been launched into these leaks from cabinet?

[Translation]

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, in recent years, every time Ottawa has negotiated an agreement, it has used supply management as a bargaining chip. When it wanted to open the European market to western beef producers, Quebec paid the price. When it wanted to open the trans-Pacific market to grain producers, our Quebec producers paid the price. The worst part is that Ottawa cannot even be bothered to give them appropriate compensation.
    With the Minister of Finance on his way to Washington, can the government guarantee that, for once, supply management will not be used as a bargaining chip?

  (1500)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as my hon. colleague is well aware, we have and will continue to support the agricultural sector in our country, including supply management.
    My hon. colleague is well aware that we put a $350 million fund in place for innovation in the dairy farming processing sector. What the government is doing is making sure the farmers and the processing sector have the tools in order to do the job.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Americans are engaging in unfair competition by generously subsidizing dairy products, but the federal government is turning a blind eye and letting our people down.
    The reason supply management is not covered by NAFTA is to protect Quebec dairy producers, who are the first to pay the price for Ottawa's neglect.
     Now that he has his limousine and his portfolio for betraying Quebec to the banks, will the Minister of International Trade do something to protect supply management?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.
    He will be pleased to know that I met with dairy producers just this morning to reaffirm our commitment to supply management in Canada. We will work for all Canadians. We are working for farmers. We are working to promote trade by creating jobs. That is what we promised to do, and we will keep that promise.

[English]

Presence in Gallery

     I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering prize winner Dr. Jeff Dahn and the John C. Polanyi Prize winner Dr. Sylvain Moineau.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
    The Speaker: Also with us, in the ladies' gallery, are the winners of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Synergy Awards for Innovation, Steacie Memorial Fellowships and Gilles Brassard Doctoral Prize for Interdisciplinary Research.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

[Translation]

Vacancy

Saint-Laurent  

    It is my duty to inform the House that a vacancy has occurred in the representation, namely: the Honourable Stéphane Dion, member for the electoral district of Saint-Laurent, by resignation effective Monday, February 6, 2017.
    Pursuant to subsection 25(1)(b) of the Parliament of Canada Act, I have addressed my warrant to the Chief Electoral Officer for the issue of a writ for the election of a member to fill this vacancy.
    Mr. Speaker, I believe that if you seek it, you will find unanimous consent for the following motion: that the House strongly condemn the hateful remarks made against the people of Quebec by a columnist from Vancouver in the Washington Post on February 1, 2017, and urge the government to stand up for Quebec's reputation on the international stage.
    Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?
    Some hon. members: No.

[English]

Points of Order

Questions on the Order Paper  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to inform the House of a breach of Standing Order 39. It is in regard to what is now popularly known as the carbon tax cover-up. It may rise—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order.
    I would just remind colleagues that the member is allowed to present his point of order, and I would encourage the member to remember that this is not debate and to carry on with his point of order.

  (1505)  

    Mr. Speaker, I ask members of the House not to shoot the messenger. That is just what people are saying.
    This is a serious matter. Under the standing order referenced earlier, members have the right to submit questions to the government and receive responses to those factual questions. Beyond a potential breach of that standing order, this is a matter that may rise to the seriousness of contempt.
    This chamber, of course, is the child of the mother Parliament in Britain, wherein the joint committee on parliamentary privilege attempted to provide a list of types of contempt which included, “deliberately altering, suppressing, concealing or destroying a paper required to be produced for the House”.
    My point of order refers to the suppressing or concealing of said information. The evidence for the possibility of this breach is in comparing an Order Paper question and the non-response to it with subsequent documents that were released under access to information.
    The original Order Paper question asked for “analysis conducted in 2015-2016 by the government with regard to the impact on family household budgets” of the carbon tax. The government refused to release any documents in that regard, suggesting that none existed.
     At the time, I acted in good faith. I refuse to ascribe to malice that which might only have been explained by incompetence, as it would be incompetent not to have done such an analysis before imposing such a tax. I took the government at its word.
    A subsequent access to information request revealed that in fact it does have documentation that says, “Imposing a price on carbon emissions, either through a tax or cap-and-trade system, would raise the cost of fossil fuels and energy. These...costs would then cascade through the economy in the form of higher prices”. Those prices are then laid out in a table, which is whited out. As a result, we do not know what is in it, but we do know that it exists. Therefore, we know the government was breaching its duty to share that information with respect to the original Order Paper questions.
    I then asked the government what impact the new carbon tax would have on the price of the market basket measure. That is a measure by Employment and Social Development Canada that determines the full cost that a family must absorb in order to buy basic goods and services required to live as a functional part of a society. Again, the government claimed not to have any data on that whatsoever.
    However, the ATIP that I subsequently came into possession of says, “Imposing a price on carbon emissions, either through a [carbon] tax or a cap and-trade system, [does lead to] higher prices”. It goes on and makes reference to a second table, which would answer the question. Therefore, that table also exists.
    Finally, I asked the government for any impacts to the change in food prices for a family of four. Again, the ATIP makes implicit reference to changes in the costs of food to nourish a family, but, of course, that too is blacked out.
    I can go on and on. I think the government would like me to, but in the interest of brevity, Mr. Speaker, I will give you a systematic list of all of the documentation to which the government admits it is in possession, but which it deprived me of receiving when I submitted my original Order Paper question.
    The Prime Minister is attempting to portray himself as a cornucopia, spraying riches far and wide, but he did not produce those riches. He takes them from those who did, and by depriving those people of the information on the original costs he deprives—
    The member is now straying into debate. I would like him to stay on his point of order and conclude.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to conclude by simply referring back to the parliamentary tradition from which we take everything we have here in this august chamber and of course, that tradition comes from the mother Parliament in Great Britain, where in the 17th century the adoption of the bill of rights gave every subject and now citizen the principle of no taxation without representation. That is that the public must not be forced to bear the burden of any costs without its consent, but people cannot consent to something when they do not know what it is.
    Therefore, there can be no taxation without information. I ask the government to do the honourable thing and release that information immediately. Now if the government refuses to do so, you as president of this chamber have the obligation to compel it to do so. I ask, in the interests of taxpayers and the interests of the common people we are gathered here to represent, that you do just that.

  (1510)  

    The hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader is rising on the same point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, my comments will be brief. I will limit my response to what has already been stated many times in the House on this issue. As you know, the Speaker does not judge the content or quality of the answers provided in the House of Commons. The Chair has ruled consistently in this regard.
    Speaker Jeanne Sauvé in her February 20, 1983, ruling stated that it is not the Chair's responsibility “to determine whether or not the contents of documents tabled in the House are accurate.”
    Speaker Milliken's ruling of December 12, 2002, stated that, “the Speaker has no role in reviewing the content of responses to written questions.”
    In fact, Mr. Speaker, your ruling of September 27, 2016, concerning the government's response to Order Paper Question No. 152, again supports this position.
    Furthermore, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, on page 522 states that, “There are no provisions in the rules for the Speaker to review government responses to questions.”
    I submit that the matter before us has been dealt with on numerous occasions in the past and I have no further comments at this point.
    I thank the hon. member for Carleton for raising this point of order. I thank the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and I will come back to the House in due course with a decision.

Government Orders

[Business of Supply]

[Translation]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Taxes on Health and Dental Care Plans   

    The House resumed from February 2 consideration of the motion and of the amendment.
    It being 3:12 p.m., pursuant to order made Thursday, February 2, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the amendment to the motion relating to the business of supply.
    Call in the members.

  (1520)  

    (The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)
 

(Division No. 187)

YEAS

Members

Aboultaif
Albas
Albrecht
Allison
Ambrose
Anderson
Arnold
Barlow
Bergen
Berthold
Bezan
Block
Boucher
Brassard
Brown
Calkins
Carrie
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Cooper
Deltell
Diotte
Doherty
Dreeshen
Eglinski
Falk
Finley
Gallant
Généreux
Genuis
Gladu
Gourde
Harder
Hoback
Jeneroux
Kelly
Kent
Kitchen
Kmiec
Lake
Lauzon (Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry)
Lebel
Liepert
Lobb
Lukiwski
MacKenzie
Maguire
McCauley (Edmonton West)
McColeman
McLeod (Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo)
Miller (Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound)
Motz
Nater
Nicholson
Nuttall
O'Toole
Paul-Hus
Poilievre
Raitt
Rayes
Reid
Rempel
Richards
Ritz
Saroya
Schmale
Shields
Shipley
Sopuck
Stanton
Strahl
Stubbs
Sweet
Tilson
Trost
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Vecchio
Viersen
Wagantall
Warkentin
Watts
Waugh
Webber
Wong
Yurdiga
Zimmer

Total: -- 88

NAYS

Members

Aldag
Alghabra
Alleslev
Amos
Anandasangaree
Arseneault
Arya
Ashton
Aubin
Ayoub
Badawey
Bagnell
Bains
Barsalou-Duval
Baylis
Beech
Bennett
Bittle
Blaikie
Blair
Blaney (North Island—Powell River)
Boissonnault
Bossio
Boudrias
Boulerice
Boutin-Sweet
Bratina
Breton
Brison
Brosseau
Caesar-Chavannes
Cannings
Caron
Carr
Casey (Cumberland—Colchester)
Casey (Charlottetown)
Chagger
Champagne
Chan
Chen
Choquette
Christopherson
Cormier
Cullen
Cuzner
Dabrusin
Damoff
Davies
DeCourcey
Dhaliwal
Dhillon
Di Iorio
Donnelly
Drouin
Dubé
Dubourg
Duclos
Duguid
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Duncan (Edmonton Strathcona)
Dusseault
Duvall
Dzerowicz
Easter
Ehsassi
El-Khoury
Ellis
Erskine-Smith
Eyking
Eyolfson
Fergus
Fillmore
Finnigan
Fisher
Fonseca
Foote
Fortin
Fragiskatos
Fraser (West Nova)
Fraser (Central Nova)
Fry
Fuhr
Garneau
Garrison
Gerretsen
Gill
Goldsmith-Jones
Goodale
Gould
Graham
Grewal
Hajdu
Hardcastle
Hardie
Harvey
Hehr
Holland
Housefather
Hughes
Hussen
Hutchings
Iacono
Johns
Joly
Jones
Jordan
Jowhari
Julian
Kang
Khalid
Khera
Kwan
Lametti
Lamoureux
Lapointe
Lauzon (Argenteuil—La Petite-Nation)
Laverdière
LeBlanc
Lebouthillier
Lefebvre
Lemieux
Leslie
Levitt
Lightbound
Lockhart
Long
Longfield
Ludwig
MacAulay (Cardigan)
MacGregor
MacKinnon (Gatineau)
Malcolmson
Maloney
Marcil
Masse (Windsor West)
Massé (Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia)
Mathyssen
May (Cambridge)
May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
McCrimmon
McDonald
McGuinty
McKay
McKenna
McKinnon (Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam)
McLeod (Northwest Territories)
Mendès
Mendicino
Mihychuk
Miller (Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs)
Monsef
Moore
Morneau
Morrissey
Mulcair
Murray
Nantel
Nassif
Nault
O'Connell
Oliphant
Oliver
O'Regan
Paradis
Pauzé
Peterson
Petitpas Taylor
Philpott
Picard
Plamondon
Poissant
Quach
Qualtrough
Ramsey
Rankin
Ratansi
Rioux
Robillard
Rodriguez
Romanado
Rudd
Ruimy
Rusnak
Sahota
Saini
Sajjan
Samson
Sangha
Sansoucy
Sarai
Scarpaleggia
Schiefke
Schulte
Serré
Sgro
Shanahan
Sheehan
Sidhu (Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon)
Sidhu (Brampton South)
Sikand
Simms
Sohi
Sorbara
Spengemann
Ste-Marie
Stetski
Stewart
Tabbara
Tan
Tassi
Thériault
Tootoo
Trudeau
Trudel
Vandal
Vandenbeld
Vaughan
Virani
Weir
Whalen
Wilkinson
Wilson-Raybould
Wrzesnewskyj
Young
Zahid

Total: -- 225

PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the amendment lost.

[English]

    The next question is on the main motion. Is it the pleasure of the house to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Speaker: All those opposed to the motion will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Speaker: In my opinion, the nays have it.
    And five or more members having risen:

  (1530)  

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

(Division No. 188)

YEAS

Members

Aboultaif
Albas
Albrecht
Allison
Ambrose
Anderson
Arnold
Ashton
Aubin
Barlow
Barsalou-Duval
Bergen
Berthold
Bezan
Blaikie
Blaney (North Island—Powell River)
Block
Boucher
Boudrias
Boulerice
Boutin-Sweet
Brassard
Brosseau
Brown
Calkins
Cannings
Caron
Carrie
Chong
Choquette
Christopherson
Clarke
Clement
Cooper
Cullen
Davies
Deltell
Diotte
Doherty
Donnelly
Dreeshen
Dubé
Duncan (Edmonton Strathcona)
Dusseault
Duvall
Eglinski
Falk
Finley
Fortin
Gallant
Garrison
Généreux
Genuis
Gill
Gladu
Gourde
Hardcastle
Harder
Hoback
Hughes
Jeneroux
Johns
Julian
Kelly
Kent
Kitchen
Kmiec
Kwan
Lake
Lauzon (Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry)
Laverdière
Lebel
Liepert
Lobb
Lukiwski
MacGregor
MacKenzie
Maguire
Malcolmson
Marcil
Masse (Windsor West)
Mathyssen
May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
McCauley (Edmonton West)
McColeman
McLeod (Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo)
Miller (Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound)
Moore
Motz
Mulcair
Nantel
Nater
Nicholson
Nuttall
O'Toole
Paul-Hus
Pauzé
Plamondon
Poilievre
Quach
Raitt
Ramsey
Rankin
Rayes
Reid
Rempel
Richards
Ritz
Sansoucy
Saroya
Schmale
Shields
Shipley
Sopuck
Stanton
Ste-Marie
Stetski
Stewart
Strahl
Stubbs
Sweet
Thériault
Tilson
Trost
Trudel
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Vecchio
Viersen
Wagantall
Warkentin
Watts
Waugh
Webber
Weir
Wong
Yurdiga
Zimmer

Total: -- 138

NAYS

Members

Aldag
Alghabra
Alleslev
Amos
Anandasangaree
Arseneault
Arya
Ayoub
Badawey
Bagnell
Bains
Baylis
Beech
Bennett
Bittle
Blair
Boissonnault
Bossio
Bratina
Breton
Brison
Caesar-Chavannes
Carr
Casey (Cumberland—Colchester)
Casey (Charlottetown)
Chagger
Champagne
Chan
Chen
Cormier
Cuzner
Dabrusin
Damoff
DeCourcey
Dhaliwal
Dhillon
Di Iorio
Drouin
Dubourg
Duclos
Duguid
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Dzerowicz
Easter
Ehsassi
El-Khoury
Ellis
Erskine-Smith
Eyking
Eyolfson
Fergus
Fillmore
Finnigan
Fisher
Fonseca
Foote
Fragiskatos
Fraser (West Nova)
Fraser (Central Nova)
Fry
Fuhr
Garneau
Gerretsen
Goldsmith-Jones
Goodale
Gould
Graham
Grewal
Hajdu
Hardie
Harvey
Hehr
Holland
Housefather
Hussen
Hutchings
Iacono
Joly
Jones
Jordan
Jowhari
Kang
Khalid
Khera
Lametti
Lamoureux
Lapointe
Lauzon (Argenteuil—La Petite-Nation)
LeBlanc
Lebouthillier
Lefebvre
Lemieux
Leslie
Levitt
Lightbound
Lockhart
Long
Longfield
Ludwig
MacAulay (Cardigan)
MacKinnon (Gatineau)
Maloney
Massé (Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia)
May (Cambridge)
McCrimmon
McDonald
McGuinty
McKay
McKenna
McKinnon (Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam)
McLeod (Northwest Territories)
Mendès
Mendicino
Mihychuk
Miller (Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs)
Monsef
Morneau
Morrissey
Murray
Nassif
Nault
O'Connell
Oliphant
Oliver
O'Regan
Paradis
Peterson
Petitpas Taylor
Philpott
Picard
Poissant
Qualtrough
Ratansi
Rioux
Robillard
Rodriguez
Romanado
Rudd
Ruimy
Rusnak
Sahota
Saini
Sajjan
Samson
Sangha
Sarai
Scarpaleggia
Schiefke
Schulte
Serré
Sgro
Shanahan
Sheehan
Sidhu (Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon)
Sidhu (Brampton South)
Sikand
Simms
Sohi
Sorbara
Spengemann
Tabbara
Tan
Tassi
Tootoo
Trudeau
Vandal
Vandenbeld
Vaughan
Virani
Whalen
Wilkinson
Wilson-Raybould
Wrzesnewskyj
Young
Zahid

Total: -- 175

PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion defeated.

[Translation]

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation Act

    The House resumed consideration from February 6 of Bill C-30, as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.
    The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred divisions at the report stage of Bill C-30.
    The question is on Motion No. 2. The vote on this motion also applies to Motions Nos. 3 to 53.

  (1540)  

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

(Division No. 189)

YEAS

Members

Ashton
Aubin
Barsalou-Duval
Blaikie
Blaney (North Island—Powell River)
Boudrias
Boulerice
Boutin-Sweet
Brosseau
Cannings
Caron
Choquette
Christopherson
Cullen
Davies
Donnelly
Dubé
Duncan (Edmonton Strathcona)
Dusseault
Duvall
Fortin
Garrison
Gill
Hardcastle
Hughes
Johns
Julian
Kwan
Laverdière
MacGregor
Malcolmson
Marcil
Masse (Windsor West)
Mathyssen
May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
Moore
Mulcair
Nantel
Pauzé
Plamondon
Quach
Ramsey
Rankin
Sansoucy
Ste-Marie
Stetski
Stewart
Thériault
Trudel
Weir

Total: -- 50

NAYS

Members

Aboultaif
Albas
Albrecht
Aldag
Alghabra
Alleslev
Allison
Ambrose
Amos
Anandasangaree
Anderson
Arnold
Arseneault
Arya
Ayoub
Badawey
Bagnell
Bains
Barlow
Baylis
Beech
Bennett
Bergen
Berthold
Bezan
Bittle
Blair
Block
Boissonnault
Bossio
Boucher
Brassard
Bratina
Breton
Brison
Brown
Caesar-Chavannes
Calkins
Carr
Carrie
Casey (Cumberland—Colchester)
Casey (Charlottetown)
Chagger
Champagne
Chan
Chen
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Cooper
Cormier
Cuzner
Dabrusin
Damoff
DeCourcey
Deltell
Dhaliwal
Dhillon
Di Iorio
Diotte
Doherty
Dreeshen
Drouin
Dubourg
Duclos
Duguid
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Dzerowicz
Easter
Eglinski
Ehsassi
El-Khoury
Ellis
Erskine-Smith
Eyking
Eyolfson
Falk
Fergus
Fillmore
Finley
Finnigan
Fisher
Fonseca
Foote
Fragiskatos
Fraser (West Nova)
Fraser (Central Nova)
Fry
Fuhr
Gallant
Garneau
Généreux
Genuis
Gerretsen
Gladu
Goldsmith-Jones
Goodale
Gould
Gourde
Graham
Grewal
Hajdu
Harder
Hardie
Harvey
Hehr
Hoback
Holland
Housefather
Hussen
Hutchings
Iacono
Jeneroux
Joly
Jones
Jordan
Jowhari
Kang
Kelly
Kent
Khalid
Khera
Kitchen
Kmiec
Lake
Lametti
Lamoureux
Lapointe
Lauzon (Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry)
Lauzon (Argenteuil—La Petite-Nation)
Lebel
LeBlanc
Lebouthillier
Lefebvre
Lemieux
Leslie
Levitt
Liepert
Lightbound
Lobb
Lockhart
Long
Longfield
Ludwig
Lukiwski
MacAulay (Cardigan)
MacKenzie
MacKinnon (Gatineau)
Maguire
Maloney
Massé (Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia)
May (Cambridge)
McCauley (Edmonton West)
McColeman
McCrimmon
McDonald
McGuinty
McKay
McKenna
McKinnon (Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam)
McLeod (Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo)
McLeod (Northwest Territories)
Mendès
Mendicino
Mihychuk
Miller (Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound)
Miller (Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs)
Monsef
Morneau
Morrissey
Motz
Murray
Nassif
Nater
Nault
Nicholson
Nuttall
O'Connell
Oliphant
Oliver
O'Regan
O'Toole
Paradis
Paul-Hus
Peterson
Petitpas Taylor
Philpott
Picard
Poilievre
Poissant
Qualtrough
Raitt
Ratansi
Rayes
Reid
Richards
Rioux
Ritz
Robillard
Rodriguez
Romanado
Rota
Rudd
Ruimy
Rusnak
Sahota
Saini
Sajjan
Samson
Sangha
Sarai
Saroya
Scarpaleggia
Schiefke
Schmale
Schulte
Serré
Sgro
Shanahan
Sheehan
Shields
Shipley
Sidhu (Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon)
Sidhu (Brampton South)
Sikand
Simms
Sohi
Sopuck
Sorbara
Spengemann
Stanton
Strahl
Stubbs
Sweet
Tabbara
Tan
Tassi
Tilson
Tootoo
Trost
Trudeau
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Vandal
Vandenbeld
Vaughan
Vecchio
Viersen
Virani
Wagantall
Warkentin
Watts
Waugh
Webber
Whalen
Wilkinson
Wilson-Raybould
Wong
Wrzesnewskyj
Young
Yurdiga
Zahid
Zimmer

Total: -- 263

PAIRED

Nil

    I declare Motion No. 2 defeated. Accordingly, I declare Motions Nos. 3 to 53 defeated.

[English]

     The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Mr. Speaker, I believe if you seek it, you will find unanimous consent to apply the result of the previous vote to this one, with Liberal members voting in favour.
     Is that agreed?
     Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives agree to apply, and will be voting yes.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the NDP agrees to apply the vote, but we are voting no.
    Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois agrees to apply the vote, but we are voting against.
    Mr. Speaker, I agree to apply the vote and I am voting no.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I agree to apply the vote, and will be voting yes.
    (The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
 

(Division No. 190)

YEAS

Members

Aboultaif
Albas
Albrecht
Aldag
Alghabra
Alleslev
Allison
Ambrose
Amos
Anandasangaree
Anderson
Arnold
Arseneault
Arya
Ayoub
Badawey
Bagnell
Bains
Barlow
Baylis
Beech
Bennett
Bergen
Berthold
Bezan
Bittle
Blair
Block
Boissonnault
Bossio
Boucher
Brassard
Bratina
Breton
Brison
Brown
Caesar-Chavannes
Calkins
Carr
Carrie
Casey (Cumberland—Colchester)
Casey (Charlottetown)
Chagger
Champagne
Chan
Chen
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Cooper
Cormier
Cuzner
Dabrusin
Damoff
DeCourcey
Deltell
Dhaliwal
Dhillon
Di Iorio
Diotte
Doherty
Dreeshen
Drouin
Dubourg
Duclos
Duguid
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Dzerowicz
Easter
Eglinski
Ehsassi
El-Khoury
Ellis
Erskine-Smith
Eyking
Eyolfson
Falk
Fergus
Fillmore
Finley
Finnigan
Fisher
Fonseca
Foote
Fragiskatos
Fraser (West Nova)
Fraser (Central Nova)
Fry
Fuhr
Gallant
Garneau
Généreux
Genuis
Gerretsen
Gladu
Goldsmith-Jones
Goodale
Gould
Gourde
Graham
Grewal
Hajdu
Harder
Hardie
Harvey
Hehr
Hoback
Holland
Housefather
Hussen
Hutchings
Iacono
Jeneroux
Joly
Jones
Jordan
Jowhari
Kang
Kelly
Kent
Khalid
Khera
Kitchen
Kmiec
Lake
Lametti
Lamoureux
Lapointe
Lauzon (Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry)
Lauzon (Argenteuil—La Petite-Nation)
Lebel
LeBlanc
Lebouthillier
Lefebvre
Lemieux
Leslie
Levitt
Liepert
Lightbound
Lobb
Lockhart
Long
Longfield
Ludwig
Lukiwski
MacAulay (Cardigan)
MacKenzie
MacKinnon (Gatineau)
Maguire
Maloney
Massé (Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia)
May (Cambridge)
McCauley (Edmonton West)
McColeman
McCrimmon
McDonald
McGuinty
McKay
McKenna
McKinnon (Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam)
McLeod (Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo)
McLeod (Northwest Territories)
Mendès
Mendicino
Mihychuk
Miller (Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound)
Miller (Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs)
Monsef
Morneau
Morrissey
Motz
Murray
Nassif
Nater
Nault
Nicholson
Nuttall
O'Connell
Oliphant
Oliver
O'Regan
O'Toole
Paradis
Paul-Hus
Peterson
Petitpas Taylor
Philpott
Picard
Poilievre
Poissant
Qualtrough
Raitt
Ratansi
Rayes
Reid
Richards
Rioux
Ritz
Robillard
Rodriguez
Romanado
Rota
Rudd
Ruimy
Rusnak
Sahota
Saini
Sajjan
Samson
Sangha
Sarai
Saroya
Scarpaleggia
Schiefke
Schmale
Schulte
Serré
Sgro
Shanahan
Sheehan
Shields
Shipley
Sidhu (Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon)
Sidhu (Brampton South)
Sikand
Simms
Sohi
Sopuck
Sorbara
Spengemann
Stanton
Strahl
Stubbs
Sweet
Tabbara
Tan
Tassi
Tilson
Tootoo
Trost
Trudeau
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Vandal
Vandenbeld
Vaughan
Vecchio
Viersen
Virani
Wagantall
Warkentin
Watts
Waugh
Webber
Whalen
Wilkinson
Wilson-Raybould
Wong
Wrzesnewskyj
Young
Yurdiga
Zahid
Zimmer

Total: -- 263

NAYS

Members

Ashton
Aubin
Barsalou-Duval
Blaikie
Blaney (North Island—Powell River)
Boudrias
Boulerice
Boutin-Sweet
Brosseau
Cannings
Caron
Choquette
Christopherson
Cullen
Davies
Donnelly
Dubé
Duncan (Edmonton Strathcona)
Dusseault
Duvall
Fortin
Garrison
Gill
Hardcastle
Hughes
Johns
Julian
Kwan
Laverdière
MacGregor
Malcolmson
Marcil
Masse (Windsor West)
Mathyssen
May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
Moore
Mulcair
Nantel
Pauzé
Plamondon
Quach
Ramsey
Rankin
Sansoucy
Ste-Marie
Stetski
Stewart
Thériault
Trudel
Weir

Total: -- 50

PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion carried.

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act

    The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-31, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and Ukraine, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.
    I wish to inform the House that because of the deferred recorded divisions government orders will be extended by 29 minutes.
    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.

  (1545)  

Hon. Carla Qualtrough (for the Minister of International Trade)  
     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.

    (Motion agreed to)

Hon. Carla Qualtrough (for the Minister of International Trade)  
     moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise in the House today in support of legislation to implement the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement.
    In the review of the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement today, many members have underscored the friendship between our two countries and the importance of support to Ukraine in light of Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and the ongoing Russian-backed insurgency in eastern Ukraine. As we witness renewed violence in the conflict, our hearts are with the people of Ukraine.
     In spite of these challenges, Ukraine has made significant strides in its anti-corruption and reform efforts. We would like to emphasize the need to encourage the momentum toward securing Ukraine's future as a stable, democratic, and prosperous country.
    The Government of Canada remains determined to deepen our bilateral ties with Ukraine to this end, including through this landmark agreement. A free trade agreement is a very valuable instrument to enhance our commercial ties and nurture a more stable, predictable trading relationship for sustainable economic growth.
     The Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement is a high-quality agreement that, once implemented, would create new commercial opportunities for Canadian and Ukrainian businesses alike. This agreement would result in preferential market access for virtually all Canada-Ukraine trade. It would facilitate enhanced co-operation, improve our ability to resolve trade irritants, increase transparency in regulatory matters, and reduce transaction costs for businesses.
    The Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement addresses non-tariff barriers and would help to ensure that technical regulations relating to food safety and animal and plant health and life are not used in a discriminatory way. These provisions would help to ensure that companies can take advantage of market access and not be hindered by unjustifiable or discriminatory rules.
    The Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement would contribute to the protection and enhancement of intellectual property rights, which would help to foster competitiveness, innovation, and creativity, and to combat infringements and to establish a consultative mechanism providing a way to aid in bilateral resolutions.
    This agreement includes provisions on competition policy, monopolies, and state enterprises to ensure that the benefits of trade liberalization are not undermined by anti-competitive business conduct, such as collusion among competitors, or by market distortion from monopolies or state enterprises.
    This would create a fair and predictable environment for Canadian businesses. This agreement addresses the needs of the 21st century economy. Provisions on e-commerce would help to facilitate e-trade by ensuring that Canadian and Ukrainian businesses and consumers would not face customs duties on electronically transmitted digital products.
    Also, the agreement includes comprehensive and progressive provisions in the areas of labour, environment, transparency, and anti-corruption, as well as protections for the government's right to regulate in the public interest.
    Canadians can be very proud of how this agreement would contribute to building sustainable economic growth in Ukraine. I am equally proud of the opportunities it promises to deliver to Canada and to Canadian businesses in a progressive and inclusive manner.
    A key outcome of this agreement is the new market access that it would provide for goods produced and manufactured in Canada. Once the agreement is fully implemented, 99% of Canada's exports would be eligible to enter Ukraine duty free. This would put Canadian exporters on a level footing with European companies, which are already benefiting from the European free trade agreement with Ukraine.
    Once implemented, the high-quality provisions of the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement would create opportunities across Canada and across our industrial, fish and seafood, agriculture, and agrifood sectors. These sectors are all areas where Canada offers something important to the world, and they are integral to our economy in small and large communities right across the country.
    Our exports of industrial products currently face tariffs of up to 25% in Ukraine. The majority of these tariffs would be eliminated the day the agreement enters into force. Examples of goods that stand to benefit include iron, steel, industrial machinery, plastic products, cosmetics, and fish and seafood. With regard to fish and seafood, for example, the sector employs 76,000 Canadians. Exports to Ukraine in this sector face tariffs as high as 20%, which would be eliminated when the agreement takes effect.

  (1550)  

     The agreement would also create opportunities for Canada's agriculture and agrifood sector. According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, in 2014 Canada was the fifth-largest agricultural exporter in the world, and the agriculture and agrifood industry employed 2.2 million Canadians. Canadian exports to Ukraine in this sector faced tariffs, however, of up to 30%, the majority of which would be eliminated upon entry into force of the free trade agreement, and nearly all of the remaining ones would be eliminated within seven years. Key Canadian agricultural products that stand to benefit from this duty-free access include beef, pulses, grains, canola oil, processed foods, oilseeds, and animal feed. It is important to note that nothing in this agreement would weaken our supply-management approach for dairy, poultry, and eggs.
    Western Canada already has a significant export relationship with Ukraine, which averaged almost $93 million per year over the last five years. The tariff eliminations and reductions we have secured would expand this relationship. Canadian pork exporters, for example, would be able to take advantage of unlimited duty-free access on fresh and chilled pork. Canadian exporters would also benefit from a large duty-free tariff rate quota for frozen pork and certain pork products, which currently face tariffs of up to 15%. The tariff rate quota would create meaningful new opportunities for Canadian farmers as it would exceed current Canadian exports of pork by a significant amount. It would also allow them to compete on a level playing field with competitors from across the European Union. Canadian wine producers and pulse exporters would also benefit from full tariff elimination. This would open up new opportunities for these important industries.
    Canadian companies from central Canada already export to Ukraine, and exported an average of $69 million per year over the last five years. The Canada–Ukraine free trade agreement would provide new opportunities for the exporters of central Canada. For example, Ukraine would eliminate its 5% tariff immediately on maple syrup, which would provide new opportunities for the Canadian maple industry. Manufacturers in central Canada would be able to take advantage of new opportunities provided by the elimination of tariffs in this sector. The majority of these tariffs would be eliminated as soon as the agreement is implemented, which means early benefits.
    Canadian exporters in Atlantic Canada already export an average of $11 million annually. Exporters from this region would also benefit, in particular as a result of the elimination of Ukrainian tariffs on fish and seafood.
    Creating new commercial opportunities like these is crucial to Canada's economic success because, if done properly, our government believes that trade can raise living standards, create more jobs, increase prosperity, and help to strengthen the middle class. Canada is a trading nation, and we need access to international markets to thrive. In Canada, one in six jobs is related to exports. In 2014, there were more than 33,000 Canadian goods-exporting companies, most of which are small and medium-sized enterprises. These companies understand the necessity of trade and the opportunities for trade that are generated by free trade agreements like the one we are discussing and supporting today. That is why implementing and expanding Canada's free trade agreements globally is a priority for this government.
    The Canada–Ukraine free trade agreement is a tangible expression of our belief and experience that open, rules-based trade is a driver of economic opportunity and growth. By eliminating essentially all tariffs on currently traded goods between our two countries, Canada's exports would become more competitive in the Ukrainian market, a market that is very promising. Though Canada and Ukraine's bilateral merchandise trade was relatively modest in the years immediately following Ukraine's independence, our countries sought to encourage bilateral trade to complement the strong and extensive people-to-people linkages that tie our nations together. In 2015, despite ongoing challenges in Ukraine, bilateral trade between Canada and Ukraine increased to almost $300 million. Economic analysis undertaken by Global Affairs Canada projects that, once fully implemented, the Canada–Ukraine free trade agreement would result in an increase of 19% in bilateral merchandise trade between our two countries over bilateral trade in 2014.
    This government also recognizes the need to provide support to companies that are seeking to utilize the provisions of a new free trade agreement. In order for the benefits of free trade agreements to be fully realized, businesses need to be aware of the agreements and how we can help. This is especially important for Canada, as many of our exporters are small and medium-sized enterprises that may not have the resources to remain informed about business developments such as this.

  (1555)  

    In order to ensure that Canadian companies have the information they need to take advantage of this free trade agreement when it comes into force, the government will lead communications and outreach initiatives with business. The government will also coordinate and conduct information seminars for business audiences, organized with provincial, territorial, and private-sector partners. In addition, Canadian trade commissioners will be ready and able to assist companies seeking to expand into the Ukrainian market and will be able to advise their clients about the provisions of this free trade agreement and the opportunities.
    We also know that Canadian stakeholders support this agreement. We have heard that support from provincial and territorial government representatives, Canadian companies and industry associations, and groups such as the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the Canada-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce.
    Some Canadian stakeholders, such as the Canadian Pork Council, the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, Alberta Pork, Spirits Canada, and the Canadian Meat Council have publicly also announced their support for this initiative.
    We also saw more than 400 businesses attend the Canada-Ukraine Business Forum in Toronto in June of last year. The objective of this forum was to provide information on the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement.
    This level of participation gives a clear indication of the strong support that exists for this agreement in Canada and in Ukrainian business communities. The importance of our relationship with Ukraine, the benefits that the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement would bring, and the level of stakeholder support all indicate that this is an initiative we should move toward without delay.
    Therefore, I urge all hon. members of the House to support Bill C-31, moving us closer to the realization of the economic benefits of the agreement and setting forth a clear demonstration of our ongoing commitment to deepening our partnership and our relationship with Ukraine.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague for her appointment. This is the first opportunity I have had to say this. I know she is probably expecting a question about religious freedom in eastern Ukraine, but instead I want to ask a slightly different type of question.
    Of course, there is strategic importance to this deal as well, with our ongoing co-operation with Ukraine on a number of different levels. One of the things the Liberals did when they took office was cancel the sharing of satellite images with Ukraine. This is imagery that I know was very important to the Ukrainian military. I wonder if the member could share her thoughts on that decision, and say if the government is going to be prepared to reverse course on that and restore this important form of support to Ukraine.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to reiterate something we have heard echoed on both sides of the House for the entire time that I have been here, which is that Canada is a strong and steadfast ally of Ukraine and always has been.
    I think we are all very proud of this agreement. It is progressive, which is important, because we are here to support labour, environment, and provisions on anti-corruption for Ukraine as it improves.
    Furthermore, in this agreement, in recognition of the support we are giving together, services and investment are not included. In two years, we look forward to discussing those further, but we are going with a step-by-step process to ensure the success of this free trade agreement.

  (1600)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am voting in favour of this bill, but I want to point out an interesting fact.
    The Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement is a relatively simple bilateral trade agreement, unlike the Canada-Europe agreement, for example, which makes significant amendments to intellectual property rights, gives foreign investors special rights that Canadian companies do not have, and hurts dairy producers. I represent a riding where there is a significant number of dairy farms.
    Does the hon. member agree that agreements such as the Canada-Ukraine trade agreement, which requires less compromise than the more comprehensive and controversial multilateral agreements, such as the TPP or the Canada-Europe agreement, are better for Canada?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the support extended by the member opposite.
    This is a high-standard agreement. It is good for Canada. It is good for Ukraine. It certainly is fully satisfactory, as the member mentioned. I am going to stick with the question, actually, of the agreement itself. We were able to move very quickly. We believe there are other aspects not included in this agreement that will strengthen this as well.
    With regard to CETA and TPP, we have just completed extensive consultation on TPP. The committee is reviewing that right now, and there is no question that this input will guide us as we move with our progressive trade agenda in Asia. With regard to CETA, that is being debated all week in the House of Commons, and I look forward to the support for that as well by members of the House.
    Mr. Speaker, let me join my fellow colleagues in echoing my congratulations to my colleague on her appointment as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade.
    I want to follow up on the comments made by my friend from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan with respect to his earlier question, and I want to pose a question in the context of Canada's relationship with the Ukraine.
    I first want to reiterate the government's position that regardless of which political party has stood in the House